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White House Personnel and Officials Are Safe

Aired September 11, 2001 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John King, it's Aaron.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESP.: I am standing across from the White House. I am told by Secret Service and administration sources that all of the principles, all of the protectees, meaning the President, the Vice President, and the first lady and Mrs. Cheney, are safe. They do not want us disclosing their locations, but I am told by a senior administration official that the plan and the priority is to get President Bush back to the White House as soon as they believe it is safe.

Now, there are both operational and political reasons for wanting to do that. The White House situation room in the view of White House officials is the best place from which to monitor events and direct any operations. And that is a fortified structure within the White House compound where we know that the vice president was when everyone else was evacuated from the premises earlier.

Again, the secret service does not want to confirm for us for security reasons, or administration officials the same, tell us where those people are now. Although, I was told a short time ago, the Vice-President is still in a position to be monitoring and directing the response to these developments. And the President who is en route back to Washington, we are told Andrews Air Force Base is on full alert.

I was also told that there are extra precautions that were taken to ensure the President's flight back to Washington was a safe one. You can read into that that additional fighter jet escorts. Air Force I always has some escorts with it. That additional fighter jet escorts were put up for that.

Now the political reason, they want to get the President back to the White House is rather obvious. The White House believes this has been a tragic terrorist attack and they want to send the signal that the president is back on the job back at the White House. Priority one, though officials say is to guarantee that he can be safely brought back safely brought back to the White House.

And in the past half-hour or so, we have seen security precautions on the street, checks being taken out on the street on the grounds around the White House. There are snipers up on the roofs of the White House itself including buildings around it. And a military helicopter gunship flew over the premises not that long ago, about 15 minutes or now. And then it circled back over toward the Pentagon, where from my location you can still see smoke coming in to the sky in from there. But we are told the Vice-President is still in the position to monitor all of this as the president makes its way back (AUDIO GAP)

BROWN: John, thank you. Our senior White House correspondent John King. As John mentioned, the President was in Sarasota Florida, making his way back to Washington. Whether he'll be taken directly to the White House or not is a little bit unclear. The Secret Service wants to make sure that the building is safe. It is, I would add, one other symbolic reason why you would want to get the president back into the White House. And that's to send a message to whoever is responsible for this, that yes you have caused extraordinary damage and a great deal of tragedy here. But what you haven't done is shut down the American government. The President will want to get home.

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