4:48 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for being patient. As you know, we were at the ceremony at Andrews for our fallen heroes today. We are very grateful to the President, to the Vice President, to the members of the Cabinet, members of the Congress, who joined us for that very, very moving ceremony today.
I know you have a lot of things on your minds. It’s been a busy day out there in the world. Why don’t we go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can you just give us a rundown of what you know in terms of protests at embassies just – and actually also attendant protests, meaning protests I understand in Nouakchott and Peshawar and other places where the embassy or consulate wasn’t directly affected, but in terms of Khartoum, Tunis, Sana’a, Cairo, those places?
MS. NULAND: Why don’t we go one at a time?
MS. NULAND: Okay. So what would you --
QUESTION: I actually was just looking for a rundown of damage, any injuries, and what you think of the response by the host government.
Our Embassy in Tunis, all of the Embassy personnel are safe and accounted for. The demonstrations have largely been dispersed. Our Embassy security team is working with Tunisian authorities to ensure the continued safety and security of our Embassy personnel. As you know, earlier today the Embassy compound was breached by demonstrators. There was some damage to the exterior of the building. There was, as I understand it, some damage to cars. You know that there was extensive damage to the American School. It’s basically unusable.
But the secure area, the chancery, was not breached. We have now had a very strong response from Tunisian security. There is a very strong presence, including members of the Presidential Guard, who were sent by the President to help us. So from that perspective, things are looking quite a bit stronger.
Just to tell you that with regard to Tunisia, the Secretary was in touch with President Marzouki over the course of the day to ensure we were doing our utmost to get that situation back under control.
QUESTION: When you say we, you mean you and the Tunisians, correct?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And you also said we have now had a very strong response. Did that mean that the initial response was lacking?
MS. NULAND: Well, I would simply say – and let me just put this in context in general – there have been throughout this period cases where the virulence of these demonstrations and the fact that they turned violent at all has caught local security by some surprise. And let’s just remember that these are emerging democracies. They’re coming out of an authoritarian period where the dictator said go and the army went, and we are now in a period where these countries have new relationships with the security forces that they depend on and that we depend on.
So it’s – in some cases we’ve had to work hard with them to get the right response and to get it strong. But I would say that in all cases, where we are now is that governments are taking this extremely seriously and are working extremely well with us. That’s the case, obviously, in Libya. It’s the case in Tunisia. It’s the case in Egypt.
So let me continue. What else were you – what other parts of the world --
QUESTION: The other big ones, which I guess – Sana’a and Khartoum.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. With regard to Sana’a, first I want to say that we welcome President Hadi’s swift and clear condemnation of yesterday’s violence. The Yemeni Government has deployed additional security forces around the Embassy and is working hard with us to ensure continued safety and security. All of our personnel are accounted for.
As you know, there were no breaches of the compound today. We did have – there were protests outside the Embassy today. Those protests have now been dispersed. Yesterday we did have a breach of the compound wall. We had damage to buildings, to the cars, to the windows. By buildings I mean the exterior of the buildings. There was never a breach of building security in Sana’a either.
And as you have heard from the Pentagon, we have a Marine FAST team working with the Yemenis there now. Obviously, all Embassy personnel are safe and accounted for there as well.
QUESTION: Sorry. Sana’a they’re --
MS. NULAND: In Sana’a. In Sana’a.
QUESTION: And Khartoum – did they ever get near the Embassy?
We – also on Sudan --
QUESTION: Safe and accounted for?
MS. NULAND: Safe and accounted for. Also, I think you’ve heard from the White House that the Vice President called the Vice President of Sudan Taha, also --
QUESTION: The Vice President of the United States --
MS. NULAND: Correct, correct.
QUESTION: -- called --
MS. NULAND: The Vice President of Sudan Taha, earlier today, I believe. And Deputy Secretary Nides has also been in touch with senior Sudanese to encourage continued strong support.
What else were you looking for?
QUESTION: Well, were there any other major – major incidents? I mean, I’m aware of protests in Peshawar and Nouakchott. I’m sure there are others. And – but if you don’t have anything on them, that’s fine. Can you just say how many today, how many embassies put out Warden Messages?
MS. NULAND: Sorry, let me give you a little bit more on Khartoum. I have a little bit more than I thought I did.
So in total, we still have about two to three thousand protestors. This was about midday our time, so this may have abated by now. We still had about two or three thousand protestors outside the Embassy after the security forces, Sudanese security forces, pushed back earlier demonstrations, including earlier in the day we had three protestors who managed to get on top of the perimeter wall and they were pushed back.
QUESTION: Toria, can you talk about any – whether you’re thinking about any ordered or voluntary departures, particularly in Tunis or Khartoum, what the – what your current thinking is in terms of --
MS. NULAND: Well, you won’t be surprised, Elise, if I don’t predict where we’re going to go before we go. We will let you know. We are obviously looking at the full spectrum of appropriate measures, but we haven’t made any decisions about those things yet.
QUESTION: So you haven’t started to pull out families or nonessential personnel out of these countries yet?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: Do you have a number on the number of embassies or consulates that put out Warden Messages today?
MS. NULAND: Yes. Well, in total, since the Benghazi incident, we have some 60 missions around the world that have put out specific targeted Warden Messages. As you know, every embassy and mission around the world puts out a message in the context of September 11th.
QUESTION: On that score, you said that the school – the American School was pretty badly damaged --
MS. NULAND: Very badly damaged.
QUESTION: -- and inoperable. One assumes that American diplomats’ children go to that American School. Wouldn’t that be a cause for them to depart?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into decisions that haven’t been made one way or the other here, Said, but just to report to you that we’ve got a school problem in Sana’a*.
QUESTION: Are there --
QUESTION: It’s not a U.S. Government – just to be clear, that’s not --
MS. NULAND: It’s an international school.
QUESTION: But it’s not a U.S. Government facility is what I’m saying; right?
MS. NULAND: To my – I need to take that one, Elise. I don’t know for sure. It could be a DoDDS school. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: Are there any other American facilities or owned properties that were destroyed?
MS. NULAND: In Yemen?
QUESTION: In – I’m sorry, in Tunis.
MS. NULAND: No, no.
QUESTION: A couple of things, Victoria: The White House is saying today that these are protests against an inflammatory video and not protests against the United States or American values, per se. Is that true?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we’re going to continue to analyze the motivations of these protestors. What we can tell you is that in all of these countries where we’ve seen these protests, we have also seen – moving on social media, moving on television or other things that people watch – quite a bit of concern, condemnation, anger about this video. And it seems to have been the spark for people coming into the streets, but I can’t obviously get into the heads of these protestors.
But it was for that reason that the Secretary has been extremely clear over the last couple of days – she was clear yesterday with the Moroccan, she did it again at the reception – belated reception we had to celebrate Eid last night – that the U.S. Government had nothing to do with this video, that we find it reprehensible; it doesn’t represent our values. But at the same time, this is not an excuse for violence. Religious differences, concern, insults to religion, are very painful for everybody, but it should not be an excuse for violence.
QUESTION: Two other quick things and very specific items: First, at any time over the course of this calendar year, has the State Department received and rejected an offer for enhanced security from another government – U.S. Government agency in Libya?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no, and it doesn’t work that way anyway. So let me just take a minute and remind all of you how security works as a general matter at our – at embassies and missions around the world, as provided under the Vienna Convention, which all diplomatic missions – not just American – but all around the world work under.
Under the Vienna Convention, the primary responsibility for the protection of U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities abroad rests with the government of those countries. So anywhere you are in the world, the external security outside of the hard line of any embassy, any consulate, any mission, is the responsibility of the host government. We work with the host governments to assess what they are providing. We are the ones that generally go and ask for more when we assess that we need it. We train them. We work with them.
And then on top of that, of course, it is the responsibility of the U.S. Government to ensure that we have physical features that protect our missions. We’re talking about setback and buffer zones, fences, walls, access control, screening, doors, windows, all those kinds of things, cameras, lighting. And then inside that hard line that we have erected, so external – think about rings – external security host government, then the physical barriers, and then inside we protect our missions a variety of ways. We have regional security officers of the State Department. We have occasionally this – these kind of contracted security. We have the Marine guard force. The Marine guard force, I would note, is primarily responsible for the protection of classified information.
So that is the way this works. So --
QUESTION: Okay. But just to get to the first of these two final specific items I wanted to cover with you, what I was asking you was whether or not another U.S. agency offered the State Department to provide – to beef up the security in Libya at our facilities and personnel for them, and the State Department rejected --
MS. NULAND: I thought you were asking me whether the Libyan Government or Libyans --
QUESTION: I understand, yeah.
MS. NULAND: -- had offered more security.
QUESTION: No, I’m asking whether the State Department rejected an offer from another U.S. agency to provide greater security for installations and people in Libya anytime over this calendar year.
MS. NULAND: Well, you will not be surprised if I am not going to speak about the internal deliberations that the U.S. Government has or that the State Department has with its brother and sister agencies about how the U.S. responsibilities for security are carried out.
QUESTION: Last question: Very specifically, again, at any time in the last six months did the State Department make arrangements with one of these private security contractors to evaluate our security situation in Libya? And did, in fact, such a contractor undertake an assessment of the security situation in Libya for our installations there?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that specifically. I can tell you that at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya – at no time. We did have some individual contracts with individual security guards, as you saw and as the Secretary spoke to.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the claim was made yesterday that a company that is a spinoff of Blackwater, in fact, proposed or contracted the United States Government for this particular kind of eventuality, and it was caught up in some sort of bureaucratic --
MS. NULAND: Completely untrue with regard to Libya. I checked that this morning. At no time did we plan to hire a private security company for Libya.
QUESTION: Toria, I just want to make sure I understood that, because I didn’t understand your first question. You said – your first answer. You said that at no time did you have contracts with private security companies in Libya?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: So that means that you never contracted with a private security contractor outside Libya to provide security inside Libya?
MS. NULAND: We have – all of the security in Libya has been done by Libyans, by American Government personnel, and then to a very limited extent these individual contracts with individual security personnel, but there was never a contract with a company, and there was never a plan to have a contract with a company.
QUESTION: Okay. And then how many people – how many individual contractors did you have employed?
MS. NULAND: Well, you know I’m not going to answer that question because we don’t speak about numbers when we talk about security. We don’t speak about numbers when we talk about personnel at all.
QUESTION: Does that mean that these guys, the two who were killed but also however many others, they’re just – they’re not affiliated with any company at all?
MS. NULAND: Correct. They’re hired individually on personal contracts to the State Department.
QUESTION: And how do you find them?
MS. NULAND: We obviously recruit the way others recruit. I’m not prepared to speak about the recruiting process here.
QUESTION: But – okay, but the --
MS. NULAND: But you saw that they were both Navy SEALs, right?
QUESTION: Well, yeah.
QUESTION: Former Navy SEALs. They weren’t active Navy SEALs.
MS. NULAND: Former – well, of course. If they were active Navy SEALs, then they would be a different kind of deployment.
QUESTION: No, no. But I just – so – but they’re not State Department employees; they’re considered to be contractors?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. I’d be curious to know how you did – because it was, to my – from what I understood before, they were --
MS. NULAND: They are State – they are part of our --
QUESTION: -- contracts with companies, and then those companies then send specific people to certain places.
MS. NULAND: They’re --
QUESTION: But you’re saying you actively went out and recruited these people individually for their --
MS. NULAND: To work in the RSO office with us, yes.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I’d be curious to know how exactly you go about recruiting them, just as a general --
MS. NULAND: Okay, well, we can get you a separate briefing on that.
QUESTION: A couple other things?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: One, do you now know how it was that Ambassador Stevens was taken from the consulate grounds to the hospital?
MS. NULAND: Thank you for that opening, Arshad. I am going to frustrate all of you infinitely by telling you that now that we have an open FBI investigation on the death of these four Americans, we are not going to be in a position to talk at all about what the U.S. Government may or may not be learning about how any of this happened – not who they were, not how they happened, not what happened to Ambassador Stevens, not any of it – until the Justice Department is ready to talk about the investigation that it’s got. So I’m going to send you to the FBI on any of those kinds of questions, and they’re probably not going to talk to you about them while the investigation is open.
QUESTION: One question here, though: Can you say how it was that these four men died, whether it was gunfire or smoke inhalation or anything else about how they perished?
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked a little bit about our sense of this in the backgrounding call that very first day, that –
MS. NULAND: -- or the day after, on Wednesday. Frankly, we’re now at the stage where – there’s the autopsy stage, there’s the investigative stage, and all of that is part and parcel of what the FBI has to look at. So I really am not going to speculate here, and I’m not going to --
QUESTION: I’m not asking you --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- to speculate. And in that background conversation, as I recall, a [Senior Administration Official] was asked how it was that Ambassador Stevens died, and the questioner referred to reports of smoke inhalation. And [Senior Administration Official] said, look, we haven’t done autopsies; we’re not in a position to talk about that.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: And what I don’t understand is why how they died would interfere with – how disclosing how they died would interfere with the investigation.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, there are privacy matters here that the families can make a decision about when the cause of death becomes clear to them. That’s not my place to be saying here.
QUESTION: No, but that’s not the justification [Senior Administration Official] gave.
MS. NULAND: We did talk about the fact that the compound that they were in, the building that they were in, was overcome by fire and heavy black smoke, and it was under those circumstances that they lost each other; that, clearly, Sean Smith died because his body was later pulled from the building. But I’m just not in a position to speculate on Chris.
QUESTION: Toria, more broadly, on that call, the officials on that call, or one senior official in particular on that call, whom I think you’re familiar with, said that the information that they were giving was preliminary --
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: -- and it could be wrong.
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Are you saying now that if there is something wrong with what was given out as correct information, it’s not going to be corrected because of the investigation, so that – is that what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: No.
QUESTION: The U.S. Government is going to be happy to allow incorrect information to stand?
MS. NULAND: If I – I will make a personal pledge to you that if I become aware that information we gave that first night is radically wrong in a way that you deserve to know, I will do my best --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: -- to get the information to you. But I have to respect the fact that this is now a crime scene. This is now subject to an FBI investigation.
QUESTION: Well, that’s fine, but if all of the sudden you discover that things did not happen exactly as they were described in that timeline that was given to us --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- like 8 o’clock this, 8:30 that --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- and in fact that was off, I think you have an obligation to correct that for the record.
MS. NULAND: Noted. And I will do what I can. Okay?
QUESTION: Can I ask maybe two --
MS. NULAND: Josh, and then Jo.
QUESTION: So just to be clear, so that when you say you can’t – won’t be talking at all about --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- the circumstances of the death, that includes the attack --
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: -- or what led up to the attack --
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: -- who might be responsible for the attack?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Every detail about the Benghazi attack is now totally off limits for questions?
MS. NULAND: It is now something that you need to talk to the FBI about, not to us about, because it’s their investigation. Okay?
QUESTION: But I --
MS. NULAND: Okay?
QUESTION: Going back to this point over here, the timeline – there are major differences.
MS. NULAND: Can you identify yourself? I don’t think I’ve seen you before.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Matt Schofield, McClatchy Newspapers.
MS. NULAND: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Is – have you – do you have a change in the timeline? Is the timeline significantly different from what [Senior Administration Officials] described in the background briefing?
MS. NULAND: I personally don’t have any information that’s different from that preliminary information we gave the first night. But again, we’re not the investigating agency. It’s now the FBI, working with the Libyans. The Libyans are the lead on the investigation. So I’m not even confident that we’re going to be privy to all these details until the FBI is prepared to disclose.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that arrests have been made by the Libyan authorities?
MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position to do that either. I’m going to send you to the FBI.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the geography of the compound?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: On the background briefing --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- from my understanding, but possibly I misunderstood, the building in which the two former Navy SEALs were killed was a separate building to the one that initially came under fire, in which Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith were. My understanding from the background briefing was that building was within the compound, but there have been some reports that suggested it was actually outside of the compound and it was a – and that it was a safe house.
MS. NULAND: There – what I haven’t looked at myself – and I will just say this; I can go back and look. There were, in my understanding, two separate compounds. There was the compound where the main mission staff were and then there was an annex. And they were at – some removed from each other, half mile or so. They each had separate perimeter walls. So we had the first set of incidents where Sean Smith died, and the building caught on fire, and where we lost track of Ambassador Stevens. And then some two – and that was suppressed, as we discussed. And then some two hours later, fighting began at the annex compound, and that’s where we lost our other two.
QUESTION: The reason I ask is because this annex compound, so I have misunderstood – but the – was that the annex compound was supposed to a be secret, and somehow its existence was revealed. I wondered if you could talk to that. How did it manage to come under fire? Because that’s where the staff had been evacuated to, so they were supposed to be safe.
MS. NULAND: I’m not confident that that information is correct. And obviously, I’m not going to talk about anything having to do with intelligence. What you may be confusing here is that in any mission or compound, there is a safe area. There were safe areas in both the primary compound and in compound two, so maybe that’s what you’re –
QUESTION: But the majority of the people hade been evacuated to this separate annex.
MS. NULAND: When – and we talked about this in the backgrounder – our understanding – and again, all of this could be proven not strictly correct when the full investigation is made, and we’ll see, but we’re going to depend ultimately on what comes out of that, which is not in our charge. But what we reported to you, what we thought that first night, was that this began at the main compound and then moved to compound two.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you broadly –
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you – is it your analysis – this Department’s analysis – that these protests have almost run their course, or are you actually worried that they’re picking up steam? Not only spreading geographically, but getting worse?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know that it’s helpful to speculate on that one way or the other, Brad. I would say that, as we said earlier in the week, Fridays have traditionally been a day of protest after prayers in lots of the Islamic world. One wants to see those protests be peaceful, that’s what one hopes, so we just have to see how we do. I mean, we obviously knew that there was potential for Friday to be a rough day. So we just have to continue to watch it going forward, and we’ll see.
But this is part and parcel of why we are working so hard not just to reestablish security – to strengthen security as the President and the Secretary have said – but also to make crystal-clear how we feel about this video, that this is not a product of the U.S. government, that – and also to encourage other leaders, whether they are national governmental leaders, whether they are religious leaders who also deplore violence in the name of religion, to speak out about it. And we’ve had an enormous outpouring of regional leaders, both government leaders and religious leaders making the same points that the Secretary’s been making.
QUESTION: How important is it, to get back to business as usual? On the one hand, I’m wondering, are you – is there going to be more public diplomacy on this? There’s been countless statements –
MS. NULAND: Of course, yeah.
QUESTION: But on the other hand, you have a lot of other work to do. What do you hope, in the coming days, to be able to do in that regard?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we’re hoping to restore order, hoping to restore calm, hoping to restore the ability to be fully focused on support for these democratic transitions, and support for the people of these countries who want a better future. That’s obviously what we hope for. It’s the weekend now, so we just have to see how this moves.
QUESTION: Do you have any information --
MS. NULAND: Can I go to Andy, who hasn’t had a chance?
QUESTION: This is a quick one, sort of --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- following up on Jo’s on the --
MS. NULAND: I’m double-teamed by Reuters today. Amazing.
QUESTION: AP, I thought. Concerns have been raised that the breaching of the consulate facility in Benghazi might have put some classified information at risk. Without talking about that information, whether – are you able to say whether there was any information there, and it’s all been secured, or whether there was no reason for any kind of concern on this score?
MS. NULAND: I have no reason to believe that any classified information was compromised.
QUESTION: Victoria, do you have any information on the ongoing attack on a UN multinational peacekeeping camp in the Sinai?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are there any Americans there, any injuries, anything that you’re doing?
MS. NULAND: Let’s see what I have here on the MFO. I thought I had something on the MFO. Let me just find it.
At the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai, they have reported that their northern camp, known as the El Gorah camp, was attacked by about 40 or 50 demonstrators earlier in the day. They penetrated the camp’s external and internal perimeter, and there were –
QUESTION: Where is this, I’m sorry?
MS. NULAND: This is the MFO in Sinai. But the MFO Quick Reaction Force responded and was able to expel the intruders, and my understanding is that the perimeter is now secured again.
QUESTION: On Egypt.
MS. NULAND: Yep.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that Egypt was still a friend and an ally. In fact, you were quoted on one of the major networks as deferring it over to the White House, where someone suggested that it took Nuland to correct the position of the President. So could you clarify to us where that stands? You know, where does it stand? Yesterday, the President said that – or the day before yesterday – that Egypt was not an ally, but not an enemy.
MS. NULAND: Said, I spoke to this yesterday, I don’t have anything further to add today.
QUESTION: I understand. Has there been any change?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything further to add.
QUESTION: You spoke about presidents and prime ministers being contacted, but you also spoke about the need for religious leaders to speak out about these attacks. Has there been contact with religious leaders in Egypt, in Sudan, in Yemen, and other places as well?
MS. NULAND: All over this part of the world, we have been reaching out to religious leaders. The governments themselves have been reaching out to religious leaders to encourage them to speak out in the name of peace, to speak out in the name of making views known peacefully, and renouncing violence. And we’ve had a huge outpouring. I can – when we finish here, we can get you some of those statements, if you’re interested.
QUESTION: And also, has there been any change in Travel Warnings for Americans, for non-diplomats in, say, in Tunisia, in Sudan and Yemen, and those countries?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, that was the question that Matt asked earlier. We’ve updated and amended Travel Warnings in some 60 countries in the last three days. You can find those on our --
QUESTION: Are you sure about that? I thought that was a reference to Warden Messages --
MS. NULAND: Warden – warden –
QUESTION: -- which are quite different from Travel Warnings.
MS. NULAND: I’m sorry, I apologize. You’re right. Press corps knows better than I do. We’re talking about Warden Messages. So these are messages with regard to how to conduct yourself if you find yourself in these countries. We have a website where you can find all of those. There have been a couple of travel notices updated, I think – just Algeria, but that was something that was in train anyway. In general, all of our travel notices warn Americans to stay away from protests, to stay away from mobs, that kind of thing. So, you know, it’s basically self-evident already.
QUESTION: Madam, before my question, I just – if you allow me to pay personally my tribute to Ambassador Stevens. I knew him personally.
MS. NULAND: Thank you, Goyal.
QUESTION: My question is that one: do you still believe that there is al-Qaidas in the region of Libya? And second, since South Asia is a house of millions of Muslims, have you put warnings in those countries, especially India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, of course?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think as I said – I’m just taking a look here – yeah. Most of the posts in that part of the world did issue emergency messages to American citizens, were included in this 60 that I mentioned. You know that we have concerns about al-Qaida activity in various parts of the world, but I’m, again, not prepared to talk about intelligence here.
QUESTION: And finally, one more: If Secretary or anybody has spoken – anybody in South Asia like India or Pakistan or Afghanistan – with anybody and leaders there?
MS. NULAND: Have spoken out? Yes, yes. Including religious leaders.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: No, no. Has the Secretary –
QUESTION: Oh. Has the Secretary – is that what you were asking, Goyal?
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. If Secretary have spoken with anybody in that part of the world.
MS. NULAND: She spoke with Afghan President Karzai on Wednesday. That’s all I have.
QUESTION: A broader question about how this incident that – apparently the first ambassador to be killed in 30 years – will affect the broader U.S. strategy in the Middle East as a whole, and the Islamic – have there been any specific requests for additional military or economic assistance from the other allies in the Middle East or the Islamic world? And – or can you tell us something about the broader strategy going forward from here?
MS. NULAND: I didn’t quite understand your question about who you’re asking – whether they’re looking for military or --
QUESTION: U.S. allies in the Middle East, in the Islamic --
MS. NULAND: You mean asking for us to reinforce at our missions?
QUESTION: Yeah. Are we offering or reviewing about the U.S. military or economic assistance to our allies going – is there a review after this incident?
MS. NULAND: So is your question whether third-country missions in Egypt or Libya or whatever are asking for U.S. help? Is that what you’re asking me?
QUESTION: U.S. allies – whether it’s the government or their missions – asking if there’s been requests for further U.S. military or economic assistance in the wake of these. U.S. allies in the Middle East or the Arab world --
MS. NULAND: To help harden their embassies; is that what you’re asking?
QUESTION: No, not necessarily. Just in general –
MS. NULAND: I don’t quite --
QUESTION: He’s using the (inaudible) for ally.
MS. NULAND: I don’t quite understand what he --
QUESTION: Countries that you’re friendly with but which the President would say that you’re not really allied with.
MS. NULAND: If your question is whether third countries like the Brits in Egypt have asked for our assistance, to my knowledge, they have not. If you’re asking about our broader strategy towards the Middle East and North Africa, we remain committed, as the Secretary said, very eloquently with the Moroccan yesterday and again at the Eid reception, to supporting the democratic aspirations of people and countries across that region.
These protests, as we’ve seen, are of 500 people, a couple thousand people. They are a tiny minority of the populations of millions that we are dealing with here. All of these governments, as I said, have responded overwhelmingly positively in helping us ultimately to restore security.
The Libyans, as we talked about yesterday, both the government and these militias came to our aid when we needed them. And the outpouring of condolence, of condemnation, from across the region and from individual citizens, has been overwhelming. The Secretary spoke about some of the signs that we saw on the streets of Libya honoring Chris Stevens, honoring the work that he has to do. So we remain committed to supporting these democratic transitions and to helping these countries move forward to a better future.
QUESTION: And just a quick follow-up. Can you confirm about the report that was in Reuters about the drones over Benghazi, and did the U.S. receive permission from the Libyan authorities that we could have drones over their country?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to talk about intelligence here.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the 24-hour crisis monitoring team that the State Department set up today? What agencies are involved? Who’s running it? Where is it? What’s it for? What will it do?
MS. NULAND: Well, unfortunately, this is a well-practiced tradition in this building not only – I mean, obviously, when our own missions are under duress we always set up monitoring, but also when there’s an international crisis, for example in the context of the Japan tsunami, et cetera. So we stand these things up very quickly. Located in the Operations Center, usually they have a mix of personnel: folks who focus on the internal politics, we always have some of our public affairs folks there – that’s even more important now that we have to monitor social media in addition to public statements. We have consular people there to help Americans, all of these kinds of things.
So we stood up a monitoring operation, I believe it was yesterday afternoon. It’s staffed 24/7. It enables policymakers to have the best possible picture of what’s going on. It ensures that the response and the various workstreams that the building is involved with are well-coordinated. It’s a one-stop shop for people like me to call and say, “Okay, what’s the latest on Tunis?” before I come down. And that operation center, that monitoring group, can coordinate easily with other monitoring groups in other parts of the government.
QUESTION: Okay, so it’s just State Department.
MS. NULAND: In this case, I believe today we are just State. But you know that we have other agency representatives in this building, other agency liaisons, so they can also make use of the monitoring group for liaison with their own organizations. Sometimes we have liaison actually sit in the monitoring group. I am not aware of that in this case yet.
QUESTION: And who’s the head of the monitoring team?
MS. NULAND: It’s usually run by our Executive Secretary at Department, Steve Mull, who also runs the Operations Center.
QUESTION: Toria, can you update us on any requests for review that the State Department Inspector General has received in terms of security procedures and what happened at Benghazi?
MS. NULAND: I’m not aware of any new requests to the IG.
QUESTION: No requests – there were reports that there was, in fact, a request in the Senate Homeland Security –
QUESTION: You’ll get that letter in a few minutes.
MS. NULAND: I will? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) read it.
MS. NULAND: I mean, your point is that there’s a letter on its way?
QUESTION: It’s been written about on Foreign Policy’s website. But --
MS. NULAND: Has it actually been received in this building --
QUESTION: I don’t know.
QUESTION: That’s what I was asking
MS. NULAND: -- or did you write about it when it was – when the ink was being signed on the Hill and before it was received here?
QUESTION: Let’s say, probably, you – if you don’t have it now, you’ll have it soon.
MS. NULAND: I was not aware of it before coming down. We will obviously speak to it if and when we get it.
Okay. Please, in the back, tell me who you are.
QUESTION: Yeah. Rob Gentry with TV Asahi. I wanted to follow up with a general question --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- on the additional Marines, the FAST platoons that are – I mean, they are in Tripoli and Sana’a now, but as a general matter, my understanding is that once they arrive, they’re then – those Marines are under the operational control of the State Department as part of the Embassy team. So my question is, in general, in the future, if there’s – at a location where those additional Marines had been deployed, who – if a situation deteriorated, who is setting the rules of engagement for those Marines? And who would make a decision that the use of force, particularly lethal force, would be necessary to protect the facilities?
In addition to the Marine security guard forces that we work with all over the world – and we have since 1948 – in 1987, the Marines established what’s called the Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoons, better known as FAST – again, Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team platoons. They can deploy to U.S. missions overseas to provide a limited-duration security force to protect facilities at heightened risk. FAST companies maintain a ready presence at various naval commands around the globe, and are able to move rapidly to respond to unforeseen contingencies. You saw that the teams that moved in over the last couple of days came out of Europe, I believe.
FAST is not designed as a permanent security force. They are deployed to reinforce embassies with – that already have existing security. And they traditionally help with that outer cordon of security, but within the embassy compound. So again, the local country force outside the walls, the walls, and then we put a FAST team just inside the walls if we need it.
QUESTION: But that didn’t answer it.
MS. NULAND: On the rules of engagement. So the rules of engagement for a FAST team are established by the State Department. Generally, they’re established by the ambassador and the RSO at post, but it’s almost always in consultation with Washington. Obviously – while on duty, obviously Marines carry loaded weapons, and – yeah, they are always carrying loaded weapons. We had a weird story yesterday that our Marines – I can’t remember, Tripoli or somewhere --
MS. NULAND: -- in Cairo didn’t have their guns loaded. Whenever they are on --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Whenever they are on duty, Marine security guards carry fully armed weapons.
QUESTION: Actually, there was another report that came out today – was that there were a number of embassies that did not have Marine security teams. I understand there’s 152 Marine security teams at embassies around the United States. I don’t know if each are – or detached or their detachments – I mean 152 detachments by – from the Marines. How many embassies have Marine security teams? Are there any that don’t have Marine security teams?
MS. NULAND: We went over this a little bit earlier in the week. I can’t remember if it was yesterday or if it was the day before. I’m going to refer you back to what I said then. We never talk about precise numbers of anything when it comes to security. That’s just not what we do. But again, Marine security guards are inside the inner perimeter. Their primary function is to secure classified information. There are a number of missions around the world – there are some embassies, there are some consulates, there are some smaller missions – that don’t have Marines, but that that function is provided in another way, either by regional security officers or some other function. So it’s not unheard of not to have Marines, and again, their function is primarily to protect classified information.
QUESTION: So that means that the question that I asked, I’m not going to get an answer to?
MS. NULAND: What was the question you asked, Matt? You have so many questions that I don’t answer, I just can’t --
QUESTION: How many – what percentage of embassies do and do not have Marine security guards?
MS. NULAND: I think we are not going to be giving percentages.
QUESTION: Even though one could go to each embassy publicly and determine --
MS. NULAND: You could. Go for it. Go for it.
QUESTION: So we can send – so you’re more than happy to have people waste their time in every country going around when – because this information is pretty obvious.
MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about general sizing, right? We’re talking – I actually don’t have a percentage, but there was some wild stuff out there like 50 percent of embassies don’t have Marines. That’s incorrect. But again, I think we’re not going to size it all together.
QUESTION: Well, okay.
MS. NULAND: All right? You’re welcome to go count, though, Matt. That could be a good summer project.
QUESTION: Well, unfortunately, it’s fall almost, so --
MS. NULAND: Yeah, it is. It is.
QUESTION: Summer’s over.
MS. NULAND: Right. Said.
QUESTION: So we’re just – maybe we should just go to the Marine embassy – to the Marine website and get the number from there --
MS. NULAND: That could work.
QUESTION: -- since you’re not willing to discuss it.
MS. NULAND: That could work, yeah. That could work.
QUESTION: I think that that’s a bit ridiculous that you’re not (inaudible).
MS. NULAND: I’ll take it on board and report it that you find it ridiculous.
Anything else? Said.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the Muslim Brotherhood calling off a demonstration is a result of ebbing enthusiasm or as a result of American pressure?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to either why they called it or why they called it off, but we are obviously heartened that they did. And we – obviously around the world, we have no problem with peaceful protest. It’s when it turns violent that we have a problem.
QUESTION: Google took a very unusual move today and blocked the video in question in two specific countries, Egypt and Libya. There have been a lot of --
MS. NULAND: I was not aware of that. That’s interesting, yeah.
QUESTION: And there have been a lot of – there were several reports that the State Department asked Google to review this video in terms of its policies. Can you talk about State Department’s interactions with Google regarding --
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that. I do not believe that – I don’t have anything for you on that with regard to State Department.
QUESTION: Can you take that --
MS. NULAND: But you know what? What I understood a couple of days ago, Google was involved with, and again, I’ll send you to them. But there’s always a question of whether, when you have these kinds of incidents, the material is consistent with the user standards and user policy that Google has set. We’ve seen that before. So I would refer you to them as to their motivations.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: But that may very well have been something to do with that.
QUESTION: Did Marines engage protestors in Khartoum today? You mentioned that there was something on top of the wall.
MS. NULAND: Did --
QUESTION: Did Marines engage?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that that was taken care of by Sudanese security because they had breached that outer cordon. But I’m not 100 percent sure.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the evacuees who made it out of Benghazi, those who are being treated and those who are not in need of medical --
MS. NULAND: I apologize. I did promise you yesterday that I would look into whether the injured were interested in having a health update reported to you all, and frankly, in the melee, I forgot to do it. So I will take care of that.
With regard to our non-injured personnel, I think we said when we gave the backgrounder a couple of days ago that we were going to hold them in Europe for a while and see what the situation brought in terms of their potential redeployment back to Libya or elsewhere.
QUESTION: So they might be redeployed? That’s still an option?
MS. NULAND: Again, they might go to other posts, they might go to Tripoli. We just haven’t decided yet. We’re going to watch the situation, okay?
Karen’s been so patient back there and never comes to the briefing.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) question.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: How many people were actually evacuated from Libya and how many remain?
MS. NULAND: Again, we never talk about overall numbers of personnel, Karen, but I can tell you that it was more than – I think it was about – sort of more than 25 and less than a hundred; let’s put it that way. Okay? (Laughter.) Not very helpful, I know.
MS. NULAND: Yeah, exactly. All right, guys? Thank you.
One more back here. What – can I help you?
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Sorry?
QUESTION: China sent six ships to the Senkakus in the last 24 hours.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. You know where we are on the Senkakus. I got nothing more for you. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 5:46 p.m.)
* Not Sana’a but Tunis