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Breaking News: Attacks on American Soil
With Robert Kaiser
Associate Editor

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001; 4 p.m. EDT

In a horrific sequence of destruction, terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center and the twin 110-story towers collapsed Tuesday morning. Explosions also rocked the Pentagon and spread fear across the nation.

Washington Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser was online to discuss the apparent terrorist attacks.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

washingtonpost.com: This is Bob Kaiser again. We will resume our efforts to respond to your comments and questions, still hobbled by a serious shortage of facts. I apologize again for the fact that so little information is yet available.

Blacksburg, Va.: Due to this tragedy, a clash between personal freedoms and national security seems inevitable. How big do you think this problem will be?

Robert Kaiser: Very big, I fear.

Rocky Mount, N.C.: is today akin to pearl harbour?

Robert Kaiser: Obviously there are similarities, but I think the differences are probably more important. Pearl Harbor was a real act of war, launched by people who knew what would happen next: a full-blown World War. The perpetrators today do not have the power of a great nation-state behind them, do not have armaments to conduct a war, and indeed, almost certainly want to avoid any direct confrontation with the U.S. We knew how to respond to Pearl Harbor; I don't think we know how to respond to this.

Arlington, Va.: Has there been any speculation that the crash of the United flight near Pittsburgh may have
been shot down by U.S. military planes to keep it from crashing in an urbanized area or into another National symbol.

Robert Kaiser: None that I know of. I have heard speculation that a pilot or co-pilot in the cabin may have forced the plane down heroically. And there has been speculation that the hijacker was hoping to use that plane to strike Camp David or another target in Washington. None of this is confirmed fact.

Ridgefield park, N.J.: As a witness to this tragedy today, I ask what will it take for us(society) and the government to understand that we must now take security seriously? Not to have minimum wage, untrained employees running security at airports.

Robert Kaiser: Don't know the answer to your question, but I do suspect that even security guards making two or three times the minimum wage could be fooled by a determined terrorist with the right equipment.

Torrance, Calif.: Is there any word yet on the recovery of the black boxes from the crashed aircraft? Could they be expected to survive the impacts?

Robert Kaiser: They are supposed to survive. No news yet.

Virginia Beach, Va.: What should be done to address the obvious deficient security of US airports? Should most carry on luggage be banned and the remaining carry-ons be searched in addition to passing through an x-ray machine? Should individuals also pass through something other than a metal detector, since plastic-based guns exist?

Robert Kaiser: I don't know the answer, but nor do I think there is anything we can do that would guarantee success against the sort of people who were responsible for these attacks. The sort of airport security we have has proven effective against nut-case hijackers, but I don't think any system would be foolproof against determined and resourceful professionals.

Herndon, Va.: Mr. Kaiser: How did two planes which were obviously going in the wrong direction according to their published flight destination get so far? Were these planes reported before they hit the World Trade Center?

Robert Kaiser: We don't know all the details, but we do know, for example, that the plane which hit the Pentagon flew under the radar for part of its trip.

Washington, D.C.: I was downtown on the GWU campus this morning, and, seeing smoke coming from the Pentagon, definitely heard an explosion. Rumors abound (plane hitting the Capitol, car bomb at the State Department), but I just want to know: what was that?

Give blood. Also, go to www.redcross.org and consider donating to their disaster relief fund. Thanks.

Robert Kaiser: Don't know what it was, but no bomb went off, as far as we know.

Tampa, Fla.: Does there appear to be any significance to the "911" date of this tragedy?

Robert Kaiser: We've had many questions about this. The answer is that we have no information at all about the motivation of the perpetrators, who they were, etc., so we also know nothing about 911.

Durham, N.C.: Have you received any information on how the hijackers took over the planes? How did they manage to take weapons onboard? Are these incidents in any way possibly due to lax airport security?

Robert Kaiser: We have no information yet, and I think we have to be fearful that we never will learn just what happened. On the other hand, you can be confident that information will come out over the weeks ahead, perhaps answering this question as well. Recall how elaborately prosecutors eventually assembled the story of the last attack on the World Trade Center, for example. We'll just have to see.

washingtonpost.com: What effect -- if any -- will this have on the IMF/World Bank meetings scheduled for Washington later this month?

Robert Kaiser: Good question; don't know the answer. It's going to take days for people to absorb what has happened and react to it.

Pasadena, Calif.: This morning I heard several reports that a plane crashed at Camp David, and now there is nothing in the news about it. Is there a news blackout regarding this? Did this actually happen?

Robert Kaiser: See above. I don't think anything like this happened. The plane that crashed near Pittsburgh may have been trying to get to Camp David.

Annapolis, Md.: A couple of questions:
Do you think that the fact that the planes that were hijacked were code-call planes could have lessened the security at all?

What is the story on UA's other flight. Their site, and the post's site, just say that it disappeared. Is it one of the planes which crashed in the the WTC? Reports are that the Pentagon plane was a smaller aircraft. Can you give us a rundown of which plane crashed where?


Robert Kaiser: We think that the plane that took off from Dulles struck the Pentagon; that the two Boston-LA flights (one UA, one AA) struck the towers in NY, and the fourth crashed in Pittsburgh.

Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: In his recent book "Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire," Chalmers Johnson warns that "Even though the United States has a strong sense of invulnerability and substantial military and economic tools to make such a feeling credible, the fact of its imperial pretensions means that a crisis is inevitable."

Does this latest terrorist attack in fact prove his premise of unintended consequences of overt and covert operations by our military and intelligence communities, or does it in fact illustrate the opposite - that militaristic options such as Foreign Internal Defense (FID) are the only safeguards available to a free society?

Robert Kaiser: I don't know the answer, but I'm interested in Johnson's prescience.

Columbia, S.C.: Has any new information been released concerning the rumor that 2 planes were shot down (in Ohio and Colorado) and that one plane was "forced down" in San Francisco? I've also heard that there has been some indication that the Pittsburgh plane was brought down by passengers struggling with the terrorists. What do we know at this time?

Robert Kaiser: No basis for these rumors as far as we know. Nor do we have any facts about what went on on any of these four flights.

Norfolk, England: i just want to send my sympathy to you all on this nightmare day i have never felt so much pain for people i have never met but today i just couldn't believe what had happened and i just want to send my support and sympathy to you it may not be a lot but i believe that there are many more like me who feel the same.
steve staples

Robert Kaiser: Thanks, Steve.

Washington, D.C.: At this time, are all the airplanes accounted or? Or is there still a missing flight? Do you believe that if there is a remaining flight it is also flying beneath radar?

Robert Kaiser: We think they are all accounted for.

Westminster, Md.: While European countries have to live with the possibility of terrorism on a daily basis, America generally feels invulnerable How do you think attitudes will change?

Robert Kaiser: I suspect that America will never be quite the same after today, but I'm guessing.

Washington, D.C.: I watched the video of the plane crashing into the trade center. It was horrible but did not look like something that would cause the collapse of the lower part of the buildings. Do you think bombings also happened at the trade center?

Robert Kaiser: Not sure you're aware that the tape we are seeing shows the plane but not the tower it struck: instead we see the OTHER tower in the foreground, which is backing the one that plane ran into. I assume the fuel exploded and set off the sort of fire that could indeed destroy the building, but I don't have hard facts about that.

Syracuse, N.Y.: Sad fact: the Empire State Building is again the tallest building in NYC.

Robert Kaiser: Yes it is.

Alexandria, Va.: I think President Bush should stop being held hostage by the secret service and go to New York and appear there for the sake of morale or at least return to the White House and show he is in control and not afraid.

Robert Kaiser: I think you may be on to something. The country is going to want to see more of and hear more from its president. But it's early, too.

Alexandria, Va.: I understand the magnitude of this disaster, but we need to be 100% sure of the parties involved before we declare war. Do you think that war is the answer?

Robert Kaiser: I doubt that war is the answer, but of course a real answer depends on what we learn about what really happened here.

Endako, British Columbia: Could this tragedy have been done by an American?

Robert Kaiser: No, it would have required at least four Americans--or four of anything else.

Rocky Mount, N.C.: is it not a fact that we may never know who is responsible for this?

Robert Kaiser: It' s possible, but I'd bet a dollar or two that we do ultimately find out.

Sherman, Tex.: Were any of the buildings surrounding the World Trade Centers damaged or destroyed from the towers collapse? There hasn't been any mention of it, if so, on networks.

Robert Kaiser: Yes, there is a lot of damage in the neighborhood of the World Trade Center. But we don't have many concrete details.

Tucson, Ariz.: While the CDC has been prepared for this eventuality, what are the possibilities of some form of bi-weapon on the planes, or possibly smuggled into the towers earlier, and the potential impact of it's dispersion by the explosions through NY?

Robert Kaiser: No sign of anything like that.

Silver Spring, Md.: What will tomorrow be like? Govt, offices, schools closed? And will it likely be weeks (months) before we have a framework to understand who, why and how?

Robert Kaiser: washingtonpost.com will carry full info on tomorrow as it becomes available.

Lorton, Va.: the folks on the news seem to be saying that no one was expecting something like this to happen. how likely do you think it is that the intelligence community had no idea?

i can accept that no one could predict what actually did happen, but i guess i can't accept that no one knew that anything could happen soon.

Robert Kaiser: The government gets a steady stream of alarming intelligence reports about possible terrorist actions all over the world. Just last week the U.S. renewed a terrorist alert that emphasized the possibility of terrorist action against U.S. forces in Korea and Japan. We have heard nothing of a warning that mentioned the sorts of things that happened today.

Annapolis, Md.: Do you think that the Trade Center collapsed as a result of the planes or is there a possibility that bombs caused the complete collapse after the planes hit?

Robert Kaiser: It does look like the planes did the damage that brought down the towers.

Alexandria, Va.: After the planes were hijacked, why weren't steps taken to alert New York and Washington authorities that hijacked planes were heading toward those cities? Weren't the planes being tracked on radar?

Robert Kaiser: The planes certainly should have been visible on radar. This is one of dozens of good questions to which we can expect answers in he days ahead.

College Station, Tex.: What kind of investigation is going on right now? I mean how do you think we can find out who did this?

Robert Kaiser: An elaborate investigation has begun, I am confident, but don't have any hard facts about it. The hijackers had to leave some evidence about themselves; they all bought tickets, claimed to have specific identities, etc. Those will be the first leads, I suspect. Stay tuned.

Bloomington, Ill.: What are the chances that there may be follow-on actions by the same group responsible for the WTC and Pentagon incidents? What I mean is that can we expect more over the next few hours, days, and weeks? I suppose this is an intended outcome of terrorism - not knowing when "they" will strike next...

Robert Kaiser: Of course your last comment is accurate, and I know no more than you do about the first question.

Arlington, Va.: Is there any truth to the rumor that conservative author/pundit Barbara Olson was a passenger on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon? I've seen this posted on message boards. Despite differences in politics, I have a respect for the woman and hope the rumor is untrue.

Robert Kaiser: ABC News has "confirmed" that Barbara Olson was indeed a passenger on that plane.

Lorton, Va.: The WTC towers most probably collapsed because of the fires.

Remember, the planes were flying from the East Coast to the West Coast and were loaded to the gills with fuel ---- something the sick s.o.b.s who planned this knew.

The fires undoubtedly were burning intensely and weakened the steel beams in the buildings.

Robert Kaiser: thanks for your comment.

Duluth, Minn..: I'll try once more on this one...where is Congress?
Congress needs to convene immediately, with Cheney in the White House and "security build-up" being the point-of-focus? We'll be progressing from "appropriate measures" to who knows what?
"Terrorism is an act of war" is being repeated on the tube, over and over... Will this give the President, in the name of Cheney, the right to respond with 'war powers'... and bypass Congress and downsize our civil liberties?

Robert Kaiser: Some members are pressing for a special session tonight. Don't know yet what is going to happen. I would be amazed if any official tried to waive constitutional protections in these circumstances.

Arlington, Va.: I grew up in Northern Ireland, so I'm used to these kinds of situations. But to put some perspective on what happened to day, in 30+ years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, roughly 3,500 people have been killed by loyalists, republicans and the British army. I'm sure the death toll today will far outweigh this.

It's a very sad day for the world.

Robert Kaiser: Yes it is.

Arlington, Va.: The first time I flew to Germany, I was amazed by the rather intrusive pat-down and body scan each passenger had to go through to clear security. Also, more carry-on bags than not were hand-searched. Compared with German and other European airports' security, the process in US is a joke. Sadly, we'll never know how these murderers got through it, but it probably wasn't all that hard.

Robert Kaiser: You are probably right.

Boston, Mass.: Before we criticize Bush for being on an Air Force Base, security protocol commands that the President and key political/cabinet personnel are taking to a safe location during a time of political crisis. Today's attacks definitely fit that criteria.

Robert Kaiser: Thanks for your comment. Latest word is that Bush is leaving Omaha for Washington very soon.

Tacoma, Wash.: Obviously the media knows who is responsible if you are making such definitive statements as "the perpetrators today do not have the power of a great nation-state behind them, do not have armaments to conduct a war, and indeed, almost certainly want to avoid any direct confrontation with the U.S." If you aren't sure why did you make such a statement? Further, wouldn't a terrorist group have gloated by now? or at least made demands?

Robert Kaiser: I'll answer this after posting another, similar one in a moment...

Massena, N.Y.: How can you be sure that this act of terrorism does not have any type of government backing. As this is very well organized , and would need to be funded by some power.

Robert Kaiser: Both these questioners are right, and I was surely wrong to rule out the possibility that a government backed these hijackings. I certainly don't know who was behind these events, and I do not have any basis for ruling out the involvement of a foreign government--except common sense. Would Saddam Hussein invite the response that would surely follow if we found he was the responsible leader? I doubt it. But common sense, obviously, may not apply here. I thank both questioners for straightening me out.

Thompson Falls, Mont.: As earlier pointed out all four planes had similar if not identical flight decks. That considered what is the minimum number of crew members required to fly these planes once aloft? Can you speculate on the number of terrorists on each hijacked flight?

Robert Kaiser: As you know, 757's and 767's were designed to be easy to fly. But no, I cannot speculate on the number of terrorists.

Cumberland, Md.: Do you think that our ability to penetrate these terrorist cells, was compromised by the actions of Sen. Frank Church and its committee in the 1970's?

Robert Kaiser: I do not.

Calgary, Alberta: What a horrific tragedy.

My thoughts on this are as follows: There were four teams of obviously well trained hijackers. I would assume more than one per team because who would count on one person being successful or having the courage not to fail? And then at least one on each team being a pilot because they would unlikely count on forcing the flight crew to fly and hit such exact targets. So you have at least 8 terrorists. And then each team would require support on the ground. At least one more person per. And then some super coordinator/planner.

And then weapons. Do you think they would have carried some new fangled weapon themselves or would it have been smarter to have maybe cleaners or baggage handlers stash something? What would be riskier?

We are talking about a lot of people being involved and going undetected. It boggles the mind. Do you know if any ground personnel have been detained and or questioned?

Robert Kaiser: Thanks for your comment. I have seen nothing on ground personnel being detained.

Nottingham, England: I would just like the American people to know how deeply saddened the British people are by these atrocious acts. It was 2:10pm (GMT) when I first heard about the first tower being hit and the news spread around the office in minutes. It has shook up myself and my colleagues. I have barely eaten all day and feel sick with shock. My condolences to the victims, their families and the American people. You are all very much in our thoughts right now.

Robert Kaiser: Thank you. We are getting many messages like this one from all over the world.

South St Paul, Minn.: Just a comment.

I for one would be willing to go through more stringent searches prior to boarding an airliner if it means that we can be safer. It is sad that a few misguided people in this world make it hard for the rest of us to get along in harmony, but sometimes that is the price we have to pay.

Also, just remember this. WE are very lucky to be living in the United States. I, for one, am extremely proud to be an American Citizen.

Robert Kaiser: thanks

Arlington, Va.: I saw Bush speak from the school in Florida, and was very disappointed. He did not seem particularly sad or angry, which I could have understood him not showing if he at least had appeared strong and resolute. He did not. I felt reassured just listening to Pataki speak. Why couldn't Bush summon up the courage to do the same?

Robert Kaiser: thanks for your comment.

San Diego, Calif.: I keep hearing it must be a large group of well funded terrorists, but couldn't it be as small of a group as just 4 or 5 extremely fundamentalist persons?

kevin fry

Robert Kaiser: I know no more than you, but it strikes me as unlikely that these terrorists went onto these airplanes alone. One guy against a crew isn't very good odds. But I just don't know.

San Francisco, Calif.: Is there a fear that there is a possibility or more attacks?

Robert Kaiser: OF course there is. That must explain why the president flew to Omaha. But whether such fears are well-grounded in real intelligence I cannot say.

Cumberland, Md.: In view of the high probability that these attacks were caused by an Islamic terrorist organization, don't you think that it would be prudent to automatically prevents citizens of Terrorist nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan from entering the US -- even those claiming to be political refugees -- and those currently in the US should be carefully watched?

Robert Kaiser: No I do not.


Robert Kaiser: I'm certain that many people share your view about this.

West Coast, USA: Robert:

Can America expect to continue with its prosperity, wealth, size, and power and not incite such violence against it? It seems to me that there is too much poverty and dissent in the world for such a large target to have a peaceable existence.

Robert Kaiser: And others will agree with you...

Paris, France: Who really could benefit from the fallout?? I think this is a question we have to ask even if we don't like some of the considerations. We are often too quick to jump to conclusions, but I doubt for example that Bin Laden is backward about coming forward...of course that remains to be seen, however don't you think we should keep one line open to the possibility that this could be a U.S. internal organization strategy devised to manipulate both domestic and world opinion for any number of economic and political reasons. That it could be cold hard greed and power and not fanaticism, as we usually regard it anyway. I think like this because history has revealed that it's not a particularly unlikely scenario. Despite my cynicism, I would actually like a journalistic abc overview to my initial question.

Robert Kaiser: This is a thoughtful question, and of course I don't know the answer. The real fallout will depend, ultimately, on what we learn about who was responsible. Until we know, speculation is probably not useful.

Washington, D.C.: I'm 22 years old and studying in the United States. I don't think I've lived through anything this horrific as yet. My heart goes out to those who have loved ones unaccounted for and for those working diligently out in the field saving lives etc. God knows, it's a tremendous job that their doing.

In your opinion, do you believe that the government will find those responsible? If yes, how soon and what kind of investigations are we looking at?

Robert Kaiser: My hunch is that government investigators will ultimately figure out who these people were. I say that only because they had to leave quite a few tracks--no guarantee that they'll therefore be identified, but I'd bet on it. The investigation could take a long time.

Boston, Mass.: Why do you suppose that the news isn't focusing so much on the car bombing at the State Dept? The car bombing was confirmed correct?

Sympathies to all who have suffered in the most tragic event.

Al Mucci

Robert Kaiser: There was NO car bomb at the State Dept.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands: First of all, my sympathies to all involved ... which unfortunately at a larger scale means all of us.

I get the impression that the general consensus that is being aired by the media is to not only punish the people/organization behind the horrific attacks, but to also include nations (i.e. countries, regions, etc) that knowingly harbor, assist and support the responsible people.

Apart from the fact that in my eyes it is an international crime against humanity to promote violence and aggression in any form, I cannot help feeling that retaliating with brute force towards a country and/or region of the world is justified. This in particular because of the fact that 99.9% of the people in that country/region most likely will not be 'guilty' of today's crimes, even if their government/leaders are.

Is it your opinion that the pressure of the media and thus the general population, will make it impossible _not_ to choose and follow the path of brute force against not only the responsible people/organizations but also innocent inhabitants in the same country/region?

Robert Kaiser: Thanks for your comment. I really can't answer your question; we still have much to learn and to react to.

Victoria, BC, Canada: From the footage of the New York skyline, it appears as though a major fire (indeed several) are burning at this time! Is this true, is Manhattan burning, or is it mostly residue dust from the massive destruction?

P.S.: We up in Canada are appalled and also in shock right now over this. 'Unbelievable' is the only thing that comes to mind, like everyone is waiting to wake up, hoping it's all a terrible nightmare...

Gavin Joth.

Robert Kaiser: It appears that the fire is continuing in lower Manhattan.

Delaplane, Va: Isn't it difficult to pilot such big planes? Could someone (and we must assume 4 people) learn from to do this by training in small aircraft. Any one know what it take to steer a plane so accurately?

Robert Kaiser: I don't think you or I could fly one of these planes without a lot of practice. I am assuming that these guys has a lot of training--another one of the tracks they have left they may help investigators figure out, ultimately, who they were.

St Louis, Mo.: I have not heard much on the plane crash outside of Pittsburgh. Is there any possibility of survivors from that crash who could provide information on the hijackers?
Has it been confirmed that the flight was even part of the attack?

Robert Kaiser: I fear there were no survivors.

McLean, Va.: Given that this was a pretty sophisticated operation, how long until a terrorist group like the one who committed this crime can obtain and deliver a nuclear weapon?

Robert Kaiser: This is an obvious, and terrifying, question.

St. Louis, Mo.: This is a comment, not a question. It is essential that US news organizations report honest and timely news, but avoid heightening anxiety and worries about chaos. The word chaos should not be mentioned (I heard it on NPR this morning) I believe our government is under control and will remain so.

Robert Kaiser: I certainly agree with you.

Damascus, Md.: I fear that too much of the problem in the next few days/weeks is "false information", innuendo, and opinion--what do you suggest as the most reliable sources for information??

Robert Kaiser: washingtonpost.com

Oshkosh, Wis.: There has been widespread criticism of Bush's missile defense plans - not only because of the probable lack of efficacy, but also because of the probability of attacks coming by means other than missiles shot from other countries. It would be much easier to track the origin of a missile than to trace the origin of a terrorist's bomb, as was attempted to be brought into our country a couple of years ago. Certainly we will have our work cut out for us in determining, exactly, the identity of these terrorists today. Do you think that these tragedies today will force Bush to rethink his emphasis on our defense?

Robert Kaiser: Can't predict their effect on Bush, but it does seem likely that these events will become part of the missile defense debate.

Cumberland, Md.: “Three weeks ago Osama bin Laden warned that he and his followers were planning an unexpected attack on American interests, because of the U.S. aid to Israel,” said Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the AL-QUDS AL-ARABI.

Don't you think it is time that the US does whatever it takes to capture Osame bin Laden?

Robert Kaiser: Where does your quotation come from? It's fascinating, but I'd like more detail.

I am getting a lot of messages from Cumberland, Md, from one or more people who are convinced that bin Laden is responsible for these events. I am not persuaded, because I have no evidence whatsoever.

Cumberland, Md.: Follow up: Your response about not employing greater surveillance against citizens from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, part of the reason we had these events today? We are unwilling to employ the stringent measures needed to prevent these sort of people from entering the US and therefore these groups find it the US an easy target. I for one don't mind sacrificing a few civil liberties for the sake of security.

Robert Kaiser: I'll let the next question serve as an answer to this one...

San Jose, Calif.: Do you think we'll see the same outpouring of racial attacks similar to what happened against the asian community after pearl harbor? Is this something people should prepare for or protect themselves from?

If so, is there anything we can do to minimize retaliation against people due to their race?

Robert Kaiser: I hope not.

Ft Worth, Tex.: Robert, what do you think the chances are that one result of this tragedy will be manning of airport security by military personnel in the future?

Robert Kaiser: Doubt we'll see that.

Seattle, Wash.: I tend to agree with your original judgment, that this tragedy is not likely the work of a nation-state, simply because the strength of terrorism lies in having no home to defend or protect from counter-attack.

Robert Kaiser: thanks for your comment.

Coimbra, Portugal: You have just said that there are dozens of good questions to be asked the next days. Which of those are the most important, in your view?

Robert Kaiser: Who did this? How did they do it? Is there a sensible way to retaliate in kind?

Geneva, Switzerland: There were reports that up to 9 planes were hijacked today. Is the exact figure now known?

Robert Kaiser: The exact figure appears to be four.

Greensboro, N.C.: Have native terrorists been totally ruled out?

Robert Kaiser: Not by me, certainly. I haven't heard a single fact about any of the perpetrators' identities.

Washington, D.C.: I just read that carriers from Norfolk, VA are being deployed to the East Coast (I would assume to NY). Clearly there has been significant amount of security measures taken to "fix" the situation as best they can. Can we anticipate that the worst is over? Or is the intelligence community expecting more? Obviously the casualties in this attack are innumerable.

Just a comment to everyone reading -- If you can donate blood please do it. There's a serious shortage. Call the American Red Cross for an appointment (800)-GIVELIFE. There is a wait but it's worth the time (It's the least I could do).

Robert Kaiser: Thanks for your message. We don't know what the intelligence community may be expecting, unfortunately.

Victoria, British Columbia.: I wanted to pass on to the Americans here that we up in Canada are sitting at our monitors and tv's in absolute shock, some offices are closing down with crying employees leaving in stunned disbelief.

All of us cannot believe it, it is like being in some horrendous big disaster movie.

Our support and prayers go out to you in your time of horror, as you cope with the greatest human created tragedy in the history of our race.

Gavin Joth.

Robert Kaiser: Thanks, Gavin.

Bethesda: Any news of similar attacks outside the US?

Robert Kaiser: None

Bethesda: Do we have any casualty estimates yet?

Robert Kaiser: We do not, and I suspect we won't for a day or more.

Hudson, Wis.: It is truly a tragic event, but it is also disappointing that some of those asking you questions and making comments are starting to be critical of our leaders. This is not the time for that...leave your politics at home. The President is more valuable alive than dead from symbolism. Do you think a symbolic gesture of visiting NY is really doing something? It is okay when there is nothing else that can be done. This is not over! DLG

Robert Kaiser: Thanks

Champaign, IL: Are there any preliminary reports of how many people were able to be evacuated from the World Trade Center before their collapse? Is there any indication of when this information may be released? My prayers, as I would hope the rest of America, are with the victims of this senseless, horrific tragedy.

Robert Kaiser: It appears that thousands of people did get out of the World Trade Center towers, but no exact numbers are known.

Cumberland, MD: AL-QUDS AL-ARABI is a London daily in Arabic - this report appeared in Central European web sites.

The key question of who orchestrated the unprecedented attack on the United States remained unanswered Tuesday, but a U.S. official and a slew of experts pointed the finger at Saudi exile Osama bin Laden" -- this came from Reuters.

Bin Laden certainly has the money and the ability to employ the sort of fanatics in large numbers required to infiltrate the US and commit this sort of terrorist attack -- he proved that in the Cole terrorist attack.

Robert Kaiser: This is an answer to my earlier question about where this reader got a quotation about bin Laden.

Of course he is right that the bin Laden organization has demonstrated the capacity to conduct elaborate terrorist acts (though today's are certainly without precedent). But that does not prove that his group was responsible today.

Khukhan, Thailand: I'm really rather disturbed by all this; in the past when the WTC was bombed and Oklahoma City was hit, I was working at home in the US. Now so far from home two things seem evident, the world is a much scarier place than it was yesterday, for American Nationals in particular. And second while I recall the WTC and OK incidents quite clearly and was stunned by both, and the shocking ability of Americans to do this sort of thing ourselves in Oklahoma leaves me wondering who will gain from all this and who will lose. It is no longer a simple world with obvious enemies, and with so many denials, I wonder really if anyone will claim responsibility knowing the near automatic and deadly response that might follow such a claim.
Uncertainty seems to be the only thing not in short supply right now.

Robert Kaiser: thanks for your comment.

San Francisco, CA: In response to a previous comment. You are mistaken to compromise liberty for security because you will end up with neither!

Wasn't the point of this terrorism to drive us into a position where we are afraid so we trade who we are for a false security?

Robert Kaiser: thanks

Tampa, FL: You asked earlier about an "interesting" quotation:
“Osama bin Laden warned three weeks ago that he would attack American interests in an unprecedented attack, a very big one."

It is from Reuters and is attributed to Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.

The quote is included in a story posted at MSNBC, and elsewhere.

Robert Kaiser: Here's a clearer statement of the source of the quotation.

Branford CT: It would seem to me that the terrorist must have taken over flight operations since no US pilot would crash into the world trade center towers. I wonder if, in a heroic act, that is why the other plane crashed in PA presumably before reaching its designated target.

Robert Kaiser: Interesting speculation...

Palo Alto, Calif.: Were the jetliners hijacked on the ground or after take-off?

Robert Kaiser: It appears that they were hijacked soon after takeoff.

Robert Kaiser: That's all for now. I'm sure I or other Post journalists will return here in the days ahead to again answer questions and discuss this great tragedy. Again, thanks to all for the thoughtful contributions.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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