Department of Justice Seal

Attorney General Ashcroft and

FBI Director Mueller Remarks
Tour of the World Trade Center
September 21, 2001

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR GIULIANI: Thank you, General. Thank you for coming. Thank you very, very much. Director, thank you for coming. Thank you for your help.

ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: The only word to describe this is the word "indescribable." It is a calamity that merits the best effort and the best of the American people in terms of our spirit. The director of the FBI, Bob Mueller, who is with us here today, has launched the largest investigation in the history of the United States, probably in the history of the world, to develop an understanding of how this act of war and terror was carried out and to identify the network of individuals responsible for it so the United States can respond to those individuals.

I'm delighted that the president of the United States not only is committed to responding to the world -- with the world to those individuals, but is committed to responding to these circumstances. When the president stood up last night before the Congress and the world and said, "We will rebuild New York," it was a way of reasserting the spirit of the United States of America and the spirit of reasserting New York.

We're standing at the first capital of the United States of America. This is where government began in the United States. And this is a place that holds a special position in the hearts of the American people. It became not only the capital of America; New York became the capital of the world. And certainly for capital markets. The world always has relied on New York.

But the powerful, gripping capacity of these twisted pieces of steel should not exclude from our minds the understanding that there's a toll in humanity, as well. There are families that are torn. There are institutions, there are companies, there are police departments, there's the port authority, there's the fire department. There are children, there are sisters and mothers and fathers and brothers who are torn as well.

And we will recover. And we will do everything we can from the position of the Justice Department to say that that recovery will not be complete until we understand the networks responsible for this, until we respond appropriately with justice. When the president of the United States said yesterday that we will bring them to justice or we will take justice to them, he expressed a part of the spirit of the American people. And while these buildings were torn open, a window was torn open on the soul of America. And the window reveals that America has a strong spirit; it is not a spirit of defeat.

I want to thank the mayor and the governor for their kind of leadership. They've shown America what it means to care about people and to care about institutions and to care about community. And this example for America is one which every American is responding to.

I'm honored to have the privilege of serving as a part of responding properly by this great nation to this tragedy, never forgetting that the twisted remains of these buildings also represent agony in families and in our institutions.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you, Governor.

GOV. PATAKI: Thank you, General.

ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: And I want to thank the workers. Every step we took was alongside individuals who have worked under a tremendous load of fatigue, under the burden of continuity without rest, in conditions that are testing their physical capacity. There are places where the air is not clear, the -- it's easy to see.

There are workers in the midst of that rubble at this moment, and I thank them, and my hat goes off to them.

MR. MUELLER: When you think of 6,000 souls that were lost here, it is very difficult to grasp the enormity of the loss, the unspeakable horror perpetrated by mass murderers. And we in the FBI and law enforcement, here, other cities around the country, will not sleep until they are brought to justice.

Thank you.

Q If we could -- a couple questions. First, for you, Director Mueller, while you're up front, and then the Attorney General.

Do you have any indication, sir, or evidence suggesting that had the hijackers not carried out these attacks this week, this past week, that they might have had an alternative plan?

MR. MUELLER: Well, I can't get into the details of our investigation. I will tell you that our efforts are directed to determining who is responsible for this, and most particularly to attempt to prevent -- to prevent another such occurrence.

Next question.

Q General Ashcroft, there were reports earlier that Boston may have been a target for a terror attack this weekend. What information do you have on that, and what can you do to assure the American public at various venues this weekend that, in fact, they are safe?

ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Well, the president of the United States has indicated very clearly that -- his awareness that we are vulnerable, and this has taught us that we are vulnerable. And yet he has told us that what we should do is we should go to work and we should conduct ourselves as Americans, but we should have a heightened awareness.

I can assure you that the FBI, in conjunction with the Justice Department and state and local police authorities, who have been very, very effective, as well as cooperative, are doing everything we can to share any information and to minimize any potential of a reoccurrence.

America cannot yield to the terror that these networks of individuals seek to impose, but we must have a heightened sense of awareness.

Q Was there in fact a threat against Boston, though, sir?

ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Yeah, I'm not going to start going down a catalogue of cities to say one city or another -- I think it's important for the entirety of America to understand that we have a vulnerability to which we should be attentive, but to which we should not yield. We should be Americans. We should work. We should act as Americans. But as the president has said, we should have a heightened awareness of the responsibility we have to avoid these circumstances.