2 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 24, 2004
N ATION/ WORLD
Panel: Diplomacy failed before 9-11 NEWS IN BRIEF A
HE U~ ~ mmmADLawINm m
WASHINGTON (AP) - Clinton and Bush
administration officials engaged in fruitless diplo-
matic efforts instead of military action to try to get
Osama bin Laden out of Afghanistan before the Sept.
11 attacks, a federal panel said yesterday. Top offi-
cials countered that the terror operation would have
occurred even if the United States had been able to
kill the al-Qaida leader.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secre-
tary of State Colin Powell, in a strong defense of pre-
Sept. 11 actions that have become a major campaign
issue, told the federal commission reviewing the
attacks that the plot was well under way when the
Bush administration took office in January 2001.
"Killing bin Laden would not have removed al-
Qaida's sanctuary in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said.
"Moreover, the sleeper cells that flew the aircraft into
the World Trade towers and the Pentagon were already
in the United States months before the attack."
Powell said that even if U.S. forces had invaded
Afghanistan, killed bin Laden and neutralized al-
Qaida, "I have no reason to believe that would have
caused them to abort their plans."
Separately, President Bush said Monday that he
would have acted more quickly before Sept. 11 "had
my administration had any information that terrorists
were going to attack New York City on Sept. 11 ."
The testimony by Rumsfeld and Powell came
against the backdrop of counterterrorism adviser
Richard Clarke's claim that top Bush administration
officials had ignored bin Laden and the threat of the
al-Qaida terror network while focusing on Iraq's Sad-
Powell did not mention Clarke, but said, "President
Bush and his entire national security team under-
stood that terrorism had to be among our highest pri-
orities and it was."
Yet, not until the day before the attacks did U.S.
officials settle on a strategy to overthrow the Taliban
Afghan government in case a final diplomatic push
failed. That strategy was expected to take three years,
the commission said.
The commission report said U.S. officials, in both
the Clinton and Bush administrations, feared a failed
attempt on bin Laden could kill innocents and would
only boost bin Laden's prestige. And the American
public and Congress would have opposed any large-
scale military operations before the September 2001
attacks, the report said.
In the end, it said, pursuing diplomacy over mili-
tary action allowed bin Laden and other al-Qaida
leaders to elude capture.
The panel investigating Sept. 11, formally the
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States, is holding two days of hearings with
top-level Bush and Clinton administration officials.
The aim is to question them on their efforts to stop
bin Laden in the years leading up to Sept. 11.
The commission's staff has spent months inter-
viewing Clinton and Bush administration officials
and poring over documents. Its preliminary findings,
included in two statements issued Monday, will be
considered by the 10-member panel, which plans to
issue a final report this summer.
OAZ CITY, Gaza Strip
Israel thlreatenls to kill all leaders of Hamas
Israel threatened to kill the entire leadership of the Islamic militant group Hamas
after assassinating its founder and hinted yesterday that Yasser Arafat could wind
up on the hit list in the future.
The accelerated strikes at Hamas are part of an attempt to score a decisive victo-
ry ahead of an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel does not want to be
seen as being driven out of the strip by militants, who already are claiming victory.
The tough talk came on the same day Hamas hard-liner Abdel Aziz Rantisi was
elected as the new leader of the Islamic militant group in Gaza. The 54-year-old
pediatrician replaces Sheik Ahmned Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike
Also yesterday, the meditator who arranged Yassin's release from prison said the
Hamas founder offered Israel a 30-year truce in 1997.
Israeli gunboats fired machine guns toward Gaza's coast late yesterday, witness-
es said. There were no reports of damage or casualties, and the Israeli military had
no inmmediate comment. Palestinians said the gunboats were firing at Palestinian
fishing boats and piers.
OffiCials: MediCare to go broke by 2019
Medicare will have to begin dipping into its trust fund this year to keep up with
expenditures and will go broke by 2019 without changes in a program that is
swelling because of rising health costs, trustees reported yesterday.
Social Security's finances showed little change, and its projected insol-
vency date remained 2042.
The 2019 go-broke date for the Medicare trust fund, which is devoted pri-
marily to paying beneficiaries' hospital bills, is seven years sooner than
what the trustees projected last year.
The deteriorating financial picture for the health care program for older
and disabled Americans is a result, in part, of the new Medicare prescrip-
tion drug law that will swell costs by more than $500 billion over 10 years,
according to the annual report by government trustees.
Provisions of the law that President Bush signed into law in December
"raise serious doubt about the sustainability of Medicare under current
financing arrangements," the trustees said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell testifies before the
federal panel reviewing the Sept. 11 attacks In
The staff reports found both administrations
lacked the detailed intelligence needed to strike
directly at bin Laden, so they fruitlessly sought a
diplomatic solution to get the al-Qaida leader out of
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NASA: Pool of wae
once covered Mars
Mars had a shallow pool of briny
water on its surface long ago, NASA said
yesterday in announcing what may be the
strongest evidence yet that the now-dry
Red Planet was once hospitable to life.
The space agency's scientists
announced earlier this month that the
Opportunity rover found evidence of
water in Mars' distant past. But it was
unclear whether the water was in the
soil or on the surface. The new findings
suggest there was a pool of saltwater at
least two inches deep.
A rocky outcropping examined by the
rover had ripple patterns and concentra-
tions of salt - considered telltale signs
that the rock formed in standing water.
"We think Opportunity is now parked
on what was once the shoreline of a
salty sea on Mars," said Cornell Univer-
sity astronomer Steve Squyres, the mis-
sion's main scientist.
fewer gays last year
The number of gays dismissed from
the military under the Pentagon's "don't-
ask, don't tell" policy has dropped to its
lowest level in nine years as U.S. forces
fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, accord-
ing to a report by an advocacy group.
The military discharged 787 gays
and lesbians last year, according to the
Servicemembers Legal Defense Net-
work, which attributed the decline to
the importance of U.S. operations in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
The figure marks a 17 percent
decrease from 2002 and a 39 percent
drop from 2001, just before the con-
flicts began in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Basque grup may
call for cease-fire
The Basque separatist group ETA
may call a unilateral cease-fire in its
campaign of violence, a founder and
other Basque sources said, in an effort
to win political concessions from the
newly elected Socialists due to take
power next month.
Julen Madariaga, a founding mem-
ber of ETA, said he thought a truce
could be called soon.
shave ethe impression tht in a very
ing weeks - that ETA will declare a
ceae-~i-e," heasaid in a tlphon
in southern France.
Within the month, Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero and his Socialists
are to take over from the conservative
Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who
cracked down on ETA.
-- Compiledfrom Daily wire reports
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