Thorough Sept. 11 report worth wait

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 30, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

The preliminary report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States had some shocking revelations, to say the least.

According to the report, released Tuesday:

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4The Federal Aviation Administration played down the possibility of suicide hijackings, saying the greater threat was from explosives smuggled aboard planes.

€ U.S. authorities missed some obvious signs that might have prevented some of the Sept. 11 hijackers from entering the country.

€ The investigation found at least two and as many as eight of the hijackers had fraudulent visas, even though government officials have said all 19 hijackers entered the country legally.

€ U.S. officials had contact with the hijackers but failed to adequately investigate suspicious behavior.

€ At least six of the hijackers violated immigration laws by overstaying their visas or failing to attend the English language school for which their visas were issued.

€ Three of the hijackers submitted visa applications with false statements about never previously applying for a visa, something that could have been easily checked.

€ One hijacker entered the United States in June 2000 on a tourist visa and then enrolled in flight school for six months. He never filed an application to change his status from tourist to student.

It is obvious the commission is getting somewhere in its investigation. The commission has amassed more than 2 million pages of documents and has interviewed more than 900 people. Still, much work remains.

The commission said it cannot finish its final report by the May 27 deadline imposed by Congress and asked for an extension of at least two months. The Bush administration and Republican congressional leaders, however, have said they oppose such a move.

The full report will be essential to understanding how such a tragic event could have happened. Congress and the White House should give the commission the time it needs to finish this report. A thorough report will be worth the wait.