President Bush urged Americans to take to the skies again, and outlined his proposals today for new security measures on commercial airliners.
Speaking at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to a crowd of flag-waving airline workers, Bush gave a pep talk to the troubled airline industry and the "traveling public," returning again and again to his theme that the terrorists who hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon did not break the American spirit.
"They thought they attacked America and hurt us. No. We are stronger than ever and we're going to prove it. May God bless America," he concluded to a roaring ovation.
The plan Bush laid out included turning over airport security to federal agents, making tougher security standards consistent nationwide, and putting more plainclothes federal marshals on commercial flights.
To boost security immediately, he said he is authorizing state governors to call up National Guard troops to carry out inspections of passengers and baggage at airports. He also said he is proposing $500 million in new funding to pay for security measures.
Several governors, including those in Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota and Kentucky, were among those to move quickly in response to Bush's request to mobilize National Guard units. As of today, more than 16,200 National Guard and reservists have been called to active duty in the wake of the terror attacks.
In Chicago, Bush did not mention an order giving two regional Air Force commanders new powers to order commercial airliners to be shot down without presidential authorization, "to protect the American public" if lines of communication break down.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed today that the order was given as a method of streamlining the chain of command in rules of engagement, in extreme situations, but said there was no reason for concern.
The two regional air commanders in the United States — Maj. Gen. Larry K. Arnold, a two-star officer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, who has authority for the continental United States, and Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, a three-star general at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska — are the two given the power to issue shoot-down orders, according to senior officials at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The new rules delegate authority to the generals only in the most extreme circumstances, and if NORAD is unable to communicate with either the president or the entire National Command Authority and "all means of communication are exhausted," according to a NORAD official.
The NORAD command center at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado has multiple means of getting in touch with the president at all times, and has routine communication with all national leadership.
The airline industry has been hit hard by the hijackings. Despite Congress passing a hefty aid package last week, U.S. airlines have fired nearly 100,000 workers in the last two weeks.
The president today was speaking as much to the public, trying to get people to start traveling again, as he was to the industry.
"One of the great goals of this nation's war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry, is to tell the traveling public, 'Get on board, do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America's great destination spots. Go down to DisneyWorld in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed,'" he said.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., accompanied Bush, in a show of congressional support.
The president expressed concerns about how quickly the proposals could be made law, but Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-N.D., said today he approves of the plan and will work to have it enacted quickly.
"We've got to have a sky marshal concept, we've got to have better security on the doors and the cockpits, we've got to ensure that there is a far better monitoring and checking system than we've got right now," Daschle said. "This proposal incorporates all of those ideas and so I think it's a good place to start."
Bush made no mention of proposals to allow pilots to carry firearms on flights, which have been put forward by the pilots' union. On Wednesday he dismissed those proposals, saying, "There may be better ways to do it than that."
Investigations and Diplomacy Continue
Investigators continued both their search for evidence and suspects connected to the recent terror attacks, and U.S. officials continued a crackdown on terrorist groups.
In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft released photos of the 19 men believed to have hijacked four passenger planes on Sept. 11 and, in keeping with what he called "a national neighborhood watch," asked any Americans who might have known these men to come forward with information. FBI Director Robert Mueller said investigators believe one or more of the men have contacts with Osama bin Laden's network al Qaeda.
Also, in an attempt to choke off the money supply of suspected terrorist groups, Ashcroft said the White House has sent money laundering legislation to Congress.
The measure, which was drafted before Sept. 11, criminalizes laundering the proceeds of foreign crimes in the United States, forbids taking more than $10,000 in cash into or out of the country and transporting more than $10,000 in interstate commerce with the intent to use it to commit a criminal offense, and permits federal courts to restrain the assets of a criminal defendant in order to prevent the transfer of assets to a terrorist network.
Bin Laden Asked to Leave
In Pakistan today, a group of religious leaders is preparing to travel to Afghanistan to try to persuade the Taliban to turn over bin Laden, who the Bush administration calls the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, to the United States.
The delegation will be led by Mufti Shamezai, a spiritual mentor to many of the Taliban leaders, who called for a holy war against Americans in 1998 after U.S. rocket attacks on camps in Afghanistan. Now, he is expected to try to convince the Taliban to be more cooperative with the United States.
Today, Taliban representatives reportedly said the regime has already asked the indicted terrorist to leave.The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said the edict handed down last week by a council of Islamic clerics asking bin Laden to leave Afghanistan has been delivered to him, according to The Associated Press.
According to the report, the ambassador said Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar "endorsed" the clerics' decision.
"Osama has now received the Ulema council's recommendations and their endorsement," the ambassador said. "We have not lost Osama, but he is out of sight of the people."
Zaeef did not say how the message was conveyed nor where bin Laden was hiding. He also did not indicate bin Laden's reaction to the message.
Taliban Information Minister Qudrutullah Jamal told Reuters news service today that he believed the message had been hand-delivered. "The edict had to be delivered by a messenger," Jamal said. "It's not like we can pick up the phone and talk to Osama, or fax a message to him. He has no such facilities, so the message had to be sent through a messenger who probably took some time to find him."
Since the Bush administration identified bin Laden as the lead suspect in the attacks, the Taliban has said it did not know where the Saudi dissident was hiding and that he had already left the country.
Today Jamal contradicted those earlier statements. "I have no reason to believe that Osama has left Afghanistan. He is still here," he said. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in Afghanistan, fearing a U.S. attack on the country. Refugees have massed on the borders with Pakistan and Iran, and opposition forces in the north and west have been receiving promises of aid and arms from Russia and the West.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked today for $584 million in humanitarian aid for Afghans, who he said are facing the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
More Diplomatic Maneuvering
Bush returned to Washington after his speech in Chicago, to resume diplomatic work convincing world leaders that the United States is acting prudently.
White House meetings were scheduled with European Council President Guy Verhofstadt and European Union Commission President Romano Prodi, both of whom could be keys in the effort to build support for military action in Afghanistan.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has been trying to convince NATO and Russian leaders that the United States has a strong case against bin Laden, to cement support for any action the United States deems appropriate.
"Certain arguments were supplied, but our meeting was confidential and therefore I cannot repeat here what [he] said," Russian envoy to NATO Sergei Ivanov told the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Officials tell ABCNEWS that American forces are ready for an airstrike campaign, though Rumsfeld has indicated an immediate airstrike is unlikely.
In a surprising development, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said he is considering an invitation from the Taliban to go to Afghanistan and discuss the bin Laden situation. White House officials have said Jackson should not get involved, and the Taliban said today it did not invite Jackson to Kabul, but would accept his offer to mediate.
Jackson has served as a Clinton administration envoy to Africa and negotiated the release of hostages and soldiers in Kuwait, Iraq and Yugoslavia, but White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, asked about the Taliban's invitation on Wednesday, reiterated the administration's basic position: It wants the Taliban to hand over bin Laden without negotiation.
Terror Planned for Europe, Too
After a series of arrests in Europe on Wednesday, intelligence sources in Europe and the United States said they have broken up a plot to carry out a series of attacks later this year, which they first learned of from an associate of bin Laden.
The intended targets included the American Embassy in Paris, the U.S. Consulate in Marseille, France, buildings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France.
French and American authorities knew of the plan before Sept. 11, and had been watching the suspected terrorist cells for several weeks, but only decided to move in after the crashes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Another hijacked plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania that day after passengers apparently tried to overcome the terrorists.
Thirty of the roughly 50 members of the terrorist ring been taken into custody in France, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, sources said. The others are being sought in a manhunt.
In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the official number of people missing at the World Trade Center dropped to 5,960 after multiple lists of the victims were double-checked. With that update, the total dead and missing in the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania is 6,431.