House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
October 5, 2001
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.