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MARGARET WARNER: The American public had seen some pictures of the alleged September 11 hijackers, but all 19 photographs were not made public until today, when Attorney General John Ashcroft released them at the Justice Department.
JOHN ASHCROFT: Today we are releasing the photographs of 19 hijackers of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center Towers, into the Pentagon, and into the rural area in Pennsylvania. This is another step in what in effect is part of a national “neighborhood watch.”
MARGARET WARNER: Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller said they hoped the photographs would prompt more Americans to come forward with information about the hijackers and their associates.
ROBERT MUELLER: We encourage anyone with information based on photos to contact the FBI immediately, either through our toll free hotline, which is: 1-866-483-5137 – or through our Web site, which is at: WWW.IFCC.FBI.GOV. I will tell you that our primary focus, in addition to bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks on September 11… that our primary focus is on preventing potential future attacks. We are working hard to identify and locate associates of the hijackers who may pose a threat to this nation. But I want to ask and urge every American to join us in heading off any possible terrorist attacks in the future. We greatly appreciate the many Americans who have stepped forward with information, and we call upon any citizen who has information that may be helpful to contact your local FBI office.
MARGARET WARNER: Referring to reports that some of the hijackers had operated under false or stolen identities while in the United States, reporters asked Mueller if he was certain the names under the photographs were correct.
ROBERT MUELLER: The photographs that will be passed out to you, and you see behind us, are photographs identified with the names on the manifest, and those names on the manifest we’ve identified as being the hijackers. These photographs are photographs that may come from passports, a driver’s license obtained in the United States, or other identification documents. Consequently these photographs we’ve identified with the individuals whose names appear on the manifests. What we are currently doing is determining whether, when these individuals came to the United States, these were their real names, or they changed their names for use with false identification in the United States– that false identification being utilized up to and on the day of September 11, and that false identification used to purchase the tickets, and thereby being the name on the manifests of the planes that went down. Our investigation has reached out to a number of countries to determine whether or not these individuals definitively– and the photographs we have here, and the names associated with these photographs– are the actual identities of the individuals prior to the time they came to the United States.
REPORTER: Have you been able to identify whether any of these people are connected to terrorist groups, including Osama bin Laden?
ROBERT MUELLER: We believe that one or more of them do have contacts with Al-Qaeda.
MARGARET WARNER: Mueller was also asked whether ten Middle Eastern men arrested this week for fraudulently obtaining licenses to transport hazardous material were connected to the hijackings.
ROBERT MUELLER: It is our preliminary belief that those arrests do not relate in any way, or the individuals arrested pursuant to that investigation do not relate the occurrences of September 11 of this month.
MARGARET WARNER: In the overall investigation, Mueller said, the FBI is still looking into more than 200,000 leads.