For Immediate Release
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
August 27, 2004
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY TELEPHONE CONFERENCE CALL ON THE PRESIDENT'S EXECUTIVE ORDERS
4:05 P.M. EDT
MR. JONES: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Fred Jones, from the NSC press office. I'd like to welcome everyone to this conference call. This afternoon we have available for your questioning a senior White House official -- three senior White House officials available to discuss the executive orders and presidential directives signed this afternoon, morning, by the President. The primary speaker will open up with some statements, and then we will be available for questioning. So, at this time, if our primary speaker would like to begin.
Once again, the call and the comments on this call will be attributable to a senior White House official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Fred. Since September 11th, the President has led an aggressive campaign of reform of the federal government in the way we do business in combatting terrorism. It began three years ago by his increasing emphasis on gathering of human intelligence, the passage of the Patriot Act, which continues to be an ongoing concern in terms of its renewal; the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, bringing together all the terrorism threat information into a single place; the Terrorist Screening Center, to assist in securing our borders; the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security; and the ongoing transformation of the FBI.
On August 2nd, the President directed his administration to take swift action, consistent with existing laws, on reform initiatives that would strengthen the intelligence community and improve America's ability to find, track, and stop dangerous terrorists. In the President's words, "We will ensure that the people in government responsible for defending America and countering terrorism have the best possible information to take these decisions."
On August 2nd, the President unequivocally made clear his commitment to the establishment of a National Intelligence Director and a national counterterrorism center. In announcing his support he noted the many actions the administration has already taken to date, and committed to issuing executive orders and presidential directives to further his reform agenda.
Today the President has made good on that commitment. He has signed four executive orders and two presidential directives He signed executive orders that will push intelligence reform and strain the limits of his executive authority.
Today's actions by the President are by no means the end. They are another important step to a bolder and broader reform agenda that we will continue to work with Congress to ultimately achieve. Today the President's action strengthens the foundation that we can build on in the future with Congress. The executive orders and the directives are simply a down payment on the President's enduring commitment to work with Congress to establish the National Intelligence Director, which must be done by statute -- in other words, in updating the National Security Act of '47.
The executive orders that he signed, the first one is directing the strengthening -- the strengthened management of the intelligence community; another on establishing the national counterterrorism center; the third on strengthening the sharing of terrorism information to protect Americans; and the fourth, establishing the President's board on safeguarding American civil liberties.
There were also homeland security presidential directives on terrorist-related screen procedures, and then the last on a policy for common identification standards for federal employees and contractors.
I think, probably, I'd like just to talk for a moment more on these first two, which is the strengthened management of the intelligence community. The President, in the executive order, which, I'm not sure if you all have seen yet, but he makes clear that within the limits of his authority, he has unequivocally made clear that the Director of Central Intelligence be able to develop, determine, and present, with the advice of heads of departments or agencies that have an organization within the intelligence community, the annual and consolidated national foreign intelligence program budget. He will also participate in the development with the Secretary of Defense, the joint military intelligence program, and the tactical intelligence-related activities program budgets. He will review and approve or disapprove consistent with law any proposal to reprogram funds within the National Foreign Intelligence Program budget, and the transfers from an appropriation to that of a non-NFIP, National Foreign Intelligence Program, budget.
The President, in establishing the national counter-terrorism center, he -- his order reiterates this will be a presidential appointment and underscores the government's commitment to have this center serve as a central and shared knowledge bank on known and suspected terrorists and international terror groups. It will conduct strategic planning for counter-terrorism activities, integrating all elements of national power, and ensure that individual departments and agencies receive all source intelligence support needed to execute their plans to counter terrorist threat against the U.S. and U.S. interests. It will help identify and coordinate intelligence requirements on terror targets around the world.
These -- these orders, frankly, make good his commitment and strengthen, as I said earlier, the foundation upon which we will move forward with Congress to establish the National Intelligence Director. That cannot be done under executive authority. The President has trained the limits of his power today by virtue of these executive orders.
I'm happy to open it up to questions.
Q There were a couple of things I didn't understand. One, about the money, I didn't quite understand what you were saying there. And two, would you just say a little bit about the screening procedures and the common policy for contractors, and tell us what that's all about?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Let's start with the money. As you know, the President wanted to ensure that there was one person who had the authority to both develop the budget, present the budget, and advocate for the budget, and ensure that the community's priorities were translated into how we both develop and execute the budget. That's what is pulled together here in terms of the executive order.
In terms of how that translates to a National Intelligence Director, we will work with Congress to ensure that the NID, if you will, has all the authority he or she needs to do their job.
Now, on the -- I'm sorry, you were asking me about the screening procedures. Let me start with that one. The screening procedures, which are addressed in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 11, the notion here is to more effectively detect and interdict in people known or reasonably suspected to be engaging in conduct related to terrorism. The idea is to enhance terrorist-related screening through a comprehensive and coordinated procedure that sort of detects, tracks, identifies, and interdicts both people, cargo, and conveyances as they are trying to cross our borders, and develop this regardless of where you're entering or how you're entering, if you will.
In Homeland Security presidential directive 12, the notion is to have common identification standards for federal employees and contractors who will be trying to access federal facilities. We're going to work through the Department of Commerce's branch that will -- that establishes standards, so that we're all working -- no matter what federal facility you would be entering, we'd have the same standards against which we're checking and authenticating your identity.
That may have additional implications beyond just the federal government, but we're starting, we're beginning this process by trying to tackle the problem on the federal level.
Q Good afternoon. A couple questions here. In terms of budget consultative authority, I take it that this does not follow the model the 9/11 Commission laid down, which was to give either an expanded role to the DCI, or to the National Intelligence Director, to actually have control over the budget. This is just consultative authority?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the fact is what this does is it gives right now -- the President, within the limits of his authority in the executive branch, gave all of the power in terms of developing, integrating, presenting to Congress, advocating, monitoring then the execution of budgets to the DCI. He gave the DCI right now every power he was capable of giving him within the limits of his executive authority. He -- by no means does this preclude us giving more power to the NID; in fact, I think that is fair -- that's where we're moving toward. What we wanted to do is lay a strong foundation upon which we could then build that capability, consistent with the recommendations.
Q Right, but the DCI, by virtue of this executive order, does not now control all of those budgets, correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right, but this is -- he's able to do what he can do -- what power he can give the DCI under the National Security Act of '47. By law, he can't go further than that right now. And that's why we want to work with Congress on the legislation to establish the NID.
Q Now, in terms of going forward, is this an indication that the National Intelligence Director may, in fact, get the sort of budget authority that the 9/11 Commission was talking about?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think you can't -- I think this is further evidence of the President's commitment that the National Intelligence Director is going to have all the authority they need to do the job that they need to do.
Q Right, but that's based on your perception, or the 9/11 Commission's perception? They seem to have a different perception of what this person needs to get the job done.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't think this is about my perception. It's about --
Q The White House's perception.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's about working with Congress to make sure that the person has got the tools with which to execute their responsibility.
Q Now, secondly, the National Counter Terrorism Center, will it still be based out of the CIA as the TTIC is? Are you moving it? Can you give us some of the logistics in terms of that, how it will be set up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This has all got to be worked out as part of the implementation phase. Right now, we will begin to build it on alongside with the TTIC. The TTIC is going to be a part and parcel of the National Counter Terrorism Center. We will continue to build that capability until we have legislation that establishes a NID.
Q Right, so the office, at least on an interim basis, of the National Counter Terrorism Center will be on CIA property?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let's not talk about on their property. I don't know that I think that that's an accurate statement. It will be continue to be supervised by the DCI.Q Okay, great, thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure.
Q Good to talk to you. I'm down in Miami. And I'm a little confused on two points of the new DCI's authority -- or I'm sorry the NID's authority, I guess, or future NID. One is, if the -- in this new post, if the DCI needs to move an intelligence asset, say a satellite, over a given country, or to have the NSA listen in on a certain area, or do something with a certain priority, does he have an expanded power now to do that? I know past DCIs have complained that they don't have that authority.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You would expect, as happens now, that there is an ongoing consultive and coordination process in the example you used between the DCI and the Secretary of Defense. What this does is makes clear the President's intention that the DCI has the authority to move and cause assets to be tasked consistent with the priorities that he has set. This really underscores what the DCI's authorities are and how the President expects them to be executed.
Q I guess, to bring this down to the bare bones, if there is a disagreement on priorities, if the DCI wants the satellite over Iraq, and somebody wants -- or the Secretary of Defense wants it over North Korea, where does it go?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If North Korea in your example is a national intelligence priority, assuming in your question that it is, it ensures that all intelligence and operational systems and architectures are tasked consistent with that, that that power rests in the director.
Q Okay, so it's the director in the end who has the final say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. But let's not kid ourselves. Do I think that the Secretary of Defense, if he had a competing priority, could appeal that? Obviously, he has a command relationship with the President and would have an ability to appeal that. But, yes, it vests the authority with the DCI.
Q Okay. And the second question is, one of the central points that the commission made was that the dual role of having a DCI who is also running the CIA was just too much for one human being to absorb. I understand that under law you can't separate those two roles right now. This is the most you could do by executive order. But it is still the President's objective that there would be a separate CIA Director under this? Or is this thought that, in fact, the NID would also run the CIA the way you're doing it in this interim basis?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. I'm actually grateful for the question. Let me be absolutely as crystal clear, and you keep at me if I'm not. There will be -- and this is a step in the direction of a National Intelligence Director that is separate from the Director of the CIA. Right now, as you say, under the limits of his executive authority, he can't do that. He needs legislation. And we will work with Congress to get that legislation. The clear stated, unequivocal intention is to establish a separate National Intelligence Director.
Q Is it the clear stated, unequivocal intention that that National Intelligence Director in the end will have total budgetary authority, including over the monies that are currently under the Secretary of Defense?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I didn't say that.
Q I know you didn't. I'm trying to figure that out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's what we've got to work -- we've got to work with Congress on that. I mean, we have to make sure that --
Q But do you have a position on that yet, the way you have a position on the other?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The position is, and I think Scott stated it in the gaggle this morning, and that is that the NID has got have all the authority he or she needs to get the job done, and we've got to work with Congress to define that as specifically and fully as we can.
Q Could you be more specific about what authority this executive order now gives to the DCI that he didn't have before? Was it simply a matter of a change in a practice, rather than authority?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's both. Frankly, I think that what it does is it states the President's clear intention that the DCI exercise his full authorities as head of the intelligence community, his expectation that the community act as a community -- that is, a single community working against the same set of priorities and objectives. And it makes clear what authorities the DCI, for now, has in order to ensure that -- like the development of the budget, not the simple presentation of it through community management staff, but the actual development of an integrated, comprehensive budget against a unified set of priorities. So I think it does both.
Q But specifically, can you say what authority this now gives him that he did not have before?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me see. Let me check with one of my other senior administration officials. Hold on one second.
Okay, I think the right way to explain this -- I mean, I think that it actually enhances his authority in the budgeting area. And that's why I was first trying to explain to you the development of the budget. Because I think that's new, I think that's different. It actually puts the DCI as the head of the NCTC, which is a more muscular capability with more authorities, as set out in the separate executive order than is the current TTIC. And it's a more integrated, comprehensive effort to counterterrorism.
So I think it does both, but I think one of the most important things is the signal it sends to the community about the President's expectations in terms of the DCI's day-to-day role in managing and marshaling the assets of the community.
Q Good afternoon. I'm still a little confused about the national counterterrorism center. You already have a CTC, obviously, out at the CIA that has a lot of people from other agencies, including the FBI. And you have the TTIC, which is supposed to integrate information. Can you sort of explain to me what the national counterterrorism center would do that's new or different or addition to all that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, sure. One of the things I think you've heard us talk about before is the counterterrorism security group that is run out of the National Security Council. Part of the function there is the day-to-day threat monitoring and the response, and organizing across all instruments of national power the U.S. government's response to those threats. And that's sort of, at a strategic level, the deconfliction in the coordination of the response.
You're going to take not only CTC, not only TTIC, not only some of the counterterrorism capability of the FBI, but you're also going to take, on top of that, the strategic planning and the operational, sort of coordination and deconfliction role that now exists outside of that process, and integrate that so you have a unified, seamless effort. I mean, I think it's actually quite different and quite -- a good deal more muscular than the capability that currently exists.
And I should also make clear, all of these are in furtherance of implementing recommendations of the 9/11 Commission who, likewise, thought this sort of integration of capability needed to take place.
Q When I first started hearing about this two or three weeks ago, I did hear that you, the White House, is going to produce some sort of legislative proposal to go along with these executive orders. And supposedly, that was drafted a couple weeks ago. We haven't heard hide nor hair of this. Is that bogged down in interagency squabbling? When is that going to come out, first of all?
And secondly, do you think, as some people, including, I guess, Robert Lieberman on Capitol Hill, are asserting it would be wise to task a actual legislation, reorganize the intelligence community before the election, and whether it -- and whether it would be practical to do that, or do you think that that's neither wise nor practical, or some mixture of the two?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, I think, as the President has said, it is important that we move quickly, but responsibly. We have to -- look, it's a complicated issue and we've got to move smartly, understanding the consequences of our actions. That said, we are going to work with Congress. You asked about legislation -- we are working with Congress now. We are reviewing existing legislative proposals from members of Congress. We are working within -- it is not at all bogged down. It is clear that the -- that members of the Cabinet support the President's reform agenda. And we are working now with our allies in Congress to get legislation passed. It is certainly our hope that we can get legislation passed quickly, but smartly.
Q But does that mean before the election or after the election? I mean, there isn't really -- I mean, if the Goss hearings are going to last a couple of weeks beginning after Labor Day, and then Leiberman's proposal isn't going to be available on the Senate side until the end of September, that leaves about two or three weeks maximum for anything to get done, just on the Senate side, never mind the House side. Does that really in any way seem practical to get any of this done before the election on the legislative front?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Mark, I'll tell you, I don't run the congressional branches calendars, so what I can tell you is we believe it's very important to move forward with this. We've tried to reinforce the foundation upon which we can act to get the legislation passed, and we've said we'll work with Congress. We're willing to do whatever is required to move this agenda forward.
Q I'm suffering from a disadvantage others may or may not be -- I don't have in front of me the words from the White House about exactly what these do, the paper. But am I right that the sort of operative phrase in terms of the first part, the part the strengthens the hand of the DCI, is that previously he was to -- he or she was to develop and present a consolidated NFIP budget. And now he or she is to develop, determine, and present -- are those the operative words in the changed language? Does this person now have the right to determine parts of the budget that previously he simply helped with the development and presentation of?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hold on. You've asked me a very specific question, let me see if I can't help you with a very specific answer.
Q The other thing is, following on, while you're looking, Mark's question, are you preparing legislation? And how close to legislation are you? And why do this before that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm going to work a little bit backwards here. One, this is an important piece to understanding what is the necessary enablers to have a successful NID, and what are the authorities the NID would require to be effective. And so this is all part of the process that the executive branch needed to get done in order to move the process forward. We are working on legislation. We will work with Congress to get the strongest, most effective bill we can to make sure the NID can meet his or her responsibility.
I've just -- section three of this executive order does talk about develop, determine, and present. I don't have in front of me the language -- prior language to know whether it tracks as you suggest or not. So I can't -- I'm sorry -- I can't answer you directly. I can only tell you what I've got in front of me.
Q What I believe to be the case, though, frankly, I don't have it in front of me either is that the only change is the word, "determine." Now, that's not a small, perhaps, change -- depending on how you look at it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the order then goes on to -- I gave you one sentence. But that same section goes on to talk about the director being responsible for developing an integrated and balanced national intelligence program that is directly responsible to the national security threats facing the United States. The director shall submit the budget, accompanied by dissenting views, if any, to the President for approval.
It also talks about, later on this same section three of the executive order, his authority to transfer funds between programs, or to a program outside of the national foreign intelligence program. This really represents a whole set of enhanced authorities that didn't exist before. It's really quite important, and we need to be sure that you have -- that you understand the language of the executive order to fully appreciate -- I understand you are operating at a disadvantage. It really is an enhanced role for the DCI in terms of the budgeting capability.
Q Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you.
Q I just have a quick question. What is the presidential board on safeguarding civil liberties?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, wait I got to get that in front of me. It establishes a board that will be chaired by the Deputy Attorney General -- as recommended by the 9/11 Commission -- to advise the President on the most effective means to implement his policy. It basically furthers -- in the Department of Homeland Security we had the first established privacy officer. This is further and sort of reinforces the President's commitment to ensuring the safety of civil liberties as we strengthen our legal regime. The board will periodically request reports from federal departments about how they're implementing policies and procedures related to the protection of civil liberties and privacy. The board will recommend to the President additional policy and guidelines. They will obtain information and advice relating to civil liberties policies from representatives or individuals outside of the executive branch. They may refer potential violations of policies to -- relating to the violating of protection of civil liberties to appropriate offices for investigation.
This is really a robust capability. It will involve representatives of almost all federal departments that either have expertise in civil rights and civil liberties, or are actively engaged in the collection of information where you may raise such -- you know, those sorts of concerns.
Q But a robust capability, its effectiveness will be determined by its ability to get publicity. It doesn't sound like it has much -- can bring actions or stop things from happening. It can shine a light on things, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right. That's right. And if it thinks -- if the board comes to the conclusion that there need to be additional safeguards, it can make those recommendations policy recommendations.
Q Got it. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure.
Q Did you all look at the presidential directive that Admiral Turner talked about hearing a week or so ago, that Carter, he said, issued -- that basically had given him budget authority, analytic tasking authority, and priorities -- able to set priorities for all the agencies?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You know, hold on. Let me see if one of my colleagues -- I'm not familiar with Admiral Turner's testimony. Hold on one Security Council.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, I'll try to shed some light on that. We were aware of that, and when we were looking at how to word this and what would be appropriate as far as what the President could do under his authority, we took a look at that and all the other materials, too, that would figure into this, that would help us to formulate what the President wanted to do and the direction that he had given. So it's something that we were aware of, what was the state of the executive orders in the '70s and the subsequent modifications that were done.
Q Because it doesn't sound as though the budget authority that's in -- what he issued -- or what the President issued now is as strong as what Turner is saying. He's saying they had a committee and he had the only vote that -- obviously, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense could appeal to the President, but that basically he controlled the intel agency budgets.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What I would say is what the President has done here is there is a whole set of eight or nine subsections that talks to the budget, that really go to the limits of the President's authority. There are things that we just simply cannot do under appropriations law. There are authorities that are assigned by law to agencies as part of their mission, and, frankly, there's the way that Congress appropriates money. We have -- those are followed by statute, and that is just something we cannot do by executive order.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But I will tell you, listening to the way you described it -- I don't have the Turner testimony in front of me, but I will tell you, the executive order reads very much that way where it's -- budget authority is vested in the Director of Central Intelligence in the strongest possible term.
Q Turner said, "We had a committee to review the budgets of the entire intelligence community. But in accordance with President Carter's executive order, there was only vote on the committee -- mine. Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, could -- did dispute my choices, took their disputes to the President in an annual meeting. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost." Would your NID have that much authority over the budget?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let's been careful about -- language is actually quite important here. We're not talking about the authority that is vested in a National Intelligence Director because we don't have one. We need legislation for that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To the extent that sort of budget capability is within the President's power to give to the DCI, he has done that by this executive order.
Q In a real-world way, how does this change the relationship between the DCI and Rumsfeld and Powell? There's big bureaucracies that have been built up, and there's turf battles and stuff. How does this change that in a way that a layman would understand?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll tell you, to hear the discussion, particularly between the DCI and the Secretary of Defense, we've gained a vast experience from our engagements in both Afghanistan and Iraq and in many ways, this now memorializes as U.S. policy the best and the strengths of what we've learned from those engagements. The power of each of the agencies in the intelligence community now becomes a matter of course in the way that the President has written -- we've had the executive order written. So I think that that's -- I know people are sort of anxious to understand whether or not this is a zero sum game, and that is it lessens people's ability to control the intelligence resources. The answer is what's in the best interest of the American people is to ensure the intelligence assets of this country are appropriately and effectively tasked to meet national priorities. And that's what the executive order seeks to do.
Q And it's the DCI who makes that determination?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right.
Q Okay, thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure.
Q I just had a couple of quick ones. One is, do these duties, orders or directives expire? And the second question is, on one of the directives about ID, common ID standards, just wondering, is that -- does that come as a response to a threat that you've heard about? Is there an issue with -- I don't know, say, electricians or plumbers who are visiting some of these federal buildings potentially being recruiting by terror -- recruited by terrorists?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The -- okay, in the appropriate order, the -- let's say, the -- oh my God, now I forgot which order you --
Q Okay, the first part --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: These do not -- these do not expire.
Q They don't expire.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are signed by the President and they represent a policy statement of the administration. So they don't expire. And to change them, they would have to be amended, which could be done, but the President would have to sign a subsequent executive order amending them.
In terms of identification standards, consistent with the recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, this is not tied to a specific threat. It's tied to, again, strengthening our policies to ensure identification authenticity, that is if you want to get access to a federal facility that we're all testing or querying against the same standards. So if you want to go into the Pentagon or you want to go into the White House, you don't have to carry two separate Ids, that we're all working against a common identification standard.
Q And does that affect reporters?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It will affect anyone trying to gain access to a federal facility. These -- the executive order simply talks about setting standards for federal employees and contractors, not other people.
Q Ok, so it would not have an impact on the press. It's more -- it's contractors, people who are hired, and the actual employees who work there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. That is the subject of the executive order. It may -- it may have further applicability down the road, but this executive order only addressed federal employees and contractors.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure.
END 4:43 P.M. EDT