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Henry Kissinger Named to Head Independent 9/11 Probe

Aired November 27, 2002 - 10:56   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're watching some news coming out of Washington right now, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
HENRY KISSINGER, APPOINTED CHAIRMAN OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION: A great honor to be appointed by the president to be chairman of the nonpartisan, independent commission to look into the facts and circumstances of the tragedy of September 11. It means a great deal to me, as somebody who grew up in New York, to contribute to the finding of the facts and to the bringing out of all the facts. But this is not a matter simply for New York; it is a matter for all of America.

As the president pointed out, he wants all the facts, and that is also the view of the Congress.

I have already placed calls to Mrs. Pelosi, to the speaker, to Mr. Gephardt. I've talked to Senator Lott and Senator McCain. And the effort will be conducted on a nonpartisan basis to get at the circumstances that led to this tragedy.

To the families concerned, I would like to say this: 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. And to the extent that this commission can make recommendations, we will -- and we are free to make recommendations, and the president has said that he will take them very seriously -- to that extent, it will contribute to the safety of America, to the future of America and to the avoidance of any future tragedies.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Do you expect that you'd want to question -- you'd want to question President Bush...


KISSINGER: I really should not talk about the operation of the commission until other commissioners have been appointed by the procedures that have been established.

I was chairman of the Central American Commission during a very controversial period, and we achieved the unanimous report. And I expect to work in the closest cooperation with the new commission.

I don't know whom we will want to question, but we will get at all the facts. And the president has promised us that all the facts will be made available. One doesn't start with the president of the United States. And so I don't want to make a judgment until we have all the facts -- until we have other commissioners. But it will be done on an agreed basis within the commission.

QUESTION: Dr. Kissinger, do you have a reasonable expectation that the results of this commission, whatever it may find will be implemented as opposed to being either a report that sits on a shelf somewhere?

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

QUESTION: Dr. Kissinger, you met with some of the family members and survivors a few moments ago, could you describe the particular burden you feel this commission has, perhaps, thus far to your public service record, do you feel a particular (OFF-MIKE)

KISSINGER: Well, we have a special responsibility to those who suffered such terrible and, of course, totally unexpected losses.

I have had an opportunity to talk to the many of those who were here. I have told them that I would designate a staff member to be in daily contact with them. I will meet with them monthly. I will have a first meeting with them, tentatively planned for December 12, together with any other commissioners that may have been appointed at that time. But the families are an integral part of our process.

QUESTION: Dr. Kissinger, do you have any concerns about once the commission begins its work, fingers point to valuable allies, say, Saudi Arabia, for example, the implications -- policy implications this could have on the United States, particularly at this delicate time?

KISSINGER: I have been given every assurance by the president that we should go where the facts lead us and that we're not restricted by any foreign policy considerations.

I have had a conversation with the secretary of state, who will designate a liaison person with us. And he has promised me, as one would expect, the fullest cooperation. We are under no restrictions, and we would accept no restrictions.

QUESTION: Dr. Kissinger, if we could ask you -- not to come to any conclusions, obviously yet -- but your sense of Saudi Arabia? Yesterday, this White House said that it's a good ally, but it could do more; there are these allegations that some money went from official sources somehow through some middle people and may have reached the terrorists. Your assessment of where Saudi Arabia is in the war on terrorism.

KISSINGER: Well, I think that's one of the subjects that we will deal with.

When I was secretary of state, Saudi Arabia was a good ally, but that was 30 years ago. And at this moment, before there are other commissioners, I should not make any judgments. But I want to repeat: We will go where the facts lead us. I had already a brief conversation with Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman. And you all know their determination to get to the bottom of this.

Good. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Do you have any role in selection or recommendation for other commissioners?

KISSINGER: No, I do not think it's appropriate for me to play any role in the selection of other commissioners. But I'm confident that everybody appointed will consider this a nonpartisan effort, and that we will work together in harmony.

LIN: A sign of optimism by the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, one of the best known diplomats of the 20th century and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, now appointed by President Bush officially to head up the independent probe of the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks. He said that his mandate is to do everything possible to prevent these sorts of attacks from happening again, and he said that the 9/11 families will be an integral part of that process. That bill signing set for this morning. President Bush did say -- or did not really say that the primary goal of this commission would be to find the flaws and mistakes of the intelligence community, but Dr. Henry Kissinger saying that that could very well be a part of his investigation.

President Bush would rather that he focus on learning the tactics and the motives of the enemies of the United States, wherever they may be.


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