- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Both
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney urged Senate Majority Leader
Tom Daschle four months ago not to push for an investigation into the events
of Sept. 11, Daschle said on Sunday.
- Appearing on the NBC program "Meet the Press,"
Daschle flatly contradicted Cheney, who last week denied he had warned
Daschle off an investigation.
- Daschle and other Democrats favor a special commission
into the official handling of pre-Sept. 11 terror warnings. Both Cheney
and Bush have in recent days argued publicly against a the idea, opting
instead for an ongoing inquiry by the intelligence committees of Congress.
- Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, said Cheney telephoned
him on Jan. 24 to urge that no Sept. 11 inquiry be made, and that Bush
had followed up on January 28 with a similar request during a breakfast
meeting at the White House.
- "I can tell you on January 24th, first, and on January
28th second, and on other dates following, that request was made, Daschle
- "I don't recall the exact words. The motivation
was that they didn't want to take people off the effort to try to win the
war on terror. They were concerned about the diversion of resources, the
diversion of manpower in particular, and that was the reason given me by
both the president and the vice president," Daschle said.
- Last week on the same program, Cheney denied calling
Daschle to argue against a Sept. 11 probe, saying, "Tom's wrong. He
has, in this case, let's say a misinterpretation. What I did do was ...
say, we prefer to work with the intelligence committees."
- Asked on Sunday about the apparent contradiction with
Cheney, Daschle said: "It's an honest disagreement. I'm willing to
accept the fact that they don't agree that was the right interpretation."
But he refused to back away from his account.
- Daschle last Tuesday said he would push for an independent
commission after disclosures suggesting authorities missed a series of
hints last year that critics believe might have helped prevent the attack.
- House and Senate Intelligence Committees are investigating
jointly the failure to uncover the plot to hijack four airliners and crash
them into targets in Washington and New York on Sept. 11, killing more
than 3,000 people.
- But congressional Democrats have called for a special
commission to probe, among other things, why the FBI failed to act on an
agent's memo last summer recommending his superiors look for al Qaeda members
training at U.S. flight schools.
- "We are not making any accusations against the president,
but we know that we have to do a better job," Daschle said.
- Daschle said he thought they would be able to get the
necessary votes in the Senate to back a special commission, adding the
vote would take place some time in June.
- He said the commission's inquiry could be broadened to
look at other events, including the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania that have, like the events of Sept 11, been blamed
on Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network.
- U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, appearing
on "Fox News Sunday," said the administration opposed any probe
outside the congressional intelligence committees because a war against
terrorism was still underway.
- "We worry about anything that would take place outside
of the intelligence committees, and indeed, we think the intelligence committees
are the proper venue for this kind of review."