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9.The 9/11 crisis tested the U.S. government's plans and capabilities to ensure the continuity of constitutional
government and the continuity of government operations.We did not investigate this topic, except as needed in
order to understand the activities and communications of key officials on 9/11.The Chair,Vice Chair, and senior
staff were briefed on the general nature and implementation of these continuity plans.
10.White House transcript, Statement by the President in His Address to the Nation, Sept. 11, 2001 (online at
www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010911-16.html).
11.White House transcript, Rice interview with Bob Woodward, Oct. 24, 2001, p. 371.
12. Joshua Bolten meeting (Mar. 18, 2004); see also Steven Brill, After: How America Confronted the September 12
Era (Simon & Schuster, 2003), pp. 5051.
13.The collapse of the World Trade Center towers on the morning of September 11 coated Lower Manhat-
tan with a thick layer of dust from the debris and fire. For days a plume of smoke rose from the site. Between Sep-
tember 11 and September 21, 2001, EPA issued five press releases regarding air quality in Lower Manhattan. A release
on September 16 quoted the claim of the assistant secretary for labor at OSHA that tests show "it is safe for New
Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district." (OSHA's responsibility extends only to indoor air
quality for workers, however.) The most controversial press release, on September 18, quoted EPA Administrator
Christine Whitman as saying that the air was "safe" to breathe.This statement was issued the day after the financial
markets reopened.The EPA Office of Inspector General investigated the issuance of these press releases and con-
cluded that the agency did not have enough data about the range of possible pollutants other than asbestos to make
a judgment, lacked public health benchmarks for appropriate levels of asbestos and other pollutants, and had impre-
cise methods for sampling asbestos in the air; it also noted that more than 25 percent of the bulk dust samples col-
lected before September 18 showed the presence of asbestos above the agency's 1 percent benchmark. EPA Inspector
General report,"EPA's Response to the World Trade Center Collapse: Challenges, Successes, and Areas for Improve-
ment," Aug. 21, 2003.
We do not have the expertise to examine the scientific accuracy of the pronouncements in the press releases.
The issue is the subject of pending civil litigation.
We did examine whether the White House improperly influenced the content of the press releases so that they
would intentionally mislead the public.The EPA press releases were coordinated with Samuel Thernstrom, associ-
ate director for communications at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Oral reports, interviews
with EPA officials, and materials on the EPA's Web site were not coordinated through the White House.Although
the White House review process resulted in some editorial changes to the press releases, these changes were con-
sistent with what the EPA had already been saying without White House clearance. See, e.g., David France and
Erika Check, "Asbestos Alert; How much of the chemical does the World Trade Center wreckage contain?"
Newsweek Web Exclusive, Sept. 14, 2001 (quoting EPA Administrator Whitman as saying the air quality is not a health
problem); Andrew C. Revkin, "After the Attacks:The Chemicals; Monitors Say Health Risk From Smoke Is Very
Small," New York Times, Sept. 14, 2001, p.A6 (EPA says levels of airborne asbestos below threshold of concern); Hugo
Kugiya, "Terrorist Attacks; Asbestos Targeted in Cleanup Effort; EPA's Whitman: `No reason for concern,'" News-
day
, Sept. 16, 2001, p.W31 (Whitman says there is no reason for concern given EPA tests for asbestos).There were
disputes between the EPA's communications person and the White House coordinator regarding the press releases.
The EPA communications person said she felt extreme pressure from the White House coordinator, and felt that
they were no longer her press releases. EPA Inspector General interview of Tina Kreisher,Aug. 28, 2002.The White
House coordinator, however, told us that these disputes were solely concerned with process, not the actual sub-
stance of the releases. Samuel Thernstrom interview (Mar. 31, 2004). Former EPA administrator Christine Whit-
man agreed with the White House coordinator. Christine Whitman interview (June 28, 2004) The documentary
evidence supports this claim. Although Whitman told us she spoke with White House senior economic adviser
Lawrence Lindsey regarding the need to get the financial markets open quickly, she denied he pressured her to
declare the air was safe due to economic expediency.We found no evidence of pressure on EPA to say the air was
safe in order to permit the markets to reopen. Moreover, the most controversial release that specifically declared
the air safe to breathe was released after the markets had already reopened.
The EPA did not have the health-based benchmarks needed to assess the extraordinary air quality conditions
in Lower Manhattan after 9/11.The EPA and the White House therefore improvised and applied standards devel-
oped for other circumstances in order to make pronouncements regarding air safety, advising workers at Ground
Zero to use protective gear and advising the general population that the air was safe.Whether those improvisations
were appropriate is still a subject for medical and scientific debate. See EPA Inspector General report, "EPA's
Response to the World Trade Center Collapse," Aug. 21, 2003, pp. 919.
14. Brill, After, pp. 4750.
15.We studied this episode and interviewed many of the participants.The NYSE,Amex, and Nasdaq have devel-
oped plans for coordination and cooperation in the event of a disaster affecting one or all of them, but these plans
do not include other exchanges or international components.The White House efforts during the crisis were coor-
dinated by the President's Working Group on Financial Markets, a group created in the 1980s.
16. Brill, After, pp. 5355, 8991. Following interim reports in 1999 and 2000, a congressional commission
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