Sen. Seeks to Declassify Vital 9/11 Information
W A S H I N G T O N, Oct 21 — U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham said he is seeking to declassify "the most important information" obtained in a congressional probe of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Florida Democrat described the material as a key toward better protecting the United States.
Graham's panel and the House Intelligence Committee have conducted a joint investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, holding a series of open and closed hearings.
The committees are to issue a draft report by the end of this year, with a final report due in February. In the meantime, they are seeking to declassify much of what they learned.
"Frankly, there is a piece of information which is still classified which I consider to be the most important information that's come to the attention of the joint committee," Graham said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation.
"We hope that it will be declassified," Graham said. "I think it is an important part of our judgments as to where our greatest threats are and what steps we need to do to protect the American people here at home."
Graham said: "There's been a pattern in which information is provided on a classified basis, and then what is declassified are those sections of the report that are most advantageous to the administration."
Elder Bush: Son Faces Toughest Times
D E S M O I N E S, Iowa, Oct. 21 — President Bush is facing the toughest set of challenges of any president since Abraham Lincoln because of the shadowy nature of terrorism, his father said.
Former President George Bush said problems his son are dealing with even exceed those of President Roosevelt and World War II.
"Roosevelt of course faced World War II," the elder Bush said Sunday. "There, we knew who the enemy was and we knew what we had to do to get rid of them. There was massive motivation."
The former president was the main speaker at a fund-raising dinner for U.S. Rep. Greg Ganske, who is seeking to oust Sen. Tom Harkin, but much of his speech focused on the problems his son has been wrestling with since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"The enemies we face today are very, very different," said Bush. "They're shadowy. They are a terrible new problem."
Though the nation was forced to fight a four-year war on two fronts with hundreds of thousands of casualties during World War II, Bush said the country had been energized by the attacks on Pearl Harbor and acted as one in dealing with the threats.
Bush said he thinks little of issues when watching his son in the White House.
"I really think more about family than I do about issues," said Bush. "The president is facing enormous problems."
The elder Bush said there were pragmatic reasons for stumping for Ganske, because Democrats control the Senate by a single vote and have effectively blocked much of his son's agenda.
During his four years in the White House, the senior Bush said, he was confronted with a Congress where Democrats controlled both chambers.
"You have to compromise and deal with somebody else's legislation," said Bush.
Bush also noted that Harkin had voted against the resolution authorizing force in the Gulf War in 1991.
"He was not there on that and many other issues," said Bush.
The former president did not mention that Republican Sen. Charles Grassley — who was in the audience — also voted against that resolution.
Bush, 78, said the Harkin-Ganske matchup is pivotal for deciding who runs the Senate after the Nov. 5 election. He conceded that most polls have given an edge to Harkin but said the race is "closing and it's closing fast."
Ganske was elected to Congress in 1994, and is giving up his seat to challenge Harkin. Harkin was elected to the Senate in 1984, after serving 10 years in the House.
Harkin issued a statement welcoming Bush to the state, noting "we understand the president has to do what he has to do."
Harkin campaign manager John Frew noted that Bush had given Harkin a medal for his work authoring the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"We also want to thank the former president for signing 17 pieces of legislation written or sponsored by Senator Harkin," said Frew. "We would like to welcome President Bush to Iowa and thank him for being such a strong partner with Senator Harkin."
About 800 people attended Sunday's fund-raising dinner, generating $200,000 for Ganske's campaign. Harkin has raised $8.1 million, while Ganske has raised $4.3 million.
— The Associated Press
Survey Shows More People Staying on Ground for Short Trips
W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 21 — Security checks, random searches, new airline ticket fees and other hassles since the Sept. 11 attacks have kept many people off planes and on the road, particularly for short trips.
The number of people flying commercially between 200 miles and 400 miles dropped 22 percent in the year after the attacks, according to a survey by D.K. Shifflet & Associates Ltd. in Falls Church, Va.
"It's just easier to get into your car and go," said Chief Executive Doug Shifflet, whose agency surveys 45,000 households each month to assess their travel patterns.
AAA, formerly American Automobile Association, says the number of TripTiks — personalized trip routings for club members — prepared rose by almost one-quarter in the first six months of this year.
The air travel industry has yet to fully recover from the attacks. From January to September of this year, the major carriers had 397.4 million passengers, 8.3 percent fewer than the 433.3 million reported during the same nine-month period a year earlier. The industry also has cut 80,000 jobs.
While some of the drop in passengers is due to fear, experts say many others are choosing ground transportation over planes to avoid airport hassles.
A 250-mile trip over interstate highways takes about 4 ½ hours by car. A plane makes the trip in under an hour. But if a passenger has a 30-minute ride to and from the airports and must arrive two hours early, the time savings is minimal.
Then there are other air travel headaches: restricted parking, vehicle searches, $30 extra for a third bag, security fees, security checkpoint lines, random searches at the gate and more.
Daniel Stillman, an operations contractor for Verizon Global Solutions, recently sat in the waiting area at Washington's main train station, Union Station, and ticked off the reasons he was not flying back to his home in Edison, N.J.
The train is faster because he does not have to leave time to wait in security lines, he said, and he can book a trip at the last minute without paying more. He can use his time better on a train.
And, he added, "We all know the terrorists could attack in a train station, but people feel a bit more safe when they're on the ground."
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Amtrak has been carrying more passengers between New York and Washington than the airlines.
Donald Carty, American Airlines' chief executive, told Congress last month that the industry is losing an estimated $2.5 billion annually "due to the many air travelers that have often decided not to fly in order to avoid the much publicized security hassles at airports."
The news is not all bad for air travelers. Flight delays are down, largely because the number of flights has fallen, from 710,000 in June 2001 to 664,000 the following June, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
But Michael Wascom, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, representing large airlines, said the industry recognizes it has a public relations problem and is looking for ways to improve travel.
Airlines want the government to approve a program that would give "smart cards" — ID cards with embedded computer chips — to passengers who have submitted to background checks, allowing them to pass more easily through security checkpoints, he said.
"Everyone is not an equal threat," Wascom said.
The Transportation Security Administration, created in response to the terrorist attacks, is trying to balance security with customer service.
Since taking over the agency in July, agency chief James Loy has changed the rules to allow air travelers to carry drinks through metal detectors and eliminated the requirement that ticket agents ask passengers if they have packed and kept a close eye on their baggage.
The agency also is working on a pilot program to eliminate random gate screenings.
As the government deploys a new federal work force at 425 of the nation's 429 commercial airports, screening should become a smoother, more predictable experience, the agency says.
It is hard to know now what to expect.
Passengers may or may not face vehicle searches, long lines at passenger screening checkpoints or random searches at the gate. Carryon items that make it through security at one airport get inspected at another.
David Tulin, a diversity consultant from Philadelphia, prefers taking Amtrak between Boston and Washington to flying because of hassles.
"You've lost the predictability of when you arrive at airports and how you're going to be treated," he said as he settled into his seat on a New York-bound Acela Express car, laptop and paperwork spread out on a small table in front of him.
Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant and president of The Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo., believes all the security and other stipulations placed upon air travel — such as requiring passengers be at the gate up to 30 minutes before departure — are overkill.
"It's open season on passengers," said Boyd, who plans to drive the 925 miles from Denver to Phoenix this Christmas.
— The Associated Press
NYC Fireman Finishes Ironman Triathlon in Memory of Fallen Brothers
K A I L U A-K O N A, Hawaii, Oct. 21 — His race number said it all — 343, the number of firefighters who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Firefighter Larry Parker, of Ladder 129 in New York City said 343 sets of wings carried him through the grueling Ironman Triathlon World Championship.
"There were some rough spots, and they carried me," said Parker, 39, of Amityville, N.Y., after finishing the 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile marathon in 10 hours and 17 minutes on Saturday.
Tim DeBoom, 31, of Lyons, Colo., won the triathalon by completing it in 8 hours, 29 minutes and 56 seconds.
Parker's time was 8 minutes faster than his finish in the 2000 race.
"It wasn't for me this time, so it didn't matter how I did," he said. "It as very emotional. I got too emotional three times on the course and hyperventilated."
Parker was on vacation here training for last year's race at the time of the terrorist attack. He spent the next two weeks helping in the rescue effort at the trade center. He canceled that race and then had trouble getting motivated to try again this year.
The 343 who perished gave him inspiration.
"I'll never forget these guys," he said, "I knew a lot of them."
— The Associated Press