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Giuliani describes 9/11 rescue efforts

Giuliani: 'Could not conceive of the entire tower coming down'

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani testifies Wednesday before the 9/11 commission in New York.
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Rudy Giuliani testifies before the 9/11 panel.

Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton talk about the 9/11 panel hearings.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick on the focus of the hearings.
September 11 attacks
New York
Emergency Planning
Disasters (General)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told the panel investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks that city officials prepared for everything they could think of in response to terror threats but that they never imagined that planes would be used as missiles.

Giuliani told commissioners New York City was not advised of the August 2001 intelligence briefing for President Bush that outlined al Qaeda plans to strike within the United States, prompting commissioner Tim Roemer to say, "I would like to know why the CIA and FBI were not sharing more of this with you."

The document mentioned the World Trade Center three times, Roemer said. (White House releases bin Laden memo)

Giuliani said the city mostly feared an attack on its subways, tunnels and bridges. He added that if a warning had come in the spring or summer of 2001, "I can't tell you we would have done anything differently."

Giuliani said the city had prepared for bioterrorism threats including anthrax, smallpox and so-called dirty bombs. "We never thought there would be planes used as missiles attacking buildings."

Giuliani called for joint terrorism task forces in every major U.S. city so that federal and local officials could work together to investigate terror threats.

'Superb command structure'

Giuliani described the rescue efforts immediately after the terror attacks and the recovery effort, which he said took place in "the most dangerous recovery site probably in the history of this country."

He praised the rescuers' "superb command structure."

"I would urge you in evaluating their performance, to put it in the context of [the fact that] no one ever has encountered an attack like this. No one has had to have dealt with a recovery and search effort anywhere near this dimension," Giuliani said.

Before he left office, Giuliani issued regulations to address the rivalry between the 40,000-member police force and the city's 11,000 firefighters and elevated the Office of Emergency Management, which coordinated response among all agencies, to department level status.

Giuliani said that the OEM, which was then part of the mayor's office, played a vital role in the aftermath of the attacks -- as well as in the November 2001, crash of American Airlines Flight 587 and the anthrax attacks.

"Without the Office of Emergency Management training us and doing drills and doing exercises, we would not -- even with a very good police department and fire department, we would not be able to handle all that," Giuliani said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week announced a revised incident command system to clarify in what instances New York's police or fire departments should take the leading role.

Bloomberg testified that, as a result of changes instituted since the attacks, "New York is the safest big city in the nation, better prepared than at any time in its history to prevent and respond to any danger, no matter what its source."

Though New York City "faces faces far greater risk of terrorist attack than any other city, other than perhaps our nation's capital," it gets a disproportionately small amount of federal resources to protect itself, Bloomberg said.

"Inexplicably, today, New York State ranks 49th among the 50 states in per capita homeland security funding," he said, citing $5.47 per capita in homeland security grants for fiscal year 2004.

Bloomberg compared that with per capita grants of $14.33 for Nebraska, $30.42 for North Dakota, $38.31 for Wyoming and $101.43 for American Samoa.

In addition, New York City has been told by Congress that homeland security funds in fiscal year 2004 will be cut from $188 million to $96 million. "This is pork-barrel politics at its worst, the kind of short-sighted, me-first politics that gives Washington a bad name," the mayor said to applause.

"It ain't so," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge testified when asked whether the funding formula was politically driven. He said he had advocated for the funding formula to be changed.

During the hearing

Giuliani's testimony was interrupted twice and two people were removed from the audience.

During the first outburst, a number of audience members who said they were relatives of 9/11 victims urged commissioners to ask Giuliani about radio communication problems within New York City's fire department.

New York fire and police department officials drew criticism over communication problems that plagued World Trade Center rescue efforts.

Jerry Hauer, former director of New York City's Office of Emergency Management, also testified before the September 11 commission Wednesday, telling members he had tried but could not get the fire and police departments to communicate on the same radio frequency during major emergencies.

Hauer also said that the OEM planned for terrorist disasters in 1996, particularly bio-chemical attacks. "Everyone thought we were crazy preparing for terrorism," he said.

He echoed Giuliani's testimony that preparations did not include a September 11 scenario. "We looked at every conceivable threat that anyone on our staff could think of, be it natural or intentional, but not the use of aircraft as missiles."

Tuesday's testimony

Giuliani's testimony came on the second of two days of public hearings at Manhattan's New School University.

On Tuesday, Commissioner John Lehman, a former U.S. Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, said that at the time of the attacks, city officials lacked clear lines of authority in case of a crisis and its emergency management plan merely "puts in concrete a severely dysfunctional system."

Lehman said the city's command, control and communication systems remain "a scandal" two-and-a-half years after the attacks.

"It's not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city," he said to applause from spectators.

But former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and former New York Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen disagreed sharply with that assessment. Von Essen called Lehman's complaint "outrageous."

"I think that one of the criticisms of this committee has been statements like you just made, talking about scandalous procedures and scandalous operations and rules and everything else," Von Essen said.

"There's nothing scandalous about how New York handles its emergencies. We had strong leadership with the mayor. We had strong leadership with the fire commissioner and with the police commissioner."

"I believe we did our best, based on what we knew at the time," Kerik said.

Giuliani: 'Enemy is not each other'

In his opening statement Wednesday, Giuliani stressed that "Our enemy is not each other but the terrorists who attacked us, murdered our loved ones and continue to offer a threat to our security, safety and survival."

"So our anger should clearly be directed and the blame should clearly be directed at one source and one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones," he said.

The attacks killed 2,749 people aboard the planes, inside the buildings or on the surrounding streets of Lower Manhattan, according to the New York medical examiner's office.

The dead include 343 firefighters, 23 New York police officers and 37 officers for the Port Authority, the transportation agency that owned the Trade Center complex -- the twin towers and five smaller buildings.

First responders helped 25,000 people evacuate the buildings before their collapse, according to a 2002 study by McKinsey & Co.

CNN producer Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.

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