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Middle East Digest - June 18, 2010

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Washington, DC
June 18, 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 June 18, 2010

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On travel, very briefly, Under Secretary for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats is traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, through June 19th. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero will travel to Islamabad, Pakistan to discuss cooperation on water issues as part of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, and that’s through today, June 18th.


QUESTION: On Pakistan –

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- earlier this week there was a report by London School of Economics saying that Pakistan’s ISI still has links with (inaudible) Afghanistan Taliban. And then yesterday, there was a report by the Sunday Times, London, saying that President Zardari met with several Taliban leaders who have been imprisoned inside Pakistan.

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: And then there’s another document from Pakistan’s Punjab Province saying that Punjab has been giving funds to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity wing of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Are you concerned about these reports? How is it going on?

MR. TONER: Look, Lalit, we’re in a period of unprecedented cooperation with Pakistan and engaged with them in an existential struggle against the terrorist forces in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. And we’ve got unprecedented cooperation. And I think previously this week – I think P.J., from the podium, kind of – or not kind of – dismissed the report and the findings.

QUESTION: Can we go back to detained Americans overseas? The guy in Pakistan – have you seen him again and has he signed a Privacy Act waiver? Has he been asked to sign a Privacy Act waiver?

MR. TONER: We have been granted consular access to visit him in Pakistan, but due to Privacy Act – privacy waiver concerns, we’re not able to comment more on the situation. But just to answer your follow-on question, he was. And when a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, a U.S. consular officer seeks prompt access to him or her, provides a list of attorneys and information on the host country’s legal system, offers to contact his or her family or friends, endeavors to visit on a regular basis, protests any mistreatment as appropriate, monitors jail conditions to the extent possible, and provides dietary supplements where possible and as needed, and keeps the State Department informed about the U.S. citizen’s condition and progress of his or her case.

So that’s just helpful in a broader context whenever an American is detained abroad. When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, a U.S. consular officers is given access to him or her. The consular officer presents him or her with a Privacy Act waiver form. The person may choose to exercise his or her privacy rights by declining to authorize disclosure to one or more of the entities listed on the form, such as the immediate family, Congress, the media, and other federal agencies. Or, on the other hand, that person could then authorize release to one or more of those groups (inaudible).

QUESTION: So that happened in this case?



MR. TONER: It – yes, he was – yes, the answer to your question – direct answer to your question, yes, he was presented with a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: Well, didn’t you just violate the Privacy Act by saying that?

MR. TONER: I’m talking broadly about – but have at it, Matt. (Laughter.)

MR. TONER: Oh, sorry, go ahead.


QUESTION: Regarding the easing of the blockade, is that likely –

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- around Gaza, is that likely to speed up the visit of the prime minister of Israel to (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: Sorry?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu.

MR. TONER: Nothing to announce. And obviously, it would come from the White House. And in terms of easing restrictions, just we stand by what we said yesterday, essentially. Welcome the statement but are looking for details.

QUESTION: Okay, one quick --

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure. Go ahead. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask – sorry if I missed this, but is there anything to report from Mitchell’s talks?

MR. TONER: He met with Abbas today. Good, constructive talks. Talked about the situation in Gaza as well as the peace process. He goes to Cairo tomorrow, where he meets with Mubarak.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Sorry, Courtney.

QUESTION: Sorry, one more. And it’s kind of random too, so I apologize. The State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, I think that Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are still not on that list. Is there any consideration to add them? I guess Faisal Shahzad was found to have been trained by the Taliban.

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