- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President
Bush, suddenly challenged about what he knew before the Sept. 11 attacks,
told fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill on Thursday "there is a sniff
of politics in the air," a congressional source said.
- At a previously scheduled closed-door meeting with Senate
Republicans, Bush talked about the disclosure that he been warned by U.S.
intelligence agencies in August of possible hijackings by followers of
Osama bin Laden, a person at the meeting said.
- "He said: 'There is a sniff of politics in the air.
Someone may be trying to use this as a political opportunity,"' the
person quoted Bush as saying.
- The person added, "He also said if he had known
that hijackers were going to take planes and use them as weapons he would
have done everything as commander in chief to use the full force and fury
of the United States military to stop it."
- Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, among a number of Democrats
who demanded to know if the United States had enough information to head
off the attacks, scoffed at the suggestion politics were behind her party's
- "Sniff of politics? We want a sniff of truth,"
Boxer said. "Why didn't we (Congress) know about this a lot sooner."
- The White House acknowledged Bush had a pre-Sept. 11
warning about possible hijackings after CBS News disclosed it on Wednesday
- The report triggered a crush of questions from Democrats
about what Bush knew and when he knew it and what he did about it.
- A senior administration official said, "I think
it's fair to say that many Republicans on the Hill think the fact that
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee had the same generalized information
about hijackings (as Bush did), and that there's politics at play by some
- Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat,
denied members of Congress had the same information.
- "The only people who had this information were in
the White House," Daschle told reporters.
- The senior administration official said Bush, in meeting
with Senate Republicans, delivered the message "that national security
is a vital bipartisan issue and he certainly hopes the Democrats aren't
playing politics with it."