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First Light in Washington Following Attacks

Aired September 12, 2001 - 05:45   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.
VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: The day after the attack will, no doubt, be a long one in Washington where U.S. leaders are deciding what the next step will be.

And joining us, now, live, again, is CNN Senior White House correspondent, John King. And, John, what do we expect the President - President Bush will do today?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESP.: Well, just let me start first by saying just in the past few minutes we have seen the lights come on in the White House residence behind me.

On a normal day, the President generally rises between five and 5:20 a.m. every day to begin his day. This, of course, anything but a normal day. But, some activity already at the White House. We are told by senior administration officials the President will, once he reports to work at the Oval Office, receive an update on the latest on the investigation, as well as the rescue and recovery efforts underway, as well as the diplomatic efforts by the State Department and others to reach out to key allies in other governments around the world for their assessment of this great tragedy.

And then the President, very determined -- much like we just heard from Garrick Utley in New York, very determined, even as the investigation -- even as the rest of the operations go underway, to show some sense of continuity -- some sense of the government at work. The President will bring major Congressional leaders down to the White House later this morning. They will deliver public remarks, trying to reassure the American people that as the investigation continues and as the government promises to find out who did this and bring those parties to justice that the business of the government will go on.

CELLINI: John, when we were threatened, certainly we'd never seen anything like this, but, does the White House assemble, for lack of a better term, a usual suspects list? And are we moving any closer to clues as to who might be responsible for this?

KING: Well, certainly, the White House has the usual suspect list that begins, because of the sophistication of these attacks, four planes hijacked at the same time. Obviously, some of the people aboard those planes being able to pilot them.

The White House saying all signs point to -- and we know from, again, from briefings given by senior administration officials to key members of Congress, they are saying that they believe that they are collecting credible evidence pointing to associates and affiliates of Osama bin Laden.

They also caution us that they want to continue this investigation. And as that plays out, there are always fears -- one of the reasons the President did not come directly back to Washington yesterday -- there were fears of a follow-up round of attacks. At one point, they had not accounted for all of the planes in the skies over the United States.

They did not want the President flying back until they had done so. Remarkable security all day yesterday here, in Washington, around the President. Air Force One had fighter jets flying in very close proximity to it.

And overnight here, in Washington, there has been a great debate in recent years about the decision a few years back to close Pennsylvania Avenue to car traffic; whether that was an intrusion on the public's rights to move about here, in Washington, to see the sites of the Capitol.

Overnight here, in the Capitol, blocks away from the White House, police, Secret Service, even U.S. military Humvee vehicles setting up a parameter much farther around the White House than we are used to seeing. You can be certain in the days and weeks ahead security on high alert here in Washington.

We're also told throughout the country, especially at airports and train stations. And at U.S. Embassies and military installation overseas as well.

CELLINI: Yes. I don't think any question about that.

As we look at this and we try to, somehow, make some semblance of sense of it all, intelligence questions are arising. And Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said there were -- quote -- "no specific warnings."

As the White House and officials try to backtrack a little bit, are they doing that now? Trying to see if maybe something was missed -- something they could have acted on?

KING: They certainly will do that. And they certainly are doing that. Their primary focus, especially, in what they say and what they do in public right now, is on the relief and recovery effort and on the investigation.

But, make no mistake about it -- we've heard it throughout the day yesterday from administration officials, as well as, especially, from key members of Congress -- people asking, "How could this have happened? How could four commercial airliners be hijacked? How could there be no evidence at all that such an attack was being planned?" A great number of questions about the efficiency of U.S. Intelligence services.

A great deal of criticism from key members of Congress yesterday. A great number of promises from key members of Congress to look ahead once we get past the dire days ahead of us as we deal -- there you see the picture of the Pentagon -- as we deal with repair and recovery, assessing the toll of the casualties and getting on with the investigation.

A great number of promises from key members of the Congress to look once again, perhaps, all raising the question, "Are the CIA and other agencies that do this human intelligence -- are they under funded? Are they doing things wrong? How might this have been prevented? Could it have been prevented?"

CELLINI: Well, the questions just continue. Senior Correspondent, John King. Thank you very much for the update.

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