NYPD memo from 1998: Secret Service aided in blast analysis for WTC7, worried a bomb could collapse building
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
The New York Police Department produced a detailed analysis in 1998 opposing plans by the city to locate its emergency command center at the World Trade Center, but the Giuliani administration overrode those objections. The command center later collapsed from damage in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
“Seven World Trade Center is a poor choice for the site of a crucial command center for the top leadership of the City of New York,” a panel of police experts, which was aided by the Secret Service, concluded in a confidential Police Department memorandum.
The memorandum, which has not been previously disclosed, cited a number of “significant points of vulnerability.” Those included: the building’s public access, the center’s location on the 23rd floor, a 1,200-gallon diesel fuel supply for its generator, a large garage and delivery bays, the building’s history as a terrorist target, and its placement above and adjacent to a Consolidated Edison substation that provided much of the power for Lower Manhattan.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the mayor then, has acknowledged some police skepticism about the site, but he has described it as resulting from a jurisdictional dispute between police officials and his emergency management director, who had played a role in selecting the site.
The eight-page memo reveals that police officials asked a variety of in-house experts in various disciplines and an outside expert to prepare a detailed analysis of the site’s vulnerabilities.
The decision to put the command center in the trade center has been a continuing source of discomfort for Mr. Giuliani, whose expertise and preparedness as a leader in a time of crisis has been the chief element in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
The site was completed in the summer of 1999 and was destroyed when the 47-story building at 7 World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11 after a fire there burned for much of the day.
“This group’s finding is that the security of the proposed O.E.M. Command Center cannot be reasonably guaranteed,” the commander of the intelligence division, Daniel J. Oates, wrote in the July 15, 1998, memo to the police commissioner.
The memo said the conclusions were based on analysis by police officials with expertise in infrastructure, building security, explosives, traffic and ventilation systems, who also consulted the Secret Service, including the agency’s New York special agent in charge, Chip Smith.
“Mr. Smith agrees with this assessment,” the memo says in its concluding paragraph, “even though his own office is in Seven World Trade Center. He acknowledges that the security of his office is a continuing concern because of the public nature of the building and the other reasons specified in this report.”
The memorandum was provided to The New York Times by a law enforcement official not affiliated with a rival political campaign.
Mr. Giuliani received a briefing on the Police Department’s recommendations, but it is unclear whether he received a copy of the memorandum.
Mr. Giuliani has said in the past that one of the reasons for choosing the location was that several federal agencies with which city officials needed to be in contact during emergencies, including the Secret Service, had their offices there. Other federal agencies in the building included the Defense Department and the C.I.A.
But the Police Department took the opposite position in the memo, saying the presence of those agencies made the building a more likely target.
Mr. Giuliani’s campaign declined on Friday to answer questions about the memo. But Maria Comella, a campaign spokeswoman, said the Giuliani administration had considered 50 different sites and examined a variety of factors before selecting the trade center.
“This is one memo out of a variety of memos that were presented,” she said.
Two years ago, in their book, “Grand Illusion,” Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins described the vehement objections to the choice raised by Police Commissioner Howard Safir and Chief of Department Louis R. Anemone. The memo from the Intelligence Division lays out what appears to have been the foundation for their arguments against the location.
Mr. Safir, who now operates a private security company and has supported Mr. Giuliani’s candidacy, did not a return a call seeking comment.
In response to questions about the site selection, Mr. Giuliani has typically said he relied on his emergency management director, Jerome M. Hauer, to find the best site and suggested he had little role in the process.
Mr. Hauer, however, has publicly disputed Mr. Giuliani’s assertion, saying that although he helped pick the site, he did so only after mayoral aides had told him the command center had to be within walking distance of City Hall. He has said he originally recommended a site in Brooklyn.
Mr. Hauer left the Giuliani administration in 2000 and worked as a consultant and served in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Bush administration. He later became a vocal critic of the former mayor. Mr. Hauer, however, has also praised Mr. Giuliani’s overall effort at emergency preparedness, a record that the Giuliani campaign went to some lengths to underscore on Friday.
Before Mr. Hauer left the Giuliani administration, great enmity existed between him and Mr. Safir. Mr. Safir’s critics have contended that he sought to limit the power and scope of the Office of Emergency Management once he became police commissioner in 1996. Mr. Giuliani created the office in 1996, and Mr. Hauer was its first director.
The memorandum sets out in detail the reasons why the Police Department concluded that the site was a poor choice for a command center, including its vulnerability to a biological attack and the ease with which a bomber could have damaged the building and crippled the center.
It has nine sections, the longest one headed “Explosives.” It describes a blast analysis conducted by the Police Department’s bomb squad, aided by the Secret Service, which looked at the likely impact of bombs of varying sizes, from one that could be carried in a car or a van to a large truck bomb.
The analysis, a standard practice used routinely to determine street closings when the president or another dignitary is in New York City, uses a computer system derived from the military and based on projections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
It concluded that the largest of such bombs would have led to the collapse of the building.