Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. Let me just start off with a world leader phone call the President had this morning. The President spoke to -- the President and Prime Minister Rasmussen had a warm and constructive call reflecting the close relationship that exists between the President and the Prime Minister.
The President congratulated the Prime Minister on his leadership in advancing the European Union accession process to its culmination at the Copenhagen summit in December. Both expressed pleasure at the prospect of a successful NATO summit this week. And both leaders agreed on the historic and strategic importance of advancing Turkey's evolution toward the European Union and the importance of the Copenhagen summit in that regard.
The President congratulated the Prime Minister for the European Union's having reached agreement with Russia on November 11th concerning Russia's Kaliningrad region. Both leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining strong international pressure on Iraq to give up all weapons of mass destruction and fully comply with its requirements under the United Nations Security Council.
The President, following that phone call, had his briefings this morning. He participated in a round table with selected European print journalists on his upcoming trip, then he met with the Prime Minister of Lebanon. It was a positive, constructive meeting. The President emphasized the importance of Lebanon working with the IMF on a sustainable program. The President told Prime Minister Hariri that Assistant Secretary Burns would be attending the meeting in Paris.
They also discussed the Middle East peace process. And the President expressed his strong commitment to continuing our efforts to implement the road map he outlined on June 24th.
This afternoon the President will participate in some television interviews with selected European journalists, to continue previewing his upcoming trip. And then he participates this afternoon in a photo opportunity with the Nobel laureates -- the United States Nobel laureates from 2002 and at a reception following that. That will be press pool coverage this afternoon. With that, I am happy to take your questions.
Q: These continued missile firings in the no-fly zones, taken in toto, could they constitute a material breach that was serious enough for us to take it to the U.N.? Or do we want to see material breach in the area of weapons?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, John, the goal here with the new strong resolution out of the United Nations is disarmament. However, within that resolution, it makes very clear that Iraq needs to stop hostile acts against members who are carrying out previous U.N. resolutions and the --
Q: Sure, which is why I asked the question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Right. And the United States -- the United States believes that firing upon our aircraft in the no-fly zone or British aircraft is a violation, it is a material breach. And what that -- what the U.N. resolution allows us to do is it gives us the option, if we choose, to take that to the Security Council.
But make no mistake about it, our aircraft will continue to respond accordingly when fired upon in the no-fly zone.
Q: Understood. But if they continue to fire on us in the no-fly zones, will we take that, in toto, to be a pattern of obstruction or misbehavior that we'll consider taking to the U.N.? Or do we want to see a material breach on the weapons inspection front before we go to the U.N.? Are we willing to tolerate these firings?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I emphasized -- no, we're not. I mean, we will respond accordingly. But we reserve that option of taking that to the Security Council when it comes to our aircraft in no-fly zones. But the issue here is disarmament, and this goes to the heart of the intentions of Saddam Hussein and his regime. Is he going to comply and cooperate with all the United Nations Security Council resolutions as called for under the resolution.
Q: But, Scott, it seems that, if we're taking the President at his word, zero tolerance means zero tolerance, and this is a material breach. Why isn't the administration exercising the option to return to the U.N. and say, this thing is over before it starts? Or is there a point of view that, okay, we have to make some kind of threshold judgments about when we're going to throw in the towel?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that's something that we will assess and review and use that option as available to us if we so choose to pursue it with the Security Council. But --
Q: Why not pursue that if there's already a material breach?
MR. McCLELLAN: It goes back to what I emphasized. The ultimate issue here is the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein. I continue to emphasize our policy is one of zero tolerance when it comes to disarmament, and that's what we will continue to pursue.
Q: Can I just follow up on one other point? Has the government concluded that it is Osama bin Laden in that audio tape now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Well, let me make that with one caveat. The intelligence experts have -- the intelligence experts do believe that it is -- that the tape is genuine. It cannot be stated with 100 percent certainty, and it is clear that the tape was made in the last several weeks as well. But, again, I emphasize that they can't make a 100 percent conclusion there, but they do believe it is. And, again, it's a reminder that we are at war on terrorism. It's a reminder that we need to continue doing everything we can to go after these terrorist networks and their leaders wherever they are, and we will.
Q: Is this going to be hard -- make it harder for the President to keep a focus on Iraq when he goes to Prague, the fact that we now know this was bin Laden and there were new threats issued against European countries?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, part of the discussion in Prague is going to center on transforming NATO to meet the new threats of the 21st century. And those threats come in different forms. They come from outlaw groups and outlaw regimes. And we will continue to do everything we can when it comes to both to protect the American people.
And what was the final part of your question there, Tom?
Q: Well, there were new threats made against our allies, many of whom will be in Prague.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.
Q: Won't it be hard for the President to keep the focus on Iraq and not have to explain, well, why aren't we looking -- why are we looking at Iraq now which is not as immediate threat as perhaps some of these new bin Laden warnings which many European countries are very concerned about. There has been an increase in alert warnings in different European capitals.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President's highest priority remains the protection of the American people and winning the war on terrorism. But when we talk about protecting the American people, there are new threats in the 21st century that we have to address. And as we've pointed out, we believe that the threat posed by the regime in Iraq is a continuation of the war on terrorism. But as we've also pointed out, the President begins every day focused on the war on terrorism. And we're going to continue to working with the more than 90 countries that are in a coalition working to wage and win this war against terrorism and bring these people to justice, wherever they are.
Q: Scott, now that the weapons inspectors are on the ground in Baghdad, the next established date is December the 8th, when Saddam has to come up with a list of his weapons of mass destruction. Yet, he continues to say that he has no weapons of mass destruction. There seems to be a standoff. What happens on December 8th if he doesn't produce a list?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is getting into ifs and hypotheticals. He has until December 8th. It makes clear in the resolution that false statements or omissions constitute a material breach. And then you mentioned the inspectors -- keep in mind that the inspectors are a means to disarmament. This is about disarmament. This is not about the inspectors. And this is about disarming Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction. Let me go back here, Helen.
Q: Yes. You were going to get, I hope, some reaction from the President on the new Woodward book. And also the Iraqis are saying that you're not just hitting radar targets or whatever, you're hitting civilians in villages, every night. We're bombing them every night now.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that regime says a lot of things. Much of it we know in the past has not been true.
Q: You never have reporters on the scene. You never -- how do we know you're not hitting civilians in Iraq and so forth? And why the step-up bombing? You want a pretext?
MR. McCLELLAN: If you look at the history, it's Saddam Hussein, -- the one that has repressed innocent people --
Q: That's not the answer to the question. You've already established that.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- the United States military goes out of its way to target only military operations.
Q: Do you deny any civilians have been killed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I would refer you to the Department of Defense. That's not information that we discuss or that I have before me at this point.
Q: How about the reaction to the book?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's what I expressed earlier. I haven't read the book. The President has not read the book. From reading the excerpts, it appears to offer some interesting perspectives on recent history. And as time goes by and as we continue to reflect on history, I'm sure there are going to be a lot of other perspectives and insights offered, as well.
Q: Well, is it true or not? I mean, this is a very simple question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not up here to do book reviews. I'll leave that to others that do that as a profession.
Q: Well, you've got the inside information right here.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we can sit here and talk about a lot -- there have been other books written. There's been books written by one of our own correspondents here at the White House, as well. I'm just not going to sit up here and do book reviews or promote books.
Q: He had access, total access to the administration, didn't he?
MR. McCLELLAN: We did work with him on this book.
Q: Okay. Then wouldn't you imagine that he's reflecting exactly what goes on?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a lot of people that I imagine he talked to. And I can't speak to the accuracy of every conversation or everything there.
Q: Is that how you get access? If you're writing a book you can get that? (Laughter.) I'm writing a book.
You just said that false starts or omissions constitute material breach, and Secretary Powell and others have said that. How can -- is the United States prepared to prove that? How do we know if Iraq says they're clean, they destroyed everything in the past four years --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's let the deadline -- let's see what they do with the deadline. And then we'll be prepared to discuss it further at that point. But there are specific deadlines spelled out in the resolution. The next one being December 8th for Iraq to report what programs or weapons it does have. And we'll see what they report.
Q: Inspectors are saying that they would need to disprove, on the ground, any claim by Iraq that it has no weapons of mass destruction. In other words, they would have to go inspect. Would the United States want to see inspections as a way of disproving an Iraqi claim? Or are you going to bring out -- are you prepared to prove it otherwise?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we're jumping a little bit ahead here. Let's let -- see what happens December 8th, see what's reported and then we'll go from there. But our position is very clear, and our position is also one of zero tolerance. They need to state the facts and report the facts to the Security Council. If they don't, then that's a violation. That is a material breach --
Q: But how do the facts get established?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and then we go back to the Security Council.
Q: How do the facts get established?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let's let this take place. Let's not jump ahead of where we are at this point. And then we'll have more to say at that point.
Q: We're not jumping ahead. They're moving, they're on the ground now.
MR. McCLELLAN: Hold on one second. Terry, you had a follow-up, I think.
Q: Well, it's on a different subject. If you come back to me.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.
Q: On the same subject, in light of the scenario that you've just outlined, how are we to understand Secretary Rumsfeld's comments this weekend that we are looking for a pattern of behavior with the inspections?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure which specific comments you're talking about. I'll be glad to go back and look at them.
Q: In other words, zero tolerance suggests that the very first inkling of any omission or untruth on Iraq's part is adequate to use force. But a pattern of behavior suggests that you're looking for a few violations that add up to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Without commenting directly on some comments I have not seen, we have been very clear in stating that our view is zero tolerance, that Saddam Hussein does not need to be playing games at this point. No cat and mouse. It is time for him to comply and cooperate and disarm. This is about disarmament. And for too long, for 16 resolutions, for 11 years, Saddam Hussein has defied these resolutions. And it is now time for him to come into compliance once -- one final opportunity. That's what this is. And the President's view is very clear: zero tolerance when it comes to the resolution.
Q: I actually have a second question, but I'll defer to Terry, if he wants --
MR. McCLELLAN: Back to Terry. Back to the first row, and then I need to keep moving so I can get back to the other rows.
Q: On the question I asked this morning, do you have anything on the new Israeli construction -- expansion of settlements or new construction, depending on your point of view? And especially the Prime Minister Sharon statements that seem to encourage and endorse that new settlement activity?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Terry, our view is well known, long-standing and unchanged when it comes to expansion of settlements.
Q: The President has nothing new to say about this particular statement by the Prime Minister of Israel, that these settlements are going to expand?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think our views are well-known and we are going to continue, as the President emphasized with Prime Minister Hariri earlier today, continue working to implement the road map and get to the ultimate goal of two states living side by side in peace. And we will not lose sight of that goal. And we will continue working to implement that road map.
Q: But, the President isn't really involved. He's leaving this to lower-tier diplomats, and this is an issue which --
MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree. He's fully --
Q: Jimmy Carter is going to be here this afternoon; Presidential leadership has tended to be required.
MR. McCLELLAN: And the President has been a leader. He's provided leadership throughout, and he remains very engaged in this issue and will continue to remain engaged in this issue. It's too important -- too important to ultimate peace.
Q: What are these well-known views on the settlements? Either you approve of them, or you don't.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've said that we are opposed to the expansion of existing settlements. We've made that clear in the past.
Q: In his conversation this morning with Prime Minister Rasmussen, did the President discuss the dispute between Denmark and Russia over the extradition of the Chechen leader?
MR. McCLELLAN: I was not informed about that. It was about a 10-minute phone call, and I gave you a pretty good readout of what they did discuss.
Q: So you don't know if the President took a position on that dispute?
MR. McCLELLAN: I was not informed about it. Goyle, and then -- we're trying to jump around.
Q: Two questions. One, Osama bin Laden dead or alive, where about, and all that. Now Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Senator Bob Graham, they are criticizing the administration for not finding him, and they believe that he's still alive. And at the same time, according to Al-Jazeera correspondent in Islamabad, the tape about him was handed over to him in Islamabad in Pakistan.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, which tape?
Q: The tape on Osama bin Laden, audiotape was handed over to him in the Al-Jazeera correspondent in Islamabad.
MR. McCLELLAN: Right. On the first part of your question about regarding the war on terrorism, we continue to make great progress on the war on terrorism. The President spoke about this in his radio address, as well, about the productive week we had not only on securing the homeland, but in working with our coalition of 90-some countries to track down these terrorists wherever they are and bring them to justice, or bring justice to them, as it may be.
So we continue to make good progress there. It will be a long, difficult war, as the President has indicated from the get-go. But we will not tire in our pursuit, and we will continue to pursue these people, these people who seek to harm America, our friends and our allies, wherever they are.
Q: A local question. Indian-Americans are complaining that this time the administration of President Bush, he has not issued any statement on the 1 billion Indians celebrated -- the Festival of Lights, including 2 million in this country. No message from the White House. And, second, the Republican Party, just before elections in Tennessee -- Nashville, Tennessee -- they distributed some flyers which were anti-Hindu and anti-Buddhist in order to win the election.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, which one do you want me to -- the first one, and then we're going to move on. I can check to see if any messages have been sent. There are many forms in which that can come. So I'll just have to check on that.
Q: If the policy in Iraq is zero tolerance, and you believe that these no-fly zone incidents could be material breaches, are you sending the wrong message to Iraq that might be confused so that they believe the U.S. zero tolerance policy really isn't a zero tolerance policy?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, if you go back, those no-fly zones are enforcing previous resolutions to protect innocent people living in those areas from someone who has shown his willingness to repress them and attack them. But, no, I disagree with that. This is part of Saddam Hussein finally showing that he is not going to play any games, that he will comply and cooperate and work toward disarmament. So this goes to showing his intentions. And that's very important as we move forward.
Q: But are you sending a mixed message to Iraq by saying, we have a zero tolerance policy, and yet you now have three or four different no-fly zone violations from the U.S. point of view?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think our message could be any clearer to the regime in Iraq and to Saddam Hussein.
Q: Why is the message not that the firing in the no-fly zone is a relatively minor thing? Given not only that you do not pursue a material breach violation of the Security Council resolution, but the knowledge that our pilots use them as training missions, why should we not see the attacks in the no-fly zone as being more valuable to us than taking the violation to the U.N. Security Council?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, be more valuable to us?
Q: We would rather respond militarily than take it to the U.N. Security Council. It is more valuable for us to target the air defenses, to do the firing, to fly the missions, than go to the U.N. Security Council. So why should we consider the Iraqi firing on U.S. and British warplanes threatening at all? They haven't hit any. We don't expect them to hit any, and we're not concerned enough about it to take it to the U.N.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the first part of your question, we do respond accordingly. Second part, the U.N. resolution says, and in paragraph 8 it spells out, as part of this strong new resolution it says they need to not take hostile action against members enforcing previous resolutions. We take this resolution by the Security Council very seriously, and this is the United Nations Security Council showing that it is relevant, that it is not going to put up with any more games. And so --
Q: I know, but that's not what I'm saying, Scott. We take the resolution seriously, but we don't take the actions seriously. They're not threatening to us in any way --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, any time someone fires on our aircraft we take it seriously. And we will respond accordingly, as we have been, and we will continue, as we've indicated, to reserve that option to take it to the Security Council. Again, it goes to his intentions to comply and to demonstrate that he will comply and cooperate.
Q: You say your views on settlements, Israel settlements, are well-known, and they may well be, but they don't seem to be carrying much influence with the Israeli government. Is the President prepared to do anything to put some muscle behind those well-known views and to try to make those views have some traction with the Israeli government? And if the answer is no, why should we or anybody else take those well-known views seriously?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we continue to work with all parties in the region, and we will continue to work with all parties in the region on the President's road map. This is, as I emphasized, an important priority for the President, the Middle East peace process.
Q: Is the President prepared to do anything specifically to pressure the Israeli government to pull back from a policy which you have said, once again, seems to conflict with American policy?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as we move forward we will continue to keep you updated on what we are doing. We remain fully engaged in the region, though.
Q: It sounds like the answer is, no.
MR. McCLELLAN: Alex.
Q: By saying you're going to wait until December 7th -- December 8th for that deadline, are you ruling out then the possibility? I mean, you said you have this option of citing material breach for the no-fly zone, but then you're saying you're going to wait until December 8th to see how he complies with the disarmament or the declaration of weapons?
MR. McCLELLAN: With his disclosure of weapons of mass destruction programs and --
Q: Right. So are you saying you will at least wait until December 8th on the issue of the no-fly zone, whether that constitutes a material breach?
MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn't necessarily draw that conclusion. But there are different issues within the same resolution.
Q: Scott, what kind of support would the President like to see from the NATO allies on Iraq? A statement of support, we'd like to see pledges of military support, both?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was expressed. We may see that. I'm sure it will be discussed, but again, the primary purpose of the NATO summit is to talk about enlargement, robust enlargement around NATO, transforming NATO to meet the threats of the 21st century, and the new relationships that we have with countries like Russia. So that's the primary purpose. Let's let the meetings take place and then we'll go from there.
Q: What I'm getting at is if one of the purposes of the new NATO is to face threats of the 21st century, and the President has identified Iraq as one of those principal threats, why is he not asking the Alliance to formally commit to military action to enforce what he thinks needs to be enforced?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's let the meetings take place. I think that NATO countries understand the importance of disarming Saddam Hussein and disarming the regime in Iraq.
Q: Scott, on CNN and reported by The New York Times yesterday, new House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "I'm a liberal Democrat, but I'm a conservative Catholic." But attorney William Donahue of the Catholic League announced yesterday, he noted the record that Mrs. Pelosi supports partial birth abortion, and he said, "Pelosi's spin game is insulting, no conservative Catholic we know okays the killing of kids 80 percent born." I know the President is very deeply concerned about this, so could you tell us, does the President agree with Mr. Donahue, or does he agree with Mrs. Pelosi's claim?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the President's views on partial birth abortion are well-known, and he believes we need to end it. Second of all --
Q: He doesn't think she can be a conservative Catholic and be in favor of partial birth abortion, does he?
MR. McCLELLAN: Second of all, Les, the President looks forward to working with all the new leaders in the upcoming Congress. He believes that the elections made a clear statement, that we need to work together to get things done. And I would remind you that there is an important vote coming up in the Senate tomorrow on the bill to create the Department of Homeland Security. And we urge the Senate to move forward quickly and get that to the President's desk.
Q: All right. The Arizona Daily Star reports that Cochise County's newspaper has issued a call to arms and is spearheading the formation of a local militia to combat illegal immigration. And my question is, does the President plan to do anything more than is being done by federal authorities, which is not stopping so many thousands of illegals from getting across the border?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have taken a number of steps to secure our borders while keeping in mind the importance that America was founded on the tradition of welcoming immigrants to the country.
Q: Not illegal, though -- not illegal immigrants.
MR. McCLELLAN: And the important security legislation just recently passed in the House. So we're taking a number of steps to continue securing our borders.
Q: Thank you. Scott, the White House is participating in a forum about end-of-life care, which is going on right now. And there's just been an address by the head of the faith-based initiative office. Does the Bush administration still believe it's wrong for Oregon and other parties to permit physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q: Are you still going to challenge or are you still challenging Oregon --
MR. McCLELLAN: I believe that's still being pursued and there's some legal decisions going on in that realm. I don't have the latest update on that, but our position is very clear on that, as well.
Q: Scott, will the President shake Chancellor Schroeder's hand in Germany -- I mean, in Prague?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't see why not. I saw the suggestion. Look, the relationship with Germany is an important one, and we'll continue to work together on our shared goals.
Q: Will he then meet one-on-one with him?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, there is no meeting scheduled. As we indicated, there are a limited number of bilaterals that are happening, and he doesn't get to meet with all the leaders at every one of these summits.
Q: Scott, Tony Garza is ready to go to Mexico to be ambassador from the United States. The Mexican authorities continue to take immigration as a first priority for the bilateral relation, and they think with the personal relationship that Tony has with the President they can get something done quickly. It is fair for the Mexican government to think in that way, or just --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, certainly, a safe, orderly, humane migration remains a priority for this administration. And we remain committed to working with Mexico through our high-level working groups to move forward on those issues related to a safe, orderly and humane migration. And I would point out that Ambassador Garza has a long history of working on these issues and working closely with Mexico.
Q: For instance, would the President help the goal of the Mexican government?
MR. McCLELLAN: To help what?
Q: To get the goal of the Mexican government, his friendship with the President would help in any way to the goal of immigration?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, he'll be a help to that. The President has a strong relationship with Mexico and with President Fox. And Ambassador Garza will play an important role in that relationship.
Q: Is the White House saying that, in and of themselves, that the firing on British and American warplanes, even though that might be a material breach, would not constitute a cause for war, in and of themselves?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would just emphasize that we reserve the option to take that to the Security Council. And again, I would emphasize that this goes to showing his intention to comply and cooperate. But in the meantime, our aircraft will respond when fired upon.
Q: Scott, when was the President told about the conclusion of the analysis of the Osama tape?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the exact timing. But he was informed and he's aware of the analysis.
Q: Do you know what his reaction was, specifically?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think the reaction goes back to what he said last week, as well as what I've said, that the war on terrorism is about more than one man. It's about some thousands of evildoers, thousands of terrorists that are operating in some 60 countries, and going after them and bringing them to justice, hunting them down where they are. But the tape -- and we said all along no matter who it is -- is a reminder that we are at war on terrorism, that there are real threats out there. And we take those threats very seriously. And that's why we've taken steps to ramp-up our protective measures -- both here at home and abroad.
Q: One on the homeland security bill, which you mentioned just a couple minutes ago. There are some in Congress who think that there are too many unrelated measures that could be bogging this down. Is that the White House view?
MR. McCLELLAN: What are you specifically referring to?
Q: Well, there are a number of extraneous issues dealing with pharmaceutical companies and all the rest. Is there concern at the White House that so many of these attached items could prevent the action from taking place this session?
MR. McCLELLAN: This remains the highest priority for this lame duck Congress. The President made that clear. We would hope that there would not be action taken that could stop this bill from getting done. We believe that it's making good progress, that it's moving along. And we're hopeful that the Senate will move forward and pass it and get it to the President's desk as quickly as possible.
Q: Although you're hoping for quick passage of the homeland security bill, how do you expect to pay for it? How does the administration plan to address the funding gap? Since, as you know, the current continuing funding resolution isn't adequate enough to pay for the cost?
MR. McCLELLAN: And actually, when you go back to the appropriations bills, the President had a meeting last Friday with Senator Stevens and Congressman Young. And he urged them to work on those, get their work done those remaining appropriations bills during December. And the President emphasized that we are committed to working with the committees to help them with that work so that we can fund our important priorities, but at the same time control wasteful government spending elsewhere. Hold the line on spending. That was the President's message Friday. Yes, sir.
Q: Yes, on the visit of the Prime Minister of Lebanon this morning. Was there a message from the Syrian President, is there a kind of dialogue between the United States and Syria through Lebanon to reconvene Israeli-Syrian negotiations?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go back and look at my notes. We'll try to get you that information, if there is any additional information on that. The readout I gave you is pretty much what happened in the meeting. I was in the meeting. I'll look back in my notes and see if there's any more on that. Yes, sir.
Q: Scott, first, Mexico has proposed to lift the sanctions against Iraq if there were not found any weapons. And now President Fox has criticized President Bush because he believes maybe he overreacted in this question of Iraq and the war against terrorism. How the White House is taking these statements?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not familiar with the particular statement you're referring to. But again, I think the President's views are very important -- are very clear. The United States is speaking with one voice; the United Nations Security Council is speaking with one voice -- Mexico included in that -- that Saddam Hussein must disarm. And that's what we'll continue to pursue.
Q: On appropriations, on Friday's meeting, did they talk about whether the White House wants the appropriators to do these as individual bills? Or as an omnibus?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I wasn't in the meeting. So I'm not sure about the specifics within there. But the President's message is, we need to get them done. Congress needs to get them done. Let's work on these remaining appropriations bills. He urged Congress to work on these remaining appropriations during the December so that we can come back at the beginning of the next session and get the fiscal year '03 appropriation bills passed. There are only two that have passed at this point. So 11 remain.
Q: Did he give them more money to work with?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that we have spelled out our views of where we are and the importance of Congress showing fiscal restraint when it comes to the budget. We have a lot of important priorities. And we need to fund those priorities. And the way you do that is to make sure you hold the line in spending elsewhere.
Q: You noted a while ago the American tradition of welcoming immigrants. Many thousands of those immigrants, of course, have come from Iraq over the years, have become citizens. Can you confirm that this administration has undertaken a policy of targeting American citizens of Iraqi descent for special surveillance or other action in the run-up to potential war against Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I'm aware of the news reports that your question is based on. And I'm not going to get into the accuracy of those news reports that are based on intelligence matters because, as you know, we don't speak about -- we don't discuss intelligence matters from the podium.
So without discussing any particular reports, I would go back and emphasize that we are going to do everything we can to protect the American people, but do so in a way that respects our Constitution, protects people's rights and is based on the law, and within the law. Yes, go ahead.
Q: Well, if I may follow-up on that. It is not intelligence, it is a policy that would segregate certain American citizens for special treatment by law enforcement. And essentially, the President's answer is, trust me with your liberties. Which is fine, he seems like a trustworthy guy. But that's not the way the system works. The founding fathers set it up so the President is not the final arbiter of liberty. And one of the ways of checking potential abuses of power is the free flow of information. So I ask you, do Iraqi citizens -- American citizens of Iraqi descent have a right to know whether or not they're being targeted?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me make a couple of points. One, everything we do must and will be within the rule of law and within our Constitution. Everything we do will be consistent with the Constitution.
Q: But how will we know?
MR. McCLELLAN: Hold on -- hold on. Let me make a few points. The war on terrorism came to our shores on September 11th in a very vivid and tragic way. Al Qaeda was responsible. We also know that there are sympathizers out there who also want to harm America. And that's why I made the point that the President's highest priority is the protection of the American people, and that we're going to do everything we can to continue protecting the American people. But we will do so consistent with our Constitution.
The FBI has investigative guidelines that are based on the law. They must adhere to the law and the Constitution. And when it comes to what you referenced, such as surveillance, searches and seizures, there are strict legal requirements regarding surveillance and searches and seizures -- requirements that are based on the Constitution and based on applicable law. And that includes the requirement that agents must obtain court orders. So the point I made that we are going to do everything consistent with the Constitution and with the law is based on those comments.
Q: Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 1:28 P.M. EST
Scott McClellan, Press Briefing by Scott McClellan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/272152