|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 24, 2007
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Charleston, South Carolina
10:27 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Hello, hello. Everybody ready? Okay. The President, this morning, had normal briefings at 8:00 a.m. We now, of course, are on board Air Force One -- two guests are with us; Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Henry Brown will be visiting Congressman Brown's district.
At 11:00 a.m., the President will view loading of cargo planes for shipment to Iraq. This will be at the Charleston Air Force Base. Afterward, at about 11:35 a.m., the President will have lunch with military personnel, also at the Air Force Base, pool at top -- it will be pool coverage for both.
At 12:00 noon, the President will make remarks on the global war on terror. He will talk in particular about the structure and nature of al Qaeda in Iraq and throughout the region, and how they are knitted together and how they present a unified threat against American interests.
At 12:55 p.m., the President will meet with family members of Charleston firefighters who lost their lives on June 18th of this year. He'll also present the Congressional Gold Medal to a Tuskegee Airman prior to the departure of Air Force One. He'll do that on the tarmac.
At 5:50 p.m., back at the White House, he will welcome the King of Jordan to the White House, at the North Portico. And at 6:00 p.m. there will be a dinner for the King of Jordan in the Residence.
Q Is that kind of in response to some of the discussions about al Qaeda and what its nature is and some of the criticism out there from Democrats and others?
MR. SNOW: I think it offers an opportunity to make clear that al Qaeda in Iraq is not a stand-alone organization, but in fact, is integral with the overall al Qaeda. And once again, we'll talk about some of the clear and demonstrated links between al Qaeda leaders, whether they be bin Laden or Zawahiri, and people on the ground, including al-Masri. We'll also be making the point that the senior leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq is not Iraqi, but it comes from a number of different nations.
So there will be a fair amount of data that is going to lay out in pretty specific terms some of the relationships between different, but coordinated branches of al Qaeda.
Q Is it in part a response to the Democratic criticism last night over Iraq at the debate?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Did he watch the debate?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I don't think he's big on YouTube debates.
Q What about the Petraeus-Crocker plan, what's called the joint campaign plan? It's supposed to establish nationwide security. Can you tell us anything about that at all?
MR. SNOW: Look, we're going to get leaks and reports about all sorts of plans between now and September. The fact is that Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus will be putting together a plan -- not really a plan, but a report -- that will assess the success to date of the surge, militarily, economically, diplomatically, politically, and so on. And that's really what you've got to look for.
So rather than trying to respond to unseen, but leaked documents that are in draft stages, and so on, I don't think it's terribly fruitful to go through that.
Q But is it something that would be out of the realm of something the President would be interested in? I mean, is it something that would --
MR. SNOW: In the most general terms, we've always made it clear that what we hope for in Iraq is an Iraq where the local government has the ability to handle primary security obligations; that has built all of the necessities for a strong and vibrant economy, including a rule of law, protection of private property rights, a legal system that respects the rights of others and protects the rights of all, political accommodation that draws all major groups into a shared sense of national identity and purpose, and the political breakthroughs that will demonstrate that they're ready to move forward.
So none of those things have changed. But in terms of trying to respond again to notional reports that appear in the press -- we're going to hear more of these, but the most important thing to look forward to is what Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus present.
Q Tony, on al Qaeda, when people hear that term in America, they think of the September 11th attacks. Is the President concerned in his view that memories are fading of September 11th -- of the September 11th attacks, and that they need to be reminded of al Qaeda's threat?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. One of the problems you always have in a time of this kind of conflict is the fear of complacency. On the other hand, if you take a look at the concern people have expressed about everything from border security to what goes on in airports, it's pretty hard to argue that people have forgotten about September 11th.
What has happened is that al Qaeda has not been able to strike the United States, in large part because many of the security measures this administration has undertaken not only on our soil, but around the globe, and also taking the fight to al Qaeda and shattering its original organizational structure to the point that two-thirds of the original leadership is either killed or captured, so that it has been forced to adjust its methods, its means and its locations.
So, no, I think the President -- I think the American people understand that al Qaeda is a threat, but it's also important to understand that in its new incarnations, it tries to attack us in different ways. And the President is going to have an opportunity to lay some of that out.
Q Is some of this declassified information about --
MR. SNOW: There is some declassified information today, in particular about some of the players who have been brought in -- one of the things al Qaeda has been doing is taking its talent and moving it from places like the Afghan theater into Iraq. And you've seen them moving some of their more seasoned leaders into positions, and obviously you've had communications that we've documented many times between Zawahiri and Zarqawi and so on. So some of this --
Q But did you declassify materials specifically to deliver it today?
MR. SNOW: Yes, there are a handful of things we're declassifying for today.
Q Is it going to show new evidence of operational control or direction out of the centralized leadership?
MR. SNOW: What it's going to do is it's going to give you a little more detail in terms of the names and the origins of some of the key players. We're not going to go deeply into operational matters simply because you simply don't want to over-tip your hand. But there will at least be a general sense that al Qaeda in Iraq is part of al Qaeda is -- the sort of al Qaeda corps, as it's been called, and that the idea that somehow they are completely separate identities is something that's not sustained by the evidence.
Q But why is this a concern? Because of some of that push-back lately out there in the ether that al Qaeda is different in Iraq than elsewhere?
MR. SNOW: I think when somebody tries to argue that al Qaeda in Iraq is not a key part of the problem it creates a basis of saying, well, you need to go someplace else. And the President is going to argue, not only does Iraq represent the central front in the war on terror, but to walk away from it is to invite catastrophic consequences not only for the Iraqis, but for the the American people. And once again, he'll make it clear that bin Laden and the people in Iraq, in fact, have their own means of coordinating and communicating and so on.
Q As the President talks about the NIE and al Qaeda's activities in Iraq, is he also going to talk about the concern in the NIE about al Qaeda regrouping in Pakistan?
MR. SNOW: There's not going to be a whole lot about Pakistan today, but obviously it's still part of an integrated threat. And we've had a lot to say in recent days about the aggressive actions, which we welcome, on the part of the Pakistani government going in and trying to deal with those problems.
Q Will he talk about that at all today or mention that?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Has the President been briefed on the Walter Reed Commission report?
MR. SNOW: No. There will be -- for one thing, it is -- it will be presented tomorrow. And you have Federal Advisory Commission Act regulations that really constrain exactly how much you can say. He will get a general briefing, but there will be very little in the way of direct conversation, because you really can't have those conversations until the entire report has been voted on. We can go through this stuff tomorrow, but he has not yet been briefed on it.
Q Do you not know what's in it or --
MR. SNOW: Well, we have some general sense, but we don't know specifically what's in it.
Q Could you offer some reaction to the story today that members of the diplomatic corps got briefings about the administration's election goals? What's the value of those briefings, and is it a politicization of --
MR. SNOW: Not really. You've got political appointees getting political briefings. I'm shocked. Shocked.
Q What's the value of it, though, from a diplomatic mission?
MR. SNOW: Well, look, a lot of times -- I'm not sure the -- let me put this way: To be briefed on what the goals of an administration are, if you are a representative of the administration, is useful. If you're going to be -- when you're in the Nation's Capital, you're not only dealing with one-on-one issues, but you're also representing the government. It's perfectly legitimate for the White House to say, here are our goals, here are our objectives, this is what your executive branch is doing.
Q What about the idea that politics should end at the water's edge?
MR. SNOW: Well, the fact is that this does not mean that they're out churning for votes, they're not doing fundraisers abroad. This is simply a briefing and I daresay that this is hardly unusual in this administration.
MR. SNOW: All right, thanks.
END 10:37 A.M. EDT