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Commission Opens Hearings on Sept 11, 2001 Attacks

An independent commission looking into what could have been done to prevent the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks has begun two days of public hearings in New York City. The commission is hearing from survivors, relatives victims, counter-terrorism experts, and local lawmakers.

The 10-member commission is investigating a broad range of possible causes and failures leading to the September 11 disaster, including areas of intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy, aviation, and terrorist funding.

The national commission's chairman, former New Jersey Governor Tom Keane, said families of the nearly 3,000 victims want to know that their deaths will spur efforts to prevent a future tragedy. "Our purpose is to find out why things happened, how they could have happened, and what we can do to prevent there ever happening again," he said.

During the first day of testimony in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took office four-months after the attacks, said the city had little control over failures of airport security on September 11, 2001.

Mr. Bloomberg lashed out at the federal government for failing to provide sufficient funding to the city, which faces a multi-billion dollar deficit. Mr. Bloomberg said that the massive budget gap has been exacerbated by post-September 11 economic losses and costly security needs.

He described as unrealistic the more than $8 million that the Federal Department of Homeland Security has earmarked for New York from its $560 million budget.

"Homeland security funds should be allocated on the basis of threat analysis and risk. Any other formula, for example, by population, defies logic and makes a mockery of the country's counter-terrorism efforts. New York City, let me remind you, has been targeted four-times by terrorists. and the federal government can not ignore our symbolic value. To argue that most other cities have comparable threats is just ridiculous," Mayor Bloomberg said.

The commission also heard from survivors and relatives of victims. One burn victim, who worked on a top floor of the World Trade Center, said he hoped his story would put a human face on the tragedy and that the commission's findings would not be ignored.

The bipartisan, independent inquiry and its staff of about 50 people, are expected expected to release a report by May, 2004.