Almost five years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and two years after the federal 9/11 Commission issued its report, the two men in charge of the inquiry are publishing a book about what went on behind the scenes.
"Without Precedent," written by the commission's co-chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, hits shelves today. Solana Pyne filed the following report as NY1's coverage of the 9/11 anniversary continues.
"Without Precedent" details one of the more controversial moments in the commission's tenure — the public interview of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
In the book, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton said they didn't ask the hard questions they should have, calling the moment, "a low point in the commission's questioning of witnesses at our public hearings."
In an interview last week, Kean wanted to clarify.
"Rudy Giuliani talking about that day can transfix you, because it is so dramatic, and he is so dramatic talking about it, that instead of asking hard questions, we really commended him. That's fine, except the public deserved the same kind of hard questions we'd asked everybody else. And we just didn't do it," he said.
"We asked him some of these things in private, so we had the information, we just didn't do it in public,” he continued. “We should have asked him more about the communications. I mean, there was a real failure in communications. People in the Police Department could not communicate with people in the Fire Department when they were up in the towers."
"Many of the families feel that people lost their lives because of that. That's probably the most serious questions. Things like why did you build, you know, you build the communication center in one of the towers, when the towers had already been attacked? Why did you do that? Why didn't you put them somewhere else?"
In the book, Kean and co-chair Lee Hamilton say they considered asking the Justice Department to investigate statements made by the Department of Defense, statements about when they knew about the hijackings on 9/11 and what their response had been - statements that proved patently false.
"There's no question they were lying. The question was whether they were doing intentionally or whether they just had the wrong information," said Kean. "We had generals and we had officials from the FAA and they just didn't tell the truth. And they didn't tell us they didn't tell the truth. We had to go and find it out for our own staff. We had to go and review tapes ourselves. We had to go and interview witnesses, and finally we pulled the story out."
Kean also said one of the biggest challenges the commission faced was negotiating with the White House to get information and publicly interview advisors.
"I think the hardest negotiation of all was the White House. I mean they resisted both things like having the presidential advisors like Condi Rice testify in public. They resisted having the president and vice president meet with the commission, which is understandable by the way because no president has ever met with a commission," he said.
"Lyndon Johnson at the time of the Kennedy investigation wouldn't meet with the commission. Sent them a letter and said that's enough, presidents don't appear before commissions," Kean continued. "So this was precedent shattering for the president to appear. And I recognize that the White House didn't want to break precedent. But we had to know what the president knew and when he knew it and we had to tell the American people."
Hence the name of the book, "Without Precedent."
- Solana Pyne