Transcript: Is the Sept. 11 Commission Pointing Fingers at the Wrong Folks?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, May 19, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: New York's former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani (search), America's mayor following in the weeks and months following 9/11, America's mayor, testified before the federal panel investigating the terrorist attacks. He fielded some tough questions about the way the city handled the crisis.

Richard Shierer (search) was Giuliani's director of emergency management. Mr. Shierer, today's big question, is the 9/11 Commission pointing fingers in the wrong direction?

RICHARD SHEIRER, FMR. NYC EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR: Well, I think they're truly trying to make our country safer and better in the future. I think ...

GIBSON: Yes, Yes, Yes. They're blaming you, aren't they?

SHIERER: Well, I don't think they're blaming us. They really don't understand what happened that day.

GIBSON: OK, but wait a minute. Yesterday, I forget whether it was Admiral Lehman or somebody said it was a scandal the way New York responded. It was like a bunch of Boy Scouts running things. You must have come out of your chair like you had a rocket on you.

SHIERER: Well, Tom Von Essen (search) and I — I think we clearly answered in the way we needed to. We gave them the facts. He knew we were angry, there was no question about it. I thought it was inappropriate the way he asked the question. And he should have phrased it — he asked about radios. He was the secretary of the Navy. He fully understands the problems with procuring radios and radio spectrums, especially for public safety, which has been trying for, not years, but decades, to get enough spectrum to protect the citizens of our city and other cities.

I think they're trying to get information. I think some people have lost sight of the fact that 19 individuals amoral, evil, flew two planes into two buildings at 8:46 in the morning on September 11.

And an hour and 42 minutes later, those buildings collapsed. And I think they really need to look long and hard as to how we can be sure in the future we will know if something is planned, how we can prepare for something like this. If you look in the rearview mirror now, but 9/11 was a new day for those ...

GIBSON: There seemed to be a hint among the commissioners that New York's emergency planning management system, you, and the mayor at the time and others, should have known this was coming. Should have known there were hints. Should have known there were warnings.

SHIERER: We were prepared for chem-, bio-conventional attacks. Nobody was ever, ever given any inclination of an attack using aircraft as missiles into buildings. We planned for airplane crashes both on the ground and in the water. We plan for building collapses and high-rise fires. We plan for every emergency that New York City will face. But if we know, if we had an inkling that this was a possibility, we would have drilled on it. We would have practiced. We would have done everything we could to be prepared for it, even if we did not know exactly where they were going to attack.

GIBSON: There seemed to be a worry also that the way this operated was largely fortuitous in a way. That all the leaders of the city's emergency structure, the mayor and the heads of police, fire department, you, got together and were able to have a little command center that moved around. But if one chunk of concrete had fallen on Rudy Giuliani, or you or somebody else that the whole thing would have fallen apart, is that true?

SHIERER: No. There is nothing fortuitous about it. It was very well planned. Our succession plan both for the highest levels of government, the mayor, and for people like me is very well in place and embedded. It goes very deep to make sure that if something does happen, the city continues. That was implemented to the degree it needed to be right away. Yet we were very fortunate, but I believe that is more fate than anything else.

GIBSON: Richard Shierer was the director of emergency management in the Giuliani administration. Mr. Shierer, thank you very much. Appreciate you coming on.

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