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9/11 Commission's Report To Criticize City's Response

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Confusion between city police officers and firefighters during the World Trade Center attack will reportedly be a major topic in the scathing final report the federal 9/11 commission is expected to release on Thursday.

According to a report in Monday's Daily News, the report will come down hard on New York City, blaming the Bloomberg administration for failing to clearly define who takes command during catastrophic emergencies and criticizing it for still using radios that officers can't depend on.

While he wouldn't comment on the report today, the mayor says New York's first responders are getting better.

”I think we are going in the right direction in this city,” said Bloomberg. “We have the world's best police department and the world’s best fire department. I will repeat what I’ve said a number of times: they work well together, they work brilliantly together.”

The commission reportedly will agree with Bloomberg's repeated assertion that the city is not getting enough federal homeland security funding, according to the News.

The panel is expected to recommend a new cabinet-level intelligence "czar" to solve communication problems between the country’s various intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The position would ultimately take away power from the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Council and the Pentagon.

Two Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on CNN's “Late Edition” Sunday that they would be open to considering the recommendation.

But acting CIA Director John McLaughlin said the position isn't necessary. He told "Fox News Sunday" that the director of central intelligence is already empowered to do the job under the National Security Act of 1947.

“I think with some modest changes in the way the CIA is set up, the director of central intelligence could carry out that function well and appropriately,” McLaughlin said.

The White House distanced itself from the remarks, saying that McLaughlin was expressing his person opinion and that the Bush administration doesn't necessarily agree with him.



NY1's Roger Clark has more in the following report.

“We couldn't see each other. It was totally black, and we couldn’t breathe — we tried to breathe through our shirts. But we were in fairly good shape — we were alive,” said Port Authority Police Officer David Lim about being trapped in Tower One of the World Trade Center when it collapsed.

Lim was just one of those relaying their experiences to the 9/11 commission as it held it's first set of hearings in New York in March of 2003.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also testified. Much of his remarks focused on changes his administration made post-9/11.

“We have developed an extraordinary system to guard and protect this city, and every day we are making those systems even more effective,” the mayor told the commission. “We are developing the most sophisticated systems possible both to prevent terrorism and respond to it.”

But the relationship between the commission and the city was not always easy. In November 2003, the commission subpoenaed the city for tapes and transcripts of emergency 911 calls after the mayor said he wouldn't release them.

The two sides later reached an agreement, and edited tapes of the calls and transcripts of the interviews were released.

When the commission's hearings returned to New York in May of this year, the city's response to the attacks was under scrutiny.

“I think that the command and control and communications of this city’s public service is a scandal,” said commissioner John Lehman.

Lehman and other commissioners wanted to know; who is in charge during a disaster like the attack at the WTC?

The hearings began with an emotional look at the 100 minutes between when the first plane hit the north tower and the collapse of the first tower.

Testimony put the men in charge on September 11, 2001 on the hot seat. Most of the questioning focused on communications breakdowns, including conflicting messages to those trapped in the towers, and the failure of Fire Department radios.

But the former fire and police commissioners stood their ground.

“Show me one radio that they will guarantee you this radio will go through that metal, it will go through the debris, it will go through the dust, [and] you will have 100 percent communications 100 percent of the time - there is none,” said former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

“You make it sound like everything was wrong about September 11th or the way we functioned — I think it’s outrageous that you make a statement like that,” said former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen..

And while lauded by each and every commissioner for his role, even former Mayor Rudy Giuliani couldn't escape criticism from protesters and some family members who disrupted his testimony.

The city's 911 system was also under fire. One commissioner described 911 operators as ”clueless,” as people trapped in the towers turned to them for help and information. It's one area city officials say has seen improvement.

“911 operators now have the ability, training, and supervision to disseminate relevant rescue information to 911 callers,” said Bloomberg.

Other changes include new radios for the FDNY, and a revamped incident command system.

While the commission's final report may not be satisfied with improvements since the tragedy, one item it appears they do side with the city on is the need for more homeland security funding, and changes to the formula which allocates those dollars.

According to 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean, “Any allocation of money which doesn't give New York more money per capita than any other place, doesn't make sense.”

- Roger Clark


Watch “New York Tonight” on NY1 at 8 p.m. Monday for special in-depth reports on the 9/11 commission’s investigation. NY1 will have live reports from Washington throughout the day Thursday as the panel releases its report.
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