CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush tried to seize the initiative on intelligence reform yesterday, meeting with aides and urging them to accelerate their review of proposals issued by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.
The president, who is keeping out of sight at his Texas ranch during the Democratic National Convention, used a video link to participate in a meeting at the White House that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., acting CIA Director John E. McLaughlin, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
"The president has asked the group to fast-track their review and the implementation of the recommendations," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan told reporters during a briefing in Crawford. "To the extent that there are some recommendations that could be acted on sooner rather than later, the president could certainly act within days on some, obviously longer on others."
Buchan said the president has been reading the commission's 567-page report during his vacation and expects to be in daily contact about it with Card, who is leading the White House review.
In a brief interview yesterday, Bush told the Associated Press that he found the report "interesting."
"It reads like a mystery, a novel. It's well-written," Bush said. Asked what he was gleaning from the report, he said, "I'm gleaning that was a well-thought-out plot by the enemy."
"We've got work to do," he said, adding that the nation is "safe but not safe enough." He declined to offer an opinion of the commission's recommendations or say when he would act.
Cheney said that he was halfway through the report and called it "engrossing."
"I don't agree with absolutely everything in it," he said without elaborating.
The president has been on the defensive since the commission released its final report Thursday. The panel listed 41 reforms it described as urgent to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Chief among them is a proposal to unite 15 intelligence agencies under a national director for intelligence. Another is to create an interagency counterterrorism center that would have more funding and power than the current center.
Bush gave the proposals a lukewarm response, pledging only to review them.
Members of Congress have been pushing the president to act more quickly than he initially wanted. The Senate has scheduled hearings for as early as next week. Several House committees are planning hearings; the first, by the Homeland Security Committee, will be held the week of Aug. 16.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.