For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 13, 2001
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
10:03 A.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning,
gagglers, and thank you for allowing me to come to briefing room to do
this under our normal rules: no TV, no radio, but this of
course is all on the record. And I will be briefing today on
camera at 2:30 p.m.
This morning, the President arrived in the
Oval Office at approximately 7:10 a.m. He made a series of
phone calls to world leaders, including Prime Minister Koizumi of
Japan, Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy, Lord Robertson of NATO, and
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. All four expressed their
condolences and deepest sympathies to the people of the United States
over this terrorist attack. And all four told the President
that they stand united with the people of the United States in
The President later today will be making a
phone call to Mayor Giuliani. He will also, late morning --
we'll get you an exact time as soon as we can -- depart for a local
hospital for a private visit to meet with the families of people who
are in the hospital here, and to thank the many doctors and nurses who
have saved lives at these hospitals.
The President will also, this afternoon at
-- is it 3:30 p.m. -- 3:30 p.m., I believe, is the meeting with members
of Congress from the regions that have been affected -- here at the
Pentagon, up in New York City -- by the terrorist acts.
Also, the President is declaring today
that tomorrow should be a National Day of Prayer and
Remembrance. The President tomorrow will attend a prayer
service in Washington, D.C. The President is calling on
Americans during their lunch hours today -- he will call on them at
tomorrow's Day of Prayer and Remembrance to take time during their
lunch hour to attend prayer services at churches, synagogues, mosques,
other places of their choosing, to pray for our nation, to pray for the
families of those who were victimized by this act of terrorism.
I'm happy to take questions.
Q When the
President made these phone calls, what was the purpose? I mean, you
said they expressed condolences, but he called them. Did he
call them for some reason?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is
continuing, and will continue, to make phone calls around the world as
part of his effort to assemble an international coalition that stands
united to combat terrorism.
Q And did they
agree to join a coalition?
MR. FLEISCHER: They have all
said that they will stand united with the United States to fight
Q What are we
asking them to exactly do?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's the words
I've used, Helen. I'm not going to get more specific than
Q Why? What do you want in a
MR. FLEISCHER: Because that's
the tenor of the conversation that they're having.
Q But is a
coalition just a rhetorical agreement, we don't like
terrorism? Or are you looking for more significant support
of any type -- militarily, economically, joining in some kind of
sanctions regime, anything?
MR. FLEISCHER: It is more than
rhetorical, but I'm not prepared to go beyond that. It is an
expression of world support, and world condemnation -- just as with
NATO's action. This is unprecedented, that NATO would say an
attack on one nation is an attack on all. NATO has not
invoked its Article 5 clause before.
Q But that has a
legal implication. I mean, that implies action. The NATO
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I know
where the questions are going, what you're after. But when
it comes to action, you're asking me to predict or to indicate publicly
any future events, and I'm not going to do that.
Q No, we're not
asking you that. We're asking, is the United States asking
these countries for military help or for any other kind of help?
Q For basing
rights? For money? Anything like that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
go beyond that, what I've said, to address any specifics.
Q Why shouldn't we
know, though? I mean, what's the difference?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because these
are conversations between the President and foreign leaders, and the
President does not share every aspect of every sentence he has with
Q Ari, when you say
"coalition", it does mean something, it seems, more than just standing
shoulder to shoulder. I mean, no one likes
terrorism. Every nation formally condemns
terrorism. Nobody stands up in the United Nations and
says, hooray for terrorism. What does "coalition"
mean, when the President is seeking to build it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Coalition means
that the world stands united, and they are sending a signal to those
who have carried out this act that the world is united with the United
Q Does it envision
MR. FLEISCHER: Listen, I know
what you're asking. I'm just not going to go beyond that.
Q You know what
we're asking, but you're telling us you're not going to answer it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, what I'm
saying is that I'm not going to discuss every sentence of the
President's conversations with foreign leaders.
Q We're not asking
you to do that. We're asking, what are we asking of them?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm describing
it as I've described it. I'm not going to go beyond that.
Q What we're trying
to establish is that what you all are discussing in these things,
without any reference to specifics of any sort, is beyond the level of
just expressions --
MR. FLEISCHER: The only way to
answer that is to get into specifics.
Q -- expressions of
MR. FLEISCHER: The only way to
answer that is to get into specifics.
Q Well, without
doing the specifics. Presumably you all would like to have
-- if you need them, ever --
MR. FLEISCHER: Listen, this is
-- I don't know if you want to spend all of your time on this and this
topic, because I'm not going to go beyond that.
Q Isn't that
something the nation needs, right now, is specifics, when everyone,
including people here in the White House, are rattled from this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually I
think, April, that the nation completely understands the need for the
President and our planners to be able to protect our nation, to carry
out the nation's mission in a manner that is not shared in all aspects
Q But, Ari, the
words of war continue to be floated around, and a lot of people are
wondering when and how. And they're looking to the White
House for specifics, and to see so this situation won't happen
again. What can you give to the American public to reassure
them, in your conversations with these other nations, that you are
working to secure the security of the American public?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President
said yesterday, the United States will use all our resources to conquer
this enemy. But if the press corps is asking for anybody in
government to list what specific actions the United States is going to
take in the future --
Q We're not asking
that. We're not asking that.
MR. FLEISCHER: -- of that
nature, I think the American people are content to let the government
go about its business, so that we can do exactly what the President
Q Can you say, Ari,
why the U.S. sees it so important to sort of have this international
consensus to fight terrorism? Is it the magnitude of the
situation? Is it that beyond going after those responsible,
deemed responsible for the attacks, we're looking at taking this
opportunity to do more of a worldwide assault on terrorism?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the best
explanation of it, Kelly, comes from the United Nations. In
the Security Council resolution that they passed, the United Nations
declared that this attack on the United States is a threat to
international peace and security. And I think it is
comforting for Americans and for all nations around the world to know
that nations around the world are joining in coalition with the United
States to combat terrorism.
Q Just one last
question. A coalition meant -- the same thing recalls
President Bush #1, who formed a coalition to go into the Persian Gulf
-- to start a war in the Persian Gulf. That brings something
to our minds; is that what you're talking about?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, what
you're trying to get me --
Q You know, they
were never reticent in saying they were trying to get Russia on board,
and other countries, and so forth. What's the big
deal? Why the secrecy? We're not asking what
they're going to do.
MR. FLEISCHER: Because, Helen,
what you're really asking me to do is indicate, does this mean the
United States and nations around the world are engaged in military
planning? And I'm not going to discuss anything that deals
with military planning.
Q You're not?
Q So it does deal
with military planning?
MR. FLEISCHER: Jim?
Q Yes, two
questions for you. One, have you learned anything else about
the Pennsylvania flight, which holds, it seems, some promise of
yielding things since it didn't hit a target. Have you
learned anything else about that? What brought it down, any
clues from that?
And, second, I'm a little confused -- you
seemed to suggest yesterday that you were confident that the terrorist
plan had been completed. Yet, there seem to be concerns
elsewhere in government that there is a danger of follow-on
attacks. And I'm not clear what the administration believes
the state of play is.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I indicated
that the action up in New York that was executed on that day appeared
to be completed from that day's events, and that the risk was
reduced. And as the President indicated, there is still risk
to our country, although it was at a reduced level at that point.
So the President, in his remarks
yesterday, did warn the American people that we need to still remain
vigilant in the fight against terrorism. And clearly the
fact that it took place is a warning sign to all of us, and the country
will continue to be vigilant, but --
Q But the FAA
warned airlines and the security directors yesterday that there was a
risk of follow-on attacks, and gave a great deal of specifics on that
front, seeming to suggest that, in fact, we believe the opposite of
what you seem to be suggesting, which is that there is a continuing
risk, and that they have not yet completed their plans.
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I indicated
the risk has been reduced. I didn't say it has gone away.
Q Okay. Now, what about
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, anything on
that is going to come from the Attorney General or the appropriate law
Q Ari, to defend
himself against criticism that this represents prima facie the greatest
all-time intelligence failure, the CIA director has said, in essence,
we failed to prevent this attack, but there are many terrorist attacks
that we have successfully prevented. Will we ever get any
details about those successful efforts of the CIA?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't
know. I would have to talk to the CIA about that and see
what information can be provided.
Q A follow up on
MR. FLEISCHER: Have you tried
to get that yourself, directly?
Q Not from
CIA. But it seems to me that if this is just the most recent
in a string of attacks, some of which were very soon preceding it, that
we ought to have details about them.
FLEISCHER: Okay. I'll try to see if there's
anything available on that.
Q Does the
President have full confidence in the CIA director?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he does.
Q Ari, what
specifically is the White House seeking from Congress in terms of
latitude for action? Is the $20 billion going to be enough?
MR. FLEISCHER: The
administration is very pleased with the action taken by the Congress,
and the President is gratified to Democrats and Republicans who passed
that measure, that provides substantial help and flexibility as the
government plans for how to help people and take in the appropriate
Q Yes, but there
have been reports that the White House is seeking something more
specific, some kind of permission, short of a declaration of war, for
the White House to take action. Are you doing
that? And could you at least be specific about that matter?
MR. FLEISCHER: I indicated
yesterday that the administration is of course talking to Congress
about the appropriate measure here. And there have been
discussions with Congress about a joint resolution, which the
administration views as another show of unity by the Congress with the
administration in combatting terrorism. There is no question
that Congress believes that the President has the authority to act in
his self-defense, act in the self-defense of the United
States. And we are talking to Congress about appropriate
Q You don't need
any additional congressional authorization to take any sort of military
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I've
said, Jim, the administration is gratified by Congress's show of unity
and we're going to continue to work with Congress on the appropriate
language and the show of unity.
But, also, as previous Presidents have
maintained, and President Bush does, that under the Constitution the
President, of course, has the authority as Commander in Chief to act to
protect our nation.
Q As a matter of
practical reality, last time Congress authorized use of force at a
large scale was the Gulf War, and that authorization was made
conditional on the administration showing congressional leaders certain
things -- that diplomatic efforts had been exhausted, et cetera.
Should Congress be playing a role, as it
did then, in deciding what and when should happen?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, Congress
has a vital role to play in this. And as the President
expressed to the members of Congress yesterday in the meeting, that we
stand together and we are going to work very closely, the White House
and the Congress. And we will continue to provide
information to the Congress; the President will continue to talk very
closely with the leadership of the Congress in both parties.
You know, I almost hesitate at times like
this to even say "both parties," it just is so remarkable how in the
leadership meeting there were no parties in that room -- there were
just American citizens in that room who were elected representatives of
I hope I've answered that question with a
specificity on the joint resolution, but also about the constitutional
authority vested in the President.
Q Will you seek
any specific authorization from Congress before taking military
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated,
the President is gratified by the actions of the Congress to show
unity. But as all administrations before have said, this
President says, the Constitution vested that authority in the
President. But beyond that, it's speculation.
Q But the
administration asked for this joint resolution, is that right, asked
Congress to work on this --
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, and, Kelly,
this is classic as you work with the Hill and you have
meetings. We really have been working this together with the
Hill. I'm not really sure where anybody begins and ends when
you're working closely together on something where you really are so
Q Ari, what is the
administration's position on possible implementation of sky marshals on
every U.S. flight? And, secondly, Terry's colleague
yesterday reported that some of the people in the Pentagon were a
little bit skeptical about your comments yesterday that the White House
and Air Force One were targets of attack, given that the plane had come
from the south. What do you make of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: And who are
Q Well, I don't
know, they weren't my sources.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I wouldn't
have said it if it wasn't true.
Q Can you confirm
the substance of that threat that was telephoned in, the words, Air
Force One is next, and using code words?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I can;
Q Ari, the sky
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, I'm
sorry. On the sky marshal question, check with
transportation, but measures are being taken to protect passengers on
Q But would the
White House keep open to the possibility of having a sky marshal on
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House
is working with the Department of Transportation, as the Department of
Transportation implements its safety plans. And of course
the White House is going to support whatever steps are needed to
Q Ari, the threat
-- go back to the threat, please.
MR. FLEISCHER: Randy's
question, and then we're going to wrap this up, because we're going to
keep this to gaggle rules. Randy's question was asking me to
confirm the report about Air Force One as a target, using code words,
and I confirmed that.
Q Why couldn't you
confirm that yesterday, when we were all asking you -- yesterday we
asked you a thousand times what evidence you had and you weren't able
to give us that information? Is there a reason you
MR. FLEISCHER: I was not the
one who gave it to the press. It's in the press today, but
it's the press today and throughout all of this I have to find the
right balance in this White House -- and you all have seen this before,
being helpful to you all, which is my job, and also sharing information
in a way that provides the information best. So that's why,
Q You have gone a
lot farther, Ari. The people here at the White House had
gone a lot farther in providing information now, than the Attorney
General, who said he couldn't provide this information out of need to
protect the ongoing probe. Why is the White House -- you and
Karl Rove, as quoted in the New York Times today -- are you worried
about the President's image, in terms of trying to defend, keeping him
out of Washington and when the Attorney General is saying that we can't
reveal this information?
MR. FLEISCHER: We haven't
revealed any of the sources or methods.
Q But you're
providing far more detail about it now than he was, or willing to.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just not
going to reveal any -- believe me, I understand sources and methods and
I'm not indicating anything of that nature.
Q What are you
Q Did someone call
and say Air --
MR. FLEISCHER: Air Force One is
Q Did they say,
"Air Force One is next"? I think the Times is saying, "Air
Force One is next."
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it was,
Air Force One is a target.
Q And did they
refer to it by its code name?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, they did.
Q Can I just ask
one other thing on the plane that eventually hit the
Pentagon? Do you have any sense of the flight plan, of where
the plane flew over? Did it fly around the White House
before actually hitting the Pentagon? You talked about that
plane, believing it was originally intended for the White House, did it
ever -- believe it sort of turned around, I think, and flown over the
MR. FLEISCHER: It was on a
flight path directly for the White House and it hit the Pentagon,
Q Did it fly over
the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have
that specific information.
Q When you say
that it was on a flight path for the White House, do you mean that if
it had not hit the Pentagon and had continued across the river it would
have hit the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
Q Ari, how can you
say it's on a flight path to the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: Now you're
getting to sources.
Q Well, I mean,
what do you know?
FLEISCHER: (Laughter.) You're getting into
sources and methods.
Q Ari, were you
able to find out yesterday about religious leaders?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the religious
leaders question, the President has been praying every
day. And tomorrow, at the prayer service here in Washington,
the President will be joined by a group of leading religious
leaders. We'll have more information on that for you a
little bit later today.
Q The minister
that's coming in today, through the First Lady, is it going to be
opened up to the other --
MR. FLEISCHER: The minister
that's coming in today?
Q Yes, we
understand through CBS, that she's having a minister in for her
staffers, for the women who were shaken in her office. Are
other staff here going to be talking to that minister for comfort?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me check
with the First Lady's office on that. Officials here at the White
House have been notified that counseling services are available and
have been available.
One second, let me try to help you on some
other information here. Other briefings today by Cabinet Secretaries,
and we're going to continue at the agency level to provide you with all
the information that is possible. Secretary Mineta -- and
this is tentative, but let me share this -- Secretary Mineta is
scheduled to brief now, at 10:00 a.m.; Secretary Powell at 11:30 a.m.;
Secretary Wolfowitz at noon; General Ashcroft at 12:30
p.m. And at 2:00 p.m., Army Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn,
Director of Military Support briefing on military support activities to
civilian authorities in the New York and D.C. area.
I'm going to do my best every morning to
provide the briefing information to you.
Q Ari, there have
been several reports about harassment against Arab Americans and
mosques being shot at. Does the President have any response
MR. FLEISCHER: He
does. The President believes very strongly that all
Americans must be mindful of the rights of Arab Americans and Muslims.
They are law abiding Americans and we stand united as one nation in
Thank you, everybody.