1:10 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone. Hi, Matt. It’s good to see you.
QUESTION: Good to see you.
MS. PSAKI: And everyone else, of course. I just haven’t seen him in a while.
I have one item at the top for all of you, and I should also note I have a hard stop at about 1:45, so let’s try to get to as many issues as we can.
Secretary Kerry yesterday continued his visit – I should say today – continued his visit to Beijing for the Sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the Fifth U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. The CPE aims to enhance and strengthen ties between the citizens of the United States and China, and has done so over the past four years in the areas of culture, education, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues. This year the two sides agreed to add a sixth area of people-to-people exchange: health, and the additional of a health pillar, starting with the 2015 CPE in Washington, D.C. So next year we’ll strengthen existing health collaboration, encourage more people-to-people collaboration in this important area.
During sessions at the S&ED, the Secretary continued discussions on the full range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. He reiterated to his Chinese counterparts that we seek a relationship defined not by strategic rivalry but by practical cooperation on common challenges and constructive management of differences where our interests diverge. With regard to human rights, the Secretary raised our concerns in a direct, candid, and constructive way. He also continued our conversations on cybersecurity and cyber threat. And you probably have all seen the press conference he did on the ground earlier this morning our time, so I’d certainly point you to that.
And with that, Matt, let’s go to you.
QUESTION: Well, thank you very much. I have a question about the German expulsion of the top U.S. intelligence official there. Chancellor Merkel says that spying on allies is a waste of time and energy and that allies should focus on other things. And does the Administration agree or disagree with that? Is there – and do they believe Germany is overreacting or handling this properly?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there are, obviously, recently reports this morning, which I’m sure prompted your question. We’ve seen those reports, and let me first get out of the way: We don’t have any specific comment on that. Our security and intelligence relationship with Germany is a very important one. It’s one that helps keep Germans and Americans safe.
I would also say that, as you know, last year the President underwent a review of all of our intelligence gathering. The Secretary was engaged in that, as were Administration officials across the board. There are, of course, a range of factors that are taken into account and were taken into account in that – keeping Americans safe, keeping allies in other countries safe, as well as taking steps to reform and revise some of our systems when needed. And he did just that.
Clearly, we’re going to continue to have conversations with a range of our allies and partners around the world. We’re certainly open to that, but we’ll let those happen through diplomatic channels.
QUESTION: Excuse me. Just a quick follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: When you say you have seen the German reports or the media reports saying – what do you mean by that? Are you denying the German allegations about there was a spy operation going on?
MS. PSAKI: All I meant by it was that we’ve seen the reports, we’ve read the reports. I’m not going to – I don’t have any specific comment on it, given its purported intelligence matter.
QUESTION: So do you think those reports are true?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to have anything more to add on that front.
QUESTION: Will you have --
MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish this topic. Do we have any more on this topic? Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: So Germany really took an unusual step today. And they’ve been patient all along and secretly kind of expressing their anger, and this is a more unusual outward expression of their anger. Is the United States going to have any sort of reaction to them or just any signal to send to them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve had a range of discussions with Germany over the course of the last several months, and I expect those will continue. But those will happen through diplomatic channels, and we think those are often – we’re better served, our relationship is better served by having those take place through those channels. I would expect that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Steinmeier will have an opportunity to speak sometime in the coming days, and I would just reiterate that our relationship with Germany is extremely important. We have many areas we work together on. We have areas, certainly, where we may disagree, and – but the sign of a strong relationship is being able to work through those disagreements or challenges, and we’ll continue to do that through proper channels.
QUESTION: Is the Administration considering* expelling somebody from the German embassy?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to add on this particular topic.
QUESTION: Jen, how come after the United States Government was caught spying on Chancellor Merkel, the effort was made to clean up the spying, and then this happens? How do you reconcile that?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to have anything more to add, Lucas, on this particular topic. I think, as you know, we’ve spoken to those reports. The White House has spoken to those reports. The President undertook – laid out a series of reforms that we believe should not only give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protective – protected, but also allowing us to preserve the tools to keep Americans safe and secure. And I would point you to those range of reforms that the President announced earlier this year.
QUESTION: But can this government control its intelligence gathering capability?
MS. PSAKI: Can the United States of America?
QUESTION: Control its spy network.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I, again, would point you to the fact that we just underwent just last year an intensive review led by the President, led by the White House, that the Secretary was engaged in to take a look at all of these programs and put in place new principles. And that’s exactly what he announced earlier this year.
QUESTION: But the result is more spying and more spying on our allies.
MS. PSAKI: I think I would refute that notion, Lucas. We’ve – I would point you to the specific details that have already been put out.
Do we have a new topic?
QUESTION: Oh, no. One more. Some German news reports suggest that the Germans may have taken this action now as much for domestic political consumption as well as to express their anger with the U.S. over past infractions, including the tapping of the Chancellor’s cellphone. Is there any credence to some of those suggestions, or is this simply a basic concern about how these two countries share intelligence and how they – how much they trust each other?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not appropriate for me to speak to motivations or decisions. I would just reiterate that our relationship is vitally important. We’ll continue our dialogue through senior officials in the days and the weeks ahead.
QUESTION: Has anyone from the German embassy requested a meeting with anyone here about these latest revelations?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more to add on this topic.
QUESTION: And how soon do you think the Secretary will speak with the foreign minister?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction for you, other than to say that they speak regularly, and I’m sure that will happen in the near term.
QUESTION: Do you expect them to meet in Vienna this week?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to announce in terms of the Secretary’s planned travel schedule. But again, there are a range of ways to communicate with our allies and foreign ministers – the foreign ministers of our allies, and I’m certain they’ll find a way to do just that.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. Just to clarify --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- you were referring to this as reports, but the spokesman for Chancellor Merkel said – announced that the government had expelled – had ordered the expulsion of the top U.S. intelligence official from the embassy. So you all, I assume, have that confirmed?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have anything more to add. I’ve seen what they’ve said, but this is a U.S. intelligence matter, so we’re not going to have anything more to add from this end.
QUESTION: But what are the Americans willing to do to satisfy the concerns the German Government has about privacy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned, we’ve had an ongoing dialogue about intelligence gathering, something a range of countries around the world certainly do, not just the United States. The President has put in place a range of reforms that – which we’re continuing to implement, and we’ll continue that dialogue with German officials through the appropriate channels.
QUESTION: Why is it appropriate to spy on one’s allies?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed this question. Let’s move on to a new topic.
Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- fighting? Is it the position of the Government of the United States that Israel is conducting itself in this bombardment, the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, within the constraints and rules of international law for its self-defense?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first, Said, just so I don’t forget to do this, just update you all that the Secretary spoke with President Abbas this morning. I know I mentioned to all of you that he had planned to do that. He, as you know, had already spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu just yesterday. During both of those calls, the Secretary reiterated our concern over the escalating tensions and restated his own willingness and the willingness of the United States to engage robustly in helping to stop the rocket fire so we can restore calm as soon as possible.
And Said, to answer your question, that is really what our focus is on, is using all tools at our disposal to bring an end to the rocket fire that is threatening the innocent lives of civilians in Israel and that is certainly posing a threat in the region.
QUESTION: So his effort would be focused on stopping the rocket fire from Gaza, but not to stop Israeli bombardment of Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important to note here that no country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians. That’s what we’re looking at here. I think it’s important context here that Hamas is a terrorist organization. They have been launching indiscriminate number of attacks against Israel. Israel, we – of course, as I had mentioned yesterday, but it’s worth repeating, we are – it’s clear that civilians have been killed, that – including children. This is deeply tragic and we have been continuing to call on both sides to take steps to protect civilians. I would note that while the Israelis have taken steps to try to prevent civilian casualties by warning – providing warning in advance, that is not what, of course, Hamas is doing, and they have continued their indiscriminate attacks against – including civilian areas in Israel.
QUESTION: So you consider that Israel dropping leaflets of calling – or calling people on the phone and so on to terrify them, basically, to leave their home is a great humanitarian gesture?
MS. PSAKI: I think warning that there may be a response attack to the indiscriminate attacks of Hamas, a terrorist organization, is different and certainly important to point out in comparison with the attacks that are coming into parts of Israel, yes.
QUESTION: So do you believe that the utility of an F-16 to bomb a home and kill five civilians was appropriately done in accordance with the laws governing the transfer of weapons to Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, first – and let me just repeat, because it’s important to note here, that it’s clear that civilians have been killed, and certainly that’s of concern to us, and that’s one of the reasons that we have been certainly calling for all sides to de-escalate tensions on the ground. It’s tragic and our condolences go out to the families, but I would remind you who is at fault here, and that is Hamas and the indiscriminate attacks that they have launched against Israel.
QUESTION: Do you agree with the Secretary General of the United Nations who just called for an immediate ceasefire?
MS. PSAKI: I think our focus, Said, is the – is on using all tools at our disposal to stop rocket fire so that we can restore calm, and that’s what we feel that the immediate focus should be on.
QUESTION: Okay. So you are not calling for a ceasefire; you’re calling for the rockets to stop from being launched from Gaza, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly that would contribute to a reduction in violence.
MS. PSAKI: And let’s just keep going. Go ahead.
QUESTION: That’s not – let me just – excuse me. Let me just --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go one at a time. Go ahead next.
QUESTION: -- follow up with that.
MS. PSAKI: So go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. I want to follow up. So does that also call for the Israelis to stop their immediate – to stop their bombardment of Gaza, or no?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, again, as I’ve stated several times in here from the briefing room in response to your questions, there’s a difference between Hamas, a terrorist organization that’s indiscriminately attacking innocent civilians in areas where there are innocent civilians in Israel, and the right of Israel to respond and protect their own civilians. And that’s what we’re seeing on the ground take place.
QUESTION: Are you keeping count of the innocent civilians on both sides that have been lost in this latest (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: The death of any innocent civilian is a tragedy, and our hearts and prayers go out to those families. And certainly a reduction of civilian casualties preventing that, ending that, is in everyone’s interests.
QUESTION: You said --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the same topic, in the same topic, given the complexity of the situation between Israel and Gaza, do you think Egypt could play a role, a mediation role to ease the tension? And as you may know, in the past, Washington reached out to Qatar and –
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- Egypt to help the Israelis and the Palestinian ease the tensions between them. Do you think now Egypt can play a role? Would the State Department ask Egypt – the Egyptian Government to do that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, part of the Secretary’s effort has been reaching out to countries in the region, including Qatar, including Egypt. I would note, as you know, historically there’s a difference between the relationship between the prior government to Hamas and the current government to Hamas. So I will leave that to others to analyze on how we can influence and who is most influential.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the Egyptian military has been always in good relationship with Hamas. So why not now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, any country in the region that can play a role in bringing an end to the rocket fire from Hamas we’re certainly going to be engaged with. But I think it’s important to note the difference between the governments and their relationship with Hamas. And I leave it to others to analyze whether they’ll be able to influence them.
QUESTION: What specifically was the Secretary meaning by his willingness to engage? What is the Administration prepared to do to help stop the rocket fire and to perhaps persuade the Israelis not to launch any sort of ground offensive?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s clearly engaging with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, as evidenced by his calls, but he’s also referring to discussions with other countries in the region. And again, I would note that the goals we’re looking at here – and the Secretary mentioned this earlier today, so you can certainly quote him, but our focus right now is on saving innocent lives, trying to de-escalate in a way that accomplishes that while allowing Israel to exercise its right of self-defense and protecting as many civilians and, of course, those in the region as best as we can. But engaging with the parties as well as having discussions with countries in the region is something we’re already doing, and the Secretary is – was reiterating his commitment to continuing that level of engagement.
QUESTION: What kind of – what did he tell President Abbas specifically? Did he give him advice on how to engage, given that Abbas technically does not have any legal authority over Gaza? I mean, what can he do and what did – what does this Administration believe that Abbas can do given the complex legal situation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to go into greater detail on their discussion, but clearly the discussions that the Secretary is having with any leader in the region is about how we can de-escalate and we are open to discussing and using all avenues to do that. So certainly the Secretary discusses the conversations that he has having with other leaders in the region, as well as what steps can be taken to bring an end to the rocket fire from Gaza.
QUESTION: Another topic?
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish this and then we can go to you, Elliot, if that works.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up very quickly --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- because I don’t understand. You keep saying, “We want to put an end to the rocket firing.” Are you calling for a simultaneous ceasefire that should take place from both sides at the same time? Or do you just want the Palestinians to stop firing their rockets?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear.
QUESTION: It’s very simple.
MS. PSAKI: It’s not accurate to say it’s quote/unquote “the Palestinians.” This is Hamas, a terrorist organization that is launching --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish – that is launching these rockets. Obviously, if the rockets are – if the rocket fire is brought to an end, I don’t think anybody’s preference, including the Israelis, is an escalation of this. Nobody wants to see a ground invasion. That’s why it’s so important for Hamas to stop the rocket fire against Israeli citizens immediately. That step will reduce tension, will de-escalate, and that’s why we’re having discussions with a range of leaders in the region.
QUESTION: Is the United States counseling against a ground invasion?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Israelis themselves have said that that is not – that they don’t want to see a ground invasion. Nobody wants to see that. And so de-escalating and taking steps to de-escalate is certainly what our focus is on.
QUESTION: Nonetheless they are amassing troops around Gaza and getting ready for a land invasion.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, as I’ve mentioned, because of the indiscriminate attacks from Hamas and the rocket fire that’s coming in, Israel is exercising its right to self-defense. I think it’s in everyone’s interest to de-escalate the situation, to prevent a ground invasion or a ground component of this, and to save the lives of innocent civilians. And those are the – that’s our focus at this important point in time.
QUESTION: What can Abbas then do to influence Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re having that discussion with him, and he’s the expert on that and what he has the ability to do and not do. But certainly he’s an important player in this, and that’s one of the reasons the Secretary spoke with him.
QUESTION: Is the – has the Secretary or is it the Administration urging the Israelis against a ground offensive?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re – we’re having a discussion with them on how to de-escalate. And clearly, our focus remains on steps that we can take, steps that other countries can take to influence Hamas and bring an end to the rocket fire, and that’s really what we’re counseling at this point in time.
QUESTION: And can you say what discussions the U.S. has had with Egypt in particular about trying to de-escalate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has been in touch with the foreign minister, and certainly any country and any leader who can play a role in influencing Hamas and bringing an end to the rocket fire we’ll remain engaged with.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary phone the Egyptian foreign minister?
MS. PSAKI: He was in touch with him over the last couple of days, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Oh.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just a couple – one on Indonesian elections. I wanted to get your take on what you think of the opposing sides declaring victory based on unofficial quick-vote counts?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Elliot. Give me one moment.
Well, let me first say, just since I haven’t had the opportunity, that we congratulate the Indonesian people for, again, demonstrating their commitment to strengthening their democracy through free and fair elections. As the world’s second and largest – the second and third largest democracies, we remain committed to close relations based on common interests and values, and we expect that will continue.
As you know, Elliot, and I’m sure others know, the official vote count continues. The Indonesian General Election Commission is expected to announce the official winner by July 22nd. We look forward to that official result and we’ll wait for the official announcement, and we’d certainly encourage others to do so as well.
QUESTION: So you are not – you are discouraging any candidates from prematurely declaring victory before that happens?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s in everyone’s interests to wait until the official announcement or official vote tally is completed.
QUESTION: Okay. And then unless anyone else has something on this, I wanted to go to China, if I may.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Indonesia, or no?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s just go to China and then we’ll go to Iraq.
MS. PSAKI: Does that work?
QUESTION: Yeah. That’s fine.
QUESTION: On this report that a hacking attack penetrated OPM databases, I was wondering if you have any confirmation that any State Department employees’ records may have been stolen.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say – not that I’m aware of, Elliot. Let me first say that OPM and, of course, DHS are the lead regarding this incident, as you know. As soon as they learned of the possible intrusion, they took steps to assess and mitigate it. We have no reason to believe that any personally identifiable information was compromised from anywhere, so to answer that specific question.
QUESTION: Are you seeking clarification from the Chinese side on whether there was any government involvement in this attack? Because at the moment, it seems that’s unclear.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we routinely raise cyber security issues. But DHS is in the lead, so I’d point you to them for any specific questions about this.
QUESTION: But it hasn’t come up with Secretary Kerry’s – as far as you know – his discussions?
MS. PSAKI: I think he said earlier today that he just learned about it right before the press conference or right before the meeting, so it wasn’t raised today.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Follow-up on this. Given the timing of this story broke out, do you think it will help your conversation with Chinese and put more pressure on them on this cyber intrusion issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we are eager to reengage through the Cyber Working Group that we have recently established with the Chinese, and that’s been long the case before today and before opening any newspapers. And we hope that that is something that we can reconvene in the near future.
QUESTION: But it seems to me it’s odd, because it’s second day of S&ED, and this incident actually happened – took place in March. So I just wonder, do you have any thought on the timing of this story?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to The New York Times for their decision to put a relevant news story in the news during the S&ED.
QUESTION: But this – do you think it’s helpful to help your stance in --
MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have any analysis on that. I would just reiterate to you that the cyber issues and cyber security came up during the discussion, as you’ve seen from reporting on the ground. It’s a big priority for us; it’s a priority for the Chinese, and that’s why we’re – we’d really like re-engage through the working group.
QUESTION: But as you mentioned, the working group has been suspended.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right.
QUESTION: So what are other channels? And --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the other channels are it can be raised through a range of levels. And it was obviously raised over the last couple of days, even though the working group was not a part of what took place at the S&ED.
QUESTION: So that didn’t bother you, getting --
MS. PSAKI: I think we expressed our preference that that issue and that working group would be a part of the S&ED. But we still took the opportunity to raise the issues during the last couple of days.
QUESTION: Do you blame the Chinese in this particular instance of spying on the OPM?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to – we’re not going to discuss attribution. And again, the State Department is not the lead on this particular case.
QUESTION: I want to go to Iraq if I can.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: ISIS recently said that it has acquired a chemical weapons facility and 2,500 degraded weapons. Does the State Department have a comment on that, and what is the potential fallout over acquiring those weapons and this chemical facility?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do have something on this. Give me one moment.
Well, first, let me note that there was a copy of a letter – and I know you’re aware of this, but just so everybody is aware – of a letter that the Iraqi permanent representative to the United Nations sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon which was circulated yesterday to members of the Security Council, which outlined this. The purpose of the letter was to notify the international community of the seizure of University of Mosul facilities containing nuclear materials in June and to request international assistance.
In typical fashion, these requests are sent just directly to the IAEA and they look into them. And that is, of course, the natural process at this point. I would point you to the comments and the statement made by the IAEA today, that they believe the material involved to be low-grade and not presenting a significant safety, security, or nuclear proliferation risk. Of course, they’re the appropriate identity to make any decision about whether there is a risk or concern, but it doesn’t seem that is the case at this point in time.
QUESTION: But what do you say that – if you see the letter – in that it says that – from the Iraqis – that “threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad.” So how – what do the Iraqis say about it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they sent the letter that was referenced and the – they took responsible action by informing the UN Secretary General and the international community and it’s been referred, of course, to the IAEA. They, of course, made initial comments. I would leave it to them if they have more to say about it. I would point out that the letter also notes that this is material used for scientific and medical purposes, which is an important contextual point on our level of concern or their level of concern.
QUESTION: So --
MS. PSAKI: Oh. Go ahead.
QUESTION: So are you worried that some other kind of materials that – weapons that can go into these hands. And they were also – in the letter they say it can be used in Iraq or it can be taken abroad. So --
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would just highlight the fact that the Iraqi Government and the United States Government are not the experts like the IAEA is on this type of material and what risk it may or may not pose. So it’s in their hands. They’ve made an initial statement. I would point you to that and I would refer to them if there’s more they plan to say on this.
QUESTION: Is there any update on cutting off funding for ISIS or maybe working with Twitter to get ISIS’s Twitter handles cut off?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think that is not at this moment in the works, to my knowledge. But I do have a little bit of an update from what you asked about yesterday, which was interesting to learn about, to be frank. One moment.
So you asked yesterday about our plans to counter ISIS’s social media presence. And the Department for – the Department Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications specifically and aggressively counters ISIL propaganda in social media on a daily basis, working closely with other bureaus and offices here in the Department, as well as interagency partners. For the most part, this campaign is conducted in Arabic, as most ISIL social media efforts are in that language. But broadly speaking, they also conduct social media engagement in a range of languages in order to reach a range of audiences. And they’ve been doing this messaging for some time now, but it has increased over the past month or so as it’s also increased from ISIL.
QUESTION: Do you know which platforms this messaging is being done?
MS. PSAKI: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, a range of social media platforms is where they engage.
QUESTION: Yes, please. From what I understand from your answer is that you are debating with them or you are arguing with what they are saying, or you are blocking it?
MS. PSAKI: Not exactly, but let me try to explain a little bit better. I think the question Lucas asked yesterday was about – there’s a – the broad engagement of ISIL on social media. And I did a little research and talked to our team and learned a little bit more about what we do here. And what we do here, it may be engagement, but it may be just putting out information or a different kind of propaganda that combats the messages that are be put – that are put out, because nowadays, there’s so much focus on social media and it’s an international tool of communicating.
QUESTION: But the reason I’m asking because that the – I’m just not sure what the – what pushed Lucas to ask this question. Because there is a concern about using the social media as a tool of terrorism, anyway, or a message of terrorism. And in order to confront it, there are some suggestions that to block it or at least to follow it instead of putting in a debate. Because in social media, as you know, is like those who – they are following something, they don’t follow the other thing.
MS. PSAKI: That’s true. And the truth is we’re not targeting the hardliners through this messaging. It’s targeting more of the folks in the middle, so to speak. So – but an interesting thing to note about the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications is that it was created by an executive order just a couple of years ago. It’s only about three years old. And their mandate is countering actively violent extremist propaganda across multiple countries and regions.
So I understand what you’re saying, but there also is an effort that is only a couple years old that this Department has a prominent role in to combat these messages and communicate our own messages.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have a reaction to recently released testimony from retired General Carter Ham, the AFRICOM commander?
MS. PSAKI: Is there a specific question you have about it?
QUESTION: Yeah. He said yesterday that – written in this transcript – that the assault was probably the work of a new team of militants, the attack on the annex is part of a third wave, the attack was not spontaneous, the mortar crew was well-trained, they probably had an observer.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does this kind of go against this notion of a spontaneous attack or attacks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, first let me say that obviously, the release of these transcripts is an additional effort to be as transparent as possible in this ongoing investigation. The investigation is ongoing. There’s a range of information. I would caution anyone from taking just one sliver from an interview at one point to determine a final outcome. It’s been clear all along that the second phase of the attack was more sophisticated with the use of mortars, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s January 2014 report concluded that it remains unclear if any person or group exercised overall command and control of the attacks.
But again, because this is an ongoing investigation, we’re going to let that conclude before we draw any conclusions.
QUESTION: But I thought the ARB investigated this attack.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the ARB certainly did, but there’s also a separate investigation, as you know. The ARB looked into a range of questions, but there’s also a separate investigation that’s led by the FBI.
QUESTION: But how come a year and a half after the attacks, we’re still hearing about reports? And this wasn’t testimony to Congress, this wasn’t General Ham being interviewed by members of the State Department or members of the Administration.
MS. PSAKI: Well, these were interviews that were released that were closed-door interviews. But just like any different reports or different individual accounts, you have to take those as one of many. And obviously, assessments are made about – through investigations and through an overall review about what actually happened, but it’s ongoing.
QUESTION: Are you ready to finally acknowledge that the attacks were not spontaneous?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I think we’ve been pretty clear or we’ve stated many times and very consistently that we believe it was an opportunistic attack on our mission that did not involve significant preplanning. It still doesn’t change the fact that at the time, there were known protests all around the region dominating the news at the time. There were a range of reports on those that probably every outlet in this room reported on. So we’re not in a position to make any conclusive confirmation today of anything. We’ll let the investigation conclude.
QUESTION: And I noticed you didn’t mention the video this time. Have you guys dropped that one?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve referred to the video before. Nothing has changed on that particular point.
More on this or a new topic?
QUESTION: A new topic.
MS. PSAKI: New topic, okay.
MS. PSAKI: Can we go to the back and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: So James Dobbins said yesterday that a winner-take-all system in Afghanistan is not workable, and he called for a government of national unity that includes all elements. Is that the view of the U.S. State Department?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s no question that the United States Government wants to see a unified Afghanistan and wants to bring unity to the people of Afghanistan. It’s for the next president of Afghanistan to determine the composition of the government, which will need to be broad-based and inclusive to lead to a unified Afghanistan. Obviously, we’re encouraging a range of steps in the process so we can get closer to that conclusion.
QUESTION: So is it – so he was calling for something specific, a government of national unity. So is this – is it the State Department’s view that it’s something more general than that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, national unity, I would say, means unified – leading a united Afghanistan. Right now, what we’re – what we don’t want to see is a divided Afghanistan. We don’t want to see any candidate or entity in Afghanistan continue down any path that would lead to a divided Afghanistan. So I think it’s – he was making the point about the contrast to that.
QUESTION: But should it be a coalition government or is it up to the president?
MS. PSAKI: It’s up to the president to determine the composition of his government. But certainly – I know there’s a lot of use of “unified,” “unity,” and what that all means, but I think what we’re focused on as the United States Government is continuing to encourage all candidates and entities in Afghanistan to work towards bringing unity to the country and to the Afghan people.
QUESTION: Sticking with Afghanistan --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- I wanted to ask – VICE News recently put out three different investigations that were looking into interpreters being denied visas into the United States. Is the State Department working on that? And what kind of steps are they taking in order to help these people that helped the U.S. who are now being potentially attacked by the Taliban get out of a hostile situation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, SIVs and our effort to address that and to improve and increase the review of that has been a priority of the Secretary’s. Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom has been running point on this issue, and there have been significant increases and improvements over the last several months, and I’m sure we can get that directly to you and anyone else who is interested in that.
Obviously, each of these cases is considered on a case by case basis. We don’t speak to that as a matter of policy, but we can get you some more information and statistics on that if that’s helpful.
I just have time for a couple more here. Let’s go to Scott.
QUESTION: Several times this week you’ve spoken of the need for Afghan candidates to refrain from counter-production – counterproductive efforts in declaring victory.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is it your assessment that Afghan politicians are following that advice?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve expressed concern a couple of days ago about some of the comments that we had seen happen on the ground, including rumors of calls for parallel governments and declaration of victory. You can tell me or you all can tell me if there have been new calls for that, but obviously we’re continuing to communicate our concerns about any candidate or party going down that path. And to be very crystal clear about it – and we’ve talked this a little bit in here – but any extra constitutional actions which would impact the unity of Afghanistan would result in the immediate end of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan. That’s not our preference. That’s not what we want to do, but that has certainly been communicated to the candidates.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s just go to the back and then we can go to you, Goyal.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said in Beijing that he discussed the importance of enforcing sanctions on North Korea, and China has a huge role to play in this regard, and China understands this obligation. Does this mean that China has agreed to carry out those sanctions more vigorously than before?
MS. PSAKI: Well, China has been an important partner in the implementation of sanctions, and even as recently as last year they took a number of important steps. I will leave it to them to announce whether there are additional steps that they plan on taking. But I think the Secretary was just referring to the important role they play and the relationship that they have with North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: India? Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: How do you address the fears that are raised in the Indian subcontinent about the Pakistani nuclear weapons after this Iraq incident?
MS. PSAKI: After the Iraq incident?
QUESTION: Yes, the insurgents --
MS. PSAKI: Can you play this out a little bit more for me? What are the --
QUESTION: Yeah. You just answered that the Iraqi insurgents took the nuclear material, but that was not --
MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any confirmation of who the source of taking the material was.
QUESTION: Yeah, but in Pakistan, there – which is nearly a failed state, are you confident of the security of their nuclear weapons?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve obviously been – we have a range of dialogues with Pakistan. We work closely with them on counterterrorism issues and a range of issues. I’m not aware of any new concern in this case.
Matt, do you have anything else? Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just two quick questions. One, just follow on Pakistan. How much concern this building has as far as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered the military throughout Pakistan in major cities, say, this is something to maybe do with Afghanistan also?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not familiar with what you’re referring to, but maybe we can connect you with the right person after to get more details.
QUESTION: And finally just another subject. What is the future of, madam, 80-year old Import – Export-Import Bank, which is they are trying to close down? And it’s supposed to help the small businesses, including it was playing a great role between the U.S. and India trade and business and other economic issues.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, it’s a little out of my lane, but I will certainly say that the Export-Import Bank plays an important role in not just partnering with foreign governments and countries and working with them on business development and economic growth, but it plays an important role in economic growth in the United States and job creation in the United States. And in fact, a little known fact is that it turns a profit every year. Can’t say that about many entities.
QUESTION: And you do not want – and you do not want to close this down?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think anyone in the United States Government wants to see the Export-Import Bank close down.
QUESTION: Thank you, madam.