September 19, 2003

Bill Moyers' NOW interview with 9/11 widows

The LNS promised you the transcript of the
extraordinary 9/11 widows interview that Bill Moyers'
NOW ran last Friday night. I did not forget the
promise. The NOW web site only had a partial
transcript last week, disturbingly the most explosive
parts of the interview were NOT included. I e-mailed
NOW and they answered back saying it would be a few
days but the whole transcript would be
published...Here it is...Please share it with
others...These women should be heard. They put the
White House press corp and the Democratic
congressional leadership to shame...

ANNOUNCER: Once again, David Brancaccio.

BRANCACCIO: In the two years since September 11,
there's been no shortage of wild conspiracy theories
about what happened that day.

It's all out there on the Internet: it was Israeli
fanatics, the big oil companies, the U.S. military
using remote controlled planes in some attempted coup.

Our researchers found hundreds of conspiracy Web
sites, some sickening, some just plain dumb.

It brings to mind the dark days after the
assassination of J.F.K. when grand conspiracy theories
were also spawned in an atmosphere of confusion and
secrecy about the government investigation.

Since 9/11, the FBI alone has conducted 180,000
interviews. But we still haven't heard and may never
know the whole truth. In the absence of fact, rumor
takes over.

Four New Jersey women are determined to change that.
Before 9/11, these women's lives revolved around
family and children. But, when their husbands died
that day, they were transformed into political
activists on a mission.

And leaders in Washington are listening.

Our story is reported by NPR correspondent Daniel
Zwerdling with NOW producers William Brangham and
Andrew Fredericks.

KLEINBERG: Whenever there's a tragedy, you think, "How
could this have happened?"

CASAZZA: I had faith in all of my leaders on September
10th that they were doing the best jobs that they
could to protect the lives of my loved ones, my
friends, my countrymen.

VAN AUKEN: I didn't understand that I needed to look
at the bigger picture.

BREITWEISER: I've turned into a very disenchanted,
fully awake, no longer naïve person, who's extremely

ZWERDLING: Mindy Kleinberg, Patty Casazza, Lori van
Auken, Kristen Breitweiser. These women banded
together after their husbands were killed, and now
they're leading a campaign to find out exactly how did
9-11 happen? And exactly what's the government doing
to prevent another attack?

A lot of people think, we already know what happened
on 9-11. It's been all over the news, and beside,
Congress just released this investigative report about
it couple months ago.

But this country has barely begun to learn the truth
about 9-11… that's what the women say. And they want
to make sure we eventually hear it.

BREITWEISER: We have no expertise. But what we have is
a passion, and a drive to right the wrongs. And to fix
the problems. And to find the truth.

ZWERDLING: Mindy Kleinberg remembers the moment when
she realized some people don't want the truth.

KLEINBERG: On September 12th, when I was still looking
for my husband, thinking that he was gonna somehow
come home, 100 airline lobbyists went to Washington,
okay, and lobbied for them to be protected...against

ZWERDLING: Congress was about to pass a law that
compensated victims' families … but it also severely
restricted their rights to sue the airlines. People
like Mindy Kleinberg worried that they might never be
able to force the airlines to go to court, to disclose
everything they knew about 9/11.

Leaders in Congress said, "Don't worry, we're going to
investigate 9-11." So the women were stunned when
President Bush convinced Congress to back off. He
reportedly told congressional leaders that a sweeping
investigation might distract from the government's war
on terrorism.

As a result, the congressional investigation focused
mainly on the FBI and CIA. They never examined what
the airlines, or the immigration service, or the White
House did or didn't do. Then the women heard that some
frustrated legislators were trying to launch another,
broader investigation. But the President and his
allies in Congress were trying to block that. That's
when the women got together and said, "Let's organize
a protest in Washington."

BREITWEISER: We went to Home Depot because we knew we
needed signs. And we are in the line, you know, the
aisle of Home Depot handsawing slat of wood, which was
very comical because we had all the people in Home
Depot looking at us like we were maniacs because we
were slicing up, you know, 50 slats of wood and really
didn't know how to do it and no one was helping us.

ZWERDLING: Eventually they figured it out, and they
held their rally in Washington. Hundreds of people
showed up, including some U.S. Senators.

Kristin Breitweiser asked the whole country for

BREITWEISER: We need a full independent investigation.
We must ask the tough questions and seek out the
difficult answers. We must as a country grow and be
made stronger and safer by the bitter lessons learned
on September 11.

ZWERDLING: Mindy Kleinberg took to the podium too.

KLEINBERG: We are asking you America to stand behind
us. Please, pick up the phone. Call your senators.
Call your congressman. Tell them that you want to be
safe. Tell them that you want an independent

ZWERDLING: Not long after that, the White House
called. And the President's aides said they wanted to
talk. In fact, the New Jersey women and a handful of
other survivors had a series of meetings at the White
House. Some were reportedly rather heated.

But in the end, President Bush changed his position.
And Congress agreed to launch a new, independent
commission to investigate 9-11. The commission is
supposed to probe every corner of government and then
recommend how it needs to change.

Tim Roemer is a member of this commission. He's a
former democratic congressman. Roemer says the
commission wouldn't exist if it weren't for the four
New Jersey widows.

ROEMER: One of most influential things that they did
for me was not only dig into facts and give me
knowledge, but really inspire me. Both with their
effort to move forward and say, "We're not giving up.
We will never give up. We are going to make government
be accountable and we are going to get answers."

ZWERDLING: Roemer was also part of the earlier
congressional investigation.

ROEMER: One of the women, Kristen Breitweiser, was in
my office. And she said to me, "Tim, we need you to be
our prosecutor. We need you to not just ask the tough
questions, but to knock down the doors." And she said,
"I have a wedding ring," and she took it off her
finger. And she handed it to me.

She said, "You hold this. Where do you think I got
this?" And I said, "Maybe Ron gave that to you," and
fumbled. I didn't know. And she said, "A couple months
after 9/11 they found that ring that's in your hand.
That's all I have left of my husband. And they found
that ring on a finger. And I have a three year old.
And I want to be able to tell her someday what
happened to her father and what happened to the

That's what we're trying to do on this 9/11

ZWERDLING: But the New Jersey women figured they
couldn't just trust that the commission would dig up
the truth… so they started digging on their own.

They gathered mountains of information from the
Internet and old newspapers. They took their binders
to Washington. They met with members of Congress and
spent days in hearings. They compared what different
officials said, and began to find discrepancies and

For instance: government officials say they can't
establish an exact timeline for the events on 9-11.
They can't even confirm exactly what time each plane
was hijacked… or exactly what time they learned that
the planes were hijacked.

KLEINBERG: I sat in that hearing, and a Lieutenant
Colonel at NORAD is saying that, "You know, the times
in the log book that we have written down might not be
the exact time that the event happened. It could have
just been when the person went and logged it in."

And I'm thinking, This is the military. Aren't these
the guys that say "0-eight-hundred," and you know,
have everything to the second? And you know, is that
not what we know about them?

And now you have this catastrophic event, and you got
a call in about a hijacking, and it didn't get logged
at the exact time? I mean, it doesn't make common

ZWERDLING: The women found government documents that
spell out exactly what officials are supposed to do
the moment that a plane goes off course or cuts off
its signals to ground control… or does anything
unexpected. And they read that NORAD sent up fighter
jets dozens of times in the year before the attack to
check out erratic aircraft. So the women wondered,
what happened on 9-11?

BREITWEISER: On the morning of September 11th we had
four planes drastically off their flight path
transponders disconnected and the FAA procedure and
protocol to notify NORAD and for NORAD to scramble
fighter jets were not followed. And it wasn't like
they all happened in the course of an hour. What I
think is very frustrating is looking back when I speak
to people they say, "Well it happened in such a short
span of time."

It did not happen. It happened over the course of two
hours. You're telling me over the course of two hours
Andrews Air Force Base in the Washington, DC area
which houses F-16s which fly cover for Air Force One
could not get a plane up in the air to cover the

ZWERDLING: The more the women searched for answers,
the more they learned how the system works. For
instance, the more you appear in the media, the more
the world comes to you.

BREITWEISER: Because of our work being reported in the
papers we had people reaching out to us. We met with
an air traffic controller from Newark who flat out
said to us, "Look, you know. I don't know what
happened. All he could tell us is that the FBI showed
up, took all of their files, all of their recordings,
and walked out.

ZWERDLING: So the women decided to go to the top. They
and other survivors met with the head of the FBI,
Robert Mueller.

The way Breitweiser tells the story, Mueller started
showing them a PowerPoint presentation. She cut to the

BREITWEISER: And we said, "Director Mueller, you are
our chief investigator. We have information that you
have come in, and taken these files, taken these
recordings. We'd like to know what you learned from
them, we'd like to know where you are in your

ZWERDLING: So all four of you and other family members
are meeting with the Director of the FBI?

WOMEN: Right.

ZWERDLING: And were you… I mean you're sounding very
tough and forceful right now. Were you really talking
to the FBI Director like this?


ZWERDLING: Of course, the whole country's learned
since 9-11 about those FBI agents in Phoenix and
Minneapolis. They warned months before 9-11 that
suspicious Middle Eastern men were taking flight
training, including Zacarias Moussaoui, and the agents
warned that maybe they were terrorists planning an

Kristen Breitweiser says she wanted the FBI to clearly
explain: how could you have failed to put the pieces

BREITWEISER: I'm sitting there with a FBI agent who is
very high up. Not the director, but nonetheless very
high up in the FBI.

And I said to him, "I don't understand. You have the
Phoenix memo. You have Zacarias Moussaoui in custody.

"You had actually been to the flight school that you
picked up Zacarias Moussaoui at four or five times
before to investigate other individuals. One of those
individuals who happened to be a pilot for Osama bin
Laden himself. And you had the Phoenix memo alerting
you to the interest that these Middle Eastern men had
in flight schools. How is it that you didn't find them
prior to 9/11?"

So this agent says to me, "Do you know how many flight
schools there are in America? Thousands. Do you know
how many ground instructors there are? Thousands. And
you expected us to go to every single flight school to
find these handful of men?"

And I'm like, "Well, honestly, yes." So then I'm like,
"Okay, fine. I'll give you that. I'll give you that
you couldn't have hit every flight school." I'm like,
"Okay, fine."

"Well, how is it that if there's thousands of flight
schools and you could never have found them, how is it
that you went to Embry Riddle flight school in Daytona
Beach, Florida, hours after the attacks? If there's
thousands of flight schools, how did you just happen
to go to that one exact, perfect school that some of
the hijackers went to. How'd you know to go to that

And he just looked at me and goes, "We got lucky."

ZWERDLING: Breitweiser suspects that the FBI was
actually following the terrorists before 9-11. FBI
officials deny that. But the congressional
investigation discovered that some U.S. intelligence
officials did have crucial information about Al-Qaeda
and its plots years before 9/11. They even knew that
terrorists might be plotting to use airplanes as

For instance, in 1995, intelligence officials learned
that Al-Qaeda planned to crash a plane into CIA
headquarters. In 1998, they got warnings that
terrorists planned to crash a plane into the World
Trade Center. In the spring of 2000, the CIA knew that
an Al-Qaeda operative had moved from Malaysia to
California, and that another had a visa to come to the
United States. Those two would later hijack the plane
that crashed into the Pentagon. And just a month
before the 9-11 attacks, President Bush himself
learned at a briefing that Al-Qaeda might have plans
to hijack commercial airliners.

CASAZZA: If you watch these televised press reports —
and this is something that also angered us early on —
is you have Condoleeza Rice saying, "We could never
have anticipated planes being used as bombs."

RICE: I don't think anybody could have predicted that
these people would take an airplane and slam it into
the World Trade Center. Take another one and slam it
into the Pentagon.

BREITWEISER: If you reach a certain level in the
government or in private industry or anywhere,
incompetence should not fly. If you are incompetent in
any facet of your job, you should no longer be there.
And I don't understand why that feeling is not passed
on in Washington. I don't understand how George Tenet
could still have his job. I don't understand how
Robert Mueller could still have his job. I don't
understand how Condoleeza Rice could still have her


BREITWEISER: Why? Because they completely and utterly

ZWERDLING: The New Jersey women say they're getting
skeptical that the 9-11 commission can do its job. The
commission is supposed to dig up all the facts but the
commission's chairman has complained publicly that
Bush administration officials aren't cooperating.
They're not turning over key documents. The White
House won't let the commission interview government
employees unless there's a "minder" in the room.

Meanwhile, the women keep asking more questions that
they want the commission to resolve.

ZWERDLING: Can you think of any moments when the women
said to you, "We've just researched something, and
look at this. Look at this, Congressman Roemer." And
you said to yourself, "Wow, I didn't know that."

ROEMER: That happens on pretty much a weekly basis.
They're always telling me, "We need you to kick down
the doors. To be responsible. To be our prosecutor.
And get at the facts."

ZWERDLING: These women are a little bit direct.

ROEMER: They are aggressive. They are knowledgeable.
They are well-informed. And you need to be to get the
kind of answers that we must have to make this country
a safer place.

ZWERDLING: The women's crusade began in the aisles of
home depot. And it moved to the White House. They
started by examining the past, but now they're also
looking to the future. When will the Bush
administration give ports the money they need, for
inspections? When will the White House and Congress
reorganize the intelligence agencies? And what about
America's relationships with the rest of the world?

BREITWEISER: Before 9/11, you know, my husband and I
had the Wall Street Journal, Barron's and the New York
Times delivered to the house. And I would open the New
York Times, and I would skip the first… I'd read the
front page. And I'd skip the next three pages.

And those three pages were about the Middle East. And,
or you know, the Soviet bloc, or you know? I never
read them. And I never read them because I never
thought it mattered. And ironically enough, my husband
was killed by Middle Eastern terrorists. And I think
to myself, my God, I should have read those stupid
pages. I should have known who Osama Bin Laden was. I
should have known the name Al-Qaeda.

And I think that really for me, that's a wake up call.

VAN AUKEN: I thought democracy just worked. And I
learned that it doesn't go like that. That if you want
to live in this great country of ours, with our
fabulous democracy, and our Constitution, and, you
know, our different rights. Freedom of speech, and all
the things that we take for granted, you have to fight
for those things.


GROUP: Heavenly Father, we just thank you for this
day, Lord…

ANNOUNCER: Religious groups are getting your tax
dollars to run government programs for the needy.

JARAMILLO: We don't want to drag them to church. We
don't want to win them to Christ. We just want them to
have the tools they need.

ANNOUNCER: But do vulnerable people, who need help the
most, feel pressured to join in? The price of help,
next week on NOW.


Join the debate about big money in politics. Is it
drowning out your voice in Washington?

More on the world according to George Soros.

15 critical questions the 9/11 widows say the FBI and
CIA have yet to answer.

Connect to NOW at

BRANCACCIO: That's it for NOW. Bill Moyers will be
here next week. I'm David Brancaccio. Good night.

Posted by richard at September 19, 2003 03:11 PM