Sept. 11 panel report won't say attacks were preventable

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

WASHINGTON -- The Sept. 11 commission's final report won't declare that the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history was preventable, though some panelists said during the 20-month investigation they believed the hijackers could have been stopped.

In the end, the panel's five Democrats and five Republicans did not want to draw a conclusion on that major point, believing it could open the way to partisan sniping in a presidential election year.

"My personal view is that the intelligence system we have has been broken for a long time," said Republican commissioner John Lehman, a former Navy secretary. "But we wanted to let the American people make up their mind. They don't need our editorializing."

The 500-plus-page report will be released Thursday. Republican chairman Thomas Kean, a former New Jersey governor, and Democratic vice chairman Lee Hamilton, a former congressman from Indiana, began briefing congressional leaders Tuesday and will meet with President Bush today.

Former national security adviser Sandy Berger quit Tuesday as an informal adviser to Democrat John Kerry's presidential campaign after disclosure of a criminal investigation into whether he mishandled classified terrorism documents.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Berger committed a crime by removing from the National Archives documents about the government's anti-terror efforts and notes that he took on those documents. Berger was reviewing the materials to help determine which Clinton administration documents to provide to the Sept. 11 commission.

Berger and his attorney, Lanny Breuer, said the former Clinton adviser knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants and inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

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