Bush, advisers review 9/11 report proposals
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush and top security officials on Monday studied recommendations by an independent commission that investigated the September 11, 2001, attacks, White House officials said.
The 9/11 commission has pushed the White House and Congress to act quickly on its recommendations, which include appointing a Cabinet-level chief to oversee the nation's 15 intelligence agencies and a counterterrorism center modeled on the military's unified commands.
It also proposes the creation of a joint congressional committee to oversee homeland security.
Monday's secure video teleconference between Bush, at his ranch in Crawford, and the White House included national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, counterterrorism adviser Fran Townsend, Attorney General John Ashcroft, National Security Council staffer John Bellinger and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Rice is expected to join Bush in Crawford on Monday afternoon.
Senior administration officials said the focus of this task force meeting was how the administration could overhaul the intelligence community.
The president's top priority is to enact the commission's recommendations that he can implement through executive order, White House aides said.
Bush is expected to make decisions on some recommendations "within days," said one White House official, adding, "The president is on the fast track."
Senior administration officials describe the task force gathering as a "working meeting" that yielded no decisions but marked the beginning of "an ongoing process" of assessing intelligence and security reforms.
The proposal to establish a national director of intelligence is gathering steam within the administration, a source privy to the task force's deliberations said. No decision has been made about the creation of such a position, the source said, but the president is leaning toward backing some kind of variation of that recommendation.
Monday's national security meeting comes as Democrats were about to open a weeklong national convention in Boston, Massachusetts.
Campaign strategists for Sen. John Kerry have said he will try to persuade voters that he is the best candidate to lead the war on terrorism.
The 9/11 panel, officially called the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, released its findings Thursday in a 570-page report.
Chairman Thomas Kean and his fellow panelists cited a "failure of imagination" that they said kept U.S. officials from understanding al Qaeda's threat before the attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.
Congress established the bipartisan panel to investigate events before, during and immediately after the attacks.
Kean said Sunday that the commissioners plan to go on the road in bipartisan pairs, working with relatives of those killed in the attacks, to lobby for implementation of the report's recommendations.
Some Republican lawmakers have said Congress is unlikely to take any action on the report until next year. But Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut urged their colleagues to take swift action.
Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, briefed the president on the report and presented a copy to him Thursday in the White House Rose Garden.
Bush said the report contained "some very constructive recommendations" and that he looked "forward to working with responsible parties within my administration to move forward on those recommendations."