The Family Steering Committee
Subject: FSC Statement Re: 9/11 Commission’s Hearings + Letter to Giuliani
The Family Steering
Committee remains dissatisfied with the quality of questioning during the Commission’s
public hearings. In particular, we are extremely disappointed with the 9/11
hearings that took place in New York May 18th and 19th.Public hearings serve
a valuable purpose. First, they should educate and inform the American public
about the work of the Commission and the performance of public and private officials
leading up to and including the day of September 11th. Second they should serve
to restore confidence in our government that was unprepared for the events of
9/11. Third, they should serve to garner the nation’s support for the
Commission’s future recommendations.The Commission promised the 9/11 families
and all of America that there would be public hearings on all topics covered
in their mandate. However, due to imposed time constraints, at least 4 previously
scheduled hearings were cancelled by the Commission, making the few public hearings
that remained all the more significant. The recent set of hearings in New York
failed to serve much if any of their purposes. While the Commissioners stated
that they had questioned witnesses in private during prior interviews, their
collective failure to use this public forum for either “fact finding”
or “fact displaying” of the answers previously procured during closed
sessions with the witnesses, resulted in a hearing that produced little more
than frustration. This frustration was clearly evidenced in the public outcry
during the Giuliani testimony, as families sought to hear testimony regarding
the non functioning FDNY radios and other failures of communication, coordination
and emergency management which could have saved hundreds of lives on 9/11. The
Commission's continued lack of aggressive questioning and its production of
staff statements that overlook matters of serious probative value raise concerns
about the credibility and value of the Commission's final report. As Dennis
Smith most aptly testified, "our times, now more than ever call for an
honest appraisal of our record in counter-terrorism preparedness. With diligence
and courage, we must record our mistakes to enable the trumpet of truth to sound
out. Without it we will be shattered...to learn is to save future lives, and
we learn by making conclusions, even if they might be unpopular."The time
needed to answer the questions that the FSC and the public have submitted to
the Commission has nearly run out. We respectfully request that the Commission
include an addendum to the final report in order to attend to these questions.
And, we strongly urge the Commission to make the final declassified report definitive
and thoroughly documented in its conclusions. History demands nothing less.
Giuliani Partners 5 Times Square
NY, NY 10036 May 22,2004 Dear Mr. Giuliani,
At the 9/11 Public Hearings you announced that all the anger and blame should be focused on the 19 terrorists who piloted the planes. You went on in your press conferences to state that you understood that the comments from the crowd were due misplaced anger from the grieving process. We respectfully disagree with you on both accounts.
It is true that on September 11th, nineteen terrorists were responsible for murdering nearly 3000 people. But the terrorists could not have succeeded if there had not been loopholes, inefficiency, and lack of collaboration, communication and coordination in our national security system. Something went terribly wrong which allowed the terrorists to launch a surprise attack here in America, using hijacked airplanes. <I style="mso-ansi-font-style: normal; mso-bidi-font-style: normal">All the factors, which contributed to the death of so many on September 11th, must be identified and corrected. Certainly, the terrorists are at the top of the list, but there is much more to this story and it cannot be swept under the rug, as if it does not exist.
Your statement, " Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us," implies that asking questions about our government’s knowledge, preparedness and response prior to and on 9/11 is somehow wrong. To suggest that an investigation is synonymous with attacking each other is a deliberate misrepresentation of the goals and work of the Commission whose mandate is to tell the full story and make recommendations for correcting the problems.
First and foremost our government is obligated to protect us. That means it must be honest about what went wrong. If our internal security and emergency response problems are not corrected, terrorists may once again succeed in killing many innocent Americans. When the Commission suggests that the emergency response might have operated more efficiently with one command center overseeing the entire operation, or someone posits that many fire fighters might have been saved if their radios had been working properly, that in no way reflects on the heroism we witnessed that terrible day.
Nothing can diminish the valor of the civilians who tried to help those who were injured or trapped, or the heroism of the Police, the Firefighters or the EMS personnel who rushed into the burning buildings to save lives. Thousands of lives were saved by their bravery. The survivors and the families of those they tried to rescue will never forget the sacrifice of those who gave their lives trying to help. All Americans salute the heroes of 9/11 and honor the memory of those who perished. The families who vented at this last hearing did not do so out of misplaced anger. They did so out of frustration--frustration that significant issues like non-functioning fire fighter radios were not being publicly addressed. To ignore what went wrong will undoubtedly put lives at risk.
We are calling on you, Mayor Giuliani, to once again display the courage and leadership that you exhibited on 9/11. Instead attempting to deflect attention from the flaws in our national security system and concerns about the emergency response, by commenting that only the terrorists were responsible, it would be refreshing and courageous for you and other leaders to publicly acknowledge some of the things that went wrong. Such an acknowledgement would go a long way to restoring trust in our government and faith that our government officials understand that those issues must be corrected if New York and the nation are to be more secure and better able to handle the next attack.
The Family Steering Committee