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9/11 Cover-up Document

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Kissinger to Lead 9/11 Inquiry


WASHINGTON, 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.

In 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.

Democratic 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 similar occurrence.

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.

The 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.

``His 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.''

White 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 with.

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.

In particular, 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.

But 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 toothless.

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