For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 8, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:58 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to begin with one announcement, and then also preview tomorrow's remarks a little bit. And then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
At 2:30 p.m. today, the administration will be releasing its updated economic forecast. This economic forecast is based on the work of the Council of Economic Advisors, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Treasury Department. It is used to help develop the midyear budget update, which is known as the Mid-Session Review. We will be having a conference call at 2:30 p.m. today with our Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Harvey Rosen, and we will get you that call-in information following this briefing.
And I want to leave the specifics of the forecast for the call, but what I can tell you is that our economic expansion continues to be strong and healthy. Job creation has been very strong -- nearly 900,000 jobs created this year alone, and we expect that that will continue. Unemployment has dropped to 5.1 percent; inflation is low; interest rates remain low and GDP growth is steady.
This is a direct result of the economic policies that we have pursued of lower taxes, free markets, balanced regulation, and making America the best place in the world to do business. The President's economic program going forward is well-known, and we need to continue to maintain low taxes on families and workers and small businesses and farmers by making the tax cuts permanent. Congress needs to move forward on the energy plan to make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy, and cut consumer prices, and increase technology and innovation. We need to continue to move forward on a budget that keeps us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009 by making sure that we have spending discipline. And we are working to expand jobs here at home by opening markets abroad for U.S. products and producers and farmers.
One initiative that we are working to push right now is for Congress to pass the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and we are continuing to work with Congress on that.
Tomorrow the President looks forward to going to Columbus, Ohio. The President will be going to the Ohio Patrol Training Academy in Columbus, Ohio. This location is where the -- is part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and this team there was part of the team that investigated the Iyman Faris case, that the President will reference in his remarks. And I'll come back to that in a second.
The President has been calling on Congress to reauthorize and make permanent the 16 provisions of the Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. This visit is part of the President's efforts to urge reauthorization of these critical intelligence and law enforcement tools. The President's most solemn duty is the protection of the American people. And the Patriot Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2001 following the attacks of the September 11th. And it has helped law enforcement an intelligence personnel protect the American people.
The President will express his appreciation to the law enforcement officers in attendance for their continued dedication and hard work. They are the ones who are on the front lines in the war on terrorism here at home. He will also remind the American people that the threats that we face in this country are real, and that we are dealing with an enemy that is patient and that is hoping that we will let our guard down and get complacent. We remain a nation at war, and we must remain vigilant here at home. We are staying on the offensive abroad and taking the fight to the enemy. That's the best way to win the war on terrorism.
But we also have made significant progress here at home to better protect the American people. And the President will point to how the Patriot Act has been successful in tracking down and bringing and terrorists to justice. It has strengthened law enforcement and given our intelligence and law enforcement community the tools they need to pursue terrorists -- that these are the same tools that they have long used against drug dealers and white-collar criminals. The Patriot Act also is something that protects the privacy of civil -- the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans. There has not been -- and I imagine the President may reference this -- one substantiated allegation of abuse under the act.
And he will talk about how this -- how the Patriot Act, and the provisions in it, have helped tear down the wall between law enforcement and intelligence. Now they're able to share information that can help us track down and capture terrorists before they carry out their attacks. He will talk about how it allows investigators to use the same tools against terrorists that they use against other criminals, as I just mentioned. And he will talk about how the provisions updated the law to meet some of the new threats we face, like computer espionage and cyber-terrorism. And then he will talk about how it actually protects civil liberties. This law helps us to defend the civil liberties that we enjoy today.
I think that's all I have to begin with. And I will be glad to jump into your questions.
Q What was that case you were going to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, Iyman Faris case. This was involving a truck driver that was charged with providing support to al Qaeda. The investigation that led to the capture relied upon the Patriot Act. And the individual's name was Iyman Faris, and he is an individual that had gone to Afghanistan and met with Osama bin Laden at an al Qaeda training camp and helped terrorists research airplanes and handle, case, and purchase supplies. And he met with Khalid Shaykh Muhammad back in 2002, and agreed to take part in the al Qaeda plot to destroy a New York City bridge. After he returned back to the United States, federal investigators used the Patriot Act to follow him. And once he was confronted with the evidence against him, he cooperated and provided valuable information to law enforcement authorities.
And there will be approximately 100, 150 law enforcement officers that will be in attendance tomorrow that the President will be speaking to.
And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q Did Prime Minister Erdogan ask for U.S. help in stopping Kurdish militants coming over the border?
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about PKK? They did talk about the PKK. The PKK is an organization that we considered -- that we consider a terrorist organization. The two leaders had a good discussion about how we can move forward to address the threat from the PKK. We are committed to going after and getting rid of terrorists who are inside Iraq and terrorists who are trying to come into Iraq. And that includes the PKK. And we've been working with the transitional government and the government of Turkey to address this issue.
There are a number of challenges we continue to face in Iraq, and the President talked about that, and we're working to address those. And this is one area where we will continue working with Turkey and the transitional government in Iraq to address.
Q Did the President reiterate his support for Turkey entering the EU?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I mean, he let the Prime Minister know that we continue to support their aspirations when it comes to the European Union.
You heard a general readout of the meeting from the two leaders, but I'll be glad to answer any more specific questions you have. They had a constructive meeting this morning that was aimed at really reinvigorating the strategic partnership that we have with Turkey, and they covered a broad range of issues that reflect our values and shared interest.
As you heard, they talked about the broader Middle East initiative and advancing freedom and democracy in the broader Middle East and North Africa. They talked about the progress being made in Iraq. The Prime Minister had recently met with Prime Minister Jaafari, and he updated the President on that discussion. And they did talk about the importance of continuing to fight terrorism, and that includes going after the PKK inside Iraq.
The President also expressed his great appreciation to Turkey for their leadership when it comes to the international security force in Afghanistan and the role that they're playing in Afghanistan. And they had an opportunity to talk about Turkey's continued reform efforts and their aspirations to move more toward being integrated with Europe through the European Union. And they talked about Syria and Lebanon and Iran and some other issues, as well.
Q Scott, the Government Accountability Project, a private group, has obtained internal White House documents that show that a White House official that was formerly a lobbyist for the oil industry has doctored and edited administration scientific reports in ways that consistently emphasize supposed uncertainties about global warming -- uncertainties that the vast consensus of science doesn't think are that severe. And I wonder, does the President think that helps the credibility of the administration on scientific issues?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, first, I disagree with the characterization. I think that your characterization is contradicted by the scientific community. The National Academies of Science came out with a report in 2001 that was requested by the President; it took a look at science of climate change, and in that very report it talked about how there are considerable uncertainties. So some of the language that you referenced was based on the very report from the scientific community that the President had requested.
And in terms of this report that came out earlier today, let me just step back and talk to you a little bit about our interagency review process, because that's all this is. We have an interagency review process when it comes to issues like climate change and the environment. There are some 15 federal agencies that are involved in that interagency review process. It includes policy people; it includes scientists. And when we're getting ready to put out a report, it goes through that interagency review process so people can have their input into the report.
One of the very reports highlighted in the article today was the administration's 10-year plan for climate science. And that plan was widely praised by the scientific community, including the National Academies of Science.
Q The person in question, Phil Cooney, does he have any scientific background at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, there are policy people and scientists who are involved in this process, in the interagency review process. And he's one of the policy people involved in that process, and someone who's very familiar with the issues relating to climate change and the environment.
Q Because of his work lobbying for the oil industry?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to get you his background, Terry. But he's one of many people who are involved in the interagency review process, including those 15 federal agencies, and the White House offices like the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality. And the Office of Science and Technology Policy is very ably led by Dr. Marburger; he is a well-respected scientist. And they are very involved in that interagency review process. And that office not only is involved in the review process, but signs off on these reports before they go out. And they have signed off on these reports because they know that they are scientifically sound.
Q But administration scientists, Mr. Hansen at the Goddard Center in New York, a NASA scientist for 25 years, and others have come forward saying that the politicization of science in this administration -- these are not democratic activists; this is a scientist who works for the government -- has reached an extreme. And they point to instances like Mr. Cooney's editing and doctoring of these summaries, scientific summaries as proof of that.
MR. McCLELLAN: I encourage you to go look at the reports, because one of the reports that you highlighted was widely praised by the scientific community, including the National Academies of Science. These reports should always be based on our scientific knowledge and what is the best available science. And that's what we expect. And that's what those reports are based on.
Q So the administration scientists who are saying you have politicized scientific research are just wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I -- go back and look at what the scientific community said about that 10-year plan on climate science, and what the National Academies of Science said. And I point you back to the very first question you brought up when you talked about how there's some dispute that there are uncertainties regarding the science of climate of change.
Q That they are serious, that there --
MR. McCLELLAN: Right --
Q -- that there's uncertainty about the fact of global warming, and that there's a significant human component to it. The consensus is in.
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple things. The National Academy of Science report back in 2001 said there are considerable uncertainties about the science of climate change. Now, there are some things we do know. That report pointed out that surface temperatures are still rising, and that that is in large part because of human activity.
That's why this President is not waiting for us to have the full knowledge of science, as it continues to come in and we continue to learn more. The President is acting. We are moving forward on the President's initiative to cut greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent come 2012. We are making steady progress. We are on track to meet that goal. We are moving forward on partnerships like the methane-to-markets initiative that the President outlined, and that the very individual you bring up was very involved in developing. This will help us produce cleaner burning electricity, and it will help capture a greenhouse gas emission and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These are very important initiatives. We're also leading the way, when it comes to research, around the world. We are providing more resources and funding into the research and development of new technologies, cleaner technologies, that will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Q But in every example that you've cited --
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, do you all want to --
Q In every example that we have seen, and Mr. Cooney's emendations and deletions from these reports have been to the effect of making them less critical, less stringent, less apparently in need of immediate action. In other words, he's done everything in the examples we've seen to pull back from worst-case scenario. He is not a scientist.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's your opinion, and I think your opinion is wrong.
Q No, no, no, it's evident in the reading of it. He is not a scientist. It upsets the scientific community that non-scientists are doing this. That's why they say that he has a political agenda. Why wouldn't they think that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, let me repeat what I just said: This is not based on any one individual. This is an interagency review process, where everybody who is involved in these issues should have input into these reports. And that's all this is. And if you go and look at the reports, namely the one I just referenced, the 10-year plan --
Q That's the only one you can reference. There are others that you can't reference because he changed them in a significantly different way.
MR. McCLELLAN: Where?
Q Well, right here, for example, in the October 2002 draft of Our Changing Planet. He says, "Many scientific observations indicate the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change." He made that, "may be." He cut out a section of another document on -- I can read that to you if you want, but you get the idea.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're selectively quoting things. I think you ought to go and look at some of the things he pointed out in his --
Q But the only thing you can point to is that one 2002 --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just pointed to what Terry brought up, when he talked about serious uncertainties, or something to that effect, and that is language that was used in the National Academy of Science report. So, I mean, if you want to talk about the facts, I'm glad to do that, and I think the facts point out that our reports are based on the best scientific knowledge, and they're based on the input --
Q But, Scott, you're not talking about the same thing here.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- they're based on the inputs of scientists.
Q But, Scott, you're clearly -- I mean, the United States is -- and I'm not making a judgment about this -- is out of step with other countries in the world, in terms of the existence of climate change and the causes of it. That debate is clear. I mean, the President, just yesterday, when asked about this, said, the United States is spending millions of dollars --
MR. McCLELLAN: Billions.
Q -- billions of dollars to research this issue, which is to say that he has not reached a conclusion yet. Fine. But --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, no, let me just correct you on that one point. It's to say that there are still -- there is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the science of climate change, and that's pointed out in the National Academy of Science report that the President requested when he came into office.
Q Right, but there is other -- there's the body of opinion here that still works against that. The point is, if you go back to June of 2003, an EPA report on climate change had a whole section on climate change simply deleted out of it, and critics charged the very same thing, which is that -- it's not that the view -- it's not a judgment about the view, it's that the process here, the science here is being overwhelmed by the politics. Is that not a fair criticism?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it has been contradicted by the scientific community, itself, when they look at these reports and they widely praise the report that I referenced. It was one of our major reports on climate change. It was our 10-year plan on climate science research. And that is an important undertaking that this administration led. And there's an interagency --
Q There's ample evidence that you guys are -- that policy people are putting their own spin on the science.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I guess, David, you want to let me finish and respond. I'm trying to get you the information that you want, not that some people may want us to say, because that's not the case. I'm going to tell what the facts are. And the facts are that there is an interagency review process with a number of agencies involved that are impacted by -- or that are involved in these decisions, in these reports. And many people have input into that interagency review process.
Our reports are based on the best scientific knowledge. There are number of scientists involved in this. The Office of Science and Technology Policy is involved very much in this process, and the head of that office is a well-respected scientist. And he has signed off on these reports because they're based on sound science. They're based on the best available science.
Q Scott, there's another player in all of this. It's a fellow who has been held out as a whistle-blower essentially, who is accusing the administration more or less of basically not giving an honest assessment on the environment. What's your take on him? Is he a whistle-blower? Does he have an axe to grind? To what extent can you weigh in on --
MR. McCLELLAN: Who is this individual?
Q The fellow's name is Rick Piltz.
MR. McCLELLAN: And what's his background?
Q He's been held out by the Government Accountability Project as a government employee --
MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, you might ask him --
Q -- who, in fact, works for --
MR. McCLELLAN: You might ask him those questions.
Q He's a senior associate for government climate change. So he's in the office affected, and he's the person making the assertions.
MR. McCLELLAN: And when did he come into that office and what was his background before that?
Q Well, he obviously left the office because he did not like the way these documents were being filtered. So are you not familiar with him? He was also mentioned in the article.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you might want to look into his background. I don't know all the answers to that and why he has such motives. But that's something for you to do, and to look at his background, why he came to these -- or why he came to this. That's not for me to do. I'm here to tell you what the facts are. And the facts are that our policies and our reports are based on the best available science, and that this administration is acting and leading the way when it comes to addressing the serious long-term challenge we face from climate change.
Q So you disagree with his assertions? You disagree with the notion that the administration is, in fact, making the assessment of --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what his assertions are. I saw them referenced in a report, but I haven't heard exactly what his assertions are. That's for you to ask him, and it's for you to look at what his background is.
Q Scott, on a slightly different topic, it looks like the administration is dropping its objections to Mr. ElBaradei to be the -- for a third term at the IAEA. Can you tell us how it is the administration came to a conclusion that somebody who it didn't think was suitable for a third term now suddenly may be?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me point out that there is going to be a meeting tomorrow that the Secretary of State is having with Dr. ElBaradei. I know she looks forward to that discussion. And in terms of our views, I think we've expressed our views when it comes to why we believe there should be a two-term limit, something that was -- has long been agreed to. But in terms of any new information relating to this specific position, I think let's let the meeting take place first, and then I'm sure we will be glad to discuss it at that point.
Q Can you explain why, if you believe that there should be a two-term limit, the administration never nominated another candidate as an alternative?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well -- and again, I mean, our position when it comes to U.N. leadership positions, I think, is well-known and why we continue to support what was agreed to, which was a two-term limit. Now, the IAEA board of governors appears to have a different view in this particular case, and so that has to be taken into account, as well.
Q A two-part question. One, as far as the Indian Prime Minister visit to the White House on July 18th is concerned, Indian Americans are lobbying hard to -- for his address to the joint session of Congress. One, does the President join them, or support his address to the joint session of Congress? And two, do you see a policy change during his visit because of the concern -- the Chinese military buildup? Because why I'm asking this question is that when Chinese were demonstrating, marking the 16th anniversary of Tiananmen Square -- Secretary Rumsfeld, on Memorial Day, he signed a petition -- supporting this group for freedom and democracy in China.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, what was the question?
Q If there's a policy change? And also, if the President supports --
MR. McCLELLAN: Policy change regarding --
Q India due to China's buildup.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me just talk about the relationship we have with India. We have a very strong relationship with India. It has been a relationship that Haiti strengthened over the course of this administration. The President looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Singh to the White House. He's had good discussions with him in the past.
In terms of a joint address to Congress, that's a question best directed to the Congress. Those are decisions that they make and invitations that they extend. But the President looks forward to welcoming him to Washington and meeting with him here at the White House when he comes.
Q Does the President support the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going. Go ahead, Sarah. The President is going to be speaking shortly.
Q Scott, former President Jimmy Carter is calling for the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo to -- the U.S. commitment to human rights. Will the President do so?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple things. First of all, as I talked about at the beginning, we are a nation that is at war. The individuals that we are talking about when it comes to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, they are dangerous individuals. They are enemy combatants for a reason, because they seek to do harm to the American people. And these are individuals that were picked up on the battlefield in the war on terrorism. This is part of winning the war on terrorism, going after and capturing or bringing to justice those who seek to do us harm.
And in terms of Guantanamo Bay and the detainees there, we're always looking at all our alternatives when it comes to dealing with these detainees. If you'll recall, we have worked with other countries to release a number of these detainees after we have concluded that we do not believe that they posed a threat to us anymore, or that we had assurances from those countries that they would look after these individuals. And so we always are looking at our alternatives when it comes to dealing with these detainees.
Q Regarding the President's meeting with the Turkish leader, Erdogan, Senator Bill Frist, the Republican Majority Leader, spoke in the Senate yesterday and said that Erdogan needs to lead in Turkey by speaking out against what Frist described as a wave of anti-American feeling. And so my question is, is Frist speaking for the administration when he says that, or does the White House share that concern? And did it come up in the meeting at all between the two leaders today?
MR. McCLELLAN: They had a discussion about the issue, and Prime Minister Erdogan is someone who, like others in Turkey, shares the values that we share here in the United States. The Prime Minister reiterated that in the meeting and talked about how we share the values of freedom and democracy and human rights and rule of law. Those are important values that we share. And it's important to always continue speaking out about the importance of freedom and democracy and helping extend that freedom and democracy to others that do not have it. And that's what we're working together with Turkey to do, and other countries, in the broader Middle East. And he is someone, as the President pointed out, who has been very supportive of the broader Middle East initiative in advancing freedom and democracy.
Q Was there discussion between the two about an anti-American feeling in Turkey?
MR. McCLELLAN: They did have a discussion about that; it was a good discussion, they had a good exchange.
All right, thank you. The President is getting ready to speak. I'm sorry.
END 1:25 P.M. EDT