Nov. 27 - President Bush today named Henry A. Kissinger, a Republican
who has been one of the most respected but polarizing figures in
foreign policy and Washington for more than three decades, to lead an
independent investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
choosing Mr. Kissinger, the president selected a person whose
reputation as a towering intellect in foreign policy is matched by the
passions he has aroused among critics of his role in the Vietnam War,
relations with the Soviet Union and the exercise of American power in
Latin America. Mr. Bush made the appointment as he signed legislation
creating the commission, a step he came to support after opposing the
bill for much of the year partly on the ground that it could divert
attention from the war on terrorism.
leaders in Congress, who will appoint half of the 10 members of the
commission, immediately named George J. Mitchell, the former Senate
majority leader and peace envoy to Northern Ireland and the Middle
East, as vice chairman.
The commission's mandate is to conduct
a wide-ranging inquiry into the causes of the attacks, whether they
could have been averted and what changes are needed to prevent a
The commission is required to complete its
work within 18 months - a timetable that would have it issue its final
report in the middle of a presidential election year - though Mr. Bush
said he hoped it would finish sooner. The leaders of the two parties in
Congress must appoint the rest of the members by Dec. 15.
commission will have the power to issue subpoenas by majority vote, and
lawmakers have urged that it cast its net widely and interview current
and former government officials, including Mr. Bush and his
predecessor, Bill Clinton.
The president cited Mr. Kissinger's
long experience in and out of government, including his service as
secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations, in putting
him in charge of an inquiry intended to explore how failures in
intelligence, immigration controls, law enforcement and foreign policy
in the Bush and Clinton administrations might have contributed to the
deaths of more than 3,000 people in the terrorist attacks.
investigation should carefully examine all the evidence and follow all
the facts, wherever they lead,'' Mr. Bush said at the bill-signing
ceremony, with Mr. Kissinger, who is 79, at his side. ``We must uncover
every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th.''
House officials said Mr. Kissinger was an attractive choice for the job
because while he has extensive experience, he has been out of
government long enough that he has few ties to the people and agencies
whose actions he would be examining.
Advisers to the White
House said the administration believed that Mr. Kissinger had
sufficient prestige that he could be independent of Mr. Bush, but at
the same time was someone Mr. Bush and his staff could be comfortable
The appointment surprised relatives of the Sept. 11
victims, who had been the primary force behind the legislation and who
had been consulting with the administration and Congressional leaders
about who would be on the commission.
It also raised questions
among Democrats about whether Mr. Kissinger, who has served in some
capacity under Nixon and every Republican president since, would be
willing to pursue an aggressive investigation that would delve into
delicate topics like the role of Saudi Arabia and risk findings that
could prove politically explosive for Mr. Bush.
they pointed to Mr. Kissinger's record of operating in secrecy and
accusations about his involvement in incidents like the 1973 coup in
Chile that toppled the Socialist government of Salvador Allende.
some Democrats said they were confident that Mr. Kissinger's stature
and visibility, combined with the appointment of Mr. Mitchell by the
Democrats and promises by the victims' families to keep up the pressure
for a no-holds-barred inquiry, ensured that the commission would not be