George W. Bush photo

Remarks Following a Meeting With Congressional Leaders and an Exchange With Reporters

June 11, 2002

Department of Homeland Security

The President. It's my honor to welcome the leadership of the Congress here to the—to the Cabinet Room to discuss the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. We've had a really good discussion about the need to move forward with this idea.

I'll let the leaders speak for themselves later on, but I—what I've heard is, there's a commitment to get this done in a way that takes any partisanship out of the issue and at the same time strives for a date certain—Congressman Gephardt suggested that we can get this done, or should try to get this done, by September the 11th. The Speaker spoke out about the need to work toward getting it done as soon as possible, as did Senator Daschle and Senator Lott.

And my message here is, we want to work as closely as we can with the Congress to achieve this significant change and to leave behind a legacy for future Presidents and future Congresses, the legacy of a department that will work in close coordination to secure the homeland.

We're in for a long struggle in this war on terror, and there are people that still want to harm America. And we have an obligation to our citizens to work together to do everything we can to protect the people. That commitment is shared by Republican and Democrat alike. And I'm thankful for the leadership that the Members here have shown, and I'm thankful for the good ideas that have been shared with our administration as we developed our vision of the Department of Homeland Security.

I'll answer a couple of questions, then we've got to get going. Yes, Sonya [Sonya Ross, Associated Press].

Arrest of Abdullah al Muhajir

Q. Sir, in the reporting on yesterday's belatedly announced arrest of Jose Padilla, it's come out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has 107 radiation sources missing or stolen just since March 31st. Do you have any reason to believe that those samples or sources are not in Al Qaida or terrorist hands?

The President. We will run down every lead, every hint. This guy Padilla's a bad guy, and he is where he needs to be, detained.

Q. Mr. President, given the conspiratorial nature necessary to make a dirty bomb or any such device, can we anticipate from you any announcements related to this case, any additional arrests, any additional people in custody or in——

The President. As we run down these killers or would-be killers, we'll let you know. And this guy Padilla is one of many who we've arrested. As I said in the speech to West Point, the coalition we put together has hauled in over 2,400 people, and you can call it 2,401 now.

And there's—there's just a full-scale manhunt on. And Padilla's where he needs to be.

David [David Gregory, NBC News].

Domestic Reaction to Terrorists

Q. Mr. President, do you feel like the American people have grown complacent at all about the threat we face? And do you feel like the apprehension of Padilla is something of a wake-up call? And should it be?

The President. First of all, the American people are not complacent. They're patient, tough, determined, and they recognize we're fighting the first battle of the new wars of the 21st century. The Members of Congress are certainly not complacent. They are—they reflect their States or their constituencies, and they know we've got a battle on our hands.

I'm real proud of the American people. I'm proud of how the American people have responded. I'm proud of how strong the American people are, and I appreciate the compassion of the American people too.

Last question. Patsy [Patricia Wilson, Reuters].

Situation in South Asia

Q. New subject—is the threat of war between India and Pakistan over, do you think? And what's the next step?

The President. Well, we've made progress in defusing a very tense situation. And I want to thank all the countries who have been—which have been sending representatives to India and Pakistan to try to persuade both leaders that it's—war would be a disaster.

And so the situation is getting better. But so long as there's troops amassed and people are still hostile toward each other, there's always a threat that something could happen. But I'm pleased with the progress we've made, and we'll continue to work the issue.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:17 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Abdullah al Muhajir, formerly known as Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen and suspected terrorist who was arrested on May 8 in Chicago, IL.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following a Meeting With Congressional Leaders and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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