Apology, Hugs Mean A Lot to Families, Widow Says

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A 9/11 widow said she is disappointed with the "partisan" behavior of the commission appointed to investigate the events leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.

In an interview on NBC's Today show Thursday, Kristen Breitweiser -- a widow who pushed for the commission's appointment -- said Wednesday's hearing focused too much on "character assassination," a reference to credibility questions directed at Richard Clarke.

Clarke, a former counterterrorism official in the Bush administration, is just out with a new book blasting what he calls the Bush administration's failure to take the threat of terrorism seriously.

Breitweiser, who is attending the commission's hearings, told NBC's Katie Couric, "I think that rather than character assassination, people should be debating the underlying facts and allegations in his (Clarke's) books, because that will answer the questions as to why we were so vulnerable to terrorism."

Breitweiser called it "refreshing" that Clarke apologized to the families.

"I know that meant a lot to you and other families," responded NBC anchorwoman Katie Couric. "In fact," Couric added, "other families gathered around him (Clarke) after his testimony, sort of hugging him and expressing their gratitude."

"Frankly, he is the first person who has apologized to the families, and that means an awful lot to us, because clearly 9/11 was a colossal failure," Breitweiser said in response to Couric's description of the hugging.

"And it means something when people have the ability to say, 'Look, I failed you. But here's what I'm going to do to make sure it never happens again. Here's everything I did. I tried my heart out. And I'm so sorry, but we're going to make sure that this darned well doesn't happen again.'"

Breitweiser also told Couric that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice should set a "moral precedent" by testifying in public before the 9/11 commission.

She said the White House had obviously done a "cost-benefit analysis" regarding Rice's requested testimony.

"They have determined that it is easier to take the heat on her failure to testify, as opposed to her going under oath and answering questions about what the president knew and when he knew it."

Rice spent four hours meeting with the commission at the White House on Feb. 7.

After the meeting, the commission released a statement saying, "Although we have met privately with Dr. Rice, we believe the nation would be well-served by the contribution she can make to public understanding of the intelligence and policy issues being examined by the commission."


Kristen Breitweiser, co-chairperson of a group called September 11th Advocates, is deeply immersed in the events leading up to the death of her husband on Sept. 11.

She was selected by Sept.11 families to testify before the Joint Committees on Intelligence on Sept. 18, 2002.

In her 2002 testimony on Capitol Hill, Breitweiser questioned Condoleezza Rice's statement that no one could have predicted that people would take airplanes and slam them into the World Trade Center.

"The historical facts illustrate differently," Breitweiser told members of Congress.

According to Breitweiser, "September 11th was the devastating result of a catalogue of failures on behalf of our government and its agencies.

"Were any of our governmental agencies doing their job on that fateful morning?" she asked. "Perhaps the carnage and devastation of September 11th speaks for itself in answering this question."

At the conclusion of her Sept. 2002 testimony, Breitweiser said, "We need people to be held accountable for their failures. We need leaders with the courage to take responsibility for what went wrong."

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.