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Text: FBI News Conference About the Pentagon Investigation

Thursday, Sept. 20, 2001

The following is a transcript of a press conference held by Assistant Director of the FBI's Washington Field Office Van Harp with Chief Ed Flynn of the Arlington County Police Department and Major General James Jackson of the Military District of Washington.

HARP: Good afternoon.

My name is Van Harp, and I'm the assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Basically, at this site, what the FBI's responsibility has been to date has been to assist in the search and recovery, and start to record and correlate any evidentiary material that has been discovered. That's an evolutionary process. And as the search and recovery process winds down, the investigative phase, the crime scene investigation starts to build up. And we are approaching that situation, that juncture, at this point.

The site at the Pentagon, the sanctity of that site has been considered and been protected every moment up to this point, and it will continue to be so. And after that point, we expect to be recovering different pieces of evidence, and that will brought in and melded into the overall investigation.

With me is Chief Ed Flynn of the Arlington County Police Department, and also Major General James Jackson of the Military District of Washington. So with that, I'd like to introduce General Jackson and Chief Flynn for any comments also.

JACKSON: Good afternoon. Our mission remains the same. We're here to provide military support to the agencies that are on the ground in control of the site. We continue to do that with the troops that are available, plus whatever else that I get from the Department of the Army and across Department of Defense.

FLYNN: Earlier today you had an opportunity to talk to some of our officers who have been involved in the evidence collection effort. We're going to continue that effort. We're not certainly forcing any artificial time lines on this investigation. We'll be here as long as we can help the bureau. Obviously, that'll have an impact on our resources, but we're able to cover the policing needs of the community with our current assets, and we'll do what we can to continue this level of effort, assisting with the follow-up investigation in the collection of evidence.

I am going to take this opportunity, quite honestly to put in a plug for what I've seen the FBI do this last week and a half. You know we all read the newspapers and we know they've had some tough shots lately for some other, you know, incidents and controversies that they've had to contend with. But I can honestly say from the local level at ground zero of a dramatic and intense effort, I've seen an astounding amount of collaborative effort here.

The FBI has really taken the lead in modeling the kind of law enforcement behaviors I think you'd be proud to see. Their agents are out there all over the country, certainly all over the metropolitan area, trying to work every conceivable lead. And their agents are in there shoulder to shoulder with my officers and my officers mining that evidence, lifting those rocks, pushing that heavy material around. And really, I think, exemplifying their motto of ``Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity.'' It's been a privilege to work with them.


HARP: Any questions?

QUESTION: Can you give us any briefing on the plane and the wreckage of the plane? Is there anything you can release about that?

HARP: Well, at the outset, I should have stated, I cannot get into the details of the investigation nor the so-called crime scene. But as an add-on to Chief Flynn's comments, I would like to echo those comments, first of all, about the military and Major General Jackson's personnel, particularly the DPS, but also Chief Flynn's personnel.

But more importantly, this is a national investigation, but this is an American investigation. And I will just tell you quite simply, there will be no stone unturned across the entire country, if you will, by the entire spectrum of law enforcement to try to bring these people to justice.

But in that regard, we're also soliciting the cooperation of the American public. We request your information. We have a number that goes to Atlanta, a hotline, but any law enforcement agency in this country, if you have any information with respect to this investigation, please call it in and it will be aggressively and very actively pursued.

QUESTION: Agent Harp, without getting into the specifics of the investigation, have you been able to glean much evidence out of this? I mean, the devastation in there, obviously, was quite complete. But, you know, despite the fire, despite the crash, despite the rubble, have you been able to find significant evidence of that?

HARP: All I can say is there has been some evidence already recovered, with no more specificity.

QUESTION: How do you balance your evidence-gathering with respect for the family? What do you have to go through in being able to do that?

HARP: Our personnel that're engaged in this have substantial experience and have been trained in this regard. And it's a very slow, very methodical, well-coordinated effort with the Arlington County Fire Department and the emergency services personnel, you know, to go through that in a very careful manner.

QUESTION: Is there anything you can tell us about the black boxes, the voice recorder? I know they had had some problems getting anything off of it. Have they had any success in that area?

HARP: I cannot comment on that specifically at this juncture.

QUESTION: Mr. Harp, can you tell us how the evidence collection process works? What do you do? How do you do it? What do you look for?

HARP: Well, it's a two-stage process. Basically, it's at the site and then the material is removed to a second location, where it's further examined. And anything of any potential evidentiary value is catalogued, and then examined, and then integrated into the overall investigation to see if it is part of the puzzle.

QUESTION: Have you met with any of the relatives of the victims?

JACKSON (?): Yes, I have.

QUESTION: Can you talk about in general, what type of things you've been able to tell them?

JACKSON (?): I'd prefer not to comment on those issues, in respect for those families.

QUESTION: Chief Flynn, how concerned are you about the 13 police officers that are reservists that could be called up?

FLYNN: Well, it's a matter of concern for us. We certainly put in motion the request to exempt them, but we also have to balance another issue, as well. Some of our officers in the Reserves and Guards are at points in their Reserve and Guard career, where not being available to be called up would adversely affect, if not end, that career. So we're sensitive to that as well. We've got some officers that have some critical functions to fill in their Guard and Reserve units and we are not going to stand in their way.

But if we have officers that are in units and components that, perhaps, aren't as critical, we are going to ask them if their contribution to this agency is critical. Some are evidence technicians, particularly, I'm thinking of.

FLYNN: We're going to ask them to be exempted. But we're trying to balance needs here. Obviously, there are some critical functions our officers fill in the Guard and Reserve and we want to be sensitive to that.

QUESTION: General Jackson, can you give us some specifics on the military police units that were brought up here: the number of MPs that are coming up, how long they're going to be here, that sort of thing?

JACKSON: I don't want to get into specific numbers, but we've brought up several units. They've been brought up to augment the security in and around the facilities here. What that's going to do is allow us to be able to do this for the long term, because we don't know how long the investigation will go and at what time the building will transition back to normal operations.

Additionally, it will allow us to free up Arlington police personnel to go back to their daily functions, back into the city. That's why we're bringing them up and I'd rather not talk about specific numbers.

QUESTION: Is this being done because of the war effort or just because of the crash? Or is this something that would have been done as we went into a war footing?

JACKSON: We're doing this because right now, the amount of work required on a 24-hour basis requires additional personnel. The people we have on the ground now are good for a short term. If we're going to do this for any longer period, we have to do that in the interest of safety and care of our people.

QUESTION: When is the group from Fort Stewart going to be here?

JACKSON: They're here already.

QUESTION: So both delegation are here now?

JACKSON: A portion of the units are here right now; a portion of what we've asked for, yes.

QUESTION: Agent Harp, is there a time frame on the evidentiary aspect of this? The fire chief talked about it earlier--a time frame for his crew. Is there an evidence time frame?

HARP: It's a two-phase situation, like I mentioned. We expect to be right at the site for approximately two to three weeks. The material will be removed to a secondary location and we expect to be at that location for approximately another month. Those are approximate times. It just depends on exactly what all is there and how long it takes us to catalog it all.

QUESTION: Agent Harp, can you talk about the impact of having the huge--the three crime scenes to investigate, and particularly with New York being as big as it is, the impact of that on your staffing, on your ability to get through everything?

HARP: It's been, like I said, a national tragedy. We have over 4,000 agents involved, but that's a small number of the people that have been involved in this horrific act. It's had a major impact on our personnel, but I think on the entire spectrum of emergency services, the entire spectrum of law enforcement, but also the American public. We've been receiving numerous calls to assist, and it's just a heinous tragedy.

Thank you.

QUESTION: What about the impact, though, on your ability to staff all three of these major crime scenes?

HARP: We've been able to do it so far, but I will just tell you, we would not have been able to accomplish this and to effectively address it without the support--and I emphasize that--support from the emergency services, from the local police departments, from the fire departments, as well as the military. We simply would not have been able to do it.

Thank you.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company