As widows of men who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, we are appalled by John Lehman's Nov. 16 op-ed column, "Getting Spy Reform Wrong; Sept. 11 Commission's Proposals Were Turned Into Bureaucratic Bloat."
We fought tirelessly for the creation of the Sept. 11 commission, of which Lehman was a member. We spent the next 20 months battling with the commissioners to hold hard-hitting, meaningful hearings, to aggressively gather all relevant evidence via their subpoena power and to compel key witnesses to testify under oath. We also repeatedly fought for the assignment of accountability in the commission's final report. We knew that without accountability, no true reforms would take place.
Yet all of our heartfelt requests fell on the deaf ears of the commissioners -- and that is why we are left nearly speechless by Lehman's column bemoaning the fact that too few of the Sept. 11 commission's vital recommendations have been put into action.
More than four years after Sept. 11 and millions of taxpayer dollars later, how does Lehman have the audacity to lament the lack of progress and reform in this country's national security apparatus? Exactly where were his outrage and straight talk two years ago, when the Sept. 11 commission was empaneled and able to make a meaningful difference?
How can Lehman now have any legitimate expectation of leadership and cooperation from the Bush administration to follow through with recommendations and reforms when the same administration stonewalled, dragged its feet and withheld vital access, information and evidence from the commission during its work? How can Lehman berate the government for holding no one accountable when his own commission refused to do so?
Please. Enough of the feigned shock and disappointment. After months of futile attempts by the Sept. 11 families to steer this commission in the right direction, only the victims' families and the American people should be entitled to declare their disappointment. Moreover, as history has begun to make clear, the Sept. 11 commission's final report was a political whitewash, a negotiated coverup, and ultimately a shroud of protection for both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Americans should feel defrauded, disgusted and, most alarming, less safe knowing this chilling fact; we certainly do.
-- Monica Gabrielle
-- Kristen Breitweiser
Baiting Hollow, N.Y.