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9-11 Widow Sues the Bush Administration for Intelligence Failures

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Ellen Mariani’s husband Neil died in flight 175 on September 11. Mariani refused a compensation package from the government of up to $1.8 million. Instead, she sued President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other administration officials under RICO-the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations act. [includes rush transcript]

This week, the 9/11 Commission wrapped up its latest round of public hearings. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani were among the officials who testified at the hearings which took place in New York.

There were many protests outside the hearings this week and inside as well, with protesters disrupting the proceedings several times. Among those who were in town for the hearings were a number of family members who lost loved ones on September 11. Tomorrow night at Riverside Church in New York, there will be a forum on what organizers are calling the unanswered questions surrounding 9/11. Among the speakers will be former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, as well as Ellen Mariani who lost her husband Louis on September 11. He was onboard United Airlines flight 175.

Ellen Mariani has refused to accept any money from the US government’s compensation fund—which could be as much as $1.8 million. Instead she has filed a lawsuit against President Bush, Vice president Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other administration officials. The suit is filed under RICO-the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations act.

  • Ellen Mariani, the wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when United Air Lines flight 175 was flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11. She has filed a RICO lawsuit against President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
  • Philip Berg, Ellen Mariani’s lawyer. He is a former Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania and a former candidate for Governor and U.S. Senate.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you both to Democracy Now!.


AMY GOODMAN: Ellen, why have you chosen this route? And can you start off by just sharing your reaction to the hearing this week?

ELLEN MARIANI: I was very disappointed. I had not attended any of the others. I felt that they were an insult to the families’ intelligence, number one. They are saying, we’re not here to blame. We’re here to learn a lesson. Do we have to learn a lesson on 3,000 deaths? No, we do not. We feel that they are guilty. We want to get to the bottom of this. That is the only way any of us in this country will heal. Other than that, we’re told it is going to happen again. What’s going to happen? How do they know? Why is this going to happen? What have we learned?

AMY GOODMAN: Could you tell us why you chose this particular path? What made you decide honestly to reject the compensation offers of the government and what led you to decide that there were these unanswered questions?

ELLEN MARIANI: Within a month after Neil’s death, my husband, I went to an attorney in Boston, and he gave me the whole outline of the Victim’s Compensation Fund, but Mr. Kenneth Feinberg decided to wait until September 21st to come out with this most highly complicated procedure on a chart of everybody’s worth that had been killed. I couldn’t put together the real reasons or the dots of why we would have to shut up for money. We can’t heal. You will never heal without the truth. It’s the truth that sets us free.

When I saw that I wasn’t getting any answers from the media, from anything I had heard on television, and the most important thing is when I had attended the second hearing in New York, I had already put a lawsuit in on December 20, 2001, against United. You know, Neil and I, we paid for safe destinations. He did not get it. He was abandoned. God knows what they did to them or who did it to them in those planes. I feel sorry for — if they’re going through the pain that I’m going through, it is hell. I decided to put the lawsuit in. I want the truth. You cannot sleep at night, knowing that you are paid off to keep your mouth shut. No, money, as you get older, is not going it take the place of your loved one. I put a lawsuit in against United. What did they do? The government came in and blocked all my evidence to have a lawsuit. I waited two-and-a-half years for them to show me that they’re sincere, they’re going to get to the bottom of this, like the president has said, “So help me god, we will hunt them down and they will be punished.” That is not what they were doing. They blocked everything. Two-and-a-half years of nothing, I put the lawsuit in. No one is above the law.

AMY GOODMAN: Phillip Berg, you can describe the legal principles of this lawsuit, taking on President Bush and his senior Cabinet?

PHILLIB BERG: Sure. Thank you very much, Amy, for having us on. It’s a real honor, first off, to be able to represent Ellen Mariani, who has the stamina and guts to proceed. Roughly, we’re two-and-a-half years after 9/11, and not one person has been accused of a crime. Not one person in the military has been brought up for court-martial. Where is the investigation? This is the — one of the biggest disasters that ever happened to the United States, going along with the lines of Pearl Harbor or some people raised the issue of slavery and to that effect, but this is the biggest attack on American Soil. What’s going on? Where’s the investigation? The evidence has disappeared. All the Ground Zero has been cleaned out, but the steel has been taken away. It has been sent off to China.

Just the facts of it, the legitimate facts are unanswered. So, we have filed a RICO action which is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act it was an act created by Congress in the 1960’s to go after the Mafia, in other words, the mob, and it’s our position that there’s a mob in the White House. To be successful with the RICO Action, you have to have a before, during and after, and we believe that we have the facts, and we will be able to get the evidence that there was plans before for this to occur. The facts are that the Administration definitely had foreknowledge of 9/11. They failed to warn. They failed to prevent, and since then, there’s been a massive cover-up. So, you need certain predicate acts. You need certain things that you have to do. Right now, we’re dealing with some procedural issues. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to clean some of those issues up and come forth more in the public, and that’s why we appreciate being on your show and other shows.

The mass media is not handling 9/11. What we’re looking for is the direct answers to legitimate questions. And we feel we can get those, and we feel the answers are there. We just don’t understand the media not wanting to cover it. It’s a very difficult issue, we know. I think the biggest problem is that the American public doesn’t want to accept that their government — that their government was involved in something as detrimental as this. And if I may, very briefly, if we can go back to “Operation Northwood.” it was 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that’s our military branch in this country, had a plan which is now declassified. I’m not sure if it’s on our website yet, but I’ll make sure it is up there, but Operation Northwood dealt with the fact that they planned — our government planned to cause destruction to American property, cause death and injury to American citizens, and to blame it on Cuba, to go to war with Cuba. I said the documents are now declassified. President John F. Kennedy stopped that. John F. Kennedy stopped that, and because of that, that did not occur. If you would change the facts of Cuba with Iraq, the situation is just about the same. If people look at the facts of 9/11. 9/11 could not have happened, could not have happened without the complicity of the Federal Government. It’s going back, and I try to identify things that people can identify with, and this is how we’ll put it forth in our suit.

In 1999, the golfer, Payne Stewart, his plane went off course. I’m sure many of your listeners will remember that, I’m switching phones here, maybe that’s a little better. His plane went off course, and after it was off course three-and-a-half minutes, it was picked up by the F.A.A and NORAD or whoever else. Within 8-and-a-half minutes, fighter jets were alongside his plane while it went off course. It was supposed to fly from Florida to Texas. Instead, it flew from Florida to the Northern United States. The jets escorted that plane the entire way. They didn’t have to deal with the issue, but it’s reported that if that plane was going to crash into a populated area, they would have shot it down. So, where were the fighter jets on 9/11? We know from Betty Ang and others that at 8:20 AM on 9/11, that the first plane was hijacked, two people had been stabbed, they didn’t have control of that plane. She stayed on the phone, a stewardess, from 8:20 to 8:46 and lost contact when her plane crashed into the World Trade Center. When it was flashed on the news that a plane accidentally hit the World Trade Center, that’s what we were told, the government knew that it was not an accident. So, even for a minute, if you would say, well, the fighter jets should — why weren’t they scrambled during that time? Why weren’t they scrambled at 8:46? If they were, Ellen’s husband, Neil, would probably not be alive today, but that second plane didn’t hit the second World Trade Center until 17 minutes later. So, where were the fighter jets? That plane should never have been allowed into the airspace of New York, or if it did, it should have ended up in the Hudson River or someplace else. That plane was the second plane that hit. That was the first tower that came down. These questions have not been asked by the 9/11 Commission. The 9/11 Commission is a joke because it’s going to be like the Warren Commission, smoothing over something without asking the legitimate, honest, direct questions that have to be asked.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Phillip Berg, the families and Ellen as well have asked a variety of questions that have not been answered. One of the interesting ones is the issue of Governor Jeb Bush in Florida going to the offices of Hoffman Aviation School and ordering that flight records and files be removed. Could you talk a little bit about that?

PHILLIP BERG: Sure. The stories which have been confirmed that Jeb Bush went to the flight school. All of the records from there were taken and loaded onto an Air Force plane. I believe it was a C-130, and they were flown out of the country. I mean, why? Talk about flying them out of the country when everyone — when all of your listeners, and Ellen Mariani was stuck in Chicago. When people after 9/11 were grounded for three or four days, President Bush allowed planes to go around the United States and pick up members of the Bin Laden family, and other Saudis and fly them out of the country without being investigated by the FBI or the CIA.

Jeb Bush raises questions. The other thing I believe — I have to get the transcript. I was listening the other day when Major Giuliani was speaking, I believe he said when he was speaking with the White House, and I need the transcript, so, if you have it, please make it available to me, that there were seven planes missing at a certain period of time. If there were, the next question I have, when they grounded all of the planes in the United States, why were those seven planes, which they knew were off course, why weren’t they earmarked, and why weren’t they held at a certain location at the airports where they were grounded to be searched and investigated? Just the — if you just think of all of the things that have occurred here. Building 7 in New York — Planes did not hit it. 47-story building in the World Trade Center complex made of concrete and steel and what happens at 5:30 in the afternoon on 9/11? The building implodes. Why? So, these are legitimate questions, and Ellen has raised many more. They’re on our website if I can mention it, www.911forthetruth.com. They’re legitimate questions that have to be answered, which the government refuses to answer.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And I’d like to ask Ellen now in terms of the families, how are the families of — moving forward now, especially after these last commission hearings?

ELLEN MARIANI: Well, that’s a good question. They’re very sad. They feel devastated. They want answers. I want answers. A lot of them have confessed to me, and I don’t condemn it, they’re on medication. They have been on it for a long time — Since 9/11. I want to tell you people, I am of sound mind. I would not take any medication. I was tricked into trying to be medicated, and no, thank you. I wanted to take this on head-on in respect of my husband and those precious young people that died in the buildings and those other victims from 80 other countries, my sympathy goes to them.

AMY GOODMAN: And what kind of access do you have to the 9/11 Commission Members? Are these questions going to be answered for us?

ELLEN MARIANI: They’re not answering any of our questions. To me, it’s just a format. It’s like a practice run. They wouldn’t stay on for the second day for the questions and answers. Time, they just decided, they just omitted it. We need answers from them. They said we’re not here to blame, but to learn lessons. We don’t need to learn lessons. These people that died, my husband, precious little children on the planes. They’re heroes — well, did they choose to be heroes? What have they done to become heroes. Don’t soften this error by saying “heroes.” I would like my husband back, and I’ll never see him again.

AMY GOODMAN: The questions, again, on your open letter to President Bush, why were 29 pages of the 9/11 Committee Report personally censored at your request? Where are the black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175? Where are the voice recorders from Flight 11 and 175? Why can’t we gain access to the complete air traffic control records for Flight 11 and Flight 175? Where are the airport surveillance tapes that show the passengers boarding the doomed flights? When will complete passenger lists for all the flights be released? Why did your brother Jeb Bush, as Juan read, go to Hoffman Aviation School and order the flight records be removed?

ELLEN MARIANI: There’s a last one on there that I’m very troubled over. I’d like the remains of our loved ones brought to a resting place here that we can all go and visit to try to heal, instead of being over in this landfill over on one of the islands. I am — I understand there are quite a few refrigerated tractor-trailer trucks where they say they can’t identify. We need a resting place. I have nothing of my husband. So do thousands of others have anything of their loved ones. We need that. It’s two-and-a-half years. You know, yes, there is blame, and they’re skirting around the truth. We know the only way we’re going to get it is through my lawsuit.

AMY GOODMAN: Ellen Mariani and Phillip Berg, I want to thank you very much for being with us. When we come back —


AMY GOODMAN: Gore Vidal. Stay with us.

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