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14 September 2001

Transcript: DOJ Officials Brief on Terrorist Investigation Sept. 14

(Federal law enforcement seeks information from more than 100 people)
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) have identified 19 individuals as those who
hijacked four commercial airliners September 11 in the worst terrorist
attack in U.S. history.
"I think we have a fairly high level of confidence," that the
individuals are the people who were on the plane, said Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller who joined Attorney
General John Ashcroft in a press briefing September 14.
The FBI names the 19 suspected hijackers in a press release available
The hijackers are thought to have died among the 266 passengers on
board the four airplanes downed in three U.S. locations. Two jets
slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. One
crashed into the Department of Defense headquarters near Washington,
D.C. One dived into the ground in rural Pennsylvania.
The Attorney General had said September 13 that 18 people had been
identified as the hijackers who flew the planes to flaming crashes.
Mueller said 4,000 agents are working on the case, seeking to contact
more than 100 individuals who are suspected to have some information
about the plots or the hijackers. No arrests had been made at the time
of the briefing, he said, though some individuals had been detained
because of violations of their visa status.
Both Mueller and Ashcroft refused to answer specific questions about
details of the massive investigation. Mueller did say the FBI has
code-named the operation PENTBOMB.
The FBI is also seeking any information the public may have on the
individuals named as the 19 hijackers. A toll-free phone line has been
established for citizen reports at 1-866-483-5137.
Following is the Justice Department transcript of the Ashcroft-Mueller
(begin transcript)
September 14, 2001
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: The director of the FBI and I just returned from a
memorial service at the National Cathedral and wanted to take this
time to give you a report in regard to these matters.
Today the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a list of 19
individuals who have been identified as hijackers aboard the four
airliners that crashed on Tuesday. The FBI requests that anyone who
may have information about these individuals, even though these
individuals are presumed to be dead -- anyone with information about
these individuals immediately contact an FBI field office or call the
toll-free hotline. The toll-free hotline, as you know, is 1-866-483-
5137 -- 1-866-483-5137.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also forwarded a list of more
than 100 names to numerous law enforcement organizations. These are
the names of individuals the FBI would like to talk to because we
believe they may have information that could be helpful to the
investigation. The organizations that we have submitted these names to
include the Federal Aviation Administration, the airlines, FBI field
offices, about 18,000 police departments across America, the U.S.
Border Patrol and the U.S. Customs Service. Now, the nature of this
list is that it would be changing constantly as people are either
removed from it or added to it.
But we believe that the individuals on the list may have information
that could be helpful to us in our efforts.
I want to take this moment to extend our appreciation to state and
local law enforcement organizations that have cooperated with this
investigation, have acted responsibly, and have been very helpful to
us. Their dedication and swift action has been essential to the
progress of the investigation.
I'm pleased now to call upon the director to give you some more
MR. MUELLER: Before we answer questions, I thought I would fill you in
on the extent of the investigation to date.
As of today, we have 4,000 special -- FBI special agents who are
working on the case in various offices around the country and on
various aspects of the investigation, and we have 3,000 support
employees also on the investigation. Twenty FBI legat offices are
running down leads overseas, and all 56 FBI offices around the country
are engaged in the investigation. We have conference calls several
times a day to make certain that everything is being coordinated
To date, we have had more than 36,000 total leads. Of those, over
30,000 have come in off the Internet, 3,800 have been received on the
FBI hot line, and another 2,400 have been generated through the
various field offices.
As you well know and have picked up, we've conducted hundreds of
interviews around the country. We've served over 30 search warrants in
various places. Hundreds of subpoenas have been issued, and we have,
in the course of seizing some of those search -- those -- executing
some of those search warrants, we have seized computers, other
documentary information that are following up on.
One other point I'd make before we respond to questions, and that is
that we have dispatched to -- sent to the various major airports FBI
agents, teams of FBI agents, to assist in quickly resolving any
incidents that may come up when passengers are -- a passenger or
passengers are attempting to board an aircraft or obtain a ticket and
there's some question raised, so we can minimize the inconvenience to
the person who may well be stopped and also swiftly resolve the issue.
And with that, I believe we're happy to take whatever questions you
might have.
QUESTION: Director, have you obtained -- have you obtained under seal
or otherwise any fugitive-from-justice warrants, in other words,
leveled any kind of charges against anyone in this investigation?
MR. MUELLER: Well, if it were under seal, I probably couldn't tell
you. But I can say that there have been no FBI arrests at this time.
Any detentions that have occurred have been pursuant to immigration
holds where an individual's been out of status.
Q: Director, the list of hijackers, have they been connected to
organizations connected to bin Laden?
MR. MUELLER: I can't get into the details of that.
Q: Director --
Q: Director, did it astonish you that --
MR. MUELLER: Sorry. We'll take one and then two. Yes, sorry.
Q: Did it just astonish you that they trained -- all their training
came from the U.S., there were so many of them trained as pilots and
that they lived in the open, they weren't hiding their identities?
Does any of that astonish you or shock you?
MR. MUELLER: Well, the tragedies quite clearly astonish and shock me
and the country. The fact that there were a number of individuals that
happened to have received training at flight schools here is news,
quite obviously. If we had understood that to be the case, we would
have -- perhaps one could have averted this. But beyond that, I and I
think everybody else is just astonished at the extent of the tragedy
as a result of what happened last Tuesday.
Yes, sir.
Q: Director, there were two people removed from a flight last night, I
guess it was New York. And those two people's names appeared on a
(watch list ?) How did they get on -- how were they able to board if
their names were on --
MR. MUELLER: All I can tell you that that was pursuant to a watch list
other than those names were pursuant -- were on the watch list for
reasons not related to this investigation.
Q: Mr. Mueller, on the list of the hijackers, two quick questions. One
is there are several shared last names. Were many of them related to
one another? And the second question is, Del Ray Beach and Hollywood,
Florida, seem to be very common residences. Do you know whether those
were like bases of operation for these men?
MR. MUELLER: I can't -- we are still -- while we have the names for
the manifest and are still pursuing investigations of those names to
try to document and absolutely be certain that the person that went
down with the plane fits with the name on the manifest, the further
association of the names we're still investigating.
Q: Director, what can you tell us about --
Q: And the Del Ray Beach --
MR. MUELLER: All I can say, that there are a number of places in the
country, without specifying any particular place, where we have
conducted a number of interviews and several search warrants --
executed several search warrants.
Yes, sir?
Q: What can you tell us about a D.C. Police all-points bulletin being
put out about a silver or gray minivan that may be carrying a chemical
MR. MUELLER: I can't tell you anything about that.
Yes, sir?
Q: What have you learned from the cockpit voice recorder and from the
flight data recorders of the two planes?
MR. MUELLER: They're currently over at the NTSB, and I think the
question should be directed to the NTSB on those at this instant.
Q: But they referred us to you. MR. MUELLER: As of this moment, we
have not learned or received anything off those recorders. Well,
actually, I should say, we have not received anything off the voice
data recorder. There is a -- that recorder, which is other than the
voice data recorder at the Pentagon that we picked up, and we did
receive information off that.
Q: What did that tell you about that flight, about its path?
MR. MUELLER: I can't get into that now, sir.
Yes, sir?
Q: (Off mike) -- but what confidence do you have the names on the list
are actually the people who were on the plane, as opposed to aliases
or stolen identities? Do you have a level of confidence there yet?
MR. MUELLER: There -- I think we have a fairly high level of
confidence, but, as you -- when we spoke to you yesterday we had 18
individuals who we believed were the hijackers. We now have a 19th
that our investigation has disclosed was probably one of the hijackers
on that plane that left Dulles. And consequently, continuous
investigation updates our confidence, or level of confidence, degree
of confidence, in assuring that the person who actually was on the
plane is associated with the name.
Yes, sir?
Q: Have you identified any suspects or individuals who you believe
still are at large who may have been the leaders or masterminds of
this conspiracy?
MR. MUELLER: I'm sorry, what --
Q: Have you identified any suspects who are -- you believe are still
at large in the United States, who were the masterminds or leaders of
this conspiracy?
MR. MUELLER: I cannot get into the details of the investigation.
Suffice it to say, if we believe that there is somebody in the United
States who is associated with this conspiracy and we had evidence upon
which to base a charge, we would have and would level that charge.
Yes, sir?
Q: Robert, can you say anything about the immigration status of the
19? Are any of them out of legal status?
MR. MUELLER: I think we -- I believe we tried to provide some of those
visa details on the listing that we provided to you.
I can say that some of them were out of status, yes. I'm not certain
how many or which names -- or which individuals whose names appeared
on the manifest and we believe to be a hijacker, was out of status.
Q: It's common for the FBI to name a case agent on a big case. Have
you guys done that on this one?
MR. MUELLER: The investigation is being run by Tom Pickard out of
headquarters here, with Dale Watson and numerous other, I would say,
"senior" FBI agents assisting in various capacities.
Q: And the name of the investigation, sir? Has the investigation been
given a name, and what is it?
Q: I'm sorry --
Q: Can you address the issue of intelligence failure? You didn't know
anything about any of these guys, we still don't know a lot about
them. What --
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: That was the last question. Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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