Quizzing Them on 9/11
Bush and Clinton may be asked to meet with the independent commission investigating the terrorist attacks

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Sunday, Jul. 06, 2003
Will President Bush be summoned before the independent commission investigating 9/11? It now appears very likely. John Lehman, Ronald Reagan's Navy Secretary and one of five Republicans on the 10-member panel, told TIME that he wants both President Bush and former President Clinton to meet with the commission and discuss matters that could include what their Administrations knew about the al-Qaeda terrorist plots—and what was done to combat them—before the 9/11 attacks.

With the commission evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, Lehman's position makes it all but certain that a majority will support a request to interview Bush and Clinton. "I don't think any commission should ever formally call a President to testify," Lehman said, "but I think it is very much in the country's interest—and in both President Clinton's and President Bush's interest—to meet directly with the commissioners." Responded White House press secretary Ari Fleischer: "The White House has been and will continue to cooperate with the commission and its work is important. I'm not going to speculate about an event that has not even taken place."

Investigation fever is building on Capitol Hill. Richard Shelby, former top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who complained that federal agencies like the cia and countries like Saudi Arabia hampered the congressional probe into the Sept. 11 attacks, has a new angle. Term limits forced the Alabama Republican off the intelligence panel this year, but as new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, he is setting up hearings aimed at terrorist funding. A Shelby aide says the hearings will have "the Executive Branch telling the committee what they've done with the Patriot Act," the post-9/11 law that expanded the government's antiterror capabilities. The aide says the hearings' focus will include the CIA and the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen—and what they're doing to stanch the flow of terrorists' funds.

From the Jul. 14, 2003 issue of TIME magazine


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