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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 09:50 GMT
New panel to probe US attacks
World Trade Center's north tower after a plane was crashed into it
The panel has 18 months to investigate the attacks
The US House of Representatives has approved legislation to create an independent commission to investigate the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

Independent commission
18 months to investigate
Broad mandate to review policies and responses to attacks
10 members - 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans
Subpoenas issued by agreement of chair and vice-chair or vote of six members
The 366-to-3 vote came hours after congressional leaders and the White House reached a deal on the inquiry, which relatives of the victims had long been pressing for.

President George Bush's government had initially opposed the commission which will look into a wide range of issues including failures in intelligence-gathering and immigration procedures.

The legislation now goes before the Senate and could be approved later on Friday. It must then be signed into law by Mr Bush.

The commission - a panel of private citizens - will have 18 months to conduct its inquiry.

'Decisive victory'

The Bush administration had argued that a congressional inquiry was better equipped to preserve national security secrets than an independent commission.


Finally we will get a clear picture of what government agencies failed, how they failed and why

Senator Joseph Lieberman

But families of the 11 September victims mounted a public campaign for the establishment of such a commission.

The new investigation will be broader than one already conducted jointly by the intelligence committees of the House and the Senate.

Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman - who took part in the talks with the White House - described the agreement as a "decisive victory" for the relatives of the victims.

"Finally we will get a clear picture of what government agencies failed, how they failed and why," he said.

But in the House, Republican Ray LaHood denounced it as a "blame-game commission" - he was one of three to vote against its creation.

'Power to dig deep'

Under the deal reached by the White House and congressional leaders, the 10-member panel will be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

The appointments would be made in the following manner:

  • President Bush chooses the commission chairperson

  • Democratic Congress leaders jointly appoint the vice-chairperson

  • Republican and Democratic House leaders name two members each

  • Republican and Democratic Senate leaders appoint two members each.

One of the two Republican Senate choices would reportedly require the approval of Senator John McCain, who together with Mr Lieberman pressed for the creation of the commission.

"Our agreement protects the principles we and the families of September 11 have pursued in calling for such a commission since last November: equal bipartisan membership, a broad mandate to review policies and responses related to the terrorists attacks... and subpoena power to dig deep," Mr McCain said.


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