2:32 p.m. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Obviously, you heard from the Secretary a short time ago about progress being made today in Haiti, and obviously, our concern about the aftershock that Haiti suffered this morning.
Nonetheless, just to tick off a few things, we have 43 urban search-and-rescue teams still on the ground in Haiti. They continue to have ongoing operations, including seven teams continue to operate at the Hotel Montana. And to date, there have been 122 persons rescued, including – very, very recently, including 43 by the six U.S. teams.
As of eight o’clock this morning, a total of 6,174 Americans have departed Haiti. We continue to track and have files opened on roughly 12,300 Americans for whom we have information that they were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. And we have accounted for roughly 7,500 of those so far. We have a total of 33 confirmed American fatalities to date, including one member of our State Department family.
The Secretary talked about the importance of working with the Government of Haiti regarding adoptive children and orphans. So far, through a combination of the issuance of visas and humanitarian paroles, 146 children have come to the United States and we continue to work with the orphanages in Haiti on a couple of hundred additional. She mentioned that the USNS Comfort has arrived, which will significantly augment the infrastructure for the administration of medical care.
I think the military continues to do an incredible job. At the airport, yesterday, for example, there were 153 airlift flights. And there were some questions about the composition, but for – yesterday, for example, 115 of those flights were nonmilitary, 38 were from the Department of Defense. So that gives you kind of a sense of the rhythm at the airport. And I think as the military announced yesterday, we are hoping to open today another airfield at Jacmel outside of Port-au-Prince. We have C-130 flights operating out of San Isidro Airport in the Dominican Republic and we continue to work and to try to – and have port operations undergo – underway at eight Haitian ports, so continuing to expand our opportunity to bring needed assistance into Haiti. It’s our estimate at this point that MINUSTAH has been returned to about 80 percent of its strength before the earthquake and roughly 50 percent of the Haitian national police are currently on duty.
Just a couple of things – the Secretary will meet in a very few minutes with the Honorable Prime Minister Djukanovic – Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro, along with his Deputy Prime Minister Igor Luksic and Foreign Minister Milan Rocen. And the discussion will include Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts, contributions to ISAF, rule of law reform, and Montenegro’s contribution to stability in the Western Balkans region.
QUESTION: Yeah. On the Haiti figures, you said that you had files on 12 – is that 12,300 Americans --
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: -- and you’ve accounted for 7,500 of them?
MR. CROWLEY: We’ve opened – within our crisis database, we’ve opened files on 12,300.
QUESTION: Does that mean that there are 4,800 Americans missing?
MR. CROWLEY: That means that we have not yet been able to account for 4,800 Americans, for whom we have information that they were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.
QUESTION: So they’re missing?
MR. CROWLEY: We have not yet accounted for them. I mean --
QUESTION: Well, I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: In other words, they could be sitting --
QUESTION: -- you’re talking about almost 5,000 people. That’s a lot of people.
MR. CROWLEY: They – well, I mean, they could be sitting in their living rooms. In other words, people of the United States have provided us information to that – hey, I’ve got a loved one, I’ve got a friend in Haiti. The gap may simply be that people who are on the ground in Haiti have not seen a need or have not been able to contact the United States Embassy. So we have not yet accounted for them. I wouldn’t necessarily say all of them are missing.
QUESTION: Well, then before – you know, the figure for the total number of Americans was about 45,000; right?
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: So where – so if you’ve got – if you’ve evacuated 6,174, where are the – there seems to be a big disconnect between the --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. I mean, it --
QUESTION: I mean, are you sure all 45,000 were actually there, or do you think that it’s – the number is closer to 12,300?
MR. CROWLEY: Once again, the composition of the American community in Haiti includes a substantial number of people who had dual citizenship. So – and they – since they’ve chosen in many cases to live in Haiti, they may not have seen a need to contact us. So yeah, we – I mean, the Secretary has said we remain concerned about the welfare of all citizens of Haiti including our own citizens there, and we are doing what we can. But I wouldn’t draw any specific conclusions from the fact that a substantial number have not yet contacted the government.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, it’s a week on. I’m just trying to get a handle on --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- what you think. I mean, are you --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think – I don’t – we offer those figures just to give some perspective. You’ve asked us about them. I wouldn’t say that at this point we’re able to draw any significant conclusions from that.
QUESTION: So P.J., a couple days ago, you said there were three U.S. officials still unaccounted for. Can you give us an update on that? Then I have another question as well.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, it remains – that remains the number.
QUESTION: Okay. And then I want to ask about a USA Today story today about – quoting an Army major with the 82nd saying that USAID has given the Army strict instructions not to hand out any aid. I was curious whether that was accurate.
MR. CROWLEY: It’s not.
QUESTION: It’s not? Okay.
QUESTION: A couple of things. Just on that three unaccounted for, is that included in the 4,800 or is it 4,803, just to be precise? I’m sorry, I’m just trying to be precise.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure it’s included in the forty --
QUESTION: And just one more on that: So three not accounted for, but does that mean that – as in the other day, the one was accounted for, the woman who died?
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We still have three official U.S. Government persons for whom we have not yet accounted for.
QUESTION: Just a couple on the distribution of aid and prioritizing of flights. Today, there was a U.S. military briefing by some military officials and basically, there were questions about prioritization of flights and, you know, why certain medical supplies that, you know, a lot of doctors were clamoring for weren’t getting on the ground. And they pretty much said it was USAID’s call, that USAID is prioritizing the flights and they’re specifically – that basically, you had the final call on what flights get in and what flights get out.
Now, the UN says that that isn’t exactly accurate, that you and the UN together, along with the Haitian Government, are giving prioritization of what types of flights need to get in and then the U.S. military is calling the shots on which specific flights get in when. Which is it?
MR. CROWLEY: I would say that, collectively, USAID, working with the Haitian Government and with the UN, on a daily basis, we are setting the broad priorities for what the – what we need to bring in today based on how we assess the situation on the ground in Haiti. And as we’ve detailed, on a given day, it might be water here, food there, medical assistance. And then that determines the priority in which – since we are still in a situation where there are far more aircraft that would like to fly to Haiti on a given day than we have slots available to be able to accomplish that.
And then once we set the priorities, then you – we apply those priorities to the array of people who are applying for slots to be able to fly in. And as we’ve worked this with the Haitian Government, you now have notices to airmen, NOTAMs, that says you have to apply for permission, and based on that, so --
MR. CROWLEY: Now, in terms of the mechanics, at any particular time, that is controlled by the --
QUESTION: Controlled by the U.S. military. All right.
MR. CROWLEY: -- people. So if an airplane is not taking off, then it might be because for this particular day, we are looking for a different cargo. But once an airplane is airborne, if it has diverted, it is usually because for some reason on the ground, we just can’t accommodate the airplane at that particular moment.
QUESTION: Okay. Two questions – follow-up questions on that: First of all, are you satisfied that the U.S. military that’s controlling the airport is carrying out the priorities as expressed to them by you, the Haitian Government, and the --
MR. CROWLEY: The U.S. military is doing a remarkable job.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied that they’re carrying out the priorities in terms of bringing in the specific flights that you need?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ve heard nothing that says that the application of the priorities is an issue.
QUESTION: Okay. And then can you speak a little bit more about Doctors Without Borders? There seems to be a lot of confusion on what’s going on with their specific flights. They claim even as this morning that they’ve been diverted five times.
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the folks down south. I do not know. I mean, certainly, we are welcoming of our NGO partners, who are playing a valuable role. Doctors Without Borders has a long and proud tradition of working in these. We have them on the ground. We’re working with them on a regular basis.
As to why they have been diverted, if it’s – I’m aware of, say, two of those five. But my impression is that it was just because you had challenges on the ground that – a particular timing of their flights, we couldn’t accommodate. It’s certainly not because we do not admire, respect, and want to see Doctors Without Borders play a significant role in this operation.
QUESTION: And then just one more, I promise. Just moments ago on the U.S. medical aid call, one of the gentlemen said that we were asking about the delay of medical supplies throughout the country, and he said that while the WHO is helping to kind of coordinate donations coming in, that distribution of medical supplies throughout the country is being run by the Haitian Ministry of Health.
And I’m just wondering, given that everybody has acknowledged that the ministries are under capacity and taxed – and I understand that the Haitian health ministry is one of the better ones in shape, but still, there is a very serious lack of capacity – is that slowing up the delivery of medical care? I know there’s a desire to have the Haitians in front, but is the lack of capacity on the Haitian Ministry of Health delaying the delivery of medical supplies?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we have to be careful about nomenclature here. As we have said many times, we are working through the Government of Haiti and the UN. And we are working from a fully coordinated plan. The Haitian Government has a role in determining how you want to set up the network.
QUESTION: But can they physically distribute it, though?
MR. CROWLEY: But I would – the only thing I would tweak there is that I – clearly, what the international effort is doing here is substituting for the capacity that the Government of Haiti clearly lacks, given the current circumstances and the impact that the earthquake had not only on Haitian society, but on the Government of Haiti. That said, we are working to support and to help bring up to fuller capacity existing medical structures in Haiti, as well as bringing in and putting out field hospitals that various entities, including the United States, have brought to Haiti.
So it’s a combination of things. So I would think – I would infer that should the Government of Haiti continue to make decisions relative to support for their own medical facilities inside the country, I can certainly see where they have a role there. But I certainly also – from their priorities, the flow of medical supplies and care is being done by the international community on behalf of the Government of Haiti.
QUESTION: Could I have a follow-up on my question about USA Today? You said that their story was not accurate. Can you tell us whether there’s any restrictions on the U.S. military’s distribution of aid? I mean, are they allowed to hand it out? I mean, could you spell it out a little bit more? Are they allowed to --
MR. CROWLEY: I think the story is misleading. Why don’t we talk afterwards?
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: No, wait, wait. Hold on a second. Do you have --
QUESTION: Two points, sorry.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Are we still on Haiti?
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Yeah.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Two points, just please. One, INF chief yesterday called on the global community for a Marshall Plan in Haiti. And second, as far as Haiti and help is concerned – Secretary Gates is in India – if he’s carrying any kind of message from the Secretary of State as far as help in Haiti is concerned, India’s role?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the Secretary talked a little bit – she was asked a similar question upstairs, and talked about the considerable task in front of us and the need for the international community to come together and raise the necessary resources to rebuild Haiti. A significant step in that process will happen next week with the preliminary meeting in Montreal. The United Nations has already put out a call for funding for the first tranche of rebuilding of Haiti.
So, this effort is also – is already underway. Whether you want to call it a Marshall Plan, I mean, I’m sure we’ll come up with a way to describe this over time, but no doubt Haiti is going to require substantial assistance from the international community on a sustained basis going forward. As to whether this will come up in Secretary Gates’s discussions in India, I’ll defer to the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: Or if U.S. has asked in any way any kind of help from India – direct from India?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, that is obviously a decision for the Government of India and I’m sure that it will give this every consideration.
QUESTION: And P.J., on the alphabetical list of countries, and you can tell us which one (laughter) – how long – wait, wait, wait – I’m – it’s related to the aid. I’m just – do you have an update on the – a dollar figure amount on the material that – and supplies that – from AID?
MR. CROWLEY: No, let me get that for you, see what we have.
QUESTION: Speaking of aid – well, I guess it’s more a money question – today, some people on the ground saw – they weren’t sure if it was UN or USAID trucks taking some, like, large parcels out of the bank. And I was wondering if you were being asked by the Haitian Government to secure the cash reserves, because I know there is a concern about looting and the building may not be that secure. So --
MR. CROWLEY: I think in the – I can’t characterize what someone on the ground saw, but certainly one of the goals that Haiti has put forward is that as early as tomorrow, it hopes to open 40 banks for a brief period of time, perhaps up to four hours, which would be a major step in terms of trying to stabilize the population. So that is something that they have on their list of things they hope to accomplish by tomorrow.
QUESTION: But you don’t know anything specifically about taking out large cash reserves for security?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll – again, I’ll defer to my colleagues down south.
QUESTION: You called our story misleading, so I have to ask you, yesterday the 82nd Airborne told our correspondent on the ground that they were not authorized to distribute food. Today, this morning they were. So I’m wondering what – if you know what changed.
MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s – I’m only passingly familiar with that story. But I think the issue was not the ability of a soldier to actually literally distribute food to needy people. They’re doing – the soldiers and Marines are doing that throughout Haiti today.
The issue that generated the question was the method of delivery. And we have gone back and forth, we have tried various – but the issue behind the story was whether a particular operation should be accomplished by airdrops or by some other means. And it was the judgment of USAID that airdrops were not the appropriate method to use for that particular location. That was what was communicated between – so I say misleading in the sense that the story suggests that AID was telling the military, don’t distribute food. And that was misleading and inaccurate.
QUESTION: Okay. I have just a quick related follow-up on the airfield. The question’s been asked of the military: Why haven’t you tried to build an unimproved airstrip next to the main one so that you could at least land C-130s?
They didn’t really answer it. I asked that question to the Air Force people on the ground, and they said that’s the decision of the Haitian Government. But wouldn’t – is anyone at the State Department raising this issue with the Haitian Government?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I suppose one thing you have to – I mean, we’re one week into the operation, so as you’re trying to bring in the kinds of materials that you’ve seen on the ground – and Ken, you were there the other day – how you bring in the kind of engineering gear to be able to build an auxiliary airstrip – I mean, that would be the kind of thing you could contemplate if you had access to a port and you could bring in a ship that has lots of engineering gear. But you would tie up the capacity of the airport, which is your lifeline in terms of bringing in food and water.
So I think to – again, to the credit of the military, we have taken a basic operation and expanded it beyond what anyone might have envisioned when they first put eyes on the airport one week ago. We are looking at other options if, at some point in time, there’s a feeling that further infrastructure is necessary and can be done in a timely way. But I think my gut feeling would be that kind of operation at this time would, in fact, be the kind of situation that would seize up the rest of the distribution of lifesaving supplies to the Haitian people.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Can I have this first (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay.
QUESTION: I have to leave in a few minutes.
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I’ve got to go up to the bilat with the Montenegrin --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: P.J., in light of the White House announcement that the President is sending General Jones to Moscow today, I wondered – the Polish defense minister has said that Patriot missiles are going to be actually deployed 35 miles from --
MR. CROWLEY: This is about Haiti?
QUESTION: -- Kaliningrad. No, it’s a new subject.
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) I thought – okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: No, no.
MR. CROWLEY: Quickly, go ahead.
QUESTION: I tried to change subject 10 minutes ago. Okay, so Kaliningrad, missiles – Patriot missiles 35 miles away from Kaliningrad. I’m wondering, since this is actually a Russian territory, whether you expect the talks on START which are supposed to be the reason for General Jones’s trip to Moscow, if that might complicate things for the Russians who are clearly not happy about those.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – I think our ongoing – I mean, we hope to restart the negotiations here after a holiday break in the next few days. We’ve made progress even through the break for the holidays. It is in the interest of Russia and the United States and the world to see the completion of and ratification of a follow-on START agreement. I don’t think that – we have lots of issues in our relationship. I don’t think – I think both countries have pledged – their leaders, President Obama, President Medvedev have pledged to complete this agreement. We believe it’s still being conducted in good faith, and I would not think that complication will come into it.
QUESTION: The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has proposed that the Obama Administration negotiates the final border – the final borders of a Palestinian state with Israel. Are you ready to represent the Palestinian Authority in such a --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we want to get into the formal negotiation. I think it’s been suggested by a variety of parties that if we were to do so, establishing permanent borders might be the first thing at the top of the list. But we think that needs to be accomplished within a formal negotiation.
QUESTION: Just a point of clarification on START. You said negotiations are due to start here in this country?
MR. CROWLEY: I didn’t say that. I just said START negotiations will resume --
QUESTION: Okay, I misheard. The second one – Tariq Ramadan visa, he is allowed to apply for one now; is that so? Also Adam Habib? What’s the rationale and would he be granted a visa if he applied?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary of State signed an exemption for Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib. Her authority comes from Section 212(d)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. With those exemptions in place, the next time Professor Ramadan or Professor Habib applies for a visa, he will not be found inadmissible on the basis of the facts that led to denial when he last applied. Good guidance done by a good lawyer. (Laughter.)
Without going into very specifics on visa applications, I think the Secretary’s view is that these individuals who have applied for visas in the past – and they have been denied in the past – as we look at it, we do not think that either one of them represents a threat to the United States. And now, should they apply for a visa, they will still be subject to the other standards that apply to anyone who applies for a visa to come to the United States. But in the Secretary’s judgment, and consistent with President Obama’s outreach to the – to Muslims around the world, we want to encourage a global debate. We want to have the opportunity potentially to have Islamic scholars come to the United States and have dialogue with other faith communities and people here in our country.
QUESTION: Just because the – your wording was so precise there, I just want to make sure that – so you’re saying those two grounds for which they were denied no longer apply?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I mean, well – yes.
QUESTION: But does the U.S. Government have any reason to believe that if they applied now, they would not get a visa?
MR. CROWLEY: We – I would flip that around. If they apply for a visa in the future, we will evaluate that visa on all of the – based on all of the criteria for entering the United States, with the exception of this particular section.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you generally, every time we ask about visas, or most of the time, it’s – you won’t discuss them; it’s a privacy issue. What gives here?
MR. CROWLEY: That – I mean, in one particular case, there – this was a – this is the matter of, I think, an ongoing court case.
MR. CROWLEY: So there is a public record about it.
QUESTION: Well, so? But, I mean --
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Look, I’ve got to --
QUESTION: No, no. Yeah, I realize that, P.J. But you know what? This goes to – I mean, it really is – it’s a complete double standard. Basically the rule, I think, is that you guys won’t talk about visas and you cite the Privacy Act unless it suits your purposes. And to be honest with you, that’s – it’s inconsistent and it’s frankly kind of ridiculous that you guys will pick and choose which visas, whose applications you want to talk about. So maybe you could take that under advisement and see if – what the legal people and Consular Affairs people have to say about it.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. The Associated Press is interested in less information on visas.
QUESTION: No, I’m interested in more. I want information on every --
MR. CROWLEY: Last question.
QUESTION: -- visa.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Wi Sung-lac from the ROK is said to be here in D.C. meeting with Campbell, Bader, and Bosworth. Can you substantiate that report and give us any more information?
MR. CROWLEY: Wi Sung-lac is visiting Washington and he will be meeting with senior officials here at the State Department, including Deputy Secretary Steinberg, Assistant Secretary Campbell, Ambassador Steve Bosworth, and Special Envoy Sung Kim. I think those consultations will happen tomorrow.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:59 p.m.)