12:35 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Wednesday, everyone. I just have one short thing at the top, which is to remind Americans going to the Olympics in London that if you need any assistance from the Embassy or any other help from the U.S. Government, you can find full information about how to get that on our website, www.travel.state.gov.
And let’s go on to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Well, so, just on that, are there – are you aware of – has staffing been increased or anything like that at the Embassy to take care of --
MS. NULAND: We have increased staffing in the Consular Section, particularly in the American Citizen Services Section, to help deal with travelers who may have difficulties with their passports or may run into any issues that increased travel often brings.
QUESTION: But you don’t have any idea of the numbers?
MS. NULAND: The numbers of staffing increase?
MS. NULAND: I don’t. We’ll take that and get that for you, Matt.
MS. NULAND: All right.
QUESTION: And I just wanted to --
MS. NULAND: Other things?
QUESTION: Just a – yeah. I’ll – I don’t have anything to start with. I’m sorry. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: We’ll let Arshad start? Oh, my goodness.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously seen the reports. We would always wish any kind of newlyweds well as they embark. But obviously, our concerns first and foremost are for the North Korean people, and our hope that conditions for them will improve and that the new DPRK leadership will make the right choice about opening the country and providing more for their people.
QUESTION: Did you all get any kind of notification? Or you just read about this in the same way everyone else did?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge --
QUESTION: No one was invited?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we were invited to the wedding, nor did we have any advanced information.
MS. NULAND: Were you invited to the wedding, Matt?
QUESTION: No, I was not.
MS. NULAND: You weren’t? Okay. Moving on.
QUESTION: Small thing. The Russian Foreign Minister has accused the U.S. Government and yourself in particular of trying to justify terrorism in Syria. And in particular, he criticizes the failure of the U.S. Government to itself condemn the attack that resulted in the deaths of the senior Syrian security officials last week. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on the day of the attack, we were asked here, and we made absolutely clear that we condemn violence in any form inside Syria. We’ve said that from the beginning of this conflict. We condemn all terrorist attacks, all bombings of targets, of civilians. The bombing of the Defense Ministry, however, targeted senior military and security officials.
So without condoning these tactics by any means, because we don’t condone violence of any kind, and we did condemn the bombing at the time, I would note that these were not civilians. These were the organizers of Assad’s military campaign who lost their lives.
QUESTION: So wait a minute. Just so I’m clear, so you regard this as sort of a legitimate target, therefore?
MS. NULAND: As I said, we do not condone violence of any kind. But to draw the implication that these were innocents who were targeted is also wrong.
QUESTION: You do not condone violence of any kind inside Syria?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Moving on? Anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: We – I remember getting into an exchange with Patrick about this on that very day, and in fact, I don’t think you did use the word “condemn.” What – the language was, “We do not welcome further violence.” And then the next line of the – of it was that – was noting exactly what you just said, that these were not good guys. These were bad guys who lost their lives. So I asked if – “Is it a bad thing,” after the first sentence, and then after the second sentence, “Is it a good thing,” and we didn’t get anywhere on that. So you’re saying now that you do condemn the --
MS. NULAND: We’ve said from the beginning of this we don’t think violence is the way out of this at all, and we want to see a peaceful resolution of this. That said, who bears responsibility for the preponderance of violence in Syria? Who is the one who is using now fixed-wing aircraft against their own people – helicopters, artillery, gunships, et cetera? It is the Assad regime. And as we’ve said, it is unfortunately not surprising that people are trying to defend themselves now.
Moving on? Anything else on Syria? No?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. I was wondering if you have any reaction regarding the announcement of President Chavez that Venezuela’s going to leave the Inter-American Court of Justice and probably the whole system. So I would like to know if you have any reactions on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen these comments. From our perspective, Venezuela would be sending a deeply regrettable message about its commitment to human rights and democracy, particularly to its neighbors, if it walked away from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is a highly respected, independent, and autonomous body of the OAS, and we would hate to see Venezuela walk away from it, particularly in light of those people inside Venezuela fighting for their democratic rights.
Wow, are we done?
MS. NULAND: No. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Sorry. You know – you’re aware that there was a hearing this morning that Congressman King’s committee on the – at least part of which was – dealt with the case of the Egyptian MP who was allowed – who was granted a visa and came to the U.S. I’m aware that Secretary Napolitano said that he didn’t represent a threat and he was screened three times, but Representative King points out that under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person who is a member of an FTO, for them to get a visa to come requires a waiver signed by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
I won’t ask you about the DHS, but do you know if a – if such a waiver was issued, in this case by the Secretary, for this individual?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to the exchange that happened in the Congress. I didn’t follow it this morning. It’s not going to surprise you if I say again that visa processing is confidential, even after somebody has passed on. So I don’t think we’re going to be able to comment on the visa processing. But the --
QUESTION: Sorry, even after he’s died?
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, who are we talking about?
QUESTION: The Egyptian guy who was a member of Gama’a al-Islamiyya who --
MS. NULAND: Oh, you’re back on – oh, I thought you were on somebody else. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: You mean there’s another one? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Oh, Suleiman (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: I thought you were on Suleiman. I thought --
QUESTION: Oh, no, no, no, not on Suleiman, no.
MS. NULAND: We missed you yesterday where we were talking about Suleiman. Again – well, so, this also pertains to this --
QUESTION: Well, I know, but it was the subject of a congressional hearing this morning, and Secretary Napolitano was talking about stuff that you often say you can’t talk about for privacy reasons. So what, do I have to – should I call Representative King’s office and have him get Secretary Clinton to come up to say whether she is a – whether she signed off on a waiver? Is that what I --
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re --
QUESTION: That’s what I’m going to have to do in this situation?
MS. NULAND: Again, we are not --
QUESTION: It could be a lot easier if you could just say if you’re aware if Secretary Clinton signed a waiver in this case, or if she didn’t. I mean, maybe she didn’t.
MS. NULAND: It might be easier in a journalistic sense, but it wouldn’t be lawful under U.S. visa processing law.
QUESTION: All right. Are you absolutely certainly that U.S. visa processing law bars you from the disclosure of whether a waiver was granted to the legal requirement that members of a foreign terrorist organization cannot enter without a waiver signed by the Secretary of State and --
MS. NULAND: As we’ve --
QUESTION: -- Homeland Security? Are you absolutely certain of that?
MS. NULAND: As we’ve said here before, it is a fact that if you are a member of an FTO, a waiver is required for visa entry. I can’t speak about whether a waiver was issued in this case or at what level because of privacy considerations.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, who is (inaudible) --
QUESTION: You just said (inaudible)?
QUESTION: -- privacy?
MS. NULAND: Because of the visa regulations of (inaudible).
QUESTION: I understand that, but --
QUESTION: You just said it was unlawful, though.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) privacy or are you interested in protecting --
QUESTION: You said it was unlawful and --
QUESTION: I don’t think it’s unlawful.
MS. NULAND: The discussing visa – visa processing is not permitted.
QUESTION: But I’m talking about not visa processing, but the issuance of a waiver.
MS. NULAND: I understand. If, after we leave here, there is anything else I can share on this, I will. But my understanding is that there is nothing I can share in this format.
QUESTION: So you can’t publicly say whether the State Department followed proper procedures?
MS. NULAND: My full expectation is that proper procedures were followed, and we said that at the time, I think. But we did – remember, if we’re talking about this guy from a month ago --
QUESTION: Hani Al Deen.
MS. NULAND: Right. We said at the time, after the first couple of days where we had to do a little internal review of what happened, that we had checked into it, that procedures were followed.
QUESTION: And that would imply --
QUESTION: Well, that would suggest that a waiver was granted. And what Representative King was saying was that from his understanding, a waiver – that there wasn’t such a waiver. So if – it would be good if someone could look into this. And I’m not sure whose privacy you’re trying to protect here on the – is it the Secretary’s privacy?
MS. NULAND: No, it has to do with --
QUESTION: Whether she signed off?
MS. NULAND: -- the privacy of visa processing. So again, if there’s anything more I can share, I will, but I will doubt that.
QUESTION: Wait, visa processing in general or processing where a waiver is issued? Because, I mean, sometimes you talk about visa processing, and sometimes you fall back on the fact that there’s legal regulations that are Privacy Act. I mean, it’s not --
MS. NULAND: When an individual who has been issued a visa has talked about their own case, we can confirm that. But we can’t volunteer information about the processing of an individual’s visa, okay?
Moving on, anything else? Wow. All right, guys. Have a great Wednesday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:46 p.m.)