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March 30th, 2004, 07:17 AM
March 30, 2004

9/11 Panel Wants Rice Under Oath in Any Testimony


WASHINGTON, March 29 — The chairman and vice chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said on Monday that they would ask Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath in any future questioning because of discrepancies between her statements and those made in sworn testimony by President Bush's former counterterrorism chief.

"I would like to have her testimony under the penalty of perjury," said the commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, in comments that reflected the panel's exasperation with the White House and Ms. Rice, the president's national security adviser.

Ms. Rice has granted one private interview to the 10-member, bipartisan commission and has requested another. But the White House has cited executive privilege in refusing to allow her to testify before the commission in public or under oath, even as she has granted numerous interviews about its investigation.

The White House declined to respond to Mr. Kean's comments. One official who had been briefed on discussions between the White House and the commission said Monday night that several options were under consideration that might lead to a compromise over Ms. Rice. The official, who asked not to be named because of the delicacy of the negotiations, declined to specify the options and said nothing had yet been decided.

The decision to restrict her availability has led Democrats and other critics to accuse the White House of trying to hide embarrassing information about its failure to pre-empt the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I think she should be under the same penalty as Richard Clarke," Mr. Kean said in an interview, referring to Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism adviser who testified to the panel last week that the Bush administration had not paid sufficient attention to the threat from Al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001.

Congressional Republican leaders have said Mr. Clarke may have lied under oath in describing the Bush administration's counterterrorism record and requested that previous Congressional testimony by him be declassified.

In a private interview in February with several members of the commission, Ms. Rice was not required to be under oath, and panel officials said no transcript was made of the four-hour conversation. The commission has required all witnesses testifying at public hearings to be sworn in, opening them to perjury charges if they are found to be lying, while all but a handful of the hundreds of witnesses questioned behind closed doors have not been sworn in.

In separate interviews, Mr. Kean and the panel's vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic House member from Indiana, said they would continue to press for Ms. Rice to testify under oath in public.

But they said that if the White House continued to refuse to have her answer questions at a public hearing, any new private interviews with Ms. Rice should be conducted under new ground rules, with the national security adviser placed under oath and a transcription made.

Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton also said that if the White House agreed, they were ready to declassify and make public the notes taken by commissioners when they interviewed Ms. Rice on Feb. 7, along with the transcripts of nearly 15 hours of private questioning of Mr. Clarke that was conducted by the commission before last week's hearing. "My tendency is to say that everything should be made public," Mr. Kean said.

Throughout the day on Monday, there were signs of a debate within the administration over whether to hold fast to the principle of not allowing White House aides to testify before Congress or to seek a deal that would allow Ms. Rice to appear before the commission.

White House officials said Ms. Rice herself was looking for ways she could be permitted to respond to the commission, despite the reservations of the White House counsel's office and the potential difficulty of explaining why the administration was reversing course on what it had made a matter of principle.

One outside adviser to the White House said Mr. Bush's political staff was inclined to compromise on Ms. Rice's testimony, judging the political costs of continuing to fight in the midst of a tight re-election campaign to outweigh any cost from showing flexibility on the principle.

"It's fair to say many of the senior political advisers understand the principle but have a more pragmatic view," said the adviser, who insisted on anonymity, saying he wanted to keep his role behind the scenes.

This adviser said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's senior adviser and political strategist, wanted to move the election away from questions like "Were there intelligence failures?" and to put the focus instead on which candidate could better protect against any future efforts by terrorists to attack the United States.

"If we're going to have a discussion about W.M.D. and intelligence failures and Osama bin Laden, that's not an election George W. Bush wins," the adviser said. "If it's about who keeps you safer, that's the ground we want to be on."

The White House has cast its objections to allowing Ms. Rice to make a formal appearance before the commission as a matter of upholding the principle of separation of powers between Congress, which created the commission, and the executive branch.

In a letter to the commission last week, Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, said that in order to protect the ability of any president "to receive the best and most candid possible advice from their White House staff" on national security issues, it was important that "these advisers not be compelled to testify publicly before Congressional bodies such as the commission."

A second outside adviser said that White House officials believed they could endure the political firestorm raging now but that they were concerned that giving up the privilege could come back to haunt them down the road.

After finding herself at the center of the political furor over Mr. Clarke's testimony, Ms. Rice asked last week for a separate meeting with the commission, specifically to rebut the accusation made by Mr. Clarke in his testimony and in his new, best-selling memoir.

"With other witnesses, our policy has been to conduct interviews under oath when key factual matters are in dispute, and there are obviously some factual matters here under dispute," Mr. Hamilton said. He said the commission would probably go ahead with the interview even if Ms. Rice refused. "If she decided not to be placed under oath, that would be her decision, and we are still going to want her testimony."

The commission has voted in the past against issuing a subpoena for Ms. Rice, and panel members said today that they were unlikely to reconsider given the lengthy court challenge that might result.

Opinion polls over the last week offer no clear signs on whether the furor over Mr. Clarke's accusations will affect Mr. Bush's hopes for re-election.

A poll by the Pew Research Center conducted March 22 through Sunday showed Mr. Bush running even with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in a head-to-head match-up among registered voters. A poll by Newsweek taken after Mr. Clark's testimony showed that while the president's overall approval rating remained steady at 49 percent, the percentage of voters who said they approved the way he had handled terrorism and domestic security issues had dropped.

Ms. Rice has given a flurry of interviews to news organizations over the last week in which she has challenged Mr. Clarke's truthfulness, including his depiction of her as slow-footed in responding to intelligence warnings throughout 2001 that Al Qaeda was plotting a catastrophic attack on the United States.

Members of the commission, Democrats and Republicans alike, say they are angered by her interviews. They say the White House has made a major political blunder by continuing to assert executive privilege in blocking public testimony by Ms. Rice while continuing to use her as the principal public spokeswoman in defending the Bush's administration's actions before Sept. 11.

"I find it reprehensible that the White House is making her the fall guy for this legalistic position," said John F. Lehman, Navy secretary in the Reagan administration and a Republican member of the commission. "I've published two books on executive privilege, and I know that executive privilege has to bend to reality."

While there is precedent for the White House argument that incumbent national security advisers and other White House advisers should not be required to testify in public, constitutional scholars say that the position is based only on past practice, not law, and that presidents have repeatedly waived the privilege, especially at times of scandal or other intense political pressure.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Chart: Testimony by National Security Advisers (http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2004/03/30/national/0330PANE_chart.gif)

April 3rd, 2004, 12:37 AM
April 3, 2004

The Mystery Deepens

The Bush administration's handling of the bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 tragedy grows worse — and more oddly self-destructive — with each passing day. Following its earlier attempts to withhold documents from the panel and then to deny its members vital testimony, we now learn that President Bush's staff has been withholding thousands of pages of Clinton administration papers as well.

Bill Clinton authorized the release of nearly 11,000 pages of files on his administration's antiterrorism efforts for use by the commission. But aides to Mr. Clinton said the White House, which now has control of the papers, vetoed the transfer of over three-quarters of them. The White House held the documents for more than six weeks, apparently without notifying the commission, and might have kept them indefinitely if Bruce Lindsey, the general counsel of Mr. Clinton's presidential foundation, had not publicly complained this week. Yesterday the commission said the White House had agreed to allow its lawyers to review the withheld documents, but without guaranteeing any would be released.

This latest distressing episode followed the White House's pattern of resisting the commission in private and then, once the dispute becomes public, reluctantly giving up the minimum amount of ground. Earlier in the week, Mr. Bush finally agreed to allow Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to testify under oath — but only after extracting a commitment that the commission would not seek any further public testimony from any White House official. After months of foot-dragging, Mr. Bush also grudgingly agreed to let the panel question him and Vice President Dick Cheney privately. Last year the Pentagon, the Justice Department and other agencies stonewalled the commission's requests for documents until its chairman, Thomas Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, complained publicly.

Explaining the latest act of obstruction, Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman, said on Thursday that some documents were duplicative, unrelated or "highly sensitive." The White House, he said, had given the commission "all the information they need." Mr. Bush's staff should not be making that judgment. The commission's 10 members can be trusted with sensitive material.

Moreover, given the repeated criticism of this administration's obsessive secrecy on other issues, it is astonishing that it would still withhold anything that did not pose an immediate and dire threat to national security. The American people would like to know that they have a government that freely gives information to legitimate investigations on matters of grave national interest, not one that fights each reasonable request until it is exposed and forced to submit. The White House is serving no public purpose by acting less interested than the rest of us in having this commission do its vital work. Its ham-handed behavior is also gravely damaging the entire concept of executive privilege.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 3rd, 2004, 11:48 PM
April 4, 2004


Are You Now or Have You Ever Been in the Situation Room?

In comedy, as in politics, timing is everything. You have to wonder just what George W. Bush was thinking on the night of Wednesday, March 24, when he decided to do stand-up at the end of the most gripping day of 9/11 television since 9/11 itself.

That afternoon had brought Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 commission, a classic piece of Washington committee-room theater. Mr. Clarke's mea culpa — "Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you" — is likely to join our history's greatest-hits video reel, alongside Joseph Welch's "Have you no sense of decency, sir?," Howard Baker's "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" and Clarence Thomas's "high-tech lynching." That evening, Tom Brokaw, generally the least contentious (and most watched) of the three network anchors, took the startling step of giving Condoleezza Rice the first hard slap of her heretofore charmed life in the public eye: "Dr. Rice, with all due respect, I think a lot of people are watching this tonight, saying: `Well, she can appear on television, write commentary, but she won't appear before the commission under oath. It just doesn't seem to make sense.' " As indeed it did not, to anyone.

Was this the best night for the president to do a comedy routine touching on his administration's failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Maybe you had to be in the hall — an annual black-tie dinner for broadcast journalists in Washington — as I was not. But as Howard Dean learned in Iowa, it's only how you come across on TV that matters in America, not what it feels like in the moment. On TV, Mr. Bush's jocular slide show, in which he is seen searching for Saddam's arsenal in the Oval Office, proved an unwanted bookend to Mr. Clarke's opening act. A nation of viewers that had watched a public servant mourn the unnecessary loss of American life on 9/11 now saw the president make light of the rationale that necessitated the sacrifice of an additional 500-plus Americans (so far) in the war fought in 9/11's name.

There will be many more such whipsaw days of television to come. This drama has legs. It is hurtling toward September 2004, when Mr. Bush appears at the Republican convention in New York against an implicit, and possibly literal, ground zero backdrop. For reasons that are rarely unselfish, everyone wants to own a piece of 9/11. Whether it's TV ads that invoke the ruins and corpses of the World Trade Center to sell the Bush-Cheney campaign or a short-lived effort by MBNA (coincidentally or not, the biggest Bush contributor in 2000) to market a "Spirit of America" MasterCard picturing the ground zero firemen hoisting the flag, power and money are at stake, not just our security.

The role of television in the fight for ownership of 9/11 is paramount. The medium and its latest star performers — Mr. Clarke, Ms. Rice, the 9/11 commissioners — are driving the show now, often independently of any actual news. If anything, the dirty little secret about the uproar over Mr. Clarke is that his "shocking" revelations had been previously revealed, long before he went on "60 Minutes" or published his book.

It was 27 months ago that Bob Woodward, writing in The Washington Post, first quoted the president as saying that he "didn't feel that sense of urgency" about Osama bin Laden before 9/11. The Bush administration's downsizing, stalling and fumbling of the fight against terrorism in the seven-plus months between Inauguration Day and 9/11 was reported by Time in August 2002. The failure of Ms. Rice to advance Mr. Clarke's Jan. 25, 2001, memo on al Qaeda's urgent threat has been recounted (and sourced) in detail in such best sellers as Steve Coll's "Ghost Wars" and Craig Unger's "House of Bush, House of Saud," both of which beat Mr. Clarke's own account to the stores. (Still to come is a new Woodward best seller about the ramp-up to Iraq, "Plan of Attack," which "60 Minutes" will herald two weeks from tonight and which Rush Limbaugh is already pre-emptively trashing as being from "the same publisher" as the Clarke book.)

But print, even best-selling print, doesn't matter much in the 21st-century American arena. The Bush administration's game was to keep these revelations away from the center stage of wall-to-wall TV coverage. To this end, it succeeded in blocking the formation of the 9/11 commission for a year. Then it threw every conceivable roadblock in its path, from Henry Kissinger (the original appointee as chairman) to delays in providing documents and testimony. That the investigation got going anyway is a tribute not to Mr. Clarke, the Democrats or any journalist but to the telegenic clout of the 9/11 families. Like all victims of horrific crimes, they are sought after as television "gets" in a culture that likes up-close-and-personal TV replays of tragedies. The 9/11 families used their many on-air minutes to keep pushing for a commission until the White House had to cry uncle.

The families remain crucial TV players in the story. Their applause when a sharp Clarke riposte one-upped a Republican interrogator, the supercilious former Illinois governor James Thompson, played mightily on screen, as did their tearful embraces of Mr. Clarke after his testimony. Mr. Clarke, who has spent his entire career in the shadowy bowels of the Washington bureaucracy, has also proved to be a natural before the camera. With his sonorous voice, secret-agent aura and vaguely intimidating body language, he's as commanding in his weird way as Orson Welles in full noir. His menacing stare in response to another antagonistic interrogator on the 9/11 commission, John Lehman, seemed to brush back Mr. Lehman much as Mr. Clarke's verbal darts drove Mr. Thompson from the hearing room altogether. Four days later came the pièce de résistance on "Meet the Press," where Mr. Clarke pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the form of an adulatory handwritten note from President Bush. This move not only checkmated the administration's efforts to belittle Mr. Clarke's government service but did so with a subliminal visual echo of Tim Russert's most iconic TV image, his brandishing of his handwritten slate of electoral vote calculations on election night, 2000.

The White House, so often masterly in its TV management, particularly where 9/11 is concerned, has been wildly off its game. First, the White House press secretary said that Mr. Bush was too busy to watch the hearings — always a bad idea in a country of TV addicts. Soon administration emissaries went on full-court press to chastise Mr. Clarke for promoting a self-serving book at the height of election season. The only problem with that strategy is that one of its creators, Mr. Bush's once and future communications czar, Karen Hughes, was just days from starting her current nonstop TV tour to hype her own self-serving book about her White House tenure (9/11 included). Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, went even further, attacking Mr. Clarke's book as an attempt to profiteer on his inside access and "highly classified information." Apparently Mr. Frist did not know that the White House itself had vetted Mr. Clarke's book for possible security transgressions and approved it. Nor did the senator seem to remember that he had written his own, far cheesier post-9/11 cash-in book, "When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senate's Only Doctor." (I know it sounds like a parody, but that's the real title.)

Someone should get poor Ms. Rice a book contract just to keep her off the air. She's been the wackiest serial TV guest since Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg, turning up everywhere except "Hollywood Squares" to insist that she would really, truly love to testify before the 9/11 commission but wouldn't — except in private. It was easy to see why she held to this doomed strategy for so long. From day to day, her changing recollection of what Mr. Bush did or didn't say about Iraq to Mr. Clarke in the Situation Room on 9/12 had been harder to track than Colonel Mustard's perambulations in the billiard room in a protracted game of Clue. Now that she has bowed to the inevitable and will testify in public under oath after all, she had better resolve all her contradictory statements pronto, lest Senator Frist unleash the same reckless insinuations of perjury that he had leveled at Mr. Clarke.

Democrats who are enjoying this all a bit too much should remember that their own favorite, John Kerry, is a terrible TV actor in his own right. Just as the Clarke juggernaut was about to mercifully wipe him off the screen, the Massachusetts senator was skiing in the ostentatiously tony precincts of Ketchum, Idaho, and making on-camera pronouncements about Iraq like "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." For the moment, he has escaped with minor damage, if only because 9/11 trumps all other discourse. Mr. Kerry's best hope is that Mr. Bush, in his zeal to protect his ownership of that day, the most saleable commodity of his presidency, will keep the Clarke story alive indefinitely on television, as, so far, he seems determined to do.

But neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Kerry is in command. As the families will continue to fight for their ownership of 9/11, so will forces beyond anyone's control. Like all gripping dramas, this one has a subtext, and the subtext in this case is fear. Last Sunday on "60 Minutes" Ed Bradley dipped a toe into it by noting that there were fewer attacks in the 30-month period leading up to 9/11 than there have been in "the 30 months afterward when you had this war against it." Ms. Rice was dismissive of his logic. "Ed, I think that's the wrong way to look at it," she said. But that's the way many, if not most, in America do look at it. For all the sturm and drang we've watched in Washington since Richard Clarke went on "60 Minutes" two weeks ago, nothing has happened yet to dispel our underlying terror that the real owner of 9/11 is still al Qaeda.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 9th, 2004, 08:09 AM
April 9, 2004


In Testimony to 9/11 Panel, Rice Sticks to the Script


WASHINGTON, April 8 — When Condoleezza Rice took the national stage on Thursday morning, her task was to defend President Bush against the accusation that he was inattentive to terrorism before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and to defuse a debate that threatens his re-election campaign. She mounted the defense vigorously, but in the hours after she returned to the White House, it was evident that she had not defused the arguments.

At every turn in her three hours of often-contentious testimony, she stuck to the White House script: Everything that could have been done to prevent the attacks had been done. She did not acknowledge failings, apart from the institutional tensions that have long plagued the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a culture that made it impossible for a succession of administrations to see the threat unfolding in front of them.

She also did not concede that the newly arrived Bush administration was part of that problem, or that it, too, underestimated what it confronted or was distracted by other issues like tax cuts, China and missile defense. Moreover, her tone — as controlled as her delivery at one of her Stanford seminars — left many panel members wondering if she was defending a position that several of them have publicly said is indefensible.

For viewers who have not been following the details of the argument, there was the lingering question of whether anyone in the Bush White House is capable of admitting error — a step many of Ms. Rice's current and former colleagues said would help calm the political waters.

"If Dr. Rice wanted to change some minds, she needed to come out and admit that the administration — like so many of its predecessors — had made mistakes in addressing international terrorism," said Ken Pollack, a former analyst at the national security council and C.I.A. and now a scholar at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. "Simply denying that this administration has underestimated the threat is unlikely to convince Americans who see the manifest failures of the United States government to address a systemic problem."

As expected, Ms. Rice was polite, brisk and precise, if a bit apprehensive-sounding at the start. But by the end of the three hours, her tone was so emphatic and unemotional that she may have created as many new debates about the administration's reaction as she settled old ones.

"This isn't over," one senior administration official said after watching her. "But we may have turned a corner."

Yet on Thursday evening, the White House was still trying to substantiate Ms. Rice's argument earlier in the day that an Aug. 6 intelligence briefing prepared for Mr. Bush about the deadly mix of Qaeda terrorists and airplanes contained nothing about "time, place, how or where" that the president could have acted upon. It was a sign of the political pressure on the White House, however, that at Mr. Bush's orders lawyers were finally racing to declassify the document, which they have kept out of view for more than two years.

Ms. Rice's strongest moments came when she made the case that a month and a half after settling into her office, she started developing a comprehensive — if long-range — strategy to upend Al Qaeda. She argued that the man who has been her harshest critic, Richard A. Clarke, had not left her with a plan, but rather a series of steps to lash out at Al Qaeda. She said that "we might have gone off-course" if the administration had pursued the group without trying to line up Pakistan and other key players.

Hiding the anger at Mr. Clarke that she has vented to friends, she praised him highly in public, and then said she had turned over responsibility for designing the administration's strategy to him. "He was to put that strategy together," she said, essentially putting the failures back in his lap.

But on the other major subject of the hearings — her response to the threats in the summer of 2001 — she was far less persuasive.

In one tangle after another with members of the commission, she did not put to rest questions about why the administration had not taken stronger action after learning of evidence that not only was Al Qaeda intent on striking the United States, but also that airplanes could somehow figure in the attack. She argued, for example, that the F.B.I. was conducting "70 full-field investigations" of Qaeda cells in the United States. Counterterrorism officials said on Thursday that the number overstated the intensity of their search, opening up a new line of inquiry even as Ms. Rice closed off others.

And then there was Ms. Rice's statement on Thursday morning: "There was nothing demonstrating or showing that something was coming in the United States. If there had been something, we would have acted on it."

Yet the declassified version of the joint Congressional inquiry into the warnings that preceded the attacks determined that in May 2001, "the intelligence community obtained a report that bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the Untied States by way of Canada to carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives. This report mentioned without specifics an attack within the United States." That information was "included in an intelligence report for senior government officials in August," it concludes.

That is just one example of how many disparities remain between the administration's account of what it knew in 2001 and what its critics said it should have pieced together. Ms. Rice kept arguing there was no "silver bullet." Several commission members, led by Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democrat best known for his role as a Watergate prosecutor, suggested that there were plenty of bullet fragments, and that the administration failed to put them together.

Addressing Ms. Rice with a tone of impatience that she rarely hears in the quiet halls of the West Wing, he demanded that she reveal to the world the title of that Aug. 6 briefing.

"I believe the title was `Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,' " she said, immediately trying to explain that it was a historical document, not one containing an explicit warning. "I would like to finish my point here," she said as Mr. Ben-Veniste interrupted.

Mr. Ben-Veniste shot back, "I didn't know that there was a point."

The subtext of such angry exchanges was that Ms. Rice, while seeking to defuse criticism, was in no mood to move to a middle ground. There is too much at stake — starting with the president's reputation as the world's No. 1 warrior against terror, before and after Sept. 11.

But in the end, Ms. Rice's most effective argument may have been her acknowledgment that the country did not have the political will to organize against terrorism until blood was shed on American soil.

"The restructuring of the F.B.I. was not going to be done in the 233 days in which we were in office," she said. Nor, she said, was the country about to make its aircraft cockpits more secure, or threaten to invade Afghanistan, or conduct any other kind of preemptive military strike in the name of counterterrorism.

It was that way before World War I, she argued with the air of the academic she once was. It was that way before Pearl Harbor.

"And tragically," she told the commission, "for all the language of war spoken before Sept. 11, this country simply was not on a war footing."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 9th, 2004, 12:17 PM
Dick Clarke was right, there wasn't urgency.

April 10th, 2004, 02:49 AM
I've been getting more and more suspicious about the way Bush acted leading up to 9/11. I know most Republicans don't know or don't want to know this, but Bush called off the investigation into the Cole Bombing, and tried cutting FBI terror funding pre-9/11 AND post-9/11. The first attempted cut was to reappropriate money into Star Wars, while the second cut was a slashing of emergancy post-9/11 money needed to help the FBI. 2/3rds of the FBI's requested budget was cut, and among those things were new computers and translators.
Also, Bush was given that 8/6 memo, so he had to have known there was going to be an attack on 9/11 WITH airplanes...although I'm not sure if he knew where they'd even hit. Why he didn't act is beyond me though.

April 10th, 2004, 06:08 PM
Downtown Express
April 9, 2004


Cooperation with 9/11 Commission will make us safer

The testimony of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 Commission in public and under oath on Thursday shows once again how enormously valuable this commission is. Not that we were pleased by her testimony – we weren’t. But we need to see the leaders in both the Bush and Clinton administrations face tough questions from the experienced public servants on the commission so that the panel can determine and help us understand to what extent, if any, the Sept. 11 attacks were preventable and much more importantly, to figure out what can we do to reduce the chances of future terrorist acts. Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the leaders of the commission, and the rest of their colleagues appear more focused on correcting problems than playing a blame game.

Like many family members of 9/11 victims, we would like to see more cooperation and honesty from the Bush administration on matters before the commission. We understand the perils of the commission working in an election year, but surely Bush could admit that with the benefit of hindsight, he would have devoted more time and resources to stopping Al Qaeda. Such an admission would not only be refreshing for many to hear, it would be an important step for the administration to take before it could work with the commission on fixing what went wrong.

This admission would not mean Bush is responsible for 9/11. Osama bin Laden is. What does appear to be the case is that there were loose pieces of information floating around the F.B.I. and C.I.A., and if there was better internal and inter-agency communication and more of a focus against Al Qaeda, perhaps the attack might have been able to be prevented. In all likelihood, we’ll never know.

Bush made mistakes but so did Clinton and both deserve some understanding from the public that we were all living in a pre-9/11 world before Sept. 11, 2001.

Our neighborhood in Lower Manhattan was attacked in 1993 and the response was not strong enough. The terrorists came back eight years later and proved that they learned how to take the Twin Towers down and kill thousands of people. In between, U.S. embassies were bombed in Africa, the Cole was attacked and still we didn’t realize we were at war.

Bush came in, focused on theoretical ways to stop an errant nuclear missile and on withdrawing from the A.B.M. Treaty, and the most severe threat was put on the backburner.

That’s what Richard Clarke, former White House anti-terrorism chief, argues with considerable credibility. Clarke, a non-partisan who has worked for both President Bushes, President Clinton and President Reagan, has been viciously attacked by the current administration, which can’t seem to get their story straight as to whether Clarke was out of the loop or the man to blame for 9/11.

Why does Clarke have credibility? Bush admitted to Bob Woodward that he didn’t have the sense of urgency about getting bin Laden pre-9/11. Few of us did. The administration would have been better to stick to that point than to pretend that terrorism was the top priority at the beginning of 2001. Clarke’s second major point, that the administration was obsessed with Iraq, was confirmed by Paul O’Neill, Bush’s former Treasury secretary, and borne out by Bush’s reckless and disastrous actions in Iraq.

The war against Iraq, in addition to the rapidly increasing costs in human lives, resources, and U.S. standing and credibility in the world, took the focus away from bin Laden, who still remains at large. Capturing or killing him won’t end the terrorist threat, just as capturing Hussein did not end the threat against U.S. forces in Iraq, but it should reduce it and regardless, it is essential that bin Laden be brought to justice.

Admitting we could have and should have done better three, four or 11 years ago won’t make us safer, but it will help set the stage for implementing anti-terrorism reforms. For those of us who live and work in Lower Manhattan, this is not an idle abstraction.

Copyright 2004 Community Media LLC

April 10th, 2004, 08:16 PM
New York Times
April 10, 2004

Bush Was Warned of Possible Attack in U.S., Official Says


Condoleezza Rice went before the Sept. 11 commission on Thursday. Members include Jamie S. Gorelick, left, and Thomas H. Kean, right.

President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday.

The warning came in a secret briefing that Mr. Bush received at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Aug. 6, 2001. A report by a joint Congressional committee last year alluded to a "closely held intelligence report" that month about the threat of an attack by Al Qaeda, and the official confirmed an account by The Associated Press on Friday saying that the report was in fact part of the president's briefing in Crawford.

The disclosure appears to contradict the White House's repeated assertions that the briefing the president received about the Qaeda threat was "historical" in nature and that the White House had little reason to suspect a Qaeda attack within American borders.

Members of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks have asked the White House to make the Aug. 6 briefing memorandum public. The A.P. account of it was attributed to "several people who have seen the memo." The White House has said that nothing in it pointed specifically to the kind of attacks that actually took place a month later.

The Congressional report last year, citing efforts by Al Qaeda operatives beginning in 1997 to attack American soil, said that operatives appeared to have a support structure in the United States and that intelligence officials had "uncorroborated information" that Mr. bin Laden "wanted to hijack airplanes" to gain the release of imprisoned extremists. It also said that intelligence officials received information in May 2001, three months earlier, that indicated "a group of bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives."

Also on Friday, the White House offered evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation received instructions more than two months before the Sept. 11 attacks to increase its scrutiny of terrorist suspects inside the United States. But it is unclear what action, if any, the bureau took in response.

The disclosure appeared to signal an effort by the White House to distance itself from the F.B.I. in the debate over whether the Bush administration did enough in the summer of 2001 to deter a possible terrorist attack in the United States in the face of increased warnings.

A classified memorandum, sent around July 4, 2001, to Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, from the counterterrorism group run by Richard A. Clarke, described a series of steps it said the White House had taken to put the nation on heightened terrorist alert. Among the steps, the memorandum said, "all 56 F.B.I. field offices were also tasked in late June to go to increased surveillance and contact with informants related to known or suspected terrorists in the United States."

Parts of the White House memorandum were provided to The New York Times on Friday by a White House official seeking to bolster the public account provided a day before by Ms. Rice, who portrayed an administration aggressively working to deter a domestic terror attack.

But law enforcement officials said Friday that they believed that Ms. Rice's testimony before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks — including her account of scores of F.B.I. investigations under way that summer into suspected Qaeda cells operating in the United States — overstated the scope, thrust and intensity of activities by the F.B.I. within American borders.

Agents at that time were focused mainly on the threat of overseas attacks, law enforcement officials said. The F.B.I. was investigating numerous cases that involved international terrorism and may have had tangential connections to Al Qaeda, but one official said that despite Ms. Rice's account, the investigations were focused more overseas and "were not sleeper cell investigations."

The finger-pointing will probably increase next week when numerous current and former senior law enforcement officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, testify before the Sept. 11 commission. In an unusual pre-emptive strike, Mr. Ashcroft's chief spokesman on Friday accused some Democrats on the commission of having "political axes to grind" in attacking the attorney general, who oversees the F.B.I., and unfairly blaming him for law enforcement failures.

A similar accusation against the commission was also leveled by Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican with ties to the White House, in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.

"Sadly, the commission's public hearings have allowed those with political axes to grind, like Richard Clarke, to play shamelessly to the partisan gallery of liberal special interests seeking to bring down the president," Mr. McConnell said.

The charges and countercharges underscored the political challenge that the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks has become for President Bush as he mounts his re-election bid. The White House sought this week to defuse the situation by allowing Ms. Rice to testify before the Sept. 11 commission after months of resistance. But her appearance served to raise new questions about the administration's efforts to deter an attack.

The White House on Friday put off a decision on declassifying the document at the center of the debate — the Aug. 6 briefing, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." But the administration appeared ready to release at least portions of the document publicly in the coming days.

The memo from Mr. Clarke's group in July 2001 about F.B.I. activities adds another piece of evidence to the document trail, but it is unlikely to resolve the questions over whether the administration did enough to deter an attack.

White House officials, who spent several weeks attacking Mr. Clarke's credibility, said Friday that they believed the memo from his counterterrorism group was an accurate reflection of steps the White House took to deter an attack. But they questioned whether the F.B.I. executed the instructions to intensify its scrutiny of terrorist suspects and contacts in the United States.

In April 2001, the F.B.I. did send out a classified memo to its field offices directing agents to "check with their sources on any information they had relative to terrorism," said a senior law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. But with the level of threat warnings increasing markedly over the next several months, there is no indication that any directive went out in the late June period that was described in the memo from Mr. Clarke's office.

That summer saw a string of alerts by the F.B.I. and other government agencies about the heightened possibility of a terrorist attack, but most counterterrorism officials believed an attack would come in Saudi Arabia, Israel or elsewhere. Many also were worried about a July 4 attack and were relieved when that date passed uneventfully.

For months, the F.B.I. had been consumed by internal problems of its own, including the arrest of an agent, Robert P. Hanssen, on espionage charges, the disappearance of documents in the Oklahoma City bombing case and the fallout over the Wen Ho Lee spy case. Moreover, the bureau was going through a transition in leadership, with its longtime director, Louis J. Freeh, retiring in June 2001. He was replaced by an acting director, Thomas J. Pickard, until the current director, Robert S. Mueller III, took over in September, just days before the deadly hijackings. All three men will testify at next week's commission hearings and are expected to face sharp questioning about whether the F.B.I. did enough to prevent an attack in the weeks and months before Sept. 11.

At this week's appearance by Ms. Rice, several commissioners sharply questioned whether the F.B.I. and the Justice Department had done enough to act on intelligence warnings about an attack.

"We have done thousands of interviews here at the 9/11 commission," said Timothy J. Roemer, a Democratic member of the panel. "We have gone through literally millions of pieces of paper. To date, we have found nobody — nobody at the F.B.I. who knows anything about a tasking of field offices" to identify the domestic threat.

The apparent miscommunication will probably be a central focus of the commission's hearing next week. Scrutiny is expected to focus in part on communication breakdowns between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. that allowed two of the 19 hijackers to live openly in San Diego despite intelligence about their terrorist ties.

Another Democratic panel member, Jamie S. Gorelick, said at Thursday's hearing that Mr. Ashcroft was briefed in the summer of 2001 about terrorist threats "but there is no evidence of any activity by him."

Such criticism led Mark Corallo, Mr. Ashcroft's chief spokesman at the Justice Department, to say Friday that "some people on the commission are seeking to score political points" by unfairly attacking Mr. Ashcroft's actions before Sept. 11.

"Some have political axes to grind" against Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Corallo said in an interview, naming Ms. Gorelick, who was the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration; Mr. Roemer, a former congressman from Indiana, and Richard Ben-Veniste, the former Watergate prosecutor.

While insisting that he was not speaking personally for Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Corallo said he was offended by Ms. Gorelick's remarks in particular. Offering a detailed preview of Mr. Ashcroft's testimony next week, he said the attorney general was briefed repeatedly by the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. on threats posed by Al Qaeda and was told that the threats were directed at targets overseas. "He was not briefed that there was any threat to the United States," Mr. Corallo said. "He kept asking if there was any action he needed to take, and he was constantly told no, you're doing everything you need to do."

Several commission officials denied in interviews that there was any attempt to treat Mr. Ashcroft unfairly. Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for panel, said that Mr. Ashcroft would be warmly received.

Ms. Gorelick said she was surprised by Mr. Corallo's comments and puzzled by assertions that the attorney general had no knowledge of a domestic terrorist threat in 2001.

"This appears to be a debate within the administration," she said. "On the one hand, you have Dr. Rice saying that the domestic threat was being handled by the Justice Department and F.B.I., and on the other hand, you have the Justice Department saying that there did not appear to be a domestic threat to address. And that is a difference in view that we have to continue to explore."

The commission also heard testimony Friday morning behind closed doors from former Vice President Al Gore.

Former President Bill Clinton appeared before the panel in closed session on Thursday, but a Democratic commission member took issue Friday with Mr. Clinton's assertion that that there was not enough intelligence linking Al Qaeda to the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole to justify a military attack on the terrorist organization.

"I think he did have enough proof to take action," Bob Kerrey, the former senator from Nebraska, said on ABC's `Good Morning America.'

Philip Shenon, Adam Nagourney and James Risen contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 10th, 2004, 08:24 PM
http://graphics7.nytimes.com/packages/images/politics/20040408_RICE_AUDIOSS/pol_RICE_promo_184.jpg (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/politics/20040408_RICE_AUDIOSS/)

April 10th, 2004, 08:29 PM
New York Times
April 10, 2004

White House Releases Aug. 6, 2001, Briefing

Associated Press

Presidential Daily Briefing, Aug. 6, 2001 (http://news.findlaw.com/nytimes/docs/terrorism/80601pdb.html)

A document sent to President Bush before the Sept. 11 attacks cited recent intelligence of a possible al-Qaida plot to strike inside the United States. The White House released the document Saturday.

"Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US,'' the memo to Bush stated. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America.''

The document, declassified Saturday, said that after President Clinton launched missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, "bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington.'' The memo cited intelligence from another country, but the White House blacked out the name of the country.

Efforts to launch an attack from Canada around the time of "Y2K'' "may have been part of bin Laden's frst serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the U.S.'' the document states.

Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived an attack at about the same time on Los Angeles International Airport by himself, but that bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah "encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation,'' the document said.

Al-Qaida members, some of them American citizens, had lived in or traveled to the United States for years, the memo said.

"The group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks,'' it warned.

The document said that "some of the more sensational threat reporting'' -- such as warnings that bin Laden wanted to hijack aircraft to win the release of fellow extremists'' -- could not be corroborated.

Since 1998, the FBI had observed "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks.'' They included evidence of buildings in New York possibly being cased by terrorists.

A senior administration official said that incident involved two Yemeni men seen taking photos of Federal Plaza in Manhattan. The FBI interviewed the men and concluded they were tourists, the official said.

The document also said the CIA and FBI were investigating a call to the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates in May "saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.''

Copyright 2004 The New York TImes Company

April 12th, 2004, 02:56 AM
NY1 News
April 11, 2004

Giuliani To Testify Before 9/11 Commission In New York

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will testify before the commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks when public hearings move to New York City next month.

According to the New York Post, Giuliani will be asked about the level of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement authorities.

The commission will meet in New York on May 18 and 19. The first day will be devoted to the city's emergency response, and the second will focus on the terrorist plot.

Meanwhile, reaction to the White House's release of a pre-9/11 briefing memo on Osama bin Laden’s desire to stage an attack on United States soil is falling along party lines.

The Presidential Daily Briefing, dated August 6, 2001, and declassified Saturday under pressure from the commission, says, in part: “Clandestine, foreign government and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S.”

But the document goes on to say, “We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting.” An example, the briefing says, is a report that bin Laden wanted to stage a hijacking to gain the release of terrorists held by the U.S.

The briefing also says, among other things, that Al Qaeda operatives were traveling to and from the U.S.; that Al Qaeda had a support network in the U.S. to aid in attacks; and that at least seventy FBI investigations of Al Qaeda operations inside the U.S. were underway.

Governor Jim Thompson, a Republican member of the 9/11 commission, said the document “didn't call for anything to be done by” President Bush. But Democratic commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor, said the memo calls into question National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's testimony last week that it was a purely "historical" document.

Copyright 2004 NY1 News

April 14th, 2004, 04:32 PM
April 14, 2004

Tenet: It will take time to improve intelligence

Associated Press

Slide Show: Previous testimony (http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/manhattan/ny-911comm,0,1026849.photogallery?coll=nyc-manheadlines-manhattan)

CIA director George Tenet predicted Wednesday it will take "another five years of work to have the kind of clandestine service our country needs" to combat al-Qaida and other terrorist threats.

"The same can be said for the National Security Agency, our imagery agency and our analytic community," Tenet testified before the commission investigating the worst terror attacks in the nation's history.

He said a series of tight budgets dating to the end of the Cold War meant that by the mid-1990s, intelligence agencies had "lost close to 25 percent of our people and billions of dollars in capital investment."

A needed transformation is under way, he said, and appealed for a long-term commitment in funding. "Our investments in capability must be sustained," he added.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, who followed Tenet in the witness chair, said he is in the midst of an overhaul of his storied agency -- the target of withering criticism from the commission and others for failing to piece together the clues that pointed toward the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"I think we can and are fixing what has been wrong with the FBI," he said, emphasizing that he has sought to turn it into an "intelligence-driven" organization with greater analytical and information-sharing capabilities. Still, he said, the changes "cannot be done overnight. Transitions take time."

Tenet's appearance was ironic to the core.

Several commissioners lavished praise on him for his foresight and efforts to restructure intelligence-gathering. Yet the panel's staff issued a report as the hearing opened that was sharply critical of the agency and apparatus he has lead for seven years as the nation's director of central intelligence.

"While we now know that al-Qaida was formed in 1988, at the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the intelligence community did not describe this organization, at least in the documents we have seen, until 1999," the report said.

As late as 1997, it said, the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center "characterized Osama bin Laden as a financier of terrorism."

At the same time, though, the report said intelligence had recently received information revealing that bin Laden headed his "own terrorist organization" and had been involved in a number of attacks. These included one at a Yemen hotel where U.S. military personnel were quartered in 1992; the shooting down of Army helicopters in Somalia in 1993; and possibly the 1995 bombing of an American training mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

It also noted several that "threat reports" produced by the intelligence apparatus had "mentioned the possibility of using an aircraft laden with explosives," such as the terrorists used on Sept. 11 in attacks that killed nearly 3,000.

"Of these, the most prominent asserted a possible plot to fly an explosives-laden aircraft into a U.S. city," it said. Others included reports of a plan to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower in 1994, and of flying a plane into CIA headquarters.

Yet the counter terrorist center "did not analyze how a hijacked aircraft or other explosives-laden aircraft might be used as a weapon," the report said. If it had "it could have identified that a critical obstacle would be to find a suicide terrorist able to fly a large jet aircraft."

Tenet's appearance was his second in three weeks before the panel, which is charged with investigating the lapses that permitted the terror attacks to succeed, as well as recommending changes in the government to prevent any recurrence.

Mueller was the afternoon witness, and in a staff report released before his testimony, the commission said that despite improvements made, "institutional change takes time" and the agency has much to do.

"We heard from many analysts who complain that they are able to do little actual analysis because they continue to be assigned menial tasks, including covering the phones at the reception desk and emptying the office trash bins," the report said.

In his opening remarks, Mueller said that in the months since the terror attacks, the FBI has taken steps to turn itself into an "intellligence-driven" agency.

"We are accelerating the hiring and training of analytical personnel, and developing career paths for analysts that are commensurate with their importance to the mission of the FBI," he said.

Questioned by former Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., Tenet said he did not speak with President Bush during August, 2001, a period marked by concern over possible terrorist attacks. "He was on vacation and I was here," Tenet said, although he also added that he could have picked up the phone and called the president at any time if he had felt a need to do so.

Readily acknowledging that intelligence agencies "never penetrated the 9-11 plot," Tenet said, "We all understood (Osama) bin Laden's intent to strike the homeland but were unable to translate this knowledge into an effective defense of the country."

He bristled at some of the criticisms, including one that said intelligence services lacked a strategic plan to gather and examine information collected about al-Qaida or that they had no adequate way to integrate and disseminate it.

"That's flat wrong," he said.

John Lehman, a former Navy secretary and commission member, characterized the commission's document as a "damning report of a system that's broken, that doesn't function."

Noting that Bush has recently signaled an interest in overhauling the nation's intelligence-gathering structure, Lehman said change was coming.

Tenet, who has held his job for seven years across parts of two administrations of different parties, said he would welcome it.

In its report, the commission said the CIA missed the big-picture significance of "tell-tale indicators" of impending terrorist attacks, partly because of its culture of a piecemeal approach to intelligence analysis.

A more strategic analysis could have identified that the plot might require suicide hijackers who would take flight courses, the commission said. Establishing such "tell-tale indicators" could have raised red flags following a July 2001 FBI report of terrorist interest in aircraft training in Arizona, and the August 2001 arrest of terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui because of suspicious behavior in a Minnesota flight school, it added.

Copyright 2004 Newsday, Inc.

April 14th, 2004, 11:36 PM
April 15, 2004

The Price of Incuriosity

Americans knew George W. Bush was an incurious man when they elected him, but the hearings of the 9/11 investigating commission, which turned yesterday from the F.B.I.'s fecklessness to the C.I.A.'s blurred vision, have brought that fact home in a startling way. The president is trying hard to present himself as a hands-on manager who talked terrorism incessantly with the director of central intelligence, George Tenet. ("I wanted Tenet in the Oval Office all the time.") But Mr. Tenet had to concede yesterday that he was not in Crawford, Tex., for the Aug. 6, 2001, briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Mr. Tenet told the panel he didn't meet with Bush all that month, but the C.I.A. later said there had been two meetings. No one has been able to say whether Mr. Bush followed up in any way after he asked his intelligence agencies whether there was a domestic threat from Al Qaeda, and got a loud "yes" in response.

As the president rightly said on Tuesday night, the only people responsible for the slaughter in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, were Osama bin Laden and the other terrorists. But to watch these hearings is to endure a terrifying review of the chances missed and balls dropped in the last two administrations.

According to a commission staff report, until the Sept. 11 attacks, the intelligence community had not done a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism — a sweeping summary of the intelligence community's views — since 1997. And there was not a lot of comfort in the C.I.A.'s defensive response that there had been a steady stream of documents, briefings and meetings since 1995 on Al Qaeda's domestic threat, including to passenger airliners.

Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that no one could have envisioned "flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale." Perhaps not on that scale, but there were a half-dozen cases in the 1990's of terrorists trying to use planes as bombs, or plotting to do that. The 9/11 panel's staff report said the intelligence community had not kept up the post-Pearl Harbor practice of trying to anticipate and prepare for a surprise attack. When Mr. Tenet got the report on the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui in late August 2001 ("Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly"), there was no warning system to be triggered.

Mr. Tenet and the panel's staff rightly noted that the C.I.A. suffered huge budget cuts in the 1990's under Democratic and Republican Congresses and that those cuts severely hurt its ability to gather and analyze intelligence. But the intelligence community also seemed to spin out of control. Just as Tuesday's testimony highlighted the urgent need to fix the F.B.I., and perhaps even rethink its role, yesterday's hearings argued for a drastic reform of intelligence. Mr. Tenet is already responsible for overseeing those efforts across the government, but he made it clear that his authority is mostly theoretical.

One useful proposal has been to give the C.I.A. chief control over all intelligence gathering, including the spy agencies of the Pentagon, which gets the biggest share of intelligence budgets. Asked about that idea yesterday, Mr. Tenet tactfully declined to clash with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who tried to create his own mini-C.I.A. at the Pentagon after 9/11. Mr. Tenet said anyone who started the turf wars necessary to get real control over all of the government's intelligence operations "probably would survive for about 20 minutes in terms of what's going on in this town."

It's easy to sympathize with Mr. Tenet's survival instincts. But he was closer to the mark when he said "it should all be on the table" when it comes to reforming the U.S. intelligence services. We hope that Mr. Bush, not to mention Mr. Rumsfeld, agree.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 17th, 2004, 07:01 PM
New York Times
April 18, 2004

Evaluating the 9/11 Hearings' Winners and Losers


Complete Coverage: 9/11 Commission (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/world/worldspecial5/)

From Sam Ervin to Earl Warren to Joseph McCarthy, high-powered investigative hearings in Washington have created heroes and villains, made and broken political careers, and rewritten history and biographies in unexpected ways. The Sept. 11 commission's hearings seem certain to take their place in that gallery.

In three months, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States will offer its report on the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But the verdict is coming in on the players in this drama in a city that thrives on anointing winners and losers, and on spotting the political implications behind even the most serious of events.

In Washington, devotees of the hearings — and there were many — saw jockeying among Democrats who might like a place in a John Kerry administration, White House aides seeking to protect their reputations at the expense of other aides, and Washington lions contemplating what the consultant James Carville has called "the comma" — the life-summarizing subordinate phrase that follows a name in an obituary.

"Walter Mondale was picked as vice president because Jimmy Carter was impressed with him on the Church commission," said Loch E. Johnson, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia who served on the staff of the commission, headed by Senator Frank Church of Idaho, that looked into abuses by the C.I.A. and the F.B.I.

Mr. Johnson said the players in this investigation were guided by iconoclastic moments from commission hearings past — think Howard Baker asking, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" With that in mind, here is a look at how they fared, in the view of Republicans and Democrats who followed the hearings.

JOHN ASHCROFT (AND JAMIE S. GORELICK) Mr. Ashcroft, the attorney general, was still recovering from gallbladder surgery when he testified. By the time he was finished, even some Republicans were saying he might have been better off staying at home, and some commission members suggested he may have damaged his relations with them.

Mr. Ashcroft went characteristically on the offensive, blaming the Clinton administration for many intelligence failures. He challenged the testimony of a former senior F.B.I. agent that he had been inattentive to warnings about a pending terrorist attack in 2001.

Then he produced a 1995 memorandum, declassified by the Justice Department in time for the hearings, outlining restrictions on sharing information between agents in criminal and intelligence investigations. He blamed the policy of building a "wall" for the failure of the C.I.A. and F.B.I. to share information that might have prevented the hijackings — and proceeded to point a finger.

"Full disclosure compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission," Mr. Ashcroft said. He did not name the member, but everyone on the panel knew he was talking about Ms. Gorelick, a Democrat who was the second-ranking official in the Clinton Justice Department.

The memorandum led some Republicans to call for her resignation, a demand that did not seem to go far. "Baloney," said John F. Lehman, a Republican on the panel, in response to the demand. But some Bush administration officials credited Mr. Ashcroft for mounting an aggressive and much-needed defense.

Mr. Ashcroft's challenge to Ms. Gorelick could prove a badge of honor for her should John Kerry win election, since she is on the list of people mentioned as a possible attorney general in a Kerry administration. One commission member said of Mr. Ashcroft's testimony, "The basic thrust was to put all the blame on Clinton, and he really made it very politicized." Ms. Gorelick, on the other hand, "came out looking really good," said Matt Bennett, a Democratic consultant.

BOB KERREY AND RICHARD BEN-VENISTE With his indignation, spirited questioning and energy so boundless that he mixed up the names of two star witnesses, Mr. Kerrey cut a memorable figure. Compared with Mr. Kerrey, Mr. Ben-Veniste was more prosecutorial, but both men stood out as tough questioners of White House officials, particularly Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser.

Mr. Ben-Veniste succeeded in goading Ms. Rice into one of the more memorable moments of the hearings by urging her to recite the name of the confidential briefing given to President Bush 36 days before the Sept. 11 attacks: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

But at times the Democratic duo might have been too tough. Republicans have invoked what they describe as the two men's belligerent, partisan demeanor to challenge the credibility of the commission. "Ben-Veniste was the most partisan," said former Representative Vin Weber, a Minnesota Republican.

Even some Democrats said they might have been over the top. "They were a little too combative, and it sort of came off as a nasty spat," Mr. Bennett said.

Mr. Kerrey and Mr. Ben-Veniste are also potential candidates for positions in a John Kerry admiration. And their prospects would presumably be helped if Mr. Kerry, should he win, attributes part of his victory to political damage done to Mr. Bush by those exchanges.

RICHARD A. CLARKE To say that opinion is divided on Mr. Clarke would be an understatement. To Democrats, he was the man who spotlighted deficiencies in the response to warnings about Sept. 11, and embarrassed the White House with his apology to the families of victims of the attacks. That was arguably the defining moment of the hearings.

Consequently, Mr. Clarke should probably forget about any future employment in Washington as long as Republicans are in power. "He looks like a greedy, self-aggrandizing, bitter, score-settling political person," said Richard N. Bond, a former Republican national chairman.

Reminded that Mr. Clarke had at the very least become the author of a best-selling book that has been sold to Hollywood, Mr. Bond responded: "So what? He cashed in his 15 minutes of fame."

CONDOLEEZZA RICE On paper, at least, Ms. Rice did not appear to do particularly well. After her exchange with Mr. Ben-Veniste about the name of the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential briefing, she went on to minimize its importance, describing it as little more than a "historical" document. As it turned out, the briefing included evidence from as recently as May of that year.

But that has seemed to be more of a problem for the White House than for Ms. Rice, who tesitified after weeks of resistance by the administration. Her cool, poised and very prepared presence — at one point she flustered Mr. Kerrey by approvingly quoting one of his speeches to make a point — had members of both parties expressing admiration.

"You don't get to be a national superstar by appearing before adoring audiences," Mr. Weber said. "You get to be a superstar by doing what she did, which is going before a tough group of potential critics."

THOMAS H. KEAN Mr. Kean, the Republican chairman of the commission, emerged as its steady and reassuring face, along with, to a lesser extent, Lee H. Hamilton, the Democratic vice chairman. Some Republicans complained privately that Mr. Kean had allowed Democratic members too much rope in going after Bush administration witnesses, but most officials praised him, at least for his work during the hearings, as a model commission chairman.

"Kean came out good," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois. "Lee Hamilton came out good. Honest, levelheaded. They are not doing it for the show. Dragnet. Just the facts."

ROBERT S. MUELLER III If there was an unexpected winner in the hearings, it was Mr. Mueller, the director of the F.B.I., who somehow managed to thrive even as his agency suffered one of the toughest public thrashings in its history. Several commission members said they had begun their work convinced that the F.B.I. was no longer up to the task of domestic counterterrorism, and that a separate agency for domestic intelligence might be needed. By the time Mr. Mueller was done, many members said they were not so certain.

Mr. Mueller, who took over the F.B.I. just a week before the attacks, "was very persuasive and very energetic and very capable," Mr. Ben-Veniste said. "He's obviously very motivated to try to keep the intelligence mission within the F.B.I."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 29th, 2004, 06:55 AM
April 29, 2004

The President's Testimony

It would have been a pleasure to be able to congratulate President Bush on his openness in agreeing to sit down today with the independent commission on the 9/11 attacks and answer questions. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush conditioned his cooperation on stipulations that range from the questionable to the ridiculous.

The strangest of the president's conditions is that he will testify only in concert with Vice President Dick Cheney. The White House has given no sensible reason for why Mr. Bush is unwilling to appear alone. (When asked at his recent press conference, the president gave one of his patented nonresponses: "Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us, and I'm looking forward to answering them.")

Given the White House's concern for portraying Mr. Bush as a strong leader, it's remarkable that this critical appearance is being structured in a way that is certain to provide fodder for late-night comedians, who enjoy depicting him as the docile puppet of his vice president.

Mr. Bush's reluctant and restrictive cooperation with the panel is consistent with the administration's pattern of stonewalling reasonable requests for documents and testimony and then giving up only the minimum necessary ground when the dispute becomes public. Today's testimony will be in private in the White House, away from reporters or television cameras. The session will not be recorded, and there will be no formal transcript. The president's aides have defended this excessive degree of secrecy with the usual arguments about protecting highly classified information and not wanting to establish dangerous precedents.

The idea that the panel may wring from Mr. Bush some comment that may endanger national security is ridiculous. The commission, led by the respected former Republican governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean, has already heard, in public, from the leaders of the nation's top intelligence agencies, the secretary of defense and Mr. Bush's national security adviser. It seems highly unlikely that the president knows secrets more sensitive than they do. If he did, he would certainly be free to go off the record while discussing them.

The president's aides have also been arguing that making the event anything more than a "meeting" or informal discussion would establish a pattern that future chief executives would be forced to follow. That is true, in a way. If Mr. Bush or any of his successors have the tragic misfortune to be in command at a time when terrorists strike the country, killing thousands of innocent civilians, they should be expected to cooperate with the official investigations, and to do so in a way that puts their statements on the record and into history.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 17th, 2004, 07:57 PM
May 17, 2004

9/11 hearing set for Tues.

Associated Press

In the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, a rising chorus of New Yorkers has demanded a hard-edged probe of the city's emergency response, a public airing of shortcomings that would assign responsibility for a series of systemic flaws.

They may be disappointed when the national commission investigating the attacks meets Tuesday in a university auditorium in Greenwich Village.

The commission is expected to describe serious gaps in communication and coordination between the police and fire departments. But members of the commission and others familiar with its work said it would also seek to dispel what they called misconceptions that cast the city's rescue efforts in a poor light.

What's more, New York's efforts to improve emergency response since Sept. 11 will be cited as a national model, despite charges from victims' family members, firefighters and others that poor communication and cooperation between the police and fire departments has not improved, commission members said.

"They've made their evaluation and made corrections and made their preparations. I think the rest of the country has a lot to learn from the New York experience and I hope we play some role in disseminating that experience," said Lee Hamilton, the commission's vice chairman and a former Democratic congressman from Indiana.

"The picture that emerges will make people feel better about the New York authorities," said one person who helped produce a pair of reports to be delivered Tuesday morning, speaking on condition of anonymity because its findings were not yet officially released. "There's more good news in the story than embarrassment, for sure."

That portrayal may not be well received by relatives of the dead, many of whom believe that long-standing problems in the city's emergency response systems led to deaths in the towers.

"If the public understands that some of this could have been prevented, that there were systemic failures, perhaps that will help push change and reform," said Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband.

Among a host of questions, relatives of the dead want to know why the twin towers' rooftop doors were locked on Sept. 11. Some workers were rescued from the north tower by helicopter during the 1993 trade center bombing.

Whether or not the doors were locked on Sept. 11, emergency officials have told commission researchers that heavy smoke and fire, along with a cluster of antennae on the north tower, would have made rooftop rescue virtually impossible.

"There is almost no possibility that anybody could have been rescued from the roofs," the person familiar with commission findings said.

Congress established the Sept. 11 commission to examine what led to the attacks and advise ways the government can do a better job of tracking terrorists and responding to an attack. The 10-member bipartisan panel is to issue its final report on July 26.

Last month, commissioners heard from President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, former President Bill Clinton and ex-Vice President Al Gore, as well as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The panel will release its findings on planning and emergency response on Tuesday as current and former officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York fire, police and emergency management departments, the Homeland Security Department and the Arlington, Va., fire department sit down for two days of testimony at the New School University.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his heads of fire, police and emergency management are expected to portray the city's efforts that day as a flexible, cooperative response.

While some 2,749 people died, Giuliani, widely seen as heroic for his stewardship of the city through the crisis, has described the efforts -- in which 25,000 people were saved -- as the "greatest rescue mission in the history of the United States."

Current New York fire, police and emergency management officials are expected to testify Tuesday that relationships between the agencies have improved.

Police and firefighters fought for months over a set of rules governing which agency holds sway in emergencies ranging from water rescue to biological attack. The rules were completed last week and announced Friday. Sept. 11 commission members say those rules and other improvements could form part of a set of recommendations for national emergency response standards.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is expected to emphasize New York's continuing vulnerability to terrorist attack, citing the case of a Pakistani-born truck driver, Iyman Faris, who was accused of plotting to cut through the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge and sentenced last year to 20 years in prison.

Kelly also plans to cite the case of Uzair Paracha, a Pakistani man accused of aiding al-Qaida by agreeing to help terrorists sneak into the United States, an official familiar with the commissioner's prepared testimony said.

Associated Press Writer Sara Kugler contributed to this report.

Copyright 2004 Newsday, Inc.

May 17th, 2004, 10:24 PM
NY1 News
May 17, 2004

Bloomberg To Testify Before 9/11 Commission

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday decided to testify at the 9/11 commission hearings in New York City this week.

This is the second time the mayor, who took office three months after the September 11, 2001, attacks, has appeared before the commission. He also testified last year.

The hearings begin on Tuesday, and Bloomberg is scheduled to take questions Wednesday morning.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is also among the current and former city officials scheduled to testify.

The hearings in New York will focus on communication among emergency responders in the city after the World Trade Center was attacked. There's word commissioners have already questioned at least one deputy fire chief about radio communications.

There have also been reports the commission will point to a lack of communication between agencies but will praise the bravery and heroism of first-responders.


More than two and half years after the September 11th terror attacks, the federal investigation will now publicly focus on the city's emergency response. What questions remain unanswered? NY1's John Schiumo has more in the following report.

No one can criticize the people who responded, the men and women who successfully led an unprecedented evacuation, the people who responded and helped save an estimated 25,000 lives. The response plan, however, was far from perfect.

“We don't know how many people got the word to evacuate. We're trying to put that together by having interviews,” former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen said in December 2001. “We do know many people passed that word onto others.”

Poor communication - perhaps the greatest failure of the city's emergency response. For an example, look no further than when a police helicopter warned that the North Tower looked ready to collapse. Police officers heard the radio transmission and started to evacuate. Firefighters did not.

The failure to share critical information will be one focus of the 9/11 Commission.

“Everybody has a different recollection. In the chaos, people will remember different things," said former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 2001.

Two and a half years later, those in charge that day will be asked to remember why certain decisions were made. Why was the emergency command post first established inside the lobby of the doomed South Tower? Why did the Fire Department lose track of units and lose communication with others? How would the city have responded to a secondary attack, given that every available first responder was called to the World Trade Center?

Given the chaos of the moment, critical decisions were made on the fly. Like when the city ordered police helicopters to crash - in a suicide mission - into the fourth hijacked plane if it too targeted the Twin Towers.

“In reality, we were grasping at straws,” said Former Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Richard Sheirer in 2001.

Many of the problems of the day have been addressed. Better radios have been purchased. Cops and firefighters now conduct joint drills and exercises.

But many questions from that day remain unanswered. Why did public address announcements in the South Tower urge occupants to remain in the building moments before it was struck? Why were the rooftop doors locked, preventing possible rescue? What did city officials learn from the federal government about the threat of terrorism pre-9/11?

As the national spotlight continues to shine on the commission and its investigation, you can expect more defining moments in the aftermath of 9/11.

The 10-member panel is expected to issue its final report, complete with recommendations, before the end of July. Will lessons learned prevent another tragedy?

- John Schiumo

Copyright 2004 NY1 News

May 18th, 2004, 06:11 AM
May 18, 2004

9/11 Panel Has a Question: Why Wasn't the City Prepared?


WASHINGTON, May 17 - Members of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks say current and former city officials in New York will be confronted at public hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday about why New York was not better prepared to deal with a catastrophic terrorist attack and why the city is still struggling to coordinate the disaster-response plans of its police officers and firefighters.

The commission members said that many of the questions would center on the city government's failure before Sept. 11 to insist on greater cooperation between the long-feuding Police and Fire Departments, especially since the city had been the victim of earlier terrorist attacks, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Interim staff reports expected to be released at the hearings will praise the heroism of emergency-response workers on Sept. 11 but will suggest that their efforts were hampered by inadequate communications and a lack of coordination between the Police and Fire Departments, people who have seen drafts of the reports said on Monday.

Witnesses at the hearings will include Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who announced on Monday that he had decided to accept an invitation to appear before the 10-member panel, and his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, along with the city's current and former police and fire commissioners.

"We'll be asking questions that haven't been asked before, at least not publicly,'' said the panel's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey.

Mr. Kean said in an interview that many questions about failures in the city's anti-terrorism planning before Sept. 11 and in its response the day of the attacks had not been asked in previous investigations because the issues were considered too sensitive given the loss of life at the World Trade Center and out of respect for the police officers and firefighters who died at the scene.

"I think the shock was so great to all of us who lived in the region, and we were so stunned for such a long time, that it wasn't the time for those questions,'' he said. "Now is the time.''

McKinsey & Company, an independent consulting firm, performed extensive studies of the police and fire responses for the city in 2002 that addressed many of the same issues now being considered. But the consultants, who did not charge the city, said at the time that their efforts were focused more on identifying specific improvements than in chronicling the day's events in exhaustive detail.

A Democratic member of the commission, Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator who is now president of the New School University in New York, which is playing host to the hearings this week, said that "as we accumulate additional knowledge, it gets clearer and clearer how unprepared New York was.''

He said that much of the blame should fall on the federal government, which he said had failed to provide New York with the anti-terrorism help it deserved both as the nation's biggest city and as a past terrorist target. "You've got to see New York as a separate preparation issue,'' he said. "You've got to prepare it separately from every other location in the United States.''

Other commission officials said that unflattering comparisons would be drawn between the emergency responses in New York on Sept. 11 and at the Pentagon that morning.

The scale of the attack was significantly smaller at the Pentagon, which was struck by one of the hijacked planes, killing 59 people on the plane and 125 others on the ground. But the emergency-response has generally been praised for its coordination and speed.

"We certainly have an extremely difficult time making comparisons between the attack on the Pentagon and the attack on the World Trade Center,'' said another of the panel's Democrats, Timothy J. Roemer, a former House member from Indiana. "But the Pentagon response went pretty darn well. They implemented their existing emergency plan very well, and they had a single individual take control.''

Another scheduled witness at this week's hearings, Edward P. Plaugher, chief of the Fire Department in Arlington County, Va., which responded to the Pentagon attacks, said in an interview that he had long been surprised by the lack of coordination among emergency-response agencies in New York, especially between the Police and Fire Departments. "They had bifurcated,'' Chief Plaugher said. "They had pretty much established that they weren't going to work together.''

By comparison, he said, emergency-response agencies in communities in suburban Virginia around the Pentagon had drilled together for years, and had established radio frequencies that allowed them to talk to one another easily in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We communicate regularly with all of our police and firefighters on the same radio system,'' he said. "We had actually drilled with the folks at the Pentagon. We knew the folks at the Pentagon by their first names, and at the F.B.I."

Mayor Bloomberg announced last week that the city's emergency agencies had reached a new, formal agreement to coordinate their response to major disasters, including terrorist attacks. But several academic experts and security consultants, as well as the chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee and the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, have described the plan as seriously flawed.

The disparity between the positions of the Police and Fire Departments on how the lack of coordination affected the emergency response on Sept. 11th was evident two years ago when McKinsey & Company released its findings. In its report on the Fire Department, produced in collaboration with fire commanders, the consultants said the agency's response suffered because of a lack of coordination with the Police Department. In the Police Department report, similarly prepared with the help of police officials, the consultants said the coordination question was beyond the scope of its inquiry.

Philip Shenon reported for this article from Washington and Kevin Flynn from New York.


Save the Rescuers From One Another


Today and tomorrow the 9/11 commission holds hearings in New York to examine the response of local and federal emergency response departments to the attacks. As someone who has spoken to hundreds of people who worked at ground zero, from top fire and police commanders to those who sifted through "the pile," one question continues to gnaw at my understanding: why was there such a disparity in the loss of life among first responders?

The heroism displayed by firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel on and after 9/11 will stay with me forever. As a New Yorker and a former firefighter, I will always be proud of their courage. Yet I have reluctantly come to the belief that the crisis at the World Trade Center was worsened by a lack of cooperation between the Fire and Police Departments.

The age-old antagonism between the services has become institutionalized. No other city in the nation has police and fire services as redundant and competitive as New York's. Though the beginnings of the rift are murky, it was created by the establishment of two special rescue organizations, one in each of the two largest emergency service teams in the world. For the safety of both our city and our first responders, these two operations should be merged.

Any analysis of 9/11 will show that the Fire and Police Departments, with some exceptions at the lower levels, could hardly be said to be working together. There is much evidence of inadequate communications on 9/11. The McKinsey report on the Fire Department's preparedness cited many communications received by 911 operators that were passed to the Police Department but never forwarded to the fire chiefs, information that could have saved lives.

When a Police Department helicopter pilot saw that the South Tower was falling, his announcement was instant — and police command issued a forceful and robust order to evacuate the remaining building and to move all department vehicles to safety. But fire chiefs did not hear this order. The command of the North Tower was covered with debris when the South Tower fell, and Chief Joseph Pfeifer, in darkness, gave the order, "All units in Tower One, evacuate the building."

Just how many firefighters escaped in the minutes from Chief Pfeifer's order until the tower's collapse is uncertain, but we do know that several police officers from the city and the Port Authority were killed when the second tower collapsed — along with 121 firefighters. Others were killed on the street. In all, almost 15 firefighters died for every city police officer. This suggests that there were successful communications in the Police Department, but not within the Fire Department or between the two departments.

One definition of readiness is to be highly motivated and fully understanding of both mission and risk. Yet it also means being properly trained in systems, procedures and equipment adequate to an emergency. Under this definition, it cannot be said that our first responders were prepared at ground zero. Fire and police were not having regular drills before the emergency, and there was no meaningful protocol in place.

The Department of Homeland Security has ordered the National Incident Management System to ensure an organized command during emergencies. Their coordination is codified by signed protocols — agreements of incident command between responding emergency organizations, whether they are local, state or federal. Just days ago, the Police and Fire Departments of New York signed a new protocol — 32 months after 9/11.

Yet protocols are not the answer. We have had them before. Except for the current commissioners, who have worked to solve the problem, the indifference of each department for the work of the other will remain.

Why? Because there is a territorial imperative that separates the two departments, which is caused by their separate rescue units. The Fire Department has five rescue companies, and the Police Department has an emergency services unit with 10 truck groups. Each police officer and firefighter in these units is well trained.

But their similarity in mission causes competition that is often divisive and sometimes harmful. It is this competition that will be found, historically, as the basis for the communications failure on 9/11, and which continues to this day.

Police officers and firefighters in these units also undergo similar training, no doubt share motivations and have a certain self-sufficient psychology. "This is my job, and I can handle it," both are likely to say. On 9/11, that psychology seemed to say, "We'll do our job, and let them do theirs." There is no reason to believe that this will change, for the new protocol relies on the recognition of core competencies to determine command. But each department believes it can handle any event.

The only way to solve these issues for the long run is through a third department — a Department of Rescue and Emergency Service. This new department could be created relatively quickly and cheaply, since the expertise and equipment for it already exist. Its commissioner would report directly to the mayor.

The Fire Department's rescue companies and Police Department's emergency services units have heroic histories, and many in their ranks have died saving the people of New York City. To meet the special demands of our times, however, the city would benefit by the creation of a third force, staffed only by elite members of the Police and Fire Departments.

Rescue companies and emergency services units are the lifeblood of any emergency operation. In New York City, both the Fire Department and Police Department have performed their duties with honor and bravery. But for our city to be prepared, we must not allow them to be competitive.

Dennis Smith, a former firefighter, is the author of "Report From Ground Zero: The Story of the Rescue Efforts at the World Trade Center."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 18th, 2004, 04:33 PM
New York Times
May 18, 2004

Former City Officials Strongly Rebut Criticism of 9/11 Panel


Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly testified about the elaborate series of institutional, technological and personnel improvements that have been implemented in his department.

Neveral former New York City emergency service officials testifying today before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks vociferously rebutted charges that their departments' response to the catastrophe suffered from age-old rivalries and a lack of coordination between the departments.

"I have yet to hear a single instance where anybody shows me anything where the agencies did not work together and coordinate their efforts," said Richard Sheirer, former director of the New York City Office of Emergency Management. "I urge the commission to take a very close listen to the tapes on all the various agencies."

A 26-page staff report by the commission concluded that faulty communication severely hindered rescue efforts by city workers on Sept. 11, 2001. The report praised the heroism of many of the city's workers, but pointed out communications gaps that included a lack of coordination between the Police and Fire Departments and an inability to share information effectively between on-scene officials and 911 phone operators. The report also suggested that the longstanding rivalry between the Police and Fire Departments contributed to the failure in communication.

Mr. Sheirer's staunch defense of the the city's response on Sept. 11 was echoed in angry testimony from two other former emergency-services officials, Bernard B. Kerik, former police commissioner of New York, and Thomas Von Essen, the city's former fire commissioner. The men were among eight former and current city officials who testified in the first day of a two-day hearing by the commission, which is exploring the city's disaster preparedness both before and since the terrorist strikes.

The commission has for months worked out of Washington and kept its focus on federal responsibilities leading up to the attacks. But the proceedings acquired a new level of resonance and poignancy today by shifting to an auditorium in downtown New York, only blocks from the World Trade Center site, the place where the attackers inflicted their deepest wounds.

The commissioners acknowledged the sensitivity of their task here. "Today will be a very difficult day, to relive the loss and the terrible devastation," the panel's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, said as he opened the hearing. "Our purpose in presenting this information is to obtain the perspective from those who responded to the attacks. We want to know how and why they made the decisions they made, often in the absence of good information, and sometimes under the most adverse conditions."

The session opened with a dramatic presentation of the staff report, which documented the heroics and the failures of the response to the 9/11 attack. The commission illustrated the presentation of its report with documentary-style video testimonies from witnesses and survivors, photographs, and charts and other graphics, created a dramatic minute-by-minute rendering of events inside and around the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Victims' relatives, survivors and rescue personnel packed the auditorium at New School University. As the panel replayed amateur video footage of the two planes slamming into the towers, and the towers' subsequent collapse, some members of the audience wept.

After the reading, Mr. Kean called for a moment of silence.

The hearing took a dramatic turn early in the afternoon when John F. Lehman, a commission member and former secretary of the Navy, said the command and control of New York's public service was fractured and "dysfunctional."

"It's not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city," he said, addressing Mr. Sheirer, Mr. Kerik and Mr. Von Essen. "It's not rocket science. It's just overruling the pride of the individual agencies" so that "you don't get into fistfights of who's in charge in an ambiguous situation."

Mr. Von Essen told Mr. Lehman that such comments were "outrageous."

"You make it sound like everything was wrong about September 11 or the way we function," Mr. Von Essen said angrily.

Mr. Von Essen, Mr. Kerik and Mr. Sheirer are retired from the city but have continued to work together, as consultants in the consulting firm of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was their boss on Sept. 11.

The panel quizzed the witnesses — also including the current top emergency service officials and former officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — on a wide range of questions regarding training, rescue and evacuation procedures, emergency communication systems and command and control.

The commissioners also wanted to know about the level of catastrophe preparedness at the World Trade Center, particularly following the bombing in 1993.

Alan Reiss, former director of the Port Authority's world trade department, said there was concern about a vehicle-borne bomb "but never did we have a thought about what happened on 9/11."

He added that the department was never briefed by the F.B.I. on Osama bin Laden, or that hijacking might be in his terror group's plans.

He also said that in terms of lessons learned from 9/11, response plans must be in place before an emergency happens, and that there should be a change in the sharing of intelligence at the state, local and federal level, "and that those who refuse to change must be removed."

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and Joseph F. Bruno, the current commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management, who appeared before the panel in the afternoon session, testified about the elaborate series of institutional, technological and personnel improvements that have been implemented in their departments.

Mr. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said in a recent interview that the panel was prepared to ask the tough questions that have been avoided in previous investigations because the issues were considered too sensitive given the loss of life at the World Trade Center and the devastating impact on the Police and Fire Departments.

"We'll be asking questions that haven't been asked before, at least not publicly," he said in an interview.

"I think the shock was so great to all of us who lived in the region, and we were so stunned for such a long time, that it wasn't the time for those questions," he said. "Now is the time."

Witnesses at the hearing on Wednesday will include Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, along with Thomas J. Ridge, secretary of homeland security.

McKinsey & Company, an independent consulting firm, performed extensive studies of the police and fire responses for the city in 2002 that addressed many of the same issues now being considered. But the consultants, who did not charge the city, said at the time that their efforts were focused more on identifying specific improvements than in chronicling the day's events in exhaustive detail.

A Democratic member of the commission, Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator who is now president of the New School University in New York, said in a recent interview that "we accumulate additional knowledge, it gets clearer and clearer how unprepared New York was."

He said that much of the blame should fall on the federal government, which he said had failed to provide New York with the anti-terrorism help it deserved both as the nation's biggest city and as a past terrorist target. "You've got to see New York as a separate preparation issue," he said. "You've got to prepare it separately from every other location in the United States."

Mayor Bloomberg announced last week that the city's emergency agencies had reached a new, formal agreement to coordinate their response to major disasters, including terrorist attacks. But several academic experts and security consultants, as well as the chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee and the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, have described the plan as seriously flawed.

The disparity between the positions of the Police and Fire Departments on how the lack of coordination affected the emergency response on Sept. 11 was evident two years ago when McKinsey & Company released its findings. In its report on the Fire Department, produced in collaboration with fire commanders, the consultants said the agency's response suffered because of a lack of coordination with the Police Department. In the Police Department report, similarly prepared with the help of police officials, the consultants said the coordination question was beyond the scope of its inquiry.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 19th, 2004, 10:51 AM
New York Times
May 19, 2004

Giuliani Mounts Spirited Defense of City's Response to 9/11


Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani mounted a calm but spirited defense today of the role played by firefighters, the police, and their leaders after the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

A day after criticism of New York City's fire and police commissioners by members of the independent commission investigating the attacks, Mr. Giuliani said that rather than seeing uniformed officers fleeing as civilians were left behind, "we got a story of heroism, we got a story of pride, and we got a story of support that helped get us through."

He also told of a "a superb command structure" that "was beyond any expectation that anyone could possibly have had."

Mr. Giuliani declared in an opening statement that although mistakes had been made, "Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us."

He added, to applause from the audience, "The blame should be put on one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones."

The former mayor, who was addressed with respect by panel members, gave a detailed account of his actions the day of the catastrophe, explaining how he went to the area of the Twin Towers accompanied by top officials.

"I said to the police commissioner that we're in uncharted territory," he said, "we've never been through anything like this before and we're going to have to do the best that we can to keep everybody together, to keep them focused."

Mr. Giuliani was widely hailed at home and overseas for his take-charge attitude after 9/11, becoming the central figure in rallying New Yorkers and instilling a sense that even a catastrophe of such magnitude could be faced and overcome.

Day after day, his calm explanation of complicated, tragic news was credited with helping to convince a traumatized city that it would pull through.

He attended funerals, comforted survivors, urged New Yorkers to continue to dine out and tentative tourists to visit. The man whose political career had seemed over just a few weeks before was now being greeted with cheers wherever he went.

The former mayor, whose main claim to fame in office before 9/11 was in overseeing a dramatic drop in the city's crime rate, even suggested a subsequently rejected plan that would have allowed him to continue in office after his term expired on Dec. 31, 2001.

"Rudy's focus was on crime," said the man who succeeded him in office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "My biggest problems are going to be education and the deficit, along with the problems from the economy and the World Trade Center terrorism. It's just going to be a different measure."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 19th, 2004, 11:32 PM
After hearing this, I'm happier than ever that the WTC site didn't become a 16-acre memorial :roll: .

Giuliani Lauds 9/11 'Heroes' Amid Angry Hecklers during 9-11 Inquiry

By Ellen Wulfhorst and Caroline Drees

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (news - web sites) on Wednesday passionately defended local firefighters and police after the rescue departments' response to Sept. 11 received sharp criticism from the commission investigating the attacks.

Giuliani's ardent testimony was at times interrupted by emotional hecklers, including one who shouted her son was murdered. He spoke after a commission staff report said rescue officials in New York and Washington are still not prepared to handle another disaster because coordination and communications flaws that hampered rescue efforts on Sept. 11 persist today.

"Catastrophic emergencies and attacks have acts of great heroism attached to them. They have acts of ingenious creativity attached to them and they have mistakes that happen," Giuliani said. "When human beings are put under these conditions that's what happens."

"Blame should be directed at one source and one source alone -- the terrorists who killed our loved ones."

The commission said on Tuesday, the first of two days of hearings, that rivalries between the police and fire departments, equipment problems and weak coordination had hurt rescue efforts.

Giuliani rebuffed talk of confusion over who was in charge during the disaster, saying, "There was not a problem of coordination on Sept. 11."

Rescue officials "carried out the mission under great emotion, under great stress flawlessly, and that's because they have a superb command structure and a structure in which they know how to deal with emergencies," Giuliani said.

About 25,000 people escaped or were rescued from the 110-story twin towers before they collapsed after being hit by hijacked airplanes, but nearly 3,000 people, including 343 firefighters and 23 police, were killed.


Angry hecklers in the audience, which included family members of victims, lashed out at Giuliani and the commission, saying they were dodging the tough questions about what went wrong in 2001.

One woman (Sally Regenhard- remember her? :? ) cried, "My son was murdered." Another man shouted "talk about the radios" -- a reference to communications problems on the day of the attacks.

One man was removed from the room after he demanded time to question the mayor, screaming: "Three thousand people murdered does not mean leadership. ... Let me ask the real questions."

The commission, meeting less than two miles from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, said earlier that while progress had been made to iron out problems exposed by the attacks, rescue officials were still ill-prepared to handle a similar incident.

"It is a fair inference, given the differing situation in New York City and northern Virginia, that the problems in command, control and communications that occurred at both sites will likely recur in any emergency of a similar scale," a commission staff report said.

It said both cities, as well as cities across the United States, had to ensure their emergency response plans were in place and effective. The national capital region already had such an "incident command system" before Sept. 11, while New York only launched its own on Friday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also spoke on Wednesday and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was scheduled to testify later in the day.

On Tuesday, the commission said that apart from reports of turf battles, which rescue officials said were overblown, the rescue mission suffered from communications equipment such as radios which were not designed to link different departments.

"The biggest failure was our inability to get the two (fire and police) to talk on the same (radio) frequency," Jerome M. Hauer, former director of New York City's Office of Emergency Management, acknowledged on Wednesday.

The commission is working to complete its final report by July 26.

For more info look up http://story.news.yahoo.com/fc?cid=34&tmpl=fc&in=US&cat=Terrorism

TLOZ Link5
May 20th, 2004, 02:05 AM
Monica Iken, Nikki Stern, and the less-vocal 9/11 family members are now the only ones whom I have real respect for. As much as we on this forum may disagree with them, particularly about the redevelopment of Ground Zero, they have dignity and tact that I can't help but admire. I still have sympathy for Sally Regenhard and her ilk for their losses, but let's think. This (Giuliani) is the man who comforted them in their hour of need as best a politician can, attended their loved ones' funerals, stood beside them and lobbied with them for what they wanted in a memorial downtown. This is how they repay him?

My honest, current opinions of them as human beings cannot possibly be written or articulated in a remotely civil way.

I'll leave it at that.

May 20th, 2004, 07:31 AM
May 20, 2004


Mayor Tells Panel 'Pork Barrel Politics' Is Increasing Risk of Terrorism for City


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks yesterday that the federal government is placing New York City in greater danger by providing too little money to defend the city against future terrorist attacks.

Describing the nation's counterterrorism budget as "pork barrel politics at its worst,'' Mr. Bloomberg told the commission that under current spending formulas, states and cities with little threat of being attacked are getting far more in federal subsidies per capita than New York. "It's the kind of shortsighted 'me first' nonsense that gives Washington a bad name,'' the mayor said, and "has the effect of aiding and abetting those who hate us and plot against us."

At the same time, however, Mr. Bloomberg testified that his efforts to make New York the safest big city in the nation had helped make it "better prepared than at any time in its history to prevent and respond to any danger, no matter its source.''

The mayor's barbed remarks came in a 15-minute statement he made on the second of two days of landmark hearings in Manhattan by the commission, which came to New York to offer to most exhaustive public accounting to date of how the city government responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. He was not questioned by the 10-member commission, whose star witness yesterday was Mr. Bloomberg's predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Mr. Giuliani defended his administration from criticism leveled by the panel on Tuesday that the heroic response of the police and firefighters, while generally effective, had been undermined by problems including faulty communications and a lack of coordination between the agencies.

The panel, which met at the New School University, not far from the attack site, was noticeably softer in questioning Mr. Giuliani than it had been with his former police, fire and emergency management commissioners the day before. But New York's readiness for another attack remained an issue.

Commission members have accused the Bloomberg administration of doing too little to force the city's Police and Fire Ddepartments to work together to deal with terrorist threats. Although Mayor Bloomberg announced a new plan last week to coordinate the response of the Police and Fire Ddepartments at emergencies, panel members criticized it on Tuesday as too complex and lacking clear lines of authority. The commission's vice chairman described it as a "prescription for confusion.''

Mr. Bloomberg lashed out at that criticism yesterday, saying detractors did not understand how the plan would work.

"We all seek clarity in complex situations," he said. "But that doesn't mean we should seek simplistic solutions to complex situations."

One critic of the plan, Mr. Giuliani's former emergency management commissioner, Jerome M. Hauer, testified yesterday that the roles of the agencies must be more clearly defined. "Too much time is spent on needless haggling over who's in charge when the time would be better spent in interagency drills and training,'' Mr. Hauer said.

The Bloomberg administration has said it views Mr. Hauer's criticisms as politically motivated because he campaigned for the mayor's Democratic opponent in the last election.

The secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, testifying after Mr. Hauer, said the city's plan appeared to be a step in the right direction. But he said it may need modifications if it is to qualify for federal funds that are being made available to localities with approved emergency response plans.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the panel's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, and its vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, released a joint statement that saluted the "acts of heroism'' on Sept. 11 but repeated many of the criticisms aired Tuesday.

"Effective decision-making in New York was hampered by limited command and control and internal communications,'' they said. "Poor communications across agencies harmed situational awareness. Fire chiefs did not know what the N.Y.P.D. knew and knew less than what TV viewers knew.''

In a staff report yesterday, the commission drew a sharp comparison between New York City's response and the "generally effective'' response by rescue agencies in northern Virginia that rushed that same morning to the scene of the plane crash at the Pentagon. While acknowledging that the Pentagon attack was significantly smaller in scale, the report found that the response there "was mainly a success'' that could be credited to "strong professional relationships and trust established among emergency responders'' in the Virginia suburbs of the capital.

New York's need for counterterrorism financing resonated throughout the hearings as panelist after panelist reiterated a belief that it was only a matter of time before the next terrorist strike and that the city was a likely target.

Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, primarily blamed Congress, noting that the proposed 2004 federal budget cut the city's homeland security funds by nearly half, to $96 million.

But Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn and Queens, said after yesterday's session that part of Mr. Bloomberg's problem - the growing number of cities that are being defined as high-threat areas eligible for counterterrorism funds - was the work of the Bush administration.

"The mayor chose party-line defense of the president,'' he said, "over full-throated criticism of an administration that has directed New York's terror funds to cities like St. Paul and Louisville."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, Katy Mynster, said the agency had been working to respond to New York's needs. In 2003, she said, the federal government gave the city and its region more than $281 million in grant money as part of the Urban Area Security Initiative. "This is far more than any other urban area in the United States,'" she said, "and more than twice as much as the national capitol region that includes D.C.''

Soon after Mr. Bloomberg took office, his administration had a consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, prepare detailed analyses of the city's response on Sept. 11 that identified a number of shortcomings in the city's brave and aggressive response. In his testimony yesterday, though, Mr. Bloomberg chose to accentuate the positive, describing critics of the efforts as "self-styled experts.''

"It is easy to make decisions when you know all the facts,'' he said. "The challenge is making decisions when you don't have the facts. Those are the dynamics I bear in mind when I conclude that on 9/11, it is amazing how well everyone performed."

Mr. Bloomberg said critics had overstated the rivalry between the Police and Fire Departments and the impact that the agencies' generations-old feuding had on Sept. 11.

"The armchair quarterbacks forget that New York City police officers and firefighters work together hundreds of times a day on such incidents as building collapses, fires and traffic accidents," he said. "The shortcomings that have been identified by the commissions' response to 9/11 were the result of problems in communications, not the result of any battle of the badges.''

Mr. Hauer, however, has told the panel that decades of competing have created a situation in which the police and fire agencies have at times run separate responses to an emergency and have not been able to talk to one another because they used different radio frequencies. In his remarks yesterday about Sept. 11, he said, "I see our inability to get the departments to talk with one another on a common frequency as one of the issues that might have had an impact in reducing the loss of life."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Unfair Share of Security Money (http://forums.wirednewyork.com/viewtopic.php?t=1451)

May 20th, 2004, 05:25 PM
I am so tired of politicians looking at the bottom line and saying "They are spending twice as much as they are in DC!!!"

Well, for one thing, NYC is more than twice as large as DC, also, cost does not go up linearly with city size.

I mean, look at how many bridges we have here, and what about large structures? And unlike the Washington Monument, we can't call for buildings around to be demolished and roads closed to get stand-off distances.

Then add into it some of the absurdity of states like Montana getting cash from this program.

WHY DO THEY NEED ANY CASH?!? I would be impressed if these terrorists would be able to point out places like Montana and Oaklahoma on a map nevermind blow something up in them!

What are they going to protect against? Terrorist cow-tipping?

May 22nd, 2004, 03:32 AM

they don't. why are they getting it? look at the birthplaces and/or residences of members of the bush administration and members of congress. rich white conservatives usually aren't children of the cities.

May 22nd, 2004, 06:47 AM
May 22, 2004

Man Sought by 9/11 Panel Emerges to Tell of Chaos


Lloyd Thompson was deputy fire safety director in the north tower.

For several months, the national commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks has been searching in vain for a man it believes could help answer some of the most critical questions of what happened inside the World Trade Center that day. His name is Lloyd Thompson, and for much of that morning two and a half years ago he was posted at the epicenter of chaos.

As the deputy fire safety director in the complex's north tower, Mr. Thompson stood in the lobby, fielding panicked calls from those trapped on the upper floors. He struggled to make evacuation announcements over a public address system that was damaged by the plane crash. And, most significant, he had a role in overseeing a powerful piece of radio equipment that the commission believes is central to one of the core mysteries of what went wrong that day: Why did fire chiefs have such a hard time communicating with firefighters upstairs in the building?

Yesterday, weeks after the commission began sending him letters, interviewing former colleagues and checking with employers, Mr. Thompson emerged to tell his story. Contrary to what some investigators have speculated, Mr. Thompson said that he did not believe he ever touched the radio equipment known as a repeater, a device that amplifies the hand-held radios firefighters use.

The panel found that the repeater was working that day but fire chiefs mistakenly thought it was broken and stopped using it. The problem, the panel said in a report earlier this week, is that someone forgot to push a button, a mistake that created confusion about whether the repeater was working.

But the button was indeed pushed, although not by him, Mr. Thompson said yesterday as he gave an account that is at odds with the commission's leading theory on what went wrong.

"There was total chaos, and the situation at the console was not simple," he said in a telephone interview, referring to the security desk in the lobby at which he was stationed. "I think the commission will need to take a closer look at this."

Mr. Thompson's testimony is critical because communications difficulties have emerged as one of the leading problems that hindered emergency rescuers after the terrorist attack. The commission has concluded that the repeater could have provided an effective communication link among fire officials. Indeed, a fire chief in the south tower somehow later discovered that the repeater channel was working and used it to communicate as he climbed to the 78th floor.

These transmissions were captured in a tape recovered from the rubble and proved that, for at least a part of the morning, the repeater was working. But fire officials have consistently said the repeater did not work reliably enough to have been used.

At least a third of the 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11 were in the north tower, where evacuation orders, issued before and after the collapse of the south tower, were not heard by many firefighters. On Wednesday, the families of some of those who died heckled former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as he testified before the commission because they said they did not believe he was honestly discussing the communication and other coordination problems.

Mr. Thompson said that he, too, continued to suffer the memories of that day. "The most painful thing is that they died, but I'm still alive," he said in an hour-long interview.

Mr. Thompson, who lives in Yonkers, said he wanted to rebut depictions of him as a mystery man who had made himself unavailable to the investigation. He said he never received the commission's letters or knew they were looking for him. "I was definitely not hiding. I've actually been seeking them out, not the other way around," he said. "I've been getting up every day and going to work just like a normal citizen.''

Al Felzenberg, the commission's spokesman, said Mr. Thompson had left a phone message at the panel's New York office yesterday but no one from the commission had spoken to him yet. "The commission staff has tried to locate him, and I know they are looking forward to speaking with him," Mr. Felzenberg said.

Mr. Thompson, who still works as a fire safety director in a building, said the calls from the upper floors and the images from the lobby had been impossible to forget. After a year of psychological counseling, he said he still struggled with nightmares, and colleagues at work knew not to ask about what happened.

Visits to the families of the victims help in healing, he said. But he said he still could not watch video taken in the lobby that morning. "It's too painful," he said, his voice breaking.

Mr. Thompson, a fire safety director for 17 years, said he grew up in New York, dreaming of becoming a firefighter, but a spinal condition prevented him from passing the physical test. Instead, he worked as a fire safety director for private companies that help manage emergencies in buildings. He had been working in the trade center for eight years at the time of the terrorist attack and was employed by O.C.S. Security, which held the security contract.

From a command desk in the lobby, he was responsible for watching the building's various security and fire safety computer systems. A normal emergency might mean that one alarm button on the console would light, Mr. Thompson said. On Sept. 11, 2001, however, the panel was red with panic calls. "The problem was that no one had any idea what had happened," he said.

Mr. Thompson also sat near the console that operated the repeater, which was installed after the 1993 trade center bombing, when firefighters also had difficulty communicating with each other. Their radios have historically had problems sending signals in high-rise buildings because of the many layers of concrete and steel that must be pierced. The repeater was designed to boost the signal.

The repeater was in 5 World Trade Center, an adjoining building, but it could be operated from consoles in the lobbies of the north and south towers. The consoles, which looked like phones, had several buttons, one of which was pressed to turn on the system and a second that activated the handset to talk through.

The commission concluded that the second button was not pressed down, creating the perception that the repeater itself was not working when fire chiefs tested it. Consequently, the chiefs decided to switch to alternative radio channels that did not have the benefit of the booster.

Video from that morning shows Deputy Assistant Chief Joseph W. Pfeifer, one of the first fire officials on the scene, asking Mr. Thompson to turn the repeater on. But Mr. Thompson said yesterday that when he looked over to check the repeater, which was about five feet from his post, it was already on. A red light that only came on when both buttons were pressed was lighted, he said, and several supervisors confirmed that the unit was operating.

But when Chief Pfeifer tested the system minutes later, he could not communicate with another chief standing nearby in the lobby. "I don't think we have the repeater," the video shows Chief Pfeifer saying to the other chief. "I pick you up on my radio, but not on the hard wire," he said, referring to the repeater's handset.

Chief Pfeifer has said he believed that he could not rely on the repeater at that point and switched to another radio channel. A spokesman for the Fire Department, Francis X. Gribbon, said yesterday: "There is overwhelming evidence that the repeater could not possibly have worked correctly and completely throughout the morning. Chief Pfeifer did not have the luxury of time to figure out what was wrong with it."

Without the boosted channel, a fire chief who tried to call units down to the north tower lobby at 9:32 a.m., about half an hour before the south tower collapsed, found that no one acknowledged his message. A second evacuation order given by Chief Pfeifer, after the south tower had collapsed, was heard by some firefighters.

Chief Pfeifer has said it was a good thing that he was not using the repeater channel when he made that announcement because the repeater antenna was damaged as the south tower collapsed, and thus no firefighters would have heard his order. Mr. Thompson agreed. "They would have been in trouble once the repeater system went down with the collapse of the first building," he said. "They would have had no other method for communicating."

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the trade center and installed the repeater at the Fire Department's request, has said it worked that morning. Mr. Thompson said he was not sure who was responsible for turning the repeater on.

On Monday, Mr. Thompson will release a statement of his account to the commission, said Ronald L. Kuby, his lawyer. Mr. Thompson said he hoped to move forward with plans to be married once the attention subsided. For now, he said, the anguish of Sept. 11 has returned, not just for him but for his family and fiancée.

"It's my duty to help in whatever way I can to get answers about the events that day," he said, "and I'm eager to do that. But in the end, I just want to get back to the healing process, which has taken a long time to start."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 24th, 2004, 07:27 AM
Revisiting 9/11, Reworking 911 (http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/issueoftheweek/20040524/200/989)

Emergency Unpreparedness (http://forums.wirednewyork.com/viewtopic.php?t=2603)

May 26th, 2004, 08:19 AM
May 26, 2004


Missing a Chance to Learn From 9/11


By their incredible bravery and selflessness, New York's firefighters and police officers saved far more civilian lives on Sept. 11 than anyone could have expected. Their leaders were also heroic, rushing to the scene and providing calm and decisive command and control under unbelievable conditions of pressure and peril. Commissioners Bernard Kerik of the Police Department, Thomas Von Essen of the Fire Department and Richard Sheirer of the Office of Emergency Management were part of this leadership team.

I regret that during last week's commission hearings, my assessment of the city's command control and communications systems within and among the agencies that responded to the Sept. 11 attacks was taken by some as a criticism of their leaders. That was not my intention.

It has long been military practice to do a thorough study after every battle to find the lessons to be learned. This does not dishonor the heroes of that battle. In addition to recognizing the magnificent heroes of 9/11, the commission must learn lessons and recommend actions to fix problems. Some will deride this as Monday morning quarterbacking, but it is a necessary duty.

It is understandable that the arrival of our investigators in any agency is about as welcome as an I.R.S. audit. The federal agencies got over that reaction and have been cooperating with us, acknowledging mistakes and making reforms. New York City has not yet adopted that attitude. It is our hope that it will.

The investigations of our commission staff leave no doubt that there are long-standing ambiguities and sources of confusion in procedures for command and control of crises. These traditional practices are adequate for most civil calamities but they are not adequate for the threats that our terrorist enemies are determined to carry out. New York's new incident management system does not provide clear-cut unity of command in all potential crises. This could lead to uncertainty and confusion in a future complex and multiple attack.

Hardware, training and procedures for communicating within and among these elite organizations do not have the robustness, breadth of frequencies, redundancy or technical support necessary to deal with the magnitude of attacks that Al Qaeda hopes to perpetrate.

My criticism was drawn from my experience managing similar problems with two other elite institutions. As secretary of the Navy, I was responsible for ensuring the training and equipping of the Navy and Marine Corps. Each had individual missions and communications requirements, but they had to work together in many battles on land and sea. When a marine under attack needs to call in naval gunfire from 10 miles at sea to enemy positions only yards from his foxhole, he must have communications with the Navy that work in any conditions reliably and redundantly. That requires diverse equipment, regular training and technical experts in all frontline units.

On my watch in 1983, we lost 241 marines, sailors and soldiers to a terrorist attack in Beirut. The subsequent investigation revealed that significant confusion in command and control contributed to the vulnerability. These findings were painful to bereaved families and unwelcome to many in the chain of command. But the resulting changes from those lessons learned saved lives.

During the 9/11 hearings, witnesses have repeatedly reminded the commission that police officers and firefighters are not the military. In valor and professionalism they are certainly the equals of military professionals, however, and it is past time that they be provided with the quality of communications support that is taken for granted in the military.

In the new age of jihadist terror, our firefighters and police officers need nothing less, and they don't have it. They need a combined signal corps of highly trained communicators and technicians to deploy with the first responders. The federal government needs to make many new radio frequencies available.

New York's Finest and Bravest are very likely to be the nation's first line of defense in the next terrorist attack. They deserve crystal-clear command and control procedures and state of the art communications equal to the best in the armed forces. The federal government should finance and support this as a priority of preparedness.

John F. Lehman, secretary of the Navy from 1981 until 1987, is a member of the 9/11 commission.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 1st, 2004, 12:41 AM
May 31, 2004

Newsday examines 9/11 findings

By Graham Rayman, William Murphy, and Dan Janison

The city's response on Sept. 11, 2001 wasn't the picture of coordination that former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his emergency leaders painted for the 9/11 commission, the panel's staff concluded.

For nearly three years, the emergency response to the nation's worst terrorist attack in history has been the subject of bitter debate.

The commission's staff findings -- the most extensive independent report to date on the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center -- along with testimony before the commission, found many areas that added new detail or cleared up disputed questions on the response of New York's emergency services that day.

While the findings are preliminary, they offer a window into actions, and problems, of some of the city's first responders. Staff conclusions are based on hundreds of interviews with witnesses and leaders in the aftermath of the attacks.

On the other hand, many of the questions raised by the staff report were not asked by the commission in the hearings.

In a joint statement, 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas H. Kean and vice chairman Lee H. Hamilton lauded the "courage and determination" of civilians, firefighters and police officers. But they added, "Poor communication and the lack of knowledge of evacuation procedures proved costly.

Few tenants in the World Trade Center complex had a plan, or exercised a plan, for emergency preparedness .... Effective decision-making in New York was hampered by limited command and control and internal communications."

Those comments do not represent the final conclusions of the commission, which are expected July 26. However, the commission's work to date sheds light on several areas, adding new insight to the record of the disaster.

Newsday offers a look at some of the conclusions reached, and detail developed, by the staff or in testimony before the commission in New York last month.

The bunker

Shortly after the Twin Tower attacks, the mayor's famous 23rd-floor emergency command center in 7 World Trade Center was evacuated; the vacant building then burned for several hours and collapsed.

Testifying before the commission, Richard Sheirer, the Office of Emergency Management director in 2001, made waves by saying he would not have located the office in a skyscraper. He strongly suggested that blame lay with his predecessor Jerome Hauer, who was to testify the next day.

But speaking separately to reporters after their testimony, Giuliani and Hauer were consistent in their accounts of how the command center came to be removed from 1 Police Plaza in 1996 and put in leased space at 7 WTC.

Both said Hauer and other mayoral aides drove the decision, but Giuliani guided them and ultimately made the choice. He'd directed Hauer to find a place close to City Hall.

Underground facilities were ruled out because of flooding concerns and it was considered ideal that the CIA and Secret Service were already in 7 World Trade Center.

Helicopter rescue

In the days and weeks after the attack, many questions were raised about why helicopters were not used to save some of the people trapped on the fire floors in each tower.

About a dozen people were rescued from the roof by air following the 1993 bombing, but that was more than 10 hours after the explosion, Alan Reiss, the director of the World Trade Center on 9/11 told the commission. He said doors to the roofs were locked on Sept. 11, 2001 and that tenants had been told during fire drills they should evacuate downward because hot gas and smoke rises. He conceded, though, the tenants had never specifically been told to avoid the roof.

Police Officer James Ciccone of the police Aviation Unit told the 9/11 commission staff that he did not see anyone on the roofs and that the police helicopters were hard to handle. "The heat actually made it difficult for us to hold the helicopters because it would interfere with the rotor system," he told investigators.

Giuliani told the commission that he asked fire Chief of Department Peter Ganci at some point whether a helicopter rescue was feasible.

"And Pete pointed to a big flame that was shooting out of the north tower at the time. And he said to me, 'My guys can save everybody below the fire. But I can't put a helicopter above the fire,'" Giuliani told the commission.

The police Chief of Department gave an order at 9:06 a.m., three minutes after the second tower was struck, "that no units were to land on the roof of either tower," the report said.


Most commentators have praised the emergency workers and said they helped save the lives of the 25,000< people who got out alive. The commission's report found that many office workers in the towers had actually left on their own, sometimes against advice from security to remain where they were and without clear instructions or information from the city's 911 operators. "Most civilians began evacuating without waiting to obtain instructions over the intercom system," the report said. It concluded that in both towers, "civilians became first responders." Building intercom and phone systems were damaged by the impacts. Although the acting fire safety director in the north tower had immediately ordered everyone to evacuate that building, the public address system was damaged and apparently no one heard the announcement. In the south tower, a building announcement initially told tenants to stay put, so many civilians remained on their floors or returned to their offices. At 9:11 a.m., Port Authority workers at the 64th floor of the north tower were told by the Port Authority Police desk in Jersey City to stay near the stairwells and wait for assistance. These workers eventually began to descend anyway on their own, but most of them died in the collapse of the North Tower. It is now believed by scholars that there were only about 15,000 people in the towers at the time of the attacks. Several ongoing studies are examining this issue. 911 dispatchers

"The 911 system was not ready to cope with a major disaster," the commission found.

The staff report depicted the civilian 911 and FDNY dispatchers as overwhelmed by the volume of calls and unable to tell callers what to do because they did not know the seriousness of the situation.

At least 100 people remained alive on the 88th and 89th floors of the north tower, in some cases calling 911 for direction. Without information to pass on, 911 operators and FDNY dispatchers fell back on procedure, directing tenants to stay low and wait for assistance.

One civilian said in private testimony that was quoted in the commission report that he was put on hold three times by 911 workers and passed along to others.

Commission members closely questioned city officials about how the operators and dispatchers were kept informed.

Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said he was unfamiliar with such procedures. Raymond Kelly, the current police commissioner, told the panel later in the day that a police supervisor is now assigned to monitor both police and fire frequencies and keep the dispatchers informed.


Then-commissioners of the three main city emergency agencies, the police and fire departments and the Office of Emergency Management all told the commission that there had been no "battle of the badges" problems between police and fire on 9/11.

The staff report released just hours earlier said that about 9:15 a.m., a police rescue team from the Emergency Service Unit arrived at Tower Two and "attempted to check in with the FDNY chiefs present, but were rebuffed." None of the commission members questioned the apparent discrepancy.

And the staff concluded that despite contentions to the contrary, Giuliani's emergency command structure had not stopped the police/fire rivalry. "By September 11, neither had demonstrated the readiness to respond to an 'incident commander' if that commander was an official outside of their department," staff wrote. "The mayor's Office of Emergency Management had not overcome this problem."

"On 9/11, the problem was less about turf battles on the scene," staff wrote. "It had more to do with command systems designed to work independently, not together."

Panel staff also found it inconsistent with a Giuliani directive that the Fire Department "was not responsible for the management of the city's response to the emergency."

The staff report said that "even prior to its evacuation" from 7 WTC, the Office of Emergency Management "did not play an integral role in ensuring that information was shared among agencies."


The first recorded fire fatality of the day was thought to be that of the Rev. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest who was a Fire Department chaplain He was assigned death certificate number 0001 by the city medical examiner's office because he was the first member of the fire service brought to the city morgue.

The commission staff concluded that he was not the first member of the fire service to die. "The first FDNY fatality of the day occurred at approximately 9:25 a.m. when a civilian \[who jumped from a tower\] landed on a fireman on West Street," the staff report concluded.

A top Fire Department official confirmed after the hearings that the first rescue worker fatality was that of Firefighter Daniel Suhr of Brooklyn's Engine Co. 216, who was struck by the falling civilian.


Officials said in the days after 9/11 that a building booster for fire radio signals, called a repeater, did not work. The commission staff said the repeater was activated at 8:45 a.m., "but a second button which would have enabled the mast handset was not activated at that time."

When a fire chief testing the system in the lobby of the North Tower at 9:05 a.m. could not communicate on his radio, he concluded the repeater was not working and switched away from the repeater channel. However, fire commanders in the South Tower found the repeater channel was working and used it to communicate, the report said

Various city agencies are now debating how high-rise buildings should be equipped with repeaters.

Fire battalion chiefs have been given a newly invented command post radio that boosts signals between the commander and firefighters' portable radios in a high-rise, but the department said much more remains to be done to improve communications.
Fire drills

The Port Authority was lauded for spending $100 million on a wide range of improvements following the 1993 bombing, but the commission raised questions about the towers' fire drills.

During drills, which took place twice a year, fire wardens selected from each tenant company and fire safety specialists would gather tenants in a central place, give basic information and use an emergency phone to obtain instructions.

But the commission found that civilians were not directed into the stairwells or provided details on the unusual configuration of the stairwells, which included hallways and smoke doors. There was no full or partial evacuation.

Participation in the drills varied widely. In addition, a former fire warden told commission staffers that office workers before the attacks were "very uncooperative."

Though some planned ahead, most companies in the WTC did not have independent evacuation plans, the commission found.


The first report of collapse came not from emergency responders, but from a civilian at 9:37 a.m., on the 106th floor of the south tower. The civilian reported to a 911 operator that a lower floor -- "90-something floor" -- was collapsing. The 911 operator told an NYPD dispatcher. The NYPD dispatcher confused the report at 9:52 a.m.,telling NYPD officers that "the 106th floor is crumbling."

A senior fire chief told the chief of department between 9:25 and 9:45 a.m. there might be a danger of collapse in a few hours, and therefore units probably should not ascend above floors in the 60s. But the commission did not find evidence that they did anything with that information.

As for the police helicopters, the commission staff found that before 9:59 a.m., no NYPD helicopter transmission predicted that either tower would collapse. A police helicopter did report at 9:55 a.m.,four minutes before the collapse, that a large piece of the south tower looked like it was about to fall. Repeated updates from the NYPD aviation unit were not communicated to the FDNY, the commission concluded.

"We didn't have a lot of information coming in," said fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer. "We didn't receive any reports of what was seen from the helicopters."

Copyright 2004 Newsday, Inc.

June 15th, 2004, 07:49 AM
New York Daily News
June 15, 2004


Janitor tells 9/11 panel of brush with WTC thug


WASHINGTON - A hero janitor who helped victims escape from the World Trade Center's north tower before it collapsed told the 9/11 panel that he came across one of the hijackers in the building a few months before the attack.
William Rodriguez, 43, of Jersey City met with the commission for the first time last week.

A 20-year Trade Center employee who swept stairwells, he swears he saw United Airlines Flight 175 hijacker Mohand Alshehri in June 2001 and told an FBI agent in the family center at Ground Zero about it a month after the attacks. He never heard back from the bureau.

Rodriguez said he was working overtime one weekend cleaning rest rooms on the concourse and mezzanine levels when Alshehri approached him.

"I had just finished cleaning the bathroom and this guy asks me, 'Excuse me, how many public bathrooms are in this area?'" Rodriguez told the Daily News.

"Coming from the school of the 1993 [Trade Center] bombing, I found it very strange," Rodriguez said. "I didn't forget about it."

After Al Qaeda's attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Rodriguez recognized Alshehri's mug in newspapers.

"I'm very certain, I'll give it 90%" that Alshehri was casing the towers before the attacks, the WTC ex-porter said.

It is believed that American Airlines Flight 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta cased New York City targets, including the Diamond District, but Rodriguez may have given the 9/11 panel the first eyewitness testimony about a hijacker inside one of the towers before the terror strike.

Little is known about the Saudi-born Alshehri, 22, or his travels after arriving in Miami on May 28, 2001. Alshehri used the alias Abu Dujana, the name of Islam's mythic Red-Banded Warrior, who fought for the Prophet Muhammed. It's a name other Al Qaeda attackers also have used, including one who claimed responsibility for the train bombings in Madrid on March 11 of this year.

Rodriguez is credited with saving lives on 9/11 and for helping immigrants get 9/11 funds. He kept mum until now because he assumed the FBI was investigating his lead. FBI officials say they have never heard of Rodriguez but do not discount his story.
The revelation, if true, comes as the panel meets this week to scrutinize - again - the military's Sept. 11 response. FBI agents and CIA officials also will testify about the post-attack probe of the plot.

Copyright 2004 Daily News, L.P.

June 15th, 2004, 09:59 PM
Yahoo! News
June 15, 2004

Sept. 11 Commission Holds Final Hearings

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Of all the lines of defense that failed to stop the Sept. 11 attacks, the final one — military jet fighters — never really came into play. As the Sept. 11 commission wraps up its work, it will look into why.

The panel holds its final two-day public hearing Wednesday and Thursday. The first day will be devoted to al-Qaida and the 9/11 plot and the second to whether the Pentagon and Federal Aviation Administration could have done more to limit the damage.

One of two commission staff reports that were to be released Wednesday discloses the plot initially may have been planned for May or June 2001, rather than Sept. 11, according to a senior law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of agency policy.

The official said the information about the delay probably came from U.S. interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a top al-Qaida leader captured in Pakistan in March 2003.

Commissioners, meanwhile, won't hear from a German prosecutor who had been expected to detail a key element of the plot — the so-called Hamburg al-Qaida cell. That group helped arrange financial support and housing for Sept. 11 hijackers as they planned the attacks.

Matthias Krauss cited a scheduling conflict as the reason for the last-minute cancellation. A spokeswoman said he would submit written testimony.

On Thursday, the commission will end its series of public hearings by taking up the question of whether military jet fighters from NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, could have limited the destruction caused by the Sept. 11 hijackers by shooting down the airliners. Officials have acknowledged the fighters did not get airborne as quickly as possible.

Kristen Breitweiser of Middletown Township, N.J., whose husband, Ronald, died in the World Trade Center, said a lack of foresight on the part of those agencies was compounded by officials' mistakes on the morning of Sept. 11.

"I think we were ill-prepared, and I think people showed poor judgment," Breitweiser said. The plane that crashed into the Pentagon, in particular, could have been stopped, she contended.

Both NORAD and Federal Aviation Administration officials say changes have been implemented since the attacks. They have established chains of communication. Generals — rather than just the president — have been given authority to order the fighter pilots to shoot down hijacked aircraft. The number of warplanes on alert has been increased, and fighters are put on patrol over U.S. cities and events deemed possible terrorist targets.

When the Sept. 11 terrorists struck, the United States and Canada were defended by 20 fighter aircraft, arrayed in pairs in 10 locations, said Lt. Col. Roberto Garza, a NORAD spokesman. They were kept armed and fueled, with pilots nearby, ready to take off in less than 15 minutes.

They were a remnant of the Cold War, when North America worried more about intercepting Soviet bombers than hijacked airliners. On Sept. 11, their focus was directed outward, toward threats that might approach American coastlines. Potential hijackings were the domain of law enforcement.

The only fighters that were close to the attacks were in Massachusetts and Virginia.

The best information about the sequence of events on Sept. 11 comes from a timeline provided by NORAD in the months after the attacks. NORAD spokesman Garza said some aspects of the timeline now are considered inaccurate, however, but he refused to be more specific.

The two Boston flights that hit the World Trade Center, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were the first to take off and the first to be hijacked. When two NORAD F-15 Eagle fighters rocketed into the sky from Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass., Flight 11 had already hit the North Tower, and the fighters were 10 minutes away when Flight 175 struck the South Tower.

The FAA and NORAD had a better chance of stopping American Airlines Flight 77, which had broken from its flight path just before 9 a.m., relatives of the victims say. The government had 45 minutes until the plane would hit the Pentagon.

By then, American skies were in chaos. At one point, the FAA was tracking 11 planes that it feared could have been hijacked, said Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the agency. Air Force fighters were taking off from bases unarmed, and someone floated the idea of using one of them to ram a hijacked airliner.

Still, two events would have been required for the Pentagon strike to have been averted.

First, President Bush would have had to have ordered that any hijacked airliners be shot down. Bush ultimately did make that call, but only after the Pentagon was hit.

Second, NORAD's F-16 Fighting Falcons at Langley Air Force Base, near Norfolk, Va., would have had to have been launched sooner.

Why they weren't is unclear.


On the Net:

Sept. 11 panel: http://www.9-11commission.gov

Copyright © 2004 Yahoo! Inc.

June 16th, 2004, 03:38 PM
9/11 panel: Al Qaeda planned to hijack 10 planes

June 16, 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks found that the plot originally called for hijacking 10 planes and attacking targets on the eastern and western coasts of the United States.

The bipartisan commission issued its findings as it began two days of hearings.

According to commission:

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the plot, planned to have nine of the planes crash into the FBI and CIA headquarters, the Pentagon and the White House, as well as nuclear plants and the tallest buildings in California and Washington state.

Mohammed was arrested in March 2003 in Pakistan and turned over to U.S. authorities.

The hijackers of the 10th plane, which Mohammed planned to pilot, would contact the media, kill all of the adult men on board and then make a statement denouncing the United States before freeing the women and children.

The plot also called for hijacking and blowing up 12 airliners in Southeast Asia, but al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden scrapped that part of the plan because it was to difficult to coordinate operations on two continents.

Bin Laden scaled back the plot in the United States to the four planes that were eventually used in the attack.

They narrowed down the list of targets to the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and either the White House or the Capitol.

Bin Laden wanted to hit the White House, but Mohammed and Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 19 hijackers, favored the Capitol, because they felt it would be an easier target.

Mohammed initially proposed the attacks in 1996, but planning did not begin until 1999.

Bin Laden had wanted the attack to occur as early as mid-2000, after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount tunnel, which preceded a Palestinian intifada. But the hijacker-pilots were not yet fully trained.

Bin Laden then pressed for a date earlier in 2001, such as May 12, the seven-month anniversary of the USS Cole attack, or in June or July, when Sharon was due to visit the White House. Again, the hijackers were not ready.

The September 11 date was not picked until three weeks before. The hijackers bought their tickets only two weeks before.

The plot cost an estimated $400,000 to $500,000, not including the hijackers' training in Afghanistan. The hijackers spent about $270,000 in the United States, mainly on flight training, travel, housing, and vehicles.

No al Qaeda, Iraq cooperation

The panel said it found "no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

The report contradicts statements from the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda.

In response, a senior administration official traveling with President Bush in Tampa, Florida, said, "We stand by what Powell and Tenet have said," referring to previous statements by Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director George Tenet that described such links.

The commission's report says bin Laden "explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to (Saddam) Hussein's secular regime. Bin Laden had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan.

"The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded bin Laden to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda."

A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting bin Laden in 1994.

Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded.

"There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship," the report said.

"Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied" any relationship, the report said.

The panel also dismissed reports that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in the Czech Republic on April 9, 2000. "We do not believe that such a meeting occurred."

The report said that Atta was in Virginia on April 4 -- evidenced by video that shows him withdrawing $8,000 from an ATM -- and he was in Florida by April 11 if not before.

The report also found that there was no "convincing evidence that any government financially supported al Qaeda before 9/11" other than the limited support provided by the Taliban when bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan.

The toppling of the Taliban regime "fundamentally changed" al Qaeda, leaving it decentralized and altering Osama bin Laden's role.

Prior to the attacks, bin Laden approved all al Qaeda operations and often chose targets and the operatives involved himself, the report said.

"After al Qaeda lost Afghanistan after 9/11, it fundamentally changed. The organization is far more decentralized. Bin Laden's seclusion forced operational commanders and cell leaders to assume greater authority; they are now making the command decisions previously made by him," the report said.

Al Qaeda seeking nuclear weapons

The commission said that al Qaeda was seeking to obtain nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Al Qaeda "remains interested in using a radiological dispersal device or 'dirty bomb,' a conventional explosive designed to spread radioactive material," the commission said.

The report said that al Qaeda may also seek to launch a chemical attack using widely available chemicals or by attacking a chemical plant or chemical shipments.

The commission also said that Tenet testified that a possible anthrax attack is "one of the most immediate threats the United States is likely to face."

Al Qaeda funding

Al Qaeda's funding came primarily from a fund-raising network, not business enterprises or bin Laden's personal fortune, the commission said.

Bin Laden owned some businesses and other assets in Sudan, but "most were small or not economically viable." The report says bin Laden "never received a $300 million inheritance," but from 1970 until approximately 1994 received about $1 million a year.

The commission found that Saudi Arabia was a rich fund-raising ground for al Qaeda, but that it had found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior officials within the Saudi government funded al Qaeda.

The group distributed the money as quickly as it was raised, with much of the money going to the Taliban for its operations in Afghanistan.

The CIA estimates that al Qaeda spent $30 million each year on expenses including terrorist operations, salaries and maintenance on terrorist training camps.

Its largest expense was payments to the Taliban, which was an estimated $10 million to $20 million per year.

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

June 16th, 2004, 03:45 PM
The panel said it found "no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

:shock: I knew it!!!!

June 16th, 2004, 03:50 PM
They narrowed down the list of targets to the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and either the White House or the Capitol.

So the plane that felt in Pennsylvania was heading for either the White House or the Capitol. So sad. :(

June 16th, 2004, 04:12 PM

June 16, 2004

*No "credible evidence" that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda

*9/11 attacks cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute, plus the cost of training the 19 hijackers in Afghanistan

*Al Qaeda spent $30 million per year, according to the CIA

*Largest expense was to Taliban at $10 million to $20 million per year

*Most funds came from donations, with much money raised in Saudi Arabia

*No evidence that any government gave money

*Bin Laden's finances limited to $1 million a year from 1970 to 1994

*Some money raised in U.S. likely used by al Qaeda

*Al Qaeda's role in 1993 WTC attack uncertain

*Bin Laden ordered USS Cole attack, two operatives confirmed

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

June 17th, 2004, 05:21 PM
Panel: U.S. unprepared 'in every respect' on 9/11
Chaos and confusion during attacks

June 17, 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks completed its public hearings Thursday by concluding that U.S. officials were unprepared "in every respect" to stop the suicide hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Federal Aviation Administration "struggled, under difficult circumstances, to improvise a homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge they had never encountered and had never trained to meet," the commission's staff concluded in a report read at the hearing's opening.

Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the commission that the U.S. military was trained to "look outward." No one had used an aircraft as a guided missile since the Japanese kamikaze attacks of World War II, and the military had not drilled for the unprecedented multiple domestic hijackings, he said.

"There have been landings on the White House lawn. There was a landing in Red Square. There have been lots of stupid things," he said. "There was talk about crashing airplanes into the CIA. But in most of that threat reporting leading up to 9/11, it was hijacking an airplane and in the normal hijack mode, not in the mode of a weapon."

The commission is scheduled to issue a final report on its investigation in July, and its chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, promised a "full and complete accounting" of the circumstances surrounding the attacks.

Testimony at Thursday's hearing chronicled the confusion and delays by officials trying to confirm which planes had been hijacked and where they were headed.

"On the morning of 9/11, the existing protocol was unsuited in every respect for what was about to happen," the commission's staff report found. "What ensued was the hurried attempt to create an improvised defense by officials who had never encountered or trained against the situation they faced."

The staff reported Thursday that the military and the FAA failed to coordinate their responses to the attacks, in which suicide hijackers crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

Vice President Dick Cheney relayed orders from President Bush authorizing the Air Force to shoot down hijacked jetliners that morning, but those orders appear to have been too late and were never relayed to fighter pilots.

Air Force officers "expressed considerable confusion over the nature and effect of the order," and did not pass it along to pilots scrambled to defend the East Coast after the World Trade Center was hit. Government protocols "did not contemplate an intercept" and presumed a hijacking "would take a traditional form, not a suicide hijacking designed to convert the aircraft into a guided missile," the commission staff found.

Myers, then the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said he was not advised of the August 2001 presidential briefing that warned that al Qaeda might use airplanes as weapons. Nor was he aware of the arrest that month of suspected September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, an al Qaeda member who had aroused suspicion at a U.S. flight school, he said.

Today, he said, Army radar and air defense systems are deployed to defend Washington and other places, and the Air Force has "lots of aircraft" on alert to respond to potential hijackings.

NORAD commander Gen. Ralph Eberhart said the Air Force could stop a similar hijacking plot today -- by shooting down a hijacked jet, if necessary.

"Today, we believe we would have 17 minutes to make that decision," Eberhart said. "On 9/11, we were 153 miles away; today we would be in position to fire for eight minutes to decide whether this is [a] hostile act."

After the hearing, committee Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton called Eberhart's contention "an extraordinary statement."

"Now he's making a lot of assumptions there as far as almost instantaneous communication, and it's almost a hypothetical -- it is I guess a hypothetical question. But I heard that statement with some surprise," Hamilton said.

"More important to me is that he feels that now the communication is instantaneous and that he believes that if such an event were to happen today, that they would be capable of taking out all four planes," committee Chairman Kean said. "I hope he's right."

Cheney told the commission that Bush, who was aboard Air Force One after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, had "signed off on the concept" of shooting down any more hijacked planes. But the report found that conversation did not occur until 10:10 a.m. -- by which time all four planes had crashed.

Cheney, at the White House, had communicated the authorization to intercept and engage inbound planes to defense officials, the report found, but the order did not reach Air Force commanders until 10:31 a.m. And NORAD commanders in Colorado and Florida never coordinated with the FAA to "organize a common response," the commission found.

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

June 17th, 2004, 09:16 PM
'Stay quiet and you'll be OK,' Atta told passengers
'There is a bomb onboard,' another hijacker said

June 17, 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A voice believed to be that of al Qaeda hijack leader Mohamed Atta urged passengers to "stay quiet and you'll be OK" as the hijackers steered American Airlines Flight 11 toward New York, the independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks reported Thursday.

"Nobody move. Everything will be OK," the voice said in a recording first played publicly in the commission's final hearing.

"If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet," the voice said.

The announcement, which commission staff believe was from Atta, was the first transmission from the aircraft picked up by air traffic controllers in Boston, where the flight originated.

Ten minutes later, the voice again warned, "Nobody move please. We are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves."

The Egyptian-born Atta apparently was not aware that his announcements to passengers were being broadcast.

The recording was played as the commission examined a report by its staff that said the U.S. military and the Federal Aviation Administration were unprepared "in every respect" to stop the hijackings, in which Atta and other al Qaeda operatives crashed passenger jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.

The first word of the hijacking reached the FAA about a half-hour into the flight. And the Northeast Air Defense Sector base in Rome, New York, received its first notification at 8:37 a.m. -- just nine minutes before Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's north tower.

"The nine minutes' notice was the most the military would receive that morning of any of the four hijackings," the report said.

Two Air Force F-15s were dispatched from an Air Force base in Massachusetts, but they were not airborne until 8:53 a.m.

On three of the four planes, the hijackers turned off transponders that best enable air traffic controllers to follow a plane's path.

'It's escalating big, big time'
The same air traffic controller handling Flight 11 was also responsible for United Airlines Flight 175, the second hijacked plane. The Boston-to-Los Angeles flight crashed into the Trade Center's south tower at 9:03 a.m.

At 8:51 a.m., the controller noticed a change in Flight 175's transponder reading, indicating a second hijacking. But it wasn't until 9:01 a.m., two minutes before impact, that the air traffic control center in Herndon, Virginia, got the word.

"It's escalating big, big time. We need to get the military involved with us," the manager of the New York air traffic center said. NORAD didn't get a call until 9:03 a.m. -- the same time the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

The third hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 that took off from Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., had begun deviating from its flight plan about 10 minutes earlier. It managed to evade detection for 36 minutes, until it slammed into the Pentagon, the commission found.

Military officials on previous occasions, including testimony before the commission, have stated they had 47 minutes to intercept Flight 93 and 14 minutes to intercept Flight 77 before it hit the Pentagon. Both of these perceptions are incorrect, the report said.

"NORAD did not know about the search for American 77. Instead, they heard once again about a plane that no longer existed," the report said. "No one at FAA Command Center or headquarters ever asked for military assistance."

But the FAA did relay incorrect information about a different aircraft closing in on Washington to the NEADS Air Force base in upstate New York.

The base dispatched fighter jets from Langley, Virginia, but they headed first east over the Atlantic Ocean instead of toward the Pentagon. One minute before the crash, the fighter jets were redirected toward Washington but they were 150 miles away.

The fourth hijacked plane, United Flight 93, had taken off from Newark at 8:42 a.m., one minute after the first plane struck the Trade Center. Its last transmission to air traffic controllers was at 9:28 a.m.

A Cleveland air traffic controller heard the sounds of a struggle in the cockpit over radio transmissions and sought contact with the pilot, which he could not achieve.

"Uh, is the captain. Would like you all to remain seated," hijacker-pilot Ziad Jarrah of Lebanon told the passengers in a previously disclosed transmission heard in Cleveland.

"There is a bomb onboard and are going back to the airport, and to have our demands."

Instead, the plane changed course and turned toward Washington. Reports of the hijacking had reached the FAA at 9:34 a.m., but the agency never requested military assistance.

CNN senior producer Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

July 16th, 2004, 08:13 PM
July 16, 2004

9/11 report to propose big changes, panel members say

From Kelli Arena and Kevin Bohn
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The 9/11 commission's final report, scheduled to be made public next week, is expected to propose significant changes in how the U.S. government organizes intelligence agencies and how they interact, according to two panel members.

They told CNN on Thursday that the nearly 600-page report will be "compelling and authoritative."

Neither one would comment on whether the votes by the bipartisan, independent panel on recommendations were unanimous. One member said there was "healthy debate" in the crafting of the final report.

An official said commissioners have voted to approve most of the report, barring one section. The White House already is going through the rest to ensure nothing is published that it deems too sensitive.

The commission hopes only a small amount of information will have to be redacted for national security reasons, as compared with last year's report by the joint congressional inquiry, which was barred from releasing many details.

Commissioners said key recommendations will include a complete overhaul of the intelligence community, but they declined to give details.

For example, it is unclear whether the panel will endorse a new national intelligence director to oversee all the various agencies or the creation of a new domestic intelligence agency. The FBI and CIA oppose such a new entity.

"Our approach is pretty nuanced and not subject to easy labeling," one commissioner said. "We tried to carefully deal with the divide between domestic and foreign intelligence. Our recommendation is pretty creative."

Another panel member said reform recommendations will be "organizational and institutional, not only concerning the intelligence community but also regarding first responders and broader domestic security personnel, including border patrol and immigration."

He said the report will provide "significant detail and rationale" for proposed changes.

"The intelligence establishment is clearly broken and dysfunctional," the commissioner said. "It requires a number of significant things to be done, a systematic approach, not a collection of discreet things to do."

As for the 9/11 plot, he said, "some gaps will be filled in," but most of the major issues have been outlined in previously released staff reports.

Several commissioners have said they believe the United States is safer today than it was before the September 11 attacks but that more remains to be done. They said they believe lawmakers will respect the conclusions of the report and will support many of the proposed changes.

Members of victims' families are expected to be in Washington to receive a briefing from the commission before the report's release to the public.

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

July 18th, 2004, 07:41 AM
9/11 Commission Accuses Iran, not Iraq

Now America accuses Iran of complicity in World Trade Center attack

By Julian Coman in Washington
London Telegraph
(Filed: 18/07/2004)

Iran gave free passage to up to 10 of the September 11 hijackers just months before the 2001 attacks and offered to co-operate with al-Qa'eda against the US, an American report will say this week.

The all-party report by the 9/11 Commission, set up by Congress in 2002, will state that Iran, not Iraq, fostered relations with the al-Qa'eda network in the years leading up to the world's most devastating terrorist attack.

Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission

The bipartisan commission has established that between eight and 10 of the September 11 hijackers, who had been based in Afghanistan, travelled through Iran between October 2000 and February 2001. The terrorists in question are believed to have been the "muscle" - hired to storm the aircraft cockpits and overpower crew and passengers.

Iranian officials were instructed not to harrass al-Qa'eda personnel as they crossed the border and, in some cases, not to stamp their passports.

According to testimony received by the commission - based on information from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and about 100 electronic intercepts by the National Security Agency - an alliance of convenience was established between the Shia Muslim Iranian leadership and the Sunni terrorist organisation, well before September 11, 2001.

The report is expected to confirm the claim by Thomas Kean, its chairman, last month that "there were a lot more active [al-Qa'eda] contacts, frankly, with Iran and Pakistan, than there were with Iraq".

It will further inflame tensions between Washington and Teheran, where hardliners are threatening to restart its uranium enrichment programme, a key step towards building nuclear weapons.

A commission official, quoted in the latest edition of Time magazine, alleges that Iranian officials approached Osama bin Laden after the bombing of the USS Cole in 1999, proposing a joint strategy of attacks on US interests.

A preliminary report from commission staff, released last month, stated: "Bin Laden's representatives and Iranian officials discussed putting aside Shia-Sunni divisions to co-operate against the common enemy."

The offer is said to have been turned down by bin Laden, who was reluctant to alienate Sunni supporters in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, in the wake of September 11, Iran sheltered al-Qaeda militants fleeing Afghanistan.

The full report by the commission is also expected to endorse initial conclusions that al-Qa'eda may have been involved in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, when 19 American servicemen were killed. The attack has long been blamed solely on Hizbollah, a Lebanese terrorist group backed by Iran.

Iran was declared part of an "axis of evil", along with Iraq and North Korea, by President George W. Bush in 2002. The report will add to pressure for Iran's theocratic rulers to be the first target of a re-elected Bush administration. Hawks within the administration want a concerted effort to overturn the regime by peaceful means.

Some Bush officials are privately contemplating a possible military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities before Russian fuel rods are delivered next year.

Teheran said yesterday that it had arrested an unspecified number of Iranian al-Qa'eda supporters.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.

July 19th, 2004, 01:52 PM
"bipartisan, independent panel"

Isn't that rather oxy-moronic? If a panel is bi-partisan it does not mean that it is independent, but rather tied to BOTH parties....

As for Iran/Iraq, what difference does one letter make?


July 22nd, 2004, 01:17 AM
9/11 Report to Cite 10 Missed Opportunities

Panel Faults Two Administrations but Doesn't Call Attacks Preventable

By Dan Eggen and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 21, 2004; Page A01

The final report by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks details as many as 10 missed opportunities by the Bush and Clinton administrations to detect or derail the deadly terrorist hijackings, but the panel stops short of saying the attacks should have been prevented, according to government officials and others familiar with the document.

The report, to be released publicly tomorrow, includes a list of 10 "operational opportunities" that the government missed to potentially unravel the Sept. 11 plot, said a government official who has read the document. Six of the incidents listed came during the Bush administration and four were during the Clinton years, this official said.

But the nearly 600-page report acknowledges that many of the opportunities were long shots and that others would have required a lucky sequence of events to alter the outcome, said sources who declined to be identified because the commission wants the document kept secret until its release.

Another government official who has been briefed on the report said the tally of missed opportunities includes the CIA's failure to add two hijackers' names to a terrorism watch list; the FBI's handling of the August 2001 arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been accused of conspiring in the plot; and several failed attempts to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. The report also notes, however, the inherent difficulties that intelligence agencies have in assembling a clear picture of a terrorist threat, one official said.

The list of missed opportunities is the latest revelation to emerge in recent days about the final report of the panel, known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The report details broad government failures in connection with the Sept. 11 plot and recommends a wide-ranging restructuring that would include a Cabinet-level intelligence director to oversee the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies.

The report also concludes that al Qaeda's relationship with Iran and its client, the Hezbollah militant group, was far deeper and more long-standing than its links with Iraq, which never established operational ties with the terrorist group, said officials familiar with the document.

Among the newest findings is evidence, disclosed in media reports this week, that as many as 10 of the Sept. 11 hijackers transited through Iran before the hijackings.

The findings will again put the panel in the middle of a political battle over claims by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda may have had significant ties. Bush said on Monday that U.S. officials were now probing possible Iranian links to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Commission and government officials stress there is no evidence indicating that Tehran knowingly aided in the Sept. 11 plot. But Iran's apparent willingness to allow al Qaeda members to roam across its borders underscores the complicated relationship that emerged between them despite historic animosity between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. There is compelling evidence that Shiite Iran continued to give al Qaeda leaders haven even after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the commission report and other intelligence sources.

Yesterday, the commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean (R), and vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton (D), briefed House GOP leaders on the report. Democratic leaders are to be briefed today.

Over 20 months, the 10-member bipartisan commission has tread carefully on the overarching question of whether the attacks could have been, or should have been, prevented. Kean and Hamilton have said at various times that the attacks could conceivably have been thwarted, but they have stopped short of saying prevention was likely or reasonable.

The panel decided several months ago that it would not include such a definitive judgment in its final report, said one commission member interviewed this week. Rather, this commissioner said, the decision was made to outline missed opportunities while acknowledging the tenacity and adaptability of al Qaeda in reaching its goal.

"There clearly were many opportunities out there that were not taken advantage of," said the commissioner, who declined to talk publicly because of the embargo on releasing the report. "From that, some will conclude it could have been prevented, others will say it might have been prevented and the rest will say it's impossible to tell. . . . We said we couldn't get an answer to this."

Yet by detailing a list of missed opportunities, the Sept. 11 commission intends to send the message that different actions by government officials in the years leading up to the attacks could have had a profound impact on the plot's outcome, officials who have seen the report said.

In a series of interim staff reports issued this year, along with questioning of witnesses in public hearings, the commission has focused intensely on the Bush administration's actions in the summer of 2001 amid a heightened state of alert about an impending al Qaeda attack. Former counterterrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke testified that the Bush administration was distracted in its first eight months and was less aggressive than the Clinton administration in addressing terrorism.

Two officials familiar with the report said several of the missed opportunities identified by the commission occurred during this time. After arresting Moussaoui, for example, the FBI failed to get a warrant to search his belongings and the bureau's acting director was not briefed on the case, although CIA Director George J. Tenet was, according to commission testimony.

The commission's report will also examine at length a series of missteps and lapses that began with the CIA's failure to adequately follow up on a meeting of al Qaeda associates in Malaysia in January 2000 attended by two future hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar.

The CIA neglected to add their names to a terrorist watch list to prevent them from entering the United States, and the FBI was slow and meek in its response once notified, according to previous findings and testimony.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

July 22nd, 2004, 04:35 PM
New York Times
July 22, 2004

Urging Swift Action, Panel Warns Deadlier Attacks Are Likely


Text: The Complete Report (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/politics/20040722_911Report.pdf) (PDF)

WASHINGTON, July 22 — The terrorists of Sept. 11, 2001, succeeded because the government of the United States — shackled by a mentality and a national-security bureaucracy more appropriate for a bygone cold war era — failed at many levels, the commission investigating the attacks said today as it warned that other, even deadlier attacks are likely.

The commission chairman, Thomas H. Kean, said the worst failure of all was "a failure of imagination," in the sense that the signs had existed for years that an attack was coming. As the report itself put it, "The 9/11 attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a surprise."

Mr. Kean said an attack "of even greater magnitude" than the one in which terrorists used hijacked airliners to destroy the World Trade Center, blast a hole in the Pentagon and kill about 3,000 people is "possible — even probable."

"We do not have the luxury of time," Mr. Kean said at a news briefing accompanying release of the book-length report, the product of many months of inquiries in which the panel sifted 2.5 million pages of documents and interviewed more than 1,200 witnesses. He said, as did the commission report, that changes of function and attitude are needed in Congress as well as the executive branch.

The 10 commission members were unanimous in their findings, and they pledged not to let their recommendations disappear into the attic of history, like those offered up by previous study groups. Mr. Kean said the commission would meet again in a year to gauge progress.

"We approached our task with a deep respect for the place of Sept. 11 in our nation's history," Mr. Kean said. "Some have compared the shock we felt after Pearl Harbor, others to the Kennedy assassination. There are no comparisons. This was a moment unique in its horror in our long history."

As expected, the commission called for creation of a new national intelligence director to supplant some functions now performed by the director of central intelligence, who heads not only the Central Intelligence Agency but supervises the work of a dozen or more agencies scattered through the government. "No one person can do all these things," the commission said.

It called, too, for creation of a national counterterrorism center that would both unify strategic intelligence-gathering against Islamic terrorists and operational planning against them. But the report emphasizes that the enemy is not Islam, "the great world faith, but a perversion of Islam."

Osama bin Laden has capitalized on seething discontent among people "disoriented by cyclonic change as they confront modernity and globalization," the report says, and used it to build "a dynamic and lethal organization" which, while damaged since Sept. 11, 2001, is still deadly.

"We believe we are safer today," the report says. "But we are not safe."

Mr. Kean said it was clear there had been many "unexploited opportunities" to thwart or at least interrupt the Sept. 11 plot. The report cites several missed chances and overlooked clues, including the now familiar episode of Zacarias Moussaoui, who aroused suspicion at a Minnesota flight school weeks before the attacks. And on Wednesday, millions of Americans saw a videotape of hijackers who were briefly pulled aside at a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport outside Washington before being allowed to board the jet that they flew into the Pentagon.

Sadly, Mr. Kean said, nothing was done that "disturbed or even delayed the progress of the Al Qaeda plot."

The commission said the administrations of President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush must share blame for not recognizing earlier the threat posed by terrorists. "Indeed, it barely came up during the 2000 presidential campaign," the commission said.
Nor was terrorism much discussed in Congress, whose turf-guarding instincts must change if the legislative branch is to do its part in making the country safer, the report says. The commission called for creation of a permanent standing committee on homeland security in each house.

The American public and the news media also share responsibility for not being interested enough in terrorism before Sept. 11, 2001, the commission said.

"It is not our purpose to assess blame," Mr. Kean said. "We look back so we can look forward."

The commission's vice chairman, former Representative Lee H. Hamilton, said military action and heightened security would not be enough. He said the United States must promote an "agenda of opportunity" in impoverished countries, join "the battle of ideas," so that those regions do not become incubators of future terrorists.

Mr. Hamilton, a former Democratic lawmaker from Indiana, said it will not be enough to retool and sharpen American intelligence-gathering and analysis, as essential as those steps are. The anti-terrorism strategy "must integrate all the elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, homeland defense and military strength," he said.

"There is no silver bullet or decisive blow that can defeat Islamic terrorism," Mr. Hamilton said.

The commission warned Americans to brace themselves for a long struggle, not unlike the "twilight struggle" that President John F. Kennedy called for in his 1961 inaugural speech. The difference, the commission said, is that the cold war era is gone, and the United States faces an entirely different enemy, one who is resourceful, dedicated and lethal.

The commission said some mundane aspects of American life may have to change — the relative ease with which a driver's license, or a birth certificate can be obtained, for instance. It said, too, that it is painfully clear in hindsight that the visas and passports of some of the 19 hijackers ought to have aroused suspicion.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, but the commission said it had found no evidence of Saudi government involvement in the attacks. But the commission said the United States must confront problems with Saudi Arabia, whose internal security measures have often been criticized, and "build a relationship beyond oil."

Interim reports have already chronicled how the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as the C.I.A. and others failed to communicate with one another and thus failed to "connect the dots," or figure out from numerous clues what was afoot before Sept. 11, 2001. Today, the commission introduced a new phrase: "In the words of one official, no analytic work foresaw the lightning that could connect the thundercloud to the ground."

John E. McLaughlin, the acting director of central intelligence, said today that the American intelligence community was grateful for the commission's "comprehensive report that will serve our nation in the fight against terrorism in the years ahead."

Mr. McLaughlin said his agency would study the report so that the C.I.A. can build on the improvements it has already achieved since Sept. 11, 2001. "We appreciate the commission's observation that the Central Intelligence Agency is in the foreground of the story and of some of its criticisms partly because before 9/11 no agency had more responsibility — or did more — to attack Al Qaeda," Mr. McLaughlin said in a statement.

Formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, the panel has subjected some government agencies to intensive scrutiny and forced them into painful self-examination.

Mr. Kean paid tribute today to the families of the people killed at the Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, where one of the four hijacked jets crashed, apparently after a struggle with some passengers.

"You demanded the creation of this commission," he said to the relatives, some of whom were present for release of the report in the Reagan Building here. "You have encouraged us every step of the way, as partners and as witnesses. From your grief you have drawn strength. You have given that strength to us. And we are determined, as you instructed us, to do everything possible to prevent other families from ever suffering such a tragedy again."

The commission strived for a bipartisan approach to its task, and to judge by the public comments of its members it succeeded to a great extent. But it was inevitable that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Bush administration's response to them, would be election issues as President Bush casts himself as commander-in-chief in a war on terror and his presumptive Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry, criticizes the conduct of that war.

President Bush, who received Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton at the White House this morning, said: "I look forward to studying their recommendations and look forward to working with responsible parties within my administration to move forward on those recommendations. As well, we look forward to working with the Congress on the implementation of ways to do our duty. And the most important duty we have is the security of our fellow countrymen."

Mr. Kerry, speaking to reporters in Detroit, said: "The bottom line is, the executive is the implementer. The executive department proposes the budget, the executive department has the ability to lead. Congress, regrettably, just by nature, has a harder time doing that. But I do agree with the commission's findings. And I do agree that the commission has appropriately suggested some important new reforms that could help Congress do a better job. And I will embrace those, and I will work very hard to get those passed."

Members of the bipartisan commission said none of them would take any part in this year's presidential campaign. "On that beautiful September day we felt great hurt," Mr. Kean said, "but we believed and we acted as one nation. We united as Americans have always united in the face of any common foe."

He added that the five Republicans and five Democrats on the commission would focus on supporting implementation of the recommendations in the report. "We believe that acting together as Republicans, Democrats we can make a difference," he said. "We can make our nation safer. We can make our nation more secure."

In a sense, the Sept. 11 commission has not just been examining the events of three years ago. Its members have also been looking back 40 years, trying to avoid what happened with another bipartisan body convened to investigate a national tragedy.

In the summer of 1964, the Warren Commission was rushing to finish its work before the presidential election. On Sept. 24, the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was not part of "any conspiracy, domestic or foreign" when he killed Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. It determined, too, that Jack Ruby acted alone when he shot Oswald in the Dallas police station two days later.

The Warren Commission sought to assure the American people that it had learned all that could be learned about the assassination. In that sense, it failed.

Some pieces of the puzzle did not seem to fit exactly — not an uncommon occurrence in a complex criminal investigation — and the commission could not really disprove some theories, outlandish or otherwise.

Perhaps more important, the Warren Commission did not get the full cooperation it had been promised. After its hearings, it became known that J. Edgar Hoover had withheld information about F.B.I. surveillance of Oswald before the assassination, and that the C.I.A. had, with the knowledge of the Kennedy White House, flirted with the mafia about eliminating Fidel Castro.

Many Americans still believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate the president. The C.I.A., the F.B.I., Castro, the mafia, right-wing Americans, Texas oil tycoons eager to put Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House —these and others have been bandied about as "suspects."

Now the latter-day commission headed by Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton has laid out its conclusions and recommendations, fully aware that they may be painful and expensive — and deeply determined that its findings stand the test of time.

Chairman Thomas H. Kean, standing with Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton, discussing the findings of the Sept. 11 report.

Matt Sellitto, who lost a son in the Sept. 11 attacks, signaled that he had a question today as commissioners held a news conference.

Chairman Thomas H. Kean, left, and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton formally presented the Sept. 11 report in a Rose Garden ceremony.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 23rd, 2004, 09:35 AM
No one is to blame
9/11 panel's voluminous report cites 'failure of imagination'

http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_content/797-wtc911.JPG http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_content/590-911book.JPG

By JAMES GORDON MEEK in Washington and TRACY CONNOR in New York

The 9/11 Commission closed its probe yesterday with a final report that identified a breathtaking array of government blind spots - but did not blame a single person for the shortcomings.

The bipartisan panel could not even say if it believes the suicide hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people and shattered America's sense of security could have been prevented.

"This was a failure of policy, management, capability and above all, a failure of imagination," said former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, the commission chairman.

"The fact of the matter is we just didn't get it in this country," added the vice chairman, former Rep. Lee Hamilton. "We could not comprehend that people wanted to kill us, they wanted to hijack airplanes and fly them into big buildings and important buildings."

The 567-page report chronicles the rise of Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network, including his links to Iraq, a subject in hot dispute.

They found that while Iraq's former dictator Saddam Hussein had offered safe haven to Bin Laden in 1999, Saddam was turned down and never developed an "operational relationship" with the terror mastermind.

Most of the report, however, focused on mistakes by the Clinton and Bush administrations that opened the door to Bin Laden's henchmen and the deadliest-ever attack on U.S. soil.

Despite claims from both administrations that fighting terror was one of their most important concerns, the panel concluded it was not a top priority for either White House.

Still, in an apparent bid to issue a unanimous document, the commission of five Republicans and five Democrats pointed no fingers. "It is not our purpose to assign blame," Kean said.

The panel further turned down the heat by concluding it's possible nothing or no one could have stopped the 19 Arab fanatics from turning four jets into missiles.

"Since the plotters were flexible and resourceful, we cannot know whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated them," Kean said.

His analysis appeared to be a sharp departure from comments he made last year, shortly before the commission started hearing public testimony.

"This was not something that had to happen," he said then, suggesting that heads should roll. "There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time, because they failed. They simply failed." The commission got a pat on the back from President Bush, who said the White House would take its recommendations seriously. "I assured them that where government needs to act, we will," he said.

Relatives of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, said it was no surprise the commission did not name names.

"I think there's enough blame to go around," said Joyce Gales, of the upper East Side, whose son was killed at the World Trade Center. "I think everybody was asleep at the switch."

The report paints a portrait of a government mired in the Cold War-era, hamstrung by communication lapses, bureaucratic rivalries and lack of funds, oblivious to the idea that Al Qaeda and Bin Laden could mount such an audacious assault.

One commission member even suggested novelist Tom Clancy did a better job of imagining the unimaginable than the officials in charge of protecting the nation.

Specific failures cited by the commission include:

*Lack of action against Bin Laden after the 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole in Yemen.

"Bin Laden's inference may well have been that attacks, at least at the level of the Cole, were risk-free," the report summary said.

*Slow response to the arrest of so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, after his suspicious behavior at a flight school in Minnesota, and to the arrival in the United States of terrorists spotted in Southeast Asia in 2000.

"No one working on these late leads in the summer of 2001 connected them to the high level of threat reporting," the report said.

*Leaving the national borders and aviation security "permeable."
For instance, the hijackers' fake passports and fraudulent visa applications raised no red flags and their names were not put on terrorist watch lists.

*An air-defense system ill-equipped to respond to an attack in which commercial aircraft were used as weapons of mass destruction.
Fighter pilots never got a presidential order to shoot down the hijacked planes.

"Planes were scrambled, but ineffectively, as they did not know where to go or what targets they were to intercept," the report said.

*Command and control and communication problems in New York City that undermined the heroism of firefighters, cops and others who responded after the planes struck the World Trade Center.

"Everyone was caught unawares by Sept. 11 - the President, the Congress, the American people, law enforcement agencies," commission member James Thompson said. "Blame, if there's blame, has to be spread all across the board, because the American people never demanded more or better."

Originally published on July 23, 2004

All contents © 2004 Daily News, L.P.

July 23rd, 2004, 10:29 AM
Ah yes, everyone is at fault but no one is to blame, or vice versa, and the biggest failure was imaginary.. who would have predicted it?

July 23rd, 2004, 12:33 PM
You summed that up nicely. How much money did this crap cost the taxpayers?

July 23rd, 2004, 01:27 PM
Thats what you get when you go Bi-Partisan.

A panel that goes both ways and ends up nowhere.

July 23rd, 2004, 03:01 PM
Regarding the 3 posts above: you all are trivializing the issue. Do you think there is one person to blame, an organization, or agency? Reducing the subject of terrorism and security of the nation to Democrats vs Republicans?

I have a question to the three of you: did you read the report? Or are you relying on the opinion of other people, the ones that actually read it?

Myself, I have finished the first chapter - it is captivating. I do not have time now, will continue later…

July 23rd, 2004, 04:23 PM
Actually, I think there are more than one person to blame, but they seem to be avoiding that as much as they can.

The 500+ pages in it might offer a bit more (more than Bloombergs plan for improving NY Emergency Communications not doing very well, that is).

Thing is, i wasn't looking for them to say "So-in-so did it all", but it loks like they kind of sidestepped any blame being given to ANY individual or department.....

I don't know.

July 23rd, 2004, 07:49 PM
I haven't read all of it, but I've looked at some of it, and while I agree with Edward that it's detailed and impressive, it pretty much lets everybody off the hook, even where criminal negligence seems indicated. One example: the airlines. They let the hikjackers board even though they'd bought one-way tickets, paid cash at the counter, were captured on video setting off metal detectors, etc.

Here's what the report says about Nawaf al Hazmi, who set off the first and second metal detectors, then was hand-wanded and allowed to board a United Airlines plane:

We asked a screening expert to review the videotape of the hand-wanding, and he found the quality of the screener’s work to have been “marginal at best.” The screener should have “resolved” what set off the alarm; and in the case of both Moqed and Hazmi, it was clear that he did not.

But the airlines aren't singled out for blame; instead, the FAA is mildly criticized. To me, that's a whitewash.

July 25th, 2004, 06:34 AM
July 25, 2004


Honorable Commission, Toothless Report


Americans owe the 9/11 commission a deep debt for its extensive exposition of the facts surrounding the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Yet, because the commission had a goal of creating a unanimous report from a bipartisan group, it softened the edges and left it to the public to draw many conclusions.

Among the obvious truths that were documented but unarticulated were the facts that the Bush administration did little on terrorism before 9/11, and that by invading Iraq the administration has left us less safe as a nation. (Fortunately, opinion polls show that the majority of Americans have already come to these conclusions on their own. )

What the commissioners did clearly state was that Iraq had no collaborative relationship with Al Qaeda and no hand in 9/11. They also disclosed that Iran provided support to Al Qaeda, including to some 9/11 hijackers. These two facts may cause many people to conclude that the Bush administration focused on the wrong country. They would be right to think that.

So what now? News coverage of the commission's recommendations has focused on the organizational improvements: a new cabinet-level national intelligence director and a new National Counterterrorism Center to ensure that our 15 or so intelligence agencies play well together. Both are good ideas, but they are purely incremental. Had these changes been made six years ago, they would not have significantly altered the way we dealt with Al Qaeda; they certainly would not have prevented 9/11. Putting these recommendations in place will marginally improve our ability to crush the new, decentralized Al Qaeda, but there are other changes that would help more.

First, we need not only a more powerful person at the top of the intelligence community, but also more capable people throughout the agencies - especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency. In other branches of the government, employees can and do join on as mid- and senior-level managers after beginning their careers and gaining experience elsewhere. But at the F.B.I. and C.I.A., the key posts are held almost exclusively by those who joined young and worked their way up. This has created uniformity, insularity, risk-aversion, torpidity and often mediocrity.

The only way to infuse these key agencies with creative new blood is to overhaul their hiring and promotion practices to attract workers who don't suffer the "failures of imagination" that the 9/11 commissioners repeatedly blame for past failures.

Second, in addition to separating the job of C.I.A. director from the overall head of American intelligence, we must also place the C.I.A.'s analysts in an agency that is independent from the one that collects the intelligence. This is the only way to avoid the "groupthink" that hampered the agency's ability to report accurately on Iraq. It is no accident that the only intelligence agency that got it right on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department - a small, elite group of analysts encouraged to be independent thinkers rather than spies or policy makers.

Analysts aren't the only ones who should be reconstituted in small, elite groups. Either the C.I.A. or the military must create a larger and more capable commando force for covert antiterrorism work, along with a network of agents and front companies working under "nonofficial cover'' - that is, without diplomatic protection - to support the commandos.

Even more important than any bureaucratic suggestions is the report's cogent discussion of who the enemy is and what strategies we need in the fight. The commission properly identified the threat not as terrorism (which is a tactic, not an enemy), but as Islamic jihadism, which must be defeated in a battle of ideas as well as in armed conflict.

We need to expose the Islamic world to values that are more attractive than those of the jihadists. This means aiding economic development and political openness in Muslim countries, and efforts to stabilize places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Restarting the Israel-Palestinian peace process is also vital.

Also, we can't do this alone. In addition to "hearts and minds" television and radio programming by the American government, we would be greatly helped by a pan-Islamic council of respected spiritual and secular leaders to coordinate (without United States involvement) the Islamic world's own ideological effort against the new Al Qaeda.

Unfortunately, because of America's low standing in the Islamic world, we are now at a great disadvantage in the battle of ideas. This is primarily because of the unnecessary and counterproductive invasion of Iraq. In pulling its bipartisan punches, the commission failed to admit the obvious: we are less capable of defeating the jihadists because of the Iraq war.

Unanimity has its value, but so do debate and dissent in a democracy facing a crisis. To fully realize the potential of the commission's report, we must see it not as the end of the discussion but as a partial blueprint for victory. The jihadist enemy has learned how to spread hate and how to kill - and it is still doing both very effectively three years after 9/11.

Richard A. Clarke, former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, is the author of "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 25th, 2004, 06:38 AM
July 25, 2004

Correcting the Record on Sept. 11, in Great Detail


This article was reported by Philip Shenon, Douglas Jehl and David Johnston and written by Mr. Shenon.

WASHINGTON, July 24 — When the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States set to work early last year to prepare the definitive history of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, it seemed that much of the hard work of the so-called 9/11 commission was already done, because so much of the horrifying story seemed to be known.

At the time, it was understood that all of the hijackers had entered the country legally and done nothing to draw attention to themselves; Osama bin Laden had underwritten the plot with his personal fortune but had left the details to others; American intelligence agencies had no warning that Al Qaeda was considering suicide missions using planes; President Bush had received a special intelligence briefing weeks before Sept. 11 about Al Qaeda threats that focused on past, not current, threats.

But 19 months later, the commission released a final, unanimous book-length report last Thursday that, in calling for a overhaul of the way the government collects and shares intelligence, showed that much of what had been common wisdom about the Sept. 11 attacks at the start of the panel's investigation was wrong.

In meticulous detail, the 567-page report, including 116 pages of detailed footnotes in tiny, eye-straining type, rewrote the history of Sept. 11, 2001, correcting the historical record in ways large and small and shattering myths that might otherwise have been accepted as truth for generations.

The commission's report found that the hijackers had repeatedly broken the law in entering the United States, that Mr. bin Laden may have micromanaged the attacks but did not pay for them, that intelligence agencies had considered the threat of suicide hijackings, and that Mr. Bush received an August 2001 briefing on evidence of continuing domestic terrorist threats from Al Qaeda.

"Our work, we believe, is the definitive work on 9/11," said Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who was chairman of the commission, and whose consensus-building talents are credited by other commissioners as the reason the panel's report was unanimous. If there are unanswered questions, Mr. Kean said, it is mostly because "the people who were at the heart of the plot are dead."

The Hijackers

For the commission of five Democrats and five Republicans, the work of correcting the record began with an understanding of how 19 young Arab terrorists managed to enter the United States unnoticed, hiding in plain sight in the weeks and months before they joined in an attack that left more than 3,000 people dead.

This was the subject of the first of what would be series of riveting public hearings held by the commission this year. The first fact-finding hearing in January showed just how wrong - and self-serving -much of the government's information about the Sept. 11 plot had been. And it suggested just how aggressive the commission intended to be in setting the record straight.

Immediately after Sept. 11 and in the months that followed, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and other counterterrorism agencies defended their failure to detect the plot by insisting that the hijackers had gone out of their way to enter the United States legally and to avoid detection in the months preceding the attacks.

"Each of the hijackers, apparently purposely selected to avoid notice, came easily and lawfully from abroad," Louis J. Freeh, the former director of the F.B.I., testified to Congress in October 2002. "While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering nothing that alerted law enforcement."

But in its final report, the commission found that as many as 13 of the hijackers had entered the United States with passports that had been fraudulently altered, using criminal methods previously associated with Al Qaeda.

The commission found that the visa applications of many of the hijackers had been filled out improperly; in several cases, the hijackers had provided demonstrably false information on the forms. The names of at least three of the terrorists were found after Sept. 11 in the databases of American intelligence and counterterrorism agencies.

After entering the United States, several of the hijackers should have drawn the attention of law enforcement agencies but did not.

Mohamed Atta, the plot's Egyptian-born ringleader, overstayed his tourist visa. One of the terrorist pilots, Ziad al-Jarrah, attended school in 2000 in violation of his immigration status, which should have been enough to block him from re-entering the United States; he left and re-entered the country at least six more times before Sept. 11.

Imagining the Unimaginable

In trying to explain why the nation had left itself so vulnerable on Sept. 11, the leaders of the nation's law enforcement and intelligence agencies have insisted publicly that they never considered the nightmare of passenger planes turned into guided missiles.

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center," Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, said in May 2002. As recently as this April, in testimony to the Sept. 11 commission, Mr. Freeh said that he "never was aware of a plan that contemplated commercial airliners being used as weapons."

But in its investigation, the commission found that an attack described as unimaginable had in fact been imagined, repeatedly. The commission said that several threat reports circulated within the government in the late 1990's raised the explicit possibility of an attack using airliners as missiles.

Most prominent among those reports, the commission said, was one circulated in September 1998, based on information provided by a source who walked into an American consulate in East Asia, that ''mentioned a possible plot to fly an explosives-laden aircraft into a U.S. city." In August of the same year, it said, an intelligence agency received information that a group of Libyans hoped to crash a plane into the World Trade Center.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command had gone so far as to develop exercises to counter the threat and, according to a Defense Department memorandum unearthed by the commission, planned a drill in April 2001 that would have simulated a terrorist crash into the Pentagon.

Bin Laden's Role

American intelligence agencies had known for years that the United States had much to fear from Osama bin Laden, but it was fear based more on Mr. bin Laden's power as a global symbol of Islamic fundamentalist rage than as a terrorist logistician.

A senior State Department official testified to the Senate in 2001 that the bin Laden terror network was "analogous to a multinational corporation, bin Laden as C.E.O.," leaving the details of the terrorist attacks to others.

But the commission found that far from being the disengaged leader of his terror network, Mr. bin Laden was described by captured Qaeda colleagues as a hands-on executive who wanted to be involved in almost every detail of the Sept. 11 plot, choosing the hijacking team himself and selecting targets. He was reported to have been eager to hit the White House.

The report describes information obtained from the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mr. bin Laden's former chief of operations, who said that "bin Laden could assess new trainees very quickly, in about 10 minutes, and that many of the 9/11 hijackers were selected in this manner."

American intelligence analysts had long believed that Mr. bin Laden had a vast personal fortune that bankrolled Al Qaeda; news accounts described the bin Laden fortune as totaling as much as $300 million, with real estate holdings in London, Paris and the Côte d'Azur.

But the commission reached a far different conclusion, finding that Mr. bin Laden was cut off from his family's wealth after the early 1990's and that he financed Al Qaeda's operations through a core group of wealthy Muslim donors, mainly in the Persian Gulf. The report said that from 1970 to 1994, Mr. bin Laden received about $1 million a year from family funds - a sizable sum, but not nearly enough to finance such an ambitious terrorist network.

The Iraq Connection

The Bush administration has long maintained that there was a close working relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq. In October 2002, with the invasion of Iraq only months away, President Bush said in a speech in Cincinnati that ''high-level contacts" between Iraq and Al Qaeda "go back a decade," and that "we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases."

As recently as last month, Vice President Dick Cheney said there was reason to believe a disputed Czech intelligence report that Mohamed Atta had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April 2001, suggesting a tie between Iraq and the Sept. 11 plot.

But in its most contentious effort to set the record straight about the origins of the plot, the bipartisan commission's final report found no evidence of close collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, appearing to undermine a justification for the Iraq war.

The commission found no credible evidence to suggest that the Prague meeting took place and no evidence of any kind to show Iraqi involvement in attacks by Al Qaeda against the United States. While there had indeed between periodic contacts in the late 1990's between Al Qaeda representatives and Iraqi officials, principally in Sudan, the commission found, those contacts did not amount to much.

"To date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship," the commission wrote.

A footnote buried on page 470 of the commission's report provided a clue to some of the false claims: "Although there have been suggestions of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda regarding chemical weapons and explosive trainings, the most detailed information alleging such ties came from an Al Qaeda operative who recanted much of his original information."

The commission attempted to lift suspicion that the leaders of another Arab government, that of Saudi Arabia, had underwritten Al Qaeda, and to knock down widely circulated theories that the Bush administration had improperly assisted the Saudis by allowing members of the extended bin Laden clan to flee the United States on charter flights at a time when all commercial air traffic was shut down after the attacks.

''Saudi Arabia has long been considered the principal source of Al Qaeda financing," the commission wrote in its final report. "But we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization."

The Evidence

In the first hours after the Sept. 11 attacks and ever since, the White House has consistently insisted that President Bush and his deputies had no credible evidence before the attacks to suggest that Al Qaeda was about to strike on American soil.

But the assertion has been questioned as a result of the commission's digging. After its most heated showdown with the Bush administration over access to classified information, the commission pressured the White House to declassify and make public a special intelligence briefing that had been presented to the president at his Texas ranch on Aug. 6, 2001, a month before the attacks.

The existence of the document - but not its detailed contents - had been known about since 2002, when the White House confirmed news reports that President Bush had received an intelligence report before Sept. 11 warning of the possibility that Al Qaeda might hijack American passenger planes.

In testimony this April to the Sept. 11 commission, before it was made public, Ms. Rice insisted that the report was "historical."

"It did not, in fact, warn of attacks inside the United States," she testified. "It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information.''

But there were gasps in the audience in the hearing room when she disclosed the name of the two-page briefing paper: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack in U.S."

The document was made public several days later and contained passages referring to F.B.I. reports of "suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York." It noted that a caller to the United States Embassy in the United Arab Emirates that May had warned that "a group of bin Laden supporters was in the U.S.," planning attacks with explosives.

The commission's final report revealed that two C.I.A. analysts involved in preparing the brief had wanted to make clear to Mr. Bush that, far from being only a historical threat, the threat that Al Qaeda would strike on American soil was "both current and serious."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 25th, 2004, 08:30 AM
Text of the 09/11 Commission Report (http://www.9-11commission.gov/)

This brings to mind a technical (and somewhat tedious) paper written by Barry D Watts on Clausewitzian Friction and Future War. Karl von Clausewitz once stated, "War is the continuation of policy by other means."

The report was written in the mid-90s and revised in 2000. Of interest is chapter 6, The Intractability of Strategic Surprise (http://www.clausewitz.com/CWZHOME/Watts2/Chapter6.htm#15), with the attack on Pearl Harbor as a primary example.

July 25th, 2004, 10:41 AM
9/11 Commission Report becomes a best-seller

July 25, 2004

The 9/11 Commission Report looks to be a best-seller for Manhattan-based W.W. Norton, which has printed 600,000 copies of the $10 trade paperback.

Last Thursday morning, hours after the report was released, the book hit the No. 1 spot on Barnesandnoble.com’s hourly Top 100 list, and reached No. 1 on Amazon.com that afternoon.

By Friday, the title was in the No. 1 spot in the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain, while holding its top position with the online retailers.

Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

July 27th, 2004, 03:50 AM
July 27, 2004


Scrutinizing the Saudi Connection


In establishing how the government failed to prevent the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the 9/11 Commission Report is excellent. Its grasp of some details, however, is less than reassuring - particularly details about Saudi Arabia, which it calls, in a gross understatement, "a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism."

Perhaps even more startling is the report's conclusion that the panel has "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually" helped to finance Al Qaeda. It does say that unnamed wealthy Saudi sympathizers, and leading Saudi charities, sent money to the terror group. But the report fails to mine any of the widely available reporting and research that establishes the degree to which many of the suspect charities cited by the United States are controlled directly by the Saudi government or some of its ministers.

The report makes no mention, for example, of an October 2002 study by the Council of Foreign Relations that draws opposite conclusions about the role of Saudi charities and how "Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem." The 9/11 panel also misses an opportunity to more fully explore an intelligence coup in 2002, when American agents in Bosnia retrieved computer files of the so-called Golden Chain, a group of Mr. bin Laden's early financial supporters.

Reported to be among the 20 names on this list were a former government minister in Saudi Arabia, three billionaire banking tycoons and several top industrialists. Yet the report neither confirms nor denies this. Nor does it address what, if anything, the Saudis did with the information, or whether the men were ever arrested by Saudi authorities.

These failures are ones of omission, but the questions are of vital significance. Less important, perhaps, but more well known is the story of how many prominent Saudis, including members of the bin Laden family, were able to fly out of the United States within days of 9/11.

On Sept. 13, 2001, a private jet flew from Tampa, Fla., to Lexington, Ky., before leaving the country later that same day. On board were top Saudi businessmen and members of the royal family. The assertion is that they were afforded extraordinary treatment since they flew out after the most cursory F.B.I. checks and at a time when American airspace was still closed to private aviation.

For a long time, the White House, the Federal Aviation Administration and the F.B.I. denied that any such flights had taken place on the 13th, and the first day of travel was the 14th. Now the report of the 9/11 Commission finally admits the flight was on the 13th - but it fails to quell the controversy. Rather, the report says the flight only took off "after national airspace was open" and quotes the pilot saying there was "nothing unusual whatsoever" about that flight.

The report fails, however, to note that when the flights occurred, airspace was open only to a limited number of commercial - not private - planes. And it attributes incorrect positions maintained for months by the federal government, particularly the F.B.I., to a "misunderstanding" between federal and local law enforcement.

Moreover, the report makes no effort to determine whether the question of the special repatriation of high-ranking Saudis from the United States was discussed on the same day as the first flight in a private meeting - no aides permitted - between President Bush and the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The ambassador has denied that the subject was discussed in his conversation with the president. But did the commission ask the president about it when it had the opportunity to question him? If so, there is no indication in the report.

The report makes no mention that one of the Saudis on the flight that left Kentucky for Saudi Arabia was Prince Ahmed bin Salman. Nephew to King Fahd, Prince Ahmed was later mentioned to American interrogators in March 2002 by none other than Abu Zubaydah, a top Qaeda official captured that same month. The connection, if any, between a top operative of Al Qaeda and a leading member of the royal family has remained unresolved despite Saudi denials. Prince Ahmed cannot be asked: he died in 2002, at the age of 43, from complications from stomach surgery in a Riyadh hospital.

Not only does the 9/11 report fail to resolve the matter of whether Mr. Zubaydah - who featured prominently in the now infamous Presidential Daily Briefing of Aug. 6, 2001 - was telling the truth when he named Prince Ahmed and several other princes as his contacts, but they do not even mention the prince in the entire report. The report does have seven references to Mr. Zubaydah's interrogations, yet not a single one is from March, the month of his capture, and the time he made his startling and still unproven accusations about high-ranking Saudi royals.

Of course, none of these matters undermine the report's central conclusions about what went wrong inside the United States leading up to 9/11. And satisfying answers to questions about the relationship between the Saudis and Al Qaeda might not be available yet. But the commission could have at least asked them. By failing to address adequately how Saudi leaders helped Al Qaeda flourish, the commission has risked damaging its otherwise good work.

Gerald Posner, the author of "Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11," is writing a book about the Saudi royal family.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

October 28th, 2004, 10:45 AM
9/11 "black box" cover-up at Ground Zero? -- a Campaign Extra!/PDN exclusive

This is the more comprehensive version of our story appearing in today's Philadelphia Daily News.

Two men who worked extensively in the wreckage of the World Trade Center claim they helped federal agents find three of the four “black boxes” from the jetliners that struck the towers on 9/11 - contradicting the official account.

Both the independent 9/11 Commission and federal authorities continue to insist that none of the four devices - a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) from the two planes - were ever found in the wreckage.

But New York City firefighter Nicholas DeMasi has written in a recent book -- self-published by several Ground Zero workers -- that he escorted federal agents on an all-terrain vehicle in October 2001 and helped them locate three of the four.

His account is supported by a volunteer, Mike Bellone, whose efforts at Ground Zero have been chronicled in the New York Times and elsewhere. Bellone said assisted DeMasi and the agents and that saw a device that resembling a “black box” in the back of the firefighter’s ATV.

Their story raises the question of whether there was a some type of cover-up at Ground Zero. Federal aviation officials - blaming the massive devastation - have said the World Trade Center attacks seem to be the only major jetliner crashes in which the critical devices were never located.

A footnote to the 9/11 Commission Report issued this summer flatly states: “The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175” - the two planes that hit the Trade Center - “were not found.”

And officials for the FBI - which oversaw the cleanup at Ground Zero - and the New York City Fire Department repeated this week that the devices were never recovered.

The “black boxes” - actually orange - could have provided valuable new information about the worst terror attack to ever take place on American soil.

The cockpit voice recorder uses two microphones to capture the sounds of the cockpit for the last 30 minutes of a doomed flight on a tape loop. In the case of the hijacked 9/11 jetliners, the devices should have captured any conversations or actions involving the hijackers, as well as radio transmissions.

The flight data recorder records things like airspeed, heading, and altitude. Both devices - located in the tail of the airplane - emit loud “pings” so they can be located even in ocean jetliner crashes, like the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island.

They are built to survive an impact of enormous force - 3400 Gs - and a fire of 1100 degrees Celsius for one hour, somewhat higher than official estimates of the World Trade Center blaze.

“It's extremely rare that we don't get the recorders back. I can't recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders,” Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, told CBS News in 2002. However, officials said little of the jets was recovered.

DeMasi was with now defunct Engine Company 261 in 2001. He wrote up his recollections of the Ground Zero recovery in a glossy book self-published by a group that calls itself Trauma Recovery Assistance for Children, or the TRAC Team. The book was published in 2003 but received little notice.

(There's more on the book and how people can get it at this site.)
DeMasi, an all-terrain vehicles hobbyist - said he donated 4 ATVs to the clean-up and became known as “the ATV Guy.”

“At one point, I was asked to take Federal Agents around the site to search for the black boxes from the planes,” he wrote. “We were getting ready to go out. My ATV was parked at the top of the stairs at the Brooks Brothers entrance area. We loaded up about a million dollars worth of equipment and strapped it into the ATV...”

“There were a total of four black boxes. We found three.”

Efforts over several days to locate and interview DeMasi, who is now said to be with the FDNY’s Marine Unit, were not successful.

But his account was verified by another member of the so-called TRAC Team, recovery site volunteer Bellone. He recalled FBI agents arriving for the search one day in early October, setting up their equipment near Brooks Brothers. He said he didn’t go out with them on the ATV but observed their search.

At one point, Bellone said he observed the team with a box that appeared charred but was redish-orange with two white stripes. Pictures of the flight recorders on the NTSB and other Web sites show devices that are orange, with two white stripes.

“There was the one that I saw, and two others were recovered in different locations - but I wasn’t there for the other two,” Bellone said. He said the FBI agents left with the boxes.

If the account by DeMasi and Bellone is true, it’s not clear what motive federal authorities would have for claiming they weren’t found.

By the same token, however, it’s not clear what incentive either man would have to lie.

An FBI spokesman in New York, Jim Margolin, said after checking with the leader of the Ground Zero investigation that none of the boxes were recovered.

Frank Gribbon, the FDNY spokesman, also said “no one in the Department is aware of the recovery of any of the airline "black boxes" at the WTC site.”

Bellone has encounted some unrelated problems in connection with the TRAC group, however. In April, the New York Post reported (story not available online) that TRAC owned money to a number of creditors, including the company that published the book. Fire officials also told Bellone, who was made an honorary firefighter by a New York engine company, that he couldn’t wear an official uniform on school visits.

Posted on October 28, 2004 07:30 AM

February 10th, 2005, 08:51 AM
February 10, 2005

9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/w.gifASHINGTON, Feb. 9 - In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission.

But aviation officials were "lulled into a false sense of security," and "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11 did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures," the commission report concluded.

The report discloses that the Federal Aviation Administration, despite being focused on risks of hijackings overseas, warned airports in the spring of 2001 that if "the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

The report takes the F.A.A. to task for failing to pursue domestic security measures that could conceivably have altered the events of Sept. 11, 2001, like toughening airport screening procedures for weapons or expanding the use of on-flight air marshals. The report, completed last August, said officials appeared more concerned with reducing airline congestion, lessening delays, and easing airlines' financial woes than deterring a terrorist attack.

The Bush administration has blocked the public release of the full, classified version of the report for more than five months, officials said, much to the frustration of former commission members who say it provides a critical understanding of the failures of the civil aviation system. The administration provided both the classified report and a declassified, 120-page version to the National Archives two weeks ago and, even with heavy redactions in some areas, the declassified version provides the firmest evidence to date about the warnings that aviation officials received concerning the threat of an attack on airliners and the failure to take steps to deter it.

Among other things, the report says that leaders of the F.A.A. received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001. That represented half of all the intelligence summaries in that time.

Five of the intelligence reports specifically mentioned Al Qaeda's training or capability to conduct hijackings, the report said. Two mentioned suicide operations, although not connected to aviation, the report said.

A spokeswoman for the F.A.A., the agency that bears the brunt of the commission's criticism, said Wednesday that the agency was well aware of the threat posed by terrorists before Sept. 11 and took substantive steps to counter it, including the expanded use of explosives detection units.

"We had a lot of information about threats," said the spokeswoman, Laura J. Brown. "But we didn't have specific information about means or methods that would have enabled us to tailor any countermeasures."

She added: "After 9/11, the F.A..A. and the entire aviation community took bold steps to improve aviation security, such as fortifying cockpit doors on 6,000 airplanes, and those steps took hundreds of millions of dollars to implement."

The report, like previous commission documents, finds no evidence that the government had specific warning of a domestic attack and says that the aviation industry considered the hijacking threat to be more worrisome overseas.

"The fact that the civil aviation system seems to have been lulled into a false sense of security is striking not only because of what happened on 9/11 but also in light of the intelligence assessments, including those conducted by the F.A.A.'s own security branch, that raised alarms about the growing terrorist threat to civil aviation throughout the 1990's and into the new century," the report said.

In its previous findings, including a final report last July that became a best-selling book, the 9/11 commission detailed the harrowing events aboard the four hijacked flights that crashed on Sept. 11 and the communications problems between civil aviation and military officials that hampered the response. But the new report goes further in revealing the scope and depth of intelligence collected by federal aviation officials about the threat of a terrorist attack.

The F.A.A. "had indeed considered the possibility that terrorists would hijack a plane and use it as a weapon," and in 2001 it distributed a CD-ROM presentation to airlines and airports that cited the possibility of a suicide hijacking, the report said. Previous commission documents have quoted the CD's reassurance that "fortunately, we have no indication that any group is currently thinking in that direction."

Aviation officials amassed so much information about the growing threat posed by terrorists that they conducted classified briefings in mid-2001 for security officials at 19 of the nation's busiest airports to warn of the threat posed in particular by Mr. bin Laden, the report said.

Still, the 9/11 commission concluded that aviation officials did not direct adequate resources or attention to the problem.

"Throughout 2001, the senior leadership of the F.A.A. was focused on congestion and delays within the system and the ever-present issue of safety, but they were not as focused on security," the report said.

The F.A.A. did not see a need to increase the air marshal ranks because hijackings were seen as an overseas threat, and one aviation official told the commission said that airlines did not want to give up revenues by providing free seats to marshals.

The F.A.A. also made no concerted effort to expand their list of terror suspects, which included a dozen names on Sept. 11, the report said. The former head of the F.A.A.'s civil aviation security branch said he was not aware of the government's main watch list, called Tipoff, which included the names of two hijackers who were living in the San Diego area, the report said.

Nor was there evidence that a senior F.A.A. working group on security had ever met in 2001 to discuss "the high threat period that summer," the report said.

Jane F. Garvey, the F.A.A. administrator at the time, told the commission "that she was aware of the heightened threat during the summer of 2001," the report said. But several other senior agency officials "were basically unaware of the threat," as were senior airline operations officials and veteran pilots, the report said.

The classified version of the commission report quotes extensively from circulars prepared by the F.A.A. about the threat of terrorism, but many of those references have been blacked out in the declassified version, officials said.

Several former commissioners and staff members said they were upset and disappointed by the administration's refusal to release the full report publicly.

"Our intention was to make as much information available to the public as soon as possible," said Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Sept. 11 commission member.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

February 11th, 2005, 02:10 PM
February 11, 2005

The Unheeded Warnings of 9/11 (4 Letters)

To the Editor:

Re "9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings" (front page, Feb. 10):

As a criminal investigator and a security professional, I am appalled by the most recent revelations from the 9/11 commission. It is now abundantly clear that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented.

This was not a failure of intelligence or a failure to communicate. It was a failure to act. And the responsibility for this inaction rests squarely on the shoulders of George W. Bush and his administration.

Furthermore, as a citizen, I am outraged by the Bush administration's blatant abuse of power in classifying this information before the election. Withholding the 9/11 commission's complete report has in itself risked national security, while the only thing at risk from the full release of the information was President Bush's re-election.

Perhaps as Americans celebrate the potential birth of democracy in Iraq, we should pause to mourn the loss of our own.

André M. Gorelkin
New York, Feb. 10, 2005

To the Editor:

You provide more evidence in a long list of mishaps and incompetence regarding 9/11.

We must question the intentions of those who were ultimately responsible for making decisions related to Osama bin Laden yet who seemed to ignore the many warning signs.

As long as pertinent information remains classified, we may never know the truth about what really happened on 9/11. The administration has been tight-lipped and evasive throughout the investigative process; this fact alone should be cause for alarm and mistrust.

Since 9/11, there have been many bits of information released about who knew what and what was being told to whom. Unfortunately, many of these attempts to get to the bottom of what happened have been written off as "conspiracy theories" and therefore blatantly ignored.

Instead of outrage and horror at the lack of action taken, there is a pervasive, nonchalant attitude that stems from our government, trickles down through the media and is mimicked by an ignorant public.

This is unfortunate for those of us who don't swallow everything we're fed.

Michele Yulo
Atlanta, Feb. 10, 2005

To the Editor:

The Federal Aviation Administration was repeatedly warned about hijackings of planes to be used for suicide missions, yet the agency thought that it wouldn't happen in the United States? I'm reminded of George W. Bush's chilling words after the revelation of the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States": "Had I any inkling whatsoever that the people were going to fly airplanes into buildings, we would have moved heaven and earth to save the country."

We now know that someone had more than an inkling. Yet no one put together the reports on suicide airplane hijackings and a desire by Osama bin Laden to hit the United States?

Hypocritically, and typically, the Bush administration won't release the full report without major deletions. Heaven and earth have not been moved.

Rich Carroll
New York, Feb. 10, 2005

To the Editor:

The only thing more surreal than the fact that the Bush administration did not use available intelligence to save lives on 9/11 but did use incorrect intelligence to take innocent lives in the Iraq war would be that the American people have not held the Bush administration accountable for that.

Scott Rose
New York, Feb. 10, 2005

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

March 5th, 2005, 11:50 AM
Popular Mechanics ran a good in-depth article on 9/11 conspiracy theories debunked:


Some feedback on the story:


March 5th, 2005, 02:19 PM
And yet people keep parroting this conspiracy theories. I've heard about 7 WTC being demolished by Silverstein, and I've had people tell me that a misslepod was attached to UA Flight 175 and fired right before impact in order to make the South Tower collapse quicker.

July 21st, 2005, 03:09 PM
RAW STORY (http://rawstory.com/)

Thursday July 21, 2005

http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Families_who_fought_for_911_commission_declare_i_0 721.html

Families who fought for 9/11 commission declare it a failure

Several widows whose husbands were killed on 9/11 have excoriated the report issued by the 9/11 Commission on the first anniversary of the commission's report, and have joined with other activists to call for a more thorough investigation.

They plan a press conference in the National Press Club Friday afternoon, particularly aimed at independent media and the foreign press corps.

The following release was issued to RAW STORY (http://rawstory.com/) Thursday.

September 11 Victim Families who Fought to Create the 9/11 Commission Declare it a Failure on the First Anniversary of the 9/11 Report.

WASHINGTON - July 21 - On Friday, July 22, 2005, one year to the day after the release of the "9/11 Commission Report," Project Censored founder, Dr. Peter Phillips will lead a National Press Club briefing entitled "The Failure of the 9/11 Commission Report and the Mainstream Media's Disregard." The briefing will feature scores of detailed examples of the Commission's flawed findings, self-censorship, misrepresentations and conflicts of interest that call the accuracy and integrity of their entire investigation into doubt.

Time: 1:00-2:30 PM, Friday, July 22, 2005 Place: Holeman Lounge, National Press Club, Washington, DC Sponsor: DC Emergency Truth Convergence http://truthemergency.us (http://truthemergency.us/)

Lead presenters are 9/11 family members and Family Steering Committee cofounders, Monica Gabrielle, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken. After the FSC members' 18 months of lobbying finally forced a 9/11 investigation and the Commission's creation, they submitted hundreds of unanswered questions that Commissioner Jamie Gorelick promised would be their investigation's "road map". However, by these courageous widows' count, the Commission ignored approximately 70% of their concerns, and also suppressed important evidence and whistleblower testimony that challenged the official story on many fronts.

Dr. David Ray Griffin, will address "9/11 and the Mainstream Press." Griffin's new book, "The 9/11 Commission Report - Omissions and Distortions," analyzes over 115 specific lies, omissions and misrepresentations contained in the final document. He not only details individual lies and the larger patterns they form, he also documents glaring conflicts of interest within the Commission, especially the executive staff who steered, shaped and effectively wrote the final report.

After Dr. Griffin, four-time Emmy award winner and "Weapons of Mass Deception" producer Danny Schechter will examine the corporate media's vital role and proven tactics in defending "official story" explanations of events like 9/11, Abu Graib, and the "War on Terror" as whole.

There will also be a presentation by British researcher Nafeez Ahmed, whose first 9/11 book, "The War on Freedom" is now an award-winning bestseller in Europe. Mr. Ahmed's new book "The War on Truth" is already being hailed by geo-political scholars as the definitive deconstruction of the official 9/11 story thus far.

This briefing is especially designed for the independent media and foreign press, and kicks off the DC Emergency Truth Convergence, an unprecedented three-day series of collaborative events between diverse truth movement researchers, veteran & victim family advocates, and indie media activists. See http://truthemergency.us (http://truthemergency.us/) for details.

According to Convergence spokesperson Peter Phillips, "The events of September 11 not only took thousands of innocent American lives, they have been repeatedly used to justify previously unthinkable policies of domestic repression, preemptive attacks, torture, and endless war.

"We know most of these policies had been championed by powerful voices within this government long before 9/11, but without these outrageous 'surprise attacks' they could have never come to pass. If the 9/11 Report is dangerously inaccurate, as more and more evidence now indicates, the nation still needs an honest investigation of what really happened and why no one has ever been held accountable. In particular, we need to know whether the behavior of officials who seem to have profited most handsomely from 9/11 and its dark wake should be looked at once again.

"Since we are anxious to get this crucial challenge to the American public and world at large, we are extending a special invitation to the independent media community and foreign journalists, who have a far better track record of investigating governmental deceit and exposing official treachery than the US corporate media."

September 13th, 2005, 11:40 PM
July 25, 2004 Imagining the Unimaginable

In trying to explain why the nation had left itself so vulnerable on Sept. 11, the leaders of the nation's law enforcement and intelligence agencies have insisted publicly that they never considered the nightmare of passenger planes turned into guided missiles.

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center," Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, said in May 2002. As recently as this April, in testimony to the Sept. 11 commission, Mr. Freeh said that he "never was aware of a plan that contemplated commercial airliners being used as weapons."

September 14, 2005
F.A.A. Alerted on Qaeda in '98, 9/11 Panel Said

By ERIC LICHTBLAU (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=ERIC LICHTBLAU&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=ERIC LICHTBLAU&inline=nyt-per)


WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 - American aviation officials were warned as early as 1998 that Al Qaeda could "seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark," according to previously secret portions of a report prepared last year by the Sept. 11 commission. The officials also realized months before the Sept. 11 attacks that two of the three airports used in the hijackings had suffered repeated security lapses.
Federal Aviation Administration officials were also warned in 2001 in a report prepared for the agency that airport screeners' ability to detect possible weapons had "declined significantly" in recent years, but little was done to remedy the problem, the Sept. 11 commission found.

The White House and many members of the commission, which has completed its official work, have been battling for more than a year over the release of the commission's report on aviation failures, which was completed in August 2004.

A heavily redacted version was released by the Bush administration in January, but commission members complained that the deleted material contained information critical to the public's understanding of what went wrong on Sept. 11. In response, the administration prepared a new public version of the report, which was posted Tuesday on the National Archives Web site.

While the new version still blacks out numerous references to particular shortcomings in aviation security, it restores dozens of other portions of the report that the administration had been considered too sensitive for public release.

The newly disclosed material follows the basic outline of what was already known about aviation failings, namely that the F.A.A. had ample reason to suspect that Al Qaeda might try to hijack a plane yet did little to deter it. But it also adds significant details about the nature and specificity of aviation warnings over the years, security lapses by the government and the airlines, and turf battles between federal agencies.

Some of the details were in confidential bulletins circulated by the agency to airports and airlines, and some were in its internal reports.

"While we still believe that the entire document could be made available to the public without damaging national security, we welcome this step forward," the former leaders of the commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, said in a joint statement. "The additional detail provided in this version of the monograph will make a further contribution to the public record of the facts and circumstances of the 9/11 attacks established by the final report of the 9/11 commission."

Bush administration officials said they had worked at the commission's request to restore much of the material that had been blacked out in the original report. "Out of an abundance of caution, there are a variety of reasons why the U.S. government would not want to disclose certain security measures and not make them available in the public domain for terrorists to exploit," said Russ Knocke, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

Commission officials said they were perplexed by the administration's original attempts to black out material they said struck them as trivial or mundane.

One previously deleted section showed, for instance, that flights carrying the author Salman Rushdie were subjected to heightened security in the summer of 2001 because of a fatwa of violence against him, while a previously deleted footnote showed that "sewing scissors" would be allowed in the hands of a woman with sewing equipment, but prohibited "in the possession of a man who possessed no other sewing equipment."

Other deletions, however, highlighted more serious security concerns. A footnote that was originally deleted from the report showed that a quarter of the security screeners used in 2001 by Argenbright Security for United Airlines flights at Dulles Airport had not completed required criminal background checks, the commission report said. Another previously deleted footnote, related to the lack of security for cockpit doors, criticized American Airlines for security lapses.

Much of the material now restored in the public version of the commission's report centered on the warnings the F.A.A. received about the threat of hijackings, including 52 intelligence documents in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks that mentioned Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.

A 1995 National Intelligence Estimate, a report prepared by intelligence officials, "highlighted the growing domestic threat of terrorist attack, including a risk to civil aviation," the commission found in a blacked-out portion of the report.

And in 1998 and 1999, the commission report said, the F.A.A.'s intelligence unit produced reports about the hijacking threat posed by Al Qaeda, "including the possibility that the terrorist group might try to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark."

The unit considered this prospect "unlikely" and a "last resort," with a greater threat of a hijacking overseas, the commission found.

Still, in 2000, the commission said, the F.A.A. warned carriers and airports that while political conditions in the 1990's had made a terrorist seizure of an airliner less likely, "we believe that the situation has changed."

"We assess that the prospect for terrorist hijacking has increased and that U.S. airliners could be targeted in an attempt to obtain the release of indicted or convicted terrorists imprisoned in the United States (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/unitedstates/index.html?inline=nyt-geo)."

It concluded, however, that such a hijacking was more likely outside the United States.

By September 2001 the F.A.A. was receiving some 200 pieces a day of intelligence from other agencies about possible threats, and it had opened more than 1,200 files to track possible threats, the commission found.

The commission found that F.A.A. officials were repeatedly warned about security lapses before Sept. 11 and, despite their increased concerns about a hijacking, allowed screening performance to decline significantly.

While box cutters like those used by the hijackers were not necessarily a banned item before Sept. 11, some security experts have said that tougher screening and security could have detected the threat the hijackers posed. But screening measures at two of the three airports used by the hijackers - Logan in Boston and Dulles near Washington - were known to be inadequate, the commission found. Reviews at Newark airport also found some security violations, but it was the only one of the three airports used on Sept. 11 that met or exceeded national norms.

Richard Ben-Veniste, a former member of the Sept. 11 commission, said the release of the material more than a year after it was completed underscored the over-classification of federal material. "It's outrageous that it has taken the administration a year since this monograph was submitted for it to be released," he said. "There's no reason it could not have been released earlier."

September 14th, 2005, 09:54 AM
Honestly, the vast majority of American are f*cking idiots who just don't care.

September 16th, 2005, 09:24 AM
Weldon: Atta Papers Destroyed on Orders

By DONNA DE LA CRUZ, Associated Press Writer
September 16, 2005

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050916/ap_on_go_co/sept11_hijackers&printer=1;_ylt=As4_wbts08klPoVo8j9ZyouMwfIE;_ylu=X 3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

A Pentagon employee was ordered to destroy documents that identified Mohamed Atta as a terrorist two years before the 2001 attacks, a congressman said Thursday.

The employee is prepared to testify next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was expected to identify the person who ordered him to destroy the large volume of documents, said Rep. Curt Weldon (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa.

Weldon declined to identify the employee, citing confidentiality matters. Weldon described the documents as "2.5 terabytes" — as much as one-fourth of all the printed materials in the Library of Congress, he added.

A Senate Judiciary Committee aide said the witnesses for Wednesday hearing had not been finalized and could not confirm Weldon's comments.

Army Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials have been "fact-finding in earnest for quite some time."

"We've interviewed 80 people involved with Able Danger, combed through hundreds of thousands of documents and millions of e-mails and have still found no documentation of Mohamed Atta," Swiergosz said.

He added that certain data had to be destroyed in accordance with existing regulations regarding "intelligence data on U.S. persons."

Weldon has said that Atta, the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and three other hijackers were identified in 1999 by a classified military intelligence unit known as "Able Danger," which determined they could be members of an al-Qaida cell.

On Wednesday, former members of the Sept. 11 commission dismissed the "Able Danger" assertions. One commissioner, ex-Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., said, "Bluntly, it just didn't happen and that's the conclusion of all 10 of us."

Weldon responded angrily to Gorton's assertions.

"It's absolutely unbelievable that a commission would say this program just didn't exist," Weldon said Thursday.

Pentagon officials said this month they had found three more people who recall an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, have come forward to support Weldon's claims.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press.

September 21st, 2005, 11:55 PM
Sen. Joe Biden accuses Pentagon of "cover-up" ...

Senators Accuse Pentagon of
Obstructing Inquiry on Sept. 11 Plot

By DOUGLAS JEHL (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=DOUGLAS JEHL&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=DOUGLAS JEHL&inline=nyt-per)
September 22, 2005


WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 - Senators from both parties accused the Defense Department on Wednesday of obstructing an investigation into whether a highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger did indeed identify Mohamed Atta and other future hijackers as potential threats well before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The complaints came after the Pentagon blocked several witnesses from testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a public hearing on Wednesday. The only testimony provided by the Defense Department came from a senior official who would say only that he did not know whether the claims were true.

But members of the panel, led by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/pennsylvania/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), said they regarded as credible assertions by current and former officers in the program. The officers have said they were prevented by the Pentagon from sharing information about Mr. Atta and others with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A Pentagon spokesman had said the decision to limit testimony was based on concerns about disclosing classified information, but Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/iowa/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), said he believed the reason was a concern "that they'll just have egg on their face."

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/delaware/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), accused the Pentagon of "a cover-up" and said, "I don't get why people aren't coming forward and saying, 'Here's the deal, here's what happened.' "

The Pentagon has acknowledged that at least five members of Able Danger have said they recall a chart produced in 2000 that identified Mr. Atta, who became the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11 plot, as a potential terrorist, but they have said that others with knowledge of the project do not remember that.

"Did we have information that identified Mohamed Atta?" said William Dugan, an assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld for intelligence oversight, restating a question put to him. "I've heard the testimony presented, but I don't know."

Among those who testified about Able Danger was Representative Curt Weldon, Republican of Pennsylvania, who has mounted an aggressive campaign to call public attention to the program, which used computers to sift through volumes of unclassified data in an effort to identify people with links to Al Qaeda.

Another witness, Mark S. Zaid, a Washington lawyer, testified on behalf of two clients whom the Pentagon barred from speaking at the hearing. The clients, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, an Army Reserve officer, and J. D. Smith, a former contractor on the project, were in the audience.

Erik Kleinsmith, a former Army major who was involved in early stages of Able Danger, told the committee that, by April 2000, the program had collected "an immense amount of data for analysis that allowed us to map Al Qaeda as a worldwide threat with a surprisingly significant presence within the United States (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/unitedstates/index.html?inline=nyt-geo)." Mr. Kleinsmith said that his affiliation with the project ended about that time and that he had no recollection of information that identified Mr. Atta.

But Mr. Kleinsmith told the committee that he had been "forced to destroy all the data, charts and other analytical product" in compliance with Army regulations that prohibit keeping data related to American citizens and others, including permanent residents who have legal protections, unless the data falls under one of several restrictive categories.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

September 22nd, 2005, 09:57 AM
The Pentagon lied? Quelle surprise!

November 9th, 2005, 08:49 PM
On CNN / Lou Dobbs tonight (11/09/05) Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania stated that the 9/11 Commission suppressed evidence that shows that the government had knowledge regarding the attacks. Weldon claims to have signatures of "over 100" Democrats and Republican representatives (it wasn't clear if they were state or federal legisaltors) demanding an investigation.

This is a continuation of the charges brought by Weldon regarding 9/11 and an intelligence program called "Able Danger"; it is expanded upon in a press conference Weldon held on September 17, 2005:

Press Conference of Rep Curt Weldon:
9/11 Commission and Operation "Able Danger"

9/11 Commission suppressed the evidence


November 9th, 2005, 08:57 PM
Video of Rep. Curt Weldon on the floor of the House of Reps (10.19.05) ...


October 22, 2005
Curt Weldon on the Floor: Blasting Defense Intelligence Agency (VIDEO) (http://thepoliticalteen.net/2005/10/22/curtweldonfloor/)


This is not the full video, however this is the most damning part of his floor speech on Wednesday.

DOWNLOAD and view video here (http://thepoliticalteen.com/video/cweldonfloor.wmv).

November 10th, 2005, 01:29 PM
More from Re. Weldon on 9/11, Cole Attack and "Able Danger":

http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/images/common/spacer.gifhttp://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/images/common/spacer.gifOfficial: Attack on Cole Foreseen

By Eric Rosenberg
Hearst Newspapers
Thursday Nov. 10, 2005


WASHINGTON - A senior Republican congressman said Wednesday that the Pentagon's Able Danger intelligence program had detected preparations for the terrorist attack on the USS Cole but that American military leaders failed to act on the warnings.

Citing information provided to him by Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, the former manager of the Able Danger project, Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said that two weeks before the Oct. 12, 2000, attack - and then again two days before - the intelligence unit uncovered evidence of a plot against an unnamed U.S. target in Yemen.

"They saw information that led them to unequivocally understand that something was going to happen in the port at Yemen involving an American entity," said Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
"Two days before the attack, they were jumping up and down because they knew something was going to happen ... at the port of Aden," Weldon told a Capitol Hill news conference.

Philpott passed the information up his chain of command at the U.S. Special Operations Command based in Tampa, Fla., Weldon said, adding: "We don't know where the information went to or what they did with it."

At the time of the attack, the USS Cole was operating under the aegis of the U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for American forces in the Middle East.

Navy Ens. Joe Vermette, a spokesman for Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. Central Command, referred questions about Weldon's allegation to the U.S. Special Operations Command. Telephone calls to that unit's headquarters were not returned.

Suicide terrorists attacked the USS Cole, a 505-foot, $1 billion destroyer and one of the Navy's most modern ships, while it was moored and refueling in Aden harbor.

A small boat loaded with explosives pulled alongside the ship and detonated, tearing a hole in the side of ship, 40 feet wide and 40 feet high. The blast killed 17 sailors and injured 39 others.

The Pentagon's Able Danger program, which operated episodically from 1999 through early 2001 and is now disbanded, used sophisticated computer algorithms to scour both classified and public databases in an effort to uncover links among suspected terrorists.

Weldon has previously claimed that the Able Danger unit identified four of the 19 Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists more than a year before the strikes - including apparent ring leader Mohamed Atta - but was prevented from sharing information with the Department of Justice by military lawyers.

Philpott, along with other former members of the now-defunct Able Danger program, has been barred by the Pentagon from testifying publicly before Congress about the intelligence unit.

In discussing an investigation into the USS Cole attack, then-Defense Secretary William Cohen said on Jan. 9, 2001, that there had been general intelligence warnings about possible attacks in the region but that the information wasn't specific.

© 2005 The Sun News and wire service sources.

November 10th, 2005, 07:29 PM
More on Weldon with CNN video from BradBlog (http://www.bradblog.com/):

Rep. Weldon Alleges Massive 'Cover-up' of Pre-9/11 Intel

Pentagon's 'Able Danger' could have prevented USS Cole bombing and 9/11

CNN Reports on Weldon's Claim: 'Most Important Story of Our Lifetime'

(click on screen for Windows video)

http://www.edwardsdavid.com/media/cnn/images/cnn_lf_weldon_able_danger_051110a1.jpg (http://www.ameratsu.com/media/vid/cnn/cnn_lf_weldon_able_danger_051110a.wmv)

Jim Koeleman
November 11th, 2005, 01:57 PM

November 17th, 2005, 09:16 AM
An Incomplete Investigation
Why did the 9/11 Commission ignore "Able Danger"?

Thursday, November 17, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST


It was interesting to hear from the 9/11 Commission again on Tuesday. This self-perpetuating and privately funded group of lobbyists and lawyers has recently opined on hurricanes, nuclear weapons, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and even the New York subway system. Now it offers yet another "report card" on the progress of the FBI and CIA in the war against terrorism, along with its "back-seat" take and some further unsolicited narrative about how things ought to be on the "front lines."

Yet this is also a good time for the country to make some assessments of the 9/11 Commission itself. Recent revelations from the military intelligence operation code-named "Able Danger" have cast light on a missed opportunity that could have potentially prevented 9/11. Specifically, Able Danger concluded in February 2000 that military experts had identified Mohamed Atta by name (and maybe photograph) as an al Qaeda agent operating in the U.S. Subsequently, military officers assigned to Able Danger were prevented from sharing this critical information with FBI agents, even though appointments had been made to do so. Why?

There are other questions that need answers. Was Able Danger intelligence provided to the 9/11 Commission prior to the finalization of its report, and, if so, why was it not explored? In sum, what did the 9/11 commissioners and their staff know about Able Danger and when did they know it?

The Able Danger intelligence, if confirmed, is undoubtedly the most relevant fact of the entire post-9/11 inquiry. Even the most junior investigator would immediately know that the name and photo ID of Atta in 2000 is precisely the kind of tactical intelligence the FBI has many times employed to prevent attacks and arrest terrorists. Yet the 9/11 Commission inexplicably concluded that it "was not historically significant." This astounding conclusion--in combination with the failure to investigate Able Danger and incorporate it into its findings--raises serious challenges to the commission's credibility and, if the facts prove out, might just render the commission historically insignificant itself.

The facts relating to Able Danger finally started to be reported in mid-August. U.S. Army Col. Anthony Shaffer, a veteran intelligence officer, publicly revealed that the Able Danger team had identified Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers by mid-2000 but were prevented by military lawyers from giving this information to the FBI. One week later, Navy Capt. Scott J. Phillpott, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who managed the program for the Pentagon's Special Operations Command, confirmed "Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000."

On Aug. 18, 2005, the Pentagon initially stated that "a probe" had found nothing to back up Col. Shaffer's claims. Two weeks later, however, Defense Department officials acknowledged that its "inquiry" had found "three more people who recall seeing an intelligence briefing slide that identified the ringleader of the 9/11 attacks a year before the hijackings and terrorist strikes." These same officials also stated that "documents and electronic files created by . . . Able Danger were destroyed under standing orders that limit the military's use of intelligence gathered about people in the United States." Then in September 2005, the Pentagon doubled back and blocked several military officers from testifying at an open Congressional hearing about the Able Danger program.

Two members of Congress, Curt Weldon and Dan Burton, have also publicly stated that shortly after the 9/11 attacks they provided then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley with a "chart" containing preattack information collected by Able Danger about al Qaeda. A spokesperson for the White House has confirmed that Mr. Hadley "recalled seeing such a chart in that time period but . . . did not recall whether he saw it during a meeting . . . and that a search of National Security Council files had failed to produce such a chart."

Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, reacted to Able Danger with the standard Washington PR approach. He lashed out at the Bush administration and demanded that the Pentagon conduct an "investigation" to evaluate the "credibility" of Col. Shaffer and Capt. Phillpott--rather than demand a substantive investigation into what failed in the first place. This from a former New Jersey governor who, along with other commissioners, routinely appeared in public espousing his own conclusions about 9/11 long before the commission's inquiry was completed and long before all the facts were in! This while dismissing out of hand the major conflicts of interest on the commission itself about obstructions to information-sharing within the intelligence community!

Nevertheless, the final 9/11 Commission report, released on July 22, 2004, concluded that "American intelligence agencies were unaware of Mr. Atta until the day of the attacks." This now looks to be embarrassingly wrong. Yet amazingly, commission leaders acknowledged on Aug. 12 that their staff in fact met with a Navy officer 10 days before releasing the report, who "asserted that a highly classified intelligence operation, Able Danger, had identified Mohammed Atta to be a member of an al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn." (Capt. Phillpott says he briefed them in July 2004.) The commission's statement goes on to say that the staff determined that "the officer's account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation," and that the intelligence operation "did not turn out to be historically significant," despite substantial corroboration from other seasoned intelligence officers.

This dismissive and apparently unsupported conclusion would have us believe that a key piece of evidence was summarily rejected in less than 10 days without serious investigation. The commission, at the very least, should have interviewed the 80 members of Able Danger, as the Pentagon did, five of whom say they saw "the chart." But this would have required admitting that the late-breaking news was inconveniently raised. So it was grossly neglected and branded as insignificant. Such a half-baked conclusion, drawn in only 10 days without any real investigation, simply ignores what looks like substantial direct evidence to the contrary coming from our own trained military intelligence officers.

No wonder the 9/11 families were outraged by these revelations and called for a "new" commission to investigate. "I'm angry that my son's death could have been prevented," seethed Diane Horning, whose son Matthew was killed at the World Trade Center. On Aug. 17, 2005, a coalition of family members known as the September 11 Advocates rightly blasted 9/11 Commission leaders Mr. Kean and Lee Hamilton for pooh-poohing Able Danger's findings as not "historically significant." Advocate Mindy Kleinberg aptly notes, "They [the 9/11 Commission] somehow made a determination that this was not important enough. To me, that says somebody there is not using good judgment. And if I'm questioning the judgment of this one case, what other things might they have missed?" This is a stinging indictment of the commission by the 9/11 families.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, has led the way in cleaning up the 9/11 Commission's unfinished business. Amid a very full plate of responsibilities, he conducted a hearing after noting that Col. Shaffer and Capt. Phillpott "appear to have credibility." Himself a former prosecutor, Mr. Specter noted: "If Mr. Atta and other 9/11 terrorists were identified before the attacks, it would be a very serious breach not to have that information passed along . . . we ought to get to the bottom of it."

Indeed we should. The 9/11 Commission gets an "I" grade--incomplete--for its dereliction regarding Able Danger. The Joint Intelligence Committees should reconvene and, in addition to Able Danger team members, we should have the 9/11 commissioners appear as witnesses so the families can hear their explanation why this doesn't matter.

Mr. Freeh, a former FBI director, is the author of "My FBI" (St. Martin's, 2005).

November 17th, 2005, 09:54 AM
I have a feeling it is not this cut and dry.

I do think that everyone had their own agenda with this and that there is a LOT of guilt that is being hidden, but the reports from Able Danger may have been deliberately plunked down on their desks with a host of other crap at the last minute in an attempt by military officials to relieve the blame from themselves about not providing all they could.

The same thing goes on in construction. people will drop a bunch of stuff, last minute, on one of the subs and then blame the sub when the project goes over time.

Now the sub may be right in saying that it was too much to do in too little time, but sometimes that argument, even if won, does them no good in the long run. So sometimes they just buckle up and hit the gas, running over whatever pedestrians may have happened to walk into the road ahead of them.

I think the Atta finding was roadkill, deliberately chucked into the street as the 9-11 commission was busy scratching too many backs while running for the finish line. It got ignored as unimportant because nobody probably read the report that the military probably did not call attention to.

I have a feeling that if we would know the truth about this, we would find that the skeletons have long been out of the closet on all of these guys. AAMOF, they are the ones running the show. It is the politicians themselves that are now in the closet waiting for the skeletons to die.....

December 8th, 2005, 02:32 AM
Four years later, we still have ten big questions

by Jarrett Murphy
The Village Voice
December 5th, 2005


On Monday, December 5, the 9-11 Public Discourse Project—a private group formed by 9-11 Commission members after their official mandate lapsed in 2004—held a wrap-up press briefing in Washington, signaling the last gasp of official inquiries into the attacks four years ago. The National Institute of Standards and Technology also recently completed its final report on the twin towers. Already gathering dust are a Federal Emergency Management Agency study, the joint inquiry by Congress, the McKinsey reports on New York City's emergency response, probes by federal inspectors general, and other efforts to resolve the myriad doubts about the hijackings.

Some questions can't be answered: People who lost loved ones will never know exactly how the end came, if it hurt, what the final thoughts and words were. But other questions are more tractable. Here are 10 of them:

1. Where was the "National Command Authority"?

There has never been a true accounting of why the nation's leaders were out of the loop for so long that morning. George W. Bush and his aides even have told different versions of how the president was actually informed of the first plane striking: The president claimed erroneously that he saw it on TV, while chief of staff Andrew Card said it was Karl Rove who told the president.

According to the official version, after Rove told Bush, the president talked to then national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice. She told him about the crash but apparently did not know about the reported hijacking of American Airlines Flight 11, which military air defenses learned about 17 minutes earlier.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was informed of the second plane hitting the WTC—yes, the second plane—during his intelligence briefing but continued the briefing and was at his desk when Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.

Together, the president and secretary of defense are the National Command Authority that is supposed to lead the country in the case of military emergency. But Bush didn't get in touch with Rumsfeld until after 10 a.m., around the time the fourth and final plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. When Bush was criticized days after 9-11 for failing to return to Washington until more than 10 hours after the first attack, the White House claimed there had been a threat ("real and credible," in flack Ari Fleischer's words) to Air Force One. There was none. All the 9-11 Commission says of this phantom threat is that it was the product of "a misunderstood communication."

2. Who gave the order to try to shoot the planes down?

The commission is noticeably vague on this point. The official version says Dick Cheney told the military a little past 10 a.m. to shoot down a threatening plane, claiming that the president had given his approval for the order. But while a few people in the White House bunker noted a call between Cheney and Bush moments earlier, only Rice says she heard Cheney bring up the shoot-down order. Despite the fact that people at both ends of the call were taking notes, the commission found that "there is no documentary evidence of this call." Meanwhile, some of the fighter jets in the air over D.C. received no orders to shoot down planes, while other military aircraft got the OK from the Secret Service to fly "weapons free," which means they had wide authority to take out suspicious aircraft.

Since the military was given little or no notice about the planes, maybe it doesn't matter who authorized a shoot-down. But the record is unclear. Neither Cheney nor Bush testified under oath before the 9-11 panel, in public or private.

3. What exactly were all those firefighters doing in the towers?

Reports on the disaster reflect confusion over the exact mission of the firefighters who climbed the twin towers, many of whom died. The 9-11 Commission says fire chiefs decided early on that because the fire was so big, their job would "primarily be one of rescue." But NIST reports that some fire commanders thought their men would fight fires to save people trapped above them, and individual fire companies thought their mission was to "get up to the fire as soon as possible, put the fire out, and get ready for their next assignment." According to oral histories collected by the FDNY, some firefighters were told to head up the stairs carrying hoses, and others to drop their hoses in the lobby. Some were ordered simply to head up the stairs without a clear idea of where they were going or why.

While it is doubtless that first responders saved lives that day, it's not clear that there were many people left to be rescued when late-arriving firefighters began climbing the stairs, especially in the north tower. Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg have said up to 25,000 people escaped the towers; NIST has put that figure at around 15,000—still a blessing. But NIST believes that 90 percent of those civilians who survived started descending both towers before the second plane hit. (About 1,000 of them were "mobility impaired" and needed help getting out.) Just shy of 2,000 of the roughly 2,150 civilians who died in the towers were trapped above the impact zones, with no chance of rescue.

4. Did anyone think the towers would collapse?

Reports on the FDNY response to 9-11 generally agree that, as the FDNY-commissioned McKinsey study put it, "Chief officers considered a limited, localized collapse of the towers possible, but did not think that they would collapse entirely." For some of the fire officers, that confidence might have been based on a misconception about how the towers were built: The FDNY chief of safety says in his oral history that he thought the towers were made of block construction, with a solid concrete core, so that fire crews would have at least three hours to work. In fact, the cores of the towers were sheetrock over steel. And the citywide safety chief in charge that day didn't know a plane had hit the north tower.

Evidently, fears about collapse evolved as the disaster wore on. Peter Ganci, the highest ranking chief and one of the 343 fire personnel who died, reportedly told the commander in the north-tower lobby at 9:45 a.m. that he might want to consider an evacuation—almost 45 minutes before that building collapsed. Assistant Chief Joseph Callan, the citywide tour commander that day, told investigators: "Approximately 40 minutes after I arrived in the lobby I made a decision that the building was no longer safe and that was based on the conditions in the lobby—large pieces of plaster falling, all the 20-foot-high glass panels on the exterior of the lobby were breaking, there was obvious movement of the building, and that was the reason on the handy talky I gave the order for all fire department units to leave the north tower. Approximately ten minutes after that we had collapse of the south tower." Fire chiefs also received—just moments before the south tower fell—a report that someone from the city's Office of Emergency Management thought the towers weren't structurally sound. The source of that report is unknown.

5. Why was Giuliani's command bunker at ground zero?

A constant refrain in rehashes of 9-11 is that the cooperation between police and fire services that day was poor. The OEM was unable to bridge the gap because it was busy evacuating its own emergency center in 7 WTC. "The loss of the OEM operations center," NIST found, "created difficulties related to the coordination of emergency responder operations and resources."

Because the World Trade Center had been a terrorist target in 1993, Giuliani was criticized in 1998 for his decision to locate the emergency center there.

Yet when Giuliani and Jerry Hauer (who was OEM director when the 7 WTC site was picked) appeared before the 9-11 Commission, no one asked them about the bunker. Nor did commissioners ask Giuliani specifically why firefighters were using the same radios on 9-11 that had worked so poorly in the '93 bombing. Part of the reason was the city had broken contracting rules when it purchased new radios earlier in 2001, and those radios had to be withdrawn because of technical problems.

6. Why did 7 WTC fall?

Seven World Trade Center—where, besides OEM, the CIA, Salomon Smith Barney, and other entities had offices—was the last building to collapse on 9-11. It was also probably the first steel skyscraper anywhere to collapse solely because of fire. We still don't know why. While NIST has completed its twin towers reports, it has delayed its 7 WTC report twice; it's currently not expected until next spring.

Several 7 WTC tenants, including OEM and the Secret Service, had tanks filled with diesel fuel to power emergency generators. If that fuel leaked and burned, it may have heated the building's steel supports to the point of failure, but according to FEMA's report on the collapse this "best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence."

7. How did the twin towers fall?

Many FDNY personnel who saw the south tower collapse reported explosions at the lower levels as the top began collapsing. These reports, as well as "squibs" of smoke seen on video of the collapses, have led to theories that the towers were brought down in controlled explosions. NIST dismisses these notions, claiming that the puffs of smoke were the result of air being forced down by the top of the tower collapsing.

NIST said the towers fell because the planes shook fireproofing loose from the steel superstructure, and the fire heated the floor-supporting trusses so much that they pulled in on support columns that were already holding more than their regular load. But NIST's computer simulation stops at the point the collapse begins, and does not document exactly how the rest of the buildings crumbled in 10 seconds. The reason for this omission could be the sheer complexity of the computations—even NIST's simplified model took weeks to run on a computer.

Conspiracy theorists aren't the only ones who dispute NIST's version: Some fire scientists also take issue with the institute's methods and conclusions. And the point isn't just historical. The lessons learned from the WTC collapse will inform decisions about the safety of other modern office towers.

8. How dangerous was—and is—the air at ground zero?

A few days after the towers fell, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that tests of air and water near the WTC site "indicate that these vital resources are safe." The only problem was, as the EPA's inspector general reported later, the agency "did not have sufficient data and analyses to make such a blanket statement." What's more, the inspector general said, "the White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced, through the collaboration process, the information that EPA communicated to the public."

The 9-11 Commission did not address this topic in the body of its final report. In a single footnote, the panel said it didn't have the expertise to talk about the air testing, but let the White House off the hook for influencing EPA press releases. Then–EPA head Christine Whitman told the commission that she had met with a top Bush economic adviser "regarding the need to get financial markets open quickly," but denied any pressure to fudge the air quality readings. A group of 12 people has sued the EPA over health problems they blame on poor air quality near the site after the attacks. Meanwhile, the EPA just last week approved a plan to test and clean apartments south of Canal Street.

9. What exactly did Zacarias Moussaoui plan to do?

Was he the 20th hijacker? Or was he supposed to pilot a fifth plane on September 11? Or was he a backup for Ziad Jarrah, the Flight 93 hijack pilot, whose disagreements with Mohammed Atta almost got him dropped from the plot? Or was he a pilot for a "second wave" of attacks, as captured Al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is quoted saying in the 9-11 Commission report?

Last April, Moussaoui pled guilty to conspiracy charges, but claimed that he had nothing to do with 9-11 and instead was planning a separate attack to try to free Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.

The Department of Justice hasn't said publicly exactly what Moussaoui did—stating in court filings merely that Moussaoui "participated" in the 9-11 plot—but it does want to execute him for his alleged role

10. What's on those blanked-out pages?

"The Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001," which was released in late 2002, included 28 pages that were blanked out, apparently concerning the possible role of Saudi government officials. Those aren't the only blank spots in the public record. As the Voice reported in October, there are multiple redactions in the FDNY oral histories that in some cases seem to concern the radios or suspicious activity near the WTC site before and during the attacks.

December 9th, 2005, 07:25 PM
US warned Saudis about plane attacks

The Australian
Dec. 10, 2005


A DECLASSIFIED US cable made public overnight shows that US officials warned Saudi counterparts more than three years before the September 11, 2001 attacks that Osama bin Laden might target civilian aircraft.

The State Department cable was not mentioned by the special commission that investigated the attacks on New York and Washington, according to National Security Archives, the non-profit research group that made the cable public.

The cable reports on a meeting between two US embassy officials in Riyadh with Saudi officials on June 16, 1998 to press for increased vigilance at the King Khalid International Airport.

"We noted that while we have no specific information that indicates Bin Laden is targeting civilian aircraft, he made a threat during the June 11 ABC News interview against 'military passenger aircraft' in the next 'few weeks,"' the cable said.

"Bin Laden also spoke of SAM missiles," the cable said, using the acronym for surface-to-air missiles.

It added that since attacks on US military facilities in the kingdom in 1995 and 1996, Saudi force protection measures had improved.

"Consequently, we could not rule out that a terrorist might take the course of least resistance and turn to a civilian target," it said.

After September 11, senior administration officials explained the unprecedented security failure by saying suicide attacks with civilian airliners could not have been imagined.

But the cable is the latest piece of evidence that US officials had been aware of the threat to civilian airliners well before then.

National Security Archives also released a newly declassified memo from then CIA director George Tenet to his top aides after the attacks calling for a "worldwide war against al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations."

"Our unrelenting focus must be on bringing all of our operational, analytical, and technical capabilities to bear, not only to protect the US both here and abroad from additional terrorist acts, but also, more importantly, to neutralize and destroy al-Qaeda and its partners."

The confidential memo, dated September 16, 2001, first surfaced in Bob Woodward's best-selling book "Bush at War," the National Security Archives said.

© The Australian

January 3rd, 2006, 10:26 AM
Interesting video....


January 3rd, 2006, 10:53 AM
Interesting video....
hmmmm ... definitely a curious situation.

But then what happened to AA Flight 77?

January 3rd, 2006, 11:03 AM
Ask Debra Burlingame...