The families of the victims of the terrorist atttacks of 9/11 waited a long time for President Bush to agree to set up a Commission to investigate the reasons for the failure of America's security services to anticipate and prevent the assaults on New York and Washington. The chairman and vice-chairmen of the Commission were eventually named on November 28 - Henry Kissinger and former Senator George Mitchell. But less than three weeks later the calibre of the Commission is in doubt; Mr Mitchell has had second thoughts, deciding that the interests of his law firm should come first. Mr Kissinger's position is more complex. At the start it was said that his appointment would be on a part-time basis because of the demands of his top-level business consultancy company. Since many of his clients are major international companies the question of conflict of interest naturally arose. Politicians and the media suggested that Mr Kissinger should be asked to name the companies he worked for. He has refused to do this; nor is he willing to sever his business ties. It is being strongly suggested that he must do one or the other - or withdraw.

Nominations for the other ten members of the Commission have to be made by tomorrow. The Republican and Democratic leaderships in Congress will name the names, five apiece, strictly on party lines. What should be an open and rigorous investigation is beginning to look like a political fix led by a tarnished chairman working part-time. The families of the victims deserve better.

MONITOR

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