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: I, obviously, have not looked at internal White House emails. I guess, Kathleen, my point was that we have not conducted an investigation here. I do know that my deputy didn't get the link, and in fact, emailed her asking her to please send it to the deputy at NCPC, which she then confirmed that she had done. So I can't tell you -- I haven't looked at the internal White House emails, so what I can tell you is the DNI and the Intelligence Committee will need to look at who had access to it -- I mean, it's sort of the typical kind of leak investigation that will have to be considered and acted on as appropriately determined by the DNI.

Q Okay. And then, in brief, just looking at the report, for the layman who might flip through this, they might go, okay, where's the beef? Is there any way that you can sort of boil it down to -- you said this is taking into account changing threats -- what are the -- how have the threats changed, what are the greatest threats, and what will we, in a concrete fashion, right away be doing differently to address them?

MS. TOWNSEND: Well, if you go back and look at the 2002 strategy, it talks about preventing terrorist attacks, reducing vulnerability, and then minimizing damage. It then goes on to cite six critical mission areas. It is a much more, if you will, operational level document, talking about what kinds of capabilities that the U.S. government needs to build.

What this document does is it steps back from that and says having built many of those capabilities, what additional actions over the long-term -- this is not over the next year, but over the next several years -- do we need to build to ensure the strength and continuing vitality of the homeland security effort in this country? That's why I say, you know, we're looking -- this document steps back, builds on the foundation of the 2002 document and says, now where do we go; having built the foundation, now where do we go? And it looks at long-term education efforts at all levels of government, training; it looks at investments in science and technology, to be sure that we're working with the private sector; it looks at our efforts in terms of securing critical infrastructure, at long-term efforts to build greater partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors.

And so this is really a much -- I think a more strategic level document that sets the President's vision over the next several years.

Q You mentioned a couple of things, lessons learned had been incorporated in this, also the government's response to non-terrorist acts. I wonder if you could describe a little bit what lessons you have learned and also whether one of those comes out of the criticism over the federal response to the Katrina disaster -- and is that what you mean by non-terrorist act of a catastrophic level, or however you put it?

MS. TOWNSEND: Yes, I think that is an example -- Katrina and our response to hurricanes. I think if you laid the reports side by side, the lessons learned report and this strategy, what you'll find are a reaffirmation of our need to build a culture of preparedness, how that reduces the burden on first-responders and ensures a more successful response.

There -- let me think now. There are long-term investments in science and technology and then, third of all, the need for long-term educational efforts. I think in the -- if I remember correctly, in Katrina lessons learned, we referred to it as a Goldwater-Nickels for the civilian bureaucracy. And what you'll find is our commitment in the -- we think that's a long-term commitment that the government needs to undertake. We need to have planning capability inside federal agencies. We need to have this education and training effort that's not only a federal effort, but incorporates working, even during education and training sessions, with state and local officials.

And I would just mention to you that the President's letter, which is in the very front of the new strategy, makes specific reference in the third paragraph to the lessons that we did learn from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

Q Hi, Ms. Townsend . I'm wondering to what extent has the war in Iraq created and then exacerbated what your report describes as an al Qaeda in Iraq that is, "the most serious and dangerous manifestation of the threat from allied terror groups and cells"?