Copyright 2001 Burrelle's Information Services
SHOW: ABC News Special Report: America Under Attack (3:00 PM ET) - ABC
September 11, 2001 Tuesday
TYPE: Special Report/Newscast
LENGTH: 10113 words
HEADLINE: America Under Attack, 3:00 PM
ANCHORS: PETER JENNINGS
REPORTERS: JOHN McWETHY ; LISA STARK ; GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS ; ANN COMPTON ; BILL BLAKEMORE ; DON DAHLER ; CLAIRE SHIPMAN
PETER JENNINGS, anchor:
And there are a couple of new pieces of information, too, about the--the
flights in question that we have been so focused on today. In--in--in--in the
case of American Flight 11, this was the one that first crashed into the Trade
Towers this morning at 8:48, just a little before 9:00 this morning. ABC's Lisa
Stark who covers aviation for us now says that a flight attendant called from
the plane to say that two flight attendants had been stabbed, and people on
board the aircraft had broken into the flight deck, into where the captain and
the--and the co-pilot and, in the case of a 767--I can't recall, they're not an
engineer--but certainly broken into the cockpit where the pilot and co-pilot
were located; two hostages, two--two flight attendants stabbed. And in the case
of United Airlines Flight 737, which was the aircraft--the United Airlines which
crashed just near Pittsburgh, Lisa does confirm for us our reporting of a little
while ago that a passenger did call from a cell phone--on the phone--to an
emergency service, a 911 emergency service they managed to do from the air to
say that, in fact, they were in the process of being hijacked.
And Ann Compton, one of our White House correspondents calls just a short
while ago to say that the president has landed again, this time at an Air Force
Base in Nebraska. And this suggests, A, that the Secret Service is still is
very much in--in charge of the president's movements at the moment and that
there is a very strong feeling in the highest reaches of government that the
president should stay on the move. He's going to--to stay there conceivably for
the next little while because we've also been told by Ann that he's going to
speak to the National Security Council this afternoon on a teleconference. The
president is going to stay abroad--and I suppose you can do that from Air Force
One as well, I'm not altogether sure, I think you probably can--that the
president is going to talk to the National Security Council from somewhere other
than Washington, and he is now in Nebraska. As I think Terry Moran, our White
House correspondent and others mentioned very early on in the day, there's a
very delicate line for the president to follow; stay on the move lest there be
any security threat to the president. And this will be absolutely decided by
the national leadership of Secret Service in conjunction with the National
Security Council while the political operatives in the president's entourage,
very much want him, we're told by Claire Shipman and others, to get him back to
Washington to be in control in the place which is familiar to most Americans.
And Mrs. Bush, is, of course, we've already said, is at an undisclosed location
and Vice President Cheney, who carries an enormous load in this particular
administration, is currently working out of the White House.
John McWethy who covers the Pentagon, national security, and a good deal of
terrorism and international intelligence issues for us is at the Pentagon.
John, what have you got?
JOHN McWETHY reporting:
A whole plate full of things, Peter. First of all, we've been talking
throughout the day about possible ship movements, American ship movements. It
is true that two aircraft carriers, five other combatants and a hospital ship
are all now heading north along the Atlantic seaboard toward New York. No
decision has yet been made about exactly what to do with those ships when they
get there, but of course aircraft carriers have a very large hospital capability
so they could be used for that. I think it is a--a responsive measure.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, after the attack on the Pentagon, went
immediately to the gash that you see behind me here when the very first
destruction was--was detected, and helped pull some people out of the rubble. He
is now in what is called the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon,
and he intends to stay there indefinitely. Until all forces around the world
have been secured. All forces around the globe at this point are at Threatcon
Delta, which is the highest level of threat condition that American troops can
One of the difficulties with the fire and the rescue effort here in the
Pentagon, Peter, is we have seen continuous outbreaks of fires within the
different levels of the Pentagon, and it has been extremely difficult for search
and rescue people to get inside the Pentagon. It was five hours before the
first people were able to get in to some of the rubble to try to begin to pull
out people who may have been trapped. The fire in the Pentagon was described as
an inferno by those people who were in some of the worst areas. The evacuation
in parts of the Pentagon was very orderly, some of it was complete chaos, as you
JENNINGS: OK, John, thanks very much. John McWethy at the Pentagon. We'll
take a quick look at John there.
Jack, are you there for a second?
Offscreen Voice: Yeah, we're here.
JENNINGS: I want to--I want to put John on-camera for a second because
you--earlier today you described--you just turn around and take a look at the
gash in the Pentagon there and describe again for us--you think it's--what--200
feet wide? Two to three hundred feet wide?
McWETHY: It is at least two or 300 feet wide, Peter. Just imagine a very
large commercial aircraft ramming into this space. The Pentagon is built like a
block house, as you know, during World War II. It is a very substantial
building, and this aircraft traveling at between 150 and 200 miles an hour
penetrated deeply into the--the rings of the Pentagon, almost to the center. The
destruction on the five floors that are above ground is considerable. The--one
of the admirals was briefing us earlier that he felt that the section that was
hit was one of the areas that was being repaired. We now believe that is not
true. It is an area that was very fully staffed, primarily with Navy and Marine
Corps personnel, but also the Defense Intelligence Agency.
JENNINGS: OK. Thanks very much, John McWethy at the Pentagon. We'll come
back to you.
On the phone with us at the moment is the former CIA Director, James Woolsey.
Mr. Woolsey, there's so much to ask you about at a moment like this in terms
of your experience, but as our political director or--actually that's not
true--as a former senior White House official said a short while ago to one of
us, there's going to be a hellacious amount of finger-pointing at the moment.
What's happened--what's gone wrong here?
Mr. JAMES WOOLSEY (Former CIA Director): Well, one thing that's gone wrong,
Peter, I think, is that for some years now we have adopted a theory that
terrorism first was likely just to be sort of a pick-up team, these loose
associations of terrorists inspired, say, by the blind sheik in New York. This
was the thought on the two bombings, one attempted, one real in New York back in
the early '90's. And then the Clinton administration veered off into saying
everything looked like it might be Osama bin Laden. It's important that we
realize there is a real possibility, when you have something this devastating
and well-coordinated, that there could be state action of some sort behind it.
Now, I don't know that that's the case, and I won't say that it's the case.
But there is at least a plausible case that there was Iraqi government
involvement in the World Trade Center bombing back in 1993. This all has to do
with the identity, the true identity of Ramsey Yousef, who was the mastermind,
who's in prison out in Colorado now. At his sentencing the judge said, 'We
still don't really know who you are.' And if there was a chance that there was
Iraqi government involvement in that, since Yousef was the mastermind of the
World Trade Center and of a bombing plot in the Pacific which he was working on
when he was caught, to have a lot of American Airlines in the Pacific blown up,
what happened today is a sort of amalgam of the earlier two Ramsey Yousef plots.
It's at least, I think, interesting that that's the case. And--and if some of
the observers, Laurie Mylroie and others, are correct that there's a reasonable
chance that he was, in fact, involved with the Iraqi government, there could
also be a chance the Iraqi government is involved here, even if bin Laden or
other terrorist groups are as well.
JENNINGS: OK. Can I ask you just a couple of really elementary questions
about intelligence? You--you've just done something on the air which strikes me
as what intelligence officers do when they sit down to try to figure out what
the heck is going on. Is that--is that, in fact, what you're trying to do at
the moment. You called it "an amalgam: of two plots. Is that--is that how it
works at the moment?
Mr. WOOLSEY: Well, this is nothing but circumstantial evidence that I've been
talking about, but it's interesting circumstantial information anyway. And yes,
that's the sort of thing that I think intelligence officers need to do. Part of
the problem with the World Trade Center bombing back in '93 is that most of the
information about it was under grand jury secrecy until the trial, and after
that not many people paid attention to it. So even most of the federal
government had no access to it exce--outside the FBI and parts of justice.
JENNINGS: Now, you mentioned--you mentioned governments and individual
organizations or operations. Don't governments traditionally leak information
more than--than independent or semi-independent terrorist cells? If there were
a government involved, is it--is it not inconceivable that the United States
didn't pick up something?
Mr. WOOLSEY: I think it's possible that a government could be involved and
not be picked up, especially if it was operating very carefully, as the Iraqis,
or conceivably the Iranians, might under these circumstances. It is normally
somewhat easier to learn what's going on inside a government than a--a terrorist
group, particularly one that doesn't use many communications and the like and
does everything within just very small number of people. But it's not
impossible that terrorist groups could work together with the government,
that--the Iraqi government has been quite closely involved with a number of
Sunni terrorist groups and--and on some matters has had contact with bin Laden.
JENNINGS: I'm sorry, Mr. Woolsey, I think I just lost you.
Mr. WOOLSEY: I said on some matter...
JENNINGS: You're lost at the moment, and I hope we'll get him back on the
telephone, the former director of the CIA, James Woolsey, on the phone, agreeing
that there will be a heck of a lot of finger pointing at the FBI, at the--at the
Department of Defense and at the CIA.
No, I have my epi, thank you very much. I just lost the director of the CIA.
OK? Thank you very much.
Because as this former official in the--in--in the White House points out,
people are going to demand massive retaliation. Mr. Woolsey raises quite--two
quite fascinating possibilities. One, that there's a terrorist organization or
group involved with a government, that there is, as there has been believed in
the past, a terrorist operation within the Iranian political establishment which
perhaps even other parts of the Iranian political establishment didn't know
about, and similarly true, though much likely for them to be operating in
ignorance of Saddam Hussein (sic), inside Iraq as well. But the reason
that--and I'll bring John Miller back briefly on this. Again, the reason he
suggests an amalgam, Mr. Woolsey does, of two footprints is because of the
potential, never perfectly proved, that Ramsey Yousef, who has been on trial and
convicted of the First Trade Tower attack, did seem to have some tenuous
connection with Iraq.
MILLER: And that this is a mixture of--of the two plots that were--were his
two big capers.
JENNINGS: Right. Right.
MILLER: One, the plot to blow up numerous airlines on the Pacific route,
targeting American tourist. The other--the other, to blow up the World Trade
Center. Here, planes, American carriers, have been used to attack the World
JENNINGS: OK. Thank...
JENNINGS: I apologize.
MILLER: No. As Mr. Woolsey pointed out, the difficulty with Ramsey Yousef
and really getting to the bottom of the World Trade Center, was while he escaped
as the mastermind, and while he was captured in a--a guest house funded by bin
Laden, nobody every knew who sent him in the first place or what his real
nationality was or even what his real name was, which set him apart from all the
other people connected with those cases. Truly a mystery man, still in prison
here in America.
JENNINGS: Yeah. Somebody said a few--a little while ago, too, in terms of
everything we're looking at now, suspects, there's no good options on the table
in this regard whatsoever. Let's try to keep up with the running developments
of the day.
Lisa Stark is with us from Seattle. She covers aviation for us. And Lisa,
when we last--when we last commented on the status of this planes (sic), we have
at least one--I beg your pardon, at least two of them in the process of being
LISA STARK reporting:
Right. Peter, here's--here's what we--here's the latest information we know
right now. We know, obviously, the two American planes were lost: Flight 11
from Boston to LA, that is one of the planes that went into the World Trade
Tower; Flight 77 from Dulles to Los Angeles. We believe that that may have been
the plane that went into the Pentagon. The two United planes: United 93, that
is the plane that crashed south of Johnstown, Pennsylvania; and now United 175,
that plane--the plane from Boston to Los Angeles, a government source has
confirmed that that was the second plane that went into one of the World Trade
Towers in New York.
I'm also being told by government sources--and again, these things change
throughout the day, Peter, you know, I want to caution the people--but this is
what we know now. A government source tells me that on American Airlines Flight
11--again that was the flight from Boston to Los Angeles that went into the
Trade Tower--that a flight attendant on that plane was apparently able to call
the American Airlines operation center to tell them that two flight attendants
had been stabbed and that the perpetrators had broken into the flight deck.
We've also been told that a passenger aboard one of the United flights--United
Flight 93, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania--a passenger on that flight was
able to call 911, apparently, and let them know that the plane was being
hijacked. Again, this information from government sources...
STARK: ...and we don't know if it will hold up throughout the day, but that's
what we are told at this time.
JENNINGS: I--I very much appreciate you bringing us up to date. There's one
thing that I don't--I'm never quite clear on yet, and that may be because of
where I'm sitting. Do we know--American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los
Angeles was a 767, is that correct?
STARK: Correct. Yes.
JENNINGS: United Airlines 175, which went into the World Trade Center?
STARK: That was a 767 as well.
JENNINGS: A 767, as well. The American aircraft--plane, which we're a little
uncertain about the crashing into the Pentagon, was an American. Was it Boeing
JENNINGS: And the--it was also a 757 that crashed near Johnstown.
American Airlines Flight 11 : Boston to LA CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER
Flight 77 : Dulles to LA CRASHED INTO THE PENTAGON
United Airlines Flight 175 : Boston to LA CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER
Flight 93 : Newark to San Francisco CRASHED SE OF PITTSBURGH, PA
JENNINGS: So--so we have two very popular and very widely used and very
important aircraft in these two airlines being used. Lisa, thanks very much,
On the phone from Washington with us now is the former Secretary of State,
Are you there Mr. Baker?
Mr. JAMES BAKER: I'm here, Peter.
JENNINGS: So, what would you do?
North Tower 8:45 AM 1st Plane Crash
South Tower 9:03 AM 2nd Plane Crash
9:58 AM 1st Collapse
10:28 AM 2nd Collapse
Mr. BAKER: Well, it's a pretty tough one, Peter. It's--everybody, of course,
is in--is in deep sorrow and shock. It seems to me that this is something we've
been worried about for a long time. We've been able, fortunately, to foreclose
it up until now. We may be entering a bit of a new era. We may have to do a
bit more to preempt these types of events. We may need to get some better human
intelligence to penetrate some of these groups before acts like this can be--can
be carried out. We may need to do even more to beef up--obviously, I suppose,
we need to do even more to beef up our airport security. There's a lot--there's
a lot along those lines, I think, that needs to be done, and--and mostly I think
strengthen our intelligence capabilities.
JENNINGS: You are the second person, second senior former government official
to say to us today--to imply very clearly that human intelligence in those areas
of the world which are, to some extent, breeding grounds of terrorism, are
Mr. BAKER: Well, they are weak, Peter. We took--you know we--we went on a
real witch-hunt with our CIA back in the early mid-'70's. We had hearings--I
won't mention the name of the--of the legislator who conducted those
hearings--but they, in effect, resulted in our eliminating a lot of our human
intelligence capabilities. It's a dirty business. When you're--you have human
intelligence, you're doing business with the pe--the kinds of people that
will--that will commit these acts. Sometimes the first test of a--of a human
intelligence agent, the first test they send them out on is to go out and kill
somebody. So, it's pretty tough for America to--to--to get into that, and we
got out of it. But it may be we have to get into that kind of business.
JENNINGS: Mr. Secretary, why don't you just name the legislator, because
you're just going to make--cause more trouble for me to go to the file and look
it up. Who--who held these hearings and what's the point you're trying to make?
That there's an ad...
Mr. BAKER: Well, they were the Church Committee hearings, and what I
did--what I think we did as a consequence of those hearings was to, in effect,
unilaterally disarm in terms of our intelligence capabilities. Now, we have the
best--you know--we have the best technological intelligence-gathering operations
and capabilities in the world. But, we need this human intelligence to
penetrate groups like the group that must have carried out this--these
JENNINGS: I have only a vague recollection of this. But, I think the point
you're making is that there are some forces, political and otherwise in the
United States, who believe that getting down and dirty with potential terrorists
around the world is not something we should be doing. We should do it
technically, therefore, not put people at risk?
Mr. BAKER: That's correct. That was the thinking and that's pretty much
the--pretty much the policy we've followed since then. And I think we need to
get back into the down-and-dirty business so we can penetrate these groups and
hopefully prevent these types of things from happening in the future.
JENNINGS: Mr. Baker, I don't want to get ahead of things and I'm sure you do
not, either. But, if there is--and as somebody said earlier, there're no good
options out there at the moment--but do you believe that the United States
is--if it finds out that a state is involved is going to have to go to war in an
active way against that state?
Mr. BAKER: Well, first of all, I don't believe we're going to find out that a
state is involved. I cannot really, frankly conceive of a state doing this.
There could be, I suppose, some indirect assistance from a state or groups
within a state. And I don't think that's going to be the case. But, if it were
the case, I think we need to do whatever--whatever we reasonably and responsibly
can to protect the American people, whatever that involves.
JENNINGS: Now, this is always the toughest question for somebody who has been
in office but is not currently. How much easier is it to say what you'd do now
that you're not in government? In other words, were you still--were you the
man--were you the secretary of state in the Bush administration at--at the
moment now, would you not feel rather constrained by modern circumstances as to
what you could do?
Mr. BAKER: Well, I don't know. I mean, there--you know, we
have--we--we--frankly, Peter, we have some laws on our books that we ought to
take a look at. One of them is simply a presidential executive order that says
the United States doesn't go out and assassinate people. I think there was a
very good reason behind that, but I dare say that you would have about 99
percent, if not 100 percent, public support across the United States today--if
we found out that one terrorist group was responsible for this--for these
incidents, you would have 100 percent support, almost, for--for taking care of
that--of the person who leads that group.
JENNINGS: One of the difficulties, of course, Mr. Baker, is that in a--in a
situation like this we end up fighting like the terrorists to some extent,
Mr. BAKER: Well, that--that--that is unfortunately the case. That's true.
But--but it may be that that's the only way we can really take care of the
problem. You know, the president said today, made a statement I think was
absolutely the right statement, he said--he said, 'America is under attack,
under a terrorist attack.' And he said, 'We are going to hunt down and punish
those we find responsible for this.' And that, to my way of thinking, means
doing whatever is required.
JENNINGS: Mr. Baker, thanks very much for the time.
Mr. BAKER: Thank you, Peter.
JENNINGS: James Baker, the former secretary of state, also widely known in
the country as the man who did as much as he did to win Florida for George Bush
at the last presidential election, but a long-time member of the American
political and foreign policy establishment, and who knows how complicated this
is, and who thinks a very openly--you'll hear this a lot in the next few days,
"Not enough human intelligence." And we'll review who that legislator was.
Tony Cordesman, our military analyst, you're listening to Mr. Baker, is he
Mr. TONY CORDESMAN (ABC News Military Consultant): He is, Peter. But I think
we need to have an important caution here. Human intelligence isn't as simple
as it sounds. The actual agents can take years to develop. Historically they've
often been unreliable. And the more hostile the ideology is, the more uncertain
the collection. Human intelligence is also analysis. Our analytic side is weak.
The CIA has had hiring freezes. There is so little money for CIA and for DIA,
that most of the country analysts have never been to the countries they're
actually analyzing, much less talk to many of the elements within them. And as
Secretary Baker pointed out, if you're going to go into operations, that's
different from human intelligence. And our operations capability has been
allowed to decline for nearly a decade.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Tony. The game has changed a good deal today.
So let us get back--yes, John? John:
MILLER: Before Jerry Hauer leave us, and he's promised to come back, all of
the discussions we've had raise the question to me--and I know Jerry's been more
fully briefed on these national security agencies than an--matters than any of
us have. How many of these attacks have we known about and been able to
prevent? How many that we've heard about, how many that we haven't heard about,
and have any of them been on this scale?
Mr. HAUER: That's difficult to answer, John, because a lot of that--a lot of
that material is classified, a lot of that is kept classified. But there clearly
are a number of threats that occur in this country almost on a daily basis.
Some of them are--are hoaxes. Some of them are credible. Some of them are
qurite--quite credible. And the--the spectrum varies. And they've--they've
had--and some we've been very fortunate with, as we were right before the
millennium with the...
JENNINGS: The intrusion from Canada.
Mr. HAUER: Yeah, the...
MILLER: But that--but that was the one that was the work of an alert agent.
How many have had we actually prevented through intelligence, which is--is kind
of what Mr. Woolsey and Mr. Baker have been talking about?
Mr. HAUER: Yeah. I'm--I'm not sure anybody has a good number on that. That's
something that, I think, that would difficult--be difficult to put your finger
on at this point, you know, and I would be interested to get that from the FBI.
I'm not sure that I've ever heard a number on how many we've actually thwarted.
JENNINGS: Have you ever picked up the phone in your emergency management
center and had someone on the other end who said we're going to blow up
Mr. HAUER: We actually did receive a number of threats.
JENNINGS: What was it like? What did--what did...
Mr. HAUER: We had letters come in. And we turn them over to the FBI. By and
large, we felt that the majority of them were hoaxes. But we relied on the FBI
for their--their intelligence, for their analysis of threats. We relied on the
police department intelligence division. And by and large, with the exception
of one or two that were more credible than others, most of them were pretty lame
MILLER: I remember two of those that were quite serious. In '94 and '95,
when I was with the police department, we received information from the FBI that
there was going to be a truck bomb attack within 48 hours on the New York Stock
Exchange. We responded by surrounding it, literally, with sanitation sand
trucks and blocking the street, and eventually set up a cordon which has still
not come down. The other was a planned attack on the Israeli mission to the
United Nations, which has been surrounded by cement blocks--first the sand
trucks, and--and ever since, again.
JENNINGS: Ever since. Ever since.
Our thanks to Jerry Hauer, the former head of the New York Mayor's Office of
Emergency Management and Operations. And as we said at the beginning, it's an
office which is not operating in the place that Jerry Hauer set it up, which was
right adjacent to the World Trade Center. And it has been blocked off, put out
of commission in one way or another by the horrendous, horrendous devastation
which has occurred in that part of town today. And we don't want to lose sight
of it for a second in all this discussion about--about intelligence and
So, I want to go back to George Stephanopoulos on the--who's--who's closer to
the building than anybody else, and then Bill Blakemore. They are both watching
the search and rescue operations, and--and both report now. George:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS reporting:
Well, Peter, we still don't know that it is a search and rescue operation
yet. Just a little while ago one of the volunteers who tried to go down there
and help, reported back and said when you actually got to the scene--and you see
it behind me, that cloud of black smoke--when you got to the scene at the World
Trade Center, what was most remarkable, what was most amazing, what was most
horrifying is that basically nothing was happening. They couldn't go into the
building and actually perform any real rescue operations. And he also described
the scene very close to the World Trade Center: soot and silt up to his waist.
He said it was hell.
We have also talked to some firefighters who've gotten fairly close to the
scene. They've now set up a special command center over here at Manhattan
Borough Community College here on the west side where they're relieving each
other. One fireman said that he was buried underneath all the dirt and debris.
He said he had to dig himself out, but still didn't know what happened to his
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...who had--who had gone into the building and near the
JENNINGS: George, can I just interrupt you for a sec? I'll come right back
to you. But, Ann Compton, who's been with the president all day is on--on the
phone from Nebraska. And we don't want to lose her if we can have her.
Annie, can you hear me?
ANN COMPTON reporting:
Yes, Peter I can. And...
JENNINGS: What are you doing in Nebraska?
COMPTON: Well, we didn't know where we were until we landed. President Bush
is here at the home of the Strategic Command. This is the air--this is the base
where those big doomsday aircraft are kept. And he has disappeared down the
rabbit hole, Peter. Down through a red, brick, small building--he and what
skeleton staff are with him--down into an underground bunker where Ari Fleischer
tells me the president is going to chair a National Security Counsel meeting by
teleconference. We're also told that the president has been on the phone
several times to the vice president who is able to work out of a command center
at the White House itself in one of the secure areas below in the White House.
JENNINGS: Annie, your description of the president going down the rabbit
hole, going into a very secure compound, bunker in--in--in Nebraska, Offutt Air
Force Base, suggests that people in his entourage believe there has been a
threat today or a potential threat to the highest political leadership in the
country. Is that correct?
COMPTON: Well, and I asked exactly that question. They say there was no hint
of any warning of the attacks that came on the East Coast today. As you know,
they always take the precaution, especially once the Pentagon was hit, that the
president might be a target as well. And that is why he has come to as secure a
place as he could where he is trying to marshal the forces. He's also talking
to some of the civilian leaders on the ground, including Mayor Giuliani and
Governor Pataki. But we were told there was no direct threat to him and no
advanced warning. And that in itself, Peter, is distressing to the very small
number of staff with the president here at Offutt.
JENNINGS: So--so the procedures are in place, and--and they do what they do,
COMPTON: Well, you know, in--in 27 years of covering presidents in crises, we
have never played the kind of hunted game that was played today. Where we would
take off in the plane and not know where we were going to land, and then once we
landed in Louisiana; where we were literally told not to use cell phones so our
location couldn't be pinpointed. To take off again and head to
the...(unintelligible). It does feel like a cat and mouse game. Ari Fleischer,
when I asked him if the president feels in jeopardy or hunted, he said the
president understands that this is kind of the precaution that is necessary at a
time like this and that he's anxious to get back to Washington.
JENNINGS: And--and, for example, when you phoned us just a moment ago, thank
goodness you did, did you have to ask permission to do it?
COMPTON: No, because it--it is hard to hide a great big airplane like Air
Force One. And when we were coming, and I could tell we were over a flat area,
a fairly urban area, and I guess it was Nebraska. Knowing that we hadn't been
that far out of Louisiana, and indeed as we came down over the field, I saw a
satellite, a TV satellite truck out on the highway and sure enough on our
screens inside the plane, we watched ourselves land. The local media was
already here, figuring this is where the president of the United States, the
commander in chief would land.
JENNINGS: Because it's part of the old strategic air defense command.
COMPTON: Exactly right. It has the facilities, the secure facilities here
where the president can still be, what Ari tells me, is seamlessly in touch with
the command structure in Washington.
JENNINGS: And which we remind ourselves, and I'm going to involve George
Stephanopoulos in this conversation. Just think about how the world has changed
and yet in some respects hasn't. The president has gone to Nebraska to a
facility which was designed during the Cold War where the president might
retreat or go in the case of a thermonuclear exchange or atomic thermonuclear
exchange between the United States and Soviet Union. That's really something to
COMPTON: It--it's is an amazing comment on where we are in the 21st century.
You know, we have been checked, our bags over and over again today. We take
that kind of security routinely on Air Force One, but it's been double that
today. And just the thought of Americans who are stranded in airports all
across the country trying to--to get home today or tomorrow, the kind of
security they will then--then face. Certainly the White House sees the
ramifications and the impact of this extending through American life as far as
you can see.
JENNINGS: Annie, thank you very much. I hope you'll stay--in fact, I know
you'll stay in touch.
COMPTON: Thank you. There are five of us who have been allowed to stay with
the president, but we are not allowed in the underground bunker with him.
JENNINGS: Now, say that again.
COMPTON: There are only five of us reporters have been allowed to stay with
him. Everyone else was left in Louisiana. There are four staff members
five--five of us from the press and a very small Secret Service contingent. It
was an--almost an empty Air Force One that brought us here. We don't know how
long we'll be here or when the president will find it safe to go back to
JENNINGS: But you're not in the bunker?
COMPTON: No, they would not let us in the bunker. We are above ground
looking at the bunker between--between him and us.
JENNINGS: OK, Annie, thank you very much. Ann Compton. Just to bring you up
to date very quickly on the rest of--of--of the--of the first family. Ari
Fleischer, the president's press secretary did say that Barbara--of the two 19
year-old girls, Barbara at Yale and--and--and Janet at the University of Texas,
were moved to secure locations. Mrs. Bush is with a group of friends and they
were in--in--in an undisclosed location, but she's had a chance to talk with the
president and everything is pretty cool there. But everything we hear and
everything we report to you hour after hour after hour is a reminder of how
seriously people have taken this. And I want to go to George Stephanopoulos,
not so much in his position as a reporter today, but calling on his experience
in the White House. George, I--to be honest I would plead naivete, maybe, here
today but I'm surprised at the lengths to which whomever has gone to keep the
president on the move from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska rather than going
back to Washington. What is the thinking behind that and would it have occurred
in the previous administration?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, my--my guess is first of all we've never seen anything
like this before so it's hard to answer your second question. This is a
testimony to the seriousness of--of the situation and make sure--number one,
this means that the Secret Service, I think, is in charge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Their number one and really only job is to protect the body
of the president and they're going to all lengths to do that right now. Peter,
there are also some--some small indications that--that the broader evacuation of
the senior staff of the White House that is always planned for in emergencies,
as you hinted at, from a relic from the Cold War days, has also gone into
effect. I've spoken with the spouse of the senior White House...
JENNINGS: Hang on, George--hang on, George. I apologize. I'm only
interrupting you because you're so--OK, you don't have those sirens behind you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The sirens behind me, sorry. I spoke earlier, just a little
while ago, to the spouse of a senior White House official who received a call
simply from the Secret Service saying your spouse is safe, is in a secure
location right now. I remember from my early days, Peter, in the White House,
several senior White House staff are given cards that have evacuation plans for
places to go in cases of a national emergency. And as I said, it does seem to
be there--there does seem to be some indication that that may have been put into
effect. I would just add one more note, you--Ann was talking about the
possibility of the president now doing a teleconference with his--his senior
national security officials.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There are facilities in the White House, not the normal
situation room which everyone has seen in the past, has seen pictures of, but
there is a second situation room behind the--the primary situation room which
has video conferencing capabilities. The--the director of the Pentagon, the
defense chief can speak from a national military command center at the Pentagon.
The secre--secretary of state can speak from the State Department; the president
from wherever he is and they'll have this capability to video conference
throughout this crisis and my time at the White House was used in the aftermath
of the Oklahoma City bombing. In the aftermath of the TWA Flight 800 bombing
and--and that would be the way they would stay in contact through the afternoon.
JENNINGS: Now, just a couple of--of--of--of short questions. Given where the
president has gone from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska; and given that we hear
from the political staff that he'd--they'd like him to come back to Washington,
does the president have any say at the moment, basically, if the Secret Service
says go left or go right or go here or go there?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the president has the ability to overrule them if he
wants, but I think in this situation, Peter, he would--he would follow their
directions. Obviously pushing them to try to get back as soon--as soon as he
could, if that was really what his political advisors wanted. But--but he
would--he would take their direction on this one. Sometimes you can fight the
Secret Service on, you know, how long you're going to spend in a rope line but I
don't think you'd do it on this.
JENNINGS: Okey-dokey. And the other question is in terms of--Dick Cheney,
the vice president, is in the White House now. Just from a purely operational
point of view, if you were trying to run things at the moment, would you like to
be in the White House or in a bunker in Nebraska, or would it make any
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think right now, Peter, it doesn't make any difference. Air
Force One, and this bunker in Nebraska has complete communications all across
the board. And as I said, my guess is that Vice President Cheney is in that
second situation room. A camera is trained on him, he can see the president,
the president can see him, they can see Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of
State Powell. It's as if they're meeting in one room.
JENNINGS: Now, tell me, let's--let's return to the--the media business at
hand. I--I--every time I check in with you or we check in with you, I hear
sirens virtually right underneath you. What's going on right underneath you?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, right underneath--I'm at Canal Street and the Avenue of
the Americas; which is about 20 blocks away from the World Trade Center there.
Every once in a while right outside my window right now there are four police
vans and a police car. They--they're--but the police seem to be stationing
there, almost resting right now. The area right around us is quite quiet. About
an hour ago, two hours ago, there were hoards of people walking uptown. That's
pretty much stopped. Now, Peter, I've got to tell you, it's very strange. You
look on the sidewalk and you just have people strolling in their summer clothes
up in this neighborhood right here. But, again, from what we've heard of that
situation down by the World Trade Center, it's horrific; it's kind of eerily
silent. The--the firemen are--are relieving each other every 15 minutes or so,
they come out, they get showered down with firehouses to get all the soot off
and then they go right back in and get to work.
JENNINGS: And--and--and just remind me one more time, George, that, you know,
the layman's notion of a bunker is one thing out in Nebraska and I see the White
House has another notion of bunker. What does it mean down the rabbit hole and
into the bunker?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, in the bunker it would just be; certainly underground,
a secure situation room. But--but the important point, Peter, is that wherever
that bunker is, and it's reinforced by guards and concrete and all that, the
president is in full communication with his entire national security team, and
he can direct them at a moment's notice. And I think the big question that
they're going to have to address now as they gather the facts, as they try and
figure out who is responsible for this--even though they want to get the
president back to Washington as soon as possible, and I'm sure they'll do
that--they don't want him to go before the country again until he has more to
say and probably until he can say what actions he's going to take in response to
JENNINGS: OK. Thanks, George Stephanopoulos, who, as he pointed out, was
somewhat isolated from the violence there because he's as close as they'll let
you broadcast at this point. But you can still see the smoke coming up. It's
felt all over the country. A number of newspapers around the country are now
putting out special editions of the day. I remember when the Challenger
exploded. We were on the television for many, many, many hours. And which
does, to some extent, isolate you from what is happening. You become a conveyor
belt for information, going back to the hotel and realizing that the New York
Times and the Washington Post had then put out 30 some odd page editions, in
terms of the Challenger disaster, John. And it just--it just reminds you that
you can be isolated from something that is so overwhelming.
And--and George Stephanopoulos acknowledges he is not as close to the
violence and tragedy--like ABC's Bill Blakemore is somewhat closer. Bill, can
you hear me? Bill Blakemore? OK, we'll come back to Bill Blakemore. But Bill
Blakemore has--you know, we want to be as close as we can and not get in
anybody's way. And I was pointing out that newspapers across the country,
publishing these--these special editions. There's not been a special edition of
this magnitude probably since the Challenger disaster; before that Neil
Armstrong walking on the moon. Or in some cases, newspapers are putting out the
first major special edition they've done since John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Many of the papers will clear--clearly use terror in their banner headlines.
Certainly the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was one that did that with--with a
sub-heading saying, 'Attacks rip Trade Center, Pentagon, America's soul.' I
think a great many people in the country feel that is precisely what has
happened today. That the--that the Trade towers, as we've said many times;
these--these absolute symbols of the United States in so many ways, right there
at the edge of Manhattan, first city in the new world, the--the great
advertisement to the rest of the world of commerce and success and upward
mobility and all that stuff. And those two Trade towers are simply no longer
And then the attack on the Pentagon at the very heart of the--of the
establishment, the military government establishment today. And the deep
psychological damage that this--or wound, if not long-term damage this is going
to do to the country. Then we learned just a short while ago that--that that
United Airlines jet that was carrying 45 people which crashed near Johnstown in
Pennsylvania today; was at least according to one congressman, James Moran,
Democrat from Virginia, who had had a marine corps briefing in Washington. He
believes that that aircraft was intended, originally intending by it's hijackers
to go to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland. And
the crash site actually turns out to be about 85 miles northwest of Camp David.
So no one should be surprised, perhaps no one is, at the--at the ripple
effect at every level of government, not to mention in everybody's soul today,
from this initial attack on the Trade towers. One of our reporters, Ellen
Davis, reports, by the way, from the American Red Cross in New York City.
They've actually had so many volunteers for blood that about 1200 people showed
up at the--at the blood donation center in New York City. And they actually
have enough blood for now except for people with type O and RH negative blood
because they have a shortage of those. But in terms of all other types of blood,
they seem to be in pretty good shape. John Miller, what are you finding on the
MILLER: Basically, still, that they are just beginning to try and mount a
rescue operation in the Trade Center. That they are still trying to assess how
many people are trapped inside. And they're still trying to collate the number
of people that they removed to so many different hospitals in two states
and--and--and now because our burn centers here in New York, of which there are
only three, have been overwhelmed, even in Canada. So they're really just
beginning what's going to be an operation that's going to take not days but
weeks, more likely months.
JENNINGS: Let's go--thank you, John. Let's go to ABC's Bill Blakemore, who I
said is in lower Manhattan and closer even than George Stephanopoulos was able
to get. Bill, do you hear me?
BILL BLAKEMORE reporting:
I do, Peter.
JENNINGS: Go ahead.
BLAKEMORE: There's an enormous search and rescue operation being mounted here
for what's clearly going to be many days of grim work. We're just north of the
wreckage and the smoke is still coming out. On the West Side Highway, right
next to the Hudson River, hundreds of firemen are reassembling and restaging
here after their first partial defeat this morning. And they know that many of
their colleagues are missing with the civilians in the wreckage. I've talked to
several of them who were in one of the towers when the other one was collapsing
who barely got out. They're not quite sure how and can't even begin to talk
about it. Tables have been set up in the street here by some of the officers
who are helping them figure out who is going to go in when they can. There's a
triage center that's been set up in the Manhattan Community College; where
bodies and people and survivors are going to be brought as they begin to figure
out how badly they're injured. And we can tell, because they still can't go in,
they're still milling around in the hot sun here, that it's going to take a long
time before they even begin to assess how many people there are who need their
help in search and rescue, which is going to go on for some time.
The streets just behind us are quite different. There--there's almost an
eerie war scene type of feeling because much of this part of the West Village
has emptied out on this very clear, hot day. There are occasionally jet
fighters circling overhead, so there's even just the touch of the feeling of
covering a war. But for the most part everybody is still looking at this
enormous wreckage and just beginning to absorb what it is. And these firemen
are eager and ready to get in there as they begin to gather themselves and dust
themselves off from--from their first foray in this morning.
JENNINGS: Bill, this is an excellent report. I just have this one question,
and it may just simply be my inability to grasp it visually. Are they actually
getting into either of the former towers of the Trade Center, or are they still
working on the outside perimeter?
BLAKEMORE: I cannot tell you the exact answer to that. Many of them are
still waiting on the outside of the perimeter to figure out how to get into the
general area. When the north tower collapsed, parts of the top of it fell over,
all the way over here to the river. And so they're still trying to sort out
through the smoke just exactly where they can get into. They are not letting
the media get anywhere near the actual base of the two towers themselves. But
there's just a general sense of these accumulating hundreds of firemen, that
they're--they're ready to go in, they're waiting to find where an opening will
JENNINGS: OK. Thanks very much, Bill Blakemore. ABC's Done Dahler did
manage to get, I think, pretty close to the building at one point earlier today.
Don, are you there?
DON DAHLER reporting:
Yes Peter, I'm here. I'm--I'm just back to about four blocks away. But I
was--I escorted a federal agent through the--up to the site of the World Trade
Center itself and can tell you it is probably the most horrible thing I've ever
seen in my life. There is total devastation, but beyond that there--there's no
nongruesome way to describe this. But there were--bodies and body parts on top
of some buildings next to where the World Trade Center stood in the streets.
There is still a number of fires going on in buildings surrounding including
There is a--the Marriott building appears to be--be on fire. There's a
building directly behind the federal office building, I can't identify which
building it is, but it's a taller building. The police and the firemen are--are
getting away from that area. They're afraid that that building will collapse as
well. There have been a couple building collapses, or portions of them
collapsing from the flames. So there are some buildings that they are letting
burn to collapse because it's too dangerous for them to fight it right now.
JENNINGS: Don, thanks very much, Don. And now here is the--we are going to
go to a briefing now on behalf of the political wing of the president--I'm
Unidentified Woman: Just have a very brief statement, and I want
Chief...(unintelligible)...to talk about the search and rescue efforts under
way. No surprise, we have very, very few details. We'll tell you what we can
at this stage, but we have very few details. This is a terrible day. It is a
tragic day for America. Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and their
families and the casualties. We're taking every appropriate step and precaution
to prevent further attacks. We are making every effort to take care of the
injured still in the building. And we're taking every appropriate measure to
determine who is responsible. The secretary of defense...
Ms. KAREN HUGHES (Counselor to the President): And at President Bush's
direction, we are implementing it. We began to implement it immediately after
the first attack in New York this morning. We contacted American forces and
embassies throughout the world and placed them on high alert. The United States
Secret Service immediately secured the president, the vice president, and the
speaker of the house, and they are all safe. They have also secured members of
the national security team, the president's Cabinet, and senior staff.
As you know, President Bush was in Sarasota, Florida, when the first attack
occurred this morning. Air Force One has now landed at Offutt Air Force Base in
Omaha, Nebraska. And the president is in a secure location. He is in
continuous communication with the vice president and key members of his cabinet
and national security team. Vice President Cheney and our national security
advisor, Condoleezza Rice, are in a secure facility at the White House. I have
just come from there. The secretary of transportation and other members of our
White House senior staff are gathered at a command center there, and we are
coordinating with other branches of our federal government.
The secretary of defense remains at the Pentagon. And the secretary of state
is en route back to Washington from his trip to South America. President Bush is
conducting a meeting of the National Security Council as we speak. They are
meeting, President Bush, from his location, and other members from different
locations in Washington and other locations.
As many of you have been reporting, the Federal Aviation Administration
ordered all airports closed, and all planes which were in the air were directed
to land at the nearest airport. International flights were diverted to
alternate locations outside of the United States. Transportation Secretary
Mineta has directed the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend operations
until at least noon tomorrow. So no airline flights will operate until at least
then and until the FAA announces that operations will be resumed. Secretary
Mineta has also issued orders controlling the movement of all vessels in United
States navigable waters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has activated eight urban search and
rescue task forces in New York, and four of these highly trained teams are at
work here in Washington at the Pentagon. Every federal agency has implemented
continuity of operations plans to make sure the government continues to function
effectively. While the markets closed today because of the situation in
Manhattan, the United States financial system has continued to operate. Banks
have been opened all day, the Federal Reserve has operated regularly and
continuously. The Department of Health and Human Services has mobilized medical
personnel and supplies to provide help to local authorities who are working so
diligently to respond and try to help the victims of these terrible attacks.
President Bush has committed the full resources of our intelligence and law
enforcement communities to identify and bring to swift justice those responsible
for these despicable attacks. The Department of Justice is setting up a hotline
for families who fear that their relatives may have been victims of one of these
attacks, and we will be announcing that telephone number shortly.
Our fellow citizens and our freedom came under attack today, and no one
should doubt America's resolve. President Bush and all our country's leaders
thank the many Americans who are helping with rescue and relief efforts. We ask
our fellow Americans for your prayers for the victims, for their families, for
the rescue workers and for our country. Thank you all very much, and we will
continue to update you as information is available and confirmed.
JENNINGS: Karen Hughes--Karen Hughes, the president--I must say, John Miller,
that there's not an enormous amount of news in there if we have been following
this--this event all day.
MILLER: No, even the White House seems to be having difficulty gleaning the
facts which the officials in New York City just don't seem to know.
MILLER: In terms of level of casualties, number of people killed.
JENNINGS: And it--and it's enormously--enormous--we--we're are going to go to
our White House correspondent, Claire Shipman, one of our White House
correspondents, Claire Shipman, at the moment to see what's going on. But
it's--I'm very deeply sympathetic with the--with the difficulty it is to get
down to street level, either at the Pentagon or certainly in New York City and
understand the chaos and the tragedy that--that appeared at ground level. Those
of us sitting in news rooms bringing in, interpreting, analyzing information at
a variety of levels are not doing a good enough job because it's probably an
impossible job to do--to try to--to have ourselves and you understand just what
happened when that building fell in on each other. Listening to Bill Blakemore a
short while ago, and Don Dahler, very helpful in terms of trying to understand
it. But there is--there is a delay in--in everything. A delay in government at
the federal, state and the national level. The airlines, of course, across the
country closed down. And it's--an it's true with news coverage as well. As
best we can sense from here that it's hard to get back from the immediate scene
of this enough of a sort of texture to help us understand how--what--enormous
this is--maybe you don't need it. Maybe you already appreciate that, but that's
our sense from here. But there's Karen Hughes making--the president has
appeared, remember, twice. Claire Shipman ready? Claire?
CLAIRE SHIPMAN reporting:
JENNINGS: Can you hear me? OK.
SHIPMAN: I can.
JENNINGS: Are you--you--better you--much better you than me bring us up to
date on what's happening and the presidential establishment both there and
SHIPMAN: Well, let me tell you what we know so far. You obviously just heard
a statement from Karen Hughes that seemed designed to try to express to the
country that the government is still up and running. The--the political advisors
have you--as you have mentioned a couple times, would very much like to see the
president get back to Washington when it's safe so that he can address the
country. But in the meantime, they certainly want to give the impression that
everything is under control; that the vice president is at the White House,
Condoleezza Rice is at the White House, the Federal Reserve is still operating,
banks are opened, HHS is mobilized. And--and I think that was the point she is
trying to get across.
We've been told that the president may be back as early as this evening. The
AP was also reporting he's considering some sort of address to the nation this
evening. But, again, it may be he will want to have something very specific to
be able to tell the public before that happens. Colin Powell we're told is on
his way back from Peru. It's not clear where he will head. At this moment,
what has happened in terms of the Secret Service is that their plan has gone
into effect for this sort of emergency. The first time, we're told, that a plan
like this has been implemented in--in recent history, of course. But what it
means is they have all of their protectees accounted for, they're satisfied with
ABC News September 11, 2001 Tuesday
that now. Now we're told they are in level two where they're assessing the
threat. And they will then decide things, for example, as to whether Colin
Powell can go back and safely work at the State Department and whether the
president can come back to Washington. In the meantime, as you probably know,
there's been a state of emergency declared in the city of Washington and in the
state of Virginia allowing both of those places to be able to mobilize military
and police forces as needed, Peter.
JENNINGS: Thanks very much. Claire Shipman from Washington. It is--it's
very difficult to keep your hands on the political establishment today. In--in
part because we rely on government so often in cases like this to tell us what
is going on in their various departments. And it has been very difficult today
to get--for example, the Federal Emergency Management Administration got
involved in--in this today. But it's hard because of the communications problems
all across the country to have a real appreciation of what they are
participating. The most direct communication we have had has been with New York
City on the ground. That is other than in terms of the president's movements
from Florida to Louisiana and now on to Nebraska where he is going to stay for
the indefinite future, though political--political staff keeps saying he would
like to come back to Washington.
MILLER: There is something interesting in the laundry list of--of things that
Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, said in the briefing we just looked
at, which is, one is that airspace will remain shut down under government
control until noon tomorrow and that the movements of ships around the coast
will be regulated by the government. That suggests--I mean, we're talking about
not a few hours. We're talking about halfway into the next day. That suggests
that there's a real feeling in the intelligence community and--and in Washington
that this may not be over. That they don't want to let go of--of the assets
like air traffic that they think could unleash even more attacks.
JENNINGS: I--I--I wonder, John, if there is a real feeling in the
intelligence community that may not be over, or, 'God, we didn't know any of
this was going on. Maybe there's something else there we don't have the vaguest
MILLER: Precisely, I mean, it seems to be an abundance of caution and some
degree of fear.
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