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Press Briefing by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, and FEMA Director Joseph Allbaugh
The Briefing Room
7:15 P.M. EDT
MS. BUCHAN: Good evening. We'll be having General Ashcroft, Secretary Thompson, Secretary Mineta, and Director Allbaugh will each be providing you with updates on how their agencies are responding to today's events. As we'll be giving you as frequent updates as possible, they will not be taking questions at this time. And with that, I will turn it over to General Ashcroft.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: Thank you. Today America has experienced one of the greatest tragedies ever witnessed on our soil. These heinous acts of violence are an assault on the security of our nation. They are an assault on the security and the freedom of every American citizen.
We will not tolerate such acts. We will expend every effort and devote all the necessary resources to bring the people responsible for these acts, these crimes, to justice.
Now is the time for us to come together as a nation to offer our support, our prayers for the victims and for their families, for the rescue workers, for law enforcement officials, for every one of us that has been changed forever by this horrible tragedy.
The following is a summary of the known facts surrounding today's incidents. American Airlines Flight 11 departed Boston for Los Angeles. Hijacked by suspects armed with knives, this plane crashed into the World Trade Center. United Airlines Flight 175 departed Boston for Los Angeles, was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center.
American Airlines Flight 77 departed Washington-Dulles for Los Angeles, was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. United Airlines Flight 93 departed Newark for San Francisco, was hijacked and crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Crime scenes have been established by the federal authorities, in New York, in the Washington, D.C. area, in Pittsburgh, in Boston, and in Newark. The full resources of the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Attorneys Offices, the U.S. Marshal's Service, the Bureau of Prisons, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Office of Justice Programs, are being deployed to investigate these crimes and to assist survivors and victim families.
Thousands of FBI agents in all the field offices across the country, and in the international legate offices, assisted by personnel from other Department of Justice agencies, are cooperating in this investigation.
The FBI has established a website where people can report any information about these crimes. That address is: www.IFCCFBI.gov. That address again: www.IFCCFBI.gov. Individuals can report any information they know about these crimes to that website.
It takes courage for individuals to come forward in situations like this, and I urge anyone with information that may be useful and helpful to authorities to use this opportunity.
The Office of Victims of Crime has established a toll-free 800 number for family and friends of victims. They can call 800-331-0075, to leave contact information for a future time when more information is available, to find out information about a victim or to find out information about the rights of victims and the services available to victim survivors and victim families.
The determination of these terrorists will not deter the determination of the American people. We are survivors, and freedom is a survivor. A free American people will not be intimidated, nor will we be defeated. We will find the people responsible for these cowardly acts, and justice will be done.
SECRETARY THOMPSON: Every single American lost something today. And every one of us at this time expresses our deepest sympathy to the victims of today's tragedies, and their families.
It is now our mission to begin the healing from this tragedy. From the moment that we learned of these attacks, the Department of Health and Human Services has begun readying teams and resources to be sent to New York City and the Washington area to meet any needs of state and local officials.
So far, we have sent four disaster medical teams to New York City, and three of these disaster medical teams to the Washington/Northern Virginia/Baltimore area.
These medical teams each consist of about 35 physicians, nurses, and emergency medical technicians. They are all trained to deal with traumatic injuries and other emergency needs.
We've also sent four disaster mortuary operational response teams to New York and three to the greater Washington area. We're also in the process of shipping a great deal of emergency medical supplies to New York City with the help of the Centers for Disease Control. In short, we're making the full force of the Department of Health and Human Services, both as resources and medical expertise, available to the areas that need our assistance.
We've also, this afternoon, activated the United States Public Health Service Commission Corps, which consists of approximately 6,000 health professionals. We also are giving back-up assistance to the 500-bed ship Comfort of the United States Navy.
Americans all over are calling up and asking what they can do. The best thing they can do is respond to this great call by volunteering to give blood. We need Americans to continue to answer that call. No matter where you live, please, do your civic duty and assist us by donating blood.
Our primary job is to make sure Americans, harmed by this tragedy, get the help that they need. We will remain in constant contact with the governors, the mayors, public health officials and other local officials to make sure that all their needs are being met.
It is a sad day, but America and all of its citizens certainly share tonight in the grief that has been caused. And as the President and everybody in his administration have said, we, the government, will continue to operate and continue to provide the services to all Americans.
SECRETARY MINETA: One of the most cherished freedoms is the freedom of movement, the ability to move freely and safely. But today, that freedom was attacked. But we will restore that freedom throughout the national transportation system as soon as possible. And we will restore the highest-possible degree of service.
These terrorist acts are designed to steal the confidence of Americans. We will restore that confidence. We have already taken some first steps as a precaution. I have ordered the FAA to ground all commercial air traffic until at least tomorrow afternoon. After the attack, some of our aircraft were diverted to Canada. And so we owe our Canadian neighbors a debt of gratitude for helping us as we redirected over 120 flights and their passengers to airports in Canada.
As of 6:00 p.m., Amtrak resumed its passenger rail service. Major railroads have taken steps to protect their assets as well. The United States Coast Guard is taking all necessary actions to control the movements of all vessels in navigable waters of the United States. Coast Guard helicopters have been assisting with medical and national security tasks.
We are currently looking at a wide variety of additional security measures to increase traveler security. Travelers will indeed see increased security measures at our airports, train stations, and other key sites. There will be higher levels of surveillance, more stringent searches. Airport curbside luggage check-in will no longer be allowed. There will be more security officers in random identification checks.
Travelers may experience some inconveniences. But we ask for your patience. But we must do whatever it takes with safety as our highest priority. The Department of Transportation is working closely with the White House and appropriate federal agencies to mount a coordinated nationwide recovery effort. Each American must know that we will restore our national transportation system to a safe and efficient status as quickly as possible. Our system has been severely burdened by the stress of these horrendous attacks, but we will recover.
In a democracy, there is always a balance between freedom and security. Our transportation systems, reflecting the values of our society, have always operated in an open and accessible manner. And they will again. Please be assured that we are activating all of our resources on an emergency basis, and services will be restored as soon as possible.
DIRECTOR ALLBAUGH: Good evening. I activated this afternoon eight urban search and rescue task forces from all over the United States, and an incident support team, to arrive in New York. They are on their way as we speak. I've spoken with Governor Pataki, Governor Gilmore, Mayor Giuliani; they are handling this about as well as anyone could handle it.
These teams we've deployed are especially trained teams from all across the country, comprised of engineers and other technical individuals, with dogs that are trained to handle incidents such as this.
We at FEMA have also put a team on the ground, an advanced element team, who will be at the scene of the disaster probably as we speak. The Army Corps of Engineers are already on the ground, getting ready to handle debris removal.
This afternoon, as you know, the President did declare New York City a disaster. I have named Ted Monette the Federal Coordinating Officer. He will be my personal representative on the ground during the duration of this incident.
In Washington, as the Secretary said, we have three mortuary teams on site, three medical teams, four urban search and rescue teams. I believe this afternoon we shared with members of the media the names of those specific teams.
We will be deploying individuals as needed. I'll be in constant contact with those governors; additional search and rescue, if needed. We're identifying additional needs that state and local governments are requiring.
As a result of the President's disaster declaration, tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m., individuals who have been harmed may call our help line. Let me give you that number: 1-800-462-9029. We at FEMA will do all that we possibly can. After all, that is our job.
Our hearts are hurting this evening. Those individuals who have lost loved ones or do not know where their loved ones are, are in our prayers and are in our thoughts.
Thank you all very much.
END 7:28 P.M. EDT
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