11 September 2001>News Stories>White House May Have Been Terrorist Target

White House May Have Been Terrorist Target
One leader has risen to the awful occasion -- and, so far, it hasn't been President Bush.

Charles Babington . Washington Post . 12 September

Wednesday, September 12, 2001; 3:39 PM
Federal agents raided a Boston hotel today, Pentagon officials said they expected no further survivors at their building, and Bush administration officials said the White House was apparently a target in yesterday's terrorist attacks.

President Bush, speaking publicly for the fourth time since Tuesday's airborne assaults, called them "acts of war."

"The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy," Bush said after a White House meeting with top aides. "We will rally the world. We will be patient, we will be focused, and we will be steadfast in our determination. This battle will take time and resolve. But make no mistake about it, we will win."

An administration spokesman said the White House and Air Force One may have been targets of Tuesday's attacks.

Shortly after noon, a heavily armed FBI team swept through a Boston hotel. Reporters on the scene said agents apparently had fiber optic equipment that can be used to peer into rooms without alerting occupants. Shortly after 2 p.m. EDT, agents were seen taking at least one person, and possibly more, into custody. It was unclear, however, if anyone connected to the terrorists attacks was arrested.

Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity said they were investigating whether a group of hijackers came to Boston by way of Canada, the Associated Press reported. The officials confirmed that a car believed to belong to the hijackers was confiscated in Boston and contained an Arabic language flight manual.

In south Florida, FBI agents told a resident that two men who stayed with him while getting flight training last year were involved in Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center, the man said. Charlie Voss, a former employee at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Fla., said agents who interviewed him told him that authorities found a car at Boston's Logan Airport registered to the two men.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta hopes to allow the resumption of scheduled commercial airline service early Thursday, said lawmakers who were briefed by him. Earlier, the Federal Aviation Administration had said it hoped to reopen the nation's airports by noon today.

Meanwhile, about 50 embassies or U.S. consulates, including those in Japan, Italy, Sweden, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, were closed or partially shut down as a safety precaution.

In New York City, residents braced for devastating casualty counts as workers scoured the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers.

Pentagon officials, meanwhile, said they expect to find no more survivors from yesterday's devastating attack. A senior Navy official said about 200 people appear to have died in the Pentagon attack, not the 800 suggested by an Arlington fire official.

"The area of the Pentagon where the aircraft struck and burned sustained catastrophic damage," the Defense Department said in a statement. "Anyone who might have survived the initial impact and collapse could not have survived the fire that followed."

In lower Manhattan, meantime, residents awoke to heartbreaking and horrific scenes where the 110-story twin towers once stood. Throughout the night, ferries carried loads of bodies across the Hudson River, said Stan Eason, a Jersey City spokesman. Three cab companies ripped out seats from vans to help carry the dead to the Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne, N.J., AP reported.

Emergency workers had recovered 40 bodies and treated about 1,600 people for injuries, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said midday. Officials said a complete rescue, recover and cleanup operation would take 30 to 60 days, in part because of the staggering amount of building debris that must be removed from the towers site.

President Bush, facing the gravest crisis of his young presidency, spent the morning meeting with aides and calling key allied leaders.

In other developments this morning, according to accounts filed by AP, Reuters and Washington Post reporters:
  • In Boston, Logan International Airport officials defended their security system as investigators started tracking the hijackers who boarded two airliners at the airport and crashed them into New York's World Trade Center towers. Two suspects flew to Boston from Portland, Maine, the governor of Maine said. The Boston Herald quoted a source as saying five Arab men had been identified as suspects, including a trained pilot.
  • In south Florida, U.S. agents served warrants on homes, searched businesses and issued alerts for two cars in connection with the New York attacks. Search warrants were served on four homes in Davie, a town west of Fort Lauderdale. Businesses including a restaurant were "scoured by agents'' in Hollywood, WSVN television reported. The Miami Herald said agents served warrants Tuesday night at the homes of four Broward County residents who were on the hijacked commercial jetliners.
  • In Washington, a White House spokesman said U.S. intelligence indicates yesterday's attacks are not part of an ongoing wave of terrorism. "We believe the perpetrators have executed their plan, and therefore the risks are significantly reduced,' White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. Meanwhile, Congress convened this morning and members condemned the terrorists attacks.
  • With three aircraft carriers en route, the Navy's Atlantic Fleet has pressed all of its available East Coast carriers into service to patrol the waters and air space off New York and Washington. The emergency deployments are unprecedented, even following the outbreak of the Persian Gulf war in 1990. "We have been attacked like we haven't been since Pearl Harbor," Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander-in-chief of the Atlantic Fleet, said Tuesday as he placed his entire 188-ship fleet on alert.