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Washington in brief

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 21, 2001

Senators seek inquiry into Sept. 11 attacks, aftermath

WASHINGTON -- Two prominent senators, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, called on Thursday for a special commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the country's response to them.

Legislation to create a 14-member National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States was introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

Under their proposal, four of the 14 commission members, including the chairman, would be named by the president, and 10 would be selected by congressional committee leaders. No more than seven would be from the same political party.

Senate backs beefing up security at seaports

The Senate passed a seaport security bill Thursday that will allow the nation's ports to add 1,200 new customs inspectors and 300 new customs agents next year.

The House of Representatives has not yet considered the bill.

Since last month, National Guard troops have been assisting local police with security at U.S. ports to prevent terrorist attacks.

Besides adding more inspectors and agents, the measure sponsored by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., also requires ports across the country to have comprehensive security plans and to limit access to sensitive areas. Ports also will have to restrict firearms and conduct background searches on employees working in sensitive areas.

Overall, the bill calls for spending an additional $1.1-billion over the next six years and providing $3.3-billion in loan credits for the nation's 361 ports to improve security.

Senate wants Moussaoui trial on closed-circuit TV

The Senate on Thursday approved a bill to allow the families of the Sept. 11 victims to watch the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the first man indicted on charges related to the attacks.

The trial will be broadcast on closed-circuit television in the cities most affected by the plane crashes. The House will consider the bill next year.

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