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Book Reasssesses Giuliani's Role on 9/11

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14776001/site/newsweek/ ‘Stark Contrasts’ Was Rudy Giuliani responsible for New York’s failures on 9/11? The author of a new
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2007

      ‘Stark Contrasts’
      Was Rudy Giuliani responsible for New York’s failures
      on 9/11? The author of a new book argues that it’s
      time for a more accurate assessment of his role before
      and after the attacks.

      Web Exclusive
      By Jennifer Barrett
      Updated: 8:12 a.m. MT Sept 11, 2006

      Sept. 11, 2006 - It’s hard to think of the September
      11 attacks without thinking of Rudy Giuliani. With his
      calm and confident demeanor, Giuliani provided a sense
      of comfort to Americans who were looking for
      leadership and reassurance in the hours and days after
      the destruction. Giuliani’s take-charge attitude
      helped to transform him from a local politician whose
      approval ratings rarely edged above 50 percent in the
      two years before 9/11 into a national hero
      affectionately known as “America’s Mayor.” Even five
      years later, polls show Giuliani, who is now running a
      consulting firm, is a leading contender among
      Republican voters for their party’s 2008 presidential

      But not everyone is touting the former mayor’s
      leadership credentials. In their new book, “Grand
      Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11,”
      (HarperCollins) investigative reporters Dan Collins
      and Wayne Barrett argue that—far from being a heroic
      soldier in the war on terror—Giuliani failed to take
      adequate precautions before the attacks and was
      directly responsible for many of the city’s failures
      to cope with the crisis. (Giuliani's office said the
      former mayor has not read the book and is not
      commenting on it.) NEWSWEEK’s Jennifer Barrett spoke
      with coauthor Wayne Barrett (no relation), a senior
      editor at the Village Voice and also author of the
      2000 book “Rudy! An Investigative Biography” (Basic
      Books) about Giuliani’s performance and presidential
      ambitions. Excerpts:

      NEWSWEEK: Do you think most Americans have an accurate
      perception of Rudy Giuliani?
      Wayne Barrett: After the 9/11 attacks, Giuliani said
      all the right things—he hit a chord with Americans
      when the president disappeared. [Giuliani] stood tall
      that day and empathized and said reassuring things.
      The powerful visual of him walking the canyons of
      9/11, covered in soot, will stick with everyone. The
      problem is that he did a lot of wrong things
      [too]—mostly prior to that day, some even on that day,
      and many after that day, as the respiratory cases
      related to 9/11 are showing. This book is a story of
      stark contrasts between this great capacity he showed
      that day to lead and the way in which those visuals
      have insinuated him into the American mind and his
      paltry performance preparing the city for a terrorist
      attack even though the city had been attacked [in the
      1993 World Trade Center bombing] just months before he
      took office in 1994.

      Giuliani managed to convert that persona we all saw on
      9/11 and appreciate [it] into a marketing device and
      turn himself into a legend as someone who understood
      the threat and really prepared the city. But, as our
      book shows, he seemed to have had no appreciation of
      the terror threat prior to 9/11. In fact, he took many
      steps backward in preparing the city.

      In what ways?
      The dumbest decision he made was to put the [city’s
      emergency] command center in the World Trade Center
      even though his principal security advisers urged him
      to put it elsewhere. His own emergency-management
      director, Jerry Hauer, wanted it to go where [current
      New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg has now put it:
      in Brooklyn ... If he had, he could have managed the
      crisis much more capably ...

      Also there was his decision not to support Jerry Hauer
      when he tried to do what he was mandated to do—to
      create matrixes of which agencies were in charge of
      which responsibilities and develop protocols for
      anticipated incidents. The police department resisted
      every single protocol that Jerry suggested. [The
      police commissioner] refused to sign off on them, and
      Giuliani didn’t make him. So there were no interagency
      protocols [on 9/11] for terror attacks or for a
      high-rise fire.

      There’s also a whole chapter about radios. It took
      until March of 2001 for the fire department to come up
      with new radios. And the radios failed in the first
      week and had to be withdrawn. But they could have been
      reconfigured to an analog mode, which would have made
      them [operable]. The company was willing to
      reconfigure them, but the lame-duck administration
      walked away from them instead and left the fire
      department with the same radios that had failed in
      1993. In fact, there were memos we found all the way
      back to 1990 that said the radios would cost
      firefighters’ lives. And yet they were still carrying
      those radios 11 years later. That is inexcusable
      policy. Also, they were not interoperable, so the fire
      department couldn’t communicate with the police
      department [preventing commanders from warning
      firefighters inside the towers of the impending
      collapse on 9/11].

      Giuliani took office in January 1994, not long after
      the [first] World Trade Center bombing. Wasn’t there
      pressure on him to prevent another attack?
      Everyone agrees that the question of terrorism never
      came up in selection of a police commissioner, which
      began not long after the attack. A water main broke in
      the first month of [Giuliani’s] administration, and he
      was more concerned with how the city responded to
      that. That’s when he began to form the Office of
      Emergency Management—because he found out about the
      water main break on TV and he wanted to be notified
      about these things right away ... He wanted to
      position himself as a man to fix those sorts of
      problems. He was more concerned about how to handle
      water-main breaks than terror attacks.

      Is the city better prepared today?
      Sure. There’s no question that the fire department’s
      radio communication is substantially better. Also,
      there are enormous ways the police department has
      changed now. Maybe now they are preventing terror
      attacks ... There were 16 or 17 detectives assigned to
      [the FBI's] Joint Terrorism Task Force when Giuliani
      took office, and when he left office in 2001 there
      were still 16 or 17 officers assigned. [Police
      Commissioner] Ray Kelly has increased that five- or
      sixfold, and he’s increased the amount of personnel
      assigned to terrorism to over 1,000. Clearly, he has
      prepared the police as far as having an understanding
      of the terror threat. And there are command and
      control protocols now ... In many ways, we are much
      better off. Though we are still glaringly deficient in
      some areas.

      No one has done anything about those who are above a
      fire line in a high-rise building. That’s a failing of
      the Bloomberg administration—and was in the Giuliani
      administration—and a failing of our own government.
      Los Angeles requires helicopter pads on every
      skyscraper [for rescues]. But that’s the only city I
      know of that has begun to deal with the question of
      how to rescue people above a fire.

      A recent poll showed Giuliani is the favored 2008
      Republican presidential candidate. Would he make a
      good president?
      Every poll shows he is a very serious presidential
      candidate. Some polls indicate he is the most admired
      figure in American culture. I think that’s largely a
      consequence of 9/11. But if the rationale for his
      candidacy is 9/11 then shouldn’t both the Democrats
      and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, be
      interested in the true story of his performance
      leading up to and after the attacks? I think so.
      Sometimes in America, as strong as spin is, the facts
      matter. I think these facts should matter.

      Giuliani has other strengths politically. He’s widely
      credited with having greatly reduced crime in New York
      City. He can run on those credentials. He is a
      formidable candidate. The power of the 9/11 visual
      will stay with him now and maybe forever. But the 9/11
      Commission acknowledged that it did not ask him tough
      questions, and Americans have yet to ask him a single
      tough question about how he handled 9/11. Maybe our
      book will create a framework for which a more truthful
      assessment of his role can begin.
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