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9/11 commission serves important purpose - Billy Corriher

The Bush administration released a classified daily intelligence briefing on Saturday that warned President Bush of the threat al-Qaida posed to America a month before Sept. 11, 2001. The briefing warned that the terrorist network had a support system in America for its operatives and that the FBI had detected suspicious activity that might involve a hijacking plot, according to the Associated Press.

The release of the document comes a few days after national security adviser Condoleeza Rice faced tough questioning from the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.

With the commission, particularly its Democratic members, hammering away at the Bush administration's handling of terrorism, many Bush supporters have criticized the committee as having become too partisan.

It's true that the commission was created to find out how the United States can prevent another tragic terrorist attack, not lay blame for the attack. But what preventative steps could we take that we're not already taking?

Our intelligence community is now focused on fighting terrorism, and the problems with intelligence sharing have hopefully been addressed. Al-Qaida's base of operations has been dismantled, and many of its leaders have been captured or killed. Terrorists will have a much tougher time catching us off-guard.

Some say the commission is now only seeking to blame the Bush administration for the attacks. But it is important that the commission, particularly with the testimony of administration officials and former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, also address the question of how well Bush responded to the terrorist threat.

Before the administration had found Osama bin Laden or fully secured Afghanistan, Bush decided to attack Iraq, a country with few concrete ties to terrorism.

There are many questions about the War on Terror that all Americans should think about. Did toppling Saddam Hussein make America any safer from terrorism? Was it worth the lives of hundreds of young soldiers?

Information coming out of the commission will help Americans answer these questions and evaluate Bush's leadership. The evidence and testimony should be looked at objectively by all our citizens.

So while it might be difficult for the commission to come up with new ways to prevent terrorist attacks, it's important that we evaluate our leader's judgment when addressing the terrorist threat before and after Sept. 11, 2001.

Conservatives shouldn't get defensive when the commission is prying for the truth. And Bush supporters should realize that Clarke, who served under Ronald Reagan, George Bush I, and Bill Clinton, is not some liberal seeking to oust Bush when he claims the administration neglected addressing the threat of al-Qaida and was distracted by Iraq after the attacks.

It's important that the commission gets the truth and hears from all sides. In our democratic society, the people need to know how well our leaders protected us before the twin towers fell, and we need to know if the action that Bush has taken since has really made us safer.

Billy Corriher covers politics and government for the News Daily. He can be reached at bcorriher@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 281.