Daschle Says Bush And Cheney
Urged No 911 Inquiry

By Susan Cornwell

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 said.
"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."


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