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Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer fielded questions in yesterday’s White House news briefing about new developments in the continuing issue of U.S. airline pilots being prevented from arming themselves.
On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told the House Transportation Committee that the agency in charge of airport security, the Transportation Security Administration, would reconsider its opposition to arming the nation’s commercial airline pilots.
At the briefing yesterday afternoon, Fox News Channel’s Jim Angle noted to Fleischer:
Q: Secretary Mineta yesterday talked about taking another look at arming pilots. My impression had been that the administration was against the idea of giving pilots – arming pilots. Is there a second look at this issue now?
FLEISCHER: Well, Secretary Mineta, as your question pointed out, indicated yesterday the Transportation Department will take a look at this, will review the matter. Given the constraints that they’re under, there are some real limitations to any type of training, which is something that has always been talked about as part and parcel of this. And the president from the beginning has said that he was going to be guided by safety considerations and would listen to his safety experts to determine if there was a way that this could be achieved or not. And he’ll take a look at that review when the Department of Transportation completes it.
Q: But I thought that those experts had suggested that this was not a good idea, that it would not be safe to have pilots firing weapons on airplanes in mid-air.
FLEISCHER: I think what the secretary wants to take a look at in concert with his security experts, if there’s any way that some type of lesser measure can be accomplished – instead of arming each and every pilot who would be in a cockpit, at great cost to the taxpayers, a cost which is clearly not in the budget provided by the Congress – whether or not there’s any alternative routes that would also provide for safety as a result of the equipment the pilots would carry, the standards that they would be held to, the training that they would receive. I think those are the areas that he’s looking at to see if there’s some type of in-between.
Later in the briefing, WND came back to the issue:
WND: In your answer to the question as to why the president wanted airline pilots disarmed, you said, “because he’s been listening to the experts” – whom you didn’t identify. And my first question is how many experts did the president listen to besides John Magaw, who the Washington Post and the New York Times both reported was fired?
FLEISCHER: The president is going to listen to the experts that work for the Department of Transportation, who report through the secretary. And the president has always indicated that his focus is on safety. And I indicated just what Secretary Mineta said yesterday.
WND’s next question wrapped up the daily briefing:
WND: Ari, on Friday, the deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee, Jack Oliver, sent out a widely circulated e-mail saying, “It’s time for Democrats to put their partisan stonewalling aside and help pass real corporate reform. Make sure your community knows about the Democrats’ hypocrisy by calling your local talk-radio shows today. Call talk radio today.” The president doesn’t disagree with that, does he, Ari? (Laughter.)
FLEISCHER: Let me guess, do you work for a talk-radio station?
FLEISCHER: The only thing you’re missing is your 800 number dangling around your neck.
WND: I mean, would he add the Internet – check the Internet, as well as talk radio? Like WorldNetDaily? Would he, Ari?
FLEISCHER: You know, Lester, I just – maybe, maybe not.
WND: Maybe, maybe not? Thank you, Ari.
FLEISCHER: Thank you.