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Inside Politics

9/11 panel's report could be finished this week

Commissioners said to be working on unanimous support

From Dana Bash and Lesa Jansen
CNN Washington Bureau

The World Trade Center towers burn before collapsing.
September 11 attacks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The 9/11 commission could finish its final report by the end of the week and has begun the process of having it declassified for release later this month, the commission's spokesman said Sunday.

The 10 members of the bipartisan commission -- known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- are trying to reach unanimous support for the final document, spokesman Al Felzenberg said.

"While they approach things with a different take, they are in general agreement on the overall scope," he said. "They still have two more days of meetings. And while I won't say they are finished, as of today things are going relatively well."

Parts of the final report have been turned over to three Bush administration intelligence specialists to expedite the declassification process, which often slows the release of intelligence-related reports, Felzenberg said.

The chairman of the 9/11 commission, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, has set an internal deadline for July 22 for the release of the report, which is the last day Congress is in session before its summer recess.

The commission would like to give the House and Senate majority and minority leaders an opportunity to see the report by then, Felzenberg said.

The original release date for the report was July 26, which is also the first day of the Democratic National Convention.

A commission source said the panel was not "unaware" that the release date coincided with the convention, where most of the media's attention will be focused.

The congressionally mandated panel was charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001, and recommending safeguards against future attacks.

The commission has already issued several interim staff reports, most recently one in June saying that though there were numerous contacts in the 1990s between Iraq and al Qaeda, those contacts did not result in a "collaborative relationship." (Full story)

Another staff report in June said U.S. officials were unprepared "in every respect" to stop the suicide hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people. (Full story)

The report, expected to be about 500 pages long, will be published for sale in bookstores for $10. It will also be available online and through the Government Printing Office.

The vice chairman of the commission, former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, met privately Thursday with members of Congress to collect information that could be included in the final report.

Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon said Hamilton expressed concerns about airport security, particularly along tarmacs, where people get on and off and items are loaded and removed without sufficient security and screening.

"We talked about the fact that we have done nothing really to secure the air side of the airport," said DeFazio, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

DeFazio pointed specifically to airport baggage handlers, food service workers and janitors, who do not have to pass through metal detectors, he said.

He said Hamilton also shared his concerns about a "lack of adequate technology" at the nation's airports.

"We're using 1970s technology -- it's not very good at finding bombs," DeFazio said.

Last week, the Transportation Security Administration began more thorough background checks on more than 1 million airport workers across the nation, including those with access to airport tarmacs.

The TSA is checking the workers' names against databases of terrorists and known threats to civil aviation.

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