Monday, September 17, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 18


 
 









 
Government officials 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 Cougar


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 main campus.

"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 her.

"We knew that something was awry, but we continued to meet because, obviously, we needed to be near where we could be contacted," Lee
said.

"Shortly thereafter, there was an alarm to immediately evacuate the U.S. Capitol. And as we evacuated, the (third hijacked aircraft) hit the
Pentagon.

"In the interim, of course, we learned that the second (World Trade Center) tower was hit in New York, and shortly thereafter, heroic
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
multi-ethnic audience.

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 troubling."

Mosquera addressed the question of whether federal authorities were "profiling" people of certain religious or ethnic backgrounds
(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 have been
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 America's spirits?"

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 no.

"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
of that.

"And what we can do is to try to help each other out. So we all have a part in rebuilding this country," McGinnis said.
 
 
 

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