Negligence and Accountability
November 2, 2005
R. D. Kushner
A Manhattan jury found the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey negligent in providing proper security for the World Trade Center prior to the first terrorist attack in 1993. Last week, CNN reported that this conclusion was due in part to a 1985 report, “written by the Port Authority's own security officials, who warned the 400-slot garage was a likely attack site.” Plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the report, “was proof that the Port Authority could have protected the building long before the attack, but did not want to because it was inconvenient and would have cost too much.”
There was prior knowledge of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. This knowledge was not used to upgrade security or take necessary precautions to save lives. The result was a successful terrorist attack that killed Americans, destroyed infrastructure, and disrupted lives. A Manhattan jury found that the Port Authority was negligent in not using the information they had about the possibility of an attack to try to prevent the attack from happening. Based on the jury’s verdict, The New York Times reported that lawyers for, “roughly 400 plaintiffs have said they would seek up to $1.8 billion for physical and emotional pain and suffering and loss of business and wages.”
The Port Authority was negligent and they will be held accountable for their negligence. It is interesting to note that the charges do not indicate that the Port Authority could have stopped the terrorist bombing; the charges simply state that the Port Authority could have taken steps to protect the building – the negligence was in not taking precautionary actions. A determined terrorist may have carried out the bombing even if precautionary actions had been taken; but it would have been more difficult and the Port Authority and the citizens of New York City would have had the comfort of knowing that the Port Authority did the best they could with the information they had.
A report declassified and released by the White House in May 2004 indicates that there was prior knowledge of possible airline hijackings. The intelligence report said the FBI had detected, “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings” in the months preceding the now infamous terrorist attacks in September 2001. The memo was titled “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.” The title of the memo, and its content, indicates that both the type of possible attack and the organization that might try to carry out the attack were known; and yet just like the Port Authority, the Bush administration made no preparations to counter the threat which ultimately resulted in the loss of 2,752 lives. Just like the Port Authority judgment, it is not necessary to prove that the Bush administration could have prevented the September 11 attacks; it is enough to show that the administration was negligent in using the available information to take the necessary precautionary steps to provide for the safety of its citizens. According to the New York Times, David J. Dean, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the Port Authority case, indicated, “The issue was not how bad the terrorists were, but whether the Port Authority fulfilled its duty to keep the garage safe.”
1993. 2001. There were two terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center. The historical record and a wealth of public documentation have shown that information had been gathered prior to each attack; and that this information was in the hands of officials who were in positions to respond to these threats. Although it is impossible to know whether or not the available information could have altered history and stopped the terrorist attacks, it is known that serious efforts to do so were not undertaken in either circumstance.
The Port Authority is paying a price for their negligence. The Port Authority failed to respond to foreseeable consequences, and so failed to protect the innocent civilians placed in their trust. The American people should hold the Bush administration to at least the same level of accountability. Not only did the Bush administration know the World Trade Center was a highly desired target before 1993, they even had a memo describing quite explicitly how it [and any other monument in America] could become a target and which terrorist organization was determined to attack the United States.
To paraphrase David J. Dean, ‘The issue is not how bad the terrorists were, but whether the Bush administration fulfilled its duty to keep America safe.’ No amount of posturing after the fact or tough talk from the oval office will change the history leading up to September 11, 2001. The historical record will forever show a Bush administration caught flat-footed and surprised while holding onto a memo titled, “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.” Their negligence was appalling and it had tragic consequences, and the Bush administration needs to be held accountable.