Dear Mr. Kissinger,
On September 10, 2001, we were parents, spouses, siblings, and children. On September 11, we became childless, orphans, widows and widowers; we lost our brothers and sisters. Fifteen months later, we remain, at best, dumbfounded that our nation has not undertaken an independent investigation of how this happened, and at worst, deeply disturbed about how little we have learned about the most devastating terrorist attacks in the history of the United States of America.
We believe that the threat of more attacks makes a rigorous, independent investigation essential for our future well-being. We are fearful, however, that appointing you, a controversial figure in American history, to chair that investigation is not the gesture of good faith we had hoped for from the Bush administration. A Washington insider is not our first choice for investigating failures originating inside Washington. President Bush has instructed your commission to “carefully examine all the evidence and follow all the facts wherever they lead.” But we are concerned you will be reluctant to follow the evidence if it leads to your friends, to your business associates, or to anyone inside the United States government. In our view, the September 11 attacks were crimes against humanity, not merely crimes against the United States. Indeed, people from more than 80 nations died in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon, and on Flight 93. It is to the global community, not just to the people of the United States, that an investigation into the events before, during, and after the attacks remains of critical concern. Yet people in the global community have not forgotten your role in events that have terrorized them: the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; the people of East Timor; the people of Bangladesh, Chile and Argentina. We are skeptical that your tenure on the commission will convince them that their interests, not simply those of the Washington bureaucracy will be served by this investigation.
We feel strongly that transparency and full disclosure must be key elements in legitimizing the work of the commission and beginning the process of rebuilding confidence in the intelligence and security agencies of our nation. But because you have been such an adamant opponent of the release of public records documenting your own activities while in the service of the people of the United States, we question whether in your role as commission chair you will shed new light or create more darkness. Only by establishing an environment honoring candor and openness, one that welcomes whistleblowers who are willing to disclose what they know, will we begin to break through the official wall of silence on the September 11 attacks. But we are not confident that a man who wiretapped his own staff while serving as national security adviser will be able to create a welcoming atmosphere for those bravely seeking to disclose valuable information about the attacks.
In prosecuting those who orchestrated or enabled the terrorist attacks of September 11, we believe it is necessary to identify the attacks as violations of international law, and to commit to seeing the perpetrators tried in an international court of law. Yet you are currently wanted for questioning by authorities in France, Chile and Argentina for your possible role in human rights violations involving their citizens. We are skeptical that you will encourage authorities to prosecute those responsible for the September 11 attacks when you yourself refuse to cooperate with the legitimate processes of law-abiding nations.
Only through full disclosure of our country’s failures leading up to and on September 11 can we continue our existence not just as a nation, but as a great nation. The Bush administration has given you its trust. As you begin your work on this commission, you will have to earn ours. As September 11 families, we are willing to undertake the painful process of reviewing the events that led to the murders of our loved ones. This process will also prove painful to you, to our fellow citizens, and to our nation. But it is because we love the United States of American that we must begin this long-overdue task. We invite you, and all Americans, to join us on this journey. Together we can create a nation that is stronger, safer, and truly free.
[i>Shortly after this letter was written Henry Kissenger stepped down as chair of the 9/11 investigative comission. [/i>