By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
May 20, 2004
Hell of a day yesterday before the 9-11 Commission. Usually charge $50,000 for my Churchill impression, but this time I delivered the what-I-did-on-9-11 tale for free. I had Judi positioned within the camera lens, blotting out all those old Donna stories from coast to coast. I was the only witness without a time limit on my opening statement, allowing me to recount for the evangelicals my "God bless you" and "pray for us" farewells to fire officials who perished. I did it all as a witness who was supposed to be defending the city's preparedness and response. Nothing like anecdote as the antidote to explanation.
On the way to the hearing, the only hard number I had in my head (and coat pocket) was Dick Cheney's latest blood pressure results. The Bushies had to be watching. The same commission that skewered Condi was so intimidated by my 9-11 afterglow they bowed to me. They even used me as a consultant on CIA and FBI intelligence practices when I haven't worked at Justice in Washington for over 20 years. With Cheney's favorables sinking deeper than his bunker and the Joe Wilson leak grand jury heading into Cheney's office, I may not have to wait until 2008 to make my national move. That's why I spun everything at the hearing W's way.
Can you believe I had the balls to say that if I knew about the August 6 PDB, "I can't honestly tell you we would have done anything differently"? Rove raved! I'm implicitly saying that, even with the PDB, we wouldn't have gotten the police department and fire department ready for a major event, possibly reducing the stunning surprise of 9-11 and saving lives. I'm saying we wouldn't have so much as tested the WTC repeaters or made sure that they were at least switched on. In one verbal cross-step, I went from portraying myself across America as the mayor who knew the terrorists were coming to one who would've done nothing when given a veritable announcement of it.
With a PDB that referred three times to New York, once to the WTC, once to terrorist suspects shooting photos downtown, and even alluded to a "suspicious pattern" of terrorist conduct "consistent with preparations for hijacking," I said it would've been a no-news memo. I got away with claiming that a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." would not "jump out at you to be so terribly unusual," and would have "melded together with hundreds of other things that were of equal or more importance." Hell, I shut City Hall down to everyone but the Yankees because of the threat that someone might spot me with Cristyneand now I'm saying I would have done nothing with the PDB! No way Cheney could carry that water. My "near-death experience" on that career-maker of a day, and the decimation of my city, let me put a spike through that Democrat canard.
Isn't it great to be able to point the old partisan finger at anyone who raises a 9-11 questionhell, the media did it for us with John Lehman even though he's a Republicanwhen it's actually the White House and me who are turning it into a partisan bonanza? Hell, I even rushed out there at Rove's behest a few months ago when the coffin commercial controversy got hot. I put the Giuliani imprimatur on the crassest exploitation of body parts. Hell, no one even noted that the Rove guy I mentioned in my testimonythe one I called on 9-11, Chris Henicknow works for me at Giuliani Partners. Just like all three of my ex-commissioners who testified. Better believe I vetted every word those clowns said. I learned a long time ago that it's best to keep everything in a tight, well-connected circle.
I did have one rather large contradiction at the core of my testimony, but no one seemed to notice. I hope when the commission staff writes the report, they wear the same blinders that the commission wore yesterday. I said the "most briefings" and "most information" I got "came in" during "the buildup to the millennium celebration in 2000." I mentioned I got four or five separate briefings and that "we went through drills and exercises and deployed thousands of police officers." I played right into the hands of that partisan Dick Clarke (isn't it funny how working for three Republican presidents can be turned on its head?). Wasn't that his point just a month or so ago when he compared how juiced-up the Clinton gang was at the millennium versus how laid-back the Bushies were when Tenet's hair was on fire in the summer of 2001?
In 1999, well before the Times Square hoopla, my emergency management guy Jerry Hauer went down to huddle with CIA counterterrorism director Cofer Black and came back to brief me. I talked directly to FBI chief and old buddy Louie Freeh. We did four tabletop exercises at City Hall. Clinton was already so involved, he had actually chaired a tabletop exercise with Hauer in Washington way back in '98. Unlike Condi, Sandy Berger held dozens of Principals' meetings on Al Qaeda, especially right before the millennium. John O'Neill, the New York FBI chief on counterterrorism, was feeding every tidbit to Hauer, and sometimes directly to me.