9/11 Panel Gives White House Mixed Review

WASHINGTON — Reviewing action on recommendations it made last year, the
Sept. 11 commission on Monday criticized the Bush administration for not
adopting standards for treatment of captured terror suspects.

The administration was given a mixed review in a report on the commission’s
key recommendations that were designed to help the United States better prepare
for and respond to a terror attack.

There was high praise for U.S. attempts to integrate the Arab and Muslim
world into the global trading system and in fighting terrorism financing.

But former commission chairman Thomas Kean, former vice chairman Lee Hamilton
and the eight other members who formed the 9-11 Public Disclosure Project found
much to criticize.

Their review gave the administration the grade "unfulfilled" on the
commission’s recommendation that the United States develop a common approach
with friendly nations on the treatment of captured terror suspects. The
commission also had suggested the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed
conflict should be applied to military prisons and secret detention centers.

What the Bush administration still needs to do, the review said, is to adopt
standards for terror suspects that are in accord with international law.

"These standards should cover the treatment of detainees held by all elements
of the U.S. government," the former commission members said.

And, they said, "the United States should work with its allies to develop
mutually acceptable standards for terrorist detention."

President Bush last week defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the
treatment of terrorist suspects lawful. "We do not torture," Bush declared.

Congress, meanwhile, is engaged in a high-profile debate over the handling of
detainees. The Senate twice has signed off on legislation to ban the cruel,
inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody.

The provision is included in two defense bills. The House versions of the
bills do not include the language, which the White House opposes.

At Monday’s presentation, commission member Richard Ben-Veniste said Iraq is
on track to succeed Afghanistan as a terrorist training ground. "How much this
trend has been fueled by the highly publicized reports of brutalization,
humiliation and desecration cannot be measured accurately," he said.

"But the flames of extremism undoubtedly burn more brightly when we are the
ones who deliver the gasoline," Ben-Veniste said.

On another front, the former commission members found insufficient progress
on thwarting attempts by the al-Qaida network to acquire or make weapons of mass
destruction.

On the positive side, the review cited an agreement reached last February by
Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure nuclear warheads and
material.

Russia, for instance, has made several dozen additional nuclear warhead
storage sites available for inspection and improvement, the review said.

But more than 100 research facilities worldwide _ in some 40 countries _
contain enough highly enriched uranium to fashion a nuclear device, and this is
troubling, the report said.

"Preventing terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction
must be elevated above all other problems of national security," the former
commission members said. "It represents the greatest threat to the American
people" and President Bush should publicly make this goal his top priority, the
review said.

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