WASHINGTON - Saying he has confidence in the resilience of the U.S. economy and the resolve of America's people, President Bush urged the nation to return to work today and “work hard like you always have,'' as he and members of his administration put a sharper focus on the kinds of actions they intend to take to retaliate against “evildoers.''
But in a day of remarkable disclosures, Mr. Bush admitted yesterday that he gave orders last Tuesday for military planes to shoot down hijacked commercial planes if necessary and top U.S. officials vowed they will operate on the “dark side'' when gathering intelligence data.
Returning from two days of meetings with national security advisers at Camp David, Mr. Bush said he talked over the weekend with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Bush said he was pleased with the general's promises of cooperation as well as those from India and Saudi Arabia.
A U.S. military attack is believed to be in the works against Afghanistan, which is sheltering exiled Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden. The United States suspects bin Laden of masterminding Tuesday's terrorism.
Even as U.S. officials work on building an international coalition to root out terrorists, many said that past restraints on intelligence gathering and assassinations will be reassessed and possibly lifted.
“It is a mean, nasty, dangerous, dirty business out there, and we have to operate in that arena,'' Vice President Dick Cheney said in a Meet the Press interview on NBC.
“We also have to work from sort of the dark side, if you will.'' And repeating the point, he vowed, “We're going to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world.''
Secretary of State Colin Powell said that a 1974 presidential directive followed by every president since Gerald Ford against political assassinations may have to be rethought.
With estimates climbing of the economic cost of last week's events - including the shutdown of financial markets, the airlines, and many businesses - Mr. Bush also sought to reassure the country yesterday that he has “great faith in the resiliency of the economy. And no question about it, this incident affected our economy.
“But the markets open tomorrow, people go back to work, and we'll show the world.''
Mr. Bush did not directly answer a question about whether the nation will be pushed into recession.
“I understand that there are some businesses that hurt as a result of this crisis. Obviously, New York City hurts. Congress acted quickly. We worked together, the White House and the Congress, to pass a significant supplemental [$40 billion]. A lot of that money was dedicated to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as it should be.
“People will be amazed at how quickly we rebuild New York; how quickly people come together to really wipe away the rubble and show the world that we're still the strongest nation in the world.''
Striding from Marine One on the South Lawn accompanied by First Lady Laura Bush, Mr. Bush said:
“Today, millions of Americans mourned and prayed, and tomorrow we go back to work. Today, people from all walks of life gave thanks for the heroes; they mourn the dead; they ask for God's good graces on the families who mourn, and tomorrow the good people of America go back to their shops, their fields, American factories, and go back to work.
“Our nation was horrified, but it's not going to be terrorized. We're a great nation. We're a nation of resolve,'' he said.
“We will rid the world of the evildoers. We will call together freedom loving people to fight terrorism,'' the President said.
He said nobody in his administration is permitted to talk about what kind of targets and what kind of military strikes are being discussed. That, he said, could compromise the lives of those who “will be involved in different operations.''
He confirmed that on Tuesday he gave the go-ahead to the U.S. military to protect Americans, granting permission to fighter pilots to shoot down other hijacked commercial planes if necessary after the World Trade Center was struck by two jetliners.
“I gave our military the orders necessary to protect Americans, do whatever it would take to protect Americans. And of course that's difficult,” Mr. Bush said.
“Never in anybody's thought process about how to protect America did we ever think that the evildoers would fly not one, but four commercial aircraft into precious U.S. targets. Never.”
The North American Air Defense Command in Colorado ordered F-16 fighters out of Langley, Va., to protect the Pentagon last Tuesday but they arrived 11 minutes too late.
The President and Mr. Powell maintain that bin Laden remains the prime suspect for planning the hijack attacks. A statement from bin Laden denied responsibility, saying he is subject to the Islamic leadership of Afghanistan and it would not permit him to do that. Mr. Bush grimaced derisively when asked about the statement.
Polls of Americans over the weekend indicate widespread support for some sort of military action. A Gallup Poll shows 88 percent of Americans favor military action, with 86 percent in support of military action for months. That figure went down to 66 percent when respondents were asked if they'd support a war that might go on for years.
Mr. Bush said Americans must be prepared for a long ordeal.
When asked how America will balance its civil rights with new security restrictions that will reduce personal freedoms, Mr. Bush said that Attorney General John Ashcroft is looking into that and is prepared to talk about the domestic ramifications soon.
Mr. Cheney's account on NBC of the events last week was almost breathtaking. He said that on Tuesday morning at the White House, while Mr. Bush was traveling in Florida, Secret Service agents “came in and said, `Sir, we have to leave immediately,' and grabbed me.''
Mr. Cheney said the Secret Service agents did that because they had a report that an airplane was headed for the White House.
He confirmed that he urged Mr. Bush not to return to Washington because confusion was intense and nobody could assure Mr. Cheney that more hijacked planes were not aimed at the White House or Andrews Air Force Base.
“It was such a clear-cut case, in my estimation, that the most important thing here is to preserve the presidency. We don't know what's happening. We know Washington's under attack. We don't know by who. We don't know how many additional planes are coming. We don't know what all is planned for us at that point.''
Mr. Cheney said he ordered the congressional leadership evacuated and dispersed Cabinet members to emergency shelters.
The Vice President stayed in constant contact with Mr. Bush on Air Force One as he marshaled top administration aides in a secure underground bunker linked to the CIA and the Defense, State, and Justice departments.
The New York Times contributed to the report.