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W.H. to let 9/11 panel review briefings

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Acts of terror
September 11 attacks
White House

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The independent commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks said Wednesday the White House would let it review classified daily presidential intelligence briefings.

"We believe this agreement will prove satisfactory and enable us to get our job done," the commission said in a statement.

But commission member Max Cleland, a former Democratic senator, said he was "disgusted" by the deal.

"The White House gets to cherry-pick how much access the nation's commission looking into 9/11 gets to crucial documents," he said. "I'm ready to vote for subpoenas right now."

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, created by Congress last year, has complained that the White House and federal agencies have been slow to turn over requested documents. Its report is due in May.

President Bush maintained the documents were "very sensitive" and should not be released to the public.

A White House official said the White House, at Bush's direction, has been "working closely with the commission to ensure they have the information they need to be successful.

"We are pleased we were able to reach an agreement with the commission, and we look forward to their recommendations to make America safer," the official said.

The commission said it wanted to review daily briefs from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, according to the statement.

Led by Republican and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, the commission threatened to subpoena the White House if it did not did not allow access to the president's daily briefs and other sensitive intelligence documents in the days and weeks before September 11, 2001.

Last month, Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska called on the White House to release the documents.

Lieberman, a co-sponsor of the bill that created the commission last November, is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. Hagel is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The commission has nine areas of inquiry, including terrorist financing and aviation security.

Bush and House and Senate leaders from both parties appointed the 10-person commission.

Its mission is to review and evaluate the lessons learned from terrorist attacks regarding the structure and procedures of federal, state and local governments.

The commissioners are scheduled to meet every 10 days to two weeks, and a staff of 40 is being hired.

In addition to Kean and Cleland, the commissioners are:

• Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor and Democratic counsel of the Senate Whitewater Committee

• Fred Fielding, former counsel to presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush

• Jamie Gorelick, Fannie Mae vice president and former deputy attorney general under Janet Reno

• Slade Gorton, former Republican U.S. senator from Washington

• John Lehman, former U.S. Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan.

• Timothy Roemer, former Democratic congressman from Indiana

• James Thompson, former Republican governor of Illinois

• Lee Hamilton, former Democratic congressman from Indiana

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