Deal On 9/11 Papers

The independent commission on the Sept. 11 attacks says it has reached an agreement with the White House that will allow the review of classified intelligence documents previously withheld.

"We believe this agreement will prove satisfactory and enable us to get our job done," according to a statement by the commission.

"We look forward to the recommendations to make America safer," White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee said. At President Bush's direction, she said, the White House "has been working closely with the commission to ensure they have the information they need to be successful."

The 10-member panel will designate a subcommittee that will examine the most sensitive documents and report back, commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste said Wednesday.

Mr. Bush said last month that the dispute concerned "the presidential daily brief," a classified written intelligence report he gets each morning.

The White House confirmed last year that one such report in August 2001, a month before the attacks, mentioned that al Qaeda might try to hijack U.S. passenger planes. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has described the report as an analysis, rather than a warning, and said hijacking was mentioned in a traditional sense, not as it was used on Sept. 11.

According to a Congressional probe into the Sept. 11 attacks, the president's Aug. 6, 2001 daily briefing included information "acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of Bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives."

It referred to an al Qaeda support base in the United States, and FBI "judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks."

Describing the White House's concerns about access to the document, Mr. Bush said it is important "for the writers of the presidential daily brief to feel comfortable that the documents will never be politicized and/or unnecessarily exposed for public purview."

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, a Republican chosen by Mr. Bush to lead the commission, said repeatedly that he respects the sensitive nature of the documents. But he added, "We're not going to be satisfied until we have everything we need to do our job."

The commission has issued subpoenas to the Federal Aviation Administration and to the Pentagon, after concluding that government offices had not fully complied with requests for documents.

Kean did not rule out sending a subpoena to the White House, although that could have prompted a court battle had the administration claimed executive privilege.

Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg said the resolution of the White House dispute will let the panel and its staff move from document collection into analysis full time. Its report is due May 27.

Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor, said the subcommittee plan "is not a perfect arrangement" but gives the commission the access it needs.

Another commissioner, former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, criticized the arrangement, saying the panel should have issued a subpoena rather than agree that only some members will see documents.

Ben-Veniste and Roemer are Democrats. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, is investigating the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the causes and the U.S. response to terrorism.

The tug-of-war over the daily brief is not the first dispute over access to information involving the White House.

Vice President Dick Cheney has fought the General Accounting Office and private watchdog groups who want access to the documents used by his energy task force.

The Senate Committee probing prewar intelligence in Iraq has expressed frustration over delays in getting documents from the administration.