he Family Steering Committee sent the following letter in response to an article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph (UK).
June 28, 2004
Regarding “Families of 9/11 are ‘the rock stars of grief’ says sister of Pentagon pilot.” [June 27, 2004]:
The headline featuring Ms. Burlingame’s comment that members of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission (FSC) are “Rock stars of grief” sets a disrespectful tone for the article by implying that our members have exploited the death of our loved ones for fame and the limelight. This is untrue and it denigrates the important goals of our group.
Ms. Burlingame’s allegation that the FSC has been advised by Move-on.org or any other organization is patently false. Your reporter, Mr. Julian Coman, should have asked Ms. Burlingame for proof of her charges. Had he done so, he would have discovered that there is no proof because it never happened.
No one tells us what to say or gives us talking points. Both individually and collectively, the twelve of us are quite capable of thinking for ourselves, and have been doing so since we first began the push for an independent investigation in the fall of 2001. Our statements and goals have been consistent from the first and can be found on our website at http://www.911independentcommission.org. Our main goals were to obtain legislation creating an independent Commission to investigate 9/11 (a goal achieved), to understand why our nation was so vulnerable, and to do whatever we could to help prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack. The 9/11 Commission’s investigation and recommendations, once implemented, constitute the vehicle for achieving the last two goals.
The FSC will respond to the information in the Commission’s report when it comes out next month. It is expected that there will be references to both former President Clinton and President Bush in the Commission’s report. Information about the actions of either President are legitimate topics for discussion. To suggest that the FSC is using the 9/11 Commission or its report to bash President Bush is yet another defamation.
Although we regularly submit questions to the bipartisan Commission or discuss issues related to the investigation with them, we have no control over their actions or conclusions. Further, the FSC has often been critical of the Commission and made numerous recommendations which were mostly ignored. This can be easily confirmed by comparing the FSC statements to the Commission’s subsequent actions.
Our questions, statements, and concerns about the 9/11 Commission’s decisions and progress are a collaborative effort, but we do not sit around the kitchen table with a bottle of wine to discuss them. To imply that we do is extremely offensive. The written work which we produce involves numerous group e-mails and conference calls. We live in central and coastal New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington, DC. The interviews given by our members reflect the thinking which produced our written work. It is appalling that such an insidiously malicious portrayal of our group has been foisted on the public via this article.
It is also not true that we scorn those who tried so hard to help on the morning of September 11th. We do not fault the air traffic controllers on duty that morning. They performed remarkably well under adverse conditions. Our issue is with the fact that no one from the top advised or alerted those on the front line of defense to the possibility of a terrorist attack involving hijacking. In preliminary findings at least, that seems to have been characteristic of most government agencies investigated.
When we say that many fire fighters died because they did not hear the call to evacuate due to faulty radios, it does not imply that fire fighters weren’t heroes. Had the radios been working properly, many precious lives would have been saved. Surely no one would expect a fire fighter or other rescuer, uniformed or civilian, to stay in the burning building when conditions become lethally dangerous. Nothing can detract from the heroism of so many that day. We will always honor and remember the sacrifice of those who died trying to help and the valor of those who survived. Did your reporter actually read our remarks, or did he just accept as truth the perversely inaccurate version that was presented?
In one area, we agree with Ms. Burlingame. The FSC wants to see the terrorists defeated. But it is extremely naïve to focus on that alone to ensure our security. Islamic extremism which produced the terrorists is not going to disappear in the near future. It is likely that despite the War on Terror, the terrorists will try again. If we are to prevent another catastrophic attack, America cannot ignore the multiple failures within our national security system which facilitated the surprise attack.
Our military cannot correct the failures or close the security loopholes here in America. Those are internal problems. Americans must ask tough questions of our government officials about our domestic security prior to and on September 11th. And our government must fully cooperate with the investigation. The answers are critical to an analysis of transmittal problems in the intelligence stream which inhibited the flow of information from the top down and as well as within and between agencies. Such analysis is required if America is to devise an enhanced security network and strategy. Asking questions and demanding complete answers is not equivalent to beating up on each other as was implied, nor is it politically motivated. It is a quest for truth— unbiased, unvarnished truth that has a direct bearing on the security and well-being of every American.
Unlike politicians and their minions, the Family Steering Committee has no need to cast aspersions on those who have a differing viewpoint. Such character assassination will not accomplish our goals, further our cause or promote respectful discussion. Other than attempting to discredit the FSC, what motivation could there be for the false accusations and insinuations about us?
Printing false statements, slurs and innuendo about the Family Steering Committee without investigating our goals or verifying the facts has unjustly maligned the integrity of each individual member of the FSC. Even if a correction or retraction is printed, some of your readers will not see it and much damage will have been done to our reputation by such an irresponsible article.
The Family Steering Committee