'The Villager' covers Gravel - NYC Ballot Initiative

‘Pentagon Papers senator’ calls for new 9/11 probe

By Jefferson Siegel

Skeptics of the government’s explanation regarding details of the September 11 attacks are trying to put the issue before a larger audience. In an attempt to place a call for a new investigation on November’s ballot, the 9/11 Truth group welcomed former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel to St. Mark’s Church on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s crunch time,” Gravel said, noting the group hopes to amass at least 40,000 signatures in the next three weeks for a citywide ballot initiative for the November election. The group already has 12,000 signatures.

“This may be our last hope to bring about a serious investigation,” Gravel, who also ran for president earlier this year, told a crowd of several dozen in the plaza facing the church.

“It’s more of a citizens commission rather than a government commission,” he explained.

“The referendum would allow for a legally sanctioned commission with subpoena powers,” said Reverend Frank Morales, a St. Mark’s associate pastor and a member of the 9/11 Truth movement.

Morales, a former leader of the East Village squatter movement, stressed the effort isn’t just symbolic. “This is a body that, once voted into being, would have lawyers, consultants, hold hearings and issue a report. We’re confident all the people of New York City will vote for a new investigation, given we haven’t had one,” he added.

Gravel wants to subpoena President Bush, Vice President Cheney and former C.I.A. Director George Tenet, among others. Perjury while under subpoena is a crime, he noted.

“We’ll go right down to the bowels of the government,” he vowed, “to the whole cult of secrecy that’s destroying our government.”

Thomas Ruggiero, stepson of Firefighter Peter Biefeld of Ladder 42 in the South Bronx, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, came to lend support.

“I was outraged when [Secretary of State] Condi Rice said to the nation they had no idea Osama bin Laden was America’s greatest threat,” Ruggiero said.

“I personally hold the Bush administration responsible,” he added. “Things don’t add up.”

As a U.S. senator opposing the military draft during the Vietnam War in the 1970s, Gravel read large portions of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record.

A voluminous examination of government policies on the war, the Pentagon Papers were first copied by Daniel Ellsberg and made available to The New York Times. Their contents caused a nationwide furor and the Justice Department moved to halt publication.

Gravel read portions of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record until he could no longer physically continue. Gravel’s dramatic move was followed the next day by a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of the newspaper’s right to publication.

To sign the petition or for more information on the ballot initiative go to www.nyc911initiative.org .

Mike Gravel - Media