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Bush: Documents sought by 9/11 commission 'very sensitive'

President Bush:
President Bush: "Those are very sensitive documents, and my attorney, Al Gonzales, is working with Chairman Kean."

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The commission U.S. intelligence prior to the September 11 attacks is pushing the White House to turn over sensitive documents.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Documents requested by the independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington are "very sensitive," and the White House counsel is handling talks on turning them over, President Bush said Monday.

The commission, led by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, has threatened to subpoena the White House if it does not turn over the requested records.

"Those are very sensitive documents, and my attorney, Al Gonzales, is working with Chairman Kean," Bush told reporters Monday.

The commission has complained that federal agencies have been slow to turn over requested documents. Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for the commission, said there was some impatience on the part of the commission to get all the necessary documents because members "take the job seriously" and have a May deadline to meet.

Felzenberg said Saturday that issuing subpoenas is "not a means that you want to use lightly or overuse," but "it is an instrument we have at our disposal." And Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, said the White House should take advantage of an opportunity to turn over the records.

"It's definitely in their interest -- certainly in the interest of this country," Hagel, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. "Americans and our allies across the globe must have confidence in our leadership. They must trust our processes. And that certainly includes our intelligence community's results."

A congressional investigation into the attacks has largely explored counterterrorism lapses, such as the CIA and FBI failing to share information or "connect the dots" between bits of intelligence obtained from monitoring al Qaeda.

Felzenberg said the 10-member commission also wants to hold more focused hearings to determine if there were intelligence or law enforcement failures in the months leading up to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The law that created the commission last fall mandates nine areas of inquiry, including terrorist financing and aviation security.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who co-sponsored the bill creating the September 11 commission, urged the commission to subpoena the White House if necessary.

"The fact that the Bush administration is not cooperating with a commission investigating how September 11th happened is outrageous," Lieberman, a Democratic presidential candidate, said Sunday. "What are they hiding? What's on the line here is finding out everything we can about how September 11th happened so we can make sure we do everything to see that it never happens again."


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