President Bush said Thursday that a plot to blow up multiple flights between Britain and the United States shows “this nation is at war with Islamic fascists.”
“This country is safer than it was prior to 9-11,” Bush said from the airport tarmac here where he was appearing at events focused on the economy. “We’ve taken a lot of measures to protect the American people but obviously we’re not completely safe. ... It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America.”
The president laid the blame for the would-be attack squarely on al-Qaida-type terrorism.
“This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation,” he said, his remarks carried live on television.
Bush’s spokesman had earlier declared “it is safe to travel.” The president urged Americans to be patient with the many inconveniences that will result from the increased threat level that the plot prompted him to approve.
While on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, over the last several days, Bush has been fully informed of the investigations that led to the arrest of 21 people in Britain who are accused of being involved in the plan. Officials said involved the plot involved explosives smuggled on board flights in hand luggage.
Terror level raised
White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush on Wednesday approved raising the threat level for all flights from Britain to red, designating a severe risk of terrorist attacks. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and the Homeland Security Council also recommended that all other flights be put under an orange alert, one step below the highest level, and the president approved that as well.
“We do believe the plot involved flights from the U.K. to the U.S. and was a direct threat to the United States,” Snow said.
“You can’t go overboard when you’re trying to save lives,” Snow added, speaking to reporters traveling with Bush on Air Force One en route to Wisconsin.
Because Bush had been getting regular briefings on the developments, Snow said the president was not awakened overnight as action by British authorities was made public.
Cooperation deemed ‘solid’
He and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a lengthy teleconference on the matter Sunday and spoke again Wednesday by phone, Snow said.
“There were some signs,” Snow said. “They thought it was time to move,” he said of British authorities.
Bush called the cooperation between British and U.S. officials “solid” and “excellent.”
After the remarks, Bush was keeping to his plans to highlight the economy during a tour and speech at a metal plant and to attend a Republican fundraiser.
“This is an ongoing investigation that will play out over several days and weeks,” Snow said. “We will constantly evaluate the nature of the threat and adjust our measures.”