U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (right) and Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division during a news conference at the Department of Justice in February 2003.
FBI Director Robert Mueller (right) at a press conference as Attorney General John Ashcroft looks on September 27, 2001 in Washington, DC. Robert Mueller had only been director of the FBI for one week when 9/11 occurred.
The FBI, which controlled the criminal investigation, had ultimate authority over the evidence from the World Trade Center.
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at ground zero three days after the World Trade Center collapsed. A New York Times article entitled "Ground Zero Illness Clouding Giuliani's Legacy" reported that Giuliani “seized control” of the World Trade Center site. Why did the U.S. government allow him to destroy the evidence?
Chertoff responded the same day:
Subject: Re: Question for M. Chertoff on WTC Steel
Date: Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 11:39 AM
A Mayor in Control - From the beginning, there was no doubt that Mr. Giuliani and his team ruled the hellish disaster site. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all with extensive disaster response experience, arrived almost immediately, only to be placed on the sideline. One Army Corps official said Mr. Giuliani acted like a “benevolent dictator.”
Despite the presence of those federal experts, Mr. Giuliani assigned the ground zero cleanup to a largely unknown city agency, the Department of Design and Construction. Kenneth Holden, the department’s commissioner until January 2004, said in a deposition in the federal lawsuit against the city that he initially expected FEMA or the Army Corps to try to take over the cleanup operation. Mr. Giuliani never let them.