9/11 Widows Keep on Asking the Tough Questions
Sun Mar 25, 2007 14:09

9/11 Widows Keep on Asking the Tough Questions
Joseph Murtagh

February 12, 2007 -- When it comes to 9/11, America right now is
divided between two camps, those who trust the official account of the
attacks, and those who, well, have questions. It's occasionally the
case that the first camp will publicly denounce the second camp as a
bunch of nutcases, and when this happens, it's usually the rowdier
section of Camp Two, the Loose Change, bullhorn-wielding, "death to
the New World Order" crowd, that takes the most heat.

What tends to get ignored, however, is the quieter section of Camp
Two, and especially a group of widowed mothers from New Jersey and New
York who over the last six years have worked harder than just about
anyone to protect the country from terrorism. Few people realize that
had it not been for the tireless efforts of the "Jersey girls" – Mindy
Kleinberg, Kristen Breitweiser, Lorie Van Auken, Patty Casazza, and
Monica Gabrielle – not only would the 9/11 Commission never have
happened, but there most likely never would have been any
investigation into what was the worst loss of life on American soil
since the Civil War. No inquiry into our failed military defenses, or
the collapse of the towers, or just why it was that President Bush sat
in that Florida classroom for a full seven minutes after the second
plane struck. No scientific reports, no effort to discover what went
wrong, no hearings of any kind. No attempt to figure out the details
of the whole who, what, where, when and why of the attacks. And
again, what few people realize is that today, six years later, the
Jersey girls are still fighting the exact same fight they were
fighting on September 12, 2001, and for the same reason: to keep you,
and me, and everyone we know, safe from terrorism.

"The story of how we got started with this is really simple," says
Mindy Kleinberg, who lost her husband Alan in WTC I. "After my
husband was killed, I got involved with a support group that included
family members of the victims of Pan AM 103 that blew up over
Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. And I realized that if the government
had only hardened cockpit doors like those family members had demanded
prior to 2001, the 9/11 hijackings never could have taken place. And
I felt terrible, personally responsible for not having spoken up
sooner. But it also made me realize that there are practical steps
people can take to keep horrible things like this from happening. So
that's why we went to Washington. It was a moral obligation. There
was no agenda, nothing political. We just wanted to do whatever
needed to be done to make sure the country would be safe for our kids."

Long before the Jersey girls ever began appearing on national TV, they
were leaving their children with friends and relatives and making
repeated trips to Washington, where they went from office to office,
pressuring Congress into establishing an official investigation into
the attacks. The 9/11 Commission was largely the work of the Family
Steering Committee, a group formed by the Jersey widows along with
several other 9/11 families who, after reading everything they could
get their hands on about 9/11, drew up a voluminous list of questions
they wanted to see answered, the goal being to provide the 9/11
Commission with every piece of information it would need to do a solid

The questions covered everything from the president's actions on the
morning of 9/11, to why hijacked airplanes were permitted to fly
around for nearly two hours in U.S. airspace without any military
response, to why no one at any level of the government has ever been
held responsible for the many failings leading up to the attacks. The
widows had high hopes for the 9/11 Commission Report, but when it was
published in July of 2004 they were bitterly disappointed. While the
public moved on, widely assuming 9/11 to be a bygone issue, the widows
were stuck with the frustrating realization that the investigation
they'd worked so hard to achieve had utterly failed to meet their

"It was a pathetic excuse of a report," says Lorie Van Auken, whose
husband Kenneth was killed in WTC I. "Seventy percent of our
questions went unanswered. The legislation gave the Commission
eighteen months to do the investigation, and even though they had
subpoena power from the start, they waited a full ten months to use it
and then only reluctantly. Also, anyone who appeared for questioning,
from Rudy Guliani to George Tenet, was handled with kid gloves and
lauded with accolades. The Commissioners would say, `You're fabulous,
you did a fantastic job on 9/11,' and they would run out the clock.
We couldn't understand what the point was in having a hearing if no
substantive questions were being asked or answered."

Particularly frustrating for the widows was the way the White House
initially responded to the idea of an investigation, and they were
astonished to find the Bush administration stacking the odds against
them. Vice-President Cheney answered their call for legislation by
personally phoning congressmen to voice his opposition, and he
publicly stated that "an investigation must not interfere with the
ongoing efforts to prevent the next attack, because without a doubt a
very real threat of another perhaps more devastating attack still
exists." But it was the widows' opinion that another attack couldn't
be prevented without first knowing what had gone wrong. Caving under
political pressure in the end, the White House grudgingly agreed to
cooperate, appointing Henry Kissinger as Chairman of the Commission.
Kissinger later stepped down when he was unwilling to release his
confidential client list and was replaced by former New Jersey
governor Tom Kean.

But the widows' struggles were far from over. The White House named
Philip Zelikow, a Bush-appointee who served on the President's Foreign
Intelligence Advisory Board, Executive Director of the Commission. A
close friend of Condaleeza Rice's, Zelikow had co-authored a book with
her and helped in drawing up the plans for the invasion of Iraq.
Based on these conflicts of interest, the Jersey widows called for his
resignation, but their request was ignored.

"It's hard for us to come to any other conclusion than that the 9/11
Commission was a political cover-up from the word go," says Patty
Casazza, who lost her husband John in WTC I. "We were so na´ve, we
had no idea we were going to run into this kind of fight. We just
wanted an investigation into the attacks, for safety reasons. And yet
it took President Bush fourteen months to agree to the 9/11
Commission. This was the man I'd voted for in 2000, and all of a
sudden he was my biggest adversary. I look back, and I think, well,
at least we got them to put down their version of the events on
record, so you can see where they weren't being thorough. It was
supposed to be a complete account, but it was anything but. If my
husband had been run over by a car I'd know more."

I asked the widows their opinions on the legislation recently passed
through Congress implementing several of the 9/11 Commission

"You know, on certain issues," says Van Auken, "it's a no-brainer.
Hardening cockpit doors, securing our ports, checking luggage, these
are all commonsense things that should be happening anyway, we
shouldn't have needed a 9/11 Commission report to get them done. But
as for the rest of it, no, we don't believe the recommendations are
complete because the report is incomplete. We wish the Commission had
been handled more like a trial, with actual evidence produced to back
up statements, like they do in a courtroom. But that never happened."

Many of the original questions put to the 9/11 Commission by the
Family Steering Committee have since become staples of what's known as
the 9/11 truth movement. For instance, as the widows point out,
exactly what made WTC 7 collapse when it was never hit by a plane is
still just as much of an enigma today as it was prior to the 9/11
Commission, and they also wonder why NORAD's protocols weren't
followed during the attacks. Moreover, they find it strange that 9/11
isn't listed on Osama bin Laden's FBI most wanted poster, when the
1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa are. (In June of 2006, Muckraker
Report editor Ed Haas spoke on the phone with Rex Tomb, Chief of
Investigative Publicity for the FBI, who told him the reason why 9/11
wasn't listed on the poster was because Osama bin Laden had never been
formally indicted by the Justice Department in connection with 9/11
and the FBI has no hard evidence linking him to the attacks).

"There are just so many unanswered questions," says Van Auken. "I
would say you need roughly 400 hours of research to graduate from 9/11
kindergarten class. That's why it's so hard to keep people on the
same page, because they're coming at this issue from a million
different angles. A friend might tell them about building 7, or they
might watch Loose Change on the internet, or they'll say, `Hold it a
second, you can't make cell phone calls from an airplane.' And then
suddenly a little alarm bell goes off in their brain, and they say,
`Wow, we don't know the whole story about this.' That's all it takes,
the little alarm bell, and then, bam, welcome to the place we've been
living in for the last six years."

"Addressing all these unanswered questions out there is about more
than simply trying to quell conspiracy theories," says Monica
Gabrielle, whose husband Richard died in WTC II. "It's about making
sure Americans are safe by revealing the unfettered truth about the
failures. Because you can't make recommendations on distortions,
omissions, and half-truths, which is basically what the 9/11
Commission did."

As disappointed as the widows are with the results of the 9/11
Commission, they haven't given up hope. They've set up a petition
online demanding that the government release all transcripts and
documents relating to the July 10, 2001 meeting that took place
between George Tenet and Condaleeza Rice, which received some media
attention last fall when it was referenced in Bob Woodward's book
State of Denial. They're also requesting the release of the
twenty-eight redacted pages in the Joint Inquiry into the Terrorist
Attacks of September 11, 2001 (JICI), as well as the CIA Inspector
General's report, "CIA Accountability With Respect to the 9/11
Attacks." You can find the petition online at
http://www.petitiononline.com/july10/petition.html .

"There's no good reason for not signing this petition," says Van
Auken. "They're just documents that help explain events leading up
9/11, and they should be in the public domain. If this petition were
ever to hit 15,000 names, we'd take it to Washington."

The widows also got together last year with a couple of independent
filmmakers and made a documentary called 9/11 Press for Truth, which
tells their story alongside the stories of other 9/11 families who
were involved in the 9/11 Commission. As Kyle Hence, the producer of
9/11 Press for Truth explained to me, the point of the film was simply
to let people know that the Commission hadn't done its job properly
and that the jury was still very much out on 9/11. "We were trying to
build a bridge to the mainstream media," Hence explains, "to connect
the dots the media, for whatever reason, just wasn't connecting. Our
goal was to take the issue to middle-America, to make it legitimate in
people's eyes."

9/11 Press for Truth is available on Google video, where it's been
somewhat overshadowed by the 9/11 documentary Loose Change.
(Interestingly enough, in a debate last December, Dylan Avery, the
producer of Loose Change, claimed he doesn't endorse the second
edition of his own movie anymore and urged people to watch 9/11 Press
for Truth instead, calling it "the 9/11 film you can show to
anybody"). Still, the widows have been astonished at the film's

"We never thought the movie would get widespread attention," says
Gabrielle. "But the response has been absolutely incredible. Kyle
Hence has done a terrific job getting the word out. Thanks to his
devotion and hard work, we're hearing from people as far away as
Prague who are expressing interest in the movie."

9/11 Press for Truth is based on the work of independent researcher
Paul Thompson, whose book the Terror Timeline is an enormous
compilation of over 5,000 reports and articles relating to the 9/11
attacks. House of Bush, House of Saud author Chris Unger has called
it "a spectacular resource that is an essential tool for anyone who is
truly interested in understanding the events leading up to 9/11," and
Thompson received an endorsement from former counterterrorism czar
Richard Clarke when the latter put the book on the reading list for
his course on terrorism at Harvard. By going back through buried
news stories, Thompson was able to reconstruct an extraordinarily
detailed timeline that contradicts statements by several Bush
administration officials immediately following 9/11 claiming no one in
the upper levels of the government could have anticipated the attacks.

As Thompson's work shows, not only did the White House receive
repeated urgent warnings of impending terrorist attacks from the
intelligence agencies of at least a dozen different countries in the
months leading up to 9/11, but at the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy in
July of 2001 George W. Bush slept offshore in an aircraft carrier
because of threats that Osama bin Laden might fly airplanes packed
with explosives into the embassy hotel. As Thompson asks at one point
in 9/11 Press for Truth, "The press has reported on this one, that
one, but they haven't really put it all together and said, `God, how
many different warnings did you get?' `How many different ways was
this information coming at you, and why wasn't anything done about all
of these warnings?'"

For the most part, however, 9/11 Press for Truth steers clear of overt
speculation about the government's role in the attacks and instead
focuses on the personal recollections of the families who spearheaded
the drive to establish the 9/11 Commission. Not only do we witness
firsthand the stonewalling they received at the hands of the federal
government, but also the extent to which very few in the government
really seemed interested in figuring out what had gone wrong. By the
end of the documentary, it's hard to blame Bob McIlvaine, whose son
Bobby was killed in the attacks, for saying, "I'm so pissed off at the
American people, I'm so pissed off at this government, because of this

I asked the widows where they stand in relation to the 9/11 truth
movement and some of its other claims, such as the view that
controlled demolitions brought down the towers or that a missile hit
the Pentagon.

"All these videos out there," says Kleinberg, "they're just giving
their take on the various questions the official reports failed to
answer. The girls and I, we won't jump to any conclusions until all
the facts are in, but we do share many of the same questions they do,
and we definitely share the basic view that we haven't learned the
whole truth about 9/11."

"It's the old `if there's nothing to hide, why are they hiding
everything' logic," says Van Auken. "If you hide information, if you
keep everything behind closed doors, people are going to get
suspicious. If the government were to answer all of our questions,
we'd be encouraged. But the fact is the government has barely
answered any of them. It's outrageous that six years on, after two
preemptive wars in the Middle East and maybe a third to come, we still
don't have the whole story behind these attacks. Without that story,
we can't adequately secure the homeland. We want to know the truth,
and we feel we're strong enough to handle it, wherever that truth
might lead us, because it's the only way to be safe."

"What I saw on 9/11 tot

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