|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 4, 2002
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:40 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon, White House press corps. The President today began with his usual round of briefings. And then the President departed for the National Security Agency, where the President had a tour and met with workers who are on the front lines of helping keep America safe. And then he returned to the White House, where later this afternoon the President will meet with a group of bipartisan senators who are deeply involved in welfare reauthorization. And then the President will meet with a group of welfare-to-work graduates.
These are citizens who used to be on welfare who have now found meaningful employment, thanks to the welfare reform programs. And the President is asking Congress to reauthorize these programs. They expire at the end of the year, and the President is hoping that Congress will take the initiative and support the legislation that will increase the work requirements, and pass legislation that promotes marriage as part of welfare reform.
And that's the highlights of the President's day today. I'll be happy to take your questions. David.
Q Ari, on the intelligence investigation, the President said a couple of things today. One, he said it's clear that the agencies were not communicating properly prior to the 9/11 attacks. He also said that now they are, that there's been a cultural shift that he's pleased about. Does that mean that he believes the joint intelligence briefings on the Hill now are pointless? And secondly, on what basis does he believe that there's been a cultural shift that means that the intelligence agencies, the FBI and the CIA, would be able to do a better job than they did before?
MR. FLEISCHER: You essentially have two major events going on in Washington. One is the current fight against terrorism, making certain America is not hit again. And that is where the changes that were made have taken place in the FBI and in the CIA -- those changes are ongoing. And it was a reflection, as the President has pointed out many times about the mission of the FBI used to be going after kidnappers, going after spies, et cetera, and now it's a shift focused on preventing a next potential terrorist attack.
That's much the focus of the administration. Congress is also doing its part to protect the nation. Congress is taking a look back. Congress is reviewing events leading up to September 11th, investigating the agencies that were involved and how they received information. And the President looks at what Congress is doing as something that can be potentially very constructive if Congress takes it seriously and if Congress approaches it not in a way of finger-pointing or second-guessing, but in a way of what can we learn to help continue to protect America. So those are the two events really that are going on. And they should be perfectly consistent with each other.
Q But that doesn't speak to the cultural changes. I mean, the Justice Department and the FBI have had major counterterrorism units going back years. Just because this administration says after 9/11 that that's going to become the sole focus, does he believe that that just makes it so?
MR. FLEISCHER: No. But I think what does give it the greatest likelihood of making it so is the fact that our nation got attacked and the people who work in these agencies recognize we've gone from a culture which was a peacetime culture of prosecution of crime to a wartime culture that is protecting America from the next potential attack. And it's often the case in our history that it takes momentous developments to force change in people and in systems in the government and throughout society.
I think people in government are going through something very much that people in America are going through, recognizing that much did change on September 11th, that the way things were done can no longer be done the way it was. And frankly, I think, what you really have in this government is people like Bob Mueller and George Tenet who were the leading reformers in making those changes, within their own agencies. And it's not always easy, but they are the ones who are making that effort, and it's going to continue.
Q Just to button this up, one other thing on this. The President believes this change has already occurred -- is that how we're to interpret his remarks?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think he's saying it's occurring. I can walk you through, I'd be happy to, many of the specific things that have already been done. But these changes don't take place overnight, they take time. You have people, as the President today referred to as number threes, fours, fives burrowed deep into agencies that are sometimes the slower ones to change. But there's no mistaking the fact that the leadership, the people at the top, have brought changes to their agencies, and are working very well together as part of those changes.
Q Ari, the President said today he was willing to listen to President Mubarak when he comes this weekend. Is the administration ready to set timetables on a Palestinian state?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, the administration has a team of people who are in the region. And the President is about to engage, once again, in some high-level personal diplomacy. President Mubarak will be visiting the President at Camp David this weekend, and then Prime Minister Sharon will be here on Monday next week to meet with the President. Director of the CIA George Tenet is in the region right now, and Assistant Secretary Bill Burns is there, as well, and they've had a series of meetings. Secretary Burns is there to discuss the political prospects of moving forward, Director Tenet the security prospects. The two go hand in hand.
I don't want to prejudge or get ahead of what the President will discuss with President Mubarak. The President wants to hear exactly what President Mubarak has on his mind. And he looks forward to meeting him.
Q In implementing these changes in the intelligence services, you mentioned Mr. Mueller and Mr. Tenet. You didn't mention Governor Ridge. What's he doing?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, because I'm talking about the actual groups that have operational responsibility at the FBI, at the CIA, I also didn't mention the National Security Agency. There's a host of entities, including Homeland Security, that are involved. But when it comes to intelligence, that's a function of the CIA, as well as the conveyance of information to the FBI. The FBI is now more involved in the business of trying to anticipate an attack and trying to prevent it, through the use of their resources.
The job of the Homeland Security Office is to keep pulling the people together, is to work in great part with state and local jurisdictions, state and local governments, sharing of information with those entities. Homeland Security, like National Security here, is not an operational office. It's much more a coordinating office, and an office that then helps work with others. And in the case of Homeland Security, as I mentioned, state and local; also directly with the Department of Transportation, the Transportation Security Administration, overseeing or helping to oversee changes being made at our airports. That's part of Homeland Security.
Q So as the federal government reorganizes these core Homeland Security responsibilities of the federal government to suss out and prevent further terrorist attacks, Governor Ridge is on the sidelines?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, make no mistake when it comes to reorganization of the FBI, Bob Muller and the FBI work that account. When it comes to the CIA, Mr. Tenet and CIA work that account. Homeland Security, as I mentioned, helps fuse the process that brings people together. And I mentioned specifically what's happening at the nation's airports. Many of the changes that are underway there, Transportation Security Administration, Governor Ridge is deeply involved in much of that. But he is not operational, nor should he be.
Q Just to -- now in the reorganization of the responsibilities of the federal government directed towards protecting the homeland from further attack, when it comes to sussing it out and preventing attacks, really it's hard to see what Governor Ridge is doing.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I keep mentioning to you, state and local authorities. Those are first responders. And those are people when -- Governor Ridge, for example, is in the morning meeting now, after September 11th. There was no Office of Homeland Security prior to September 11th. Now there is; another specific sign of things that have changed since the 11th.
When Governor Ridge is in the meetings and he hears what Bob Mueller hears and he hears what George Tenet hears, he is in a position then to help spread that information to people who need to hear that at state governments, at local governments, at airports, as necessary, and as deemed appropriate.
Q Ari, the President is saying today he wants one committee, not multiple committees to investigate.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Does he believe then that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight over the FBI, should not be holding hearings or looking into what the FBI knew and how it handled that information?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there's one joint committee that's bipartisan, bicameral, that has been set up by the Congress and charged by Congress, with the support of the administration, to investigate what took place prior to September 11th. There are other oversight committees that in the normal course of their business have oversight over budgets, budget requests, things of that nature.
What the President is suggesting to the Congress very strongly is George Tenet, Bob Mueller, many other names I could cite who could get called up to the Hill on a repeating basis, if that's what the Hill decided, have other duties to the American people, as well. And those duties are, first and foremost, to prevent the next attack. And I don't say that casually. For every minute they spent away from their desk up on the Hill is one less minute that they are at their desk doing their other duties.
It's important to find the right mix and to do it well. Because Congress does have a serious responsibility to listen to these officials and to ask these officials questions. What the President is suggesting is Congress should not do what often can be done and set up a redundant system where people are endlessly paraded up to the Hill, which takes away time that they need to spend on their other duties.
Q I just want to follow. So does the President believe then that some hearings by other committees are understandable? Or is he saying that he wants --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is saying there should be one committee, and it has already been formed by the Congress and supported by the administration, that conducts the investigation prior to 9/11.
Q So he's against any other committees, such as Senate Judiciary, holding any hearings?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President understands there should be one -- says there shall be one committee conducting the investigation. As I mentioned, there is other on-sight -- oversight activities that go on, and I think that depending on what's exactly on their agenda, it would -- the administration would reflect on it.
Q Ari, back on Scott's question on the Middle East, if I may. Are there are still discussions within the administration about potentially presenting -- President Bush potentially presenting guidelines to the negotiations ultimately leading to a creation of a Palestinian state?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, here's what's happening. As you can see, there's somewhat of a flurry of activity, both in the region and then here in Washington. And I think it's fair to say that the President will do a fair amount of listening to the leaders involved, he'll do a fair amount of listening to his representatives who have been sent to the region, and will determine if there's any additional actions the United States government needs to or should potentially take after he is able to receive this input.
One of the keys to bringing peace to the Middle East is to listen to the parties involved and to invest in those parties, to bring a sense of ownership not only by the Israelis and the Palestinians to providing peace and security in the region, but the Saudis, to the Egyptians, to the Jordanians. They, too, play a very important role in the region. Europeans, as well, can play a role in the conference that the Secretary is working on for the summer. All of this goes in to the broader picture of how do you bring people together for what hopefully will be a real and concrete result.
Q Specifically on the question of guidelines, is that something that is still on the table in this --
MR. FLEISCHER: Can you be more specific when you say guidelines?
Q Guidelines for negotiations -- a central U.S. set of parameters for both sides to follow with potentially the final result being --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President has laid out those parameters. They have not changed. The pillars that he announced in his, I think it was April 4th Rose Garden speech remain the ones that will be the guide to bring peace to the region.
Q Ari, the history of whistle-blowers in this city and this country has not been a happy one. Usually they either lose their job or they get shunned to Siberia -- no pun intended. But we have the case of Coleen Rowley, who has done, according to a lot of people a magnificent job in sending her memo, which her old boss, Mr. Mueller, has praised. The question I want to ask you -- from the President, is not only will she keep her job, which they say she will, but will she not be shunned to a side job like --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think her boss, the person who makes personnel decisions, has already addressed that fully, and Director Mueller has indicated that she deserves praise for coming forward and offering her thoughts. He said he doesn't agree with each and every one of them, but the fact of the matter is she's brought information to the attention of her superiors and he has given every assurance that she will be treated with the respect that she is due. And that means protection of her job. That's what the Director has said.
Q Not only the job, I'm asking whether she won't be assigned to a --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the boss, the Director, has addressed all these issues, and it's his responsibility and he's addressed them.
Q Can I get a follow-up? If the intelligence committee or the bipartisan committee finds negligence in the way information was handled, is the President in agreement those people should be removed --
MR. FLEISCHER: They haven't even had their first formal hearing yet. Can you allow them to begin and have their hearings and reach conclusions? That's the purpose of them doing it.
Q Going back to where we started here, the President was saying this morning that he didn't believed the FBI and CIA communicated appropriately. Is the President confident that Attorney General Ashcroft was adequately focused on counterterrorism prior to September 11th in terms of his overall strategy for the Department of Justice?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, again, people can certainly freely look back in hindsight at events prior to September 11th and ask a whole series of questions. This President, as you've heard him say many times, has deep faith and confidence in the people that are at the helm at these agencies. And his focus is on working with them to prevent a next potential attack and to continue to prosecute what is an ongoing war, even though it's not a war that people can typically see and feel and hear, the way people normally associate with a war, like Desert Storm, or more recently, like Kosovo. That's where the President is focused, and I think in the eyes of the American people, properly so.
I think the public wants to see a review of events taking place prior to September 11th to see if there's anything that can be done to keep us protected. I think the American people also want to know that their government at the administration level what it's supposed to be doing: keeping its eye on the future and making sure we protect the country, because we still have enemies who want to do us harm.
Q So is that a roundabout way of saying perhaps he wasn't adequately focused on terrorism, counterterrorism prior to September 11th, but he is now?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just the opposite, John. Just the opposite.
Q Ari, you mentioned that there's a flurry of diplomatic activity surrounding the Middle East. Why? What does the President want to come out of all of these meetings?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President hopes that as a result of the visits by his officials into the region, and the visit by President Mubarak and the visit by Prime Minister Sharon, following also the visit that just took place of King Abdullah of Jordan and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, that the Israelis and the Palestinians will find a hospitable environment to begin to make serious and concrete progress on the creation of two states, of Israel and a Palestine, that can live side by side in security, that protects the rights of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. That's the goal.
Q That's the big goal but --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q -- in terms of the short-term goal, the purpose of these meetings, what does he want to come out of them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the short-term goal is to figure out the way to get to the long-term goal. And I don't think anybody has any one magic answer. If they did, I think peace would have been brought to the Middle East a long time ago.
In the immediate term, one of the goals, of course, is the diminution of violence, the creation of an environment in which both parties feel more comfortable talking to each other, because Yasser Arafat is no longer under siege in his headquarters in Ramallah, the Israeli people don't feel under siege because it's impossible to go out on the street without being worried about a suicide bomber taking their lives or the lives of their children. So the diminution of the violence is, first and foremost, a major concern.
Second is finding avenues to make progress on the political front. Sometimes those can be incremental, sometimes those can be greater. And the President is going to be very interested in seeing the pace the parties can establish in helping to support as advanced a pace as possible.
Q Now, Mubarak is talking about some kind of timetable. Does the U.S. have anything like that? Do you have -- has the U.S. got any proposal of its own --
MR. FLEISCHER: Too soon to say. That's kind of what Scott was asking about earlier. I think that you have to let President Mubarak come here, and if he has a timetable -- and I don't know that he does or doesn't -- if he has a timetable, he'll discuss it with the President and the President will offer his reflections about it. There will be a --
Q But the White House doesn't have any of its own -- any proposal of its own, any specific ideas --
MR. FLEISCHER: Right now, again, the President is very much doing what I indicated earlier, listening to the parties that have a stake in this, whose outcome and whose input is vital to the outcome -- listen to them, because one of the lessons is to listen to those parties to help create an environment for the Israelis and Palestinians, to have support for whatever they decide. And that's the process.
I invite you to Camp David Saturday morning to attend a press conference. We will wake you up early, put you on buses. I think it's a pool event, so for those of you who -- if you are the Saturday pool, Jean, you are cordially invited. We would be delighted to have you get up at about 5:00 a.m. to make your bus up to Camp David.
Q Ari, does the President agree with the conclusions in this report from the U.N. that humans are responsible for global warming?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, the President addressed a little bit of that in his remarks today. But the President has come out with a proposal on global warming, because global warming is a serious issue and the President views it as such. What he has said about it is that -- and this is consistent with what the President has said and this recent report that came out and that the United States submitted to the United Nations, that there is "considerable uncertainty" -- that's in this recent report -- relating to the science of climate change. This report submitted to the United Nations also recognizes that any "definitive prediction of potential outcomes is not yet feasible" and that, "one of the weakest links in our knowledge is the connection between global and regional predictions of climate change."
The President has outlined a new approach with a plan to significantly reduce the growth in greenhouse gas emissions while sustaining economic growth needed to invest in new technologies to make our environment cleaner, and invest in science to better understand the challenges presented by climate change. The President's budget for fiscal year '03 provides $4.5 billion in funding for climate change, with a substantial amount of funds dedicated to research, to reduce scientific uncertainties related to climate change.
So this is an issue the President has put his finger on previously, has announced a plan that will begin to address many of these problems without wrecking the American economy.
Q Ari, can I follow that? The President said -- I read the report of the bureaucracy. Was he referring to the EPA?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a report that came out of the EPA.
Q Now, let me get to another question. Mr. Bush has said that it's clear the FBI and CIA were not communicating adequately. He has said that he's seen no evidence that the attacks of September 11th were about to occur. But, of course, part of intelligence -- the bulk of intelligence is connecting the dots. In the whole, does he believe that the nation's intelligence agencies were doing their jobs adequately prior to September 11th?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, he does, Wendell. And the President believes that what's so important now is to focus on the future. And the President has full faith and confidence in the people who are serving this nation very well. One of the reasons he wanted to go up to the National Security Agency today is to say thank you, to say thank you to the people who were working overtime, who are working extraordinarily long hours and hard hours, spending a lot of time away from their families, with the whole purpose of protecting our country. They saw what took place on September 11th, as well. And as the President has said, if we had information prior to September 11th that could have allowed us to stop this attack, does anybody possibly think there is anybody in the government who would not have wanted -- that would not have acted to stop the attack?
Q But we did, it's clear we did. We had many, many disparate pieces of information, which if put together, could have stopped the attacks. It is now clear, we had any number of bits of information, we just didn't put them together. The job of intelligence is to put the stuff together. So how is it he feels the agencies were doing their jobs adequately?
MR. FLEISCHER: Wendell, as has been said now, even as we now have regrouped and are reforming and have made changes, we are still a nation at war. And we are going to always do our best to stop any potential attack. But, you know, we are also up against a wily enemy who, in the case of September 11th, as you know, many of the people who committed the acts of the hijackings didn't even know what their mission was going to be on that day. So I think, again, people can look back with 20/20 hindsight, people can look back and second-guess; this President is focused on the future, as well.
Q Ari, thank you. What is your assessment now of the prospects for nuclear war between India and Pakistan? And does the U.S., Russia, China have enough leverage to use on these countries to dissuade them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the situation remains tense, the situation remains delicate and our diplomacy is ongoing. Secretary Armitage is leaving today for India and Pakistan; there will be meetings on the 6th and on the 7th of this month. And President Putin has recently held meetings. As you know, the Europeans held meetings; Jack Straw of Britain held meetings. There will be -- I think you are continuing to see a worldwide effort to use diplomacy to reduce the tension in the region, and that's going to be ongoing.
These problems have been with the region for decades; they were with us and particularly sensitive and delicate moment several months ago. People thought at the same time violence may have erupted, war may have erupted. It was successfully handled through diplomacy then, and that's the President's goal, to do it once more.
Q Meetings are one thing, but what about leverage? Is there anything we can do, other than talk?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the most important thing is India and Pakistan, they don't need leverage to recognize that war would be bad for both of them. Diplomacy is not always about leverage. Often, diplomacy is about logic; diplomacy is often about helping, by a third party's presence giving two parties who might otherwise disagree with each other a way out. And that's the essence of diplomacy.
Q Ari, both you -- the President has said several times that he is disappointed in Yasser Arafat. At the moment, is he still as disappointed? Is he slightly more encouraged? Is there any change in his feeling toward Mr. Arafat since his release from Ramallah?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the President is still watching. The President is less focused on any one individual or any one name, and more focused on the fundamental changes that have to be made to serve the Palestinian people and to serve the cause of peace in the region. And those changes are along the lines of security changes, economic changes, the very things that a people who are deserving of a nation should have, because it's good for their future.
And any government, whether it's an authority or a state, needs to be mindful of the items that are of concern to their people. They represent their people. And the President is focused on those results, because that's the best way to bring long-term peace to the region.
Q So at the moment, no plans to meet with Mr. Arafat?
MR. FLEISCHER: No.
Q On an unrelated question, but following up on Kelly, since the President only things one committee should be doing these hearings, if other committees like Judiciary persist in holding hearings, will, nevertheless, the President tell people like Director Tenet and Mueller to go --
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, that was Kelly's question and I think I answered it.
Q No, no, no. Ari, no, no. I'm asking, if they persist in holding hearings, will Tenet and Muller testify?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, what I said to Kelly was other committees have jurisdiction as part of their budget, as part of normal oversight. The fact that there is one committee looking into events prior to 9/11 does not excuse other committees from exercising their ongoing jurisdiction over the matters of the government. But only one committee is doing the investigation.
Q Are you sending a warning then? Is this --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's the answer.
Q Ari, a day or two after President Bush left Russia, President Putin announced that he was going to get involved in trying to mediate the India-Pakistan dispute. Was that discussion --
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, not quite. It was discussed by the two Presidents, yes. That was a previously planned conference that was held in that region that brought together numerous Asian nations, including India and Pakistan. And President Putin discussed it with President Bush and President Bush told him he was grateful for Russia's ongoing diplomacy in the area.
It's another sign of a constructive relationship with Russia, in which the issues we see similarly are increasing. That's part of the rejection of the old zero-sum game, where if there was turmoil for one superpower, it was good for the other. Those days are over, and President Putin's help is noted.
Q Is there any -- is there any indication that Putin might be able to help in the Middle East?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, there I think you had a conference immediately taking place of the Asian nations. But if you recall the group that Secretary Powell met with when he went out to the region was called the Quartet. And the Quartet involved the European Union, the United States, Russia and the U.N. -- thank you. Those are the four members, and Russia is part of the Quartet.
Q Ari, representatives of Arab leaders who have been talking with President Bush say that they've been left with the impression that the U.S. is soon going to introduce its own very specific peace plan. Is that true? And also, why aren't the Enron documents that have been subpoenaed by Lieberman's committee being released to the public?
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. One, on the question of any peace plan, again, or specific plan, let me refer you back to what I just said earlier about that specific question. The President is going to continue having the meetings that he's having with President Mubarak, with Prime Minister Sharon. He will continue to listen. He will welcome back to the United States and hear the report of Director Tenet and Secretary Burns, and we'll keep you noted.
As for the documents with Senator Lieberman, in an effort to make information available as soon as possible and to work with the Congress, we invited the committee staff to the White House to review 1,745 pages of documents yesterday afternoon before we -- and Senator Lieberman's committee accepted that. The Office of the Vice President has made 436
pages available. That's not included in the 1,745 that I just mentioned.
So we will continue to work with the committee, cooperatively with the committee, but also sometimes, if these investigations are to be taken seriously, they need to do their work diligently, and they need to work with the administration and not turn everything into a news release. We've seen investigations by news release before, and often those investigations aren't quite serious.
Q Is there a reason why those documents can't be open to the public to look at if they're interested?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me give you some specifics that we're working with the committee on that does involve information that should not be made public. Much of the information they're seeking, when it comes to White House documents, have people's Social Security numbers on them, have people's emails on them. They have information that does need to be treated the same way information has traditionally been treated between the executive and the legislature, when it is provided from the executive to the legislature. Those are some protocols we are working to establish with Senator Lieberman.
Senator Lieberman has not yet agreed to all those protocols, and so there are continued discussions underway with Senator Lieberman. And I anticipate that those -- we'll just see what happens in those discussions.
Q What about what the Department of Energy did, which was erase the embarrassing personal information and --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I didn't say it was embarrassing, it's a Social Security number. (Laughter.) That's why we're talking to Senator Lieberman, and that's why the talks, from the White House's point of view, are in good faith, and we hope that they will be received in good faith.
Q Ari, Senator Lieberman's staff has said that allowing them to come over and view them is just a stall tactic, and it's really completely insufficient, from their point of view. What would you say to them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think we are complying and working very hard to work with the committee on an issue where, again, the question is -- I hope the question from the committee is focused on any prior knowledge about Enron's bankruptcy, and communications with Enron where information about bankruptcy could have been conveyed, and not an open-ended fishing expedition about any contact with anybody at Enron for any reason. Those are the type of open-ended fishing expeditions I think the American people have seen before and have grown tired of. So these things are a two-way street, and we'll continue to work with the Senate on it.
Q Gracias. My question is related to Connie's. Both sides, India and Pakistan, are still refusing to meet face to face. Does the President believe that by sending Armitage and Rumsfeld to India and Pakistan, war there can be avoided?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President does believe that that can be the case, and that's exactly why the President has been do deeply involved in the ongoing diplomacy. And that's why other nations of the world have been involved in the diplomacy. War would be -- could be catastrophic if it takes place between India and Pakistan, but war is not inevitable. And that is why the United States has been working so hard to work with the parties to convince them that war is not in their interests, let alone the region's or the world's.
Q Why is it acceptable for the IRS to profile millions of American taxpayers, but not acceptable for federalized airport security to profile Muslim males between 17 and 45 visiting from terrorist nations, with one-way tickets and little luggage, when even liberal Democrat Senator Feinstein says this hurts the effort to track down terrorists?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not sure what you're referring to on the predicate of your question with the IRS. But I can assure you, as somebody who just traveled commercial over the weekend, I had my shoes removed and I think many Americans of all backgrounds, when they go through these airports they recognize that the security people are working very hard and inspecting many people. And most of the people I know said "thank you" to them because these people have a hard job, and they're doing it regardless of what the nature of the passenger is.
Q The President's sister, Dorothy -- who I think you know -- was in the Washington Cathedral on Saturday when the preacher, the Reverend William Sloan Coffin, declared that the axis of evil is not Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, but what he termed "environmental degradation, pandemic poverty, and a world awash with weapons."
And my question is, is the President aware that this renowned peace activist, Coffin, was reported on September the 26th, 1980, by the New York Post as being charged in court by his wife, Harriet, with having assaulted her with "a karate chop", and he was trained in all of that in the CIA? Is the President aware of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have no idea.
Q Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 2:13 P.M. EDT