September 11th: The President's Story

CBS News: 60 Minutes II
September 11, 2002


(Footage of Air Force One; photograph of President Bush; footage of Bush)

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I can remember sitting right here in this office, thinking about the consequences of what had taken place. And I didn't--I didn't need any legal briefs; I didn't need any consultations. I--I--I knew we were at war.

SCOTT PELLEY: (Voiceover) On Air Force One, the president told us a story he has never told before on television: his story of the week we went to war.

(Footage of rescue workers)

Group of Rescue Workers: USA! USA!

(Footage of Bush)

Pres. BUSH: There was a lot of blood lust. People were pointing their big old hands at me saying, `Don't you ever forget this, Mr. President. Don't let us down.'

(Footage of Air Force One; photograph of Bush; footage of F-16s)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) We asked the president about his controversial flight across the country in the first hours after the attack.

Unidentified Man: (Voiceover) Air Force One, got two F-16s at about your 10:00 position.

(Footage of Air Force One cockpit)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) And with extraordinary access to Air Force One, we found there is more to that story than the public ever knew.

Ms. KAREN HUGHES (Presidential Adviser): The military operator came back to me, and in a voice that, to me, sounded very shaken, said, `Ma'am, I'm sorry, we can't reach Air Force One.'

(Photographs of Bush, Vice President Cheney, Condoleeza Rice; footage of tower collapsing)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) In pictures, many never seen before, we get a sense of what it was like behind the scenes while Washington was under attack. And those closest to Mr. Bush remember the moments that changed the nation.

Mrs. LAURA BUSH: As we watched the buildings fall, you know, it was just an unbelievable sight.

Dr. CONDOLEEZZA RICE (National Security Adviser): In the first few hours, I think the thing that was on everybody's mind was, how many more planes are coming?

(Photographs of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The president told us about how he decided to gamble on a new kind of war, and about his heartbreak, even now, for those who were lost.

Pres. BUSH: I still get emotional thinking about it, because it was a tough time, you know? And it was a tough time for all of us, because we were a--very emotional, and I was emotional at times. I felt--you know, I felt the same now as I did then, which was sad.

(Footage of Bush and Pelley)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) At the White House, we asked the president whether Americans are safe at home, and about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

After a year, we still don't have Osama bin Laden?

Pres. BUSH: How do you know that?

DAN RATHER: I'm Dan Rather.

BOB SIMON: I'm Bob Simon.

CHARLIE ROSE: I'm Charlie Rose.

VICKI MABREY: I'm Vicki Mabrey.

PELLEY: I'm Scott Pelley. The president's story, tonight on 60 MINUTES II. ***** SEPTEMBER 11TH: THE PRESIDENT'S STORY

SCOTT PELLEY, co-host:

No president since Abraham Lincoln has seen such horrific loss of life in a war on American soil. No president since James Madison, nearly 200 years ago, has seen the nation's capital city successfully attacked. But one year ago, President George W. Bush was thrown into the first great crisis of the 21st century. Tonight, we have the president's story of the week we went to war.

We met with Mr. Bush on two occasions, on Air Force One and in the Oval Office. We learned a lot we never knew, and we found that even after a year, the president is still moved, sometimes to tears, when he remembers September 11.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I knew the farther we got away from September the 11th, the more likely it is some around the world would forget the mission, but not me. Not me. I made the pledge to myself and to people that I'm not going to forget what happened on September the 11th. So long as I'm the president, we will pursue the killers and bring them to justice. We owe that to those who've lost their lives.

(Footage of Bush exiting helicopter and entering Air Force One; Bush and Pelley)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The memories come back sharp and clear on Air Force One. We joined the president on board the plane on a recent trip cross-country. We wanted to talk to him here because this is where he spent the first hours after the attack.

You know, Mr. President, it occurred to me that not since Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on Air Force One has the airplane been so central to America in a crisis.

Pres. BUSH: That's interesting. I hadn't thought of that but it was certainly a focal point, and it was a place where decisions were being made, and doctrine was being set.

(Footage of Air Force One; Bush running)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) It was a flight into war after a day that had started with the usual routine.

Pres. BUSH: Just warming up. Come on, Stretch. Come on. Come on, Stretch.

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Before dawn September 11th, the president was on his routine run. It was just before 6 AM, and at the same moment, another man was on the move.

(Photographs from security camera showing Mohamed Atta; presidential motorcade)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mohamed Atta was caught by a security camera on his way to lead the attack on America. Two hours later, as Mr. Bush drove to an elementary school, hijackers on four planes were murdering the flight crews and turning the airliners east. As the motorcade pulled up at 8:45, jet engines echoed in Manhattan.

(Footage of New York firefighter looking up; jet crashing into World Trade Center)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Atta plunged the 767 jumbo jet into World Trade Center Tower One.

Unidentified Reporter #1: (Voiceover) We have something that has happened here at the World Trade Center. My heavens, this has just--just happened within several minutes.

Pres. BUSH: I thought it was an accident. I thought it was a pilot error. I thought that some foolish soul had gotten lost and--and made a terrible mistake.

(Footage of Bush in school classroom; attacks on the World Trade Center)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Bush was told about the first plane just before sitting down with a class of second-graders. He was watching a reading drill as horror unfolded above Manhattan. Just after 9, United Flight 175 exploded into the second tower.

Unidentified Reporter #2: Oh, my God, another plane has just hit--it hit another building. It flew right into the middle of it.

PELLEY: (Voiceover) There was a sudden, horrible realization that what had seemed like a terrible mistake was a coordinated attack on the nation, live on TV.

(Audio of children reciting; footage of Bush in classroom; Ari Fleischer)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Back in the Florida classroom, press secretary Ari Fleischer go the news on his pager. The president's chief of staff, Andy Card, stepped in.

What did you say?

Mr. ANDREW CARD (Chief of Staff): A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.

(Footage of Andrew Card and Bush)

PELLEY: But when you said those words and stepped back and you looked in his face, what did you see?

Mr. CARD: I saw him coming to recognition of what I had said. I think he understood that he was going to have to take command as commander in chief, not just as president.

PELLEY: What is going through your mind when that news hits you?

Pres. BUSH: That we're at war, and that somebody has dared attack us and we're going to do something about it. I was trying to--obviously, at that moment I realized I was in a unique setting to receive a--a message that somebody attacked us. And I was looking at these little children, and all of a sudden we're at war.

(Footage of Bush in classroom)

Pres. BUSH: I can remember noticing the press pool and the press corps beginning to get the calls and seeing the look on their face. And it became evident that we were--you know, that the--the--the world had changed.

Unidentified Reporter #3: Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York? Is there any...

Unidentified Man #1: All right. Thank you. If everyone could please step outside.

Pres. BUSH: We'll talk about it later.

(Photographs of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Bush walked into a classroom set up with a secure phone. He called the vice president, pulling the phone cord tight as he spun to see the attack on TV. Then he grabbed a legal pad and quickly wrote his first words to the nation.

Pres. BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America. Today we've had a national tragedy.

PELLEY: It was 9:30. As he spoke, Mr. Bush did not know that two more hijacked jets were streaking toward Washington.

(Aerial footage of the White House)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Vice President Dick Cheney was in his office at the White House when a secret service agent ran in.

Vice President DICK CHENEY: And he said, `Sir, we have to leave immediately,' and grabbed--put a hand on the back of my belt, another hand on my shoulder and propelled me out the door of my office.

PELLEY: Picked you up?

Vice Pres. CHENEY: They don't really pick you up. I'm not sure--they must train for it. I'm not sure how they do it, but they sort of levitate you down the hallway. You move very fast. You don't have any choice but to--to go.

Mr. BRIAN STAFFORD (Director, Secret Service): There wasn't a lot of time for chit-chat, you know, with the vice president, and...

(Photograph of Secret Service command center)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Secret Service director Brian Stafford was in his command center, ordering the roundup of top officials and the first family.

You felt like you had minutes to work with?

Mr. STAFFORD: Correct. We knew that there were unidentified planes tracking in our direction.

(Photographs of Cheney and Rice)

PELLEY: Mr. Cheney was rushed deep under the White House into a bunker called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. It was built for war, and this was it. On her way down, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice called Mr. Bush.

Dr. CONDOLEEZZA RICE (National Security Adviser): It was brief because I was being pushed to get off the phone and get out of the West Wing.

PELLEY: They were hurrying you off the phone with the president.

Dr. RICE: They were hurrying me off the phone with the president, and I just said--he--he said `I'm coming back,' and we said, `Mr. President, that may not be wise.' I remember stopping briefly to call my family, my aunt and uncle in Alabama, and say, `I'm fine. You have to tell everybody that I'm fine,' but then settling into trying to deal with the enormity of that moment, and in the first few hours, I think the thing that was on everybody's mind was, how many more planes are coming?

(Footage of of Capitol being evacuated; Secret Service rounding up officials)

Unidentified Man #2: (Voiceover; loudspeaker) Ladies and gentlemen, let's keep moving away from the building.

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The capitol was evacuated, and for the first time ever, the Secret Service executed the emergency plan to ensure the presidential line of succession. Agents swept up the 15 officials who stood to become president if the others were killed. They wanted to move Vice President Cheney, fearing that he was in danger even in the bunker.

(Photograph of Cheney

PELLEY: (Voiceover) But Mr. Cheney told us that when he heard the other officials were safe, he decided to stay at the White House, no matter what.

What you're saying is that when you looked at the line of succession, you counted yourself out.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: At that point, yes. It's important to emphasize it's not personal. You don't think of it in personal terms; you've got a professional job to do.

(Photograph of Cheney and Norman Mineta)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Cheney was joined by Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, who remembers hearing the FAA counting down the hijacked jets closing in on the capital.

Secretary NORMAN MINETA (Transportation Department): Someone came in and said, `Mr. Vice president, there's a plane 50 miles out.'

(Photograph of Cheney)

Sec. MINETA: Then he came in and said, `It's now 10 miles out. We don't know where it is exactly, but it's coming in low and fast.'

(Photographs of attack on the Pentagon)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) `It' was American Flight 77. At 9:38, it exploded into the Pentagon, the first successful attack on Washington since the War of 1812.

(Footage of Pentagon after attack; presidential limousine)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) As the Pentagon burned, Mr. Bush's limousine sped toward Air Force One in Florida. At that moment, United Flight 93, the last hijacked plane, was taking dead aim at Washington.

(Photograph of White House staff)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) At the White House, the staff was in the West Wing cafeteria, watching on TV. Press secretary Jennifer Millerwise was in the crowd when the order came to evacuate.

Ms. JENNIFER MILLERWISE (Press Secretary): And I no sooner walked outside when someone from Secret Service yelled, you know, `Women, drop your heels and run. Drop your heels and run.'

(Footage of White House evacuation)

Ms. MILLERWISE: (Voiceover) And suddenly the gates that never open except for authorized vehicles just opened, and the whole White House just flooded out.

(Footage of Bush boarding Air Force one; Air Force One taking off)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) In Florida, as Mr. Bush boarded Air Force One, he was overheard telling a Secret Service agent, `Be sure to get the first lady and my daughters protected.' At 9:57, Air Force One thundered down the runway, blasting smoke and dust in a full-thrust takeoff. Communications director Dan Bartlett was on board.

Mr. DAN BARTLETT (Communications Director): It was like a rocket. For a good 10 minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.

(Footage of Air Force One takeoff; collapse of tower

PELLEY: (Voiceover) At the same moment, 56 minutes after it was hit, World Trade Center Tower Two began to falter, then cascade in an incomprehensible avalanche of steel, concrete and human lives.

Dr. RICE: Someone said to me, `Look at that.' I remember that: `Look at that.' I looked up and I saw, just--and I just remember a cloud of dust and smoke, and the horror of that moment.

PELLEY: And the feeling in your gut?

Dr. RICE: That we've lost a lot of Americans, and that eventually we would--we would get these people.

PELLEY: You felt the anger rising in you.

Dr. RICE: I felt the anger. Of course I felt the anger.

(Photograph of Cheney)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Down in the bunker, Mr. Cheney was trying to figure out how many planes were hijacked. At the time they feared there could be as many as 11.

As the planes are tracking toward Washington, a discussion begins about whether we should shoot them down. How did that happen?

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Well, I discussed it with the president. Are we prepared to order our aircraft to shoot down these airliners that have been hijacked? He said yes.

(Photograph of Cheney)

PELLEY: That was your advice to the president?

Vice Pres. CHENEY: I--it was my advice. It was his decision.

Pres. BUSH: That's a sobering moment, to order your own combat aircraft to shoot down your own civilian aircraft. But it was an easy decision to make, given the--given the fact that we had learned that a commercial aircraft was being used as a weapon. I say easy decision. It was--I didn't hesitate; let me put it to you that way. I knew what had to be done.

(Footage of Pennsylvania crash site)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) And the passengers on United Flight 93 also knew what had to be done. They fought for control, and sacrificed themselves in a Pennsylvania meadow. The flight was 15 minutes from Washington.

Dr. RICE: There was that horrible time when we wondered if Flight 93 had, indeed, been shot down by an American pilot.

PELLEY: On the orders of the president.

Dr. RICE: Yes.

PELLEY: It is quite possible that those people gave their lives for you.

Dr. RICE: Its entirely possible. In fact, I think it's probable. Clearly, the terrorists were trying to take out as many symbols of government as they could. The Pentagon, perhaps the Capitol, perhaps the White House. These people saved us not only physically, but they saved us psychologically and symbolically in a very important way, too.

(Footage of World Trade Center collapse)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) But there would be one more symbol to fall. World Trade Center Tower One was weakening. It had stood for an hour and 43 minutes, but at 10:29 AM, it buckled in a mirror image of the collapse of its twin. The image that went 'round the world reached the first lady in a secure location somewhere in Washington.

Mrs. LAURA BUSH: I was very worried, like everybody in America was, about what was going on in New York. We watched the buildings fall, and--you know, it was just an unbelievable sight.

PELLEY: This was a moment when disaster turned to catastrophe.

Pres. BUSH: Yeah.

PELLEY: What did you think when those buildings were coming down?

Pres. BUSH: I was horrified. I thought, `Dear God, protect as many citizens as you--as you--as you can.' It was a nightmare.

(Photograph of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) By 10:30, America's largest city was devastated, its military headquarters, burning. Air force One turned west along the Gulf Coast.

Pres. BUSH: I can remember sitting right here in this office thinking about the consequences of what had taken place, and realizing it was a defining moment in the history of the United States, and I didn't--I didn't need any legal briefs; I didn't need any consultations. I--I--I knew we were at war.

(Footage of Air Force One)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) On our recent trip aboard Air Force One, the president told us about the hours after the attacks. There's a lot about that flight the public never knew. To help us tell the story, we were given access to the plane, including the rarely seen cockpit and communications deck.

(Photographs of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Bush says the first hours were frustrating. He watched the horrifying pictures, but the TV signal was breaking up. His calls to Mr. Cheney were cutting out. The president says he pounded his desk, shouting, `This is inexcusable! Get me the vice president!'

Pres. BUSH: I was trying to clear the fog of war, and there is a fog of war. Information was just flying from all directions.

(Photograph of Bush and Card)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Chief of staff Card brought in the reports. There was word that Camp David had been hit. A jet was thought to be targeting Mr. Bush's ranch.

Mr. CARD: I remember hearing that the State Department might have been hit, or that the White House had a fire in it. So we were hearing lots of different information.

PELLEY: You feared all of that was true?

Mr. CARD: At the time, I did.

(Footage of Air Force One)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) They also feared that Air Force One itself was a target. Vice President Cheney told the president there was a credible threat against the plane. Using the code name for Air Force One, Mr. Bush told an aide, `Angel is next.' The threat was passed to presidential pilot Colonel Mark Tillman.

Colonel MARK TILLMAN (Pilot, Air Force one): It was serious before that, but now it is--no longer is it a time to get the president home. We actually have to consider everything we say, everything we do could be intercepted, and we have to make sure that no one knows what our position is.

(Footage of Air Force one cockpit)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Tillman asked for an armed guard at his cockpit door while the Secret Service double-checked the identity of everyone on board. The crew reviewed the emergency evacuation plan. And then came a warning from air traffic control: A suspect airliner was dead ahead.

Col. TILLMAN: Coming out of Sarasota there was one call that said there was an airliner off our nose that they did not have contact with.

(Footage of Air Force one)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Tillman took evasive action, pulling his plane high above normal traffic. They were on course for Washington, but by now, no one thought that was a good idea except the president.

(Photograph of Bush and advisers)

Pres. BUSH: I wanted to come back to Washington, but the circumstances were such that it was just impossible for the Secret Service or the National Security Team to clear the way for Air Force One to come back.

(Footage of Air Force One)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) So Air Force One set course for an underground command center in Nebraska.

(Photograph of Karen Hughes and others)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Back in Washington, the president's closest adviser, Karen Hughes, heard about the threat to the plane and placed a call to Mr. Bush.

Ms. KAREN HUGHES (Presidential Adviser): And the military operator came back to me and in--in a voice that, to me, sounded very shaken, said, `Ma'am, I'm sorry. We can't reach Air Force One.'

(Photograph of Hughes)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Hughes was out of the White House during the attacks, and when she came back, it was a place she didn't recognize.

(Footage of security around the White House)

Ms. HUGHES: There were either military or maybe Secret Service, dressed all in black, holding machine guns as--as we drove up, and I never expected to see something like that in--in our nation's capital.

PELLEY: And when you entered the White House?

Ms. HUGHES: There was no one insight, and--and I knew it was a day that you didn't want to surprise anybody, and so I yelled, `Hello,' and two, again, kind of SWAT-team members came running--running through the h--the hall with, again, guns drawn, and then took me to--to the location where I met the vice president.

(Footage of Colonel Tillman; Air Force One)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Back on Air Force One, Colonel Tillman had a problem. He needed to hide the most visible plane in the world, a 747 longer than the White House itself. He didn't want to use his radio--he knew the hijackers were listening to air traffic control--so he called air traffic control on the telephone.

Col. TILLMAN: We actually didn't tell them our destination or what directions we were heading. We--we basically just talked to them and said, `OK, fine, we have no clearance at this time; we are just going to fly across the United States.'

(Footage of Air Force One cockpit)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The controllers passed Air Force One from one sector to another, warning each other to keep the route secret.

(Excerpt from air traffic control transmission)

Unidentified Man #3: OK, where's he going?

Unidentified Man #4: Just watch him. Don't question him where he's going. Just work him and watch him. There's no flight plan in and right now we're not going to put anything in. OK, sir?

Unidentified Man #3: Copy that.

(End of excerpt)

(Footage of cockpit; F-16's off to right of plane's wing)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Air Force One ordered a fighter escort, and air traffic control radioed back.

Unidentified Man #5: (Voiceover) Air Force One, got two F-16s at about your--say, your 10:00 position.

(Photograph president and staff on Air Force One)

Mr. BARTLETT: The staff and the president and us were--filed out along the--the outside hallway of his presidential cabin there, and looking out the windows. And the president gives them a signal of salute, and the pilot kind of tips his wing and--and fades off and--and backs into formation.

(Footage of Shane Brotherton, Randy Roberts)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The men in the F-16s were Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts from the Texas Air National Guard. Their mission was so secret, their commander wouldn't tell them where they were going.

Mr. SHANE BROTHERTON (F-16 Pilot): He just said, `You'll know when you see it,' and that was my first clue. I didn't have any idea what we were doing up until that point.

PELLEY: You knew it when you saw it.

Mr. BROTHERTON: Yes, sir.

(Footage of F-16)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) All day long they rode shotgun for the president.

Mr. RANDY ROBERTS (F-16 Pilot): We were trying to keep an 80-mile bubble--bubble around Air Force One, and we'd investigate anything that was within 80 miles.

PELLEY: Were you worried about the safety of the people on this aircraft in those moments?

Pres. BUSH: No.

PELLEY: Your own safety?

Pres. BUSH: No, I wasn't worried about it. I looked out the airplane and saw two two--an F-16 on each wing. It was going to have to be a pretty good pilot to get us.

(Footage of Air Force One)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) We now know that the threat to Air Force One was part of that fog of war, a false alarm. But it had a powerful effect at the time. Many in the public wondered with the president out of sight, was he still running the government?

(Photographs of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) He hadn't appeared after the attack on Washington. Mr. Bush was clearly worried about it. At one point he was overheard saying, `The American people want to know where their dang president is.' The staff considered an address to the nation by phone, but instead, Mr. Bush ordered Air Force One to land somewhere within 30 minutes, so he could appear on TV.

(Footage of Bush exiting plane)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) At 11:45, they landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

Pres. BUSH: The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake, we will show the world that we will pass this test. God bless.

(Footage of Air Force One on the ground and in flight; photograph of Bush and Fleischer)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) At Barksdale, they believed the situation in Washington was still unsafe, so they continued to Nebraska, to the command center where Mr. Bush would be secure and have all the communications gear he needed to run the government. Aboard Air Force One, Mr. Bush had a job for press secretary Fleischer.

Mr. ARI FLEISCHER (Press Secretary): The president asked me to make sure that I took down everything that was said. I think he wanted to make certain that a record existed.

(Photographs of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Fleischer's notes capture Mr. Bush's language, plain and unguarded. To the vice president he said, `We're at war, Dick. We're going to find out who did this and kick their ass.' Another time, Mr. Bush said, `We're not going to have any slap-on-the-wrist crap this time.'

Pres. BUSH: And I can remember telling the secretary of Defense, I said, `We're going to find out who did this, and then, Mr. Secretary, you and Dick Myers'--who we had just named as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs--`are going to go get them.'

(Footage of Bush at Offutt Air Force Base; group entering secure command center; command center)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) By 3:00 Eastern, Air Force One touched down at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Mr. Bush and his team were herded into a small brick hut that gave no hint of what they would find below.

When they reached the bottom of the stairs, this is what they saw. This is the US Strategic Command Underground Command Center. It was built to transmit a president's order to go to nuclear war. But when Mr. Bush walked in, the battle staff was watching the skies over the United States. Many airplanes had still not landed.

(Photograph of Bush in teleconference center)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) After a short briefing, Mr. Bush and chief of staff Card were taken to a teleconference center which connected them to the White House, the Pentagon, the FBI and the CIA. Mr. Bush had a question for his CIA director, George Tenet.

Dr. RICE: George Tenet was just asked, `Who do you think did this to us?' He said, `Sir, I believe it's al-Qaida. We're doing the assessment, but it looks like, it feels like, it smells like al-Qaida.'

(Photograph of Robert Mueller)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The evidence would build. We talked to FBI director Robert Mueller about an essential clue that came from one of the hijacked planes before it crashed.

(Photograph of Amy Sweeney)

PELLEY: There was a flight attendant, Amy Sweeney, who had the presence of mind to call her office as the plane is hijacked and give them the seat numbers of the hijackers. What did that do for you?

Mr. ROBERT MUELLER (Director, FBI): That was the first piece of hard evidence. We could then go to the manifest, find out who was sitting in those seats and immediately conduct an investigation of those individuals, as opposed to taking all of the passengers on the plane and going through a process of elimination.

(Photograph of Bush in teleconference center)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) In Nebraska, the White House staff was preparing for an address to the nation from the Air Force bunker, but by then, the president had had enough. He decided to come back.

Mr. FLEISCHER: At one point he said he didn't want any tin-horn terrorist keeping him out of Washington.

PELLEY: Come on. He really said, `I don't want a tin-horn terrorist to keep me out of Washington'?

Mr. FLEISCHER: That's verbatim.

(Photograph of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) On board, he was already thinking of issuing an ultimatum to the world.

When was it, Mr. President, that you made this decision to go after not just the terrorists, but those who harbored them?

Pres. BUSH: Right here on Air Force One. I ha--I had time to think, and a couple of thoughts emerged. One was that you're guilty if you harbor a terrorist, because I knew these terrorists like al-Qaida liked to prey on weak government and weak people. The other thought that came was the opportunity to fashion a vast coalition of countries that would either be with us or with the terrorists.

PELLEY: Even in those early hours on Air Force One, you were looking out on a world that was suddenly pretty black and white to you.

Pres. BUSH: That's right. I felt that way.

(Footage of Air Force One; collapse of building)

PELLEY: As Air Force One sped east, the last casualty of the attack on America collapsed. World Trade Center No Seven, 47 stories, in the street.

Unidentified Man #5: Hey, let's go! Go! Come on! Come on! Hustle!

Unidentified Man #6: Come on, we got to get out of here.

(Footage of ground zero; the Pentagon; Pennsylvania crash site)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) One of the nation's worst days wore into evening. At the World Trade Center, 2,801 were killed; at the Pentagon, 184, and in Pennsylvania, 40--all together, there were 3,025 dead.

(Footage of rescue workers at ground zero)

Pres. BUSH: Anybody who would attack America the way they did, anybody who would take innocent life the way they did, anybody who is so devious, is evil.

(Footage of Bush approaching helicopter; photograph of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Bush would soon see that evil face to face. After arriving in Washington, he boarded his helicopter and flew past the Pentagon on the way to the White House.

Was there a time when you were afraid that there would not be a White House to return to?

Pres. BUSH: I don't remember thinking about whether or not the White House would have been obliterated. I think I might have thought they took their best shot, and now it was time for us to take our best shot.

(Footage of Bush exiting helicopter; photograph of president's staff)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Bush arrived back at the White House nine hours after the attacks. His next step was to address the nation. Karen Hughes and her staff were already working on the speech.

Ms. HUGHES: He decided that the primary tone he wanted to strike that night was reassurance. We had to show resolve, we had to reassure people, we had to let them know that we would be OK.

(Photographs of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Just off the Oval Office, Mr. Bush added the words that would become known as the Bush doctrine: No distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them. The staff wanted to add a declaration of war, but Mr. Bush didn't think the American people wanted to hear it, that night. He prepared to speak to the nation from the same desk where Franklin Roosevelt first heard the news of Pearl Harbor. Now he was commander in chief. Eighty million Americans were watching.

Pres. BUSH: (From September 11, 2001) Good evening. Today our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.

(Footage of Oval Office and White House)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The Oval Office speech came at the end of the bloodiest day in American history since the Civil War. Mr. Bush walked to the White House residence for the night. An hour later, a Secret Service agent rushed the president and the first lady down to the White House bunker. They were tracking an unidentified plane. It turned out to be one of ours, now protecting Washington.


SCOTT PELLEY, co-host:

By the day after September 11th, President Bush was demanding a war plan. No one in the White House or the Pentagon could be sure of what the president would do. He'd been president for only eight months and he'd never been tested as commander in chief.

You were new to the Pentagon. Do you think your generals at that point had any concern about the kind of strike you would order?

President GEORGE W. BUSH: That's a very interesting question. I--I don't know. I think they were all probably taking a step back and saying, `Is this guy gonna lead us?' I did--never asked them what they thought because I didn't really--because I knew what I was gonna do. I knew--I knew exactly what had to be done, Scott, and that was to set a strategy to seek justice, find out who did it, hunt them down, and bring them to justice.

(Footage of Bush, flanked by Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, others in the background)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) September 12th, in the Cabinet Room, the president made clear what was next.

Pres. BUSH: (From 9/12/01): The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror, they were acts of war.

(Footage of Bush, flanked by Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, others in the background; photograph of Condoleezza Rice)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) To the war Cabinet, al-Qaida was no surprise. National security adviser Rice says the administration had been at work on a plan to strike bin Laden's organization well before September 11th.

Dr. CONDOLEEZZA RICE (National Security Adviser): And the president said, you know, `I'm tired of swatting at flies; I--I need a strategy to eliminate these guys.'

(Photographs of the president and others)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) But in one of the worst intelligence failures ever, the CIA and FBI didn't pick up clues that an attack in the United States was imminent. Without a sense of urgency, the White House strategy the president had asked for came too late.

I understand that that plan was moving along and was just about ready for presentation to the president.

Mr. ANDREW CARD (Chief of Staff): Literally headed...

PELLEY: The president must have...

Mr. CARD: the president's desk, I think, on the 11th, 10th or 11th, of September.

(Photograph of Bush, flanked by Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, others in the background)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Now the war Cabinet was debating the full range of options, who to hit, and how to hit them.

There were some at the Pentagon who worried in the early hours that you would order up an immediate cruise missile strike...

Pres. BUSH: Oh, yeah.

PELLEY: ...of the kind that never deterred bin Laden in the past.

Pres. BUSH: Yeah, I see what you're saying. Well, there's a lot of Nervous Nellies at the Pentagon anyway. Because a lot of people like to chatter, you know, more than they should. But, no, I--I appreciate that very much. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, early on, discussed the idea of making sure we had what we called `boots on the ground,' that this--that, if you're going to go to war, that you've got to go to war with all your assets.

PELLEY: What concerns did you have in the early going about the kinds of ideas that were being presented?

Pres. BUSH: My biggest concern was that we fight and win a--a guerrilla war with conventional means.

(Photograph of George Tenet; footage of fighter jet; footage of Afghanis)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) It was an innovative but risky idea being proposed by CIA director George Tenet. Tenet wanted to combine American technology and intelligence with the brute force of Afghan fighters hostile to the Taliban government. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the CIA had already developed a long relationship with the Afghan resistance.

The plan was unconventional, even in the early stage of developing it.

Secretary of State COLIN POWELL: It was unconventional because it was an unconventional situation. As I like to describe it to my friends, we had on the ground a fourth world army riding horses and living in tents with some CIA and Special Forces with them, and we had a first world air force, the best in the world. How do you connect it all?

(Photograph of Bush, flanked by Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) That's what the president wanted to know. He gave them 48 hours to figure it out.

Pres. BUSH: Appreciate it. It's the least I can do.

(Footage of Bush; Bush and Rumsfeld; Navy investigators picking through Flight 77 ruins)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Later that afternoon, Mr. Bush went to the battlefield himself. Just the day before, he had called the Pentagon `the mightiest building in the world.' Now one fifth of it was in ruins. The wreckage of American Flight 77 was being examined by Navy investigators, and before Mr. Bush left, he made a point of speaking personally with the team recovering the remains of the first casualties of war on his watch.

Pres. BUSH: Well, we thank you.

(Footage of Secret Service convoy)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The next day, September 13th, Mr. Bush was driving back to the White House when there was another warning of attack that the public never heard about. Threats were coming in constantly but this one sounded credible: a large truck bomb headed to the White House. The Secret Service wanted the president back in the bunker.

Ms. KAREN HUGHES (Senior Adviser To President Bush): The director of the Secret Service, Brian Stafford, was standing in the doorway of the Oval Office, and he basically said, `Mr. President, you need to leave. There's been another threat against the White House.'

Unidentified Man #1: He wasn't real receptive to that--to that recommendation. And he ordered a hamburger and said he'd--was going to stay in the White House that evening, and--and that's what he did.

(Footage of White House; photograph of Bush)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) That was Thursday night. The next day would be one of the longest and the most difficult for the president. Friday, September 14th, Mr. Bush started the day with a Cabinet meeting, but he teared up when he walked in and was surprised by applause.

Sec. POWELL: He sat down and--slightly overcome for a moment, but then he--he recaptured it.

(Footage of Powell, Pelley)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) But the secretary of State was worried that Mr. Bush might have trouble getting through his speech at the national memorial service later that morning.

Sec. POWELL: And I just scribbled a little note to him and I said, `I--Mr. President, I've learned over the years that when you are going to give a very emotional speech, watch out for certain words that will cause you to, you know, start to tear up.' And he looked at me and he smiled, and then the next break in--in the conversation he says, `The secretary of State just told me not to break down at the memorial service,' and that broke the tension and everybody started laughing, and I felt embarrassed.

(Footage of president and first lady)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) You were involved in planning the memorial service after September 11th.

What did you feel that that service needed to achieve for the country?

Mrs. LAURA BUSH: I wanted it to be dignified. I wanted the Psalms and everything that was read to be comforting, because I think we were a country that needed--every one of us needed comforting.

Pres. BUSH: We are here in the middle hour of our grief. So many have suffered so great a loss, and today we express our nation's sorrow. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger.

(Footage of memorial service)

Dr. RICE: (Voiceover) As we stood to sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," you could feel the entire congregation--and I could certainly feel myself--stiffen, the--the kind of spine, and this deep sadness was being replaced by resolve.

(Footage of memorial service)

Dr. RICE: (Voiceover) We all felt that we still had mourning to do for our countrymen who had been lost, but that we also had a new purpose in not just avenging what happened to them, but making certain that the world was eventually going to be safe from this kind of attack ever again.

(Footage of memorial service; ground zero)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Next came ground zero.

You had been briefed on ground zero. Were you prepared for what you saw when you walked up there?

Pres. BUSH: No, you can't brief--you couldn't brief me on--you couldn't brief anybody on ground zero till you saw it.

(Footage of ground zero)

Pres. BUSH: (Voiceover) It was like a--it was ghostly. It was like you--like you're having a bad dream and you're walking through the--the dream.

(Footage of President Bush at ground zero)

Pres. BUSH: (Voiceover) There was tears, there was anger.

I mean, these--these men and women reflected the mood of the country. And there--they started chanting `USA!'

Unidentified Group of People: (In unison) USA! USA!

Pres. BUSH: And there was--there was a lot of blood lust. People were, you know, pointing their big old hands at me, saying, `Don't you ever forget this, Mr. President. Don't let us down.'

(Voiceover) And the scene was very powerful, very powerful.

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Bush tried to speak, but they kept shouting, `We can't hear you.'

Unidentified Man #2: We can't hear you!

Pres. BUSH: I can hear you! I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you. And the people...

(Crowd cheers)

Pres. BUSH: ...and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!

(Crowd cheers)

(Photograph of Bush, firefighters; footage of fliers; woman holding up flier; victims' families)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Mr. Bush had been in New York just a few weeks before. He'd posed with the firemen who always stood by when the president's helicopter landed there. Now five of the men who stood with the president in the picture were dead, lost at ground zero. When the president arrived, Manhattan was papered with the faces of the lost. Families held on to the hope that their loved ones were missing, unable to believe that so many had vanished in an instant. It was a place where a child comforted a grieving mother.

Unidentified Child: It will be OK, Mommy.

(Footage of grieving woman, child; photograph of Bush, others)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) These were the families Mr. Bush would meet next, several hundred in a convention hall, a meeting that the public never saw.

Pres. BUSH: People said to me, `He'll be--he'll come out, don't worry, Mr. President. We'll see him soon. I know--I know my loved one, he will--he'll find a place to survive underneath the rubble and we'll get him out.' I, on the other hand, had been briefed about the realities, and my job was to hug and to cry, but I remember the whole time thinking, `This is incredibly sad,' because the loved ones won't come out.

PELLEY: I'm told a story, Mr. President, of a little boy who handed you a picture of his father in his firefighter uniform.

Pres. BUSH: Right.

PELLEY: And you signed it and handed it back and he burst into tears.

(Photograph of Bush hugging boy)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Do you remember that young man?

Pres. BUSH: (Voiceover) I do. I remember--I remember a lot of young boys.

When they started to get me to sign the picture, I said, `Your daddy won't believe that I was here so you show him that autograph,' just trying to provide a little hope.

PELLEY: It's a difficult time to be with those...

Pres. BUSH: It was tough, you know? It was--it was--I still get emotional thinking about it because we're dealing with people who loved that--their dads or loved their mom--loved their--and wives who loved their husbands. It was a tough time.

You know? And it was a tough time for all of us because we were very emotional, and I was emotional at times. I felt--you know, I felt the same now as I did then, which was sad. And I still feel sad for those who grieve for their families, but, as I said, out of my tears I see opportunity.

(Photographs of Bush, victims' families; George Howard)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The president was supposed to be with the families for about 30 minutes; he stayed for two and a half hours. It was here that he met Arlene Howard. Her son, George, was among the first to be found at ground zero.

Ms. ARLENE HOWARD: I called the police department and they said he hadn't called in for roll call and to call back in an hour. And I said, `No, I don't need to call back.' If he hadn't called in, I knew where he was.

PELLEY: You knew where he was?

Ms. HOWARD: I figured he was up in heaven by then.

(Photograph of George Howard; footage of World Trade Center bombing rescue of '93; ground zero; photograph of Bush, Arlene Howard)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) George Howard had once rescued children at the World Trade Center when it was bombed in 1993. He had been off-duty that day and he was off-duty on September 11th, but he couldn't stay away. The police department gave his badge to his mother and she gave it to the president.

Ms. HOWARD: He leaned over to talk to me. And he extends his sympathy to me, and that's when I asked him--I'd like to present George's shield to him in honor of all the men and women that were killed over there.

(Footage of Bush exiting helicopter)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) By the end of that day, Mr. Bush flew to Camp David visibly drained.

Mr. CARD: He was physically exhausted, he was mentally exhausted, he was emotionally exhausted, he was spiritually exhausted.

(Footage of meeting)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The next day, Saturday, September 15th, he gathered the members of his war Cabinet at the presidential retreat for a last decisive meeting.

And from them you want what, sir?

Pres. BUSH: I want victory. I want a war plan.

(From September 15th meeting) My message is for everybody who wears the uniform: Get ready. The United States will do what it takes.

Sec. POWELL: He was encouraging us to think boldly, he was listening to all ideas, he was not constrained to any one idea. He wanted to hear his advisers talk and argue and debate with each other.

Pres. BUSH: Scott, we've never fought a war like this. This is a different kind of war. It is a--it's unique. The coalition was coming together. The secretary of Defense put into place a full-scale military operation to hold the Taliban accountable.

(Photograph of Bush, others)

Pres. BUSH: (Voiceover) The CIA intelligence gathering was honing in and--so there was progress. I mean, I was pleased with the progress.

On the other hand, I wanted to--I wanted to start clarifying plans, and I went around the room and asked everybody what they thought ought to happen.

PELLEY: When you left that meeting on Saturday night, you didn't tell them what you wanted to do.

Pres. BUSH: No, I didn't. I didn't. I wanted to just think it through. This was--anytime you commit our troops to harm's way, there's--a president must make sure that he fully understands all the consequences and ramifications, and I want to just spend a f--some time on it alone, and--and did.

PELLEY: And your last reservations that you had to clear up in your own mind were what?

Pres. BUSH: Could we win? I don't want to be putting our troops in there unless I'm certain we could win. And I was certain we could win.

Unidentified Man #3: (From joint session of Congress) Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.

(Footage of joint session of Congress)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) Nine days after the attacks on America, before a joint session of Congress, the president committed the nation to the war on terror.

Pres. BUSH: (From joint session of Congress) Each of us will remember what happened that day and to whom it happened. We'll remember the moment the news came, where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of a fire, or a story of rescue, some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever. And I will carry this. It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud memorial to her son. It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end.

(Footage of Bush, Pelley)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) A year has passed since that September. At the White House recently, the president told us his job now is to remind Americans that the nation is still at war, a war he reminds himself of every day in the Oval Office, literally keeping score, one terrorist at a time.

I'm told that right in your desk you actually keep a score card.

Pres. BUSH: Actually, I have a--a classified document that might have some pictures on there just to keep reminding me about who's out there, where they might be.

PELLEY: And you check them off as they go?

Pres. BUSH: Well, I might put a little check on there, yeah.

PELLEY: But there's no check by the name that must be on the top of that list.

When we come back, Mr. Bush talks about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.


PELLEY: A lot has happened in the year since September 11th, everything from this week's heightened terror alert, to all the talk about going to war with Iraq. Last week, in the Oval Office, we asked the president about what's coming next in the war on terror.

You must be frustrated, maybe angry; after a year we still don't have Osama bin Laden.

Pres. BUSH: How do you know that? Look, I don't know whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive. I don't know that. He's not leading a lot of parades. And he's not nearly the hero that a lot of people thought he was. This is much bigger than one person anyway. This is--we're slowly but surely dismantling and disrupting an al-Qaida network that--that hates America, and we--we will stay on task until we complete the task. I always knew this was a different kind of war, Scott. See, in the old days, you could measure the size and strength of the enemy by counting his tanks or his airplanes and his ships. This is an international manhunt. We're after these people one at a time. They're killers, period.

PELLEY: But have you won the war before you find Osama bin Laden dead or alive?

Pres. BUSH: If he were dead, there's somebody else to replace him, and we would find that person. But slowly but surely, we will dismantle the al-Qaida network, and those who sponsor them and those who harbor them, and at the same time, hopefully, lay the seeds for--for the conditions necessary so that people don't feel like they've got to conduct terror to achieve--achieve objectives.

PELLEY: Do you look back on the Afghan campaign with any doubts? Certainly we've overthrown the Taliban government. Certainly al-Qaida has been scattered. But some of the Taliban leaders appear to have gotten away and there've been many civilian casualties there, as well.

Pres. BUSH: Mm-hmm. Well, I worry--I--you know, I am sad that civilians lost their life. But I understand war. We did everything we can to--everything we could to protect people. When civilians did die, there was--it was because of a mistake, certainly not because of intention. We liberated a country, for which I'm extremely proud. No, I don't--I don't second-guess things. I--you know, it's--things never go perfect in a time of war.

PELLEY: Are you committed to ending the rule of Saddam Hussein?

Pres. BUSH: I'm committed to a regime change.

PELLEY: There are those who have been vocal in their advice against war in Iraq, some of our allies in the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, for example. Even your father's former national security adviser, Mr. Scowcroft, has written about it in the paper. What is it, in your estimation, that they don't understand about the Iraq question that you do appreciate?

Pres. BUSH: The policy of the government is regime change, Scott--hasn't changed. I get all kinds of advice. I'm listening to the advice. I appreciate the consultations. And we'll consult with a lot of people. But our policy hasn't changed.

PELLEY: On Air Force One, you described the terrorists as evil.

Pres. BUSH: Yeah.

PELLEY: I don't think anyone would disagree with that. But, at the same time, many in the Arab world are angry at the United States for political reasons because of our policy in Israel or our troops in the oil region in the Middle East. Is there any change in foreign policy that you're considering that might reduce Arab anger against the United States?

Pres. BUSH: Hmm. Well, I'm working for peace in the Middle East. I'm the first president that ever went to the United Nations and publicly declared the need to have a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace. I made it clear that in order for there to be peace, the Palestinians have got to get some leadership that renounces terror and believes in peace and quits using the Palestinian people as pawns. I've also made it very clear to the other Arab nations in the region that they've got responsibilities. If they want peace, they've got to work toward it. We're more than willing to work toward it, but they've got to work toward it as well. But to--all this business isn't going to happen as long as a few are willing to blow up the hopes of many. So we've all got to work to fight off terror.

PELLEY: Arafat has to go?

Pres. BUSH: He's--he's a--he's--he's been a complete failure, as far as I'm concerned, utter disappointment.

PELLEY: There has been some concern over the year about civil liberties.

Pres. BUSH: Yeah.

PELLEY: In fact, an appeals court recently was harsh about your administration's decision to close certain deportation hearings. They said, quote, "A government operating in secrecy stands in opposition to the Constitution."

Pres. BUSH: Mm-hmm.

PELLEY: Where do you draw the line, sir?

Pres. BUSH: I draw the line at the Constitution. We will protect America, but we will do so on--within the guidelines of the Constitution, the confines of the Constitution, the spirit of the Constitution.

PELLEY: Has there been anything that the Justice Department has brought to you as an idea that you thought `No, that's too far. I don't want to go there'?

Pres. BUSH: Not that I remember. And I'm pleased with the Justice Department. I think the attorney general's doing a fine job, by the way. You know, to the extent that our courts are willing to make sure that they review decisions we make, I think that's fine. I mean, that's--that's good. That's healthy. It's part of America.

PELLEY: Franklin Roosevelt said that America should stand in defense of four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Pres. BUSH: Mm-hmm.

PELLEY: Do we have that today, Mr. President, freedom from fear?

Pres. BUSH: I think more than we did, in retrospect. The fact that we're on alert, the fact that we understand the new circumstances, makes us more free from fear than on that fateful day of September the 11th. But we've got more work to do.

PELLEY: And Americans should not live their lives in fear?

Pres. BUSH: I don't think so, no. I think Americans ought to know their government's doing everything possible to help. And, obviously, if we get a--information that relates directly to a particular attack, we'll deal with it. And if we get general background noise and--about a potential attack, we'll alert people. But there are a lot of good folks working hard to disrupt and--and deny and run down leads. And--and the American people need to go about their lives, and seems like they are.

(Footage of White House)

PELLEY: (Voiceover) One year ago the president was new on the job with little foreign policy experience. He had wanted to pull the military back from foreign entanglements. Now, on his orders, US forces are engaged around the globe in a war he did not expect, in a world completely changed. ***** SCOTT PELLEY, co-host:

I'm Scott Pelley. We'll be back two weeks from tonight with another edition of 60 MINUTES II. Still ahead tonight, inside ground zero with the firemen and the filmmakers who lived to tell the story, the CBS special presentation of 9/11.

MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc.

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