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Lawmakers agree on independent 9/11 commission

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington

A joint House-Senate panel is holding public hearings on U.S. intelligence surrounding the September 11 attacks
A joint House-Senate panel is holding public hearings on U.S. intelligence surrounding the September 11 attacks

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats and Republicans in Congress reached an agreement Thursday on legislation creating an independent commission to investigate how key government agencies failed to be prepared for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, said the commission would be the best chance to discover the "unvarnished truth" about the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people -- "Not so we can lay blame, but primarily so we can do everything possible to make sure that nothing like September 11th ever happens again," said Lieberman, one of the proposal's original authors.

Congressional supporters and the White House have been negotiating over the details of the commission since the administration abandoned its opposition and embraced an independent panel last month, bowing to pressure from victims' families and growing support in Congress.

Key Intelligence Committee members, like chairman Bob Graham, D-Florida, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, had been lukewarm to the idea of a commission over the past year. Shelby and Graham have said they preferred to conduct their own investigation of the intelligence community.

But as the Joint Intelligence Committee's probe came neared its close, Graham, Shelby and others endorsed the idea of the independent commission in order to continue the investigation and broaden it to non-intelligence agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The 10-person commission as proposed would be appointed by the president and House and Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle. Its mission would be to review and evaluate the lessons learned from terrorist attacks regarding the structure and procedures of federal, state and local governments.

"I believe that we're going to find out that America made a lot of mistakes diplomatically, economically, militarily, intel-wise. But, I also think we're going to find out the U.S. has done a lot of good things too," said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

Lawmakers from the House and Senate Intelligence committees said the commission will be included an the intelligence authorization bill, which is expected to go to the president for his signature before Congress adjourns for the year.

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