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Entries in Sept. 11 (39)

Tuesday
Sep112012

No 'Credible or Specific' Terror Threat on 9/11 Anniversary

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Intelligence sources tell ABC News that there is no "credible or specific" information that al Qaeda or any other terrorist organizations are plotting attacks timed to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

Heightened vigilance in the nation's big cities and a strong, visible police presence at Ground Zero in New York will signify law enforcement's readiness to respond to any anniversary terror attack.

Federal and local counterterrorism officials tell ABC News that a heightened awareness of terror threats is now the "new normal."

"There is no credible or specific intelligence to indicate terrorist organizations are plotting attacks to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11," Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler told ABC News.  "However, we know from the intelligence gathered from the Osama bin Laden raid that al Qaeda has shown an interest in specific dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11."

Just before last year's anniversary, intelligence sources were hearing incessant "chatter" on radical Islamist websites and communications channels that some kind of attack was coming to mark the 10th anniversary.  Fortunately, nothing materialized, but officials said they were not letting down their guard.

"We continue to encourage our federal, state and local partners, as well as the American public, to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local authorities," Chandler said.  "Our security posture, which always includes measures that are seen and unseen, will continue protect the American people."

Meanwhile, federal authorities have been communicating with their local and state counterparts through joint terrorism task forces reminding them to track any lead and check any tips.

A bulletin obtained by ABC News has already gone out, urging vigilance on the anniversary, noting that there has been little discussion heard or found online by authorities of how al Qaeda would mark the anniversary.

Nor was there any "overt" discussion of al Qaeda's failure to mark the 10th anniversary in the 12 months since.

A New York City official said that the New York Police Department would have a strong, visible presence at Ground Zero, where it now routinely deploys several hundred officers at a World Trade Center command center.

While 9/11 will never become just another day in America, keeping a close eye on any possible terror threat has become business as usual for law enforcement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep112012

US Commemorates 9/11 Attacks on 11th Anniversary

ALEX FUCHS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Unlike last year, Tuesday’s commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks will be far more subdued.

It was on Sept. 11, 2001 that al Qaeda hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan as well as the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C.  A fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers and crew rushed the cockpit.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day, including all 19 hijackers, in the deadliest terrorist strike on U.S. soil that led to two overseas wars while Americans no longer took their national security for granted.

During Tuesday’s ceremonies to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the attacks, no politicians will be allowed to speak at the spot in lower Manhattan that has come to be known as ground zero.  As always, the names of the dead will be read by their family members and loved ones.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will observe a moment of silence at the White House while other administration officials plan to visit the Pentagon and the memorial to the victims in Shanksville.

Also, neither Obama nor GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney plan to run campaign ads Tuesday in deference to the memory of 9/11 victims.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep112012

Leon Panetta Pays Tribute to Passengers and Crew of Flight 93

Department of Defense/Glenn Fawcett(SHANKSVILLE, Pa.) -- While Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech Tuesday at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Secretary of State Leon Panetta offered his own tribute Monday at the crash site where 40 passengers and crew members fought valiantly against al Qaeda hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.

It is believed that the hijackers had planned to crash the plane into either the White House or the Capitol but were thwarted when those aboard Flight 93 refused to allow the terrorists to carry out their mission.

Panetta, who was making his first visit to the memorial in Shanksville, said the crash site was "hallowed ground because this is the final resting place of American patriots."

The defense chief suggested that the 40 on board Flight 93 were among the first casualties of a new war, adding, "We honor those and all of those who have fought and died for this country who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the United States of America."

Although al Qaeda appears to be less potent than it was 11 years ago, especially following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Panetta warned that the group remains a threat and that the U.S. will remain vigilant in stopping the movement whether it's here or overseas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep112012

9/11 Memorial Offers Quiet Amid New York Chaos, Designer Says

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Michael Arad, the architect behind the 9/11 memorial that opened a year ago this week, wanted to create a space for quiet reflection on those who died in the attacks in the midst of the chaos of New York City.

Arad’s design, called Reflecting Absence, beat out 5,000 submitted proposals to become the memorial tribute at the site of the attacks that killed nearly 2,700 people.  The site has now been visited by 4.5 million people.

“I wanted to capture that and create a place that allowed  people to come together to reflect on what happened here, not alone but as a community in a public space where people gather and congregate,” Arad told ABC News.

Arad, a native of Israel who was raised in the United Kingdom, the United States and Mexico, had only lived in New York for 2.5 years when the north and south towers of the World Trade Center complex were attacked.

“It changed who I am,” he said.  “I became a New Yorker because of what happened here.”

Reflecting Absence, which was chosen as the winning design in January 2004, consists of a plaza containing waterfalls above reflecting pools where the original north and south towers stood.  The names of all those killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the earlier World Trade Center attack on Feb. 26, 1993, are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the waterfalls.

In arranging the names, Arad and his team queried close to 3,000 families, and received more than 1,200 requests asking that certain names of people that knew each other be placed next to or near one another.

“[The names] are arranged according to what I call a system of meaningful adjacency.  When you walk up to these panels, you don’t see the order but, in fact, they are very carefully organized,” he said.

The “survivor tree” -- a callery pear saved from the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center towers -- is also featured prominently in the memorial.  After it was salvaged from Ground Zero, the tree was sent to a Bronx nursery, where it was not expected to survive.  But it survived an uprooting and now stands 30 feet tall.  It has come to symbolize hope and rebirth.

“There was just something incredibly beautiful about that story of its survival,” Arad said.

Arad’s ultimate goal with the memorial’s centerpiece of waterfalls, which flow into the voids left by the original towers, was to create a place where visitors can experience the magnitude of the voids.

“I wanted to know: Could I bring that idea of emptiness, this continuous presence, and making absence present and visible, and tangible to the site?” he said.  “And that’s really what these spaces are about -- making what is no longer here, here for all of us as we stand around the voids.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

9/11 Threat Still Under Investigation But Aspects ‘Eliminated’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Officials from multiple agencies tell ABC News that after six days of the U.S. government pushing its law enforcement and intelligence agencies to full tilt, no significant evidence has turned up to confirm the recent terror threat allegedly aimed at Washington, D.C. and New York.

While some officials remain concerned about the rest of this week in particular, a number of sources say they are almost ready to exhale a little.

“We are getting close to a sigh of relief,” one official said.

Despite the threat information not being confirmed at this time, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Tuesday that the threat was still ongoing.

“The threat has not been resolved and until it is resolved it is an outstanding threat that we are following up on.  Even though Sept. 11 has now passed, we do not believe that that necessarily means we should back down,”  Mueller told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“[The FBI], Department of Homeland Security, NCTC [The National Counterterrorism Center], the intelligence agencies are pursuing that as heavily as we have over the last several days and will continue to do so until it’s resolved,” Mueller said.

“We consider it an ongoing threat and we continue to lean forward into confirming that threat,” Napolitano said.

Last week, the DHS and FBI issued a joint bulletin based on threat information from a credible source that there was an ongoing plot to detonate vehicle-born bombs in New York City or Washington, D.C.  The threat prompted a massive police show of force in the cities and sent the intelligence community into a race to try and run the threat information to ground.

Mueller told the Senate Committee Tuesday some actions the FBI has taken: “Since we first had word of that threat we have conducted hundreds of interviews.  We have been pursuing a number of leads and consequently there.  As a result of that, we’ve been now able to eliminate some aspects where we thought that we ought to be looking in order to determine whether it was indeed a valid threat.  But there’s still work to be done.”

Matthew Olsen, the recently confirmed director of the National Counterterrorism Center told the Senate panel, “We’re not prepared to say that it’s been resolved and will continue to work to analyze it and share information about it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep132011

Congress Pays Tribute to 9/11, Sings ‘God Bless America’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the same sense of unity that pulled Congress together after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, members of Congress from both the House and Senate gathered on steps of the Capitol Monday night to pay tribute to the victims and heroes of the 9/11 attacks.

Congress was not in session Sunday during the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  Instead, many members traveled to their home states to participate in local events marking the date, and to New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon to attend ceremonies.

“The 11th of September will always be a day of remembrance,” House Speaker John Boehner said.  “It is up to we who live on -- particularly we who serve -- to ‘never forget,’ to never yield, but to hold fast until we have preserved the blessings of freedom for those who come after us.  If we are successful, no one will have to tell them what to do.  They will know, and they too will ‘never forget.’”

Monday night was reserved for a moment of silence and the singing of “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol -- a sight recreated from the spontaneous rendition of the patriotic tune the night of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Here 10 years ago we reaffirmed in our own way that our commitment was for freedom and democracy -- that’s what makes America the greatest nation in the world,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of that moment.  “Little did we know then the effect that [Maryland Senator] Barbara Mikulski suggesting to us, members of Congress here assembled, that we would sing ‘God Bless America.’  We did -- the sweetest song I ever heard.”

Reid said the only reason that Members of Congress could share that experience in 2001 was because of the courage of the heroes on board United Flight 93.

“The plane was headed here,” he said.  “We’ve learned since then the ringleader of that evil band had made a decision that it would be the Capitol, not the White House, because it was a much easier target.  That night we didn’t know that when we met here, but we know it now.”

“It was clear what needed to be done.  No one had to tell them.  They saved countless lives.  They steadied our country before a watching world,” Boehner said.

Holding small American flags, hundreds of lawmakers sang along Monday evening while the Marine Corps band played “God Bless America,” 10 years after Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol to sing the song a cappella.

Each of Congress’s four top leaders also delivered brief remarks, touching on the themes of unity, patriotism, remembrance and progress that characterized the 10-year anniversary ceremonies last weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

All 9/11 Families, Except One, Have Received Compensation

David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Ten years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, deceased victims' families and the injured have been compensated over $7 billion.

Of 2,977 people who lost their lives as a result of the attacks, only one victim's family has refrained from settling its claims with the airline and a security company they say was negligent.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, created by Congress, has distributed the money to survivors and victims' families.  They have received an average of just over $2 million tax-free per claim, according to Kenneth Feinberg, a former pro bono administrator of the fund.

In addition, 2,300 physically injured 9/11 victims or those who suffered from respiratory problems cleaning up the World Trade Center were each awarded $400,000 tax-free, on average, Feinberg said.

Feinberg started distributing compensation 11 days after the program was established and began cutting checks in April 2002, until the fund expired by statute in June 2004.

He said 94 families who lost a loved one on Sept. 11 opted not to participate in the fund and decided voluntarily to litigate in Manhattan.  And 93 of those 94 settled over the past five years.  Only the Bavis family is going to trial.

The Bavis family of Massachusetts will resume their lawsuit in New York City against United Airlines and security company Huntleigh on Sept. 19.  The family first filed the suit in September 2002.  Mary Bavis, the named plaintiff, is the mother of Mark Bavis who was aboard United Airlines flight 175 from Boston when it struck the south tower of the World Trade Center.

Other companies and cities that the Bavis' initially sued have been dropped from the suit over time.  The New York district court dismissed Massport, for example, which oversees Boston Logan airport, Don Migliori, an attorney representing the family, said.

The families that opted out of the fund and eventually settled may have received an average of under $5 million, using figures from the report of Sheila Birnbaum, the 9/11 mediator.  The information, however, is confidential.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

9/11 Anniversary Terror Plot? Feds Question, Clear 300 People

Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has questioned and cleared some 300 people since Friday and still no hard evidence has emerged to corroborate early alarms of a potential Sept. 11 anniversary terror attack, U.S. officials told ABC News, leaving potentially deadly questions unanswered and security still on high alert.

Last week, intelligence emerged from what several officials called a single "credible" source that there was an ongoing plot to launch a vehicle-born bomb attack on New York City or Washington, D.C., prompting a federal bulletin to law enforcement, public announcements by top U.S. officials and a nationwide manhunt for three men.  Since the alarm was first raised, the CIA, FBI and a number of federal and local agencies have been unable to find any evidence to back up the original information.

And though none of the men have been found, the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks passed relatively without incident on Sunday.  Federal and local law enforcement officials said that at least for a while, they won't be backing off the heavy, high-profile security that surrounded the anniversary.

According to former White House counter-terrorism advisor and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the business of pulling back on the massive security effort without a resolution to the bomb plot could be tricky business.

"They have to unwind the heavy security very slowly and in gradual steps -- make it appear that some of the heavy security has gone away while actually keeping a lot of surveillance the public won't see," Clarke said.

In New York, police officials said they would maintain the tough security at least through Monday morning.

"The threat for me is fundamentally the same.  It hasn't changed.  We don't have really additional information to add," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly told ABC News' New York affiliate WABC-TV on Sunday, referring to the alleged bomb plot.  "But there's no reason to lessen our alert status."

The FBI will continue its expanded security effort through the day and perhaps as long as it takes to investigate the alleged bomb plot, law enforcement officials told ABC News.  The Department of Homeland Security is following suit, maintaining additional security at major transportation hubs and federal buildings.

In addition to the FBI interviews, a public alert about the potential plot also drew hundreds of citizen reports about suspicious packages and individuals.

In two separate instances on the 9/11 anniversary, fighter jets were scrambled to escort passenger planes after passengers on the flights allegedly acted "suspiciously."  But in both cases, the suspicious activity turned out to be non-terror-related -- one case of frequent bathroom trips, another of a couple "making out" in the lavatory, federal officials said Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

9/11 Remembered: 'Nothing Can Break Will of USA'

David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama closed a day of tributes and memorials with a paean to the resilience of the American people in the decade following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, saying that "nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America."

Obama spoke of the men and women who have chosen to sign up for military service in the last decade, saying that too many of them "will never come home" from tours abroad.

"Our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace," he said in his speech at the Concert for Hope in Washington D.C. Sunday evening.

Obama made it clear that the character of the United States has not changed since 9/11.

"These past 10 years underscore the bonds between all Americans.  We have not succumbed to suspicion and mistrust.  After 9/11, President Bush made clear what we reaffirm today: the United States will never wage war against Islam or any religion," he said, reaffirming the phrase on the Seal of the United States: e pluribus unum -- out of many, we are one.

"The determination to move forward as one people" will be the legacy of 9/11.  "It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger," Obama said.

The president's speech came at the end of a day when families, rescue workers and politicians gathered amid a mix of tears, applause and patriotic cheers of "U-S-A" at 9/11 memorials in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks brought special ceremonies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the planes crashed.

Obama laid a wreath of white flowers outside the Pentagon as a brass quintet played "Amazing Grace" Sunday afternoon, before he and first lady Michelle Obama spoke with family members of victims.

Earlier, Obama read a Psalm at the morning ceremony at the World Trade Center, and then arrived to applause and chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" at a wreath-laying ceremony in Shanksville at noon, where he and the first lady shook hands and spoke with many members of the crowd gathered there.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep112011

President Obama Remembers, Looks to the Future on 9/11

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a speech marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11, President Obama said that in the years following one of America’s darkest chapters, the country has kept its faith.

Addressing a 9/11 memorial concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the president said that the country’s resilience in recovering from 9/11 proves that the United States has not given in to fear.

“Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith — in God and each other — that has not changed,” Obama said. “These past 10 years have shown America’s resolve to defend its citizens, and our way of life.”

The 9/11 memorials in New York, Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, the president argued, are symbols of the country’s unbreakable will.

“It will be said that we kept the faith, that we took a painful blow, and we emerged stronger,” he said.

Obama praised the 2 million men and women who have served in the U.S. military in the decade since the 9/11 attack.

“America has been defended not by conscripts, but by citizens who chose to serve,” he said. “The sacrifices of these men and women, and of our military families, reminds us that the wages of war are great.”

Obama described the nation’s commitment to continue bringing U.S. troops home after 10 years of war.

“Our troops have been to lands unknown to many Americans a decade ago — to Kandahar and Kabul; to Mosul and Basra. But our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace.”

Years from now when Americans reflect on 9/11, they will think that the country endured and moved forward with resolve, Obama told the audience.

“They will remember that we have overcome slavery and Civil War; bread lines and fascism; recessions and riots; and Communism and, yes, terrorism,” he said.

The President chose to invoke God on several occasions during the speech. He opened with a quote from the Bible -- “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” -- and closed with a rousing "God Bless the United States of America." This recalled the President's decision to read from the Bible at the Ground Zero memorial ceremony on Sunday morning -- a bold move following controversy surrounding the role of religion in the public services honoring the victims of the attacks.

Obama is expected to make remarks Monday morning in the Rose Garden urging Congress to pass the newly created American Jobs Act.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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