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The White House Has Been Evacuated

Aired September 11, 2001 - 09:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
We also have a report now that it was a plane that crashed into the Pentagon, and we have a large fire at the Pentagon. The Pentagon is being evacuated as we speak now. The White House had been evacuated as well.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's John King joins us on the phone. John?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESP.: Aaron, I'm standing in Lafayette Park, directly across the White House, perhaps about 200 yards away from the White House residence itself. The Secret Service has pushed most people all the way back to the other side of the park. I'm trying to avoid having that done to me at the moment.

Just moments ago they started slowing evacuating the White House about 30 minutes ago. Then, in the last five minute people have come running out of the White House and the old executive office building, which is the office building right directly across from the White House.

About 10 minutes ago, there was a white jet circling overhead. Now, you generally don't see planes in the area over the White House. That is restricted air space. No reason to believe that this jet was there for any nefarious purposes, but the Secret Service was very concerned, pointing up at the jet in the sky.

It is out of sight now, best we can tell. They've evacuated the entire White House staff and the old executive office, as well as some townhouses that are government offices. Many of our viewers might know Blair House, where other international leaders say when they are in Washington. That block of townhouses has been evacuated as well. They are pushing us now back towards 8th Street, which is the next main street to the north from Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the White House.

BROWN: John, hang on one second. We are getting reports that the Capitol, the Treasury building also being evacuated.

John, is this evacuation from the White House, was it orderly? Did it seem panicky? How would you characterize it?

KING: It started off as orderly, much like we get when there are ocassional bomb scares near the White House. But then, again in the last 10 minutes or so, the people who came out -- the last several hundred I saw leaving the grounds, were told and ordered by the Secret Service to run. They were running through the gates. These were of course professionals in business suits.

I'm also told that prior to that, and we don't know the current situation that the vice president and other administration officials on the scene very meeting in the White House situation room, which is in the basement of the White House. Whether they have stayed on the complex or not is unknown to us at this moment.

I spoke to an administration official shortly after the president delivered his statement. He said obviously the operating assumption here is terrorism. The initial assumption, this official said, was that this had something to do, or at least they were looking into any possible connection with Osama Bin Laden. The administration recently released a warning that they thought Osama Bin Laden might strike out against U.S. targets.

BROWN: Just to add at bit, John, to what you've been saying. We're getting a report from the Associated Press now that the White House was evacuated after the Secret Service received what the AP is describing as a credible threat of a terrorist attack against the White House itself. I expect you'll be checking that out. We'll try and confirm that. But that is what AP is reporting right now.

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