printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 22, 2013


Share
Index for Today's Briefing
  • COUNTERTERRORISM
    • Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Reports
    • Pakistan / U.S.-Pakistan Relationship
    • Iraq / Counterterrorism Cooperation
  • SAUDI ARABIA
    • U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relationship
  • SYRIA
    • Continued U.S. Engagement / Aid
    • Status of Syrian Embassy in U.S.
  • IRAN
    • U.S.-Iran Relationship / Under Secretary Sherman / P5+1 / Human Rights
    • American Detained in Iran Monday
  • GREAT LAKES REGION
    • Negotiations Continue in Kampala
  • MOZAMBIQUE
    • Recent Escalation in Violence between Security Forces and RENAMO
  • GREECE
    • Unaccompanied Minor Found
  • FRANCE
    • NSA / U.S.-France Relationship
    • President Obama-President Hollande Call
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary's Travel
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva 2 / SNC
  • RUSSIA
    • Burns Moscow Discussions / Broad Range of Topics Covered including Syria
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva 2 / Talking about Timing and Participation


TRANSCRIPT:

1:47 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. Happy Tuesday. I have nothing at the top. Matt, kick us off.

QUESTION: Boy, there’s so much to start with, I don’t know what to start with. But let’s see. I’ll start with this – the drone reports.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’ve read them, I presume, or people have?

MS. HARF: We’re reviewing them. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you fundamentally disagree with that’s in these reports?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we’re reviewing them right now.

QUESTION: Right, but from what you’ve seen so far --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- presuming you’ve read something like the executive summary or something like that --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is there anything that you take issue with?

MS. HARF: Well, generally speaking – and the President spoke to this really at length in his speech in May, so I’ll make a few points he made, but it speaks to some of the allegations in the reports – first, that we undertake every effort to limit civilian casualties in our counterterrorism operations. There’s a process that goes into how these operations are chosen, and as part of that process, we take every effort to limit these casualties.

Also, I would note that there’s a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports. I’d point that out as well. I think there are some other things in the reports that were raised, but if you want to jump in with any questions here, I’m happy to speak to other specific issues.

QUESTION: If you could just answer my question, is there anything in these reports that you disagree with?

MS. HARF: Well, I just spoke about the civilian casualty issue. That’s certainly one.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t think the report says that you don’t make an effort to avoid civilian casualties.

MS. HARF: I think that --

QUESTION: Does it? Maybe I misread it.

MS. HARF: Again, we’re still --

QUESTION: It just says that there are civilian casualties.

MS. HARF: Again, what I said was --

QUESTION: So is there --

MS. HARF: -- there’s a wide gap between U.S. assessments and in general nongovernmental reports about civilian casualties. We undertake every effort to limit them.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: We believe that we are always operating in accordance with international law. We would strongly disagree with the notion in some of these reports to the extent that they claim that we are acting contrary to international law as well.

QUESTION: So what you have a disagreement – what you don’t agree with is just the number of civilian casualties?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still reviewing the reports.

QUESTION: Well, so far, you don’t agree with the number of civilian casualties, although you will allow that there are some unfortunate --

MS. HARF: Well, the President spoke to this --

QUESTION: -- as it may be.

MS. HARF: -- when he said that in any war any action will have civilian casualties, but by choosing this course of action, it’s the course of action least likely to result in the loss --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- of innocent civilian life, also the notion that we’re acting contrary to international law, to the extent that that’s raised. But again, we’re continuing to review these reports. There’s a couple of them, and we’ll be talking about them I’m sure in the coming days as we do.

QUESTION: Okay. So this – so if I am understanding you correctly, there are two things that you have clear --

MS. HARF: At this point, two things that I’m raising. Again, we’re still reviewing.

QUESTION: -- you don’t --

MS. HARF: This isn’t the entirety of our response.

QUESTION: Let me just make sure I understand what – I understand that, but –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you strongly disagree with the idea that you’re somehow in violation of international law?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And two, you disagree – you think that their numbers are not correct in terms of the civilian – or at least they don’t comport with the numbers that you have yourself?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. But again, that’s not the entirety of our response to them. We’re reviewing them. If we have more to share as we review it, we’re happy to do so.

QUESTION: What are you reviewing exactly?

MS. HARF: The reports – I think there’s two that just came out. Amnesty International, I believe, and Human Rights Watch are the two.

QUESTION: But are you reviewing the actual cases that are --

MS. HARF: We’re reviewing the reports in their entirety.

QUESTION: Do you have your own count? Are you accounting for civilian casualties in these countries?

MS. HARF: Of course, Said. Internally, the folks who work on these issues --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- look at a variety of dimensions of the operations, including that issue.

QUESTION: I understand, but if you dispute these figures by these organizations, do you have – do you counter with your own figures? Do you have figures of your own?

MS. HARF: We do certainly have this kind of information.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what these figures are?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a point. I knew that’s where this was going, Said. And I think I’d make the point that when we make determinations about issues like this one, that substantial information concerning U.S. counterterrorism strikes, it’s collected through a variety of sources and methods. In order to protect these sources and methods, we can’t make much of this information publicly available, because we want to have access to that information in the future.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So unfortunately we can’t always provide a lot of granularity into numbers, but I think the President made clear that we – that there’s a standard here, and actually I can quote from his speech in May that “there must be near certainty that not civilians will be killed or injured,” which is the highest standard that we, of course, can set.

QUESTION: Okay. When these civilians are killed or injured, do you compensate them? Do you give them like money or anything, or you take care of their health needs --

MS. HARF: I don’t have any details on that, Said.

QUESTION: -- hospitalization?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: What about is there a process for victims? And one of these reports says, “What hope for redress can there be for victims of drone attacks, for their families when the U.S. won’t even acknowledge some of these.” Is there a process in place for a villager somewhere in Pakistan to get compensation of some sort?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to look into that question for you. I think the President made clear when he did talk about targeted drone strikes in his speech in May that we are talking more about this issue publicly. We are talking about how we make decisions on targets in general. We’re talking about the care we take in terms of preventing civilian casualties. I’m happy to take that specific question and see if we have anything to share.

QUESTION: Just to follow on it, Marie --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- what is the general trajectory of the drone program right now vis-a-vis our larger counterterrorism effort?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it on the rise? Is it on the wane?

MS. HARF: Well, again, I hate to keep relying on my – the big boss’s words from May, but I think I’d make a few points. It’s a good question. The reason he stood up at NDU in May and talked about counterterrorism was: What happens from here? Because when we look at the threat from al-Qaida core that we’ve talked a lot about, the threat has really been decimated. As that’s happened, the threat has moved elsewhere around the world. And I should note here that our preference is always to capture terrorists. I think recently we saw the case with Mr. al-Libi. Our preference is always to capture and prosecute. When that is not an option and when doing nothing is not an option, we undertake an effort that is using the tool that is least likely to injure innocent civilians.

So as we move away from the al-Qaida core threat, we’re going to remain focused on the threat in other places – Somalia, Yemen, the Maghreb – and we’ll figure out the best tools to go after terrorists there. It’s not always the same tool in every place, in fact quite the opposite.

QUESTION: So when we hear you say, in essence – and I’m boiling down what you just said --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that the threat has moved from one region to another --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and this particular tool that we use is still going to be readily deployable in the next theater where the threat has moved to --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- why shouldn’t we regard that as Whack-A-Mole?

MS. HARF: Is Whack-A-Mole a technical term, James?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Yeah.

MS. HARF: Can you be a little more specific?

QUESTION: To denizens of arcades and video games --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Whack-A-Mole is a game --

MS. HARF: I know what Whack-A-Mole is – (laughter) – but what do you mean in reality here?

QUESTION: So in other words, you’re telling us the threat shifted from one – it moved to one place to the other, so we’re still going to use it in the next place. So why shouldn’t we regard that the broader counterterrorism effort isn’t, in fact, some large game of Whac-A-Mole?

MS. HARF: Well, it – not just that the threat – excuse me – has shifted geographically, but it’s just a different type of threat, right. When we looked at the threat from al-Qaida core in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the ability to conduct a large-scale, 9/11-style attack – I’m not arguing that all the groups and other places around the world have that capability or, indeed, that desire. We’ve talked a lot about AQAP in here. When they shifted sort of from being a group that was more focused on Yemen or the Gulf to we saw over the past several years them increasingly trying to attack the U.S. interests or the U.S. homeland. So it’s not that the threat is one to one; it’s that where al-Qaida offshoots operate we take a look at both what they have the capability to do, where they’re focused on, internal/external planning, and what kinds of tools are most appropriate to counter that threat.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up?

MS. HARF: And it’s different everywhere.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the two reports?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the other things they mentioned this morning as a concern was that the proliferation of drone technology into other countries at the moment, combined with what Amnesty and Human Rights Watch says is a breach of the law, even if you don’t agree, sets a dangerous precedent for other countries. Taking your point about not breaching the law to one side, even if there’s that perception out there that you’ve legitimized the use of drones in this way, how concerned is the Administration about, for example, yesterday Iranian reports that they’ve copied drone technology? I mean, have you opened a door here?

MS. HARF: Well, without speaking to those reports about – I saw the Iranian reports and I just don’t have anything specifically on those. Obviously, going forward, this is a technology that we know more people will probably get access to, and obviously these are conversations we’ll have with our friends and partners around the world. This is an issue not just how we in the United States make decisions about when to use this technology, but when other countries do as well. It’s an issue that I know is on the forefront of our counterterrorism officials’ minds and something we’ll certainly be discussing going forward.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- if you don’t agree with the numbers that are being pulled out here on the causalities, what are your numbers? I know we’ve tried to ask, but if you disagree with them you must have a count.

MS. HARF: Well, clearly we have a counting of what we think the civilian casualty numbers look like. As I said to Said, we base this kind of information, the detailed information about counterterrorism strikes, on collecting information, much of which is from classified sources and methods. And it’s not just that we want to hide behind this veneer of them being classified, it’s because practically speaking we want access to these sources and methods, which give us insight into counterterrorism operations going forward.

So obviously, we want to put as much information as out possible. The President stood in May at NDU and put out more information than we ever had before publicly about our counterterrorism operations. But we all operate knowing that some things will never be able to be made public so we can protect, indeed, our ability to continue conducting these operations to, indeed, protect our country.

QUESTION: Marie, does the U.S. not believe that by --

QUESTION: Can you – Marie, can you please – oh, sorry.

MS. HARF: I’ll go to you next, Jill. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. not believe that by – sorry, Jill – that by --

MS. HARF: I’ll come to you next. I promise.

QUESTION: -- that by continuing this thing that – I mean, today the Pakistani Prime Minister said it was a major deterrent in your – in its relations with the U.S. Are you not afraid that the U.S. is doing more harm than good with these drone strikes?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points about that. The first is that the President made clear that doing nothing here is not an option and that we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life. I think further – I’ll quote again from the President, but he said to do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would actually invite far more civilian casualties, because terrorists would be trying to seek a foothold, and indeed, would be growing in strength and be able to kill more civilians.

Separately from this issue, we obviously talk to the Pakistanis quite a bit about counterterrorism. I would note that the Pakistani people themselves have been actually harmed the most by terrorist operations. I think over the last 10 years, 40,000 Pakistanis have been killed by terrorist attacks. So clearly, this is a shared threat we face, and we’ll continue the conversations with them about how to confront it moving forward.

QUESTION: Can I just have one more question?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Before U.S. officials have said that the total number of civilians killed in drone attacks had been in the low dozens. Is that (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize them in any way. I’m just not going to characterize them in any way.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Marie, in these documents, they kind of get into the legal justification for these.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And they point out there is the law of war --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and then there is law enforcement. And they seem to be saying that this Administration looks upon this as law enforcement, which is kind of a lower burden of proof – let’s put it that way. Under the law of war, you can only hit enemy combatants or military objects, et cetera. Is there – what basis does this Administration use --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for defining what’s legal?

MS. HARF: Well, without setting all my attorneys in this building’s hair on fire, and not being an attorney myself, I’ll make a few general comments. If there’s more specifics I have on this later, I can share those.

First, the President made clear that we’ve been operating since 2001 under an AUMF. When we talk about protecting the homeland --

QUESTION: AUMF?

MS. HARF: An authorization for the use of military force that was the post-9/11 authorization to go after al-Qaida and its affiliated groups that would attack or attempt to attack the United States and our interests. So that’s A.

Obviously there is the law of war, as you’ve said. But point B is that it is our preference when possible to detain and prosecute terrorists, like you saw recently with Mr. al-Libi, like we’ve talked about in other cases in the past. We use these tools when there aren’t other options available and that doing nothing is not, indeed, an option. So that’s sort of, in general, the legal basis. If there’s more details from my smart folks upstairs, I’m happy to share those.

QUESTION: So do you concur --

QUESTION: Actually, I would like to, because it sounds like it’s more police action.

MS. HARF: I don't know what that means legally speaking.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t say – well, law enforcement.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, the AUMF, which was passed in 2001 by Congress, actually speaks to the fact – that was done after 9/11 – that we are at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates and that these are legitimate targets, broadly speaking. But I’m happy to get more specifics if we have it.

QUESTION: So we are still engaged in a war on terror?

MS. HARF: The AUMF is still on the books. The President’s been clear that we are at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates, that we are – anywhere anybody attempts to attack the United States or harm Americans, clearly we take that seriously and have an obligation to protect our people and our country.

QUESTION: Shouldn’t anyone listening to you and in this whole exchange you’ve had with us here today be struck by the extraordinary degree to which so much of the architecture of this effort is inherited from the Bush Administration?

MS. HARF: Not at all. I think you can cherry pick and say that, but I think the President made very clear on his second full day in office that, while we were continuing – and he made this clear during the campaign – we’re going to continue going after terrorists where they attempt to attack the United States. But at the same time, we’re going to do so in accordance with our values. That’s why on his second full day in office he said, while we’ll continue going after terrorists, we’re going to do things a little bit differently. We’re going to do interrogation differently. We’re going to close secret prisons overseas and, indeed, work to close Guantanamo.

So while there are parts of the counterterrorism effort that have existed for a while, I think the President made very clear when he came into office that it was not going to continue on just as business as usual as we have been doing before.

QUESTION: Marie, could you explain something that Jill asked? Is there a lower threshold for military action or war than law enforcement? Is that what you said?

MS. HARF: I actually don’t know in terms of legally speaking.

QUESTION: Could you find out for us?

MS. HARF: I don’t – threshold, I just don’t know, Said.

QUESTION: And in the conduct of international operations of this nature --

MS. HARF: I can check on it.

QUESTION: -- is there a law?

MS. HARF: I can check on it. I should also at some point maybe get a law degree to answer more of these questions.

QUESTION: Could I ask an Iraq-related drone question?

MS. HARF: The what related drone question?

QUESTION: Iraq-related, but on the drones. Why – what is the policy behind deploying drones or how do you do it? Because in Iraq, we know where the ISIS camps are, they are becoming more and more emboldened. They are wreaking havoc on the country, yet there are no – they are not subject to drone strikes. Could you explain why not?

MS. HARF: I think, broadly speaking, I would say that we look at every terrorist threat wherever it is and determine the best tools to go after it. We obviously work very closely with the Iraqi Government, Prime Minister Maliki will be here in the coming days, and we’ll continue talking to folks about it going forward.

QUESTION: Is this likely a subject that you will discuss with the Maliki Government?

MS. HARF: Counterterrorism in general? Absolutely. We discuss is all the time with the Iraqis.

QUESTION: But you do agree that the camps of the Islamic State of Iraq in Sham are going all over the place in Iraq, and they’re attacking --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly --

QUESTION: -- more boldly, right?

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly said that the terrorist attacks in Iraq have increased significantly, that it’s of increasing concern to us – very serious concern to us. I’m sure this will be a topic of conversation when they come to Washington.

QUESTION: Okay. Wouldn’t the using drones be effective against these terrorists?

MS. HARF: Again, we make decisions on counterterrorism differently everywhere and the Iraqi Government we work very closely with to help them increase their counterterrorism capability.

QUESTION: Change subject?

QUESTION: Marie – no, no, no.

QUESTION: Drones, drones.

MS. HARF: Yeah, I’ll come to you next. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: So what is your answer to Pakistan Prime Minister’s request that U.S. should end drone strikes? Is that a yes or no?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think it’s that easy of a question, although I appreciate it. (Laughter.) Look, we talk all the time with the Pakistanis about a number of issues. You saw Secretary Kerry host Prime Minister Sharif for dinner. They talked a lot about economic issues, energy, education, a lot of the things that Prime Minister Sharif ran on or are very important to him. Counterterrorism’s a shared threat; we’ll continue talking about it with them going forward.

QUESTION: Marie.

QUESTION: But it looks like your answer is no to them.

MS. HARF: I don’t think I answered yes or no. It’s just more complicated than that.

QUESTION: But does Pakistan need to do anything for the U.S. to stop drone strikes?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have an answer to that question for you. What I will say is that we value our partnership with the Pakistani Government very much. We appreciate the conversations we’ve been having with Prime Minister Sharif about a host of issues. The visit’s been going very well. Certainly, Secretary Kerry was happy to meet with him just a few days ago.

QUESTION: You said earlier that you have a shared threat with Pakistan on counterterrorism.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Pakistan is also asking for a – carrying these drone operations jointly. Do you consider those proposals?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to comment on specifics – operations anywhere. I don’t think I just don’t think I’m going to do that. But counterterrorism in general is a topic we’ll continue talking about.

QUESTION: Can you offer an explanation as to why there is such a wide gap in the numbers that – collected by nongovernmental organizations and yourself?

MS. HARF: I don’t – it’s a good question, Matt. I don’t know if I have a good answer for it. I’m happy to check with our folks.

QUESTION: How about any answer?

MS. HARF: Well, let me check in with our folks and see if I can get more.

QUESTION: Why --

MS. HARF: What we would --

QUESTION: But why do you think – presumably, they’re getting these things from open source – i.e. witnesses on the ground that they’ve gone and interviewed.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You refuse to talk about exactly what your sources and methods are for determining these casualties --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- and then you say that you don’t want to hide behind the – behind the veneer of classification, yet that’s exactly what you’re doing.

MS. HARF: But then the second half of my sentence was but there will be times when we can’t talk about everything publicly. So --

QUESTION: But you’re not talking – you’re not saying anything about this publicly. And if you could --

MS. HARF: What I said is, we have a variety of sources --

QUESTION: Why are your sources better?

MS. HARF: Can I finish my sentence before you ask a follow-up?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Thank you. What I am saying is that we have a variety of sources. Obviously, the intelligence community has all source analysts. They look at a variety of different sources when they make assessments. That all goes into assessments of civilian casualties, which is much more than just one piece of that, right? That’s much more than just talking to folks on the ground who may not have been there at the time of a certain operation, who may not have full information into it. We take a full, holistic picture of what happened before and after such operations to make determinations about these things. So it’s a much more complete picture than any one nongovernmental organization would likely have on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. This is two nongovernmental organizations.

MS. HARF: Or two.

QUESTION: Two organizations which you have held up in the past as conducting accurate and credible reports on things like in Syria.

MS. HARF: Every situation is different.

QUESTION: Oh, so they just don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to drones in Pakistan?

MS. HARF: We evaluate every report separately. We don’t make blanket statements about organizations reports before seeing them. That would seem to be a little unreasonable.

QUESTION: No, well here, what’s unreasonable, I think, is you refusing to say what your – if you have an argument with a number of casualties, refusing to say what it is, what the discrepancy is and why your information is somehow better than these two --

MS. HARF: Well, I think I just made a case for why it’s better, that it’s more complete, it’s more comprehensive. It takes --

QUESTION: Yeah, and you think the U.S. Government track record on things like this is laudable? Is that your position?

MS. HARF: What I’m saying, Matt, is that – I don’t know what you’re referring to specifically, but what I’m saying is --

QUESTION: I can think of any number of times when the U.S. Government reports of after-action military operations have been, if not wrong, if not absolutely wrong, that they – that there have been major problems with them in terms of their accuracy.

MS. HARF: Well, all I can speak to --

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering if you can say – if you’re saying, which I think you are, that these reports from Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are inaccurate when it comes to the number of civilian casualties, why it is they are inaccurate and what the accurate --

MS. HARF: Because they don’t have a complete picture.

QUESTION: And what – you have a monopoly on the accurate picture?

MS. HARF: I think I just made a very clear argument. The fact that the intelligence community has a lot of streams of information it gets – some classified, some from very sensitive platforms, and ways of getting information across the board. We all know the different sources of intelligence that our analysts look at every day. That’s a much more complete picture than any one or two groups would have just from talking to folks on the ground.

We take a complete look at all of the different sources of information we get in the intelligence community, evaluate it, and make a judgment about civilian casualties. That’s definitely, just from a standpoint of getting more information, a variety of sources just like you all do in your reporting, not relying on any one source for anything. It’s exactly the same.

QUESTION: Well, do you think that these human rights groups relied on one source?

MS. HARF: They don’t have, of course, access to all of the information from classified sources and methods that the intelligence community would that we use in terms of evaluating the number of civilian casualties. Absolutely. I think that’s just a fact.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t think that eyewitnesses that they speak to are reliable, that you think that your own --

MS. HARF: I think – I don’t want to make a blanket statement. I’m sure some are, but it’s not a complete picture is what I’m saying.

QUESTION: The other thing is that it --

QUESTION: But to follow your logic to its extreme, no nongovernmental organization could ever then arrive at an accurate picture of civilian casualties because no nongovernmental organization would ever be in possession of the kind of classified sources and methods that you’re alluding to.

MS. HARF: I don’t want to make a blanket statement, James, but obviously, I would argue that we have a more complete picture, of course, than other folks do. For reasons I think I’ve laid out, some of that has to remain classified.

QUESTION: You think that you have a more complete picture about what has happened in a remote part of Pakistan where you’re using drones precisely because you can’t get people in there than human rights groups that talk to witnesses on the ground, villagers, et cetera? You think that your information is more accurate than theirs?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Even though you have no access to these areas?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to comment on any specific areas or operations --

QUESTION: All right. The --

MS. HARF: -- but yes, we do believe our numbers are more accurate.

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Hold on a second. I just want to – one more thing. You said that the President, on his second day in office, came in and said --

MS. HARF: Second full day.

QUESTION: -- second full day, whatever – and said that – were there any secret prisons actually open at that time?

MS. HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: There were not, I believe. Although he did not close them, they were closed already. Second thing is that he didn’t say he would --

MS. HARF: But let me double-check on that, Matt.

QUESTION: He didn’t – okay.

MS. HARF: Let me double-check on that.

QUESTION: He didn’t say he would work to close Guantanamo; he said he would close Guantanamo.

MS. HARF: And we’re still committed to that.

QUESTION: But you said he would – you said that he said he would work to close Guantanamo. He actually said that he would close Guantanamo, and it hasn’t been closed.

MS. HARF: And we’re still committed to closing it. Our policy hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: All right. But you’re – everything that you’re basing your response to this – to these reports today is – almost everything – is a five-month old speech that the President gave before these reports were --

MS. HARF: A speech about operations that the reports referenced, and a speech, quite frankly, that has gone farther and been more forward-leaning than anything we’ve ever heard out of this government on the use of drones, period.

QUESTION: So you’re comfortable using five-month – his words from five months ago as a response to reports that came out today?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Marie --

QUESTION: Not to belabor the issue, Marie --

MS. HARF: And if we have more of a response as we take a look at them --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- we’re happy to provide it as well.

QUESTION: Marie, not to belabor the issue --

QUESTION: Marie, I’m confused.

MS. HARF: Wait, Said.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MS. HARF: Let me go up here and then I’ll come to you.

QUESTION: I’m a little confused. If you say that your figures are more accurate, then why won’t you give them?

MS. HARF: Because the way we get them would inherently reveal classified sources and methods that we need to keep being able to do counterterrorism operations in the future.

QUESTION: But the CIA – and I have the report here – said before that it’s – that the number is low.

MS. HARF: We – I mean, obviously, we – if I said we – I quoted the President saying that there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can set. I think, clearly, that would point to it being a low number. I’m just not going to characterize it any further than that.

QUESTION: Why do you think that Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch can be accurate on Syria or more accurate on Syria, say, than, let’s say, a Yemeni --

MS. HARF: Every situation is different, Said.

QUESTION: But – no, no. I mean, on these organizations --

MS. HARF: Every situation is different.

QUESTION: Have you gauged their conduct in these two different places?

MS. HARF: Every situation’s --

QUESTION: Did you compare their activities and what methodology they use, let’s say, in Yemen versus Syria?

MS. HARF: We don’t – it’s not a comparison, right? It’s taking a look at an individual report --

QUESTION: No, but you did --

MS. HARF: -- and seeing if we agree or disagree with the specificity included in it.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Every report we look at individually, and we treat as such.

QUESTION: And so you think that whatever they report from Syria is somehow more accurate than what they report from Pakistan?

MS. HARF: I – again, every report everywhere is different.

QUESTION: I’m trying to understand.

MS. HARF: Some are more accurate than others. They have better access everywhere.

QUESTION: Can we change subjects?

MS. HARF: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Well, hold on. What does that mean, “They have better access everywhere”?

MS. HARF: In places around the world, everybody – I mean, it just seems to be a sort of basic fact that every report is different, every place is different, operating conditions are different, and we’ll evaluate the accuracy of each report on a case-by-case basis. That seems like the prudent thing to do.

QUESTION: Right. Isn’t what you’re really saying that when one of these groups issues a report that you agree with or that you think supports your policy, you will go out of your way to mention it and say how wonderful and credible it is, but when they issue a report that finds fault or that criticizes --

MS. HARF: Not at all, Matt.

QUESTION: -- U.S. policy, then you’re --

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: No? Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m just going to stand up here and tell you what the facts are --

QUESTION: Well, that’s – we will go through --

MS. HARF: -- and you can make that kind of assertion, but I think it’s patently false.

QUESTION: We will go through reports – patently false?

MS. HARF: Patently false, Matt, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let’s move on.

QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- we now have the benefit of the remarks by Secretary of State Kerry earlier today and also the remarks of White House Press Secretary Carney. What seems to me unaddressed in these remarks and what I’d like to ask you is whether, simply as a factual matter, the Saudis through any means or at any level have conveyed to the United States that Riyadh is going to cooperate with us less in one area or another. Have we received such a message from the Saudis?

MS. HARF: What I can tell you is that was not part of the discussion Secretary Kerry had yesterday with Saud al-Faisal, I think their over two-hour lunch in London. They had a productive, and, by all accounts of our team on the road who I just spoke to, an enjoyable meeting on both sides, again, more than two hours yesterday afternoon over lunch. That was not a part of their discussion. As you know, they have a warm friendship, and even during moments of disagreement, have always found ways to have honest and open discussions.

QUESTION: However, I did not ask you about the contents of yesterday’s lunch.

MS. HARF: Well, that’s the contents of our discussions with the Saudis. Obviously, that’s the most recent discussion yesterday.

QUESTION: With respect to the Secretary’s unique stature, he is not the only U.S. official with whom the Saudis might stand to be in contact.

MS. HARF: A fair point, yes.

QUESTION: And so my question to you stands: Have the Saudis conveyed to us, in any form or fashion at any level, through any means, that Riyadh intends to cooperate with us less in one or in other areas?

MS. HARF: Let me check on “any level at any means”. That’s a fairly blanket statement. Not to my knowledge has that message been sent to the State Department by the Saudis. Obviously, we talked about some of the challenging issues that we want to confront together. I would remind people we share the same goals, whether it’s Syria, Egypt, Iran.

But you asked a blanket statement, and I always hesitate to make blanket answers, but to my knowledge, that’s not been the message that the Saudis have been giving to us.

QUESTION: And is it your understanding that they have conveyed that message to other governments?

MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to that. I would probably defer to the Saudis or those other governments, but if I have anything else to share, I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: And both Secretary Kerry and Press Secretary Carney today spoke in somewhat vague terms in saying that, as with any other ally, when there are difficulties, we seek to work through them. What are the present difficulties with the Saudis for us?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’m probably not going to go into all of the private diplomatic discussions. I would say two things to that. The first is that we’re working together on some challenging issues, and like I said, we share the same goals, whether it’s ending the civil war in Syria, getting back to a democratic government in Egypt, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The question of how you get there on all of these issues is what we’re working through right now with the Saudis and our other international partners. I’m probably not going to go into more detail than that about what those discussions entail. I think you’re all probably familiar with them, or at least the contours of them, but that’s what we’re debating and discussing with them right now.

QUESTION: So is this a serious rupture?

MS. HARF: No. The fundamental relationship and partnership with the Saudis is a strong one. We value their efforts on a wide range of issues. Yesterday, the Secretary was talking about Middle East peace. The Saudis have played a key role in that effort through the API, play a key role in Syria, on Egypt, on Iran, certainly. So I would not in any ways characterize it that way.

QUESTION: So, Marie?

MS. HARF: Said.

QUESTION: The statements by Prince Bandar do not change the fundamental – and the relationship between the United States and --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- Saudi Arabia? One where the U.S. guarantees the protection of the Saudi royal family, and in exchange, the Saudis would guarantee the flow of oil?

MS. HARF: I think that’s your definition of our relationship with the Saudi Government --

QUESTION: I mean, that has been --

MS. HARF: -- one that I’m not going to sign onto.

QUESTION: No, it’s not my definition. I mean, that’s the way it’s been --

MS. HARF: Well, I – it’s certainly not my definition.

QUESTION: Okay. So there’s been no change whatsoever. Do you consider the statements by Prince Bandar to be sort of out of the mainstream of Saudi royal family?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize. Prince Bandar can speak for himself and can address his own comments. I don’t think I need to speak for him here. But what I will say is the Saudis are a key partner on the most important challenges we face in the Middle East today.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: That hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: In the meeting yesterday, there was also present the Saudi Ambassador to the United States of America.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was there also present the Saudi Ambassador to France?

MS. HARF: I don't know the answer to that question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I can try and find out. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Pardon me. When you say Prince Bandar can speak about his own comments, which comments are you referring to?

MS. HARF: I think he was referring to a Wall Street Journal story --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- if I’m correct. Yeah.

QUESTION: Comments that Prince Bandar himself made?

MS. HARF: I don't know.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Is that what you’re referring to, Said?

QUESTION: Well, yeah. Prince Bandar --

MS. HARF: I would say on any comments Prince Bandar’s made, he can speak for himself.

QUESTION: Could --

QUESTION: No, he’s – Matt, if I may – I mean, he said that you have not come through on your promises towards Syria, you have not come through on your promises towards Palestine, you have not come through on your promises towards Iran.

MS. HARF: Again, he can speak for his own comments.

QUESTION: I mean, he just – he laid out a whole list of charges.

MS. HARF: Again, we work with Prince Bandar and other Saudis all the time. And yesterday, the Secretary had an over two-hour meeting with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, where it was a good, productive meeting. We had an API meeting yesterday, where we talked about how to move forward on Middle East peace. Those conversations continue.

QUESTION: So do you believe those comments by Prince Bandar denote some sort of differences within the royal family?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to do internal Kremlinology, right? Am I saying that right?

QUESTION: Yeah, Kremlinology.

MS. HARF: Kremlinology of the Saudi royal family from here.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. HARF: Again, I’m happy to let them speak for their own comments.

QUESTION: -- Marie, perhaps then you can just say – do you agree with the comments attributed to Prince Bandar?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize his comments in any way. I think I’ll let him explain them.

QUESTION: But – well, no, no. I’m not asking you to explain them. I’m asking you, do you --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to take a position on them.

QUESTION: Do you – so you have no position on whether the comments attributed to him are correct?

MS. HARF: I am going to let him speak for himself. What I said is that we share the same goals of the Saudi Government, of which Prince Bandar is still a part, about what – where we need to go in Syria, where we need to go in Egypt, where we need to go in Middle East peace. The discussions we’re all having is how we get there. These are complicated issues.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. HARF: If they weren’t, they would have been resolved decades ago, right.

QUESTION: But that – well, yeah. Well, that seems to be the standard answer for everything that’s been a failure in policy, right? Middle East peace, Syria, it goes on and on. But the point of – the point is that we’re not asking you to clarify Prince Bandar’s remarks. You’re just being asked if you --

MS. HARF: You asked me to comment on them.

QUESTION: Well, right. And you’re more than happy to comment and say that Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch are dead wrong when it comes to drones, but then when something comes up like this, do you think that Prince Bandar has a point in the comments attributed to him that they were disappointed over the Administration’s position or actions as it relates to Syria?

MS. HARF: My only comment on Prince Bandar’s comments is to say we work closely with the Saudi Government, including Prince Bandar, on this host of issues.

QUESTION: Do you believe that he has a personal grudge?

QUESTION: Marie, could you please comment on --

MS. HARF: Hold on, Said. Hold on. Let me go to Jill.

QUESTION: Could you please comment on something that the Secretary said? This morning he said, “We know that the Saudis were obviously disappointed that the strike didn’t take place and have questions about some of the other things that may be happening in the region.” So is that strike Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And if that is correct --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that they discussed it, can you characterize the discussion? I mean, did the Saudis say, “We are disappointed,” and the Secretary defended the lack of action?

MS. HARF: Well, I think – I can check and see if I have more of a specific readout from that meeting, from those discussions. What I said is that, look, we have discussions about how to get to the final goal here. In Syria, we know that we need to end the civil war, and specifically on the chemical weapons, need to destroy their chemical weapons stockpile. How we got there was something we’ve been discussing with the Saudis and others for months. The Secretary referred to one of those discussions. Obviously, his words stand. And we’ll keep having those as we go with the Saudis and others.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the --

QUESTION: Can I ask about something else the Secretary said in his conversation --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- yesterday in Paris at lunch? According to the readout that came afterwards, he mentioned that he believed that the Saudis would be stronger if they were inside the UN Security Council. And I just wonder, we – last week, you refused to characterize – you said it was up the Saudis, it was their decision. Obviously, Secretary Kerry has taken a position. Is the United States now asking or pushing or pressing or desirous of the fact that the Saudis should, in fact, take up this seat on the UN Security Council?

MS. HARF: Well, those two positions actually aren’t mutually exclusive. It is up to the Saudis, it is up to every country. We believe the Security Council is an important forum for addressing international security issues, obviously. We saw that recently when we talked about their action on Syria’s CW program. So obviously, it’s up to the Saudis. The Secretary made his position clear, but it’s up to them whether or not they will eventually take a seat.

QUESTION: But you’re not actually actively pushing them to do so, then?

MS. HARF: I think I’ll let the Secretary’s words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Marie, I wanted to – I don’t know if you want to answer this, but do you think the flamboyant Prince Bandar, who is well known in Washington and had excellent relationships with the previous administrations, has a personal grudge against this Administration?

MS. HARF: Said.

QUESTION: I’m serious. I’m asking you a serious question, if you are going to answer.

MS. HARF: We work with Prince Bandar very closely, as a number of U.S. administrations of both parties have. He’s been well known to Washington for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations, and we’ll continue working with him and his other counterparts on the Saudi side as well.

QUESTION: A general question about this potential (inaudible) coming from Saudis. You used exactly the same word last week when we were discussing some differences between U.S. Administration and Turkey. Then the Journal and The Washington Post pieces appeared on the chief of intelligence service.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said that, yeah, we’ll keep working closely with Turks. So for --

MS. HARF: That’s true in both cases.

QUESTION: I mean, yes. But I mean, Turks also have some concerns about this new approach – the approach of U.S. Administration to the region, especially to the – some finding that they tried to find a solution with UN. Is this the cost of this new shift of the U.S. Government on – in terms of the relations in Middle East?

MS. HARF: No, not at all. Look, these are complicated issues and there’s a lot of players here. I would note when you talk about disagreements, I would point today, actually, to the London 11 meeting – a joint communique from all 11 members, including the Turks, including a number of our – I’m just going through the list here – including the Saudis, all signing on for the way forward on Geneva 2 in Syria. So I know it’s tempting to highlight where there may be some ongoing debate and disagreement or discussion, but there’s also – again, the goals we agree to, and today you just saw a very detailed communique outlining how we get to Geneva 2 and what needs to come out of it. So there are many more areas where we agree and where we’re working together than where we disagree.

QUESTION: It just seems to me, Marie, that you’re asking us to accept a – on its face, something that seems illogical, which is that the Prince would make these kinds of comments to The Wall Street Journal, but they would not in any form or fashion have been conveyed to the Department of State.

MS. HARF: Again, I said I would check any form or fashion. That’s not what I’m hearing out of our folks there. Look, we – these are tough issues that we’re going to keep talking about. The fact that this was not conveyed during a two-and-a-half-hour lunch yesterday between the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, I think, should say something, and I think is important.

Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Isn’t Syria at it’s main breaking point, do you think, in terms of --

MS. HARF: I don’t think there’s a breaking point.

QUESTION: Because I mean, it’s--

MS. HARF: I’m going to disagree with the premise of your question.

QUESTION: No, I mean, because there are some indications coming from U.S. Administration that this kind of disengagement process has started in terms of your approach to Syria, especially --

MS. HARF: Disengagement?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I would again disagree with the premise of your question. We – the Secretary just today met with 10 other partners at the London 11 and the Syrian opposition to talk about indeed the way forward towards Geneva 2. We’re making progress. We’re still tracking towards late November, I think, for Geneva 2. So I think we’re very much engaged in getting to a political solution here, absolutely.

QUESTION: Different – a kind of different engagement, actually. Maybe you are still engaged with Syria, but before, for example, the – a senior administration official confirmed yesterday in a phone call that some part of the nonlethal aids is stopped in northern Syria to moderate Islamic groups because of some practically problems --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- in terms of the closed border gates.

MS. HARF: But that does – that’s not a – look, we remain incredibly committed to providing humanitarian aid. We’re the largest donor of humanitarian aid around the world to Syria. There are logistical challenges to get this aid through during an ongoing civil war. That doesn’t mean we’re not committed to or disengaging; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We know there’s a dire need, particularly going into the winter months, to continue getting this aid to places all throughout Syria. But it’s hard; it’s a challenge.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah. I got one just on the communique, which I was just looking at now.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s a thing down here at the bottom, it’s one of the small points. It says --

MS. HARF: Let me pull out the communique here.

QUESTION: “Instructions must be given to Syrian embassies to deliver and renew passports to Syrian citizens without discrimination.” And it just reminded me of the situation --

MS. HARF: This is literally the third to last line.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: That’s good.

QUESTION: It just reminded of the situation with the embassy here. Is it now staffed? Is there some – remember there was that situation --

MS. HARF: I do.

QUESTION: -- where the guy was coming and then --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but his visa had been revoked.

MS. HARF: I remember that, yes.

QUESTION: Have you allowed anyone to open the Syrian Embassy here so that it can do things like this?

MS. HARF: Let me check. I don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Earlier this month, the L.A. Times quoted Under Secretary Sherman saying in a Senate briefing that, quote, “Deception is part of the DNA of the Iranian leadership.” It’s only now picking up in Iranian media and Foreign Minister Zarif has condemned this remark. Do you have a response to that, or can you clarify what she may have meant?

MS. HARF: No, thank you for the question. I will make a couple points on that. I think first that doubtless each side has said things that have offended the other side over the last, what, thirty years now, and each side has commented publicly on its inability to trust the other side. I think focusing on those things that divide us really isn’t going to get us anywhere. We have a lot of work to do. We were in Geneva, as you know, last week, and I think the Iran delegation and the American delegation, led by Under Secretary Sherman, began to understand each other in ways – new ways during this last round of the P5+1 talks. In addition, their bilateral meeting, which was the first, I think, since 2009 between the U.S. and Iran, which we hope will continue as we go forward with the P5+1, will help, I think, set aside those years of mistrust and really start a – more of a direct dialogue.

QUESTION: So are you saying she misspoke?

MS. HARF: No, no. Not at all. The President in his UNGA speech said that there are decades and a long history of mistrust. This mistrust has deep roots, and we don’t think it can be overcome overnight, but we made some progress last week in Geneva, and we hope to continue making progress, including with additional bilateral meetings going forward.

QUESTION: Well, there is a difference between deep mistrust and saying that deception is in their DNA. If it’s in their DNA, that means they can’t ever change. Right?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I guess I don’t have any further comment on that than this. We --

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: -- had good meetings last week.

QUESTION: I --

MS. HARF: Under Secretary Sherman had a good bilateral meeting with her Iranian counterparts and we believe we began to make process and hope to continue to do so.

QUESTION: Maybe this is something that stem cells can fix, yeah? Can you explain – Under Secretary Sherman, when she made those comments on the Hill, was talking specifically about President Rouhani in his previous capacity as an – as the Iranian nuclear negotiator when she said deception runs in the DNA.

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve made a lot of comments about --

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: -- President Rouhani over the past --

QUESTION: Do you not --

MS. HARF: -- few weeks and, I think, months at this point.

QUESTION: So you don’t believe that President Rouhani is genetically incapable of being not deceptive? Do you – is that correct?

MS. HARF: We have said repeatedly over the last few weeks and months that President Rouhani – that we are encouraged by the words he said. We are encouraged with his conversation with President Obama. We’re encouraged by Foreign Minister Zarif’s conversations that he had with the Secretary and then at the P5+1. We also have said coming out of the P5+1 that there – this was a new level of seriousness, this was a new level of specificity in these talks that we have never seen before. That’s what we’re focused on and that’s what we’re focused on going forward.

QUESTION: So Under Secretary Sherman’s comment was not meant to imply that President Rouhani is genetically incapable of telling the truth or being --

MS. HARF: In no way. We’ve been very clear that we appreciate some of the – many of the things President Rouhani has said, that we appreciate the tone coming out of him and the rest of the Iranian delegation to the P5+1, and hope to continue that tone going forward.

QUESTION: And the Iranians, have they done anything to reassure you in deed, not only in words, (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you. I know we’ve talked a lot about what happened at the P5+1, and we’re looking forward to the talks on the 7th and 8th in Geneva and an experts meeting between now and then.

QUESTION: No, I mean in terms of (inaudible) Iran, so to speak, speaking – talking with the opposition, if there is such an – if there is an opposition, in terms of human rights and civil rights and so on. Have they done anything that sort of reassures you on their (inaudible) as well as in the words?

MS. HARF: Well, again, that’s separate from the P5+1. Right?

QUESTION: Right, separate. Right.

MS. HARF: That’s all about the nuclear program. On the issues you’re asking about, we’ve talked in this room a little bit about the fact – I think I did this a few weeks ago when there had been some folks who had been released from prison. I noted that a couple weeks ago. Also, we’ve made it clear when we still have issues with either Americans that are still detained there or other issues of human rights in Iran, so we’ll continue talking about those as they arise.

QUESTION: So they have taken some steps to engender your trust, right?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: They have taken some steps to engender your trust?

MS. HARF: Again, we had – on the nuclear issue, at the P5+1 we had helpful discussions, and we hope those will continue.

QUESTION: So are you aware of this American pastor who has been apparently arrested in Iran from – this guy from Los Angeles, or southern California?

MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have on him. We are aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Iran, and due to privacy considerations, have no further comment or detail at this time.

QUESTION: Due to privacy considerations, because you have attempted to get his signature on a Privacy Act Waiver, you don’t know where he is? Do you have --

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything further.

QUESTION: Do you know if you have gotten in touch with the Swiss about this case?

MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to that. And again, due to privacy considerations, can’t talk any more about his specific case.

QUESTION: Well, I think you can say at least that much, so it would be good if you could find out if you have --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure that I can actually say more than that, but let me double check and see what I can do.

QUESTION: Well, if you’ve had – ask the Swiss to check with the Iranian authorities about the status of the – of this person --

MS. HARF: I’m just not sure because of privacy considerations. I, unfortunately, have no further comment.

QUESTION: Well, you’re – I’m going to raise this again and again and again, just so you know.

MS. HARF: We’re going to – I’m happy for the head’s up, Matt.

QUESTION: Can I change, unless someone else wants to change first?

MS. HARF: Well, let me go to Scott first, then I’ll come back to you, Matt.

QUESTION: Yep. That’s fine.

MS. HARF: Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: On Congo. Last week, Jen – we asked Jen about Russ Feingold being in Kampala --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for those talks, and she said that further delays to those talks would be counterproductive and it’s time to demonstrate commitment to a peaceful resolution.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It would appear that there have been further delays, so what’s – is the U.S. still pursuing that process?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. So I actually understand that negotiations will continue today in Kampala between the D.R.C. Government and the M23 rebel group in an effort to resolve the outstanding issues of amnesty, reintegration, and the modalities for the M23’s demobilization. The Kampala talks have not been suspended – I know there’s been some reporting out there on this – nor have they failed. Again, I said they’re resuming today. We commend the parties for their continued commitment to peacefully resolving the crisis and urge them to sign a comprehensive and principled agreement within the next week.

QUESTION: Can I follow on with more Africa questions?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I have two here. The one is that the African Union and Kenya have asked the UN Security Council today to defer the trials of the Kenyan leaders at the International Criminal Court for one year so that they can deal with the aftermath of the Nairobi mall attack.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. agree with this?

MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I don’t have an answer for that.

QUESTION: And then I have another on Mozambique --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- where the opposition RENAMO --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- has said that peace deal is over. And how concerned are you? Have you spoken to the Mozambicans on this? I mean, this would be the end of a long period of peace in a country that is now booming economically.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. We are deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence between government security forces and members of opposition party RENAMO. We do welcome the public statements by representatives of both sides who have urged peaceful solutions, and we are encouraging the two parties to take visible and decisive steps to de-escalate the current tense environment. We would reiterate again our appeal for continued dialogue between the parties, conducted in the spirit of good faith, inclusiveness, and openness.

QUESTION: Do you fear that you could see – because today after they tore up supposedly this agreement yesterday, RENAMO attacked a police station in – I think it was in – no, in a town called Maringue. And I just wonder if you sort of see this as a precursor to more violence in the future of Mozambique?

MS. HARF: Well, we are deeply concerned by this violence and by the escalation, and obviously are urging all sides to take steps to move back from the brink and de-escalate what’s been happening. I don’t want to make predictions, but we would certainly encourage the two sides to not continue, and to, in fact, de-escalate down.

QUESTION: And can I – I wanted to change the subject. Can I ask another question, if that’s okay?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you were asked about this little girl in Greece --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- who’s been dubbed the “blonde angel,” and you said you had no information. I believe now, according to some reports, four American families have put in a claim that they – she could be their child. Do you have anything? Have you been in contact with the authorities?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re aware of the press reports I think that you’re referring to that the unaccompanied minor may be a U.S. citizen. At this time, we have no information to indicate that the child is a U.S. citizen. I’d refer you to the Greek Government for more information. I’ll keep checking on it, and if we have an update, I’m happy to share.

QUESTION: Has anybody been in touch with you from the Greek authorities to --

MS. HARF: I can find out. I don’t know the answer. I can find out.

QUESTION: And just one more on that. With the families in the United States who believe that it might be their child, is there – have they approached the State Department? Is anyone asking for help?

MS. HARF: I can find out. I don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: And it would be nice, if – when the answer comes, it doesn’t include the word Privacy Act in it.

MS. HARF: Sometimes that’s actually just the facts, though, Matt.

QUESTION: Just much – but I – you’re going – you’re saying that you’re going to answer these questions, but the – some of them are --

MS. HARF: I’m going to say I’m going to try and find out.

QUESTION: -- clearly would be covered by that.

Anyway, I’m wondering if we can go back to France and the NSA. There’s another story that’s appearing in, I guess, tomorrow’s Le Monde about the U.S. bugging the French Embassy in Washington and inserting spyware into computers at the French UN mission. In – the story also quotes former UN Ambassador Susan Rice as saying that the information that was gleaned from these intercepts was helpful in determining the United States – allowed her to stay one step ahead of negotiations on a Security Council resolution on Iran in at least once instance.

I suppose there’s two ways to look at this. One is that the U.S. does whatever it can do or needs– thinks it needs to do in the pursuit of its own national interests. But the second and more troubling thing is that you are constantly going around the world talking about how the playing field needs to be leveled for people. Isn’t this kind of thing – this kind of revolution just show how – that this is a hypocritical position, and that, in fact, you don’t want a level playing field for the United States or U.S. – for U.S. Government or for U.S. firms, but rather, you want an edge up, you want a leg up – sorry – you want to have an unfair advantage over other countries.

MS. HARF: Well, first, I haven’t seen that story, so I don’t want to comment on the specifics in it. And I’m happy to talk about it tomorrow after I’ve seen it. Second, we’ve been very clear that one of the reasons we talk about international norms, about all playing by the rules is because, indeed, we think there should be a level playing field. The President’s spoken to this at length, whether it’s trade, whether it’s other issues, so in no way I think would I characterize that in any other way. That’s our position. That’s what we believe. That’s why we’ve worked very hard all around the world, including in developing economies, to help bring other countries up to this level playing field. So I would disagree with, I think, the notion of your question.

QUESTION: Well, but you’re trying to – at the same time that you’re calling for this level playing field, you’re also actively trying to get an unfair advantage over other countries.

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen this story. I’m happy to take a look at it.

QUESTION: Well, that’s what the – okay. If you could and if you would --

MS. HARF: I will. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that would be appreciated. I don’t have much hope that you’re going to come back with an answer.

MS. HARF: Maybe I’ll surprise you one of these days. I’ll take a look at it. I just haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yes, in the back. Hold on. Then I’ll come up to you.

QUESTION: On this same issue --

MS. HARF: Wait, let me come up to you, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Sure.

MS. HARF: Let’s go with someone who hasn’t had a question yet.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the statement, which was adopted on Monday in United Nations by 120 countries, saying that nuclear weapons should not be used by any – under any circumstances?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that statement. I’m happy to take a look at it.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to ask you whether you had been told by the French Foreign Ministry that they do want to escalate this issue. Have you been told that recently?

MS. HARF: Have we – by the French Foreign Minister that we’ve been told what, where?

QUESTION: That they don’t want to escalate this spying issue with you.

MS. HARF: Well, I think I would refer you to the --

QUESTION: I think your counterpart --

MS. HARF: -- to the readout. The President spoke with French President Hollande yesterday.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: I would refer you to that readout. They discussed this issue and others, talked about striking this proper balance between security and privacy. Obviously we think it’s important to keep working with the French, who are one of our – if not our oldest, I think, and closest allies.

QUESTION: Can we move to Syria?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Could you update us on – I assume the meeting is over in London, so could you --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. It is. The meeting is over in London.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: The Secretary is en route to Rome, where he’ll be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

QUESTION: Okay. Now the statement by Jarba is that they will not attend the conference. Has there been any change as a result of, let’s say, of the conclusion of the meeting and the press conferences given by the Secretary and by the Foreign Secretary of England?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we certainly urged them to go. We think their participation is pivotal in Geneva 2. And I would refer you again to the communique, which item 5 of it said we urge the National Coalition to commit to the Geneva 2 process. We believe it’s important, and we’ll keep having the discussions with them going forward, and hopefully – I would also point to the fact that on the 31st, I believe, is the Syrian Coalition’s general assembly, where they’ll be making some more decisions about what they look like and their makeup, and hopefully that’ll give us a little more clarity as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Have they told you that they’re meeting in, I guess, in Istanbul on the 1st and the 2nd of November and they are going to decide then? Have they given any kind of indication that they will accept to go to the conference?

MS. HARF: We certainly urge them to, and I don’t want to get ahead of them. That’s certainly our position.

QUESTION: And lastly, could you update us on the discussions that Deputy Secretary Burns is having in Moscow regarding Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes. Let me see. Let me see what I have on that for you. I believe he’s on his way back, if not back shortly. He was there holding meetings with government and nongovernmental interlocutors. During the visit, he met with the Head of the Presidential Administration Sergei Ivanov, the Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor Yuri – I’m going to just butcher all these names, I’m sorry – Ushakov, the First Deputy Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, and a whole host of other folks, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov.

The Deputy Secretary and his Russian counterpart discussed a broad array of subjects related to the U.S.-Russian relationship and global security issues, including Syria, and steps our governments could take to revitalize the trade and investment relationship between our two countries. He also met with members of the American business community and met with some civil society representatives as well.

QUESTION: Did anything come up on Snowden?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I can – I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Just one last on Syria?

MS. HARF: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any date yet for Geneva 2?

MS. HARF: No. We’re still tracking towards I think late November, but no date is officially set yet.

QUESTION: Just another thing on Syria. Does the U.S. believe that you can go ahead with a conference without the participation of the opposition?

MS. HARF: Well, look, that’s not where we are. We believe their participation’s pivotal. We think we’re going to get to a good place with this, and obviously that’s what we’re working towards right now.

QUESTION: A quick question.

QUESTION: Can you go without the participation of the regime? I don’t know if you’ve seen – saw comments yesterday from President Assad that he didn’t think the time is right yet for a Geneva conference.

MS. HARF: Well, we want to have the conference when the time makes sense. That’s what we’re talking with the Russians and the UN about. I don’t want to sort of get ahead of participation, but obviously we believe we need to get the parties to the table to get a transitional government.

QUESTION: Could I ask a quick question on the West Bank? This is olive harvest season, and the settlers have been uprooting and burning trees to the tune of hundreds if not – dozens if not hundreds of trees at this season. Are you using your influence and leverage with the Israeli Government to stop these actions, as they do not help the ongoing negotiations?

MS. HARF: I can check, Said. I don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:42 p.m.)

DPB # 174



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.