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Democrats Press For Independent Probe of 9/11 Intelligence Failures - 2002-05-22

Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Tom Daschle, says the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the apparent intelligence failures before September 11 is inevitable.

In a speech Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, Senator Daschle again called for an independent commission to look into what the FBI knew in the months before terrorists struck New York and Washington.

"Whether it is this year or next year, at some point, there will be a review of what it is that happened," he said. "I just think that the sooner it is done, the more likely it is we will get the best information."

The South Dakota Democrat said there is growing support for such an investigation from both conservatives and liberals. He said the independent panel's aim would be to find out what communications breakdowns apparently occurred between the FBI, CIA and White House and make sure they never happen again.

"No one has said that the president could have prevented the tragedy of September 11. But by the same token, no one can take much comfort from the picture that has emerged of government agencies that seem totally out of synch with each other," he said.

Some leading Republicans along with White House officials oppose an independent investigation, believing it to be politically motivated. They also fear it could expose the country's weaknesses to terrorists. Senator Daschle disagrees.

"We will speak out because our first responsibility is the security of this country," he said. "Despite what some in the administration have suggested, silence in the face of security lapses is not patriotism. If anything, it is the opposite. And the consequences of such silence can be devastating."

The senator says independent panels investigated the bombing of Pearl Harbor and President Kennedy's assassination and that the September 11 attacks is another crisis needing careful scrutiny.