9/11 panel gets extension

After initially balking, the Bush administration has agreed to a two-month extension of the deadline for the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.

Yielding to pressure from the panel conducting the probe, the lawmakers who established it and families of victims, the White House set a schedule that calls for release of the unclassified version of the report by July 26, a month before Republicans gather for their national political convention near Ground Zero in New York City. Any extension of the deadline must be approved by Congress.

In announcing support for the delay, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush wants the 10 members of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to “have all the information they need to do a thorough job and complete their work in a timely manner.” McClellan added that if the commission “has information that can help prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, we need to have that information as soon as possible.”

The White House previously insisted that the bipartisan commission stick to its original plan and issue its report by May 27, saying the work should be completed as soon as possible. Privately, Republican officials said they wanted time for any politically damaging findings to blow over before the heat of the presidential campaign.

I don’t know how damaging those finds will be. But if the White House had refused the extension, the public complaints from victims’ families most certainly would have been damaging.