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Enough with the softballs!

May 20, 2004

Here are some questions the Sept. 11 commission forgot or were afraid to ask former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani:

How can you account for the gap in coordination between the Police and Fire departments in their rescue operations that day?

Commissioner John Lehman picked up some heavy media coverage when he called the city's command and control communications "a scandal" Tuesday. He used that word to address Giuliani appointees - former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen - who responded by calling Lehman's characterization "outrageous."

But when Lehman, the Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, came face to face yesterday with Giuliani, the man who bore the ultimate responsibility for those two apparent lapses, Lehman wimped out.

Instead, Lehman and his fellow commissioners only bathed Giuliani in praise.

Why was the Office of Emergency Management command center - the infamous "bunker" - put on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center, obviously a potential terrorist target?

Tuesday, the commission pressed former OEM head Richard Sheirer on why Giuliani had made the decision to put the bunker in that building, which collapsed after the attack.

Sheirer joked that he had opposed locating the office in the World Trade Center because he didn't like walking up 23 flights of stairs.

Giuliani never had to answer the question because he was never asked.

Here's a question the commissioner could have asked Commissioner Ray Kelly:

Are your detectives sharing information they obtained with the FBI?

In remarks to the commission Tuesday, Kelly said he had increased the number of detectives in the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force from 17 to 130.

He said he had also expanded the Intelligence Division, stationing detectives in Lyons, France; Tel Aviv, Israel; London; Toronto; Montreal and Singapore to obtain intelligence on terrorists.

Detectives also were sent to the scene of recent train bombings in Moscow and Madrid.

In their questions, the commissioners concentrated on whether Kelly was receiving cooperation from the FBI. In prepared remarks, Kelly said there had been "an improved level of cooperation and intelligence shared with our federal counterparts. We look forward to further improvements as the FBI implements the reforms outlined by Director Mueller ..."

But is the NYPD cooperating with the FBI?

Here, according to an FBI official is the answer.

"In the Moscow bombing, we, through the JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force], never got anything from it. The only information they passed to us as a result of the excursion to Madrid was material that had already been in the newspapers in the Spanish press. We know that later on they prepared a multi-page document that circulated within 1PP [1 Police Plaza] but we never saw it," the official said. "Our folks kept asking Chief [James] Waters, who heads the NYPD contingent on the JTTF, 'What can you share with us?'"

The official added that while the 130 NYPD detectives in the Joint Terrorist Task Force had access to the Bureau's data bank, the FBI did not have access to the NYPD's Intelligence data bank although the Bureau had repeatedly asked Deputy Commissioner David Cohen.

"All JTTF gets from the Intelligence Division is routine threat information. We are not able to get and we have repeatedly asked for their intelligence sources of information. What information are your sources developing? We don't want to know the sources. What we are asking for is the intelligence that they have developed."

No comment from Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.