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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jim Wilkinson
Jim Wilkinson
Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications
June 4, 2004

Jim Wilkinson
Hello everyone. Thanks for participating, and as always, thanks for paying my salary. With that, I'm ready to take your questions.

Katherine, from Phoenix writes:
If it isn't too difficult to explain, what exactly is G8? It seems there is new terminology every time one turns around and I would prefer to hear from someone who KNOWS what they are talking about and not giving a best guestimate as to what it might mean.

Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Jim Wilkinson
Hey there...good to hear from you...unless you speak "acronym" like folks in Washington then it is only natural to wonder what the term "G8" means. Here is the explanation...and you can learn from at the G8 web site at

President Bush will host the 30th G8 Summit at Sea Island, Georgia on June 8-10, 2004. The United States assumed the Presidency of the G8 from France at the beginning of 2004. President Bush, Chairman of the 2004 G8 Summit, is looking forward to the opportunity to meet with the G8 Leaders in the informal and relaxed setting of Sea Island, Georgia.

The G8 Summit brings together the Leaders of the world's major industrial democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union also attends the G8 Summit, represented by the President of the European Commission and the Leader of the country holding the Presidency of the European Council.

At previous Summits, Leaders have discussed a wide range of international economic, political, and security issues. The G8 began with a 1975 Summit in France of six countries ( France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Canada joined the group at the San Juan Summit of 1976, and the European Community began participation at the London Summit of 1977. Starting with the 1994 Naples Summit, Russia attended the political sessions and at the 1998 Birmingham Summit, Russia began participating in all sessions.

The Presidency of the G8, and responsibility of hosting the G8 Summit, rotates each year. Italy hosted the G8 Summit in Genoa in 2001, Canada hosted in Kananaskis in 2002, and France hosted in Evian in 2003. The United Kingdom will host the G8 Summit in 2005 and Russia will host in 2006. Sea Island is located on the southern portion of the Georgia coastline, 80 miles from Savannah, Georgia. Previously, the United States hosted G8 Summits in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico (1976), Williamsburg, Virginia (1983), Houston, Texas (1990) and Denver, Colorado (1997).

Hope this helps! :)

Karen, from Vermont writes:
I suspect the war in Iraq will be a major topic at the upcoming G8 conference. Many of the countries attending this conference might express concern that this war has resulted in increased terrorist activity and recruitment. If so, how will President Bush address this?

Jim Wilkinson
Thanks for your question. As the President has said, the war on terror is a different kind of war against a different kind of enemy. The President wants to seek out terrorist threats before they can come to our shores, and he wants to defeat terrorist where they live, where they hide, where they raise money, and where they plot. You have seen recent violence by terrorists, and you will certainly see more. However, this violence demonstrates that the terrorists are getting more and more desperate because they are losing. For example, they no longer have Afghanistan as a haven. They no longer have an Iraqi dictator in Saddam Hussein who supports terrorist activities. In Libya, WMD programs have been ended and the Libyan government has renounced terror. There is certainly a lot of work left to do but the violence you are seeing is a symptom of their desperation. As the terrorist Zarqawi said in his now infamous memo, the terrorists know just how important Iraq is. If they lose in Iraq, and if the Iraqi people have a future of freedom and prosperity, it will be a key defeat for their agenda.

George, from Havertown , PA writes:
First I appreciate your candid responses in previous forums. What are your thoughts on the balance between information security and right to privacy?

How valuable do you consider this type of information with respect to other issues which may be susceptible to the threats of terrorism?

Jim Wilkinson
Good question. And an important question. September 11 changed everything, and we now have to fight an enemy that doesn't wear uniforms, hides among civilians, and seeks to strike fear in the hearts of the innocent. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies are working more closely than ever in the fight on terror, sharing intelligence and leaving no stone unturned in their quest to track down those who seek to do us harm. These intelligence efforts require significant intelligence collection work through signals intelligence, wire tapping and other law enforcement tools. Our nation was founded on the notion that all of us should have certain rights, including the critical right to privacy, so all of these law enforcement activities must certainly be balanced to ensure that our nation preserves these important rights while, at the same time, we do everything we can to kill or capture those who seek to threaten us.

Kayla, from Bentonville, AR writes:
How many countries will take part in the advance of freedom in Iraq? And, will the new government in Iraq work in the same way as our United States Government? Thank you very much. God Bless.

Jim Wilkinson
Good question. Apologize in advance for the long answer but lots to say on this point...

Here is some information on the new Iraqi government, and how it fits into the President's 5-point plan for Iraq that he discussed recently in a speech at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In this speech President Bush reported to the Nation on our strategy in Iraq and the specific steps we are taking to achieve our goal. Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all: To see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations. America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend -- a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done. The President announced five steps in his plan to achieve freedom and democracy in Iraq. (1) Hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government; (2)Help establish the stability and security in Iraq that democracy requires; (3)Continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure; (4) Encourage more international support; and (5) Move toward free, national elections that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.

On June 30, full sovereignty will be transferred to a government of Iraqi citizens. At that time, the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Ambassador Paul Bremer, will cease to exist and will not be replaced. Iraqis will govern their own affairs. The Iraqi Interim Government's primary responsibilities will be to run the day-to-day operations of Iraq's government and ministries, increase security, and prepare the country for national elections. There is a New United States Embassy. Ambassador John Negroponte will oversee the new embassy and ensure that all resources and efforts of the United States are mobilized to help Iraqis build security and democracy in their country. Our embassy in Baghdad will have the same purpose as any other American embassy -- to assure good relations with a sovereign nation. The United States and other countries will continue to provide technical experts to help Iraq's ministries, but these ministries will report to Iraq's new Prime Minister.

As you saw in the news this week United Nations Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has outlined the framework for an interim government. The new government has a President, two Vice Presidents, and a Prime Minister leading a Cabinet of ministers who will oversee government departments, from health to justice to defense. The President will serve as head of state and the Prime Minister will serve as chief executive. This new government will be advised by a national council, which will be chosen by Iraqis representing their country's diversity. The Iraqi Interim Government will operate under rules defined in the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). The TAL provides a historic bill of rights for the Iraqi people and a roadmap to a permanent and elected government in 2005.

One more point. In preparation for sovereignty, many functions of government have already been transferred. Twelve government ministries are now under the control of Iraqis. In addition, many of Iraq's cities and towns now have elected town councils or city governments.

Sorry again for the long answer...

Katie, from Watertown, WI writes:
Will this summit serve as the first step in a strategic lobbying effort to secure passage of another UN Security Council resolution regarding Iraq?

Jim Wilkinson
Actually, the outreach to the international community on the new UNSCR started a while ago. Secretary Powell and Ambassador Negroponte have been consulting with nations on the new resolution. I actually travelled to Russia and Germany with Dr. Rice when she consulted with the Russians and Germans on the resolution. In Germany, Dr. Rice also met with many of here colleagues from other nations to discuss the resolution. As you saw yesterday at the UN in comments by the Iraqi Interim Government's Foreign Minister Zaybari, the resolution is proceeding and we are optimistic that it will be finalized soon.

Julia, from Aiken, SC writes:
Will the security status and the need for economic development in Haiti be discussed, particularly with France?

Jim Wilkinson
This isn't one of the major pillars of the summit, but I am confident that it will be discussed.

Lori, from New York City writes:
How much media is planning to attend the G-8?

Jim Wilkinson
I just consulted with the brains of the G8 media operation, Jana Chapman. She reports that that she expects 3000 or so reporters from all across the world. Jana is helping to manage the G8 international media center here in Savannah, Georgia. For those movie buffs out there, you will remember Savannah was the scene for a great Kevin Spacey movie, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Well, here at the press center, we hope it is all good! :)

Sally, from Idaho writes:
What will be the main issue discussed at this G8 summit?

Jim Wilkinson
Several critical issues will be discussed. On the agenda will be the President's Broader Middle East Initiative, which seeks to bring hope, prosperity and reform to the Middle East. Other issues will include African development, support for combating AIDS, nonproliferation and security.

Jim Wilkinson
Ok everyone, have to get back to work. Thanks again for all the good questions and talk to you soon! :) Jim