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Yet Another Job For Kissinger

2 minute read
Matthew Cooper and Michael Weisskopf

The commission to investigate intelligence and security failures that led to Sept. 11 got a high-profile if controversial leader when Henry Kissinger, 79, accepted the White House call to head the panel. The former Secretary of State was Bush’s first choice, with a strong push from Vice President Cheney. Sources tell TIME that others considered were Robert Gates, CIA director during the first Bush’s Administration, and Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Critics jumped on the appointment, citing the Nixon-era diplomat’s penchant for secrecy. Kissinger quickly went to work to counter that impression. He had dinner with the panel’s vice chairman, former Democratic Senator George Mitchell; met with 9/11 victims’ families that were at his West Wing announcement; and, sources tell TIME, plans to appoint a liaison to keep in daily contact with families during the probe. Others are worried that Kissinger will be swayed by his many business interests. The international consultant is said to be outraged by the insinuation, but he will not disclose his thick client portfolio. “At his age and stage of life,” says a Bush confidant, “he’s obviously above politics.” That may be just the point Kissinger wants to make, looking more to his place in history than to his place at the power table. –By Matthew Cooper and Michael Weisskopf

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