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Commission Investigating Sept. 11 Attacks Seeks Extension Until July

By Philip Shenon

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks announced on Tuesday that it would seek an extension of its deadline to complete the investigation until at least July, raising the prospect of a public fight with the White House and a final report delivered in the heat of the presidential campaign.

The White House and Republican congressional leaders have said previously that they saw no need to extend the congressionally mandated deadline, now set for May 27, and a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois said Tuesday that Hastert would oppose any legislation to grant the extension.

But commission officials said Tuesday that there was no way for them to finish their work on time -- a situation that panel members attribute in part to delays by the Bush administration in turning over documents and other evidence.

The commission said Tuesday that it had still not yet a commitment from the administration for public testimony from prominent White House officials, including Condoleeza Rice, the president’s national security adviser. The panel said it was still in negotiations over the possibility of testimony from President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

“We are telling the Congress and the president what we need to do the best possible job,” said the panel’s chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, in announcing the panel’s decision to seek an extension of at least two months. “Much work remains, and some hard work in finalizing our report.”

The commission’s vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, a Democrat and former House member from Indiana, said the panel was “mindful of the politics” of an extension, “but if we do not have the extra time, we would not have as many hearings as we would like.”