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White House Regular News Briefing

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Thursday, January 19, 2006; 1:47 PM

JANUARY 19, 2006

SPEAKER: SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY

[*]

MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. 

I know there's a lot of interest in the purported bin Laden audio tape that aired on Al-Jazeera earlier today. Let me just give you a couple quick updates. 

The president was informed about the audio tape shortly after his remarks in Sterling, Virginia, earlier this morning. 

The intelligence community is continuing to analyze the tape to determine its authenticity and if there is any actionable intelligence. If there is any actionable intelligence, we will act on it.

We continue to act on all fronts to win the war on terrorism, and we will. The president is fully committed to doing everything within his power to prevent attacks and defeat the terrorists. We are taking the fight to the enemy. We are working to advance freedom and democracy, to defeat their evil ideology. 

We are winning. Clearly Al Qaida and the terrorists are on the run. And that is why it is important that we do not let up and that we do not stop until the job is done. And that's what we will do.

QUESTION: He seemed to be offering a conditional truce under fair conditions and seemed to be tying it to a U.S. pullout from Iraq. 

MCCLELLAN: As I indicated, clearly the Al Qaida leaders and other terrorists are on the run. They're under a lot of pressure. 

We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business. 

The terrorists started this war. And the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing. 

We continue to pursue all those who seek to do harm to the American people and to bring them to justice.

QUESTION: OBL seems to have been reading polling, particularly on this issue of troop withdrawals, contrasting that with the president's position and trying to drive a wedge, it would seem, between the president and the American people. What's your response?

MCCLELLAN: My response is what I just said. I think clearly the leaders of Al Qaida and the others are on the run. We've already brought to justice some three-quarters of the Al Qaida leadership. And we are not going to let up. We are taking the fight to the enemy. We are continuing to pursue them, wherever they are. And we will bring them to justice. And we will win in this war on terrorism.

And I think clearly, if you look at the last time we heard from bin Laden, you can see the kind of pressure he's under.

Last time, remember, he was telling the Iraqi people not to show up and vote. Well, we saw how that turned out.

QUESTION: To my knowledge, this is the first time that he has used polling to try to drive his point...

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, I mean, I'll let the intelligence community do the analysis of the tape and look at his words. That is an ongoing analysis at this point.

QUESTION: What is the White House hearing from the intelligence community about the validity of the warnings of attacks?

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What is the White House hearing initially from the intelligence community about the validity...

MCCLELLAN: There's nothing to report. 

This tape was just aired earlier this morning. And they're looking at it to determine, one, if it's authentic and, two, to see if there's any actionable intelligence on it. And there's nothing more to report on that at this point.

QUESTION: The voice also says that the absence of an attack in the U.S. since 9/11 is not due to security measures, but that plans are, in fact, in place. Since the administration often says some of the security measures have, in fact, made the country safer, what's your response to that part?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think absolutely our intelligence community and law enforcement officials are doing a great job. Our men and women in uniform are doing an outstanding job. They're taking the fight to the enemy. 

And we keep them in our thoughts and prayers always, and we thank them for all that they're doing. We thank their families. They understand the stakes involved. 

And we are prevailing in this war. And we will continue to take the fight to the enemy. We will continue to support the advance of democracy in the broader Middle East.

We know the nature of the enemy. The president has talked about the nature of the enemy at length. We know that they want to drive us out of the Middle East, because they view democracy and peace as a threat to their existence. And they know that the United States remaining involved in the Middle East is a threat to their ambitions. We know that they want to continue to try to create a safe haven to where they can plan and plot attacks. 

But we've got them on the run. We've got them under a lot of pressure. And we're going to continue taking the fight to them.

QUESTION: Do you see a tactical link...

MCCLELLAN: That's the best way to prevail in the war on terrorism.

But we're acting on numerous fronts. We have taken a number of steps since the attacks of September 11th to harden our defenses at home. And I think that in no small part because of the great work of our military abroad and our men and women in law enforcement and intelligence here at home, and the tools that we have used, we have been fortunate not to have been attacked again.

We know the enemy wants to attack us again and they want to inflict even greater harm than they have previously, and that's why we must continue taking the fight to them. That's why we must not stop until they are defeated. And that's what this president committed to doing to the American people.

QUESTION: Do you see a tactical link between the release of the tape now and the strikes that occurred...

MCCLELLAN: Again, I mean, this tape is being analyzed by the intelligence community. They'll look at these issues. And if there's more to report at a certain point, we'll talk about it further.

QUESTION: You said three-quarters of Al Qaida leadership has been captured or killed. I assume you meant known leadership.

MCCLELLAN: That's right.

Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: ... and we know that they replace their leaders. We've talked about that at length. But we pursue those as well, and we've brought some of those to justice as well.

But it's not the same organization that it was when it attacked us on September 11th, because of the actions that we have taken and because of what we have done to put their leaders out of business or bring them to justice.

QUESTION: But we've been unable to capture Osama bin Laden. He's still capable of sending out messages, still capable of threats, and I assume still capable of attacks?

MCCLELLAN: I think, clearly, he is on the run. Clearly, he is under a lot of pressure, just as other Al Qaida leaders who are on the run are. And that's why we are going to continue pursuing them and continue going after them to bring them to justice. We have made great progress but this is a war that continues and this is a war that we will not let up on until we have prevailed. 

QUESTION: Explain why it's so difficult to find him, just for the American public who say we are so technologically advanced, greatest army in the world...

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to look at the nature of the enemy that we face and the nature of the war that we're engaged in. This is a war on terrorism. It's broader than any one person. It's a struggle of ideologies. 

The president has talked about this at length with the American people and will continue to talk about it. The vice president, I think, is talking about some of that right now, as well. He's giving a speech in New York. 

And this is a ideological struggle. The president made it clear that this is a long struggle that we are engaged in, and that we must do everything within our power and act on all fronts to prevail in this war on terrorism. We are winning this war on terrorism. The terrorists are on the run, and we're going to continue pursuing them and bringing them to justice wherever they are. 

QUESTION: I realize (inaudible). Why is it so hard to find him? 

MCCLELLAN: Well, he is someone who is clearly on the run and has been hiding, and we will continue to pursue him and bring him to justice. 

QUESTION: Would it make a huge difference if he was found at this point or killed or captured? 

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, that's why I made the point that it is much broader than any one person, and there's a loose network the president has talked about of terrorists who are committed to a shared ideology. And we must continue to take this threat seriously. And that's why we must continue to do everything within our power and use every tool at our disposal to defeat the terrorists. 

QUESTION: Scott, why do you keep linking Iraq and 9/11 and so forth? Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. And you keep -- we started the war in Iraq. We brought the terrorists in, so called...

MCCLELLAN: See, I think that's a misunderstanding of the...

QUESTION: Twenty to 50 people are dying every day in Iraq. 

MCCLELLAN: I think, one, that's a misunderstanding of the global war on terrorism that we are engaged in. Some people take a narrow view of the war on terrorism.

The president recognizes...

QUESTION: Innocent Iraqis are paying this price.

MCCLELLAN: The president -- well, first of all, the Iraqi people -- we have heard from many of them who have expressed their appreciation for the removal of a brutal and oppressive regime.

Second of all, Zawahiri, bin Laden's number two leader, has talked about how Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. We know that the terrorists want to create a safe haven from which they can plan and plot attacks.

The stakes are high in Iraq. And that's why it's critical that we prevail in Iraq because it will be a major blow to the ambitions of the terrorists.

They don't want us in the Middle East. The Middle East is a dangerous region of the world. It has been a breeding ground for terrorism, a breeding ground where people have flown planes into buildings and attacked innocent civilians across the world.

And that's why it's so critical that we prevail in Iraq as well. And we will. And the Iraqi people no longer live under a brutal, oppressive regime, a regime that was responsible for the systematic torture and killing of people who simply spoke out against that regime.

QUESTION: On a related issue, there seems to be a lot of contradictory evidence or statements about the recent raid on the village in Pakistan.

Can you give us an accurate update based on intelligence that you and the president know as to whether there were in fact four or five or more top Al Qaida people killed in this raid?

Was al-Zawahiri one of those? Was he there? Was he not there?

MCCLELLAN: Let me make a couple of comments. First of all, I indicated earlier this week that I don't tend to get not discussing operational matters or alleged operational matters in the war on terrorism from this podium.

And I don't have any information to share with you on the reports that you're referring to. 

Pakistan is a valued ally in the global war on terrorism. We work very closely with Pakistan to pursue Al Qaida leaders and other terrorists and bring them to justice and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: During the appearance in Sterling, Virginia, the president didn't find out about the purported tape until after that was over.

MCCLELLAN: That's correct.

QUESTION: And you have a situation where millions of people are watching television, they're learning about the tape before the president does.

QUESTION: Doesn't the White House view that as kind of awkward? And was any thought given to perhaps giving him a note or somehow concluding that event earlier?

MCCLELLAN: No, I don't think there was any thought given to that. He was briefed immediately after the remarks, and I think that was an appropriate time to inform him of it. 

QUESTION: How does the president feel about bin Laden personally? There have been famous quotes...

MCCLELLAN: Obviously, if there's something that's of an urgent nature, the president is informed.

QUESTION: Famous quotes: "Dead or alive." Then, in March of 2002: "I'm not that concerned about him." Then he said: "I never said I wasn't worried about him." 

You talk broadly about the leaders in general, Al Qaida...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLELLAN: Well, I just indicated to you that we continue to pursue Al Qaida leaders and other terrorists who are seeking to do harm to the American people. 

We have made great progress over the last few years, we have kept them on the run, we have put a lot of pressure on them, because of the great work of our intelligence community, because of the great work of our military, because of the partnerships that we have with many nations around the world. 

And we will continue to pursue them wherever they are. The president has made that very clear. They can run, but we will continue to pursue them and they will be brought to justice. 

QUESTION: Two questions. 

One, as far as this tape is concerned, somebody, somewhere is delivering these tapes to Al Jazeera, and sounds like Al Jazeera is acting as an agent of Osama bin Laden ever since 9/11 or before, because each and every message from Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida they have aired, and they keep continue airing. 

So somebody should be knowing who is delivering these tapes to them and where and where is Osama bin Laden. 

MCCLELLAN: I don't have anything for you on that. 

QUESTION: Second question is, outside there are Iranians demonstrating for greater freedom. What message do you think President Bush will have for them, for the Iranians for freedom? 

MCCLELLAN: For the Iranian people? 

We continue to stand with the people of Iran. The people of Iran seek greater freedom. And our policy has long been to support the Iranian people in their desire for greater freedom. 

You have a regime that is in place that is out of step with the rest of the broader Middle East and out of step with its own people. It is a regime that is more interested in serving its own self- interest and its own power than its people.

QUESTION: Is it similar of that to the Iraqi people?

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: A similar message what president had given to the Iraqi...

MCCLELLAN: Well, this is another reason, going back to something that Helen brought up about the comprehensive war that we're engaged in that's important to understand.

A free Iraq will serve as an example to the rest of the Middle East and help inspire reformers in places like Iran.

MCCLELLAN: That's why it's so important that we succeed in Iraq. And that's why we have a clear strategy that's in place for doing so.

And we're making real progress. There's still difficulties and there will still be tough days ahead. But we stand with the Iraqi people, we stand with the people in Iran, we stand with people throughout the Middle East who want greater freedom. 

And we will continue to support people in the region in many different ways to advance freedom and democracy. Because that is critical to our long-term security; that is critical to laying the foundations of peace for our children and grandchildren.

And that's what I mean when I'm talking about the comprehensive war that we're engaged in and making sure that we're doing everything we can to prevent attacks from happening and to defeat the enemy.

QUESTION: Scott, you mentioned Pakistan being a critical ally in the war on terror. The Pakistani government is one thing. Does the president believe that without the Pakistani people's support Osama bin Laden can be found?

MCCLELLAN: One, a couple of things. 

I'm not going to get into talking about any intelligence matters, if that's what you're getting at. 

But second, the Pakistani people are seeing the compassion and generosity of the American people in our response and support as they recover from the earthquake that hit. 

Our military and many aid workers have been in Pakistan helping people in need, people who were affected by those earthquakes and people that lost everything that they had. And we will continue to do our part to help them recover. We've committed some $500 million in aid money. That's an extraordinary amount of resources committed to help them.

We've also committed a large amount of military assets to help with getting people out of those dangerous areas. And we will continue to do so. 

QUESTION: The threat level -- are there considerations or discussion, obviously, right now, depending on what the outcome on authenticity...

MCCLELLAN: I don't have any update. It's something that we always continue to look at, and we will continue to do so. I don't have any update, and it's something we are always looking at.

QUESTION: Scott, back on the struggle that you're talking about, New York Congressman Ed Towns says, "The administration's priorities are upside down. Instead of concentrating on Osama bin Laden, we're concentrating on war in Iraq."

QUESTION: And this goes back to the issue of why Osama bin Laden has not been found. And he was the impetus of this war on terror. He was the one who attacked -- well, his minions attacked the United States. Why not have Osama bin Laden captured or otherwise?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think you're ignoring a lot of what the president has said and a lot of what we are doing. 

And I think that some do have a misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy that we face and the war that we're engaged in. Some do view this as more of a law enforcement matter, but this is about an ideology. This is about an ideological struggle. 

This is an evil ideology that is based on hatred and oppression. This is an ideology that the terrorist want to spread throughout the broader Middle East. They want to create safe havens. This a group of people that deny people their political and religious freedom. 

And that's why it's so important that we continue to do two things: take the fight to the enemy and spread freedom and democracy, because free nations are peaceful nations, and that will lay the foundations of peace for generations to come. 

QUESTION: (inaudible) step one logically for many people who are not trying to play political politics -- or play politics...

MCCLELLAN: Well, remember, there's Al Qaida, there are state sponsors of terror, there are other affiliated organizations that are out there, this loose network that the president has talked about that exists, and they all share this same ideology. 

QUESTION: But wasn't step one that Osama bin Laden had his minions use planes as missiles?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to understand what September 11th taught us. What September 11th taught us was that we must confront threats before it's too late, and that's what this president is committed to doing and is doing. 

We must confront the threats before the attacks reach our shores. 

QUESTION: One last question: Is Musharraf playing the fence? Some are questioning is he playing the fence trying to appease the United States and trying to appease those in his community? Do you think that Musharraf is distracted...

MCCLELLAN: As I indicated, President Musharraf and Pakistan are a key ally in the global war on terrorism and we are working with them. 

QUESTION: Is he doing enough as an ally...

MCCLELLAN: Well, all of us can do more on the war on terrorism. 

QUESTION: Scott, if the tape is authentic, it shows that bin Laden is still alive. You say he's on the run right now. Would you go so far as to say he has been marginalized? Let me not put words in your mouth, but is he marginalized at this point? 

MCCLELLAN: Well, as I indicated, he's clearly on the run and clearly Al Qaida is under a lot of pressure because of the actions that we are taking, because of the fact that we're on the offense, because of the fact that we're taking the fight to the enemy. That's what changed after September 11th. 

Before September 11th, the terrorists were taking the fight to the civilized world. They were attacking America, they were attacking other countries and they thought they could do so with impunity. Now they know that they cannot. And that's why we will continue to pursue them wherever they are. 

We will continue to pursue this war until we win. And we will win. 

QUESTION: How do you know he's on the run? 

MCCLELLAN: I think it's clear from all indications. 

The last time we heard from him was a year ago in an audio tape. And as I indicated, that was when he was urging the Iraqi people not to vote. 

And so anyone that thinks that Iraq is not a central front in the war on terrorism, all they need to do is go and look at the words of bin Laden, look at the words of Zawahiri and other terrorists. They recognize the stakes involved. Look at the words of Zarqawi, too, someone who has pledged allegiance to bin Laden. 

QUESTION: Is he still in control of Al Qaida, do you think? 

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think we've talked about that in the past. Some of our intelligence community and others have talked about that. 

Al Qaida's not the same organization that it was when it attacked us on September 11th, but it is still a determined and lethal enemy. It's still an enemy that wants to inflict harm on the American people, that wants to inflict even greater damage than before. 

We've seen attacks carried out in places around the world since September 11th. And as I indicated, we're fortunate that there hasn't been another attack here. Remember what we've always said: We have to be right 100 percent of the time; the terrorists only have to be right once. 

And that's why we must act on all fronts and use every tool within our disposal to defeat the terrorists and keep them from carrying out their attacks. 

And the best way to do that is stay after them and to bring them to justice before they can do us harm. 

QUESTION: Two questions, one on Israel, one on the Iraqi prisoners.

What does today's bombing in Israel mean for the Palestinian elections coming up? And would the United States accept a victory by Hamas?

MCCLELLAN: Well, a couple of things.

One, we've indicated that we support the elections moving forward. The Palestinian people are moving forward on the elections.

Now, to the attack that took place in Tel Aviv earlier today, we condemn the vicious attack that took place against innocent civilians. Tens of innocent civilians were wounded in that attack. I'm not aware of anything that was killed beside the suicide bomber at this point, but we know that some of those suffered serious injuries. They are in our thoughts and prayers at this time.

We continue to call on the Palestinian Authority to do everything it can to dismantle terrorist organizations and terrorist infrastructure. It is important that they act to do so. And that is an important part of moving forward on the peace process.

QUESTION: On the woman prisoners in Iraq, would it be so terrible to release them at this point, especially if their cases are under review?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think our policy is well known, in terms of these issues. 

But there is a process that's in place regarding prisoners, a joint process that our military has with Iraqi authorities. And that process looks at individuals on a case-by-case basis. And I think the military has already commented on the individuals that you're bringing up.

QUESTION: Scott, I have a two-part question. 

Apparently, no one in the White House will challenge Al Gore with now-public information that he led the Clinton administration's Clipper chip project back in the 1990s to effectively tap every phone, fax machine and computer in the country.

And my question: Isn't that worth pointing out to the American people after he accused President Bush of breaking the law and violating the Constitution?

MCCLELLAN: It sounds like you just did. 

This is an administration that is forward-looking. We're focused on the priorities of the American people.

QUESTION: How about Gore? You mean you're going to say nothing about Gore and the Clipper chip project?

MCCLELLAN: I think you already have. No, I'm not going to get into it.

QUESTION: Since there has been a wide coverage of what seems to be the first lady's unprecedentedly outspoken statement that Senator Hillary Clinton's claim that Republicans run the White House like a plantation was, in Mrs. Bush's own words, "I think it's ridiculous. It is a ridiculous comment, that's what I think."

So my question is, will the president and the first lady be happy for her to speak to the next Republican convention and in the next presidential campaign? 

MCCLELLAN: Hillary Clinton? 

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I think she'll be there. 

MCCLELLAN: You're talking about Mrs. Bush. 

QUESTION: I think she'll be there.

But I'm talking about Mrs. Bush. They will be happy to have her active in...

MCCLELLAN: I think it's a long way to the next convention. But Mrs. Bush is a tremendous asset to this administration. 

I commented on those comments earlier this week and talked about how inappropriate they were, as well. 

QUESTION: I remember. But you didn't say what she said. 

MCCLELLAN: Mrs. Bush does a great job focusing on some important priorities for the American people. She just returned from a trip to Africa. 

QUESTION: Has she ever been as outspoken as this before in your knowledge? 

MCCLELLAN: She was asked a question and she responded with her thoughts. 

QUESTION: I understand, but has she ever...

MCCLELLAN: And I agree with what she said. 

QUESTION: Has she ever been as outspoken in your recollection, Scott? 

MCCLELLAN: She's someone who speaks pretty straight. 

QUESTION: I have two. The first one on the bin Laden tape. 

Some in the intelligence community do think that he's dead. Are you aware of anything on the tape that dates it in any way? Audio is not video. 

MCCLELLAN: As I indicated, the intelligence community is analyzing the tape. So that would indicate that, no, I don't have any additional information in terms of the timing of when it was made or if it's authentic. 

QUESTION: And going back to the Abramoff investigation, do you have an update for us on any records of phone calls or e-mails between staff members and Mr. Abramoff, or photos of the president with him? 

MCCLELLAN: No. As I indicated yesterday, we are not going to engage in some sort of fishing expedition. I know that there's some that want to play partisan politics and do so. 

This is a gentleman who is being held to account for the wrongdoing he was involved in. He is someone who, through himself and his clients, contributed to both Democrats and Republicans. And it was outrageous what he was involved in doing, and he needs to be held to account and he is being held to account by the Department of Justice. 

QUESTION: Can you tell us of any phone calls, records...

MCCLELLAN: I have already addressed this. 

QUESTION: Have you been requested or subpoenaed by the investigation? 

MCCLELLAN: I think I would have heard of that and I haven't heard anything like that. 

QUESTION: I have a one-part question. This is slightly unrelated but important to a certain segment of Americans. 

What is the president doing to recover Robert Kraft's Super Bowl ring from the Russians? 

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLELLAN: I saw a report about that. I don't know all the details behind it, so I think I'll leave it between the Russians and Mr. Kraft. 

QUESTION: Do you see a link to the timing of this tape and the recent attack in Pakistan?

MCCLELLAN: Again, it's being analyzed. So, I don't want to get in to try to interpret anything at this point beyond what I've already said. 

QUESTION: Human Rights said that it's a hypocrisy of the president of the United States his vision about immigration reform. I wonder if you have any reaction to that. 

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think, you know, if that was said, it ignores the reality because the president has been leading the way when it comes to making sure that we're enforcing our borders and that we're also continuing to be a welcoming society for people that want to come here for the right reasons. 

And that's why the president has outlined a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, an approach that is based on continuing to take steps to strengthen our borders, as well as moving forward on a temporary worker program to meet an important economic need.

And that, in turn, will help address some of the humanitarian concerns that relate to undocumented workers in America and the way they are treated. 

And that's why the president believes he has outlined an approach that will help fix our broken immigration system. It's an approach that is compassionate and humane and helps us meet an important economic need while also keeping those who come here for the wrong reasons out of our country. 

QUESTION: Do you see any contradiction that the Republicans in Congress are trying to criminalize illegal immigration? 

MCCLELLAN: Well, I'll let members of Congress speak about their views but I can tell you what the president's views are and they spelled them out very clearly over the course of -- well, going back to his days as governor. 

QUESTION: Does the administration believe that the president's wartime powers gives him the authority to authorize an extension of the Patriot Act-style counterterrorism techniques, whether or not Congress renews the act? 

MCCLELLAN: An extension of the tools? We want to see Congress reauthorize the Patriot Act. 

The Patriot Act is an important tool in helping us to prevent attacks. It has helped us to disrupt plots and prevent attacks from happening. And that's why it's so important that Congress move forward on renewing the Patriot Act. 

QUESTION: What if Congress doesn't do so? Can he, as commander in chief...

MCCLELLAN: See, I don't play those what ifs. 

I mean, the president wants to see it renewed. What the president will do is continue to use every lawful tool at his disposal to prevent attacks and to defeat the terrorists. 

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Congress doesn't, if it's a national security issue? 

MCCLELLAN: Well, for the reasons that we have stated.

This legislation helped us break down the wall that existed between law enforcement and intelligence. Now law enforcement and intelligence officials can share vital intelligence information to help us go after and disrupt plots and prevent attacks from happening. 

And that has happened in a number of incidents around the United States. We have been able to break up terrorist cells within the United States and prevent attacks from happening. 

And that's why it's so vital that Congress move forward on reauthorizing it. 

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Congress does not do that, the president does not have the authority to tell the FBI that they can keep using those surveillance techniques anyway? 

MCCLELLAN: Well, we always look at what authorities we have in order to move forward and prevent attacks from happening. And the president will use every lawful authority at his disposal to do so. 

He has an obligation to the American people. It's an obligation that he took when he took the oath of office on January of 2001. And he made it very clear to the American people since that time that it is an obligation that he takes very seriously. 

His most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of the American people. And the Constitution spells out very clearly that the role of the president is to protect Americans from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And the terrorist threat is the number one threat that we face and that's why we are doing exactly what we are doing. 

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) given the authority...

MCCLELLAN: You seem to be saying that. I'm saying what we are doing and what we continue to urge Congress to do. 

It's important that Congress move forward and renew the Patriot Act. The Democrats have continued to use obstructionist tactics to prevent the Patriot Act from being renewed. They need to quit their obstructionist tactics, stop playing politics with it and get it renewed. 

QUESTION: Where does the president see room for improvement when it comes to domestic security?

MCCLELLAN: We're always looking at ways we can build upon the steps that we have taken. 

We have taken a number of steps to strengthen our borders, to improve port security, to improve aviation security. And we're always looking at ways to continue to strengthen that. 

We've got a great secretary of homeland security in Michael Chertoff, and we appreciate the job he is doing.

This is something that the president is focused on every single day. The very first thing he starts with is his intelligence report that lays out potential threats that we face. 

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you weren't going to do a fishing expedition on any contacts Abramoff might have with White House people, but some of his lobbying firm billing numbers and e-mails and other things that are emerging in this case suggest specific meetings with White House officials, including an aide to the vice president.

Have you had any opportunity or will you take the opportunity to, sort of, compare those records with anything...

MCCLELLAN: The gentleman you bring up, Mr. Abramoff, is someone that is being held to account by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice has an ongoing investigation. And they are the ones who are overseeing that investigation.

QUESTION: With bin Laden still out there, taunting, threatening, commanding as much attention as he apparently still can, can you legitimately claim to be winning the war on terror?

MCCLELLAN: Absolutely, for the reasons that I spelled out earlier.

Thank you.

END

Source: CQ Transcriptions
© 2006, Congressional Quarterly Inc., All Rights Reserved


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