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Bush welcomes 'sharing information' with 9/11 panel

President says no foreknowledge of attack



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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday said he looks forward to "sharing information" with the independent commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks and stressed that his administration had no indication hijackers would seize and deliberately crash four commercial jets that day.

"I look forward to sharing information with them," Bush said.

"Let me very very clear on this. Had we had the information to stop the attack, I would have stopped the attack."

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have agreed to sit down with the 10-member bipartisan panel in a private session.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to testify under oath before the panel Thursday in a public session -- a move the administration had initially opposed but later approved in the face of strong public criticism. (Photo may have nudged Bush on Rice testimony)

"She'll be great," Bush said of Rice. "She is a very smart, capable person who knows exactly what took place and will lay out the facts. That's what the commission's job is meant to do." (Rice to testify April 8)

Asked why he was appearing with Cheney -- as opposed to appearing alone before the commission-- Bush replied, "It will be a great opportunity for them to ask both of us our opinions on the subject."

Bush stressed that he had no foreknowledge of the deadly attacks when two jets slammed into New York's World Trade Center, another hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in western Pennsylvania.

About 3,000 people died in the crashes and collapse of the World Trade Center, blamed on the al Qaeda terrorist network.

"Make no mistake about it; if we had known that the enemy was going to fly airplanes into our buildings, we would have done everything in our power to stop it," Bush said.

"And what is important for them to hear, not only that, but that when I realized that the stakes had changed, this country immediately went on war footing and went to war against al Qaeda."

Bush's approach to terrorism was criticized by his former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, during two days of public hearings almost two weeks ago by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, as the 9/11 panel is formally known. (Clarke: Rice should have done job before 9/11)

Clarke asserted the administration did not heed his works before 9/11 about the terrorist threats and that Bush undermined the war on terror by invading and occupying Iraq. (Bill Schneider on Clarke's book and testimony)

Administration figures, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, testified the administration recognized the terrorist threat early on and did its best to confront it. (Rice rebuts Clarke testimony)


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