Months after the release of the official 9/11 Commission Report - even as Congress moves to implement its proposals for a radical centralization of security forces - growing numbers of Americans are doubting their own government's account of what really happened on September 11, and how.
From the first, the Bush Administration resisted investigation and disclosure. Families of September 11 victims were forced to lobby the administration and Congress for a full and independent inquiry. They fought for 14 months, blocked every step of the way by the White House.
The political games reached such a point that the survivors of the worst attack ever on American soil were forced to hold a candlelight vigil in front of the White House. A vigil for the truth.
The White House finally assented in December 2002 to the establishment of an independent commission, under former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean. Still, the administration pushed for a hand-picked panel, with a narrow focus on intelligence failures and recommendations.
The families demanded a full investigation, posing nearly 400 questions to the Kean Commission. The commissioners said they welcomed these queries. But their final report ignored most of the unanswered questions. Still posted on the website of the September 11 Family Steering Committee, these questions are a stark reminder of the Kean Commission's failures.
Now these same questions have been submitted to the New York Attorney General. Last week, the New York City office of Eliot Spitzer received a citizens' complaint to open a legal inquiry into crimes still unsolved, more than three years later.
So begins the haunting of the White House.
Driven by survivor families, independent researchers, journalists, and a growing number of ordinary citizens, an emergent "9/11 truth movement" has organized several public inquiries into the events of September 11 during the past year. As co-chairs of the first 9/11 Citizens' Commission, held in New York City in September, we were entrusted with answering questions the Kean Commission ignored.
What did we hear? We heard evidence of specific advance warnings about the 9/11 attacks from overseas. We heard about the spiking of FBI terrorism investigations and the lack of response during the attacks by high officials, including George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers.
We heard about air toxicity at Ground Zero still afflicting firefighters, first responders, and New York residents - and how, in the days after September 11, the White House intervened to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing a strong warning that the air in Lower Manhattan was unsafe to breathe.
We also learned that, although there was a stunning abandonment of standard procedure for hijackings and air defense on September 11, the 9/11 Commission Report fails to issue a call for official accountability. As Kean Commission members travel the country to promote the findings of their report, we know many people are standing up to ask them tough questions about these and many other open issues. But ordinary people lack the subpoena powers necessary for a full discovery of the facts. Citizens' investigations can only go so far.
Some of those who testified before us in New York therefore explored the case for a grand-jury investigation. Possible charges included criminal negligence, failure to perform official duties, criminal facilitation, liability for accessorial conduct, conspiracy and obstruction of justice by high-ranking U.S. government officials.
These charges, now raised in the petition to the New York State Attorney General, may sound extreme. But they reflect a growing concern within the public. A Zogby International poll of New York City residents last August showed that 49 percent believe some high officials knew about the attacks in advance and "consciously failed" to take preventive action. 41 percent of state residents overall shared that view.
A full 66 percent of New York City residents in the survey agreed the case of 9/11 should be reopened by Congress - or by Eliot Spitzer. A Congressional inquiry that respects the pressing nature of these questions is long overdue.
And so now we have no recourse but to stand vigil in front of Eliot Spitzer's office. Until the unanswered questions about 9/11 are laid to rest, by a truly independent investigation that does not declare legitimate avenues of inquiry off-limits, they will continue to haunt our country - and whoever sits in the White House next year.
Cynthia McKinney, a five-term U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia's fourth district from 1993 to 2003, won this year's primary as the Democratic nominee for her former seat and is favored in tomorrow's election. Catherine Austin Fitts is a former Assistant Secretary of Housing under President George Bush Sr. and a former managing director and board member of Dillon, Read & Co. Inc.
The questions of the Family Steering Committee are online at www.911independentcommission.org/questions.htmlThe Complaint and Petition to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is online at www.Justicefor911.org
story info: By Cynthia McKinney and Catherine Austin Fitt November 1, 2004