For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:40 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Hello. How may I help you? (Laughter.)
Q Good morning. How are you doing?
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. I'm feeling well, thank you.
Q Did the President watch the vote?
MR. SNOW: I don't know if he watched the vote, but I daresay most of us did. So we are happy that the motion to proceed has passed. Now we get into the business of debating the amendments and we're looking forward to passage in the Senate. We know that there's a long and -- a long debate ahead when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform. We hope the House of Representatives will take it up. Anybody who has improvements, we're certainly interested in those, but we are certainly pleased with the early vote on the motion to proceed.
Q Tony, you said you weren't surprised by the substance of Senator Lugar's comments on the Senate floor last night. Were you surprised by the timing at all, that he chose last night to do it?
MR. SNOW: I'd ask him. We certainly were not aware that there -- we were not made directly aware that there would be a statement at that time. But again, it's consistent with things he said.
Q I'm thinking, from what I heard in the gaggle and from the shrug right now that you don't find this very significant.
MR. SNOW: Look, Dick Lugar is a serious guy, so obviously you take it seriously. But on the other hand, again, he voted against the original -- he voted against the surge. He's somebody who has had reservations. We take seriously his point of view because he is a serious guy. On the other hand, we also take seriously the efforts and the advice that the President has gotten from his commanders on the ground, and also the continuing cooperation not only with the commanders on the ground, but also Ambassador Crocker and working with our colleagues in the Iraqi government.
Q But most Republicans have said they're willing to wait until September -- and obviously you need political support to continue with this -- a lot of Republicans have said they'll wait until September -- when you've got Dick Lugar last night saying, "The United States has violated some basic national security precepts during our military engagement in Iraq. We have overestimated what the military can achieve."
MR. SNOW: Well, again, obviously we disagree with him on that. On the other hand, we also agree with him when he was taking some of the critics to task for some of the things that they've said. Here is -- "it is a complex situation of war" -- duh. On the other hand, we also know that there are going to be reports to Congress in the middle of July and the middle of September about how this is going --
Q But are you worried this is yet another voice and the trickle will eventually burst the dam?
MR. SNOW: No. But again, this is Dick Lugar repeating a position. I think if you take a look at what his own people have said, they said it's consistent with what he said in the past.
Q But, Tony, doesn't it move the debate back to now instead of waiting until September by Senator Lugar coming out right now? Doesn't it focus on this in a way that you don't want people to focus on?
MR. SNOW: No, what we've been trying to do is to be straight with everybody about the difficulties of proceeding, and trying to make sure that people are getting information in a timely fashion about what's going on. Again, we have just completed getting the forces on the ground. Some of them are still getting integrated into units. They're working with their Iraqi counterparts. And you know the points that we've been making in recent days, Martha, but this is not a time for snap judgment, but on the other hand, we do expect that people are going to be asking tough questions about militarily, how is it going; what's going on on the civil side; what's going on in terms of the political situation in Iraq; how are the Iraqis doing.
We believe that democracy can, must, and will succeed in Iraq. We know that the Iraqi people are the ones who are going to have to shoulder the heaviest burden on that. And it is the purpose of American policy to build capability at all levels so that the Iraqis can do so.
Q The President had another VTC with Maliki yesterday, right -- it seems more and more frequent; the administration is putting pressure on the Iraqi government. But can you tell us, any signs that they are making progress in any way?
MR. SNOW: Again, I will let the Iraqi government -- what you're going to ask me to do is to tell what the Iraqis have said what's going on. We do know that they are obviously working toward oil law and distribution laws, and they've also talked about de-Baathification, but it's a parliamentary process and they'll have to make whatever --
Q That doesn't sound like any progress, Tony.
MR. SNOW: It may not, but on the other hand, it could. What I'm telling you is call over there and ask them to give you the characterization.
Q But, Tony, the United States is involved in this war; we have over 150,000 troops on the ground, and it's dependent on the Iraqi government how this goes. Why can't you give us an indication of how you think it's going at this point?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, it is pretty clear that there is strong willingness among all major partners in the government to move forward on an oil law and on all the key areas of reconciliation. Furthermore, when you talk about the commitment of the Iraqis --
Q What's the evidence of that?
MR. SNOW: Martha, let me continue. There is other evidence in the fact that you have seen, for instance, Iraqis willingly risking their lives and, in greater numbers, joining up, to try to work in the military so that they can go after the people who have been deliberately trying to blow up democracy. You've seen people placing their lives on the line constantly in support of a whole variety of activities. And you have the public statements of folks who have been involved in the Iraqi government. Furthermore, you know that the government is going to stay in session; the idea is to get the legislation passed.
Q So are you willing to accept from the Iraqi government, if you have Iraqi security forces still willing to risk their lives, which has been happening for a very, very long time, in saying they're willing to move forward and they want to move forward, that's enough?
MR. SNOW: No, we obviously want to see -- we want to see the legislation passed.
Q Tony, you said now when it comes to the immigration reform measure, we move to the amendments. This morning you also said you believe that some of the amendments are designed to kill the measure. Could you tell us which ones, specifically? And is the White House discouraging senators from voting for those?
MR. SNOW: Look, I'm not going to go through all the amendments on the tree. But, obviously -- we're going to remain engaged working with Democrats and Republicans to try to get the votes to get the bill passed, so that we have a comprehensive immigration reform package put together that the Senate can present to the House of Representatives as a basis for moving forward on this.
Q Is there any one or any couple that you're most concerned about?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to rank order them.
Q Tony, back to Senator Lugar, how do you answer his assertion that persisting with the surge will delay policy adjustments that ultimately will have a better chance of protecting U.S. interests?
MR. SNOW: Again, we believe that the way you -- we believe that in supporting the Iraqi government you help to create the space and also try to create conditions that are going to make it not more difficult, but easier, for that government to move forward on the political tracks and also the economic tracks.
Q The President, himself, has spoken of the desire to get to, I think he called it Plan BH. So doesn't -- how do you answer his suggestion that persisting with the surge could delay his getting to Plan BH?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, first, what he's talking -- if you listen to it, the surge has just now been put in place. When you talk about "long-lasting, persistent surge," that's not a surge, correct? So we agree with him on that. The fact is that I'm not sure that there is that much discontinuity with our position.
You do not want a surge that's going to go months and months and months and months. What you're trying to do is you're trying to focus forces in such a way as to create conditions for creating greater safety in Baghdad and also areas like Anbar, so that the government will have more freedom and more space in which to go ahead and make the political and other accomplishments that are going to be necessary for their success.
And you go back to the beginning of the debate about this, it's precisely what we said at the time. What the President is talking about is we are eager to get those accomplishments as quickly as possible, for obvious reasons, so that the Iraqis are in the lead and at some point you are in a position to be able to do these so-called over-the-horizon activities and, at the same time, not create a power vacuum that's going to make it easier for al Qaeda or for terrorists to come in and not only destroy what's going on in Iraq, but also to make it a safe haven for terrorism and a source of a greater danger and instability not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world.
Q Tony, so I guess, in terms of the Lugar comments, is there any concern in the White House that this is a sign of things to come? And when we get to September, regardless of there's a debate over what you guys expect to see in September, that more Republicans will be pushing back?
MR. SNOW: I think Republicans -- no, what you're asking me is, have Republicans decided right now what they're going to think in September? I think it's -- no, that's the embedded assumption.
Q That's not what I'm asking.
MR. SNOW: Well, it's kind of the assumption. What you're saying --
Q Can I ask you what I'm asking?
MR. SNOW: Yes, please.
Q So if the Republicans do end up there in September, are you guys prepared to sort of have a new set of negotiations on the Hill? And are there discussions internally about how you'll deal with that in September?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, those are futile questions: What are you going to do in three months, if.
Q I mean, doesn't the White House think about where things will be in three months?
MR. SNOW: Well, we also think that it is important for members of Congress and everybody else to take a look at the facts on the ground between now and September. We constantly try to reiterate the point that we are examining the facts on the ground at all times. It is not as if you put the stamp on it, say, okay, put our feet on the desk, we'll come back, we'll check up on it in July, and then we'll take a couple of months off and we'll look at it again in September.
The fact is you have an obligation at all times. And you continue to have consultations. It's one of the reasons why the President is not only in regular contact with the Prime Minister and also the Council of Presidents, but also with the key leaders -- the Ambassador, General Petraeus and others -- to try to figure out what's going on, because you will always be continuing to make adjustments based on the facts on the ground.
Q But in September do you think things will look significantly different?
MR. SNOW: We'll have to see. We certainly hope so.
Q Tony, the President has put a lot of emphasis on September. So Senator Lugar is wiping that out and saying September is not important, I no longer support this policy today. Isn't that an opportunity for a lot of Americans to lose patience with the notion of September?
MR. SNOW: Senator Lugar didn't support this policy when it was put in place. So --
Q But he's been a long advocate of many of the President's policies --
MR. SNOW: Right, but there have been disagreements on Iraq. So, no, I think what you're saying is, are people going to rush to judgment? We hope people are going to rush to contemplate what's going on here, and not only think about the importance of giving this operation a chance to succeed, but also the real dangers of creating a vacuum, because nothing will more surely not only make that region more dangerous, but also make life more dangerous for Americans by empowering the terrorists here and around the globe. So we think it's very important to go ahead and allow this plan to work and to give -- for people to have an opportunity to take a close and careful look at what they see happening.
Q Tony, BAE Systems announced today that it was under investigation by the Department of Justice. Doesn't this make the decision made by the President last week regarding the carte blanche to the British military production industry something of a dubious endeavor, and shouldn't it be reevaluated, in terms of possible corruption in BAE Systems?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, you're talking about an ongoing investigation, which means we are not at liberty to talk about it, and you can draw what conclusions you --
Q Did the Vice President sign off on the decision made by the President last week with regard to --
MR. SNOW: As you know -- look, the President makes the decisions in the White House; the Vice President is an advisor. We also make a careful point, as we've said many times, to allow those deliberations to remain confidential.
Q Tony, what are the hopes of this White House for the new Middle East envoy?
MR. SNOW: Well, at this point -- that's a nice way of getting me to answer a question that I'm not going to answer. We are aware that there have been rumors around and -- who did you have in mind? (Laughter.)
Q I'm just saying broadly --
MR. SNOW: Well, when there are announcements to be made we will respond with our hopes and our analysis.
Q Let me follow up --
MR. SNOW: Oh, that was good, though.
Q Yes, thank you. A Downing Street spokesman says that the Quartet is still meeting, the mandate for this job still being discussed, waiting for the Russians to agree on the mandate. Are U.S. officials trying to pressure the Russians to agree to Tony Blair taking this job?
MR. SNOW: Again, we have nothing to say. Tony Blair is Prime Minister, he's got a pretty active job right now. If there are other announcements, we will certainly be happy to respond to them when they have been made and when the time is proper.
Q One more on Senator Lugar.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Does it make any difference to the White House when it's Dick Lugar, sober, well-respected, not running for President, Republican, when he's making the criticism, as opposed to some liberal Democrat? Does it make any difference?
MR. SNOW: We take seriously all criticisms, and we also take seriously the obligation, we think, for people to keep in mind what is going on with the way forward in Iraq, and to take a careful look at the facts that are being presented by General Petraeus, General Odierno and others as they try to report on developments within the country.
We know, as I said earlier today, it's going to be a long, hot summer. It's going to be tough. But on the other hand, it is absolutely vital -- and this is one of the things Dick Lugar agrees on -- in succeeding in Iraq. The question is how best to do it. We think it's important to give this plan a chance to succeed.
Q You say you take criticism seriously. How do you view his criticism that the cost and the risks vastly outweigh the benefits?
MR. SNOW: Well, we think that the risk -- frankly, the benefit of democracy in Iraq is something that is -- and I think you would agree on this -- I'm not sure exactly how he is apportioning his cost benefit analysis, but our view is, if you create a vacuum, you create a risk and a very high cost to regional stability; you destroy American credibility in the region; you lose your leverage not only with our allies when it comes to areas of regional peace, you also lose some of your leverage in Afghanistan; you certainly give an upper hand to terrorists in the region who do not have America's best interest in mind. Therefore, again, the key is how best to succeed in Iraq.
I know that Senator Lugar shares that aim; he's got a different view, but we believe that the way forward is -- in fact, the most promising way, to try to create the space for the Iraqi government to be able to go ahead and make the tough political decisions and necessary political decisions it needs to make, and also get progress on the economic front, because that is also a very important part of building trust and confidence among the Iraqi people.
Q Well, to follow up on Jim's question, Tony, in the past when Democrats have leveled criticism about the administration policy, there have been statements along the line of, "it sends all the wrong signals to the matter of support for troops on the ground, and all the wrong signals to adversaries." What kind of a message along those lines do you think Lugar's very studied --
MR. SNOW: But if you take a look at it, also, again, Dick Lugar had some pretty strong words -- he also criticized those who we have criticized in the past. What's interesting is, I don't recall getting this kind of questioning when Joe Lieberman wrote, the surge is working. What does that have to say? You had a former Democratic vice presidential nominee --
Q Well, that was in agreement with you.
MR. SNOW: Oh, I see, okay. But the point is, people are all --
Q -- (inaudible) --
MR. SNOW: Yes, but people are all taking a look at this. And, obviously, Dick Lugar is giving what he thinks is his best advice, and we certainly appreciate it and take it seriously, but we also believe that it is very important to go ahead and let the surge, number one, finish getting put in place, and second, let's see what results it produces.
Q Back on immigration. You got I think it's 64 votes for the motion to proceed. Do you view that as an indication that you're going to get cloture on this, or is there too much that will change with the bill between now and then?
MR. SNOW: No, I mean, I think this is now -- what you do now is you move on toward the series of amendments. And, obviously, we are hopeful that we're going to be able to get the debate, because you basically have your cloture now, in the sense that you're now going to move forward to the amendments. And we'll see how the debate over the amendments fairs.
Q Okay, but you don't really have -- you don't have cloture. You still might not get cloture in the end, right? This is just the motion to proceed.
MR. SNOW: Well, it's a motion --
Q You're not saying that this means that you will get cloture, are you?
MR. SNOW: What it means is, you now proceed to take a look at the amendments on the tree.
Q Another thing. There's one very important amendment that would force illegal immigrants to go back to their country even before they get this Z visa. There's some indication that there might be a lot less participation if that amendment passes. Do you have a view on that one at least?
MR. SNOW: Again, we know that some of the Senate -- the key Senate sponsors support the provision. There are different ways of taking a cut at it. I can't give you -- I've read the analysis that you've talked about. That, also, I think, may make the assumption that that calls for an immediate touchback, which as I understand it, is not the way this provision is written. But I'm not going to try to get into -- we still think it's -- we understand that in the process of putting together comprehensive reform that there may be provisions that you would write in a slightly, or in some cases, significantly different way.
What we want is the package that overall is going to allow us to address in a comprehensive way the failings of the 1986 reforms, so that we can move forward and have an immigration bill that not only helps us deal with the problem of 12 million or more who have arrived here illegally, but also to prevent that kind of a problem in the future; to create -- to relieve pressure on the borders through a temporary worker program; and at the same time also restore the rule of law by having something that is enforceable not only in terms of employers, but also those who break the law; and provide real teeth -- and also have significant security. Security first is still the byword of this legislation, and that is something that is -- if you take a look at all the things that have been done from the beginning of this debate until the present, maybe the most striking is the significant increase in resources and devotion to national security.
Q On immigration, we know -- obviously, the President made his remarks this morning. But did he -- has he lobbied any senators, himself, today, for instance, the new senator from Wyoming, or anyone else?
MR. SNOW: Well, he's been on the phone. I'm not going to tell you how many or whom he has talked to. And he'll continue to be on the phone, as will -- we've had, obviously, Michael Chertoff and Secretary Gutierrez on the Hill. We're going to make people available as necessary to deal with members, because we think it's a top priority.
Q Tony, two questions. National Review quotes the President's fellow Republican, Congressman Duncan Hunter, of California, as saying, "854 miles of double-border fence was mandated to be constructed.* Homeland Security has a billion bucks cash on hand, it's been six months and they've done 11 miles." And my question: Is Congressman Hunter wrong in this statement?
MR. SNOW: I think he is wrong in the number built, but I'll have to get back to you on it. But the fact is that the cash on hand has been used for a number of things, including increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, providing support in terms of National Guard, doing radar emplacements, putting down sensors, using vehicle barriers. There's more to security than a fence, and there are hundreds of miles for which a fence is not the proper remedy, as Representative Hunter would agree.
What's also true is that the bill that he championed last year remains the law of the land, and the President has stepped forward in support of $4.4 billion to do it. Now, you also understand, Les, that building a fence is not like building one around the palatial Kinsolving estate.
Q Palatial Kinsolving estate?
MR. SNOW: Because at the palatial Kinsolving estate all you have to do is call up somebody and say, build a fence -- they'll be there the next day, they'll drive the holes, boom, they put it down. Instead, in this case, what you have are property rights concerns, environmental impact statements -- you have a whole series of other things that have to take place. It is not a snap your fingers proposition, but we are dedicated to getting things done as quickly as possible.
Q Wait a minute, I've got --
MR. SNOW: Oh, okay.
Q National Review also notes, "This proposed bill would shorten that border fence to only 370 miles."
MR. SNOW: That is false.
Q "Whether it's the fence or beefing up the Border Patrol and detention facilities, the new bill mostly reiterates the requirements and funding already passed in last year's Secure Fence Act, but pretends that it's something new." What about that?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, it's false on the 370 miles. In point of fact, the very statement you read contradicts it, because, yes, indeed, the measures that were placed in the law last year remain in effect.
What wasn't in the law last year was an extra $4.4 billion. What was not in the law, also, were some of the electronic measures that have been placed in, because the SBInet program was still under study and, therefore, people did not know exactly what the requirements would be. Furthermore, there is some talk among members of the House, and also of the Senate, of putting in even more Border Patrol agents; therefore you may be talking about larger complements. So in point of fact, there are a number of difficulties with that statement.
Q The President goes to the Islamic Center tomorrow. Does he still believe that Islam is a religion of peace, and does he regret using the term last year "Islamic fascists"?
MR. SNOW: He believes Islam is a religion of peace. He also believes that it has been hijacked, in some cases, by people who use Islam as a shield for murdering people, who use it as a way of spreading terrorism rather than tolerance. And he will be making those points tomorrow.
Q What about the term "Islamic fascists"?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think -- look, there are some people out there who want to expose people in the name of Islam to a totalitarian way of life. And the President does not think that that is -- what is important to realize is that the President does not believe that is consistent with Islam.
Q The arguments you are using are the same ones we heard when we were on the ropes in Vietnam and about to leave. You can't dismiss Lugar. He's been in foreign --
MR. SNOW: I didn't dismiss him.
Q He's been in foreign relations, head of the committee, all through these many years. And when he says something, he's saying something very important. The question is, what is the price that this country is willing to pay, in terms of killing people in a country that did nothing to us, and our own people? How far? How long?
MR. SNOW: You're assuming, Helen, that, in fact, nobody did anything to the American people, and furthermore, that nobody is doing anything to the Iraqi people.
Q Did the Iraqis attack us?
MR. SNOW: Well, what's going on right now is that you have terrorists who are killing Muslims. The United States is in the process of trying to do --
Q We went in there as an aggressor, who killed people there to take over.
MR. SNOW: No, we did not go there to take over, we went there to liberate.
Q In his speech, Senator Lugar said that the surge's prospects for success are too dependent on the actions of others who don't share our agenda; it relies on military power to achieve goals that it can't achieve, and it distances allies we'll need for regional diplomatic efforts. And he goes on. This is serious stuff.
MR. SNOW: Yes, it is.
Q He further distances himself from the President. I understand the need to downplay it, and to say that it's consistent with what he's said in the past, but really this goes further. This is him separating himself far further from the President.
MR. SNOW: No, that's your characterization, that's not mine. Let's take a look: regional allies -- I think you take a look at, do allies want the United States to leave, and you take a look in the region, and the answer is no, unless you're Iran and Syria. In point of fact, it is very important for us to be able to complete the job of building stability within Iraq, and at the same time, sending the ultimate in terms of discouragement to the terrorist forces by demonstrating that no matter what they do, no matter how they try, their efforts are not going to succeed.
Q He goes so far as to say that Iraqis don't want to be Iraqis.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you'll find that -- certainly if you take a look, even -- I hate to rely on polling for this -- but you look at it and there are -- in fact, Iraqis do want to be Iraqis, and more importantly, they want to be free and democratic Iraqis.
Q So Lugar is wrong on that one?
MR. SNOW: I'm just telling you -- I'm giving you my analysis.
Q Can we move to the Vice President again?
MR. SNOW: Please.
Q Representative Waxman -- if that's a breath of fresh air, you've got a bad day going. (Laughter.) Representative Waxman was noting Dana Perino's statement the other day that the Vice President is complying with all rules and regulations regarding the handling of classified material. He sent a letter to Fred Fielding saying, "According to current and former White House security personnel who have contacted his staff, White House practices have been dangerously inadequate." He said "the security officers described repeated instances in which security breaches were reported to the White House office, and nothing was ever investigated."
MR. SNOW: Number one, I can't comment on it because I haven't seen it. This may be another one of these that arrives on your desk before it arrives on ours. So I really can't give you any comment on it.
Q But as David said the other day, that he's complied with all of these regulations, you believe?
MR. SNOW: Well, keep in mind, what you're talking about here is an executive order that involves compliance within the executive branch, but it also says that basically for the purposes of the executive order, the President and the Vice President's offices are not considered "agencies" and, therefore, are not subject to the regulations. Now, do I think that they've been handling intelligence with due care and respect? Yes, you bet.
Q And why do you think that? Have there been any reports of breaches? Have there been any reports of complaints that he's not?
MR. SNOW: What you're asking -- again, what you have is the Information Security Oversight Office and they are responsible for reporting breaches, and they do so. I'm not going to tell you how many they do, but they have -- I do know that they have reported breaches and they had been acted upon. But again, trying to respond to a Henry Waxman letter that is non-specific, that's been to sent to Fred Fielding, that I haven't seen gets me beyond where I can -- I can't give you much more than I've given you right now.
Q Can we go again with you, though, on Vice President Cheney's logic about not being part of the executive branch? I understand, I think, what you're trying to say why he doesn't have to comply with these regulations --
MR. SNOW: I'm talking about specifically the executive order.
Q Right, right, okay, I am, too, about the executive order. So the executive order -- the Vice President's office says he's not a part of the executive branch so he doesn't have to do this. The White House seems to be saying something different. You're defending him, but in a different way.
MR. SNOW: No, we deal with -- David Addington, as Chief of Staff, said today that -- because I believe you have -- this we did get to see: The Executive Order on Classified National Security Information, Executive Order 12958, as amended in 2003, makes clear that the Vice President is treated like the President and distinguishes the two of them from "agencies." The executive order gives the ISOO, under the supervision of the Archivists of the United States, responsibility to oversee certain activities of agencies, but not of the Vice President or the President.
Q So he's coming around to your argument, it sounds like it. This is Addington today?
MR SNOW: This is what David Addington said today.
Q But, originally, what they sent out was that he wasn't a part of the executive branch. Are they amending that now?
MR SNOW: Again, I'll refer that to the Vice President's office. What you're really talking about is trying to parse constitutionally --
Q I'm not; he is.
MR SNOW: Well, if you go back and, for instance, look at Article 2, there are no specified executive activities for the Vice President. The Vice President is the president of the Senate. It is a wonderful academic question and I'm just not going to go any further than we've gone to date. What I am trying to clarify --
Q Are you referring to there has been reported breaches being within the office of the Vice President or the White House?
MR SNOW: No, no, no. Again, the office of the Vice President is not covered by the executive order.
Q No, no, no, I'm sorry. You said there have been reported breaches --
MR SNOW: Within the government. But on the other hand, again, the Vice President and the President are not covered by the ISOO.
Q If there is a breach, who is reporting those --
MR SNOW: This is -- I don't know.
Q Does anybody know?
Q I mean, a separate White House security --
MR SNOW: This is something that the ISOO is responsible for overseeing. I'll try to get you the procedures on it.
Q But you get the question about oversight? If you say, yes, we're handling intelligence properly, but there's nobody that says, here's a breach, because there's nobody overseeing --**
MR SNOW: But the ISOO is overseeing -- what I'm being --
Q Not the President and the Vice President's office.
MR. SNOW: Well, that's -- yes, correct.
Q So, nobody's watching, basically.
MR SNOW: No, that's not what it's saying. That's not at all what it's saying.
Q Is this a White House security office who oversees --
MR SNOW: Again, you're trying to get in procedural stuff. I can't help you on it.
Q But why was he a part of the executive branch when Congress wanted to see the Energy Task Force papers and now he's not?
MR SNOW: Well, now, you've got to keep in mind, that wasn't the argument that was made. The Anti --
Q -- official interference --
MR. SNOW: No, no, it wasn't. If you think back to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Clinton, and the health care task force -- they brought in people, they gave them offices, they basically said: you write a bill. They gave them responsibilities. At that time they were required, as government employees, to disclose themselves and all that sort of thing.
What the President Vice President had, serving in an executive capacity delegated to him by the President, was he brought in people for purposes of deliberation, not for sitting around writing bills, doing official activity. And the courts ruled that those individuals did not, in fact, qualify under the Anti-Deficiency Act as special government employees and, therefore, did not have to make public all of their activities and their deliberations. So, really, that is what that particular decision was about.
Q Well, isn't he serving in an executive capacity at the direction of the President when he's looking at intelligence papers?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Then why doesn't he hand them over to this agency --
MR. SNOW: What you're asking is he is delegated by the President to do executive authority, then -- well, first, number one, when you're talking about "these papers," again, the President and the Vice President are not agencies. I would refer you back to the Addington letter so that you can understand the legal niceties involved.
Q Two questions, quickly. One, going back to immigration. As far as immigration debate is concerned, one, what is a measure, hurdle between the President and the Congress? And, second, as far as amendments are concerned, you think President will accept most of those amendments, which are not acceptable to most of the immigrant advocates?
MR. SNOW: I cannot possibly answer either of those questions -- I'm not sure -- number one, what we're trying to do is we're working on trying to put together comprehensive reform that will command majorities in the House and Senate. I don't know if you've seen it, but a number of poll data coming out indicating, once again, strong support for the individual provisions of comprehensive immigration reform. We think that you work in a constructive manner with the House and Senate, you're going to be able to get it done. It's not going to be easy. But on the other hand, this is something that deserves a good, full and clear debate and we're perfectly happy for it to proceed.
Q Thank you.
END 1:12 P.M. EDT
*Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today in an interview that approximately 150 miles of fence will be built by the end of September.
**The President's Executive Order governs the handling of classified documents in the White House. All White House staff authorized to handle classified documents are trained on the appropriate procedures. The White House Security Office, the National Security Council, and the White House Military Office all have responsibility for the oversight of the use of classified documents at the White House. The President and White House staff take the issue of document security seriously and take measures to ensure that classified documents are handled appropriately.