WASHINGTON – Henry Kissinger, chairman of the commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks, said Sunday he will have no qualms recommending an examination of possible involvement by foreign countries if facts point that way.
"If they lead in the direction of the need for looking into the actions of foreign countries or what foreign countries knew, my personal recommendation will be to explore that,'' the former secretary of state said on CNN's Late Edition. "But I would like to wait until we have the commission together.''
President Bush appointed Kissinger on Thursday and congressional Democratic leader named the vice chairman, former Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine. The panel's other eight members will be appointed by Dec. 15.
In looking into the periods before and after the attacks, Mitchell said the commission's job is to determine "in a very broad sense, what happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.'' He said it was both to establish a historical record and recommend ways to shape future policy.
The question of investigating foreign leaders, individuals and intelligence agencies came up in the context of the breadth of the commission's powers. Both Kissinger and Mitchell suggested they would call any witnesses necessary but refused to say specifically if even Bush would be fair game.
Because the committee's final four Democrats and four Republicans have yet to be named, "it would be insulting to them and presumptuous for us to now say we're going to interview X, Y, Z, and when,'' Mitchell said on Fox News Sunday.
Both men promised that the investigation would be comprehensive and without favor.
"It will be nonpartisan, thorough and something that will permit the American people, when it is finished, to say that a full accounting has been given of the facts and circumstances that led to this tragedy,'' Kissinger said.
In response to questions about possible conflicts of interest involving clients of their law firms, both said they knew of none and promised to get out of any that might arise.
"If there are any clients that are involved in investigations, I will certainly sever my relations with them,'' Kissinger said on Fox. "But I cannot conceive that there will be any. But if there should be, I will sever my relations with them.''
Asked if he too would sever ties in the same situation, Mitchell said: "Certainly, should someone that we, I personally or my law firm, is now representing that is a subject of this inquiry, then there would be no question about that.''