WASHINGTON – December 11, 2002
The Honorable Thomas A. Daschle
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Richard A. Gephardt
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Tom and Dick:
Thank you for your willingness to appoint me Vice Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. I regret that I will not be able to serve.
My understanding of the law establishing the Commission is that it contemplates members who will serve part-time while continuing their prior employment. However, as you know, some have urged that I sever all ties to the law firm with which I am associated. Since I must work to support my family I cannot comply.
Two concerns appear to underlie the request: (1) conflicts of interest; and (2) being able to devote the time necessary to the work of the Commission. Both are serious concerns, which I have carefully considered.
As to the commitment of time, I have now had the opportunity to initially review the public findings of the Joint Intelligence Committee and to have had discussions with several persons with extensive knowledge and experience in this matter.
As a result I have concluded that the work of the Commission will require more time than I anticipated and more than I now can commit to. Therefore, I have decided that I must withdraw. I take this action reluctantly, as I wanted very much to be a part of this important effort.
As to conflicts, I have already stated publicly that I have none and that I would immediately stop representing and have no further contact with any client of my firm who becomes involved in the inquiry. In addition, once established the Commission will want to preserve public confidence in itself and its work. It will be able to act in a way that will protect against the reality and the perception of conflicts of interest. I have no doubt that the Commission will take action sufficient to insure that all of the members (including me, had I served) will be in full compliance with the letter and the spirit of all applicable laws and regulations.
Since the Commission is not yet in existence I hope and trust that this will not impede its work. I deeply regret and apologize for any inconvenience to you, to the families of victims of the attacks of September 11, and to all those who are concerned with the work of the Commission.
George J. Mitchell