CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush probably will move within days to adopt recommendations made by the Sept. 11 commission (search), a senior administration official said Sunday as lawmakers pressed for speedy action.
The White House is studying which of the panel's more than 40 proposals can be implemented by executive order, which ones require congressional approval and which ones actually would improve domestic security.
Bush directed the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card (search), to undertake a high-level review of the proposals. That process will advance beginning Monday, when national security adviser Condoleezza Rice arrives at Bush's ranch in Crawford (search).
"We will move as quickly as possible," the senior administration official said, speaking on condition he not be identified because Bush has not announced his intentions or a timetable. "Some recommendations will happen within days; others may take more time."
The official would not say which recommendations were likely to be adopted or offer more precise timing. Bush is following the long-standing tradition of keeping a low profile during this week's Democratic National Convention, and announcing his acceptance of recommendations would be sure to draw attention from rival John Kerry's gathering in Boston.
When the Sept. 11 commission issued its report last week, Kerry endorsed all its recommendations. On Sunday, Kerry campaign officials said the candidate had identified more than a dozen recommendations that, if he were elected, he could implement by executive order.
For instance, Kerry said he would enact recommendations to identify potential terrorist sanctuaries and determine their importance; advance the U.S.-Saudi relationship to confront terrorists; hold up the United States as an example for Muslim democracies; and work with other nations to develop a comprehensive strategy against Islamic terrorism.
Proposals that would require congressional approval could face tough sledding in an election year.
But Congress cannot wait months or even weeks to act on the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations because the nation faces a continued threat of attack from al-Qaida, leaders of the panel said Sunday.
"Every day that passes is a day of increased risk if we do not make changes," Democrat Lee Hamilton, the commission's vice chairman, told NBC's "Meet the Press." "It's very clear these people want to kill us."
The commission report, released last week, recommended a sweeping overhaul of the nation's intelligence community. Congress adjourned for its summer recess on Friday, a day after the report's release. Congressional leaders pledged August hearings in the House and Senate on two of the main recommendations: to create a position of director of national intelligence and a national counterterrorism center.
Republican Thomas Kean, the commission's chairman, said he was encouraged but not totally satisfied with the initial reaction from Congress.
"There is an emergency, that these terrorists plan to attack us again as soon as possible, and therefore Congress has got to act now and not next year sometime," the former New Jersey governor said.
President Bush has promised that his administration will study the commission's report, and he has directed his chief of staff, Andrew Card, to undertake a Cabinet-level review of the proposals. The president has not said which proposals he might support.
The commission's report culminated a 20-month investigation by the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats. It cited multiple failures that contributed to the 2001 hijackings and concluded that the government was unprepared and uncomprehending of imminent danger posed by al-Qaida.
Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition," Kean defended the panel's decision not to point fingers at specific officials for failures that preceded the Sept. 11 attacks.
"What we were trying to do was identify systematic failures, things that could be corrected," Kean said, "because these people — all of them — were working within a system that was broken; that simply didn't work."
The report did not fault President Bush or former President Clinton, although it said neither had made anti-terror a top priority before Sept. 11, 2001.
Asked on "Meet The Press" if they would accept if the president asked them to jointly head a new intelligence agency, neither Kean nor Hamilton ruled it out.
"I'd do anything with Lee Hamilton," said Kean.
"That's a very speculative question," said Hamilton. "I'd have to think about it. I've had a marvelous experience working with Tom Kean, and I think it's been a productive one. But that's a presidential call."
Some families who lost loved ones that day have said the commission should have placed blame on individuals for lapses prior to the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Richard Clarke, former head of counterterror in the Bush and Clinton administrations, also was critical.
"Because the commission had a goal of creating a unanimous report from a bipartisan group, it softened the edges and left it to the public to draw many conclusions," Clarke wrote in an opinion piece in Sunday's New York Times. Clarke has said that Bush fumbled opportunities to eliminate al-Qaida, and Clinton did more to fight terrorism.
The commission plans to release four more staff reports in the coming weeks on topics including terrorism financing, border and immigration issues, aviation and transportation and counterterrorism policy.
The reports will be published by the Government Printing 0ffice and are compiled by commission staff, not voted on or approved by the commissioners.
Associated Press writers Jennifer C. Kerr and Hope Yen contributed to this report from Washington.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
APTV 07-25-04 2235EDT