Published January 14, 2015
Wrapping up a weeklong vacation on his Texas ranch, President Bush (search) on Thursday led a videoconference meeting of his working group on the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations.
Spokesman Trent Duffy said the group was making "great progress," but he would not elaborate on how close Bush was to receiving or approving executive orders implementing some recommendations.
Administration officials have said that presidential approval of some of the changes suggested by the commission could come by early next week.
The White House, pressed by victims' families and by Democrat John Kerry (search), is eager to show it is moving on the politically sensitive issue. A working group created by Bush to study the commission's recommendations met by videoconference twice Wednesday, once with Bush participating.
Any orders signed by Bush would immediately put into place some proposals made by the Sept. 11 commission (search). A senior administration official said aides were finishing draft versions to present to Bush, who would adopt some or all of them soon.
Kerry, Bush's opponent in the presidential campaign, says Bush should implement the commission's proposals immediately. Kerry also wants the panel's life extended 18 months to ensure reforms are adopted.
The Family Steering Committee (search), activist families who lobbied successfully for an independent commission to investigate the attacks, stepped up pressure on lawmakers to take action on recommendations that need congressional approval. They said they would draw up a watch list of Congress members who oppose legislation to implement Sept. 11 commission recommendations.
"We're going to watch events unfold in Congress, and we want America to watch as well," said Lorie Van Auken, who lost her husband at the World Trade Center. "We need to have a list of the lawmakers. ... We need to follow who's opposing and disagreeing and why."
Talk of keeping public track of congressional opponents comes even before legislation has been offered to implement the recommendations, a sign of how intent some Sept. 11 families are to maintain the momentum of public opinion for quick changes.
"This watchdog list, this report card, it's a shame that it's come to this, but we want to work with everyone to ensure that people aren't just feigning cooperation," said Kristen Breitweiser, one of the most outspoken advocates among Sept. 11 families.
Already, pressure from the families has produced results.
When the commission released its 567-page report last week, Congress had planned to be away for all of August. But several committees quickly scheduled a return to Washington to hold hearings on the panel's findings.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., announced even more Wednesday. He said at least six committees will hold at least 15 hearings in August on such issues as information sharing, terror financing, intelligence analysis and government reorganization. In a statement, he anticipated congressional action on legislative recommendations in September and October.
The commission's final report urges rapid fundamental changes in how the legislative and executive branches oversee the nation's intelligence apparatus, asking that oversight be consolidated into one group of lawmakers, with one person in the White House who answers directly to the president.
Bush, vacationing in Crawford, Texas, has said he will study the proposals but has stopped short of endorsing them.
Several of the working group members, including acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft, had met Wednesday at the White House.
They were linked by videoconference to several top officials who were outside the White House, including the head of the working group, White House chief of staff Andy Card; Secretary of State Colin Powell, traveling overseas; and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was with Bush on his Texas ranch.