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Middle East Digest - May 6, 2010

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Washington, DC
May 6, 2010


The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.

From the Daily Press Briefing of May 6, 2010

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12:53 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Anne Patterson spoke today with Prime Minister Gilani and Foreign Minister Qureshi and other senior officials as we continue to work together to investigate the attempted bombing of Times Square – in Times Square, but the Justice and FBI remain in the lead of the investigation and I would probably refer questions to them.

QUESTION: Well, I know you’re not the Justice Department or the FBI, but --

MR. CROWLEY: That’s true.

QUESTION: -- the Ambassador works for this building.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, she does.

QUESTION: So what was her – what was her – what did her conversations entail?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, she is updating Pakistani officials on certain things that we have learned in the investigation and we continue to work through this together.

QUESTION: Well, did she --

QUESTION: Did she ask for anything specific by way of Pakistani assistance aside from their help in --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think there remains a shared commitment on this challenge. I can’t say whether – I mean, Pakistan is taking its own actions. We’ve pledged to provide information to Pakistan (inaudible) aid and actions that they can take. But this is the kind of coordination that you would expect.

QUESTION: She didn’t ask for anything?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not saying she didn’t. I’m just saying that I’m not going to --

QUESTION: The question, which you didn’t answer, was did she ask for something? And I’m asking, did she ask for something?

MR. CROWLEY: There are --

QUESTION: It sounds like it’s all one way.

MR. CROWLEY: We are working through the investigation and there are things that – it’s a tough question to answer. There – we are informing Pakistan of what we are learning in this investigation and then there are steps that Pakistan can take. And I think this is a dialogue between the two countries.

QUESTION: Is Pakistan informing the U.S. Government of what it is doing, or is part of this going to try to get or extract more information about its side of the investigation?

MR. CROWLEY: We have – one of the reasons that we are talking to high-level officials is to operationalize this mutual commitment of cooperation and support. I expect that we’ll have these high-level contacts and meetings almost every day for the foreseeable future as we work through this investigation. So it’s – in certain cases, we might ask Pakistan to take certain steps. I’m not sure we’re at that point yet. This is a matter of as we learn things on – in this part of the world, we can share them with Pakistan and help to exploit information in that country that might help us understand why this took place.

QUESTION: P.J., when you say “operationalize,” can you tell us in English what that means exactly? Specifically, what do you do when you operationalize something?

MR. CROWLEY: The contacts between Pakistan and the United States run across a number of agencies. We have close law enforcement relationships. We have intelligence relationships, as you might imagine. We are pushing all of the buttons that you would expect us to push to try to understand what happened in Pakistan and how that related to the actions taken by the American citizen last weekend.

QUESTION: Did Ambassador Patterson, who is the chief of mission to which all people who work in that Embassy report to, make any specific requests of the Pakistanis for access to people that may have been picked up for questioning?

MR. CROWLEY: These are detail – I cannot say what specific requests Ambassador Patterson may have made of the Pakistanis. I think we have an expectation that as this investigation goes forward, there are steps that we are taking and that will yield information that will be of help to Pakistan. And there will be steps that Pakistan will take as well. We also understand that as we – there are – this is not a static situation in that Pakistan itself is already taking action against many groups, some of whom might over time be implicated in this action.

So as we get deeper into this, there will be the opportunity for us to pass along information that we have gleaned here. And then, in turn, Pakistan could certainly help us understand contacts that might have been made in Pakistan and how that – how they influenced the choices that this individual made.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, has she passed along information to the Pakistanis?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to do a readout. To your larger point, will we be making requests of Pakistan? I’m sure we are. But we are still in the early stages of this investigation. I’m certainly not going to detail what those steps would be. We have law enforcement working on this. We have intelligence people working on this. Pakistan has law enforcement people working on this, intelligence people working on this. And this is kind of – this is the collaboration that you would expect from two allies working to confront and defeat the same threat.


QUESTION: If this is the kind of collaboration that you would expect, is it then fair to say that you are satisfied with the flow of information from Pakistan to the United States on this investigation?

MR. CROWLEY: I – we are in the early stages. I think to some extent, there are steps that Pakistan is already taking. And I can’t say in this meeting whether this was preparatory to particular steps that we might ask of Pakistan. We clearly will be asking Pakistan to take certain steps. And I can’t say at this point; I’ll defer to Pakistan in terms of where they are in their piece of the investigation. But I would expect, whether in these meetings, certainly in the contacts that we have on an ongoing basis, that information will flow in both directions and actions will flow in both directions.

QUESTION: But are you satisfied by the flow from there to here as of now?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say at this point that there’s any information that Pakistan has identified at this point that is useful to our investigation, but that’s not something I’m going to detail from here.

QUESTION: P.J., is it always going to be going through the ambassador? Is that the funnel, or --


QUESTION: -- you have – help means other contacts?

MR. CROWLEY: There are – the contacts and flow of information is proceeding through multiple channels. One of those channels is the ambassador to other officials at a high level. But our law enforcement personnel are dealing with their counterparts in Pakistan, our intelligence services are dealing with their counterparts, and we’re trying to understand and trace now, what did this individual do when he was on the ground in Pakistan, who did he meet with, and what are the implications of those actions?

QUESTION: But P.J. (inaudible) two things. One thing is not clear, what many Americans are asking and the same thing international community, including many Pakistanis here, that you have been asking Pakistan for the last 10 years, but especially now for the last 18 months, to do more, meeting and greeting very high level officials in Pakistan and also here in Washington. And Waziristan has or is or was an epicenter of terrorism where there’s – trained them, and somebody’s financing them there, and then they export them around the globe, including here in the United States. And now you see the recent case in India.

What I’m asking you is that – how long will you really continue to ask them and then only when there is – something happens and then this thing becomes centerpiece of information or flow of information not in between? And then becomes the – more money, that we will give them more money to – so they can take more steps.

But my question is now: Where do we go from here? This is what the Americans and Pakistanis and the international community are asking. Don’t you think now time has come for you to press hard on Pakistan, that not only do more, that you should take action now in your hands?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, Goyal, the implication behind your question is that Pakistan is not taking action. Pakistan has, for a number of years, been taking aggressive action as Pakistan came to realize that groups within its borders – even groups that the entities within the Pakistani Government has had a historical relationship – now, in fact, threaten Pakistan just as much as they threaten other countries in the region and other regions of the world. I think we are very satisfied with the pace of action that Pakistan has taken over the last couple of years. They’ve got a number of military actions underway and we should always recognize that these military actions have had a profound effect on the people of Pakistan.

Over the past several years, arguably no other population – no other country has suffered as significantly as Pakistan has. So we recognize and support the actions that Pakistan has taken and we recognize the burden that this has placed on the Pakistani people. As this investigation goes forward, as we’re able to understand what kind of support might have been given to this individual at that point, if we find out more along those lines, we’ll pass that onto Pakistan and we would hope that Pakistan would take appropriate action in place. But I think that, yes, Pakistan itself will be the first to tell you that it is doing a lot and over time it will have to do more in order to defeat these groups that threaten the state of Pakistan, threaten regional security, and obviously pose a risk to the United States as well.

QUESTION: One more. I’m sorry.

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: Just quickly.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll come back to you, Goyal.

QUESTION: On a related but tangential item about this legislation that was introduced by Senators Brown and Lieberman today suggesting that American citizens could be stripped -- or naturalized or what have you – citizens could be stripped of their citizenship if they’re found to engage in hostile acts against the United States. And we talked a little bit about this when we discussed the Awlaki case. But today Senator Lieberman said that the State Department would make the determination as to whether someone should be stripped of his citizenship. And I’m wondering if the Administration has been talking to Senator Lieberman about this legislation, whether you’ve had your lawyers look into the possibility of these – of stripping Americans of their citizenship and generally how you think this would work.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take the question.

QUESTION: You haven’t been notified by the senators about this legislation?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not saying that we have or have not. I think since citizenship is – obviously, it’s important to us. But currently that responsibility to grant citizenship rests with another department. So I’ll take the question as to whether we’ve assessed our possible role in that legislation –

QUESTION: Because –

QUESTION: Rescinding citizenship. It’s not granting it.

QUESTION: And they’re saying that citizenship has the State Department –

QUESTION: And it is –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll tell you. I’ll take the entire question as to whether the Administration has offered a point of view to the senator on this legislation. I think that we in the State Department in our actions and conversations and our advice to other countries around the world, we emphasize, among other things, due process. And it’s important if this is something that Congress is contemplating that we make sure that any action that – or any legislation that Congress might consider would make sure that we have due process, that we’re talking about people who are actually convicted of crimes as opposed to people who are just suspected of crimes.

QUESTION: Well, actually, it is people that are suspected of crimes. This is considered a kind of tool in the toolbox that the United States would have in order not to give people the rights of American citizens in terms of Miranda Rights, interrogation, putting them in military courts.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s an entire – that is an issue for which the Administration is having significant conversations with Congress. I’ll take the question on whether we’ve been advised about the senator’s feelings on this particular legislation.

QUESTION: Well, and then one other thing. I mean, if the State Department is being – in this legislation, being asked to make such determination, I mean, is the State Department even equipped to make such a determination as to whether a particular person is a terrorist? I mean, I remember during the Abdulmutallab case, there was a lot of discussion as to the fact that the State Department didn’t have as much access or full – as much information as, for instance, the NCTC and other organizations to make determinations over whether someone, for instance, should be put on the no-fly list. So if you can’t – if you don’t have the information to even determine whether someone is enough of a risk to put on the no-fly list, how can you make that kind of serious, weighty determination as to whether they are a terrorist?

MR. CROWLEY: Those are all fair questions. I will talk to our outstanding corps of lawyers led by one of my favorite lawyers, Harold Koh, but I would think that just as an impulsive reaction here, the Department of State would have great concerns that in whatever action we take, we protect due process. There are actions that you can contemplate once people have actually been convicted of crimes. I think that the American people would be concerned if you took prospective action, certainly one as seriously – as serious as revoking citizenship just for somebody who is suspected of committing a crime.

QUESTION: Well, but just one more follow. I mean, you say that you have grave concerns of due process in terms of citizenship, but in the matter of Awlaki where the United States has pretty much said that it’s willing to kill an American citizen, what about due process there? I mean I don’t believe he’s been convicted of any crimes; has he? He’s just suspected of them.

MR. CROWLEY: I think that without getting into particulars, those who clearly associate themselves with terrorism organizations put themselves at risk and that there is a very strong legal foundation going back to resolutions that were passed by Congress in the aftermath of 2001 that give us all of the legal authorities we need to attack those who are – represent a threat to the United States.

QUESTION: But not strip them of their citizenship?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) identified which group was part of this? This is related to al-Qaida? This is related to Talibans? What’s Pakistanis response? Is this the same group that (inaudible) Mumbai?

MR. CROWLEY: That is a matter that is part of the investigation.

QUESTION: P.J., on this Lieberman thing, could you just clarify right now how it stands? Does the State Department actually revoke citizenship in any cases as it stands right now?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s a good – I believe that that is done by Citizenship and Immigration Services, but I’ll take that question. Yeah, it’s a fair question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Without identifying --

MR. CROWLEY: In some cases, we might be involved, if you’ve got a dual citizen who then becomes a government official for another country, they may see their citizenship, and we are part of that process. So, maybe, but I’ll – we’ll go back over that.

QUESTION: Yeah. Without identifying any particular group over there, how strongly do you suspect that he did receive – Shahzad did receive support from one of them?

MR. CROWLEY: I strongly suspect that this is something that is a central issue being investigated as we speak.

QUESTION: You strongly suspect or you know?

MR. CROWLEY: That is something that we are directly looking at – is who did he have contact with while in Pakistan, what did he do, who was supporting him and why.

QUESTION: You being the State Department?

QUESTION: You can’t rule out any of them yet?


QUESTION: You being the State Department is investigating that? Or you being the --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we being the United States Government, of which the State Department is a part, and we have people who are working on terrorism issues every day as part of that.

QUESTION: Can you say you’ve ruled out any of these groups? I mean, there’s a list of maybe a dozen groups that --

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re looking at all possibilities.

QUESTION: P.J., piracy, Somalia?

QUESTION: One more on Pakistan, please.


QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My question is, P.J., that because of one country where all these terrorists come and strike --

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, look, look, look. I’m not going to entertain a question that implicates one country and to suggest that all terrorism in the world is the responsibility of one country. That’s not true.

QUESTION: It’s a general question.

MR. CROWLEY: So let’s – all right. You have a specific question?

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What I’m asking is that here in America, we live under fear, global community lives under fear, so does the Pakistanis in Pakistan. My question is: For the last 18 months, whatever the terrorist attacks took place around the globe, including in the U.S. and inside Pakistan, they all came from there.

MR. CROWLEY: That is not true, Goyal.

QUESTION: Some Kurdish origin Turkish parliaments visited the State Department yesterday. They met with some officials here. What was the subject on that meeting? Did they talk about Kurdish issue and democratization in Turkey? Do you have anything about that?

MR. CROWLEY: We did have a meeting with the BDP party, which is a party represented in the Turkish Parliament. We discussed a range of topics, most importantly the need for political parties and movements to distancing themselves from the use or threat of force in a democratic system.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Turkey and Brazil – President Lula will go to Iran the 15 of May --

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and Iran seems to be in – accepting some of the proposals that Brazil is suggesting. Is the U.S. following these negotiations? It’s going to – are you going to also be in touch with Brazil about these negotiations? Will they give you an update?

MR. CROWLEY: It was something that was discussed on Monday when Secretary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Amorim in New York. At that point, he indicated to the Secretary that President Lula would be going to Tehran the middle of this month. During that meeting, Foreign Minister Amorim updated the Secretary on his travel to Tehran, told her what their message would be, and promised to give us a readout afterwards.

QUESTION: Is this complicating her negotiations in New York?


QUESTION: No? So it doesn’t – your efforts to win over the votes of Brazil and Turkey are not at all affected by this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, ultimately, Brazil and Turkey and other countries will make up their own minds and will cast a vote for or against or abstain from expected resolution. That will be their judgment to make. The Secretary emphasized to Foreign Minister Amorim that in our view, we haven’t given up on the engagement track, but at this point, our calculation is that Iran is unlikely to change course absent a very strong statement and real pressure from the international community. And Brazil has indicated that it will continue to work on the engagement track and certainly, if they’re successful in convincing Iran to change course, that would be a positive development.

QUESTION: But you don’t support the --

MR. CROWLEY: But we are increasingly skeptical that Iran is going to change that course.

QUESTION: But you don’t support Brazil as a mediator or facilitator in regard to Iran? Or what is the U.S. position?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we have a two-track strategy and we are willing to engage, as we have indicated for a long time. But we are earnestly working in New York and at capitals on the specific elements of a UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: P.J., on this Brazilian question, when the Secretary talked with Foreign Minister Amorim, did she get into any timeframe? Because the Brazilians say we need some time to talk about this with the Iranians. Did the Secretary mention any deadline, idea, wrap it up?

MR. CROWLEY: In the meeting, Foreign Minister Amorim indicated when President Lula would be in Tehran. We promised to touch base after that meeting takes place. And let’s see what happens first.

QUESTION: But it seems that you are ignoring --


QUESTION: You are ignoring the efforts of Brazil in some way. You are very skeptical --

MR. CROWLEY: But – well --

QUESTION: -- in the U.S.

MR. CROWLEY: No, we’re not skeptical of Brazil. They’re – these are earnest efforts to try to convince Iran to do something that it has been unable or unwilling – mostly unwilling – to do.

QUESTION: But it seems that Brazil would have to negotiate with the U.S. also in some way.

MR. CROWLEY: No. Well, this is a matter that is working through the Security Council. Brazil is a member of the Security Council. In the coming weeks, this matter will be – will come before the council formally. And at that point, all countries will have to decide what is the appropriate step.

I think we have come to the view that Iran has had every opportunity to answer the questions of the international community and has failed to do so. In President Ahmadinejad’s trip to New York this week, in all of the interviews that he’s done, he’s always pointed fingers at somebody else and he has not yet said why they cannot formally respond to the IAEA, why they are unwilling to answer the questions --

QUESTION: But if the Brazilians bring a --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not done yet – that the international community has, why it is not willing to meet its fundamental obligations under the NPT. So our view – we have come to an understanding that this is the time where we need to apply very specific concerted pressure on Iran, make a clear statement for the Nonproliferation Treaty against the proliferation of dangerous technologies, against an arms race in the Middle East. And ultimately, all countries on the Security Council will have to make their judgment as to what is the appropriate – we all share the same goal, but every country will have to decide what’s the appropriate way to reach that goal.


QUESTION: Well, is Brazil’s overture to the Iranians – is it seen here as some sort of a “this should be it” in terms of engagement with Iran? I mean, sort of a last chance?

MR. CROWLEY: We have never doubted the earnestness with which Brazil, Turkey, or other countries that have the ability to communicate with Iran. Many of them have gone to Tehran and they’ve come away empty-handed. And we’re not saying that that will be the case with President Lula. We hope that he will come away with an understanding that Iran is actually going to change course.

But absent clear – a clear willingness by Iran to engage seriously, to answer the questions, to do what it is obligated to do under the NPT, we believe the time has come – and that view is shared widely by a number of countries around the world – that now is the time for the international community to make a very strong statement to Iran and make clear that there are consequences for what Iran has failed to do.

QUESTION: If Brazil comes with a proposal, what will be the position of the U.S.?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s a meeting coming up in the coming days; let’s have the meeting first.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)

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