General John Ashcroft
Pennsylvania Crash Site
September 20, 2001
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Thank you, General. I appreciate very much your hospitality
and the fact that you've made this particular tragedy a matter of your personal
attention. At the outset, let me say how much I am grateful for the presence
of John Gillis. John Gillis is a member of the Justice Department's team. He's
in charge of victim services. I wanted him to be with me to see today the crash
site so that he could have the kind of sensitivity in dealing with victims of
this great tragedy. A veteran of well over 20 years of specific law enforcement
as a police officer, he's also had tragedy touch his family. His daughter was
brutally murdered by gang members. He understands these kind of circumstances,
and I'm glad that he's with me.
Mary Beth Buchanan is the new U.S. Attorney, the spokesperson for the justice
system of the United States of America in this part of the world, and delighted
that she could be with us today.
Jack Shay is the SAC, the special agent in charge, of the FBI. Thank you for
your briefing, which was comprehensive and, frankly, it's a real credit to the
individuals who have been working here. I'm grateful.
I had the chance of meeting with Major Zapinka (sp) of the Pennsylvania State
Police. He, and those individuals with him, have been serving admirably. And
I'm delighted that his service to Pennsylvania and Governor Ridge is so thorough.
General Fisher, thank you. I spent eight years as a state attorney general,
and I know that in times like these, the complete focus and attention of an
attorney general can mean a lot, and I'm grateful to you.
It is impossible to stand in a field in Pennsylvania at the site of heroic devotion
and activity without thinking of the words of Abraham Lincoln, who spoke 140
years ago at Gettysburg. He put it this way, "The world will little note
nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."
In the midst of this tragedy is a testimony of the American spirit, of individuals
who bravely and courageously were willing to endure additional risks and pay
an ultimate price so that others would be more secure. That's the heroic tradition
of law enforcement and public service in the United States of America, and I
simply cannot pass at this site without reflecting on the fact that it became
a part of the conduct and life of so many individuals who were heroic at this
site. And it should be a testimony and inspiration to every American everywhere,
to understand that public safety is everybody's business, and it's our opportunity
to do those things that preserve our liberty and the integrity of what it means
to enjoy the freedoms we call America.
This tragedy which befell the United States of America on September the 11th
was an act of war by others seeking to disrupt the kind of freedom and liberty
that we enjoy in the United States of America. We have been intently examining
all the evidence to develop a complete understanding not only of the responsible
parties and organizations so that they can be appropriately dealt with and punished,
but also developing a better understanding of what we can do to make sure that
we disrupt, interrupt, stop, thwart, curtail the risk of further events like
those events of Tuesday, September the 11th. That is the responsibility that
we labor incessantly on, and we will leave no stone unturned to make sure that
we do what we can to minimize the risk of reoccurrence.
We have to give thanks for the many state and local law enforcement officials
who are working with the 4,000 FBI agents who are part of examination teams,
the 3,000 support workers who support them, the assigned individuals from the
U.S. Marshal Service who have joined the FBI, individuals from the United States
Border Patrol. We met this morning with ATF workers from the Treasury Department
of the United States.
This investigation and effort is the largest criminal investigation ever launched,
more comprehensive devotion of resources. And we will develop a better understanding.
We will identify the parties responsible. And we will provide a basis for punishing
parties and organizations whose mission it was to disrupt America's life of
freedom and liberty. And that is a firm commitment.
At the very heart of the investigation is the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the world's premier law enforcement agency. I had the privilege of talking to
those who are sifting through the evidence here, the site, who described searching
for evidence on hands and knees, picking up all of the pieces so that we could
piece together an understanding which will provide the basis for justice and
response by the United States of America against those who perpetrated the crime
and those that harbored them, who gave them aid and assistance and supported
At the heart of that investigation is the director of the FBI, who has coordinated
these efforts of the FBI as the leading agency in this investigation. And I'm
pleased to be able to invite him to make remarks at this time. Bob Mueller is
an individual whose service in law enforcement is over the course of many decades,
having served as a U.S. attorney in Boston, U.S. attorney in San Francisco,
the chief of the Criminal Division of the FBI in Washington, D.C., a staff attorney,
assistant U.S. attorney working homicides in Washington, D.C., and now as the
director of the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
MR. MUELLER: I only at the outset can acknowledge the -- or state that every
FBI agent, every FBI employee acknowledges, respects and has the utmost admiration
for the heroic efforts of the passengers on Flight 93.
And I think our admiration, our respect for those passengers is shared by just
about everybody in the country.
The FBI has the initial jurisdiction for investigating incidents such as this.
But we are but one of so many law enforcement agencies who come together at
times like this, and other such times, and work together hand in hand to bring
those responsible to justice. And it is thus here.
And I want to spend just a moment to talk about the support that the Bureau,
ATF, Red Cross have provided to this effort here. In particular, I want to mention
-- agents tell me that there's been a huge outpouring of support from the communities
here in Somerset County and throughout Pennsylvania. And for that support, we
thank you from the depth of our hearts.
Others have helped and should be acknowledged. Pennsylvania State Police, Colonel
Hicks (sp), Major Zapinka (sp), and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
were here moments after this happened and have worked hand in hand with the
FBI, ATF, and the other federal agencies.
I want to just mention, in conclusion, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
To walk the line and see the agents you expect in a circumstance like this,
it's a crime scene and you expect agents to be sifting through the rubble in
order to determine whether there's evidence there that can be used in prosecution
down the road in order to bring these individuals to justice. But to see the
Red Cross, the many volunteers of the Red Cross, to see the volunteers from
the Salvation Army, and all the others from the community who are here at this
site, is a testimony -- is a statement as to how, not only at this site, but
across the country, all persons are coming together -- all persons who believe
that this is an abhorrent act are coming together to try to bring these individuals
to justice. And all of this together will succeed in bringing the individuals
responsible for this to justice.
Now, I think probably the Attorney General and I would be happy to entertain
QUESTION: -- Can you give us the status on the black boxes that were found --
MR. MUELLER: We have -- yes, I'd be happy to. There were two recorders found
at the Pentagon site -- the flight data recorder and the voice recorder. And
unfortunately, we're unable to obtain anything off the voice recorder because
it was so badly burned in that crash.
We recovered the flight data recorder here as well as the voice recorder, and
we and the NTSB are in the process of transcribing and, in certain cases, translating
the dialogue, what little dialogue there is on that voice recorder.
QUESTION: -- (Off mike.)
MR. MUELLER: I will say we do not have the voice recorders from the World Trade
Center or the flight data recorders.
QUESTION: -- Can you tell us --
MR. MUELLER: Yes, sir?
QUESTION: -- how many material witnesses have been arrested at this point? And was the
gentleman in the Chicago area yesterday one of them?
MR. MUELLER: There have been a number of material witness warrants issued, and
I cannot give you the specific number.
QUESTION: -- If translations are required off the cockpit voice recorder, one could
assume, then, that the hijackers were on that?
MR. MUELLER: I can't go into the details any more. But I will tell you that
we are -- it will take some time because we are analyzing very carefully what
is heard on that voice data recorder.
QUESTION: -- Do you still have a high level of confidence that you can accurately identify
MR. MUELLER: I know I said at the outset that I had a high level of confidence
on the identities of the hijackers. We have several hijackers whose identities
were those of the names on the manifests. We have several others that are still
in question. So it's -- the investigation is ongoing, and I am not certain as
to several of the others.
QUESTION: -- Can you tell me, or do you know, the information on that cockpit voice
recorder from this airline, Flight 93, does it support what a number of the
cellular phone calls from passengers have indicated about the passengers on
board -- (off mike)?
MR. MUELLER: It would be premature to discuss what's on that until the analysis
STAFF: We have time for one more question.
QUESTION: -- Do you agree with -- (inaudible) -- passengers on Flight 93 did attempt
to wrest control of the jet in the air?
MR. MUELLER: I think both of us here and -- both the attorney general and I
and the attorney general of Pennsylvania have indicated we believe those passengers
on this jet were absolute heroes and their actions during this flight were heroic.
General Ashcroft --
STAFF: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- General Ashcroft, about the possibility of further attacks, there have
been some reports mentioning the 22nd -- (off mike) --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: I think it's important for Americans to understand this
was a complex attack, coordinated, and that it's very possible that there are
others who would seek to disrupt the liberty in the same way. The president
has indicated and, I think, provided a formula, which is important, that we
should go to work and we should live our lives, but we should do it with a heightened
awareness of a vulnerability that we have.