The September 11th Advocates (S11A) are four New Jersey women whose husbands (three of whom worked for the Cantor Fitzgerald company) were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Following 9/11, the four, who did not know one another prior to the attacks, traveled regularly to Washington DC, where they pushed members of Congress to create a 9/11 Commission. (The Commission was established in late 2002 “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding” the terrorist strikes, and it delivered its final report on July 22, 2004.)
“We simply wanted to know why our husbands were killed,” Kristin Breitweiser, one of the four founders, would later explain, “why they went to work one day and didn’t come back.” Breitweiser was 30 years old when she lost her husband. Her fellow S11A members include graphic artist Lorie Van Auken (46 at the time of the 9/11 attacks), accountant Mindy Kleinberg (39), and Patty Casazza (40).
During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, the S11A founders publicly criticized President George W. Bush for having failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks. As Breitweiser put it, “Three thousand people were murdered on George Bush’s watch.” “President Bush and his workers,” she charged on another occasion, “… were the individuals that failed my husband and the three thousand people that day.” An April 14, 2004 Wall Street Journal editorial noted that S11A’s “fury and accusation is aimed not at the killers who snuffed out their husbands’ and so many other lives, but at the American president, his administration, and an ever-wider assortment of targets including the Air Force, the Port Authority, the City of New York.”
S11A supported John Kerry for U.S. President that year, stumping with him to help him cultivate an image as someone tough on terrorism.
In 2004 Ms. Magazine named the S11A founders as co-recipients of its Women of the Year award. Fellow winners included Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff against Wal-Mart in the largest class action sex-discrimination suit in American history; Saudatu Mahdi, a Muslim feminist who contends that Sharia — Islamic law — treats women just as well as men when it is fairly implemented; and Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters. That same year, the S11A quartet received a Ron Ridenhour Award (given annually for achievements in “truth-telling”), sponsored by the Fertel Foundation and The Nation Institute and named after the whistleblower who exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. (In 2003 the award went to former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson.)
S11A contends that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was unjustified; that it caused America’s former widespread support from other nations around the world to dissipate; that it spurred terrorist recruitment for al Qaeda, thereby making the U.S. less safe than it was before the Iraq war; and that the war has been rife with instances of American soldiers torturing and abusing enemy combatants.
In her 2006 book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, author Ann Coulter caused a furor when she accused S11A’s founders of exploiting their personal grief for political purposes. “These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attack only happened to them,” Coulter wrote. “They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. … These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them revelling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much.”
Coulter objected to what she viewed as S11A’s complicity in a tactic widely employed by the political left: “Put up ‘victims’ as spokesmen to tongue-tie the opposition.” “This is the left’s doctrine of infallibility,” she explained. “If they have a point to make about the 9-11 commission, about how to fight the war on terrorism, how about sending in somebody we are allowed to respond to. No. No. No. We have to respond to someone who had a family member die. Because then if we respond, oh you are questioning their authenticity.”
“The 9/11 Commission was a scam and a fraud,” Coulter elaborated, “the sole purpose of which was to cover up the disasters of the Clinton administration and distract the nation’s leaders during wartime. Not only did the Jersey Girls [i.e., S11A) claim credit for this Clinton whitewash machine, they spent most of the hearings denouncing the Bush administration for not stopping the 9/11 attacks from the weak position handed it by the Clinton administration.”
In particular, S11A complained that an August 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) should have alerted President Bush to the imminent terrorist threat and prompted him to order immediate action to avert 9/11. However, noted Coulter, “all the information about bin Laden in the August PDB comes from the nineties. Not one fact in the PDB is more recent than 1999 [during the Clinton presidency]…. The rest of the nation was more interested in knowing why the FBI was prevented from being given intelligence about 9/11 terrorists here in the United States more than a year before the attack.” The reason, Coulter said, was that Clinton’s Deputy Attorney General, Jamie Gorelick, “had specifically prohibited intelligence agents from telling law-enforcement agents about suspected terrorists in the country.”
This is a reference to a U.S. covert intelligence operation called “Able Danger,” which had identified Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, and others as members of a Brooklyn-based al Qaeda cell in 1999. But this crucial information was not communicated to the FBI — because of a 1995 directive by Gorelick ordering the strict separation of “counterintelligence investigation[s] from … criminal investigations.” Moreover, Able Danger’s intelligence about Atta was omitted from the official 9/11 Commission Report that the Jersey Girls lauded — despite at least two briefings made to the Committee on the subject. Gorelick, it turned out, was a member of the 9/11 Commission. Ann Coulter’s inference was that Gorelick had prevented the 9/11 Commission from including the Able Danger information so as to protect herself and the Clinton legacy from condemnation.
Notwithstanding the foregoing facts, the S11A founders reserved their criticism almost exclusively for the Bush administration.