WASHINGTON – The following is a transcript from President Bush's press conference held to name John Negroponte, the current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as the nation's first national intelligence director.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much. I appreciate you're coming here.
I'm pleased to announce my decision to nominate Ambassador John Negroponte as director of national intelligence.
The director's responsibility is straightforward and demanding. John will make sure that those whose duty it is to defend America have the information they need to make the right decisions.
John understands America's global intelligence needs, because he spent the better part of his life in our Foreign Service, and is now serving with distinction in the sensitive post of our nation's first ambassador to a free Iraq.
John's nomination comes at an historic moment for our intelligence services.
In the war against terrorists who target innocent civilians and continue to seek weapons of mass murder, intelligence is our first line of defense.
If we're going to stop the terrorists before they strike, we must ensure that our intelligence agencies work as a single, unified enterprise.
And that's why I supported and Congress passed reform legislation creating the job of director of national intelligence.
As DNI, John will lead a unified intelligence community and will serve as the principal adviser to the president on intelligence matters.
He will have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence, to ensure the sharing of information among agencies, and to establish common standards for the intelligence community's personnel.
It will be John's responsibility to determine the annual budgets for all national intelligence agencies and offices and to direct how these funds are spent.
Vesting these in a single official who reports directly to me will make our intelligence efforts better coordinated, more efficient and more effective.
The director of the CIA will report to John. The CIA will retain its core of responsibilities for collecting human intelligence, analyzing intelligence from all sources, and supporting American interests abroad at the direction of the president.
The law establishing John's position preserves the existing chain of command and leaves all our intelligence agencies, organizations and offices in their current departments. Our military commanders will continue to have quick access to the intelligence they need to achieve victory on the battlefield.
And the new structure will help ensure greater information sharing among federal departments and agencies and also with appropriate state and local authorities.
John brings a unique set of skills to these challenges.
Over the course of a long career, John Negroponte has served his nation in eight countries spanning three continents.
He's held important leadership posts at both the State Department and the White House.
As my representative to the United Nations, John defended our interests vigorously. He spoke eloquently about America's intention to spread freedom and peace throughout the world.
And his service in Iraq during these past few historic months has given him something that will prove an incalculable advantage for an intelligence chief: an unvarnished and up-close look at a deadly enemy.
Today I'm pleased, as well, to announce that joining John as his deputy will be Lieutenant General Michael Hayden.
As a career Air Force intelligence officer, General Hayden now serves as director of the National Security Agency, America's largest intelligence service, and chief of the Central Security Service. In these critical roles, Mike has already demonstrated an ability to adapt our intelligence services to meet the new threats of a new century.
I appreciate the willingness of these men to take on these tough new assignments in an extraordinary moment in our nation's history.
I'd like to thank the thousands of men and women already serving in our intelligence services as people go to work each day to keep Americans safe. We live in a dangerous world and often times they take great risk to their own lives. These men and women are going to be pleased to have leaders such as Ambassador John Negroponte and General Mike Hayden.
John, I want to thank you for being here today. Congratulations. Godspeed.
AMBASSADOR JOHN NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Mr. President. I'm honored that you would select me to be the first director of national intelligence.
Providing timely and objective national intelligence to you, the Congress, the departments and agencies, and to our uniformed military services, is a critical national task: critical to our international posture, critical to the prevention of international terrorism and critical to our homeland security.
Equally important will be the reform of the intelligence community in ways designed to best meet the intelligence needs of the 21st century.
If confirmed, I look forward to supporting you, Mr. President, in working to the best of my ability toward achievement of these objectives, so vital to the protection of our country.
I appreciate your confidence in choosing me for what will no doubt be the most challenging assignment I have undertaken in more than 40 years of government service.
Thank you very much.
BUSH: I'll be glad to take some questions.
QUESTION: Can you tell us if you believe that Syria is linked to the assassination of Mr. Hariri? And further, how willing are you to expel Syria from Lebanon and stop its involvement in Iraq?
BUSH: First, we support the international investigation that will be going on to determine the killers of Mr. Hariri.
We've recalled our ambassador, which indicates that the relationship is not moving forward; that Syria's out of step with the progress being made in the greater Middle East; that democracy is on the move, and this is a country that isn't moving with the democratic movement.
We've talked clearly to Syria about, one, making sure that their territory's not used by former Iraqi Baathists to spread havoc and kill innocent lives.
We expect them to find and turn over former Saddam regime supporters and send them back to Iraq.
We've made it very clear from the beginning of my administration that Syria should not use its territory to support international terrorist groups. We expect them to adhered to U.N. Security Counsel Resolution 1559, which calls for the removal of troops from Lebanon. And we expect them to help free andof the IAEA. In other words, we're on the IAEA board with some 30 odd nations. So we've been very much involved with working with the Iranians and the world to achieve a goal that we share with the Europeans, and that is for Iran not to develop a nuclear weapon.
I look forward to, again on this trip, discussing strategies, ways forward with the Europeans to make sure we continue to speak with one voice, and that is Iran should not have a nuclear weapon and how to work together to make sure they don't.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in your answer to Jennifer's question I heard several reasons for recalling the ambassador from Syria, but not an indication of whether you believe Syria bears some responsibility for the assassination.
BUSH: Well, I can't tell you that. I don't know yet because the investigation is ongoing. And so, I'm going to withhold judgment until we find out what the facts are.
You know, hopefully by the time I get overseas, we'll have a clearer understanding of who killed Mr. Hariri and it'll be an opportune time to talk with our friends to determine what to do about it.
But it's important that this investigation go on in a thoughtful way. And I'm convinced it will. We supported the international...
QUESTION: Would you like it to be an international investigation?
BUSH: Yes, we support the international investigation.
QUESTION: Mr. President, I recall a conversation a small group of us had with a very senior administration official about a year ago and in that conversation the subject of Iran and Israel came up. And I'm just wondering, what's your level of concern that if Iran does go down the road to building a nuclear weapon that Israel will attack Iran to try to prevent that from happening?
BUSH: Well, of course, first of all, Iran has made it clear, you know, they don't like Israel, to put it bluntly. And the Israelis are concerned about whether or not Iran develops a nuclear weapon, as are we, as should everybody.
And so the objective is to solve this issue diplomatically, is to work with friends, like we're doing with France, Germany and Great Britain, to continue making it clear to the Iranians that developing a nuclear weapon will be unacceptable.
But clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well.
And in that Israel is our ally and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened.
QUESTION: Do you believe there's a real possibility Israel could attack?
BUSH: Oh, I think that there's — the need for us to work together to convince the Iranians not to develop a nuclear weapon.
And we will work with the Europeans and the Israelis to develop a strategy and a plan that is effective. And that's one of the reasons I'm going to Europe.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you've made clear that Social Security reform is your top legislative priority.
The top Republican leader in the House has said you cannot jam change down people's throat ...
BUSH: As a matter of fact, I enjoy traveling the country, and I hope you do, too, because I'm going to be doing a lot of it.
And I fully understand that nothing will happen if the members of Congress don't believe there's a problem that needs to be solved. And so you'll see a lot of travel.
And the problem is plain to me: You got baby boomers getting ready to retire, they've been promised greater benefits than the current generation, they're living longer, and there are fewer people paying into the system. And the system goes negative starting in 2018 and continues to do so. There's the problem.
Nothing will happen — I repeat — unless that Congress thinks there's a problem.
But once Congress — once the people say to Congress, "There's a problem, fix it," then I have a duty to say to members of Congress, "Bring forth your ideas."
And I clarified a variety of ideas that people should be encouraged to bring forward, without political retribution.
It used to be in the past people would step up and say, "Well, here's an interesting idea." Then they would take that idea and clobber the person politically.
What I'm saying to members of Congress is that, "We have a problem, come together and let's fix it, and bring your ideas forward, and I'm willing to discuss them with you."
And so, that's why I said what I said and will continue to say it.
And I've got some ideas of my own, obviously. I think personal accounts are an important part of the mix and want to continue working with members of Congress to understand the wisdom of why personal accounts make sense to be a part of a long-term solution for Social Security.
QUESTION: Regarding the director of national intelligence, in this town power is often measured in a couple of ways: by who controls the money and how close that person is to the president, sometimes physically. So let me ask you about that.
You said that Mr. Negroponte will determine budgets for all intelligence agencies. A lot of people feel the Pentagon's going to fight that, that the Pentagon wants to control its intelligence money. Would you address that?
And also, where is Mr. Negroponte going to work? Will he be in the White House complex close to you? Will he give you your intelligence briefings every day?
BUSH: I think your assessment's right. People who control the money, people who have access to the president generally have a lot of influence. And that's why John Negroponte is going to have a lot of influence. He will set the budgets.
Listen, this is going to take a while to get a new culture in place, a different way of approaching the budget process.
That's why I selected John. He's a diplomat. He understands the — and he's an experienced person. He understands the power centers in Washington. He's been a consumer of intelligence in the past. And so he's got a good feel for how to move this process forward in a way that addresses the different interests.
Now, as to where he offices, you know, I don't know. It's not going to be in the White House.
Remember the early debate about should this man or person be a member of the Cabinet? I said no, I didn't think so. I thought it was very important for the DNI to be apart from the White House.
Nevertheless, he will have access on a daily basis in that he'll be my primary briefer.
In other words, when the intelligence briefings start in the morning, John'll be there. And John and I'll work to determine how much exposure the CIA will have in the Oval Office. I would hope more rather than less.
The relationship between John and the CIA director's going to be a vital relationship. The relationship between the CIA and the White House is a vital relationship.
John and I both know that change — it can be unsettling. And so therefore, I'm sure there's some people out there wondering right now what this means for their jobs and the influence of a particular agency into the White House.
And the answer is everybody will be given fair access and everybody's ideas will be given a chance to make it to John's office. And if he thinks it's appropriate I see it, I'll see it. And if he thinks it's a waste of my time I won't see it. And obviously — therefore the conclusion is I trust his judgment.
And I'm looking forward to working with him. It's going to be an interesting opportunity.
QUESTION: Will you back him when he goes up against Don Rumsfeld? Rumsfeld wants a certain amount of money for his intelligence budget, Negroponte says, "I don't think so"?
BUSH: You know, I don't think it necessarily works. I know that's how the press sometimes likes to play discussions inside the White House, you know, X versus Y, you know, butting of heads and sharp elbows.
Generally it works more civilly than that. People make their case. There's a discussion. But ultimately John will make the decisions on the budget.
Backing means it's, kind of, zero sum. That's not the way our team works. It's not a zero-sum attitude in the White House.
It is — people have strong opinions around here, which is — I would hope you'd want your president to have people around who've got strong opinions, people who are willing to stand up for what they believe, people who say, you know, "Here's what I think ... I feel comfortable making them is that I get good advice. And John is going to be a great adviser.
QUESTION: A top European Union official said that Dr. Rice's trip — Secretary Rice's trip to Europe was very positive. He described it as, "Romance blossoms once two are determined to get married."
He also said that he did not expect that there would be any kind of substantive differences in U.S. policy on your own trip to Europe, but he had hoped that it would help increase the sense of trust between the United States and European allies.
What do you have to offer or say to European allies to help restore that trust, particularly the trust in U.S. intelligence?
BUSH: You know, my first goal is to remind both Americans and Europeans that the trans-Atlantic relationship is very important for our mutual security and for peace; and that we have differences sometimes, but we don't differ on values, that we share this great love and respect for freedom.
September the 11th was an interesting phenomenon in terms of our relations. For some in Europe, it was just a passing terrible moment. And for us, it caused us to change our foreign policy — in other words, a permanent part of our foreign policy.
And those differences at times, frankly, cause us to talk past each other, and I recognize that. And I want to make sure the Europeans understand I know that, and that as we move beyond the differences of the past, that we can work a lot together to achieve big objectives.
There's also a concern in Europe, I suspect, that the only thing I care about is our national security. And clearly, you know, since we have been attacked — and I fear there's a terrorist group out there thinking about attacking us again and would like to — that national security is the top of my agenda.
That's what you'd expect from the president of the United States.
But we also care deeply about hunger and disease, and I look forward to working with the Europeans on hunger and disease.
We care about the climate. Obviously, the Kyoto Protocol had been a problem in the past. They thought the treaty made sense; I didn't. And neither did the United States Senate when it rejected, you know, the Kyoto concept 95-0.
And so, there's an opportunity now to work together to talk about new technologies that will help us both achieve a common objective, which is a better environment for generations to come.
And, you know, the methanes-to-markets project is an interesting opportunity.
I spoke to my friend Tony Blair the other day and I reminded him that here at home we're spending billions on clean coal technology, where we could — you know, it's conceivable and hopeful we'll have a zero-emissions coal plant, which would be not only good for the United States, but it would be good for the world.
This isn't a question of one environment, but I was hoping somebody would ask it. I asked myself.
Anyway, let me — so I'm looking forward to discussing issues that not only relate to our security, that not only relate to how we work together to spread freedom, you know, how we continue to embrace the values we believe in, but also how we deal with hunger and disease and environmental concerns.
Let's see. Have I gone through all the TV personalities yet?
QUESTION: Mr. President, good morning.
BUSH: Face made for radio, I might add.
QUESTION: Thank you. My mother appreciates it.
You offer a long list of things you expect Syrian leaders to do. What are the consequences if they don't do those things?
BUSH: The idea is to continue to work with the world to remind Syria it's not in their interest to be isolated.
QUESTION: Mr. President, can I go back to Social Security?
QUESTION: You spoke about, you know, your desire to have a plan that includes private retirement accounts.
Chairman Greenspan yesterday, although supportive of those accounts, expressed two concerns: that he was worried about rushing something into print, if you will, and also about the borrowing, the transition costs, that would be required — trillions. He was especially worried about the later.
What is your response to that?
BUSH: Well, I presume the reason he was talking about Social Security at all is because he understands that we've got about $11 trillion of debt owed to future generations of Americans that — and therefore, we better do something about it now. And the longer we wait, the more difficult the solution becomes.
You asked about the transition costs, and what was the other?
QUESTION: Well, that he wanted to do it slowly.
BUSH: Oh, slowly.
Well, as you might remember, in my State of the Union, when I expressed my desire that Congress ought to think about personal accounts, I did say they ought to be phased in.
And that's part of the transition costs issue, and we look forward to working with Congress to come up with ways to make sure that the personal accounts, if Congress so chooses — and I hope they do — can be financed.
And that's part of the issue. And that's part of the dialogue that is going to be needed once Congress understands we have a problem.
Let me repeat what I said before, and I fully understand this, that this idea is going nowhere if the Congress does not believe there is a problem. I mean, why should somebody take the
And so I'm going to spend a lot of time reminding people there is a problem. Once the people figure out there's a problem — and I think they're beginning to understand that — then the question to ask to those of us who have been elected is, "What are you going to do about it?"
And that's an important question.
And when people start answering that question I have said, "Bring your ideas forward. We welcome any idea, you know, except running up the payroll tax rate, which I've been consistent on. And so bring them up and I look forward to hearing your ideas."
And part of the ideas is going to be, one, understand the benefits the befits of personal accounts as well as how to pay for the transaction. Because we've started that process by talking about, you know, a phase-in program. And one of the reasons we did, is because we wanted to indicate to the Congress, "We understand there's an issue, we want to work with you on it."
QUESTION: Sir, can you talk a little bit...
BUSH: If you don't raise your hand, does that mean you don't have a question?
QUESTION: Not necessarily, sir.
BUSH: OK, good, because you didn't raise your hand.
QUESTION: Could you talk a little bit about how you would like to see the landscape of the Middle East change over the next year? Can you talk about the specific changes you'd like to see across the region?
BUSH: You know, a year is a really short period of time when it comes to working with nations to encourage democracy. So there's not a, kind of, universal answer.
Let me try to answer it this way.
In other words, you can't apply the same standard for every country as they move toward democracy I guess is what I'm saying. In other words, there is, kind of, not a blanket answer.
I'll give you, kind of, a general thought.
I would like to see the following things happen: we make progress on the development of a Palestinian state so there can be peace with Israel.
And notice I put it that way. There needs to be progress for democracy to firmly take hold in the Palestinian territory. It is my belief that when that happens, that we got a very good chance for peace.
That's why I said in my State of the Union it's within reach. What's in reach is to work with leadership that appears committed to fighting terror, to develop the institutions necessary for democracy.
That's why the conference Tony Blair has called is an important conference. It's a conference that will be working with the world, with countries from around the world to saress it is making toward providing its own security, as well as begin the process of writing the constitution.
We'll continue to work with the international community to make it clear that some of the behavior in the Middle East is unacceptable.
You know, the development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. Harboring terrorists or providing safe haven for terrorists is unacceptable. And so there's a lot of progress that can be made.
I was pleased to see that Saudi had municipal elections, and I think Crown Prince Abdullah's vision of moving toward reform is coming to be.
Every speech I've given on democracy has fully recognized that democracy will advance at a pace, you know, that may be different from our own expectations and obviously reflect the cultures of the countries in which democracy is moving.
But there's ... crept into your writing or reporting -- but, you know, for a while there was a period that people said, "It's an impossible mission to have freedom take hold. I mean, what's he doing? How can he possibly think that these people can possibly accept democracy?" I don't know if you remember that period of reporting or not. I vaguely do.
And then look what's happening. And that's why I can say that, you know, I'd like to see more progress because progress is being made.
You know, Afghanistan elections were a remarkable achievement in the march of history.
The elections that John was involved in Iraq -- and it must have been fantastic to be there. You know, to think of the millions who defied the terrorists -- and you remember the reporting that went on.
First of all, democracy may not be the kind of system that people agree to Iraq -- it's kind of a foreign concept to them -- and coupled with the fact there's a lot of terrorists there who were getting ready to blow up anybody up that goes and votes. And, yet, millions -- I think it's over 8 million I think we've calculated -- went to the polls.
And what's interesting to me in Iraq is to see the posturing that's going on, the positioning. It's not exactly like the Social Security debate, but it's posturing, it's politics, you know? It's -- people are jockeying for position.
And I say it is not like Social Security because, obviously, their democracy isn't as advanced as ours, but nevertheless, there's -- people are making moves here and there. And you hear about the conferences and the discussions.
To me that's healthy. It's inspiring to see a fledgling democracy begin to take wing right here in the 21st century in a part of the world where people didn't think there could be progress. I think there can be progress, and we'll continue to work that progress.
Part of my reason I'm going to Europe is to share my sense of optimism and enthusiasm about what's taking place and remind people that those values of human rights, human dignity and freedom are the core of our very being as nations.
And it's going to be a great experience to go there.
QUESTION: Have you, by any chance, received any, sort of, interim or preliminary report from the Robb Commission that's investigating intelligence failures? And did you seek the commission's counsel on the scope of the duties for the new intelligence director?
BUSH: No, I have not had an interim report. Maybe the national security people have or not. Hadley said he hadn't either.
Our people have gone to talk to the Robb-Silberman Commission when asked, but I've got great confidence in both those leaders to bring forth a very, you know, solid report.
And so we haven't been involved in the process other than when asked to share opinion.
QUESTION: When might they report back?
BUSH: Don't know yet.
Do we have any idea?
STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Sometime next month.
BUSH: Yes, Hadley said, "Try to work me in the press conference," and I did.
"Sometime next month," he said.
It's an important report, and it's a relevant question today because of the announcement of Ambassador Negroponte. He will take, and I will take, the findings of the Robb-Silberman Commission very seriously. And look forward to their conclusions, and look forward to working with the leaders and the commission members to not only deal with the conclusions, but to address whatever conclusions they have in concrete action. And appreciate the work.
But in terms -- no, and then I did not consult with either person and/or members as to whether or not, you know -- the nature of the pick; did it independently from the commission.
QUESTION: If, as you say, the development of nuclear weapons is unacceptable and if the administration's concern for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which proved out to be unfounded, drove an invasion to seek regime change, how concerned should Americans and, for that matter, the world be that the true identification of weapons in Iran or North Korea might not lead to the same sort of attack?
BUSH: Well, first, Iran is different from Iraq, very different. The international community was convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- not just the United States, but the international community -- and had passed some 16 resolutions. So, in other words, diplomacy had -- they'd tried diplomacy over and over and over again.
John was at the United Nations during this period.
And finally the world, in 1441, U.N. Resolution 1441, said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. This was not a declaration by the United States of America. It was a declaration by the United Nations Security Council, and a 15-to-nothing vote, as I recall.
And we took that resolution very seriously.
As you know, the Iranian issue hasn't even gotten to the Security Council yet. And so there's more diplomacy, in my judgment, to be done. And we'll work very closely with our European friends and other nations.
As I mentioned before, we're an active member of the IAEA board, which will give us an opportunity to continue to say to the Iranians, "You've got to be transparent with your program and adhere to protocols that you have signed."
Remember, this all started when they -- we found them enriching uranium in an undeclared fashion. And it happened ... that the Korean Peninsula should be nuclear weapons-free.
Since then, that policy has been confirmed by President Hu Jintao.
And the other day, the leader of North Korea declared they had a nuclear weapon, which obviously means that, if he's correct, that the peninsula is not nuclear weapons-free.
So now is the time for us to work with friends and allies who have agreed to be part of the process to determine what we're jointly going to do about it. And that's where we are in the process right now.
I thank you all very much for your attention and questions. Appreciate it.