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Giuliani: 9/11 finger-pointing not appropriate

Rudy Giuliani
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Giuliani defends his office's response before the 9/11 panel.

Giuliani testifies before the 9/11 commission.

9/11 communication failures are topic of questioning.
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September 11 attacks
Rudy Giuliani

(CNN) -- The man "Time" magazine named its Person of the Year for his handling of the September 11, 2001, attacks now finds himself defending New York City's preparedness in its response to 9/11.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani testified before the 9/11 commission on Wednesday and was heckled by some family members of the victims. Giuliani, in Phoenix, Arizona, joined CNN anchor Bill Hemmer via satellite on Thursday to talk about the public hearings.

HEMMER: I want to use part of your words [from] yesterday. In one of your opening statements you say, "Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us." Do you believe the commission has lost sight of that?

GIULIANI: No, I don't think the commission as a whole has. I think some members have in the comments that they made. I mean there's no question what they're doing is very, very legitimate. You should be looking at what was done right, what was done wrong and then how can you improve on that in the future.

But it should be done in the context of the people who responded to this were responding to the worst attack in the history of this country and overall they saved a tremendous number of lives.

When I was first told the number of possible casualties at the World Trade Center, within a half hour of the building coming down, I was told there could be as many as 12,000 to 15,000 people. And I know that the firefighters and the police officers, by the way in which they carried out this rescue mission, saved somewhere between 9,000 and 12,000 lives.

They weren't entirely successful. There were mistakes that were made. Hopefully in the future you can cure those mistakes. It will never be done perfectly.

HEMMER: The hecklers who showed up yesterday to show their displeasure ... blame a lack of leadership, in part. They say they're not getting the answers they want on behalf of ... you and others the commission [questioned] over the past several months. Do you understand their anger? Do they have a right to be that way?

GIULIANI: Sure. First of all, you can't tell someone how to grieve. They have an absolute right to be that way. They're going through a horrible experience, a difficult experience, and they need a place to place their blame. It is very understandable.

It does not reflect the reaction of most people, however. ... All those questions that they wanted asked were asked. What about the radios? ... Some worked, some didn't work. The overriding reason why the radios failed on that day is the same reason why sometimes your cell phone goes out when too many people are trying to get into the same bandwidth.

The solution has to be creating a bandwidth that is dedicated solely to emergency services so that if there is an emergency and I arrive there and I'm the mayor and the fire commissioner arrives there and the police commissioner and everyone else, we can communicate on a dedicated bandwidth and not be interfered with by other communications.

And then you have to make a choice of how many communications you can have in that bandwidth. ... That should be done.

HEMMER: And we all sat here [on Wednesday] and listened to that riveting narrative that you provided. Based on what you have learned from the commission and how you want to make sure the city you love so much is protected in the event of a future attack, have steps been taken that are satisfactory at this point to make sure next time ... if you can save lives, lives are saved?

GIULIANI: Yes... with the understanding that a lot of lives were saved the last time, probably more lives than anyone really could expect [and] given the level of knowledge and information that people had. Yes, next time the effort will be even better. Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have made significant improvements since September 11, 2001. But, if you deal with something unexpected and catastrophic, even next time something will go wrong. ... And it may be something different. ... And then we'll have to improve that.

HEMMER: John Lehman, a commission member, on Tuesday said this before the panel, "I think that the command and control and communications of this city's public service is a scandal. It's not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city." How do you respond to that Boy Scouts reference?

GIULIANI: Those comments are totally inappropriate and are part of the reason why a lot of people were very, very upset about the commission. It isn't the entire commission. It's his comments. But that isn't the way to approach this. To call people names and the command and control system that he's describing as Boy Scouts saved 9,000 to 12,000 lives; saved virtually everyone they were capable of saving. And many people lost their lives in the process of doing that. And given the level of technology at the time in which they did it and the amount of notice they had, their effort was truly heroic.

Did they make mistakes? Were there things that broke down? Of course there were. And those things should be focused on as lessons learned. This finger- pointing and name-calling -- that isn't appropriate. Everyone he's talking about did their best to save lives under extraordinary conditions. ... And that's the atmosphere in which this should be looked at.

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