THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JAKE SIEWERT AND DAVID LEAVY
The Briefing Room
1:10 P.M. EST
MR. SIEWERT: I think we will be joined shortly by the NSC representative, so if you could hold your questions on that. I have a couple of announcements. The President will travel to Chappaqua Saturday. We will be taking a press pool on that. We'll also have a sign-up posted. If there's enough interest, we will have a press plane that goes up on Sunday and returns Sunday. The pool will spend Saturday and Sunday night in the vicinity of Chappaqua with the President. He will return to the White House on Monday.
The President will also have an announcement later today easing computer export controls. This is a pledge that he's made to the industry which has been at the forefront of economic growth and innovation in this country -- that we will from time to time review the rules governing export licensing of high-performance computers, and we'll have an announcement later today making some adjustments to that to reflect the realities of today's marketplace.
Q In what form is the announcement?
MR. SIEWERT: We'll do that on paper.
We've pledged -- as you know, the President met with some of the CEOs from the high-tech companies last month and urged them to press Congress on tightening up the waiting period that we -- we now have to wait six months before these kinds of controls go into effect. The President thinks that's too long for today's marketplace. We hope to see some action on a bipartisan basis on a bill that will do that, that will tighten that up to one month that we've proposed. But in the meantime, we're taking this executive action to make it easier for American high-performance computer companies to ship their exports overseas while we maintain the controls that are necessary to protect our national security. We'll have that paper for you very shortly.
Finally, just a quick update on the congressional meeting. The President had a good discussion with the bipartisan leadership that was here. It lasted about an hour. The President spent quite a bit of time talking about what we needed to do to keep our economy on track, on this day that we're entering a month that will mark the longest expansion in American history.
There was a general bipartisan consensus on the need to continue to pay down the debt. As you know, we announced yesterday that we're on track now to pay down over $300 billion of debt in this administration through the end of the fiscal year. And the President made an impassioned plea for using some of the interest savings that we're getting from paying down the debt to extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund.
There was also a good discussion on Medicare. I think there was a willingness on the part of Republicans to address how we move forward on Medicare this year. The President laid out a package last spring on how we could both modernize the program and provide a prescription drug coverage. Some of the leadership, some of the Senators that were there said that they thought that they could see some action on that. Everyone recognizes it's an election year; nothing's going to be very easy. But we have an opportunity to make some progress on that.
There was a discussion about tax cuts. The President said it's very important that as we consider tax cuts, that we do it in a framework in which we pay down the debt, and do what we can to strengthen and shore up both Social Security and Medicare; that we not take a tax cut alone, without considering the broader fiscal ramifications of cutting taxes.
Extended discussion of moving quickly on the Colombian supplemental. There seems to be very strong bipartisan support for that, and the President said to the leaders that he would like to move that as quickly as possible. It's something the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader also said that they firmly supported.
And finally, they spent quite a bit of time talking about China, and how we can move forward on the China deal. The President said that in some ways, this should be very easy. Our market is already wide open to imports from China, and what this agreement does is open China to American exports. Every year we have a vote in which we basically allow our market to remain open to Chinese imports. And what this agreement does, for the first time, is really open up America's markets to our goods.
There was a fairly extensive discussion. Everyone recognizes that this will be a difficult year on that. But the President said he was committed to an all-out effort. And I think the Republican leadership said that they would like to move as quickly as possible, as did some of the Democrats.
And with that I will turn it over to questions for me or David.
Q Did you say there was an agreement or any kind of acquiescence on the part of the Republican leaders to pay down the debt rather than give tax cuts?
MR. SIEWERT: I think they would like to cut taxes. We would like to cut taxes as well, and the President has laid out a plan to do just that. But I think that the Speaker has indicated now that he's committed to paying off the debt by 2015. The President would like to see it paid off even sooner, by 2013. That's something that we've put on the table. And I think they recognize the importance of paying off the debt.
The Speaker said we could discuss exactly what date we would pay off the entire debt by. But I think there is a general understanding that at a time when the economic performance of this country hinges in large part on how the government handles its own finances, that we need to do everything we can to show the markets, to show entrepreneurs, businesses across the country that we're serious about keeping our fiscal house in order.
Q And they didn't argue with that?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I'm not saying that they -- I don't know quite yet. We've seen some indications that they may be moving towards a more targeted tax cut like the President's. We'll have to wait and see what they actually put out as a larger framework, in which the tax cuts and the spending they have proposed all adds up. We haven't seen that yet; when we do, we'll have a better sense of whether they've really embraced fiscal responsibility. But they did say that they were very interested in the President's call to pay off the debt.
Q I guess another way of asking it is, what do the Republicans get in return for what they may be -- for their more willingness to accomplish some things, to pay down the debt in particular, and those other things?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, that's a question that's obviously best put to them. I mean, I think they get the returns that come from having a strong economy, one that obviously has benefited all people that are living and working in America. And I think that -- you'll have to ask them what their plan is on tax cuts. I saw Chairman Archer had a plan out yesterday.
But if they're willing to move towards more targeted tax cuts -- towards a tax cut that will help alleviate the marriage penalty, help pay for school construction, some of the other priorities that the President has laid out -- then we can have a discussion about that. But we need to do it in a framework that also pays off the debt, and does something on Social Security and Medicare.
Q Jake, Republicans said they spent a lot of time talking about trade. I think they characterized 45 percent of the meeting as being about trade -- not just China, but also Africa --
MR. SIEWERT: I didn't have a stopwatch, so I can't confirm that. But no, they did spend quite a bit on trade. The President has two initiatives that he'd like to see immediate action on, and I think both the Speaker and particularly the Majority Leader said they thought that was possible. And that's the Africa bill and the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Those are bills that Congress has had for some time now. I believe they're in conference at the moment. And those are pieces of legislation the President would like to move forward very quickly on.
We've obviously waiting in some sense for some progress from the EU and Brazil as they begin to wrap up their negotiations with China on their piece of the WTO. But what's important -- and this is something the President stressed to the leadership -- is that the benefits that we have gained from our agreement with China are locked in. Nothing that the other countries around the world do on trade is going to abrogate any of our benefits. So if anything, a bill that we get -- a deal that we get that includes the deals that Europe makes, or that Brazil makes, with China is just going to strengthen the deal that we have to open China's markets.
So if Congress wants assurances that the deal that we've reached with China open its markets are as strong as they're going to be, we have that now.
Q Jake, regarding China, one of the reasons for the six-month waiting period on export controls was fear of China taking some of our technology, particularly in supercomputers, going back some time. Is the feeling that that has changed somewhat now, that a threat from the Chinese is not as great, and we simply have to be in that market -- not just China, but also other markets? And what can the President do, since the six-month waiting period is by law? Are you talking about some sort of executive order today?
MR. SIEWERT: No. The executive order that we're putting in place eases licensing requirements today. What we're trying to do -- we can't change the waiting period; that is part of law. But we can -- what the law does now is allow the President to change the type of computer that's being exported, but we have to wait six months for those regulations to go into effect. And that's something the computer industry says is just too long a period given how quickly the technology changes, how quickly the technology moves.
What the President wants to do is shorten that time period, by law, to one month, so that we don't need to spend every six months going back to the drawing board and trying to figure out what kind of computers are widely available in the marketplace today and whether we need to take another look at our regulations. A short waiting period would give computer industry a better chance to figure out its product lines and what they can export, its marketing schemes for exports overseas.
On China, we're still maintaining a lot of the security controls that are in place under the current law. We have loosened some requirements to reflect the realities of today's marketplace, but we still have tier one, tier two, and tier three countries, so that we cannot sell -- the computer industry cannot sell the same computers that it sells to an ally in Europe that it can to places like Pakistan or China.
Q Isn't the real problem that you have to define, change the definition of what a supercomputer is, because as you say, the speed of these chips just changes expedientially these days?
MR. SIEWERT: We've committed to a six-month review. We'd like to change the law so that we can have more rational review periods. But the President will order today that we have another review, beginning in April, and we may have a decision after that because the technology is moving so quickly. But we've been consulting with the Pentagon and with the NSC about how to keep in place some of the security controls that the law envisions, and ensure that we do everything we can to make sure that high-performance computers don't get into the hands of the wrong users.
Q Can you talk about the realities of the marketplace, where we don't sell the computers somebody else will?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, also the realities of the fact that the marketplace -- America has some of the best technology in the world, and a lot of people don't have any recourse but to come to the United States, but to ensure that in a very open global economy that our rules on licensing are more or less reflecting what's going on in the actual industry today.
Q A question on the President's trip to South Asia, India and Bangladesh. The statement said that no decisions had been made about other stops. That means that Pakistan, if the U.S. is in discussion with the Pakistani authorities, the President would want to make a stop --
MR. SIEWERT: I think the President addressed that, but I'll let David answer that.
MR. LEAVY: Yes. Nothing more to add than what the President said today. We haven't taken any decisions on further stops. The President is looking forward to traveling to India and to Bangladesh, and if there's any decision on further stops, we'll let you know.
Q But you are in touch with the Pakistani authorities for the change that the U.S. wants Pakistan to change about --
MR. LEAVY: Yes, the State Department traveled to Pakistan several weeks ago, made clear our longstanding concerns on terrorism, proliferation, the restoration of democracy. And I think the Pakistanis are well aware of our concerns.
Q Can I keep you up there for a second; a question on Northern Ireland? Has the President made any more phone calls today? And the phone calls he made, did he feel like he had any progress? And the other thing is, the visa for Gerry Adams, if there is no progress, and as they release the results of the -- commission, do you anticipate limiting whether or not Adams and Sinn Fein can continue to do fundraising in the United States?
MR. LEAVY: Susan, I don't think he's made any calls other than the Blair and Adams calls he made yesterday. I'll check after this, but as of the time we came out here none that I was aware of.
More generally, the President is fully engaged -- Mr. Steinberg, Mr. Berger, others here at the White House are engaged. And this is a tough process, but I think the President summed it up well, that we've come so far. The people of Northern Ireland have spoken. They want peace. They launched and supported the Good Friday Accords; that's a tremendous achievement. They've come a long way, and it's important that all aspects of that agreement be implemented and we're making that known to the parties.
I don't want to speak about any of the specifics, specifically on the Adams visa. I haven't heard that. But the President made clear it's better to keep this in private as opposed to public at this delicate time.
Q Just to follow up, was he informed of his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize?
MR. LEAVY: I hadn't heard that, but -- who gets to tell him? (Laughter.) Jake and I will fight it out to see who gets to tell him.
Q David, another question, on Austria. Why is the U.S. changing its policy and getting involved in internal politics?
MR. LEAVY: I don't think we're changing policy or getting involved. It's something we're watching closely. This is obviously an important issue to the new Europe, and to the ideals and principles that we've long spoken out for. We noted what the European Union said yesterday, and if the Freedom Party does join the government in Austria, we'd have to consider how this impacts our own interests, and what steps to consider.
Q What steps could these possibly --
MR. LEAVY: Well, I don't want to speculate at this point. Again, we are dealing with a situation that hasn't quite occurred yet, so I don't think it's appropriate. But we would consider what steps to take.
Q If it's not appropriate, why did the U.S. even say that it's reviewing? I mean, that's a big change. It looks more like you're looking at Balkan states or something.
MR. LEAVY: No, I don't think so. I think, as the Europeans said yesterday, that we have an obligation to speak out about principles and ideals that we hold strongly, and we've done that. If there are actions that merit consideration or affect our national interest, of course we don't rule that out.
Q -- a little earlier, saying that the U.S. would consider measures, the same kind of measures as Europe. Why are you slightly backtracking?
MR. LEAVY: No, no, I'm not ruling anything in or out at this point. But we would consider whatever steps we felt were in our national interests, or were appropriate, given a hypothetical action that may or may not take place. So I just want to -- not rule anything out, but I don't want to be more specific about something that may happen down the road.
Q On the trip to South Asia, this has been put off and put off for various reasons all along here. Why was it suddenly decided that, you know, maybe you couldn't put it off anymore?
MR. LEAVY: Well, we were scheduled to go, I think, close to two years ago, and we did postpone that. I think the President made it clear as early as last fall that he intended to go this spring. And we've been in touch with the governments of India and Bangladesh to work out the logistics and what dates made sense.
But I would say that we have a very important strategic interest with India -- health, the environment, trade and investment, certainly security and terrorism. And this is a very important relationship for the United States. The President has wanted to travel there to engage the Indian leadership on this broad array of issues, and felt that given where we are in the state of the relationship that we should go, the President should go, we should travel, we should communicate with the Indian government about issues that we agree on and issues that we disagree.
Q The decommissioning issue in Northern Ireland seems to be what's at dispute right now. George Mitchell was there present. Has the President asked Mr. Mitchell what is recollection of what the IRA had committed to in those conversations was? And is he going to be asking Mr. Mitchell to maybe travel to Northern Ireland to get involved in any way at this particular moment?
MR. LEAVY: I haven't heard that. I think it's premature at this point. The President is engaged. He's talking to the leaders of the governments and the parties. I haven't heard any plans to send George Mitchell out at this point.
Q Has he asked him what his recollection is about this particular promise or timetable for the decommissioning --
MR. LEAVY: I'm not sure if the President has talked to Senator Mitchell. I can check on that. I haven't heard that, though.
Q Let me make two statements on Pakistan; you tell me which is the more accurate one. One, Pakistan is not vigilant enough in fighting terrorism, or two, Pakistan is actively encouraging terrorism?
MR. LEAVY: Well, I think all of us in the government have learned not to take pop quizzes. (Laughter.) But, look, let me just say on that point, we do have a broad agenda with Pakistan. Part of that is the issue of fighting terrorism. They are an important ally in that fight. We need to have cooperation. We need to have progress. We've made that clear.
I think if the partnership that we have with Pakistan can move forward, can deepen, can broaden, we're going to have to see progress on that front. And we've made that very clear to the Pakistanis. They realize this is a core issue for the United States. Fighting terrorism is one of the pre-eminent threats to our own security; the President talked about that in the State of the Union just last week. And as we move forward and continue to engage the Pakistanis, this will always be on the agenda.
Q But we said there was no evidence, so far, of terrorism by Pakistan. Isn't the real issue that it's a military coup, and that the government that's elected democratically has been overthrown?
MR. LEAVY: Well, actually, I think you're --
Q -- and the U.S. doesn't know what its relations with --
MR. LEAVY: No, I think there are two issues. One, we didn't have any evidence that they were involved in the hijacking of the Indian airline. So that's issue number one. More broadly, the fight against terrorism, working with the Afghans, the fight against Bin Laden more generally, is the progress that I'm talking about today.
Q It is a terrorist nation then, on the list?
MR. LEAVY: No, the State Department hasn't put it on the terrorism list, but --
Q But you are.
MR. LEAVY: No, I'm not. I'm saying that given Pakistan's regional influence, and given their strategic relationships, that they have an important role to play in the fight against terrorism more broadly, and that we need to have cooperation and progress on that front, if we can have the kind of relationship both sides want for the --
Q -- that role, that's the thing.
MR. LEAVY: Well, we'd like to see more progress. We'd like to see more.
Q How hard are you pressing Pakistan, or the dictator of Pakistan, to bring the democracy, and also not to hang Nawaz Sharif, the elected Prime Minister? This nation has been hanging elected prime ministers. This is history.
MR. LEAVY: Well, in terms of former Prime Minister Sharif, we certainly want a transparent, open judicial process. We've made that clear to the Pakistanis. We want due process there.
More broadly, on the restoration of democracy, it's an important issue. I don't think we can have the normal relationship that both sides want unless there is a return to civilian rule. That's one of the core issues for us, and that's one of the issues we're looking for progress on.
Q Is it a possible visit by President Clinton a bargaining chip in seeing that progress?
MR. LEAVY: Well, it's not -- I don't characterize it like that. We haven't taken a decision on the trip. The President is going to go to India and Bangladesh --
Q Might he reconsider if they do show progress?
MR. LEAVY: Well, you know, I don't want to set any benchmarks or any preconditions at this point. We have made clear our concerns more broadly, and we'll continue to engage the Pakistanis. And if that affects the trip, we'll let you know.
Q While the President is in India, do you think they will sign any agreements, including CTBT?
MR. LEAVY: Well, signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is the Indian government's to make. Whether there will be more signings, we'll let you know.
Q In a statement on India you said one of the points of the trip is to improve relations, and you also said up here that have several mutual strategic interests. Should we view this trip as kind of a sea shift in U.S. diplomacy, that we're trying to promoted a strategic alliance with India? How far are we going to go with the betterment of relations?
MR. LEAVY: Well, I think the President views strong Indian relations as essential to our own interests, to the interests of the American people. They're the largest democracy. They have over a billion people. They have an important role to play in the future not only in terms of strategic interests, but also the environment, health, improved trade and investment. There is a very large Indian American population here that's very active in the high-tech sector. They make significant contributions to our own economy and our own society. So this is a very important country for us.
We do have a relationship that stands alone, that doesn't need to have -- we've never put our relationship with India based on relationships with other countries. It stands alone. It's an important country. We need to engage them. We have a broad agenda. And that's what we hope to accomplish.
Q When the President this morning said that everyone needed to abide by all aspects of the Good Friday Accord, was that a not so subtle signal to the Irish Republican Army to get on with the decommissioning, with the disarmament?
MR. LEAVY: Well, again, Kathleen, I don't think it's right for us at this stage of the process to talk publicly about what we're doing privately. The President has said many times, as we all have, that for this to be successful, for the people of Northern Ireland to have true peace and to have the kind of economic vitality that's so important, that all aspects of the Good Friday Accord need to be fully implemented. And let me just leave it at that.
Q One more on Pakistan and all of this that you've been saying. If, by some miracle, democracy is restored before March 20th, are you saying -- would the President visit with this present government?
MR. LEAVY: Well, let me just leave it at that. There is no final determination yet on other stops. If we have movement we'll let you know.
Q But, David, many Indians have felt that relations with the United States have not been what they should have been since Nixon's famous tilt toward Pakistan in, what, 1971. Is this a message that the famous Nixon tilt is over, irrevocably? And is this the most important step that's been taken, really, since that tilt?
MR. LEAVY: Well, President Carter traveled to India, I believe, in the late '70s and --
Q But this is a case where if there is a tilt, it's towards India.
MR. LEAVY: Well, I don't think what we're looking at tilts, one way or the other, John. We have important issues with both sides. Having strong bilateral relations with both India and Pakistan are in our interests. They're not mutually exclusive. The relationship with India stands on its own. It doesn't have to be compared to or -- it's not a zero sum game with any other country. Clearly, if we're going to be able to lower tensions, reduce the possibility of a conflict, to have the kind of economic cooperation that we all hope, we need to have a strong relationship with India.
And I think if you look back at some of the trips the President's taken around the world, it's clear that when he visits countries, when he meets with world leaders face to face, when he talks to congresses or parliaments, when he's able to interact with the local population, that has a real effect -- Turkey being the most recent example when we went there in November. The President can connect. He has real stature, and it helps deepen not only the ties from government to government, but people to people. And there is no doubt that if we can strengthen those bonds with the Indian people, we'll be better off.
Q -- domestic, but the computer export controls would be reviewed on a regular basis, is what you're saying, that we want a shorter waiting period between --
MR. SIEWERT: Well, there are two things. The President has committed -- we've relaxed or eased the computer controls already from time to time. What the President is committed to do is to review them every six months, and we'll continue to do that. He's ordered another review to being in April so that we can have a decision in time for the computer industries to develop its new product lines and to developing some export plans for those.
At the same time, the current law calls for the export controls for a waiting period of six months, so that when we announce this proposal today, it essentially goes into effect six months from now. What we would like to see is legislation that shortens that waiting period, so that when we announce a new regulation to actually ease controls and make it easier for some of our high performance computer companies to export those, that it only takes one month for those rules to actually go into effect, because the marketplace is changing very quickly, technology is moving very quickly. We want to make sure that when we make decisions, they move as quickly as the market.
Q In terms of Chappaqua --
Q -- these controls --
MR. SIEWERT: These controls will take the full six months to go into effect. We think that, actually having consulted with the computer industry, that that gives them enough time to develop new products, to develop a marketing plan for those. What we would like to see is legislation from Congress that will shorten future waiting periods to one month.
Q I wonder if the President is aware of this news which has gone around the world in major newspapers in India and in America, and also in the Indian parliament, and the India Globe has covered a little piece, that 40 Indian -- professionals were arrested in San Antonio, Texas, and they had valid visas by the INS. And the Indian Ambassador said that he is surprised that in a country like America should not happen, which is protecting human rights and democracy and freedom.
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I'll check into that. I don't think he's aware of that. I know that we've made some reforms to the visa program, the H1B visa program that allows professionals from around the world to come here and work for high-tech companies, but I'll take a look at that and I'll get back to you.
Q On Chappaqua -- the President is going there. Is he going to make a speech during her announcement?
MR. SIEWERT: Announcement? The President will attend an event on Sunday. I believe it's about 3:00 p.m. at SUNY Purchase. And I understand that Mrs. Clinton's campaign is finalizing the plans for that. And when we have more details about that, either we'll let you know or they'll let you know. But it's just not -- I don't think the agenda for that particular announcement's been finalized.
Q He's coming back here --
MR. SIEWERT: He'll come back Monday morning.
Q -- and unveils the budget, then he goes to a retreat? Is that how it goes?
MR. SIEWERT: I think we'll have the week ahead for you later in the week. (Laughter.) But I understand there's some retreat going on that he's traditionally been a part of. And we'll let you know if he plans to go to that.
Q Jake, back to the trade issue. Republican leaders came out of this meeting today saying that the President needs to step up a little more and really -- if we're going to get passage of the WTO for China, that he's going to have to do more to work on his own party. Is that -- did they bring that concern to the President?
MR. SIEWERT: There have been -- I mean, the President has been fully engaged. As you know, he's appointed a team, a high-level team -- Secretary Daley and Steve Ricchetti, the Deputy Chief of Staff here have already met with a host of business and farm and human rights leaders, to begin to build support for China. They've also met with a number of the key members. The President's met with some people as well.
We're already engaged, and we'll continue to be so. But there have been strong bipartisan majorities for annual normal trade relations -- majorities in both parties. And I think we'll look for the Republican Party to show the kind of support that it has for normal trade relations in the past, and we'll work with the Democratic Party as well to ensure that
we have the kind of support that we've seen in the past for the one-year extension of normal trade relations.
As I said before, this is different, in that that vote, every year, is simply a vote to let China continue to import to the United States. This is a vote which will actually open China's market to us, so we think in many ways the case for the permanent normal trade relations agreement is stronger.
Q Jake, along those lines, in the Chamber of Commerce, Trent Lott said specifically that President Clinton will have to expend political capital amongst his supporters in organized labor and environmentalists to get this through. Is he going to do that during an election year?
MR. SIEWERT: The President has already been very outspoken on this. He spoke about it in the State of the Union; he spoke about it before the State of the Union; he's spoken about it after the State of the Union. We're engaged. You know, I think everyone's going to have to do some work on this. We've talked about it quite a bit; we've worked on it quite a bit; we've met with a lot of the people that are going to be important to this effort. We're meeting with interesting new coalitions for this deal, from the high-tech community to the agricultural and farm community. So we think we can build the support that's necessary both in our caucus and, hopefully, the Republican leaders will do what they can to build support in their own caucus.
Q On the Alaska Air crash, anything further?
MR. SIEWERT: I don't have anything new to report. I know Admiral Collins was out, and I expect he will have more to say along with the NTSB later.
Q Jake, Daschle said that he thinks one of the big debates this year about the budget is going to be what exactly the size of the surplus is. When the administration calculates, from its perspective, what the surplus is 10 years out, is it going to assume spending above the '97 caps?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I guess we do the budget next Monday, so I'll let you know exactly then. I mean, we do feel as if the caps were essentially rendered meaningless by some of the Republican gimmicks last year. And we'd like a budget that's realistic, that's solid, that doesn't resort to any rosy scenarios. And we'll let you know. I think -- some people around here say that of the three proposals that CBO put forward, only one of them is really realistic, and that it will be along the lines of that projection. But we'll have more for you on that next week.
Q -- $800 billion, $838 billion --
MR. SIEWERT: The one that assumes that Congress isn't going to cut spending by 20 percent this year in an election year, that isn't going to cut 20 percent out of the defense budget and out of the education budget this year. It's hard to believe they -- you know, last year we went through a process that was really unnecessary, where Republicans put forward a budget that pretended to leave room for this large tax cut that there really wasn't any support for. And this year we hope that it's a little bit different, that we not go into the entire year with some budget that's full of gimmicks.
Q Jake, when Hastert and Lott came out to the stakeout, they both agreed that aid to Colombia should be approved quickly, but used the words "clean bill." And my question is, who has the ball in their court right now? Does the White House have to do something else, or does Congress go ahead?
MR. SIEWERT: I think OMB will be working with Congress on that. We share their desire to see a bill move quickly. And we certainly respect their judgment about how to get a bill done quickly. So that's something that we'll continue to consult with them on. But we're going to be consulting with the leaders and the appropriators about how to move this forward quickly, and I think you'll see some action on that soon.
Q Jake, on this report in The New York Times that the CIA may have impeded the investigation of John Deutch, is there any concern here that the CIA is not able to adequately police itself?
MR. SIEWERT: I'll let Dave deal with that one.
MR. LEAVY: No. I think, one, that Director Tenet has done an excellent job as the Director of the IC. He has presided over a really expansive program that has dealt with many, many issues, most recently the heightened terrorism threat that we saw over the New Year. His intelligence team deserves a lot of credit for the work they did there.
I think two points on the specific question. One, Mr. Tenet took strong, decisive, and unprecedented action there. And two, he set up a board to review the timeliness and how the process of the investigation ran. I think that's appropriate. It's certainly being handled well and in the appropriate channels from our standpoint.
Q David, is there concern in the administration that there is a semblance of a double standard here between Wen Ho Lee and former CIA director Deutch. Mr. Deutch was rather cavalier in his treatment of classified materials and Wen Ho Lee --
MR. LEAVY: And he was punished for it. I don't think so, John. The decision to punish Mr. Deutch was unprecedented. He had his security clearance revoked. That is quite punitive for a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. So I think that on its own is the appropriate way to handle this.
I wouldn't compare this against Wen Ho Lee. There are serious allegations against Mr. Lee. The Justice Department is investigating that. There is an ongoing judicial process. It's not appropriate for me to comment on that, but I think they're totally separate issues.
Q But you're saying the allegations against Wen Ho Lee are more serious than anything Deutch is accused of.
MR. LEAVY: I don't want to judge the evidence or compare them. That's not my role to do. They're totally separate. Mr. Deutch was punished. Mr. Tenet took the action he thought appropriate. There is an ongoing judicial process against Mr. Lee. I don't think there is any connection there.
While I have the podium, though, let me just flag that the National Security Advisor, Mr. Berger, will be speaking tomorrow at the Woodrow Wilson Center at 2:00 p.m. concerning China and making the case, as Jake was saying, we are fully engaged on WTO. He will be doing that at the Woodrow Wilson Center at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue. Don't miss it.
Q For Austrian television, if you please, one more question. Just last week, Mr. Rubin at the State Department said that the Freedom Party, even if in government, would be judged by their merits, whether they adhered to certain principles or not. Now, there is a kind of preemptive threat of sanctions. What made this shift in policy come about?
MR. LEAVY: Well, I don't think there's a shift in policy. I don't have much more to add to what I said earlier. This is something that we've watched closely, we've spoken out. I noticed when Mr. Rubin spoke last week, he spoke very forcefully about our views about the new Europe and the kind of society that we all want to see as we move forward to the 21st century. So I don't have anything more than what I said earlier. If appropriate, we'll take steps based on our own national interests.
Q Mr. Rubin seemed not to object against the basic principle that they might join government, so now there's a kind of preemptive threat. Isn't that a big change in policy?
MR. LEAVY: No, I don't think so. We noted what the Europeans did yesterday in their forceful action that they spoke out about. I think it's appropriate for us to express our own views and to not rule anything out or any actions that we may or may not take if we deem it's in our own interest.
Q One last question, Jake. In the spirit of full disclosure, could you please tell us your exact date of birth? (Laughter.)
MR. SIEWERT: It's February 1st, 1964. Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:50 P.M. EST