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9/11 families keep watch on Congress

WASHINGTON -- Families of Sept. 11 victims said yesterday they will keep a ''watchdog" list of any members of Congress who oppose legislation implementing changes recommended by the 9/11 commission.

''We're going to watch events unfold in Congress, and we want America to watch as well," said Lorie Van Auken, who lost her husband at the World Trade Center.

''We need to have a list of the lawmakers. We need to follow who's opposing and disagreeing and why," said Van Auken, a member of the Family Steering Committee, which lobbied successfully for an independent commission to investigate the attacks.

The families' initiative comes even before legislation has been offered to implement the recommendations and shows how intent Sept. 11 families are to see that changes are made to fix the intelligence breakdowns that allowed the hijackers to carry out their plot.

''This watchdog list, this report card, it's a shame that it's come to this, but we want to work with everyone to ensure that people aren't just feigning cooperation," said Kristen Breitweiser, one of the most visible advocates among outspoken Sept. 11 families.

The commission's final report urges rapid fundamental changes in how the legislative and executive branches of government oversee the nation's intelligence apparatus, consolidating oversight into one group of lawmakers and one person in the White House who answers directly to the president.

President Bush, vacationing in Crawford, Texas, held his second videoconference in three days with the White House working group considering the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice was on the call, as were White House chief of staff Andy Card -- who is running the group -- as well as Vice President Dick Cheney. Rice was at the president's ranch, Card was in Washington, and Cheney was in Utah for a campaign stop.

Bush has said he will study the commission's recommendations but has stopped short of endorsing them, and a White House official said Bush is unlikely to move on the recommendations this week. A Senate committee has scheduled a hearing on them tomorrow.

The issue of how best to overhaul the nation's intelligence oversight comes at a politically sensitive time. Democrats and Republicans are vying to portray themselves as best-suited to safeguard the nation.

Van Auken said no lawmakers have been singled out for criticism yet, but the families want them to know they will be held accountable.

William Doyle, whose son Joseph also died in the World Trade Center, said public pressure worked well in getting the commission formed in the first place.

''The idea now is to have a list that works like a watchdog so that people can see what their individual congressman is doing," said Doyle. ''If a lawmaker from say, Montana, objects to a particular bill, well I know a couple of Sept. 11 families there who can get on the phone with that person, who can speak out."

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