For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 8, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
11:30 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Welcome, everybody. Let's run through the President's schedule on the week ahead. To begin, the President earlier this morning taped his radio address. This week's weekly radio address will be on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the importance of the global war on terror. He had the normal round of briefings this morning, followed by an interview with Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today Show."
He is now on his way to Michigan -- Clarkston, Michigan, where he will attend a Bouchard for U.S. Senate and Michigan Republican Party reception. Then off to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend a Talent Victory Committee reception, returning tonight to the White House. The President will spend most of the weekend at the White House. He will depart Sunday afternoon for New York. There will be a wreath-laying, commemorating the 5th anniversary of September 11, 2001, at Ground Zero on Sunday evening, and a service of prayer and remembrance at St. Paul's Chapel in New York.
On Monday, breakfast with New York City first responders at a firehouse; also a moment of silence and a ceremony with New York City first responders in commemoration of September 11, 2001. Then to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for a wreath-laying commemorating the 5th anniversary, and also a wreath-laying ceremony for the 5th anniversary at the Pentagon. There are no prepared remarks for any of these events.
However, the President will be speaking to the nation from the Oval Office at 9:00 p.m. eastern time, again on the 5th anniversary of September 11th. This is not a political speech; there are not going to be any calls to action for Congress. It will be a reflection of what September 11th has meant to the President, and to the country; the realities that it has brought to all of our attention and how we can move forward together to try to win the war on terror.
Tuesday, no public events, at least, scheduled at this moment. Wednesday there will be a Republican National Committee reception at Evermay, in Washington, D.C. Thursday, he will meet with President Roh of South Korea, in the Oval Office. There will be a social dinner that evening in honor of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz, followed by entertainment in the East Room. And no public events on Friday.
And with that I will entertain questions. Steve.
Q Some of the congressional Democrats are putting out a report saying that the President and Republicans have failed to enact many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Is that politicizing the 5th anniversary?
MR. SNOW: I don't know if it's politicizing. Look, it's important -- and the President has given a series of speeches this week talking about the importance not only of learning from September 11th, but also of continuing to mount aggressive and sustained efforts to improve our capability to intercept those who want to commit acts of terror against us, to try to stay on the offensive so that they don't get over here, and to work with other nations to replace an ideology of hate with one of hope.
As you recall, Tuesday's address had to do with sort of the larger strategic thematics of winning the war on terror. Wednesday, he talked about the importance of building a detainee structure that would comport with the Hamdan decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, and at the same time would allow us to proceed to bring to justice a number of those who were responsible -- directly responsible not merely for what happened on the September 11th, but also the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassy bombings, the bombing of the USS Cole.
There are many people in this country who to this day have not been able to feel that justice has been done when it comes to the murder of their loved ones. And the President understands the importance of that, and also the importance of proceeding in a way that will allow us to detain and also question detainees in a way that is going to permit us to prosecute the war on terror more effectively. And in that case, he does ask Congress's help.
And this is something where both parties have a perfect opportunity to be stakeholders in this. This is not politicizing. This is doing something that is perfectly obvious on both sides and everybody knows it needs to be done.
The President also would like congressional action and support building consensus for a terror surveillance program so that we can listen in on terrorists on our soil, or terrorists abroad talking to people on our soil. And to make needed reforms in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, once again, so that both parties will have their questions and concerns answered when it comes to fighting the war on terror in an acceptable way. So all of these things are in motion.
When it comes to the 9/11 Commission recommendations, we have moved to enact 35 of the 37 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. A couple of them we're not going to do. One requires congressional action, and the other is one in which it would involve making transparent our intelligence budgets and we're just not going to do that. So there is considerable progress on that.
Look, we understand that there are going to be people who are going to spend a lot of time talking about things that happened leading up to the war. I think the most important contribution the President has had this week is to acknowledge that we weren't prepared as a country for September 11th. Otherwise, it wouldn't have happened. And what we need to do is to remain ever vigilant. He tried to remind people of the ideology that compels members of al Qaeda to want to kill themselves to kill us -- Osama bin Laden apparently providing a reminder yesterday, in the tape that was aired on al Jazeera. We have no reason at this point to believe it's not legitimate; I'm sure our guys are still scrubbing it. But it's pretty clear that members of the terror network certainly have no desire to cease and desist. The President tried to remind people of that.
And the attention of this administration is directed at improving each and every day our fitness to wage the war on terror and our long-term possibilities for success.
Q Did the President watch any of that tape, and did he have any specific comment about it? Do you think there's any evidentiary value in it, since it seems to feature Ramzi Binalshib?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't want to prejudge -- here's where you get into these command influence questions, because, if, in fact, you're going to have a military commission taking a look at the case of Ramzi Binalshib, I don't want to be trying to leap to any conclusions about what the President may or may not have seen.
I don't know if he's seen the tape, to be honest with you. I did not ask him this morning. But he's certainly aware of it.
Q Do you expect that you'll be criticized about the Oval Office address, because the President acknowledges everything he does, does have a political context? And so if he's going to speak for 20 minutes, isn't politics inevitably in that address?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I think the American people want to hear what the President has to say. And in my conversations this morning with bureau chiefs of the networks, I made it clear that this is not going to be a political address. This is not something we're trying to draw bright lines to separate Democrats from Republicans. Because for all of us who went through September 11th -- and that's everybody in this room -- it's a day you don't forget. And I think sharing that reminiscence with the proper combination of sobriety, but also optimism, because the way Americans responded after September 11th was nothing short of sensational and it's something that could only have happened in this country.
And we say when the President, four days later -- or three days later was in New York and people suddenly, spontaneously started shouting, "U.S.A." -- and these weren't just American citizens -- there is something about this nation and it's ability to respond to that kind of a challenge that ought to make us all proud. And it's a time to talk about that -- not saying, be proud of Democrats, be proud of Republicans -- be proud of who we are, because the ability that we had to show the power of liberty is precisely the thing the terrorists want to kill.
Q Returning to the bright lines being drawn between Democrats and Republicans, I'd like to follow on a question the President was asked yesterday in an interview. He was asked by Charlie Gibson, does the President believe if the Democrats control one House or another of Congress, that America will be -- that security for America will be somewhat compromised in some way, that it's a less safe country if the Democrats control one of the Houses?
MR. SNOW: I'm just not playing ball on that.
Q It's not playing ball. It's a legitimate question, based on the last four speeches in eight days.
MR. SNOW: But I would invite you to go back and look at every one of those speeches and find for me the area in which the President tried to cleave between Democrats and Republicans.
Q So there's no attempt right now to show a distinction between Democrats and Republicans in how they handle the war on terror?
MR. SNOW: No, I think what's happening is that the President is making clear what his position is, and critics will respond, and people will be able to draw their distinctions.
Q Hang on a second. It is implicit what the President is doing.
MR. SNOW: No, but wait a minute -- the question -- no, it's not. Let me walk through a couple of things here, and I'm glad you asked.
For instance, to the notion that in coming up with suggestions for handling detainees that somehow was timed politically -- this was the first time it was possible to introduce this. The Hamdan decision came down in late June. It took a long time for people to go through this. We have had ongoing and very active efforts of senior members of this administration going back and forth to Capitol Hill, working with members of congress to try to deal with this seriously because it has interrupted out ability to collect intelligence. It has denied people the opportunity to know that people who have been charged with acts of terrorism are going to face justice. This is the first opportunity. Wednesday is the first day that both Houses of Congress were back from recess. That was the time to do it.
But what you've asked is, is there some sort of -- we're just not going to engage in speculation because we think we're going to win both Houses.
Q Okay, but -- I guess, let me rephrase that, because maybe I've done a poor job of setting up the premise. Obviously, the President is engaged in a process of drawing distinctions between Republicans and Democrats to lay out for the American people what the differences in the parties are.
MR. SNOW: Sure.
Q Okay --
MR. SNOW: He's framing the debate.
Q So let's take that to its logical conclusion. If the Democrats win, is America less safe?
MR. SNOW: We don't think the Democrats are going to win.
Q What does it say about how degraded al Qaeda is when they can come up with a videotape years later, slickly produced, showing some of the hijackers, kind of rubbing salt in America's emotional wounds, just how degraded is an organization that can pull something like that off?
MR. SNOW: That means they have propaganda capabilities. But it's also well known that a significant portion of al Qaeda's command structure has been captured or killed. Is al Qaeda still determined to wreak havoc? Absolutely. But I think any notion that al Qaeda somehow sent a shudder through America with that video shows that they miscalculated again. They don't understand us.
What you saw with the video was an attempt, perhaps, to jeer after the fact -- it is telling, is it not -- well, I don't want to engage in a war of words with the propagandists at al Qaeda. But the fact is, it's a reminder of what the President said. You may recall two days ago, or three days ago the President gave a speech about al Qaeda in their own words. We understand -- we think it's important to take seriously what al Qaeda says and what it intends. But also it's important to take seriously the determination of the forces who have been fighting al Qaeda and who have been fighting organizations related to al Qaeda.
This war is not limited to al Qaeda. There's a notion that somehow you deal with bin Laden, it's all over. The President said on September 20, 2001, that this is a dispersed threat; it is not merely al Qaeda, but it's all over the globe, 50 or 60 countries. And we're trying to be very serious about attacking it. So what bin Laden apparently did is he decided, you know what, I'm going to reiterate what the President said in the speech. And what the release of that tape demonstrates is the President was absolutely right in telling the American people that al Qaeda is serious about this and we ought to take seriously their intentions. And we also ought to take seriously our obligations to keep improving the ways which we go after them. And that's been the legislative focus this week.
Q Has anybody at the White House seen "The Path to 9/11" and find it unfair to the administration?
MR. SNOW: No. We haven't asked for DVDs yet. Apparently, we're the only ones who haven't. (Laughter.)
Q Tony, I'd like to ask you a little bit more about Monday. Has any thought been -- well, who's going to travel with the President to New York, to Shanksville, the Pentagon?
MR. SNOW: Staff, wife.
Q Was any thought ever given to a bipartisan delegation being with him?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. And, honestly, I don't know if there are members of Congress going. Nor do I know, to be honest with you, if people have requested. Get back to us. We'll talk about it. I just don't know.
Q To what extent, with his appearances and with the speech, does he want to try to revive what you described as the sensational spirit?
MR. SNOW: I don't think you're trying to revive a spirit; I think you're trying to remind people of who we are. You know, that was a very revealing moment. And what happened was, in an instant and almost spontaneously, Americans sent a very powerful message to the world, which is, you hit us, we don't give up.
It was interesting to see -- I mean, nobody put together a campaign to say, hey, America, show your spirit. Immediately, hundreds of thousands of flags were flying off the shelves around the country. You may recall there was an astounding moment the Friday of that week. I don't know if you saw it where you live, Peter, but I did. Somebody on the Internet had come up with an idea of just placing candles in sacks along the roadway. And they did -- at least, all the way down the George Washington Parkway. There were dozens and dozens of spontaneous acts.
We even had the situation where road rage went down for a couple of weeks, because people realized that we were under attack and it just didn't matter.
So what America sent was a powerful message, because this was not something that you could send out the memo. It was our hearts speaking like this. It wasn't thought about. Nobody reflected on it. We did what we thought was natural and necessary.
Now, we don't want to have to go through that again. So the idea that somehow you can replicate that moment, you don't replicate that moment except in a special moment of horror. We don't want that. But what we want to do is to remind the American people that at a time when there is plenty of debate about a success or failure, that there is real greatness in this country. And it is a greatness upon which we draw, and which we can draw, and that we ought to acknowledge -- and we ought to feel good about because no matter what the other guy is trying to do, they don't understand what liberty does to free hearts. And that was, I think, for many of us the most astounding revelation. None of us expected it, and none of us will ever forget it.
Q And what happened to the spirit?
ME. SNOW: What happened to the spirit --
Q -- what does the war have to do with that, that it doesn't exist anymore?
ME. SNOW: What happened to the spirit is life returned to normal in many ways. And people ended up having political disputes, people ended up drawing the lines. In a funny way, it's a reflection of our success in keeping terror off our shores. The idea that somehow we would have an endless string of Kumbaya moments is sort of one of those things that you might wish were the case. But it's human nature.
The other thing about Americans is, we're fractious. We disagree with each other. We scrap, we argue, and at the end, we come to consensus about how we move forward. So I think the so-called disunity and split within America is a reflection, ironically, of the success in fighting the war on terror to date in keeping terrorists off our shores and preventing replications of September 11th.
But as we learned just a few weeks ago, they're still at it. They were trying to blow up airliners moving from London into the United States, so we need to do it. But I think it's perfectly natural for people, once the painful memories begin to recede, to begin resuming their normal lives. It happens any time you face a crisis in your life, whether it be an illness, or a disaster, or a loss.
Q Or a war?
ME. SNOW: Or a war.
Q Tony, a quick follow on that. You talk about reminding people of the spirit, how much is the President trying to remind people of how they thought of him then?
ME. SNOW: This is -- the purpose of what has been going on -- and I've received a number of questions like this -- it's not to try to draw on some atavistic sense of nostalgia about the date, I think what you do is you reflect on what it means to the country.
The focus of the administration, as I said before, is looking forward. You acknowledge what happened. But if you spend your time lingering on what happened without thinking how do you address it so it doesn't happen again, then you're not doing your job.
And what happens each and every day in this White House is that people keep thinking about how do we do it better. And that again is the focus. There are three pretty simple legislative proposals -- and we feel pretty confident that they're going to get acted on, and they really are a top priority -- before Congress to try to go ahead and deal with this. And the significant thing, I want to reemphasize, is this doesn't have to be partisan. Everybody can say we agree with this because I've heard people on both sides of the aisle support the general principles and objectives. It's a chance for everybody to sort of take a victory lap together, knowing that they're doing what's right for the American people.
Q Given the -- you talked a moment ago about the response to 9/11. There was a report that came out a few days ago that said 70 percent of those who were involved in the cleanup are now suffering from lung disease.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q And I wonder, does the administration feel there's any federal obligation to help with health care expenses --
MR. SNOW: We've actually been doing that. We've already committed $75 million, and I think there's a significant other tranche -- I think $125 million in the works.
Yes, absolutely we're concerned. And there's not only a local role, but a federal role, and we've been working with healthcare authorities to try to address it, because it's an important thing to do.
Q What about reopening the victim compensations --
MR. SNOW: That's one where we don't have a position on it yet.
Q Tony, is the President willing to consider allowing terrorist defendants before military tribunals to see classified evidence against them?
MR. SNOW: That's one of the issues that now is -- there are two ways of parsing this, and I think it's an issue that is still under discussion between members of the Senate, including some Republicans, and the White House about how you proceed.
There are times when, in these trials, you're going to want -- at least, you're going to feel some obligation to try to withhold from terrorists information that could place at risk people who provide information or means and methods. But at this particular juncture, let me just say what Lindsey Graham said the other day, which is he feels confident we're going to work this out, and so do we.
So we're working with members of Congress on this. We're going to find ways to make sure that we're able to proceed not only with questioning, but also with trials in a way that's going to be consistent with the human rights of those involved and, at the same time, the obligations of national security.
It's also worth emphasizing that the focus on this one issue tends to obscure the fact that for the vast bulk of what we're talking about, in terms of putting together these tribunals, people agree. So what we're now doing is we're wrestling with the way -- dealing with what is clearly a legally thorny issue, but it's not intractable, and we think it's going to be taken care of. And I know Senator Graham said that, and I've heard it from the President, as well. He said it in --
Q So it sounds like you do want to consider at least some greater latitude for defendants to see classified --
MR. SNOW: What's interesting is a lot of this is going to depend upon the judgment of military judges themselves -- for instance judge advocates general, who are understandably concerned about this. These are the people who are going to be implementing the regulations. These are the people who are going to be doing the interpretations. So I think in the -- within those military court rooms, people are going to have to weigh in the balance -- the importance of releasing certain kinds of information or sharing certain kinds of information and whether they think it's going to affect the national security.
And, again, I don't want to get in the middle of prejudging how it's going to work out. I just know, based on the body language, that there are good faith efforts to try to get worked out in a way that will achieve our objectives.
Q One more.
MR. SNOW: Sure.
Q You said Monday -- the earlier speeches, there are no prepared remarks. What --
MR. SNOW: There are no prepared speeches. Somebody -- there may be -- somebody may shout a question or say something, and the President may speak briefly, extemporaneously, or he may not. These are wreath-laying ceremonies, and usually people are pretty somber at them; there's not a lot of chirping of questions.
Q What security measures, additional security measures can you talk about Monday? Is there concern of an attempted repeat attack? What can you tell us is being done?
MR. SNOW: No, nothing. I mean, you know, Wendell, that nobody ever tells you what enhanced security measures may or may not be taken for the simple reason that to do so immediately compromises them.
Q I wasn't asking for detail. I'm think I'm asking for a sense of whether there are increased security measures, how extensive they are, upping the alert level, what --
MR. SNOW: But to ask the question also bears upon things that may involve interpretations of intelligence and so on. We're playing peaceful, success -- we're just planning trips to New York, Shanksville and the Pentagon. And I'm really not at liberty to talk about any procedures or even the rationale for procedures that may or may not take place.
Q Really, they're talking about security, about those trips. I'm talking about national security, overall security.
Airport security intensified? More marshals on planes? The alert level goes up again?
MR. SNOW: Again, that's not for me to announce. Nor am I telling you that that's to be expected. It's simply not appropriate for me to comment on those things. I would suggest you call the Department of Homeland Security and see if they want to do any characterizations.
Q Earlier, you said the President feels we weren't prepared for 9/11; obviously, it wouldn't have happened -- which was, to me, it's a sort of fairly straightforward way I hadn't heard it put before. So there's no dispute or argument -- we were not prepared on September 11th, otherwise, it wouldn't have happened, is what you were saying.
MR. SNOW: We weren't prepared -- yes, and we weren't prepared a long time before September 11th. Look, what happened was, for a whole series of reasons, we did not have in place the security methods. We had a wall that separated domestic and civilian intelligence on these things. We didn't have intelligence and criminal officials literally -- you know the story, sitting across the table from each other at an FBI building in New York, weren't able to talk to one another. We had trails that were dropped because of communications difficulties. We had a whole series of things we needed to fix. The Patriot Act was designed to deal with some of that. There have been intelligence reforms. There have been military actions.
The other thing is, it's pretty clear that a lot of people did not think, for a long period of time, Osama bin Laden was able to build up power and influence around the world. All of these things were lessons that everybody has learned from.
Q And in terms of the President's understanding of all this, who is to blame?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- you know, it's probably not constructive to point blame. I know there's a big controversy about the ABC special, and everybody is worried that they're going to get caught with the blame. I think it's worth saying that Presidents and administrations, if they know that there's a threat that's going to place American lives at risk, they're going to do everything they can to intercept it. And the Presidents of all parties are absolutely serious about trying to keep the American people safe. And I think the idea of pointing fingers of blame at something that had never happened, and never -- had not been fully anticipated is an exercise that I think is extremely non-productive, unnecessarily divisive.
And, therefore, the most important thing is to say, what are the systemic problems and how do we fix them? And that's the approach we've taken.
Q Thank you, Tony. You said in August -- I think you said or the President said he's staying out of the Connecticut U.S. Senate race because party leaders in the state suggested he stay neutral. Is that correct?
MR. SNOW: They suggested he stay out of it.
Q Stay out of it. And I have here a letter in my hand from Republican state chairman of Connecticut who says that the party in Connecticut is supporting its unanimously party-endorsed nominee Alan Schlesinger in the U.S. Senate.
MR. SNOW: And what is the date of that letter?
Q The date of the letter is August of 2006 -- August 25, 2006.
MR. SNOW: Okay. If memory serves -- and this is probably -- I would direct my questions back to Mr. Schlesinger -- I mean, to the state party chairman.
Q Mr. Gallo.
MR. SNOW: Yes, Mr. Gallo -- as to what he said and when.
Q All right. Because this would just seem, on August 25th, to contradict what you said and what the President said --
MR. SNOW: That's why I would suggest you talk again to Mr. Gallo. There have been follow on conversations, and he says, we think that the proper position to take is just for you not to participate in this election.
Q When did he say that?
MR. SNOW: He said it in August of 2006.
Q Tony, do you have any reaction -- does the President have any reaction to the acknowledgment by Richard Armitage that apparently he was the one who first spilled the beans about Valerie Plame?
MR. SNOW: No, and as you know, there is still a Scooter Libby trial and, therefore, we don't say anything about it.
Q Does anybody owe anybody any apologies?
MR. SNOW: We don't say anything about it.
Q Senator Frist this week said that comprehensive immigration probably wouldn't be able to pass the Senate, and the House is going ahead with this -- with border security and enforcement. Where's the White House on this at this point? What do you hope to see and could you sign that House bill if it came out?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, you know, it's interesting on immigration. There have been series of things that have sort of been in the works, and there are some enhancements. First, we haven't seen legislation from the House. The question is, are they simply adding money to supplementals? What's going on? And so I'll be able to give you answers about House bills if and when they materialize.
The President still believes it's important to have comprehensive reform. Let me remind you, when it comes to border security, the person who came first-est with the most-est was the President of the United States, who decided to commit more resources to the border than the House or Senate had proposed, and he did it over a three-month period, as opposed to a five-year period. So he is absolutely serious about making sure that our borders are secure, and continues to be vigilant on that.
The other thing, though, is that many people say they have a problem with 11 million or so illegals on our shores. And the natural response to that is not to say, well, let's worry about the borders, and we'll forget about the thing that is our primary concern; we'll set that aside for two or three years while we figure out if the fences are impervious. As opposed to saying, we're going to continue to work on border security because we share your concern, and, furthermore, your original motivating concern we're going to start dealing with right now -- which is let's find out who the illegals are. Let's find out the circumstances under which they've come here. Let's find out if they're taking jobs from Americans.
And for those who wish to undergo a fairly rigorous and longstanding process of trying to become American citizens, they need to understand that they will pay fines. They need to understand that they will also -- that they are going to have to remain employed; they cannot break the law; they need to learn English, and they go to the back of the line. And this could take a very long time. All of those things, I think, are ideas that have appeal in both political parties.
The President believes if you don't deal with it comprehensively, you're going to deal with it again. And what we'd like to do, and what we'd like to see, and we hope to have both Houses of Congress working with us, is to go ahead and address it comprehensively. But let me reiterate, for those concerned about border security, we have been moving, and we are happy to move with Congress, but we also firmly believe that it is important to address all the problems because the very concerns that have stimulated this debate need to be addressed, as well.
Q Is it possible to deal with it comprehensively this year?
MR. SNOW: You're going to have to ask House and Senate members. That's their --
Q Has the administration been briefed on the Senate Intelligence Committee report due out today on the run up to the attack in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No. We'll see it when it gets released. Obviously, we've had some characterizations of what we're going to see. You're talking about phase two. We've had characterizations about it, and based on the characterizations we've seen, it's nothing new. And so it's, again, kind of re-litigating things that happened three years ago. It's worth noting, and I'll certainly be prepared to revise, extend and amend remarks upon seeing the actual report.
In 2002 and 2003, members of both parties got a good look at the intelligence we had, and they came to the very same conclusions about what was going on. And it's one of the things that I think drew Americans together. It's one of the reasons why you had overwhelming majorities in the United States Senate and the House for taking action against Saddam Hussein. Both sides were looking at the same intelligence and coming to the same conclusions.
But, more importantly -- if we have people who want to re-litigate that, that's fine, but the President's stated concern this week, as you've seen, is to think, okay, we'll let people quibble over three years ago; the important thing to do is to figure out what you're doing tomorrow, and the day after, and the month after, and the year after to make sure that this war on terror is won.
Q Are you devaluing the importance or significance of what we may see today?
MR. SNOW: No. Take a look at it, but you'll probably also -- I'm sure you'll be getting push-back from people who will remind you that every significant leader of the other party had made comments about Saddam Hussein that were substantially similar to those that were made by the administration.
When it comes to the national intelligence estimate, there has been an accusation that the Iraqi national congress had disproportionate impact. I direct you to the Robb-Silberman report that said, no. We've taken a look at it. There have been a number of reports looking at that, as well.
I think what you'll see is a divergent views section that sort of repeats a lot of the critiques we've heard over the last couple of years. And I suspect that both parties are going to be busy sort of going back and forth about who said what, when. It's all well and good, but the most important thing is to figure out what you're doing today and tomorrow.
Q Is the fact that this is coming from a Republican-led panel of any moment?
MR. SNOW: No, because, as you know, the intelligence committee is -- they have generally been reasonably collegial and even though there have been some frayed nerves from time to time between Chairman Roberts and Senator Rockefeller, what you've got is the ability of Democrats on that committee to sort of state their views.
I think the parts most of you guys are going to be looking at are the Democratic views on this, because that will be the source of controversy. And all I can say is, been there, done that.
Q Tony, when the President was first talking about the disclosures related to the NSA wiretapping, he was very firm in saying not only did he have legal authority, but that open debate could jeopardize the program. Is he just responding to the court case or has his position and opinion evolved since then?
MR. SNOW: No, I think what's happened is -- there was significant concern also about TSP, that the revelation seriously compromised the ability to proceed in ways they had before.
Furthermore, it is obvious that members of Congress want a role in this. And the calculation is, okay, let's do it. The Senate, I believe the Judiciary Committee next Tuesday or Wednesday will be holding hearings on this. We've been working with Chairman Specter. And, again, this is an issue that has aroused some political passion. Our view is pretty simple: You've got a terrorist talking about killing Americans, we want to know about it, we want to find out about it. And if we can work with Congress to come up with ways that are absolutely acceptable so that we don't have controversy or second-guessing, let's do it.
Q So the President doesn't think debate over how that should be enacted would harm the program any further?
MR. SNOW: No, because at this point, again, the damage has been done to the program. But what you're going to have is not a debate about specifics of how you enact it. What you're going to have is a debate about what kinds of parameters you place on it. But neither House of Congress is going to say, this is how you do it, these are the techniques you use, this is the equipment that you use, this is how you deploy.
They're smart enough to know that the pieces of information that are useful to terrorists are still not going to be discussed publicly, and we support that.
Q Tony, does the President think it's acceptable to use 9/11 imagery in political advertisements?
MR. SNOW: You know what, I haven't talked to him about it. I don't want to fake it. I know it's an old question, but I don't have an answer for you. Sorry, Elaine.
Q Can I ask you, also, in the days after September 11th, the President stood with Muslim leaders and talked about concerns over hate crimes and discrimination. Were there any discussions about the President doing something similar this year with the anniversary, with the 5th-year anniversary?
MR. SNOW: Right now what we're doing is rather than talking about ongoing political questions, we're worried about a hate crime that killed 3,000 Americans, including many Muslims. And the hate crimes took place on September 11, 2001. The President many times has talked about Islam as a religion of peace. And certainly we welcome the fact that an increasing number of Muslim leaders are standing up and saying this is unacceptable.
The President also has been very strong, not only here but around the world, in standing up to religious bigotry and those who tried to use religion as an excuse for trying to hurt or kill someone, whether they be Christian, Jew or Muslim. And so in that sense, this is a President who has a very long track record on that. But for right now, I think the appropriate observance is for those who died on September 11, 2001.
Q How long has the President known Richard Armitage leaked Valerie Plame's name?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know if he knew.
Q Could you find out for us?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Why not?
MR. SNOW: Because when you get into these things what you're asking about is details on which we're not commenting. Why don't you ask when everything has been fully litigated and when we're in a position to be able to say whatever we might want to say. But in the context of an ongoing investigation and ongoing litigation that involves Scooter Libby, as inviting as it may be to ask who ought to apologize, or who knew what when, or to do that sort of thing, it's best just to keep my mouth shut. And that's what I'm going to do.
Q Who does know?
MR. SNOW: You're the reporter. You're the reporter. You're asking me --
Q Well, you may not know because you came in late. But who in the administration does?
MR. SNOW: Again, let me repeat what I said. We've got ongoing litigation. I'm just not going to get into any of this stuff. Ask Richard Armitage who he talked to. Maybe he'll be able to do it. He's writing op-eds now.
Q Thank you, Tony. On immigration, I know where you stand, but it looks that there will not be an immigration bill in Congress by the time Congress adjourns. Will the President call them back?
MR. SNOW: Let's wait until we -- what you're asking is a hypothetical that deals with a congressional session underway, a lame-duck session after the election, and what may come after that. I am in absolutely on position to answer a question like that. It's a great mental exercise, but I just can't help you on that one.
Q What is the President doing to make sure that Congress does act on it, though?
MR. SNOW: The President has had meetings with Congress, and he's made his position clear. But let me say this, Julie, when he spoke earlier this week about the absolute importance of dealing with the detainee issue and dealing with it promptly, that really is the number one -- that is the number one priority right now. So dealing with that, and we also hope on terror surveillance program and also FISA reform, that we get there because those are matters bearing directly on national security in a real and profound way. There are, what, 10 legislative days left -- 10, 11, I don't know. The clock is ticking. So we're certainly not going to prejudge. But I do know that in meeting with congressional leaders earlier this week, he made it clear that his preference was for action on immigration. As I said earlier, he wants it done comprehensively and he wants it done as soon as possible. It's vague. I'm not giving you time lines, but that's our position.
Q Is there any chance of doing it before the election and doing TSP and the other stuff?
MR. SNOW: Again, you've got to ask the guys working on Capitol Hill. That's their call.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: All right, thank you.
END 12:09 P.M. EDT