MADISON, N.J. - The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks will soon ask President Bush, former President Bill Clinton and their vice presidents to testify in public about possible warnings they might have received from U.S. intelligence sources before the attacks.
"We need them to testify," former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, the bipartisan commission's chairman, told The Record of Bergen County in a story published Thursday. He said the panel would issue formal invitations within the next few weeks, although he conceded that all four men would probably decline to be questioned at a public forum.
However, Kean said their cooperation was crucial to the commission's work, so he hoped they would at least consent to private interviews with the panel.
"They all have important pieces to tell us and important questions to answer, so they will all be getting an invitation and we're in contact already with their staffs in every case," Kean said Wednesday on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Clinton has previously said that he would be willing to testify, and Bush said in an NBC interview last week that he would "perhaps" submit to questions from the commission.
Commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton told the "NewsHour," "My hope in the end that the president will agree that to meet with us and answer whatever questions we have."
However, a White House spokeswoman said Wednesday that she did not know whether Bush would agree to testify or be interviewed.
"I can't speculate on that," said Pamela Stevens, assistant White House press secretary. "We've given them committee members unprecedented access. We've worked in a very cooperative manner with them. We've given them 2.3 million documents, and we just continue to work with them in a cooperative manner."
Kean, who is now president of Drew University in Madison, said the commission also plans to seek public testimony from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft and their counterparts in the Clinton administration.