For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 29, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:08 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: All right, welcome. We've got a busy news day. Let me go through a whole lot of preliminaries here, and then we will get to the Hamdan case and others.
First, we're pleased that the Senate moved quickly and confirmed Henry Paulson to be the next Secretary of the Treasury, and commends Senators Grassley, Baucus, and Schumer for their leadership during a fast confirmation process.
Also, the President yesterday announced 10 additional judicial nominees: John Preston Bailey of West Virginia, United States District Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia; Mary O. Donohue, of New York, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of New York; John Alfred Jarvey, of Iowa, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Iowa; Robert James Jonker of Michigan, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Michigan; Kent A. Jordan, of Delaware, for the U.S. Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit; Raymond M. Kethledge, of Michigan, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit; Debra Ann Livingston, of New York, United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit; Paul Lewis Maloney, of Michigan, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Michigan; Stephen Joseph Murphy, III, of Michigan, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth District; and Janet T. Neff, of Michigan, United States District Judge for the Western District of Michigan.
In addition, as you probably have heard, the VA has announced that they have recovered the stolen laptop that had data on as many as 26.6 million veterans and military personnel. The FBI, in a statement from the Baltimore field office, said a preliminary review determines that the database remains intact and has not been accessed. We'll continue to bring you data as that becomes available.
The President is concerned about the major flooding that has occurred throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. As of 5:45 p.m. last evening Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff had called Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania; FEMA Director David Paulson has had conversations with Senators Schumer and Clinton, and Representative Sherwood of Pennsylvania. So far, no formal disaster assistance request, and we ought to be congratulating state and local authorities not only for rapid, but effective response.
FEMA has activated a regional response coordination center in Philadelphia to integrate federal support for state and local response efforts, and they have provided approximately 30 FEMA personnel. Maryland: FEMA has deployed four teams of three members each, and FEMA also remains in contact with emergency officials in a number of states.
On the economic front, real GDP growth in the first quarter revised up to 5.6 percent. Profits up, as well. Unemployment claims up -- let's see, they're up 4,000, to 313,000. That's still in line with market expectations.
One or two more things here. Scheduling -- the President is going to spend this weekend at Camp David. He's going to arrive Friday night, return to the White House on Sunday. On July 4th, he will travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and make remarks at an Independence Day celebration before returning to the White House.
Obviously, the Hamdan case has come down from the U.S. Supreme Court. Maybe you are interested in that. We'll go to questions. Kelly.
Q Can you describe for us -- the President mentioned the drive-by briefing --
MR. SNOW: Yes. I conducted that. I helped conduct it. What we did is -- and he only had about three minutes -- we got a quick brief. The case, I guess, came down, what, about five or ten minutes after 10:00 a.m. The President had been in continuous meetings with Prime Minister Koizumi and their national security teams, so we were able to give him a very quick gloss on what we at that point had known.
Even now, people are studying as carefully as they can what is a highly complex decision, trying to figure out what the ramifications are. But the President did point out, and it seems to be the point that Justice Stevens stressed from the bench today, that one of the most important things for the court, in the majority opinion today, was to get some congressional authorization. Members of Congress, including Senator Graham, on TV, have stepped forward and said that they'd be happy to work on that process. The President said he's willing to work with Congress on authorization to figure out how to move forward in a way consistent with the ruling handed down by the court.
Q This administration has said that under the Constitution, at a time of war, the President has had very far-reaching power to protect the American people, and the Court seems to disagree and says the President overreached in that power.
MR. SNOW: You know, it's -- overreached is the headline, it's not the way it's been written by the Court. I mean, I've got the opinion here, and I'd defy anybody to come up with a very quick and simple analysis of the varied holdings in here. You've got people agreeing and disagreeing in part. So I think what the Court is saying is that it wants to make sure that there's congressional authorization, and it also is concerned about comporting with the Geneva Conventions and also the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And those are matters that will be taken under advisement.
Q And those are things that this White House has basically said it did not have to do, that executive has the authority to pursue this war without dealing with those other institutions.
MR. SNOW: The Court disagreed with that.
Q The President said before that he was waiting for the Supreme Court ruling before he would make any comments about it, but he also said that he really wanted to close it soon. So where do we stand with that?
MR. SNOW: Well, you're talking about Guantanamo?
Q Yes. The ruling didn't address the --
MR. SNOW: Correct, and the ruling -- the President never said he wanted to -- he said he wants to close Guantanamo. He didn't say he wanted to close it quickly, because there are some practical considerations. There are approximately -- well, as quickly as possible, I believe. There's a difference, because you have a whole series of considerations. There are approximately a hundred prisoners we are still in the process of trying to repatriate. There is also a core of prisoners who are deemed so dangerous that their home countries won't even take them back. There are a number of prisoners, also, that we think need to be held to justice within the United States system. And now you have to figure out how to go forward with that. This will not mean closing down Guantanamo. There's nothing in this opinion that dictates closing down Guantanamo. We're studying very carefully what other implications there may be.
I think the most important thing, at this point, seems to be -- I don't want to fake being a lawyer, but I've had some pretty extensive consultations with our lawyers, who are still pouring over this -- I think the congressional consultation piece is going to be pretty important.
Q Forgive me, Jim. The President has said, I want to close Guantanamo --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q -- I'm waiting for this decision. You're just now saying, this doesn't mean we close Guantanamo. Isn't that --
MR. SNOW: No, because he wanted to see the decision, and I think what the decision has done -- for instance, in the case of Mr. Hamdan, is it's now reverting it back to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There is no strict constitutional interpretation. As a matter of fact, this opinion does not talk about the Constitution. And so what the President is trying to do, and what the attorneys are trying to do, both here in the White House and also at Departments of Justice and Defense, is to figure out precisely what the Court is saying here, and how to proceed in a way that comports with it.
We will proceed as rapidly as we can to bring to justice those who have been held in Guantanamo, to repatriate as quickly as possible those who may be repatriated. And that's always been the goal. But this is not a decision that lends itself to a very quick disposition, because what it has now done is added the extra element of bringing Congress in, and saying to members of Congress, okay, congressional authorization. Section III of Justice Stevens' opinion deals with the issue of congressional authorization. And as I've mentioned, I think a number of members of Congress are going to want to weigh in on this.
Q For the record, the President still stands by the idea that he wants to close Guantanamo Bay.
MR. SNOW: Absolutely. Yes, that hasn't changed.
Q Then as far as the congressional oversight, could you just flesh out for me --
MR. SNOW: It's not oversight, it's authorization.
Q Authorization. Could you flesh out for me what that does --
MR. SNOW: I wish I could. I think what it means is that they want to make sure that Congress authorizes, pursuant to Congress' obligations when it comes to declaring war and laying conditions for a war, it wants Congress to authorize the way to proceed forward in terms of bringing to justice those who have been brought in from the battlefield.
Q So doesn't that, by definition, mean the administration overreached in setting up its initial approach?
MR. SNOW: I think it would say that the administration -- the Supreme Court has disagreed with the approach we've taken. You may -- I don't know how you'd say "overreached." Apply whatever adjective or whatever verb you want, the Supreme Court has said that it disagrees with the way in which the commissions were convened, and has laid down some guidelines for proceeding.
Q But the idea is to maintain sort of the concept, it's just to make sure that it's rewritten with Congress' authorization, as you say.
MR. SNOW: You've got to keep -- the principle is, you bring to justice people who were on the battlefield or have been apprehended in the process of committing acts of terror or on the war fields of Afghanistan and elsewhere. And that principle remains the same; nobody gets a "get out of jail free" card. Instead now, what we're doing is addressing the issue which the Court sort of threw in the lap of both Congress and the administration, of figuring out what the Court has decided is the proper way to proceed in trying to convene hearings for those who are being held.
Q Can you characterize the feeling upon hearing the ruling today? Was it disappointment?
MR. SNOW: No, it really is -- again, this is -- I'll just describe to you -- have you guys had a chance to look at this? Here is -- first we have -- we have Justice Stevens. Here's his majority opinion, it's 73 pages long. Parts I through IV have the concurrence of four other members of the Court, but parts V and VI-D-iv do not.
Then you have Justice Breyer, writing for Justices Kennedy, Souter and Ginsburg. Then you have Justice Kennedy -- Justices Souter and Ginsburg have adopted everything what he has, but Justice Breyer says, no, I like parts I and II, but not part III.
Then we get to the dissents -- Justice Scalia writing with Justices Thomas and Alito in full approval. Justice Thomas writes, Justice Scalia likes it; Justice Alito agrees with parts I, part II-C-i and part III-B-ii. Then you have Justice Alito writing and Justices Scalia and Thomas concur with parts I through III.
It's very difficult to come up with a snap parsing of that. So I think it's worth saying that the first reaction is, what does this mean? And there are a lot of very smart lawyers trying to pore through each and every part of that to figure out precisely what it does mean.
Q Tony, in addition to seeking congressional authorization for military tribunals or for whatever is next, what other possible next steps are there for the administration to take?
MR. SNOW: Don't know and don't want to get into it, Jake. I would refer you -- I think the Justice Department is going to be trying to do a briefing later in the day. I would leave that to legal minds who have got far greater standing to speak on it than I do.
Q Okay. In addition to that, there was some strong rhetoric in some of these decisions, the majority decisions, Kennedy writing in a separate opinion, "It's a concentration of power" -- referring specifically to the executive branch -- "puts personal liberty in peril of arbitrary action by officials," "an incursion to the Constitution's three-part system is designed to avoid." Is there any feeling in terms of the administration's reaction to that?
MR. SNOW: No. I mean, again, you're trying to frame this as a political fight, and it's not. The Supreme Court has now rendered its judgment in the Hamdan case and it is now the obligation of the administration, which -- the President, who controls the executive branch, to figure out how to proceed, to create laws, to execute laws that are consistent with the Supreme Court's holding. As you also know, Justice Thomas, for the first time in his career, read an opinion from the bench. I mean, this is one where I think, just looking from the recitation I just gave you, I think that there were pretty vigorous disagreements -- vigorous differences, not merely among those who disagreed on the Court, but among those who agreed.
So that's why -- there has to be some forbearance here. I think the most important thing to realize is that section III holding by Justice Stevens, which talks about congressional authorization, I think that probably is the nub here, and Justice Stevens felt strongly enough about it that he did talk about that from the bench today.
Q Well, I'm not trying to make this a political argument, but you guys -- the White House has put forward the argument that in extraordinary times, the White House needs to take extraordinary measures and act as executive power on its own. And the Supreme Court -- a majority ruling of the Supreme Court has said, no, you can't, not in this instance.
MR. SNOW: Well, the majority of the Supreme Court -- a lot of this is procedural, Jake, and that's why it gets complicated and it gets pretty quickly beyond my brief. But if you take a look at it, a lot of it really is procedural. It has to do with congressional authorizations, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and so on.
Q But those are the steps that you guys bypassed.
MR. SNOW: Well, and so those are not going to be bypassed in the future, and there's a disagreement. The Supreme Court has rendered its decision.
Q This way forward, working with Congress for authorization, isn't that basically a way to circumvent what the Supreme Court came down with today?
MR. SNOW: Not when a justice says, Congress can do this. That sounds to me to be -- and by the way, there may be other means of dealing with this. I do not want to give you the impression that is the one and only thing. But that seems to be something Justice Stevens considered important enough to say, from the bench, that Congress could write authorizing legislation to deal with this. That's not circumventing the Court, that's responding to what the author of the majority opinion had to say.
Sheryl. Oh I'm sorry --
Q I just have one more. The ruling today also seemed to say that the prisoners at Guantanamo should be treated in adherence to the Geneva Conventions. So what will that mean for the treatment of prisoners going forward?
MR. SNOW: That is something we're going to have to study. I'm not aware that it would involve any changes in the procedures by which prisoners are detained. But I think -- I better be careful about that, because I don't know for sure. But I know people are looking at that right now.
Q Tony, this is an election year, and these issues are extremely contentious on Capitol Hill. Is the President confident that Congress would even act to give him this authorizing legislation, number one? And number two, what happens in the interim?
MR. SNOW: Well, in the interim you have the detention of prisoners, continue using Guantanamo. You will still have the process by which you continue to repatriate a number of prisoners. And then you've got to review the options for bringing the prisoners who are still in custody to justice. I'm being -- I don't want to be too specific because there are options, and again, the lawyers have to weigh those.
As far as Congress, we're in a war. And we get reminded of that -- every time we seem to forget, we get harsh reminders. And I think members of Congress, certainly understanding -- and many people on both sides of the aisle have been down to Guantanamo and they've received briefings and they have a sense of what's going on and what kind of prisoners are under detention. They realize that it is important to bring them to justice, and I think they will feel some obligation to go ahead and act. I don't want to speak on behalf of the House and Senate, but it is a political year.
But on the other hand, the one thing that you do find is general consensus, A, that we need to win the war on terror, B, we need to wage it seriously, and C, we need to go ahead and bring to justice those who are at Guantanamo in a manner consistent with law and with our obligations to human rights.
Q But while you wait, is the net effect of this that these detainees will be held even longer awaiting --
MR. SNOW: Well, they will be held --
Q -- congressional authorization for the type of --
MR. SNOW: That possibly could be the case, yes. That possibly could be the case.
Q Tony, back on the issue of alleged overreaching, you're saying there were no strict Constitution interpretations. If that were the case, why not have -- why did this administration handle the tribunals in a very conservative or restrained way --
MR. SNOW: April, I don't want to go second-guessing what happened. The administration proceeded in the manner it saw fit. The Supreme Court has reviewed it in the case of Mr. Hamdan, and we move forward. I don't think second-guessing -- I don't know what to do with it.
Q But the manner that they saw fit, some are saying, overreached and was an abuse of power. If there were no guidelines --
MR. SNOW: There were guidelines, and again, rather than getting into second-guessing, I'm just not going to do it, April. It's complex enough to figure out precisely what this whole thing means. And a lot of people are going to work very hard to do their best to figure out what it means.
Q But don't you think that the complexities should have been addressed early on as this war began? I mean, they tell us --
MR. SNOW: You're --
Q -- who is a prisoner of war versus a person who is not a soldier versus someone from al Qaeda --
MR. SNOW: Well, one of the interesting things here is that there is no dispute that these are enemy combatants and not traditional prisoners of war. That's never been a matter of dispute. This is a different kind of war, and I think it creates a different kind of legal atmosphere. And I think trying to second guess in a situation like this might be an interesting academic exercise, but it's not something I'm going to entertain here.
Q Can I ask you about the larger debate in the international community? Does the decision today weaken the President's hand at all in trying to argue that he does have wide latitude, as he says he does, in conducting the war on terror?
MR. SNOW: I think what you're finding, actually, is increasing cooperation in the war on terror. You not only heard it today with Prime Minister Koizumi, you also have ongoing efforts -- Secretary Rice today is in St. Petersburg -- or Moscow, she's in Moscow, in a ministerial as a preparation for the G8 summit next month in St. Petersburg. You've got a lot of nations that realize that there's a war on terror and they're figuring out the best way to proceed and to proceed together. I don't think it weakens the President's hand, and it certainly doesn't change the way in which we move as aggressively as possible to try to cut off terrorists before they can strike again.
Q But when world leaders see that a branch of the United States government disagrees with the administration's tactics in this one case --
MR. SNOW: The branch -- there are always disagreements between branches of government. I mean, that's kind of the way the system works.
Q The Supreme Court disagrees --
MR. SNOW: Yes, but what the Supreme Court has not said, it has not said, you can't hold them; it hasn't said, you can't try them; it hasn't said, you have to send them back. So what you do have are matters of procedure. And, no, I don't think it weakens the President's hand.
Q Is this a setback in terms of the broader goal of this administration to expand executive authority?
MR. SNOW: I don't think it's ever been the goal of the administration to expand executive authority. In a time of war, the President has tried to act in a way that meets the needs and obligations of a Commander-in-Chief against a dispersed and highly-unique kind of enemy. But we don't have "expand executive power" sessions. So nobody thinks in terms of, how do we expand executive power. This has been a time where the President has had to figure out how to maneuver in ways consistent with his obligations of Commander-in-Chief, and consistent with the Constitution. And I dare say it's raising questions that are fairly new and people are wrestling with.
Q I do think the Vice President has said that it was a broader goal to expand executive authority.
MR. SNOW: Well, I missed the "expand executive authority" meetings.
Q What's the President doing to try to get the Voting Rights Act renewal moving in the House? There are a lot of conservative Republicans in the House who are opposing its renewal for a variety of reasons. He said it's a top priority, but what is he doing?
MR. SNOW: It is a top priority. Well, there have been ongoing discussions through Candi Wolff, our head of Legislative Affairs, with members. And the President's position has been very clear; he wants it renewed in its present form and he hopes Congress is going to move quickly.
Q What is he doing?
MR. SNOW: I just told you. Typically, you dispatch people to go work on this, and there's been behind-the-scenes conversations. I'm not going to go --
Q But he has jumped on the phone and called people --
MR. SNOW: April, I'm not going to get into all the to-and-fro on the Voting Rights Act.
Q But he believes that it's still important for the federal government to oversee voting rights decisions --
MR. SNOW: He believes that it's important, as a matter of fact -- and I've said it before -- he considers it a top priority to renew in its present form the Voting Rights Act.
Q Tony, you said it's still early, lawyers are scrubbing this thing --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q -- but Congress can authorize these military commissions by statute. Senator Graham and others have said they wanted to do that.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q But a number of experts have looked at this and said the Supreme Court was also very concerned about inadequate procedures given to these detainees. Hasn't the Supreme Court now set a bare minimum for the rights afforded to each detainee? And isn't that really a bigger problem than authorization from Congress?
MR. SNOW: No, because, again, I think what the Court has said is the Congress can by statute address all those concerns. And as I've said, Brad, from the start, anything that is going to be done is going to be consistent with today's holding in the Hamdan case.
Q Back to Jim's question about reaction. A lot of this is being portrayed as a major rebuke of the President's power, a severe loss in the war on terror. What is the sense from the White House?
MR. SNOW: The sense from the White House is, it is what it is. It's a decision of the United States Supreme Court. It creates conditions under which you need to modify and adjust your policy when it comes to Guantanamo and to detentions. And we will proceed accordingly. You can't -- you don't sit around and go, oh, my gosh, the Supreme Court hearing. It is something you deal with. And the way -- the reaction here in the White House is to try to figure out what it means so that we can go ahead with the number one job, which is to go ahead and bring these people to justice.
Q Thank you. My question is not a Supreme Court, so do you want to --
MR. SNOW: Okay, what I'll do is, let's finish up Supreme Court, finish up Supreme Court questions. Then we'll come back.
Q I've got a couple of sentences from the majority opinion that I'd like to read you and then get a comment from you.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q "Nothing in the record demonstrates that it will be impracticable to apply court martial rules here. There is no suggestion, e.g. of any of the difficulty in securing properly sworn and authenticated evidence, or in applying the usual courts of relevance in the possibility. It is not evident why the danger posed by international terrorism, considerable though it is, should require, in the case of Hamdan's trial, any variance from the court martial rules." Why not go with court martial?
MR. SNOW: That is an option. It would not be strict courts martial because it wouldn't be dealing with U.S. soldiers, but you would have something that would be parallel, in terms of procedures, to a court martial proceeding, and that's one of the options.
Q We haven't heard much about that, though, today. We've heard about military tribunals; we've not heard about courts martial.
MR. SNOW: Well, it's now an option that's in play.
Q Tony, could you go over what your understanding is of Lindsey Graham's thought --
MR. SNOW: I had a brief conversation with Senator Graham earlier. He has been arguing for some time that he thinks congressional authorization is required for military commissions, and therefore, he is willing to go ahead and proceed legislatively. Beyond that, I've got nothing. I think, again, there are so many different pieces to this that you have a general proposition that members of Congress are willing to get involved and to work with the White House, and the White House with them, on congressional authorization, if that is the proper way to proceed.
But beyond that -- and Senator Graham, I'm afraid, was sitting in the chair at the Senate until right before this briefing began, so I didn't have time to follow up. But I know that he and others at least have expressed some interest to try to figure out some way. And as you also know, he has been critical of the policy to date.
Q A little -- just a housekeeping question. Hank Paulson, do you have a date for the swearing-in?
MR. SNOW: No, not yet.
Q Can you put a finer point on the detainees that are held, the status? You said that you're trying to repatriate 100 of them. Then you said, there's more of them that the countries won't take back. How many would be in that category?
MR. SNOW: I think the number is between 50 and 100. But rather -- I'll tell you what, Peter, I'll try to get clearer guidance out of DOD. These are -- what you end up getting are ballpark figures, and so I don't want to nail that down as an absolutely precise figure because -- especially with repatriations. Obviously, that number continues to go down. I will try to get a good answer out of DOD, and if so we'll attach it as an asterisk to the transcript of this briefing.
Q There have been hunger strikes and other actions there, as you know. Is there any concern that this ruling is going to embolden people being held, and perhaps their allies in the greater world?
MR. SNOW: As you know, the people who are guards at Guantanamo and officials at Guantanamo have tried to take extraordinary precautions to make sure that the prisoners are safe, and they have gone back and revisited and tried to strengthen those procedures in the wake of the recent suicides. I don't think at this point -- the primary concern here at the White House and within the administration is to figure out where this ruling takes us. And as far as the ongoing operations at Guantanamo, again, you talk to the authorities there -- they are very concerned about making sure that the prisoners are cared for properly. And so that's something they care about every day. They constantly worry about that.
Q Thank you, Tony. It is reported that North Korea --
MR. SNOW: Before we get into North Korea, let me dispatch -- dispense with all the Hamdan case questions, and then we'll get to that.
Q I just want to clarify something from the press conference the President said. He said, "some of them," meaning with detainees, "some of them need to be tried in our courts."
MR. SNOW: He was referring to judicial proceedings, or equivalent judicial proceedings, such as military commissions, perhaps courts martial, and then we'll see how we proceed.
Q He didn't mean civilian courts, when he said --
MR. SNOW: No, not necessarily.
Q The President and the Vice President and others in this administration have talked pretty forcefully --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry?
Q The President and the Vice President and others in this administration have talked pretty forcefully about the need for this President to have broad powers to prosecute the war on terror and how vital that is to winning.
MR. SNOW: Right.*
Q As you point out, the Supreme Court has now disagreed. So is the President concerned that this ruling is curbing his power or --
MR. SNOW: No. I mean, I think this is --
Q -- does he not have any concern that the prerogatives that he's argued, stressed strenuously for are being basically rejected by --
MR. SNOW: The President thinks of the war on terror -- and I will, without having spoken for him -- without having had a direct conversation about this, but by observation, the President thinks in terms of his obligations as Commander-in-Chief, not his prerogatives, but his responsibilities and the best way to carry those out. And when somebody says, okay, this is the box within -- within which you must operate, then you operate within the confines. But the President -- so, the President's determination to prosecute and win the war on terror has not changed one bit by the Supreme Court opinion. He is still determined to do it, he's still determined to win. And he wouldn't be in it if he didn't think we could and would win. So, no, the answer is that there is -- there's not seen any sort of implicit curtailment of his ability to fight the war on terror.
Q Do you see a potential impact on things like the National Security Agency eavesdropping program and some of the other surveillance programs when the President used sort of the same rationale that he used with respect to Guantanamo when he talked about his constitutional authority perhaps being curtailed --
MR. SNOW: I just -- I don't -- you're talking apples and oranges here, Kelly.
Q Not entirely, no.
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, you are. You're talking about entirely different sets of legal authorizations, and without getting into the weeds on it --
Q He also, in both instances, argued that the congressional use of force authorized it, and his constitutional authority authorized it. And the Court is saying that he still needs congressional --
MR. SNOW: The Court -- well, the Court is addressing this in the specific instance of military commissions, going back and trying to take a look at the history of military commissions. So it really is a far more specific ruling than that. It has to deal with the institution of military commissions, which goes back to the age of the Civil War.
Q I just want to make sure, before we leave this, in terms of the options and the roads that the White House is considering traveling on from this point, we've talked about courts martial or some parallel procedure, we've talked about the congressional authorization, is there anything else as a possible road, for instance, the civil courts --
MR. SNOW: I really don't know, and I'm not at liberty to go any further than I've gone. I think people are looking at everything that may be implied by this. Those are the only two roads I can take you down right now, Jim.
Q You don't think that this decision weakens the President's ability to wage the war on terror? I thought that was the whole point you guys went to the Supreme Court, because you needed this in order to wage. I'm not talking about --
MR. SNOW: We thought it was an appropriate way to bring to justice people who are not enemy combatants in the traditional sense. The conventions of war, typically, have defined enemy combatants as people wearing uniforms of a sovereign country, clearly marked, not committing acts of violence against innocents, and so on. You know the Geneva Convention language. And it was the interpretation of the administration that military commissions were historically and legally an appropriate way to proceed.
What the Supreme Court has not said is you can't try them; it hasn't said you can't bring them to justice. I think now it's a question of how properly to do that. So it doesn't tie his hands. What it does is it -- it doesn't serve as a rebuke. What it says is that the Supreme Court disagrees with the method that has been designed right now by the administration, and it says, we want you to go back and consult with Congress.
As I mentioned before, Jake, a lot of this seems to have to do with procedure. And so everybody is going to go back, and the lawyers -- and I really would direct you back for further detail on this to the Justice briefing -- to figure out exactly what you need to do so that you can bring these folks to justice.
Q I assume that the reason you were doing it the way you were doing it is because you thought that was the best way to win the war on terror. So doesn't, by definition, this decision weaken, in your opinion, your ability to wage the war --
MR. SNOW: It's not -- it's really not important for me to give a personal opinion here. I gave that up when I came to this job.
Q The White House's opinion.
MR. SNOW: So at this particular -- you don't think about it that way. You think, what is the proper way to prosecute the war on terror. To move from one way doesn't mean that it's the only way, and so there will be different ways of bringing these people to justice.
Lester, it's got to be on topic.
Q No, no, I'll yield.
MR. SNOW: First let's make sure: anybody else on the Hamdan case? All right. Now we may get the first -- I'm sorry, we start here. Sarah.
Q Thank you. Tony, you and other key officials in the administration say diplomacy is being used to solve the North Korean missile crisis issue. Would you be more specific?
MR. SNOW: No. (Laughter.) No, I mean -- well, if you want me to be specific, you have the Premier of China calling yesterday for the North Koreans not to launch a missile. We have had Japanese officials say the same thing, we've had contacts from South Korea -- the other parties from the six-party talks have made it clear that the North Koreans ought not to do this.
We have been using diplomacy through our partners and friends to try to persuade North Korea to come back to the six-party talks. I mean, it's really no different than what I've been saying every day here. We have been pursuing diplomacy continuously. It was one of the topics that arose today in the conversations between Prime Minister Koizumi and the President. So there is an ongoing effort on the part of the President, and also his designees, including Ambassador Schieffer, including Secretary Rice and others.
So a lot of people have been active in trying to get the North Koreans to come back so that once again they can -- so that they can join the community of nations and move forward on other parallel tracks as laid out in last year's September 19th agreement.
Q Tony, a two-part question. First, in Israel, WorldNet Daily reports that leaders of the 1,200-member Rabbinical Congress for Peace have called on President Bush to refuse to support Prime Minister Olmert's plans to evacuate most of Judea and Samaria. And my question: How is the President responding to this?
MR. SNOW: Believe it or not, I don't think he's seen fit to respond directly to that particular political statement.
Q Okay. Reuters reports that while the Pentagon no longer deems homosexuality a mental disorder, this reversal has no impact on U.S. policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military. And my question: Does this also accurately report the position of the Commander-in-Chief, or not?
MR. SNOW: I will defer all questions about military personnel policies to the Department of Defense.
Q How does the President -- has he changed his mind on this or not?
MR. SNOW: The President's positions on all these matters are well-established, Les.
Q It is reported that the North Korean Special Envoy Jay Lefkowitz is to visit Kaesong Industrial Park inside North Korea next month. Can you verify that report? And what is the purpose of his visit?
MR. SNOW: No, I can't, and I don't know.**
Q Tony, on North Korea, the President took pains today to talk about cooperation with the Japanese on missile defense technology. Does he have something specific in mind toward broadening that cooperation or --
MR. SNOW: As we announced earlier, there has been, I believe -- and I'll have to go back, Sheryl -- but there had been an announced -- what was this, -- I know that there's been some discussion.***
Q Some redeployment, right. But anything beyond that? And also --
MR. SNOW: I was not in the restricted meeting, so I don't know anything specifically -- I'll try to find out.
Q And, also, it seemed that he was trying to send a message to the North Koreans that --
MR. SNOW: The message was that you cannot leave Japan unprotected, and Japan does not intend to remain unprotected.
Q On Iran, Iran is now saying that they're going to not have a response to the offer until August. The G8 wants a response July 5th. What happens if they do not respond by July 5th? Will steps be taken, or will you just wait until August?
MR. SNOW: At this point, the ministers at the G8 made it clear today that they expect to receive a reply through Ali Larijani to Ambassador Solana on the 5th of July, when they meet. That has been described as the appropriate forum for providing an answer, and they expect to get a proper answer through those channels on that date.
Q Tony, what's the White House response to all that's going on in Israel and Palestinian territory?
MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things. First, there's pretty much unified international reaction, which is that Hamas needs to give back the Israeli soldier and needs to renounce terror, and needs to do so immediately. The second thing is that we hope that Israel, in trying to retrieve its soldier, will practice restraint, and that both sides will practice restraint in trying to lower the temperature and develop a sense of security in the region.
Q They've gone in and they've made some arrests of some Hamas officials and government officials.
MR. SNOW: I'm aware of that.
Q Does the President endorse that?
MR. SNOW: We are going no further than what we've said, which is, we are encouraging both sides to practice restraint.
Q Tony, a follow up, if I may. The President talked today about shared values in democracy in the Middle East, for elected officials, whether -- regards of what other countries think of them. Sixty-four officials have been arrested, including Cabinet members, members of Parliament. Is this a day for the United States to stand up for democracy in the Middle East, or should we get a free pass?
MR. SNOW: It's an argumentative question. I appreciate it, and I'm going no further than my prior statement.
Q Can you tell us a little more about tomorrow's event and how it came to be, and any machinations to make it all happen?
MR. SNOW: You don't have to do a lot of machinations when you say the President wants to come to Graceland. All you have to do is get out of the way, because everybody wants to be hospitable. Prime Minister Koizumi likes Elvis. He's made no secret of that, and so the President decided, yes -- he even did the -- by the way, everybody across the room heard you cackling today, Lester. That was some guffaw; that was terrific.
Q I was very amused. I mean, he's a very amusing man.
MR. SNOW: But, as a matter of fact, the Prime Minister released a CD for charity of his favorite Elvis songs, at one point. These two guys get along well. They like each other. They've worked closely together. In many ways, Prime Minister Koizumi has been an incredibly effective partner with the United States in working together on issues of security, and trade, and cooperation. And not only has their professional association been warm, but their personal association -- the President likes him. This is a fun thing to do, and so they're doing it.
Q Tony, if Memphis is under curfew, does the President have any reservations about going there and taking up valuable police power at a time when the city is in an intense moment?
MR. SNOW: Well, that's a good question, and I will give you an answer, but I don't have one now.
Q Tony, Tony, can I -- I have a three-part question.
MR. SNOW: Okay, I'll tell you what: bring it up here and let's -- do you really need it on camera?
Q Well, I wanted to know if you could share with us what the Prime Minister and the President discussed on the economics front, if beef came up, if they'll be having it for dinner?
MR. SNOW: Well, they -- the Prime Minister had it for dinner last night, and the President said he had it. I don't know if they're going to have it tonight, but they both had it last night. That was the way the President opened the press conference today.
Q I'm also curious if they talked about the issue of Koizumi's a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of.
Okay, I'll take one more. Let's deal with the rest of these off camera. Thank you.
END 1:48 P.M. EDT
* Comments from the Vice President:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: "But I clearly do believe, and have spoken directly about the importance of a strong presidency, and that I think there have been times in the past, oftentimes in response to events such as Watergate or the war in Vietnam, where Congress has begun to encroach upon the powers and responsibilities of the President; that it was important to go back and try to restore that balance... So I do believe there is a -- it's very important to have a strong executive. What are the limits? The limits are the Constitution. And, certainly, we need to and do adhere to those limitations." (Vice President Cheney, Remarks at the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize Luncheon, Washington, D.C., 6/19/06)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I served in the Congress for 10 years. I've got enormous regard for the other body, Title I of the Constitution, but I do believe that, especially in the day and age we live in, the nature of the threats we face, it was true during the Cold War, as well as I think what is true now, the President of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy." (Vice President Cheney, Remarks To The Traveling Press, Air Force Two, En Route Muscat, Oman, 12/20/05)
**Special Envoy Lefkowitz is exploring the possibility of a trip to the region; however, the exact dates and meetings for this trip have not been confirmed.
*** The United States and Japan have a vigorous program of missile defense cooperation. Last week's agreement is part of a program to meet a longstanding North Korean missile threat. It is an exchange of notes to cover procedures to be used in cooperative development of a 21" version of an SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) ballistic missile interceptor. This would be an improved version of the current SM-3 missile, which was tested successfully last week, off the coast of Hawaii.