Bush ‘nothing to hide’ over 9/11

Bush says he and his vice president had successfully answered every question put to them by the panel investigating the September 11 attacks, in an unprecedented session.

“If we had something to hide, we wouldn’t have met with them in the first place. We answered all their questions,” said Bush, who only agreed to be questioned under his own conditions.

The White House insisted Vice President Dick Cheney join the president, that they not be sworn to tell the truth, and that there be no transcript or recording of the session — only notes taken by one panel staffer and two White House lawyers.

The “National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States” is due to release its report in late July.

In a brief appearance after the three hour session, Bush suggested that the panel members were already mulling what advice to give in their final assessment.

“There was a lot of interest about how to better protect America. In other words, they’re very interested in the recommendations that they’re going to lay out,” said Bush.

Bush would not reveal details of the questions asked by the panel.

Critics say the Bush administration sought to limit the reach of potentially embarrassing revelations.

The president has touted his leadership in the global war on terrorism ahead of the November presidential election while battering Democratic candidate, John Kerry’s, national security credentials.

But a poll published Thursday showed Bush’s approval ratings in a slump, his race with Kerry a dead heat, and highlighted doubts about his handling of the war in Iraq.

Former counter-terrorism aides have called into question Bush’s response to the growing threat from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network after he took office in January 2001.

Critics point to a secret briefing, since made public, which warned Bush on August 6 that bin Laden was determined to strike inside the US and that “suspicious activity” had been detected.

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