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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 26, 2001

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer

     listenListen to the Briefing

  1. President's schedule
  2. Update on White House mail facilities
  3. Radio address topic
  4. Federal buildings/plan to test
  5. Naval Observatory/Vice President
  6. White House/precautionary testing
  7. Possible source of anthrax
  8. Airline security bill
  9. Immigrants/Patriot Act
  10. Liability protection
  11. Further supplementals
  12. Postal workers/funerals
  13. Safety of postal facilities
  14. Missile defense/Russians
  15. Afghanistan/future government
  16. Saudi Arabia
  17. Osama bin Laden/capture
  18. WTC victims/families' reactions
  19. Middle East/Israeli withdrawals
  20. Week ahead

12:33 P.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you a report on the President's day, and then also, if you remind me at the end of the briefing, I've got the week ahead for next week.

The President this morning called Egyptian President Mubarak to reaffirm the strong partnership between the United States and Egypt in the fight against terrorism. The President thanked Egypt for their effective and consistent cooperation against terrorism and for Egypt's close ties to the United States. The President also praised Egypt for hosting the Bright Start military exercises here, which contributes to coalition military planning and operations.

The two Presidents also discussed the situation in the region and the need to end the violence in the Middle East, involving Israel and the Palestinians, and returning to a political dialogue as part of the Mitchell Accords.

The President also spoke this morning with German Chancellor Schroeder. He thanked the Chancellor for the continued solidarity of the German people with the American people, and for the Chancellor's personal commitment to the war against terrorism.

The Chancellor also briefed the President on his upcoming visit to South Asia and to Moscow. The President also then discussed with the Chancellor the meetings that President Bush had with President Putin in Shanghai, and the road ahead in relations with Russia.

The President also called President Chirac of France this morning and thanked the President for their cooperation in the war against terrorism. He also updated President Chirac about his conversations with President Putin in Shanghai. The President thanked President Chirac and the French people for their strong support in the war on terrorism, and the President expressed his appreciation for the French offers of military support. They also discussed the situation in the Middle East and the need to have a political dialogue begin.

The President, after that, received his morning briefing from the CIA. He met with the Attorney General and the head of the FBI, and along with Governor Ridge, to review latest developments. The President convened a meeting of his National Security Council this morning. And earlier today he signed into law the antiterrorist legislation passed by the Congress that gives law enforcement communities the tools they need to fight against terrorism here, domestically.

The President has taped his radio address. And the President will, in a speech this afternoon for a group of business, trade, agriculture leaders, call on the Congress to, this fall, pass into law an economic stimulus to help American workers get back to work; to pass the trade promotion authority legislation pending in the Congress. That way, workers can have high-paying jobs here at home and our trade position abroad can be strengthened.

And the President will also call on the Senate to pass the energy bill, including opening up ANWR in Alaska, so that America can become increasingly energy-independent and less reliant on foreign supplies of oil.

The President will depart for Camp David this afternoon, where he will be until Sunday.

One other update. There have been now 303 people tested at the remote facility that handles White House mail, as well as in the White House mailroom. And there has not been any positive cultures of anthrax found as a result of these searches that resulted from the trace amounts of anthrax that have been found at the remote facility.

With that, I'd be happy to take questions. Mr. Fournier?

Q Ron will be fine. (Laughter.) Two questions. One, what is the topic of the radio address? And, secondly, is there any plans or is it already underway to do stepped-up testing, precautionary testing of federal buildings, many or all federal buildings?

MR. FLEISCHER: The radio address will be focused on aviation security and on the antiterrorism legislation just signed into law. The various agencies all have protocols and plans that are in place, and they will follow the guidance as it's established through the Centers for Disease Control based on any threat assessments.

Q Is there a policy underway to test buildings even without a threat as a precaution?

MR. FLEISCHER: It will all be based on threat assessments. In other words, just as you have seen here in the case of the White House, where the remote facility had that trace amount of anthrax, that set into motion the protocols that have been in place. The existing action can be anticipated at the federal buildings.

Q How do we find out what buildings have been tested?

MR. FLEISCHER: I would refer you to each agency. You may just want to talk to agency by agency.

Q A couple of things real quick. What more can you tell us about swabbing the Naval Observatory? Has the Vice President been tested? And also, separate question. Why did the President wait to sign the antiterrorism legislation today? Why didn't he sign it yesterday? Did he just want a ceremony today?

MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, two points. One, on the first one, prior to September 11th, there were security procedures put in place at the Naval Observatory. Since then, of course, there are procedures, and our policy, as always, if there is anything positive to report, we will report it.

Q So you would only report a positive culture?

MR. FLEISCHER: Just as we did with the remote facility at the White House. There, there was a development. There was something to report, we fully reported it. Here, it's a different category. We had procedures in place prior to the 11th; procedures in place now. If anything were to develop, we would report it just as we did at the remote.

Q And the bill? Why did he wait until today? Why not sign it yesterday?

MR. FLEISCHER: Today was the first opportunity to sign it. The President wanted to welcome the members of Congress to the White House for the signing ceremony.

Q I know you can't give us any specifics about what you're doing here, but is environmental testing still going on at the White House or the White House complex? Is that something that's going to continue regularly, or do you have any sort of long-term --

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, Campbell, you're getting close to touching on the areas where that involves security. But I've been, from the beginning, always ready to disclose anytime there is some type of incident, as there was at the remote facility where the trace amount was found. We reported about the environmental sampling that was done there, and done at other places that were affected by that. But as a rule, as a matter of policy, any other than routine security precautions that are in place, we don't discuss those.

Q Can we assume testing continues?

MR. FLEISCHER: Campbell, you can assume that there are a lot of security procedures that are in place. They've been enhanced since September 11th, and people feel pretty safe.

Q Can I just ask one more selfish question -- has the briefing room or the press area been tested?

MR. FLEISCHER: Tested for what?

Q Environmentally-tested in the same way.

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me just say --

Q Are we safe? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: From what, Kelly? Reporters don't have anything to worry about here.

Q By the way -- sorry -- can you tell us if the Vice President has been swabbed?

MR. FLEISCHER: The same answer I gave before.

Q You filled us in this morning on some of the results of the analysis of the Daschle letter's anthrax. And I wonder if you could do that here and say whether or not this analysis positively excludes, because of the engineering signature on it, that it came from Russia, in particular, that it's the lost Russia stockpile of anthrax?

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, an analysis of the anthrax that was sent to Senator Daschle's office shows that this anthrax has a sophistication that leads people to know that it can only be produced by a PhD microbiologist, and it would have to have been done in a small, well-equipped microbiology lab. Or it could be in something like a small microbiology lab.

That does not rule out that it could be state-sponsored. That does not rule out that it could come from a foreign location, but it certainly does expand it beyond state sponsorship or foreign locations.

Q So that signature, let's call it, shows that it is not necessarily Russian or American-made anthrax?

MR. FLEISCHER: The analysis of the anthrax sent to Senator Daschle's office indicates that it could have been produced by a PhD microbiologist; that it could be derived at a small, well-equipped microbiology lab; and it does not rule out foreign sources.

Q Does that mean that the investigation is leaning toward the conclusion that it is produced in an amateur fashion within the borders of the United States, domestically?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that doesn't mean amateur; this was sophisticated. What was produced and sent to Senator Daschle's office was sophisticated. And it can only be produced at that level or higher. But it certainly could have been produced at that level. That is conclusive information, based on the analysis of the anthrax. And what's important about that is that is a helpful piece of information about who could have had the capability of producing this.

On the good news side of it, that would indicate that this is not necessarily state-sponsored. Now, it does not rule out state-sponsored. On the bad news side of it, it does indicate there's a broader universe of people, individuals, groups that have the know-how to produce it. It does not, however, yield any clues about who mailed it. It is a separate topic.

This indicates what type of knowledge somebody would have had to possess to produce it. It does not assume knowledge about who, therefore, once it was produced, got their hands on it and sent it.

Q From where? Domestic? Does it mean it's a domestic source?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, it does not give any indications -- the description I just gave, PhD microbiologist in small, well-equipped labs exist around the world.

Q Do you know how many labs like this exist in the United States, Ari?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have a finite figure. I know that there are many around the world, including the United States.

Q Are you saying, only by a PhD scientists in a small --do you mean only that, or something more sophisticated than that? Or only that?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, as I said, or more. But it could be done at this level. This is the type of knowledge you'd have to have. In other words, you couldn't do this if you were an 8th-grade chemistry student. It also means it's not exclusively limited because of its sophistication to a nation state.

Q It couldn't be done in a garage, you're saying?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it would have to be in what's been described as a well-equipped microbiology lab, and the type of knowledge would have to have been done by someone with the knowledge of a PhD microbiologist.

Q Yes, two things. You don't know how many labs of such would be in the United States that you're looking at? Is it 30? I think Senator Bob Graham said there are about 30 to 40 such labs where this could have been produced.

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I personally do not have that information.

Q Can you talk about what steps are being taken across the country at various labs where there are anthrax spores being held to check and see if it could have been --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you can imagine, there's a full-blown investigation underway where they are following every lead, every tip, every piece of information to try to identify the source who actually sent it. But, again, what you have to keep in mind, Kelly, is the difference between knowledge about what type of information you have to have to produce it and who could have sent it -- they are totally separate topics that could involve totally separate people. It could be the same person or people; it could be totally different people. The information does not apply to who sent it.

Q If I could follow, how confident are investigators that they'll be able to determine who produced it? At least know where the source is, who produced it, versus who sent it?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's one of the pieces of the investigation.

Q Are they confident, though, that they'll be able to --

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to characterize it. It's an ongoing investigation and they're putting every resource possible into it.

Q Ari, today, at Reagan National Airport, new flights are coming out -- second phase. My question has to do with airport security. Next week, hopefully, you'll get an airport security bill out of Congress. Is the President getting involved? Because there still continues to be a difference between what the Republicans want and what the Democrats. Is the President getting personally involved in solving this problem?

MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely, he is. The President has been involved; he's made his position clear to the leadership of the Congress, as you know. The bipartisan leadership -- the Speaker, the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader in the House and Senate meet with the President on a weekly basis. The President has directly informed them that he wants very much for the Congress to pass an aviation security measure. And he has broader authority; he hopes he will not have to use it. He hopes the House of Representatives will be able to pass next week a measure that strengthens cockpit safety, that allows for more air marshals to be hired, that provides for a federal role in the oversight and the screening and the setting of standards for the screeners, and doing background checks for screeners.

There was an incident, I saw on the news, where a gun, actually, was gotten through one of the locations. And it was because a screener did not see it. Well, that screener was immediately dismissed as a result of this. There's a real question about whether you put every single person on the federal payroll, whether or not, if they fail to do their jobs, can similar action be taken. That's often a problem with the Federal Civil Service. If somebody joins the Federal Civil Service, it's often impossible to take any discipline action in a prompt fashion.

And so one of the measures to protect the safety of the traveling public, the President believes, is to work out an appropriate arrangement with the Congress for a proper amount of federal supervision, setting rigorous standards, setting rigorous background checks. And the President will work with the Congress on that.

Q Is that something the Democrats can buy? Because before it seemed --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we'll find out.

Q No, I mean, before it used to be either you federalize the whole operation, or you don't. You seem to be offering a middle --

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has always believed in partial federalization. And that's what I keep saying -- the President wants to have a federal role where there would be federal procedures for the screeners; there would be rigorous standards that are put in place determined by the federal government. The federal government would do the background checks on the people who are the screeners.

Q As far as this bill is concerned that the President signed this morning, what is the future of 6 million or 8 million illegal immigrants in this country, and where the extension stands now? Because they're all worried, after the September 11 attack. And number two, since the President invited the Prime Minister of India to the White House for a working lunch, whether General Musharraf was invited, or not? And what are --

MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, two very separate questions. Repeat the first one. (Laughter.)

Q The first one was about illegal immigrants.

MR. FLEISCHER: On the immigrant question, as has been the history of our country, the immigration issue is a very important issue which requires a balance. Immigration is very important to the success of America. It always has been, it always will be. The President believes America must continue to be a nation that welcomes immigrants to our shores. It's the finest tradition of our country.

The President also believes we need to have laws that are enforced, and that we need to make sure that security is always taken into consideration as part of America's immigration policy. He's satisfied that that is being done.

On the question of the upcoming visits, I'll have more for you closer to the visits. There's nothing I want to indicate at this time.

Q And illegal immigrants. Do they have to worry about this? Because the way the extension stands, which the President requested to Congress last time -- the extension should be given to the illegal immigrants.

MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say that there's a strong focus on making sure that there are no security risks, no violations of the law by anybody who could possibly pose a threat to the United States, whether they are an immigrant or whether they are a non-immigrant; whether they are an American citizen, or they are a foreign citizen.

Q Back to the point about a PhD and the lab. Let's say those were the conditions under which the anthrax was produced, does that necessarily limit the amount of anthrax that someone could make and thus -- or can they keep producing and producing and make a lot?

MR. FLEISCHER: There's no information on that. The amount that can be made does not depend on who made it, it depends on resources and other things that are available to them. So there's nothing conclusive that I'm aware of on that question.

Q There are reports that the White House is working on a plan to provide liability protection for businesses that were involved in the September 11th attacks. Can you comment on that? And I have an unrelated follow-up.

MR. FLEISCHER: The White House is working with Congress on liability protections for a variety of people who may be impacted by this. As events dictate, there is growing concern about what excessive suits could do to the vibrancy of the economy and to people affected, and so there are bipartisan discussions underway about whether or not any liability protections needed to be afforded. And we'll continue to work with the Congress.

Your related follow-up?

Q It's somewhat related. Bill Young, on the Hill, the Appropriations Chairman, has suggested that there may need to be a second supplemental in December. Are you still holding fast to the idea that $40 billion is enough this year?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there have already been two supplementals in effect. There was an original $20-billion supplemental spending bill that was agreed to. Since then, there was another $20-billion supplemental emergency spending bill agreed to, bringing the total to $40 billion.

The administration has been regularly releasing that money, as you know, to help people in New York, to fund additional efforts at the Defense Department, to fund the war here at home, to help out with hospitals and national pharmaceutical stockpiles. And the President believes that the $40 billion is sufficient for the fall, certainly.

The President does not see the need for any additional spending this fall. The President will be pleased to work with Congress as events dictate, and will continue to address the needs that result from fighting the war both at home and abroad. But the President believes the $40 billion that has been appropriated this fall is sufficient.

Q And it's sufficient for the rest of the year?

MR. FLEISCHER: For this year, correct.

Q The President memorialized the postal workers who died from anthrax -- this morning at the signing ceremony. There will be the funerals this weekend. Is the White House going to be represented? And if so, at what level?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me get back to you, and I'll let you know.

Jim Angle.

Q Yes. On the PhD microbiology thing, does this apply to letters other than Daschle, such as The New York Post letter, which was a somewhat different -- the lumpy, Purina Dog Chow letter? Does the microbiologist apply to all of the letters, or only the Daschle letter? And do investigators then include or believe that this is from a different kind of source?

MR. FLEISCHER: That analysis is unique to the Daschle letter.

Q Just the Daschle letter.


Q Is the Vice President's mail handled the same way the White House mail is?

MR. FLEISCHER: How do you mean, handled the same way?

Q Does it go to the same place to be checked, is it taken through the same security precautions, or is it --

MR. FLEISCHER: The Vice President's mail has very similar security precautions put in place, so it, too, is reviewed before it's received by the Vice President.

Q But not the same exact process?

MR. FLEISCHER: The process is very similar.

Q I'm just trying to figure out if his mail would have been mixed in with the White House mail, which is where you found the trace amounts on the slitter.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there is mail that goes to the Naval Observatory, and there is mail that goes to the Office of the Vice President. The Office of the Vice President clearly goes through the White House facility.

Q And the Naval Observatory would be different, but similar?

MR. FLEISCHER: The location is different. The screening location is different.

Q Now, I see you're looking through all of the mail that you had on hand at the time that the trace amount was found on the slitter. Have you concluded your search of the mail that you had on hand, and if not, how far along are you?

MR. FLEISCHER: I do not have any update from the Secret Service on that.

Q About the antiterrorism law, when is that going to be effective? And also, I would like to know if the Mexican government had expressed its concern about the unchecked powers of this law against immigrants, in general, and that are here legally, and have never committed any crime, or did it have anything to do with terrorism?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's in effect immediately, or many, if not most, of the provisions. And you would have to check with specificity to see how sensitive that is. It could be all, but I know much of it is effective immediately. And you may want to check with the State Department. I have not been made aware of any communications from Mexico.

Ron, you had a follow-up?

Q A follow-up on Jim. What is your analysis of the dog chow anthrax? And do we think it came from the second -- a different source than the Daschle anthrax?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is nothing further I can add to what was said yesterday about that. They do not have any more information about what I was able to provide here than you heard yesterday.

Q Do you know the range of possibilities it came from? I'm assuming it's less sophisticated, therefore, larger group of people that it could have come from?

MR. FLEISCHER: It is less sophisticated than what was sent to Daschle; that was reported yesterday and revealed yesterday at this briefing. But I have not heard anything more about what sources it could possibly have been derived from.

Q The President said this morning he wanted to reassure postal workers that the 200 postal facilities on the East Coast were being tested. He said 200 facilities that may have been impacted. Does the government now see a real threat to those facilities, or are those still being considered precautionary environmental defenses?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's -- those facilities, the 200 the President is referring to, it's precautionary -- at various locations, in taking those tests.

Q Ari, what about at smaller mail facilities around the country, for a postal worker who empties mailboxes in a small town? Is it simply impossible to protect those people at this point?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, the United States Postal Service has put out notification to all its employees about how to handle the mail, about wearing gloves and other ways to protect themselves. They've changed the procedures where they are no longer blowing out the dust and the particles in their equipment, now they are vacuuming it. They have machines on order. So the Postal Service has announced a whole series of steps that will help postal workers nationwide.

Q And the administration is confident that that will keep those people protected?

MR. FLEISCHER: The administration is hopeful that every step being taken will turn out to be successful.

Q On missile defense, were the tests cancelled yesterday to avoid antagonizing the Russians as negotiations continue on the issues? And does it signal any willingness on the part of the United States to try to amend the treaty instead of going through some sort of withdrawal from it?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's picture-perfect proof, as the administration said, that this treaty will be bumped into in a period of months, not years. That statement was made up on the Hill months ago. And it's absolutely accurate.

And I think what you've seen is a determined effort by the President who has said that when it's time to move beyond the ABM Treaty, that he believes that the nation needs to be protected by a missile defense system, and this is a reminder about the importance of making progress on missile defense testing. And that way, our nation can be protected.

If the events of September 11th have shown anything, they show that our enemies, even terrorists, if they are able to acquire technology to harm the United States, they have the will to do so. And it's the President's opinion, only a matter of time between now and when rogue nations or terrorists will be able to acquire such devices. And he wants to make certain that the protections are in place for the American people.

Q Are the negotiations at a sensitive stage, to the point -- these were tested -- questionably, violate or not violate a treaty. Is there a desire not to do anything to hurt those negotiations at this sensitive point?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me just say that the President has had many direct conversations with President Putin about this matter. President Putin understands very clearly what President Bush is seeking to do. The conversations have been very productive, and the President anticipates additional productive conversations.

Q Ari, in Pusht-i-Rud, a group of anti-Taliban Afghan exiles have concluded a meeting, saying that they would support a government in Afghanistan led by the King in exile. He, however, has disowned that meeting. His delegates didn't even show up. Meanwhile, anti-Taliban militia leader Abdul Haq has been captured and executed by the Taliban, and the Taliban still are in control of every major city in Afghanistan. What do you say to people who don't see really any progress on the military front, and no plan for the political future of Afghanistan?

MR. FLEISCHER: As for the political future of Afghanistan, it's been well-stated that the United States will continue to work with various partners in Afghanistan, as well as the conversations that have been done with the United Nations, to make certain that the future of Afghanistan, the future of the Afghanistan government, includes those who are dedicated to a peaceful Afghanistan, an economically-developing Afghanistan, an Afghanistan that is free from terrorism. That remains the policy.

Q Is there any concern that none of those people seem to be able to get together with each other?

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, I think what you're seeing is the beginning of a process. And as the President has said, it's a process that will take time. The President has called on the American people to be patient. And I think every indication is the American people are patient and the American people are satisfied that the government is doing what needs to be done in Afghanistan, as well as at home.

Q Do you have a reaction to the execution of Haq?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'll just refer you to the Defense Department on a question like that.

Q What again is the President's position on covering the families of the postal workers, and are -- funds already being made available to Trade Center families --

MR. FLEISCHER: Dick, under existing law, there are a host of benefits available to the Postal Service workers, and I would refer you to the specificity of the legislation that Congress passed and the President has signed, dealing with the September 11th attack. That legislation was specific, and it was limited to the victims of that attack.

Q Ari, if nothing suspicious has turned up yet at the White House remote facility, the mail facility, is the running theory still cross-contamination for the trace of anthrax that showed up there?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to be in a position today to give you any final conclusions, but I've given you the tallies. There -- obviously nothing positive has turned up in any of the employees as these test have been taken, so -- but that will be a conclusion that, once it's reached, I will be more than happy to share it with you.

Q I'm -- from Newspaper, Saudi Arabia.


Q Thank you very much. Yesterday, the President thanked the Saudi leader for their support in the ongoing war against terrorism. Has the President requested any particular assistance from Saudi Arabia, and how do you view the role of Saudi Arabia? This is my first question.

My second question is, there are still some Saudi nationals detained by law enforcement agencies in the United States. I would like to know how many of them, what's their status, when they are going to be released? Thank you.

MR. FLEISCHER: On the second question, you need to address that to the proper law enforcement authorities, which would be the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

On your first question, the President is very satisfied with the cooperation the United States has received from Saudi Arabia and the war against terrorism. Saudi Arabia has been a valuable ally to the United States, and the President called yesterday to express that appreciation.

Q Ari, two questions. The Los Angeles Times today ran a long, front-page article exploring the idea of bringing Osama bin Laden to the United States and putting him on trial. The President has said that he wants bin Laden dead or alive. Would he prefer that he be brought to the United States and put on trial, or killed?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President would prefer to take things first things first, and let the military campaign continue until justice is brought to Osama bin Laden. And then, whatever form that takes, the President will be satisfied with it.

By the way, welcome back. We haven't seen you here for a while.

Q It was out of my hands. A second question is -- (laughter) -- the second question, Ari, is, a number of family members of victims of September 11th, including Judy Keene,* -- (phonetic) -- who lost her husband, Richard Keene, at the World Trade Center, and Amber Amundson, who lost her husband, who was a Pentagon worker, have come out and said they are opposed to this war in Afghanistan. Specifically, Amundson wrote in The Chicago Tribune two weeks ago that these acts of revenge only amplify our family's suffering, deny us the dignity of remembering our loved one in a way that would have made him proud, and mock his vision of America as a peacemaker in the world community. I'm wondering if the President has heard from these family members and what his response was.

MR. FLEISCHER: I couldn't tell you directly whether the President has heard directly from those family members, but I can tell you what the President's response is to thoughts like that. And that is that the reason the United States, for the few times it has gone to war, has won every war it has ever fought, is because people are always free to express the thought that war is wrong, that war is bad, the United States should not participate in it. And that's why we're a free country and a strong country.

But it's also the President's belief that with the actions that he has taken will help save lives, protect lives, and it is a war that we must fight for the next generation for our children and our grandchildren so they can live free from terror, and so their families will not have to suffer from the murders that took place to the families of the Keenes and others who have been affected at the World Trade Center, as well as the Pentagon, and on the flight that was crashed in Pennsylvania.

Q Ari, getting back to the Middle East, you said the President spoke today about this idea with President Mubarak and with President Jacques Chirac.


Q Does the President feel that the latest actions taken there, the most recent actions are helpful in reducing the level of violence and could lead to --

MR. FLEISCHER: Can you be specific -- the most recent actions defined as --

Q Partial withdrawals that Israeli is doing.

MR. FLEISCHER: The President is pleased with the first step of a partial withdrawal. The President calls on Israel to complete the withdrawal, to pull back from all of the Zone A areas. The President also calls on Chairman Arafat to make a 100 percent effort to reduce the violence. And he calls on both parties to reengage in the political process so that the Mitchell Accords can be followed up on so that the two parties can begin peaceful dialogue that is not marred by violence.

Q Ari, back to the anthrax for a moment. Do you have any reason to believe that the immediate threat from new letters has passed, or do you suspect that whoever was responsible for mailing them could be, at this very point in time, mailing new letters?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no way of knowing, John. There's no way of knowing. And it's another reminder to the American people that this is a war that's being fought on two fronts, and that domestically it is impossible for anybody to say that our nation is 100 percent safe. And I think the American people understand that. And that's why the government is doing everything it can, why law enforcement community is on stepped-up alerts, and why the health providers of our nation put everything they can possibly do in place to help protect people if there are further attacks.

Q Nothing that would suggest that this was one wave of letters?

MR. FLEISCHER: Nobody has any way of knowing that.

Q I wanted to follow that if I could, Ari, because after the briefing yesterday, obviously, a State Department employee who worked out of Sterling, Virginia, was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax; medically insignificant traces found at a CIA facility. So is the sense of the homeland security team that it's all coming from the Daschle letter that passed through the Brentwood facility, or is the investigators open to the theory that more letters have caused the contamination at State?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's all a matter of the investigation, and they're pursuing every lead. I would refer you to the news release that the Central Intelligence Agency issued, where they did note that their facility is downstream from the Brentwood facility. So I would refer you to what they have said.

Let me give you the week ahead. The President and the First Lady, as I indicated, will depart this afternoon for Camp David. And they will return Sunday afternoon. The President will participate in a National Security Council meeting tomorrow from Camp David.

On Monday, the President will visit the State Department to make remarks at the African Growth And Opportunity Act forum. That afternoon, the President will also chair the first meeting of the Homeland Security Council in the Cabinet Room here at the White House with Governor Ridge.

There are currently no scheduled events, public events, for Tuesday or Wednesday. We'll update you, of course, next week. On Thursday, the President will meet with the Chancellor of Austria in the Oval Office. He will also meet with the World Trade Organization Ministerial in the Oval Office.

On Friday, the President will meet with the President of Nigeria, and later that afternoon he will participate in a reception honoring the United Service Organization.

Q On Thursday, WTO with the Director General or --

MR. FLEISCHER: I knew you were going to catch me on that. I read it as it's written. (Laughter.) He will also meet with the WTO Ministerial.

Q Not all of them?

MR. FLEISCHER: We will provide you with amplification as soon as I can get off of this podium. (Laughter.)

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END                            1:04 P.M. EDT

* (Not of USA Today)