New York City Fire Officials to Testify Before 9/11 Commission

The city's top fire union officials have asked to testify at 9/11 commission hearings next week, but the commission says the hearings are "reserved for people in authority."

"We have only asked the people who have had or still have the legal responsibility for agencies in charge of emergency response," commission spokesman Al Felzenberg said.

"This is consistent with every other hearing."

But that policy appears to be inconsistent with the inclusion of one panel member - Dennis Smith, author of "Report From Ground Zero," who retired from the FDNY in 1980.

"We invited him because he has an important perspective," Felzenberg said, adding that union leaders "do indeed have an important perspective [but] we are hearing from management."

"This is an independent hearing," he said. "It has the right to draw up its own witness list."

Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy wrote a letter to commission chairman Thomas Kean yesterday asking that he be allowed to testify on behalf of his 8,500 members.

"As your commission's goal is to investigate what happened that day and prevent this from happening in the future, clearly, our testimony will be vital," Cassidy wrote.

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