By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
Twice, Giuliani dodged the commission's questions about the radios used by first respondersone of the key critiques of the city's 9/11 response made by New York and national firefighters' unions. The city's firefighters were stuck with the same analog radios that had malfunctioned in 1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked, because the department had had to recall newer digital radios in the spring of 2001. Pressed about this nearly three years after 9/11, Giuliani deflected the question with a suggestion that the memorandum summarizes as follows: "Speak with Richie re whether digital would have worked better." Giuliani was referring to Richard Sheirer, the former director of emergency management, who had virtually nothing to do with the selection of the firefighters' radios (and who, like Von Essen, is also now at Giuliani Partners). Sheirer had already appeared before the commission and was questioned, appropriately, about his own agency's radios, not the fire department's. He declared that their radios "worked very well" on 9/11, "allowing me to communicate" with the command center, though the bunker was actually abandoned shortly after the second plane hit.
Similarly, when Giuliani was pressed about the "repeater" or amplifier that was installed at the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing to aid firefighter radio communications there, the memorandum indicates simply: "No knowledge." Not only was this answer an indication of how little attention Giuliani paid to fire response and other security issues at the complex prior to 9/11, it was an indication that he wasn't taking the critique of the city's response seriously even years later. In response to a recent video released by the firefighters' union attacking Giuliani on this issue, his campaign has been trying to shift the blame to the repeater, suggesting that it was the failure to trigger this system that caused the firefighters not to hear evacuation orders.
While candidate Giuliani has also begun blaming Sheirer's predecessor, Jerry Hauer, for the decision to put the command center in the WTC complex, he did no such thing when asked about it during his commission appearance. He said his administration "wanted a place in lower Manhattan" and "that was probably the primary reason for it"which is exactly what Hauer says about why it wound up there. Once Giuliani ruled that the center had to be within "walking distance" of City Hall, the World Trade Center became a likely location, since the downtown area is entirely below the flood plain, barring any below-ground site.
In his testimony, Giuliani also expressed "sympathy for President Bush being taken to task for not picking up on one detail in a briefing which in retrospect is very important when the President receives so many, many briefings." This was a reference to the presidential daily briefing that Bush received on August 6, 2001, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." According to the commission's final report, this briefing was the 36th related to Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda that Bush had received, but the first that highlighted an attack on the U.S. It made specific references to a "bin Laden cell in New York" that was "recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks," and also reported that the FBI had found "patterns 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." Ironically, it was precisely this kind of information that Giuliani had complained about not receiving from the FBI just minutes earlier in the same testimony.
Though Giuliani has been presenting himself on the campaign trail as the person who can best safeguard America, he told the commission: "The only thing to protect you against terrorism is to find out about a plot in advance." And thus far, he has presented no plausible evidence to suggest that he'd be better than anyone else running for president at doing that.