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Bush names Kissinger to head 9/11 probe

Bush: 'Follow all the facts, wherever they lead'

Bush announces Wednesday that Kissinger, left, will head the panel.
Bush announces Wednesday that Kissinger, left, will head the panel.

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CNN's John King reports on President Bush's naming of Henry Kissinger to lead 9/11 panel (November 28)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to lead an independent panel to investigate U.S. intelligence failures before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Democrats later named former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as the commission's vice chairman.

"This investigation should carefully examine all the evidence and follow all the facts, wherever they lead," said Bush, whose administration initially opposed the commission. (Full story)

"We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th," Bush said.

Creation of the panel was included in a broad intelligence authorization bill that Bush signed Wednesday. The 10-person commission will be made up of five Republicans and five Democrats

Kissinger, 79, served as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations and shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the agreement that ended the U.S. role in the Vietnam War in 1973.

"Dr. Kissinger will bring broad experience, clear thinking and careful judgment to this important task," Bush said.

Kissinger told reporters that "foreign policy considerations" would not play a role in the commission's work. "We are under no restrictions and we will accept no restrictions," Kissinger said.

Mitchell led a group that brokered a peace accord in Northern Ireland and headed an international committee looking into the Middle East conflict. In a written statement, he pledged to "do all that I can to ensure that the commission's inquiry is thorough, fair and non-partisan."

The panel is expected to complete its work in 18 months. The White House wants the commission to issue a final report well before the 2004 presidential elections.

Wednesday's bill signing marked the third such event in three days.

Monday, Bush signed a bill creating a Department of Homeland Security. (Full story)

Henry Kissinger
Age, date of birth: 79; May 27, 1923 in Germany
Career highlights: U.S. secretary of state, 1973-1977; national security adviser, 1969-1975; shared the Nobel Peace Prize with North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho; author, professor and Army veteran
Personal: As a child, fled Nazi Germany in 1938 with family to the United States; married to Nancy Marginnes; two adult children from previous marriage

Tuesday he signed legislation that provides terrorism insurance for the construction and business industries. (Full story)

The commission idea was proposed by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, and John McCain, R-Arizona, and Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Indiana, soon after the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, the Washington area and Pennsylvania.

The Bush administration wanted to let a select intelligence committee handle the probe, but that investigation encountered problems gathering information from key agencies. In the face of mounting political and public pressure, Bush reversed his position in the fall.

Lieberman said he would be surprised if the commission did not want to question top officials, including Bush and former President Bill Clinton.

"They have to ask every conceivable question about how September 11 happened," Lieberman said. "And if they don't get the answers they want, we expect them to use the subpoena power that we have given them. This is just too important."

Bush credited the surviving relatives of September 11 victims for their efforts to create the commission, telling them, "There's a lot of people continuing to pray for you."

"In working for this commission, you've been motivated by a noble goal -- you want to spare the Americans the kind of suffering you faced," he said. "I appreciate that sentiment. America is grateful."

start quoteWe are under no restrictions and we will accept no restrictions.end quote
-- Kissinger, on the commission's approach to its job

Kissinger said that he will meet monthly with victims' relatives and that the commission will have a full-time staffer to work with them.

"The president has said publicly, and he has told me privately, that he has every intention to carry out the recommendations of the commission," Kissinger said.

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