Armed Man Allegedly Threatens Bush, Arrested Near White House
W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 4 — A New Hampshire man — who police said might have made threats toward President Bush — was arrested today two miles north of the White House after authorities discovered more than a dozen weapons in a rented car he was driving.
"There was an issue that came up early on about an individual that had made threats that possibly could be toward the president," District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey said.
A U.S. Secret Service source familiar with the investigation said the car contained 10 rifles and six handguns. Although rifles are allowed in the city, local laws prohibit possession of handguns with few exceptions. The source, who asked not to be identified, said the weapons were unregistered.
Jeffrey Cloutier, 33, of Newport, N.H., reportedly rented the white 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier from an Enterprise rental car agency near Philadelphia International Airport this morning.
Cloutier's grandmother told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that her grandson had been having problems recently and has sought help. She said he also sought treatment for epilepsy.
"He needs help and he needs it bad," Marjorie Cloutier said. "I think he was trying to get help and he wasn't getting it."
She said she was not aware, however, of any problems her son might have had with Washington.
She said Jeffrey Cloutier lived upstairs from her in an apartment with his mother, Virginia. The phone in the mother's home rang unanswered today.
The Secret Service issued an unspecified alert to law enforcement agencies on the East Coast providing the license number and a description of the vehicle. The alert raised the possibility the vehicle may have contained explosives.
"The initial search did not turn up any explosives," Ramsey told reporters. The car was stopped in a residential neighborhood of aging apartment buildings.
The investigation is being headed by the Secret Service, although agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms were called in to process the vehicle for fingerprints and other evidence. As police surrounded the car, several boxes and bags taken from it were searched in the middle of the intersection.
Cloutier's wife also was taken into custody, but a Secret Service source said she was unlikely to face any charges.
Possession of unregistered firearms and unregistered ammunition are misdemeanors carrying penalties of up to one year in jail under D.C. law. However, Cloutier could face felony charges for any of the handguns if they are found to be operable, said a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, which handles most criminal prosecutions in the nation's capital.
Cloutier could make an initial court appearance before a U.S. magistrate-judge as early as Thursday, officials said.
— The Associated Press
Reporters Smuggle Knives Onto 14 Flights
N E W Y O R K, Sept. 4 — In a troubling investigation, reporters for a New York newspaper were able to smuggle several small knives and pepper spray through security checkpoints to board 14 flights over Labor Day weekend at 11 U.S. airports.
Reporters for the Daily News were able to bring the banned item s— utility knives, rubber-handled razor knives, a pocket knife, a corkscrew, razor blades and pepper spray — through every airport security checkpoint they attempted to pass, the newspaper said.
The undercover reporters used three credit cards and the Internet to purchase one-way tickets just days before departing, which would typically prompt an airline to search a passenger, according to today's editions of the newspaper.
Guards X-rayed and hand-searched the bags, made reporters take off their shoes and checked photo identifications, but did not find the banned items—even though they were packed in normal carry-on luggage compartments.
The airports that failed the undercover security test include the four at which the terrorists boarded flights on Sept. 11: Newark International in New Jersey, Boston's Logan International Airport, Washington's Dulles International and Portland International Jetport in Maine.
New York's LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports also missed the potentially dangerous contraband, as did Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas international airports and the airports in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Santa Barbara, Calif.
Security at the airports included federal and private screeners and local and state police.
"We have a lot of work to do," Leonoardo Alcivar, a spokesman for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, told the Daily News.
When asked for a comment, Chris Nardella, a spokeswoman for United Airlines, delivered a warning to the newspaper: "That is a violation of federal law that you guys knowingly took those items on an airline. You can be arrested."
— The Associated Press
'Gun-Happy Air Marshal' Sparks Criticism
P H I L A D E L P H I A, Sept. 4 — An incident aboard Delta Air Lines Flight 442 over the weekend has prompted critics of the federal air marshal program to argue that post-Sept. 11 changes in the way officers handle danger aboard jets could prove to actually decrease safety.
While federal authorities say a marshal was justified in drawing his handgun on Saturday's flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia, consumer advocates and safety experts questioned whether the action was taken too quickly.
The air marshal program was turned over from the Federal Aviation Administration to the newly created Transportation Security Administration in February.
Before the shift, there were fewer marshals and they were trained to avoid showing weapons and stay out of passenger disputes, said Joseph Gutheinz, a former FAA investigator.
Gutheinz, now a University of Phoenix criminal justice professor researching airline security, said he doesn't see the reason for the apparent change in policy.
"Under the old system, you just didn't pull out a weapon," he said.
There are too many dangers involved in bringing out weapons, including the danger that bullets could hit the plane or that the guns could be turned on the marshals by hijackers, Gutheinz said.
Two marshals on Saturday restrained a man who was going through other people's luggage and then trained a weapon on the cabin for a half-hour after passengers wouldn't stay seated, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
While one marshal huddled over the detainee, the other stood by the cockpit door with his gun trained on the cabin, passengers said.
Administration officials said the response was done by the book. Marshal training uses role-playing, exercises with teammates, short-range weapons instruction and communications lessons, spokeswoman Heather Rosenker said.
The training mandates that if communication fails, marshals can "do what they believe is the right thing to do to get control of the airplane," Rosenker said.
But the fact that the man wasn't charged showed the response was an overreaction and that the marshals pulled their guns too quickly, Gutheinz said.
Transportation Security Administration spokesman Robert Johnson said marshals are taught to issue warnings to passengers first. The two marshals on Flight 442 first warned the 183 people on board to sit down and keep their seat belts on, Johnson said.
When certain passengers didn't obey, the marshals followed a "hierarchy of warnings" and ultimately had to draw a gun, he said.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the agency no longer has control over the marshals and declined to discuss the actions of what he called a "gun-happy air marshal."
David Stempler, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Air Travelers Association, a passenger advocacy group, said marshals need better training on how to issue warnings to passengers during an emergency.
"It's very difficult for innocent people to be looking down the barrels of guns on an airplane," Stempler said. "They need to do a much better job of communicating to the passengers on the airplanes. Passengers are used to ignoring these things."
— The Associated Press
Los Angeles Airport Shooting Probed as Terrorism
W A SH I N G T O N, Sept. 4 —The FBI is investigating the July 4 double killing at Los Angeles International Airport as possible terrorism even though there's no evidence linking the alleged shooter to any terrorist group, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Justice Department officials have said all along that terrorism was among several possible motives for the attack at an Israeli airline counter, and investigators were looking for evidence the shooter, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, had terror group connections. But until now the FBI had not publicly characterized the probe as a terrorism investigation.
The Israeli government has called the event a terror attack since it occurred, and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and other members of Congress had complained about the FBI's reluctance to characterize it that way.
According to witnesses, Hadayet yelled racial slurs before opening fire at the ticket counter of El Al, Israel's airline. El Al employees Yaakov Aminov, 46, and Victoria Hen, 25, were killed. An El Al Security Guard then shot Hadayet dead.
"The shooting is being classified as a terrorism investigation," Matt McLaughlin, spokesman for the FBI's Los Angeles field office, said Tuesday. "If there is the slightest chance it could be terrorism, you open it up as a terrorism investigation. It's the only prudent course of action."
FBI agents had refused to describe the attack as terror because its legal definition of terrorism was work of "subnational groups or clandestine agents." No evidence has been found to link Hadayet with one.
Because of the attack, however, the Bush administration reconsidered the definition, and President Bush's domestic security plan now says criminal acts can qualify as terror without participation of a group. "Terrorism is not so much a system of belief … as it is a strategy and a tactic — a means of attack," the plan says.
— The Associated Press
Officials Recommend Giving SmallPox Vaccinations to 500,000
W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 4 — Health and Human Services officials are recommending that smallpox vaccinations be given to about 250,000 to 500,000 people, including hospital and emergency workers most likely to see smallpox patients and special response teams in each state, officials said.
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said he has sent his recommendation to the White House and is awaiting a decision from President Bush.
At issue is the likelihood that certain groups of workers would see an infectious smallpox patient versus the likelihood they would get sick, or possibly die, from the vaccine itself.
Officials caution that the numbers are still in flux and could change before a final decision is announced. The 250,000 to 500,000 figure was disclosed over the summer, and officials said Tuesday that it had not changed.
A final decision is expected this month, Thompson said.
Smallpox, a highly contagious and fatal disease, has been wiped out worldwide expect for specimens kept in laboratories. Experts fear terrorists could unleash the virus in an attack.
The proposed number of vaccinations is significantly more than the 10,000 to 20,000 recommended earlier this year by an advisory committee, which was worried by the vaccine's side effects. In its deliberations, the committee assumed that the risk of a smallpox attack is very low. A host of mathematical models made it clear that any one person faces a much higher risk of being hurt by the vaccine than being hurt by smallpox.
But Thompson said he has to assume that it's possible.
"My gut tells me you have to assume the worst right now with bioterrorism," he said Tuesday. He added that there has been considerable speculation that North Korea, Iraq and other hostile nations may have the virus.
At a bioterrorism advisory council meeting last month, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a close Thompson adviser, made a similar point. He said that last Sept. 10, experts would have said the risk of airplanes hitting skyscrapers was incredibly low.
Routine smallpox vaccinations ended in 1971, though some studies suggest that people who were vaccinated decades ago may still have some protection against the disease. Some have said all Americans should be given the chance to assess the risk of smallpox on their own and get the shot if they want it. But there appears to be little appetite among federal officials for that course.
Asked about that option in July, Bush said: "I worry about calling for a national vaccination program and that it could cause a loss of life."
Experts believe that one to two people will die for every million who get vaccinated.
Thompson also said he was worried that the nation still is vulnerable to an attack on its food supply.
"I still believe that is the area we are subject to a terrorist attack in the future and one that could cause problems," he said.
Overall, the nation is significantly better prepared for bioterrorism today than it was last fall, when the anthrax attacks hit, Thompson said.
"We are better prepared than we've ever been. We're getting stronger each and every day," he said.
But he singled out food inspections as an area of particular concern.
Even before Sept. 11, he said, it was clear that the Food and Drug Administration's food inspection system had major holes. FDA had only 125 inspectors, with 56,000 places to inspect at 151 places of entry, he said. Less than 1 percent of food was being inspected.
"I was just appalled," he said.
The problem, he said, was that Congress was still angry with former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, who pushed for tobacco regulation. Therefore, FDA didn't see any budget increases, he said.
Then after, Sept. 11, Congress offered new dollars — enough to hire 750 more inspectors. Most of them are trained and they are all college graduates, he said.
At the same time, new technology is allowing for quicker lab checks of food.
He said he is proud of the bioterrorism team assembled at HHS and that the department acted so quickly to move out $1 billion allocated to the states. The money is helping to improve state and local planning, upgrade labs and communications systems. The improvements will help officials respond, whether the attacking agents are terrorist or natural, he said.
— The Associated Press
Filmmakers, Stars Have Yet to Grasp 9/11 Impact
V E N I C E, Italy, Sept 4 — Sept. 11, 2001, may have gone down in history as "the day that changed the world." But movie makers say they still have to digest the full impact the attacks on the United States will have on their industry.
"A year is not enough time to weigh the nature of the profound change we will go through because of what happened," Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks told Reuters at the Venice Film Festival.
From Russia through Italy to the hills of Hollywood, directors are trying to discover how their work will be affected by the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, sparked a war in Afghanistan and threaten more to come.
A first indication will come later this week, when the lights dim on 11'09"01 Sept. 11 —a collection of 11 short films about Sept. 11, each lasting 11 minutes and nine seconds and shot on one frame.
The shorts' directors include Britain's Ken Loach, Israeli Amos Gitai, India's Mira Nair and Japan's Shohei Imamura. Rather than being an ode to America, the collage is reported to reflect the world's reaction, with some anti-U.S. comment.
"Sept. 11 is the future, not last century. To get over it, you have to realize that not every dark-skinned man in a headscarf is bad," said Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky, who is in competition for Venice's Golden Lion award with a film about the Chechen war.
"The Western world is getting extremely cautious of any Arab which is sad but true," he added.
There is also criticism from within the United States as to how the country is coping with the fallout of the attacks.
"We have to be much more ambitious about peace in the world — a world in which the United States should share more of their wealth and be more aware of our role as global citizens," said actor Harrison Ford.
"Many people in America haven't properly identified the reasons for the attacks. It's more complicated than we could possibly imagine," the Indiana Jones star added.
Immediately after the attacks on New York and Washington, there was much talk about the bad influence of violence-packed movies. But while a couple of films were shelved as a result, action movies are still drawing the crowds.
"Creatively, Sept. 11 didn't really affect me because I've never made films people would associate with an act like that," said Steven Soderbergh, director of Sex Lies and Videotapes and Oscar-winning Traffic.
"A year later, movies with [gratuitous violence and disasters] are still being made so I don't know what the long-term effect of Sept. 11 will be on motion pictures. But I don't think its impact is over," he said.
Perhaps the main change over the last 12 months concerns how people view the movies.
British director Sam Mendes, who was in New York when the the landmark twin towers fell, says the firsthand experience of violence could have twisted people's reactions to his 1930s gangster film Road to Perdition, a mix of Mafia violence and family relations.
"I had edited the film before Sept. 11 but somehow you read it differently now. A movie that deals with what happens to you when you live a violent life, watch it and witness it is now mildly more relevant," he said in an interview.
While nobody expects a Hollywood ending to international relations, some movie makers did see a ray of hope in the wake of the attacks which have dominated the world agenda for a year.
Julianne Moore, star of Todd Haynes' new film Far from Heaven, said the United States' "anything's possible" mentality had been seriously shaken by Sept. 11.
"But what has happened in the ensuing year has shown it's possible to rebound from the event," she said. "It's about losing your illusions and becoming wiser."