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9-11 panel heads say Rudy got off easy

ADAM NICHOLS / NY Daily News | August 5 2006

The two chairmen of the 9/11 Commission say in a new book they were intimidated by angry New Yorkers from grilling Rudy Giuliani on the city's organizational failures and called it the "low point" of their probe.
Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton state in "Without Precedent" that they let the former mayor off the hook.

"It proved difficult, if not impossible, to raise hard questions about 9/11 in New York without it being perceived as criticism of the individual police and firefighters or ... Giuliani," they said.

"There were no questions posed to him about communication problems between police and firefighters in the towers, or why New York City had its emergency response command center in World Trade Center 7 after the complex had been the target of the 1993 terrorist attack," they wrote.

Giuliani's questioning is described as a low point of their probe, as panel members continually congratulated Giuliani on his handling of the devastation.

"We did not ask tough questions, nor did we get all of the information we needed to put on the public record. ... We did not question him in the same manner that we questioned other witnesses," said Kean, a Republican, and Hamilton, a Democrat.

Giuliani's office did not return calls for comment yesterday.

The commission did grill the city's former police, fire and emergency operations commissioners the day before Giuliani testified.

The questions focused on the inability of commanders to use radio to warn officers inside the twin towers to get out, and confusion between fire and police commanders.

Commission member John Lehman scolded them, saying the lack of command and control was "not worthy of the Boy Scouts."

The remark infuriated New Yorkers, and Giuliani began the day's hearing by telling the commission that blame should be directed only at the terrorists. The audience applauded. During the questioning of Giuliani someone shouted, "The mayor did a great job, so sit down and shut up!"

Any suggestion of failures, they said, was regarded as an "acknowledgment of culpability for people dying ... or as a threat to the phenomenal legacy that had emerged out of the ashes of the World Trade Center."

The 9/11 Commission was established by Congress in 2002 to look at government decisions that led to the attacks. Its report became a national best seller when it was released in 2004.


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