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Bush pushes progress since 9/11 attacks

ATLANTA - Enormous strides have been made in improving security lapse revealed by the Sept. 11 attack. This was what President Bush asserted.

"Over the past five years, we have waged an unprecedented campaign against terrorism at home and abroad and that campaign has succeeded in protecting the homeland," Bush said. "We've learned the lessons of Sept. the 11th."

Last week, Bush lumped disparate terrorist and militant groups under one umbrella. Earlier this week he quoted extensively from Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders to remind Americans that the threat from terrorism remains potent.

With Republican dominance on Capitol Hill at stake in congressional elections now less than two months off, the aim is to restore Bush's tough-on-terror image by refocusing attention on the broad effort to battle terrorist networks worldwide. Republicans view terrorism and national security as a winning issue for them, while Democrats have sought to make the November balloting a referendum on the unpopular war in Iraq that has dragged down Bush's approval ratings.

The president highlighted changes in national security preparedness as a result of the 9/11 attacks to show how new strategies now in place would make it more difficult for terrorists to stage a repeat.

The administration has been criticized for moving too slowly to address problems at the nation's ports, where only a small number of cargo containers coming into the country are inspected; at airports, where bomb-detecting equipment is outdated; and in securing nuclear material in places such as Russia.

Bush said a program to eavesdrop on international communications involving Americans with suspected ties to terrorists has been vital. It has been struck down by a federal district judge, so the president urged Congress to give legal backing to the warrantless wiretapping program operated by the National Security Agency.

The president also repeated his plea for Congress to approve a military tribunal process to try some of the most dangerous suspected terrorists. He announced on Wednesday that dangerous alleged terror leaders had been transferred from a previously secret CIA prison program to the U.S. military's detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The goal is eventual trials, but Congress has to approve a process for doing so after the Supreme Court said Bush's original plan for tribunals is unconstitutional and violates international laws.

"The sooner the Congress authorizes the military commissions I have called for, the sooner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will receive the justice he deserves," Bush said.

Edwina Baniqued


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