Congress has doled out more than $60 billion to fight terrorism. Dozens of family members of Sept. 11 victims say the rules for compensation aren't fair. American Airlines chief Don Carty says he backs the removal of an Arab-American Secret Service agent. Some who donated blood after the attacks learn they have diseases.
$60 Billion Spent on Terrorism So Far
W A S H I N G T O N , Jan. 7 — Congress has provided more than $60 billion since September to combat terrorism at home and abroad and to rebuild from the attacks on New York and Washington. That's roughly five times what the nation spent to fight terrorism in the previous year.
Some costs are one-time expenses or will diminish in coming years — like helping communities recover from the Sept. 11 devastation, but other anti-terrorism programs are sure to grow.
When he sends Congress his $2 trillion budget for fiscal 2003 next month, President Bush is expected to propose billions more for the military's $345 billion wartime budget for the rest of this year, plus a hefty increase for next year for government-wide anti-terrorism efforts. Fiscal 2003 begins Oct. 1.
Republican aides on the House Budget Committee estimate that so-called homeland security programs alone — such as hiring FBI agents and stopping bioterrorists — will grow by $150 billion over the next decade. That excludes money for military anti-terrorism operations and for local recovery aid.
Not all of the $60 billion Congress approved will be spent this year. Precise figures remain hazy because of disagreements — sometimes fueled by politics — over what exactly constitutes anti-terrorism spending, and because such activities are often included within broader programs and are not distinct.
"We're scrambling" to figure out precisely how much was enacted, said spokeswoman Melissa Merson of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Though but a sliver of the federal budget, $60 billion exceeds the 2000 revenues of all but the dozen largest U.S. corporations, and would buy 3 million cars at $20,000 apiece. It is also five times the $12 billion total for all federal anti-terrorism spending in fiscal 2001, an August White House report said.
Beefing up security at home and hunting Osama bin Laden are hugely popular with the public and members of both parties, assuring that such spending will continue. But that hasn't stopped political warfare from erupting.
Bush and congressional Democrats clashed last fall over how to divide the first round of spending between defense and domestic programs. With a return of federal deficits imminent, more fights are brewing this election year.
"We have no higher obligation than to defend this country," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. "But that doesn't mean we give blank checks to anybody."
Bush's budget is expected to propose a $15 billion increase for domestic security programs, everything from protecting nuclear power plants to building up federal vaccine stockpiles. The White House says $34 billion was enacted for such programs for fiscal 2002.
"The president has made this a priority," said White House budget office spokeswoman Amy Call. "We'll fund it at a level that reflects that priority."
—The Associated Press
Familes of WTC Victims Decry Compensation Rules
N E W Y O R K, Jan. 7 — Dozens of family members of World Trade Center victims and four members of Congress say the interim rules governing the federal victims' compensation fund aren't fair.
And they want them revised.
Under the rules, the compensation depends on the victim's family size, age and earnings. The special master who worked out the plan has said the average family would receive about $1.6 million.
The regulations give the family of each victim a quarter of a million dollars for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering. Life insurance and pension fund payments would be subtracted from the awards. But charitable contributions would not be affected.
A Republican congressman calls it "a 250-thousand-dollar cap."
Relatives who apply to the fund would largely give up their right to sue.
The special master appointed to oversee the government fund says he hopes to address the concerns.
—The Associated Press
Airline Exec Backs Booting Secret Service Man
D A L L A S, Jan. 7 — American Airlines chief executive Don Carty says he backs a pilot's decision to remove an armed Arab-American Secret Service agent from a Christmas Day flight at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
"I am completely convinced that our captain acted appropriately and in the best interests of security on his airplane," Carty said in a weekend statement for American employees on the company's Web site and on the company's hotline. "Our captains deal with law enforcement professionals who carry firearms on airplanes all the time."
Carty said he believed the pilot had the agent removed solely in interest of the flight's safety.
The pilot described the man, a member of President Bush's security detail, as acting "very hostile" and making "loud, abusive comments." That raised more suspicion about the safety of allowing him aboard, the pilot said.
Lawyers representing the Secret Service agent disputed the pilot's account, saying the agent was cooperative, calm and professional throughout the encounter, and was the victim of racial bias. The agent, through his lawyers, is demanding an apology from American Airlines and civil rights training for its flight crews.
Airline records show that the captain doubted the authenticity of the agent's badge and photo identification and kept him off the flight for 1¼ hours before ultimately taking off late without him.
"In the judgment of an experienced pilot backed by SOC and law enforcement in Baltimore, this agent was not behaving appropriately," Carty said. "And our captain simply was not going to let an angry man with a gun on his airplane and I back that completely."
He said the airline doesn't condone intolerance and that he believes the agent's removal has been blown out of proportion.
"He, of all people, should understand the security concerns that motivated our Captain, who, under federal law has responsibility for the flight and for the lives of our customers on board," Carty said.
"There is not now and will never be a place for intolerance at American Airlines," he said. "Now in my view, this situation has been elevated way, way beyond reason."
Bush told reporters after the incident that he would be "madder than heck" if a government inquiry into the incident found that one of his Secret Service protectors was discriminated against because of his race.
The agent's attorneys said he hasn't sought compensation from American Airlines, but hasn't ruled out a lawsuit either. If he did receive any money, he would give it to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.
The agent has not identified himself for security reasons, his lawyers said.
—The Associated Press
Some Blood Donors Learn They Have Diseases
P I T T S B U R G H, Jan. 7 — Some people who rushed to donate blood following the terrorist attacks are benefiting from the collection agency's routine screening process.
While it's not good news to receive a rejection letter from the American Red Cross or the Central Blood Bank, some people are finding out that their blood tested positive for hepatitis or other contagious diseases — conditions they may not have known about.
"I've seen two patients who donated blood after Sept. 11 and were notified that they tested positive for hepatitis C," said Dr. Obaid Shakil, director of the Center for Liver Diseases at UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh.
Both patients, who were in their late 40s, told their doctor they were surprised by their conditions.
Shakil said it's far better to know about one's health and receive treatment than not know at all. Shakil, himself, was among the donors who were referred after their blood was rejected.
Thousands of western Pennsylvanians rolled up their sleeves for the first time in the wake of the attacks. The Central Blood Bank recorded 5,200 first-time donors in September, two or three times the normal number.
First-time donors generally received more rejection notices because routine donors go through the screening process more frequently.
That held true for the region, where testing losses were slightly higher than normal after many first-timers donated blood after the terrorist attacks, said Marianne Spampinato of the Greater Allegheny Region of the American Red Cross.
As part of the screening process, a dozen tests are performed on donated blood to prevent the spread of hepatitis C, B, HIV, syphilis and other blood-borne diseases.
Early detection of hepatitis C is important because symptoms usually don't occur until its final stages. If left untreated, some will experience liver damage that could lead to cirrhosis or cancer, Shakil said.
About 17 percent of September donors gave blood for the first time, compared with the usual 11 percent for the Red Cross chapter serving 110 hospitals in six states, Spampinato said.
On average, the Red Cross rejects 1 percent of the blood it collects due to test results. In September, testing losses rose to 1.3 percent. Testing eliminated 700 units of the 65,175 units collected for September, October and November.
—The Associated Press