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America's New War: President Addresses FEMA Relief Efforts

Aired October 1, 2001 - 13:35   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The president and his FEMA director, a longtime friend, Joe Allbaugh, are meeting reporters. I'm not sure if that's at FEMA headquarters or not, I'm guessing it is.

That is Mr. Allbaugh at the podium, the president to his left. He, of course, leads the federal effort in the recovery.


JOSEPH ALLBAUGH, FEMA DIRECTOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We are honored today to be joined by President Bush, and also those hard workers with FEMA, your compadres from all across the country.

I want to say a special hello to the individuals in New York City at our disaster field office.

Mr. President, in our first conversation 21 days ago, you made sure to tell me to make sure that FEMA and the federal government would do all that we possibly could for New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. Mr. President, I'm proud to say, from ground zero, to the fields of Pennsylvania, to our neighbors across the way at the Pentagon, we at FEMA are working day and night to succeed in that mission.

The early work at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania is completed. In New York, we are working closely with Governor Pataki, Mayor Giuliani, and New York City's finest, the police and fire departments of New York City.

This recovery process will take a while. It will take time. Over 1.2 million tons of debris must be removed. It will be months before we can rebuild the site at ground zero. FEMA will be there until the very bitter end.

Your leadership, Mr. President, during these difficult days and nights have inspired all. We are honored...


We are honored by your visit today. Thank you for coming.

Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much. Thank you.

I admit he's not very pretty to look at.


But he's doing a heck of a job.

I'm so proud of my friend...


It's become clear to the hardworking FEMA employees that I didn't pick Joe Allbaugh because of his haircut. But I picked him because he's a good man who knows how to run a very important organization, and I'm proud of my friend, I'm proud of the job he's doing, and I'm proud of the work of that the FEMA employees all across the country are doing on behalf of America.

I'm here to thank you all. I was up in the operations room, thanking the folks who are working 12 to 13, 14, 15 hours a day, still, to this day. I had the honor of going to New York City. I saw, what they call, "Dirty Boot" operations, from Sacramento and Puerto Rico -- all FEMA employees, all people who love their fellow Americans, all who want to join in to say loud and clear to the evildoers, "Your actions won't stand in America."


Joe said it best. He said, "This is something I hope I never have to go through again as long as I live." And I know every FEMA employee feels that way. After all, yours was an organization that was used to dealing with generally acts of nature -- hurricanes, or tornadoes, or fires, or floods. Now, all of a sudden, some evil people came and they declared war on America. And your agency, and the good working people --true Americans -- had to rise to the occasion. And rise you did.

And for that, the people of New York and Connecticut and New Jersey and Pennsylvania and every other state in the union are proud of the job you're doing. So on behalf of the American people, I say thanks from the bottom of our hearts for the FEMA employees.

I also want to talk about the battle we face, the campaign to protect freedom, the willingness of the American people to not only repair the damage done, but the willingness of our nation to stand united, to say loud and clear that freedom will stand, that you can tear down our buildings, but you can't tear down our spirit, that we're strong and united in the cause of freedom not only here in American, but all around the world.

This will be a different kind of campaign than Americans are used to. It's a campaign that must be fought on many fronts, and I'm proud to report that we're making progress on many fronts. Not only did FEMA employees show the world what it's like to stand up and held a neighbor in need, we're also beginning to make progress on the financial front.

As you may remember, I made it clear that part of winning the war against terror would be to cut off these evil people's money, would be to trace their assets and freeze them; cut off their cash flows, hold people accountable who fund them, who allow the funds to go through their institutions.

And not only do that at home, but convince others around the world to join us in doing so. Thus far, we've frozen $6 million in bank accounts linked to terrorist activity. We've frozen 30 Al Qaeda accounts in the United States and 20 overseas, and we're just beginning.

We also, on the military front, we're making progress. We've deployed 29,000 military personnel in two carrier battle groups as well as an amphibious ready group and several hundred military aircraft. We've called about 17,000 members of the Reserve to active duty as well as several thousand National Guard operating under state authority.

As I said, this is a different kind of war. It's hard to fight a guerrilla war with conventional forces. But our military is ready. And as I said to the Congress, they will make us proud.


In this new kind of war, one that requires a coalition, we're making good progress on the diplomatic front.

At our request, the United Nations unanimously enacted a binding resolution requiring all its members to deny financing, support or safe harbor to terrorists.


We've had 46 declarations of support from organizations, including NATO, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the Organization of American States.

You see, the evildoers like to hit, and then they try to hide, and slowly but surely we're going to make sure they have no place to hide; slowly but surely we're going to move them out of their holes and what they think is safe havens and get them on the move.

We're a patient nation. We're a nation who's got a long-term view, a nation that's come to realize that in order to make freedom prevail, the evildoers will be forced to run and will eventually be brought to justice.

Now, along those lines, we're taking any threat seriously here at home. The FBI's conducted hundreds of interviews and searches, issued hundreds of subpoenas and arrested or detained more than 400 people as it investigates the attacks. About 150 terrorists and their supporters, as well, have been arrested or detained in 25 different countries. In my speech to the Congress, I said, sometimes the American people aren't going to see exactly what's taken place on their TV screens, but slowly but surely, the results are coming in.

You see, we've said to people around the world, "This could have happened to you. This could have easily have taken place on your soil. So you need to take threats seriously as well."

We're beginning to share intelligence amongst our nations. We're finding out members of the Al Qaeda organization, who they are, where they think they can hide, and we're slowly but surely bringing them to justice. We're slowly but surely calling their hand and reining them in. We've just begun. There's 150 detained and more to come.

And along these lines, this weekend, through the collaborative efforts of intelligence and law enforcement, we've arrested a known terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of two U.S. citizens during a hijacking in 1986. The terrorist by the name of Saeed Hassan Zafarini (ph). He's not affiliated with Al Qaeda, yet he's an example of the wider war on terrorism and what we intend to do. Here's a man who killed two of our own citizens when he hijacked a plane in Pakistan.

By the way, obviously, there was only two Americans -- that's two too many -- but there was a lot of people from other countries as well involved.

And he was convicted and sentenced to death, yet he only served 14 years. Well, we arrested him. We got him. We brought him into Alaska. And today, the United States of America will charge him with murder.


Sometimes we'll have success in the near term. Sometimes we have to be patient.

Sometimes we'll be able to round somebody up who threatens us today. Sometimes it may take us a while to catch him, but the lesson of this case and every case is that this mighty nation won't rest until we protect ourselves, our citizens and freedom-loving people around the world.

The evildoers struck, and when they did, they aroused a mighty land -- a land of compassionate people, a land who wants to help a neighbor in need, but a land who stands solidly on principles, the principles of freedom -- freedom to worship, freedom to govern, freedom to speak, freedom to assemble.

We've sent a loud message to the world. We will not be cowed by a few. We sent another message to the world: Together, we're going to bring these people to justice. And that's exactly what we're going to do.

Thank you for your hard work.


I want to thank you all so very much for your hard work and for your love for America. May God bless you all. May God continue to bless America.

Thank you very much.


BROWN: The president at FEMA headquarters. The president made a number of these appearances in Washington. He was at the FBI and the CIA last week thanking employees. Today he went to FEMA. He was introduced by his old friend, Joe Allbaugh, the FEMA director. It was a very playful moment. Not the kind of moment you normally see with the president of the United States.

Briefly, the president said, we are slowly bringing people to justice. He referred to 150 people who are detained already. I'm not sure if those are the people he was referring to. And he said that the government has already frozen $6 million in assets related to al Qaeda in 50 different accounts, some of them in this country and some of them overseas as well.

Again, the president at FEMA headquarters. We'll take a break -- is that what you want do here -- take a break and we'll be right back.




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