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Democrat wants focused 9/11 report hearings

GOP defends broad look at topics

From Ed Henry

The independent 9/11 commission released its report on July 22.
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Jane Harman
9/11 commission
September 11, 2001

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Complaining that Democrats were not consulted about coming House hearings to consider the 9/11 commission's proposals, California Rep. Jane Harman said the hearings will be meaningless without a significant change in focus.

In a sharp letter to Rep. Porter Goss, R-Florida, chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Democrat Harman wrote: "If we go forward with the hearings as you have set them up, our committee will miss the critical opportunity to fix the problems and make America safer." (9/11 panel report: 'We must act')

Senate hearings were scheduled to start Friday.

Congress has decided to forgo its usual August summer recess to address the panel's report.

Harman, ranking member of the intelligence panel, said the committee's hearings -- which begin next Wednesday -- will cover vague topics such as "Counterterrorism Analysis and Collection: The Requirement for Imagination and Creativity."

"These topics bear little resemblance to the urgent recommendations made by the 9/11 commission," wrote Harman, who stressed she believes hearings should focus on the commission's direct recommendations for a national counterterrorism center, a national intelligence director and changes to strengthen congressional oversight of the intelligence community.

An aide to Goss told CNN that the topics of the hearings were kept broad only because the 9/11 panel's report was voluminous and the House committee wants to "cover as much ground as we can" in a limited amount of time.

"We'd be missing two-thirds of the report" if the House committee focused only on the director of intelligence post and a new counterterrorism center, the aide said.

The aide said that Goss had sought input from Harman on Monday, but got no response until Wednesday, and by that time the GOP leadership was set to announce the scheduling of the hearings.

In a sign of the bitterness developing on what is normally a nonpartisan committee, the Goss aide expressed disappointment that Harman is now refusing to sign off on the letters officially inviting witnesses to the series of hearings in August.

But Harman insisted in her letter that the current plan for the committee will not get the job done.

"The 9/11 commissioners, the families of the victims, and the rest of the country want Congress to consider and vote on real legislation," she wrote. "The last thing they want is for us to hold meaningless hearings on issues that have already been covered by the commission and this committee."

Witnesses for next Wednesday's House intelligence panel hearing include 9/11 commission co-chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former CIA directors George Tenet and Robert Gates.

Five other House committees also will be looking at the 9/11 commission's recommendations, and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled a session for Friday at which Kean and Hamilton also are to appear.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, whose initial reaction to the 9/11 commission report was to say that he did not want to "rush through with anything," bowed to political pressure and said in a written statement Wednesday that it is important for the committees to "get a substantive amount of work done in August to help us move forward with legislative recommendations in September and October."

In addition to the Intelligence Committee, the other House panels planning to examining the report are Armed Services, Financial Services, Government Reform, Homeland Security and International Relations.

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