President Bush is seeking $11 million to beef up security at America's borders. Friends and family mourn a female Marine whose plane crashed in Pakistan. The father of a Sept. 11 victim offers thanks to the Marine.
Bush Wants $11 Billion for Secure Borders
P O R T L A N D, Maine, Jan. 25 — President Bush said today he will ask Congress to spend roughly $11 billion next year on securing the nation's borders to keep out terrorists who would try to attack the United States by air, land or sea.
He promised that U.S. officials will be on special lookout for foreign nationals who have overstayed student visas, "to make sure they're not part of some al Qaeda network that wants to hit the United States."
"We're looking, we're listening, we're following every single lead," he said.
The president visited Portland today to announce plans to seek $10.7 billion in next year's budget for border security, an increase of $2.1 billion over this year.
Bush toured the Coast Guard cutter Tahoma, which raced from Rhode Island to New York Harbor to conduct ship inspections and control sea traffic after the Sept. 11 attacks.
He said the Coast Guard will get its largest budget increase in years, praising its personnel as "a fine group of people who don't get nearly as much appreciation from the American people as they should."
The Tahoma arrived just before midnight on Sept. 11 and remained there through Oct. 22, its crew often on 24-hour alert.
Today, it was docked proudly in the International Marine Terminal here and, as Bush stepped aboard, the ship's bell rang three times and a booming voice announced: "United States arriving!" It was much the same when Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta entered just behind Bush: "Transportation arriving!"
The president donned a blue USCGC Tahoma cap, and listened as Commander Gary M. Smialek described how the Tahoma "sped flank speed to New York City" to patrol the closed harbor and secure bridges near the Statue of Liberty and the Ground Zero perimeter. "We didn't know what the threat was," Smialek said.
In the ship's mess hall, Bush thanked Coast Guard personnel for serving their country. He said of the military mission in Afghanistan, "We're winning but we got a lot to do."
After leaving Portland, Bush was heading to Camp David for the weekend. Twenty House and Senate Republicans were to join him there for an overnight legislative strategy session — and to watch Black Hawk Down, a new film about the U.S. military mission in Somalia that went awry, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The border security funds are part of a $38 billion homeland security package that Bush announced Thursday. The money will be used to create "a seamless air, land and sea border" that weeds out terrorist threats without clogging the free flow of goods and people between countries, the White House said.
Bush also will seek a $1.2 billion increase for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, so more agents and inspectors can be hired to focus on the border with Canada. Work on tightening that border already is under way; Bush's homeland security director Tom Ridge reached an agreement in December with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley.
The INS also will able to launch a tracking system to monitor arrivals and departures by non-U.S. citizens.
The Coast Guard stands to receive $2.9 billion under Bush's proposal for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, an increase of $282 million. Ridge's office said the figure was in line with what the Coast Guard requested, based on its own cost estimates.
The funds would go mainly toward port security missions, a function that once was a small portion of Coast Guard operations but now makes up nearly 60 percent of its daily duties. The guard currently is on a heightened state of alert, and must cover 361 ports and 95,000 miles of coastline.
The Tahoma, based at New Bedford, Mass., is at sea roughly 185 days a year, interdicting drug traffic and illegal migrants from the North Atlantic to the Caribbean. It was commissioned in April 1988 and has a crew of 100 officers and enlisted personnel.
The president's budget plan also includes:
An increase of $619 million for the U.S. Customs Service, so it can finish hiring 800 new inspectors and agents for border and seaport duties and purchase high-tech equipment to speed inspections of shipments.
A $14 million increase for the Agriculture Quarantine Inspection program, to help with inspections at land border crossings and on flights into the U.S. mainland from far-flung states and territories, such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
—The Associated Press
First Servicewoman Killed In Afghan Campaign Is Mourned
G A R Y, Ind., Jan. 25 — Mourners today filed past the flag-draped coffin of Marine Sgt. Jeannette Winters, the first U.S. servicewoman killed since Afghan bombing began in October.
Winters' casket was carried by eight Marines in a color guard into the downtown convention center about three hours before the funeral. Winters was to be buried at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville with full military honors.
Inside the convention center, dozens filed past a stage adorned with flowers, a photo of Winters in her dress uniform, and a poster by elementary school students calling her a "protecting friend."
Winters, 25, was among seven Marines killed Jan. 9 when a KC-130 tanker plane crashed in Pakistan.
Fellow Marines are proud of Winters, who was based at Miramar base in San Diego, Calif., said her platoon commander, 1st Lt. Jeni Roehlich.
"She knew she was good at her job and she wanted to go," Roehlich said. "She was very proud to serve her country. She was proud to go over there and do her job."
The Rev. David Walton, a family friend who was Winters' high school coach, said all those who died in the crash were heroes.
"I hope all of us will remember deep down in our hearts the sacrifice they made," he said. "We had this true hero around us all the time and we didn't recognize it until now. She truly is a hero. She knew the risks and she did her job without any hesitation."
Dick McCloskey, whose 25-year-old daughter, Katie McCloskey, died in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, spoke Thursday by phone with Winters' brother, Marine Sgt. Matthew Winters Jr.
"I just wanted [the Winters family] to know how much we as a family appreciate her sacrifice in trying to track down the people who killed our daughter," McCloskey said.
Referring to Winters' father, McCloskey said: "It's very emotional and I'm sure he feels the same way. I just want to sympathize with him for their loss. It's very much like our loss."
—The Associated Press
Flight Attendants Seek More Thorough Checks
W A S H I N G T O N, Jan. 25 — At least once a day, Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight attendant Brandie Cartwright searches the cabin to make sure there are no weapons or bombs.
She says she doesn't have enough time to do the job, nor enough training to know what to look for.
"It's a scary thing to think I'm the one that's responsible," Cartwright said. "Trained professionals should be doing this instead of flight attendants."
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Transportation Department task force recommended regular searches of airplane cabins and additional training for employees doing the checks. The task force also said the pilots and flight attendants should not be asked to search the cabins.
Most major airlines have ground crews or other employees conduct the cabin searches. On several commuter airlines, however, that job has fallen to the flight attendants.
Their union, the Association of Flight Attendants, contended Thursday that the searches are not being done properly. To draw attention to the issue, flight attendants at Atlantic Southeast, Atlantic Coast Airlines, Air Wisconsin and three US Airways regional carriers, Allegheny, Piedmont and PSA, began distributing literature at airports to protest what they say is a lack of training and time to do the job.
"In order for this not to be a joke or a security sham, you have to give us the training and you have to give us sufficient time to do it," said union president Patricia Friend.
Atlantic Southeast spokesman Kent Landers said the airline made its flight attendants responsible for the checks because they're the most qualified to do them.
"ASA flight attendants are uniquely qualified to observe unusual circumstances in the cabin of the airplanes and are highly trained professionals who know appropriate procedures," Landers said.
Friend said the union has brought its concerns to officials at several regional airlines, but the problems have not be resolved.
"The flight attendants are concerned," Friend said. "We think the passengers should be concerned as well."
Atlantic Coast Airlines spokesman Rick DeLisi said all its employees are helping with security following the Sept. 11 attacks.
"That includes not only flight attendants but pilots, members of our ramp service team, customer service team and all others who come in contact with our aircraft and passengers every day," DeLisi said.
Deborah McElroy, president of the Regional Airline Association, contended that flight attendants are trained before being asked to conduct security searches, and they are given enough time to do the job correctly.
"Passengers can be assured that air carriers have measures in place to ensure the security of the aircraft for passengers and crew," McElroy said.
—The Associated Press
Sept. 11 Murder Overshadowed by Catastrophe
N E W Y O R K, Jan. 25 — Polish immigrant Henryk Siwiak's life was taken Sept. 11, but not by terrorism.
Siwiak, 46, died alone on a street corner far from the World Trade Center in what is now a historical footnote: His was the only homicide recorded in the city that day outside of the terrorist attack.
More than four months later, with no one under arrest, Siwiak's family worries that authorities may not have the time or the will to solve a mystery so overshadowed by history.
"I think the police have many, many cases and maybe they'll never call me," said his sister, Lucyna Siwiak.
Laid out in front of her on a kitchen table in her Queens apartment was a copy of her brother's death certificate: "Construction worker … Body found on sidewalk …. Front of 199 Decatur Street … Gunshot wound to the chest."
Police say they have taken the case seriously, but with no witnesses and no clear motive, they know little more about the slaying today.
Siwiak, born in Krakow, came to the United States last year with dreams of building a new life, Lucyna said. Laid off from his railroad inspector job in Poland, he joined his sister in Queens. He worked odd jobs to send money home to his wife, a high school biology teacher, and their two children.
"He had many, many plans in life," Lucyna said. "He wanted to build a new house in Poland. He wanted to send his daughter to a good university."
Siwiak supplemented English classes by watching television. But he struggled with his new language. That, combined with a cheerful nature, made him vulnerable, his sister said.
"We told him New York could be a dangerous place," she said, "but he didn't believe it."
On Sept. 11, Siwiak was looking for work in lower Manhattan when he learned about the attack. He called his family in Poland to say he was safe. It was the last time they heard from him.
Late that night, Siwiak donned a camouflage jacket, borrowed a subway map from his landlord and set out for a job cleaning a supermarket in unfamiliar territory: the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
Police believe he may have gotten off at the wrong subway stop and wandered around lost. What happened next — and why — is unclear.
His assailant fired several rounds but hit Siwiak only once. There were no clear signs of a robbery. The victim's wallet, with cash, was found on his body.
Lucyna speculates her brother was killed because, with his dark hair and Army-style jacket, the killer thought he was an Arab militant.
"I think maybe it was a mistake," she said. "There were many angry people."
Police dismiss that theory but say they have little to go on. —The Associated Press