address local questions, fears
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
Federal and local officials, along with
leaders of Houston's faith communities, tried to answer the questions and
allay the concerns of
hundreds of citizens gathered at a forum
Sunday to discuss last week's terrorist attacks on America.
Rich R. Risma/The Daily
Concerned citizens gather
in an auditorium at Houston Community College's main campus near downtown
Sunday to hear federal and local
authorities speak of last week's terrorist
attacks on the United States.
The forum was organized and moderated
by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, who represents Houston's 18th Congressional
District. It was held in
the auditorium of Houston Community College's
"This is an opportunity for you not only
listen, but also to be heard," Lee said. "I know that we may be in anguish,
and there may be anger. But
what we hope will come about today is
an opportunity to leave here with resolution and solution and unity."
Lee said that she and her fellow members
of Congress, who were committed to working over the weekend, "finally decided
it was best to
come home to our constituents, and to
be able to listen to you, but also to be able to represent the federal
government to you Americans."
Lee said that she had been in the U.S.
Capitol building in an early-morning meeting when the news of the first
airliner crashing into one of
the World Trade Center towers reached
"We knew that something was awry, but we
continued to meet because, obviously, we needed to be near where we could
be contacted," Lee
"Shortly thereafter, there was an alarm
to immediately evacuate the U.S. Capitol. And as we evacuated, the (third
hijacked aircraft) hit the
"In the interim, of course, we learned
that the second (World Trade Center) tower was hit in New York, and shortly
Americans commandeered the (fourth) plane,
and it was downed in Pennsylvania," she said.
"But this meeting is to give you a sense
of comfort, that even in this time of very deep need, the federal government
was coordinating and
working to thwart further activity.
"We have turned another page in American
history," Lee said. "For those who have gone through the world wars, and
who have gone
through Vietnam, we will now have to study
how we will respond.
"The United States government has come
together, Congress and the (Bush) Administration, to focus on one point.
That the rule of law
exists, that we will be deliberate in
our resolve, and we will respond," Lee said in describing recent votes
by Congress to broaden President
George W. Bush's authority in the U.S.
response to the acts of terrorism.
"Most importantly, we hope that this nation
will unify together," she said, adding that Congress "is equally concerned
about what we're seeing
happening -- the targeting of certain
religious and ethnic groups. And I stand before you today to say that we
must stand up as Americans to
be against this.
"Because if we become the perpetrators
of (such targeting), then we become no better than those we are going after,"
Lee said to the
Lee introduced Rick Mosquera, Special-Agent-in-Charge
of the FBI's Houston field office, who voiced "concern over some of the
misinformation that has gotten out there.
We have an obvious need to be concerned, to heighten the level of awareness.
It's created a panic
situation in some cases, and it's very
Mosquera addressed the question of whether
federal authorities were "profiling" people of certain religious or ethnic
(specifically Muslims) in the investigation.
"We're conducting an investigation," Mosquera
said. "It's very unfortunate that the 19 people identified so far as being
involved in this all have
a commonality as far as ethnicity goes.
"By no means would it be smart for us or
any other investigative agency to be looking strictly at people from that
particular background or
religious belief," Mosquera said.
He said the local FBI office had received
more than 1,000 leads, and that there were more than 40,000 leads nationwide.
"We are not going out and targeting Middle
Easterners," he said, adding that "people from the Middle Eastern communities
extremely cooperative to us, and they're
equally concerned. They hurt as the rest of us hurt."
Mosquera addressed "some of the misinformation
that's out there." He refuted a "Newsweek" article, printed Sunday, that
reported the FBI
was surveying two of the suspected terrorists
at least two weeks before the attacks.
"That's not the case," Mosquera said. "We
were aware of their presence in the country as late as Aug. 23. But we
were never given specific
information as where they were. We certainly
were out looking for them. The information was very sketchy and, unfortunately,
the clock ran
out on us."
After other federal and local officials
briefly spoke to the audience, a question-and-answer session followed.
An 11-year-old boy asked, "How
are we going to rebuild the country, and
Dr. Michael McGinnis, a child psychologist
with the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County,
asked the boy if he had
any ideas, to which the boy shyly said
"You know, there are a few people in this
world who do bad things," McGinnis said. "But, the majority of people are
good. And we've got laws
and ideas that are shared worldwide to
punish people who do these bad things. And there are people in charge who
are going to take care
"And what we can do is to try to help each
other out. So we all have a part in rebuilding this country," McGinnis