Press Briefing by Mike McCurry
The Briefing Room
3:23 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Well, a cheery good afternoon to you all. I hope you enjoyed the President's news conference with the college editors, the briefing just concluded on our Southern Regional Economic Meeting. And I will hold forth on any other remaining questions on other areas that you might --
MR. MCCURRY: Guatemala. It's a country that is struggling to have a democratic form of government and respect for human rights.
Q: You said earlier that some of the news accounts out there were not quite truthful and you promised to enlighten us about it.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I believe a lot of the news accounts today are based on a letter, a draft letter, from Congressman Torricelli that I believe has not been sent. You might want to check with the Congressman, but I don't believe that the letter that's reported today has been sent to the White House. We don't have any copy of a letter from him. So you might want to check in there. But I can talk a little bit about that.
I'll say at the outset here, I'm handicapped by one central thing. There is a limit -- those of you who know how we in the government deal publicly with classified information know that there's a very -- a lot of restrictions on what we can say and what we can't say. And I think we've made an effort to scrub through what we can tell you publicly and go through a lot of what has been said publicly on this matter and try to make sure everyone understands exactly how our government responded.
The case of Jennifer Harbury since the early days of the administration of President Clinton has been a source of very deep concern to us because obviously we have an American citizen who has no concrete evidence about what happened to her husband, who was a Guatemalan rebel who the United States government believes was killed shortly after he was taken captive after a firefight between government authorities and rebels in Guatemala.
We have, through the embassy in Guatemala, pursued this matter diligently, I would say, at a variety of levels since -- the first contact that I am aware of since President Clinton has served as President dates back, I think, to March of 1993, and consistently with President De Leon Carpio, even prior to his elevation to President when he was, in fact, the Human Rights Ombudsman in Guatemala, we have raised this case and expressed the deep concern that we have to learn more information. That has gone on without much success because there hasn't been much concrete information for most of 1993 and 1994. And we have, at every step along the way as we had information that was available we have, subject to national security restrictions that do exist, shared that information with Jennifer so that she understands the information that's available to the government.
Now, you might want to check over at the Central Intelligence Agency later, but I believe that the Acting Director will be making it very clear today that any suggestion that the CIA itself had information about the deaths of either Michael Devine or Efrain Bomaca Velasquez at the time of their deaths is just not true. That statement, I think, by Admiral Studeman will speak for itself.
Why don't I just kind of walk through some of the White House's participation in trying to resolve the question of what happened to Bamaca.
Q: Before you do that -- you may not be able to answer this, but the allegation made, of course, is that the perpetrator here was someone who we had a relationship with. Is that something you can comment on?
MR. MCCURRY: That is an area -- as you would well expect, I can't from here at this podium get into the questions of relationships that exist between anyone who provides information in the CIA.
Q: Well, this CIA statement today be made by a person or simply a piece of paper?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know the answer to that.
Q: The allegation is also made by Congressman Torricelli that the United States government learned who the perpetrator was sometime between November and January and did not tell the widow, and that he learned this information independently of any briefing. You had mentioned earlier that he didn't attend the briefings. He acknowledges that he did not attend any such briefings because he did not wish to know from classified sources the information he later learned on the outside.
MR. MCCURRY: That would apply to his staff, too.
Q: It wasn't asked. Are you implying --
MR. MCCURRY: No. No, I'm not. Why don't we just --why don't I go through just some of the --
Q: Can you respond to it specifically?
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. Let me take it then from -- if I understand, you're saying from November forward what was available to us -- why don't I start with that, then, because in November the information available to us was very much that that had been relayed by Ambassador McAfee in Guatemala to Jennifer.
We, at that time -- best information available to us gave no indication at all that Bamaca was alive much beyond the first few weeks of his capture. She was here -- I believe here at the White House in late November and met with Tony Lake, and Tony, at that point, gave her an assessment of our understanding of the intelligence and information on the case consistent with what Tony had to do to protect sources and methods.
He affirmed that we had no information that indicated that Bomaca was alive; that we had been informed, but we that we couldn't verify that he was held prisoner, but alive in July of 1992. And we emphasized that the case was a continuing concern of ours. We continue to press it with Guatemalan officials, that we would work with the U.N. Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala to try to find out what we could find out.
We then pursued it with Guatemalan officials. Tony met with the Guatemalan Foreign Minister at one point. The President himself raised this case with President De Leon Carpio in Miami during the Summit of the Americas in December. We continue -- I believe State Department people, the Assistant Secretary over there -- Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs stayed in fairly regular contact with her to let her know what we knew.
In January, precisely on January 25th, the CIA provided to us here, to the National Security Council, some new information regarding the circumstances of Bomaca's death. That information was not easily corroborated, and it did conflict with information that we had had available to us in the past. So, as a result of that, the NSC directed a comprehensive assessment of all the information that was available on the circumstances surrounding Bamaca's death and what we knew about it.
I guess about two days after that, it would have been January 27th, Admiral Studeman at the CIA directed the Inspector General at the CIA to review all of the facts that were underlying both the Bamaca case and the case -- the 1990 death of Michael Devine who was a hotel owner, hotel entrepreneur in Guatemala, an American citizen.
On February 3rd -- so this would have been just several days after that new information became available to us in January -- the CIA briefed the Chairs, the Vice Chairs and the staff of the House Intelligence Committee. They also provided briefings on the Senate side to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The briefings involved a very detailed description of the information that had been provided to us on the 25th of January and information about the Bamaca and the Devine cases.
We had just very shortly after that also went in and demarched De Leon Carpio, too. The Ambassador went in and saw the President, indicated that we had some new information that was available to us. We asked that Guatemalan authorities, through their own investigators, go back in to the field and re-interview Guatemalan army officers who were present in the area where Bamaca was captured in March of 1992. And we also asked that the U.N. Human Rights Mission also be involved in some of those interviews.
We passed all this information on to Jennifer, I believe the next day. And based on that new information, the State Department told Jennifer on February 8th that the information that was available to us at that point, while it was not conclusive, suggested that her husband had been killed following his capture, and that we were doing everything we could to encourage the Guatemalan military authorities to investigate all the circumstances surrounding his death.
We had some follow-up contact with the chief prosecutor, with other officials in Guatemala. We met -- some NSC staffers remained in contact with Jennifer Harbury in February to kind of apprise her on the status of some of the diplomatic contacts we've had down in Guatemala.
On March 7th, following some of the follow-up contact that we had, Ambassador McAfee met with Jennifer down in Guatemala and told her at that time that we had reached a conclusion at that point that her husband was dead, based on the evidence as we knew it at that point. I should say that sort of confirmed what had been the predominant view in our government for sometime. But clearly the new information available to us as of January 25th, as we developed it and looked at it, suggested in more concrete terms that he had died shortly after being taken captive in March of 1992.
On March 10th -- some of you might remember -- on March 10th, the State Department put out a press release, and it was the -- I think the story, as I recall, the story -- we had, the United States government, partly because of our concern about lack of progress on these human rights cases, had suspended some of the remaining military training assistance funds that we had -- military assistance arrangements we had with the Guatemalan military. But in that statement, it also said publicly for the first time that the U.S. government had reason to believe that the guerrilla commander, Bamaca, was captured alive by the Guatemalan army in March of 1992 during an armed confrontation between guerrilla forces and the army. Although we have no conclusive evidence, we've communicated to the government of Guatemala and to Ms. Harbury our considered assessment that Commander Bamaca died in military custody in 1992 after a short but indeterminate period of detention and interrogation. We've examined all information regarding his whereabouts, but have found no credible reports to contradict this assessment. And we will continue to urge the Guatemalan government to provide a full accounting of this and other cases.
That is, for the most part, where matters stand, as some of this becomes a little more public now. But I would point out that throughout the process, we have done everything we can, one, to get the facts from the Guatemalan authorities; two, to make sure Jennifer Harbury had access to those facts in a timely -- when they were available to us, consistent with our own obligations to protect our own national security. And, three, as soon as we could make that information publicly available, we did so, specifically in the March press release from the State Department.
Q: Mike, why in November was the administration able to say that they had no indication that Bamaca remained alive much beyond his capture?
MR. MCCURRY: Because this case had been of very intense interest to the U.S. government and we'd pursued every piece of information that was available to us. And there were some times, as there often is in the murky world of reports from informants, there was contradicting and conflicting information. So when we would get -- when our government would get conflicting information, we would pursue it and do everything we could to get to the truth, because we wanted to determine what had happened to Jennifer's husband.
Q: So in November, you said that you also had no indication that he was killed.
MR. MCCURRY: We had no conclusive evidence indicating that he had been executed, killed or terminated. Our problem was we didn't have any facts. We had a very real suspicion that he had died shortly after being taken captive. Most of the information, as the information was triangulated, squared to that conclusion. But that's not as good.
I mean, just think of her situation. I mean, there were these sporadic reports publicly, some of which she talked about publicly, that her husband might be alive, might have been spotted in a prison camp, someone thinks they might have seen him at such and such a location. So, of course, as a very human reaction, she wants to believe anything that indicates that her husband might still be alive -- and even worse, fears that if he is alive he's being held by people who might be torturing him. And, of course, that is a very real concern to him, even though during this whole period, especially late in 1994, we begin to reach the conclusion that it's not likely that he is alive. And then in January of this year, we get information that is more helpful and making a more definitive conclusion, although it can't be conclusive because we don't have all the facts that he's probably died shortly after being taken captive.
Q: Just one more follow-up. If the CIA informed the White House on January 25th that they had information that he was killed, how much in advance of that January 25th date did the CIA know that Bamaca had been killed?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know that fact. All I know is that that information was brought here to the White House on January 25th. The CIA, I believe, will indicate that they, as they developed that information, they made it available promptly to all the agencies within the government. In fact, I think that they will say that they, as they acquired information, they shared it immediately with relevant government authorities.
Q: Well, you're denying then, on the CIA's behalf apparently, what seemed to be Congressman Torricelli's main point in his news conference this morning, which is that the CIA knew for a period of two and a half to three years that Bamaca was dead, but because of security concerns or whatever, refused to tell his widow and let her go on hunger protests and the rest of that despite the fact that knowing that her husband was already dead.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that -- I am not aware of any information available to the White House, nor to the CIA that indicated with certainty that anyone in the government knew that he was dead shortly after being taken captive in March of 1992. I do know that we shared with her our own view that that was likely the case. And that has consistently been our view.
Q: You started doing that early on, started suggesting the possibility? Is that --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't really pick up the thread here much prior to November, other than to say that throughout 1993 and 1994 we were pursuing the matter with the Guatemalan government. But I do know that the first White House meeting with Jennifer Harbury I'm aware of is one that occurred in late November between Tony Lake and Jennifer in which he said, look, here's the information that we have and it certainly suggests that this is the fate. It doesn't help you because, if it's true, if your husband's dead, you, of course, want to be able to get access to the remains, want to be able to give him a decent burial. That continues to be our chief concern now, that we follow up with this so that we can help her get some of the dignity that she is entitled to receive.
Q: To take Bill's question one step further, with the exception of sources and methods and the security material, was any information at all withheld from Jennifer Harbury by the CIA, or have you determined whether any was withheld from the administration?
MR. MCCURRY: There would be -- I mean, I would answer that by saying, we, of course, given concerns with sources and methods, had to be oblique in providing some information to her, but in good faith believe that we gave her everything available that would suggest what our own assumption was about the fate of her husband. But, of course, there are some things that just couldn't be shared with her because it would have been against the law for anyone in the federal government to share that kind of information with her.
Q: But on Mike's other point about whether or not the administration is satisfied that the CIA was forthcoming and conveyed everything that it knew about this case quickly to the White House and to the appropriate authorities here --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Admiral Studeman's statement will speak very directly to that point on behalf of the agency today, and we have no reason, obviously, to doubt it.
Q: Can you categorically deny that none of the killers or killer were on the payroll of the U.S.?
MR. MCCURRY: But we don't know who killed Efrain Bamaca so, of course, I can't. I don't know the answer to the question who killed him or how he was killed.
Q: Are you trying to find out?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. We are, as I suggested, we are not only pressing Guatemalan authorities and now exercising some sanction in withholding assistance funds, pressing them to do everything they can to investigate this murder. We've also given them -- based on the new information that became available to us on January 25th of this year, we suggested to them several Guatemalan military officers that they should re-interrogate. I think that that would indicate to you that we are pressing as hard as we can for them to get the answer to the question, how did Bamaca die, and, if he was, in fact, executed or murdered, who was responsible for that crime.
Q: Does that include Julio Roberto Alpirez, who -- suggested should be interrogated?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it does.
Q: Do you suspect him in both the deaths?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not done anything other than to suggest to Guatemalan authorities that they should re-interrogate him. It is known, I believe, in Guatemala that he was in the vicinity of the region in which this firefight occurred in March of 1992 in which we believe Bamaca was taken captive.
Q: Does that also apply then to the Devine case, that you asked that he be interrogated in that case as well?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm only speaking here about the Bamaca case.
Q: What do you know about the reasons for the killing of Devine?
MR. MCCURRY: What do I know? I know very little about it.
Q: any information?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not looked into the question of what information is available to us on that, but we have suggested that it would be a good idea for Guatemalan authorities to pursue a re-interview of some of these individuals.
Now, I should say in the case of the Devine murder, that is one in which the Department of Justice is involved because it does involve the death of an American citizen overseas.
Q: Mike, specifically on Devine, apparently Ambassador White has said that Devine was a DEA informant. Do you have any information on that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't.
Q: There were suggestions in the Department earlier that you might be willing to release copies of the demarche given to President De Leon Carpio of February 7th or 8th. I guess you're not prepared to do that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'll tell you what would be useful is I've -- in working up this presentation today, I've got a very good chronology that's been put together. I think that might be useful to people. Can we -- I don't see any reason why we shouldn't make this available. Why don't you make this available. Make sure that everyone's okay on that, but I think that would be helpful.
That contains some of the language of the presentation. I think that includes -- it might in fact include a quote from the demarche. Let me just read this for a second. Well, it gives the -- it certainly suggests the general thrust of the demarche. I don't know that it quotes directly from it, but it gives you a good sense of what the presentation was that the Ambassador made.
Q: Mike, Representative Torricelli is on the Intelligence Committee. He's been briefed by the CIA on all of this, and he concludes that on the basis of his understanding that the CIA or some element of it is out of control. Are you saying that the White House has no such concern?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, you need to be very careful with that. You just accused him of breaking the law, and I don't know if that is, in fact, the case.
Q: reported on the front page of The New York Times.
MR. MCCURRY: If he took classified briefings and then put them into the public domain, that's a violation of federal law. Now, I had an earlier question here that suggested to the contrary that he's saying he deliberately did not attend these briefings so that he could independently develop his own information, and I believe I've seen him suggest -- I've seen some of the news accounts that suggest that he developed his own information on that. So you should really ask that question of the Congressman.
Q: Well, if his conclusion is that the CIA or some element is out of control, what is the White House response to that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you know, I think that's -- I'll tell you what we've done here. What we've done is to try to get to the truth. We've gotten -- we've done that by going to Guatemala and pursuing pieces of information as they become available to us. And I believe it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that anything about the CIA's attempt to provide that information to us and to Jennifer Harbury represents an organization that's out of control. I just don't think that's a fair characterization.
Q: Is the White House satisfied, Mike, that the CIA was in no way involved in the killings of either Devine or Bamaca?
MR. MCCURRY: The White House is satisfied that the Acting Director of Central Intelligence has asked the Inspector General to review everything that we know about the Bamaca case.
Q: So at this point you don't know?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I've indicated several times here, the whole problem, the thing that is such a heartache about this case is we don't know everything we would like to know with certainty.
Q: Mike, also, in hearings on Deutch coming up, Torricelli also was talking about bringing up this issue and getting into some great detail on it. What is your reaction to that? Will the administration be prepared to --
MR. MCCURRY: He's a member of Congress and he's entitled to raise those questions. We have a process by which we consult with Congress on this matters, that's designed to protect our national security, and, among other things, make sure that we keep people alive.
Q: Mike, to paraphrase Howard Baker, the question seems to be, what did the CIA know and when did they know it. Are you able to answer that?
MR. MCCURRY: I can report to you the statement that I believe that the Acting Director of Central Intelligence is going to make that the information that the CIA had about the deaths of both Michael Devine and Efrain Bamaca -- first of all, the information about their deaths was available to them after the fact, not before the fact, and that the Agency shared the information that it acquired with the appropriate U.S. government authorities.
Q: talks about time.
MR. MCCURRY: I have. I've given you a fairly detailed chronology about when the White House became aware that the information available to us as of January of this year. I don't believe -- I have no reason to believe that there was any great delay in the transmission of that information to the National Security Council.
Q: Since you say that the one thing you do know is that the CIA did not have information at the time of their deaths, any suggestion that the CIA had information at the time of their deaths is just not true, that leaves us to surmise that if someone with a link with the CIA was involved in the killing, they were doing this on their own.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, you can spin many webs from the facts that I've presented here. I can only -- you can only conclude from what I've presented here the facts that I've presented. If you have additional access to facts or theories or conclusions and you can substantiate them, that would be of deep interest to us because we will share them with the appropriate law enforcement authorities in Guatemala.
Q: one of those webs. Are you saying that the CIA Inspector General is reviewing only the Bamaca case or Bamaca as well as Devine?
MR. MCCURRY: They are reviewing the Bamaca and the Devine cases -- the Inspector General is.
Q: In the past, Mike, when threatened or faced with a cutoff of U.S. funds of some kind, when questions are raised about their human rights record, the Guatemala government has said, fine, take your funds and we'll continue on. What has been the reaction so far of the Guatemalan government in this case?
MR. MCCURRY: I think those of you who follow this know that after some of our presentations, President De Leon has ordered new inquiries to be made. I'm not aware that any of those inquiries have amounted to much to date.
Q: Does the U.S. think that the Guatemalan government is sincere in the pursuit of these investigations?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the views of the United States government are reflected in the fact that we terminated additional military training assistance in March of this year.
Q: I'm not sure if you're able to answer this, but I guess we're duty bound to ask -- are there Guatemalan military officers on the CIA payroll?
MR. MCCURRY: That's an area that I will not talk about at the podium.
Q: On a different subject?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q: During the President's briefing with college reporters, one of the students asked him about Rutgers University and don't ask, don't tell, and ROTC. The President said, "If the policy were implemented in spirit and in letter the way it is really written, I don't think it would be in conflict." It seems that by that response that there's question of whether or not he thinks that it's being implemented in spirit and in letter. Does the President believe that don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue, is being implemented the way it should be?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is confident it's the right policy. He is concerned about some of the news reports that he's seen, anecdotally, providing information that some people have -- the circumstances of which would seem to suggest there might be some problem implementing the policy. But he is -- we have been in contact with the Pentagon on that and General Shalikashvili and Secretary Perry have both been very public and very detailed in explaining how the policy is working.
Q: Mike, could you go back to a question I asked yesterday and just confirm if Deval Patrick is testifying tomorrow, and if so, what is he going to be saying?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you are not surprised that his testimony will reflect very much the presentation on the subject of affirmative action that the President made at his news conference with the college editors earlier. The President gave, I think it's fair to say, a fairly detailed account and update on the status of the review and some of the areas of concern that he has, some of the questions that he's been posing. And I think that information will be of interest to the members of Congress who question Mr. Patrick tomorrow.
Q: Two questions -- a follow-up, that will probably come up tomorrow, if he's asked, what is the President's timetable? And when the President finishes his review, what is it that he plans to do? Would he propose legislation, or just make the information available? What are the answers to those?
MR. MCCURRY: I think -- I suspect his answer tomorrow will be that we will do the review in a careful and deliberate way, and it'll be done when it's done, and we will -- and know the answer to the question, what follows as a result of the review when it is completed and when it's discussed publicly. I'd be surprised if the answer is any different than that.
Q: Also coming out of the newspaper editors' session, does the President think there's any role for government in providing laptop computers to poor children?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he found Speaker Gingrich's idea intriguing, as he clearly indicated.
Q: Specifically, tax credits?
MR. MCCURRY: He didn't -- I didn't hear a comprehensive policy proposal. I said he -- I think he said the Speaker had an interesting idea.
Q: Would that be DOS or Macs?
MR. MCCURRY: I vote for MacIntosh, but that's -- oh, we have -- well, in this age of interoperability, I think it's all --all electrons are fungible, or something. (Laughter.)
Q: It's all very graphic.
Q: A follow again to Rutgers. He also said that it was up to Rutgers to decide what to do with this ROTC program, and he didn't seem to indicate one way or another. Is it the President's belief that universities can, indeed, kick off ROTC divisions? I mean, does he think that that's an acceptable practice?
MR. MCCURRY: The answer the President gave on the Rutgers matter indicated pretty clearly that he was not entirely familiar, but he indicated what his policy was, and his policy is rooted in the policy that's been articulated publicly. I didn't hear him direct himself to that question, and I would have to check into that further to answer that question.
Q: On another subject, on welfare reform -- I know it's moving fast up there and there's a lot of stuff day by day. But how -- in the White House estimation, where does it stand now from your perspective in the final, the bill that may emerge? What's your evaluation?
MR. MCCURRY: The House -- I mean, there was a fascinating development in the bill last night because the Republicans in the House made it very clear that the budget cuts that they're talking about in welfare reform that are going to hurt children the most are exactly the cuts that are going to be used to pay for the tax breaks that are going to go to the wealthy. They voted on that straight up last night. I think it was a very telling moment for the new Republican majority in the Congress that are now basically making it clear that they're taking this money out of the programs that are going to help kids and use it to pay for the tax breaks that they still want disproportionately skewed towards the very wealthy in our country.
So that's a fair commentary, and I think where the debate is at the moment is one indication of why they've got a long ways to go on welfare reform. But we remain hopeful that they will iron some of these questions out and produce a bill that represents the type of welfare reform that'll change welfare as we know it, and that the President would be delighted to support.
Q: How close is it getting to now? There are changes on child care, some other things that are --
MR. MCCURRY: They clearly are hearing the argument that Democrats in Congress and the President are making in the beginning to try to figure out how to respond to that and how to adjust some of these measures so that they are a little smarter. But the bill remains, on balance, one that is still way too tough on kids and not tough enough on those who are dependent on welfare and who need to move off of welfare and into work situations.
Q: What is the President doing tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: What's he doing tomorrow? He's going to go into Bethesda and having his annual physical tomorrow.
Q: What time?
Q: Do you have the details? What time and --
MR. MCCURRY: You can get it from Ginny and Mary Ellen afterwards.
Q: Mike, in his talk with the college journalists today the President touched on Prop 187, and he said that some of those who were arguing for Prop 187 were earlier doing things that encouraged the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. He was oblique, but was he thinking of any recent entrants to the presidential race when he said that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he was commenting on the debate as it's been aired publicly in California, a debate that he's followed closely. I don't believe he was directing that at any individual person, but you're familiar with the debate in California, and that certainly is a point that many have made.
Q: Mike, on the President's physical tomorrow, to the best of your knowledge, has he complained of anything lately?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he's feeling good. I can't say he's looking forward to his physical, because I doubt that he is. Who would be. But it's an annual deal and he'll go and endure it, and then enjoy himself.
Q: You've got to tell us a little bit more -- how it's handled, whether you're going to put out a written report, who is his doctor.
MR. MCCURRY: I understand. We will.
Q: Can you tell us exactly why he isn't looking forward to it?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll do it with the customary fanfare. We'll probably do it by paper.
Q: You can tell us what time.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. These guys know. Ask them. They know.
Q: One last thing.
MR. MCCURRY: We'll find out. Do you want me to find out? Do you want me to be able to answer the question?
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, we'll go get the answer. She's going to get the answer.
Q: It's an important story.
MR. MCCURRY: I understand; it is every year. And it's handled the same way every year, and it keeps at least one or two cycles moving on the wires.
Q: The French now are getting more critical, as are others --
MR. MCCURRY: The President's schedule tomorrow includes a departure from the White House at 7:30 a.m. and an appointment at Bethesda Naval Hospital at 7:40 a.m. He'll be there until about noontime, and then he'll prepare to return.
Q: Is he going to have one of those, what you call a flexible sigmoidoscopy? Is that part of the -- (laughter.)
Q: The whole nine yards, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Brit, that sounds dirty. I don't know if I can answer --
Q: Then what are your plans? Are you going to be -- any announcements at the hospital?
MR. MCCURRY: What we'll do is put out, as we did last year, a written statement from the Press Office that provides the results of the exam as they relate to us by Dr. Connie Mariano -- and we will follow up anything --
Q: You're taking a pool?
MR. MCCURRY: Am I taking a pool?
Q: to oversee the change --
MR. MCCURRY: I'd refer you to the Press Office staff, and they can provide you more on the logistics.
Q: Can we just do this for a moment?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we'll do -- well, let's do it at the end. Any other questions on other areas, and then we'll --
Q: Mike, at the upcoming Reinventing Government event, can we expect the President and the Vice President to describe initiatives that will have savings that add to the $81 billion in the budget, in the '96 budget, or are these initiatives that are already fed into the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: That is a good, precise budget question. I don't know the answer to that. I mean, they will obviously describe the way we're going to generate budget savings, but I don't know whether they're included in our FY '96 budget proposal or not. But thank you for taking our FY '96 budget proposal seriously. And we wish others would as well.
Q: Can you give us some broad ideas of some types of things we're going to hear on Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I can't make Monday's news today.
Q: The Russian Security Council apparently is saying that there will be a military parade in Moscow on V-E Day, that it will include thousands of troops and a couple of hundred at least armored vehicles. Is that consistent with what we know and what the President is planning on seeing when he goes there?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I don't know what understanding we have with them. And I actually would like to defer that. We've got our Secretary of State meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister today, I think -- now. They're done now -- on the plane and on the way home.
Q: Mike, it's now looking as if Turkish troops are going to stay in Iraq for perhaps a month. What does the U.S. think about that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as our statement said earlier in the week, we believe that this precisely-defined mission ought to be of limited duration. That would be a duration not inconsistent with previous episodes of this nature. But we'll continue to monitor the developments closely.
Q: Is there any increasing concern -- a lot of the allies now are saying it goes far beyond hot pursuit.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is an action directed at what the Turkish government tells us are terrorist camps, largely in the control of the PKK. As our statement earlier in the week indicated, we would be very concerned if the scope of the operation went beyond that and interrupted or disrupted the lives of innocent civilians or interfered with their property.
Q: Well, what have we been told by the Turkish government?
MR. MCCURRY: Exactly what I told you the Prime Minister told the President when they talked by phone earlier in the week.
Q: How can you condone the invasion of another country?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's not, a, not an invasion, because the government of Turkey indicated to us that they continue to respect the territorial integrity of Iraq. They indicate that it is a mission designed precisely to attack camps at which they believe there are terrorist elements present. We share their concern about terrorist operations, specifically those conducted by the organization, PKK. But we have made it very clear that we also believe that it ought to be a mission of limited duration and one that respects the lives of innocent civilians and noncombatants.
Q: Mike, the President told the student journalists that the nondelinquent loans had been reduced from $2.8 billion to about $20 million. Is that all on his watch? It sounds a remarkable reduction for two years.
MR. MCCURRY: We're being very careful with statistics these days, so we will check very carefully that one.
Q: The President has from time to time said that the government is now the smallest it's been since the Kennedy years. Then he said today that it's going to be the smallest it's been since the Kennedy years. By what measure is that? Is that in relation to the total population? Is that an absolute number? Is that -- I mean, how does he ever get to that number? Obviously we've got HUD and other departments, EPA, that have been created since then, and have swollen the size of the government and its -- and you've also got this question of the military personnel. How is that -- can you find out how much -- how he's getting to that?
MR. MCCURRY: Let's firm that one up. That's a good question. We'll firm it up and give you the answer tomorrow.
Q: Do you have any reaction to the Iraqi trade minister's comments about the two Americans that Iraq is detaining?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure what -- the only thing I knew is that the public indication that they said that they are being "well treated." Is that what you're referring to? Well, we would expect that the two Americans in detention would be well treated. The point is are they going to be released, and that's what we keep pressing to find out.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: You're welcome. See you tomorrow.
END4:00 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269983