For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 10, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route Green Bay, Wisconsin
9:33 A.M. CDT
MR. SNOW: All right. Let me just begin briefly talking about the story of the day.
In terms of the President's awareness of what has been going on, he has been kept fully briefed, especially as the action by the Brits became more and more imminent. He had full briefings through the weekend. He's had two detailed conversations with the Prime Minister, the most recent the one I told you about you yesterday, Nedra, that took place just about as we were completing our gaggle. In addition, U.S. security intelligence and law enforcement officials have been in constant contact.
The President did approve the recommendation of the Homeland Security Council that we raise the travel alert to red. That was done overnight, as you know. And we remain in very close contact with our allies in trying to follow up on details of the operation that took place, as we said, overnight in Britain.
Q -- was this plot?
MR. SNOW: I'll leave that to the Brits. I think we want to be careful about getting too much into detail, but there were some signals that they thought it was time to move. And I will leave it either to the Home Secretary -- I think it's probably important in this case, because of security and legal concerns in Britain, to let them take the lead on releasing such details, which they have not so far.
Q When did the President first learn about this plot and the investigation into it?
MR. SNOW: Again, we're being a little careful on operational details. I think it's safe to say to what I said before, which is he certainly has been extensively briefed over the last few days as the operation that took place became more and more imminent.
Q Was part of that during the teleconference on Sunday?
MR. SNOW: Let's see, what day was Sunday, that was the 6th? Yes. Yes.
Q How long is this red alert going to be in effect? Is it hard to say?
MR. SNOW: I have no idea. The important thing is still to make it clear to Americans that it is safe to travel. There are going to be some inconveniences, obviously, but on other hand, we think it's important that people not only be able to travel, but travel safely.
Q Did you all know that this was going to break today, yesterday, when there was this massive response to the Connecticut primary, discussion of terrorism, al Qaeda?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to get into operational details. This was not -- however, it was not explicit -- let me put it this way, I don't want to encourage that line of thought. I don't think it's fully accurate, but I also don't want -- I know it's frustrating, but we really don't want to get too much into who knew what, where, when.
Q Are you guys looking for anybody in the U.S.?
MR. SNOW: Not going into that, either.
Q Is he going to talk today about this, to us?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q How's he going to do it?
MR. SNOW: The statement when we get to the worksite.
Q Are there details about his talk with Blair overnight, you can give? What time it occurred?
MR. SNOW: There was no overnight. That report is false, so there are no details on the fallacious report.
Q But the President, himself, approved the red alert?
MR. SNOW: Correct. It was a recommendation by the Homeland Security Council, by Secretary Chertoff and others.
Q When did he approve it?
MR. SNOW: Yesterday.
Q You said there is going to be some inconvenience to travelers. There were some complaints this morning that all liquids and gels might be going a little overboard on this. Do you guys have any comment on that?
MR. SNOW: You can't go overboard when you're trying to protect lives.
Q Did U.S. officials have a say in the timing of the arrests and so forth? I mean, did they consult with the Brits as to when the right time was, or was that an entirely British --
MR. SNOW: Entirely British. No, you don't consult on timing of trying to deal with terrorist activities. They're not done according to political timelines, but in response to law enforcement judgments and requirements.
Q But the Brits decided it was time that they were -- thought that they were going to move, and it was time to go in?
MR. SNOW: That's correct.
Q Do you think they were -- you know, we're coming up on the anniversary of September 11th. Do you think this had anything to do with that?
MR. SNOW: I have no idea. What we do know is that there were some people who were determined to try to carry out, as the Brits said, a plot to kill people on a horrifying scale.
Q What's al Qaeda's role in this?
MR. SNOW: At this point, there's no confirmation of al Qaeda. As you know, it's been described as being al Qaeda-like and I'm not going to get out ahead of intelligence officials in trying to characterize institutional --
Q What was the -- were these people British, of Pakistani descent, or do you have any --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'll let the Brits -- I'm going to let the Brits handle the release of information about that.
Q Is the President going to speak when he was scheduled to, on the economy? Or is it going to be a separate statement to it?
MR. SNOW: I think it will be a separate statement. I think we'll have something where he comes out and talks a bit about the event. So there will still be an economic event, but, obviously, it's important that he get out and speak about this, as well.
Q So there was -- I take it he wasn't awakened last night, and that was because he already knew this was going to happen?
MR. SNOW: That is correct, although, we did have intelligence and security people up all night maintaining constant contact with the British.
Q To what extent does this take away the President's attention from the Middle East problem?
MR. SNOW: It doesn't. He's been, obviously, actively engaged in the Middle East, and at the same time this has been going on. It is in the nature of a President's responsible in this kind of world that you have to be able to keep your eye on a number of challenges at the same time, and he has been and will continue to.
Q No plans to go back to Washington because of this?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q But you all are convinced that this is a very serious threat and lives were at risk?
MR. SNOW: It was a very serious threat. Again, I don't -- I know you want us to try to characterize timelines and when people were going to do that -- you simply can't do that, for operational and intelligence reasons. But it was a very serious and very credible threat.
Q How concerned was the President upon hearing all this in his briefing?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I mean, "concerned" is -- when you hear about things like this, you know there is a necessity to respond and to respond in the appropriate ways. And that's -- again, his approach is we've got to deal with this, and that is what U.S. officials and our allies have been doing.
Q Many of the states and other local officials are calling out for extra help to -- during the security screenings and all the extra checks that they're doing now. Is that something the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security will help fund?
MR. SNOW: Better ask them. I don't know.
Q Tony, was this an operation all by British intelligence, or did the United States intelligence officials help, as well?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to get in, again, to operational details here. But the Brits did the arrests.
Q Has there been any contact with any of the U.S. airlines by the administration, to talk to them about dealing with this?
MR. SNOW: Some of the effected airlines -- some of the targeted airline heads were notified. Beyond that, again, I would refer you to TSA and Homeland Security for any conversations with airlines.
Q When you say "notified" -- by the administration or by Department of Homeland Security?
MR. SNOW: By the administration. I'm not sure which -- my guess is Homeland Security may have done the notification. I honestly don't know who did.
Q Can I ask you about timing again -- not to keep harping on this, but yesterday when you talked about raising the white -- you know, saying the Democrats might want to raise the white flag --
MR. SNOW: This was not done in anticipation. It was not said with the knowledge that this was coming.
Q So the Vice President, when he did his incredibly rare conference call with reporters, also didn't know about it at the time?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. You'll have to ask, but I can say from our point of view at that point we didn't.
Q Can you say anything about the possible al Qaeda connection?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Can I ask on a different topic? Can you clarify the Karl Rove call to Joe Lieberman and what that was all about?
MR. SNOW: It was a personal call. Yes, as I sent you -- in fact, I may get Karl back here, if you're interested.
MR. SNOW: It's probably best to let him describe, because he was in on the call. But this was not a call after the polls closed; it was not a political offer; it was not a political conversation. It was a personal conversation. And, you know, he's expressed some willingness to do it, so maybe I'll just grab him -- yank his tie and make him come back here.
Q That would be great.
MR. SNOW: Anything else before I go and try to dragoon the Deputy Chief of Staff.
Q Is there any -- the economy speech today, anything in particular we should look for?
MR. SNOW: No, just the President is going to talk about signs of strength in the economy and also the importance of keeping it strong.
Q Just a logistical question, is the statement that he's going to make prior to his economic statement -- will that be to tape, or we'll be able to do that live somehow?
MR. SNOW: You're talking above my level of technical competence.
MR. DECKARD: Live.
MR. SNOW: Live. It's not above Deckard's level of technical competence, however.
END 9:43 A.M. CDT