Tom wants answers to his security questions

By Tom Allon

Any high school history student is aware of the sign President Harry Truman kept on his desk: “The Buck Stops Here.”

It means that if you are a true leader, you take responsibility for what happens when you are in power.

But for many modern leaders, there is a tendency to blame others for catastrophes or terrorist attacks that happened on their watch. For some reason, our country has given a free pass to President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and, to a certain extent, Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Lost amid the 24-7 coverage of the Paris terror attacks has been the emerging details of America’s intelligence operation in the months leading up to 9/11 in 2001. Former Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet has revealed that he tried on many occasions in the summer of 2001 to alert Bush and Cheney and anyone who would listen in the administration that an attack on the United States was imminent. Chatter in the Middle East picked up by the CIA showed that terrorists wanted to wreak havoc on the United States.

This is important because we need to understand how our leadership failed to heed the warnings of our intelligence leaders so this never happens again. After the Paris terror bombings, we are reminded that there is a very thin blue line protecting citizens in big cities from terrorists.

How come we don’t know what Bush and Cheney knew in the days before Sept. 11? Why haven’t these two men been brought before a Congressional panel like the one we recently witnessed with Hillary Clinton over Benghazi?

It would be useful for our leaders to hear what went wrong in 2001. We don’t need to make this a witch-hunt like the Republican congressional leaders attempted with Benghazi. I think we should want to know what our leaders did and didn’t do to protect Americans.

When you boil government down to its essence, our federal, state, and city leaders are elected to protect us and keep order. That is what our tax dollars pay for and we have a right to know about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Speaking of ugly, I find it hard sometimes to watch Giuliani go on Fox News and fulminate against President Obama. Giuliani had a strong first term as New York’s Mayor, but few people ever discuss his clueless decision to place New York’s Emergency Command Center in the World Trade Center—after the buildings had been attacked in 1993.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Council hearings about the history of the city’s Emergency Command Center as a way of understanding our city’s current preparedness for another terrorist attack. Are the police and firefighters now properly synched to work in unison, a problem that also hindered the response on 9/11? Are their radios strong enough to withstand a potentially chaotic day? Are they immunized from cyber-attacks or hacking that will likely accompany a terror strike?

Which brings us to the increasingly evil world we live in. What is being done to make sure New Yorkers are safe?

For the first time in more than a decade, terror fears are affecting my travel decisions. Last week, instead of taking a subway through Times Square, I stayed on the East Side line and bypassed the latest potential target. And I’m not alone in this kind of thinking.

If I were a French citizen, I would be asking why the government of President Francois Hollande didn’t know that another attack was brewing after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January? Is Hollande the right person to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

After 9/11, we lionized Bush for seeming strong and tough. Then he led us into a reckless war in Iraq and started the fall of dominoes that is now the collapsing Middle East. Giuliani was similarly put on a pedestal because of his mixture of toughness and compassion after 9/11. And around the world some are praising French President Hollande for his strong militaristic response in Syria after 129 of his citizens were brutally murdered.

We should not equate post-tragedy toughness with perfect leadership. We need to ask how this happened.

The answers to all these questions may lead us to a much safer place.

Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallo[email protected]yandstateny.com.

More from Around New York