CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — White House allies and
Republicans investigating the Sept. 11 attacks pressed yesterday to
hear open testimony from national security adviser Condoleezza
Rice, with one commissioner calling her refusal a “political
blunder of the first order.”

Rice said in a TV interview that she wants to testify publicly,
but is constitutionally barred from doing so, a senior
administration official said yesterday afternoon, before the
program aired. Rice also said in the “60 Minutes”
interview that she wants to meet with family members of the Sept.
11 victims, to hear their concerns, the official said.

President Bush, spending a long weekend on his Texas ranch, gave
no ground, and several aides said he will not change his mind on
letting Rice testify. But Bush sent her and other top
administration officials out for TV interviews to rebut fresh
attacks on the way his administration has handled the threat of
terrorism.

Sharpening his criticism, former counterterrorism chief Richard
Clarke said President Clinton was more aggressive than Bush in
trying to confront al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden’s
organization.

“He did something, and President Bush did nothing prior to
September 11,” Clarke told NBC’s “Meet the
Press.”

“I think they deserve a failing grade for what they did
before” Sept. 11, Clarke said of the Bush’s
administration. “They never got around to doing
anything.”

Clarke said a sweeping declassification of documents would prove
that the Bush administration neglected the threat of terrorism in
the nine months leading up to the attacks.

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