Government putting security blankets on airports; releases photos of alleged terrorists

Thursday, September 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ National Guard troops are deploying to airports as part of a broad new effort directed by the federal government to make flying safer and less unnerving. Officials released photographs of the 19 suspected hijackers from the Sept. 11 attacks, hoping that would help the public lead investigators to other plotters.

To view those photographs, Click here.

``This is another step in what is, in effect, a national neighborhood watch,'' Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday in distributing the pictures, a gallery of alleged terrorists that has been shared by investigators here and abroad but not disclosed in full to the public until now.

Bush introduced steps to throw a federal security blanket over commercial aviation. Sixteen days after hijackers crashed airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside, he said the government would take charge of airport security and expand the use of federal air marshals on commercial flights. The plan stopped short of having federal workers perform all airport security work.

``We will not surrender our freedom to travel,'' Bush asserted. The president spoke to 6,000 airline workers at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where jets from American Airlines and United Airlines _ the carriers hijacked by terrorists _ were parked nose to nose with an American flag between them. ``We're not only united, we're determined,'' he said.

But the U.S. Conference of Mayors said Bush's plan doesn't go far enough and should include federalizing airport security workers. ``We want a federal force that is equal or even better than the ones they have in Israel and Germany and France,'' said Tom Cochran, the conference's executive director.

He said of the airlines: ``We believe they have failed us and we don't have faith, and we do not believe the American people do, either.''

In an ominous reminder of the potential for more terror, the Pentagon confirmed that two Air Force generals have been authorized to order the military to shoot down any civilian airliner that appears to be threatening U.S. cities.

Under new rules, the generals could order strikes only if there was not enough time for the president to weigh in.

Even while welcoming the nation's spirited response to the disasters, officials are facing a growing challenge grappling with the ugly fallout of hate crimes against Muslims and other minorities in America. FBI Director Robert Mueller said the bureau was investigating about 90 hate crimes and would fully prosecute those who take out their anger against innocent people.

Ashcroft asked people who recognize the alleged hijackers from the pictures to contact the FBI.

Governors in Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota and Kentucky were among those responding quickly to Bush's request to mobilize National Guard units at federal expense. Michigan Gov. John Engler was deploying at least 100 personnel. ``I personally am not reluctant to fly, but I've talked to many, many people who are,'' he said. ``I believe these measures will be quite successful.''

In Kentucky, aides to Gov. Paul Patton sought direction from Washington on how many troops were needed, where to send them and what they would do. ``Do we check baggage?'' asked Patton's press secretary, Rusty Cheuvront. ``We don't know what that means.''

In New York City, morning traffic snarled Manhattan arteries as the city introduced mandatory carpooling prompted by the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said U.S. military members injured or killed in the terror attacks will receive Purple Heart medals, which are normally given to soldiers in wartime and have not been awarded for an incident on U.S. soil since World War II.

A new honor, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, will be given to civilian Defense Department workers killed or hurt in the attacks, Rumsfeld said. ``These assaults have brought the battlefield home to us,'' he said. The attack on the Pentagon is believed to have killed 189 people on the ground and in the hijacked airliner that hit the building.

One of the government's biggest challenges is to make people believe it is safe to fly again. Bush, noting Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta took a United flight to the event in Chicago, said the government's goal is to ``get the airplanes flying again all across America.''

In another show of support for commercial flying, Bush's father boarded a Continental jet at Boston's Logan Airport for a flight to Houston. ``I have every confidence in the airlines,'' George Bush said. ``We have to get back to our lives as Americans.'' Still, the former president was not an ordinary passenger by any means _ he was escorted in the terminal and plane by his usual Secret Service detail.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban leader warned Afghans not to look to the United States for help in challenging his hard-line Islamic rule.

``Those Afghans who want to seize power with the help of America are just like those fools who tried to stay in power with the help of the Russian army,'' said Mullah Mohammed Omar.

The statement, distributed by the Afghan Islamic Press, referred to the Soviet defeat in the 1979-1989 war.

War clouds looming, a delegation of Pakistani religious parties said it planned to travel to Afghanistan to talk to the Taliban about the possibility of negotiating over Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the attacks that killed nearly 7,000.

Across the globe, authorities continued to crack down on terror suspects. In Spain, police detained six Algerians allegedly linked to bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire who is the chief suspect in the U.S. terror attacks.

In Britain, authorities captured a French citizen alleged to have been involved in a plot to attack U.S. interests in Europe. In France, seven suspects in the case are under formal investigation, a step before being charged.