For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 10, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York
4:02 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Do you have questions?
Q Who is going to be at the prayer service?
MR. SNOW: I'll get you names. We're joining a church service.
Q And how many wreaths at Ground Zero?
MR. SNOW: How many? You know what, I will confess to you that I don't have a wreath count. Let me try to work on some of the basics here. Let me take a look at my notes.
What else? We got anything else you want?
Q What is the response to the situation with Iran?
MR. SNOW: Don't have any response at this point. We're going to wait and see -- I'll get you straighter guidance on that; I haven't don't it, that's my fault.
Q Was that the Iran question?
MR. SNOW: Yes. I'll run up and get that. Give me other homework? Do we have any other homework you need done?
Q Is that about the video, or is that a different?
MR. SNOW: Iran.
Q Can I ask about -- I think I emailed you this, the L.A. Times story that talks about --
MR. SNOW: I'm not getting emails, and I don't know why. So what was the L.A. Times story?
Q It was an L.A. Times story that said that a video released by Iran about a missile launch is bogus, that our intelligence has determined this video is bogus?
MR. SNOW: Don't have -- and I apologize. I will speak sternly to our -- no, I'm serious, Dana Priest sent me a bunch of emails yesterday and they didn't get to my account. I don't know what's going on.
Okay, so we've got an Iran video, we have an Iran negotiation, we have wreath-laying and people --
Q Forget about the wreath-laying, we'll find out later.
MR. SNOW: Anything else?
Q Osama bin Laden -- there was a Washington Post story today saying that the trail has gone stone cold.
MR. SNOW: That's just wrong. That's just flat wrong. The fact is that although we're not at liberty to go into sources and methods, we have never stopped looking for bin Laden and will not, until we have found him and dealt with him.
Q Can you just talk broadly about what the President -- I mean, obviously, he's just marking the anniversary, but can you talk about what kind of tone he wants to set, what he's trying to do?
MR. SNOW: Yes. The speech tomorrow night will talk about how September 11th affected us all. As I said the other day in the briefing, it's not going to be a political speech -- there are no calls to action, there are no attempts to segregate Democrats from Republicans, but instead to talk about what we learned about the world and how September 11th reshaped the way in which we view the growing menace of what we now refer to -- the Islamist terrorist threat represented by bin Laden, Zarqawi and others, and that as a nation we don't have the luxury of sitting around and waiting for them to hit us again.
So the President will be talking about that. It's also -- tomorrow is going to be an emotional day. He will be seeing -- I don't know that we have formal meetings, but I'm sure that he will be seeing people who were directly affected by September 11th in New York, Shanksville and at the Pentagon. And it will be a time to reflect on how we move forward so that we can fight as vigorously as possible the conditions and the terror network that gave rise to September 11th in the first place.
Q You say it's not political. Can you just explain, though, why he decided to do such a high profile anniversary commemoration, when he has chosen not to do that the last few years?
MR. SNOW: There's something distinctive about a 5th anniversary, just as you will not that there has been extraordinary media coverage. I think it's one of those things -- I don't know about you, but my 3rd anniversary was less important than my 5th.
Q Without getting terribly (inaudible), The Post story says that the President recently asked the CIA to increase his efforts searching for bin Laden. Is that an accurate --
MR. SNOW: It's very dangerous to start talking about what happens in the intelligence community and what happens when you're trying to pursue national security. I'll simply repeat what I said before, because, as you know, Ann, we neither confirm nor deny such reports. But we are working as vigorously as possible to go after bin Laden, and so are other governments -- this is not simply a United States effort; there are a variety of parties involved and all want to get him.
One of the things I can say is that bin Laden is harder to find these days because he, in fact, does not feel at liberty to move about, he does not feel at liberty to use electronic means of communications. In many ways, the senior leadership of al Qaeda has been degraded. And under such circumstances, somebody leaves fewer clues. But the United States and allies are continuing to pursue bin Laden and have never ceased doing so.
Q Harder to find than when, since we haven't found him?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way. There have been clues in the past, for instance, based on electronic communications, as you know -- satellite telephones -- they have changed the way in which they've done a number of things -- and I won't go into that, but they have changed their methods of operation in response to the fact that they don't want to be found out. It's just tougher. They've moved to more primitive means of communication and they've gone to ground.
Q It sort of sounds like since he's harder to find is a sign of our success.
MR. SNOW: Well, in some ways, it is. I mean, if bin Laden was thoroughly successful, he'd be sitting on a throne conducting press conferences or issuing fatwas in full view of everyone -- and he is not doing so.
Q How do you react -- I guess, Senator Rockefeller's remarks on the Middle East today as we'd be better off if Saddam had remained in power. How do you react to that?
MR. SNOW: It's an astounding statement and it breaks into several parts. Senator Rockefeller, having seen exactly the same intelligence as everyone else, said on the eve of the debate that Saddam represented an imminent threat. And now he complains about what he said and knew.
The other thing is that it is important to realize that Saddam was part -- let me back up. September 11th did, in fact, condition the way in which we think about terrorists, their sponsors and networks that sponsor them. It will be interesting to see in days ahead exactly how they flesh out the view that the world would be safer with Saddam in it. Saddam is a man that used weapons of mass destruction on his own people, who had waged war on two enemies, who had been handing out money to suicide bombers and others and was, in fact, committed to terror.
Furthermore, you might want to ask the Iraqi people, 300,000 of which, at least, were slaughtered by Saddam, shoveled into mass graves, tossed off of buildings -- I mean, we have thousands of hours of video of Saddam torturing and killing people.
Now what you have is a changed situation in the Middle East in which Iraqis are working toward democracy -- and, yes, it is difficult, but they are working toward democracy. We have efforts that we continue to support to let democracy take root in Lebanon and in the Palestinian areas. And there are different realities on the ground. Furthermore, it is clear that al Qaeda and its spin-off organizations, the terror network now looks upon Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.
The other notion that somehow, if he did not attack us it doesn't make a difference is to adopt the pre-September 11th point of view that we don't hit back until we've been struck. The whole focus of this administration has been to work as hard as possible to make sure that we don't get hit again and we continue to look for and welcome support from Congress as we do this. It is a common interest and I hope we'll all be able to step back from politics tomorrow as we commemorate those who died on September 11th. But it's important to realize that this is a shard -- it's not merely a luxury that we have, but an absolute necessity to make the world safer and to make America safer.
Anything else? Okay, so I've got two Iranian questions, I've got a video and I've got the -- okay, let me hustle. I'll try to run right back.
* * * * *
MR. SNOW: Very quickly on the Iranian questions. We are still trying to assess what the Iranian position is. We're speaking with Javier Solana and others. There have been times where Larajani and the foreign ministry have spoken with different voices, and we're still trying to assess what the situation of the government is.
As regards the video, we're calling our intel guys to try to find out what we know and what we can say. We just don't know.
Q Thank you.
END 4:14 P.M. EDT