- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Sen. John Kerry yesterday accused President Bush of “stonewalling” inquiries into the events leading up to the September 11, 2001, attacks, as well as into the intelligence suggesting that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“Why is this administration stonewalling and resisting the investigation into what happened and why we had the greatest security failure in the history of our country?” Mr. Kerry said at a hastily arranged news conference.

“The American people deserve an answer now,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, his party’s presumptive presidential nominee. “The immediate instinct of the Republicans and this administration was to shut it down.”

Telephone calls for comment from the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign were not returned.

Mr. Bush has touted his leadership after the attacks and began running campaign commercials last week that include images of the destruction at the World Trade Center.

Mr. Kerry said the public deserves an answer as soon as possible about what went wrong leading up to the attacks, which killed about 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“Nothing could be more important to the American people at this moment,” Mr. Kerry said. “They need to know why we had such a failure of intelligence.”

He also argued that Mr. Bush has pushed the deadline on a report on potential intelligence failures to next year, “which just happens coincidentally to not be an election year.”

Last month, Mr. Bush named a commission to “figure out why” inspectors haven’t found the weapons that intelligence experts said Saddam was hiding in Iraq. Mr. Bush told the panel to report back by the end of March 2005.

By blocking access to information needed for one investigation and delaying the results of another, Mr. Kerry said, Mr. Bush was trying to cover for political purposes any potential failures by his administration.

“They want to get it out of the way as fast as they can so the memory of Americans might be shorter,” Mr. Kerry said.

Mr. Kerry also said he had spoken and planned to meet with vanquished presidential rivals Sen. John Edwards and Howard Dean.

The meeting with Mr. Dean is potentially important because the former Vermont governor built a large fund-raising network on the Internet, and his list of potential donors could be valuable as Mr. Kerry seeks to match Mr. Bush’s fund-raising prowess.

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