By Donna Miles and Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2006 – Nearly five years after America "awoke to a nightmare attack" on Sept. 11, 2001, the nation is thankful that terrorists haven't succeeded in launching another attack on U.S. soil, but recognizes that it's not for the terrorists' lack of trying, President Bush said at the White House today. "Nineteen men, armed with box cutters, took control of airplanes and turned them into missiles," Bush said of the Sept. 11 attacks. "They used them to kill nearly 3,000 innocent people. We watched the Twin Towers collapse before our eyes -- and it became instantly clear that we'd entered a new world and a dangerous new war."
After seeing the destruction in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Americans wondered if a second wave of attacks was still to come, he said. Five years later, Bush said, the enemy's failure to launch that second wave hasn't been for lack of desire or determination. "As the recently foiled plot in London shows, the terrorists are still active, and they're still trying to strike America, and they're still trying to kill our people," he said.
One reason the terrorists haven't succeeded in launching another Sept. 11 is "the hard work of thousands of dedicated men and women in our government, who have toiled day and night, along with our allies, to stop the enemy from carrying out their plans," the president said. "And we are grateful for these hardworking citizens of ours." The Sept. 11 attacks posed new challenges to the United States and its government, he said.
"With the Twin Towers and the Pentagon still smoldering, our country on edge, and a stream of intelligence coming in about potential new attacks, my administration faced immediate challenges: We had to respond to the attack on our country. We had to wage an unprecedented war against an enemy unlike any we had fought before. We had to find the terrorists hiding in America and across the world, before they were able to strike our country again," he said. "So in the early days and weeks after 9/11, I directed our government's senior national security officials to do everything in their power, within our laws, to prevent another attack."
Bush cited the success of new government policies in helping protect the nation. "Another reason the terrorists have not succeeded is because our government has changed its policies -- and given our military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to fight this enemy and protect our people and preserve our freedoms," he said.
In countering the threat posed by terrorists -- enemies who "represent no nation ... defend no territory and ... wear no uniform" as they quietly conspire before striking without warning, the best source of information about that has proven to be the terrorists themselves, Bush said.
"Captured terrorists have unique knowledge about how terrorist networks operate. They have knowledge of where their operatives are deployed and knowledge about what plots are under way," he said. Bush said the intelligence captured terrorists provide can't be found anywhere else and has become so critical to U.S. security that the United States must ensure they have the means at their disposal to get information from these detainees.
"To win the war on terror, we must be able to detain, question, and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America, and on the battlefields around the world," he said.
U.S. military forces have worked with allies and launched operations across the globe, including Afghanistan and Iraq, to remove terrorist safe havens, and to capture or kill terror leaders and operatives, Bush said. The captured terrorists are enemy combatants who've waged war on the United States, the president said. And, the United States has the right under the laws of war, he said, "to detain these enemies and stop them from rejoining the battle."
The detainees are dangerous men, Bush said, with unique knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans of potential new attacks. "The security of our nation and the lives of our citizens depend on our ability to learn what these terrorists know," Bush pointed out. However, the United States draws the line against abusing detainees, the president stated.
"I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world. The United States does not torture," Bush said. "It's against our laws, and it's against our values. "I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it," he said.