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White House working on declassifying memo

9/11 panel sought public release of intelligence document

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House is working to declassify an intelligence memo that was the subject of heated questioning during national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's appearance before the 9/11 commission.

The August 6, 2001 memo, called a PDB for president's daily briefing, is titled: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."

"We are actively looking at the declassification process right now to determine the possibilities of making the August 6 PDB available," National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.

"We have every hope that it will be declassified, every intention to declassify at this time," said McCormack, who added that the White House is working with the commission to determine how to make it available to them and to the public. (Main story: Rice testimony before the commission)

In order to declassify such a document, intelligence and other agencies are consulted to ensure sources and methods would not be compromised.

But this document, about a page-and-a-half long, said McCormack, is not a typical threat assessment.

"It is an analytical piece, it's a historical piece, a compilation of information from different parts of the government," he said.

White House officials suggest the content of the August 6 memo may be distorted because only parts are being quoted and perhaps taken out of context. (Full story)

"There are questions, there has been a lot of discussion about it, a lot of people describing it, a lot of people paraphrasing it, and we want to be responsive to the commission and the American people," said McCormack.

The president's daily brief is a highly classified document given to the president and usually seen by only a select few top administration officials.

During Thursday's hearing, commissioners questioned Rice about the document and asked her to make it public.

"There was nothing reassuring, was there, in that PDB?" Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste asked.

"There was nothing reassuring," Rice said. "But I can also tell you that there was nothing in this memo that suggested that an attack was coming on New York or Washington, D.C. There was nothing in this memo as to time, place, how or where. This was not a threat report to the president or a threat report to me."

And while concerns that terrorists might use airplanes as weapons could have existed in the intelligence community before the attacks, "To the best of my knowledge this kind of analysis ... actually was never briefed to us," Rice said.

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