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 Home > News & Policies > June 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2006

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room

9:37 A.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: Good morning all. We will keep this somewhat brief. A lot of your colleagues are still trying to navigate their way through the rivers running through our streets and byways, but whatever we don't get to, we'll obviously get to at the on-camera briefing at 12:30 p.m.-ish.

Let me first run through the President's day. There will be a meeting in about 25 minutes, at 10:00 a.m., with organizations that support the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. At 10:35 a.m. a photo opportunity with 2006 Presidential Scholars. At noon remarks at a Republican National Committee Finance Luncheon. At 5:30 p.m. a Celebration of Black Music Month. They've already made a weather call; it will be moved from the South Lawn to the East Room. Good call. (Laughter.)

And with that, we'll go ahead and do some questions.

Q A life-and-death issue in Iraq. There's been a report that the four Russian diplomats have been killed. Do you have anything to say to the Russians about that?

MR. SNOW: No, because the Russians have not yet, themselves, been able to confirm. We'll wait for confirmation.

Q What can you tell us about the U.S.-Japanese agreement on missile defense, the Patriot Missile deployment, and does that indicate a willingness on the part of the United States to perhaps shoot down a North Korean test missile?

MR. SNOW: That would have nothing directly to do with shooting down a test missile. But beyond that, rather than getting ahead of it, I'm going to asterisk that, and I'll have an answer for you at the noon briefing. That will go on the bupkis list.

Q Any progress on the wiretap agreement to take that to the court level?

MR. SNOW: Say what?

Q With Senator Specter and --

MR. SNOW: Oh, in other words, Senator Specter saying he thought we were very close. We're in ongoing negotiations with Senator Specter, and rather than trying to characterize it, we hope that we're going to be able to work out an accommodation. Those talks are continuing to go on both sides. They're vigorously working with one another, and it does seem constructive, but I don't want to get ahead of it at this point.

Q What does the President think of General Casey's outline of a plan for troop withdrawal, most of them by the end of 2007?

MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things about that, and I'm sure we'll get asked a lot about this later, as well. General Casey is assigned the business of making a lot of plans, and this is one of the plans that's under consideration. A couple of things you need to keep in mind.

First, everything -- General Casey's plan, as you saw, Prime Minister Maliki's proposals over the weekend, are based at all times on conditions on the ground. You find out what's going on. And there are a number of plans that are generated. Perhaps you've heard of people referring to plan B, C, D, and so on. And in a time of war, there is not a single plan, a monolithic plan. Furthermore, any of those proposals -- always, as the clich goes -- never survive first contact with the enemy.

So having said that, it is certainly -- General Casey's job is to figure out how you proceed if certain scenarios hold, and that's one of the things he does. But for anybody who thinks that this is engraved in stone, it is not.


Q Tony, you had Democrats over the weekend -- Senator Kerry, Senator Boxer -- saying that even the framework of a plan would kind of fly in the face of Republican the Democrats want to cut and run. Do you have any response to that? I mean, the President, himself, has implied it, Rove has said it outright.

MR. SNOW: There's still a pretty significant difference between what Senator Kerry or even Senator Levin had proposed, and what General Casey is talking about, simply because one is driven by a calendar and the other is driven by events on the ground. So there is a significant difference.

Q But doesn't General Casey -- like, part one of his plan has a significant number of troops, two combat brigades, coming out in September. Doesn't that give the enemy --

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, he has one, and it -- you know, again, this is not, I believe the way, at least it was reported, is you've got two brigades by the end of the year, September being short of the end of the year. But I may be misreading it. In any event, you've got to keep in mind that this is not a statement of policy. Again, General Casey keeps in mind a number of scenarios. You're talking about scenarios here.

And as General Casey continues to work now with the Minister of Defense in Iraq, and also begins to try to take a look at a series of things, not only the continued training of Iraqi military forces, but also -- it's a real point of emphasis, and General Casey has made this a point of emphasis for the year 2006 -- the development of a professional independent non-politically-driven police force within Iraq. That is also one of the key elements. All those things are in play.

And so I would caution very strongly against everybody thinking, well, they're going to pull two brigades out. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. That really does depend upon a whole series of things that we cannot, at this juncture, predict. But General Casey -- again, I would characterize this more in terms of scenario building, and we'll see how it proceeds.


Q Does the President share General Casey's optimism that Iraqis will begin to be ready to stand up in September?

MR. SNOW: Again, this is -- General Casey is not saying, this is what I think is going to happen, let's do it. There are any number of things that he talks about. Let me put it this way: we hope and expect that the Iraqis, in time, will develop an independent, capable, professional military and police force. Both of those, they're absolute keys. And, again, to the extent that that happens, obviously we want that to happen as quickly as possible. But, again, they have to demonstrate capability not only in terms of training and equipment, but also their ability to secure areas within Iraq, to fight terror constructively and effectively.

And I might add that the Prime Minister's proposals for reconciliation also play into this, because one of his key political objectives is to get militias and insurgents to lay down arms and join the political process. He warned that there are going to be some who never will do that.

So you cannot -- and I think all of our generals have made this point all along -- you cannot look at the military piece in isolation. It also fits into a much larger political piece that now, at least it's beginning to move forward because you do have an elected and duly constituted government in Baghdad.

I'm sorry, go ahead, Wendell.

Q What is it about the Prime Minister's reconciliation plan that the White House sees as assurance that Iraqis involved in fighting the occupation, as they see it, will not be granted amnesty?

MR. SNOW: Well, the way Prime Minister Maliki put it -- let me just go to -- I'll go back and take a look at his exact language, and I'll let you draw your own judgment. If you took a look at the statement there are long -- four or five paragraphs where he talked about the kinds of act of terror that were being visited upon -- he talked about enemies of the political process, he talked about assassination operations affecting the country's capabilities, statesmen, scholars, specialists, doctors. He talked about religious scholars, messengers of peace, and others are being killed without distinction -- university professors, children, women, the elderly. In other words, there's a long roster to remind people that terrorists are doing their best to disrupt what's going on.

Then he says later, "To those who insist on aggression, terrorism, and murder, we extend a hand that carries a firm legal stand to protect our country." "Extending a hand" means, in other words, doing everything possible to bring them to justice. He also said, "Issuance of amnesty on detainees who were not involved in terrorist crimes and acts, war crimes and crimes against humanity." I mean, I'm going to let that speak for itself. But I think the other thing is that there was no attempt made in this document to say that one would treat Americans different than Iraqis.

Q Well, even Kurdish leaders are quoted as saying it needs clarification. It seems to me that if you're an Iraqi, you see a terrorist attack against civilians as something very different than fighting occupation forces. And that is --

MR. SNOW: Well, it depends on who the Iraqi is. And I'm not going to get myself involved in that internal debate. As I just pointed out, this is -- you know what it is? It's a proposal by the Prime Minister, and it now serves as the starting point for a national debate where they are going to talk about precisely what this term -- I mean, at the beginning of a debate, there may be some things that may seem a bit ambiguous to you and me, and that is going to be debated out through the parliament. And I don't -- if you're looking for an absolutely locked-in, complete and absolutely unambiguous answer right now, it doesn't exist.

Q Okay. But what I'm hearing from senior officials is that the whole argument is silly, and it seems to me there's certainly enough ambiguity here that one could make a case that attacks on coalition forces could be forgiven.

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll have to wait and see. I don't read it that way.

Q Was there specific pressure brought to bear on the Prime Minister to --

MR. SNOW: No, no. I think -- look, as I've said before from the podium, you get -- you've got to be able to -- the Iraqis now have got the obligation to put together a government and to make it effective. Do we share our views? Yes. But on the other hand, the President made it clear that he views Prime Minister Maliki as a fellow head of state. And at this point, we are certainly encouraging the Iraqis to go forward and move through this.

Prime Minister Maliki also understands the political situation here in the United States. I think -- again, we have to give the Iraqis credit for having some political smarts of their own.


Q Thank you, Tony. Turning to the domestic front, and immigration. Several guests who went to the President's Dinner last Monday, the 19th, said that when he mentioned the immigration issue there were six minutes of dead silence. And commenting on this, one of the sources, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California, remarked that, "This shows the disconnect between the President and the Republican Party on that issue." Your response?

MR. SNOW: A, I wasn't there; B, Representative Rohrabacher has well-known views on this.

Q Vice President Cheney said he was offended by press disclosures about the bank records story, because he said it makes it harder for us to protect ourselves against future attacks. As Press Secretary, are you also offended by that, and do you think that it makes it harder for us to protect ourselves?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into my state of mind about the story. I will have more to say about it in the briefing later today. I'm going to leave it to the people who are actually operating the program. They say it does make it more difficult, I'll take them at their word.

Q What about -- Peter King went further, he was talking about investigating and prosecution. Is that going too far?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, there is a process for doing this. The agency in charge has to make a criminal referral. You may remember that former CIA Director Tenet made a criminal referral. It is highly unusual for somebody to announce that they've done so. But there are very strict processes for doing this. And beyond that, I'm not going to extend the brief.

Q One last thing. How hard did you push to convince the press not to publish this --

MR. SNOW: I was not directly involved. The Department of the Treasury, since it has been operating the SWIFT program, did the work, and they're the ones who made the contacts, primarily to The New York Times, but to others, as well.

Q Tony, did General Casey brief the President Friday on his troop plans?

MR. SNOW: He briefed the President Friday. We do not disclose confidential briefings between the President and the General, but they did have a briefing.

Q May I take another shot at the Russian issue in Iraq? Are you making any independent efforts to determine the fate of those Russians?

MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of any. That is typically the business of the sovereign government, and I'm not sure directly how one would do it, so I don't have an answer for you.

Q Can we expect any reaction from the White House when their fate is determined?

MR. SNOW: Well, why don't we find out. I mean, obviously, the President and President Putin have discussed this, as I mentioned from the podium last week, as a matter of fact. The President expressed his concerns and regards for those diplomats. But let's find out what the facts are, and then I will be happy to tell you what the response is.

Q Tony, do you have the names of the groups, the Iraqi support groups that are meeting with the President?

MR. SNOW: No, but we'll pull them together. Do you have -- I'm not sure, let me see if we've got them. Do you have them, Josh? I know you had and But hang on. Radar Deckard is getting it for me, if you will permit for a moment. Thank you, sir.

All right, Operation First Response, Give To The Troops, USA Cares, Operation Shoebox, Freedom Alliance, United We Serve, Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Ensuring Christmas, Packed With Pride, United Through Reading, The Beacon of Hope Outreach Center, and also Operation Hope, America Supporting Americans, Operation Iraqi Children, and Little Patriots Embraced.

Q What is the nature of the meetings? Is it a "thank you" kind of thing?

MR. SNOW: It's just a conversation with people who have, in fact, been doing things to support the military, getting an update on what they're doing, and I'm sure passing on thanks, as well.

Q Do any of Casey's scenarios involve significant increase in U.S. troops?

MR. SNOW: You know, here's the thing about military plans: You don't disclose them. So rather than trying to talk about various scenarios for typical reasons, General Casey will have a number of scenarios in mind for differing situations on the ground. As I said, as conditions on the ground change, he will adjust those plans. But I'm certainly not going to announce in advance anything that he may have in mind for the President, or that he may be recommending -- just don't do that in a time of war.

Q What about the tree?

MR. SNOW: What about what?

Q The tree, was it hit by lightning, or --

MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness.

Q That's a big question.

MR. LISAIUS: We're not certain of that this morning. It was weather-related. We don't know if it was necessarily hit by lightning, but it was weather-related. We'll find more details --

Q Do you know the age? It would be interesting if we knew the age.

MR. LISAIUS: A hundred years old.

Q And did your cable go out? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: In and out. What happened was, we were coming back from the eastern shore, and we managed to -- I think we were about the last ones across the Wilson Bridge before the mud slide. We literally -- we crossed at 10:06 p.m., and shortly after that it was all over.

Q Wouldn't Mr. Bush like to do a little brush clearing? You know -- I mean he hasn't done that -- (laughter.)

Q That is cute.

MR. SNOW: Are you -- you know what, get your overalls and your boots ready, we'll -- (laughter.)

Q Thanks, Tony.

MR. SNOW: All right, see you at the brief.

END 9:54 A.M. EDT