The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
12:50 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Wednesday, everyone. The Secretary did all they work this morning, so we can handle this with dispatch, I hope. I have nothing at the top.
QUESTION: She did all of the work this morning?
MS. NULAND: She did a lot of the work, yeah.
QUESTION: Well, let’s just start with something that she did say, which was about these emails that have been – that are being reported on now. Do you have anything to add to what she said about them? And can you explain – these were emails sent by this building to various other agencies, including the White House. Do you know, was it people in this building who noticed the claim of responsibility on Facebook and Twitter, or was it people in Tripoli or somewhere else?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, in terms of where this piece fits into the general effort to gather information before, during, and after the events in Benghazi, I think the Secretary’s spoken to that, Jay Carney’s spoken to that. The reason you have an ARB is so that you can look at all of the information that we had, not only unclassified information and information --
QUESTION: Fair enough, but I --
MS. NULAND: -- that appeared on Facebook.
QUESTION: But considering these things are now out there, can you --
MS. NULAND: So just to give some context, as you know, our Operations Center is responsible for providing fast-breaking news to principals in this Department. We obviously share with other national security agencies. So on the unclassified side, they will collect information that they are seeing in real time, whether it’s from Facebook, Twitter, press reporting, all of your fine work, that kind of thing, and make sure that people see it if it’s a breaking story. So what --
QUESTION: Sorry. So it was the Ops Center specifically that noticed this claim of responsibility?
MS. NULAND: I think the --
QUESTION: Or was it the Crisis – the Rapid Response Team or – I’m just looking for – or was it someone out in the field?
MS. NULAND: That particular piece was disseminated --
QUESTION: I know where it was disseminated from.
MS. NULAND: -- by our Operations Center. Whether it was --
QUESTION: Where did they get it from?
MS. NULAND: Whether they saw it themselves or whether it was highlighted by our people in the field, I can’t speak to that. I, frankly, don’t know. It can happen any of a number of ways.
QUESTION: In instances such as this, is it standard practice to relay all claims of responsibility sort of no matter --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: -- where they come from, who they might be?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: So I mean, it could be somebody waving a flag in the air and saying, “I’m responsible,” and that would also be reported?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: So there’s no sort of value judgment on the reliability of the claim implied by having it relayed through this system that you have?
MS. NULAND: And in fact, there are instances where the Ops Center might send out messages that three different groups are claiming responsibility for the same event. But it’s standard practice for them, when we have breaking news, for them to inform all of the principals in this building so that everybody knows what’s moving.
QUESTION: Well, fair enough. But I mean, if a claim is ludicrously unbelievable – I don’t know, I mean, like if someone forged the Quaker Church or something and said that they were – that would be passed on as well?
MS. NULAND: Well, they obviously use their judgment as to whether they think it’s important for principals in this building to be aware of what’s out there, particularly what’s out there in the public domain.
QUESTION: Okay. So it was deemed important enough – and I’m going to assume that important enough means that it was presumably credible to pass on to other – to pass on to the principals in other agencies, correct?
MS. NULAND: Again --
QUESTION: I’m just – I mean, if I had said that I take responsibility for this, would that have gone up the chain?
MS. NULAND: They definitely would not have passed on your personal claim of responsibility, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Fine. So – because it wouldn’t have been credible. Now maybe – I mean, it wouldn’t – what I’m getting at is that if it wasn’t a claim that had the possibility of credibility, it wouldn’t have been passed on, correct?
MS. NULAND: What I’d like to say here is that in keeping folks informed, the Ops Center obviously is looking at the totality of what’s out there in the public domain. When things begin to become picked up, when they become something that people are talking about, they obviously have a responsibility to inform principals. But it is not the job of the Operations Center in passing these things on to analyze them, to weight them in any way, shape, or form. They’re just --
QUESTION: Well, but in fact, they are weighting – had there been a hundred claims of responsibility that night and 99 of them had been from a group or a person that couldn’t possibly have done it, they wouldn’t have passed those on, correct?
MS. NULAND: In all likelihood, if there had been a hundred claims of responsibility that night, they would have done a summary which said more than a hundred groups, including Matt Lee, have claimed responsibility for this attack, is what they would have reported.
QUESTION: And then said that --
MS. NULAND: And not evaluated them one way or the other.
QUESTION: Really? So they would have given my alleged claim of responsibility equal weight with that of a known terrorist group in Libya?
MS. NULAND: Again, Matt, you’re – we’re getting into crazy land here. My point is simply that if the environment is saturated with claims of responsibility, they’re going to make sure that principals know that we’ve got competing claims. That’s my only point here.
QUESTION: And again, just while we’re on this sort of procedure, while we’re in crazy land – (laughter) – what’s the --
QUESTION: Who’s the ambassador here?
QUESTION: Exactly. That’s what I was wondering. (Laughter.)
The objective – I realize that they go to all the principals, but is it then that the analysis comes from the intel community?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: And so they’re really the ones who are charged with assessing the reliability or the plausibility of any of these claims in that case? But the principals are kept informed just so that they know what’s out there, or what --
MS. NULAND: For example – let me just give you an example. My BlackBerry, on any given day, will have between 6 and 60 alerts from the Ops Center about what you all are writing, about what other things are moving in the press from around the world, about unclassified information that we’re receiving from our embassies, about things of interest that might be moving in the public domain around the world. These are to keep people informed of what’s out there in public. They are not designed to be intelligence products. They’re not designed to be finished analysis. They are simply to keep folks informed, particularly on the unclassified side.
QUESTION: One more on this. And I don’t know if this is in crazy land or not, but do you – it’s on they specifics of this email in question. Do you have any reason to believe that it could actually have just been wrong, that there was not a Facebook posting at all, or --
MS. NULAND: Again --
QUESTION: Does that happen? I mean --
MS. NULAND: Does it – I mean, it --
QUESTION: That occasionally these emails come around when there’s a developing situation and they’re not accurate?
MS. NULAND: Again, these are designed to keep people informed of what’s moving. I didn’t actually look at it to see whether it was a press report about a Facebook posting or whether it was the Operations Center itself saying that there was a Facebook posting, so I can’t evaluate one way or the other. But --
QUESTION: It was the Embassy in Tripoli.
MS. NULAND: Is that – was that what it says? Anyway, I’d have to look at it. But again, they report what they get. So if they reported Embassy in Tripoli says, then it is based on something that Embassy in Tripoli said. Whether that can be right or that can be wrong is something to be evaluated later.
QUESTION: Why didn’t you have the tape?
MS. NULAND: Again, back to the sort of overall question of what was happening that night, who is responsible, what do we learn from it, all of these things are being looked at by the Accountability Review Board. They are not simply looking at classified, they are looking at unclassified as well. So as the Secretary said today, this piece has to be put into the larger mosaic.
QUESTION: That’s actually my second question. Are you concerned at this point that the integrity of this ARB investigation is being slaughtered by a climate of all these leaks of emails and – it seems like every couple of days, there’s potentially classified or unclassified, recently unclassified information that’s getting leaked to the media. Is that jeopardizing the integrity of this ARB?
MS. NULAND: Well with due respect to the Fourth Estate and all of you, the ARB’s job is to sit back away from the press swirl, the public swirl, the political swirl, and try to look at what actually happened before, during, and after; what we knew, when we knew it, and what lessons we can draw from it. So they are responsible for standing back from all of this news environment, et cetera.
QUESTION: So you don’t think that people are pushing these things out to smear the – for political reasons? That’s what I’m asking.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously I’m not --
QUESTION: I’m trying to ask it in a way that doesn’t immediately get into politics, because I know you don’t like to talk about politics.
MS. NULAND: I sure don’t like to talk about politics, and I’m not going to get into the motivations of various folks here. But you can think about the way the ARB operates much as you think about a sequestered jury, if you will. They are separated from the larger process and they look at everything that we knew at the time and during and after, and they are – their process is designed to have integrity in and of itself without reference to the current climate now.
QUESTION: Toria, what is the State Department doing to get access to this guy al-Harzi, the sole suspect in the Benghazi attacks who is actually in custody with Tunisian officials? What are we doing to get access there?
MS. NULAND: I think you can imagine that with an ongoing investigation and work on who the perpetrators were and bringing them to justice, I’m not going to get into the details of those kinds of things, Justin.
QUESTION: But clearly --
MS. NULAND: I appreciate the opportunity, though.
QUESTION: I appreciate that you remember our last discussion.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Do – but clearly, I mean, I think it’s safe to say from the podium that you’re – that you would like to – either the FBI or the State Department or whoever would like to have access to this guy, and is at least trying to get that access.
MS. NULAND: The President’s made clear, the Secretary’s made clear that we are intent on figuring out who did this and bringing the perpetrators to justice. But I’m not going to get into the details of who and how.
QUESTION: But – okay.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Because it does seem a little odd that the Tunisians are denying access, and that would appear to be --
MS. NULAND: And I’m not going to get into our relationship with the Tunisians or anybody else with respect to this case.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: No, wait – before we go on --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: On the email that’s been – and this – not the two earlier, the specific email that talks about the claim of responsibility. You did – put this in a bit of broader context. At the time that that email was sent and received by whoever it was that it was sent to, what was happening on the ground in Benghazi, and what was the Administration’s prime concern at that point? Was it who might be claiming responsibility for this attack, or was it still at that point, how do we get our people to safety?
MS. NULAND: My memory of that email – and again, I should’ve looked at it before I came down, but I didn’t – was that it was circulated that very evening of September 11th. Am I correct in that?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I mean, in this building, the number one concern at the time was with regard to the safety of our people to try to figure out exactly what was going on and to keep it – keep our people safe.
QUESTION: So is it possible, in your mind, that this was just one or – not in your mind, but is it possible that this was one of hundreds of things that were coming in at the time, and it may not have been – who was actually claiming responsibility was not actually the Administration’s immediate priority at the time, and it got, I don’t know, overlooked for some time and didn’t – what I’m trying to find out is, did this claim of responsibility that you know of make it on to people’s radar screens in this building at the time or at the White House or any other place in such a way that they would have said, “Hey, we need to make sure that the intel people realize that there’s this claim out there?”
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Secretary spoke to that this morning. Jay Carney spoke to that this morning, that this was one piece of unclassified information that had been posted on a Facebook page among many, many, many pieces of information that were coming in that evening afterwards from all over the place, both classified and unclassified. So one can’t weight these things in their totality without looking at all of them.
QUESTION: Okay. And just the last one – and that – this can get – kind of goes back to the crazy land theory, but are you aware of any other claims of responsibility that were reported in the same fashion by the Operations Center to other – one, are you aware that – if there were any other claims of responsibility, and two, if there were, are you aware that they made it – were that – that they were also reported in the same fashion as this one was?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that, Matt. I haven’t seen the full dump of information that we had that night since that’s, again, within the purview of the ARB to see all of it. Okay?
MS. NULAND: I have to say, Michel, that I did not see that before coming down. I think you know that we have been very supportive. And we said this yesterday, the Secretary said it again today of the efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces, to restore order, to maintain calm during this difficult period. But I’ll let you know if we have anything in particular on that.
Anything else? Cami?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that he has joined Johnnie Carson’s delegation. Johnnie Carson’s the lead for us in these conversations on not only Mali and how we support ECOWAS, but there is, as we mentioned yesterday, a conference going on on Sahel, including security threats across the Sahel. So I would guess that he is presenting there, but if I have anything else to share, I will. We obviously have very, very close intelligence sharing contacts with the French on Sahel and many other things around the world, but that relationship is very important.
QUESTION: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has released a letter he wrote to Secretary Clinton on October 17th saying that she needs to take immediate actions against contractors, U.S. contracts inside Afghanistan who are also supporting insurgency inside Afghanistan. Has he taken any action against those contractors? And why do you give contracts to those companies which are supporting insurgency inside Afghanistan?
MS. NULAND: Lalit, I’m not sure I know what it is that you’re referring to. So if you can give us a little bit more information afterwards, we’ll take a look, but I’m not sure I’ve seen what it is that you’ve seen.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Please.
MS. NULAND: I can’t hear you at all.
QUESTION: Could I ask your response to this – to the arrest linked to the shooting of Malala Yousafzai?
MS. NULAND: Obviously, the law enforcement responsibility for this rests with the Pakistanis, so I’m going to send you to them. We are obviously continuing to hope for her full recovery.
QUESTION: In Tibet, could I get your reaction to reports that Chinese authorities are offering a reward to anyone who informs on anyone who’s planning self-immolation to protest Chinese rule? Fifty thousand Yuan, about $8,000.
MS. NULAND: I hadn’t seen this issue of the Chinese offering a reward. I think you know that we have consistently expressed our concern about the violence in the Tibetan areas, about the continuing pattern of self-immolations, heightened tensions, and Tibet in general. And we continue to both publicly and privately urge the Chinese Government at all levels to address the underlying policies in Tibet that have created these tensions and that threaten the cultural heritage of the region.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve seen the initial reports on this incident. We’re obviously seeking additional information, but I don’t have anything else for you at this time.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Secretary said – sorry, Lebanon-slash-Syria – the Secretary said that – upstairs that you were all looking forward to Mr. Brahimi’s report to the Security Council later on today, but I’m just – I’m curious, as a – you have come out in support of this call for a ceasefire, as the Secretary did, but do you have any sense of whether something like this is actually feasible, whether it will work?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we don’t want to prejudge what the Security Council is hearing. At least as I was coming down, I didn’t have a final report on what Mr. Brahimi had said about what he had heard in Damascus or elsewhere. We are obviously supportive. As we’ve said, it’s up to the Assad regime to take the first step and then the opposition to follow suit.
QUESTION: Right. But do you have any confidence at all at this point that the Assad regime is – will do that?
MS. NULAND: Again, it is Brahimi who’s had the most recent contacts with the Assad regime, so I don’t want to get ahead of what he may be briefing in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Well, fair enough. But aside from what they might have told him, given the history of this regime, do you have any confidence that they will actually respect a ceasefire and that they will take the first step?
MS. NULAND: I think you know where we’ve been on our concern about the Assad regime’s broken promises, but I don’t want to get ahead of what’s going on in the Security Council.
QUESTION: All right. And then next door in Lebanon, yesterday you talked about – and the Secretary again this morning talked about – how it’s important for the Lebanese to choose a new government. You said that Ambassador Connelly was in touch with people of all varying political stripes. I presume those meetings are still going on. If they’re not, please correct me. But how does – what’s your assessment of how that process of forming a new government is going at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, it’s President Suleiman who has been – who has the responsibility to work with all of the parties. We’ve been encouraging all of the parties to participate in the process. That is the extent of our role. We’ve been very clear that this has to be a Lebanese process. We’re not going to prejudge its outcome. It’s obviously going to take a little bit. So my understanding is that this got started in earnest yesterday.
QUESTION: And why do you support a government change at this time?
MS. NULAND: I think the Secretary was pretty clear about that upstairs. We want to ensure that we have a Lebanese Government that supports the aspirations of the Lebanese people, that can provide security, that isn’t – I think she spoke of concern about proxies for individual agendas, et cetera.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you would not regard a government – a new government that had members of – any members of Hezbollah in it as being a credible one?
MS. NULAND: Again, we have said very clearly we’re not going to prejudge the outcome, we’re not going to dictate the terms. We want to see a Lebanese process, but we want to see a Lebanese process that supports the aspirations of the Lebanese people, is not a front for proxy agendas.
QUESTION: Right. Which is all fair enough, except that you do that very selectively. I mean, you want to see the Syrian process be all Syrian, and yet you’re dictating that Assad can’t be the head of it. So that’s where I – so it is a selective thing when you say that – when you say, well, we’re not going to prejudge or we’re – that this is their process. You’re – are you saying right now that you’re – you do not preclude, or that you would still deal with a Lebanese Government that had a significant or any Hezbollah role?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to go any further on this subject than the Secretary went today or than we went yesterday. We want to see this process move forward. We’ve been very clear about our concerns about the role that Hezbollah is playing inside Lebanon and inside Syria.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, though?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: But you talk – this is not the first time we’ve talked about the need for a kind of Syria – sorry, Lebanese Government that does these kind of things, but it seems like it’s a kind of a tossup between a government that takes a heavy dose of Hezbollah into the cabinet and into the government, or you have complete paralysis along the lines of what we had in 2007, 2008. So isn’t it more that you need a kind of government that actually functions?
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly we need a government that functions well, but more importantly, we need a government that can provide security in the country rather than insecurity, and that can work for a strong, pluralistic, unified Lebanon. So beyond that, I’m not going to get into the details.
QUESTION: Well, but how do you suppose that a government that doesn’t have Hezbollah within its ranks is going to provide security? Don’t you think Hezbollah is actually the one party that could provide security within Lebanon?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into the picking here, nor are we as a government going to get into that. This is for the Lebanese to manage, and we support the process that President Suleiman is undertaking now.
MS. NULAND: Please, yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. You said, Victoria, that you encourage all Lebanese party to participate in the President discussion about new government. Is it fair to conclude that you’re not anymore in support of Mikati government?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to go beyond what the Secretary said, what we said here yesterday, which is that we don’t want a vacuum in the interim, but clearly we support the process that the President is undertaking, which is to form a new and responsible government.
QUESTION: But does that include Mikati?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to get into the picking here. You guys can just keep going all afternoon if you’d like.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) by saying that a government doesn’t act as proxies and agents for external forces or --
MS. NULAND: I think her statement was extremely clear, particularly in light of Lebanese history, and I think it’s probably really clear to you, Michel.
QUESTION: I need some clarification. That’s why --
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: One more.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) here, what country or proxy that you’re talking about?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to parse her words. I think to everybody in the region and to everybody in Lebanon, it was pretty clear.
Okay. And I see Samir nodding there. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: One more.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Fred Hof retired, as you know, not too long ago. I think he remains available to us if we have particular missions that we need him for because he’s got very deep contacts in certain parts of the world, including in the Syrian opposition. But my understanding is that he is currently getting a well-deserved rest.
QUESTION: Is he working on the border alignment between Lebanon and Israel at this time?
MS. NULAND: Well, that had been something that he had been involved with. My understanding, though, is that he is no longer participating in those conversations because he’s retired.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: All right. Just --
QUESTION: No, no. No, no, I got one more.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are you familiar with a guy named Khader Adnan, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement in the West Bank? He was in an Israeli jail, went on a hunger strike, the Israelis released him. But now, he apparently has gotten a visa to come to the United States to speak at American University next week. I’m wondering if, in fact, this is correct. Did he get a visa? And if he did, considering he’s the leader of a designated – or a branch of a designated terrorist organization, how he managed to get this visa.
MS. NULAND: Matt, I don’t have anything on it today. You know how parsimonious we are about talking about visa issuance, but let me see if there’s anything we have to share on that.
Before I lose all of --
QUESTION: But wait, wait – just wait.
MS. NULAND: Sorry.
QUESTION: Because the last time that something like this happened, with a member of the Egyptian parliament, you weren’t so parsimonious. So --
But before I lose you all, since nobody asked, I do want to take an opportunity to call all of your attention to the extreme violence that we’re seeing in the suburbs of Damascus today, particularly in East Ghota, in Harasta, in Arbeen. They’ve seen some of the worst violence in those areas since the start of this revolution – aerial bombing from planes, helicopters, as well as shelling. So that just speaks to the ongoing barbarity that the Assad regime is raining down on its people.
QUESTION: But do you expect them to just stop this barbarity on Friday morning?
MS. NULAND: Again, that remains to be seen. We’ll see what Mr. Brahimi has to say. But it is very clear that they are taking the time between now and Friday to be as vicious as possible.
QUESTION: Just one more on this. Russia has said today that Washington has provided the opposition with Stinger Missiles. Can you confirm that?
MS. NULAND: You know that we are providing no lethal assistance to the Syrians. We have provided no Stingers of any kind to Syria, nor will we. And if there is evidence of that, we’d like to see it.
QUESTION: Well, can you say – are you equally certain that no one that you have sold Stinger Missiles to has then transferred them to members of the Syrian opposition?
MS. NULAND: Let me say that all of the images that we’ve seen of MANPADS and MANPAD-like equipment in Syria has been exclusively of a Soviet Warsaw Pact vintage – the SA-7 type vintage. We have not seen evidence of Stingers.
QUESTION: Those are from (inaudible), right?
QUESTION: How can you – how exactly – all of the footage that you’ve seen, that’s what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: All of the images that we have seen.
QUESTION: All of the images, okay. And does – that includes the stuff that’s been on YouTube, these videos of helicopters being shot down and stuff like that?
MS. NULAND: That is my understanding.
QUESTION: Okay. And you can tell definitively from a really poor quality shot that something that is much larger than an RPG, that has to be a MANPAD of some kind, is not a Stinger? You can tell that definitively?
MS. NULAND: What I have here is that the images that we have seen are all Soviet vintage.
QUESTION: Okay. So now does that mean also that you are certain that there are no Stingers – maybe they haven’t been used yet?
MS. NULAND: I’m – what I’m saying is that --
QUESTION: But there are no Stingers in Syrian territory – in Syria?
MS. NULAND: I obviously can’t prove a negative. My point is we haven’t seen it, and if somebody else has seen it, we’d like to see the evidence.
QUESTION: So you would like --
QUESTION: Sorry, Elise. So you would like the Russian, Mr. Makarov, the well-named Mister – General Makarov, to provide you with the specific evidence that there are U.S.-made Stinger missiles in the hands of the Syrian opposition. Is that what you’re saying?
MS. NULAND: If the Russian Federation has evidence of Stingers in the hands of the opposition, we’d like to see it.
QUESTION: But aren’t the SA-7s the ones that you were trying to track down in Libya? I mean --
MS. NULAND: We’ve been trying to collect MANPADs all over the world, including in Libya.
QUESTION: But I mean, specifically that was a concern that a lot of these – is there reason to believe that some of these are coming from Libya?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think without our own boots and eyes on the ground in Syria, we’re not in a position to evaluate what the chain of custody might have been. But what we’re seeing --
QUESTION: But that is the model that you’ve been trying to track down in Libya, specifically, right?
MS. NULAND: We’re tracking down all kinds of different SAMs in Libya. But – including these.
Okay? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:19 p.m.)