The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:24 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Elise, welcome back from Israel.
QUESTION: Thank you, everybody.
MS. PSAKI: Good to see you here. I don’t have anything at the top. I imagine what may – oh, and Arshad’s back, too. What a day. I imagine what’s probably on your minds, but why don’t we start there?
QUESTION: Well, let’s – just so you don’t forget that we are, in fact, human beings, let’s start with the condition of the Secretary’s wife and whether there are any updates on that after the statement that – since the statement that was put out in Glen’s name earlier.
MS. PSAKI: There are not; and you all should have seen, and if you have not we’re happy to provide to any of you, the statement that was issued by Glen Johnson just about in the last hour, which stated that after conducting tests overnight and this morning, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital determined that Mrs. Heinz Kerry is no longer in critical condition. She’s undergoing further evaluation, and Secretary of State John Kerry, her son, and other family members remain with her at the hospital in Boston, as they have been since she became ill.
As you all know, Mrs. Heinz Kerry is, of course, a private citizen, though she’s married to a public official, and I will not be providing updates from here on her condition. But any updates would come from Glen Johnson who is in Boston.
QUESTION: Do you know which son it is, or is that something you can’t get into?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail.
QUESTION: Okay. So what is the Administration’s thinking about what – the developments, the situation – the deteriorating situation on the ground in Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we remain, of course, deeply concerned by the increasing violence across Egypt and Egypt’s dangerous level of political polarization. We strongly condemn any violence as well as any incitement to violence. We express our condolences for those who have been killed and hope those who are wounded recover quickly. We call on the military to use maximum restraint responding to protesters, just as we urge all those demonstrating to do so peacefully.
And finally, during this transitional period which we are in and have been in for the last couple of days, Egypt’s stability and democratic political order are, of course, at stake. Our focus is on returning stability to the region, returning that to the country, and we are hopeful that they will be able to emerge from this crisis. We know they will not be able to unless people of the country come together in a nonviolent and inclusive way.
QUESTION: So have you --
QUESTION: Do you think it might have been helpful if the Egyptian military had exercised maximum restraint last week when it ousted the democratically elected government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I would point you to the statement the President made just over the weekend about those steps. Of course, we remain in the same place on that, and our view is in the same place on that as is the Secretary’s. But right now we’re focused on the path forward. And of course this is an incredibly complex and difficult situation on the ground. You’ve seen, because we’ve read out a number of these calls, how engaged the Secretary has been, not just with officials in Egypt, but also with officials in the region who all have a stake. And that just portrays how important we think resolution is here in this case.
QUESTION: So you can’t address more directly whether it would have been better for the military not to have intervened?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President’s statement makes pretty clear what our position is on that and where our focus is here is where we can go moving forward.
QUESTION: But since then – may I? But since then, President Morsy appears to be under house arrest, many members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been detained or are unaccounted for. And this seems to be part of the reason that there is all of this violence right now going on between pro-Morsy supporters and members of the opposition. So do you think, right now, the actions of the military are contributing to stability or to – actually causing some of the chaos that’s going on right now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, I mean, this is a situation where it’s very volatile on the ground, there are lots of parties contributing to that volatility. We’re of course paying close – very close attention to that and are very engaged in it both on the ground and here in Washington. And we have been urging, and continue to urge both publicly and privately, the military to use maximum restraint in how they’re behaving.
QUESTION: Well, but do you see the arrest of President – the house arrest of President Morsy, other members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as exercising maximum restraint here? I mean, could you speak to – I understand that you want to leave – the President said at the time about what they did with deposing him, but could you speak to what they’re doing right now and whether you think that’s in line with what the President called for?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this is a situation that is very fluid every single day --
QUESTION: I understand it’s fluid, but I mean --
MS. PSAKI: And there’s a lot of volatility on the ground, there’s a lot of violence on the ground, all of which we’re concerned about. Our goal here is to move all sides to a political solution, a political transition. Obviously, there are a lot of factors in that. So that’s why we’re in touch with all the different parties and why we’ll continue to be.
QUESTION: Have you – I’m assuming that the review as to the legal determination of what happened is not yet complete. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: That is correct.
QUESTION: Do you know, one, the State Department takes the lead in this kind of thing, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, this is obviously the policy moving forward for Egypt and how we’ll approach it.
QUESTION: I mean the legal office here takes the lead in determining whether – making the legal determination about whether there in fact was a coup. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they certainly play a significant role. In terms of the exact legal tick-tock, I don’t have that in front of me.
QUESTION: Are the developments – are the events that are going on right now on the ground and since the actual ouster of the President, are those being factored into the review to determine whether there was a coup?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, the events that have happened, how things happened last week, how it’s been handled since and how things will be handled moving forward are all factors being considered.
QUESTION: In the review.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it – still, is it correct that the Administration’s position is is that continued U.S. military aid – FMF – is in the U.S. national security interest?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that is why we have provided the aid. Of course, aid and providing that in the future is being – is part of the review and you’re very familiar, as all of you are, with the process and what it would mean if we make certain determinations.
QUESTION: Yeah, no, I understand that. I just wanted to make sure that the Administration still believes that it continuing the assistance to the Egyptian military is in – is a U.S. national security priority.
MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, Matt, yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: That is why we have --
QUESTION: So second --
MS. PSAKI: Let me just finish, because I think this is an important point you’re raising – is that broadly the reason we have provided this aid in the past doesn’t mean we have supported even prior to this every action taken by the Government of Egypt. But there are security interests in the region; there are security interests for the United States, but I’m not going to predetermine for you. It’s a wide-ranging, high-level interagency process determining the next steps on our policy for Egypt.
QUESTION: But it is also correct, after you responded, “Yes,” that it is – continued aid is in the U.S. national security interests. So that’s one.
Number two is a coup – to determine a legal determination that a coup happened would require a suspension or cutoff in all non-humanitarian assistance to Egypt, including the 1.3 billion in FMF. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, because we’re not there, we haven’t made that determination.
QUESTION: I know, but the – that determination would trigger a cutoff or suspension of the assistance; is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t want to be analyzing what the legal options are here. That is being closely looked at. There are a number of factors that are being closely looked at. I know we’ll continue to talk about this in the days ahead, but I’m not going to get ahead of where we are in the process.
QUESTION: But I’m not asking you to get ahead of anything. If anything, I’m asking you just to confirm what the law says, which is that if there is a determination that a coup happened, that a democratically elected government was overthrown by unconstitutional means, that that would require a suspension or a cutoff in assistance.
QUESTION: Or a waiver.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that is – there is a broad legal definition that is applicable in many cases, right, Matt? But we’re also looking at what happened here on the ground. There are millions of people on the ground who do not think it was a coup. We factor lots of factors in. We’re in the analysis process right now, and I’m not going to get ahead of where that may or may not go.
QUESTION: But why does the fact that there are a lot of people on the ground in Egypt who don’t think it was a coup have any bearing on this? I mean, the determination is not being made by people on the ground in Egypt; the determination, as Matt rightly points out, is normally made by the Legal Adviser’s Office at the State Department.
MS. PSAKI: And through an interagency process, Arshad, that, of course, takes a lot of factors into play here, and I just don’t want to get ahead of that process and that determination.
QUESTION: But why does it make any difference what people on the ground think? I mean presumably the people who ousted the civilian, democratically elected government have a different view.
MS. PSAKI: Because taking a look at what happened on the ground is a factor in the process.
QUESTION: And is it – one more on this one, please. Historically, it is the Legal Adviser’s Office, as I have understood it, that, as Matt said, takes the lead on making that determination. If in this instance they are not taking the lead, then who ultimately will make what is a legal determination here? I mean, it’s not just a policy determination; it’s a legal one in response to a law. If it’s not the Legal Adviser’s Office, who is it? Is it the White House counsel’s office? Is somebody at the Justice Department? I mean, what is the legal authority within the government that ultimately will make this call if it is not the Legal Adviser’s Office?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I wasn’t implying that the Legal Office at the State Department does not have a very significant role that they play and that they are continuing to play in any case like this. There are a number of determinations that are being made about our policy moving forward in Egypt. That is happening at a very high level. So I was just conveying that that decision-making process and those conversations continue to be in place and happening now.
QUESTION: But I still don’t get who makes the ultimate call on what is a legal determination. Is it the Legal Adviser? Is it the Secretary of State? Is it the President? Is it somebody else?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of factors that go into it. I will check and see if there is a specific historical, legal tick-tock of the exact order of decision-making for you.
QUESTION: Would you clarify something on –
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Said.
QUESTION: -- something that you said? You said that you are in touch with all parties. Are you in touch with the Muslim Brotherhood? How are you in touch with them?
MS. PSAKI: We have been in touch, and that should not be at all unexpected given we are in touch with all parties in Egypt. In those conversations we have conveyed the following message – I’m just getting to your next question here, but then you can ask another one. We urge them to engage in the political process and to support the process to full civilian government through elections that are currently – that’s the path we’re asking them to move toward.
QUESTION: So you’re saying --
QUESTION: Okay. But you’re in touch with –
QUESTION: -- just to clarify, so when you say that – I’m sorry, Said. When you say that you’re engaging them to accept the process towards a civilian transition of –
MS. PSAKI: To engage in the political process.
QUESTION: So are you asking them to kind of abandon their fight to get Morsy back into power or to accept his ouster?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not a determination for us to make. We’re asking them to engage in the process moving forward from here.
QUESTION: But Jen, they did engage in the process –
MS. PSAKI: They did.
QUESTION: -- and their candidate won, and now their candidate is not the winner; now their candidate is the loser, and he is the loser because he was ousted by the military. Why should they engage in the process again if they did it the first time and essentially got screwed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know I said this so many times people were tired of it on Wednesday in that a democratic process is not just about casting your ballot. There are other factors in terms of – in addition to that, including how somebody behaves and how they govern, and this is a case where millions of people have spoken in the country. We are not judging that, but again, that’s a real factor here.
QUESTION: Millions of people spoke when they went to the polls last – whenever it – a year ago and elected President Morsy. It’s not his fault that the opposition couldn’t get their act together and present a decent candidate or present – I just don’t understand how you can tell them with a straight face to please engage in the democratic process when they did, they won, and now their guy is gone.
MS. PSAKI: Well –
QUESTION: Why should they – why should they?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, because obviously –
QUESTION: Because you say they should?
MS. PSAKI: No. That’s not at all what I was going to say. Millions of people in the country have spoken and have expressed some legitimate grievances, and there is an opportunity moving forward to have folks from the Muslim Brotherhood engage in the process.
QUESTION: But millions of people participated in the democratic process before, and just because some people – millions maybe – were unhappy with that, they took to the streets, and it was not a democratic move that happened. So I just don’t understand how the Administration expects itself to be taken seriously, by the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, when you say that you should go back and engage in a process that didn’t work out for you the first time.
QUESTION: Well, a couple of things here.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead.
QUESTION: First of all, when you make this legal determination, are you – about whether this was a coup – so you are taking into consideration the millions of people that signed this petition and called for his – for him to be removed from power. Is that right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of factors that are taken in. There are very significant consequences, I think as everybody is aware, that go along with this determination, and certainly it is relevant that this is a highly charged issue for tens of millions of Egyptians who have differing views about what happened, but we are going to take the time necessary. I know it feels urgent right now; it certainly is, but these determinations take time.
QUESTION: I’m not saying – I mean is it relevant that it’s an emotionally charged issue, or is it relevant that millions of people – 22 million if I’m correct – signed a petition that called for him – for the military to take him from power? I mean, is that relevant to your determination of whether this was a democratic act or not?
MS. PSAKI: Again, certainly there are lots of factors that are taken into consideration here at a very high level, and those conversations are ongoing.
QUESTION: Is that one of them though?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly what’s happened on the ground, where we are now, and how it’s handled moving forward are all factors.
QUESTION: When you are talking to the military about exercising restraint, are you urging them to release President Morsy and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood from house arrest?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not taking positions on specific cases. Of course, we have been very publicly and privately expressing concern about arbitrary arrests, but beyond that, we’re not taking positions on individuals. We know this will be --
QUESTION: The President of – I mean --
MS. PSAKI: We know this will be looked into over the – and there will be a process for doing that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to my question, please?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Who is talking to who the Muslim Brotherhood? Who are you talking to in the Muslim Brotherhood leadership?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specifics on that, just to say that we are in touch with all parties, including representatives from the – of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party.
QUESTION: And related to Elise’s last question on the status of President Morsy, are you aware of his status, where is he, what kind of condition is he under, and so on? Are you getting any reports on his status?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any update on that. We have not, of course, been in touch with him, that I’m aware of, since he was arrested last week.
QUESTION: Do you call the interim leader to release him, like some of the leaders did over the weekend?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered that question when Elise asked it.
QUESTION: Why has the Secretary not called for his release?
QUESTION: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Why not?
MS. PSAKI: Because we’re not taking positions on specific cases. I understand that he is – has been the president, was the president, and that is a unique case. But again, I don’t have a specific position on each case from the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Well, but it’s not on each case; it’s on the case of the democratically elected president of the country. It seems to me to be odd that you would not wish to take a position when the democratically elected – odd to say the least – when the democratically elected president of a country is removed from power. So can you explain to me how you justify not taking a position on this specific case?
MS. PSAKI: We’re just not taking a position on this specific case.
QUESTION: You just don’t want to.
MS. PSAKI: We have not.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. A question about Brazil?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, wait, I think there’s probably more on Egypt, and we’ll come back to Brazil, I promise.
QUESTION: In the answer – the first answer to Arshad’s question, you said he was the democratically-elected president, he was the president. Does the mean that you no longer regard him as the person who was elected --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, he was elected a year ago --
QUESTION: -- but he is no longer the president in your eyes?
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s been – I’m not – I think it’s been pretty clear, Matt, what’s happened here on the ground.
QUESTION: So I just want to make sure --
MS. PSAKI: And we’re looking --
QUESTION: -- I understand that the Administration no longer regards Mohamed Morsy as the president of Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not taking a specific position on that, Matt. I’m conveying that --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) past tense, though, which is a position.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I was conveying when he was elected. That was what I was trying to convey.
QUESTION: But when he was elected --
QUESTION: Until a week ago – until a week ago, you recognized him as the legitimately-elected leader of Egypt. So in the interim, a coup takes place; now he’s no longer the legitimate leader of Egypt? Is that what you – can you say that clearly?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re – this is a situation where we are taking a very close look at what’s happened on the ground. I understand the great level of interest in this. It’s only a couple of days old. There are ongoing conversations at a very high level here in the government.
QUESTION: Okay. In retrospect though, retroactively, do you consider Morsy to be – to have been elected, perhaps, wrongly or not fairly or whatever?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not doing retrospectives. I think we spoke on the election at the time. I don’t have anything new for you on that. Obviously, we’re focused on where things are now and where we can go moving forward.
QUESTION: So, Jen, who’s in charge in Egypt right now, then?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as you know, there’s an interim government. There are a number of players that’s being worked through. Part of the Secretary’s focus over the weekend has been continuing to encourage a move towards that transitional government and towards elections, but again, it’s a very fluid situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Well, there’s an interim president; I don’t think they’ve agreed on the government yet as such.
MS. PSAKI: That’s true, it’s still being determined for --
QUESTION: So who is the Secretary – who is his counterpart that the Secretary can talk to within that structure?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s been in touch with a number of officials there that we read out over the course of the weekend.
QUESTION: No, I don’t – sorry, I missed it. Who did he talk to over the weekend?
MS. PSAKI: Let’s see. I mean, I’m happy to provide you of the list that we sent out broadly. He spoke with – I mean, he was on the phone for dozens of hours, I would say, over the course of the weekend. ElBaradei he spoke with a number of times over the course – he also spoke with leaders in the region. Obviously, as I mentioned at the top, there is a great stake for good reason from leaders like the Qataris and the Emiratis, who he spoke with. And I’ll get you the rest of the list, Jo, afterwards just so you have it.
QUESTION: Talking about his contacts --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- I mean, I – as much as I remember, this press release of the statement was released at the end of Saturday, and almost now 48 hours passed.
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary’s statement? And the President, and the President. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes, and you released the first one, which was about the contacts.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Any new contacts was done yesterday or today?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any – he was --
QUESTION: Because this one that you mentioned was released on Saturday, so it --
MS. PSAKI: It was.
MS. PSAKI: It was. He was in touch with a number of those same officials yesterday as well.
QUESTION: So the other question is related to the – to being in touch with the different parties, especially Muslim Brotherhood, and it was reported today in The New York Times that there are contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood, whatever leadership if I can say, because most of them they are under house arrest or they are not there anymore, they are hiding. What kind of contacts were done in order to – it specifically was said in The New York Times story, to accept the reality, which is whatever is the status quo now? Can you confirm or deny this report or this activity in general?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just confirmed earlier that we have had officials in touch with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and I conveyed what message we’re sending during those conversations.
QUESTION: Is it correct that the last conversation anyone had with Morsy from the U.S. side was the President, late Monday a week ago? Is that correct, or do you know of a new contact?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to double-check on that, Matt. I’m not aware of another one, but I’m happy to check on that for all of you.
QUESTION: Jen, do you support an early presidential elections, or do you call for an early presidential elections in Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly a part of the process is the creation of the transitional government, and then, of course, elections as well.
QUESTION: Jen, are you concerned that what’s going on in Egypt right now might well happen again in countries like in Tunisia, for example? Are you reaching out to the Tunisian Government and Tunisian army, for example, to – I mean, to avoid such a situation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly there is a focus on moving toward a resolution in Egypt, given the impact on stability there and stability in the region. And that’s one of the reasons that we are so engaged, and the Secretary has been engaged with many different leaders in the region. I don’t have any specific calls to the Government of Tunisia to read out to you.
QUESTION: Yesterday was big demonstrations in Cairo regarding not just for the support of the army, and especially for the – what the people are considering a cooperation of Americans and Muslim Brothers to whatever kind of reality was created in the last year or so, almost a year. So do you have anything to say about that? Because it was big signs of the President and Morsy together, and Patterson was part of it, and all these things.
MS. PSAKI: Just to say that any notion that we have taken sides in this and that we are siding with one side or the other is incorrect.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I know you ordered the evacuation of nonessential personnel.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Could you tell us who remains in Cairo? Is the Ambassador still there? And then roughly how many staff you still have at the Embassy?
MS. PSAKI: The Ambassador is. I’d have to get you an update on the specific number of staff or how we’re characterizing that. Happy to do that.
QUESTION: Have you talked to Ankara regarding Egypt over the weekend? It seems that the Turkish leaders are pretty upset that the Western world have not called coup what happened in Egypt.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to comment specifically on the comments of the Turkish leaders. But I can tell you that the Secretary has been in touch on multiple occasions with Foreign Minister Davutoglu over the course of the weekend about the events in Egypt.
QUESTION: How will this affect your relationship with the – I mean, the neighbor countries in terms of this disappointment by your allies, especially Turkey, actually? Because the Prime Minister is accusing the Western world in this, especially U.S.A. not characterizing this incident as a coup. How your relationship will be affected from this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we are clearly going through the process of making our own determination, and I don’t want to get ahead of that. We have been in close contact, as I mentioned the Secretary has been, with the Foreign Minister over the weekend. As you know, they have a very close working relationship on a number of issues, and they had many conversations about Egypt. But I don’t want to speak for any other country, but it’s clear that there are many countries in the region who have a stake in the stability of Egypt, and that’s what our focus is on as well.
QUESTION: And about the perception of – among some Egyptians about this “Mother America” story which appeared on New York Times, I mean, the involvement – about the U.S. involvement on this incident and – et cetera --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but how did public diplomacy of U.S. with the Egyptians will be affected from in near future after this incident?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we just have to keep conveying what’s accurate, which is that we’re on the side of the Egyptian people. We’re not taking sides, but we are in touch with all parties and our interest is in moving towards a stable Egypt, and that’s why we’re so engaged.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about this perception within Egyptians about the U.S. involvement? I mean, is it fair, or how do you see it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re just working to convey what is accurate.
QUESTION: How would you respond to people who would say that by insisting that you’re not taking sides in this, that you in fact are taking a side because you’re not sticking up for the person who was elected, who you recognized as a democratically elected president of a country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think it’s not as simple as that, and not as black-and-white as that – I’m responding to your question – and that there were millions of people who have expressed legitimate grievances. There have been steps that have been taken by others as well that we haven’t been supportive of, including some by the military. And so we aren’t taking sides because we don’t think that is in the interests of Egypt and the interest of moving this process forward toward stability.
QUESTION: Right. But generally, when there are people who are unhappy, and however many the numbers are, in a country, the United States would say, well, you can get involved politically, and if you’re unhappy with your leadership, you change it at the ballot box. Is that not correct?
In this case, did you think the situation was so bad that you could actually come to consider condoning a military coup?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, we’re not condoning anything here.
QUESTION: By not taking a position --
MS. PSAKI: We haven’t even made decision about what --
QUESTION: -- you are condoning it in the interim.
MS. PSAKI: -- has taken place.
QUESTION: You do recognize that, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: By having no opinion, you are in essence saying that nothing was wrong, that this wasn’t – you do get that, that’s what people look at it --
MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with Matt – what I would – with you, Matt, on that. What I would say is that each circumstance is different. You can’t compare what’s happening in Egypt with what’s happened in every other country, and that’s how we’re handling this situation.
QUESTION: Jen? You said that you support an early election. Does this mean that you don’t recognize Morsy as the Egyptian president anymore?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think I’ve been pretty clear about the steps that were taken. There have been steps that have been taken in Egypt. We’re doing our own evaluation of what’s happened on the ground, and I’m certain we’ll continue to discuss that.
QUESTION: But you’re not doing anything about U.S. aid right now; U.S. aid to Egypt continues?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: So just now you said you’re not taking sides because you don’t think that’s in the interests of Egypt and Egyptians. Exactly why? Do you fear that it’s going to inflame tensions even further if you do, or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we see the benefit of inserting the U.S. view in a situation that continues to be volatile. We want to play a role in helping to move towards stability, and that’s where our focus is.
QUESTION: But, like, what – but by doing what, though? I mean, you’re not calling either side out on their actions that you would consider either excessive, undemocratic, violent, so --
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve called all sides to reduce violence --
QUESTION: You just urge – to urge restraint.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve called all sides to increase restraint. This is a case where the situation is unfolding on the ground. And what we’re doing is we are in touch with close partners in the region, we’re in close touch with officials in Egypt, we are making our own determinations, but obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into that. So we have a very high level of engagement here. But our focus is on encouraging stability, reducing violence, and moving toward that.
QUESTION: Jen. One last thing. I want to ask you about the current president --
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- the temporary president of Egypt, Adly Mansour. Do you consider him to be the legitimate leader of Egypt currently?
MS. PSAKI: He’s the interim, as you know. Beyond that, I don’t have a further definition for you. Obviously, they’ll be – our hope is that there are elections.
QUESTION: So I just – will you let us know when the heat from the flames of the burning hoops that you’re jumping through to avoid taking a position on this get too hot, or will that just be obvious from what you’re saying at the podium?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, if you’re having a good time today, I’ll be back here tomorrow. We’ll do this again.
QUESTION: Sorry, more on Egypt.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just see if there’s any more Egypt. Dana?
QUESTION: I just want to be clear. So part of the legal definition of a coup is whether people on the ground were in support of the ouster of a president?
MS. PSAKI: I was not defining that as a legal definition as much as a factor that is being discussed and considered in our policy moving forward in Egypt.
QUESTION: I mean, I know you said you can’t compare other situations, but, like, for example, in 2010, there was a coup in Niger, and a week before, tens of thousands of people protested, U.S. had already even suspended aid to Niger because they found the president to be dictatorial. And yet when the military did take over, the very next day the State Department came out and said – called it a coup.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that just further illustrates the fact that each circumstance is different. We’re going to take the time to make an evaluation here. There are a number of factors that impact our policy moving forward. Of course, the legal implications and the legal requirements are a part of that, and those are all being discussed.
QUESTION: Could you – do you think that you could provide us with some talking points or some of the actual standards that determine whether something is – a situation is labeled a coup or not? Are there – is there like a list? Are there standards that are held to as this determination is being made? Is that something you can provide to us?
MS. PSAKI: If there is a legal definition to provide, I’m happy to provide that. I will see what we have.
QUESTION: Yeah, I think there is (inaudible). I mean, it’s well defined. You can find it.
MS. PSAKI: Said, are you a lawyer on the side? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, I’m not. I’m just saying – (laughter).
QUESTION: Senator McCain just issued a statement saying that while he understood that this was done with the acquiescence of millions of Egyptians, that he can only conclude that this was a coup in which the military played a decisive role and that current U.S. law is very clear about the implications of foreign aid, and he calls for a withdrawal of U.S. aid.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that a number of elected officials, including Senator McCain and many yesterday, have spoken out about their views, and that is certainly to be expected. But we’re making our own determination and we’re going to take the time to do that.
QUESTION: And you have no comment on the African Union suspending Egypt for what they’re calling a coup either?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t.
QUESTION: Change subjects?
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Egypt?
QUESTION: Let me just --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Is it your view that the law on suspending aid if the legal determination of coup is made – of a coup is made is able to be interpreted, that it can be – sorry, interpreted is not the right word – that there – it is open to interpretation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the --
QUESTION: That if a – that it is possible under the law that if a democratically elected president is removed by a military in an unconstitutional manner, it might not meet the standard, the legal standard, of --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, let me just be very clear --
QUESTION: I just --
MS. PSAKI: -- that our focus is absolutely on abiding by the law. That is being analyzed and looked at right now. There are also a number of other factors that go into our policy related to Egypt, so I didn’t want to do one without the other.
QUESTION: All right, okay. So that just leads me to believe that you’re not particularly – in this case, and you say it’s a case-by-case basis – but in this case, you’re not particularly interested in interpreting the law as it is written; you’re interested in trying to find a way to skirt the requirements of the law that --
MS. PSAKI: I think the Legal Office is certainly determining and analyzing the law as it is written, Matt.
QUESTION: Right. So you’ll let us know when those hoops (inaudible) --
MS. PSAKI: But I’m not going to get ahead of their own analysis, and I’m not a lawyer and I’m not aware that you are either, but you never know.
Do we have any more on Egypt? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Could you confirm whether, with or without the consent or an agreement with the Brazilian Government, the United States Government has maintained a database of monitoring or a monitoring center in Brasilia or have ever collected data at the Embassy of Brazil in Washington or at the Embassy of Brazil in the United Nations using physical devices installed in computers and using software such as Highlands, Vagrant, and Lifesaver?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as has been our policy, we’re not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity. As a matter of policy, we have been clear that the United States does gather foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. I can tell you that we have spoken with Brazilian officials regarding these allegations. We plan to continue our dialogue with the Brazilians through normal diplomatic channels, but those are conversations that, of course, we would keep private.
QUESTION: To clarify, the physical presence of devices of the United States in consulates or embassies of Brazil anywhere in the world, can you confirm that existence or not?
MS. PSAKI: I do not have anything more for you on that.
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on Latin America --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and Mr. Snowden --
QUESTION: No, no. Still Brazil?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, yes. I wonder regarding the reaction of Brazilian officials, among them the Minister of Foreign Relations Antonio Patriota, I wanted to know how much this issue can contaminate the visit of President Dilma Rousseff to United States in October.
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, as I mentioned, we’ve been already in touch with Brazilian authorities regarding these allegations and we’re planning to continue that dialogue. We work with Brazil on a wide range of issues and we are hopeful that we can continue to discuss and resolve through normal diplomatic conversations.
QUESTION: Who’s in this side of the diplomatic channel in the U.S. side? Who is talking to the Brazilian Government? Can you tell us?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific readout of officials for – on that for you.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry has talked with Minister Antonio Patriota or --
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of in recent days. I’m happy to check on that for you and see if there has been a call I’m just not aware of.
QUESTION: Is that the first time that the United States have faced these sort of queries from Brazil, these sort of clarifying requests from Brazil?
MS. PSAKI: I’d leave that to you to determine historically if this has been an issue in the past. But obviously, this is a unique case. We all know the history here. We’re in close contact and we’ll continue those conversations.
QUESTION: Since 2001, has Brazil agreed to collaborate with United States in data mining or data reporting?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more on this for you.
QUESTION: Jen, is that (inaudible) Turkish Government --
MS. PSAKI: Hold on, let’s finish on Brazil and then we can go to you next, if that’s okay.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: Okay. It is regarding Mr. Snowden, as you probably are aware that Mr. Snowden has been granted asylum. Venezuela has granted asylum to Mr. Snowden among two other countries in Latin America. I was wondering if you have any reaction on that or if this is going to have any impact considering that the U.S. and Venezuela are trying to work on their bilateral relation.
MS. PSAKI: So let me say first that, of course, as in all of our communications with foreign governments regarding Mr. Snowden, we have advised the Government of Venezuela of the felony charges against him and urged that he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than as necessary to return him to the United States. We’ve had our differences with Venezuela on some issues, but we’ve also been able to work together on some. And this is a case where, as someone who’s facing felony charges, we’re hopeful that any government involved would take that into account and support his return to the United States.
As you know, this is all, at this point, a hypothetical given he still remains in the transit room, if that’s the right term, in the airport in Moscow.
QUESTION: Is it your determination that in order for him – that he is physically unable to make it from Russia to Venezuela or Bolivia or one of those countries without transit – without having to refuel through a third country that wouldn’t necessarily provide him with – that wouldn’t agree not to – would agree to extradite him?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s speculating a few steps down the path here, because obviously we know that he would need to transfer somewhere out of there. We’ve been very clear to governments across the board of our desire to have Mr. Snowden returned to the United States. I don’t think there’s any secret of that. In terms of the paths or steps, I mean, you’d have to either look at the airport maps or talk to the various governments that could be the options.
QUESTION: So where do things stand right now in terms of – is your – kind of – I know you’re casting a wide net in countries not to admit him or to extradite him and not to give him asylum, but, like, where is kind of the frontline of your diplomacy right now in this? This is with Russia, to try and urge them to send him back or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to get into too many levels of specifics here, but obviously we have been in touch with a wide range of officials. It’s no secret where he is located now. We agree with the comments of President Putin last week that we wouldn’t want this to impact our relationship. We certainly feel that anyone – any country granting asylum to Mr. Snowden would create grave difficulties in our bilateral relationship, and that’s a message that we’ve conveyed publicly and, of course, privately in conversations as well.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Specifically on Venezuela, you said we’ve had our disagreements with Venezuela, but we have been able to cooperate on some issues. Is that what you said?
MS. PSAKI: I did.
QUESTION: Can you name one issue since the election of Chavez that the United States and Venezuela have cooperated on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think I was making a broad point there and making a point about the fact that the Secretary also --
QUESTION: In other words, no.
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. The Secretary also had a meeting, as you know, with the Foreign Minister that was a potential opening. We’re not getting ahead of where we are, but of course we would look closely and it would certainly impact our bilateral relationship if any country, including Venezuela, were to grant him asylum.
QUESTION: Right, right. No, no. I just want to – so you would point to the meeting that happened in Guatemala as a sign of cooperation, as one of the few areas of cooperation between Venezuela and the United States since President Chavez was elected. I realize this is now President Maduro.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: But I’m asking you if you can – you would say that that’s evidence of cooperation, a meeting?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think what we’re looking to do --
QUESTION: Can you name --
MS. PSAKI: -- is re-step our relationship here. That’s where we’re hoping to go.
QUESTION: Right. And this would be a problem?
MS. PSAKI: This would be a problem. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – Kommersant Daily in Russia has reported today that – quoting State Department sources – that the Putin administration has been told that if this is not resolved by September, this could threaten a potential state visit by President Obama.
MS. PSAKI: I believe the White House disputed that this weekend. I would point you to them for any specific comment on that.
QUESTION: I don’t think they did, because my White House colleague said that he wasn’t getting any information from the White House about this.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to them for any comment on that specifically.
QUESTION: But, I mean, is the State Department – is there any knowledge at the State Department that this would be the case?
MS. PSAKI: None that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Can I make a follow-up on what you said regarding that you have told Venezuela about the inconvenience of granted asylum to Mr. Snowden?
MS. PSAKI: And just to be clear, it’s not – it’s broadly any country where he could move through transit --
QUESTION: It’s not specifically to Venezuela, so you have --
MS. PSAKI: It is any country where he may be moving in transit, where he could end up, and certainly any country that were to grant asylum, that could have an impact, of course, on our bilateral relationship.
QUESTION: But you haven’t been in touch with Venezuela or with any government official in that regard?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we’ve communicated that publicly. I’m not aware of the most recent private calls or private conversations.
QUESTION: Because I wanted to know if it’s with the new person, the charge d’affaires, who is coming to Washington. Did you make that specific request to him, or --
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on the channel for you and see if that’s something we can share more details on.
QUESTION: On that, do you know if there’s been a second meeting between Roberta Jacobson and Venezuelans?
MS. PSAKI: I --
QUESTION: Has the rapprochement gone beyond --
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Matt. I’m not aware. I’d have to check on that for you as well.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on the question of the – Mr. Snowden. There seems to be an indication that the Russian Government has given its blessing to his going to Venezuela. Will there be an effort by the United States and its allies to deny passage to any airplane that will carry him there?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that. Of course, our position here is very clear. I don’t think there’s any secret that we would like to see him returned. We’ve communicated that publicly and privately to any area where he may be stopping in transit, any area where he could possibly end up. So it’s hard for me to see where there would be anybody who’d be confused about where we stand.
QUESTION: So you’re just – so just to put a fine point on it, you will – you don’t want to characterize the lengths that the United States Government would go to to prevent Mr. Snowden from going to a – to get asylum in Venezuela or any other country.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. I’m not going to speculate on that. It’s purely a hypothetical.
QUESTION: But you could see though where leaders feel that you’re – especially in Latin America, when you see what happened with the President of Bolivia’s plane and all the speculation that the U.S. was involved in getting – being – forcing it to land and being checked for whether he was on it – you can see where the leaders of particularly Latin America think you’re taking extraordinary measures.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think any of that, Elise, has been validated or confirmed out there, in terms of the sources of that or the reasons for it, and I would refer you to any of those countries to speak to that. But beyond that, this is an individual who has been accused of three felony charges, who’s been accused of leaking classified information. We’ve been clear we would like to see him returned, and I don’t think it should come as a surprise that if he were granted asylum that would impact our bilateral relationship.
QUESTION: So does this issue of Mr. Snowden kind of supersede all other interests that you have with any of these countries?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly not. Certainly not. This is an issue where, again, we’ve been very clear where we stand. But we work with all of these countries on a range of different issues. It’s different from country to country. But the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov, as you know, just maybe ten days ago, and this was an issue that was discussed briefly. But the thrust of their conversation was on Syria.
QUESTION: I think it was less than ten days ago.
MS. PSAKI: Was it less than? Maybe it’s just time is taking longer than I thought. So that is a good example. But there are countless examples, country by country, on all the issues we work together on.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. condemn explicitly that what happened with the Bolivian President? Because tomorrow is going to be a meeting to this at the OAS to this (inaudible) specifically what happened with the Bolivian President. So what will be the U.S. position on that?
MS. PSAKI: I would just refer you to any of the countries there who were involved –France, Spain, Italy, Portugal – for any further comment on that.
QUESTION: There’s been a report that Snowden has obtained a second passport. Have you heard about this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you. I haven’t actually heard that.
QUESTION: Is there concern by the State Department that the question of Snowden here is providing, as Chairman Rogers and Senator Menendez said, a way for the Latin American nations to get back at the United States because of its supposedly mining of information in Latin America?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think you’d have to speak to any of these individual countries. But we have broad bilateral relationships with a number of these countries. We hope that will continue. We hope to work with them on a range of issues, and our focus here is not targeted at any one country, it’s targeted at having Mr. Snowden return to the United States.
QUESTION: Do you deny though that you urged any of those countries to kind of deny airspace to the President of Bolivia’s plane in order to check the plane?
MS. PSAKI: We just haven’t had any specific comment on that, Elise, and we’re referred everybody to the specific countries for more details.
QUESTION: Jen, I mean, the Turkish Government has request an explanation for these eavesdropping allegations. Do you have anything to share with us on it?
MS. PSAKI: Just that we’ve been in touch bilaterally with any country that raises an issue. I mentioned that the Secretary has been in touch with Foreign Minister Davutoglu. They speak quite frequently, as you know, about a range of issues – Egypt, Syria. I’m not aware of whether this has come up or not in any recent conversations; I would refer you to them. But certainly we take up this issue as it’s brought up, we enjoy important relationships on a range of issues, including sharing of information with a number of countries, and we’ll continue those conversations diplomatically.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The protests are going on in Turkey as of this weekend, even today. And my first question is: What is your understanding, current understanding? I know that you have been in contact with the Turkish administration. The second is that a few weeks ago, you said that you had full confidence, I believe, in Turkish authorities to go on with the investigations against – about police brutality. Do you have any update? Did you receive an update from Turkey at least?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we have been following this very closely for a number of weeks. We’ve talked about it quite a bit in here; we continue to. We’ve called on all parties, and I’ll call on them again, to ease tensions and resolve the situation through dialogue, and we urge all sides to exercise restraint and avoid violence. I don’t have any other update. As you mentioned, they’ll be looking into various incidents that have happened over the course of the last several weeks, but I would refer you to the Government of Turkey for any update on that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, China. Mm-hmm. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout on U.S.-China working group on cybersecurity? I think it’s being held today.
MS. PSAKI: It is. You’re right, it is being held today. And let me just take this opportunity to remind everybody that today is the first civilian-military cyber working group meeting. The representative from the United States is – it is being led, I should say, by State Department Coordinator for Cyber Issues Christopher Painter – he’s chairing the working group – and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Eric Rosenbach will be the Defense Department lead. This is a working group that was announced back in April, when the Secretary was in Beijing, and this first meeting we’re hopeful will enable the two sides to share perspectives on international laws and norms in cyberspace, raise concerns as needed, develop processes for future cooperation, and set the tone for future constructive and cooperative bilateral dialogues. I expect there’ll be more of a readout as the meetings conclude later this afternoon.
QUESTION: I just want to check on that. When you say that you’re hoping that they’ll be able to come up with or to share perspectives on international laws and norms on cybersecurity and that kind of thing, your position would be that the United States respects all international laws and norms when it comes to cybersecurity and protection of private information, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I do, Matt.
QUESTION: You do.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure where you’re going with this, but I’m interested to see.
QUESTION: I just want to see how much you can – I --
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been very clear in expressing our concern.
QUESTION: So you believe that any --
MS. PSAKI: China has expressed their own concerns.
MS. PSAKI: You believe that any U.S. Government programs that deal with cyber – computers, cyber information – comply with existing international laws and regulations and they fit the norm, the international norms. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. Everything the U.S. Government has done with respect to computers and cybersecurity is legal under international law? You would say the Administration believes that?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, do you have any specific program questions or specific --
MS. PSAKI: That’s – yes. Well, no, I just wanted to know that the Administration’s position is that it has respected all relevant international laws and norms when it comes to computer security and cybersecurity.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we’ve differentiated – this is a relevant point here, as you look at me – we’ve differentiated here between our concerns we’ve had about steps taken by China as it relates to economic data, data threatening infrastructure. That’s a concern I’m certain will be raised during these meetings, and that’s the purpose of the cyber working group.
QUESTION: Okay. But you, the Administration, does not believe that it has violated laws or – international laws or norms as it relates to cybersecurity with this data mining that’s been going on?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to all of our different programs, Matt, but I’m not aware of any violation.
QUESTION: The Administration is not – your position is that the Administration is not breaking any international laws when it comes to computer security. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: I have --
QUESTION: From the --
QUESTION: -- U.S.-China?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead. One more on U.S.-China.
QUESTION: Could you characterize that meeting more? Are you going to figure out some rules or, I mean, just exchange view – both viewpoint of the cyber issue? Or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I mentioned at the end there, there’s going to be more of a readout. I know we’re going to be doing a backgrounder later this afternoon on the S&ED meetings, and I expect a readout of the working group meetings today will be a part of that, and they can give you more of an overview and understanding of what was discussed and where they landed.
QUESTION: Is that just a one day, today? The working group just meets for one day, or are they meeting for over --
MS. PSAKI: I believe it’s today, focused on today. Of course, this is an issue that – which will be continued to be discussed.
QUESTION: But how about tomorrow? Tomorrow, I think you have also the security dialogue between U.S. and China. Cyber issue going to be a topic?
MS. PSAKI: It is one of the issues I’m certain will be in docket of issues discussed.
QUESTION: Jen, can I just ask, obviously, understandably, the Secretary is with his wife at the moment. Has any determination been made yet who will lead the main U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue if he’s unable to be in Washington?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re making determinations as it relates to his schedule kind of day by day here. We haven’t made any determinations that have changed his schedule yet for later this week. If we do, we will, of course, communicate that with all of you as well as what would happen in his place. But that’s ahead of where we are currently.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
QUESTION: Just on more on China.
QUESTION: Go onto Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, one more on China. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Is that correct, Snowden’s allegation on the U.S. hacks on Chinese computer is going to complicate your cyber dialogue with China?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’m not going to validate the range of accusations being made by Mr. Snowden. I will say that, of course, this is an open conversation and the U.S. will raise our own concerns, and certainly I would send you to the Chinese for them to talk about what their concerns may be.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the election of Mr. Jarba to head of the National Coalition?
MS. PSAKI: I do.
QUESTION: Syrian National Coalition?
MS. PSAKI: And I believe we put something out yesterday too, but let me reiterate that here.
QUESTION: That’s just – you’re just going to repeat what you said yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure we’ll have a dialogue here with questions, but I may start there. We welcome the July 6th election of Syrian Coalition President Jarba and look forward to working with him and with his team. We hope to make progress together to prevent the total collapse of Syria into chaos, and the rebuilding – push to rebuild the social fabric, and we look to him and the new leaders to reach out to all Syrian communities and bring greater unity of purpose and further organization to the coalition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Are you aware of Mr. Jarba’s reputation as an obstinate and a hardliner, who is not even liked by other members of the opposition?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, he is somebody who has been elected by the opposition. We’re going to be working with him and we’re eager to do that.
QUESTION: And do you believe --
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the resignation of the Prime Minister, though, Ghassan Hitto, which came almost directly afterwards?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific for you on that. I know I saw the reports as well. Obviously there’s been a transition in the leadership, or they’re going through a transition in the leadership, I should say, of the opposition. So --
QUESTION: Is this going to hinder the efforts, America’s efforts to work with the opposition towards a cohesive body which can then go into some kind of negotiation in Geneva?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – we don’t expect that it will. Obviously, the election of the coalition president was an important step forward. Obviously, there’s more that needs to do – they need to do, but we felt that was an important step and is a positive sign.
QUESTION: You made a very strong statement --
QUESTION: So you said you’re going to work with them to help – or to prevent the collapse of Syria into total chaos? Exactly where do you think Syria is now? Is it – it’s not total chaos? You think it’s – it could go that way?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’ve been very clear about our concerns about what’s happening on the ground in Syria.
QUESTION: You would not describe --
MS. PSAKI: We’re hopeful that they will --
QUESTION: -- it as total chaos now? It’s still --
MS. PSAKI: We are hopeful that the new coalition president and the rest of the leadership will be partners working with us in moving towards a transition.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, but I just want – are you aware of his statement against any negotiation with the regime? Mr. Jarba?
MS. PSAKI: We have seen that statement, of course, and our objective, as you know, is, of course, to move towards a political solution and a political transition in resolving this crisis. We’ve talked a bit in here about the number of factors that will go into bringing all sides to the table. And since the ground game is, of course, among – the ground situation, I should say, is among the factors that will guide the opposition’s participation in the Geneva conference, which they are a key participant, we will continue to consult closely with them and with others in determining the best time to have the conference. So yes, of course, we’ve seen the comments and we’re going to continue to discuss and work with them.
QUESTION: I have a new topic.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Also, similarly, I wondered if you’d seen the reports that the Baath parties had some kind of reorganization and ousted Farouk al-Sharaa from the Baath Party leadership, although he’s staying as vice president. He seems to be one of the few, if not the only person within the Baath party that had been calling for some kind of political resolution to the conflict. Again, the same question, I guess: Is this going to hinder your attempts to build some kind of reconciliation between the two sides?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have, of course, seen the reports of the cabinet reshuffle in the Baath -- ruling Baath Party. We – as we’ve said many times before, we don’t recognize the legitimacy of Assad, the legitimacy of his regime. We continue to ask him to step aside, but we know that we need to find a way to work with all parties to get back to the table.
So I wouldn’t draw a connection between the reshuffle and our ability to do that. There are a number of factors, including the ability of the opposition to feel comfortable coming to the table, coming to Geneva, the ground situation determining what participants are the most productive, and as well as the agenda that will actually move things forward.
QUESTION: But I guess if he was one of the lone voices who was talking about a political reconciliation or a political solution to the conflict, and he’s now out of the picture, that means that you’re going to have a more hardline, if it’s possible, leadership to deal with in Damascus.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re not quite at that point yet because we’re still determining when we could have a conference, how we can bring both sides together. Obviously, the Russians are our partner in this. And we will see where this goes and how it impacts things in the days and weeks ahead.
QUESTION: On Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Just two questions.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are recent claims again around Homs --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that there are new chemical weapon attacks. Would you be able to confirm that?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t confirm it. We have, of course, seen news reports and ground updates from opposition context – contacts detailing the possible use of chemical weapons. We are still seeking more information and unfortunately don’t have any independent confirmation at this time.
QUESTION: So it has been about six weeks now that the U.S. Government officially declared that the redline has been crossed.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And then the President Obama long time ago said that that would be the game-changer. Where is that game-changer step that the U.S. Government is supposed to take?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think if you remember at the time, just a couple of weeks ago, we did make an announcement that we had changed the scale and scope of our aid – I still am not in a position to detail exactly what that means – and that the Administration, high levels of the Administration, which includes, of course, the President and the Secretary of State, the national security team, all are considering additional options, all options aside from boots on the ground. So both of those steps have been in play, including expanding the scale and scope and continuing to consider additional options.
QUESTION: So Syrians – you can assure the Syrians that the game-changing step is on its way? It’s coming?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve made steps to provide additional kinds of aid. I don’t have any further detail on that for you.
QUESTION: So you are saying that you already took the game-changing step? I cannot figure out --
MS. PSAKI: We announced that at the time. I don’t have any new update for you on any new decisions that have been made.
QUESTION: So you’ve announced, but you did not take the step?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new additional updates on the timing or status.
QUESTION: But my question is --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You announced but you did not take the step? I’m trying to understand.
MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have any new update for you on the status. I still am not in a position to discuss specifics on that front.
QUESTION: Can I change topic, Guyana? It’s been reported that a U.S. Embassy official has been removed for allegedly being involved in a sex-for-visa scandal. Does the State Department have a comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I think I do have something. Just give me a moment here. Well, we are aware of the allegations of improprieties relating to a consular officer formerly assigned to Georgetown, Guyana. This Department takes all allegations of misconduct by employees seriously. We are reviewing the matter thoroughly. If the allegations are substantiated, we will work with the relevant authorities to hold anyone involved accountable.
QUESTION: So is he – he’s back here in Washington now?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on their location.
QUESTION: The report also says that this gentleman is currently been suspended, or has been relieved of his actual duties while this matter has been investigated.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further update on it for all of you. I’m happy to check on that and see if there’s anything else --
MS. PSAKI: -- that I’m able to provide.
QUESTION: “Recently withdrawn from normal duties pending completion of an official investigation.”
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I’m happy to check on that.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Pakistan. They compiled a report and did a report, some 300 page report, the Abbottabad Commission about the OBL raid and the aftermath and how he could have been in the country for so long. Was the report shared with the United States at any point? Or do you have a comment on it? It also called the unilateral military action an act of war.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you. I’ve seen, of course, the reports, but I just don’t have anything new or any further comment on it.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- news websites. Today, a group of U.S.-based internet companies – Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, and Google – essentially criticized that decision. Does the U.S. Government have any position on those regulations, and in particular on the one that I believe would require websites to take down any story – news story which the Singaporean Government deemed to be unacceptable within 24 hours?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we are deeply concerned by the new restrictive Singaporean policy requiring the licensing of news websites. We raise Internet freedom regularly in bilateral and multilateral dialogues with foreign governments, including Singapore. We urge Singapore to ensure that freedom of expression is protected in accordance with its international obligations and commitments. We closely monitor and often speak out, as you all know, on both Internet freedom and media freedom throughout the world. This case is no different, and we are concerned, of course, to see Singapore applying press restrictions to the online world.
QUESTION: So can you assure us that the reason that you push for Internet freedom and that kind of thing in all these countries around the world isn’t to make it easier for this government to listen in and bug people?
MS. PSAKI: I just – I want to make sure --
MS. PSAKI: -- that the AP and Reuters stories are available to all the people of Singapore.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’ve got a small one on Cambodia.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Opposition leader Sam Rainsy says he’s going to go back. Do you have anything – facing arrest, I think, if he does?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I think I do have something on that. Let me see here. Matt, I know I do. Let me get that to you and anyone else right after the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. All right. Last one here, in the red and white shirt in the back.
QUESTION: Can I return to Snowden really quickly and ask --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The Government of Bolivia issued a statement, I believe, saying that the act of governments who forced President Morales’ plane down was state terrorism. Do you have any response to that, given that the countries involved were close U.S. allies?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would refer you, and I continue to refer you, to the individual governments here for any further comment on the circumstances of last week.
QUESTION: The U.S. has no response?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on it.
QUESTION: Okay. And just to follow up, does – is there any more information on where the original information or the leak came from that Snowden was on that plane? Does the U.S. have any more idea --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that, no.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)
DPB # 113