Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Bush dodges responsibility after Sept. 11 panel reports

REUTERS , GLENVIEW, ILLINOIS

President George W. Bush said on Thursday that many of the failings in US defenses identified by the Sept. 11 commission developed before he took office in 2001 as he sought to limit the political damage from the report.

Bush, running for re-election on the argument that he has made the US safer since the Sept. 11 attacks, pledged to give serious consideration to the commissioners' recommendations but stopped short of endorsing their call for a national intelligence director.

"I agree with their conclusion that the terrorists were able to exploit deep institutional failings in our nation's defenses that developed over more than a decade. The commission's recommendations are consistent with the strategy my administration is following to address these failings and to win the war on terror," Bush said.

On PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "It's not a matter of will there be intelligence reform. There's going to be intelligence reform ... And we're going to need to make major intelligence reform." She did not offer specifics.

The Sept. 11 commission criticized both the Bush and Clinton administrations for failing to fully grasp or effectively combat the threat posed by al-Qaeda.

Bush had a large advantage in the polls over John Kerry on the issue of who would make the country safer, but lost some of it because of unease over the war in Iraq.

After receiving the report in Washington, Bush gave a homeland security speech to a friendly audience at Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy in Glenview.

Earlier he witnessed a training exercise at the academy in which law enforcement personnel responded to a disaster scenario involving a hijacked bus that collided with a tanker trailer filled with hazardous material.

Democrats charge Bush has short-changed the country's police and firefighters and has not been aggressive enough in securing US ports against attack.

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