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As Luck Would Have It . . .

Mindy Kleinberg began by telling of a fall day in the Northeast, so warm and clear that she “literally skipped home” after seeing off her 10-year-old and 7-year-old at the school-bus stop. On that day, September 11, 2001, her 39-year-old husband, a stock trader with Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center, lost his life along with some 3,000 others in that day’s terrorist attacks.

Kleinberg testified last week before the national commission investigating 9/11. The commission took two days of testimony just blocks away from Ground Zero, hearing both from survivors and from experts, who spoke of the hijackers’ financial sources and U.S. intelligence lapses.

Although Kleinberg’s husband was unlucky, it wasn’t bad luck that cost his life, she asserted. Kleinberg detailed the “good luck” of the hijackers, who could have been stopped at many points. Most of her account is fully documented; some allegations await investigation.

Excerpts from Mindy Kleinberg’s statement:

It has been said that the intelligence agencies have to be right 100 percent of the time and the terrorists only have to get lucky once . . . The 9/11 terrorists were not just lucky once: They were lucky over and over again. Allow me to illustrate.

 

The SEC:

The terrorists’ lucky streak began the week before September 11 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. The SEC, in concert with the United States intelligence agencies, has sophisticated software programs that are used in “real time” to watch both domestic and overseas markets to seek out trends that may indicate a present or future crime.

On the Chicago Board Options Exchange during the week before September 11, put options were purchased on American and United Airlines, the two airlines involved in the attacks. The investors who placed these orders were gambling that, in the short term, the stock prices of both airlines would plummet. Never before on the Chicago Exchange were such large amounts of United and American Airlines options traded. These investors netted a profit of at least $5 million after the September 11 attacks.

Interestingly, the names of the investors remain undisclosed, and the $5 million remains unclaimed.

Why were these aberrant trades not discovered prior to 9/11? Who were the individuals who placed these trades? Have they been investigated?

 

The INS:

Prior to 9/11, our U.S. intelligence agencies should have stopped the 19 terrorists from entering this country for intelligence reasons alone. However, their failure to do so in 19 instances does not negate the luck involved for the terrorists when it comes to their visa applications and our Immigration and Naturalization Service.

With regard to the INS, the terrorists got lucky 15 individual times, because 15 of the 19 hijackers’ visas should have been unquestionably denied . . . All of these forms are incomplete and incorrect.

Some of the terrorists listed their means of support as simply “student,” failing to then list the name and address of any school or institution. Others, when asked about their means of support for their stay in the U.S., wrote “myself” and provided no further documentation. Some of the terrorists listed their destination as simply “hotel” or “California” or “New York.” One even listed his destination as “no.”

Had the INS or State Department followed the law, at least 15 of the hijackers would have been denied visas and would not have been in the United States.

 

Airline and Airport Security:

When the 19 hijackers went to purchase their tickets (with cash and/or credit cards) and to receive their boarding passes, nine were singled out and questioned through a screening process. Luckily for those nine terrorists, they passed the screening process and were allowed to continue on with their mission.

But the terrorists’ luck didn’t end at the ticket counter; it also accompanied them through airport security, as well. Because how else would the hijackers get specifically contraband items such as box cutters, pepper spray or, according to one FAA executive summary, a gun on those planes?

Finally, sadly for us, years of [General Accounting Office] recommendations to secure cockpit doors
were ignored.

 

FAA and NORAD:

Prior to 9/11, FAA and Department of Defense manuals gave clear, comprehensive instructions on how to handle everything from minor emergencies to full-blown hijackings . . . Those protocols dictate that in the event of an emergency, the FAA is to notify NORAD. Once that notification takes place, it is then the responsibility of NORAD to scramble fighter jets to intercept the errant plane(s) . . . If that weren’t protection enough, on September 11th, NEADS (or the North East Air Defense System department of NORAD) was several days into a semiannual exercise known as “Vigilant Guardian.” This meant that our North East Air Defense system was fully staffed. In short, key officers were manning the operation battle center, “fighter jets were cocked, loaded, and carrying extra gas onboard.”

Lucky for the terrorists, none of this mattered on the morning of September 11.

American Airlines Flight 11 departed from Boston Logan Airport at 7:45 a.m. The last routine communication between ground control and the plane occurred at 8:13 a.m. Between 8:13 and 8:20 a.m. Flight 11 became unresponsive to ground control. Additionally, radar indicated that the plane had deviated from its assigned path of flight . . . Two Flight 11 airline attendants had separately called American Airlines reporting a hijacking, the presence of weapons, and the infliction of injuries on passengers and crew.

Yet according to NORAD’s official timeline, NORAD was not contacted until 20 minutes later, at 8:40 a.m. Tragically, the fighter jets were not deployed until 8:52 a.m. — a full 32 minutes after the loss of contact with Flight 11 . . . Flights 175, 77 and 93 all had this same repeat pattern of delays in notification and delays in scrambling fighter jets — delays that are unimaginable considering a plane had, by this time, already hit the WTC . . . Had the belatedly scrambled fighter jets flown at their maximum speed of engagement, Mach 12, they would have reached NYC and the Pentagon within moments, intercepted the hijacked airliners before they could have hit their targets, and undoubtedly saved lives.

 

Leadership:

Secretary of Defense:

As reported, Secretary Rumsfeld felt the [Pentagon] shake, went outside, saw the damage and started helping the injured onto stretchers. After aiding the victims, the secretary then went into the “War Room.”

How is it possible that the National Military Command Center, located in the Pentagon and in contact with law enforcement and air traffic controllers from 8:46 a.m., did not communicate to the secretary of defense, also at the Pentagon, about the other hijacked planes, especially the one headed to Washington?

 

President:

On the morning of September 11, President Bush was scheduled to listen to elementary school children read. Before the president walked into the classroom, NORAD had sufficient information that the plane that hit the WTC was hijacked. At that time, they also had knowledge that two other commercial airliners, in the air, were also hijacked. It would seem that a national emergency was in progress.

Yet President Bush was allowed to enter a classroom full of young children and listen to the students read. Why didn’t the Secret Service inform him of this national emergency?

In the case of a national emergency, seconds of indecision could cost thousands of lives.

Is it luck that aberrant stock trades were not monitored? Is it luck when 15 visas are awarded based on incomplete forms? Is it luck when airline-security screenings allow hijackers to board planes with box cutters and pepper spray? Is it luck when emergency FAA and NORAD protocols are not followed? Is it luck when a national emergency is not reported to top government officials on a timely basis?

To me, luck is something that happens once. When you have this repeated pattern of broken protocols, broken laws, broken communication, one cannot still call it luck. If at some point we don’t look to hold the individuals accountable for not doing their jobs properly, then how can we ever expect for terrorists not to get lucky again?

And, that is why I am here with all of you today. Because we must find the answers as to what happened that day so as to ensure that another September 11 can never happen again.

Commissioners, I implore you to answer our questions.

 

To read her full remarks, as well as those of other witnesses, use the links provided in “The Back Story” by Judith Lewis.