THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
6:30 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything that I can really add, but a couple of you had questions.
Q How was the President informed, when was he informed and has he made any contact personally with the Saudi government?
MR. MCCURRY: The first word of the explosion was relayed to him by National Security Counsel staff. A short while ago he received a briefing by Secretary of Defense William Perry, National Security Adviser Tony Lake bringing him up to date on what we know at this point. Those are reflected in the President's remarks he just made. And, yes, we have had good cooperation from the Saudi government, as the President indicated, and we have had discussions back and forth with the Saudi government.
Q At this point, do you have any kind of hard numbers at all --
MR. MCCURRY: I would caution you, as we are still developing information, to steer clear of numbers. That's not the point here. The point is that there have been a significant number of injuries and at least some fatalities. The numbers matter less than the fact that this tragedy has occurred.
Q You say you know it appears to be a terrorist act. In what way?
MR. MCCURRY: It appears to be the pattern of what's been brief to the President so far seems to be consistent with that but we, of course, have not established that at this point as a certainty.
Q Specifically, what leads you to believe that it is terrorism?
MR. MCCURRY: I will refer that to the Pentagon. The Pentagon will be in a good position to provide you additional information as they develop it in due course on the nature of the attack itself.
Q Can you confirm that there have been some American fatalities?
MR. MCCURRY: The President just did.
Q Will Secretary Christopher go there?
MR. MCCURRY: I will leave that to the State Department to answer. His itinerary is still being developed and apparently there is some discussion about that but I haven't heard anything definitive.
Q Have there been any sort of specific threats of any sort that you're aware of regarding that particular compound?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that is a part of the world in which the threat exists all the time of people who would do damage to the interests of the United States and the interests of those who support the peace process, but it's way to early in the aftermath of this incident to make judgments on motive.
Q But there have been security advisements put out to military personnel in that region just recently, have there not?
MR. MCCURRY: Almost regularly in that area because it is an area of a great deal of tension and conflict. And it's an area in which those who sponsor terrorism operate, and, very frequently, there is good reason to always maintain a high ready of alert there. I will leave it to the Pentagon to tell you what the state of advisories or alerts were that were provided in the region.
Q And given the fact that this is the second attack in just about seven or eight months, is there any consideration in the U.S. to reducing U.S. military presence in that region?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any plans to reduce our presence in the region because it's a fundamental tenet of American foreign policy that our presence in that part of the world helps limit the conflict and the tension that does exist.
Let's make this the last question.
Q How do you expect this to be a topic at the summit?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, remember that over the course of the past several years the subject of terrorism itself has been elevated on the agenda of the G-7 as the industrialized nations begin to work together. One of the points the President has consistently made and, this is largely agreed to by all the other members of the G-7 and, of course, by the Russian Federation too, is that we must develop global approaches to combating terrorism, which can lead to greater information exchange, greater cooperation among industrialized nations. That subject was already on the agenda for the G-7; this incident will certainly elevate the importance of that discussion. The President intends to make that an immediate subject of discussion in Lyon.
Q Mike, the President said in his statement, "we will pursue this. America takes care of its own." What does he mean?
MR. MCCURRY: He means that we want to make absolutely sure those responsible for this attack are brought to justice.
Q Can you tell me if they're all military personnel or is --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll leave that to the Pentagon. They can tell you about the nature of the facility and the nature of the U.S. personnel that were there.
Q Will there be anymore updates tonight, as far as you know, out of here?
MR. MCCURRY: If so, they'll come from the Pentagon.
Q Whose idea was it to send the FBI?
MR. MCCURRY: We discussed that with the Saudi government.
Q You did that last time, didn't you?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we did do that last time.
Q For planning purposes, it's safe to assume he will probably comment on this again tomorrow on his wait out, you think?
MR. MCCURRY: He still plans to make a departure statement. I'm certain that he'll say something about this.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
6:45 P.M. EDT