Sept 11: Commission expected to find attacks preventable

The September 11 terror strikes on the United States could have been prevented, an independent commission probing the outrage is expected to conclude.

The September 11 terror strikes on the United States could have been prevented, an independent commission probing the outrage is expected to conclude.

The leading members of the panel indicated that US government and intelligence officials could have taken steps to prevent the attackers hijacking and crashing airliners into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

The cross-party commission is expected to publish its findings in the summer, in what could be a damaging blow to president George Bush’s campaign to be re-elected in November.

The indication of the commission’s preliminary findings came from its chairman, Republican Thomas Kean, and its vice chairman, Democrat Lee Hamilton, in a joint television interview.

It comes just days before national security adviser Condoleezza Rice is due to give evidence to the panel, which is still sitting in Washington.

She bowed to pressure to appear before the commission in public, after being accused by a former White House counter-terror official of being incompetent in her job.

Mr Kean told NBC’s Meet the Press: “There are so many threads and so many things, individual things, that happened.

“If we had been able to put those people on the watch list of the airlines, the two who were in the country; again, if we’d stopped some of these people at the borders; if we had acted earlier on al-Qaida when al-Qaida was smaller and just getting started.”

He said there was a “lack of coordination within the FBI”.

And he questioned why there was not greater action taken after the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested in August 2001 at a flight school.

Mr Hamilton said: “There are a lot of ifs – you can string together a whole bunch of ifs, and if things had broken right in all kinds of different ways … and frankly if you’d had a little luck, it probably could have been prevented.”

But the claims were dismissed by senior Bush adviser Karen Hughes, who said she was “convinced” that the White House would have done everything in its power to prevent the attacks if possible.

She told the programme: “I just don’t think, based on everything I know – and I was there – that there was anything that anyone in government could have done to have put together the pieces before the horror of that day.

“If we could have in either administration, either in the eight years of the Clinton administration or the seven and a half months of the Bush administration, I’m convinced we would have done so.”

Last month, counter-terror adviser Richard Clarke accused President Bush of failing to act on warnings ahead of September 11.

He said terrorism was not an “urgent” issue in the Bush White House. He also accused Ms Rice of failing to do her job.

Opinion polls have shown that while Mr Bush’s approval rating has remained steady in the face of the recent storm, the American public is less confident in his ability to tackle terrorism.

The so-called war on terror is a major re-election issue for Mr Bush - especially as he fights Democratic Senator John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran.

How much of the September 11 commission’s report is made public remains to be seen.

The White House has final say on what sections should remain classified for security reasons.

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