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 Home > News & Policies > October 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 1, 2001

President: "We're Making Progress"
Remarks by the President to the Employees of FEMA
FEMA Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

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1:39 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all very much.  Thank you.  I admit he's not very pretty to look at.  (Laughter.)  But he's doing a heck of a job.  I'm so proud of my friend -- (applause.) It's become clear to all the hardworking FEMA employees that I didn't pick Joe Allbaugh because of his haircut.  (Laughter.)  But I picked him because he's a good man who knows how to run a very important organization.  And I'm proud of my friend.  I'm proud of the job he's doing.  And I'm proud of the work that the FEMA employees all across the country are doing on behalf of America.

Federal Emergency Management Agency employees greet President Bush during his visit to the agency's headquarters to thank them for recent days of hard work Oct. 1. "I'm proud of the work that the FEMA employees all across the country are doing on behalf of America," said the President in his remarks. White House photo by Tina Hager.      I'm here to thank you all.  I was up in the operations room, thanking the folks who are working 12 to 13, 14, 15 hours a day, still to this day.  I had the honor of going to New York City.  I saw what they call "dirty boot" operations, from Sacramento and Puerto Rico, all FEMA employees; all people who love their fellow Americans; all who want to join in to say loud and clear to the evildoers, your actions won't stand in America. (Applause.)

     Joe said it best; he said, this is something I hope I never have to go through again as long as I live.  I know every FEMA employee feels that way.  After all, yours was an organization that was used to dealing with, generally, acts of nature -- hurricanes or tornadoes, and fires or floods.  And then, all of a sudden, some evil people came and they declared war on America.  And your agency and the good-working people, true Americans, had to rise to the occasion.

     And rise, you did.  And for that, the people of New York and Connecticut and New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and every other state in the Union, are proud of the job you're doing.  So on behalf of the American people, I say thanks from the bottom of our hearts for the FEMA employees.

     I also want to talk about the battle we face, the campaign to protect freedom; the willingness of the American people to not only repair the damage done, but the willingness of our nation to stand united, to say loud and clear that freedom will stand; that you can tear down our buildings, but you can't tear down our spirit; that we're strong and united in the cause of freedom not only here in America, but all around the world.

     This will be a different kind of campaign than Americans are used to.  It's a campaign that must be fought on many fronts.  And I'm proud to report that we're making progress on many fronts.  Not only have the FEMA employees showed the world what it's like to stand up and help a neighbor in need, we're also beginning to make progress on the financial front.

     As you may remember, I made it clear that part of winning the war against terror would be to cut off these evil people's money; it would be to trace their assets and freeze them, cut off their cash flows, hold people accountable who fund them, who allow the funds to go through their institutions; and not only do that at home, but to convince others around the world to join us in doing so.

     Thus far, we've frozen $6 million in bank accounts linked to terrorist activity.  We've frozen 30 al Qaeda accounts in the United States and 20 overseas.  And we're just beginning.

     Also on the military front we're making progress.  We've deployed 29,000 military personnel and two carrier battle groups, as well as an amphibious-ready group and several hundred military aircraft.  We've called about 17,000 members of the Reserve to active duty, as well as several thousand National Guard operating under state authority.

     As I said, this is a different kind of war.  It's hard to fight a guerrilla war with convention forces.  But our military is ready.  And as I said to the Congress, they will make us proud.  (Applause.)

     In this new kind of war, one that requires a coalition, we're making good progress on the diplomatic front.  At our request, the United Nations unanimously enacted a binding resolution requiring all its members to deny financing support or safe harbor to terrorists.  (Applause.)  We've had 46 declarations of support from organizations, including NATO, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the Organization of American States.

     You see, the evildoers like to hit and then they try to hide.  And slowly, but surely, we're going to make sure they have no place to hide.  Slowly, but surely, we're going to move them out of their holes and what they think is safe havens, and get them on the move.

     We're a patient nation.  We're a nation who has got a long-term view; a nation that's come to realize that in order to make freedom prevail, the evildoers will be forced to run, and will eventually be brought to justice.

     Now, along those lines, we're taking any threat seriously here at home.  The FBI has conducted hundreds of interviews and searches, issued hundreds of subpoenas, and arrested or detained more than 400 people as it investigates the attacks.  About 150 terrorists and their supporters, as well, have been arrested or detained in 25 different countries.

     In my speech to the Congress, I said, sometimes the American people aren't going to see exactly what's taking place on their TV screens.  But slowly, but surely, the results are coming in.  You see, we've said to people around the world, this could have happened to you, this could have easily have taken place on your soil, so you need to take threats seriously, as well.

     We're beginning to share intelligence amongst our nations.  We're finding out members of the al Qaeda organization, who they are, where they think they can hide.  And we're slowly, but surely, bringing them to justice.  We're slowly, but surely, calling their hand and reining them in.

     We've just begun.  There's 150 detained, and more to come.  And along these lines, this weekend, through the collaborative efforts of intelligence and law enforcement, we've arrested a known terrorist who was responsible for the deaths of two U.S. citizens during a hijacking in 1986.  This terrorist, by the name of Zayd Hassin Safarini, is not affiliated with al Qaeda.  Yet he's an example of the wider war on terrorism and what we intend to do.

     Here's a man who killed two of our own citizens when he hijacked a plane in Pakistan.  By the way, obviously, there's only two Americans.  That's two too many, but there was a lot of people from other countries, as well, involved.  And he was convicted and sentenced to death.  Yet he only served 14 years.  Well, we arrested him; we got him; we brought him into Alaska.  And today the United States of America will charge him with murder.  (Applause.)

     Sometimes we'll have success in the near-term; sometimes with have to be patient.  Sometimes we'll be able to round somebody up who threatens us today; sometimes it may take us awhile to catch him.  But the lesson of this case, and every case, is that this mighty nation won't rest until we protect ourselves, our citizens, and freedom-loving people around the world.

     The evildoers struck, and when they did, they aroused a mighty land, a land of compassionate people, a land who wants to help a neighbor in need, but a land who stands solidly on principles -- the principles of freedom -- freedom to worship, freedom to govern, freedom to speak, freedom to assemble.

     We sent a loud message to the world:  We will not be cowed by a few.  We sent another message to the world:  Together we're going to bring these people to justice.  And that's exactly what we're going to do.  (Applause.)

     Thank you for your hard work.  I want to thank you all so very much for your hard work and for your love for America.  May God bless you all.  May God continue to bless America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                            END         1:51 P.M. EDT