For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 10, 2002
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
2:00 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you a report on the President's day. The President began this morning with his usual intelligence briefing, followed by an FBI briefing. And then he convened a meeting of the National Security Council.
And then the President had a meeting with Prime Minister Sharon, of Israel, in the Oval Office, followed by a luncheon in the Residence with the Prime Minister.
And later this afternoon the President will sign into the law the Gerald Solomon Freedom Consolidation Act, which lays out the groundwork to provide assistance to a number of states, mostly in Eastern Europe.
And then this evening the President will participate and make remarks at a dinner here in Washington, at the White House, of the International Democrat Union leaders. This is a group of Europeans that are mostly center-right, Christian Democrats focused on free markets and on democratic capitalism.
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Ari, did the -- the President this morning seemed to sign onto the Israeli position in terms of what do you do first, do you try to craft a peace agreement or do you reform the institutions first. He said, first things first, we have to reform these institutions. Did he go all the way over to Sharon's way of thinking, or am I reading too much into --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, don't over-interpret. I think the President was indicating that -- you've heard him say many times before he has a concern about security in the region. And the President thinks one of the most effective ways to provide for greater security is through the reform of the Palestinian institutions, particularly its security apparatus, to have a unified security apparatus with the Palestinian Authority, therefore giving Israel and the Israeli people a better guarantee that they'll be able to live in peace without suicide or homicide bombings.
The President continues to believe that it's important for security and political talks go hand in hand. And, in fact, during the course of the meeting with the Prime Minister, the President did emphasize the importance of seeing the political horizon, of searching for and working toward political solutions. So he made that point.
Q But he seemed to indicate that the political horizon would come after the reforms. Is he saying that you don't -- is he saying unequivocally that you don't need to do the reforms first?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. That's why I answered your first question the way I did. The President knows that the two go hand in hand, that it takes progress on the political front as well as progress on the security front.
But you've heard the President reflect from time to time that it's easier to make progress on the political front if there is action taken on the security front. So now, that's why -- you raise a good question. Don't over-interpret what the President indicated, because he talked about both during the meeting.
Q So rather than Sharon's position, he sees parallel tracks?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President does believe that you have to have progress on both the political front and the security front, and the two go hand in hand. And that's what the President discussed direction with the Prime Minister.
Q I want to pick up a couple things he said, then. Why would he then say "first things first", and then talk about the need to reform the Palestinian Authority? It was his words that said "first things first," he put them --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think maybe he was just talking about the order in which he was talking in the Oval Office. But that's why I'm saying -- I recognize the words. But I'm saying to you, don't over-interpret, because in the course of the meeting directly with the Prime Minister, the President encouraged the Prime Minister to see the political horizon. And the President emphasized the importance of making progress on it.
Q And then secondly, when he talks about no confidence in the emerging Palestinian government, what government is emerging there that he has no confidence in?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he's referring, again, to Yasser Arafat, whom the President has said has disappointed him. The President, as he indicated yesterday with President -- Saturday, with President Mubarak at Camp David, the President indicated that he has high hopes for the talent in the Palestinian Authority. So I'd urge you to look at that.
Q Well, he was also -- or seemed to, when he talked about that in particular -- to be setting conditions for this international conference or peace summit, whatever we're going to call it, this summer. Are there specific conditions that he wants to see met before we make a commitment to this conference?
MR. FLEISCHER: The State Department is still working on the exact date of the conference. No month is set yet. Still working on the exact modalities, as they say.
This conference, the President sees it, and so does the Secretary, as one piece in a multi-piece process -- a multi- p-i-e-c-e process -- that leads up to a point where it's easier for the parties to come together, the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the help of the other neighbors, to achieve more progress on the political front. So the conference is one piece of that.
Q But he also said -- not today, but earlier -- that he's going to have more to say about this after he met with Sharon, after he met with Mubarak.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Is it likely then that when they work out the modalities at the State Department that that's what we'll be hearing from them, here's our next step?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's possible, Campbell. Here's where the President is now. The President has now concluded several meetings that he's had with leaders of the Arab nations that have been in the region, two of them, at least, who have recognized Israel legally, recognized Israel's right to exist, signed peace treaties with Israel. The President has had very productive conversations with the Arab nations. The President has now had another constructive conversation with Prime Minister Sharon.
I think the President wants to do a little thinking. I think the President is going to talk to his advisors, and the President will think about if there is an appropriate time or moment to have any further reflections, and that's where he is. So I would lead you to nothing immediate. That's where the President is.
And the importance of the President's April 4th address is something the President keeps bringing up in all the meetings he has. He did it with President Mubarak; he did it with Prime Minister Sharon. Because the April 4th address in which the President impressed on the nation and, therefore, directly with the three parties -- the Arabs, the Palestinians and the Israelis -- the importance of taking on their responsibilities still is the cornerstone to the President's policy in the Middle East.
And I think one thing you've seen, particularly in the last two months, after the Passover massacre, and then Israel's lengthy military operations in the West Bank, is the President's message seems to have been heard, that Arab nations are doing their part. They are working very productively, in the President's opinion, to try to positively influence reforms in the Palestinian Authority.
The Israelis, as well, have listened carefully to what the President has said, and these are the steps that need to come together, and they have. And now it's important to move beyond that, in the President's judgment, to the political component, which is the toughest.
Q Why is the President afraid to talk to a Palestinian, who should have some say in their fate? I mean, might have productive conversations with Palestinians as to their own future.
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you're suggesting again that the President -- if you're suggesting again that the President should talk to Yasser Arafat, there's been no change in the President's position about talking to Yasser Arafat. If he does so, I'll let you know.
MR. FLEISCHER: He dispatched Secretary Burns --
Q He is the leader of the Palestinian people, whether you like it or not.
MR. FLEISCHER: And the President always enjoys talking with people who have shown the President that they are capable of exercising the leadership to get the job done to bring peace to the region.
Secretary Burns, at the President's direction and Secretary Powell's direction, traveled to the Middle East just recently and he met with Yasser Arafat. Director Tenet did, as well.
Q Why doesn't the President -- I mean, what's the problem?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President enjoys talking with people who have earned his faith and trust.
Q On another subject. When did the President become aware of the case of Mr. Padilla, Mr. Al Muhajir, and what were the factors that went into his decision to remove him from civilian custody to military custody?
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. As Attorney General Ashcroft said earlier today, he had been -- Mr. Jose Padilla or -- had been tracked by the United States as a result of concerns we had about him. The Attorney General said that publicly this morning. So upon his entry into the country on May 8th, the United States government had information about him.
And during the course of events since May 8th, additional information has been obtained about him. And throughout that process, the President was kept informed. Last night, the President received the recommendation of the Department of Defense, the Attorney General and others that custody be changed from the Attorney General -- or from the Department of Justice, I'm sorry -- from the Department of Justice to the Department of Defense for the detention of Mr. Padilla.
Q So he now joins a fair number of people who are in a sort of legal limbo, who, because of their perceived dangerousness and the circumstances under which they were captured, obviously don't have access to American civilian courts, and which apparently the government has no intention of charging. Is it fair to say that Mr. Al Muhajir and the others are going to be detained for the duration of the war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think those determinations will be made by the lawyers involved, by the people at the Department of Defense, people at the Department of Justice. The President does not make those determinations. The President concurred in the Department of Defense's position that Mr. Padilla is an enemy combatant, and that's why the President took the action, or concurred in the action and took it last night.
Q But he has set up a system which now encompasses several hundred people who are beyond the reach -- once again, because of the perceived dangerousness of American protections of law -- and for whom there seems to be absolutely no plan, except to hold and interrogate them. Is that fair to say?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think you have to make a distinction between an American citizen and people who are not American citizens, and when you say "several hundred" -- I'm not aware of several hundred Americans who are being held. That's a very important distinction.
But, for example, in the case of Yasser Hamdi who is being held -- he's an American citizen from Louisiana -- his case is being adjudicated through the court systems. And so even with these steps that are taken to protect the American country, there are legal protections, legal rights, that are afforded.
Q Ari, does the President see a future for a Palestinian government with Arafat in charge?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President does not think it's the job of the United States to pick the leader for the Palestinian people. The President, as he's said many times -- he said it again to President Mubarak and he said it to Prime Minister Sharon -- has been disappointed in Yasser Arafat's leadership, or lack of it. And the President thinks that the Palestinian people are the ones who suffer most, because it's the Palestinian people who deserve a state. But in order to have a state, it's important to have leadership that can create a state. And the President does have hopes, though, that the Palestinian people will have the leadership necessary to have a state.
Q But, Ari --
MR. FLEISCHER: Larry, we'll come back.
Q Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage now came back from the Indian subcontinent. And he said that the tension may be defused, but not the crisis. Now Secretary of Defense will be in the area, and if President has a different message for him, for Secretary Rumsfeld when he meets with the leaders of India and Pakistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a very good description that the Secretary gave of the situation. So long as there are two sides who face off over a disputed area, a territory like this, tension will remain at varying degrees and at varying points. Suffice it to say there's been a substantial amount of American diplomacy, from the Presidential level to the diplomatic level, and now Secretary Rumsfeld will go as well.
This is a region of the world that will require ongoing monitoring, and ongoing assistance to keep tensions at the level they are now down to. And that's important and it will be ongoing.
Q Is the Presidential trip to India and Pakistan still on?
MR. FLEISCHER: There was never any announced or scheduled.
Q Ari, to go back to Arafat's role, the President was asked directly whether or not he should, in fact, be expelled from the region if these homicide bombings continue. The President did not answer the question, he said, rather, that Arafat was not the issue. What is the position of the administration?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the position of the administration is that that is not an answer to the problem in the Middle East; expulsion is not an answer. But the President, as he indicated, does not see this as an issue surrounding one person. The President sees this as an issue fundamentally that comes down to the integrity, the reliability and the honesty of institutions which are important institutions for the world to have faith and confidence that a nation that may be born will be governed, and governed well, and governed in peace. That's the issue for the President.
Q And on the dirty bomb suspect, for weeks, for months, the administration says it's been concerned the growing tension between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir would not allow Pakistan to focus on going after al Qaeda cells. Is this a situation, is there a concern from the administration that, in fact, this suspect was, in fact, in Pakistan, had met with al Qaeda operatives, was trained there? Is Pakistan not doing enough --
MR. FLEISCHER: I've heard no connection between the recent events involving Pakistan and India and this case. I remind you, this person was an American citizen.
Q Let me ask it more directly, are we -- can I ask a couple questions? Are we concerned that Pakistan is not doing enough to make sure guys like this aren't trained in Pakistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, again, I've not heard any connection between those, so -- I mean, we all know that al Qaeda has trained people. That is prior to September 11th, and these people received training and that training, no matter what steps are taken now, can carry forward. Even if they are no longer in the region, the training they received, despite Pakistan's best efforts -- and the President is satisfied Pakistan has taken strong efforts to help stop terrorism. But the training they received prior to September 11th is still knowledge that they've acquired.
Q Was there any cooperation between the countries in terms of capturing him in the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to talk to DOD or Justice about that; I don't have that. It's possible; I just don't know.
I do want to say, because I think this is -- the Customs Department, the FBI, the CIA -- this is a case of a government whose actions worked, and worked well. And that is why, on May 8th he was apprehended upon entry into the United States.
Q Ari, earlier when you were commenting on Yasser Arafat, you used the phrase, emerging government, in your comments. Is that tantamount to the White House saying that it's disappointed with the Cabinet reshuffle that Arafat --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, not tantamount to that.
Q What is the position on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Position on that is there are many things that the President will wait and see, to see if the Palestinian institutions are going to form in a way that gives faith to the President and to the neighborhood that a viable government can be formed there.
I think what's so important in this, from the President's opinion, and such a departure, is you now, for the first time, have a President of the United States who has held out that distinct possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state. Having done so, this is a chance for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership to say, we want to seize this moment; we see now an American President who will work to help us get a state. And now it's important for the Palestinian institutions to rise to that challenge, and for people who are concerned about the integrity of Palestinian institutions, and therefore the future of the Palestinian people, to seize that moment and to act, because the possibility of a state is something the President has held out.
Q Ari, but -- the President are using the phrase, rebuilding the institutions first, or building the institutions first. Now, you've identified --
MR. FLEISCHER: Or building. Building the institutions, is probably more clear.
Q Thank you. You've identified security apparatus as one of the key institutions, obviously. Can you give us an idea of some of the other institutions?
MR. FLEISCHER: Absolutely. The other institutions the President thinks are just vital are the things that people would naturally think, if they're going to live in a country, that a country represents their concerns. An education system that provides hope and education to the children of Palestine. A health system. Agricultural system. You know, if you travel to the region, you'll see a border, and on one side of the border is green, and on the other side of the border is brown. The land is the same. It's the infrastructure that allowed one side of the border to be green while the other side is brown. These are all the types of things that governments create for their people.
Q Following up on Terry's question, that Jose Padilla, who is now called Mr. Muhajir, seems to be the third person that was born in the United States that had nexus with combatting the United States one way or another, that he was now determined to be an enemy combatant. Are the other two also in that category? Or is this a new category just for Mr. Padilla?
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to check with the lawyers on that. I don't know what their other classifications were for John Walker Lindh or for Yasser Hamdi. You'll have to check to get the legal term from the people involved.
Q And my second question, Ari, if you would be so kind. Yesterday there was some skepticism expressed by some legislators about the President's proposal of creating the super ministry of internal security. Is the President willing to work with these people, but --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, what did you call it? The super ministry of internal security? Which country is this? (Laughter.) You mean the Department of Homeland Security?
Q Okay, Homeland Security --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.
Q Whatever the terminology, is this going to be a --
MR. FLEISCHER: Gordon already has that title. (Laughter.)
Q -- a Cabinet post, a super Cabinet post, super ministry, like -- and there's some skepticism that too many agencies are being consolidated under one roof, while the intelligence agencies are practically being left as they were. Is the President willing to work with Congress in coming up to something that -- that they have to prove after all.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President of course is going to work with Congress. This is increasingly going to become Congress's job to do now that the President has proposed, it will become Congress's job to consider. And it's not a small task and it will be a difficult task. So, of course, the administration is prepared to work with Congress.
The plan that the President proposed was proposed because of the desire to bring together those agencies that are most involved in the protection of our homeland -- not in the intelligence gathering of information, that is a different function -- but in the protection of our homeland. There will be an analysis of intelligence information within this agency. But those are the reasons that the President proposed it.
Q Ari, one quick one on the arrest and then I want to get back to the Middle East. Was the President told May 8th, when -- is that when he first --
MR. FLEISCHER: Around that time, Jean. The President has been aware of this for weeks.
Q So he was told that this person had come into the country --
MR. FLEISCHER: Around that -- around that time. I don't have exact date.
Q On the --
MR. FLEISCHER: And that information developed in the course of his detention.
Q Right. And the President was given regular updates on the tracking of this guy.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q On the Middle East. You've said the President wants to think things through. Can you give us an idea of kind of what is he thinking about? Is he thinking about time frames, or you also said -- or specifically, is he thinking about how the United States can help to rebuild these institutions --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, think about this. Take the most recent example. You had President Mubarak, who has played a helpful role; Prime Minister Sharon, also a key piece of securing the future. President Mubarak comes and visits the President at Camp David and says the negotiations must begin with a definition of the '67 borders. Prime Minister Sharon writes an op-ed in the New York Times saying the '67 borders is not an acceptable beginning. So the President is receiving opposite advice from two of the key people, both of whom have stated their support for moving forward and making progress.
As is often the practice, it's the United States' focus to try to bring people together in a case like this, and in doing so, diplomacy takes time, communications takes time. There's a way to constantly work with the parties directly, somewhat quietly sometimes, to help bridge gaps so that when things are possible to move forward, they'll move forward in an atmosphere where people who previously staked out positions will be a little more willing to listen to each other.
And so, therefore, the whole diplomatic effort, the whole effort about when it's appropriate, if it's appropriate, for a President to do or say anything additional is a matter of time, takes time, takes thought, takes deliberation.
Q When you said that the President -- that the Palestinian people should seize this moment, that they see an American President who is willing to help them create a state, are you talking about anything concrete, or is it just the political rhetoric of helping them create a state?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it is concrete in the sense that the Palestinian people deserve a government that is worthy of themselves, which means a government worthy of creating a state.
Q But are we talking about --
MR. FLEISCHER: The United States does provide aid to non-governmental organizations.
Q Yes, but I mean more of it --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's not a question of financial aid, as much as it is a question of Palestinian reformers, people who are representative of the Palestinian people, making the case inside the Palestinian Authority that we can do better, there are steps we can take to actually represent our people, and therefore enter the world community.
Q Ari, you skipped the second row.
MR. FLEISCHER: I got everybody in the second row. You only put your hand up late.
Elizabeth, then we'll come --
Q I was going to ask, because I wanted to go. What --
MR. FLEISCHER: Wait a minute. You can't ask a question and then leave. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Ari.
Q When the President was --
MR. FLEISCHER: What about your colleagues' questions? (Laughter.)
Q Why are we being told now about this suspect, Mr. Padilla, if the President was informed on May 8th? Obviously, you've known about this guy for quite some time. Can you explain the timing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Right. Because, as I indicated, the information was developed during the course of his detention. And then once the decision was made to transfer from the Department of Justice to the Department of Defense, it became the most opportune moment.
Q You didn't want to wait until the creation of the Department of Homeland Security? I mean, this had nothing to do with the timing?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. It did not.
Q On Friday, the administration announced that it was going to exempt some of the products, steel products, from its tariffs in an effort to appease the Europeans. It didn't work; they've today announced that they are going to retaliate. Has the President asked his advisors to have negotiations over compensation, to try to avert a trade war? Or are we headed to a trade war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think you need to take a careful look at the action the Europeans took. It's far more complicated than your question indicates. And let me -- let me try to post an answer in a little more detail, but your question says only one half of the story out of the EU.
Q Does he want them to have negotiation talks on compensation?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President views this as a matter that will be, that should be settled through the dispute mechanism of the WTO.
Trade disputes are not new. And there is a mechanism that exists in the WTO, that has been agreed to by all parties to the WTO, which the European Union nations and the United States are party to.
Q Ari, forgive me, I'm still confused on this, the Mideast peace conference. You said State's still working on it. Is it still on for this summer?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q And if that is the case, then -- the President was being asked about that conference and said, well, the conditions aren't there yet. What -- they're not there yet for what? What is it that he doesn't see happening right now?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, Mark, there will just be continued conversations with the leaders of the various nations, so that when they do come together in the ministerial level that talk can be as productive as possible.
Typically, on conferences like this, parties come in in diametrically opposite positions. These conferences can lead to a lot of differences being expanded upon, rather than differences being diminished. So there continues to be, as with any important international meeting, groundwork that is laid, discussions that are had, parameters that are discussed and, hopefully, differences that are shrunk before a meeting takes place. That's the typical essence of diplomacy before international confabs.
Q So the President was not casting doubt on this taking place?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, no. In fact, during the luncheon, the Prime Minister and the Secretary and the President discussed the meeting.
Q Ari, I just would like to set the record straight on something the President said last week, when he was up at the NSA, when he was asked about the report on global warming by the EPA. He said he read the report. I believe the report is 260-some pages -- he meant he read the full report?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President -- whenever Presidents say they read it, you can read that to be he was briefed. (Laughter.)
Q Frankness. (Laughter.)
Q Refreshing. (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I've enjoyed working here, thank you. (Laughter.)
Q Ari, Prime Minister Sharon said today that he does not see a partner for peace in the Middle East. Obviously, you know he was talking about Arafat. From what the President said and from what you've been saying, I take it you don't consider Arafat at this stage to be a partner for peace?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President is focused beyond any one person. The President thinks that the ways peace gets put into place and that nations get formed is through a variety of people working to achieve that goal.
Q But because the President even again today said that, you know, Arafat has disappointed him.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q So, I mean, certainly you're not --
MR. FLEISCHER: Nations are not about just one person. No nation was born because of the efforts of only one person and one person only. Nations are born as a result of the efforts of many people, many people who have good hearts and who do the right things for the reasons of providing security and stability to the region in which they live and to the people for whom they would serve. That's how nations assume their proper place among the other nations of this earth. That's been the history of nations that get created.
It's not unusual -- nations have been born as recently as the last decade, there were new nations that were brought before us and are members of the United Nations now, et cetera, and have assumed their rightful position. The President will go visit one this November when he goes to visit the Czech Republic. So there are ways that nations are born. But in
all cases, those nations are born as the result of the goodwill and the hard work of many people.
Q Ari, does he feel the same way about Israel as he does, then, about the Palestinian Authority? That he looks beyond Sharon in dealing with other people in the Israeli government?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think Prime Minister Sharon is the democratically elected leader of a democracy. That's entirely different.
Q Ari, the administration has been talking about reform and the need of the Palestinians to stop acts of violence. But the Palestinians -- I'm not sure if you agree or not -- may have a point that acts like last night's incursion and re-invasion might make it really difficult for them to stop acts of violence and to do the reforms the administration has been calling for. And what's your reaction to last night's incursion?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the President said -- well, first of all, specifically on last night's incursion, the understanding the United States has is that this is a limited operation that is designed of a limited duration to go after specific terrorists. And given that understanding, the American position has been and is, as the President said in the Oval Office, that Israel has a right to defend itself.
Q There are a couple reports of concerns about the vulnerability of the cargo carrying aspect of commercial airlines to terrorist attacks. I wonder what your reaction is to them, and what the administration has done in response?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Transportation Security Administration is in the middle of a program that is focused on tracking and training. And this is an ongoing effort to improve our ability to protect the nation from any type of harm that could come in the form of cargo.
Q Does that mean that these reports don't raise a sense of urgent alarm?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there's -- I think it's safe to say, Wendell, in a nation as big as ours, with as much commerce, with as many people, with borders that are as open as they are, at many different points there are issues of concern. There will always be, in an open society like ours. It's a given. It's also what makes us strong, what makes us free, and why we win.
Within that, there will be ongoing efforts -- through the Transportation Security Administration, through the Customs Department, through a variety of agencies -- to always beef up, protect and improve. And particularly since September 11th, with additional funding that was made available as a result of the supplemental passed by the Congress last year, additional steps have been and will continue to be taken.
Specifically on the issue of cargo, it involves tracking programs to know what type of cargo is coming in, and training programs to educate people who do the work at the inspection facilities for what to look for, how to look for it, as well as technology, too, that helps make the job easier.
Q Today's event reinforced the fact that it's obvious that the hatred of the United States continues among those disaffected born here and those from the outside. Is the White House trying to take any meaningful steps to try to change opinion around the world? Or is it just giving up and going to just go on in a defensive mode?
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to separate the two, because yes, the United States is continuing to take steps involving public diplomacy and global, communications across the globe -- which is important, to share what America does and why we do it, in an effort to keep building bridges around the world.
But I think you have to separate that from what's happened here with the arrest of Mr. Padilla. You know, the legal basis actually for his -- detention, I should say, the detention of Mr. Padilla -- the legal basis for his detention goes back to a Supreme Court case in 1942, a time of powerful national unity, when two Americans were arrested and tried for being Nazi saboteurs in the middle of World War II.
So in a nation as large as ours, will there be a rare American who engages in acts that are not in our national interest? Unfortunately, yes. But our laws, our precedents, are set up to help protect the rest of us from those people.
Q In the President's meeting with Mubarak, did he mention human rights at all? Was that brought up? And, secondly, what happened to General Zinni in the peace process? Is he still involved?
MR. FLEISCHER: General Zinni still is involved. And as you know, there have been, as a result of all the ongoing meetings that the President has dispatched people to the region, there have been other people who are lending a helping hand as well.
I don't have General -- you've asked me this question repeatedly about General Zinni's itinerary. I don't keep it. I have my hands full keeping track of other itineraries, so --
Q -- Mubarak and human rights?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to take a look at the full meeting. I was in portions of that meeting, so I'd have to take a look at the full meeting and see if we have anything on that.
Q Ari, what does the President view is the future status of the U.S. military force in the Philippines? Some officials in the Philippines are asking that it be expanded and extended, especially following what happened in the past few days there.
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks it is very important for us to have a continued helping hand toward the Philippines as they see fit; that, as the President said on March 11th, on the six-month anniversary of the attack on our country, the next phase of this war has begun, and the next phase is denying our enemies sanctuary from where they can rebuild in an effort to hit the United States again.
And therefore, the United States, in the Philippines and in other regions of the world, has made perfectly clear to these governments that the United States stands ready to help, we stand ready to train if that's necessary, to equip if that's necessary, to actually help these nations involved in any operations that they're assuming, if that's what they desire.
Q Helping hand as they see fit, are you saying they're going to define what the role is in --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, the United States wants to do that cooperatively with foreign nations.
Q Ari, since the arrest of this suspect on May 8th, have there been any other similar people being arrested for detention who may have not been --
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to talk to the Department of Justice about that.
Q Has -- been informed of any other similar arrests --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's possible, I don't know. It's possible.
Q President Arafat, according to Palestinians, is the only -- directly elected leader -- he got 85 percent on the vote, a bit more than -- I would like to know if President Bush has ever met with a Palestinian delegation of any kind, and would he meet with a good delegation of officials that negotiated before Oslo, before the -- before the foreign ministers meeting --
MR. FLEISCHER: Representatives of the United States government continue to meet with Palestinians, have done so many times in the past, will do so again. And I remind you, early in 2001, the President did speak on the phone with Mr. Arafat.
Q What is next for the Middle East -- after meeting with Barak and Sharon, do you expect something to be done from the other side, or --
MR. FLEISCHER: Jean asked that question earlier, and I did answer. Sir.
Q Albert Einstein once wrote this, "you must begin to inoculate the children against militarism by educating them on spirit and passivism." And I got that quote from a book by -- one of the Washington Post reporters, on how to teach peace. I was wondering if the President agrees with the -- that we should take a portion of the $700 million we spend every day on military and teach kids peace, passivism and not violence?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think if you asked the President that question he would tell you that much of what the United States government does is aimed at peace and avoidance of violence. Our diplomacy is in every form of it. The fact that we have a military is done to prevent violence from taking place.
It's only when our nation has run out of any alternatives that our nation engages in the protection of its citizens through the use of military force. As a result of what happened on September 11th, our nation did what our nation had no choice but to do, which is to protect this country and to bring justice to the people who were attacked.
Q What is the President's position regarding Prime Minister Sharon's position about that the right way is to go to interim agreement, not for a final status agreement? That was raised up in the conversation. Did he give him any answer to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President welcomes the fact that the leaders in the region, even with differing specific ideas, are focused on ideas that involve peace. That's what the President welcomes. The President is looking at the political horizon, encouraging people to engage in events that make political solution the inevitable solution. And that's where he stands.
Q There are reports that this dirty bomb was intended for Washington. Do you have any specific about what that --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that was addressed earlier by officials, who said that this was -- I think it was Secretary Wolfowitz who put it, that this was initial planning stages and not an actual plan, and they had no information about that.
Q Ari, two questions following on that. Why -- did this not rise to the level where it would have required change in this color coded warning system, given that?
And the second question is, the President said last week he would have something to say to the nation after meeting with President Mubarak and Prime Minister Sharon. Are there any more details --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not what the President said.
Q No, that is what the President said. He said he hasn't figured out how he was going to do it yet, but he said --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct, right. So it could be a paper, it could be some other -- I go back to the answer I gave Jean -- that question has been asked already.
We'll go to John, and then Lester.
Q Do you have any information --
MR. FLEISCHER: On your question about the color code -- I'm sorry -- on the color code, again, as Secretary Wolfowitz said, that this is not an actual plan, this was initial planning steps. So, therefore, no, it would not have been appropriate to change the color.
Q On that, do you have any information that Muhajir and/or his associates had acquired or had a reliable source for radioactive material?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, we have no information that suggests that it advanced beyond planning stages.
Q Last July, Robert Shultz of "We The People," began a hunger strike to defend his rank -- to petition the government for a redress of grievances with the IRS. When this got national media coverage, both the Justice Department and IRS promised to meet with Shultz and his advisors and hold open meetings, which promises they have refused to keep since 9/11. And my question is, will the President direct them to keep that promise, or not?
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I'm not familiar with the specific case, and these questions are decided by the people involved.
Q In 1995, Texas Governor Bush signed a bill allowing anyone over 21 without a criminal record to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. And my question is, how can President Bush allow Messrs. Mineta and Magaw to keep disarming all pilots when the head of the 62,000-member Airline Pilots Association had pleaded for the right to be armed, because if terrorists take over one of our planes, it's now Bush administration policy to have jets shoot it down? And could you please tell us, Ari, what the President thinks, rather than trying to direct me to Democrat Mineta and Clinton appointee Magaw?
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, the President thinks that there should be one standard
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, the President thinks there should be one standard, and that is public safety. And that is why he signed that measure in Texas to enhance public safety. And that is why relying on the security experts who came to the conclusion that allowing airline pilots to carry weapons aboard airplanes would not represent public safety, and so he supported that recommendation.
Q Air marshals carry them.
MR. FLEISCHER: Lynn.
Q Thank you. This morning at the briefing -- this is back on the suspect -- you were not able or couldn't provide more information just about who this person is. Can you help flesh out those few details, the age, the schooling, just a little bit more about this person? The FBI said that they were reluctant to disclose anything.
MR. FLEISCHER: Any of that information would come out of the Department of Justice or the Department of Defense.
Q Is there any reason why --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I mean, it's just not something the White House would, as a matter of routine, do when the agencies are the ones to talk to about that.
Q Thank you.
END 2:37 P.M. EDT