Phillip Zelikow: Just why was he chosen as executive director of the 9-11 commission?

Historians in the News

... historians will one day ponder why Philip Zelikow was selected as the commission's executive director. A friend of Condoleezza Rice's since their days together on the National Security Council under George H.W. Bush, Zelikow was a key member of Rice's transition team in 2000 and 2001 and was instrumental in the pivotal decision to demote counter-terrorism "czar" Richard Clarke. After 9/11, Zelikow remained an outside adviser to Rice, helping to draft the administration's 2002 national security blueprint for unilateral, pre-emptive military action—the framework for the invasion of Iraq. Without Precedent is the title of Kean's recently co-authored memoir about the commission's work, an apt choice considering that the panel featured a staff director who had to oversee the investigation, testify, and recuse himself simultaneously.

Since February 2005, Zelikow has been counselor to now Secretary of State Rice. It's a textbook case of what Ralph Nader calls Washington's "deferred bribe syndrome." (Disclosure: From 1999 to 2003, this author worked at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs while Zelikow was its director.)

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