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Report vetting could delay release until after election { April 5 2004 }

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Last Update: Monday, April 5, 2004. 3:14pm (AEST)
9/11 report vetting could delay release until after US election
The chairman of an independent commission looking into the United States' counter-terrorism activities prior to the September 11 attacks has warned he could not guarantee the panel's report will be released before the presidential election because of a protracted White House vetting process.

Former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean said he was "surprised" by the ruling but saw no way around it.

"Any time you're dealing with any kind of intelligence, even if you write a memoir after you've served in government, you've got to submit that to the same process," said the chairman, appearing on NBC's Meet the Press.

"They go through it line by line to find out if there's anything in there which could harm American interests in the area of intelligence," he added.

According to Mr Kean, the White House has already set up a special team led by Chief of Staff Andrew Card and made up of top US intelligence and counter-terrorism officials to review the document, once it comes out.

The report, expected to contain hundreds of pages of findings and testimony, is unlikely to be finished by the commission before July, according to congressional officials.

That will leave the vetting team only three to four months to complete its work, if Americans are to see the document before they go to the polls on November 2.

It took the White House close to seven months to clear a congressional report on US intelligence in the lead-up to the September 11 attacks.

However, when the report was released last July it emerged with dozens of blacked-out pages, which experts later said contained sensitive information about Saudi Arabia's alleged role in financing al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic networks.


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