The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

Privacy Policy

Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Ms. Frances Fragos Townsend
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
September 8, 2006

Fran Townsend
It is a pleasure to be with you at the end of such an important week. This week, the President gave a series of speeches to further inform the Nation about the nature of the enemy we face today in the War on Terror and his strategy to defeat this threat. As we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect and defend the Homeland, the American people and our way of life as a free and open society.

We also continue to remember those who lost their lives on September 11th as well as during the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings, as well as all innocents everywhere who have lost their lives at the hands of these enemies of humanity. As we memorialize their loss, we also honor and give thanks to the other heroes in the War on Terror -- from first responders, to our men and women in uniform, and the countless counterterrorism professionals throughout the Federal government working to secure freedom and liberty.

I am happy to take your questions.

Marcus, from Princeton, New Jersey writes:
Ms Townsend: In the 911 Commission report, the statement is made that: as has always been the case in the past, the 'first' first responders in any future catastrophe will be civilians in the immediate vicinity. What is the Whitehouse and the President doing to make it clear to every American that the need to be prepared and ready, willing and able to respond in the event of another catastrophe, whether that be from the War on Terrorism or a natural disaster?

Fran Townsend
Marcus, given the threats that we face in the 21st century there is a need for all elements of our Nation – from Federal, State and local governments, to the private sector and down to individual citizens – to help create and share responsibilities in a Culture of Preparedness. This is a critical lesson we learned in the Katrina Lessons Learned Report. But as you well observe, this culture of preparedness must apply to all catastrophes and to all hazards, natural or manmade, including the War on Terror.

The President has directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to make citizen and community preparedness a National priority. As part of this effort, Secretary Chertoff has established programs such as Citizen Corp, and to ensure that all Americans know they must be ready to respond to any disaster. And we will continue to our efforts to promote and strengthen citizen and community preparedness to provide all elements of our Nation the preparedness tools they need.

Kelley, from Albany, Georgia writes:
Hi, I'm wondering if there is a particular protocol for flying the U.S. flag on Monday, September 11th to remember the victims of 911. Are we flying half mast until a certain time of day or is it to be raised all the way up all day long? Thank you for your help.

Fran Townsend
Kelley, thank you for your question. As President Bush noted in his Patriot Day Proclamation, the American Flag should be flown at half staff on September 11th. In addition, we encourage Americans to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time, to honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Timothy, from Langley AFB, VA writes:
I have been in the United States Air Force for over 6 years, and even though I know what I'm doing is needed I would like to take a more direct action against terrorism and I would like to know how I could do that. Is there somewhere I could read about possible positions or jobs so I could move towards that. Thank you

Fran Townsend
Thank you for your service to our country. Given your background, you might be interested in counterterrorism positions with law enforcement or the Intelligence Community. For law enforcement, take a look at FBI.GOV or DHS.GOV for more information about these two agencies. I would also commend you to pursue opportunities at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. Check DIA.MIL and CIA.GOV for more information. In the War on Terrorism, however, we use all elements of national power and influence. Not only do we use military power and intelligence and law enforcement activities to defeat terrorists, we also employ diplomatic, financial and various homeland activities to disrupt terrorist operations and deprive our enemies of what they need to operate and survive. Accordingly, important counterterrorism jobs can be found throughout the Federal government, and USA.GOV and USAJOBS.GOV will be helpful resources.

Buck, from Columbia, SC writes:
Ms. Townsend, what is your favorite movie with a national security theme? Are you more of a Jack Ryan or Jack Bauer kind of movie fan? Buck

Fran Townsend
I am often asked this question and, sadly, I do not have an answer. Working long hours at the White House and being married with two small children, my free time is watching little league and soccer games!

Pete, from Syracuse, NY writes:
Do you think there are terrorist sleeper cells in the United States? How do we prevent these cells growing, communicating, or activating? Best - Pete

Fran Townsend
As the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, this is an issue I constantly think about and work tirelessly to assure does not happen. As the President has stated, protecting and defending the Homeland and the American people is our most solemn obligation.

As you may know, the President this week released our updated National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, which lays out how we are going to fight and win the War on Terror over the short and long-term. This includes finding and tracking terrorists and attacking their ability to enter and operate in the Homeland. The number one priority of the FBI is to help uncover emerging terrorist cells and plots, bringing terrorists and their supporters to justice before they can act. As part of the President’s transformation of US institutions in the wake of 9/11, the FBI, with the help of legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act, is now more fully integrated with the Intelligence Community and has been given important tools to pursue its counterterrorism mission of preventing terrorism. As part of this transformation, the Attorney General and Director of FBI, in coordination with the DNI, have created the National Security Branch within the FBI, merging its counterintelligence and counterterrorism divisions with its recently established directorate of intelligence in the newly formed WMD directorate.

John, from Plano TX writes:
Dear Ms Fragos Why does the President use the term "terrorist' when he talks about his failed War in Iraq? Al Qaeda and foreign fighters make up only 5 of all the insurgency fighters in Iraq so is Bush delibertly misleading Americans again with this false assertion? Thanks.

Fran Townsend
In Iraq, the United States and coalition forces have joined the Iraqis to aggressively prosecute the war against terror in Iraq. Together, we are supporting a democratic government against a terrorist enemy that sees Iraq as the central front of their fight against the United States and all freedom-loving people. These terrorists are striving to claim Iraq as their safehaven – a base from which they could destabilize the region and use as a launching pad for terror against America and other free nations. These terrorist enemies – violent Islamic extremists who distort Islam and use violence to achieve a world vision darkened by murder and hate --- wear no uniforms, represent no democratically elected government, and target innocents. They are enemies of humanity. Those responsible for violence in Iraq fit this description, and we have called them what they are.

Jay, from Capitol Hill, Washington, DC writes:
Fran - what advice to you have for a young person who wants to be involved long-term in our efforts against Islamo-facists? I want to do my part to fight the War on Terror, but am not sure what that is. Thanks for any insight or advice you can offer. Jay

Fran Townsend
We are in the midst of a Long War against terrorism and the extremist ideologies fueling it. To better prepare ourselves for this generational struggle, we must create an expert community of counterterrorism professionals. You can be a part of that community through education. Many schools and universities offer multi-disciplinary studies in key languages, area studies, and religious philosophies in addition to curricula in homeland security and counterterrorism specifically. I encourage you to pursue studies in these areas --- you will become an important counterterrorism resource for the future.

Jessica, from Cincinnati, Ohio writes:
What advice to you have for young women interested in the prosecution side of the 'War on Terror' who are thinking about law school and a legal career? Jessie

Fran Townsend
President Bush has appointed many women to senior positions in his Administration in prosecuting the War on Terror. For example, the White Counsel is Harriet Miers, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in addition to myself.

Women represent an increasing percentage of incoming FBI classes and first year law students. There are many opportunities throughout the U.S. government and I encourage you to consider a career in public service.

Joseph, from Seminole, Florida writes:
Has our government's apparent inability to find the traitors within who reveal top secret, highly sensitive, and extremely vital national security programs -- like the terror taps -- hurt our credibility in the world's intelligence communities?God bless America, and President Bush.

Fran Townsend
Leaks of classified information are devastating to our ability to protect the American people. Revealing classified counterterrorism tools allows our enemies to develop techniques that defeat those tools and put the country at risk. As you know, the leaking of classified information is also a crime which we pursue aggressively.

Fred, from Irvine, CA writes:
Hi, Ms. Townsend:I am a little curious about your job. You did a report for the White House on the response to Katrina. If the counterterrorism is so important to us, why are you split in your duties? Fred

Fran Townsend
Counterterrorism is the single greatest threat to our homeland security. On my staff, I have a deputy for counterterrorism and a deputy for homeland security. It is especially important that both subjects be considered in the same office because many of the tools relating to prevention and preparedness apply to both.

Charles, from San Antonio writes:
Has your office documented progress against each of the 125 Katrina recommendations?

Fran Townsend
Thanks for your question, Charles. Members of my staff are tracking progress on all the recommendations from the Katrina Lessons Learned report. Because implementing 125 recommendations is an enormous undertaking and because we wanted to ensure the federal government was better prepared for the 2006 hurricane season, in the epilogue we called out approximately a dozen recommendations for immediate attention. I am happy to report that those recommendations have been fully implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and continuing progress is being made on the others.

Jeff, from Ely, Nevada writes:
What is being done to win the War on Terror here inside the United States?

Fran Townsend
Since September 11th, President Bush has transformed the way we fight the War on Terror and ensured that we have the tools necessary to win the fight.

To cite a few examples, the FBI now has a new national security division with a mission to prevent attacks before they happen. We now have a USA PATRIOT Act which allows U.S. intelligence and law enforcement to share critical information. The President has dedicated additional resources toward strengthening the intelligence community and the President undertook the largest reorganization of the federal government since 1947 with the creation of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counter Terrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security.

Fran Townsend
Thank you for your questions. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, I ask that you keep all those who suffered from the tragedy of September 11th, and all those who fight to protect our freedom, in your prayers. God bless you and God bless America.

Return to this article at:

Click to print this document