Kissinger Resigns as Head of Sept. 11
"This is a moment of disappointment for me, of course. ... My
hope is that, by the decision to step aside now, the joint
commission can proceed without further controversy," Kissinger said
in a letter to President Bush (news
sites), who tapped him for the high-profile job.
The announcement, which followed the resignation of former
Democratic Sen. George Mitchell as vice chairman of the commission,
threw the Sept. 11 investigation into disarray.
Kissinger's selection had sparked considerable controversy, both
because of his policy-making role during the Vietnam War and the
bombing of Cambodia, and because he is now a high-priced private
international consultant. A new documentary called "The Trials of
Henry Kissinger" alleged Kissinger was an international war
The 10-member commission was charged with investigating possible
intelligence, aviation security, immigration or other policy lapses
related to the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.
The Bush administration initially opposed the commission, arguing
a congressional investigation was better equipped to preserve
national security secrets. Victims' families led a public campaign
and pressured Bush to back down.
He appointed Kissinger, one of the most controversial American
statesmen of the last half-century, to serve as chairman on Nov. 27.
In his letter of resignation, Kissinger, 79, said he was
confident he could have resolved potential conflicts of interest
with his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, but was concerned
that "the controversy would quickly move to the consulting firm I
have built and own."
"I have, therefore, concluded that I cannot accept the
responsibility you proposed," said Kissinger, a Nobel Peace Prize
winner and secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and
Kissinger has stated publicly there are no conflicts between the
commission's work and clients at his New York-based consulting
But congressional Democrats had demanded that he fully disclose
his business clients, and relatives of the victims asked for
information about his business interests to see if he had any
"In the end, he (Kissinger) would've been willing and was going
to make his client list public. But he reached the conclusion that
even after he had done that, people still would've said 'it's not
enough; you must stop making a living; you must sever your ties to
all your clients; you can no longer have Kissinger Associates,"' a
senior White House official said.
NEW CHAIRMAN SOUGHT 'QUICKLY'
Bush promised to "work quickly" to name a new chairman to the
commission "whose mission will be to uncover every detail and learn
every lesson of Sept. 11."
"It is with regret that I accept Dr. Kissinger's decision to step
down as chairman of the National Commission to investigate the
events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the years that led up to that event,"
Bush said in a statement.
"As I stated at the time of his appointment, Dr. Kissinger is one
of our nation's most accomplished and respected public servants. I
thank him for his willingness to consider serving his country once
Kissinger called White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card on Friday
afternoon and told him he had made his mind up to step down. "This
came as a surprise," a White House official said.
Earlier this week Mitchell, the former Senate Democratic leader,
announced he would not serve on the panel, citing time pressures.
Democrats have recommended former House International Relations
Committee chairman Lee Hamilton to take Mitchell's place.
When he signed legislation creating the commission, Bush urged
its members to expedite their work, due to be completed within the
next 18 months, and directed them to "follow all the facts wherever
But a senior administration officials conceded: "The resignations
of Sen. Mitchell and Secretary Kissinger means the commission is not
getting off to as quick a start as the president would've hoped."
Democrats have named five representatives to the Sept. 11
commission, including Hamilton as vice chairman. Republicans still
must name three more members.
In a statement issued late on Friday, Hamilton said Democratic
members of the commission "support complete disclosure and we will
each comply fully with the requirements."