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13 September 2001

Transcript: White House Daily Briefing, September 13, 2001

(Calls to world leaders, national day of prayer and remembrance,
government agencies, secret service, Washington Hospital Center,
Pakistan, Wolfowitz, Air Force One, Powell/bin Laden, Mineta/sky
marshals, United Kingdom, Bush travel to New York, $20 billion
supplemental, Bush/views on intelligence) (5990)
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer briefed.
Following is the White House transcript:
(begin transcript)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 13, 2001
PRESS BRIEFING BY ARI FLEISCHER
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
3:15 P.M. EDT
INDEX
President's calls to world leaders/coalition
National Day of Prayer and Remembrance
Government agencies/agendas
Secret Service/perimeter around the White House
President's visit to Washington Hospital Center
War Powers Act/congressional resolution
Pakistan/President's remarks
Wolfowitz/remarks on harboring terrorists
Air Force One threat
Secretary Powell's remarks/bin Laden
Secretary Mineta/sky marshals
United Kingdom/response to attack
President's travel to New York
$20 billion supplemental
Presidents Bush/views on intelligence
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I want to give everybody a report on
the President's activities for the day, and then share with you some
information about what the various agencies are doing to combat this
terrorist attack.
Q: Can you tell us about the evacuation of the EOB?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no evacuation of the EOB.
Q: No?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
Q: And Lafayette Park?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll be explaining everything.
The President today has made a series of phone calls to world leaders.
He has spoken to Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan, Prime Minister
Berlusconi of Italy, Lord Robertson of NATO, Crown Prince Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian President Mubarak.
As you know, earlier today he spoke with Mayor Giuliani and Governor
Pataki to express his concerns about events up in New York and inform
them, of course, that he will be going there tomorrow. The President
also visited a local hospital today. I'm going to have a little bit
more to say about that shortly.
And beginning in just a few minutes, the President will meet with
members of Congress from the Virginia area and the New York area to
talk about the ongoing efforts of the federal government to be of
assistance to the families and to the victims.
Tomorrow will be a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. The
President will attend a church service here at the National Cathedral
in Washington, D.C. And the President is asking all Americans at their
lunch hours to go and attend a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a place
of their own choosing for worship, to say a prayer in assistance to
the families and the victims of this horrible incident.
As for the activities of the federal government, let me fill you in on
several activities, including the one Helen just asked about.
The Department of Defense will be announcing the names of those who
were killed in the Pentagon disaster, if families have been notified,
for those families that have been notified.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that they
will direct all FHA approved lenders to provide relief to families
with FHA insured mortgages affected by the recent attacks by providing
additional mortgage flexibility and not to start or threaten
foreclosure actions for at least 90 days. Secretary Martinez has also
asked all major mortgage lenders, including those who are not insured
by FHA, to consider providing relief to families, as well.
The Department of Treasury, in conjunction with the Department of
Justice, has announced the deployment of agents from U.S. Marshal
Service, U.S. Border Control, and U.S. Customs, at designated airport
security checkpoints throughout the country as part of the heightened
security measures that have gone into effect.
The Secret Service has expanded the security perimeter around the
White House, as what you have seen here, as a precautionary matter.
All further questions I'll refer to the Secret Service.
The Department of Transportation, Secretary Mineta has ordered that
national airspace will be reopened to commercial and private aviation.
They did so earlier this morning. Airports will reopen on a
case-by-case basis only after implementing a more stringent level of
security.
The Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Department of
Treasury, I indicated, has beefed up the security at the airports. And
the President has directed Attorney General Ashcroft, and he announced
it earlier today, to streamline the application, approval, and payment
process for benefit claims of eligible survivors or firefighters,
police officers, medical rescue personnel and other public safety
officers who died in the line of duty as a result of the act of
terrorism around our nation on September 11, 2001.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson is in New York.
He has announced that the Department of Health and Human Services will
be working with the Federal Emergency Management Administration to
provide coordinating counseling service to victims, their families,
and the rescue workers. And the Director of the Environmental
Protection Agency, Whitman, is also in New York today, and she will be
having a briefing at 5:00 p.m.
Finally, let me just say this: The President was very touched by his
visit to the hospital today. At the hospital, he met with people who
are in a burn unit now, who have survived. Some people are there as a
result of the heroic actions they took in saving lives. The President
met with one family where a mother stood by the bed of her son, in the
company of the soldier who rescued her son. And she said, Mr.
President, you have no idea how much this means to my family, that you
are here.
He and Mrs. Bush were very touched by the courage they saw at this
hospital, and by the determination of our nation and its military, and
all the people that were affected by this, and the people in New York
City. The President is also aware that people in this room haven't
seen their children in days.
The President is determined, his resolve is clear and strong, and
America is united.
I'm more than happy to take your questions.
Q: Ari, why did -- the President is not legally bound to seek a
resolution from Congress authorizing the use of military force against
whoever is responsible for these terrorist acts. And indeed, he
already has a resolution from Congress showing solidarity in any
response that he chooses to undertake. Why does the President believe
it's necessary to have a separate resolution authorizing the use of
military force?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President views this as a real show of unity
by the United States Congress. This is a real result of the expression
of the bipartisan, bicameral leadership that met with the President
two days ago to discuss Congress' role in this matter. So while the
premise of your question is accurate, per the Constitution, the
President as Commander-in-Chief has authority vested in him to take
actions as he deems appropriate. It is also a recognition of the unity
of our nation as expressed by the Congress.
Q: Can I do a follow on that, Ari, please? If it is actual war, as the
President and others in the administration have declared, does he
indeed not need a congressional approval to wage war on anyone? And
the second part of the question -- yesterday you said from that podium
that the plane that hit the Pentagon was destined to hit here. And yet
the plane came up from the south along I-95 and hit the west wing --
it doesn't seem to figure. Can you perhaps clarify for us?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, on your first question, the answer is the same as
I indicated to Mr. Roberts. The Constitution vests in the President
the authority as Commander-in-Chief to take action in that capacity he
deems appropriate. Nevertheless, our nation should be heartened to see
the joint action with the Congress, as the United States government
unites, and the President and the Congress discuss the terms of any
type of joint resolution that the Congress may offer.
On the second question, I think we've really exhausted that topic.
I've got nothing further to add.
Q: Ari, the President said this morning that he wanted to give
Pakistan the opportunity to demonstrate that it can cooperate in this
coalition he's trying to develop. State Department sources are telling
ABC that the administration has asked the Pakistani government for
permission to transit through its airspace in the event of a military
operation, to close its borders with Afghanistan, and to stop
providing fuel to the Taliban government. Why? And what would happen
to Pakistan if it did not comply?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the President indicated that Pakistan has a
chance to cooperate with the United States government. And the
President is pleased to see that Pakistan may take this chance.
Secretary Powell indicated earlier today that the United States
government has friendly relations with Pakistan. I want to broaden
your question and try to explain it to you in a broader context. When
the President talked to these leaders --
Q: Did the administration made those requests?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know I'm not going to share with you any private
information that the President or others in the government expressed
on any communications, if they did. I'm not saying they did.
Q: There are government officials sharing that information, and it's
pretty significant. Are we looking to transit through Pakistani
airspace?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to deal with any type of specifics about
the actions we are taking or are not taking with regions around the
world and nations around the world.
But let me say this: As the President calls world leaders, and as they
join him in combatting terrorism, the actions that the President is
discussing with these leaders involve all forms of cooperation. It can
be diplomatic cooperation, it can be military cooperation, it can be
financial cooperation. It can be political cooperation. All of those
are areas that are part of the coalition-building that the President
is discussing. Secretary Powell indicated earlier today that that is
the purpose of all the phone calls. It can include any of those
options.
Q: And the President seemed to put Pakistan on notice. What if they
don't comply? He said, we'll see what they mean by their agreement to
cooperate. What if they don't?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, I typically don't deal in hypotheticals. I
certainly will not deal with them now.
Q: Ari, if I can follow on that, though, in a sense, though, is the
message that actions speak louder than words here? That the Pakistani
government can say that it's pledging to stand united with the U.S.
government, that it will do what it takes, but is it your sense or the
White House's sense that we want to see what the Pakistani government
will do, and that actions are more important than a statement?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is the beginning of a process that can be lengthy.
And the cooperation around the world is going to take many forms with
the government of the United States. And the President, as you've seen
by his actions today and the phone calls that he's making -- which,
incidentally, he will continue to make -- are aimed at the various
specific areas I mentioned. And the President understands that this is
a process that will take some time. And he will proceed throughout
that process with resolve.
Q: How significant, though, for the Pakistani government to come
forward with such a statement? Was the U.S. putting some pressure on
the Pakistani government, are you with us or not?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going to let the State Department discuss that
specific by specific, country by country. Suffice it to say the
President, as a general matter, is very pleased with the conversations
that have been happening with leaders around the world. The world is
uniting against terrorism. And the President sees this as a real
opportunity for the world to do something that can save generations
and protect generations from something that obviously has wreaked
havoc on our nation, and has killed thousands.
Q: Ari, could you tell us about what is happening in Lafayette Park?
And could you also tell us whether the White House, the Secret
Service, thinks that tourists and the American public are safe
visiting the White House right now? And indeed, are they safe visiting
downtown Washington, D.C., and other parts of the city?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, they are safe visiting the White House. Yes, they
are safe visiting Washington, D.C. Suffice it to say, it is not
business as usual. And that is one of the reasons why the Secret
Service has expanded the perimeter around the White House. But it is
not business as usual. The President said to the American people the
other day that the government will take all appropriate precautions.
And that's what you're seeing.
Q: Thank you. Is that a permanent expansion, and will we be seeing
permanent road closures in addition to Pennsylvania Avenue? What can
you tell us about that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Secret Service will have the most authoritative
answer on that, but my understanding is it's not permanent.
Q: Ari, you reopened the White House yesterday to public tours and
wanted to get that word out. Are you now rethinking that decision for
some reason?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me check on the public tours. I don't know what the
status of that is.
Q: When Mr. Wolfowitz talked about putting an end to states that
harbor terrorists, did he mean to say that U.S. policy is to wipe out
governments that sponsor terrorists?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I can only say, in the President's words and as
the President said, the U.S. will use all our resources to conquer the
enemy. And anybody who chooses to be America's enemy will have to
think about what that means.
Q: Ari, to clarify, we have people telling our reporters that they
have been evacuated from the White House. Is that inaccurate?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no evacuation underway. If anybody in the OEOB
is listening, there is no evacuation underway. These are security
precautions, as I indicated, for precisely the reasons I indicated.
Q: Is that true also for Lafayette Park?
MR. FLEISCHER: I believe the perimeter  -- 
Q: I mean, why don't you just say what's happening? Are people being
moved out of the OEOB? No? And Lafayette Park?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I just said no. The perimeter is being expanded,
but that deals with entre to the White House, but the White House will
continue to have visitors. For example, there's a congressional
delegation visiting now.
Q: Well, what does it mean? Can people be in Lafayette Park, anybody?
MR. FLEISCHER: You have to check with the Secret Service.
Q: Why?  The order is coming from here.
MR. FLEISCHER: Because the Secret Service knows exactly how the
perimeters work.
Q: Is there credible information of a new threat, or what prompted
them to do this on day three?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is just ongoing security issues per the Secret
Service.
Q: I mean, they had a broader perimeter on the first day. Then they
came back. Now they're expanding it back out. Is this a result of some
new information?
MR. FLEISCHER: If you look across cities across the United States, if
you look at all the actions that have been taken, as the President
said, it's not business as usual. Security has been beefed up around
the nation as a result of decisions that local security forces make as
they see fit.
Q: Is this a result of new information, or just a -- they decided for
today to expand it to Lafayette Park?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the Secret Service can explain their reasons
with better precision that I can, but the President did tell the
nation, it will not be business as usual, and I think what you're
seeing is a sign of that.
Q: I know you don't want to go back to this subject, but the
President, when he was asked today about the threat to Air Force One,
said, I will not discuss the intelligence that our country has
gathered. And yet, you and other senior administration officials have
discussed the intelligence. Does he have a problem with that? Is there
some sort of different policy? Is this something that he has
authorized you to share with us?
MR. FLEISCHER: What the President said is he is not going to discuss
the sources and the methods for how any information is collected. And
that's exactly in keeping with what I've done and what I've said.
Q: But, Ari, prior to your statement yesterday on that subject, no
other law enforcement -- no law enforcement agency involved in this --
the FBI, the Secret Service, any of the branches of the military --
gave any hint that Air Force One had been a target. And so, clearly,
once you put that out there, people are going to want to know more
information about whether or not that's a credible assertion. And what
can you tell us?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that people understand it's credible.
Q: Ari, this morning you would not -- you could not nail down what was
the purpose of the President's phone calls regarding coalition. But
this afternoon you come back with an answer that the President is
really asking world leaders for military, financial, so forth, help.
Is that right -- do I have that right?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's exactly what I said.
Q: Okay.  Is there a coalition now being formed formally?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think you can say "formally." The President --
this is exactly what you would expect; this is what Presidents do. At
a time like this, the President of the United States, as the leader of
this country, talks to his colleagues around the world, Prime
Ministers and Presidents.
Q: What is he asking? Is he asking for specific sums and men in
uniform, and so forth, to join in an effort?
MR. FLEISCHER: He's asking for what I just indicated.
Q: It's more than moral support then?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a fair statement.
Q: It's practical action in response to terrorism?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q: Ari, when the President spoke in the Oval Office he seemed to go
beyond just terrorists and those who harbor terrorists to say those
who encourage their actions. And I wonder, who did he -- I wonder,
what did he mean by that, and who -- which of the world leaders was he
trying to send a message to, or did he discuss that with? Because it
seemed to go beyond what he's already said.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think when the President talks about those who
carried out this act and those who harbor them, obviously those who
harbor them have encouraged them. So it's one in the same.
Q: If I could finish, how many world leaders has he spoken to since
the beginning, and can we get a list of all those?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I've been announcing them day by day. I'd have to
go back and just pull it, but that's publicly available -- you've got
it all. I mentioned yesterday he spoke to President Putin twice,
President Jiang, Blair, Chretien, I believe Chirac, Schroeder. So you
can do the math.
Q: Okay.  Since I have you attention, just one last bit  -- 
MR. FLEISCHER: Three questions.
Q: When do you think Washington will return to normal? And what is
normal, now that this has happened?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think for the American people -- not just for
Washington, but for the people of New York City and for the people of
Washington -- it's going to take some time. There was an attack on the
soil of the United States of America, and people should not expect
this to be over, overnight.
Q: Secretary Powell has said that bin Laden is the prime candidate for
these terrorist attacks. Is that the view of the White House? And
secondly, can you straighten out for us whether or not the
administration intends to use military personnel as sky marshals, or
in any other way, to secure civilian aircraft flights?
MR. FLEISCHER: On your first question, I think what the Secretary said
was -- he was asked a question about is bin Laden a suspect, and he
indicated yes. I don't think he said "prime," but I'd have to check
the record on that. But he did indicate yes.
On the question of the military, Jim, I just -- I'll have to find out
from the Department of Transportation. When you asked me this morning
I tried to refer you to Transportation. I don't have that information
here.
Q: Well, Secretary Mineta said they were going to use the Delta Force.
And then an administration official said Mineta was "flat wrong," that
that was not going to happen, and the Pentagon indicated they might
use military people to train. Almost everyone seems to have a slightly
different version of whether or not military people will be used in
civilian law enforcement.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me see if I can't get to the bottom of it.
Q: Two questions. Do you have any special words for what the United
Kingdom has done. The statements they've made are very strong, and
today they played "The Star-Spangled Banner" when they had the
changing of the guard.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. And I noticed today also, the United States is not
the only nation that mourns. The United Kingdom has lost the lives of
many of their citizens. Other nations also had their citizens working
at the World Trade Center. And so it's a further expression of the
wonderful solidarity that the world is showing with the United States.
I think it's very touching for the United Kingdom to play America's
National Anthem.
Q: Ari, just one more. Can there be war without a formal national
enemy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the President has indicated, this is a
different type of enemy in the 21st century. The President said, this
enemy is nameless; this enemy is faceless; this enemy has no specific
borders. This enemy does not have airplanes sitting on tarmacs and it
does not have ships that move from one port city to the next. It is a
different kind of enemy. Having said that, the President also knows
that our nation's military is capable of carrying out whatever mission
is assigned to it to conquer any enemies.
Q: Ari, could I just clarify the answer to John's question -- is it
the White House view that whatever action is taken and whatever the
scale and duration of the action, that you need no further approval
from Congress. You'd like something from Congress, but you don't need
anything else from Congress?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll say it for the third time -- the Constitution
vests in the President as Commander in Chief the authority to take
actions he deems necessary to protect and defend the United States.
The President is also very encouraged as the result of working with
Congress on this joint resolution, which is a real show of unity from
the Congress. And the White House will work with Congress on that
language.
Q: So that's a yes, right?  That's you need no further approval?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I made it very clear.
Q: Just to follow on that note. The War Powers Act does call for
approval if troops are going to be put in harm's way.
MR. FLEISCHER: As with many previous administrations, there are
questions about the constitutionality of some aspects of the War
Powers Act, and this administration shares those questions.
Q: Yes, but in most of those previous cases, we're looking at largely
air assaults. But is it your position that --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not accurate. There have been some 125 military
actions that took place in the United States, and I believe only 5
involved declarations of war.
Q: Ari, can you tell us anything about the special security
precautions tomorrow for the President's trip to New York? Are there
going to be fighter jets on each wing of Air Force One, for example,
like there were on Tuesday?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, actually, I do not know the answer to that
question, and if I did I'm not sure I'd be able to share in all cases.
But suffice it to say that the President has full confidence in the
Secret Service and those who protect him.
Q: Will he travel with his whole contingent? Will he -- the usual
presidential motorcade that we see, the enormous beast that lands in a
place and takes over town -- will he do that in New York tomorrow?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, Terry, it will be a smaller enormous beast.
Q: Ari, when he's going to travel -- you said that we wouldn't go to
New York as long as his being there would create a hindrance to those
trying to rescue workers, people cleaning up the debris.
MR. FLEISCHER: Exactly right.
Q: When they're still pulling people alive out of that rubble, how do
you keep him out of the way and from being a distraction?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because in conversations with Mayor Giuliani and
Governor Pataki, they talked about how it would be appropriate -- it
would be appropriate and meaningful for the President to go to New
York. And so all factors are taken into consideration. And of course,
the President wouldn't go under any other circumstances.
Q: So are you saying he'll keep his distance from actual "ground
zero"?
MR. FLEISCHER: You'll see. Just as when he visited the Pentagon
yesterday, you'll see tomorrow.
Q: What is he going to do there  -- 
Q: You talked about the business -- or the individuals with mortgage
help, et cetera. What about the businesses that have been wiped out?
Where is the administration thinking of putting some help in that
direction?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, also, as a result of the $20 billion supplemental
appropriation bill that is moving its way through Congress, that will
provide the means to give assistance to many people -- businesses,
otherwise, all who have suffered in this.
Q: Ari, Secretary Powell is saying bin Laden is a prime suspect. Is
the administration, the U.S. confident, or does the U.S. know of his
whereabouts, where he is?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to give any answers to that question.
Q: Since the mid-1970s, the U.S. has had an executive ban in place on
assassinations. Is the President considering lifting that?
MR. FLEISCHER: All the President's actions will be in concert with all
laws, and I have no information for you beyond that.
Q: Ari, on that point, is there anything, any restriction, that the
administration believes is hampering the intelligence community's
efforts to deal with terrorism? Are there any restrictions, either
self-imposed by the agency or by the intelligence community, or by
Congress, that you think need to be eliminated?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not heard of any such conversations. As always,
on all these matters, as the President indicated today, the government
will keep you informed of any steps it thinks are necessary. But I
have not heard anything.
Q: On the $20 billion supplemental, OMB, as you know, says there's
only $1 billion left in fiscal year 2001 that's on budget, or that's
not Social Security. Is it accurate to say that that money can still
be expended and be considered, without use of Social Security surplus
funding, depending on the timing of when that funding is released?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there's been a virtually universal, if not
universal, recognition by members of the Congress and by the President
that our national security will always come first.
Q: I'm sorry, just for clarification purposes then, this is considered
a severe emergency and, therefore, it's money that's being taken from
the Social Security surplus fund under that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I indicated two days ago that this was a severe
emergency.
Q: OMB was giving differing advice, and it depended on the time that
the money is actually spent. And it does not necessarily mean you even
have to use those funds. I'm just trying to get that clarified.
MR. FLEISCHER: I indicated this is a severe emergency. I also said
that the fiscal year, of course, does not close until September 30th,
so we will know more at that time. But national security will come
first.
Q: Ari, the word "war" is being bandied around here so much. But that
word, in and of itself, carries such a constitutional connotation, et
cetera, and creates a confrontation with Congress, or whatever. Is it
possible we'll see a ratcheting down of the rhetoric with the
administration?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you're going to see consistent actions by the
administration, and statements of resolve and determination by the
President, just as you've been seeing.
Q: Ari, the 1991 war resolution that Congress passed put some
limitations on what the President could do. Would that be -- something
like that be satisfactory to this President Bush? Or would you like
something that's more open-ended?
MR. FLEISCHER: We're dealing with hypotheticals here. Congress, today,
is considering a joint resolution to express its support for the
President as a show of unity. And we're talking with the Congress very
productively about the appropriate language to use in that. And that's
where the administration is focused today.
Q: So you would see this as more a general resolution of support, and
not the kind of thing that his father sought, his father got from
Congress in 1991?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, to be parliamentary, it is a joint resolution.
Q: Well, it's not binding.
Q: Did you understand my question? I mean, I'm saying -- it's one
thing to pass a, you know, "resolved, we support the President," and
quite another to pass what was enacted in 1991, which said the
President can take military action under these conditions.
MR. FLEISCHER: This is all very public. This is a joint resolution
that is going to move on Capitol Hill. And you'll be able to review
the language of it yourself. And I think there are going to be some
comparisons that may be apt to 1991, others that will not be. This is
2001, and this is different.
Q: Did the White House suggest language for this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure.  We're working with Congress on the language.
Q: Ari, as law enforcement officials proceed in trying to apprehend
individuals inside the United States who may have knowledge or have
been involved in the attack, what is the President telling law
enforcement officials in terms of what actions can they take? Should
people be prepared to see, say, phone taps that haven't been used in
the past? What kind of civil liberties does the President think should
be -- or defended?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you need to talk to the Attorney General about
the actions that they are taking. They will be in accordance with the
law, of course.
Q: Ari, earlier today, White House officials expanded on the threat
against Air Force One, saying that there was a telephone threat to the
Secret Service, that Air Force One was on a target list. As the three
successful attacks were all sneak attacks with no prior warning, why
did you put credence in the telephone threat?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, you're getting into evaluations that involve the
area of how the administration -- in this case Secret Service, the
White House -- obtains information. And I think we've exhausted that.
Q: Earlier today, the President said that fighting terrorism would be
the main focus now of the administration. I'm curious, what does that
do now on the pipeline to other priorities -- education and so on?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if you talk to the American people, you would
hear from them directly, and from their hearts, that our nation has no
higher priority than the security of our people. Make no mistake:
American soil has been attacked. And I think the American people fully
understand and appreciate what the President said. It is a reflection
of what the American people are thinking and are feeling, and the
President shares those thoughts.
Q: I'm sure he's aware of -- but his own thinking. How does he now
sort of program or sequence some of these other items on his agenda?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the domestic agenda will continue. The President
will continue to work with Congress. I think that the pace of action
will be determined by the Congress, and, of course, the administration
will remain engaged with the Congress on all these issues. In fact,
there is a meeting that will begin shortly, if it hasn't begun
already, that I will need to go to with congressional leaders and the
President.
Q: Ari, just to follow that, does the President believe as a general
rule that Congress ought to -- you know, in the interests of unity,
ought to set some of these controversial issues aside, and do them
maybe next year, specifically?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I think what you're going to see is Democrats
and Republicans alike uniting on all kinds of areas. I can't guess
with specificity what the domestic future will look like. But based on
the meeting the President had with the congressional leaders
yesterday, I think it's fair to say that there is a different domestic
mood.
Q: So they should put those things aside, then, is that correct? Do
them next year, and so forth?
MR. FLEISCHER: Our nation's leaders in Congress remain men and women
of principle, and they will take the actions that they think are in
the national interest. And I think as events unfold on the domestic
front this fall, leaders of Congress and the rank and file of Congress
will show those principles, and our government will unite.
Q: Ari, former President Bush spoke today, and expressed
dissatisfaction with the quality of our human intelligence. Does the
President, the current President Bush, share his father's concern
about failures in human intelligence? And if so, what does he plan to
do about it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Joe, at an appropriate time, the President will be more
willing to look back. But his focus right now is on what needs to be
done in the wake of the attack on the United States.
Q: To what extent was the former President serving as a proxy for this
President when he made those remarks? And was there any coordination?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, if I'm not mistaken, all the former Presidents
issued statements and had things to say. And former President Bush,
even though he is the father of the present President Bush, is fully
able and does express his own opinions.
Q: But to what extent was he expressing opinions of this President?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, the President is focused on the
terrorist attack and what to do about it. He is not focused on the
past.
Q: But Ari, does he believe, though, as his father said, that he
thinks the CIA's hands happen to be tied, and that it needs, the
agency needs to be able to deal with those "unsavory elements" to get
the really good --
MR. FLEISCHER: My answer is the same as I indicated earlier.
Thank you, I've got to get into the meeting.  Thank you.
END 3:45 P.M. EDT
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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