The White House
President George W. Bush
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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.

Harriet Miers
Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
September 10, 2004

Harriet Miers

Hello, I am Harriet Miers and I am Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the White House. I am very happy to answer your questions today. Why don't we get started!

Duane, from Redding, CA writes:
At what time will the President's Patriot's Day message be placed on the internet web site.?

Harriet Miers
Hi, Duane. Very soon. Stay tuned.

Marlene, from Lakeland High School, Lakeland, Florida writes:
I am a high school history teacher in Central Florida. My students and I think that September 11 should be a national holdiay as a National Day of Rembereance. We are writing our Congressman to urge the drafting of such legislation--I am sure you would pass such a bill into law if you had the chance! Thank You.

Harriet Miers
Great idea, Marlene. On December 11, 2001, the Congress passed House Joint Resolution 79, which designates September 11 of each year as Patriot Day. Each year the President also issues a proclamation in honor of this day. Once the President signs this year's proclamation it can be found on the White House website at /news/proclamations/.

Rod, from Roanoke, VA writes:
This is not so much a question as it is a vote of support for Mr. Bush.

My wife and I just wanted to thank the Presdent for all his hard work and his service to our country for the last four years.

In September of 2001, the nation was frightened, almost frozen with fear, after the events of September 11th. President Bush's calm, strong leadership and resolve got us all through, and made us see the heroes that reside inside each of us. That is the mark of a true leader.

Mr. Bush has our full support and confidence in the difficult,often thankless job he does for our nation.

Thanks and god bless,

Harriet Miers
Thanks for your comments, Rod. I appreciate the President's calm, strong leadership also. He is a great leader!

Caleb, from California writes:
Dear Harriet,With the 911 Commission report stating there was no linkable evidence between Sept. 11th and Iraq, why are the two often grouped together? Shouldn't they be considered two separate fights?


Harriet Miers
Hello, Caleb. I believe you must be referring to some language in the Report that can be misread. Like the Administration, the Commission did not find evidence that, before 9/11, these long-established ties between Iraq and al Qaeda had evolved into a "collaborative operational relationship" for "carrying out attacks against the United States." (chapter 2, § 2.5, page 66) However, the Commission's report catalogs some of the extensive contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. Here are some: "Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq." (chapter 2, § 2.4, page 61) Saddam’s regime "tolerated and may have even helped" al Qaeda sponsored groups in northern Iraq including Ansar al-Islam, a group tied to senior al Qaeda associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who continues to be responsible for terrorist attacks inside Iraq today. (chapter 2, § 2.4, page 61) "Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995." (chapter 2, § 2.4, page 61) Bin Ladin proposed cooperation to Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1997 but was rebuffed. "In mid-1998, the situation reversed: it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative" during a time of "intensifying U.S. pressure." (chapter 2, § 2.5, page 66) The Commission report documents a March 1998 visit to Iraq by two al Qaeda members to meet with Iraqi intelligence. It also documents a July 1998 Iraqi delegation that traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. (chapter 2, § 2.5, page 66) Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin "a safe haven in Iraq" in 1999. (chapter 2, § 2.5, page 66) The scope of the Commission’s review limits the reporting on post-9/11 events, such as the activities of Zarqawi and his associates in Baghdad. So, no, I don’t think they should be considered separately. They are both part of the War on Terror.

Keri, from Northville, Michigan writes:
Harriet,Since Sept. 11th, many jobs have been lost here in the Detroit area. I guess I don't understand exactly why this has occured? It seems as if our country is still going on just as we did before--so why did this day not only create catastrophic losses but also a hard time on our economy?

Harriet Miers
Thanks for your question Keri. It is a really good one. The economy suffered a terrible shock on September 11 with the stock markets closed for the longest time in their history, the national airspace closed for days, and our national confidence shaken. And the economy had been headed into a recession at the beginning of 2001.

Fortunately, the tax relief that the President had proposed early in 2001 was starting to kick in, and the ingenuity and hard work of the American people led to the 2001 recession being one of the shallowest recessions in history. Now America's economy is growing again. Since last August the economy has created 1.7 million jobs and unemployment has fallen to 5.4%, lower than the average unemployment rate in the 1990s, 1980s, and 1970s.

The President's pro-growth policies are letting Americans keep more of their own money and through his new Opportunity Zones proposal he is committed to providing help for communities that are making the transition to the new economy. The President won’t be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find one.

Karrin, from OHIO writes:
Where were you on September 11th and what did you do?

Harriet Miers
Karrin, I was traveling with the President on September 11, 2001. So I started out in Florida. I was the President's Staff Secretary at that point in time, so I continued to do those duties. I was responsible for making sure the remarks he prepared to give to the Nation from Louisiana were properly prepared for him. It took some time, and the President saw me hurrying to give them to him. He said, "Good hustle!" He made me feel good that I was contributing. Typical. That was a remarkable day I will never forget. I will never forget how strong the President's response was to something so dreadful and so unexpected.

Matt, from Naperville writes:
Ms. Miers--when I watched the President speak last week I saw him tear up when he was talking about the military families that have lossed loved ones. I have heard the President is a man of faith and compassion, but was this the "real" President Bush? Or just a front for his speech?

I figure you would know because you work so closely with him.

thank you for your honesty in this question.

Harriet Miers
Matt, I believe that one of the things the American people love about President Bush and Mrs. Bush is their genuineness. They are people of faith and compassion, and as they frequently say, they are greatly moved by the courage, strength, and sacrifice of our servicemen and women and their families. I would just say to trust your own instincts.

Kendra, from Sedona writes:
Harriet,Is the War on Terror ever going to end? It seems as if those fighting against us would want to quit by now because I just don't understand how they believe what they are doing is right.

Harriet Miers
Kendra, I agree with you that it is impossible to understand how terrorist can think like they do or take innocent lives or cause the heartache and sorrow that they cause. They must have no consciences and no hope. I do believe we will win the war on terror. The President emphasizes that to win the war on terror we must advance freedom, and with the advancement of freedom, heart by heart, nation by nation, America will be more secure and the world more peaceful.

Jim, from South Carolina writes:
I want to share one of my memories of September 11th with you. I remember it was such a beautiful day that day. The sky was so blue and it seemed to be unreal this could be happening. Do you remember this as well where you were on Sept. 11th?

Harriet Miers
Yes, Jim, I remember it just like you do. As I said, I was in Florida with the President, and it was a really beautiful day, very peaceful. And I remember thinking how unreal and despicable it was that anyone could fly a plane filled with innocent people into a building full of innocent people. Yet what we later learned about heroic responses, courage and sacrifice, and the outpouring of generosity from the American people was a solid reminder of the triumph of good over evil.

Kirsten, from Indianapolis, Indiana writes:
What has been the President's proudest accomplishment on the War on Terror thus far?

Harriet Miers
Thank you for your question, Kirsten. I have never asked the President that question. It is a good one. I am sure he is very pleased that so far, with all the effort that has been made to protect the homeland, there has not been another attack in the United States. However we must continue to be ever vigilant, and we cannot ever let our guard down. Protecting our Nation is the most important objective of the War on Terror. We must never relent.

Gabriella, from Brownsville Texas writes:
How is September 11th being remembered this year? I would like to be able to watch something because I remember not being able to watch anything last year on TV with the President. I am curious what he is doing.

Harriet Miers
Hi, Gabriella. I love hearing from people from Texas. I am from Dallas, but have visited Brownsville many times.

This year, the President and Mrs. Bush and many representatives of the Administration will commemorate September 11th by attending a church service at St. John’s Church across from the White House. Then there will be a moment of silence observed on the South Lawn at 8:46 a.m. to honor the innocent victims who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks. The President will meet with 9/11 Families and First Responders immediately after the ceremony on the South Lawn. Then at 10:06am, the President will deliver a live Radio Address from the Oval Office with the families and First Responders present. Both events will be webcasted on

The flags will fly at half staff throughout our country. Also, commemorative events will be held in Arlington, Virginia, where the Pentagon is located and in Pennsylvania and New York.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will participate in a wreath laying for the families at Arlington Cemetery adjacent to the Pentagon Marker within the cemetery. Chairman Myers is also scheduled to participate.

The program will include invocation, moment of silence, brief remarks, and music.

Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge will participate in the Pennsylvania Service of Remembrance at the Pennsylvania United Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. He will give brief remarks and attend a private family gathering at the Flight 93 crash site prior to the Remembrance Service. Approximately 100 family members, 150 invited guests, and 1,000 plus members of the public are expected to attend the service.

In New York, there will be a reading of the names as they did last year.

And I suspect people and organizations around the country will be commemorating the day with their own services.

Thanks for writing.

John, from Scheldt writes:
GOD BLESS AMERICA AND GEORGE w. BUSH - Could you please emphasize the point that we are in a struggle for civilization and the survival of the free world against anarchism and barbarism? - this is not just about Iraq or even the Middle East - it's about the fight to preserve our way of life against extremists who would return us to the Dark Ages. Would it be too much to ask to promote this point at every opportunity - does the White House feel the same??John

Harriet Miers
John, thank you for writing and for expressing yourself so wonderfully. I certainly agree with you. As I said before, we will persevere and we will not relent!

Ron, from Columbia, South Carolina writes:
We have apparent vulnarabilities when it comes to our transportation systems other than airlines. What is the plan to deal with these areas, and how can states and cities better their security measures when it comes to transportation and other soft targets such as schools and malls?

Harriet Miers
Thanks for writing, Ron. You raise a very important question about securing the homeland. One of the President's most important homeland initiatives is enhancing cargo security. The Container Security Initiative allows the Homeland Security Department to pre-screen cargo before it reaches our shores. What this means is that we're posting officers at foreign ports to identify and inspect high-risk shipments before they're loaded and shipped to America. We have also launched the Proliferation Security Initiative, which means that America is working with other governments to track and stop the shipments of dangerous weapons and dangerous cargo. The President is determined to keep lethal weapons and materials out of the hands of our enemies and away from our shores.

Our Administration is working very hard to make sure that coordination is good among the Federal, State, and local officials to do the best job possible to protect the homeland. Last year the President issued a directive to create a National Response Plan, which will provide a roadmap to enable Federal, State, and local governments to work together effectively and efficiently to prevent and respond to domestic incidents, no matter how big or small. The President has expanded support for first responders and state homeland security efforts. The Department of Homeland Security has asked all of us to remain ever vigilant, and that is an important role we can all play. We can be observant and careful. Our country is safer than it was on September 11, 2001, but we are still not safe.

Victoria, from Knoxville writes:
I feel as if those lost in Washington, DC at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania are often forgotten about when talking about 911. What are those areas doing to remember 911 or what has already been done?

Harriet Miers
Hello, Victoria. I know the President and Mrs. Bush do not forget the victims in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. I was struck by the President’s remarks about the victims of Flight 93 recently when he said, “We learned of passengers on a doomed plane who died with a courage that frightened their killers.” And he frequently has recalled the tremendous loss of the men and women at the Pentagon.

And just this week, the Navy announced that it will name two new amphibious ships in memory of those who died at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The USS Arlington will be named for Arlington, VA, where the Pentagon is. The USS Somerset will be named for the county in Pennsylvania that includes Shanksville. A previous ship in this series was named the USS New York in memory of those victims for the September 11 attacks.

Thanks for your sensitivity in making sure that no one is forgotten.

John, from Mineola, NY writes:
Dear Ms. Miers, How is the President Bush and Mrs. Bush to spend the third anniversary of 911?

I lost my brother, Pete, in the attack on the WTC. I will be spending some time at Ground Zero, the cemetary and then the rest of the day with my family. We deeply appreciate all the President has done to hold those responsible for my brothers murder accountable. He has held true to his word and has my (and my family's) support for a second term.

He has earned it and by the GRACE OF GOD he will get it

Thank him for me.

Sincerely, John

Harriet Miers
John, I am so sorry for your loss. I know our Nation grieves with you as we do with the families of all of the other victims of September 11, 2001. The President and Mrs. Bush will begin their commemoration tomorrow with a church service. Our faith helped sustain us during that awful day three years ago. Then there will be a moment of silence on the South lawn in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks. The President and Mrs. Bush will meet with families of some of the victims and with First Responders. He will also record a live Radio Address to the Nation with the families and First Responders present. Your very kind comments about the President's resolve and leadership are much appreciated.

Krassimir, from Sofia, Bulgaria writes:
I don't have a question actually, but in remembrance of Sept. 11, I would like to express my condolence, sympathy and support for the American people.May God bless America

Harriet Miers
Dear Krassimir, thank you for your support and kind words. The American people are grateful. May God bless you.

Janet, from New England writes:
I know Saddam Hussein is gone but right now I'm not so sure the Iraqi people are going to elect a leader who's friendly toward the U.S.

I know our Homeland is more secure, but the number of terrorists and terrorists acts seem to be increasing. The attack on that Russian school was especially horrific. Tell me something to make me feel better about this War on Terror.

Harriet Miers
Janet, thank you for contacting us. The President told the American people last Thursday night that he wakes up every day thinking about how to better protect our country. After the September 11th attacks, he created within the White House the Homeland Security Council and appointed a Homeland Security Advisor to focus on what needed to be done to protect the Homeland. Then he led the most extensive reorganization of the Federal government in more than 50 years by creating the Department of Homeland Security. The Department brought together 22 entities and over 180,000 employees with critical homeland security missions and provided the Nation with a single Federal department with the primary mission to protect the homeland against terrorist threats.

President Bush also is leading the way on reforming and strengthening our intelligence community and improving the collection, analysis and sharing of intelligence. He has reformed the FBI so it focuses on preventing terrorist attack. He also created the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the Terrorist Screening Center, and is calling now for the creation of the National Counterterrorism Center to build on TTIC and TSC and to serve as a central knowledge bank on known and suspected terrorists and international terror groups. He proposed and signed into law the USA PATRIOT Act that strengthened law enforcement’s abilities to prevent, investigate, and prosecute acts of terror and allowed the sharing of intelligence information that could not be done before.

A lot has been accomplished and I could go on. But, hopefully what I have set out is helpful. As the President recently recalled, four years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of al-Qaeda, Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fundraising, Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, Iraq was a gathering threat, and al-Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned attacks. Yet, today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror, Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders, Saudi Arabia is making raids and arrests, Libya is dismantling its weapons programs, the army of a free Iraq is fighting for freedom, and more than three-quarters of al-Qaeda's key members and associates have been detained or killed.

Many have joined in the war on terrorism, and America and the world are safer. I hope this helps you feel better about all the effort to protect America.

Lisa, from Richmond, VA writes:
Will flags be flown at half staff on Sept. 11th??

Harriet Miers
Hello, Lisa. Thanks for your question. The President has issued a Proclamation today naming Saturday as Patriot Day and calling for flags to fly at half staff. So we hope you will fly yours at half staff. The President’s proclamation will be posted at /news/proclamations/.

Kim, from NY writes:
I live in NYC and saw the PResident's helicopter flying over the Twin Towers on September 14th, 2001. Were you in the helicopter with him or did you see any of the damage? What was it like for you or what was it like for others who saw the helicopter?

Harriet Miers
I was not with the President on September 14, 2001. We did get to see some of what it was like on that day though. We all remember as he stood with the firefighters and other first responders and used the bullhorn to let them know their voices would be heard. The President often recounts how the workers in hard hats shouted out to him, “Whatever it takes.” And the President has pledged that he will never relent in defending America, whatever it takes.

I was with the President some time later when he and others commemorated the loss of lives from countries all over the world in a ceremony at Ground Zero in New York. It was a very solemn occasion I shall never forget, and I believe that it is important to recall that the innocent lives taken on September 11th included citizens from many countries around the world.

Thanks, Kim for writing. Your question helps us remember these very important days.

Jordan, from San Jose writes:
What can average citizens who really weren't affected by September 11th--I mean those of us who have been fortunate to have our jobs, and not have lossed any loved ones on Sept. 11th or in the military--well, what can we do to help? It is obvious our country is still in a time of mourning, so i would like to know how I can help those who have helped us.

Harriet Miers
One of the miracles of September 11, 2001, was how the spirit of America responded to such a tragedy. A most important thing that we can all do is to remember every day just how precious our freedom is and express how much we value it every chance we get in what we say and what we do. The President in 2001 reminded all Americans that they could participate in responding to the attacks by helping someone in need. The greatest strength of America is her people. So we don't really have an average citizen...every one of us is special and able to do special things.

Tomorrow is a very special day, a time for reflection, prayer, thanksgivings for our freedom and for those who have sacrified to preserve them, commemoration of the loss we suffered, and celebration of the greatness of our Nation and her people. Thank you for joining us today and for your questions.

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