Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
The Colony Hotel
1:05 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: In response of the news of the day, the President was briefed before and after -- before, during and after the bike ride on ongoing developments in London, and continues to be briefed during the day, regardless of where he may be. Phil Lago of the NSC has been communicating when necessary through the military aide. o
So the President is fully briefed up. He's also aware of the developments in Glasgow. What I told you yesterday continues to be the case. There is no indication of any specific or credible threat to the United States, no change in the overall security level.
However, at airports there are some alertness-raising measures that the TSA has invoked. You're likely to see those and the increased presence of some TSA agents outside terminals. There will some inconvenience to passengers in terms of longer wait times -- that's already being reported on some of the networks. Local police also have the option of invoking whatever measures they may deem necessary or appropriate. Again, the most you're going to see right now is some inconvenience, some increased inconvenience for airline passengers, more likely at large airports than small.
There is -- we have nothing to give you on Glasgow. As you can tell, British authorities are still trying to sort through that. We remain in communication. Nor is there anything significant to add to what we had yesterday on the situation in London. But again, for domestic purposes, it's important to know that we remain committed to being vigilant throughout the country, including at airports, and as I said, you'll be seeing some, in various places and locations, some increased presence of police or TSA employees, out at the curbside and so on.
Q: Is that a result of London yesterday?
MR. SNOW: I think it's really a result of just trying to make sure that we're -- when you're taking a look at developments around the world, that you're taking every necessary precaution.
Q: When did they start, though?
MR. SNOW: The TSA, I think that's going out today. It's gone out this morning.
Q: Oh, so before Glasgow?
MR. SNOW: No, I think it's probably -- I don't know for sure.
Q: Does TSA actually have some sort of threat level they raise?
MR. SNOW: No, actually, that's a good question -- the airports have been under an orange level since August. That is not going to change. They're not going to change the threat level at airports. But there has been heightened security at airports since August.
Q: And the broader threat level obviously is not --
MR. SNOW: The broader threat level is not changing. The airport threat level is not changing, nor is the national broader threat level changing. Those are remaining the same.
Q: You had a Cabinet-level meeting yesterday based on London --
MR. SNOW: It was an informational briefing.
Q: Is there any consideration, following Scotland, for that kind of conference call or face-to-face meeting?
MR. SNOW: No -- I know that there are meetings going on right now at the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, obviously they've been in touch. But, no. Again, what you had yesterday were -- it was a meeting that also had some people at remote sites joined by SVTS, just getting a detailed download of what they know, what we don't know, what we're hearing from the Brits, and so on.
Q: Tony, without compromising any information, obviously, can you broadly speak about how the President is able to stay in contact on these high-level things, even while he's on a bike ride? You said he was briefed during the bike ride --
MR. SNOW: If there's any information, the NSC can pass it through the military aide to tell the President.
Q: And that's just done by a cell phone or something --
MR. SNOW: It's relayed to the military aide, again, by folks.
Q: Is there a secure video conference in Kennebunkport that he could use?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Yes.
Q: Do we know he was actually briefed, or are you just explaining to us that process if --
MR. SNOW: I'm explaining the process. I'm not entirely sure that there was a phone call. I think there may have been one passing on of information during the bike ride.
Q: Any reaction to the Glasgow incident?
MR. SNOW: Any reaction? No, because at this point, again, the reaction is what you would expect, which is let's find out what's going on, let's find out, A, if there's anything we can do to help, and B, if there's anything we need to do, period. Obviously our intelligence agencies, both domestic and international, have been working very hard just to stay on top of things. That is their daily chore, and really has been a point of emphasis since September 11th, and continues to be.
Q: Tony, you had this yesterday, but now that Glasgow has happened, is there an increasing suspicion that this timing had to do with Gordon Brown coming in?
MR. SNOW: It's really impossible to say at this point also. I would warn against trying to draw over-broad conclusions. We're still trying to figure out also, as are the Brits, who may be responsible. It is not clear that they're related incidents, and it's not clear what the provenance of the various incidents may be.
Q: A phone call to Mr. Brown?
MR. SNOW: No, but there, again, there have been high-level contacts -- there have been cabinet-level contacts between the British government and the U.S. government.
Q: What prompted the statement by the President on visa waivers today?
MR. SNOW: It's just -- it's reenforcing once again the importance of the visa waiver program. We've been trying to push that for some time. It's very important I think for a lot of our allies and it's something we clearly have heard, especially from Eastern European allies and the Koreans. The President believes that they've got an important point, wants Congress to act on it.
Q: And it was prompted for today -- was a nation getting upset, tired of waiting?
MR. SNOW: No, I think it also comes on -- as you noticed the other announcement that came out today refers to the fact that we do have a free trade agreement with South Korea. And the South Koreans also are part of the visa waiver.
Q: Tony, are you able to give any more information of what kind of inconveniences people will have at airports? Again, I don't want to compromise --
MR. SNOW: The only information -- the one thing we can say with safety is that you're going to see in some places just enhanced police presence on the outside -- enhanced police and TSA presence. And when that happens it tends to slow down traffic.
Q: Is it at all airports or just --
MR. SNOW: Again, all airports are -- there are certain measures that are going to be appropriate for different airports, and also, especially on the local police side, it's really up to the discretion of the local police agencies. Therefore, they're going to have a lot to say about it. I think you're going to find it at certain small, isolated airports, or even some mid-size airports, there may not be anything in terms of visible difference. But it's clear and it's already been reported in New York and New Jersey there's been beefed up presence, and so you're going to see that in some of these places. And you would probably expect to see it in a great number of major metropolitan airports.
Q: At what level is the President being briefed? Is he being briefed on what kind of new intelligence they're sharing, or they're gaining, or -- do you know?
MR. SNOW: Yes -- well, the briefings on intelligence is pretty comprehensive in terms of what we have been hearing and what various people know and what they suspect on conclusions -- for preliminary conclusions they may be drawing. But on the other hand -- again, so it is not at a high-level generality, he's getting specific briefings.
Q: Do you get the impression that they're moving close to finding out who is responsible?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to be characterizing the status of an ongoing investigation in Great Britain. Obviously, in Glasgow, they figured out who is at least immediately responsible because they've been apprehended. But in terms of London, we'll again let the British government take the lead in those announcements.
Q: But the TSA measures you told us about now are a result -- were decided on after the London incidents, but before Glasgow>
MR. SNOW: I'm not entirely sure about when it was decided. They were announced after Glasgow, but I'm not -- my sense -- I don't know exactly when they were --
Q: You may have already explained this, but every airport has been given the same alert, and is it up to then local authorities whether to enact it?
MR. SNOW: There are packages -- there are what we'll call alertness-raising packages, and different airports are going to have a different package based on a whole variety of considerations. Also, local law enforcement agencies who obviously have a lot of presence at airports, they have it at their discretion to put together whatever responses they deem appropriate.
Q: Is that the term of art, "alertness-raising packages"?
MR. SNOW: That is kind of a term of art -- I don't know if there is a complete term of art. What we were talking about yesterday is that it's important to have an enhanced level of vigilance and to make it clear that we are in fact being as vigilant as we can about trying to assess and make sure that we can keep -- do threat assessments and, at the same time, keep people safe.
What I also want to reiterate, because it's very important to do, is no specific or credible threats on the U.S., no changes in the threat levels at airports or nationally. It's important not to get people too spun up. It's also important, though, to reassure folks that at a time like this, when you're in a global war on terror, you want to make sure that you're not only reassuring the public by practicing every bit of diligence you can, but making sure that everybody is being vigilant about what may be coming up.
Q: Why not change the overall threat level, though?
MR. SNOW: Because there is nothing -- because there is no intelligence to justify so doing.
Q: But it justifies boosting the presence of security --
MR. SNOW: Well, this is -- when you're talking about boosting the presence, that's exactly what I'm talking about -- that, I think, in some cases, tends almost to over-hype what's going on. What you're really trying to do is -- again, there is a way of being more alert and more present -- what this is doing is it's creating an up-front presence that, in and of itself, is a deterrence to anybody who may have anything in mind. So I wouldn't really place it at any higher level than that. I mean, it's a way of doing it -- we've seen this happen on a number of occasions, and so that's really what the TSA guidelines will do.
Q: Tony, along the same lines, has there been any thought to beefing up any police presence here in Kennebunkport, with -- you're going to have two Presidents here, a former President --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to comment on any security arrangements in Kennebunkport.
Q: You said there were Cabinet-level contacts between the U.S. and the UK. Can you say what Cabinet-level contacts?
MR. SNOW: Let me find out what our folks are comfortable with discussing. I mean, I know that there are and I'm just -- I'll figure out exactly how forward they want to lead on it.
Q: Any updated information about the talks?
MR. SNOW: The talks?
MR. SNOW: There will be a number of social occasions and there will be a number of private occasions, and the two leaders, I daresay, are looking forward to all of the above.
Q: What kind of social occasions apart from the lunch?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think there's a social dinner terrorism night, as well.
Q: What about boating? Are they going to go boating?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. We'll give you -- we will try to find a recreational roster when one becomes available. I'm not sure that they're going to do boating. You've got a number of meetings between the President and -- the two Presidents and also the President and the National Security Advisor, and the Secretary of State. You also have in the larger -- the "larger" social occasions would include the hosts, President George Herbert Walker Bush and Mrs. Bush.
Q: Tony, any reaction to the Putin meeting with Chavez yesterday?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q: Come on. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Thanks, guys.
Q: We're playing slow ball with you here. (Laughter.)
END 1:13 P.M. EDT
Tony Snow, Press Gaggle by Tony Snow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275871