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America Under Attack: State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher Holds a New Conference

Aired September 12, 2001 - 11:00   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: More people but that is the expectation. Right now I want to check in with Christiane Amanpour for the latest reaction from Britain and before I get to that, Christiane, I wanted your reaction to part of an interview I did with King Abdullah earlier today where I asked him a series of questions as to what role he thinks U.S. policy in the Middle East might have played in the U.S.'s vulnerability attack and at one point in the interview he said, if peace had been achieved in July or an accord had been reached in July of 2000, this might not have happened.

Do you have any thoughts on that?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it's clearly anti-American feelings in the Middle East have been on the rise since the intifada which started in Israel in the territories eleven months ago. This is clear. Moderate Arab countries have warned the United States that this was happening and that is has been happening and Arab leaders have seen their people take to the street over the months of the intifada demanding that something be done on behalf of the Palestinians and also you've had guests on your programs this morning, notably Dennis Ross, the former Middle East peace envoy and chief negotiator who confirmed that anti-Americanism has been on the rise and those kinds of sentiments are more pronounced now than they have been perhaps ever.

On the other hand, the same people, Dennis Ross and other experts on these matters say that it is not necessarily about there not being a peace agreement. They point out that in 1993, when the first attack was conducted on the World Trade Center building, that that was at the height of the peace process when it had just started really. The Oslo process and the governments of the Middle East, the United States, were all fully engaged, including the Palestinian, in trying to come to a peace agreement. Many, many people believe that despite the anti-Americanism that is palpable now on the streets of the Middle East, that it is not about having no peace agreement, that the terrorists who planned and meticulously carried out this catastrophe they believe would have done it peace agreement or no peace agreement because they are against the peace agreement in any event. They have spoken out clearly against the Oslo process, Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane, if you would

(AUDIO GAP) ZAHN: ... come back to you for more British reaction to the massacre that was unleashed yesterday. Right now I want to go to the floor of the Senate where the junior senator from New York is addressing her colleagues.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Chuck has and all of our colleagues in the House, by the strong support we've received from the President, and I am very grateful. We've expressed our appreciation. Chuck and I will be going to New York this afternoon with FEMA and we could not ask for more than we've received in the immediate aftermath of this horrific attack but we are by no means any where near the end of what it will take to continue the search and rescue efforts. We are finding people even as we speak. Yet we know that there is a very grim task ahead. To do everything we can to find every person. To account for every single person who went to work. That's all they did.

They went to work on a beautiful September day in New York. We will also stand united behind our President as he and his advisers plan the necessary actions to demonstrate America's resolve and commitment, not only to seek out an exact punishment on the perpetrators but to make very clear that not only those who harbor terrorist, but those who in any way, any aide or comfort whatsoever will now face the wrath of our country and I hope that message has gotten through to everywhere it needs to be heard. That you are either with America in our time of need or you are not.

We also stand united behind our resolve as this resolution so clearly states to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of these tragic acts. You know, New York was not an accidental choice for these madmen, these terrorist, these instruments of evil. They deliberately chose to strike at a city which is a global city. It is the city of the 21st century. It epitomizes who we are as Americans and so this, in a very real sense, was an attack on America, on our values, on our power, on who we are as a people and I know because I know America that America will stand behind New York. That America will offer whatever resources, aide, comfort, support, that New Yorkers and New York require because the greatest rebuke we can offer to those who attack our way of life is to demonstrate clearly we are not cowards in any way whatsoever.

I hope that within a short period of time, Senator Warner, we see scaffolding on the sides of the Pentagon. After we finish the search and rescue and recovery work that is being carried out heroically there, I hope we all see a clear signal that we are rebuilding. That our defenses are more resolute than ever and I hope similarly that lower Manhattan has the same kind of image to project because the reality will be that we are rebuilding and reconstructing and making clear that just as our military might is unchallenged and uncowed, so is our economic, our social, our political values epitomized by New York.

ZAHN: All right, there you see it, the junior senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, pointedly talking about what needs to be done to confront these terrorists that launched these multiple attacks against the U.S. yesterday, making reference to the abominable spirit of New Yorkers and the collective strength to rebuild. Not making a reference to what President Bush just made an announcement of which is requesting immediate funding from Congress to deal with the rescue efforts and the cleaning up of the debris. So that is the very latest from here.

Daryn, I want to go back to you and just make one more quick note about what rescue workers are telling us. Once again, they have every reason to believe that two people trapped in the rubble will be rescued. That they will be found alive and if that is true, that would bring the total to 11 of all of the victims who have been successfully brought out of this these horrendous ruins.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And Paula, as those efforts go on in New York City, I'm sure thoughts and prayers from across the country and around the world go in to those rescue workers trying to save more lives.

Another development in this story. Earlier this morning CNN received word that there were possibly planes in Canadian airspace and, of course, this would go against the shutdown of airspace across the U.S. and Canada.

Let's bring our David Ensor. He's in our Washington, D.C. bureau.

David, do you have any more information on these planes? Were they flying and perhaps do they have permission to do so?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand from Canadian sources that the planes are compassion flights but we have not been able to get confirmation of that from U.S. officials. We should have it soon. The feeling is that these planes are probably no threat to anyone but that has not been finally nailed down yet, Daryn. What is happening in the U.S. intelligence community and over in law enforcement is, of course, a tremendous amount of work. They are being flooded with all sorts of data intelligence gathered, but also received an unsolicited, countless e-mails and faxes are being sent to agencies from the White House to the CIA, claiming credit for the attacks, if credit is right word, threatening future attacks.

Much of this information officials I have spoken to say looks pretty wacky, but they are not able to eliminate any of it. every lead is going to be checked. So there's a great deal of work to do.

Now the information that they have so far still leads U.S. officials to believe that those involved in these attacks will likely be proven eventually to have links to the group led by Osama bin Laden, the fugitive Saudi terrorist who is apparently living in Afghanistan. However, the net has been spread wide. They are not ruling out other possibilities. There are some experts who say that the sophistication and highly coordinated nature of this attach suggests strongly that some kind of state sponsorship might have been involved. Officials, U.S. officials saying there's no evidence of that so far.

However, they're not ruling it out. Some of these outside experts saying that pointing out that Iraq appears to have had some sort of a role in the Rumsi Usaf (ph) matter some years back and that some involvement by Iraq cannot be ruled out. U.S. officials saying they have no evidence of that, but they are spreading a very wide net indeed.

Now they, officials are confirming that there were a couple of intercepts, presumably voices, spoken voices connected with the bin Laden group after the attacks that occurred yesterday, talking about how successful they were. They're not happy that that information got out and you can expect at the briefings that the closed-door briefings of the House and Senate that will occur that are scheduled to occur later today with the FBI, CIA and other leaders, briefing members of Congress, that there will be a strong appeal to them to avoid leaks of any kind of information about the investigation. There's a great deal of concern about that. That is a major concern as they go forward from here -- Daryn.

KAGAN: David, I imagine that's going to be a tough balancing act. On one hand to keep up the integrity and investigation. As you mentioned, you don't want leaks to go out and yet this country is going to be so hungry for information and will only feel comforted if it knows that an investigation is moving forward.

ENSOR: Well, that's right. The law enforcement and intelligence authorities of the country want it clear they're doing their jobs, that they are making progress, that they are gaining Intelligence. At the same time, they don't want to compromise their investigation which is in early stages when it could easily be compromised. So its going to be a difficult balancing act, as you say, and I nonetheless expect that we will be learning more as the day processes as to what they've got so far -- Daryn.

DARYN: A very good reason to check back with you at a later date, later hour. Thank you very much, David Ensor in our D.C. bureau -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Alright. We've got a lot on deck for you this morning. We're continuing to cover every aspect of this story this morning. We have a number of live press conferences that are going to be getting underway any minute now. We're keeping our eye right now on one in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which is just south of Pittsburgh, which is the site of one of those plane crashes. The FBI's going to be having a briefing there. They're also expecting the FBI to have a briefing at Boston's Logan Airport.

So we'll keep an eye on those as well and we have also learned that Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the company that occupied some 50 floors of one of those towers at the World Trade Center and has lost so many employees there. They are going to be having a press conference this hour as well. So we're going to have coverage of all three of those conferences for you and we understand that President Bush is going to be meeting with congressional leaders and we will have live coverage for you of that as well.

So much more is coming up in just a couple of minutes. We'll take a break right now, but we are back with more in just a bit. But in the meantime, we want to give you a look at this in the aftermath of this attack. We've heard so many stories from those who witnessed the devastation in New York and in Washington, and here now is a look at how one man experienced it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MARK HEATH: My name is Mark Heath. I'm a cardiac anesthesiologists at Columbia Presbyterian at 168th Street.

We saw two planes fly into the World Trade Center. I thought that they would need all hands on deck. So I jumped into some scrubs and I grabbed some medical stuff and just grabbed (UNINTELLIGIBLE). An ambulance stopped, and I hopped in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe leave the keys if the car so they can move it if they have to.

HEATH: Is there a staging area?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're evacuating the whole area.

HEATH: Yes, but they have people who are hurt, right. They have to pull them out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The estimate is we probably lost 400 firefighters.

HEATH: Oh my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And God knows how many thousands of people.

HEATH: So you want me to wait back here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay away from any other high-rise building.

HEATH: OK.

Station up right here, OK? Why don't we set up?

HEATH: We were instructed by a fire chief to set up staging area right there. And the second building came down. I did what I could, got behind a car.

I hope I live. I hope I live. It's coming down on me.

Here it comes. I'm getting behind the car.

Everything went black. My eyes are open -- unless I've been blinded, it's black as night.

Just that brief, I was behind a car. I tried to smash a car window so that I could climb into the car and get some fresh air, but I couldn't break the window, so I sort of went down into the gutter under the car.

I'm sorry I came down, I just had to help people.

I apologized for my family for going down and trying to help, because I really didn't think I would make it out.

I have to go find people who need help, because I don't think I'm one of them.

You okay, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

HEATH: OK. Can I just get a toot up the respirator? Can I get a toot? I just need a couple of breaths.

It was hard to see. Everybody's eyes were full of dust and stinging so it was actually quite hard to see anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: We're going to interrupt this piece right now. We want to take you live to State Department. This is Richard Boucher taking questions and giving answers from reporters. Let's listen in

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: But it's as each mission looks at a security situation, where does it feel safest, where does it feel its vulnerabilities are? Are there vulnerabilities we can correct by local actions and things like that. And I would say that the other thing around the world is our missions have been asking host governments for support and assistance in all sorts of things, closing down streets, adding more guards, adding more patrols, you know, having visible police presence, things like that, and in every single case we've gotten the support that we've asked for -- Betsy.

QUESTION: Some countries have offered assistance to this country, and you know, teams of people to help and -- in the rubble of the World Trade Center and things like that. Has the U.S. responded to this? Have we accepted or rejected any offers?

BOUCHER: We've been passing on all that information to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make sure they know what's available from overseas sources. There's indeed an you pouring of offers, specialized teams, just a whole lot of different things, equipment that people around the world have. I think we leave it to the federal authorities to sort of sort it out, figure out if there's stuff that we find -- would find useful. There's also, as you know, been an outpouring of support and assistance in the United States among our own people in terms of giving blood, or teams from the country coming to help with the search. I'm not sure that's necessary. But let the appropriate federal authorities sort it out. I'm not aware we've asked for anything at this point -- Terry.

QUESTION: They said there's a accumulating mound of evidence and very soon the government may make a decision on what they should do. Are you steering away from the general assumption that this is bin Laden related? When he talks about the evidence, is that pointing any other direction that you can share with us?

BOUCHER: I'm not steering you in any direction whatsoever. I'm not into this. We're not pointing fingers. We're not saying, who done it? We will do it carefully. We will maintain the ability to collect information and not reveal the sources of it. And we will sure make the decisions in a careful manner at the right time. And I'm not intending to steer you toward, away or any direction whatsoever. I'm not driving that car.

QUESTION: Return to Washington, did the secretary have telephone contact with the president?

BOUCHER: No, they didn't actually talk until he got back to Washington. Rich Armitage, of course, the deputy secretary was here, was working with the entire national security team. And the secretary talked to Mr. Armitage numerous times throughout the day. They can talk when they need to and this works out for both of them, just didn't happen to be the case yesterday. .

QUESTION: You said no warning that led to the closing of 50 embassies.

BOUCHER: No particular warnings. There's obviously worldwide threats.

QUESTION: That's what I wanted to know. Have there been any new warning that lead to new concern about subsequent actions?

BOUCHER: I think the warning that we've issued before in terms of the Trade Center (ph) second warning update, we did last week. Those are -- also still apply. I don't have any new information on that.

QUESTION: Richard, the king of Morocco canceled the trip to Muritone (ph) and the king of Jordan was also on his way here and also returned home. Is there any possible relationship between that and this event, in the sense that there's a dichotomy between the government that condemn the attacks and the people in streets who are all supporting it?

BOUCHER: Once, again I'm really down here to tell you that we can't -- the secretary can't brief right now. I wasn't coming to deal with the dichotomies in the world. I really don't feel I can do that right now.

The two windows look like early afternoon or later in the afternoon. So between now and the end of the day.

I'm sorry. I don't want to get us all...

QUESTION: Some have to go back to offices.

BOUCHER: I don't want to get back here at some time, because I speculate at this point. I got to talk.

QUESTION: Not before 1:00 or 2:00? BOUCHER: Can you give us a half-hour warning?

QUESTION: Yes, we'll give you as much warning as possible. And a half hour seems more than reasonable.

QUESTION: OK, thank you.

KAGAN: We are listening to Richard Boucher, State Department spokes,am. We'll wrap up what he had to say in just a moment, but while he was speaking, we got some very important information to us here at CNN.

Word from the FAA, of course you're aware that flights were apparently or possibly supposed to resume across the U.S. at Noon Eastern, 40 minutes from now. The FAA saying now, that is not going to happen. They are not going to clear the hold on flights across the U.S. We don't have word on when the next deadline be as to when flights might resume.

But very importantly, the FAA saying that those flights not resume across the U.S. 40 minutes from now, as was originally scheduled -- Leon.

HARRIS: That's going to complicate matters for quite a few people, because I heard reports this morning that people had been driving from city to city to catch ahead, to get ahead of their travel plans for the day to perhaps get to the city they were leave on their connecting flight on out of, so now it's going to complicate matters even further for them. So we're keep eyes on that, and report to you the latest details as we get there here.

In the meantime now, let's check in with our Kate Snow, who is on Capitol Hill -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, Congress been in session for just over an hour, both the Senate and the House. The House taking little break right now. But on both sides, in both chambers, what we are hearing and what we are seeing is raw emotion for members of Congress. They are talking about the horrific events of yesterday. There are themes emerging. One theme that the Congress is unified, that there are no party lines here anymore. These attacks were attacks on the U.S.'s freedom. They were acts of cowardice, and a Congress is prepared to fight whoever is responsible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Make no mistake, this was an act of war against the United States, and all of our people, and we will not be divided. All of us, the president, the Congress, and the American people, are today and will be tomorrow and in all the tomorrows totally and completely united in our determination to begin the process of healing and to take swift action, to see that the people who committed this horrible crime are properly punished. May god shed his grace on this great and wonderful country and all of our people.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Dick Gephardt getting standing ovation for his comments echoed in the Senate chamber by Senator Daschle and Senator Lott. Senator Charles Schumer, the senior senator for New York, also spoke to a short time ago. He smoke very emotionally. He talked about his daughter, who goes to school in a building right next door to Twin Towers, and for two hours he and wife struggle to find her, weren't sure of her whereabouts, then the others missing in New York city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Every one in New York right now knows somebody who is missing. I know a call, someone from the 104th floor, works for the good firm of Cantor & Fitzgerald (ph). We can't find hardly anybody from that firm, he called his parents, told them he loved them, and they haven't heard from him since.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: That emotion leading up to a vote later tonight. We expect to hear from every senator and every House member today about these terrible events, but they are voting on this. This is resolution, a joint resolution of the House and the Senate bipartisan. It says the Senate and House of Representatives condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist. It talks about extending deep condolences. "We are certainly the United States. People will stand united. We commend the heroic actions of the rescue workers, volunteers and state and local officials." This resolution goes on to thank foreign leader and individuals who have expressed solidarity with the United States. It says, "We are Committed to support increased resources in the war to eradicate terrorism, and talk about supporting the president and declares September 12th, 2001 should be a national day of unity and mourning. And when the Congress adjourns today, which we expect later on this evening it stands adjourned out of respect to the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: Thank you very much. Kate Snow on Capitol Hill.

You know, many are going to withhold the process of mourning until the process of finding out who is inside that building is complete. Let's go up now to New York now. Paula standing by on the roof -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Leon.

We have talked so much this morning about how New Yorkers are shattered by the loss of life here. We certainly don't understand the magnitude of the tragedy just yet.

But I want to check in with Gary Breece (ph) right now, who is the executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Welcome. Thank you very much for joining us this morning, sir.

GARY BREECE, EXEC. DIR., INTL. ASSOCIATION OF FIRE CHIEFS: Good morning.

ZAHN: What I want to say, is just based on the reaction I've gotten from people in the street, the news that in many ways has hit New Yorkers the hardest is that some 260 firefighter and police officers are believed dead; 260 perhaps of the initial 400 firefighter that were sent into the line of duty. We -- the city of New York has lost its fire chief, as well its deputy fire chief. What kind of message do you have for the rest of the country today about the kinds of risks you all take -- take in -- take on day in and day out?

BREECE: The firefighters of this nation are doing exactly what firefighters are supposed to do, setting aside their own grief, their own passion, and beginning to search for survivors. That's the message we need to deliver to the American public today, is that the fire service is moving forward to do everything that possibly can, to identify, locate and rescue survivors.

ZAHN: I understand that. And I understand the enormous commitment all of you make to the jobs, and yet talking with one of our reporters earlier this morning, Gary Tuchman, who is talking about how, and indeed, this enormous loss has to affect the morale of the firefighter who still have to go to work and deal with the gruesomeness of this tragedy here.

BREECE: It affects every firefighter in the nation. We have now on the ground in New York City 12 urban search-and-rescue teams that beginning the work of organizing the rescue efforts to assist the New York city fire department. This is a tremendous effort, well beyond anything ever attempted in the past. If you back to Oklahoma City, you recognize that it took us working 24 hours a day working in a five-story building 10 days to clear that site.

The enormity of this situation in New York City is beyond anybody's imagination. But you can rest assured that the fire service will not rest until every potential survivor has been located and a rescue attempt has been made, and as many casualties have been lee moved from the situation as possible.

ZAHN: This horrible loss comes on the heals of New York City losing many, many other firefighters here to catastrophes. Have you given any thought to setting up any kind of fund for the family members of those who have been lost?

BREECE: Those discussions are initially taking place right now. But quite frankly, we are focused on providing as much assistance as we can to both the New York City fire department as well as Arlington County fire department for the Pentagon rescues. We have two sites that going on with 16 urban search-and-rescue teams, and thousands of firefighter working on both of these sites.

ZAHN: All right.

BREECE: That's the first priority today.

ZAHN: All right, Gary, you just mentioned the 16 urban search- and-rescue teams. Give us this to the best of your knowledge what they will confront, and not only the rescue operation part of this, but the cleanup.

BREECE: Well, the biggest factor we're working against right now is time. About 90 percent of the survivors come out in the first 24 hours. And we're on that time deadline right now. That's why it's so important that the teams are organized, get into begin, working as quickly as possible, work with the firefighter in New York City now, and get the rescue attempted and succeeded. The longer we go into this rescue effort, the less chance of recovering survivors. We will stay as long as any potential at all for rescuing survivors.

ZAHN: I know you've looked at the same pictures I have. I have been sickened for over 24 hours now. I know you guys always have hope, you will find folks in, in debris. But when you look at these horrific images, are you surprised so far nine folks have been rescued including six firefighters and three police officers, and possibly two civilians very shortly?

BREECE: No. We're not surprised at all that so few rescues are being made.

ZAHN: I'm actually suggesting the opposite. The fact that 11 people could potential I will be found alive. I mean, we know that nine have already been rescued and two are in the process of being rescued. It seems a miracle that those of looking at this debris the tons and tons of debris. Well understand that we don't know exactly where those rescues came from in lower Manhattan. We don't know if they came from the World Trade Center buildings themselves, or surrounding building. There's probably 10 or 15 buildings that surround the World Trade Center that need to be searched, that are partially collapsed, so there's plenty of opportunities to find both rescuers and civilians.

ZAHN: Gary, before we let you go, any final thoughts as to what your colleagues have experienced and will experience in the weeks to come?

All right, essentially, we lost Gary Breece, but I think he's given us very good insight into how seriously the firefighters approached their jobs, how willing they are to take on the risks they do, and how willing they will continue to be, to go into this rubble of this massive tragedy, to attempt to rescue folks. I think the most important point Gary just made, that the majority of the your rescues, or 90 percent of them, will happen within 24 hours of the initial impact of an explosion or a fire, and we continue to wish the New York City fire department and all these urban rescue teams that have come here to help out very good luck indeed as they go about this dreadful process of trying to find people alive, and that tons and tons of concrete and cement, and what some folks have likened this morning to nuclear winter.

Daryn, that's it from New York for the time being, and we'll come back to you later.

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