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Thank God so many of these people are alive and well -- Charles V. Campisi, the chief of the New York Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau, which is supervising the count.

New York, Wednesday, November 21, 2001




Toll From Attack at Trade Center Is Down Sharply


THE official count of the dead and missing in the attack on the World Trade Center has fallen sharply in the last few weeks to below 3,900, a total that is nearly 3,000 fewer than the number city officials, in the first weeks after the towers fell, feared had perished.

City officials said yesterday that the trade center tally, which dropped by at least 200 over the last weekend alone, could continue to fall, perhaps to 3,000, as duplications and errors are resolved. Unofficial compilations by news organizations, using information from companies, the airlines and other sources, so far have reached no higher than 2,950.

The culling of the official list of those killed in the twin towers and on the hijacked airplanes has been proceeding quietly since late September, when the estimated toll reached its high of about 6,500. But this process has taken place largely out of public view, with everyone from world leaders to military officials to newspaper columnists and talk show hosts continuing to believe and assert that 5,000 to 6,000 people died in the attacks on the towers and the Pentagon and aboard the airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Bush, PowellIn the last several weeks, in speeches and interviews, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have cited the loss of 5,000 or more people in the attacks.

Don Imus, the radio talk show host, put the number for the trade center alone at 6,000 during a television interview on Saturday. But for weeks, if one used the city's own numbers for the dead and missing in the collapse of the towers, it has been clear that such numbers were wrong. Using the figure released yesterday, the death toll for all three attacks could not be higher than 4,142, and could fall to 3,245 as the city's revisions continue. Either figure would be greater than the total number of Americans killed at Pearl Harbor, 2,400.

"Thank God so many of these people are alive and well," said Charles V. Campisi, the chief of the New York Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau, which is supervising the count.

A State Department official in Washington said he was unaware that the number of dead or missing in the trade center attack had decreased so markedly. He said he would bring up the matter with the secretary of state's staff and the press secretary.

What is important, he added, is that a still-horrific number of people died on Sept. 11. "It is not to obfuscate or create any more sympathy, because regardless of whether or not it is 3,900 or 5,000, the magnitude and severity of the events on Sept. 11th are clear," said the official, who asked not to be identified because his comments had not been cleared with the department.

The final numbers of those killed in the Pentagon attack and the crash in Pennsylvania have been known for weeks: 189 died at the Pentagon, including 64 on American Airlines Flight 77; and 44 died on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed outside Pittsburgh. But the city's numbers have been in considerable flux since the first days after the attacks.

Yesterday, city officials said the continued large declines in the list of presumed dead were largely a result of identifying people whose names had been registered as missing in the days after the attack, but who in fact survived or were not even in New York that day.

In many other cases, individuals who died in the attack have been listed more than once, like a woman who until yesterday was in the city's database under her maiden name and her married name, Chief Campisi said. Dozens of names have also dropped off as foreign consulates reduced claims of the number of people from their countries who they once believed might have been at the trade center at the time of the attack.

The foreign consulates still list a couple of hundred of their citizens as missing in the trade center attack, and city officials said that this was one area in particular that could lead to further reductions in the total.

As of yesterday, there was some confusion among city and police officials about what the actual city count was. Police officials, who have been working with the city's medical examiner's office and the state courts to improve the accuracy of the list, said they believed the current number of dead and missing to be 3,702.

But the mayor's office put the number at 3,899 and said that the process of incorporating the information from the courts and the medical examiner's office was not yet finished. Nonetheless, the mayor's figure still represented a drop of several hundred from late last week.

City officials would not estimate when they expect to be finished refining the list of missing and dead. "We are closing in on it," Chief Campisi said. An official with the city's Law Department who has been coordinating death certificate applications on behalf of victims' families said she expected the final number of dead at the trade center to be between 3,000 and 3,700.

"The bottom line here is that it seems as if there are fewer people dead than we originally thought," said Florence A. Hutner, senior counsel at the department.

Researchers and scholars, news organizations and charity officials have all spoken of the fundamental need to establish as accurate a figure as possible for the number of people killed.

Twin TGowersWhile most people understood that the city's list of the dead and missing was a work in progress, the knowledge that the toll was going to wind up substantially lower than once feared has been slow to take hold in the public consciousness.

General Myers has repeatedly cited the 5,000-dead number during briefings on the action in Afghanistan, and Secretary Powell mentioned it on Monday during a speech on the Middle East in Louisville, Ky.

"It is 69 days since Sept. 11th, when cold-blooded terrorists turned civilian airlines into flying bombs and used them to kill 5,000 innocent people," he said. "That's four or five times the number of people who are assembled here today."

Mr. Imus, in an appearance Saturday on CNN's Larry King Live, asserted that "these idiots, these terrorists, flew an airplane into the World Trade Center and killed 6,000 people."

Armstrong Williams, the radio show host, and Chris Matthews, the CNBC talk show host, have used similar numbers in the last week.

Chief Campisi would not comment on the numbers being cited elsewhere, but was committed to reaching a reliable final figure for the city, and the history books. "I would love to finish today, sure," he said, "but we'll do this until we're confident we have the numbers right."

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Mr Irving writing at Key WestDavid Irving recalls:

IT IS an interesting object-lesson in many respects, quite apart from the fact that the American Red Cross will find it has now even fewer people to withhold those millions of dollars from.

How long did the media think they could get away with the deception? Or didn't they really care? Two weeks ago I found myself doing the simple math, as the running tally on the foot of the television screen showed the widening discrepancy between bodies found, numbers missing, and the Six Thousand figure. The numbers were still there even as the Pentagon spokesmen and senators continued to waffle about the Six Thousand. That Six figure had however a certain magic, a redolence, a je ne sais quoi about it.

skunkI have often been criticized, most recently by Prof Richard Evans (right) in his 'expert evidence" to the High Court in London, for refusing to accept as final the interim figures assessed for the February 13, 1945 Dresden deathroll by the police chief in his report of March 15, 1945. I pointed out that it was impossible for example to quantify the numbers of victims that had contributed to a layer of human ash found in some shelters, and I added that barely five weeks after the raids was far too early for the Dresden police to arrive at anything approaching a final tally. [See the trial transcripts: e.g. Day 13, Feb 1, 2000, pages 77, 158; Day 19, Feb 14, page 163]

In the eyes of Judge Charles Gray, Evans's academic pearls of wisdom outranked my commonsense remarks. Now here we have the modern City of New York, which has a disaster area only a fraction the size of the Dresden disaster, with only one fiftieth as many victims, still unable to agree on a final tally, give or take an error margin of fifty per cent, in peacetime, ten weeks after the giant buildings, which housed meticulously run offices and organizations, came down. In Dresden there were a million unknown, unidentified refugees that night in 1945, with nobody left to report them missing.


THERE is of course another consideration: the Six Thousand figure has been used to justify a war conducted on a horrendous scale, with the use of high flying, out-of-reach, B52 bombers, cluster bombs, and Tomahawk cruise missiles, against the innocent Afghan people. That is possibly why the figure has been stubbornly propagated until now.

Looking at all the lying going on over the World Trade Center I am reminded of The Daily Telegraph's reporter David Bamber who stated two weeks ago that Osama bin Laden had now "admitted", in a taped interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, to being behind the September 11 attacks and to having personally threatened the lives of Tony Blair the Blessed, and President George W Bush.

Ho-hum. Believe that if you will, but nowhere in the article did bin Laden actually say these things. The headline reads BIN LADEN: YES I DID IT, but in the interview he states only his view that the Twin Towers were "legitimate targets", that the killers were " blessed by Allah," etc. At no time did he admit to anything, except to say, "Every time they kill us, we kill them."

We now begin to understand President Bush's desire to see Bin Laden killed out of hand -- what used to be called lynch-law -- rather than captured and brought before an ordinary criminal court.

There has been some hard lying going on, and I fear it is not over yet.


Relevant items on this website:

Leith Knight of Australia is also dubious about that alleged Osama bin Laden confession

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