12:51 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. Happy Monday. I do not have anything at the top. Matt, go ahead and kick us off.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why shouldn’t the French be upset about these revelations?
MS. HARF: Well, as you know, France is one of our oldest allies. The Secretary’s in --
QUESTION: Or was, at least. Go ahead.
MS. HARF: So good to be back, Matt, with you here. (Laughter.) I missed this. As you know, the Secretary’s in Paris today for other meetings. He has a very close working relationship with Foreign Minister Fabius on issues ranging from Syria to other issues as well. We will have discussions with the French, as we do through diplomatic channels, whenever folks would like to talk about some of these reports about – of intelligence activities that are out there in the press.
As you probably saw, Ambassador Rivkin did meet today with Alexandre Ziegler, the Cabinet Director to Foreign Minister Fabius, at the request of the Government of France, to discuss these issues exactly.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But my question was: Why shouldn’t the French be shocked or upset?
MS. HARF: Well, I think --
QUESTION: Presuming that you that they shouldn’t be.
MS. HARF: I think the President spoke to this a bit at UNGA and spoke to this as well previous to that and made a few things clear. That right now, we’re undertaking a review to determine how – how the best ways are to gather intelligence and what the balance should be. Because it’s all about a balance between the legitimate security concerns that our citizens have and the privacy concerns that we and our allies have as well about some of these alleged intelligence activities. It’s just a balance that has to be struck, and what we’re trying to do right now is figure out where that balance lies, and we’ll continue these conversations with the French or other countries if they have issues they’d like to discuss.
QUESTION: Well, this – well, first of all, do you know – and I recognize that the Secretary’s going to have a press conference in a couple hours.
MS. HARF: He is, yes. In a couple hours.
QUESTION: But do you know --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has any – have any French officials raised this with him? Do you know?
MS. HARF: I do not know that, no.
QUESTION: Okay. I presume – okay. And but then --
MS. HARF: And he just finished a lunch with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal --
QUESTION: Right. No, I understand.
MS. HARF: -- but today he’s focused on Middle East peace stuff.
MS. HARF: But he can maybe speak to that in the press avail.
QUESTION: Yes. But the question is: So as it stands right now, you are or are not making the argument that this operation that was revealed on the French was in the interests of U.S. national security?
MS. HARF: I’m not speaking to any specific allegations or reports that are out there in the press about intelligence activities. Broadly speaking, there’s a balance that needs to be struck between security and privacy. The President has spoken to that, most recently at UNGA, and that’s the conversation we’re certainly having internally in the government, and are happy to have with our allies and partners around the world.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: But I’m not speaking to the specific allegations in that report.
QUESTION: And then – but do you or do you not think that the French have a right to be upset, or any other country has the right to be upset?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to talk about what other countries have the right to feel or not feel. What I will say is that we will continue to have discussions through diplomatic channels as countries want to discuss these issues.
QUESTION: All right. My last one on this --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Well, two – two ones. One: Do you think that there’s going to be any lasting damage to relations with the French in particular but with other countries more generally? We’ve already seen Brazil, the Mexicans are upset, Germans are upset.
MS. HARF: Well, I think--
QUESTION: Or is this just a bump in the road?
MS. HARF: Well, no. I think the goal – both of the discussions we have privately, diplomatically about these reports when they surface, but also about the President coming out very publicly and saying we want to strike the right balance and we’re going to review what we’re doing and see if it’s most appropriate is actually to reassure other countries that we take their concerns seriously, that we think these are important issues to talk about, and that we don’t want these alleged reports out there in the press to negatively influence our bilateral relationships. The Foreign Minister and Secretary Kerry have a long and, certainly close, working relationship on a number of very important issues, including Syria.
QUESTION: And you don’t expect this to – would interfere at all with that close working relationship?
MS. HARF: We certainly hope that it doesn’t.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Again, we’ll continue the conversations as people want to have them.
QUESTION: So then my last one is: When this current President came into office, he and his first Secretary of State spent a lot of time doing what they said was trying to repair what they said was damage done to the U.S. image and reputation abroad during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency. Are you concerned at all that the weight of these revelations, coming as they are with increasing – seemingly increasing frequency, is negating the – that effort to improve your – the image of the United States abroad? Because it certainly appears that many countries, whether they’re warranted and are justified in feeling this or not, are looking at the United States now as some kind of Orwellian big brother-type outfit.
MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a few points. The first is that whether it’s on these alleged intelligence activities, on counterterrorism operations, on a number of issues, this Administration has taken steps to increase the transparency, not as much as I’m sure everybody would like in this room, but certainly whether it’s the President giving speeches about counterterrorism, giving speeches just recently about our intelligence gathering and how we’re reviewing that. We’ve actually taken steps to be more transparent, both to our people but to other countries around the world. So I think that people do look at that as a positive step in the right direction.
But when it comes to specific intelligence matters, we also, I would underscore here, share intelligence with a number of our partners and allies. Intelligence is collected, broadly speaking, to protect our citizens, to protect their citizens as well. So people understand the value of intelligence gathering around the world, right? It’s where the balance lies between privacy and security, and those are the conversations we’re having right now.
QUESTION: Yeah, but people don’t like – when you say that you’re being more transparent, people don’t like what they see when they are being – so just being more – coming out and saying --
MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree a little bit with your notion there. I think people appreciate when the President or the Secretary or other folks come out and say: I know there have been a lot of allegations out there. Here’s what we can say we’re doing, here’s how we’re looking at it. And when we have a path forward, we’ll let you know that as well.
QUESTION: Okay. But you claim to be being more transparent, but in fact you’re not. You’re not at all being transparent. You’re saying that --
MS. HARF: Well, I would take issue with your characterization.
QUESTION: Oh, really? Well, you’re not confirming any of these reports, whether they’re true or not.
MS. HARF: That --
QUESTION: How is that transparent?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we can use whatever definition of transparent we want --
QUESTION: I think there’s only one definition.
MS. HARF: What I would say is that the President has gotten – has stood up. Whether it’s on counterterrorism, he stood at the National Defense University and said: I’m going to talk to you about how we make decisions on counterterrorism operations --
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MS. HARF: -- for the first time.
QUESTION: -- it’s either transparent or it’s not. It’s either transparent or it’s opaque.
MS. HARF: Matt, that’s --
MS. HARF: No, this isn’t a black-and-white issue.
QUESTION: You can’t have --
MS. HARF: That’s not – that’s absolutely not the case.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: There – you can talk more about issues and be more transparent without saying every single thing we know about every single intelligence operation, because there are reasons to keep some things classified. But absolutely, when the President gets up and says this is – I’m going to talk to you more about how we do counterterrorism, I’m going to talk to you more about how we intelligence gather, that’s a level of transparency we never saw before, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction. But we also understand we have more work to do here.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Would you – did the Secretary raise this first this morning when he got in, or was it something that he arrived – he encountered when he arrived in Paris?
MS. HARF: Raised with who this morning when he --
QUESTION: With the French authorities.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know who the Secretary has spoken to on the French side. I know our ambassador spoke with the Cabinet Director to Foreign Minister Fabius. The Secretary has been in meetings on the – with the Saudis today and this afternoon with the Arab Peace Initiative, so I don’t know if he’s had contact with the French yet on this.
QUESTION: To come back to Matt’s --
MS. HARF: I just don’t know. The road might be able to give more updated information.
QUESTION: To come back to Matt’s question whether this had – has harmed relations, would you think that the Secretary would try to address those concerns, before this kind of gets out of hand, while he is in Paris?
MS. HARF: Well, I think the Secretary, everywhere, certainly with the French, wants us to have the best and closest working relationship we can. If issues of any kind arise, he, as you all know, is either happy to talk about them in person or over the phone with his counterparts, and certainly doesn’t want to let these kind of reports out there in the press hurt our efforts to work together on Syria, other issues that we work together with the French on, certainly. He just happens to be there today, so I’m sure he’ll be having those discussions with them as well.
QUESTION: Marie, can you tell us – you just said – it sounds as if it wasn’t Fabius himself.
MS. HARF: It was not. That’s correct.
QUESTION: So can you tell us what happened at that meeting, who met with whom?
MS. HARF: So, the details I have are that Ambassador Rivkin, our ambassador in Paris, met today with Alexandre Ziegler, the Cabinet Director to Foreign Minister Fabius – this was at the request of the Government of France – and discussed some of the reports of information-gathering by U.S. Government agencies. We’ll continue these discussions with the French Government, but I can confirm that meeting took place.
QUESTION: And can you tell us what – why wasn’t it Fabius himself, do you know?
MS. HARF: I don’t know that.
QUESTION: And what was the nature of the discussion? Can you at least characterize what the Ambassador said?
MS. HARF: I don’t have a full readout of the meeting. I would assume that it’s the same discussions we’ve had with other countries when they’ve raised this, about sort of the balance we’re trying to strike between security and privacy, about, in general, the fact that we’re happy to continue these consultations with governments because we know it’s important to them going forward. But I don’t have a fuller readout. If I do have one, I’m happy to share. I just probably won’t.
QUESTION: All right. Also, the NSA --
MS. HARF: I’ll come to you. Hold on, Said. I’ll go here, Jo, and then to you, Said.
QUESTION: Two seconds.
MS. HARF: No, it’s okay.
QUESTION: The NSA had a statement --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and they say we’ve – as a matter of policy, we’ve made clear that the U.S. gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So are you saying that other nations do what the U.S. does?
MS. HARF: I think I will let the NSA statement speak for itself, but it does make the point that intelligence is not only gathered by the United States, it’s gathered by all nations, and also make the point that we share intelligence with many allies and partners around the world on very important issues. We’ve talked recently about intelligence assessments, for example, of Syria’s chemical weapons program, right? That’s an example of an intelligence effort, an assessment, based on intelligence that’s been gathered and shared with our allies and partners around the world. So again, it’s just a balance, and we want to strike the right one, and we know it’s an ongoing conversation we need to have.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the tenor of the conversation was, whether it was cordial or --
MS. HARF: I just don’t – I don’t have a readout of it, Jo. If we have more, I’m happy to share. I just don’t have one.
QUESTION: Because the French sounded like they were pretty angry. They’re using words like “shocked,” so, I mean, can you tell us were their – have their fears been allayed? Was there tempest --
MS. HARF: I honestly just don’t have a readout of the conversation. If there’s more I can get from the team that’s there in Paris, I’m happy to share.
QUESTION: And on the actual – what you’re calling the alleged --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- reports, Le Monde was giving some kind of specific details – 70.3 million phone calls were monitored. Can you tell us at least whether that were – they were actually tapped into and listened to or whether it was just the meta data that you wanted to get?
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to speak to any of the details of these reports at all an any way.
QUESTION: But I think that speaks to Matt’s earlier question about transparency. I mean, it’s out there in Le Monde. If you – you could tell us whether that’s correct or whether it’s wrong, or you – and allay some of those fears. I mean, it’s not actually going to the detail of what you were listening to, who you were listening to, but it just gives an idea of the scope of the program.
MS. HARF: Well, again, in general, and without confirming one way or another this report, intelligence activities are classified – specifics about them are classified for a reason. And if you get into the slippery slope of saying this right, this isn’t, this is a little off, this isn’t, that’s getting into an area where we have things that are classified for a reason and we just can’t go down that path. I think that’s why, when I speak to transparency, it’s important to outline principles that are guiding how we undertake these activities, even though sometimes we won’t be able to get into the specifics.
QUESTION: But it doesn’t leave a huge question. I mean, you talk about – if Le Monde is right, you took about 70.3 million phone calls which were listened into in the period between, I think it was December 18th or 10th or something and January – roughly the same – in a month. That’s a huge volume of data that you’re gathering.
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to speak to the specifics in that report one way or the other, but we will have these conversations privately and diplomatically with other governments, like the French, who have raised concerns, in more, I think, detail than we’re able to share here, but certainly in a diplomatic setting that is private and that we think is the proper place to discuss the details.
QUESTION: So you’re actually giving them specific details?
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I just said we’re going to have detailed conversations with them privately and I’m just not going to outline what those conversations are.
QUESTION: So you’re not even giving the French the details?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to confirm one way or the other what we’re – the details of our discussions with the French are.
QUESTION: So we’ll just wait for the next tranche of cables to get leaked to find out exactly what happened with the --
MS. HARF: And we can have this discussion then, Matt.
QUESTION: Let me just follow up on that point.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you give the same standard answer to every country, or you have like something tailored for every country that raises this issue?
MS. HARF: I just depends. Obviously, we – every diplomatic situation’s different and every relationship is unique, and we have conversations that are appropriate to each relationship.
QUESTION: Okay, so the French are very close allies, they have been for a very long time --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. One of our oldest allies.
QUESTION: Absolutely. Your oldest allies.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Definitely your oldest ally. Did they accept your explanations, or were they --
MS. HARF: I don’t have more of a readout of the discussion, Said.
QUESTION: But what is your impression after that meeting? I mean, did they --
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I have an impression because I don’t have a readout of their meeting. If we can get more for you, I’m happy to share it.
QUESTION: But you don’t have like a standard answer that you give everybody, because there are likely more countries that will come out in the future?
MS. HARF: No, I don’t make up meeting readouts to give to you guys without knowing the details, no. (Laughter.)
Yes. Oh – I’ll come to you next.
QUESTION: Sorry, you mentioned before intelligence sharing.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why do you feel compelled to – why do you raise that?
MS. HARF: Because I think it’s important if we’re having a discussion about intelligence to look at the full picture --
MS. HARF: -- as much as we can in an unclassified setting about the fact that a lot of countries gather intelligence and that indeed we share intelligence on priorities with our key allies and partners. I think it’s an important part of the discussion.
QUESTION: So are you suggesting that information that was obtained through this surveillance, or however you want to call it --
MS. HARF: I’m not suggesting anything about these specific --
QUESTION: -- was shared?
MS. HARF: I’m not suggesting anything.
QUESTION: Well, you mentioned --
MS. HARF: I’m seriously not, Matt, about this specific report.
QUESTION: -- you specifically mentioned the Syrian chemical weapons. Are you trying to equate evidence of what is presumably – what is allegedly a war crime with this hoovering up of millions of --
MS. HARF: No. I’m not trying to equate anything at all.
QUESTION: Well, then why – then I’m not – I’m not sure I understand exactly what the argument is when --
MS. HARF: Well, we – but we can’t talk about intelligence in different ways on different days in a siloed fashion. What I’m saying is that American intelligence, writ large – which is what you’re talking about – I’m not speaking to this specific report. You know I’m not going to do that. But look, we’re trying to find the right balance here about what we gather and how we gather it. The President’s spoken to this at length now. And it’s worth keeping in mind, as we have a discussion, to keep in mind the entire intelligence picture.
MS. HARF: What we do with it, what are priorities are, the fact that we sit in here and talk about intelligence on Syria’s CW and how that’s an assessment that doesn’t come out of thin air, right? And that intelligence is complicated, it’s complex, and that these are important issues to continue discussing.
QUESTION: But if I’m France, I don’t understand why I should be assuaged by the fact that you bring up the fact that you and the French and the Brits shared intelligence. How does that at all relate to mass surveillance of the French population?
MS. HARF: I think it’s important – it’s important – I’m not speaking to those specific reports, Matt. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a broader picture here about the fact that we collect intelligence on – not speaking at all to this report, but broadly speaking – on key priorities that we share with our friends and partners around the world, that – and people quite frankly recognize the importance of intelligence gathering. It’s not that people don’t recognize the importance; it’s where the line is – what’s appropriate, what’s not, where to strike that balance. That’s the conversation we’re having. I just think it’s important to put into context the fact that we rely, quite frankly, on intelligence to talk about key national security priorities.
QUESTION: So you think that the French agree with you that it’s important to monitor 70.3 million phone calls?
MS. HARF: You’re just jumping – you’re jumping 14 steps ahead of what I’m saying.
QUESTION: No, I’m not.
MS. HARF: In no way did I ever say that.
QUESTION: No, well, you said other countries --
MS. HARF: I don't know where you got that.
QUESTION: -- you said other countries understand the importance of intelligence gathering.
MS. HARF: In general, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, they do, but they don’t like it when their own citizens, millions of them, are spied on.
MS. HARF: That’s a jump you just made. (A) I’m not confirming those reports, and (B) we’re having the discussions with the French privately.
QUESTION: Marie, it doesn’t matter what you – you don’t have to confirm the reports.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: We’re talking about the French saying that they’re upset, that they’re angry, that they’re shocked --
MS. HARF: And we’re having that discussion with the French privately --
QUESTION: -- about this.
MS. HARF: -- and diplomatically.
QUESTION: I understand that, but you’re telling me that they understand – or telling all of us --
MS. HARF: I didn’t tell you --
QUESTION: -- that they understand the importance – yeah, you did. Go back on the – you said that they understand the importance of intelligence gathering.
MS. HARF: Countries around the world understand the importance of it.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MS. HARF: That’s why a lot of us do it.
QUESTION: But they don’t like it when they find out that you’ve been spying on millions of their people.
MS. HARF: Again, the discussions will happen privately and diplomatically with countries when they raise it. I just think it’s an important point to make that, as Jill pointed out, the NSA statement points out, that this is the kind of intelligence that all countries gather, that indeed, we have important intelligence sharing partnership around the world.
QUESTION: All countries --
MS. HARF: It’s a bigger picture than the --
QUESTION: -- so the French --
MS. HARF: -- limited version you’re putting forward.
QUESTION: The French are operating here and they’re listening to – or monitoring millions of phone calls in the United States?
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into those kind of details. I was making a --
QUESTION: Well, then you can’t say that – if you’re not going to get into – then you can’t say that everyone does it.
MS. HARF: I think I just did, actually. Why can’t I?
QUESTION: Are you --
QUESTION: Because – (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: No, I mean – I’m asking you a serious question.
QUESTION: Okay. So – no, well, all right. So you’re saying that the French do the same thing.
MS. HARF: No, I wasn’t speaking about any specific country.
QUESTION: Well, you just said everyone does it. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Yes, Said.
QUESTION: Are you expecting more countries to come out like in the next few days?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any predictions for you on that.
QUESTION: Do you prepare for that, or you take it after it comes out?
MS. HARF: I just don’t have any predictions for you on that, Said.
QUESTION: Marie --
MS. HARF: Yes, yes. I’m coming to you next. Yes.
QUESTION: -- another topic?
QUESTION: That was a question, actually, that I think is worth following up on.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: By this point, presumably all the Snowden documents – presumably – have been vetted in terms of what else he has. Given that, is the Department making any effort to try to get ahead of this, to try to give a country an alert that Snowden has something that will come out – we are telling you, we’re trying to assuage you before it comes out as opposed to after?
MS. HARF: It’s a really good question, and it’s one to which I don’t know the answer, quite frankly. So let me check in with our folks to see (A) if the first premise of your question is actually correct, which I don’t know if the premise is correct, and (B) if there’s any proactive steps we’re taking. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: And just as a quick follow-up: The Brazilians obviously canceled what was effectively a state visit over the Mexicans --
MS. HARF: Postponed. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Not – postponed with no rescheduled date. Mexicans have been angry about this for months. The French are angry now. Other countries have been angry. Are you expecting concrete repercussions from this, the way it was from the Brazilians?
MS. HARF: We certainly hope not. That’s why we’re having the discussions diplomatically when concerns arise.
More on this issue specifically, or new topic?
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MS. HARF: Yes, I’m coming back to you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday there was another attack on a church or church-goers --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and at least three or four people are killed. One of them is a girl, aged nine. Do you have any reaction to what’s going on in this particular issue?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes, well, in terms of that exact attack, we strongly condemn the heinous attack on the Al-Adra church in Cairo. It killed at least four people. Obviously, we strongly condemn all acts of violence, as I’ve said repeatedly. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased and concern for those who were wounded.
Again, we’re going to keep making the point that this kind of violence has no place in moving Egypt forward. It will only hinder Egypt’s democratic transition process and economic recovery, and will – supporting calls by the Egyptian Government to hold those responsible accountable for this attack.
QUESTION: There is a real issue which is raised yesterday again with this event that it’s – are you concerned or you prefer to stay silent regarding at least from 15 to 20 people are killed since July, specifically Coptic Egyptians.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And after July 3rd and more than almost 80 churches were burned or attacked. And a lot of people think that in – either whether in Egypt or surrounding area, they think that it’s – this is a price that Coptic Egyptians have to pay because of their support or their accepting the new government or the new reality.
MS. HARF: Well, I think what I was – I would make two points. The first is that violence against any group is completely abhorrent and unacceptable. The second is that the freedom to practice one’s own faith – I mean, you’re exactly right – the Coptic community has been a target of violence recently, and that the freedom to practice one’s faith is really a core fundamental liberty, and that protecting religious freedom is a key part of Egypt moving forward on its democratic transition. So this is something we’ll keep working with the government on. But as we’ve said repeatedly, this kind of violence has no place in moving Egypt forward.
QUESTION: The reason, or whatever you can call it, explanation of the question that I asked, because there is a lot of – you are condemning the incitement of violence and definitely that kind of incitement or pushing for punishment, it’s coming from whether it’s Islamists or Muslim Brothers affiliated groups in Egypt, and it needs somehow a reaction from this place or not? I mean, do you think that that’s acceptable?
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, we strongly condemn any acts of violence and also would make the point that the political differences in Egypt clearly run very deep, and it’s hard to make the point that people shouldn’t resort to violence but that those kind of political disagreements cannot be solved or managed through this kind of violence. That just doesn’t get the Egyptian people anywhere closer to where they need to be. And even though it’s hard, that’s why we keep pushing on all groups, all parties – even when they’ve been the victims of this kind of violence – to come to the table and help forge a path forward that is indeed not violent.
QUESTION: Would you say that the relationship between you and Egypt have drifted apart since the cutoff of the aid a couple weeks ago?
MS. HARF: No, I wouldn’t.
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. HARF: We made very clear at that time, Said, that we think this is an important relationship going forward, and that’s why we were calibrating the policy in the way we did.
QUESTION: What are you doing in terms to repair whatever damage or whatever impact the cutoff has had with your relations with Egypt? What are you doing practically on the ground to sort of remedy that?
MS. HARF: Well, our folks on the ground remain engaged with the interim government, with other parties and groups, like they always have. We’ve also made clear in announcing the new policy that we were going to continue with the types of assistance that benefitted the Egyptian people. Certainly, some things have been put on hold, but that’s the message we’re giving to them, and that if they take certain concrete steps, at some point we’ll talk about restarting some of this assistance. We’ve made that point clear as well.
QUESTION: We are seeing things that we have not seen before in Egypt, like the booby-trapped cars and so on, which really sort of warns of a foreboding future, so to speak, in that area. What are you advising the current government of what it can do, such as perhaps not put Morsy on trial, to sort of mitigate that kind of tension – are you?
MS. HARF: Well, this is clearly a critical time for Egypt. I would warn against people saying that any one step is foreboding or will lead us down a path that we can’t come back from. I think one point we’ve made, without getting into the specifics of our discussions with the Egyptian Government, is that you can take steps right now and other parties can as well to come back from this precipice, that you have an opportunity to take – make decisions to move Egypt forward, and that the decisions are theirs, the responsibility is theirs, but that in no way – I think we made this very clear when we announced the policy, we value this relationship. And if the interim government takes certain steps, we will discuss whether to restart some of the assistance.
QUESTION: More. One question.
QUESTION: Just a really quick one, one very brief thing on Egypt.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Is the relationship with Egypt important enough to warrant the nomination of an ambassador?
MS. HARF: We believe that we should have ambassadors everywhere around the world, Matt, yes.
QUESTION: So why hasn’t there been one in Egypt for several months now --
MS. HARF: I can check --
QUESTION: -- at a very critical part – time in its --
MS. HARF: I can check and see where the personnel process is. I just don’t know the answer to that. Obviously, we have full faith and confidence in our folks on the ground.
QUESTION: Well, I know. But I mean, it’s a – but having an ambassador there is a symbolic step --
MS. HARF: I’ll check and see where the process is.
QUESTION: -- that would suggest that the relationship is vibrant or strong, or at least that you want to get it better. If you leave the post empty, it would suggest the opposite.
MS. HARF: I would caution you from making any assumptions about --
QUESTION: I’m not making any assumptions.
MS. HARF: I think you just made two.
QUESTION: No, I’m just saying that if you don’t have an ambassador someplace, it’s seen as an indication that the United States isn’t particularly interested in having --
MS. HARF: I think the high level of engagement we’ve had with the interim government – both from here, from this building, and on the ground – should leave no question in their mind that we believe this relationship is important moving forward, period.
QUESTION: Would you say that the lack of nomination is due to technical reasons?
MS. HARF: I don’t – I honestly don’t know what the reason is, Said. I’m happy to look into it.
Yes, one more on Egypt.
QUESTION: It was announced that next --
MS. HARF: One more, and then we’ll go to you for the new subject.
QUESTION: Okay. It was announced that next Thursday there is going to be a hearing on the Hill regarding the U.S. policy towards Egypt, and expected that U.S. State Department is going to send somebody. Did you make the decision who is going to be there?
MS. HARF: I’ll check and see. Not to my knowledge yet, but I’ll check and see.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- over the weekend. Is that all military assistance?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: Economic? How much – and it says it’s quietly restarted it. Why the clandestine --
MS. HARF: So let me fill in some of the details here.
MS. HARF: I’ll just take a bunch of those questions and fill in some of the details. And if you have more, I’m happy to answer them.
So this is part of a long process of restarting security assistance cooperation. Implementation of this assistance was slowed during 2011-2012 when we had some bilateral challenges. I would note during that time period civilian assistance did continue moving forward. So basically, there’s 1.6 billion in funding that’s security and civilian assistance. It’s funds from previous multiyear funding, right, so it’s money that had been designated for Pakistan but that had been slowed because of the bilateral challenges.
So over the course of the summer, we notified Congress that we would be restarting the security assistance part. Again, the civilian assistance part had been moving forward. I don’t have an exact breakdown of what the 1.6 billion is between security and military. I think it’s close to being 50/50, but let me double-check on that. I don’t have those numbers in front of me. So it’s actually a number of notifications. It’s a number of different accounts. It’s not a lump sum. But I would say that we are encouraged that our bilateral relationship has improved. The visit last night with Secretary Kerry and Mr. Sharif – you saw probably the note about it – was a good one. And so we’re going to move forward with this 1.6 billion. That’s separate from the 2014 Fiscal Year money that the Administration has asked for.
QUESTION: And it has asked for 1.1 --
MS. HARF: 6. Correct.
MS. HARF: For 2014. Again, that hasn’t even been approved by Congress yet. But this is money that was from previous fiscal years, multiyear funding that had not been used yet and was designated for Pakistan, the security portion of which had been slowed to very, very limited security assistance.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. specifically said what are the security needs that the money needs to --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Because it’s got to go to some very specific stuff.
MS. HARF: Right. Well, I don’t know if this is specific enough for you, but the security assistance will work on a couple of issues, continue to build the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism capabilities of Pakistan’s security forces. As we know, this is especially important in the western border regions when we’re talking about fighting al-Qaida and its affiliated groups. So in general, that’s what the security assistance goes to.
QUESTION: And this is aid that has gone back as far as 2011, right?
MS. HARF: I think maybe even a little bit farther. I can double-check on that. It’s multiyear funding from previous fiscal years that had not been – that had been slowed during 2011. I think, actually, some of the money was from before 2011.
MS. HARF: Anything else on Pakistan? Yeah.
QUESTION: On Pakistan?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As you know, Marie, in late August a Pakistani official overturned the conviction of Dr. Shakil Afridi. Although the conviction was overturned, a new trial has been scheduled, yet he remains in prison. And I was wondering if you had an update on his current status.
MS. HARF: I don’t have an update. I don’t have an update. I’m happy to check, and if I have one we can talk about it tomorrow. I just don’t have one.
QUESTION: That would be great. And before these funds were released, the 1.6 billion, was his case brought up – Dr. Afridi’s – in this building?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer. I’m also happy to check into that. This was a process that happened over months. It was consultations – excuse me – between us and the Pakistanis about what was in both of our national security interests. We notified Congress in a number of notifications. I’m happy to check on that part of it, though.
QUESTION: And did his name come up last night when the Prime Minister Sharif met with Secretary Kerry?
MS. HARF: I don’t know that, either. I can check on that as well. I will take all of your Dr. Afridi questions and attempt to get you more information.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more on the civilian aspect of it, exactly where those come from?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. So it goes to a number of different issues – three that are particularly important, I think, to Prime Minister Sharif, which are energy, economic issues, and education. I think I have a little bit more specifics about here. On education, for example, since 2009, we’ve built and renovated more than 600 schools, provided 12,000 students with scholarships to local universities. In terms of economic growth, we are helping create jobs and increase incomes with programs that boost agricultural output, build roads and help entrepreneurs grow their businesses through trade. We funded over 900 kilometers of roads in Pakistan, including all four major trade routes into Afghanistan. I know we’ve talked a lot about energy, and I’ll give you one more statistic, then we can move on. But --
QUESTION: Is any of this money in the budget going towards budget support?
MS. HARF: Toward – I do not know the answer to that. On the economic growth side – I can double-check on that. And also, as we talked about a lot, we’ve helped them quite a bit with their energy needs.
QUESTION: On Pakistan?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. There has been allegations that the Pakistani military knew about the drone strikes, or, in fact, they know about it before they occur. Is that – was that something that the Secretary of State discussed with Mr. Sharif?
MS. HARF: I don’t have specifics on their discussions. Obviously, counterterrorism is an issue that we discuss all the time with the Pakistanis, but I just don’t have additional information about their discussions.
QUESTION: Okay. But these – the kind of anger that has been raised by this – the level of the Pakistani public, because many innocent lives were lost to drone attacks, something that could stabilize the government, in your view?
MS. HARF: Again, we’re going to keep talking to the Pakistanis about this. I think the President was clear in his speech to NDU when he talked about our counterterrorism operations, when he talked about the fact that, in any operation, we undertake every effort to limit civilian casualties. We’ve talked about this quite a bit now. I would refer to those comments.
QUESTION: Can I change subject to Syria?
MS. HARF: Wait, one more. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government still have the belief that the Pakistani Government – specifically its intelligence service, the ISI – is working in conjunction with the Haqqani Network?
MS. HARF: I don’t know what our latest is on that. I’m happy to take it. I’m taking lots of questions for you today, Lucas. I’m happy to get some more information on that.
Let’s go ahead and change subjects. Yes.
QUESTION: Norway is apparently considering a request to eliminate part of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, and there are press reports that the United Nations asked seven or eight more countries to do the same. I wanted to ask you if there is a finalized plan in place – plan finalized by the chemical weapons organization – to proceed with the things of that nature.
MS. HARF: There’s not. The OPCW and the UN team folks are working through that right now. We have encouraged all countries who are able to help with technical expertise or personnel, support, information or equipment to support this effort. Every country obviously has their own ability to make their own decisions and their own announcements about if they’re willing to help out.
QUESTION: Marie, is the United States considering doing along those – something along those lines? You have a lot of expertise in this sphere.
MS. HARF: We – the United States certainly has a lot of expertise. A lot of folks around the world do as well, so we’re talking to our partners and allies to see who’s willing and able to step up and help with the effort.
QUESTION: Another official last week actually confirmed that the U.S. side will provide some equipment to neutralize these chemical weapons. I mean, can you confirm --
MS. HARF: I don’t have an update on that. I’m happy to check into it. We said we’re fully supported to helping in any way we can. I just don’t have details.
QUESTION: And also, the two Turkish pilots who have been kidnapped by a pro-regime – pro-Assad groups in Lebanon have been released this weekend. I mean, in terms of the cooperation for the releasing of these pilots, the regime has released some prisoners and then an opposition group named the Northern Storm Brigades released the nine Shiites that they took – I mean, from a long time – and then the Lebanese group that released the pilots.
What is your understanding from this cooperation in the region, especially after these chemical weapon deals? Because it was unthinkable recently. Then you look at the side who cooperated for this process. What is your understanding?
MS. HARF: Let me check and see if I have anything for you on that. I know there have been a lot of media reports about this. I just don’t have a comment on that specifically.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the meetings on the weekend --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- between Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Envoy, and the Arab League in Cairo? The Arab League chief came out and said that it looks like the talks could be held – Geneva peace conference talks could be held around November 22nd, 23rd. Is that your understanding?
MS. HARF: We’re certainly tracking towards the end of November. Nothing’s official yet. Invitations haven’t gone out. But we’re certainly tracking towards that, but don’t have anything to announce.
QUESTION: And that would presuppose that some of the difficulties that the opposition has had in forming a delegation might be resolved or in the – in process of being resolved?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, certainly, that would have to happen first. As we’ve said, the opposition doesn’t have an easy task here. They’re fighting wars on two fronts against Iran and Hezbollah-backed regime, and also against extremists. In terms – there is a London 11 meeting tomorrow in London with the Secretary and the other members of the London 11 and the SOC, so I think we’ll have more of a sense after that meeting for how we go forward from here.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate the opposition might actually say who their delegation’s going to be at that meeting?
MS. HARF: It’s my – to Geneva 2?
QUESTION: To – no, to the London 11 who their delegation --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- will be to the --
MS. HARF: I do not know the answer. I don’t want to venture a guess as to whether that’ll happen, but SOC President Jarba and some other folks will be in London tomorrow.
QUESTION: And could you also talk about – Lakhdar Brahimi said today after further talks – I can’t remember – oh, he’s in Baghdad today – that he believes that all the players who have a stake in the Syria conflict, which means Iran as well, should be invited to the Geneva 2. Where are you on those invitations?
MS. HARF: Our position hasn’t changed, but anyone who wants to participate will need to accept, sign on to the Geneva communique that came out of Geneva 1.
QUESTION: Yeah. How – in what form will they have to accept it? I mean, in writing or just verbally, or how do you want them to do it?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, but needless to say, it would have to be crystal clear that they accepted and endorsed it.
QUESTION: But a verbal --
MS. HARF: I just – I will check with our folks, but I don’t know the answer to that.
QUESTION: I mean, you can imagine that Foreign Minister Zarif could come out and say, yes, we accept it, and I just wonder if that would be enough for you to then go ahead and issue an invitation to Iran.
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that question. They would have to fully endorse and accept.
QUESTION: And they’ll have their fingers crossed. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) seem more and more representative of the opposition?
MS. HARF: Seems what?
QUESTION: Seems like they’re representative of the opposition now? Are you --
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, certainly we want the SOC to be as representative as possible. In the last 18 months, they’ve been through a change in leadership, they’ve expanded their memberships, they’ve made efforts to connect more closely with the Syrian people on the ground. So we hope that process continues.
QUESTION: So with all the statements coming out of Cairo, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Arab League, and all the – so does it seem like this is going to be the group that will represent all of the opposition?
MS. HARF: We’re still – look, we’ll have these discussions tomorrow at the London 11. I think we’ll probably have more to talk about then.
QUESTION: And --
MS. HARF: And I probably can only take a few more questions. I’m sorry, I’m on a little bit of a schedule today, but --
QUESTION: I just want to ask you a very quick question on the --
MS. HARF: Keep it essential.
QUESTION: -- bombing in Hama.
MS. HARF: I know all your questions are essential, Said.
QUESTION: What – okay, great. The bombing in Hama.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Al-Nusrah, which is al-Qaida affiliate, claimed the bombing in Hama killing 30 people. Do you have a position on that? Do you condemn that bombing?
MS. HARF: Well, clearly we condemn all violence in any form. I don’t know what our assessment is of that one. I’m happy to look into it.
QUESTION: Sorry (inaudible) Marie.
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: A Syrian official has said today that Geneva 2 will not discuss the future of President Assad. How do you see this statement?
MS. HARF: Well, us and the Russians and the UN are all coming to Geneva 2 to talk about the Geneva communique that outlined the basis for the discussion. And in that, it very clearly said that the transitional government needs to be agreed to by mutual consent of both sides. I think that speaks very clearly to the fact that the opposition will not allow, nor will we, Assad to be a part of Syria’s future going forward.
QUESTION: President Assad has said today that he doesn’t see any obstacle to be nominated to run in the upcoming elections. Do you have any problem with him --
MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s inconceivable that he would ever think he would have the will of the people to run again. I mean, these are people he’s brutally massacred, over 100,000 now. And I think it’s just absolutely inconceivable that he would even entertain that option at this point.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that all – you believe that all the dead have been killed by the government?
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said he has --
QUESTION: You just said he massacred --
MS. HARF: He has massacred – yes, over 100,000 people.
QUESTION: He has?
QUESTION: Isn’t Assad --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Can I also just ask: You said that because of the mutual consent, you said the Syrian opposition, “nor will we” allow – you’re getting a vote now?
MS. HARF: We’ve been very clear that Assad has to go.
QUESTION: No, I understand that. But you said “nor will we” allow – the Syrian opposition won’t allow Assad to be in this transition, “nor will we.”
MS. HARF: I think we’ve made our position on that very clear. Yes.
QUESTION: I wasn’t aware that you guys actually got a vote on this.
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not --
QUESTION: Isn’t it up for the Syrian people to decide?
MS. HARF: We’ve said repeatedly it’s for the Syrian people to decide. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Isn’t Assad a clear critical player in the collection of chemical weapons in Syria?
MS. HARF: Well, we said that the Assad regime has responsibility to assist in the process of destroying their chemical weapons. When there’s a transition government, they’ll assume that responsibility.
QUESTION: Is there any update on the destruction of chemical weapons?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you, no. I need – two more, and then I really – I promise you, I have to run. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: It’s a very short technical question.
MS. HARF: I’ll do two hours tomorrow and make everyone happy.
QUESTION: On Geneva 2.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Is it still the idea that the United Nations will be issuing invitations --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and announcing the date of the conference?
MS. HARF: Correct. Yes.
MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There have been some reports speculating that she might be American. So I wanted to ask: Has the State Department received any indication that she is or might be American? And has the Greek Government been in touch with the U.S. about her?
MS. HARF: I have – I’m not aware of any contact that indicates she’s American. I’d refer you to the Greek Government for any details of that. If I have any update, I’ll let you know.
Thanks, guys. And I’m sorry to rush out.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)