Discusses Homeland Security with Congressional Leaders
The Cabinet Room
The White House
June 11, 2002
10:17 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's my honor to welcome the leadership of the Congress here
to the -- to the Cabinet Room to discuss the creation of the Department of Homeland
Security. We've had a really good discussion about the need to move forward
with this idea.
I'll let the leaders speak for themselves later on, but I, what I've heard is
there's a commitment to get this done in a way that takes any partisanship out
of the issue, and at the same time strives for a date certain -- Congressman
Gephardt suggested that we can get this done, or should try to get this done,
by September the 11th. The Speaker spoke out about the need to work toward getting
it done as soon as possible, as did Senator Daschle and Senator Lott.
And my message here is we want to work as closely as we can with the Congress
to achieve this significant change, and to leave behind a legacy for future
Presidents and future Congresses, the legacy of a department that will work
in close coordination to secure the homeland.
We're in for a long struggle in this war on terror. And there are people that
still want to harm America. And we have an obligation to our citizens to work
together to do everything we can to protect the people. That commitment is shared
by Republican and Democrat alike, and I'm thankful for the leadership that the
members here have shown. And I'm thankful for the good ideas that have been
shared with our administration as we developed our vision of the Department
of Homeland Security.
I'll answer a couple of questions, then we've got to get going. Yes, Sonya?
QUESTION: Sir, in the reporting on yesterday's belatedly announced arrest of Jose Padilla,
it's come out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has 107 radiation sources
missing or stolen just since March 31st. Do you have any reason to believe that
those samples or sources are not in al Qaeda or terrorist hands?
THE PRESIDENT: We will run down every lead, every hint. This guy Padilla's a
bad guy, and he is where he needs to be, detained.
QUESTION: Mr. President, given the conspiratorial nature necessary to make a dirty bomb
or any such device, can we anticipate from you any announcements related to
this case, any additional arrests, any additional people in custody or in --
THE PRESIDENT: As we run down these killers or would-be killers, we'll let you
know. And this guy Padilla is one of many who we've arrested. As I said in the
speech to West Point, the coalition we put together has hauled in over 2,400
people. And you can call it 2,401 now.
And -- there's, there's just a full-scale manhunt on. And Padilla's where he
needs to be.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you feel like the American people have grown complacent
at all about the threat we face? And do you feel like the apprehension of Padilla
is something of a wake-up call? And should it be?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, the American people are not complacent. They're
patient, tough, determined, and they recognize we're fighting the first battle
of the new wars of the 21st century. The members of Congress are certainly not
complacent. They are -- they reflect their states or their constituencies, and
they know we've got a battle on our hands.
I'm real proud of the American people. I'm proud of how the American people
have responded. I'm proud of how strong the American people are. And I appreciate
the compassion of the American people, too.
Last question. Patsy?
QUESTION: Mr. President, is the threat of war between India and Pakistan over, do you
think? And what's the next step?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we've made progress in defusing a very tense situation.
And I want to thank all the countries who have been, which have been sending
representatives to India and Pakistan to try to persuade both leaders that it's
-- war would be a disaster.
And so the situation is getting better. But so long as there's troops amassed
and people are still hostile toward each other, there's always a threat that
something could happen.
But I'm pleased with the progress we've made, and we'll continue to work the