1:47 p.m. EDT
First, on our Free the Press campaign, we have a couple folks we’re highlighting today, two cases – one from Cuba and one from Sudan.
The first from Cuba: Roberto de Jesus Guerra is the director of Hablemos Press, one of Cuba’s embattled independent press outlets. Government security forces have detained Guerra over 100 times for his work to share information on human rights conditions on the island. Independent press remains illegal in Cuba despite Cuba’s signature to UN and international standards. Journalists working there have been routinely harassed and detained. Their reporters often face confiscations of equipment and documents, as he did on April 4th upon his return to the island after testifying before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
We call on the Government of Cuba to cease arbitrary short-term detentions, at times with violence, and to silence independent voices and unduly restrict freedom of expression and of the press. Obviously, those are all things we want them to stop doing.
The second case is from Sudan. Osman Shabona is a journalist who was banned from writing in September 2013 by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service following his reporting on the government’s decision to lift fuel subsidies, a decision that led to large-scale protests. During the protest, the government arrested scores of journalists, blocked internet access, and closed newspapers and television stations. In Sudan, press freedom continues to be under assault.
In his January 27th and April 6, 2014 call for a national dialogue, Sudan’s President Bashir publicly pledged to increase freedom of the press. We encourage and urge him to honor his public pledges to do so.
Two more quick items at the top. A travel update for Secretary Kerry: Today, he’s in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he has had a host of meetings with Ethiopian Government and African Union officials. He also met with the Ugandan, Ethiopian, and Kenyan foreign ministers to discuss efforts to work together to end the violence in South Sudan. Additionally, this afternoon, he met with AU deputy chairperson and commissioners, the AU economic experts, and the AU African security experts.
Finally, Secretary Kerry and the Ethiopian health minister visited the Gandhi Hospital, where he toured the antiretroviral therapy – or ART – clinic, and met with treatment recipients. The hospital’s clinic is in part funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as well as USAID, the latter through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or, of course, PEPFAR.
There’s no men allowed in the front row today. You missed my – missed me saying that. I’m just – I’m not done yet.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I was on the – oh.
MS. HARF: I have one more thing.
QUESTION: I was on the phone. Sorry, Marie.
MS. HARF: One more item at the top on China: The United States condemns the horrific and despicable acts of violence against innocent civilians at the train station in Urumqi in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. We offer our condolences and sympathies to the victims, their families, and all of those affected by this tragedy.
QUESTION: I’m going to --
QUESTION: I’m going to defer to Elise because she wanted the first question.
MS. HARF: Oh.
QUESTION: I have to – actually have to leave, so --
MS. HARF: Okay. And I was a little late, so it is my fault.
QUESTION: Thank you. Yes, if we could work on that. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Go – (laughter) --
QUESTION: I’d like to ask about these Benghazi documents that have been released by Judicial Watch, particularly this email from Ben Rhodes at the White House that emphasize – that suggest that Ambassador Rice – then-Ambassador Rice talk about the protests, emphasize the protests in her speaking engagements.
And the implication was that if Jay Carney said at the White House that this was part of a larger issue about protests, why did the State Department release those documents for the FOIA request in relation to the Benghazi matter if, as Jay Carney said, this had nothing to do with Benghazi?
MS. HARF: Well, my colleague is correct. This was an email with general top lines on our foreign policy, including the Arab Spring, and the word “protest” referred to the protests we saw all over the region. As you know, and we’ve talked about a lot, there was a separate Benghazi talking point-- way those talking points got done. The reason they were released under Freedom of Information Act is because – and I have the email in front of me, which is what I’m looking at – there was one Q&A that referenced the Benghazi attack. So in an effort to be responsive under the FOIA request for Benghazi-related documents, it’s mentioned, so it was included.
QUESTION: Why wasn’t it released, then, at the time, when all these documents were released related to Benghazi, if at this time you took that measure?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been – as we’ve gone through the documents, that we have been providing them to Congress, huge amounts of them. This document has been as well, fully unredacted, which I think there might have been some confusion out there among some outlets about how this document was provided to Congress. So we’ve been working with Congress and responding separately through the Freedom of Information Act.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that Congress has had this document for some time?
MS. HARF: No, just recently as part of our ongoing effort to go through all of the documents we have and continuously provide them if we find them. Again, we’ve provided tens of thousands of documents to Congress.
QUESTION: I understand. So in those tens of thousands of documents that you’ve found, you just found this one?
MS. HARF: Again, we’re going through them. It takes a while to go through all of them. This – as you know, we release them as we’re done with batches of them to get them to Congress as quickly as we can. This was in the latest batch.
QUESTION: Was the White House involved with you in determining which documents would go to Judicial Watch as part of this FOIA request?
MS. HARF: There’s a specific legal process for FOIA requests that the State Department goes through. I’m not exactly sure who else from other agencies is involved. If there are folks on documents from other agencies, I’m happy to check on that. But there’s a specific FOIA process, very separate from any other processes here.
QUESTION: So are you saying that this document in particular was given to the Congress before it was given to – before it was --
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: -- turned over in the FOIA request.
MS. HARF: I think it was probably given at the same time.
QUESTION: The same time?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: When – which was when?
MS. HARF: I can look and see when the exact date was.
QUESTION: I mean today’s Thursday, right, so --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I think they were given to Judicial Watch a little before they actually put them out publically. We responded to the FOIA request, I think, as of --
QUESTION: Well, that was two days ago, right?
MS. HARF: That’s when Judicial Watch put them out --
MS. HARF: -- but we provided them to Judicial Watch, I think, a week and a half or two weeks ago.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- you think that roughly, that’s the same time that you gave it – that you gave this document to Congress?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.
QUESTION: Not on that email, but on this issue, you saw the testimony this morning?
MS. HARF: I saw parts of it.
QUESTION: The general testified that the military could have done more, but they hadn’t been asked to, and that if the State Department had been more forceful or more interested in having – in getting a military response, it could have, and it might have made a difference in what happened. Can you respond to that?
MS. HARF: Well, I’ll respond in a couple ways. First, using the words of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who I think is a couple levels above the gentleman that is now retired who testified today, when Martin Dempsey told Congress last year, “There simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.” The top military officer in our country, I think, probably has a good sense for where our assets are.
I think there’s this false premise out there that some have used for political purposes there’s a notion that anywhere in the world, military assets should be less than an hour away. Our military is the best in the world and we’re great, but that just isn’t how the world works. And the notion that we at the State Department didn’t do everything we could do to protect our people that night is just disgusting, quite frankly.
And I would note one more point, and then I’m sure you have follow-ups, that there were multiple assets deployed to Benghazi that night, including a six-man annex team, a Predator UAV, a seven-person security team from Tripoli, and a Marine fast platoon as well. So the notion that the military assets that were available were not deployed also isn’t borne out by the facts.
QUESTION: But --
QUESTION: Well, couldn’t it have been – couldn’t the State Department have made an earlier and more forceful or more urgent request?
MS. HARF: Earlier? What are you talking about, earlier?
QUESTION: Very early on, when it became clear that the –
MS. HARF: That day?
QUESTION: Yes. In which case, General Dempsey, when he says that they wouldn’t have – that had they been able to get there, that it wouldn’t have made any difference – but had there been a request made just as the attack began, would that still be the case? Is that your understanding?
MS. HARF: I am absolutely deferring to not just General Dempsey, but also the Secretary of Defense at the time, Leon Panetta, and others who have said that from the beginning of this attack – a very fast-moving attack, as we’ve said, that we had no advanced warning of – we were in communication with folks back here, with folks at DOD, with other folks about how to respond. There were assets moved, but again, there are not military assets just everywhere around the world --
QUESTION: I understand that.
MS. HARF: -- even in that timeframe that you’re talking about, Matt – that would have made a difference. That’s right.
QUESTION: Right, but when General – well, that’s what General Dempsey said.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What the retired general said this morning was that --
MS. HARF: Retired brigadier general.
QUESTION: Brigadier – well, a brigadier general is still a general, isn’t he?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, yes.
QUESTION: Retired or --
MS. HARF: Different than General Dempsey.
QUESTION: Well, yeah.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But anyway – but he said that you don’t know if it could have made a difference. It might have made a difference.
MS. HARF: Again, I will take the opinion of the nation’s top military official, General Dempsey, who has spoken very clearly – again, “There was simply not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”
QUESTION: Well, I understand --
MS. HARF: I appreciate this gentleman’s point of view and his opinion – the gentleman that was in Stuttgart at the time.
MS. HARF: But again, the opinion of the military by its leader --
QUESTION: Wait a minute. Just let me --
MS. HARF: -- is that it would not have made a difference.
QUESTION: But this general – retired brigadier general said that – was watching, or was following this in real time. Was --
MS. HARF: Had insight into parts of it.
QUESTION: Well, that’s – okay. Well, can you say the same about General Dempsey?
MS. HARF: Our nation’s top military commander?
QUESTION: Well, yeah. I mean, was he following it also, in the same kind of real time and --
MS. HARF: He and Leon Panetta have testified at length about what they were doing and how they were following it. They have spoken about this at length. They were very engaged, yes.
QUESTION: Can I try some?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The implication and what the, I think the committee was trying to bear out and what this retired brigadier general said was that the State Department was at fault – forget about the result, whether there would have been enough time – but that the State Department had not asked for specific help.
MS. HARF: Well, again, I just noted all of these different assets that were deployed to Benghazi that night in a coordination process that played out on the ground. So I’m not sure what they’re referring to, and I’m not sure exactly why they chose to hold another hearing looking at this when they could spend their time focusing on other things.
QUESTION: Not only that – is that the kind of chain – I mean, what is the chain of how the --
MS. HARF: The chain of command?
QUESTION: How does that work? I mean, does the Secretary of State call up Stuttgart and say “deploy some assets” or does she – didn’t Secretary Clinton speak with Secretary Panetta that night and General Dempsey?
MS. HARF: There was a lot of coordination between the State Department and the Defense Department about response to this. And, of course, there’s a military chain of command about how assets get deployed and there are military decisions made about which assets make sense and can help to be deployed. Believe me, again, what you – the committee was getting at was a notion that we at the State Department did not do everything we could, including coordinating with our military colleagues about a possible response. That notion is just not true. It has been repeatedly batted down by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, by other committees, bipartisan committees, who have held multiple hearings, including the House Armed Services Committee.
So while I appreciate this committee’s attempt to continue talking about this issue, really this notion that they were pushing today has been repeatedly proven false.
QUESTION: Well, but it’s not an attempt to keep talking about it. It is – they are still talking about it, and I think the reason --
MS. HARF: Instead of focusing on how to improve embassy security and how to do things better in the future and how to work with Libya to improve their capabilities.
QUESTION: But this retired brigadier general who testified this morning has not spoken to this before before that committee. He has a viewpoint, which you just said you disagree with.
MS. HARF: He has an opinion. He does.
QUESTION: But surely they should be allowed to talk him if they want.
MS. HARF: I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to. What I’m saying is --
QUESTION: Well, I thought you were denigrating the whole – I thought you were saying that the committee is wasting its time and it has better things to do.
MS. HARF: I would never use term. Look, nobody wants to get to the bottom of what happened at Benghazi more than the people at the Department of State. Let me be clear about that.
MS. HARF: My point has always been, look, we can talk about how to continue implementing the ARB, how to make our security better. We can hold hearings on that, and we should, and we should talk about it. But constantly playing politics with this and trying to find somewhere something that they could use for political purposes isn’t the way to address Benghazi --
QUESTION: Well I --
MS. HARF: -- and is exactly what they were doing today in this committee.
QUESTION: All right. Well, I appreciate that you --
MS. HARF: And there’s a difference.
QUESTION: I appreciate that you want to look forward, but --
MS. HARF: And look at what happened and how we can do better based on that.
QUESTION: -- surely Congress has the right to look backward --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- and the whole idea of this --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: I mean, it’s the House --
MS. HARF: And Congress – wait. Congress has looked backward. Hold on, one second.
QUESTION: Well, I know. That’s what you’re --
MS. HARF: Congress has looked backwards with --
QUESTION: You’re accusing them of looking --
MS. HARF: -- with nine hearings. We’ve given 46 briefings.
MS. HARF: They have looked backwards. We – the senior leaders involved in this have testified publicly multiple times on this. While I appreciate the opinion of this gentleman, again --
QUESTION: Who has not testified before, right?
MS. HARF: Fine.
MS. HARF: Fine. And I appreciate his opinion. The senior military commanders involved have. Multiple committees have looked at this and came to the same determination that there was no military asset that wasn’t deployed that could have made a difference.
QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. But this – but I don’t understand why you have a problem with the committee having this guy testify to them, since he hasn’t testified before and he was watching this go – watching what happened go on in real time.
MS. HARF: I mean, there were a number of people watching what happened.
QUESTION: Right. But it’s --
MS. HARF: And my suspicion --
MS. HARF: My suspicion – and I would love for the committee to prove me wrong – is that they have gathered all of the facts based on the ARB, based on nine hearings, multiple briefings, that they’re trying to use this to continue to make it a political issue. That’s my suspicion. I’d love for them to prove me wrong.
QUESTION: Well, okay. Well – but Marie, the problem with that is that they – you say that they’ve heard everything there is to hear, and yet, then this new email surfaces, which --
MS. HARF: Which isn’t an email about Benghazi, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, all right.
MS. HARF: It’s just not about Benghazi.
QUESTION: Taking --
QUESTION: Well, it – you did say that it did have one question about Benghazi.
MS. HARF: It mentions a question, yes. This is not about what happened that night in Benghazi.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, just, respectfully --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- this was a preparation for what she was going to do when she went on the talk shows.
MS. HARF: This was an email that had general top lines that if she needed to draw on them, she could. As we’ve all talked ad nauseam about, there was a separate process --
QUESTION: Well, clearly, you knew that she was going to --
MS. HARF: -- on Benghazi talking points. There was a separate process for what she would say on Benghazi. We’ve all been over that talking point process many, many times in this briefing room.
QUESTION: My point is – or my question is: You say that Congress has – knows all the facts, has everything from the ARB, from all the testimony before, but they hadn’t before heard from this guy, and they hadn’t until you turned over that last email – this Ben Rhodes email – whenever that was in the last – they hadn’t had everything. Isn’t that correct?
MS. HARF: Again, we’ve continued working with them to identify additional documents.
QUESTION: Well, I understand.
MS. HARF: But the basic facts, again – but even this email. You’re right they didn’t have it until recently. There is nothing in this email that changes what we know about what happened that night.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: So you’re saying that anybody – I think I know what you’re saying, that maybe like another person that’s coming on and saying the same thing as X, Y, and Z person that testified, but you’re saying there’s no new ground to cover? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. HARF: What we’re saying is the facts of what happened that night that we’ve all talked about in here have been well-documented and looked over by House committees, by Senate committees, by independent panels. The basic facts of what happened that night are known. Again, we should keep trying to see if there’s more, but nothing that’s come out after all of these documents and all of these hearings and all these briefings changes what we know from that night. And it seems to some people who here are focused on finding those responsible and bringing them to justice and preventing this from happening again, that we spend a lot of time in Congress trying to find something to use politically instead of focusing on what’s important, which is exactly what I said: accountability and doing better.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: That’s, I think, the frustration you hear from me that in all of these hearings nothing new comes out.
QUESTION: I understand. But the --
MS. HARF: It’s just the same ground we’re retreading.
QUESTION: I understand what you’re saying, but it seems like, anyway, the frustration of some in Congress, particularly the Republicans, is that even though it’s continued, yes, you keep going over new ground, that the idea that the Administration was not kind of upfront that evening about how – about – that it was trying to basically – I don’t want to use the word “cover-up.” I want – I think what I mean is kind of create a narrative that didn’t necessarily bear out by the facts.
MS. HARF: Well, on that point – and I think you’re right, they’re trying to make a political case out of that.
QUESTION: I didn’t say that they’re trying to make a political case. I just pointed out that most of the people that are raising this are Republicans.
MS. HARF: And what I would say is on the narrative question, as Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell, my former boss, just said a few weeks ago in open testimony as well is that the talking points and everything we said about Benghazi and what happened was based on the coordinated intelligence community’s best assessment based on all-source analysis that they had done of a variety of intelligence streams we were getting.
QUESTION: Well, when you say intelligence – when you say a “coordinated intelligence,” it doesn’t seem that some of the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon and in this building believed that.
MS. HARF: So coordinated intelligence assessments are based on all-source information, including DOD, including State, including open source, including NSA --
QUESTION: But the Pentagon and State Department --
MS. HARF: Well wait, let me --
QUESTION: -- have said all along --
MS. HARF: Let me finish here.
QUESTION: -- that they didn’t think --
MS. HARF: Well, the role of the --
QUESTION: -- they knew it was a terrorist attack.
MS. HARF: Well, some people had thought that was their hunch. But the role of the intelligence community is to take the available information and make an assessment. You don’t make assessments based on hunches and you don’t make it based on what information doesn’t actually exist.
So they took the information they had and made an assessment. As we got new information and as that assessment – we re-evaluated and changed the assessment. That’s how this is supposed to work.
QUESTION: But Under Secretary Kennedy – I want to say Defense Secretary Panetta but I can’t remember – but certainly Carter Ham, who was then head of AFRICOM at the time, all said that they knew – and I think I’m quoting Carter Ham when I say “pretty quickly,” even before any of these talking points or whatever, that it was a terrorist attack.
MS. HARF: And we absolutely believed it was a terrorist attack and said so as well. The question was never whether it was a terrorist attack. It was who was behind it and whether or not there was a protest. Those were the two questions that were the nature of the change in international assessment, and those are the two questions that we had conflicting information on. We constantly re-evaluated our assessment, and when we got new information we changed our assessment, which is exactly how the intelligence community is supposed to work.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: Right. My only – my problem with this is that you keep saying that the committee is – it’s all political and they’re – they have --
MS. HARF: I had said I had suspicions, and they can prove me wrong.
QUESTION: They have better things to do with their time is what you’re basically saying, right?
MS. HARF: I said they should focus on other parts of Benghazi that could help us prevent in the future.
QUESTION: In terms of what – in the future. Right. But you say that nothing – they keep having these hearings and nothing new comes out, but that’s just not true. New stuff does keep coming --
MS. HARF: Nothing that changes the basic narrative of what happened in Benghazi.
QUESTION: Well I mean, this guy --
MS. HARF: Nothing.
QUESTION: The guy that – the brigadier --
MS. HARF: Did he present any information today that told anyone – that changed anyone’s mind about whether or not military assets – did he present any information today that challenges the judgment of Martin Dempsey? I didn’t hear any.
QUESTION: Well, he presented --
MS. HARF: He presented his opinion.
QUESTION: He – or his --
MS. HARF: And he’s free to do that.
QUESTION: Or his judgment.
MS. HARF: But multiple committees have taken --
QUESTION: Okay. And you say he’s --
MS. HARF: -- a look at that exact question, Matt, and disagreed with him.
QUESTION: Okay. He’s free to do that, so why don’t you --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So why do you think the committee’s time is better spent on something else?
MS. HARF: Because we’ve been over this multiple times, multiple committees, nine hearings.
MS. HARF: Two investigations on the House and the Senate side --
QUESTION: All right. But it’s --
MS. HARF: -- have all found the same things. How long do we want to keep doing this?
QUESTION: Well, until (inaudible) is found. Don’t you (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, as long as --
MS. HARF: Well, but those are different issues.
QUESTION: -- as long as it --
MS. HARF: This is not part of the effort to find and bring those to justice who are responsible. This is not part of that effort. This is separate. That effort is ongoing right now and that effort has nothing to do with Darrell Issa.
QUESTION: When you say that – okay. But you say that nothing new comes out all the time, but --
MS. HARF: To change the narrative. No, absolutely not.
QUESTION: Well, to – all right. So if you – if we accept then that the – that your – we accept your point that this retired brigadier general didn’t present any new facts or anything new, didn’t bring anything new to the table, didn’t tell the committee anything that they didn’t know before --
MS. HARF: He gave them his opinion --
MS. HARF: -- but he presented no new evidence to contradict anything we’ve talked about.
QUESTION: But his opinion is new. They hadn’t heard from him before. So anyway --
MS. HARF: Well, your opinion – you could go up there and tell them what your opinion is of the night. You had a window into it in some way as well. Where do we stop here, I guess is my question.
QUESTION: Well, but I am not in AFRICOM and I wasn’t watching this go on --
MS. HARF: Again, our top military commanders have testified to this.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay, got it. But look, you say nothing new comes up. But then this email comes up, and that’s something new, something –
MS. HARF: Which isn’t about what happened in Benghazi that night. It’s not. I have it right here. I can read it to you.
QUESTION: It has – are the talking points not in there?
MS. HARF: The Benghazi talking points are not in here, in fact. These are general talking points about the Arab Spring and what was happening in the rest of the region. These are not the Benghazi talking points that we’ve talked about in this room ad nauseam. They are not in this email. There’s also talking points about Israel and Iran and other – Egypt, other issues as well.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: This is not an email about the Benghazi talking points. It’s just not.
QUESTION: Well, it has Benghazi in there, so --
MS. HARF: It has the – yes, it has the word Benghazi in there. You’re right.
QUESTION: Okay. So – well, I mean, it does, so it’s related somehow, and it is --
MS. HARF: And that’s why it got released under FOIA.
QUESTION: Exactly, but it isn’t --
MS. HARF: But it doesn’t change the narrative.
QUESTION: Well, fine. But it is something new. You keep saying nothing new keeps coming. You --
MS. HARF: I say no new information has emerged through all these months that changes the facts that we know about what happened, who responded and why and how, period.
QUESTION: I mean, I think part – well, just one question. I mean, the hunt for those behind it – how is that going? That would help clarify some of these issues if you could put somebody up there --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- to explain in an open court, if it were to be an open trial, what exactly is going on. Then some of these questions may be answered.
MS. HARF: Absolutely, and that is an absolute key point. As you know, the FBI is doing an investigation. We are working closely with our Libyan partners to see if we can bring someone to justice on this. That remains our priority. Another priority, obviously, remains implementing the ARB and protecting our facilities and people overseas. But you’re right; that’s what we’re focused on.
QUESTION: But 15 months in, isn’t it frustrating to the people in this building that there’s nobody?
MS. HARF: It took 10 years to find Usama bin Ladin. When people – when bad people want to hide and try to evade justice, it can take a little while. But we’re committed to doing it. It’s not easy. If it were easy, we would have done it before.
QUESTION: Sure, but in the case of Usama bin Ladin, you knew who was behind it. There hasn’t really been that much of a focus on who --
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked in general – as you know, when we designated some groups a couple months ago – about the groups who were behind it. And we continue the investigation to get more information, absolutely. And that work is ongoing every day.
QUESTION: And do you feel the Libyan Government, in the state that it’s in at the moment, is a reliable and willing partner on this?
MS. HARF: We certainly are working closely with them on it and hope that they will be as open as they can if they have any information. But again, the FBI is doing their own investigation, and we have a lot of resources at our disposal here and the intelligence community and elsewhere to find folks that we want to find.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh, and then I’ll go to – are you on – one more on this?
QUESTION: Yeah, just one more. And I don’t --
MS. HARF: One more on Benghazi.
QUESTION: I think this might have just been released, but Speaker Boehner has released a statement calling on Secretary Kerry to testify before Congress to answer why the documents – this is a quote – hid the – “the Administration hid these documents” and why they were concealed. Are there any plans for the Secretary to go to the Hill?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I haven’t seen that, honestly. And I would take notion with the idea that anybody hid any documents, given the fact that we have produced tens of thousands of documents to Congress on this, all of them there for them to see. As we find new ones, we send those. That notion I would disagree with is that we’re hiding documents. I don’t have any idea on the request for Secretary Kerry. But Secretary of State Clinton has testified several times on this as the Secretary of State at the time. Secretary of Defense Panetta and others have as well.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: On the arrest and questioning of Gerry Adams regarding this – the murder of a woman many years ago, did – have – are there concerns by the State Department that this could lead to inflame an already fragile situation in Northern Ireland? The arrest comes on the back of research from the Boston College in the United States. And as Senator Kerry, actually at the time, had said that he would not – that these documents should not be released. Any comment on his arrest, and number two, on how this should be handled or what you’re advising them?
MS. HARF: Well, on your first question, we certainly don’t want it to impact the situation on the ground, and we urge everyone to remain calm. We have worked very hard for Northern Ireland’s peace and prosperity. As you know, the Secretary has been personally engaged in this, and we want to keep working to make sure progress continues there. Obviously, we don’t want this to impact that in any way.
We – on this particular issue, there is an open criminal investigation, as you know, as you referenced. So I don’t have many more details on that today. I quite frankly haven’t spoken to the Secretary about this today given the time difference and where he is in his schedule. If we have anything more to add in terms of his thoughts on this, I’m happy to see.
QUESTION: Has – we know what his position was as a senator --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but as a Secretary of State, had he – was that he’s – he’s feeling that these documents should never have been released?
MS. HARF: I need to check on that.
QUESTION: Okay --
MS. HARF: I do. I’m sorry I don’t have an answer for you on that. I was attempting to get one thinking it might come up, but let me see if I can get you more, maybe, for tomorrow.
QUESTION: Your first answer – it’s you certainly don’t want it to impact – you’re referring to the --
MS. HARF: We don’t want it to make – her first question was whether this has – could threaten to negatively impact the situation on the ground, stability, and all that. And we don’t want it to.
QUESTION: And the agreement itself, you don’t think is jeopardized by this?
MS. HARF: We certainly hope it’s not.
QUESTION: Have you been in – has there been any contact about this issue.
MS. HARF: I need to check on that as well.
QUESTION: Not with the Secretary, per se.
MS. HARF: I understand.
MS. HARF: I need to check on that as well. I know there had been over past years I know in – particularly when Secretary Clinton was here, but let me check and see.
QUESTION: I wondered --
QUESTION: Only one concern was that this is a politically motivated arrest, and whether that’s – whether you think that is behind it and whether there has been some kind of communication between you and the authorities about (inaudible) not be the case.
MS. HARF: I need to get some more details on whether we’ve had contact recently. I believe this actually happened a while ago that some of these documents – or the reportings were actually handed over. So I just need to see what the facts are. I don’t have the whole timeline in front of me.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: First of all about the elections. Are you happy with the overall election process?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you probably saw the statement from the White House and the Secretary’s statement as well. We absolutely congratulate the people of Iraq. While there were reports of violence, indications are that the progress was organized – process, excuse me – election officials were well prepared, millions of Iraqis turned out to vote. We – their actual own electoral commission reported the turnout was about 60 percent. As you know, yesterday’s vote was just the start of a long government formation process that can – could play out over several months. Obviously, we’ll continue working with the Iraqis over that timeframe.
QUESTION: The Secretary of State in his statement said there will be serious challenges, and as well, President Obama in his statement repeated that.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: What do you mean by that exactly?
MS. HARF: Iraqi leaders themselves have talked about some of the security challenges they face, particularly from the spillover effect from Syria.
QUESTION: Is it just a security challenge?
MS. HARF: That’s a huge part of it, certainly. Obviously, one thing we’ve been very focused on here. I think that’s probably what they were both referring to.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Two more questions about Kurdistan. Tomorrow, Kurdistan is scheduled to, according to prime minister of Kurdistan region, to sell oil, independent of Baghdad, to Turkey – or in Turkey. What’s your response to that?
MS. HARF: Let me check on that. Let me see if I can get you something.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And secondly --
MS. HARF: I don’t have all the details.
QUESTION: -- last week top Iranian trade delegation arrived in Kurdistan and they met with the Kurdish officials. And they reached some sort of understanding on building two pipelines to import and export crude and, like, byproducts of oil from Iran and from Kurdistan to Iran. Are you worried about that, because Iran is being sanctioned by your government?
MS. HARF: I’m aware of the sanctions on Iran. I’m not familiar with those specific discussions. I’ll get some more answers for you. Come back tomorrow, and I’ll answer your Kurdistan.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Turkey, since it was just raised? I wondered if you’d seen the reports today about the riot police using water cannon and tear gas against protesters in Turkey on a May Day, who were trying to defy a ban on May Day demonstrations.
MS. HARF: We have seen those, obviously are closely following the reports, trying to get more information. As you know, not just in Turkey but everywhere, we support people’s rights to freely express themselves and the right to peaceful protest – also would urge everyone to show restraint in these kind of situations.
MS. HARF: I --
QUESTION: They – a sort of patriotic fervor breaking out.
MS. HARF: I’m sure it was.
QUESTION: It’s the first time – well, apparently since the break-up of the Soviet Union that they’ve had such large May Day protests in Moscow.
MS. HARF: Well, we – I actually haven’t seen those reports, but we do support the rights of people to peacefully protest.
QUESTION: So – but they were shouting out things like Putin is right, proud of their country, let’s support Putin’s decisions.
MS. HARF: Well, just because I disagree with what they’re saying doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be able to say it.
QUESTION: But, I mean, obviously, we’ve talked a lot in here about the propaganda that the United States feels that the Russian people are being fed through such things as RT. Do you – are these – are the hundred thousand people who turned out in Moscow, are they deluded?
MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen all those reports. But we don’t agree with the notion that what President Putin and Russia has done is right, that there’s any legal basis for it, certainly, and that’s why we’ve been very clear that there will be continued consequences.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: So that is not your final judgment of the election, just saying that the indications are that it went smoothly, or that --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- yeah – that it was organized?
MS. HARF: Was organized, well prepared. Yeah. I mean, we think --
QUESTION: But at this stage, do you still – do you think it’s free and fair, which was the judgment generally – because the Sunni – some Sunni parties have been complaining about voting problems.
MS. HARF: Well, we have seen those and initial indications have been very positive in terms of whether these elections were free and fair, including by the UN special rep for Iraq who had a press conference I think yesterday and talked about this. There will be additional assessments coming from independent observers and observers from international organizations, and I think there were thousands of election – Iraqi election monitors who were deployed through the country. The Iraqi high election commission reviews all grievances from people with complaints, but at this point it looks like there were some problems. But overall it went fairly smoothly.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any information to suggest that this was a terrorist related incident, or is there an interpretation of whether or not this was a terrorist attack?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Based on the information we’ve seen, including that’s been reported by the Chinese media, this appears to be an act of terrorism that targeted random members of the public. I don’t have further information about the attack, about the identity or motivation of the attackers.
QUESTION: And yesterday, following the release of the Country Report on Terrorism, I believe you were asked about the cooperation with China on such terrorist attacks or incidents that occur within China. Has there been any cooperation or information-sharing from this most recent attack?
MS. HARF: Let me see what – I quite honestly don’t know the answer. Let me see if we’ve talked about it with them.
QUESTION: Okay. And I have another quick one --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
MS. HARF: Are you talking about Kenneth Bae?
QUESTION: No. I believe his name is Matthew Miller, or --
MS. HARF: Don’t have anything new for you on that case. Obviously, we talk to the Swedes all the time, but don’t have any details on what those conversations are.
QUESTION: Are there any plans for the Swedes to contact him?
MS. HARF: Again, can’t talk about this case at all.
QUESTION: Is that (inaudible) privacy waiver?
MS. HARF: Because of privacy, yes.
QUESTION: Which he is incapable of signing.
MS. HARF: Matt’s favorite topic. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But --
MS. HARF: Again, some day when you’re overseas somewhere --
QUESTION: -- on another Americans in distress question --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
MS. HARF: That is correct as well. We’re aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Bahrain.
QUESTION: Can’t say more?
MS. HARF: Because of privacy, can’t say more.
QUESTION: But – okay. Well, do – are you concerned about his – the situation?
MS. HARF: Can’t say any more about this issue.
QUESTION: You can’t even say that you’re concerned or not concerned?
MS. HARF: I can’t say anything more about this specific situation because of privacy.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the U.S. government contacted his family (inaudible) or –
MS. HARF: Guys, I can’t say any more because of privacy --
QUESTION: But that’s his privacy --
MS. HARF: -- on either of these cases.
QUESTION: -- but we concern us too, you know.
MS. HARF: Again, I can’t say anything more about either of these cases because of privacy laws that are in place to protect all of us, including you, if you were ever incarcerated overseas.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you’ve seen the reports that President Turchynov – sorry, can’t pronounce his name, my apologies – has re-evoked military conscription today.
MS. HARF: I had not seen that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, could you take the question?
MS. HARF: Yes, I will take the question.
QUESTION: And get a reaction, please.
MS. HARF: And get a reaction, uh-huh.
QUESTION: All reservists between the ages of 18 and 25 have been called up.
MS. HARF: Okay. Yeah.
QUESTION: And I just wanted to ask whether you felt this was a helpful move, whether it raises the stakes, increases the temperature, makes tensions even greater than they already are.
MS. HARF: I’ll check on it. I’ll check on it. One thing that I would just note on Ukraine, that yesterday the International Monetary Fund’s board approved the $17.1 billion standby arrangement, which paves the way for additional international financial support in the billions of dollars from other folks as well. And we expect Ukraine to receive the first tranche of funding within two days, so by tomorrow. And we think this is a significant achievement that will assist Ukraine to overcome its economic challenges, some of which are quite serious, given the decades of – years, at least – of mismanagement under the previous administration.
QUESTION: Does this also open the way for U.S. funding to be released? The guarantees --
MS. HARF: I – let me check and see. I think – I believe they’re related, but let me just and check and see on that.
QUESTION: They are connected.
MS. HARF: Let me check and see. I know this opens up a number of other folks who were waiting on the IMF board to approve it.
MS. HARF: What else? Yes, and then Catherine.
MS. HARF: You did.
QUESTION: And it got resolved.
MS. HARF: And I got you an answer.
QUESTION: I know.
MS. HARF: Which I also --
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: Look at that. Sometimes I do this. In terms of terrorism in Greece – just give me one second. Like most countries, or many countries, Greece does have a threat of terrorism that they must contend with, both from domestic extremists and global terrorist networks. We work very closely as a strong partner with Greece on counterterrorism efforts, both bilaterally and multi-laterally, and engaged in counterterrorism consultations and joint training with our Greek counterparts. We’ve also provided assistance to Greece where appropriate. Obviously, the Greek authorities have quite a bit of experience and expertise in this arena as well.
QUESTION: I see that Iran was not pleased about being kept on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. They reacted quite angrily this morning to it.
MS. HARF: Well, then they should stop supporting terrorism.
QUESTION: Why didn’t North Korea get put in terrorist – terrorism list? Why North Korea --
MS. HARF: Well, they – as you know, they were taken off in 2008. And the Country Reports on Terrorism release is not a time where we re-evaluate people on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. They’re just included in the report. So nothing new for you on North Korea on that issue.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and Boko Haram, and if you have a statement on the abduction of the schoolgirls, and then I have a couple specifics.
MS. HARF: Okay, yeah. So just a couple of items on that. Obviously, this is a horrific tragedy, abhorrent – I don’t know if there are enough words that I could come up with to say how terrible the situation is.
We know Boko Haram is active in the area. We’ve worked very closely with the Nigerian Government to build their capacity to fight this threat. We have been engaged with the Nigerian Government in discussions on what we might do to help support their efforts to find and free these young women. We’ll continue to have those conversations and help in any way we can.
QUESTION: So on the potential U.S. assistance, you’re still talking about what you could provide to them? Are you providing any sorts of assets already or reconnaissance in terms of locating their – where they actually are?
MS. HARF: Let me check and see if we’ve actually provided anything. I know we’ve offered to provide any assistance we can. Let me check with our folks and see if we have.
QUESTION: And then – because you said you’re talking, it seems like the Nigerians are open to the United States providing assistance?
MS. HARF: Let me check and see what the status of that is. I’m just not sure.
QUESTION: What kind of assistance?
MS. HARF: Again, let me check and see on the details. We’ve said we’re happy to help and assist. We obviously work very closely with them on counterterrorism writ large, particularly in terms of building their own capacity to fight this threat, and we will continue to do so. But let me get some specifics.
QUESTION: And then there are reports that there are negotiations that are underway. Do you have any information on that, and if you see that as being a fruitful resolution to the situation?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any information that. Just in terms of the assistance piece, to go back, I don’t have any information on that. I can check. As of last year, for Fiscal Year 2012, we provided over $20 million in security assistance to Nigeria. Part of what that does is help professionalize their military, investigate terrorist attacks, and enhance their forensics capabilities. And we’ve worked with law enforcement there as well to help build their capacity as well. So I’ll see if there are more details.
MS. HARF: Anything else?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and do you have anything to say about that?
MS. HARF: I saw it. I think we’ve talked a lot about that comment by Secretary Kerry and don’t probably have a lot to add.
QUESTION: No, no. No. I’m not asking about that. I’m asking --
MS. HARF: No, I know. But he was --
QUESTION: I’m asking about --
MS. HARF: Ambassador Dermer’s comment was in response to a comment --
QUESTION: Right. I’m wondering --
MS. HARF: -- someone in his government made about Secretary Kerry’s comments.
QUESTION: Gotcha. But what I’m asking you about is, I mean, are you gratified, happy that the Israeli ambassador released the statement?
MS. HARF: We absolutely welcome any statements of support.
QUESTION: All right. And I just – I have one last very brief Benghazi question, because there are new calls now for a joint select committee. I’m presuming, but I just want to make sure that the State Department still thinks that that’s unnecessary?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: That everything is – so you would oppose – and the – can you speak for the Administration or just the building on this one?
MS. HARF: I’m just speaking for the building on this one.
QUESTION: The – okay.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with my colleagues around town.
QUESTION: But the State Department, just so I understand --
MS. HARF: Our position hasn’t changed on that.
QUESTION: Right. But you do not think that a joint select committee is necessary or needed?
MS. HARF: We do not.
QUESTION: That’s right. Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:27 p.m.)
DPB # 78