FROM THE SEPTEMBER PRINT ISSUE: THE REAL RUDY. Rudy Giuliani became "America's Mayor" five years ago today with a show of strong leadership while New York was attacked. But the credibility regarding terrorism and security that Giuliani garnered for himself that day doesn't stand up to scrutiny. In this piece from the September print issue of the Prospect (adapted from the upcoming book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11), Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins lay out an eight-year history of error and negligence on the mayor's part that has never gotten the attention it deserves.
Likewise, after Giuliani was sworn in on January 2, 1994, he did not discuss the terrorist threat the city faced with other key officials. As U.S. attorney, Giuliani had hired and befriended the men who had prosecuted the city�s important antiterrorism cases, from Gil Childers, who convicted most of the 1993 bombers, to Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman�s prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, to Ramzi Yousef �s prosecutor Dietrich Snell, to the embassy bombing trial attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, to the chief of the counterterrorism unit David Kelley. Yet as mayor in the new age of terror, Giuliani never sought a briefing that might have allowed him to benefit from their unique understanding of the jihadist underworld.
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who ran Giuliani�s former Southern District office throughout his mayoralty, says neither she nor any of the trial assistants were ever asked to brief Giuliani or his staff. In the summer of 1994, she invited Giuliani to address the whole office. He sat at his old desk and gabbed before delivering a speech and taking questions.
�I don�t recall the subject of terrorism coming up,� White said. Her chief assistant, Matt Fishbein, remembered that a dozen members of White�s and Giuliani�s top staff talked for a while before the speech, and no one mentioned the bombing or terrorism...
�We didn�t have any substantial discussions about terrorism until after 9-11,� White said. She was also sure that no one from her terrorism unit was ever asked by the police or City Hall to �sit down and focus� on what it knew. White assumed that all Giuliani wanted was periodic intelligence about specific threats or events, not a broader terrorist picture, and she believed he got that from the FBI. �He could have picked up the phone� if he needed a fuller context said Fishbein. Counterterrorism chief David Kelley said his highest-level interaction was with a deputy police chief, and that he relied on the detectives in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which he oversaw, as the �conduit available to city government.�
He acknowledged that the city never increased the number of Task Force detectives before 9-11. He didn�t know �how the information went up the ranks� and simply �assumed� Giuliani was briefed...
Command-and-control failings were not the only city response errors with possible catastrophic effect that day. There was also the destruction of the ballyhooed Emergency Operations Center (EOC) -- the infamous �bunker� -- which Giuliani had proudly positioned 23 flights up at 7 World Trade Center.
The 9-11 Commission�s senior counsel, John Farmer, cited a number of ways that an operating command center might have saved lives. If the center had been located elsewhere and thus able to remain operational that day, he says, �I really think it would have made a difference. Maybe the failure to communicate among the agencies doesn�t happen that day because that thing is functioning. That�s the point of it. I�ve never been convinced that they could have done that much better with civilians, but I think the number of responder deaths could have been greatly reduced.�
Examining the real-life costs of the lost command center is a decidedly personal assignment of blame, since the location of the center was unquestionably a decision made by the hands-on mayor. Even the Giuliani champions at Time called it �a mistake� to locate the command center at 7 WTC, part of a complex viewed long before 9-11 as one of the top terrorist targets in the world. Richard Sheirer, who became Giuliani�s emergency management director, ridiculed the choice before and after 9-11. At a top-level meeting of the Giuliani administration, Police Commissioner Howard Safir fought the mayor�s attempt to put the EOC there, branding the location �ground zero� years before 9-11 because of the 1993 attack.
Giuliani, however, overruled this advice. Rejecting an already secure, technologically advanced city facility across the Brooklyn Bridge, he insisted on a command center within walking distance of City Hall. With then OEM head Jerry Hauer unwilling to put a facility underground in the City Hall area because of flooding concerns, Giuliani wound up settling in 1997 on the only bunker ever built in the clouds, at the only site in the entire city that had been shaken to its foundation four years earlier by terrorists who had vowed to return.
It was at once the dumbest decision he ever made, and the one that made him a legend. If the center had been elsewhere, all the dramatic visuals that turned Giuliani into a nomad warrior would instead have been tense but tame footage from its barren press conference room, where reporters had been corralled prior to 9-11 for snowstorms and the Millennium celebration. The closest any cameras would�ve gotten to Giuliani-in-action would have been shots of him with 100 officials, working over monitors, maps, mikes, and phones.
Read the whole thing here.
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