9/11 panel report elicits praise, political carping
Like patients analyzing a Rorschach test, readers of the final report by the September 11 Commission were able to find support for their individual views on the reasons and remedies for the 2001 terror attacks.
U.S. President George W. Bush latched on to the panel's finding that US security lapses were "institutional" rather than a failure of his particular administration.
And opposition Democrats in the Republican-controlled US Congress insisted that Thursday's report by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States underscored GOP-intransigence on matters of national security.
"We know that our ports and our waterways and our borders are not adequately protected. We know that the plutonium and the uranium that exist out there in the world that makes us vulnerable, " said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
For their part, Republicans made it clear that they believed the security breakdowns which allowed the attacks to take place resulted from failed policies carried out during Democratic President Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House.
"During the 1990s, America's intelligence capacity was crippled, and our international credibility was undermined by our refusal to take the terrorist threat seriously enough," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said.
Earlier, Democrats and Republicans had tempered their comments, praising the committee's Herculean achievements on compiling and analyzing a mountain of evidence over nearly two years, and lauding the evenhanded tone of the final document.
But the sparring parties gave in over the course of the day to political wrangling, led by Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry who, taking a swipe at Bush, said the Republican president had not done nearly enough to combat terror since the al-Qaeda attacks.
"This report carries a simple message for all of America, about the security of all Americans: We can do better," Kerry said. "We must do better and there is an urgency about us doing better."
Bush's presidential campaign wasted no time in firing back.
"The Commission's report makes the case for the policies that U.S. President Bush has been pursuing in the War on Terror and eliminates any doubt that the best defense against the threat of global terror is a strong offense," the campaign said in a statement.
While President Bush welcomed the report and praised its conclusion that we are safer today but still have more work to do, our opponent attacked the administration's progress and leadership in the War on Terror, breaking his own pledge to focus on 'bipartisan solutions'," the campaign complained.
The Republican president, who had initially opposed creating the commission, eagerly associated himself with some of the recommendations from the 10-member panel.
"I agree with their conclusion that the terrorists were able to exploit deep institutional failings in our nation's defenses that developed over more than a decade," he said in a speech in Glenview, Illinois.
Other comments on report ranged from high praise for the panel's exhaustive efforts, to outrage over perceived flaws and oversights in the document.
"They have done an incredible job," said New York Senator Chuck Schumer, whose state, site of the World Trade Center twin towers, was hardest hit in the terror attacks nearly three years ago.
His Senate colleague, Hillary Clinton, praised the commissioners, called the report "a great testimony to the their willingness to search hard for the truth, to get at the facts."
The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts said the report was as being spot-on in its finding that US intelligence officials failed to think outside the box in envisioning the kinds of attacks terrorists might devise.
But critics were emphatic in debunking the report.
Kyle Hence, co-founder of 9/11 Citizens Watch, called the document "a whitewash ... a farce, an out-and-out cover up, and a shameful, colossal spin job."
He added that the group intended to issue its own analysis, detailing its view of how the 9/11 attacks were carried out.