For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 15, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
1:05 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. Before we start -- been a lot of debate about the supplemental on Capitol Hill and we've talked about some of the funding dislocations that have been taking place. Let me just have a couple of note here.
First, tomorrow is going to mark the 100th day since the President asked Congress to provide funding for the troops. Because Congress has not sent an acceptable supplemental bill, the Department of Defense today is going to notify Congress of its intent to transfer an additional $1.4 billion from Navy and Air Force personnel accounts to fund ongoing Army operations in the war on terror.
The funding is going to last about a week. It is the fifth one -- fifth such transfer that has been necessitated because of the lack of supplemental funding: two have been necessary for Army operations; one is to procure mine-resistant ambush protection vehicles -- those are the V-shaped hulls; one to bolster the Iraqi security forces; and one to counter improvised explosive devices.
In addition, the Army has moved funding originally allocated to fourth quarter expenses into the third quarter; the Army operations and maintenance account, which is the principal account covering day to day operations, no longer has any funding available for the fourth quarter. Moving money around like this, as we've said before, creates uncertainty and inefficiency, and it ultimately costs taxpayers more money in the long run by wreaking havoc on existing funds and forcing, in some cases, people to make inefficient decisions in the long run about how to finance ongoing operations.
Q Does this problem make the President any more inclined to work with the Democrats in Congress, or negotiate with them on the terms that they're seeking?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, if you're talking about deadlines for withdrawal, no. The President has made it very clear here that he is not doing "deadlines-for-withdrawal," he is not going to do something that is going to tie the troops' hands. Democrats know what the base conditions are. And, furthermore, the President has been working with Democrats in Congress.
Terry, it is pretty obvious that in some cases members in Congress have known -- Democrats have known that what they're proposing isn't going to be passed, but they wanted to get it out there. Perhaps they are trying to do it for domestic political consumption. While they're doing that, the Pentagon has the real business of financing ongoing operations. It has required five transfers now in existing accounts simply to maintain ongoing operations or procurement against such things as EFPs or IEDs -- the things that are saving -- new technologies that can save the lives of people who are in harm's way.
So I would caution against saying the President is not willing. As a matter of fact, we have been talking about this from the very beginning and doing outreach to the Hill and continue to. The President is optimistic that the end result is going to be something that still meets those benchmarks of funding and flexibility.
Q Tony, the President --
MR. SNOW: Stay on the same topic?
MR. SNOW: Okay, go ahead.
Q To sum up, your description of Congress and some of the actions being taken -- would it be fair to say that congressional Democrats are being irresponsible on this?
MR. SNOW: I will let you play politics with it. I'm telling you what the description is. Let me also note something that does not seem to be open to analytical dispute, the idea of precipitate withdrawal -- it was described in the Baker-Hamilton report, the National Intelligence Estimate. The idea of simply saying at some early date we are simply going to get out -- that has been described as a policy that would have devastating consequences, creating a vacuum within Iraq, making it very difficult for the government to survive; also creating the possibility of a safe haven for al Qaeda within Iraq, creating opportunities for the terror network, and in addition, creating aftershocks in the war on terror that would make our lives less secure from a personal safety standpoint, economically. It would also weaken the United States diplomatically around the world.
In that part of the world, people who are going to help us are going to ask themselves, do we really want to stick with them if we cannot count on them. As General Petraeus and others have said, this debate, the very debate itself, has an impact on the way people are thinking, including in the Iraqi government. They want to know whether we are going to be there to pursue victory in Iraq. The President is determined to send the message, and to send it the proper way, by having full and flexible funding for the forces.
Q Senator Levin is proposing language that would allow the President to waive the troop withdrawal requirements. Now, Josh Bolten has been up there looking for common ground. Why isn't that common ground?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I'm not going to get into -- what I'm just telling you is, when you have a deadline for withdrawal, that's unacceptable. And it's unacceptable for reasons that have been laid out in the National Intelligence Estimate, Baker-Hamilton, and any number of other reports, including those who have been put together by Democrats in the national security community.
But Josh Bolten, I am not getting into any discussions behind the scenes, because we're not going to negotiate it from here. One of the things that has happened --
Q But --
MR. SNOW: No, Steve, one of the things that has happened is that both sides have been respectful of one another, in terms of not getting into the content of particular conversations. We're going to continue to abide by that. We simply don't think it's constructive for me to be handing out report cards about things that may or may not be discussed in those sessions. It's best to let Josh go ahead -- he's the President's guy -- along with Steve Hadley and Rob Portman, let those guys continue to have their conversations on the Hill, with the aim of getting a bill that gets our forces financed through the fiscal year.
Q What do you think you've just done?
Q To follow up on this, you're talking about -- five transfers, I think you said?
MR. SNOW: Yes, so far.
Q What is -- what in the Pentagon apparatus, though, is suffering as a result of this?
MR. SNOW: Very simply, if you no longer have funds available for the fourth quarter, you no longer plan on the basis of that. If you do not have -- the Pentagon doesn't simply sit around and come up with 58 different potential funding schemes. If the money is not there, you can't plan around it. And as a result, you are constrained in terms of procurement. For instance, if you only have money to a certain date, you either have to pull old procurement into future -- into present spending, you have to speed up schedules, or, in some cases, you have to shutdown production -- you have to shutdown production lines. You can't simply say, well, we think it's going to get passed in the future. You can't cut the checks, you cannot sign the contracts.
So it has real impact in terms of procurement, in terms also such things as handling the disposition of troops, moving forces around -- that's expensive business, too. If you don't have the financing to do that, it affects the way in which you handle the flow of troops in and out of the region. So there are any number of circumstances. Secretary Gates outlines them in more detail in a letter he sent last week to relevant committees, but it is significant.
Q Changing topics, Tony --
MR. SNOW: Let me exhaust this one first, Kelly. Helen.
Q You've already laid down a non-negotiable position, and you talk about, oh, we're not going to talk about it and all this. Is nothing going on? And do the American people have any say about this? They want to withdraw.
MR. SNOW: The American -- again, if you take a look -- for instance, if you want to live and die by the polls, Helen, 60 percent of the American public say, let's go ahead and fund them.
Q Okay. They also say, let's get out.
MR. SNOW: Well, they do want to get out, but they also want to get out under circumstances of victory.
Q Well, is the President listening to them?
MR. SNOW: Of course. And the President also -- you've got to keep in mind, being President is a listening exercise and a leading exercise. And as a leader, not only as a Commander-in-Chief --
Q Does he think they should abide by any of their will?
MR. SNOW: Yes, he does. But he also thinks that the will of the American people is to be safe and secure, and that's his foremost concern.
Q What is the total of the transfers, the financial cost of all the transfers in the last 100 days? And also, Tony, you talk about planning beyond the fourth quarter, and you said that production could be shut down. Could this ultimately -- if the stalemate were to continue for months down the road --
MR. SNOW: If the stalemate continues for months, the funds are cut off. You've got a military that's cut off, period.
Q Okay, a military that's cut off -- would that mean some of the military may be coming back home, because they're cut off?
MR. SNOW: Darling, you don't have the money to send them home. That also costs money. Total transfers right now $4.918 billion.
Q Four point nine --
MR. SNOW: It's not as if everybody just has frequent flier passes, say, hey, war is over, send me back for free. That also costs money. It literally affects everything, including the movement of forces in and out of the theater of battle.
Q So no hypothetical --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into a hypothetical, because --
Q No, but you did say that they were stuck there. There's no money to bring them back home, and then there's no money to fight the war, so what happens?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's not going to happen. You know that that's not going to happen, I know it's not going to happen, Congress knows it's not going to happen. They're going to get this fixed.
Q Going to the Attorney General and the U.S. prosecutors that were dismissed. Today Mr. Gonzales said that the recommendations reflect the views of the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty. He signed off on the names. Isn't the Attorney General effectively pushing blame to the official who is heading out the door?
MR. SNOW: No, because he supports all the personnel actions. There's nothing to blame.
Q Suggesting, though, that he was not a responsible party by saying he signed off on the names, they reflect the view --
MR. SNOW: Look, what he understands is he's delegated authority for people within the Department of Justice to make those decisions, which he supports, and he's simply stating how it worked in terms of the assignment of responsibilities.
Q Tony, following on that. Whenever the President has received criticism about the terrorist surveillance program, he has said, look, top Justice Department officials are monitoring this for abuses. Okay, very dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill today -- James Comey, who in 2004 was the Acting Attorney general, testified that when he raised objections to the terrorist surveillance program, that Alberto Gonzales, as White House Counsel, and the White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, took this extraordinary measure -- they went to the hospital room of John Ashcroft to try to get him to override what Jim Comey was saying, about how this needs proper legal footing. So wasn't that an end run by the White House to try to get John Ashcroft to overrule James Comey?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, you've got a representation of internal White House deliberations, and we simply don't talk about that and are not going to.
Q But he's testified on Capitol Hill. I mean, he --
MR. SNOW: I understand that, but --
Q All that "you have to tell the truth to the American people" -- he's testified about this now, it's public.
MR. SNOW: Let me give you a couple of things. Also, what had always been noted is the terrorist surveillance program was, in fact, something that was constantly reviewed by the Department of Justice at either 45- or 90-day periods, and furthermore was reviewed by the Inspectors General at the Department of Justice and at the National Security Agency. In addition, there was review by the FISA Court. The terrorist surveillance program saved lives, period.
Number two, those who had questions about the FISA Court sat down and worked with the administration last year, and we worked out legislation that I think has met any questions that anybody had. But the fact is, you've got reforms, and I'm not going to talk about old conversations.
Q But you had the Acting Attorney General at the time saying, in regards to what Inspectors General -- the acting -- chief law enforcement officer in the country is saying in 2004, I've got problems with this, and then you've got the Chief of Staff and the Counsel, Alberto Gonzales at the time, going -- and according to James Comey, they were trying to take advantage of a sick man who was in intensive care.
MR. SNOW: Trying to take advantage of a sick man -- because he had an appendectomy, his brain didn't work?
Q Yes, "I was very upset, I was angry." He was in intensive care at GW. "I thought I had just witnessed an effort" --
MR. SNOW: I --
Q -- let me just tell you -- "I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man." Okay? Did any White House officials come and try to take advantage of you -- I mean, that's really not applicable in terms of this.
MR. SNOW: You know what, Ed --
Q They were trying to take advantage of him, according to James Comey.
MR. SNOW: Ed, I'm just telling you, I don't know anything about the conversations. I've also told you the relevant thing, which is, you wanted to ask from a substantive point of view, were there protections in terms of the terrorist surveillance program -- the answer is yes. It had multiple layers of review, both within the Department of Justice and the National Security Agency. Jim Comey can talk about whatever reservations he may have had, but the fact is that there were strong protections in there. This is a program that saved lives, that is vital for national security, and furthermore has been reformed in a bipartisan way that is in keeping with everybody. And you can go -- frankly, ask him. I'm not talking about --
Q Last question. The Republican, Arlen Specter, not James Comey, reacted to this by comparing it to the Saturday night massacre during Watergate. Are you concerned about Republicans now comparing this White House to the Nixon White House?
MR. SNOW: What I'm concerned about is -- I'm not even going to get there. That's too tempting and probably not responsible on my part. I think what you really want to do is --
Q Oh, go ahead. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: That's my way of counting to 10. (Laughter.)
The fact is, you've got somebody who has splashy testimony on Capitol Hill. Good for him. We're not talking about internal deliberations.
Q Let me just read one other thing that Senator Specter said today about the Attorney General. He spoke about Mr. McNulty's resignation, and called it "a significant step and evidence that a department really cannot function with the continued leadership or lack of leadership of Attorney General Gonzales." That is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. How can he continue with that kind of comment?
MR. SNOW: He's going to continue, he's going to continue. We have faith in him. We disagree with Senator Specter, but we understand that he's got his concerns. Members of Congress are free to express them.
The fact is, if you take a look at personnel throughout the administration, we actually continue to recruit first-rate people for this administration, and Paul McNulty served the administration well. He's decided that it's time that he wants to move on. We thank him for his service, and we are sure that there is going to be a new deputy attorney general who is going to meet the same high standard. And we have full confidence in Alberto Gonzales.
Q Tony, on Wolfowitz. ABC was reporting that -- on Wolfowitz's future -- "all options are on the table," and second, that it's an "open question" whether he should stay. Does that reflect the White House views?
MR. SNOW: Let me explain. There are two separate things going on. Number one, there is an inquiry right now -- I believe Mr. Wolfowitz today is talking to the World Bank, presenting his side -- on personnel matters. And what we've said all along is, first, we do support Paul Wolfowitz.
But the second thing is, you need to separate these into separate inquiries, and a lot of times I think they get bundled together. He has made it clear that he made mistakes. It is pretty clear also that there were problems, in terms of communicating the proper ways of dealing with personnel issues -- as you know, originally he tried to recuse himself, then an ethics board said that he ought to get himself involved. The fact is that he made mistake; they're not, in our view, firing offenses.
Separately, at some point in the future, there are going to be conversations about the proper stewardship of the World Bank. And Mr. Wolfowitz, himself, says that what you need to have is a full, fair conversation about what is going to be best for the future of the Bank. In that sense, they say all options are on the table. This is not to leap to any conclusions, but to give you a statement of fact -- which is members of the board and Mr. Wolfowitz need to sit down and figure out what is, in fact, going to be best for this Bank to be able to serve as a venue for -- especially in the developing world -- for trying to address problems of poverty, and to try to create the proper kinds of hope and opportunity in the long run.
So what we're really talking about is, let us get through this original process because, again, not a firing offense; throughout, regardless, we have faith in Paul Wolfowitz. We do think it is appropriate for everybody to sit down after the fact, calm down, take a look and figure out, okay, how do you move forward.
Q Well, when this person says it's an open question whether he should stay, that sounds a lot different than what you've been saying here or what you said this morning.
MR. SNOW: Again, that's something that he is going to have to resolve, or members of the Bank are going to have to resolve; we support him.
Q What does the White House think would be the best thing for the Bank? I mean, you're aware of everything that's happened. Does the President think it would be the best thing for the Bank --
MR. SNOW: Again, it's premature. There are going to be conversations of this sort. Hank Paulson is in contact with other members of the board of governors at the World Bank, and we're not going to talk about discussions that have yet to take place.
Q Well, but the President has said -- beyond just saying that he should have his day in court, he's also said that he supports Wolfowitz --
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q -- is that still true?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So then he does think he should continue.
MR. SNOW: Yes -- he supports him.
Q So then this person is not reflecting the White House view?
MR. SNOW: No -- again, there are going to be conversations about how you move forward. And you talk about any possible options in the future about how to maintain the integrity and the effectiveness of the World Bank. That's what they're talking about. They're going to leave all options -- Paul Wolfowitz is somebody who thinks that that is the proper way to proceed, as well.
Q But if they come to the conclusion that Wolfowitz should not continue, the President would oppose that, correct?
MR. SNOW: Well, let's just find out what happens when they have those conversations.
Q There's a report that the IAEA has concluded that Iran has solved its technological problems and is now enriching uranium on a far larger scale than before. Does that match what the U.S. believes it knows about the enrichment inside Iran -- hold on -- and, two, does it have any sense of urgency stepped up because of this report?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, I shouldn't laugh, but you're asking me to give you classified intelligence, and I'm not going to do it.
Q How about the urgency question?
MR. SNOW: The fact is -- we also have not seen the IAEA report. So that's -- we have to review -- let's be clear, the Iranian government continues to isolate itself with rhetoric that talks about the desire to create a nuclear program that is far more than necessary for having peaceful nuclear energy within the country, and is something that raises the spectrum, the fear that they're trying to develop nuclear weapons. That is unacceptable.
The P5 plus-1 have been very clear about that, not only in terms of laying out conditions where there are going to be sanctions against the Iranians, but also laying out a series of benefits that can be made available to the Iranian public that are going to serve not only as a reward, but an open welcome into the community of nations.
So, obviously, reports of this sort you're going to take a very careful look at. What is of paramount importance is that Iran not be able to destabilize an entire region of the world, a region that needs stability, not additional instability. And the only way you're going to do that is to make sure that they do not have the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
Q If this report about the IAEA report is accurate, it's clear that Iran continues to thumb its nose at the world, at the same time, the U.S. is now sitting down with Iranian officials in Baghdad. So even though that's just on Iraq, isn't that kind of giving Iran a pass and --
MR. SNOW: No. As you recall a year ago, there was also a Baghdad channel made available for dealing with Iraqi security issues, where the then Ambassador Zal Khalilzad was also empowered to talk with the Iranian officials on matters dealing with border security. It is not only not unusual, but it's not unprecedented. I've just discussed something that I think everybody in this room knows was the case last year.
Now what we're really doing is a continuation of policy that involves several things. Number one, using diplomacy as effectively as possible. The P5 plus-1 process is one where we're trying to use leverage -- diplomatic, economic, and otherwise -- to get the Iranians to realize that moving down the road toward nuclear development is something that is not good for them and not for the region. We're serious about it.
Number two, we also make it clear that we prefer diplomacy as the approach, hence the P5 plus-1, hence also using anything available to us to try to make it safer for the government of Iraq, and to make it possible for them to continue the hard business not only of fighting those within the country who have been trying to undermine the government, but those who are coming in from outside the country, and also those who are shipping weaponry from out of the country to try to destabilize the government.
The Baghdad channel that the President has authorized follows into that same sort of pattern. It does not in any way, shape or form confer upon the Iranians full diplomatic status, and it does not give them the things that they want, nor does it change the series of sanctions that have been ongoing, nor does it change ongoing diplomacy to firm up international resolve when it comes to the behavior of the Iranians.
Q But how do you sit across the table with the Iranians who are sitting there thumbing their noses at the U.S. and trying to discuss stability, when the question of stability surrounds the enrichment?
MR. SNOW: The same way you do it before -- you have -- again, what you're not talking about is enrichment. There are two different kinds of talks. One has to do specifically with what's going on in Iraq. Now, last time around, the Iranians, in fact, declined to participate. There seems to be some indication that they may be willing this time, but this is a conversation not about ancillary issues. They know if they want full diplomatic recognition how to get it. But if they, in fact, are willing to engage in constructive conversations about making Iraq a safer, more stable place, they can certainly have those conversations, and the President has made available the channel.
Q Tony, two questions. One, tomorrow Prime Minister Tony Blair comes to the White House, and whatever we are doing here in Washington, London or in New Delhi, terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, are watching, including this briefing. My question is that Prime Minister Tony Blair has been a strong supporter of global war against terrorism. So when he leaves office this time in the middle of his term, what message are we sending to terrorists, as far as fighting against terrorism globally?
MR. SNOW: I think it's pretty clear, if you take a look at the resolve of the British government, it has been firm. And I don't think it says anything about the resolve of the British people that Tony Blair has decided to move on. He's been -- what is it, third longest-serving Prime Minister in British history, I believe. He's certainly one of the longest serving. He's had an extraordinary tenure. That is something that happens in parliamentary democracies.
But on the other hand, what will happen is that the new government will have an opportunity to take a look, and if you think about it, Gordon Brown, what's one of the first things he did, in thinking about this? He came here and talked to our national security people. So Gordon Brown understands, if in fact he becomes the next British Prime Minister, and maybe I'm leaping to conclusions, that one of his solemn obligations also is to be a commander-in-chief and somebody who thinks deeply and thoroughly about the security needs of the British people.
Q On immigration. As far as the Washington Post editorial today, detailing immigration issue (inaudible), they are saying that the Post editorial made or break (inaudible) this time, as far as immigration is concerned (inaudible) the U.S. on Capitol Hill. How does the President feel about this editorial, if he has seen it, and how -- is he pushing on the Capitol Hill, because it may not go through if it doesn't go now, we're looking at maybe in the next --
MR. SNOW: Rather than playing the "if" game, Goyal, let me flip it around. There continue to be conversations about immigration involving Democrats and Republicans. There's a great deal of hard bipartisan work taking place. The President is apprised of it constantly. It is something he is profoundly committed to. One year ago today he went on national television and told the nation about his comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and that continues to be the backbone of his policy and really the template around which negotiations are taking place.
So rather than sort of talking about prospects if things don't turn out, I think there is a certain amount of -- what we're struck by is the determination and goodwill on both sides to try to get comprehensive reform done, and we're going to continue working at it.
Q Tony, on another issue, gas -- I know the President talked about gas prices yesterday, but are there any conversations around the White House in some of the closed doors that you've been hearing about possibly renewing the effort to go back into some environmentally -- seeing if Congress will allow the White House to look at some environmentally protected areas again to possibly tap for oil?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, look, the President, on a number of occasions, has talked about things like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and presented it with Congress, and there's been overwhelming opposition on the Democratic side. The question is, if you don't like alternative sources -- I'm sorry -- if you don't like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or alternative venues, if you don't like creating new oil refineries, if you're not sure whether you're going to support alternative fuel uses, how are you going to provide more fuel in a more environmentally sensitive way so that you can have economic growth and a clean environment at the same time?
Those are the balances the President has always kept at the front and center of his energy policy. His energy policy has always been an energy and environmental policy. Clearly that's going to continue to be the subject of debate. I think what's happened, April, is that the events of the last couple of weeks, where you have disruption in some of the refineries, highlights once again the importance of dealing with energy in a very comprehensive way -- look for all the sources you can get, and develop independence.
Second, develop new means and sources for the future, especially in terms of biofuels and alternatives that are environmentally friendly. The President has talked about nuclear power. Once again, a lot of people say, we don't want nukes, we don't want new refineries, we don't want ANWR, we want more energy. Okay, well, we're all ears.
Q But those are long-term. What about issues of, especially in Texas, uncapping some of the capped oil wells, working on possibly getting some of those --
MR. SNOW: April, decisions of those sorts are the kinds that are made by economic reasons. When it's economically feasible to uncap oil wells, they do it. You've seen it in the past when you've had oil spikes -- when it's not economically feasible, they're not going to do it.
Q Has the White House received any word about Jerry Falwell, who we understand --
MR. SNOW: No, we just -- no, we haven't. Obviously this is breaking news and we'll follow it, too.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Last week you said you would "check into the polygraph test of Sandy Berger." And WorldNet Daily is grateful for your willingness, and now asks, what did you find out as the result of your checking into the possibility of Sandy Berger actually being administered the polygraph he agreed to take to resolve the case of his removal of classified documents from the National Archives?
MR. SNOW: A thousand pardons, my homework is not in yet.
Q Okay. In view of the extensive media coverage, there are millions of Americans who are wondering, how does the President, as a devout Christian and faithful husband, believe that the Bush administration is rightfully serving this country and providing moral guidance to our young people by saying that it is not a firing offense for a man who boosted the salary of his mistress to head the World Bank?
MR. SNOW: Well, I believe what we are talking about here is so-called firing offenses in terms of personnel policies and communications. I like the fact that you presented it in a colorful and moralistic way, but I don't believe that those particular issues were the approximate issues before the World Bank, or before the President, or before the board of governors at the World Bank.
Q Can you confirm any plans for meetings in Baghdad with the Syrians along the same lines of meetings with the Iranians?
MR. SNOW: No, I can't.
Q Back on Comey's testimony, does the White House dispute his claim?
MR. SNOW: You've got to understand what you have are characterizations of conversations, the sort of which we simply don't talk about. So we will --
Q You've described his testimony as "flashy." I'm just trying to find out if it's accurate, if Card and Gonzales went to the hospital.
MR. SNOW: I understand that, and again, that's not the sort of thing that I'm at liberty to comment about it.
Q Is it accurate?
MR. SNOW: Again, you're just asking me to comment about it.
Q But aren't you trying to have it both ways? You won't comment on it, so that you leave some doubt as to whether it's true or not --
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not leaving doubt --
Q -- this man used to be your Attorney General. He was the --
MR. SNOW: -- attacking Attorney General?
Q "Acting" Attorney General -- pardon my grammatical -- but, Tony, he was your Attorney General. He was the President's man. He's not a Democrat, he was your man. And he's making these charges.
MR. SNOW: Okay, then I'm going to violate our rules on confidentiality of conversations?
Q It's already out there; it's public, he testified before the American people today.
MR. SNOW: I understand that, but I'm still not going to -- and his testimony can stand on its own.
Q Can I ask what the rule is on confidentiality? Because it's not really an internal White House discussion, it's a discussion with another agency -- isn't that a little different?
MR. SNOW: Again, this is conversations talking about with the White House counsel.
Q Tony, on North Korea, North Korea insists to have a North Korean fund with a BDA, be transferred only through the United States banking system, which is also subject to the (inaudible) by President Bush. What is your comment?
MR. SNOW: I am sorry, I did not understand the question. You're talking about the BDA money, the North Koreans want the BDA money, they do not have it; is that correct?
MR. SNOW: And they want it and therefore -- look, we think the North Koreans need to abide by the obligations of the February 13th accord, and we continue to believe that. Obviously, they're having some difficulty getting a hold of the BDA money; can't really comment on that. But their obligations are pretty clear under the accord.
Q Did this (inaudible) approval by the President of the United States?
MR. SNOW: The President of the United States doesn't have approval over bank transfers.
Q Tony, I know you said this was breaking news -- the Associated Press now is saying that Reverend Falwell has died. Can you comment a little bit about what he's meant to the political process, the Republican Party, et cetera?
MR. SNOW: No, I think at this particular point, rather than trying to do political encomium, the first thing you do is you pray for him and you pray for his family. If, in fact, he has died, he died suddenly, this is the kind of thing that is going to be a shock to those who love him and were around him. And I think the proper attitude at this juncture is to pass on our condolences and prayers, and we'll try to do the fixing place in history a little later.
END 1:36 P.M. EDT