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White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
Washington, D.C.
October 5, 2001
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QUESTION: Consultation over the language?

MR. FLEISCHER: Consultation over the preparation of the document. We talk all the time and share information all the time with foreign nations. But the document was prepared by the United Kingdom. We were consulted in the process.

QUESTION: Can I just follow on one point of that? You say that different governments to different things for different reasons. What were Britain's reasons? And do they differ at all from the United States' intentions here? I mean, aren't we kindred spirits here?

MR. FLEISCHER: The United States -- it's harder to imagine being any more shoulder-to-shoulder than the United States and Britain have been and continue to be.

QUESTION: Okay. So what different reason would there be --

MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a way of saying you need to check with foreign governments for them to explain what they do. I appreciate the opportunity to be the spokesman for several different nations this morning --

QUESTION: Be a spokesman for our government, then. Tell me why our government let Britain release this information and, more importantly, why didn't our government release this information to --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, you suggest we let Britain do that. That's not the case. Governments are sovereign and governments take actions as they see fit and appropriate. And as I indicated, this reading of the document here is it's a constructive document. But as I indicated, different governments to different things, different nations in the coalition will do different things in the course of the coalition efforts.

QUESTION: Why did we not object to Britain releasing this information, and why did this government not tell -- give Americans the same information? Why did it have to come from Britain, why not the White House?

MR. FLEISCHER: Because different nations do different things for different reasons, just as I indicated.

QUESTION: Yes, but speak for this country and tell me why this country decided not to --

MR. FLEISCHER: Because I think the document that the people in this room are looking for -- which I must point out, I'm not sure that there's a clamor from the American people; the American people seemed very satisfied with the evidence that has been discussed in front of the American people. So, too, our allies. So to isolate it, I think the issue is for people in this room that if you were to see such a document produced by the American government, you would quickly say, how do you know this. And the only answer to those questions are to get into sources and methods. And that's just something that we are not going to do.

QUESTION: Ari, as has been stated in The Washington Post and also from the podium and the President, threats still exist about possible terrorist activity. Well, one of the issues that's been discussed in Congress is airport security. There seems to be a gap between what Senate Leader Tom Daschle is saying and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott is saying. And I wonder if the President feels the difference can be bridged, or does he side with Senator Lott?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President does believe that differences can be bridged. And the President also recognizes that in all matters domestic, there are going to be, inevitably, disputes. There are going to be differences between Democrats and Republicans, sometimes Democrats and Democrats, other times Republicans and Republicans. And so on the domestic agenda, the President will continue to push for a package of aviation security steps.

He already, as you know, has taken a series of actions to increase the number of air marshals, to strengthen cockpit doors, to have the National Guard deployed at various airports. So a series of actions have already been taken on aviation safety. There are additional actions that Congress can take, and the President is going to continue to work with Congress on that.

QUESTION: Senator Lott has said he wants no riders, he wants like a straight bill. At this stage it seems Senator Daschle has his own point of view and his Democratic colleague. And now the project has been pushed until next week, and it may even be delayed. Is the President willing to try to get sides together?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President shares the concern about attaching extraneous items to a bill that should focus on aviation security; so the President shares that concern.

QUESTION: In the wake of the Pan Am 103 disaster, I believe it was, the U.S. government put into effect a policy of no double standard as far as terrorist threats go -- whatever some people in the government are told, the entire general public should be warned about it at the same time. Is that policy still in effect, and can you explain why the executive branch would feel it's appropriate to tell members of Congress that there is 100 percent threat of -- 100 percent likelihood of future terrorist action here and not to give the same warning to the American people?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think I addressed that topic earlier when I told you that, obviously, one item has purported to have been released from a classified briefing. Other items took place in a classified setting that can put context around information. So my answer to that is exactly as I answered some 15 minutes ago.

QUESTION: But aren't the American people entitled -- you're saying the American people are not entitled to the same information about the overall level of threat that is being given to the members of Congress in classified briefings?

MR. FLEISCHER: If you're asking me, do people who don't have classified briefings have the ability to receive classified information -- as you know, the government has classified information that is shared with the Intelligence Committee. And I think that's another very, very clever way of saying, will I release classified information; I will not.

QUESTION: Well, no, -- the level of threat cannot be a classified fact. I don't see how that could be classified. Does it reveal sources or methods to say what the level of threat is?

MR. FLEISCHER: Yesterday's briefing, in its entirety, was a classified briefing.

QUESTION: Wait a second. I mean, that doesn't make any sense to me. You're saying the level of threat, to tell the American people what threat they're under right now would revel classified information?

MR. FLEISCHER: I've discussed the level of threat. I have said as forthrightly as is possible and you've heard it from the President, you've heard it from everybody in the administration, that a threat remains. If you're asking me to quantify that threat, I'm not able to do that. And that's what you're asking me to do. You're asking me to put a number on a threat, and I'm not in a position to do that.

QUESTION: Why aren't you in a position? If they did it for Congress, why can't you do it here for the American people?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, you're presuming that from the story this morning. I'm not going to discuss anything that may or may not have taken place in a classified session.

QUESTION: But, Ari, isn't it a responsibility of the President to, if he is going to lead this nation against terrorism, he needs to be square with the American people and say, when we attack, we expect a reasonable probability that we are going to be attacked, ourselves, so we have to prepare for that as Americans?

MR. FLEISCHER: John, I don't think the President can be any more forthright than he has been. He has said to the American people from the beginning that this is going to be a different type of war and that the American people have to be prepared that the threat remains.

The President has also said that this will not be as antiseptic as previous wars, that the American people have to prepare for casualties in this war. The President had said that in his address to the Congress. So there have been a series of things where the President has said, and the administration standard will continue to be forthright release of information, filling the American people in. And that's exactly what has been done.

But the line that you're trying to draw is trying to get me to discuss anything that may or may not be classified, and I'm not going to do that. I don't know any other way to say it, that the threats remain.

QUESTION: No, I'm not trying to get you to discuss something that's classified. I'm just saying, does the President not have a responsibility to sit down and tell the American people it's very likely we're going to be attacked when we begin hostilities?

MR. FLEISCHER: John, the American people have heard that message from the President, that threats remain.

QUESTION: Not that directly, though.

QUESTION: Not like this.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you're asking if there's anything specific or credible. And the President will, whenever there is a way to share information with the public that is helpful to the public, he will continue to provide it.

QUESTION: I'm not asking if there is anything specific and credible -- that case has already been made to the intelligence committee, is that there is something specific and credible. I'm saying, as the President, does he not need to tell that to the American people?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President will continue to share information with the American people.

QUESTION: Ari, twice now the President has said -- once I believe at FEMA and once yesterday -- that 150 members of the al Qaeda organization have been rounded up. Is he talking about domestic arrests or international arrests?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me find out about that Terry. He said at FEMA -- he talked about 150 terrorists, and then he paused and said people associated with the al Qaeda organization. Let me try to find out if he means domestic
or --

QUESTION: Yes, and he reiterated that yesterday.

MR. FLEISCHER: Right, that's correct. He said that same figure at FEMA as he said -- I believe it was yesterday at the State Department.

QUESTION: And I'm just wondering what the basis for that is?

MR. FLEISCHER: We'll find out.

QUESTION: Well, he did though -- I just want to follow that. He did -- in FEMA, he talked about 150 terrorists or those supporting terrorists. He never mentioned specifically al Qaeda, I believe. Yesterday is when he said 150 terrorists associated with the al Qaeda organization, which is a big difference.

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he said just as I put it. He said, "150 terrorists, people associated with the al Qaeda organization."

QUESTION: So the position is?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'll take the question and get back to you.

QUESTION: Ari, the Ways and Means Chairman rescheduled a vote on trade promotion authority today. I'm wondering, does the White House think that the House should move more slowly on that legislation, maybe in the interests of not creating divisiveness over that?

MR. FLEISCHER: The White House believes that trade promotion authority should be moved through the House and through the Senate. And it has to be done in a bipartisan fashion. And it should be done in a time and in a way so that it can be agreed to and signed into law.

And as you know, Ambassador Zoellick and Secretary Evans issued a statement praising Chairman Thomas' leadership on moving a TPA through the Congress. And by definition, the only way to get trade promotion authority through the Congress is for it to be bipartisan.

QUESTION: So the White House isn't disappointed it was delayed?

MR. FLEISCHER: The timing is a matter for Congress to decide. the important thing is that the legislation proceed and get passed by the Congress, so the President can sign it into law.

QUESTION: The Russian airliner that went down in the Black Sea, does our government have any new information about the cause of the crash?

MR. FLEISCHER: All I can say is, at this time we continue to see nothing that would support any theory that this was terrorist. But beyond that, there's nothing more I can offer you on it.

QUESTION: Sir, I want to follow up on the visit of President Vicente Fox yesterday. I want to know if the White House -- the White House impression on it, if the timing was good, if it was on time, if the support offered by the Mexican government was sufficient and useful?

MR. FLEISCHER: In the meeting in the Oval Office, the President thanked President Fox for all that Mexico has done, for all their help to the United States at this time of need. As you know, President Bush and President Fox have a very strong relationship. And I think the President was encouraged to receive President Fox yesterday.

QUESTION: There's a British report that the President might change his position on Kyoto. Anything on that?

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I noted that report. There's nothing to it.

QUESTION: Reaction to the death of Mike Mansfield?

MR. FLEISCHER: I anticipate a statement from the President will be coming out a little later this afternoon.

QUESTION: There are some reports that the government of Finland released some information by accident, the names of 370 members of the al Qaeda organization. Do you believe -- do you have any information about those reports?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's the first I've heard of the report. So I've got nothing to offer on something I just heard.

QUESTION: Week ahead?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me give the week ahead.

QUESTION: Can I have one more on the mid-East, though? Do you mind? Don't answer that. (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: Kelly, you may have your ninth question.

QUESTION: Okay. What can account for some feeling on the part of the Israelis, Israeli government, that the U.S. might be changing its emphasis, that it might not be putting as much pressure on the Palestinians right now in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I cannot presume to speak for motives of other people and other nations who speak as they do. I would just reiterate the United States will continue to be Israel's best friend. Israel has no better friend than the United States and that will continue.

The President will depart for Camp David this afternoon. Tomorrow, he will have a meeting of his National Security Council via video teleconference. On Sunday, the President and Mrs. Bush will attend the National Fire Fighters Memorial Service in Emmittsburg, Maryland, before they return to the White House that afternoon.

On Monday, the President will attend the swearing-in of Governor Tom Ridge in the East Room as Director of the Office of Homeland Security. Later that day, the President will be joined by Liza Minelli for the signing of the Columbus Day proclamation.

On Wednesday, the President will meet with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson in the Oval Office. And on Friday, the President and Mrs. Bush will host a reception in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 12:45 P.M. EDT