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Sept. 11 panel faults US for slow progress on recommendations

Calls for standards on treatment of terrorist suspects

WASHINGTON -- Reviewing action on recommendations it made last year, the Sept. 11 commission yesterday criticized the Bush administration for not adopting standards for treatment of captured terrorist suspects.

The administration was given a mixed review in a report on the commission's key recommendations, which were designed to help the United States better prepare for and respond to a terrorist attack.

There was high praise for US attempts to integrate the Arab and Muslim world into the global trading system and in fighting terrorism financing.

But former commission chairman Thomas Kean, former vice chairman Lee Hamilton, and the eight other members who formed the 9-11 Public Disclosure Project found much to criticize.

Their review gave the administration the grade ''unfulfilled" on the commission's recommendation that the United States develop a common approach with friendly nations on the treatment of captured terrorist suspects. The commission also had suggested that the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict be applied to military prisons and secret detention centers.

What the administration still needs to do, the review said, is to adopt standards for terrorism suspects that are in accord with international law.

''These standards should cover the treatment of detainees held by all elements of the US government," the former commission members said.

And, they said, ''the United States should work with its allies to develop mutually acceptable standards for terrorist detention."

Last week, President Bush defended US interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorist suspects lawful. ''We do not torture," Bush said.

Congress, meanwhile, is engaged in a high-profile debate over the handling of detainees. The Senate has twice signed off on legislation to ban cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of prisoners in US custody. The provision is included in two defense bills. The House versions of the bills do not include the language, which the White House opposes.

At yesterday's presentation, commission member Richard Ben-Veniste said Iraq is on track to succeed Afghanistan as a terrorist training ground. ''How much this trend has been fueled by the highly publicized reports of brutalization, humiliation, and desecration cannot be measured accurately," he said.

''But the flames of extremism undoubtedly burn more brightly when we are the ones who deliver the gasoline," Ben-Veniste said.

The former commission members also found insufficient progress on thwarting attempts by Al Qaeda to acquire or make weapons of mass destruction.

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