Remarks By President Bush
October 9, 2001
Q: Mr. President, can you tell us what prompted you to write the memo to Congress about briefing on intelligence matters, why you think such restrictions are appropriate? And could you also address what threat you think these limited anthrax exposures pose more generally? Is it linked to terrorism at all?
THE PRESIDENT: Well first, Mr. Chancellor, we had a -- we had some security briefings take place up on Capitol Hill that were a discussion about classified information and some of that information was shared with the press.
CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER: Oh, we know that trouble. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you know that trouble, too. (Laughter.) These are extraordinary times. Our nation has put our troops at risk. And therefore, I felt it was important to send a clear signal to Congress that classified information must be held dear, that there's a responsibility that if you receive a briefing of classified information, you have a responsibility. And some members did not accept that responsibility, somebody didn't. So I took it upon myself to notify the leadership of the Congress that I intend to protect our troops.
And that's why I sent the letter I sent. It's a serious matter, Dave, it's very serious that people in positions of responsibility understand, that they have a responsibility to people who are being put in harm's way. I'm having breakfast tomorrow with members of Congress. I will be glad to bring up this subject.
I understand there may be some heartburn on Capitol Hill. But I suggest if they want to relieve that heartburn, that they take their positions very seriously, and that they take any information they've been given by our government very seriously. Because this is serious business we're talking about.
Q: Mr. President, when you meet with the congressional leadership tomorrow, will you be specific about what they can and cannot relay back up to the Hill? Or, do you just expect them not to relay anything?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to talk to the leaders about this. I have talked to them about it. I mean, when the classified information first seeped into the public, I called him on the phone and said, this can't stand. We can't have leaks of classified information. It's not in our nation's interest.
But we're now in extraordinary times. And I was in the -- when those leaks occurred, by the way, it was right before we committed troops. And I knew full well what was about to happen. And yet, I see in the media that somebody, or somebodies, feel that they should be able to talk about classified information. And that's just wrong. The leadership understands that.
And if there's concerns, we'll work it out. I mean, obviously I understand there needs to be some briefings. I want Don Rumsfeld to feel comfortable briefing members of the Armed Services Committee. But I want Congress to hear loud and clear, it is unacceptable behavior to leak classified information when we have troops at risk. I'm looking forward to reiterating that message. And we will work together. We've got a great relationship.
Listen, the four leaders with whom I have breakfast on a weekly basis fully understand the stakes. They fully understand the decision I made. And they will have gotten feedback from their members, and we will discuss it. But one thing is for certain, I have made clear what I expect from Capitol Hill when it comes to classified information.