Unofficial transcript of Laurie Van Auken’s statement at the July 22nd Congressional Briefing:
The 9/11 Commission Report One Year Later: A Citizens’ Response – Did They Get It Right?
Laurie Van Auken:
name is Laurie Van Auken, I am speaking today on behalf of 9/11 widows
Monica Gabriel, and Mindy Kleinberg who are with me here today.
the morning of September 11th, my husband Kenneth was killed while in
his office on the 105th floor of the North Tower at the World Trade
We extend our sincere thanks to you Rep. McKinney, as
well as to all of those who are responsible for setting up this
hearing, and giving us this opportunity today.
On the morning of September 11th I received the following message from my husband Kenneth:
(audio from answering machine message)
love you, I’m in the World Trade Center, and the building was hit by
something. I… I don’t know if I’m gonna get out, but I love you very
much. I… I hope I’ll see you later, bye.”
From his words,
I knew that Ken survived the impact of the plane, so I tried to call
him back, but there was no answer. I fell to my knees in a panic, still
clutching the telephone. A moment later, when the phone rang, it
startled me completely, I prayed that it was Ken, but it was my mother,
she told me to turn the television on. I told her about Ken’s message.
I told her that I couldn’t reach him. I told her that I was very
I watched the TV in utter horror as black smoke
billowed out from the building through a gaping hole the size of an
airplane. I knew that Kenny was in that building. I watched as the
people ran from the World Trade Center, hoping for a glimpse of my
Then the second tower was hit.
As I continued to
watch, the breaking news, they showed the President sitting in an
elementary school classroom. Juxtaposed with the footage of the black
smoke coming from the World Trade Center, along with people jumping to
their deaths from the burning buildings. I screamed at the television,
“Get up President Bush! Get up and do something!” but he remained
seated in a classroom of small children.
I watched as Andrew
Card whispered something to the President, and yet, still my President
remained seated in a room of small children, when our country was so
obviously under a terrorist attack.
In between panic and
hysteria, in between hoping that my husband would get out of the World
Trade Center alive, and wondering how I would ever break this news to
my children, I also wondered why the Secret Service was letting the
President stay in the classroom full of children. Why didn’t they whisk
him away? It seemed as if every target in America was being attacked,
so wasn’t the President, the leader of the free world in danger of
being fatally attacked as well? Weren’t the children who were in the
classroom with the President in danger too?
After two days and
hundreds of phone calls to New York City hospitals and to the Red Cross
receiving no guidance, and absolutely no answers, my husband’s
employer, Howard Lutnik, the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, recounted on a
news program that no one who was in the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald at
the time of the attacks had survived. That meant that Ken was gone. My
looming and painful question as to whether or not my husband had
survived was now answered.
We now knew that the time for hoping
was over. Our lives were forever changed. My children would never again
see their father, and I was now a widow. The grieving was just
beginning. With what felt like a gaping hole in my heart, with two
traumatized teens to now raise alone, I wondered if I would ever feel
like eating, or breathing again. For me, one horribly sad question had
been answered, but many more questions would soon follow.
questions began to gnaw at me slowly at first; I wondered how on earth
almost 2 hours could have passed with 4 domestic commercial airplanes
flying around the skies of America without a response from our military.
began to google search and read whatever articles and timelines I could
get my hands on. Once I began my research into 9/11 I found it hard to
leave the computer. Because I was unable to sleep, and because I needed
desperately to reconstruct and understand the events of 9/11, it began
to appear to those close to me that I was shackled to the computer. And
I have to admit, in a manner of speaking, I was.
connected with a few other widows, it was not long before we were all
researching the events, while we waited for an official inquiry into
the attacks to be initiated.
Then the news came: Only intelligence agency failures would be examined.
could that be? Our husbands were killed at their desks when commercial
airplanes flew into their office buildings. They had no means of
escaping, and had practically no chance of evacuating on 9/11. The
buildings that were supposedly so magnificently designed, collapsed, in
minutes. Why would the investigation of our loved ones murders be
limited to only intelligence agencies? What about airline security?
High-rise building security, and border security?
the FAA? The Port Authority? The Secret Service and NORAD, all of whom
were partly to blame for the failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks to
occur. Didn’t those areas and entities need to be investigated too?
but undeterred, we realized that it was necessary to take a thorough
and independent look at what had gone wrong on 9/11. Our children were
going to have to grow up in this changed world, and we needed to make
sure that this would never happen again.
We knew that with the
3,000 deaths on 9/11 there remained thousands of questions that needed
to be answered, so, we fought for the creation of the 9/11 Commission.
And with all of America by our side, we finally won that battle.
Commission was passed into law in the autumn of 2002, and by January,
2003 the Commission finally sat down to commence its very important
The 9/11 Commission’s report is one year old today. This
report was supposed to provide the definitive account of what had
transpired on September eleven, 2001. We hoped that our thousands of
unanswered questions would be addressed and answered. Yet incredibly we
have found that the Commission’s definitive final report has actually
yielded more questions than answers.
Moreover, there are still
so many areas that remain unexplained, or are only vaguely touched upon
by the 9/11 Commission, so much so that it was quite difficult for me
to decide where I should start my testimony to you today.
1. The Timeline of 9/11 – The Story of Seismic Information.
will begin with what I had first hoped for from the Commission, I
believed that we needed the official and definitive timeline for 9/11.
One of my questions had to do with the time that Flight 93 officially
crashed. The Commission report says United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania
at 10:03:11am, and adds that the precise crash time has been the
subject of dispute. In footnote 168 of Chapter One it says, “We also
reviewed a report regarding seismic observations on September 11th
2001, whose authors concluded impact time of United 93 was 10:06:05.”
data reflects the time that the earth shook in response to the crash.
Atomic clocks are used to record this data. I personally spoke with the
men whose names appear on the seismic data report from 9/11. They
received calls from the 9/11 Commission too. I asked the seismologists,
“Unless data existed that showed the earth also shook at 10:03am, how
could the Commission have fixed the time of Flight 93’s crash at 10:03?”
They couldn’t give me an answer.
apparently could the commissioners in their final report. The crash of
Flight 93 is one of the major events of 9/11. If we couldn’t figure out
what time that crash occurred, how could ever understand the real
complexities of the day? Perhaps most alarmingly, what does this say
about the quality of the rest of the report if the Commission could not
accurately isolate this easily defined piece of information?
2. Warnings – The Story of Ignored Warnings by Individuals.
1:47pm on September 11, 2001, while aboard Air Force One, Ari Fleischer
was asked the following question by a press briefing pool, “Had there
been any warnings that the President knew of?” Mr. Fleischer answered
simply, “No warnings.”
From my simple
research using google, on my home computer, I learned that there were
plenty of warnings. For example newspapers in England, France, Germany
and Russia reported that there were indeed many warnings delivered to
the Bush administration throughout the spring and summer of 2001.
intelligence warned both American and Israeli agencies that terrorists
might be planning to hijack commercial aircraft, to use them as weapons
and to attack important American targets.
During the G8 Summit
in Genoa, Italy during the month of July, 2001, Egypt warned of a plot
to use airplanes to attack President Bush while he was there for the
Summit. As an aside, this warning was taken so seriously that
anti-aircraft missiles were deployed near the Columbus Airport in Italy.
ABC News reported Bush administration officials acknowledged that US
intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the
September 11th attacks, that bin Laden’s terrorist network might try to
hijack American planes.
Likewise, Newsweek reported that as many
as 10 to 12 warnings were issued and more than 2 of the warnings
specifically mention the possibilities of hijackings. Similarly, George
Tenet was issuing many warnings that bin Laden was the most immediate
threat to Americans.
Indeed, the Al Qaeda warnings were dire
enough in May of 2001 to motivate President Bush to appoint Vice
President Cheney to head a Task Force to combat terrorist attacks on
the United States. As reported by the Washington Post, President Bush
said that Vice President Cheney would direct a government-wide review
on managing the consequences of a domestic terrorist attack. And Vice
President Cheney was quoted as saying, I will periodically chair a
meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts.
But according to the Washington Post, neither Cheney’s review, nor Bush’s took place.
9/11 Report chose not to address any of the afore-mentioned warnings.
And thus in my opinion did not answer the most important question,
which was, “With all of these warnings, why were we still so
3. Dots Not Connected – The Story of David Frasca.
would seem that the Radical Fundamentalist Unit, the RFU, at FBI
headquarters was in receipt of various pieces of information that if
put together, should have allowed them to see that a threatening
pattern involving persons of interest was emerging during the summer of
For example, the RFU was in receipt of the Phoenix Memo,
the FBI memo that suggested there was a pattern of suspicious activity
involving large numbers of Arab men taking flying lessons in American
flight schools, and the FBI’s file on Zacarias Moussaoui, an Arab man
who was enrolled in an American flight school, and fit the profile of a
While the 9/11 Commission goes into much detail about
the facts surrounding the Phoenix Memo, and the case of Zacarias
Moussaoui, they do not mention perhaps the most damning of all facts
involving both issues, namely, that it was only two individuals at the
RFU who received the Phoenix Memo and the Moussaoui information within
weeks of each other. They subsequently and detrimentally blocked not
only the dissemination of this information within the community, but
also stymied further requested avenues of investigation within the
community, of such vital pieces of information.
Commission summarily blames the failure to connect the two dots of the
Phoenix Memo and Zacarias Moussaoui’s file on the FBI’s institutional
misunderstanding of the Reno wall, and the agency’s inherent inability
to share information across and throughout its ranks.
missing from this analysis and rather facile conclusion was that it was
two individuals, who worked together, and not a ‘misunderstanding of
the Reno wall’, that is to blame for the failure of the FBI to receive
a FISA warrant in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. It is likewise those
same individuals who are responsible for the Phoenix Memo being
downplayed and all but ignored.
FBI supervisor David Frasca and
his underling, Michael Maltbie failed to permit FBI agents to request a
FISA warrant for Moussaoui but also altered the agent’s initial request
for it. Specifically, on August 28th, 2001, Maltbie edited the
Minnesota FBI’s request for a FISA warrant to search Zacarias
Moussaoui’s possessions. The Minnesota FBI’s field office wanted to
prove that Moussaoui was connected to Al Qaeda through a rebel group in
Chechnya. But the RFU agent Maltbie removed the information connecting
the Chechen rebels to Al Qaeda.
Subsequently, the FBI General
Counsel who received the edited request, scrubbed clean of any
international terrorist ties, decided that there wasn’t enough of a
connection between Moussaoui and Al Qaeda to allow for an application
for a search warrant through FISA.
Thus, a FISA warrant was never even applied for.
in a report released June 9th, 2005, the FBI’s Inspector General’s
office, far from downplaying this exchange cited a top FBI lawyer’s
statement that, “He had never seen a supervisory Special Agent in
headquarters so adamant that a FISA warrant could not be obtained, and
at the same time a field office so adamant that it could.”
report also noted that the Minneapolis field office sought an expedited
FISA, which, it explained, normally involved reports of suspected
imminent attack, or other imminent danger.
To reiterate, the
first memo the supervisor of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit, David
Frasco received, warned that Osama bin Laden was probably coordinating
efforts to send men for flight training, (the Phoenix Memo), and only a
few weeks later, Frasco received a file on a suspicious individual,
Moussaoui, actually training at a flight school.
In essence, the
Moussaoui case was actual confirmation of the Phoenix Memo’s
prediction. And it was these same men, Frasca and Maltbie, who not only
thrwarted the efforts of FBI agents to get a FISA warrant to search
Moussaoui’s belongings, including his laptop, that had information
leading to other 9/11 hijackers, but it was also Frasca and Maltbie who
tampered with the papers requesting a FISA warrant.
laptop was finally searched after the 9/11 attacks. German telephone
numbers were found, as was the name, Ahad Sabet. The numbers led the
FBI to determine that the name Ahad Sabet was an alias for Ramzi bin
Al-Shibh, former room-mate of Mohammed Atta, pilot of AmericanAirlines
Flight 11, which crashed into Tower One, my husband’s building, on 9/11.
also discovered that Ramzi bin Al-Shibh had wired money to Moussaoui in
the summer of 2001. In addition they found a document connecting
Moussaoui with the Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, a connection that could have
led them to 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.
were two of the hijackers said to have crashed Flight 77 into the
Pentagon. Both Almihdhar and Alhazmi lived in San Diego, California,
had their names blatantly published in the San Diego phone book, and,
had contact with individuals under FBI investigation.
time of Moussauoui’s arrest, one FBI agent commented in his case notes
quite prophetically, that Moussauoui seemed like a man who is capable
of flying airplanes into the World Trade Center. Sadly, the FBI agents
were trying their best to follow these leads but for some unknown
reason, FBI headquarters thwarted their own agents instead of thwarting
While several entries refer to Moussauoui in the
Commission’s Final Report, the Commission fails to discuss the
Moussauoui case in a comprehensive manner.
For example, how
could the Commission fail to mention that is was these two men, David
Frasca and Michael Maltbie, at the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit,
who received the Phoenix Memo and then thwarted attempts to acquire a
FISA warrant for Moussauoui’s computer?
How could the Commission
remain silent on this matter when these men, Frasca and Maltbie, have
since been promoted within the FBI?
Why didn’t the Commission apply the axiom that, ‘an agency is only as good as the people who work for it’?
To quote Senator Shelby, they continue to reward bad behavior, and the results speak for themselves.
leaving this highly relevant fact unaddressed, the Commission lays bare
that it’s conclusion about the need for intelligence community reforms
is half-baked at best, and hollow at worst.
4. The Hamburg Cell – The Story of Marwan and the Phone Number.
David Frasca and Michael Maltbie not altered the FISA application it is
likely that the FBI would have discovered the members of the notorious
The Hamburg Al Qaeda cell was central to the
9/11 plot. Members of this cell included lead hijacker Mohammed Atta,
who is said to have piloted Flight 11, 9/11 hijacker, Ziad Jarrah, 9/11
hijacker Marwan Al-Shehi who was said to have piloted Flight 175 and
Ramzi bin Al-Shibh who wired money to the hijackers.
proof of the significance of the Hamburg cell can be found in the fact
that in March, 1999, Marwan Al-Shehi had already caught the attention
of German intelligence officials who were monitoring the telephone of
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, an Islamic extremist in Hamburg, who was
closely linked to important Al Qaeda plotters who ultimately
masterminded 9/11 attacks.
The German intelligence officials
gave the Central Intelligence Agency the first name of Marwan, and his
telephone number, in the United Arab Emirates, and asked the CIA to
track him. Nevertheless, according to the official record, CIA did
nothing with this information.
Close surveillance of Marwan
Al-Shehi in 1999 would have revealed his early connections to Flight 11
hijacker Mohammed Atta, who was Mr. Al-Shehi’s roommate at the time.
Both men has also attended the wedding of a fellow Muslim at a radical
mosque in Hamburg in October, 1999. An event considered to be
significant for the September 11th hijacking teams because it occurred
at a time when the 9/11 plot was taking shape.
Yet the requested
surveillance on Marwan never happened. It would seem that the director
of the CIA at the time, George Tenet did not feel that they had enough
information to be able to track down this terrorist. He has stated,
“The Germans gave us a name, Marwan, that’s it, and a phone number.”
The director of Central Intelligence replied, adding, “They didn’t give us a first and last name until after 9/11.”
seems unbelievable that with a first name and a phone number the CIA
would not have even attempted to follow up on this lead. As columnist
Maureen Dowd wrote, “For crying out loud, as one guy I know put it,
I’ve tracked down women across the country with a lot less information
Although Philip Zelikow the 9/11 Commission Staff
Director as quoted as having said, the Hamburg cell is very important
to the investigation of the September 11th attacks and intelligence on
Mr. Al-Shehi is an issue that’s obviously of importance to us and we’re
investigating it, on February 24th, 2004 when we asked whether American
intelligence officials gave sufficient attention to the information
about Mr. Al-Shehi, Mr. Zelikow continued to say, we haven’t reached
5 months later when the Commission released its
final report, no further conclusion or explanation for the CIA’s
failure to follow the German lead was noted. Why did the Commission
ignore this important piece of information, and the CIA’s failure to
act on it?
5. Watchlisting Issues – A Story of Surveillance.
area that was addressed more thoroughly in the 9/11 Commission’s Final
Report was the matter of Pentagon Flight 77 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar
and Nawaf Alhazmi. However, because much of the information on these
two important characters was found in the minute text of the Commission
report’s footnotes, learning the details requires a magnifying glass.
Commission failed to explain how and why the CIA dropped the ball with
information it acquired about the January, 2000, ‘Terrorist Summit’ in
Malaysia. It has been reported that the 9/11 attacks and the USS Cole
bombing were planned at this meeting.
In attendance were key
Cole bomber Khallad bin Attash and two of the would-be 9/11 hijackers,
Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. Although the CIA identified the men
as suspected extremists via their participation in the meeting with the
identified Cole bombing suspect, the CIA inexplicably failed to request
that the two men be placed on the government’s watch list until late
By that time, Almihdhar and Alhazmi were already
in the United States. And even though the men were living in San Diego
listed by their correct names in the local phone book, and their
landlord was an FBI informant, the Bureau stated that it did not learn
of their whereabouts until after 9/11. From the footnotes of the 9/11
Commission report, we learn that the CIA intentionally kept the FBI out
of the loop with regard to these two hijackers who were living in this
country. Had someone in the CIA made the decision to not inform the FBI
about these two 9/11 hijackers? And, if so, why did the 9/11 Commission
bury it in a footnote, and not address why such action was taken?
purposeful withholding of vital information by one intelligence agency
from another intelligence agency is a type of failure that cannot be
corrected or masked through simple re-organizational reforms of the
intelligence community. Even a plain reading of the footnote detailing
the CIA’s dubious behavior raises serious questions that beg to be
In July, 2005, in response to the 9/11 Public
Discourse Hearing on Intelligence Agencies, we wrote a press release
that included the following information with regard to Chapter 6,
called ‘From Threat to Threat’.
Footnote #44 details an instance
where a CIA desk officer intentionally withheld vital information from
the FBI about two of the 9/11 hijackers who were inside the United
States. This footnote further states that the CIA desk officer covered
up the decision to withhold said vital information from the FBI.
Finally, footnote #44 states that the CIA desk officer could not recall
who told her to carry out such acts.
While several notable
instances of this sort of intentional withholding of vital information
from and among intelligence agencies are found throughout the 9/11
Commission’s Final Report, we called special attention to four
additional examples in our press release.
We did so with the
hope that the 9/11 commissioners would now explain why the truth has
not been revealed to the American public about one of our intelligence
agencies ongoing surveillance of the 9/11 hijackers while they were
living inside the United States in the 18 months leading up to the 9/11
attacks. The leads to Almihdhar and Alhazmi in San Diego were key, but
perhaps even more relevant was the earlier gleaned information about
Marwan Al-Shehi, because that information would have immediately
unearthed the existence of the Hamburg cell, the epicenter from which
the 9/11 plot was prepared.
According to testimony given in
Germany after the 9/11 attacks, Al-Shehi was one of only four members
of the Hamburg cell who knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. Marwan
Al-Shehi and Mohammed Atta traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to train at
an Al Qaeda training camp with several other September 11th plotters,
and after returning to Germany Al-Shehi made an ominous reference
regarding the World Trade Center to a Hamburg librarian, saying ‘there
will be thousands of dead, you will all think of me’, German
Soon afterwards Atta, Al-Shehi and another
plotter, Ziad Jarrah began emailing several dozen American flight
schools from Germany to enquire about enrollment. They arrived in the
United States later in 2000 to begin flight training.
Final Report the Commission continues to perpetuate the myth that the
CIA’s failure to communicate with the FBI was some sort of
institutional failure, and thus readily fixable by intelligence
That notion is extremely harmful to our nation.
Why didn’t the Commission address the intentional lack of communication between the CIA and the FBI?
6. Planes as Missiles – The Story of the PDB.
spite of many explicit warnings National Security Advisor Condoleeza
Rice claimed that the administration was never warned of an attack
before 9/11. She went on national TV and stated, ‘I don’t think anybody
could have predicted that they would try to use a hijacked airplane as
However as previously recounted there were many
warnings that terrorists might use planes as missiles. How could the
National Security Advisor to the President of the United States not
have been aware of this possibility?
Further, why, if this was
indeed a breakdown of communication within the Executive Branch of our
government wasn’t that addressed by the Commission? If the vital flow
of information from the agencies to the National Security Advisor was
somehow hampered wouldn’t we need to understand how and why this was in
order to make sure that the proper channels of information from and to
the Executive Branch were operational in the future?
Condoleeza Rice seems to have failed in her capacity as National
Security Advisor to inform President Bush of such warnings, there were
many others within the President’s cadre of advisors who also could
have advised him of the same information. Yet, on 5/17/02 President
Bush also seemed to have no idea about the threat saying ‘had I known
that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful
morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the
And to our further dismay when Condoleeza
testified before the Commission in April of 2004, we learned that on
August 6th, 2001, the President had been briefed by the CIA about just
such a possibility. Although Miss Rice argued during her testimony that
the Presidential Daily Brief of August 6th, 2001, was ‘historical in
nature’ and didn’t warn of a domestic threat, the title of the PDB was,
‘Bin Laden Determined To Strike In the United States’.
title alone reveals that the document did indeed refer to a domestic
threat, and was in fact, not a historical recap. At one point, to
clarify and dispel the purely historical argument, I color-coded the
PDB so that everyone could see exactly what parts of the PDB said that
the threat was both domestic and current. I have done the same for this
The orange is the domestic threat, and where it’s highlighted in yellow, it’s in the present tense. It’s current, on both pages.
example of the current and domestic threat in the text of the August 6,
2001, PDB is the statement, ‘Nevertheless, FBI information since that
time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country
consistent with preparation for hijackings or other types of attacks,
including recent surveillance of Federal buildings in New York.’
Why did the 9/11 Commission fail to call Miss Rice to account for her deliberately misleading public statements?
Why wouldn’t the Commission address the discrepancies between the sworn testimony and uncovered facts?
Not holding witnesses accountable for the veracity of their sworn testimony undermines the process.
7. Patterns of Hijacking – The Story of 52 Warnings.
also hoped that the 9/11 Commission would explain the ‘patterns of
hijacking’ language found in the PDB. Where did this information come
from? Perhaps it originated with the FAA. The explanation was not found
in the Final Report released on July 22nd, 2004. Months later when the
2nd monograph was finally made public that the Commission had produced,
we learn that there had been actually 52 warnings issued by the FAA
during the 6 months preceding 9/11.
So when on September 11th,
2001, Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary said there were no
warnings, what could he have possibly meant? And what exactly did our
government do with the 52 warnings it received during the summer of
2001? If nothing was done regarding said warnings, why was that? And
whose job was it to make sure that appropriate defensive action was
At the very least directives could have been issued to
airport screeners to be on the lookout for certain types of suspicious
On February 11th, 2005, in response to the
Commission’s release of its FAA monograph, we sent out another press
release. We stated, ‘Notably missing from this monograph is any
information pertaining to NORAD’s failure to scramble jets in a timely
manner, which leads us to wonder what else is being withheld from the
We went on to state, ‘Of the 105 warnings issued, 52
warnings regarding Al Qaeda were given to the FAA by the intelligence
community in a 6 month period from April, 2001, to September, 2001.
According to the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report there were 8
information circulars put out by the FAA between July 2nd and September
10th, 2001. 5 of these information circulars targeted overseas threats,
while the remaining 3 targeted domestic threats.’
we stated, ‘The 52 threats regarding Al Qaeda were not received by the
FAA in a vacuum. From March, 2001 to September, 2001 according the
Joint Inquiry of Congress our intelligence community received at least
41 specific threats of a possible domestic attack by Al Qaeda.’
the FAA was also made aware of the August 15th 2001 arrest of Zacarias
Moussaoui, and finally, the FAA attended a high-level meeting on July
5th 2001, where the domestic threat posed by Al Qaeda was discussed by
all relevant intelligence agencies.
The FAA monograph reveals
that in the spring of 2001, the FAA had already determined that if the
intent of the hijacker was not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but
to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking
would probably be preferable. It would seem that in the summer of 2001
there were indeed enough warnings and concerns that all agencies should
have been put on alert. Action should have, and could have been taken.
the 9/11 Commission never once reflected upon whose job it was to
coordinate all those pieces of evidence. They also left unaddressed the
fact that with all this information floating throughout the agencies in
the summer of 2001, why didn’t our National Security Council convene to
discuss the very pertinent, very relevant issue of terrorism until
September 4th, 2001, a mere 7 days before 9/11?
8. Accountability – The Story of the Lack Thereof.
date, no one has ever been held accountable for 9/11. Government
officials who failed in their jobs were promoted, and given medals.
Terrorists have yet to be indicted or successfully prosecuted even the
so-called ‘masterminds’ Ramzi bin Al-Shibh and Khalid Sheik Mohammed
have yet to be prosecuted. And Osama bin Laden is still on the loose,
When we learned that German prosecutor Dr.
Krauss was scheduled to testify before the 9/11 Commission in June of
2004, I wrote the following email and sent it off to the commissioners;
am especially interested in learning what the German prosecutor Dr.
Krauss thought about the US government not turning over people such as
Ramzi bin Al-Shibh, or transcripts of his interrogation, who is
reportedly in US custody at a secure location. This lack of cooperation
by the US Government made it impossible for the German courts to
successfully prosecute Mr. Mzoudi, who was put on trial in Germany for
crimes related to 9/11.”
Dr. Krauss never did testify before the
Commission. Our questions for him regarding the lack of cooperation
between the US government and the German government which led to the
release of the suspected terrorists Mzoudi and Motassadeq also remain
The Commission’s report only tells us that Mzoudi
and Motassadeq witnessed the execution of Mohammed Atta’s will. If
these two men were truly involved in the 9/11 plot, why didn’t the US
Government turn over all of the evidence in their possession in order
to convict these two men?
Why would our government refuse to cooperate with the German government in order to help incarcerate such known terrorists?
Why did the 9/11 Commission report fail to address this in a substantive manner?
And, more pointedly, how will we ever win the ‘War on Terror’ without prosecuting and holding terrorists accountable?
9. Air Defense – The Story of NORAD’s Belated Response.
other defense capacities on the morning of 9/11 the Commission’s report
discusses the actions of the FAA, NORAD and MEADS. In particular I make
reference to footnote #116 on page 458 which says that on 9/11 NORAD
was scheduled to conduct a military exercise, Vigilant Guardian which
postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.
investigated whether military preparations for the large scale exercise
compromised the military’s response to the real-world terrorist attack
on 9/11. Accordingly the newly sworn in Joint Chiefs of Staff General
Eberhart said that it took the military about 30 seconds to make the
adjustment to the real-world situation.
But the following
words which show there was confusion have troubled me since my research
began. This comes from the Commission report, from the day of 9/11
MEADS: Is this real-world or exercise?
FAA: No, this not an exercise. Not a test.
page 20, we note more confusion. MEADS did not know where to send the
alert fighter aircraft and the officer directing the fighters pressed
for more information:
“I Don’t know where I’m scrambling these guys to, I need a direction, a destination.”
on page 26, NORAD heard nothing about the search for American 77,
instead the MEADS air defenders heard renewed reports about a plane
that no longer existed, American 11.
At 9:21 MEADS received a report from the FAA:
FAA Military Boston Center: I just heard a report that American 11 is still in the air and on its way heading toward Washington.
MEADS: Ok. American 11 is still in the air?
MEADS: On its way toward Washington?
FAA: That was another- there was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That’s the latest report we have.
FAA: I’m gonna try to confirm an ID for you but I would assume he’s somewhere over uh, New Jersey or somewhere further south.
MEADS: Ok. So American 11 isn’t the hijack at all, then?
FAA: No, he’s a hijack.
MEADS: American 11 is a hijack?
MEADS: And he’s heading into Washington?
FAA: Yes. This could be a third aircraft.
mention of a third aircraft was not a reference to American 77. As the
Commission report says, there was confusion at that moment in the FAA.
And General Eberhart’s claim that the military exercises somehow made
the military better prepared on 9/11 does not ring true.
it appears that the concurrent military exercises completely confused
everyone. Flight 11 was the flight that hit the first building at the
World Trade Center in New York City. Thus far we are still waiting for
the monograph on the failures of NORAD that the Commission said it
10. Toothless Investigation – The Story of Subpoena Power Not Used.
the Department of Defense and others were threatened with subpoenas for
not being forthcoming with information requested, we were of the
mindset that all known evidence pertaining to September 11th, should
have been subpoenaed by the Commission from the outset, with no
exceptions. Which, by the way, was the mandate of the 9/11 Commission.
stones should have remained unturned. And yet, this was not the case.
For example with regard to videos that recorded the Pentagon crash, we
knew of at least 3 versions of videos that record the crash of Flight
77. Yet only one version ever made its way into the public domain.
version had the date stamp of 9/12 instead of 9/11/01. The time stamp
is repeated on 2 of the 5 frames while the times on the other frames
were missing. We had read in National Geographic about the second video
that was recorded by cameras located at the Sheraton Hotel overlooking
the Pentagon. We also read about the 3rd video recording that showed
the crash from the nearby Nexcom Gas Station security camera.
asked the Commission, specifically Team 8, to subpoena for these
videos, and just before the Commission released its final report, we
met with some of them. They told us that they had not subpoenaed for
this evidence but had instead issued document requests which were never
This seeming lack of persistence on the part of the
Commission to collect all known evidence is worrisome. Again, if they
were unwilling to go after even easily obtainable evidence, what other
critical and more difficult pieces of the story were they missing?
was one to feel comfortable with their investigation, knowing that they
were not aggressively pursuing the most tangible of evidence or
Also missing from the Commission’s definitive
report was the testimony from national security whistleblowers who had
tried to testify before the Commission, but where either not asked to
testify or their testimony was only barely acknowledged, or worse yet,
completely omitted from the record.
This list includes:
Robert Wright, FBI Agent, whom the FBI refused to allow to testify, and the Commission did not subpoena him.
John M. Cole,
FBI Counterintelligence who had pertinent information with regard to
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the 9/11 attacks. He notified the 9/11
Commission during its tenure but never received a response back from
Coleen Rowley, FBI Division Council, the FBI
commission did not interview her and chose instead to rely on
transcripts from the Joint Senate House Intelligence Inquiry.
FBI Counterintelligence, in February, 2004 his name and contact
information were provided to the Commission as a key witness, but they
never called him to testify.
Mark Burtons, Senior Analyst
at NSA, he provided dozens of pages of information and testimony to the
9/11 Commission but was ignored, and was never invited to testify.
Language Specialist at the FBI, he was refused twice by the Commission
to testify but finally did testify however, his testimony was omitted
from the final report.
This list is in no way complete, rather,
it’s just a small sample of the legitimate witnesses or corroborators
of valuable 9/11 information that they tried to provide to the
Commission. But they were instead turned away.
Knowing full well
that the best source of how an agency really works would entail talking
to the people who actually work there, why is it that the Commission
refused these key witnesses an opportunity to tell what they knew?
How could the Commission be trusted to make the right decisions without obtaining all pertinent information?
Worse yet, what happens when the Commission actively and knowingly ignores that information?
One whistleblower that we made sure the Commission met with, was FBI Translator Sibel Edmonds. It was only when we walked her into the Commission’s offices that they agreed to hear what she had to say in a closed hearing.
the report was released, Sibel read it with great hope. Disappointed in
the Commission’s failure to address her very real concerns, she wrote,
in an open letter, “Unfortunately, I find your report seriously flawed
in its failure to address serious intelligence issues that I am aware
of, which have been confirmed, and which as a witness to the
Commission, I have made you aware of. Thus, I must assume that other
serious issues that I am not aware of were in the same manner omitted
from your report. These omissions cast doubt on the validity of your
report and therefore, on its conclusions and recommendations.”
thorough and definitive investigation by the Commission would have
addressed all of her concerns, and spoken to all of the whistleblowers.
It would have subpoenaed for the information it required and examined
the plethora of information that other citizens and groups responsible
And finally, without compromising our national
security, it would have reported all of its findings, with its
redactions blacked out and submitted to the American people. In
essence, the Commission could have produced a final product where the
resulting conclusions and recommendations could be trusted. Instead, at
the end of the day, what we got were some statements that truly
insulted the intelligence of the American people. Violated our loved
ones’ memories, and might end up hurting us, one day soon.
such statement is that 9/11 was a ‘failure of imagination’. A failure
of whose imagination? What exactly does that mean? When you have a CIA
director with his hair on fire, a system blinking red, 52 FAA warnings,
an August 6th, 2001, PDB entitled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in
the United States’, leads on several 9/11 hijackers including Alhazmi,
Almihdhar and Marwan Al-Shehi, warnings from many foreign governments,
a Phoenix memo warning of Islamic extremists taking flying lessons, the
arrest of would-be terrorist Zacarias Moussauoui, facts imparted to one
agent, Agent Frasca at the RFU at the FBI, 9/11 was truly a failure
But I would certainly not call it a failure of imagination.
again these warnings and threats were not received in a vacuum. Nor
were they so common an occurrence that they should have been ignored in
the wholesale and brazen manner in which they were.
To me it
seems rather clear that there were enough warnings making their way to
the appropriate people that meant that the proverbial dots should have
and could have been connected. And thus, in light of all the incoming
information in 2001, exactly whose failure was it to understand that
our new enemy was terrorism, exactly who failed us by not having the
agencies do anything in a defensive posture to protect Americans from
just this possibility?
Another outrageous statement made at
the time of the release of the 9/11 Final Report that got a fair amount
of media coverage was the one, “Everyone’s to blame, therefore, no
one’s to blame.”
The problem with that assumption is that it
creates a no-fault government. And a no-fault government does nothing
to ensure that things will be different, or better in the future. When
you hold people accountable, it serves as a deterrent for those who
would repeat those same behaviors in the future.
For the record,
I would like to see that assumption re-stated to read, “Everyone’s to
blame, therefore, everyone’s to blame.” In fact, the fact that there
has been no accountability for the failures that have led to the deaths
of almost 3,000 people is truly unconscionable, and irresponsible on
the part of all of our nation’s leaders.
So what do we do now?
The tools of democracy available to the citizens of America to address
these issues are incredibly limited. We asked for an independent
commission to investigate 9/11, because that was the only--- (audio
…We spent 14 months collecting information and lobbying
for the creation of the Commission. And another 20-plus months
monitoring the Commission’s work. Forwarding any and all research,
making sure to send along our questions for the witnesses who were
questioned, attending the hearings, making phone calls and lobbying for
the extensions of time and money sending thousands of emails, all in
the hope that in the end, Americans could feel confident that we had
indeed the definitive story of 9/11.
Sadly, as Americans, we have all been let down.
the morning of 9/11, I lost my husband and best friend of almost 16
years. My two children, Matt and Sarah lost their beloved father on
that terrible day. And from that horrible day of September 11th, 2001,
it has been made clear that not allowing for truth and justice to
prevail America may have forever lost her way.
For those who
might question the reasoning and importance for re-examining the
Commission’s report, the events that led up to, and the day of,
September 11th, one only has to recall the enormous ramifications that
the attacks of September 11th have had upon our country. Our leaders
have almost overnight reformed government agencies and instituted
innumerable laws in the interests of national security and our living
in a post 9/11 era. Some, like the controversial P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act,
were forced through Congress without the benefit of Congressional
debate to determine its necessity, and effectively find the balance
between national security and our civil liberties.
lethally, our foreign policy has shifted to one of pre-emption, and
thus we are at war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. With so many of our
good men and women serving in the armed forces have lost their lives or
come home forever maimed. It is important to look back because in order
for our leaders to make wise decisions about the changes we are
instituting, we must understand what it was exactly, that went wrong,
that allowed our nation to become so vulnerable to terrorism.
we should not feel it improper to re-examine the investigations and
decisions already made especially in light of the fact that right after
the 9/11 attacks, our leaders went full-speed ahead with so many
changes. Most without the benefit of much of the information that has
only recently been made available.
Again, with lives on both
sides of the equation, we cannot afford to be wrong, or caught
off-guard, either there, or here at home, like we were on the morning
Thus, only an honest re-evaluation of how the 9/11
attacks could have happened, will allow us to reverse the adverse
consequences and overreaching laws and the existing loopholes in our
security systems in order to allow us to be safer in the future.