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Senate Approves Creation of Independent Body to Investigate Sept. 11 Attacks - 2002-11-15

The Senate has approved legislation creating an independent commission to investigate last year's September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The measure, which was approved by the House earlier Friday, now goes to President Bush for his signature.

The commission would conduct a broader probe than the joint House-Senate committee inquiry that focused on the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to prevent the attacks.

While it would consider intelligence lapses, the bipartisan commission would also examine such issues as aviation security and immigration controls. The panel would have 18 months to complete its work.

The legislation was included in a bill funding intelligence agencies for the current budget year, which began October 1.

Congressional and White House negotiators earlier this week resolved a dispute over the commission's structure that had stalled passage of the measure.

The Bush administration had long opposed the idea of an independent commission, fearing that intelligence could be compromised. But eventually the administration agreed to the proposal under pressure from the families of the victims of the attacks.

The measure passed the Senate by voice vote, with no debate. Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut first proposed the idea of a commission.

"It is a perfect complement to the creation of a homeland security department, because it will inform the work of that department by doing everything possible to determine the truth, the unvarnished truth, about September 11 happened," he said.

The vote came on a day when the Senate moved forward on a bill to create a cabinet-level homeland security agency. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle expressed hope the legislation would be approved Monday.

But a partisan dispute threats to scuttle the legislation.

Senate Democrats are trying to remove what they call Republican-sponsored special interest provisions from the measure. Among them is a plan to create a homeland security research center in Texas, the home state of Republican Senator Phil Gramm, House Majority Leader Tom Delay, and President Bush.

Republicans say the provisions are related to homeland security, and that their removal could kill the bill.

The bill has already passed the House, and is a top legislative priority for President Bush.