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Getting the 411 on 9/11 

Journalist James Ridgeway is looking for answers about that tragic day.

Style: The magnitude of the disaster and the amount of red tape surrounding the 9/11 attacks must be daunting. What prompted you to take this on?

Ridgeway: First of all, I work for The Village Voice. It's on Cooper Street, which is below 14th Street and not that far from the World Trade Center. Any number of writers, including the editor, live close to it. I guess you could say we felt affected. I went to a few hearings and I read a lot of the stuff and I was kind of taken aback [by the lack of in-depth investigation].

What did you find that surprised you the most?

The thing that is most upsetting is the tape recording of the flight attendants [on American Airlines flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center], Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney. If you listen to the tape, it's incredible how these women stayed so calm and gave them point by point information on what the hijackers were using, who they were, right up to the point of the crash, and American Airlines [wasn't] doing anything about it.

Everyone's seen pictures of President Bush sitting in a classroom in Florida when the planes hit. How did the administration handle things that morning?

Well, it's Rumsfeld who got up and said what a lot of people don't understand is that the Defense Department is charged with defending the U.S. outside its borders, but once it's inside the borders, it's law enforcement's job. What is he talking about? That day, his participation in defending the U.S. was zero. Under the law, Bush is commander in chief and Rumsfeld takes the laws and executes them. But Cheney was giving orders, and he has no place in the military chain of command. It turns out that finally the Secret Service contacted the Air National Guard. The military command was inoperable, and the defense of the country was left in the hands of the Secret Service.

When you're investigating something of this magnitude, how do you even begin?

They have this term "investigative reporter," like these guys are cops or something. Sometimes you can find people inside that will tell you different things. For the most part, it's finding public documents and sourcing from international press accounts. I didn't do anything here that's conspiracy stuff. There's a lot of reasons, I'm sure, for [9/11] happening, but why can't this be addressed in public?

You seem a little sensitive to being called a conspiracy theorist.

When I was on "Hardball," for instance, they keep saying, "Well, you're calling it a cover-up." I said, well, yeah, it's kind of a cover-up, and then [the host] goes to the counterterrorism analyst, who didn't like that at all. Then I was asked to come to the Congressional Black Caucus, and they don't like me because I [don't buy into the conspiracies]. They're offering conspiracies about secret bombs or how it was all organized by George Bush.

It's not a question of building some conspiracy theory, like a plane never hit the Pentagon, but a missile, or about it being a stunt to raise political capital at home. It's just a very simple question in a democracy, which is, well, what happened? S

To hear Chris Bopst interview James Ridgeway, tune in to The Bopst Show Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. on 1450 am, or listen to it over the internet at www.wclmradio.com. To call in with questions dial 231-7685

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