"It is clear that, although specific potential conflicts can be
resolved in this manner, the controversy would quickly move to the
consulting firm I have built and own," Kissinger wrote in a letter
to President Bush, who appointed him. "I have, therefore,
concluded that I cannot accept the responsibility you proposed."
The decision was another blow for the fledging panel. Its
original vice chairman, former Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine,
resigned from the commission Wednesday, partly because of pressures
to quit his law firm.
No replacement for Kissinger was announced, but Bush was
expected to fill the position soon.
Calls for Purely Independent Panel
Kissinger's resignation came one day after he tried to assure
victims' relatives that his business interests would not conflict
with his duties as chairman.
A leader of a relatives' group, Kristen Breitweiser of September
11th Advocates, said the Kissinger and Mitchell resignations
"reaffirms my belief that the commission needs to be pure,
transparent and purely independent."
Stephen Push of Families of Sept. 11 said Kissinger's
resignation gives Bush "a second chance to appoint someone who
will be a thorough and competent investigator."
Kissinger said he had told White House lawyers he was willing to
remove the appearance of conflict of interests by submitting "all
relevant financial information" to the White House and to an
Kissinger called White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and told
him he was willing to disclose his client list, but feared that
would not be enough, and that critics would demand that he
liquidate his firm, a senior White House official said, speaking on
condition of anonymity. Kissinger said he could not liquidate
Kissinger Associates, his international consulting firm, without
delaying the commission's work.
A spokeswoman for Kissinger said he had no comment beyond his
letter to Bush. White House aides said the resignation was
Financial Statement Was Sticking Point
Bush issued a written statement saying he accepted Kissinger's
resignation with regret and that "his chairmanship would have
provided the insights and analysis the government needs to
understand the methods of our enemies and the nature of the threats
The commission will investigate events surrounding the attacks,
examining issues including aviation security, immigration and U.S.
diplomacy. It will build on a congressional inquiry, completed this
week, into intelligence failures.
Senators said all commission members must submit financial
disclosures that would reveal potential conflicts. That view was
supported by reports issued by Congress' research arm, the
Congressional Research Service.
But the White House contended Kissinger, as Bush's sole
appointee, should not have had to submit a report because the law
does not require presidential appointees to submit disclosures if
they are not drawing salaries.
There have been other disputes surrounding the commission which
begins its work early next month.
Negotiations creating the commission were bogged down by
disputes over its makeup and rules, with lawmakers and the White
House accusing each other of trying to manipulate it for political
Some family members of victims and a number of congressional
Democrats have questioned whether the administration wants an
honest evaluation of the attacks, with its report due to come out
less than six months before the 2004 presidential election.
Victims' relatives have criticized the appointment of former
Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., who they say is too close to the
airline industry. They are pushing for the appointment of
independent-minded former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., for one of
the five Republican slots.
Five Democrats have already been
appointed, including former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., who will be
the panel's vice chairman.