James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:33 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Here we go. Questions.
Q: Okay, so I’m going to try from the gaggle this morning — I’m just a little confused, both from this morning and from what you were talking about on the plane yesterday — trying to iron out whether Gonzales contradicted himself, and whether he and Mueller contradicted each other or not. You guys say, no, but we can’t tell you why. But that’s — can you try to explain it a little bit better?
MR. SNOW: I can understand — let me try a little better. I understand it’s difficult to parse because what you have involved here are matters of classification. Attempts to discuss those in an open congressional setting sometimes is going to lead people to talk very carefully, and there’s going to be plenty of room for interpretation or conclusion.
This comes down to conversations in 2004. In 2004 the Department of Justice and the White House all agreed that there was a legal basis for intercepting conversations or communications involving al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates in the United States and overseas. There is no dispute about that. That program did not have a name at the time. It was later labeled the terrorist surveillance program, after some press disclosures, and I think the label stuck in 2006. But again, there has never been, at any juncture along the line, any disagreement about the propriety or legality of that program.
Now, when you talk about the terrorist surveillance program, there are many intelligence activities in the American government. We’re talking about a very thin slice, limited to exactly what I was telling you about, which is monitoring communications between al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda affiliates, one in the United States, one overseas. So when the Attorney General talks about TSP, that’s precisely what he’s discussing.
Q: So, okay, what you’re saying then is, when the Attorney General and Mueller were talking about — the consideration of the administration is that they were talking about two different things, because one of is before it was disclosed, and one was after?
MR. SNOW: No, let me just say — this is where — look, there are a broad range of intelligence activities that the government is involved in, and from time to time there are going to disputes about some of those intelligence activities. But again, what the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which I’ve defined very narrowly and carefully, there have been no disputes about that.
Q: And the briefing in 2004 was about that program, or about something else?
MR. SNOW: Again, I don’t want to go too much into the briefing. The answer to your question is, yes.
Q: About that program in a different iteration?
MR. SNOW: No, you asked a different question that I said yes to.
Q: Well, let me try this and then ask a broader question. My understanding is, this is a disagreement about the how, and not the what — how you arrived at some of the targets that you were going to monitor, but ultimately it had to do with this program.
MR. SNOW: Again, David, when you talk about “this program,” I’m being very specific here, this program, monitoring those al Qaeda conversations, trying to find out what al Qaeda is communicating here in this room —
Q: What Mueller was referring to, that Comey was referring to —
MR. SNOW: Well, what he referred to was a National Security Agency program. I’m giving you a very narrow slice, which is — because there are lots of programs and lots of activities that are used to try to protect American citizens. This narrow slice, this bit of surveillance on al Qaeda was not, itself, at any point, a subject of controversy, legal or otherwise.
Q: But the gathering of names of people that you were going to surveill, which was part of that effort, was something —
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you’re asking me to get into operational matters and I can’t.
Q: But isn’t the issue here that the most charitable explanation is that the Attorney General is trying to parse this discussion and to come to a conclusion that there was not a disagreement about this, and there was a disagreement —
MR. SNOW: No, I think the Attorney General had in mind exactly what I was talking about, which was this particular program, which was not — I mean, I’ve described it as a narrow program, but it was a significant program. But there are many other efforts on the part of the federal government to protect the American people.
I cannot get into operational discussion such as the one that you’ve raised. But again, the question of the propriety of this program, were there concerns about the legality of a program that allowed U.S. authorities, the President to go ahead and approve attempts to intercept communications between these folks — that simply was not a matter of concern. I’m not going —
Q: But you had the threat of mass resignations in the Justice Department and from the head of the FBI. How can you say there was not a disagreement about the program?
MR. SNOW: No, again, this is where you get into the fact that there’s a possibility that there were broader discussions, and I’m not going to get into the context of those. What is worth noting is that whatever concerns may have been raised, as has been testified by the former acting head of the Justice Department, were, in fact, resolved, and whatever concerns they had were addressed and addressed appropriately to their satisfaction.
Q: Mueller did not contradict the Attorney General?
MR. SNOW: No, we don’t think he did.
Q: The Attorney General has told the truth to the American people and to Congress about this program, this surveillance —
MR. SNOW: Here’s the — rather call them activities — and the problem again is you are applying retroactively a label to a program that didn’t even have that label at the time this conversation was taking place. And so I cannot — I don’t want to stand here as the judge to try to interpret for you what everybody means when they use that term, when they use “terrorist surveillance program,” because it may have different significations to different people. I’ve told you the narrow construction that the Attorney General has used.
And this gets us back into the situation that I understand is unsatisfactory because there are lots of questions raised and the vast majority of those we’re not going to be in a position to answer, simply because they do involve matters of classification that we cannot and will not discuss publicly.
Q: One final one. Why does the President believe that the Attorney General does not reflect badly on the Justice Department and on this White House with the way he has handled questions related to this and other matters?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, when you — because he has testified truthfully and tried to be very accurate. And what also happens is, you’ve got an interesting situation, when members of Congress, knowing that somebody is constrained by matters of classification, they can ask very broad questions, and those are questions they know the person sitting on the other side cannot answer thoroughly in an open session — you can create any kind of perception you want, by saying, well, can’t you finish the answer, or why don’t you tell us this, or why don’t you tell us that — knowing perfectly well that there are very real constraints there. There’s no way that that is not going to create uncomfortable moments for the person sitting in the chair. But you simply cannot give a full and complete answer, because to do so would compromise American security.
Q: But the President believes that Alberto Gonzales’s credibility is intact?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q: Tony, are we — in terms of trying to understand this, is what you’re telling us is that Director Mueller and Attorney General Gonzales have differing definitions of the term “terrorist surveillance program”?
MR. SNOW: This is one where I don’t want to climb into their heads. All I’m going to say — because notice yesterday, the Director of the FBI never once used “terrorist surveillance program.” It was used in questions to him, and he always said “National Security Agency” —
Q: He said —
MR. SNOW: No, no, he said “National Security Agency program.”
Q: He was asked directly by Congresswoman Lee —
Q: — had it been widely discussed, yes.
Q: — “Do you have an understanding that the discussion was on TSP?” “I had an understanding the discussion was on an NSA program, yes.”
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q: “We use TSP, we use warrantless wiretapping, so would I be comfortable in saying that those were the items that were part of the discussion?” “The discussion was on a national NSA program that has been much discussed, yes.”
MR. SNOW: As I said, he was very careful about his words, and I am not going to try to read his minds on this. But again, we have been using a very clear and specific definition of TSP. And I just think — I can’t go any further than that.
Q: Okay, but in terms of the American people trying to understand what’s going on here, it seems as though the answer that’s coming from the podium is, we had differing definitions of the terrorist surveillance program.
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way: There is no question that the legal basis and the activity of providing surveillance of al Qaeda members — overseas or al Qaeda affiliates tied to people in the United States or communicating with them — having the federal government go after them, that was not a matter of controversy for the Director of the FBI.
Q: But it was how you were going about it —
Q: But that’s —
Q: — without a warrant.
Q: Is the administration giving any consideration to declassifying any of this material to try to clear up this controversy and clear Gonzales’s name?
MR. SNOW: Not if it involves compromising national security.
Q: But are you considering declassifying —
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to get into conversations that we may or may not be having. We understand how frustrating it is, but again, what we’re talking about — this is what happens when one turns into a political football highly classified programs, knowing that you have free rein to say whatever you want, knowing that the other side can’t respond. Cannot respond without violating the law.
Q: Are you saying it was not about the wiretapping that had already been acknowledged?
MR. SNOW: I’m saying that that acknowledged program — the program that the President disclosed to the American people was not something that was legally controversial.
Q: Wait a minute, Tony you said one thing —
Q: Why are you saying then that nothing —
Q: — was no controversy, and you also said that whatever controversy there was was resolved. Can you say which it is?
MR. SNOW: Because — what I’m saying is that there was the discussion of a controversy; the controversy did not hinge upon this program that I’ve discussed —
Q: Controversy over what?
MR. SNOW: Okay —
Q: Controversy over what?
MR. SNOW: I thought I was pretty clear, but maybe I’m just being too —
Q: No, you’re not speaking English, really. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Okay, let me try again. The terrorist surveillance program, as it has been labeled — it was not so labeled at the time — was a program of doing surveillance on communications of al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda members internationally — internationally into the United States. The legal basis of that was accepted by the Department of Justice, and it was not a matter of controversy. To the extent that there were controversies on — there are many different things that involve the gathering or use of intelligence; some of those may, in fact, themselves have been subjects of controversy, there were controversies about those. It is also the case that whatever controversy had been raised by the then acting Attorney General had been resolved. And that is something that he has said publicly.
I can’t — I know, I know you’re going to say, well, what are you talking about? I can’t tell you.
Q: No, I’m not going to ask you that, actually. What I’m going to say is that, you’re saying there was no disagreement, and then you say, but there were disagreements and they were resolved.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q: It’s two separate things.
MR. SNOW: That’s right.
Q: So you’re contradicting yourself.
MR. SNOW: I’m not contradicting myself. I’m saying that — because you’re assuming that — again, the terrorist surveillance program — no controversy about that — many intelligence activities, could be some controversies about other intelligence activities.
Q: But that program itself was named —
Q: — go to the hospital room?
MR. SNOW: Again, now we’re getting into one of these things where linguistically it becomes a total muddle. I’m simply telling you, I have defined very narrowly what the terrorist surveillance program is, and that has never — the legal basis and the authority of that were never a matter of controversy.
Q: So in February of 2006, when Attorney General Gonzales is asked, are there any serious disagreements about NSA wiretapping, and he says, no, he’s only answering —
MR. SNOW: He’s referring to the TSP. He’s referring to the program that the President made public.
Q: When you referred to a political football would you include Senator Specter in that? How do you feel about his remarks by Air Force One — do you feel if he was going to be critical of the Attorney General he should not be speaking in that venue?
MR. SNOW: Well, I’ll let you refer this to Senator Specter. But Senator Specter is a guy who’s got his own opinions. Among other things, one of the things he also said yesterday were calls for a special prosecutor he thought were wholly political and unwarranted. I mean, he’s Senator Specter.
Q: No on here at the White House is upset that he spoke on Air Force One?
MR. SNOW: I’m just — I’m not going to get into that.
Q: Tony, with Congress trying to exercise its oversight responsibility to try to get to the bottom of this, how does that constitute what the White House said today was a Democrat-led crusade to try to destroy Gonzales?
MR. SNOW: Well, take a look at what’s been going on. There have been a whole series of attempts to go after Alberto Gonzales, on U.S. attorneys and a number of other things, from the beginning of the year. And each one begins with an insinuation rather than a fact. And that’s what we have here are a series of insinuations. It is worth going through — look, Congress has an absolute right and obligation to do oversight and they’re free to do so. As a matter of fact, the Department of Justice has been very accommodating in terms of making all its personnel available, thousands of pages of documents available.
And it does seem that what happens is some story comes up, you’ve got — it’s very easy to understand, with the ambiguities in the language here, how people could get worked up. But the fact is to start out trying to create a benefit of ill behavior on the Attorney General strikes me as not the attitude you strike when you’re trying to do due diligence. It’s something where you’ve got your mind made up at the beginning.
Q: You mentioned Senator Specter. He also said in his news conference yesterday that one of the most important things for him to come out of the hearing Tuesday with Attorney General Gonzales was the question, what’s going on in intelligence? Is there another program? So I just want to make sure I’m clear. You say that TSP is one slice, essentially —
MR. SNOW: There are lots of programs in intelligence. I will not talk about any others, but of course — look, you don’t simply have one intelligence program when you’re trying to fight a war on terror. There are lots of them.
Q: He’s expressing dissatisfaction about not being read in on whatever other programs may be —
MR. SNOW: Well, I understand his concerns.
Q: Can I say — can I try —
Q: Why didn’t the Attorney General just say, this would be better handled behind closed doors, during the hearing?
MR. SNOW: I don’t want to — it might be worth taking it up with members and asking them what they think of the idea.
Q: I just want to try and jump into this muddle a little bit again. So Mueller is saying that, yes, it was the program that was widely discussed, yes. So “widely discussed,” that’s the surveillance program that was acknowledged. There were other aspects of that program that are still classified that you can’t talk about that created disagreements such that Mueller and other Justice Department officials were going to resign. That got resolved; we don’t know and you guys aren’t going to tell us because it’s classified. But that we know.
But there seems to be an effort by you and others to say you have to disaggregate all of this, these are all individual pieces, when, in fact, it sounds like it was one meal and you’re arguing over the ingredients here. (Laughter.) There was disagreement about the meal and Gonzales is saying, no, no, we disagreed about the ingredients, not the meal. That’s preposterous.
MR. SNOW: No, it’s not preposterous. But it’s a great analogy, and I can’t even come back with a countervailing analogy. (Laughter.)
Q: But is it wrong imagery? You know what I’m getting at.
MR. SNOW: No, I know what you’re getting at, and the fact is, again, I’m in a position here where I can acknowledge the peas, I can’t acknowledge whether there are other things on the dish. So what I can say is —
Q: — confusing my meal analogy. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Good, then I did succeed.
Q: Yes, so you would come up with —
MR. SNOW: Yes, just mashed them all together. Let me try to deal with David’s question as best I can. And I’ll guarantee you right up front it’s not going to be satisfactory, because to give a satisfactory answer means telling far more than we’re simply in the position to be able to tell. I’m sorry about that, but that’s the way it is. When it comes to matters of classification, these are simply not things that you can discuss in great detail out in public. And therefore, it does lead to conversations like this one where we look like we’re chasing each other around the —
Q: You’re saying unequivocally that the Attorney General is not parsing with the specific intent of trying to obfuscate?
MR. SNOW: No, I think — to the extent that — what he’s trying to do is to be precise. You also understand that if one is construed as being too loose with language in a situation like this, all of a sudden people can import all sorts of other meanings in things and you’re in deep trouble, too. It’s a really, really difficult situation . You’ve got people trying to talk in open session about things the vast majority of which you can’t talk about in open session. So you have to be very, very careful in the way you do it. You certainly are going to stand accused of parsing; probably better that than spilling the beans.
Q: Tony, the other day from the podium you said, no one has laid a glove on Attorney General Gonzales. Do you still feel that way?
MR. SNOW: Yes. I mean, he’s — but what’s happened is — look, it is clear that there are a lot of members of Congress who don’t like his performance. But the President supports him ad the President supports his performance.
Q: Among those members were some Democratic senators who are privy to intelligence briefings, who have pushed for a special prosecutor, in part in terms of trying to get to the bottom of this discrepancy. Do you think senators who are aware of the intelligence, do understand all the different ingredients of the meal, and still say something is not right here — are they playing politics with intelligence? Or aren’t they in a position to assess that —
MR. SNOW: I don’t want to get into that because I think you’ve seen a number of people who have had access to this, having themselves differing memories — I don’t want to get into being the referee of that.
Q: Who supports Gonzales besides the President?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, there have been others, but I will allow them to speak for themselves.
Q: Can we talk about the economy a little bit?
Q: Can we follow up first on this?
MR. SNOW: Let’s finish this, and then I’ll get to the economy, Wendell. Go ahead, Ken.
Q: I just want to do this as simply as possible. Were the controversies that existed, were they about programs apart and separate from TSP, or was it part and parcel of —
MR. SNOW: Again, I can’t — I just can’t go any further than I’ve gone.
MR. SNOW: I know, like I said, it’s a natural consequence of frustration at this line of questioning.
Q: There were controversies, they weren’t about TSP?
MR. SNOW: As I’ve defined TSP, that is correct.
Q: Can I say, being as simple as possible —
MR. SNOW: Please.
Q: We’re getting a game show feel now.
MR. SNOW: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q: You can assure us that both Mueller and Gonzales were telling the truth?
MR. SNOW: Yes, I think so. Yes, I mean —
Q: You think so?
MR. SNOW: Look, I cannot — I cannot serve as the fact witness of everything that was in their head and try to unpack exactly what they meant. But I’m sure that both men were up there telling the truth and the whole truth as they understood it.
Q: And can you tell us and assure us that they were both speaking about the same program?
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to go any further than I’ve gone.
Q: On a related thing. Is Fred Fielding going to respond to the Congress on the Rove subpoena?
MR. SNOW: Yes, of course, in due course.
Q: Okay. When — any idea when that would be? And will you release —
MR. SNOW: Before the deadline. Typically — you will know what our response is.
Q: Tony, I always seem to ask the resignation questions — I feel like Oscar, the Grim Reaper cat — but despite what you just said, if Gonzales submitted his resignation and then —
MR. SNOW: The Grim Reaper — oh, my goodness.
Q: — Oscar the cat.
MR. SNOW: Have you heard this story?
MR. SNOW: They’ve got this hospice where this cat climbs in bed with people in the final hours. Go ahead.
Q: If the Attorney General submitted his resignation and meant it, would the President accept it?
MR. SNOW: Come on, Connie, that’s —
Q: One more on this. As a routine matter, are resignation letters always in the President’s desk if he wants to act on them?
MR. SNOW: You mean, do we all have resignation letters in the file? No, unless someone has written one for me and stuffed it in the desk and I’m unaware of it.
Q: You keep saying “as you’ve defined it,” and what you’re saying the program is surveillance between suspected al Qaeda members somewhere in the country, as you’ve defined it. Does that definition include doing that without a warrant?
MR. SNOW: It includes the way — yes, the way the President put it together.
Q: So the program without a warrant was not in dispute?
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, that’s right. The program as it was then constituted and operating.
Q: One more on this. Do you support an attorney — do you support an independent counsel to clear Gonzales’s name?
MR. SNOW: At this point, probably the best way is, let’s just — I don’t think we’re ready to cross that river yet.
Q: — that’s not really the answer —
MR. SNOW: That’s not an answer, yes. I’m just — I’m not prepared to answer that question right now.
Q: I believe I have dibs on this —
Q: Does that mean that you’re —
MR. SNOW: Okay, that’s right, you know what — that’s absolutely right. Wendell. Go ahead, Wendell.
Q: Secretary Paulson says that the shake-out in the market, if you want to call it that, is a wake-up call on the value of risk and the cost of risk. Now, the President got a lot of a political mileage out of the increase in home ownership. And I want to know if there’s a contradiction here, whether it’s good for the President to be pushing home ownership for people who may not be quite financially able to handle it, and to — the “welcome to my house” line he has — and whether that’s good for the economy, or whether it might be better for him to be pushing, perhaps, more reasonable, more conservative financial —
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, I am unaware of any time in which the President said, come on, come all, buy a house you can’t afford.
Q: Well, the President wouldn’t say that.
MR. SNOW: Well, that’s right. So I think you’ve created a strawman there. What the President has said is that it’s important to have an economy that continues to provide for jobs, opportunity and income. He has celebrated, quite rightly, the growth of home ownership in this country. And one of the things you want to do to deal with the situation now is to create enough continued growth in the economy so that at some point we’ll have the possibility of interest rates once again moderating. But it’s also important for people to make wise choices in how they finance their homes. I mean, all of those are legitimate issues, but I think the idea that somehow the President — you lay it at the President that a lot of people went out and bought homes, that seems an awful stretch.
Q: Tony, on the whole —
MR. SNOW: Let Wendell continue —
Q: I’m not necessarily saying the President caused this problem.
MR. SNOW: Oh, good.
Q: I’m not saying that at all. I’m asking you whether or not the President may have contributed to it, and whether he may have benefitted politically from it, and whether or not it might have been better for him to stress more conservative fiscal management.
MR. SNOW: So, in other words, it would have driven our numbers from the high 90s to the mid 90s.
Q: There’s a cost to this sub-prime lending thing, and we’re paying it.
MR. SNOW: Everybody is paying it. I was unaware of a big burst. I’m not sure that the home ownership created a bonanza at the polls. Perhaps it did. The fact is — what’s really interesting, Wendell, is you take a look at all the economic numbers, and we still have the strongest economy we’ve had in a very long time.
One of the other things that Hank Paulson said, the world’s economy is the strongest he’s ever seen it — somehow that doesn’t seem to have been reflected. So if you’re trying to import some sort of political insinuation, somehow we didn’t get the benefit, so let’s take the political piece out of it. When it comes to trying to figure out how to come up with a system that is going to be able to enable folks to finance their homes and to achieve the American Dream, that’s something the President does support. And if problems come up along the way that deserve addressing, I’m sure that we’d be happy to look at them, and I’m sure Congress would, as well.
Q: Tony, there are chain-reaction effects to what’s happening on the sub-prime market. We’ve got some of the biggest companies, like Bear Stearns and others, that are really facing a potential blowout. And these are firms that are too big to fail, as they used to say. And if something happens in that — now people are talking about a credit crunch, talking about blowout in the markets — as a chain reaction of the inflation, the loans in the housing markets can affect the entire system. Now, the President didn’t cause that problem, but it’s going to be on his plate, and it’s going to be on his plate soon. And I’m sure there’s some discussions going on with regard to that. And the question is, what is he prepared to do — there are some things he can do. The value of the dollar, in particular, is probably the most important item that he would have responsibility for, because if the bottom falls out of that, believe me, all hell breaks lose.
MR. SNOW: Let me offer several general propositions. Number one, as I said early on in my tenure here, I do not make market-moving pronunciamentos from the podium, whether they be about the value of the dollar, or the proper levels of prime interest rates, or so on. Furthermore, you have laid out a scenario that had dominos toppling hither and yon at some point in the future. Whether they do or not, I am not competent to tell and, therefore, not competent to answer about consequences.
It is important to realize that the President does believe in fiscal responsibility. He also believes in trying to keep the economy growing, so that people will have options and will have income streams and will have strong futures, and furthermore, that you’ve got a Treasury team that continues to look at these and many more issues to try to maintain the strength of the American economy. And despite the sort of cataclysmic scenario you’ve just laid out, we’ve just gotten a report that indicates that there’s, in fact, extraordinary strength in the American economy, something that would be the envy of the rest of the industrialized world. It is our challenge to build on that and where there are problems, to address them.
Q: Tony, on Iraq, General Barry McCaffrey said about an hour ago — he said he’d given the administration too much benefit of the doubt about the September surge report, and now he says, it’s the political hurdle the administration cannot surmount. He also says, it’s no secret the Pentagon is looking at starting an immediate draw-down, that the army is stretched too thin. He says, the army will come apart next summer.
MR. SNOW: Since you’re presenting me with Barry McCaffrey quotes that I’ve not been able to read or see in context —
Q: — can see it.
MR. SNOW: — or just email me. But either way, I’m not going to respond right now.
Q: Tony, two questions. One, this morning the President announced about U.S.-India civil nuclear deal. So did Mr. Nicholas Burns at the State Department.
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q: And do you think the President willing to take personal interest on the — for this final 123, as it’s known —
MR. SNOW: Goyal, what do you think? I mean, the President has already made it clear that closer relations with India are pivotal for us. Of course, he takes interest in it.
Q: And second, as far as this immigration is concerned, one judge already said that it’s not a local issue but a federal issue. You think the President sees the same, that immigration is a federal issue, not a local and state —
MR. SNOW: One of the things that was of concern during the conversation about comprehensive immigration reform is that if you did not get comprehensive federal legislation, localities would try piecemeal to apply different solutions, and it would make it rather difficult to figure out what to do from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Senator Lindsey Graham made that point on a number of occasions.
But you know what, localities do, in fact, have their own federalist responsibilities and freedoms when it comes to doing certain types of legislation, so I’m certainly not going to get into arguing about it. We still think the best way to deal with the immigration problem is on a comprehensive basis.
Q: Tony, I want to come back to what you jumped off.
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, let me talk to John, and then you and I will hook up again.
Q: To get back to the issue of a special prosecutor or a special counsel, what is the White House’s role in that? Are you going to leave that up to the —
MR. SNOW: Well, once again, typically a special counsel is something appointed by the Department of Justice. But I’m not going to get into that right now.
Q: Tony, going back to McCaffrey, McCaffrey has stated — and this is a man that the President has talked to, the President has asked for advice — he talks about the fact that troops are going out, and then they’re — they’re going out and coming back for two months and then going out and staying for much longer periods of time, that everything is just thin. What is this administration trying to do to accommodate that? He says it’s no secret that the Pentagon is talking about a draw-down, and by the end of this President’s term, that half of the U.S. troops in Iraq will be gone.
MR. SNOW: Well, that’s a prediction on his part. I don’t know where he gets it.
Q: He says it’s from the Pentagon. He said —
MR. SNOW: Well, the Pentagon, which has thousands of employees. Let me just — a couple of things.
Q: He’s a general who the President has consulted with, so he is privy to information, correct?
MR. SNOW: We like and respect Barry McCaffrey. Again, I am not going to get in a position of trying to fly-speck something that you have back in your —
Q: I will email it to you so you can hear it —
MR. SNOW: I would be happy to do it. But several things to keep in mind: What are we doing about it? In the State of the Union address, the President talked about significantly increasing the size of the military forces, precisely so you could get back into a regular rotation structure. He also talked about rebuilding equipment in a way so that we also didn’t have equipment problems. Go back and — again, you can read it, it’s right there, it’s in the State of the Union address, it’s a five-year plan, it deals with tens of thousands of new forces.
Q: But things have changed, since then things have changed.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, because the President knew that we were talking about a way forward. The other thing that has changed is that there’s been significant success on the military front — this is less and less disputed — in the early stages of the surge. And we’ve seen it in Baghdad and we’ve seen it in areas around Iraq. We’ve seen it also in the change of behaviors of Iraqis, where, with much increasing regularity, they’re turning in bad guys — the number of tips up by something like 400 percent. And you have a significant change on the ground, in terms of the security situation.
We understand the importance of providing for the forces, and also training up not only our own forces by Iraqi forces.
But you’re getting me here into a very long philosophical dispute, not having heard what —
Q: You’ve had generals on the ground say that troop strength is thin, it’s wearing thin.
MR. SNOW: I believe that the generals who have spoken recently have talked about the success of things that are going on, the importance of staying the course —
Q: Is it thin or not?
MR. SNOW: Thin? It’s a tough war.
Okay, thank you.
Q: Gordon Brown? Can you say a little bit about the Gordon Brown visit?
MR. SNOW: Gordon Brown? I believe you’ll —
Q: Week ahead?
MR. SNOW: We did the week ahead this morning. Let me just take — let me see if I’ve got any — let me just — there will be pool coverage for the arrival on Saturday with the Prime Minister. And there will be a joint press availability —
MR. SNOW: I mean on Sunday — I’m sorry, Sunday. And on Monday at 11:25 a.m., there will be a joint press availability with the Prime Minister. And after that he’ll return.
Q: Could just talk about the topics again? I know you went over this in the gaggle, but if you —
MR. SNOW: Well, again, it’s the topics that you would expect. And it — I know I say this often, but what will happen is, the two will follow the issues that are closest to them. They’ll talk about the Middle East, they’ll talk about security in Europe, they’ll talk about Darfur. They certainly will talk about Iraq. They will talk about the broader war on terror. Chances are they may talk about political developments in Europe, talk about the Doha Round. So the kinds of smorgasbord of big topics you could expect them to be discussing, but I don’t know at what length or what order; that’s really up to them.
Q: Are they working on any security agreements or anything to announce on Monday —
MR. SNOW: I don’t expect any deliverables.
Q: Both you and the British have said that you expect the close relationship that was maintained under Tony Blair to continue. Can it possibly continue at anything like the same level?
MR. SNOW: We’ll find out. When Tony Blair — when George W. Bush came to office, people said, how can there possibly be a close relationship, concerning how close Tony Blair was to Bill Clinton? You got to keep in mind, the things that draw the Americans and Brits together are the personalities of their leaders, but also deep affection and shared interests between the two nations.
With that, we’re done.
Q: Thank you.
END 1:05 P.M. EDT