Briefing by Fran Townsend, Assistant to President Bush for counterterrorism and Homeland Security Via Conference Call

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a press briefing via conference call by Fran Townsend , Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security: 10:36 A.M. EDT MR. STANZEL...


MS. TOWNSEND: Well, there's no question, Catherine -- thank you for asking -- we -- those who are compiling, working on the review of the strategy were briefed by the people who were crafting the National Intelligence Estimate and understood very well what the terrorism threat was. What we were very much struck by was the evolving nature of the threat and the ability to be flexible and have capabilities that can surge to however the threat evolves.

Q So there's really not much of a difference, then, between this and July?

MS. TOWNSEND: This is a strategic document. This is not a threat document, and so this basically charts the course for how the federal government, working with its state and local partners, need to build capability to address the threat that the NIE lays out.

Q Good morning, Fran. A couple of things, if you will. You talk about respond and recover, and how to deal with the threat, is what you just said. But the population in general, what is the responsibility there? You may have first responders who know what to do, but do you feel more or less confident that the population knows what to do?

And also, can I come back with a second question after you do that one? I'll tell you right now -- it's just the SITE leak this morning that we all reading about in The Washington Post.

MS. TOWNSEND: Sure. Okay, now, let me start with the SITE leak. Look, we are only going to be successful in the war on terror with the help of the American people, whether those are private individuals or commercial entities. There's no question that we need that sort of cooperation, and so anytime an individual or a commercial entity cooperates with us, and asks to be protected and doesn't get the protection that they either sought or deserved, that's a cause for concern.

Frankly, this is going to be an issue for the DNI to look at so that we can understand what, if anything, happened, and how to deal with it to ensure that we fully protect those who cooperate with us.

Now, your first -- having answered your second one first, I've forgotten your first question.

Q Fran, can I just follow up a little bit on that, and I think Dana said this morning the leak did not come from the White House. How do you know that?

MS. TOWNSEND: Well, we do know that the -- we understand that within -- God knows, we'll learn more as time goes on, but I understand that the link to the SITE was provided to the intelligence community, and the concern was that that link is the piece that -- was the thing that was made public. So, as I say, I mean, obviously, I'm not - we here at the White House are unable to conduct an investigation, and I leave this to the Director of National Intelligence to ascertain what's the appropriate way of dealing with this and understanding what happened, so we can ensure it doesn't happen again.

On the individual citizens, this really goes to the heart of the citizen and community preparedness, because we know that that's really the most effective way of minimizing suffering and damage. We encourage people, as you know, in the hurricane context and natural disaster context, to listen to their state and local officials to get direction for what to do, to take preparedness. It's family communication plans. It's working with schools and communities to ensure they have emergency plans.

Regardless of what the cause of the catastrophe is, natural or manmade, to the extent that those who are capable of preparing and taking care of themselves do that, it takes a burden off first responders. And so, citizen and community preparedness is fundamentally important to the success of response and recovery.

Q And, Fran, again, just kind of follow up on that? I mean, I guess, speaking for someone in Washington, D.C., I wouldn't have a clue what to do in an emergency. And what an -- and just back to the question, there was so much emphasis on it after 9/11 and whatever -- duct tape, which seems absurd -- but those kinds of things, and reminders from a community to put food away, or water away. I mean, do you feel that we, as a country, have gotten too complacent in that? Or is there not enough emphasis on that anymore, and should there be any concerns in that area?