President Bush has signed legislation creating an independent commission to investigate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. At the signing ceremony, Mr. Bush announced he wants former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to head the new inquiry.
The panel has a broad mandate, and will build on the limited investigations conducted by congressional committees.
President Bush says the commission has a big job to do.
"This investigation should carefully examine all the evidence, and follow all the facts, wherever they lead," the president said. "We must uncover every detail, and learn every lesson of September the 11."
The president says Henry Kissinger will bring broad experience, clear thinking and careful judgment to the work of the panel. Mr. Kissinger, one of America's best known diplomats, served as secretary of state in the 1970's, under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Vietnam War.
"I am confident that under Dr. Kissinger's leadership, the commission's work will be thorough, the recommendations will be helpful and useful," Mr. Bush said.
This marks a return to public service for Henry Kissinger, who has spent the last few decades writing books on foreign policy and diplomacy. He says, the commission will act in a totally non-partisan manner, and that it will go where the facts lead, even if those facts could embarrass an American ally.
"We are under no restrictions, and we would accept no restrictions," he said.
During a brief session with reporters, Mr. Kissinger acknowledged he has a personal stake in the investigation, that the attack on the World Trade Center, literally, hit close to home.
"It means a great deal to me, as somebody who grew up in New York, to contribute to the finding of these facts, and the bringing out of all these facts. But, this is not a matter simply for New York. It is a matter for all of America," Mr. Kissinger said.
President Bush originally opposed the creation of a commission, citing security concerns. He said the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were better equipped to handle sensitive information.
But the families of those killed campaigned hard for an independent inquiry, and the White House eventually changed its position, and worked out compromise legislation with Congress to create a commission, and give it 18 months to complete its work.
They included the commission in a bill authorizing spending for intelligence agencies. President Bush signed the bill, with some of the family members at his side, on the eve of America's Thanksgiving holiday.
"In working for this commission, you have been motivated by a noble goal: You want to spare other Americans the kind of suffering you faced," president Bush said.
Shortly after the signing ceremony, the president left the nation's capital for a long holiday weekend at his Texas ranch. He returns to Washington on Sunday.