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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Bush faces 11 September fallout
Workers in the remains of the World Trade Center in New York
About 3,000 people died on 11 September
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By Jonathan Marcus
BBC Defence correspondent
There is growing pressure on President George W Bush in the wake of the disclosure that he was briefed before 11 September about the possibility that individuals linked to al-Qaeda might hijack American aircraft.

Opposition Democrats are seeking the fullest disclosure of exactly what was known and when.

The failures of the system are probably as much the fault of former president Bill Clinton's administration as of Mr Bush's

But what is the likely impact of this controversy on Mr Bush's own standing?

Since the tragic events of 11 September normal party politics in the US has largely been suspended.

As commander-in-chief at a time when the country is effectively at war Mr Bush has enjoyed unprecedented levels of popularity.

Elections looming

The president's Democratic opponents have been pulled in two directions - on the one hand they have rallied around the flag at a time of national danger, but they have also sought to find a chink in the president's political armour that will enable them to have a distinctive voice.

President Bush
What Mr Bush was personally told seems vague

November's mid-term congressional elections are fast approaching. So will the revelations of chaos and confusion within America's vast intelligence gathering bureaucracy enable the Democrats to damage the Bush band-wagon?

What Mr Bush himself was told about the possibility of hijacks does indeed seem vague and, from what we know so far, difficult to act upon.

Overhaul needed

Certainly a far from flattering picture emerges of the failures of the US intelligence system. But that of course is already going to be the subject for a full-scale Congressional investigation.

Intelligence experts of all political persuasions have called for a radical overhaul of the US intelligence-gathering machine. But this could be something of a double-edged sword for the Democrats.

Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband Ronald was killed at the World Trade Center
Relatives are seething over the revelations

Mr Bush had after all only recently come to office. The failures of the system are probably as much the fault of former president Bill Clinton's administration as of Mr Bush's.

The shine may slowly begin to fade on the Bush administration - that may be an inevitable product of the passage of time.

What these latest revelations will do is to reinforce pressure for fundamental intelligence reform.

But how far they reflect upon Mr Bush's own handling of affairs will depend upon how much more information is still to be revealed.

See also:

16 May 02 | Americas
Q&A: US terror intelligence
17 May 02 | Americas
Bush seeks damage control
17 May 02 | Americas
'Ground Zero' operation nears end
16 May 02 | Americas
Bush rapped over 11 September photo
25 Sep 01 | Americas
Profile: Condoleezza Rice
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