Rudy's Pants On Fire

Secret testimony shows that Rudy's stump speech is inflated, at best

In a recent broadside deriding the Clinton administration's response to Al Qaeda, Rudy Giuliani told an audience at Pat Robertson's Regent University: "Bin Laden declared war on us. We didn't hear it. I thought it was pretty clear at the time, but a lot of people didn't see it, couldn't see it." Other tenets of his standard stump speech include the assertion that he's been "studying terrorism" for more than 30 years, and that "the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is that I have more experience in dealing with it" than the other presidential candidates.

However, in private testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, Rudy gave a very different version of how much he knew about terrorism when the World Trade Center was attacked. That testimony isn't scheduled to be released publicly until after the 2008 presidential election, but the Voice has obtained a copy of it. And it reveals a New York mayor who was anything but an "expert on terrorism."

A 15-page "memorandum for the record," prepared by a commission counsel and dated April 20, 2004, quotes Giuliani conceding that it wasn't until "after 9/11" that "we brought in people to brief us on al Qaeda." According to the memorandum, Giuliani told two commission members and five staffers: "But we had nothing like this pre 9/11, which was a mistake, because if experts share a lot of info," there would be a "better chance of someone making heads and tails" of the "situation." (Such memoranda are not verbatim transcripts of the confidential commission interviews, but are described on the cover page as "100 percent accurate" notes taken by staffers, stamped "commission sensitive/unclassified" on the top of each page.)

Asked about the “flow of information about al Qaeda threats from 1998-2001,” Giuliani said: “At the time, I wasn’t told it was al Qaeda, but now that I look back at it, I think it was al Qaeda.” He also said that as part of one of his post-9/11 briefings, “we had in Bodansky, who had written a book on bin Laden.” Giuliani was referring to Yossef Bodanksy, the author of Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, which was published in 1999 and predicted “spectacular terrorist strikes in Washington and/or New York.” Giuliani wrote in his own book, Leadership, that Judi Nathan got him a copy of Bodansky’s prophetic work “shortly after 9/11,” and that he covered it in “highlighter and notes,” citing his study of it as an example of how he “mastered a subject.” Apparently, he also invited Bodansky to address key members of his staff.

Giuliani attributed his pre-9/11 shortcomings in part to the FBI, which was run by his close friend (and current endorser) Louis Freeh, and to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, an FBI-directed partnership with the NYPD. "We already had JTTF, and got flow information no one else got," he explained. "But did we get the flow of information we wanted? No. We would be told about a threat, but not about the underlying nature of the threat. I wanted all the same information the FBI had, and we didn't get that until after 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, we were made a complete partner." He added: "Without 9/11, I never would have been able to send an adviser to FBI briefings."

Tom Von Essen, who was Giuliani’s fire commissioner and is now a partner in his consulting company, Giuliani Partners, was asked at a confidential interview on April 7, 2004, what information he had “re terrorism prior to 9/11” and said: “I was told nothing at all.” Bernard Kerik, the police commissioner on 9/11, who also later joined Giuliani Partners, appeared to contradict Giuliani, insisting in his April 6 private appearance: “I never had a problem with the FBI.” Kerik, who did not become commissioner until August 2000, testified, however, that he did have a problem with his own department. “When I took over,” he said, “I was not happy with NYPD’s intelligence in general.” He said the intelligence division “had more to do with fighting criminal activity than terrorism” and that “within 3-4 months, I directed a total merger of NYPD intelligence.” In other words, Kerik indicated that he’d begun a reorganization of the department’s counterterrorism intelligence operations in 2001, as the Giuliani administration entered its final year—hardly a testament to its urgent understanding of the threat.

Despite conceding his lack of information to the 9/11 Commission, Giuliani recently told New York Times Magazine reporter Matt Bai that he wished he could discuss "all the things he knew about terrorism," but that he "could not, unfortunately, share" this information with Bai "because they probably remain classified." Giuliani went on at great length in Bai's cover story—as he has repeatedly on the campaign trail—about how, as president, he would apply CompStat, the famous anti-crime measurement and action program instituted at the NYPD during Giuliani's mayoralty, to the fight against terrorism. Bai called Giuliani's argument an "impressive case."

Compare that to Giuliani's response when he was asked by the 9/11 Commission if CompStat could be used as a "resource in the war on terror." He replied: "Bernie knows more than I," referring the commission to Kerik, who became President Bush's nominee for Homeland Security secretary a few months later. According to the commission's memorandum, Giuliani also urged them to "talk to the current NYPD re current terrorism Compstat," a reference to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Though Giuliani thought the application of CompStat to terrorism was "an excellent idea," he offered no suggestions of his own.

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