by Wayne BarrettRudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies About 9/11Fri Aug 10, 2007 21:33
Rudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies About 9/11
On the stump, Rudy can't help spreading smoke and ashes about his lousy record
by Wayne Barrett
with special research assistance by Alexandra Kahan
August 7th, 2007 9:44 PM
Nearly six years after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani is still walking through the canyons of lower Manhattan, covered in soot, pointing north, and leading the nation out of danger's way. The Republican frontrunner is campaigning for president by evoking that visual at every campaign stop, and he apparently believes it's a picture worth thousands of nights in the White House.
Giuliani has been leading the Republican pack for seven months, and predictions that the party's evangelicals would turn on him have so far proven hollow. The religious right appears as gripped by the Giuliani story as the rest of the country.
Giuliani isn't shy about reminding audiences of those heady days. In fact he hyperventilates about them on the stump, making his credentials in the so-called war on terror the centerpiece of his campaign. His claims, meanwhile, have been met with a media deference so total that he's taken to complimenting "the good job it is doing covering the campaign." Opponents, too, haven't dared to question his terror credentials, as if doing so would be an unpatriotic bow to Osama bin Laden.
Here, then, is a less deferential look at the illusory cloud emanating from the former mayor's campaign . . .
1. 'I think the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is, I have more experience dealing with it.' This pillar of the Giuliani campaign—asserted by pundits as often as it is by the man himself—is based on the idea that Rudy uniquely understands the terror threat because of his background as a prosecutor and as New York's mayor. In a July appearance at a Maryland synagogue, Giuliani sketched out his counterterrorism biography, a resume that happens to be rooted in falsehood.
"As United States Attorney, I investigated the Leon Klinghoffer murder by Yasir Arafat," he told the Jewish audience, referring to the infamous 1985 slaying of a wheelchair-bound, 69-year-old New York businessman aboard the Achille Lauro, an Italian ship hijacked off the coast of Egypt by Palestinian extremists. "It's honestly the reason why I knew so much about Arafat," says Giuliani. "I knew, in detail, the Americans he murdered. I went over their cases."
On the contrary, Victoria Toensing, the deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department in Washington who filed a criminal complaint in the Lauro investigation, says that no one in Giuliani's office "was involved at all." Jay Fischer, the Klinghoffer family attorney who spearheaded a 12-year lawsuit against the PLO, says he "never had any contact" with Giuliani or his office. "It would boggle my mind if anyone in 1985, 1986, 1987, or thereafter conducted an investigation of this case and didn't call me," he adds. Fischer says he did have a private dinner with Giuliani in 1992: "It was the first time we talked, and we didn't even talk about the Klinghoffer case then."
The dinner was arranged by Arnold Burns, a close friend of Fischer and Giuliani who also represented the Klinghoffer family. Burns, who was also the finance chair of Giuliani's mayoral campaign, was the deputy U.S. attorney general in 1985 and oversaw the probe. "I know of nothing Rudy did in any shape or form on the Klinghoffer case," he says.
Though Giuliani told the Conservative Political Action conference in March that he "prosecuted a lot of crime—a little bit of terrorism, but mostly organized crime," he actually worked only one major terrorism case as U.S. Attorney, indicting 10 arms dealers for selling $2.5 billion worth of anti-tank missiles, bombs, and fighter jets to Iran in 1986. The judge in the case ruled that a sale to Iran violated terrorist statutes because its government had been tied to 87 terrorist incidents. Giuliani has never mentioned the case, perhaps because he personally filed papers terminating it in his last month as U.S. Attorney: A critical witness had died, and a judge tossed out 46 of the 55 counts because of errors by Giuliani's office.
"Then, as mayor of New York," Giuliani's July speech continued, "I got elected right after the 1993 Islamic terrorist attack . . . I set up emergency plans for all the different possible attacks we could have. We had drills and exercises preparing us for sarin gas and anthrax, dirty bombs."
In fact, Giuliani was oblivious to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing throughout his mayoralty. A month after the attack, candidate Giuliani met for the first time with Bill Bratton, who would ultimately become his police commissioner. The lengthy taped meeting was one of several policy sessions he had with unofficial advisers. The bombing never came up; neither did terrorism. When Giuliani was elected a few months later, he immediately launched a search for a new police commissioner. Three members of the screening panel that Giuliani named to conduct the search, and four of the candidates interviewed for the job, said later that the bombing and terrorism were never mentioned—even when the new mayor got involved with the interviews himself. When Giuliani needed an emergency management director a couple of years later, two candidates for the job and the city official who spearheaded that search said that the bombing and future terrorist threats weren't on Giuliani's radar. The only time Giuliani invoked the 1993 bombing publicly was at his inauguration in 1994, when he referred to the way the building's occupants evacuated themselves as a metaphor for personal responsibility, ignoring the bombing itself as a terrorist harbinger.
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White and the four assistants who prosecuted the 1993 bombing said they were never asked to brief Giuliani about terrorism, though all of the assistants knew Giuliani personally and had actually been hired by him when he was the U.S. Attorney. White's office, located just a couple hundred yards from City Hall, indicted bin Laden three years before 9/11, but Giuliani recounted in his own book, Leadership, that "shortly after 9/11, Judith [Nathan] got me a copy of Yossef Bodansky's Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America," which had warned of "spectacular terrorist strikes in Washington and/or New York" in 1999. As an example of how he "mastered a subject," Giuliani wrote that he soon "covered" Bodansky's prophetic work "in highlighter and notes."
The 1995 sarin-gas drill that Giuliani cited in his July speech was also prophetic, anticipating many of the breakdowns that hampered the city's 9/11 response. The drill was such a disaster that a follow-up exercise was cancelled to avoid embarrassment. More than a hundred of the first responders rushed in so recklessly that they were "killed" by exposure to the gas. Radio communications were described in the city's own report as "abysmal," with police and fire "operating on different frequencies." The command posts were located much too close to the incident. All three failings would be identified years later in official reviews of the 9/11 response.
Giuliani went on, in this stump speech, to list other examples of his mayoral experience confronting terrorism. There was the time, he says, "we had what we thought was a sarin gas attack." And there were also the 50th anniversary commemoration of the United Nations and the 2000 millennium celebration to contend with, times, he said, "when we had a lot of warnings and had to do a tremendous amount to prepare." And let's not forget, he pointed out, the 1997 NYPD arrest of two terrorists who "were going to blow up a subway station." Giuliani used this thwarted attack as proof of the city's readiness: "A very, very alert young police officer saw those guys," he said. "They looked suspicious, [so he] reported them to the desk sergeant. The police department executed a warrant and shot one of the men as he was about to hit a toggle switch."
Each of the claims in Giuliani's self-serving account is inaccurate. The supposed "sarin attack" was simply the discovery of an empty canister marked "sarin" in the home of a harmless Queens recluse. It was sitting next to an identical container labeled "compressed air" with a smiley-face logo. Jerry Hauer, the city's emergency management director at the time, was in London, on the phone with Giuliani constantly. Hauer finds it ironic that Giuliani is still talking about the incident, since they both thought it was "comically" mishandled then. "The police went there without any suits on and touched all the containers without proper clothing. They turned it into a major crime scene, with a hundred cops lining the street. Rudy at one point said to me, 'Here we have the mayor, the fire commissioner, the chief of the police department, and one of my deputy mayors standing on the front lawn of this house. Shouldn't we be across the street in case this stuff ignites?'" This overhyped emergency led to a misdemeanor arrest subsequently dismissed by the district attorney.
Similarly, the security concerns during the 1995 U.N. anniversary focused on Cuba and China and didn't involve Arab terrorist threats. The millennium target, well established at subsequent trials, was the Los Angeles International Airport, not New York. While there's no doubt the Clinton administration did put the country and city on terrorist alert for Y2K and other reasons, it was an arrest on the Washington/Canadian border that busted up a West Coast plot.
The subway bombing, meanwhile, wasn't stymied by the NYPD. An Egyptian friend of the bomber—living with him in the apartment where the pipe bomb was being built—told two Long Island Rail Road police officers about it. When the NYPD subsequently raided the apartment, they shot two Palestinians who were there—one of whom, hit five times and gravely wounded, was later acquitted at trial. No one had tried to set off the bomb at the time of the arrest, though news stories reported that; the bomber had reached for an officer's gun, according to the trial testimony. The news stories also initially suggested a link to Hamas, though the lone bomber was actually an amateur fanatic with no money and no network. As conservative a source as Bill Gertz of The Washington Times wrote that FBI counterterrorism investigators were "concerned that the initial alarmist statements about the case made by Mayor Rudy Giuliani"—apparently a reference to leaks about Hamas and the toggle switch—"will prove embarrassing."
Giuliani's terrorism biography is bunk. As mayor, his laser-beam focus was street thugs, and as a prosecutor, it was the mob, Wall Street, and crooked politicians. He can't reach back to those years and rewrite such well-known chapters of his life.
2. 'I don't think there was anyplace in the country, including the federal government, that was as well prepared for that attack as New York City was in 2001.' This assertion flies in the face of all three studies of the city's response—the 9/11 Commission, the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), and McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm hired by the Bloomberg administration.
Actually, Giuliani didn't create the OEM until three years after the 1993 bombing, 27 months into his term. And he didn't open the OEM's new emergency command center until the end of 1999—nearly six years after he'd taken office. If he "assumed from the moment I came into office that NYC would be the subject of a terrorist attack," as he told Time when it made him "Person of the Year" in 2001, he sure took a long time to erect what he describes as the city's front line of defense.
The OEM was established so long after the bombing because, contrary to Giuliani's revisionism, the decision to create it had nothing to do with the bombing. Several memos, unearthed from the Giuliani archive and going on at great length, reveal that the initial rationale for the agency was "non-law enforcement events," particularly the handling of a Brooklyn water-main break shortly after he took office that the mayor thought had been botched. Before that, in December 1994, when an unemployed computer programmer carried a bomb onto a subway in an extortion plot against the Transit Authority, Giuliani was upset that he couldn't even get a count of patients from the responding services for his press conference.
Jerry Hauer, who was handpicked by Giuliani to head the OEM, testified before the 9/11 Commission that Giuliani was "unable to get the full story" at the firebombing and "heard about the huge street collapse" that followed the water-main break "on TV," adding: "That's what led the mayor to set up OEM." Hauer went through five interviews for the job, and the only time terrorism came up was when Giuliani briefly discussed the failed sarin-gas drill. He even met with Giuliani's wife, Donna Hanover; no one said a word about the 1993 bombing. Hauer's own memos at the time the OEM was launched in 1996 emphasize "the visibility of the mayor" during emergencies (rather than the police commissioner) as a major objective of the agency. The now- ballyhooed new office was, however, so underfunded from the start that Hauer could only hire staffers whose salaries would be paid for by other agencies like the NYPD.
With that kind of history, it's hardly surprising that the OEM was anything but "invaluable" on 9/11. Sam Caspersen, one of the principal authors of the 9/11 Commission's chapter on the city's response, says that "nothing was happening at OEM" during the 102 minutes of the attack that had any direct impact on the city's "rescue/evacuation operation." A commission staff statement found that, even prior to the evacuation of the OEM command center at 7 World Trade an hour after the first plane hit, the agency "did not play an integral role" in the response. Despite Giuliani's claim today that he and the OEM were "constantly planning for different kinds" of attacks, none of the OEM exercises replicated the 1993 bombing. No drill occurred at the World Trade Center, and none involved the response to a high-rise fire anywhere. In fact, the OEM had no high-rise plan—its emergency-management trainers weren't even assigned to prepare for the one attack that had already occurred, and the one most likely to recur. Kevin Culley, a Fire Department captain who worked as a field responder at OEM, said the agency had "plans for minor emergencies," but he couldn't recall "anybody anticipating another attack like the '93 bombing."
Instead of being the best-prepared city, New York's lack of unified command, as well as the breakdown of communications between the police and fire departments, fell far short of the efforts at the Pentagon that day, as later established by the 9/11 Commission and NIST reports. When the 280,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters recently released a powerful video assailing Giuliani for sticking firefighters with the same radios that "we knew didn't work" in the 1993 attack, the presidential campaign attacked the union. "This is an organization that supported John Kerry for president in 2004," Giuliani aide Tony Carbonetti said. "So it's no shock that they're out there going after a credible Republican." While the IAFF did endorse Kerry, the Uniformed Firefighters of Greater New York, whose president starred in the video, endorsed Bush. Its former president, Tom Von Essen—currently a member of Giuliani Partners—was the fire commissioner on 9/11 precisely because the union had played such a pivotal role in initially electing Giuliani.
The IAFF video reports that 121 firefighters in the north tower didn't get out because they didn't hear evacuation orders, rejecting Giuliani's claim before the 9/11 Commission that the firefighters heard the orders and heroically decided to "stand their ground" and rescue civilians. Having abandoned that 2004 contention, the Giuliani campaign is now trying to blame the deadly communications lapse on the repeaters, which were installed to boost radio signals in the towers. But
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