House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
White House Briefing Room
October 9, 2001
QUESTION: It's very hard to argue with the idea of saving lives, but there's
another principle at work here as well, as you're well aware. And that is the
oversight that is usually provided by Congress.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we have exhausted this topic. This is about a half an
hour briefing. We can spend all half hour on it if you like. I'll be here for
QUESTION: Pakistan's president has said he expects the military action of bombing
runs to be brief. Is he speaking from knowledge? Is he voicing his hopes? Is
he trying to tamp down dissent within his country?
MR. FLEISCHER: Wendell, I can't give you my analysis of his reasons. I don't
speak for the President of Pakistan. Suffice it to say, anything dealing with
operational issues like that, I'm not going to indicate how long something may
or may not last.
QUESTION: Ari, you mentioned at the gaggle, for the record, can you tell us
-- Vice President Cheney, he's still not at the White House? Is there a time
he may return? How is he being kept abreast of what's happening here?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President remains at a secure location where he is fully
and completely informed of all events and is participating. And we will try
to keep you informed on a daily basis.
QUESTION: Participating -- he participates in the meetings that are taking place
here through special --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: Ari, is this part of an ongoing pro forma precaution, or there some
specific credible threat that is keeping --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's ongoing as general. As you can notice just by walking around
the White House, security is tight, and this is a time of war. I know that every
day, everybody in this room and all of us, too, who work here come in and there's
a certain normalcy to the routine, even in war time. But it's very important
for everybody in this room and for all people to remember it remains a time
And threats remain -- and the tragedy about what took place on September 11th,
beyond the loss of lives and the disruptions to so many of us, is that with
one exception, on December 7th, 1941, this is the first time our nation has
been hit by action of this nature in 150 years or so. And it has changed things.
And that is why these steps have been taken. And this is a time of war, and
it is a time to take all proper precautions.
QUESTION: Are other continuation of war protocols --
QUESTION: Vice President's traveling --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Can you rule out that the Vice President is traveling on any kind
of mission out of the country?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can rule that out.
QUESTION: You use the phrase so often, this is a time of war. Has there been
a formal declaration of war? Is it necessary? How much further would American
society change if there was a formal declaration?
MR. FLEISCHER: There has not been, and I can't speculate about how much further
it would change.
QUESTION: Could I return you to the general subject of anthrax for a second?
Separate and apart from the Florida case, whether or not this may be terrorism
or something else, during the Gulf War, you'll recall, there was a very specific
warning given to Saddam Hussein that if he used chemical, biological weapons,
the response may also with a weapon of mass destruction or some kind of proportionate
response. It was meant as a dis-incentive. Is there any plan afoot to issue
any kind of similar warning to al Qaeda on that issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: David, I'm not going to discuss anything involving our operational
details. The President has said he will give the military the tools they need
to get their job done, and he will.
QUESTION: Ari, would you help those of us with deadlines prior to this 1:30
p.m. event, by telling us what Richard Clarke's mandate is, and how what he'll
be doing is different than what he's doing now?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you already have that in writing. We, I believe, distributed
that already. And there will be an announcement made by Governor Ridge and Dr.
Condoleezza Rice about additional steps to protect America's homeland defense
and take action in the war on terrorism. General Wayne Downing will be announced
as a National Director and Deputy National Security Advisor for combatting terrorism,
and Richard Clarke will be announced as a Special Advisor for -- to the President
for Cyberspace Security.
QUESTION: Ari, what does that job entail? What will he be doing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Cyberspace security involves coordinating efforts to restore
and prevent disruptions to critical information systems. And you'll have plenty
of information on that forthcoming in about half an hour or so, a little more
QUESTION: One of the major grievances of our British allies against the Taliban
is over drug smuggling. The British have said that the majority of the heroin
that finds its way onto British streets comes from Afghanistan. Is that a particular
target of what we're doing? Are we trying to do things that are aimed at curbing
or perhaps even eliminating the drugs emanating from Afghanistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: At this stage, the only way I can answer that question is, anything
dealing with targets you need to talk to DOD about.
QUESTION: Well, I'm talking about policy though. I'm not asking about specific
targets. As a matter of policy, are we trying to deal with this British grievance
by doing things that --
MR. FLEISCHER: The American government's position, longstanding, about the importance
of diminishing supply of drugs remains unchanged. That is always a concern,
even in time of war.
QUESTION: Are we trying to do things --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there you have to talk to DOD.
QUESTION: Ari, do you have an update on how much in financial assets have been
seized from the al Qaeda organization?
MR. FLEISCHER: I do not. That will be from Treasury.
QUESTION: I believe this morning you said you would check on how casualties
are being tracked here. Do you have any new information about that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I do not have any information about that. I think that, again,
will be something from DOD.
QUESTION: There are other continuation of government protocols, in addition
to keeping the Vice President away -- like keeping the members of the Cabinet
out of Washington at all times, a member of the congressional leadership out
of Washington at all times. Are those still in effect, as well?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not that I'm aware of. I have not gotten any information on that.
Cabinet members often do travel, but I have not heard anything about that, John.
And Congress is coming back this week, but that's a question to them; I don't
QUESTION: One of the things the President and other administration officials,
including the Attorney General, have said is that it's time for Americans to
be vigilant. About what? What should they look for?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this is a question that I've been asked repeatedly, and
the answer remains the same. When the President says that and the Attorney General
says that, it's a message to not only individuals, but also the law enforcement
community, broadly writ. And that means local police officers, local fire officials
-- there are all kinds of jurisdictions in this country where that can be a
very helpful statement, where they can be the eyes and ears of the communities
locally to make certain that if they see anything that they recognize as a suspicious
activity in their community, that they can be vigilant to make certain that
all protections are taken.
And that's another reflection of what the President means when he says that
this is a different kind of war, a war on terrorism. Again, it's not as if our
worry is going to be that a foreign nation is going to launch a fleet that's
heading toward our shores. This is much more insidious. This can be individuals,
this can be small numbers of people. And that's what makes it terrorism. And
that's why law enforcement plays a very important role in it.
QUESTION: For people getting back to their lives -- going to the mall, going
to ball games, things like that -- what should they be looking for? What constitutes
a suspicious activity?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you really need to have the Department of Justice get
into that. They are the ones who are in charge of law enforcement. From the
President's point of view, it's a reminder to the law enforcement community,
which is already on alert, to maintain that sense of vigilance. And I think
people take a sense of comfort from knowing that, you can see it in the streets
around many cities as the National Guard is out. Again, it's just another reminder
that the previous wars, they were wars that we fought abroad, and this time
it's a war that could have implications back at home.
QUESTION: Ari, this is the third day of attacks. Has the President given each
day the order of attack? Or has he given a blank agreement to his generals to
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you remember in the speech to the nation on Sunday,
the President said that he has ordered targeted actions to disrupt the use of
Afghanistan as a base of terrorist operations, and to attack the military capability
of the Taliban regime and to destroy the terrorist training camps.
The President has given the military its mission. And that is its mission in
this case. And they are carrying it out and, as they carry it out, the President,
of course, as I mention every morning, he has a National Security Council meeting
-- it's discussed with the President. So he concurs in the actions that are
taken, full knowledge of the actions that are taken.
But if you're asking me, is the President micro-managing what's going on, clearly,
he's not. The military has its mission.
QUESTION: Ari, how will we know when those goals that you mentioned -- harming
the Taliban military and disrupting the use of the terrorism that emanates from
there -- how will we know when those goals are met, specifically?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's one of the reasons that the Secretary of Defense
is out briefing every day. He will be in a position to keep you apprised of
the status of the military campaign.
QUESTION: I don't want the status of the campaign. I'm wondering how we'll know
when specific goals that are outlined are met? These goals seem rather nebulous
to me that you've outlined, and I really don't understand how we're going to
know when we're supposed to stop bombing the Taliban.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, for example when I said the destruction of the terrorist
training camps, that's something that you're going to be able to hear from Secretary
Rumsfeld as events develop. When I talked about what the President said, part
of the mission is to attack the military capacity of the Taliban regime, I noted
some stories on the wires already suggesting that there have been defections
in the ranks of the Taliban. So I think there are going to be continual signs
of success, and you will see them.
QUESTION: But signs, but we could attack -- we could, I suppose there will probably
be a few guns that are left after a couple months. I mean, when we do we stop
specifically attacking the Taliban military? When is it enough? I don't hear
a clearly defined goal here. I hear a goal, but I don't hear one that's clearly
defined where we know when it's over.
MR. FLEISCHER: Keith, this is likely to last for a long time. And throughout
the process, the Secretary of Defense, officials at the White House, the President,
the Vice President, others, will continue to talk to the American people, to
share their reflections on the status of the campaign.
QUESTION: On that, Ari, then President Musharraf is wrong?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: On that Pakistani President Musharraf is wrong.
MR. FLEISCHER: Your question to me was specifically about a statement made by
President Musharraf dealing with air operations.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that Osama bin Laden is but one man. And we now
also have a letter to the UN which clearly implies that we're on the verge of
a much broader campaign. How much more quickly are we going to get into that
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the letter to the U.N., as I think was reported yesterday,
is in accordance with the United States' obligations under Article 51, which
grants the United States and other nations the right to self defense, in accordance
with the UN Charter. And that's the purpose of the letter. And the letter of
course said that the United States will reserve the right to act in self defense,
as we see fit. And that could or could not involve other nations. But that's
not an unusual letter. That's been -- a letter of a similar nature has been
sent by many nations when they invoke their Article 51 rights.
QUESTION: If I can just return to Wendell's point here. You have just told us
this is going to be long, including with the Taliban, we have every reason to
believe. If I go back to the wording of General Musharraf yesterday, he said
that he had received, "definite assurances that the military strikes would
be short targeted and without major civilian casualties." Do you know who
could have provided him with those assurances?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm reiterating to you what the President has said on numerous
occasions, what you've heard from the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense
about the duration of the campaign.
QUESTION: My question, Ari, is did anybody give -- anybody to your knowledge,
senior officials of the United States, give any such assurances to General Musharraf?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not to my knowledge. but again, I think the question as it was
originally put to me was, why did General Musharraf say this, and I think you
have to address that to General Musharraf.
QUESTION: Would you just take as a question and go back so you can figure out
for us if somebody, in the course of communicating with him, might have left
him with this impression or misimpression? He has already said what he believes
MR. FLEISCHER: I am not going to get into operational details about the lengths
of various individual missions of that nature. I'm more than happy to discuss
with you the overall objectives of it as the President has enunciated them.
QUESTION: I'm not asking you to tell us lengths; we're asking you to find out
if a senior American official or the President gave an assurance to General
MR. FLEISCHER: David, that's another way of trying to ascertain an operational
QUESTION: But, Ari, if I could follow on that, I gave you a couple of options.
(Laughter.) Clearly, he could be speaking to these people. There are sensitivities
there that he wants to deal with and it would be understandable if you were
speaking to his people. It would also be understandable if you were reluctant
to tell us military operations, the duration of such.
MR. FLEISCHER: So you're asking me to tell you the duration of the military
QUESTION: No, I'm not asking you the duration of any military operations. I'm
asking you to tell us, is Musharraf speaking to his people? Is he trying to
deal with the reaction within Pakistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't speak for any foreign leaders.
QUESTION: Is the President going to do anything this week to get is economic
stimulus package through Congress?
MR. FLEISCHER: Congress comes back today and it is going to be an ongoing topic
of conversation with the congressional leaders. The President does still strongly
believe that it's very important to take action to help our economy so that
it can grow and recover from the current economic conditions.
So the answer is, yes, and we'll see, as a result of the efforts made with the
congressional leaders, how quickly it can move.
QUESTION: When does he expect to meet with them next?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Is he having breakfast with the leadership again?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll have something out as soon as there is something final.
But, yes, you can anticipate another meeting with the congressional leaders
likely this week. But, again, once it's final, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: Going back to this letter. Apparently, a lot of these congressional
leaders, or the congressional persons, were given this information because many
people in the White House and in the Cabinet felt that they had some kind of
critical input. Now that the circle has been closed, the input has been stifled
somewhat. Do you think that it could hurt the mission that you're trying to
accomplish right now by closing the circle?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President does not think that.
QUESTION: But I know you say it's going to -- this inadvertent information that's
going out and you want to prevent the loss of life, but those congress persons
that were told in the beginning, they were told for a reason, for their critical
MR. FLEISCHER: And they're still being told. The leadership is still being told.
QUESTION: But it was other than those eight, prior to.
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I'm not aware of exactly how widespread briefings were
prior to it. But the President's memo speaks for itself on this topic and I
think we've covered it extensively at the beginning of the briefing.