Bush Claims 'Politics' Behind
Allegations Of 911 Foreknowledge

CBS News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush, suddenly challenged about what he knew before the Sept. 11 attacks, told fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill on Thursday "there is a sniff of politics in the air," a congressional source said.
At a previously scheduled closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans, Bush talked about the disclosure that he been warned by U.S. intelligence agencies in August of possible hijackings by followers of Osama bin Laden, a person at the meeting said.
"He said: 'There is a sniff of politics in the air. Someone may be trying to use this as a political opportunity,"' the person quoted Bush as saying.
The person added, "He also said if he had known that hijackers were going to take planes and use them as weapons he would have done everything as commander in chief to use the full force and fury of the United States military to stop it."
Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, among a number of Democrats who demanded to know if the United States had enough information to head off the attacks, scoffed at the suggestion politics were behind her party's questions.
"Sniff of politics? We want a sniff of truth," Boxer said. "Why didn't we (Congress) know about this a lot sooner."
The White House acknowledged Bush had a pre-Sept. 11 warning about possible hijackings after CBS News disclosed it on Wednesday night.
The report triggered a crush of questions from Democrats about what Bush knew and when he knew it and what he did about it.
A senior administration official said, "I think it's fair to say that many Republicans on the Hill think the fact that Democrats on the Intelligence Committee had the same generalized information about hijackings (as Bush did), and that there's politics at play by some Democrats."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, denied members of Congress had the same information.
"The only people who had this information were in the White House," Daschle told reporters.
The senior administration official said Bush, in meeting with Senate Republicans, delivered the message "that national security is a vital bipartisan issue and he certainly hopes the Democrats aren't playing politics with it."


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