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Kean says 911 attacks could have been prevented { December 19 2003 }

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Kean Says 9/11 Attacks Could Have Been Prevented

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 19, 2003; Page A25

The chairman of the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks said he believes that the strikes could have been prevented, a claim that President Bush's spokesman rejected yesterday.

In an interview with CBS News broadcast Wednesday night, Tom Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who was chosen by Bush to head the panel, said the attacks could have been avoided. "I do not believe it had to happen," he said in the interview.

Asked whether people should have been fired, he replied: "There were people certainly, if I was doing the job, who would certainly not be in the position that they were in at that time, because they failed. They simply failed."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday that the administration has not changed its view on whether the attacks could have been thwarted. "As we have previously said, there is nothing that we have seen that leads us to believe that September 11th could have been prevented," he said. "We previously said that. That still stands."

Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the commission headed by Kean, noted, as others have previously, that some terrorists had expired visas, that all eluded aviation security and that there was miscommunication between intelligence agencies that may have kept authorities from following clues to the attacks. "If any of these things hadn't happened, it might have been a different story," he said.

But Felzenberg said Kean "did not intend to make news" with his remarks, which were made two weeks ago at the end of a long interview that focused on Kean's role as a university president. Felzenberg also pointed out that Kean said at the commission's opening hearing in March that the system had failed.

Kean is not the first public official to suggest that the attacks might have been prevented. After a lengthy investigation by a joint panel of the House and Senate intelligence committees concluded last summer, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) co-chairman of the panel, said that the attacks of Sept. 11 "could have been prevented if the right combination of skill, cooperation, creativity and some good luck had been brought to task."

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) has on several occasions criticized the FBI and CIA for failing to follow up on other clues.

In the interview, Kean said it is not yet clear whether the same people who were in crucial roles in September 2001 are still in those positions. But Kean said he would find the answer.

"This is a very, very important part of history, and we've got to tell it right," he said.

2003 The Washington Post Company

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