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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 27, 2006

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

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12:45 P.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: Welcome. A couple of items of business, and then we'll go to questions. A little bit ago the President placed a phone call to Tom Tidwell, who is the Deputy Regional Forester at the U.S. Forest Service, to express condolences over what is now being called the Esperanza incident, a fire near Palm Springs, California, that has claimed the lives of four firefighters who were Forest Service employees belonging to Engine Crew 57, in the San Jacinto Ranger District. The dead are Mark Loutzenhiser, Jess McLean, Jason McKay and Daniel Hoover-Najera. Clinging to life is Pablo Cerda.

The President expressed condolences not only to the families of those who have fallen in fighting the fire, but also to the family of Pablo Cerda, asking for God's blessing on all of them. He also praised the special work that firefighters do, their compassion for others, going into harm's way and risking their lives, and said that their work is an indication of the compassion of Americans. He said, "The families are in his and Laura's prayers," and asked that all the firefighters know that they're in his prayers and Mrs. Bush's prayers. He also said he hopes that whoever is the perpetrator will be caught quickly and brought to justice.

As for the President's meeting with the NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, they had a good meeting. They talked -- the President -- they talked a lot about NATO's role in Afghanistan, and ways of moving forward, also talked about their shared interest in Darfur and getting something done there.

One other note. Today marks the last day at the White House of Frederick Jones. Please, a round of applause. (Applause.) Fred really has been terrific in a lot of ways, and I personally want to thank him. I especially recall a few weeks ago, in the latest Korean incident, when we were up in the middle of the night, and Fred was handling a whole lot of that. And, Fred, thanks, and Godspeed. And anything we can do, let us know.

Q Where is he going?

MR. SNOW: You know what he's going to do, he's going to put his feet up for a very brief period of time.

Q And then?

MR. SNOW: Well, why don't you ask him?

Q He won't tell us.

MR. SNOW: Well, because he's a smart man.

Okay, questions.

Q Tony, your argument that Vice President Cheney didn't know that he was being asked about water boarding or wasn't being asked about water boarding and didn't intend to give an answer that suggested he was saying the United States uses water boarding, it doesn't follow when you read the transcript and it doesn't follow sort of common sense.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'll tell you what he --

Q How can you really make that argument?

MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what he said. He was asked the question, "You dunk somebody's head in the water to save a life, is it a no-brainer?" And also, if you read the rest of the answer, he also -- the Vice President, who earlier had also been asked about torture, he said, "We don't torture."

Let me give you the no-brainers here. No-brainer number one is, we don't torture. No-brainer number two: We don't break the law, our own or international law. No-brainer number three: The Vice President doesn't give away questioning techniques. And number four, the administration does believe in legal questioning techniques of known killers whose questioning can, in fact, be used to save American lives. The Vice President says he was talking in general terms about a questioning program that is legal to save American lives, and he was not referring to water boarding.

Q Then how can you say that he's not referring to water boarding, when it was very clear, when you look at the whole context, not only that specific question --

MR. SNOW: Does the word --

Q -- but the one before?

MR. SNOW: Did the word "water boarding" appear?

Q It came up in the context of talking about interrogation techniques and the entire debate that has been conducted in this country.

MR. SNOW: I understand that. I'll tell you what the Vice President said. You can push all you want, wasn't referring to water boarding and would not talk about techniques.

Q Let's back it up here for a second, because what we're saying is -- and I've got the transcript -- "Would you agree a dunk in water is a 'no-brainer' that can save lives?" Vice President: "It's a 'no-brainer' for me." Tony --

MR. SNOW: Read the rest of the answer.

Q What could "dunk in the water" refer to if not water boarding?

MR. SNOW: I'm just telling you -- I'm telling you the Vice President's position. I will let you draw your own conclusions, because you clearly have. He says he wasn't talking --

Q I haven't drawn any conclusions. I'm asking for an explanation about what "dunk in the water" could mean.

MR. SNOW: How about a dunk in the water?

Q So, wait a minute, so "dunk in the water" means what, we have a pool now at Guantanamo, and they go swimming?

MR. SNOW: Are you doing stand up? (Laughter.)

Q I'm asking -- well, let's start with something basic. Dunk in the water refers to what? If it doesn't refer to water boarding, tell me what it could possibly refer to?

MR. SNOW: No, because the transcript is there. You read it, you interpret it. I'm telling you what the Vice President says. He says he wasn't referring --

Q What other way is there to interpret this?

MR. SNOW: What you're saying is the Vice President is wrong in reporting what he says. I'm sorry. I'm telling you what the Vice President says. I can't go any further, and I'm not going to engage in what-could-he-mean because he said what he meant. He said -- he said he wasn't talking about water boarding.

And furthermore, what you didn't read was the rest of the answer, which I asked you to do --

Q Which says what?

MR. SNOW: Where he talks about -- we don't torture, we obey the laws, and that sort of thing. And it also came up regularly within the context of that conversation. So I know it's inviting to say, "The Vice President confirms water boarding. He's talking about water boarding." Just -- it's not there.

Q One follow on this, because what you said in the morning was, "You think Dick Cheney is going to slip up on something like this?" Is it possible that he's not slipping up at all --

MR. SNOW: No.

Q -- but that he's winking to the base and saying --

MR. SNOW: No.

Q -- "of course we water board, and of course we'll do anything we need to to get the information because he knows that what they do --

MR. SNOW: I think you just won the cynical question of the year award. No, I don't.

Q How is that cynical?

Q No, no, no. There are more.

Q I'm a rookie. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Jim, you can bang away as much as you want. I'm telling you what the Vice President's -- I talked to Lea Anne about it. She says no, he wasn't referring to water boarding; he was referring to using a program of questioning -- not talking about water boarding.

Let me put it this way. You got Dick Cheney, who had been head of an intelligence committee. He's been the Secretary of Defense. He's been the Vice President. He's not a guy who slips up, and he's also not a guy who does winks and nods about things that involve matters that you don't talk about for political reasons. Sorry.

Q Why did the Vice President then, when the inference was clearly there from the questioner, who more than once referred to a dunk in the water --

MR. SNOW: I believe that his office is --

Q Let me finish. He, in the questioning, talked about how his radio listeners believe that this is a useful tool. "If it takes dunking someone in order to save lives, isn't it a silly debate to even be questioning that?" The Vice President says, "I do agree," later says, "That's been a very important tool that we've been able to secure the nation" -- referring to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

If the Vice President is so careful, why did he allow himself to answer a question in which "dunking in the water" was a part of that question?

MR. SNOW: The answer -- look, he was answering a question. And also as you know, he went on to talk about torture. Look, I've said what I'm going to say on it. I can't -- I really -- what you're asking me to do is to deconstruct something. I've asked what he meant. I've told you what he said he meant. I can't go any further than that, so you can ask all the whys and wherefores. But I want you to think -- let's go back to the "no brainer" part here.

The Vice President is not somebody who's going to reveal techniques. He's been in this business for a very long time.

Q He was asked about a technique, and he responded to a technique, and said that he agreed --

MR. SNOW: No, he was not asked -- he was not asked, no.

Q Informally, he did.

MR. SNOW: No, informally doesn't work.

Q It does in the context of a radio interview --

Q You're quibbling over semantics, to borrow your phrase. You're quibbling over semantics.

MR. SNOW: I know. But, no, I think -- I actually think --

Q He's in a conversation with a radio audience to speak to the American people.

MR. SNOW: I understand all that.

Q It doesn't have to be legally precise. The Vice President understood what the questioner was asking.

MR. SNOW: I'm telling you -- and I will tell you once again -- the Vice President says that he refers to the fact that when you're questioning people, you don't torture. You obey the law, and you protect the American people. We're not going to go any further.

Q Tony, is it not possible that the two are not mutually exclusive? In other words, that the Vice President does not construe water boarding as torture, and therefore, to him --

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no --

Q -- it's the same sentence --

Q So he does construe water boarding as torture?

MR. SNOW: No, what he does -- he doesn't talk about water boarding. And he also -- what he does say is that the techniques that the Americans use do not qualify as torture, and he is not going to talk about specific techniques.

Q So we know from this that a "dunk in the water" does not qualify as torture, right? And the Vice President is saying we're not involved in torture, and a dunk in the water is a "no brainer" for him.

MR. SNOW: Okay, and I will let you --

Q Is he saying --

MR. SNOW: I will let you deconstruct. The text speaks for itself. Let's change --

Q Did you talk to him?

MR. SNOW: No, I didn't. I talked to Lea Anne.

Q You had a cut-out.

MR. SNOW: I had a cut-out?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: I'll be happy to talk to him. Okay, I'll talk to him for you, okay? Everybody happy?

Q Yes.

Q Will you tell us what he says? (Laughter.)

Q -- when he says "dunk in the water," that's a serious question. You can't just sort of beg off and say, I'm sorry, I'm not going to deconstruct it.

MR. SNOW: No, but, Jennifer -- Jennifer, you've listened -- there have been statements out of that office for two consecutive days that say they don't talk about water boarding, they don't talk about torture, they don't condone torture. They're not going to talk about techniques.

Q All we're asking is, what's a "dunk in the water"?

Q He agrees with it. We want to know what that means.

MR. SNOW: All right.

Q If he agrees with a "dunk in the water," then --

MR. SNOW: All right, talk about a dunk in the water.

Q But you need to deconstruct it, not us. That's why we're asking you.

MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I've told you what deconstruction I've had. Yes, Anne.

Q Tony, this administration has, indeed, talked about specifics, including after Abu Ghraib, President Bush condemning that kind of behavior.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q And he did talk about specifics, saying that was not --

MR. SNOW: Wait a minute, he was talking about -- he was talking about specific breaches of the law. He was not talking about lawful techniques, which we will not disclose for obvious reasons of security.

Q To say that Vice President Cheney doesn't make mistakes like this, he did go up and curse a senator to his face on the Senate floor, and accidentally shot his friend, so he's not perfect. (Laughter.)

Q He never slips up?

MR. SNOW: No, I mean, it's just -- that's -- that's a great line, but it's not germane. Yes, Helen.

Q Is the emphasis on "we don't torture" when we send captives to notorious places that do torture? Does that absolve you?

MR. SNOW: No, it's -- as we've said many times, when we move people to another place, we have to have assurances that there will be no torture, and the treatment will be in accordance with international law.

Q Why do you send them there? Why? Why don't you keep them in your own captivity?

MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute, I thought you guys wanted to close off Guantanamo. The only way you do that -- we quite often try to repatriate people to places --

Q No, this was going on before you even had any intention, or you certainly don't now.

MR. SNOW: Let me just make it clear again. We don't condone torture. We don't participate in torture. We don't do torture.

Q How can we believe you when there's so much indication otherwise? Cheney went to the Hill to convince them they should not vote for a ban on torture.

MR. SNOW: Well, the people on the Hill have expressed their will, and furthermore, the administration has always said that we don't conduct acts of torture. And we don't condone torture.

Q I think the larger issue is credibility -- yours and the White House's. We're talking both in this instance and yesterday about very clear -- about specific language where you refute the semantic differences within the language and refuse to acknowledge what's very clear.

MR. SNOW: No, I can understand that people will look at this and draw the conclusions that you're trying to draw, as for yesterday. Those are two entirely different issues, and I think I've explained that on the issues of Prime Minister Maliki in the United States, we're playing off the same playbook.

I understand this. We will try to deal with it. I think you guys are -- maybe it's the end of the week. You're getting whipped into a frenzy.

Q Do you have contempt for the American people, do you think they don't understand?

Q That's not fair.

MR. SNOW: No, what I'm saying -- no, I think it is because you guys know Dick Cheney. You know the issue. I will go back and I will try to find some language for you.

Q We don't know him.

Q That's a logical fallacy.

Q Will he disavow dunking people in water as a part of the robust interrogation --

MR. SNOW: I think what he will disavow is torture, and he will not talk about specific techniques.

Q Okay. But just the wish list for us, in terms of question, is this notion of what did he mean when he said dunking the terrorists in water -- if it wasn't water boarding?

MR. SNOW: I will tell you -- and I will tell you what the office has said, and I will ask him directly. But what they've said is he was talking generally about a program, without referring to dunking in the water, that is used to interrogate people and to get important information that's going to save American lives.

The other thing you need to think about is that, again, the Vice President talking about a program that has now passed congressional scrutiny, been through a long debate and a thoughtful debate about how you can question people and save American lives, that really was the topic they were discussing.

Q That's not what we're asking about, though, now.

MR. SNOW: I know. Well, actually it is what you're asking about. It was the conversation. Look, we're going to go round the merry-go-round. Let me just get you some answers that will be more acceptable to you.

Q Can you clarify that on Maliki? Is there an agreement in place that the U.S. and the Iraqis have mutually agreed to on benchmarks?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way. We get ourselves -- this is one of these things where I want to be careful about the wording because Prime Minister Maliki I think is rightly concerned that there may be the perception that somebody is saying, you must do this by a certain date, and that is not the way it works. What you do have is collaborative efforts to try to work towards a series of goals: political, economic, and security.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, the Iraqis have already published a lot of their economic and political goals. And, as I've also explained, for obvious reasons, you don't really go public with a lot of the security stuff, because it in fact tips your hand. But it is safe to say that we are working with him on the goals -- for instance, the ones that he was outlining yesterday. He does want Iraqi troops taking primary command of operations within the country as soon as possible. He wants to make sure that they're properly trained, and equipped, and ready to go, and professionalized, and we absolutely agree.

Q And is Donald Rumsfeld not aware of this plan?

MR. SNOW: Donald Rumsfeld actually said that there's no daylight between the two. Donald Rumsfeld is, in fact, aware of how it works. It's one of these things where you want to make sure that when you're discussing it, you also want to respect Prime Minister Maliki's prerogatives as the head of a sovereign state. And he is sensitive about the use of terms like "benchmark" and "timetables," so I think it's safe to say that we have mutually agreed upon goals and we're working together to achieve them.

Q Will you stop using the word "benchmark"?

MR. SNOW: I think -- I'd be delighted to. Even if it's used in questions, I'll change it back to goals, yes.

Q To bring this back to our -- the topic that we really started off and Jim's cynical question of the year, the President mentions, every time he goes out on the campaign trail, that Republicans are better at protecting the American people than Democrats. He points to Democrats' votes on the CIA interrogation technique -- the bill, moving it forward. Is it possible that the Vice President was trying to make the point that somehow this party, this administration will do what it's taking -- will do what it takes to protect the American people?

MR. SNOW: No, the Vice President and the President understand that when you're operating in a capacity of trying to defend the country, you have an obligation for the laws, the Constitution, and the people, and you never take your eye off that. So the Vice President and the President are absolutely clear with anybody in the chain of command: You obey the law; you obey the procedures; you obey your international commitments. There's not a wink and a nod that, yes, boy, we're going to take them back behind the door and just whack them. It doesn't work that way, Bret.

Q But you also won't say whether the Vice President or the President believe water boarding is --

MR. SNOW: As you've -- I'll be happy to recite it or write it a hundred times on the blackboard: We don't talk about specific techniques.

Q Clarify something. A couple seconds ago, you said, "I can understand why people look at this and draw this conclusion."

MR. SNOW: Well, because you're going to talk about dunks in the water, and I know people say, "oh, that must mean water boarding." I mean I understand that you'd draw that, so we'll get into it.

Q What is it, a swim?

Q Wouldn't you draw that conclusion if you were reading this?

MR. SNOW: No, I wouldn't because I know the Vice President, and I know the way people think in the White House.

Q Is there anything other -- any other term referring to water that's been in this public debate over the last year, and intensely over the last six weeks up on the Hill as this bill was being debated?

MR. SNOW: I just -- I don't know, Dick. I don't know. Thank you.

Q You're up there trying to redefine the meaning of "is." I mean --

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: No, we actually tried that trope yesterday. No, what I'm trying to do is walk through the way the Vice President thinks, and you all know him. There's a common-sense factor involved in here.

Q Were you in the meeting with the conservative columnists the other day, the interview --

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what --

Q Were you in the interview --

MR. SNOW: Yes, I was.

Q He mentions in there -- he calls Iran the true culprit in the Middle East in terms of radicalism. Can you elaborate on that a little bit? What was he talking about?

MR. SNOW: Yes, certainly. It's no secret that Iran has been the number one global sponsor of terror for many years now, and he is referring to the provocative role that Iran has played in supplying money and arms to radical groups, including Hezbollah.

Q Tony, on another subject. Can I ask you about some comments from Mexican officials to the border fence bill signing? Mexican President Vicente Fox said that it was not useful, the construction of the fence is not useful. And President-elect Calderon apparently said -- he compared the fence to the Berlin Wall, and he said that the United States was committing a grave error in building a wall on the border.

MR. SNOW: Well, the President will be meeting soon with President-elect Calderon, and he understands President Fox's feelings about the fence. But on the other hand, there are important collaborative efforts on both parts to deal with issues like illegal border crossings, drug smuggling, and we have cooperative interdiction efforts. So we continue to do those.

The President understands the sensitivities, but on the other hand, he also understands the importance of securing the border. And as we have pointed out on a number of occasions, you have fences in some places -- you really have a mix of fences, Border Patrol agents, technical means, surveillance and that kind of thing, so it's not strictly fences.

Q Does it smack of interference though by the Mexicans?

MR. SNOW: No, nations -- I believe nations have been free to express their opinions about what we do and their differences with us on a number of things. It doesn't mean that they're not still valued allies.

Q Tony, a follow-up on that?

MR. SNOW: Yes, okay.

Q Twelve Republican members of Congress from nine states have written the President asking for an investigation of U.S. District Judge Cardone's sentencing of U.S. Border Patrol Agents Campean and Ramos to prison for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler who brought 743 pounds of marijuana across the U.S. border, but who was given full immunity to testify against them. And my question, since there will be a congressional hearing on this case on November the 13th, will the White House refuse to respond to these 12 Republican congressmen?

MR. SNOW: I don't have an answer for that, Lester. As you recall the other day when I tried to give you an answer about why we don't answer those questions, it was used provocatively by your editors. So let's just say, let's wait and see what the hearing produces. I believe you have 12 people who want to have a hearing, and we'll be interested in seeing what those hearings provide.

Q On the situation on Darfur that was discussed between the President and the NATO Secretary General, did they discuss the issue of peacekeeping troops, and the peacekeeping troops being made up of Muslim soldiers?

MR. SNOW: There is some conversation of the proper way to provide greater security in Darfur and protect people, but there was not a specific conversation about Muslim soldiers.

Q Is there a concern that Muslim soldiers could, indeed --

MR. SNOW: It didn't come up, so I honestly -- you're asking me to draw conclusions about a conversation that didn't take place, so I'm really not competent to --

Q What about new sanctions, the issue of new sanctions?

MR. SNOW: I think the most important -- look, the President has been very assertive on this. The international community needs to get together and put an end to a genocide in Darfur. It is an absolute ghastly human tragedy. The United States is trying to lead the charge on this, and we are encouraging our allies to be aggressive and forthcoming on it.

Q When does Natsios give his findings to the President?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. They're in fairly regular communications, and he has been briefing the President periodically.

Q Did they talk about the case in Afghanistan with the German soldiers appearing with the skulls? Do you know?

MR. SNOW: German soldiers what?

Q Appearing with some human skulls in Afghanistan. Do you know if --

MR. SNOW: Well, what they did talk about is the fact that the Taliban have begun using innocent civilians as human shields. So we did have an incident, I guess it was earlier this week, where civilians were killed. And Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer was really adamant about the kind of atrocities that are now being practiced by the Taliban and the importance of continued pressure on them and continuing to fight them.

Paula.

Q I have a question on semantics.

MR. SNOW: Yes, okay.

Q The President made remarks yesterday dealing with the New Jersey ruling.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q My question is, when he uses the term "gay marriage," are you, in fact, talking about civil unions, not church marriages?

MR. SNOW: That's a good question. I think "gay marriage" is a term -- I think the term "gay marriage" is applied to -- well, I'll tell you what, let me ask, but let me give you my sense without having asked that particular semantic question. My sense is that what they're referring to is not civil unions, but in fact, when a state decrees that gay couples will engage in an institution called "marriage." That has been the result of a Massachusetts decision, it's something that is implied in the New Jersey decision.

And the President's view is, while he has his personal views on marriage, people ought to be able to debate and decide it rather than having it imposed by court edict.

Q But you're not suggesting that states would impose on a church the marriage of homosexuals, are you? Because isn't that up to the individual church whether or not --

MR. SNOW: Well, you just -- you've just changed the terms of our debate. I'm telling you that the President believes --

Q I'm just framing the question a little --

MR. SNOW: Okay, well let's wait until we see if we've got some clarity out of the courts and legislatures on it.

Yes.

Q Although you don't seem to be answering my question about civil unions --

MR. SNOW: Well, what is your question about -- what is the precise question about civil unions?

Q I'd like to know if when you use the term "gay marriage," you are actually talking about civil unions --

MR. SNOW: Okay, and a civil --

Q -- because in church marriages, there's a separation between church and state in terms of the states telling the church that as a result of a gay marriage ban --

MR. SNOW: Okay, what you're talking about civil unions would not be gay marriage because it does not use the term, "marriage."

Q All right, thank you. Then I have a second question.

MR. SNOW: I'm willing to hear it. Go ahead.

Q Okay. The Human Rights Commission said, under a specific international covenant of which the United States is a party, that excluding homosexuals from the status of civil union is discriminatory. So is the gay marriage ban, meaning civil unions, discriminatory on the basis of sex, as well as equal protection under the law?

MR. SNOW: We commented on that, but what you just did is you said, "Is civil union," which you then turned into "gay marriage." And as I said, if you use --

Q Well, it's just like Dick Cheney did.

MR. SNOW: Ouch.

Q Can I just sort of follow up on that and clarify? The President has said in the past that he supports civil unions if that is what states choose to allow. Is that still the case?

MR. SNOW: I think the President said -- has he said -- has that been the phrase he's used? I'm incompetent. We're all newbies here. I'll check and see if that's precisely what he said. His position hasn't changed.

Q Tony, tomorrow is the President's first actual, public, open, non-fundraiser.

MR. SNOW: Rally.

Q Rally. Rally. Can you explain in a way that a layman might understand why that is the case?

MR. SNOW: Well, you'll notice that there haven't been any Democratic rallies this year. As we have tried to explain before, it used to be the case that you used so-called soft money and put together rallies. Now, if you go to a place, somebody, a local candidate or campaigner or state committee is going to have to pay for it. And the carrying costs are pretty high.

And in a competitive election year like this year, there -- you know, a lot of people have been saving up their money for the campaigns that they're engaged in. So this is one of the financial -- probably one of the unexpected consequences of what happened with campaign finance reform when you cease to have the ability to use so-called soft money. Everything now has to be paid with hard dollars, which, as you know, means out of individual campaign coffers.

Q Does that mean that the local candidate has to pay for the cost of bringing the President on Air Force One?

MR. SNOW: You know, local candidates or campaigns, yes, in most cases are going to have to do this -- or state parties, if you're running a state party rally.

Q But don't they have to do that anyway for a fundraiser?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, in the past, you had the ability, I believe, to defray using the Republican National Committee, using soft money.

Yes, go ahead.

Q Thank you, Tony. On South Korea, South Korea mentioned that security -- to replace -- how do you think it will affect --

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, start over -- I did not understand the beginning.

Q South Korean national security teams are -- how do you think it will affect the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea?

MR. SNOW: South Korean security teams are what?

Q Repressed.

MR. SNOW: Repressed? I don't understand.

Q They're changing their course.

Q Changing course?

Q Yes, changing course.

MR. SNOW: I don't know anything about it. If you can email me a question, I'll try to get you an answer. I don't know.

Q In a conversation with the NATO Secretary General, did they talk about change in NATO troop levels? Did they talk about a possible overhaul in the anti-drug effort?

MR. SNOW: No. They did not go into those specifics. The President was encouraging -- it was thanking Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer, not only for NATO cooperation, but he was basically thanking him and looking forward to working together. They did not engage in particular strategic conversations.

Q Mr. de Hoop Scheffer, did he convey to the President that both the incidents of civilian deaths this week were human shields?

MR. SNOW: There's one that's been widely -- he mentioned one. I'm not aware of two.

Q He mentioned one specifically a couple days ago.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q He didn't say though, in his public remarks, that that was the case. Is that what he conveyed to the President?

MR. SNOW: Yes, he did. Yes, yes.

Q Michael Doran from the National Security Council, the Syrian/South Asia -- yesterday I believe. Do you have anything to say on that meeting and whether anybody --

MR. SNOW: Don't know. I'll check it out and try to find out what I can for you.

Q Do you have anything on the heightened state of alert in the Persian Gulf with U.S. Naval forces?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way, there have been -- there have been some reports that maybe there's some Saudi facilities that are under watch. As you know, we don't talk about specific operations, but let me put it this way: We have vigorous and ongoing counter-terrorism operations with the Saudis, and if they seek our help and request our help, we'll be certainly happy to provide it.

Q Has there been an al Qaeda threat?

MR. SNOW: Again, that's not the sort of thing that we would ever acknowledge if it were the case, so I can't say yes or no.

All right. Thank you.

END 1:14 P.M. EDT