WASHINGTON -- President Bush named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Wednesday to lead an independent investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks and said the probe "must uncover every detail and learn every lesson" of the terrorist strikes.
Kissinger pledged to "go where the facts lead us."
"We are under no restrictions, and we will accept no restrictions," Kissinger told reporters at the White House.
Kissinger, 79, will lead an investigative commission created under a bill Bush signed authorizing intelligence activities in the 2003 budget year.
"This commission will help me and future presidents to understand the methods of America's enemies and the nature of the threats we face," Bush said at a White House ceremony with lawmakers, survivors and victims' families.
"This investigation should carefully examine all the evidence and follow all the facts wherever they lead," said Bush, who was initially cool toward creating an independent commission. "We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th."
Kissinger spoke briefly to family members before talking with reporters after the ceremony. "To the families concerned, there's nothing that can be done about the losses they've suffered, but everything must be done to avoid that such a tragedy can occur again."
Former Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell will serve in the No. 2 spot as vice chairman, appointed Wednesday by House minority leader Dick Gephardt and outgoing Senate majority leader Tom Daschle.
Kissinger is one of the best- known diplomats of the 20th century, but also a controversial figure.
He was secretary of state to Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho for cease-fire negotiations during the Vietnam war. Kissinger also made a determined peacemaking effort in the Middle East and made repeated trips to the region. But he has also been called a war criminal by his harshest critics, for the role he played in Vietnam and other hot spots, working at times with corrupt governments in pursuit of U.S. interests.
The commission has a broad mandate, building on the limited joint inquiry conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. The independent panel will have 18 months to examine issues such as aviation security and border problems, along with intelligence.
Bush called on members to report back more quickly than 18 months, saying the nation needed to know quickly how it can avoid terror attacks in the future.