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Inside Politics

Bush, Cheney face 9/11 panel Thursday

Meeting to take place in Oval Office

Stay with CNN for updates and analysis from the campaign trail and follow-up perspective on the Oval Office session between President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and members of the 9/11 commission.
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CNN's John King on the Bush-and-Cheney meeting with the 9/11 commission.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve on efforts to improve CIA-FBI relations.

The 9/11 commission cites fragmented intelligence-gathering prior to the attacks.
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
White House
September 11 attacks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are scheduled to sit down with the 9/11 commission in the Oval Office Thursday morning, answering questions about a terrorist attack that has defined the Bush presidency.

White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and two members of his staff plan to join Bush and Cheney for a session that has no firm timetable, but that senior White House officials expect to run about two hours.

The entire 10-member bipartisan commission is expected to be on hand.

Bush and Cheney spent several hours over the past few days preparing, aides said.

Bush, for example, reviewed intelligence briefings from 2001 and spent time talking to Gonzales, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and chief of staff Andrew Card, who was traveling with Bush in Florida on the morning of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

A senior administration official said Bush's preparations also included conversations with Cheney.

Officials said that among the documents prepared for both men to review were intelligence reports from the months and weeks before the attacks and what one senior official called "chronologies and other records of events in that time period."

They also reviewed transcripts and summaries of previous testimony to the commission -- including that of former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, officials said.

Some critics, primarily Democrats, have suggested Bush and Cheney insisted on a joint appearance so they can keep their stories consistent. In an interview with CNN, Gonzales took issue with that.

"This is not a criminal investigation," he said. "This is not someone before a grand jury. The purpose of these private sessions is for the president and vice president to provide information to the commission and that is what they are going to do."

The session is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., and aides said Bush and Cheney have blocked out their schedules through noon.

There will be no recording of the session, and there will not be a stenographer in the room.

The two members of the White House counsel's staff will take notes during the session, and the commission members will be allowed to take handwritten notes as well.

That means there will be no verbatim account of the question-and-answer session, but Gonzales said, "information will make ... its way into the report in some fashion or another, I suspect."

The Bush administration initially opposed the creation of the commission, which is charged with coming up with an authoritative account of the attacks, including any intelligence and security lapses. The commission will also draft recommendations on how to safeguard against possible future attacks.

The White House relented amid pressure from some 9/11 family members and it later backed down from its opposition to an extension of time for the commission.

The commission now has until July 26 to finalize its report, but that report may not be released publicly at that time, pending a security review by the White House.

The commission recently held a series of public hearings, during which some witnesses faulted Bush's anti-terrorism policies before the 9/11 attacks. And statements by the commission staff faulted the FBI and CIA for their policies and lack of cooperation before that time.

The commission has been the subject of increasing criticism from some Republican lawmakers who say Democratic members appear to be more interesting in casting blame than finding solutions.

CNN's John King contributed to this report.

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