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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 4, 2006

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:28 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to begin with a couple of opening comments. The President was pleased to learn earlier today that the American Bar Association has given his nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Judge Sam Alito, the organization's highest possible rating, a unanimous well-qualified.

The ABA's stated criteria for its evaluation are integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament. Leading Senate Democrats have said in the past that the ABA rating is the "gold standard" for evaluating judicial nominees. The ABA also gave a unanimous well-qualified rating to Chief Justice John Roberts before his hearings, which ultimately led to his confirmation as the Chief Justice. Judge Alito's confirmation hearings start next Monday, January 9th, and we look forward to a dignified and respectful hearing leading to an up or down vote by January 20th.

And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.

Q When the President went to the Pentagon today, did he ask about the dropping of a bomb on a home, killing nine children and grandchildren, and so forth? I mean, is this how we go after the rebels?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President talked about the update that he received at the Pentagon earlier today. And let me just back up, because, first of all, as I understand it from the military in Iraq, they have put out a statement saying they are looking at the facts surrounding this matter. Second of all, our military goes out of the way to avoid civilian casualties. They target the enemy. They target the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists who are seeking to kill innocent civilians and disrupt the transition to democracy. In terms of this individual matter, it's something that's being looked into in terms of the facts surrounding it.

Q Why did they do that --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's an accurate characterization, first of all. The military has put out --

Q They didn't find any so-called terrorists.

MR. McCLELLAN: The military has put out additional information and you need to look at what they've said. It's still being looked into. I encourage you to wait until the facts are learned.

Q How can you justify killing children and grandchildren at home?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look at what took place in Iraq last month; successful elections, where you had nearly 70 percent of the voters turn out --

Q That has nothing to do with my question.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and if you look at the pictures from that election, the Iraqi people are determined to live in freedom. They want to chart their own future. And the President talked about that earlier today. And it's --

Q -- bomb innocent families.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the terrorists and Saddam loyalists who are going out killing innocent civilians. We saw that again today, with some suicide attacks on a funeral procession of Iraqi civilians.

Q So why are we there --

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree strongly with your characterization of our military. They go out of the way to target the enemy --

Q I didn't say they did --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, your implication is certainly that.

Q In this case, there have been several --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's your implication. No, that's your implication. Our military --

Q That's not my implication. I'm telling you what --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- uses technology to target the enemy and avoid civilian casualties.

Go ahead.

Q A new Gallup Poll shows that 49 percent of the American public think most members of Congress are corrupt. Does the President agree?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes it's important for elected officials to adhere to the highest ethical standards. I don't -- I haven't seen the poll that you're referencing, but it's important for all of us in elected office to adhere to the highest ethical standards.

Q In light of the Abramoff deal, what's the President, or White House surrogates on his behalf doing to talk about lobby reform on the Hill?

MR. McCLELLAN: Lobby reform?

Q Yes, lobbying reform.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll keep you posted if there's anything. In terms of what took place yesterday with Mr. Abramoff, I talked about that yesterday. He entered a plea where he acknowledged being involved in wrongdoing. It's a serious matter. It was outrageous what he was engaged in. And he needs to be held accountable, and he needs to be punished. And he's going to be punished. The Justice Department continues to investigate this matter. I'm not going to speculate beyond what has been acknowledged by Mr. Abramoff at this point. So let's let the investigation proceed.

Q Leaving aside the specifics of the Abramoff case, is the President concerned that there's a culture of favors --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're speculating based on facts that aren't known at this point.

Q I'm not talking about Abramoff, I'm talking about the way business is done.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I don't think you -- well, I just -- I'm not going to speculate regarding this ongoing investigation, but I don't think you can draw broad characterizations at this point based on what you know.

Q So he's happy with the way lobbyists do business with Congress?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you just said that. That's not what he said. He's made it very clear that -- and he spoke out when we had a congressman admit to wrongdoing just recently and talked about how unacceptable and outrageous that is. Elected officials must adhere to the highest ethical standards. And we'll continue to speak out about the importance of doing so. And it's up to those officials to make the right decisions.

Q Scott, Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign, and the campaign has given back, like, $6,000. Why aren't they giving back more?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you might want to talk to the RNC to get the specifics. That's my understanding, is that Mr. Abramoff and his wife, and a tribal interest that he represented had contributed that money. And this is keeping -- consistent with past practice of the campaign. If people are involved in wrongdoing, they return that money that that person contributed, or donate it to a specific charity. In this case, I understand that they're going to be donating that money to the American Heart Association.

Q But you don't think the rest of the money that he brought in --

MR. McCLELLAN: Are you suggesting that there are others that were involved in wrongdoing? If you want to bring that to my attention, and I'll refer it to the RNC.

Q I'm asking if the money that he gave --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's our past practice, or the past practice of the campaign has been what I described. If people are involved in wrongdoing -- I think there's been very few instances of that, one or two maybe where money has been donated to a charity that that individual gave to the campaign.

Q Well, I guess, the question is, though, since he raised the money and you don't know what was involved in raising that money, does that not put a taint or a cloud over it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that it's keeping with past practice, and they took the appropriate step.

Q But Hastert is giving all of it back.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, John.

Q But have you been able to more clearly determine whether the President ever met Abramoff at any of these White House --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I talked about this earlier today, maybe you weren't here earlier this morning, but -- when I talked to some of your colleagues.

Q I thought you said he might have been, but I'm just wondering --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said it's possible that they would have met at a holiday reception or some other widely attended gathering. The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him.

Q But he has the special designation as a Pioneer, as Terry was alluding to, raising more than $100,000. And he attended, as you told us, three events, holiday receptions at the White House. How likely is it that the President would not have met him --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said it's possible. But I just told you what I know at this point, and the President doesn't recall meeting him and he certainly doesn't know him.

Q Will you release -- go ahead.

Q Since you often take photos in those instances at receptions, will you make that available?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't thought about that. I'll take it under consideration.

Q How about the logs of the people -- how many times he came into the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I'm checking into that. I said I'd check into that -- I think someone asked that question the other day. I think it's very few times that he's been here, in addition to any holiday receptions.

Q Scott, two questions. One, in India and in many countries we call it "corruption" when you -- without paying -- Here a number of congressmen, including -- were making statements against India because they were getting paid by the -- lobbying on the Hill. Is this what we call legal corruption here, lobbying?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Legal corruption?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are laws in place and those laws should be followed. There are guidelines in place regulating those matters, as well, and they should be followed.

Q Second question: The President's speech today at the Pentagon as far as terrorism and fighting terrorism is concerned, do you think that Osama bin Laden is still in -- is running the al Qaeda business?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, who?

Q Osama bin Laden. And where he is now? He is in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Iran? Where --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if we knew exactly where he was, we would go and bring him to justice. He is someone we continue to pursue. We are making great progress on the war on terrorism. Earlier today the President had a good discussion with his commanders who are leading our military efforts in the broader war on terrorism. He was able to hear from General Abizaid, who gave an overview, a strategic overview of where we are in the war on terrorism and the progress we're making to win the war on terrorism. And he received operational updates on Afghanistan. And then he received an operational update on Iraq from General Casey. And he also received an update from General Dempsey on the training of Iraqi security forces. Iraqi security forces are more and more in the lead and controlling more territory in Iraq, and we're continuing to make good progress on that front.

He also heard about the political process and how the Iraqi people are moving forward on the election process. We'll have those results soon, within probably a couple of weeks, and then they will move forward on forming a new government. And it's important that they form an inclusive, representative government that represents all Iraqis. And it's their decisions to make, and we'll assist them as they move forward, to move forward in a timely manner, to get that government in place. We're making important progress. There's certainly going to be tests and challenges ahead of us, and sacrifices, but we are winning and we will prevail.

Q The President seemed to me to be suggesting that we turned a corner in Iraq in 2005. Does he believe that's the case?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've made significant progress, but there si much work to be done and that's what the President said. We have got a lot of work still to do. There is going to be testing and there is going to be continued sacrifice. The violence continues. The Saddam loyalists and the terrorists continue to want to disrupt the transition to democracy. They continue to target innocent civilians. And we must continue to help the Iraqi people as they work to put in place the institutions for a lasting democracy to emerge, as they work to have a security force that can defend the Iraqi people themselves from internal and external threats, and as they move forward on the reconstruction efforts.

And that's what we will continue to do. The international community has an obligation to help out, as well, and they've made commitments to do so.

Q Do you disagree with that characterization that was in the remarks today --

MR. McCLELLAN: What characterization?

Q That 2005 was a year in which we turned a corner.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the words that the President said is what I would refer you back to, and he talked about the progress we've made, and he talked about the decisions that will be made going forward based on troop levels, that will be guided by the commanders on the ground. It's the commanders on the ground who are in the best position to make those decisions, and they should be making the decisions based on the conditions, not based on what politicians here in Washington, D.C., want, or some artificial timetable that they try to set.

But we are making important progress, but there are challenges ahead. We're continuing to learn from experience and adjust and adapt as necessary. It's critical that we do prevail in Iraq, because Iraq is a central front in the war on terrorism, and a free and peaceful Iraq will help transform a dangerous region of the world and help lay the foundations of peace for generations to come. And that's what the President was emphasizing today, as well.

Q Scott, has the President offered his condolences to the miners and the families? Can you talk a little bit about what the government, the federal government is doing through the Mine Safety and Health Administration, on the investigation?

MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. One, I think today is a day to mourn and remember those who so tragically lost their lives in this mine. There were 12 coal miners who lost their lives; there was another coal miner who was rescued and survives. He is in critical condition. We are keeping him in our prayers. This is a -- this was a tragic loss that occurred in West Virginia, and our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those who lost their lives and the entire community there in Upshur County, West Virginia. This has been a trying and difficult time, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

We also keep in our thoughts those rescue teams, and express our deepest appreciation to them for their great compassion and their great courage in trying to save these individuals and putting their own lives on the lines, and all those who helped them as they moved forward on that rescue mission.

In terms of the federal government, the Secretary of Labor, earlier today, announced that they will fully investigate this tragic -- this tragedy that occurred in West Virginia, and they will take steps to prevent something like this from happening again when they complete that investigation and learn more about what caused this to happen.

Q Can you talk a little bit about the part of the investigation and how the families were informed -- or misinformed -- about their relatives?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my understanding is I think that's something that they will look at in the investigation, the confusion that occurred in terms of the communication. That's something that will be looked at by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is the federal agency that oversees the safety of mines and the safety of the -- safety and health of the miners.

But what I also understand at this point, I don't think there's any indication that any federal officials -- at this point, there's no indication that there were any federal officials that were involved in communicating incorrect information.

Q One of the relatives of the miners who were killed were saying this morning that President Bush has sent letters to the CEO of the mining company. Do you know if this is the case? And if it is, would you be able to find out for us what was in the letter?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's the first I've heard of that. I'll be glad to take a look at it.

Q One on domestic priorities in the upcoming -- in 2006. Is the administration still planning to pursue pension reform?

MR. McCLELLAN: Pension reform is a high priority, and Congress is moving forward on some efforts, and we remain committed to making sure that pensions are funded by companies, and those commitments are fulfilled to workers. Yes, it is -- it continues to be a priority for this administration. The President actually talked about it in remarks he made on the economy towards the end of the year, and talked about the importance of moving forward on strengthening our pension systems and protecting our worker's pensions.

Q Experts in the field note that only about half -- maybe a little more than half of the working population has employer-sponsored pensions. And so is the administration also trying to pursue, say, tax incentives to encourage small businesses to sponsor plans, as well as help individuals --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we put forward a number of proposals when it comes to helping workers and helping them meet their needs in the future. And the President will be talking more about his 2006 agenda in the coming weeks, as well. I encourage you to stay tuned.

Q Scott, you said a few moments ago that you thought that if Abramoff had been to the White House it has only been a couple of times besides possible holiday receptions. How long do you think it will take to track down exactly when he was --

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, it's going to be long -- that's my understanding, just kind of an initial check, just -- there are probably a few staff-level meetings and that's about it --

Q And secondly, as you know, the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- in addition to what I indicated earlier.

Q Periodically, the President has receptions for fundraisers, Pioneers, sometimes here, usually -- often at the ranch adjacent to his down in Crawford. Are you looking into also whether Abramoff might have been at one of those meetings?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know anything about it. I'll try and take a look at it.

Q Scott, on the money Abramoff raised, there is evidence that he boasted to clients and others that by raising this money and his Pioneer status got him a certain connection here, that he was wired into the process. Is that the point of the Pioneer program? And do you want the money raised --

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely not. The President --

Q Do you want the money raised by someone who makes that claim?

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely not. The President makes decisions based on what is right for the American people. And that's what he has always done, and that's what he'll continue to do. If someone thinks that money is coming in with strings attached, it doesn't get in the door.

Q Do you want the money from someone who went out making that claim to people, saying, this money bought me influence?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I indicated to you that in keeping with past practice, that the money that was contributed by Mr. Abramoff, his wife, and tribal interests that he represented is being donated to the American Heart Association. We think that's an appropriate step to take.

Q Does the money he collected have no taint whatsoever?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think we're taking the appropriate steps in terms of this individual. It's similar to what we have done with previous individuals that may have been involved in wrongdoing that had contributed money, too. And I think in terms of others making those decisions, it's up to them, but there are certainly people on both sides of the aisle that ought to take a look at that.

Go ahead.

Q Scott, why would --

MR. McCLELLAN: And I would remind you, too, that -- what I said yesterday, because this is an individual who has donated money from himself or his clients to Democrats and Republicans alike. That's based on press reports; press reports have shown that, that significant amounts have been contributed to both Republicans and Democrats alike.

Q -- $100,000 may have come from his clients. Do you want that money?

MR. McCLELLAN: If you want to insinuate someone was involved in wrongdoing, you can bring it to the campaign's attention, or the RNC. They'll be glad to talk about it further. They're the appropriate place to address these questions.

Q So, Scott, why would a Jack Abramoff have access to staff-level meetings here at the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the facts surrounding that, Peter. I said I'm checking into it. But as you know, we don't get into discussing staff-level meetings.

Q A couple other questions. What kind of review that's beyond responding to the queries from reporters, what kind of a review do you have of his contacts? Is there any sort of an internal review of his contacts with administration officials?

MR. McCLELLAN: You mean administration-wide?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard anything about that, Peter. I don't know why there needs to be from our end. The Justice Department is investigating the matter and that's the appropriate place to do it.

Q Given the scope of the legislative end of this, will there be any reiteration of ethical guidelines to especially departments where he and his team had a lot of contacts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this administration has always emphasized the importance of adhering to high ethical guidelines. And we have strong ethical guidelines that are in place that we expect everybody throughout the administration to follow.

Q After the Plame --

MR. McCLELLAN: And there are briefings that are held throughout the government --

Q After the Plame case, you had refresher courses on those kinds of issues. Do you envision anything like that in this instance?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard anything about that, Peter.

Q Scott, a couple of related issues, if I may. On the Patriot Act, can you give us an update? Has the President been briefed by the Majority Leader? Are they going to be able to revise this before the clock runs out? Where does it now stand? And on the question of the internal security and the so-called eavesdropping, there are possible indications now that that took place before the President authorized --

MR. McCLELLAN: No. No, that's incorrect. If you're referring to what was published in some newspapers, that was referring to a different program that had been under authorities in place, I think going back to the early part of the Reagan administration, maybe even before. You ought to direct that to the National Security Agency.

And as we learned in the article further down, the articles that were published, this was part of the regular briefings that the head of the National Security Agency provides to the intelligence committees. So that's incorrect, I mean, in terms of the assumption that was made there. It's a different program that you're talking about there, under different authorities.

There are existing authorities that have been in place, and then there are additional authorities that are in the Patriot Act. These authorities are vital tools within the law to help us save lives and prevent attacks from happening. The Patriot Act is a vital tool. The Vice President is going to be talking about it in remarks here shortly. We released some of the excerpts. And it's important that the law be renewed. It has helped us successfully disrupt terrorist plots here at home and break up terrorist cells.

The President heard from a number of U.S. attorneys yesterday who are on the front lines of defending America here at home, and how they have successfully used this law to bring people to justice and prevent attacks from happening. People are serving prison terms because they were involved in plotting and planning to attack Americans.

We know that the terrorists want to inflict even greater damage on the United States than they did on September 11th. It's important that our law enforcement and intelligence authorities have the same kind of tools that they use for other crimes in the efforts to go after terrorists, and there are some Senate Democrats that have been beholden to special interests and are playing politics with this important legislation.

We should not go without this legislation for a single day, and we're working with members of Congress. The President has made a commitment to work with them to get the Patriot Act renewed. There's been a lot of discussion on this. There have been steps that were taken to build upon the legislation that was passed initially that enjoys bipartisan support in both the House -- majority support in both the House and the Senate. And we believe it should be renewed. It's important that our law enforcement and intelligence officials continue to have these vital tools to wage and win the war on terrorism here at home.

This is about connecting the dots. This is about gathering information, connecting the dots, and then disrupting plots and plans against the United States of America.

Q Okay, but one last follow-up. What word do you get, specific word, what word does the President from the leadership in both houses as to what's going to happen --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are -- there is a minority of Senate Democrats that have been using obstructionist tactics to delay us from moving forward on renewal of the Patriot Act. The President has made it very clear that we cannot go without this vital law, even for a day. He wants to see it renewed, a majority of the House and Senate want to see it renewed, and it's time to get done. And we're going to continue working with them. They're out of session right now, but we're staying in contact with leaders, and we're going to work with them to get it done. It's set to expire on February 3rd, and that's why we need to act and make sure that it is renewed. Some of the opponents that are out there playing politics with this are busy chasing ghosts. We're out there chasing terrorists.

Q Scott, may I follow up on Peter's question on ethics?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, I'll come back to you. Alexis, go ahead.

Q I have two quick follow-ups, one to Peter's question. As you remember, Mr. Safavian was an associate of Mr. Abramoff, so the first question is a good one in defense that -- did the administration, through OMB, provide any internal follow-up to any of the work that Mr. Safavian had done at OMB under contract separate from the Justice Department investigation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you're talking about an individual that is being investigated I think in a separate matter prior to his time he was here at the Office of Management and Budget. He no longer -- he no longer works in this administration.

Q Right. But because of his work for OMB and contracts, what I'm asking is, did anyone --

MR. McCLELLAN: If you want to bring something to my attention, I'll take a look into it.

Q No, no, no. I'm just asking, was there any internal that you know of, separate from --

MR. McCLELLAN: No -- internal -- go ahead.

Q To follow the trail of the work that he had done, what kind of work he had done at GSA.

MR. McCLELLAN: My understanding is that the investigation relating to that individual goes back to his time prior to when he was here at the Office of Management and Budget, and he had been here for a short amount of time, but he no longer works within the administration.

Q Okay. Secondly, to follow up -- because of the confusion about the NSA eavesdropping program, and I put myself in that confusion, can you just clarify, are you saying that the eavesdropping program that The New York Times published did not begin until the President signed a National Security directive? And on what date was that signed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, are you talking about the NSA authorization that the President issued? As he indicated in his press conference, he did that in the weeks after the attacks of September 11th. It's an important tool that has helped us to prevent attacks here on the homeland. And that's why it's so important. But it's also one that is fully within our Constitution and our laws, and it's very limited in nature.

And let me just point out, because some articles try to say this is about domestic surveillance -- this is about detecting and preventing attacks. It's about looking at calls that involve someone overseas that is an al Qaeda member or affiliated with al Qaeda in some way. So it's important to make that very clear. This is about involving communications with known al Qaeda members or related terrorist organizations. And I think the American people strongly support that, as has been indicated in some recent polls.

Q Do you recall the date that the President authorized it?

MR. McCLELLAN: In the weeks after. That's the way he described, and that's where I would leave it for now.

Q Would you say it was within the month of September 2001?

MR. McCLELLAN: In the weeks after -- that's what he said in his press conference. And, again, this is a highly classified program. It is an important program. The fact that this has been openly and publicly discussed has harmed our national security. This involves intelligence activities relating to the war on terrorism. We are a nation at war. And the communications involving al Qaeda are the most important communications to us in the war on terrorism. And that's why it's so important that we know when people are talking to al Qaeda or known terrorist organizations affiliated with al Qaeda. And the President is going to continue to use every tool at his disposal, within the law, to prevent attacks from happening.

Q Two other quick follow-ups to that. Is it incorrect to believe that the NSA began that program before the President signed the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're referring to media reports, and that's why I was setting the record straight with Ivan, that the program that was discussed in newspapers was not relating to the NSA authorization.

Q I'm asking you a separate question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are existing authorities that are in place. We have existing authorities within FISA. FISA is an important tool and we use those authorities -- the President emphasized that in his remarks. We are using every tool within our Constitution and our laws that we can to prevent attacks from happening. We are fortunate -- and the Vice President will be talking about this some in his remarks -- fortunately, we have not been attacked again since September 11th. And that's not by accident; it's in large part due to the policies and the tools we're using and, in large part, to the 24/7 work of our law enforcement and intelligence community to disrupt plots and break up terrorist cells. And we must continue working to do everything we can to stop them from attacking.

We know that this is a determined and sophisticated enemy that wants to attack us again. I think it's important to hear these points. It's important for the American people to know this because some of this has been misrepresented by some who have tried to suggest that it is more than what it is. It is a limited program. It is a program that is carefully reviewed. It is a program that has been briefed to members of Congress on a number of occasions. And it's a vital program to our efforts to prevent attacks from happening.

Q The last thing I wanted to ask was because it is now publicly known, this program is now known around the world, has it been rendered so useless that the President has decided to scrap it or change it?

MR. McCLELLAN: He said as long as he is President he is going to continue using every tool at his disposal. And this is an important tool. And we will continue to use it to prevent attacks from happening. There are parts of it that have been disclosed publicly, but it remains a highly classified program, and that's why we're not going to talk further about it.

Again, I emphasize, the most important communications to us in the war on terrorism, as General Hayden said, our Deputy Director of National Intelligence, former head of the National Security Agency, are communications involving al Qaeda. This authorization is specifically related to communications that involve one party being outside of the United States, and being a known member of al Qaeda or an affiliated organization. It is limited in nature. I think the American people fully understand the importance of us knowing what is going on in those communications so that we can get that information and then we can act on that information and connect the dots and stop something like what happened on September 11th from happening.

Q May I follow up on --

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Paula.

Q It's still not clear to me, what have the consequences been, not only at the White House, but administration-wide, if you violate your ethics guidelines? I mean, I understand with the OFPP official, he was arrested so he resigned. Now, I presume that would mean, had he not resigned --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it depends on individual circumstances. You have to look at it case by case. If there are violations of ethic guidelines, there is appropriate action that we take.

Q So what are the -- what is the appropriate action? Because it's my understanding there is no --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it -- I think it depends on each case.

Q Well, understandably, it depends on a case-by-case basis.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I would say that, by and large, people throughout this government work very hard and they adhere to those standards.

Q Well, I'm only asking again because it's been two-and-a-half years since Valerie Plame's identity has been leaked --

MR. McCLELLAN: Exactly. You're asking again because of a matter that we've indicated what our policy is on, and that's an ongoing matter.

Q I'm asking outside the scope of the investigation. I'm asking about any ethics violations --

MR. McCLELLAN: You just said you're asking in the context of that investigation.

Q No, outside the scope of it. Mr. Fitzgerald is looking at criminal offenses under your document detailing violations of ethics. I'm asking --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why the President directed the White House to cooperate fully with investigation.

Q So why hasn't the President taken any action against anyone within his administration who has acted unethically? Or are you saying everyone has acted ethically in relation to being involved in the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Wait, wait, you're making a suggestion that I don't think you can back up. There has been action taken when people have violated ethic guidelines. And to suggest otherwise, I think, is ignoring facts. We just talked about one individual who has left the administration.

Q He was arrested.

MR. McCLELLAN: And he no longer works in the administration.

Q Would he have been dismissed had he not resigned?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, John.

Q Want me to throw you a lifeline, or --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't need one. I'll be glad to talk about this if Paula wants to. Paula, I think, is just trying to grandstand on this issue, as she has previously.

Q Oh, boy.

Q Quick question for you. If you have all of these powers under Article II of the Constitution and the authorization for use of force, why do you even need these controversial provisions of the Patriot Act?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Patriot Act?

Q Yes, these particular provisions, including wiretaps that are causing so much consternation in Congress.

MR. McCLELLAN: For the reason that the Attorney General sought out. He talked about the consequences if this law expires, and what happens to the tools that we have available. The wall that was broken down between intelligence and law enforcement sharing information will be put back up. That's vital to helping us to connect dots and prevent attacks from happening. But the --

Q -- wiretaps today --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'd encourage you to read -- the Department of Justice put out a pretty detailed list of the consequences of not renewing the Patriot Act. And yesterday -- you weren't here, but the U.S. Attorneys met with the President and they talked about how they have successfully used the tools within the Patriot Act to prevent attacks from happening.

Q Thank you.

END 2:00 P.M. EST