Bush administration officials say the White House and the president's jet were on the list of targets for Tuesday's terrorist attacks. The hijacked plane that hit the Pentagon was headed for the executive mansion.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says both the White House and Air Force One were intended targets. "We have real and credible information that the airplane that landed at the Pentagon was originally intended to hit the White House."
The president was in Florida Tuesday morning, when he got word that hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He was shuttled from one air force base to another for hours, finally returning to the White House in the early evening.
Mr. Fleischer indicated his flight plans were kept secret, and constantly changed, because Air Force One was at risk. He did not elaborate, except to say the White House responded to security concerns. "I am not going to lead you any further as to speculating what was the nature of the threat to Air Force One," he said.
The presidential jet returned to Washington under heavy military escort. Mr. Bush addressed the nation a short time later, offering words intended to help soothe the pain felt by a grieving public. He went back before television cameras Wednesday morning. This time, he sent a strong message of American resolve to the terrorists and their supporters. "The deliberate and deadly attacks, which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror," he said. "They were acts of war."
President Bush also said he was asking Congress for emergency funds to help recovery efforts and "protect our national security."
His request got an immediate sign of approval from the top Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Mr. Daschle talked with reporters, after taking part in a unity meeting at the White House involving lawmakers from both political parties. "I think it is accurate to say that we literally, and figuratively, stand shoulder to shoulder in our appreciation of the job ahead," he said. "It is to help the victims, to care for the families, and to punish those responsible."
The White House says it does not have a concrete dollar-amount for the emergency request, but estimates it will total billions of dollars.