Kissinger to head probe of 9/11 (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Joseph Curl 11/28/02)
WASHINGTON TIMES Articles-Index-Top
President Bush yesterday named Henry Kissinger to head a commission
to investigate the September 11 terrorist attacks, instructing the
former secretary of state to "carefully examine all the evidence and
follow all the facts, wherever they lead."
Mr. Bush said the panel will seek to "uncover every detail and learn
every lesson of September the 11th," but, unlike a proposed
commission he initially opposed, it will have a firm deadline to
complete work within 18 months.
"This commission will help me and future presidents to understand the
methods of America´s enemies and the nature of the threats we face,"
the president said at a White House ceremony with congressional
lawmakers, attack survivors and members of victims´ families.
Mr. Bush said he wants the process concluded quickly. "After all, if
there´s changes that need to be made, we need to know them as soon as
possible," he said.
The commission, created by legislation Mr. Bush signed yesterday,
will be composed of nine more appointees picked by the congressional
leadership. Democrats yesterday announced George J. Mitchell, the
former Democratic senator who has worked for peace in the Middle East
and Northern Ireland, as their choice to serve as vice chairman of
That leaves each party with four more selections, expected to be
announced early next month.
The commission will examine issues such as aviation security and
border problems, along with intelligence. It will have the authority
to subpoena witnesses and documents by agreement of the chairman and
vice chairman or a vote of six of the 10 commission members.
Democrats said the president is likely to be asked to testify before
the independent commission about events leading up to the attacks
that killed more than 3,000 people.
"I would be surprised if this commission — in pursuit of the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth — did not want to speak
with this president and high officials in this administration," said
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.
But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush did not
envision testifying before the panel, asserting it would not
be "within the precedents of any congressional commission."
Mr. Kissinger, 79, told reporters on the White House driveway that
the commission will have no restraints.
"We are not restricted by any foreign policy considerations. We are
under no restrictions, and we would accept no restrictions," Mr.
Kissinger said, adding that Mr. Bush had given him assurances in
private that "he has every intention to carry out the recommendations
of the commission."
Mr. Kissinger, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and secretary of state
under Presidents Nixon and Ford, pledged a thorough investigation,
including an examination of any ties between U.S. ally Saudi Arabia
and Osama bin Laden´s al Qaeda network, which carried out the
September 11 attacks.
The White House disclosed in May that Mr. Bush was told in the months
before the attacks that al Qaeda might hijack U.S. passenger planes.
The disclosure prompted some liberal Democrats, including Sen.
Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, to accuse the president of
knowing terrorists´ plans before the September 11 attacks.
A senior White House official said the selection of Mr. Kissinger
allays administration concerns about classified information.
"You need someone like a Henry Kissinger because of his security
clearance. You´re not going to find too much he doesn´t already
know," the official said.
While some of the law´s provisions establish requirements for the
president to disclose sensitive information, Mr. Bush said in a
statement that "the executive branch shall construe such provisions
in a manner consistent with the president´s constitutional authority
to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign
relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the
executive or the performance of the executive´s constitutional
Although critics of the Kissinger appointment quickly voiced
opposition, a spokesman for the families of September 11 victims
welcomed the move.
"We look forward to working with [Mr. Kissinger] to make the
commission effective in uncovering the problems that led to the
September 11 attacks," said Stephen Push, whose wife died on the
hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
Said Mr. Kissinger: "There is nothing that can be done about the
losses they have suffered, but everything must be done to avoid that
such a tragedy can occur again."
The nomination of Mr. Kissinger won an endorsement yesterday from a
Democratic senator with whom he often has been at odds.
"There´s nothing wrong with being impatient or brash or having a
temper, I´ve been accused of both, sometimes by Henry Kissinger,"
said Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, referring to at least
one congressional hearing in which he and Mr. Kissinger had an angry
exchange about the issue of prisoners of war inVietnam.
"What matters is that Henry Kissinger is one of a handful of leaders
capable of leading this kind of effort. He´s one of the smartest and
most experienced foreign policy hands we have. He won´t be
intimidated by the intelligence community or military brass," said
Mr. Kerry, a prospective presidential candidate in 2004. He added
that Mr. Kissinger has a strong ability to detect being snowed by
disinformation or propaganda.
Mr. Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, two years after he
made a secret trip to China, ending a Sino-American estrangement that
had lasted more than two decades.
Mr. Mitchell, who represented Maine in the Senate, more recently led
the negotiations that produced the landmark Good Friday peace pact of
1998 for Northern Ireland.
Yesterday´s bill signing was the third major accomplishment for the
White House this week, beginning with the creation of the Department
of Homeland Security on Monday. On Tuesday, the president signed into
law legislation to bolster insurance companies, a move he said would
kick-start $15 billion in construction projects nationwide.
"This has been a week of accomplishment for the American people,
particularly on our two highest priorities — protecting the American
people and strengthening our economy," Deputy Press Secretary Scott
McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One as Mr. Bush flew to his
ranch in Crawford, Texas, for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Twelve Bush family members, including the first couple´s twin
daughters, who turned 21 on Monday, will gather at the ranch for
dinner today. On the menu: free-range "brined" turkey, corn bread
dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce,
giblet gravy, fruit salad, green beans with anchovy and red peppers,
and crescent rolls.
"And for dessert, pumpkin pie and pecan pie," Mr. McClellan said.
Mr. Bush returns to Washington on Sunday.
Joyce Howard Price contributed to this report. (copyright © 2002 News
World Communications, Inc. 11/28/02)
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