Skip to comments.President signs bill to establish independent Sept. 11 probe, names Kissinger as its head
Posted on 11/27/2002 7:29:31 AM PST by RCW2001
JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
©2002 Associated Press
(11-27) 07:23 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --
President Bush signed legislation creating a new independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks Wednesday and named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to lead the panel.
"Dr. Kissinger will bring broad experience, clear thinking and careful judgment to this important task," Bush said at a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. "Mr. secretary, thank you for returning to the service of your nation."
The commission has a broad mandate, building on the limited joint inquiry conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. The independent panel will have 18 months to examine issues such as aviation security and border problems, along with intelligence.
Bush called on members to report back more quickly than 18 months, saying the nation needed to know quickly how it can avoid terror attacks in the future. "The sooner we have the commission's conclusions, the sooner we can act on them," Bush said.
"This should carefully examine all evidence and follow all facts, wherever they lead," the president said.
However, Bush did not set as a primary goal for the commission to uncover mistakes or lapses of the government that could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead, he said it should try to help the administration learn the tactics and motives of the enemy.
"This commission will help me and future presidents to understand ... the nature of the threats we face," he said.
"We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th," Bush said in a ceremony with survivors, families of victims, and advocates of the bill, including lawmakers.
He pledged his administration will "continue to act on the lessons we've learned so far to better protect the people of this country. It's our most solemn duty."
The commission's creation is part of a bill authorizing intelligence activities in the 2003 budget year. Though most details of the legislation remain secret, lawmakers say it provides the biggest-ever increase in intelligence spending in an attempt to fix some counterterrorism weaknesses -- such as a lack of information-sharing, a shortage of experts in certain key languages and new attention to traditional, human spying.
It was Bush's third major bill-signing in as many days and served as a holiday send-off for the president, who was leaving immediately afterward to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend at his Crawford, Texas, ranch.
Considerable fanfare and celebratory crowds accompanied the signings on Monday and Tuesday of legislation to create a new Homeland Security Department and help guarantee businesses coverage for terrorism insurance. The White House was more subdued about Wednesday's bill signing.
Like the Homeland Security Department, the independent commission was an idea to which Bush's support came late.
The White House held that only Congress should investigate, arguing that an independent probe could distract administration officials from anti-terrorism efforts and produce leaks that could compromise intelligence operations. The change of heart came in September, as family members of Sept. 11 victims applied pressure and congressional hearings began to uncover intelligence and law enforcement failures.
The White House had concerns about the leadership and subpoena powers of the panel. Bush insisted only a bipartisan group should be able to compel testimony and documents, fearing that one-party subpoenas would lead to ineffective finger-pointing and allow the panel to be used merely to score political points.
The 10-member commission will be evenly divided between Republican and Democratic appointees. As Bush demanded, the president will name the chairman and it will take at least six members, in most cases, to approve subpoenas.
Fleischer said the changes would ensure the inquiry's usefulness. He also said Bush does not envision testifying before the panel.
Stephen Push of Great Falls, Va., a leader of a group of victims' relatives, argued the commission as passed was not as powerful as family members wanted.
Though the spending total was not made public, the bill is believed to authorize more than $35 billion in intelligence programs to make up for a decade of declining spending.
The bill requires a database of known or suspected international terrorists. Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were placed on a State Department watch list in the weeks before the attacks, but other agencies were not notified.
It also establishes a new center to help intelligence agencies quickly translate foreign languages; provides millions for the study of languages key to national security; and calls for a standard way for all agencies to spell names from other alphabets.
©2002 Associated Press
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.