Daily Press Briefing - May 13

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • New York University Commencement Address / Remarks at the Council of Americas conference
    • Zelikow memo / Found memo in digital files that appears to be responsive to Senator Whitehouse's request / Not sure where memo was located or when it was found / Provided to Senator Whitehouse / Memo is classified and being reviewed / Cannot share with the public
    • Seen reports of a DoD employee selling State Department cables to China / We take the protection of classified information seriously / Refer to DoD
    • Frustrated with situation in Sri Lanka / Disturbed by reports of casualties in conflict areas / Work with international community to put pressure on both sides to end violence / Work with UN and allies on humanitarian response
    • US-UK statement speaks for itself / Full participation of all of the people in the political process
    • Have seen reports of illnesses at girls school / Very concerned / Afghan authorities take reports seriously / Investigating / PRT is following the situation closely / No US technical assistance requested
    • Secretary Clinton is disturbed by reports of civilian deaths / Wants a complete investigation / Working closely with Afghanistan / Haven't seen a reported list of women and children casualties
    • Concerned about images in the video
    • 123 Agreement is important / Consult with Congress on next steps
    • Policy on OSCE mission in Georgia is clear / Members should have complete access to South Ossetia / Call on Russia to abide by agreement / Goal is peaceful, stable South Caucasus
    • Disturbed by reports that Zhou Yongjun charged with fraud / US Embassy raised the case with Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Call on China to ensure all legal and administrative proceedings are transparent and consistent with Chinese law and international human rights norms
    • US maintains one China policy / US does not conduct state visits to Taiwan
  • IRAN
    • Charges against Roxana Saberi are baseless / Look forward to her safe return to the US
    • Mr. Nasr is in the office today / Works on Pakistan issues / Had no role in going to Tehran to negotiate release of Roxana Saberi
    • US will have a broad agenda on the Human Rights Council / Will promote human rights worldwide
    • Ambassador Bosworth briefed the Secretary / Constructive talks with partners / Next steps
Kelly, Ian
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 13, 2009


12:45 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Good afternoon. I hope you all had a chance to watch the Secretary on our closed-circuit television at NYU. And I just want to remind you she’s going to be speaking again, but in this building at 4:30, where she’s giving the closing remarks at the conference of the Council of Americas. And with that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Ian, in his testimony on the Hill this morning, Phil Zelikow, who used to work in this building, who you might know, said that the State Department had located a copy of his now-famous but still unseen 2005 memo, which argued against the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques. He said that a copy had been located and that it was being reviewed for declassification by this building. Can you tell us (a) where it was found in this building and (b) where the process of declassification is?

MR. KELLY: Well, what I can share with you is confirm that we did locate a document that appears to be responsive to a request that came from Senator Whitehouse, who chairs the subcommittee, and who I think chaired the hearing that Mr. Zelikow was at today. We’ve also received a request for the same document from other members of Congress. As you point out, it is classified, so we are conducting a review, but we’re unable to release it to the public because of its classification at this time.

QUESTION: Well, so how – how long ago did you locate it and where was it found?

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m not sure exactly when we – oh, yes, I am sure. I’m sorry, I do I have the – on April 28th, the senator asked for this document. And I’m not sure exactly when we found it. But it was in our digital files here in the Department. But beyond that, I really – I can’t say --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you –

MR. KELLY: -- what process we’re in – what stage in the process of declassification we’re in.

QUESTION: Well, if it was found in your digital files, which means what, it’s an attachment to an email?

MR. KELLY: You know, Matt, I don’t really have the kind of details that – what sort of format it was in.

QUESTION: All right. Well, (inaudible) find out exactly when you located it – well, when it was located in the digital files and then, you know, how --

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, I’m not sure how important that is in this particular process.

QUESTION: Well, because April 28th is – April 28th is, you know, that’s two weeks ago. And I think it’s germane to the question of, how far along is the review process?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we took the – their requests very seriously obviously. And it was – there are several steps in the process we had to locate the document, and then we had to look at the classification of it, and then we had to share it with Congress. So I think – I mean, we took – I think we moved with real --

QUESTION: Okay. Has – has it been shared with Congress?

MR. KELLY: -- real, but deliberate speed. Sorry?

QUESTION: Has it been shared with Congress?

MR. KELLY: Yes, it has been shared with Senator Whitehouse.

QUESTION: And just the last thing, you said it appears to be responsive to – is this – is it possible this is not the famous memo that everyone –

MR. KELLY: I’m hedging my language on this because I haven’t seen the document myself. I’m not sure exactly what document Mr. Zelikow is referring to, so that’s why I’m using the verb there, “it appears to.”

Yes, Sue.

QUESTION: Was it found in the deleted section file?

MR. KELLY: I don’t believe so.

QUESTION: So who --

MR. KELLY: But I’m not sure exactly where it was found.

QUESTION: But it seems to have taken, you know, a bit of a while to track this document down, so it sounds like --

MR. KELLY: I wouldn't say that.

QUESTION: So it sounds like you – did you employ some sleuth, some special digital sleuth to go through all the emails and find it, or what are the circumstances?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know, Sue. I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a big – you know, I’m not going to say there was some big investigative caper here or anything like that. I think it was a fairly straightforward process.

Other questions on this? Yes.

QUESTION: South Asia.

MR. KELLY: South Asia?

QUESTION: In – on Sri Lanka --


QUESTION: Tamil Americans have been demanding the U.S. Administration for invoking responsibility to protect provision in Sri Lanka with Britain and France. What is Administration’s view on it?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure I understand the question.

QUESTION: Tamil Americans have been demonstrating and sending letters to the Administration for the last couple of days to invoke responsibility to protect, R2P. What is the Administration’s view on it?

MR. KELLY: I still don’t understand the question, I’m sorry. To protect --

QUESTION: Responsibility to protect provision in the UN in which R2P - in which any country in UN Security Council can approve sending of troops for a humanitarian basis to save civilians.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I just have to take that question. I’m sorry. We’ll get back to you for information.

QUESTION: A related one on this. You know, the Administration has been very, very clear in public about wanting Sri Lanka to do more to protect civilians and aid workers, including the joint, you know, comments by Foreign Secretary Miliband and Secretary Clinton the other – yesterday. And today, we have a report saying that a Red Cross worker was killed in a shelling. Do you have any fresh ideas on how to try to get the Sri Lankan Government to stop the killing of civilians and, in this case, an aid worker, since the rhetorical efforts clearly have not borne fruit for many weeks now?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, I think we’re as frustrated as everybody else in the international community about the situation in Sri Lanka. We’re deeply disturbed by these reports, including the one, Arshad, that you just mentioned. We’re working very closely with the international community to maintain pressure on all sides. At the same time, we’re working with the UN and with our allies to try and develop a humanitarian response to this question. But I think it’s – we’re working very hard on the diplomatic side to – calling on both sides to honor their commitments to allow the civilians to leave that zone where they’re trapped and be able to reach humanitarian assistance. We’re calling on the government to stop use of heavy weapons into the so-called safe zones. And as I said before, we’re working with the UN and the international community to provide humanitarian assistance. But we are frustrated by this.

QUESTION: Are you talking with the Russians and Chinese about why they don’t want to have a full 15-member Security Council meeting on it?

MR. KELLY: We, of course, are involved in discussions at the UN with our Security Council partners. We’re also discussing bilaterally. This process is ongoing.

Other questions on this topic?

QUESTION: Yeah, just one more on – what did Secretary Clinton – well, the joint statement yesterday with the foreign secretary of Britain, they called for a political solution that reconciles all Sri Lankans and establishes a meaningful role for Tamil and other minorities in national political life. I mean, is there something more specific they’re pursuing there?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I think that statement speaks for itself. I think the – a lasting solution to this problem, this problem which has gone on for many years and has caused such tragedy, is full participation of all of Sri Lanka’s peoples in the political process, including ethnic minorities like the Tamil. That’s what we meant to say with it.


QUESTION: Different topic, if we’re done with this.

MR. KELLY: Okay.

QUESTION: A Pentagon employee has been charged today with selling military secrets, but then also State Department cables, to a Chinese informant. Do you have any comment on this, since they were – he was selling State Department documents?

MR. KELLY: You know, I’ve heard reports about this. I can say very generally that we take the safeguarding of classified information very seriously. But beyond that, I think I have to refer you to the Pentagon. As I said, I’ve just seen press reports of it.

QUESTION: Do you know if anything – do you have anything about the nature of the State Department cables that were --

MR. KELLY: No, no, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just – this is – I’ve just seen the reports.

Yeah, I think you had a question on the same issue. No, different issue? Same issue?

QUESTION: Different issue.

MR. KELLY: Different issue? Different issue.

QUESTION: Please, amidst the reports of illnesses at Afghanistan girls’ schools, I was wondering if you had any reaction, and whether the State Department is playing any role to try to determine what happened.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, we’ve seen these reports. They’re very – they obviously concern us very much. And the – I understand that the Afghan authorities are also taking these incidents very seriously and are investigating them. We – and of course, we urge the Afghan authorities to do – to conduct a thorough investigation of it. It is an investigation being conducted by Afghanistan.
Also, we have a provincial reconstruction team nearby there, and they’re following it very closely. But beyond that – actually, I’ve commented quite a bit, but beyond those comments, I really can’t go much beyond those comments since there’s an investigation underway.

QUESTION: Because I was wondering if there’s any technical assistance to aid in that investigation, any blood sample analysis, that kind of thing – was being --

MR. KELLY: Well, as I say, we have a PRT nearby there. But as far as I know, we haven’t been asked for any kind of technical assistance.


QUESTION: Still on this? Mine’s different.

MR. KELLY: Any more on this?

QUESTION: Yeah, same issue.

QUESTION: Afghanistan, but not this particular issue.

MR. KELLY: Sue, you have something on --


QUESTION: I’ll stay on the same issue.

MR. KELLY: Matt, what did you have? Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mine’s on Russia.

MR. KELLY: It’s on Russia, okay. The same issue?


MR. KELLY: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Is this the first time that such chemicals are being used in Afghanistan? What’s the report – U.S. assessment of --

MR. KELLY: We don’t have a report on that yet. As far as I know, it’s the first time, but I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: Can we stick with (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: Sure.

QUESTION: We have a report that – we have obtained a list of 140 Afghan citizens said to have been killed last week in the incident believed to be U.S.-caused, at least partly by U.S. airstrikes. And of the 140 names, 93 are children and 25 are women. We’ve already had a comment from a U.S. military spokesman who essentially questions the veracity of it indirectly, saying that, you know, he could come up with 140 names, there’s no way of knowing if the list is accurate, and so on. But the list has been sort of validated by a number of Afghan officials. And I wonder if you have any sense of whether this list is accurate or not and if indeed the dead did indeed include 93 children and 25 women.

MR. KELLY: Secretary Clinton has been, of course, on the record of how disturbed we were by this information, how we wanted a complete and thorough investigation. This list that you refer to I haven’t seen, so I’m unable to comment on the veracity of the list. I know that we’re working quite closely with the Government of Afghanistan to conduct this investigation, but whether – you know, as I say, the veracity of the list, though, I can’t confirm from here.

QUESTION: Do you know if anybody in the State Department has seen the list and is trying to assess its accuracy or lack thereof?

MR. KELLY: As I say, I’m not aware of this list, so it’s impossible for me to say if anybody in the State Department has seen it, since I didn’t even know it existed.


QUESTION: On this UAE 123 nuclear deal, are you still holding up sending that to the Hill because of concerns over the torture video, or are you satisfied that that can move ahead now?
Where is it? I’m a bit unclear as to where it is at the moment.

MR. KELLY: We, of course, are very concerned by this video. We are consulting with Congress on the next steps on this agreement. We – who’s whistling? We think it’s an important agreement, but as I said, we are right now in the stage of having consultations with Congress.

QUESTION: But are you consulting Congress over the video, saying that you want to see that resolved before moving ahead with the nuclear deal? Are you now tying the two together?

MR. KELLY: You know, I don’t want to get into details of our consultations with Congress, other than to say that we are talking to them, we are concerned about this video, and we’ll discuss the next steps.

QUESTION: Well, okay. What is the link between the – why are you – why are you putting the two in the same sentence?

MR. KELLY: Why I’m putting the video with the 123 agreement? Well, like I said before, we think the 123 agreement is important, but this – I mean, obviously, we had concerns about this – this video.

QUESTION: What does the video have to do at all with the 123 agreement?

MR. KELLY: Well, it’s – as I said, we’re just – we were concerned by the images on the film.

QUESTION: So you’re recognizing, in other words, that it’s not worth your while pushing ahead on the nuclear deal --

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying --

QUESTION: -- until this is resolved?

MR. KELLY: I didn’t say that at all. I said it’s an important agreement, just that we are – we’re consulting right now.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s worth holding off then on pushing for the agreement until Congress is satisfied that the UAE has acted appropriately?

MR. KELLY: I’ll say it again. We were concerned by this video. We think the agreement is an important agreement, and at the appropriate time, we’ll take the next steps.


QUESTION: You haven’t made a decision to hold it up, but you’re considering a decision to hold up the 123 deal --

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that we’re consulting with Congress.

QUESTION: But I’m still not sure I understand the connection between a video of a half-brother of someone who has no governmental position and an agreement, a government-to-government agreement on nukes.

MR. KELLY: Again, we’re – we take this – the image on – images on the film were disturbing. You know, we take them --

QUESTION: Why even raise that in the same – why talk about them in the same sentence?

MR. KELLY: Because I just did.

QUESTION: Well, why? You must – it infers that you do see some connection between the two.

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying I make a connection at all.

QUESTION: So to phrase it another way then, are you concerned that this video is holding up moving ahead with the 123 agreement?

QUESTION: Or could do so?

MR. KELLY: I’ll say it again. We are holding consultations. We are – we’re concerned about the video, and at the appropriate time, we’ll make the decision.

QUESTION: Well, is it possible that it’s Congress that’s also concerned and they’re the ones making the link?

MR. KELLY: I’m not going to – you’ll have to – you have to ask Congress about that. I’m not going to characterize what --

QUESTION: So you said, “make the decision.” Could you elaborate?

MR. KELLY: Well, the President has to decide to send the agreement up to the Hill.

QUESTION: But the Secretary has already signed the notification and moved it to the President’s office, right?

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m not sure exactly what stage it is. But at the appropriate time, we’ll move it up to the Hill.

QUESTION: Have you called in the UAE ambassador to speak to him about this?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that we’ve called him in.

QUESTION: Can I go to Russia?

MR. KELLY: Yes, please.

QUESTION: What do you make of the Russians blocking this attempt to keep the OSCE mission operating in Georgia?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, our policy is clear regarding the OSCE mission in Georgia. We think that the OSCE monitor should have complete access to South Ossetia. We call upon the Russians to abide by their – the agreement reached by Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Medvedev. We’re aware of these reports, and we think that Russia should allow the OSCE monitors complete access to South Ossetia and the surrounding region.

QUESTION: Why? I mean, the mandate expires June 30th, so just a simple question, not a trick question. Why should they do so?

MR. KELLY: Our goal and the goal of the international community is a peaceful and stable South Caucasus. And we think the way to reach that is via complete transparency. And of course, we think the OSCE has an important role to play in reaching that transparency.

Yes, same subject or --

QUESTION: Same subject.

MR. KELLY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: There is, I guess, some – a Tiananmen protestor who has tried to go back to China. He’s a legal U.S. resident and he’s been detained. Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. KELLY: I do, in fact. We are disturbed by reports that prominent Chinese human rights activist Zhou Yongjun has been charged with fraud after months of detention in China. It is our understanding that contrary to Chinese legal procedure, Mr. Zhou’s family was not officially informed until May 13. As you noted, he was one of the student leaders of the Tiananmen Square movement. And the Embassy in Beijing has raised our concerns with the ministry of foreign affairs.

QUESTION: Do you know who they met with?

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: Do you know who they met with in Beijing?

MR. KELLY: I just know that they have met with the ministry. I don’t know who exactly at the ministry.

QUESTION: So are you looking for him to be released?

MR. KELLY: We are calling on the government to ensure that all legal and administrative proceedings against him are conducted in a manner that is both transparent and consistent with Chinese law and international human rights norms.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I suggested that I might have a question about Taiwan, but then I didn’t. Now I do. (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: I’m ready for you, Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah? (Laughter.) What does the State Department have to say, if anything, about the – an official visit to Taipei by the governor of Guam?

MR. KELLY: Well, Matt, U.S. policy has not changed. The United States maintains a “one China” policy based on the three U.S.-PRC joint communications and the Taiwan Relations Act. U.S. state and local officials, from time to time, visit Taiwan. These visits further our economic and other relations with the people of Taiwan, as described in the Taiwan Relations Act, and are consistent with our policy.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t have a problem with this visit, even though it’s – even though the governor’s office is calling it an official state visit?

MR. KELLY: Well, the United States does not conduct state visits with Taiwan.

QUESTION: Would – and that applies to territories and states as well?

MR. KELLY: That applies to territories of states.

QUESTION: And states?

MR. KELLY: Territories and states, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Myanmar, or Burma. The – Myanmar state television showed a photo of the American William Yettaw meeting with consular chief Colin Furst, just confirming that he did meet with him and what transpired about his swimming across the lake and being arrested.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not aware of that video.

QUESTION: Okay. And what about the – did the consular chief meet with this guy Yettaw who --

MR. KELLY: I’ll have to look into it.

QUESTION: Can you take the question?

MR. KELLY: Sure, yeah.

QUESTION: The lawyer – one of the lawyers for Roxana Saberi says that she – that the Iranian case against her was based on her having acquired a confidential Iranian Government report.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That she acquired such a report, I am not suggesting in any way applies that she was guilty of espionage, but it may indeed have violated Iranian laws about – you know, covering the confidentiality of such reports. The Department was very consistent in saying that the charges against her were baseless. Do you stick with that, or does this change your view of the charges?

MR. KELLY: No, we haven’t changed our views. We continue to maintain that the charges against her are baseless. And our concern throughout, of course, has been Ms. Saberi’s well-being and her safe return to the United States.

Same subject?

QUESTION: No, different subject.

QUESTION: Same subject.

MR. KELLY: Same subject, okay.

QUESTION: In a way related. A while ago, Ambassador Holbrooke appointed two American Iranians as his advisor. There are reports out of Iran now that one of them, Vali Nasr, traveled to Iran, and reports allege that his trip was related to Roxana Saberi’s release. Can you confirm that, or has he been to Iran at all during the past week?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know for a fact that Mr. Nasr is in his office today. Of course, he works for Ambassador Holbrooke. He is very much involved in issues related to Pakistan. I can state quite categorically that he had no role in negotiating – or going to Tehran and negotiating the return of Ms. Saberi.

QUESTION: So he has not made any trips to --

MR. KELLY: You know, I don’t know the travel schedule of Mr. Nasr.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting there’s a possibility that one of Holbrooke’s deputies went to Iran?

MR. KELLY: Well, it’s a possibility that before he went into the office of Mr. Holbrooke, he’s been to Tehran. But since then, you know, I’m sorry, I don’t have his – what his schedule’s been so --

QUESTION: But since he has been a government – an employee of the State Department or of Ambassador Holbrooke, however that works, he has not traveled --

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, I made a pledge before I came out here never to lie to anybody, particularly to you, Matt. And so --

QUESTION: So since he’s been --

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m 99 percent sure, but let me make sure of that.

QUESTION: Do you think --

QUESTION: Continuation of – on Iran. Now that the U.S. has been selected to the security – to the Human Rights Council, are you going to push the human rights violation issues in Iran any further?

MR. KELLY: Well, you --

QUESTION: *Take it up* seriously.

MR. KELLY: I think that we’re going to have a broad agenda related to human rights. We – one of the reasons why we wanted to stand for election the Human Rights Council is – we wanted a seat at the table, we wanted to be a fully engaged voting member of the council. One of the things, of course, that we’re going to promote is – promote and protect is human rights in Iran, but not just in Iran, worldwide.


QUESTION: Does this agenda apply to the Palestinians under occupation in Israel that their rights have been violated in Jerusalem and the occupied land, the wall that has separated so many families, more than 3,000 prisoners in – without any legal – real legal reasons, including women and children even in the Israeli jails. So now with the United States taking this seat and this new responsibility, is the United States going to address this subject more seriously, regardless of its alliance with Israel?

MR. KELLY: Well, we take the issue of human rights very seriously. And as I said before, we are looking to be fully engaged and an active participant on the council so we can promote the idea of human rights worldwide.

Yes, way in the back.

QUESTION: On North Korea. Secretary Bosworth, the stated goal of his trip was to try to find a way to get North Korea to come back to the table to consult with the allies to try to figure out a way how to do that. Ambassador Bosworth met with the Secretary yesterday. Do you know if he came back with any sense of how to get them back to the table?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said to you yesterday, he did brief the Secretary. He, in fact, almost literally came right off – right from the airport to meet with the Secretary. They had a good meeting. He was able to brief her in detail about the points of view of our partners in this process of the – of our four partners. And they were able to discuss the next steps as well. But I’m sure your next question will be “What were those next steps?” But I can’t go into it right now.

QUESTION: Well, just is there any better of sense of how to get them back to the table? I understand that they had good discussions. But is there any better sense after this mission in discussing with our allies how we can get them back to the table?

MR. KELLY: I think it’s fair to say that Ambassador Bosworth had very constructive talks with our partners and got a good sense of where each one is and how we can better approach this multilaterally. But beyond that, I can’t really say.


QUESTION: On North Korea, what’s your understanding of the situation in Yongbyon nuclear facilities because North Korea has said that they restarted a nuclear plant? But there was a press report saying that there is no concrete evidence or (inaudible)? What is your understanding of the current situation in North Korea?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, I’ve seen those press reports. But beyond that I think since we don’t have any – of course, we don’t have any diplomatic representation. The monitors were removed. I think I’d be getting into intelligence matters, so I really would decline to comment any further on that.

Yes, Lachlan.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that the Libyans have released Fathi el-Jahmi and that he’s now in – receiving medical care in Jordan?

MR. KELLY: I think we’ve addressed that. Haven’t – have we addressed that, Robert?

MR. WOOD: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: We have a report from Jordan that he’s receiving medical care. And this has been a big issue, of course, for the State Department.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If – Secretary Clinton has raised it at the previous --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. No, I just – just have to take that question.


MR. KELLY: Sorry. I thought this was addressed in the pre-Ian Kelly era.



QUESTION: – actually on al-Libi also. Do you have any update or anything more to say about the apparent death of al-Libi in a Libyan jail?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say than you did yesterday about Al-Libi’s apparent death in a Libyan jail?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t. Sorry.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

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