Finger pointing aside, it sounds like President Bush's morning disclosure of more details about the four-year-old Al Qaeda plot to bomb Library Tower (he called it 'Liberty Tower') did catch people off guard and reinflame fears. The Times posted a web story quoting concerned workers at what is now U.S. Bank Tower, and by late afternoon Mayor Villaraigosa felt the need to issue a statement reassuring people that the threat—if it ever existed—was uncovered in 2002. If I worked in a downtown highrise, I wouldn't be reassured by the math in the mayor's release (which follows in its entirety) that LAFD helicopters can evacuate 350 people an hour off the roof of a burning skyscraper. That may be a feat, but how many hours would it take to clear a sixty-story office tower?
Statement by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Response
to President's Speech Regarding Failed LA Terror Plot
LOS ANGELES - President Bush, in remarks this morning, made reference to a failed terrorist plot to fly a plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles, the Library Tower. The existence of a potential terrorist plot has been generally known and in fact reported by the media. However, today is the first time that all of the details were publicly disclosed.
This attack was foiled three years ago, and the City of Los Angeles has implemented significant security measures since that time. Furthermore, we have received no new information indicating additional operatives are planning this attack.
This does not change the fact that Los Angeles is a target. We have been targeted several times in the past, and we will continue to be the subject of terrorist planning.
This only proves what I, along with other big city mayors have stressed -- that all federal homeland security funding should be threat-based and that local governments like L.A. and our first-responders are on the frontlines and need additional resources from the federal government.
Given the known terrorist plots against our City, I firmly believe that Los Angeles deserves a greater share of that funding.
We are doing all we can to prevent and mitigate the effects of an attack, and have implemented the following measures to ensure the public's safety:
* Los Angeles Police Department's Operation Archangel has worked closely with Library Tower management to evaluate the building's security and evacuation plans.
* LAPD has conducted a vulnerability assessment, and bomb-blast mitigation study to determine how best to diminish the impact of an explosion within the building. These measures are being implemented at critical infrastructure sites throughout Los Angeles.
* All Library Tower security officers have been trained in LAPD's Security Officer Terrorism Awareness Course, which focuses on surveillance detection, recognition of threats, and pre-incident indicators, such as a suspect's irregular behavior. This training has also been offered to other Los Angeles high-rise building security officers.
* The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) has developed and exercised a coordinated high-rise rooftop rescue program and specifically trained fire companies for this task.
* LAFD has the capability to rescue 350 people per hour from a high-rise fire with coordinated air resources.
* This capability has been exercised continually in the past several years at high-rises throughout the LA region, such as the Twin Towers in Century City, the AON building downtown, the Civic Center Complex and the MGM building in Beverly Hills.
* LAFD has also trained thousands of Los Angeles workers and residents in Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.
* 100 Library Tower employees have been CERT trained by the Fire Department, and I encourage all Angelenos to become CERT volunteers.
We have made great progress in enhancing our prevention and response capabilities, but I believe we can do more.
Just last week, I proposed a counter-terrorism and disaster preparedness proposal that would add 83 new positions to the Police and Fire Departments. This proposal will increase counter-terrorism intelligence coordination and analysis among federal, state and city agencies. It will enhance the City's ability to respond to a terrorist or natural disaster event impacting critical infrastructure.
The proposal will also augment the City's mass disaster training and planning capabilities.
Protecting Los Angeles is my top priority.
There is no imminent threat to Library Tower or any other in Los Angeles, and we have implemented significant measures to ensure the public's safety and security.