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For Immediate Release
Office of Media Affairs
June 10, 2002

Online Chat: Dan Bartlett

President Bush's top Communications Director, Dan Bartlett, joined the AOL Live Newsroom to discuss the proposed radical change to the national security system. The top White House aide discussed the new agency to battle terrorism within U.S. borders and much more. See what he had to say below!

NewsStacie:  Welcome to AOL Live. Today we have the unique privilege of chatting with President Bush's top communications aide. His name is Dan Bartlett, and his title is communications director for the White House. He will be chatting about the president's new homeland security plan.

NewsStacie:  The president spoke to the nation last Thursday night about the proposed plan. Now you can ask the president's top aide all about the plan and more. Send in your questions now for White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett. He will be joining us any minute.

NewsStacie:  Welcome Dan Bartlett, who is the White House communications director.

Dan Bartlett:  Glad to be here with you this evening, and welcome any questions you have.

NewsStacie:  Dan, the president rolled out his new plan for homeland defense last week. What can you tell us about the new agency?

Dan Bartlett:  This new agency will have a primary mission of protecting the American homeland from future terrorist attack. It is the largest restructuring of the federal government since the 1940s, by consolidating more than 100 different agencies and divisions in one Department for Homeland Security. It will include efforts to secure our borders, transportation sector, ports and critical infrastructure, and will also have new capabilities to analyze and act on important intelligence information regarding terrorist threats. This new agency will be designed to meet a new 21st-century threat.

NewsStacie:  Dan, this member wants to get down to the nitty-gritty:

Question:  What are we doing to prevent attacks?

Dan Bartlett:  Every day, thousands of government experts, including the men and women who wear our uniform, are successfully fighting this war against terror. Specifically, we are taking unprecedented steps to analyze and act on the best intelligence available, both at home and abroad, to prevent future terrorist attacks. In addition, the federal government has dedicated more than $40 billion to immediately securing the homeland. But the best way to prevent future terrorist attacks is to find and destroy the enemy, and that's exactly what we're doing.

NewsStacie:  Congress has to approve the new agency. When will lawmakers begin reviewing the plan?

Dan Bartlett:  Congress answered the president's call by quickly supporting the general proposal the president outlined to the American people. President Bush called on Congress to complete its work before the end of the year, and we will work closely with members of both parties to make sure that happens.

NewsStacie:  Here is a powerful question from one of our younger members:

Question:  As a 16-year-old, this scares me completely. Any thoughts of what might happen in the years to come? Is the government still thinking that we might be hit with nuclear bombs?

Dan Bartlett:  Over the next decade, our country will forcefully respond to terrorism wherever it exists. We will also take unprecedented measures here at home to protect the American people. Unfortunately, there are evil people in this world who seek weapons of mass destruction, such as you suggested. But our country and the world are united in making sure that does not happen. That's why it is so important that we support the efforts of our military and all the countless soldiers in this war against terrorism.

NewsStacie:  Many have speculated that Tom Ridge will be in charge of this new agency. Any thoughts you can share on who will be the agency head?

Dan Bartlett:  Tom Ridge has done an incredible job advising the president on homeland security issues. The president charged Tom Ridge with two critical missions: first, to take immediate steps to protect against a second wave of terrorist attacks; second, he was charged with developing a long-term strategy for combating terrorism. The creation of a Department of Homeland Security is a significant step in fulfilling that long-term strategy. Governor Ridge would make a great secretary of homeland security, but our focus is to first get it enacted into law.

NewsStacie:  The new homeland security agency does not include the FBI and CIA. Can you explain why?

Dan Bartlett:  The CIA and FBI play a critical role in tracking down and bringing to justice terrorists, both at home and abroad. Under the Department of Homeland Security, these two agencies will be required to share their critical intelligence information with this new department. President Bush appreciates and supports the comprehensive reforms Bob Mueller has proposed for the FBI and is confident the two agencies are addressing the lapses experienced before 9/11.

NewsStacie:  This is a question a lot of our members have been asking since last fall. An AOL member asks:

Question:  What exactly is suspicious? When should a person be concerned enough to contact the authorities?

Dan Bartlett:  It is a difficult question to answer without knowing your daily routine. But if something seems out of the ordinary, you should err on the side of caution and notify your local law enforcement agency.

NewsStacie:  Today, the attorney general announced that a suspected al-Qaida terrorist was apprehended. What can you tell us about this situation?

Dan Bartlett:  This man was detained by federal law enforcement officials last month because of his direct involvement with the al-Qaida terrorist network. This man trained and studied al-Qaida methods of terrorism and was successfully apprehended upon entering the United States from Pakistan. Today's announcement that he will be classified as an enemy combatant will ensure he is unable to plot and plan future terrorist attacks against the United States of America.

NewsStacie:  The media has been reporting that Mujahir was an American citizen. Is this true?

Dan Bartlett:  Yes, it is true. He is a citizen of the United States but has actively participated in this war against America by joining the al-Qaida forces. We have direct evidence of Mr. Mujahir's participation in al-Qaida training activities.

NewsStacie:  All day we have been hearing about a possible "dirty bomb." What exactly is a dirty bomb, and how can citizens protect themselves?

Dan Bartlett:  First, I must stress that the evidence against Mr. Mujahir is based on a preliminary planning of such a terrorist event. A dirty bomb is a label given to a type of bomb that detonates similar to a traditional explosion, but then also produces radiation to a much wider population. Let me reiterate that we have no evidence at this time that al-Qaida has obtained this type of bomb, yet we know they are seeking it. We must continue to be vigilant and supportive in our fight against terrorism, and be aware of your local emergency response capabilities.

NewsStacie:  An AOL member asks:

Question:  Were was the dirty bomb planned to be used?

Dan Bartlett:  Again, let me stress that there was no specific plan underway. It was very preliminary, and no specific targets have been mentioned.

NewsStacie:  We are just about out of time. Dan, to revisit the homeland security office... Can you tell us if the government will be hiring a large number of new personnel?

Dan Bartlett:  This new department will be comprised of existing federal employees that are currently disbursed in other federal agencies. The $37.4 billion allocated to fund the department will also come from existing agencies with homeland security responsibilities.

NewsStacie:  Dan, thank you for taking the time to chat with AOL members today.

Dan Bartlett:  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain this exciting, historic proposal that will allow for the American people to be safer, and we urge the Congress to act as quickly as possible. Have a good evening.

NewsStacie:  We have been chatting with Dan Bartlett, who is the White House communications director. And thank you, members, for taking time in the middle of the day/early evening to chat about such an important topic.

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