Daily Press Briefing - January 13

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Fairfax County Search and Rescue Teams have arrived and begun work / Teams from Los Angeles and Miami-Dade are preparing to depart for Haiti
    • The Secretary has spoken to the Foreign Minister of France Kouchner, Foreign Minister of Brazil Amorim, Foreign Minister of Canada Cannon, and the President of the Dominican Republic Fernandez
    • A number of countries have offered assistance / Believe that search and rescue assets from France and the United Kingdom are en route
    • U.S. Embassy is accounting for American citizens / In process of alerting Americans / Small number of American citizens at the airport / Two C-130s on the ground to evacuate Americans / Coast Guard has evacuated a small number of injured Americans
    • Aware of three possible American casualties / Still trying to confirm
    • U.S. Coast Guard is looking at the port / Port received substantial damage / Limits ability to dock ships
    • People can text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to assist with relief efforts / More than 82,000 donors / $828,140 has been donated so far
    • Refer questions on announcement and technical aspects of this issue to Google / Google informed us of their concerns
    • U.S. relationship with China is broad, deep, expanding and durable / As part of ongoing strategic and economic dialogue, we will have questions on economic policies / China's ability to continue to meet international standards in terms of products and services / Not a different range of issues that we continue to work on with China / Discussions with China for some time on questions of network security / Internet freedom / Will continue to raise these issues
    • U/S Burns Trip to Moscow / Will discuss a broad range of issues / Consultation with Russia on START process / Work still needs to be done to close the deal
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 13, 2010


4:35 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Hello again. We are trying to shoehorn this briefing in. I know you’ve got demands as you get to the end of your reporting day. Secretary Clinton is still on the ground in Hawaii, and we think will be making a statement in the next 10 or 15 minutes, so let’s see how much of this we can get done.

Just to give you a little bit of additional information since we last saw you, the disaster assistance team from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, OFDA, team has arrived in Port-au-Prince. The search-and-rescue team from Fairfax, Virginia has arrived as well, and obviously beginning their work of both assessing the needs of Haiti and also beginning the search-and-rescue effort. Two additional terms – teams, one from Los Angeles, one from Miami-Dade are in the process of either boarding or en route and should arrive in the coming hours.

The Secretary in Hawaii delayed her departure for other stops in Asia. Today she has spoken with Foreign Minister Kouchner of France, Foreign Minister Amorim of Brazil, President Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, and Foreign Minister Cannon of Canada.

A number of countries have come in and offered assistance. I don’t – this is perhaps a partial list, but gives you a sense of the growing international response. This would include Netherlands, Iceland, Puerto Rico, Guyana, Brazil, Canada, Belize, Nicaragua, Cuba, Morocco, the Dominican Republic. We think that there are search-and-rescue assets en route to Haiti from France and the United Kingdom. So as we come to the end of this day, I think you’re seeing a significant search-and-rescue capability which, as USAID Administrator Raj Shah said earlier, will be of particular emphasis over the next 24 to 72 hours.

In terms of what’s happening at the Embassy, we continue our efforts to try to both account for and support American citizens in Haiti. We have been able this afternoon, with the arrival of helicopters and C-130s – I believe they’re all Coast Guard thus far – to begin to evacuate a small number of American citizens who have been injured. I believe they’ve been taken to Guantanamo. And there are two C-130s on the ground right now. There are somewhere between 100 and 160 American citizens at the airport, and we believe within the hour, we’ll begin – have a substantial lift of American citizens out of Port-au-Prince as well.

The Embassy is in the process of continuing to alert American citizens, now that we know that we have some capability, some airlift capability at the airport, that we’ll begin to evacuate more substantial numbers of Americans in the coming days.
Why don’t I stop there and take your questions.

QUESTION: I’ve got two things. One, you mentioned Puerto Rico?


QUESTION: Isn’t that part of the U.S.?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, it is.

QUESTION: Do they operate their own search-and-rescue teams?

MR. CROWLEY: No, I just have – I have – you are quite right.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. And the other thing is that one of your colleagues, Denis McDonough, was on the one of the networks a little while ago and was talking about how they’re trying to get – how you’re trying to get volunteers, including Peace Corps volunteers, in there. And unless I’m really badly mistaken, and unless the Peace Corps website is completely wrong, the Peace Corps program in Haiti ended in 2005. So I’m curious; are you thinking about bringing them in from the DR or other countries? Or are you thinking about restarting the program on an ad hoc basis, or was he just mistaken?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re probably looking at people that have experience in terms of working through the kinds of challenges that Haiti is facing. So these are experienced people that just may be in a position to help Haiti in the coming days. So I’m assuming this is an ad hoc – within a community that has both an interest in helping people, a tradition of helping people, and experience and capability.

QUESTION: But you’re not looking to restart the program on some emergency basis, as far as you know?

MR. CROWLEY: As far as I know.


QUESTION: Any – this morning, you were not aware of any U.S. citizen fatalities. Are you aware of any now? And secondly, do – I realize the DART team has just gotten there, but do you have any estimate on broader casualties?

MR. CROWLEY: I think on the second question first, Arshad, I think it’s still too early to tell what the – obviously, this is a tragedy of historic proportions for Haiti. Clearly, the death toll will be quite significant, but as to the order of magnitude, I think that is still too early to tell. We are in the process of confirming some potential U.S. casualties, but we’re not in a position to put a number next to that. But there are a small number of cases that we are aware of, and once we go through the confirmation process, may prove out to be U.S. citizens.

QUESTION: Is that – and the confirmation is confirming that people who have died are indeed U.S. citizens?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Or is it – okay, it’s not also notifying next of kin?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, to – we are obviously – we – there are a number of casualties in Port-au-Prince. We have reason to believe that some of them are U.S. citizens and we’re going through the process of going through a positive identification and next-of-kin notification.

QUESTION: How many? Can you say?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, right now, we’re aware of three, but obviously, that number could grow.

QUESTION: Three possible?

MR. CROWLEY: Three people that we are looking at as possible U.S. casualties.

QUESTION: And is part of that casualties or deaths?

QUESTION: Fatalities?

MR. CROWLEY: Fatalities.

QUESTION: And as part of that mix – do you know of any Americans who were injured or who might have been killed at the UN mission?

MR. CROWLEY: We do have Americans in the UN mission. Obviously, we, as are the UN, are very concerned about their welfare, but I don’t know that we know of any in that location yet.

QUESTION: Apparently, some medical groups say they aren’t able to go without clearance from the State Department. Do you know anything about this or whether there’s a line of people for it?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know anything about that. Obviously, I think the – depending on how they’re going to get there and how they get themselves sequenced in – the Coast Guard this afternoon has been looking at the port. And they’ve reported in a conference call that it’s still going on, that the port of – in Haiti at Port-au-Prince received substantial damage. The piers have been damaged. So there – that will limit our ability to dock ships in the coming days, so that puts extra importance on the airport.

As you heard General Fraser tell you here a while ago, it’s a functioning airport, but it’s got a limited capacity – one runway – so I would strongly encourage people that want to try to move assets into Haiti to make sure they are connecting with the appropriate authorities on the ground so that we can begin an orderly flow of people and materiel into Haiti.


QUESTION: You said that you’ve taken some injured to Guantanamo. Are you looking at that as a triage center or a place for refugees? And how many people could it possibly hold if you need to have --

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. Probably better to ask the Pentagon that question since they operate the base there, but obviously, that’s a place where you can put down some aircraft and then do some rotary liftover from Guantanamo to Haiti very easily. But we’re looking at a wide range of runways in the region – the Dominican Republic and other places where you can stage significant operations and then move people and goods over by rotary.

QUESTION: Can we change subjects?

MR. CROWLEY: Do you want to stick --

QUESTION: Just one more on this.


QUESTION: Do you expect to have any additional briefings from State on Haiti today?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave that to you. I think probably there won’t be a whole lot more to support – to report, so I suspect we’ll make this the last one for today unless we have some significant news, and then do as we did tomorrow. Fairly early in the day we’ll come down after the morning call and just keep you updated through the day. We’ll pledge that tomorrow as well.

QUESTION: I’m sorry if you said this before, but while you have the 60 Americans going to Guantanamo and you have the possible deaths of three, do you have --

MR. CROWLEY: Just to clarify, there are two C-130 aircraft. They are prepared to lift a fairly significant number of Americans out in the next hour or two. Whether they go to Guantanamo, whether they go to Puerto Rico, I – that’s a --

QUESTION: Are these Americans that you’ve already identified that need to get out?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it will be a mix of people. As we said earlier to you, there are some Americans that have been congregated at the airport, and I think in the coming days as we indicate and communicate to American citizens in Port-au-Prince that we are at a point where we believe we can begin to evacuate significant numbers of Americans, the process will be to have Americans just connect with us at the airport.[1]  We’ll have the ability to support them, process them, and them put them on aircraft and then get them – get back to other places.

QUESTION: How many Americans have --

QUESTION: In the next hour or two?

QUESTION: How many Americans have you identified as injured? This morning, it was about a dozen.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I don’t think we have – I don’t have a better number than that. And so – and those we are very much in the process of getting out as we speak. We’ve had a couple of helicopter flights where we put small numbers, three and four, on them at a time. And – but that’s our first priority is to those that – some of them have been at the Embassy. We’re moving them out. And then as others identify themselves to us, that will be a priority.

QUESTION: And then just also, out of the – I’m sorry if you – if I’m making you repeat yourself. But out of the 45,000 or so Americans, how many have you made contact with, approximately?

MR. CROWLEY: Still a very small number.

QUESTION: Less than a hundred?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Now, I would say there are 40- to 45,000 American citizens in Haiti. Not all of them are in Port-au-Prince, so that might account for why. But you’re quite right. Still – and we really don’t know what to make of this, whether that people are in fairly good shape or whether in dire straits. But still a relatively small number of people have contacted the Embassy so far.

QUESTION: Can you quantify that at all? Like less than a hundred? Between a hundred and two --

MR. CROWLEY: Less than a hundred.

QUESTION: Okay. And then also, out of these 45,000, I mean, are a good number of these dual-nationals, like, or Haitians that happens to have U.S. citizenship? And not that you kind of consider them – I’m just trying to --

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take that question. I really don’t have – it’s a fair question.

QUESTION: Yeah. And like --

MR. CROWLEY: But I don’t have a real --

QUESTION: That’s a – I’m just saying it’s sizeable amount. And I mean, are the majority of the – I would assume that a lot of them are dual-nationals. Are the majority of Americans down there aid workers or there’s people that live there or, you know, multinational corporations?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s probably a combination of all of the above.

QUESTION: Okay. If you have any --



MR. CROWLEY: We’ll see if we can’t find somebody that can kind of describe the community there.

QUESTION: So these two C-130 aircraft are prepared to lift a significant number of Americans out in the next hour or two?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, they’re on the ground now there. I think they’re waiting for, actually, movement of people from the Embassy --

QUESTION: So that would be hundreds of people?

MR. CROWLEY: It’d be 100, 125.

QUESTION: 125 up to --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, obviously, we’ll report tomorrow in terms of how many actually climbed on, but we’ve got the ability to take – I mean, we estimate there are somewhere up to 160 people at the airport, and some portion of those should be able to get on these flights if they choose.

QUESTION: And that would be 125 total then between the two flights?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll tell you later how many actually boarded.


MR. CROWLEY: But, obviously, we’re talking about 100 or so --

QUESTION: And when you say you’re looking at a wide range of runways in the region, what – which runways would those be other than in Santo Domingo? What else are you looking at? Are you looking at Gonaives? What are you --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, probably that’s a better question for the Pentagon. But just looking at what kind – what’s your concept of operations if, for example, the port is – has limited operations and that puts a more – greater stress on airlift, and you’re looking – and since Port-au-Prince, as General Fraser mentioned, has a single runway, you’re looking at how you can use other areas as staging bases and then flow material into Haiti through all of the – as Raj Shah said, we’re looking to create as many options as possible that allows us to do as much as we can as fast as we can.

QUESTION: P.J., when you said there are about 160 at the airport, so that would include, if you’ve only heard from less than 100, that would include the 80 that – the 80 or so that Cheryl Mills mentioned earlier that are --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, okay, this is – there are a group of people at the airport. There is a separate group of people that have checked in with the Embassy. Some of those are injured. So there is a process where, as people come to the airport, identify themselves to the Embassy, indicate that they wish to evacuate. That number of people that we can account for will obviously will go up.

Just one thing to mention before we do change topics. We did announce last evening and set up a wireless mechanism so people around the world could donate money to Haiti. And – by simply texting Haiti to 90999 and a donation of $10 that would automatically be added to one’s cell phone bill. This is an arrangement that we worked out with the mGive Foundation Mobile Accord, the Wireless Association and the American Red Cross.

QUESTION: I thought it was the Red Cross that --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. But we can report that as of 4 o'clock, we’ve had more than 82,800 donors and raised more than $828,000 so far.

QUESTION: What was the dollar figure?

MR. CROWLEY: The exact figure as of 4 o'clock, 8-2-8, 1-4-0.

QUESTION: Quick question.


QUESTION: You mentioned damage at the port. Does that shift the focus to aviation being the better way to get people in and out and resources in and out? Or are you still kind of ongoing assessment about how viable both are?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Well, I mean, both will be viable. Obviously, the – you’re – I’ll probably defer to – more to the Pentagon and the Coast Guard. But the ships that are in the vicinity do have, in some cases, a helicopter capability. Obviously, if you’re flowing an aircraft carrier and a Marine amphibious ship in the next day or two, you’ll have the ability to lurk offshore and move material and people ashore by helicopter. But obviously, if you have a large ship, you’re able to dock there in Port-au-Prince. It adds to your ability to offload equipment. So if there’s limitations in terms of the port infrastructure, do we just – and we’ll continue to look at how options – but certainly bringing people and material in from the sea will a significant aspect of this operation as we go along.

QUESTION: May I ask a non-Haiti question?


QUESTION: So I wanted to ask about Google and get some information on what you know about that at this point. So, specifically, I wanted to know, does the evidence of Chinese involvement in these Google attacks undermine U.S.-Chinese ties? What does the U.S. plan on doing about it? And does this have a chilling effect on U.S. – other U.S. companies doing business in China?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as to the details of the announcement and the technical aspects of what might have happened, we’ll defer to Google to explain those. I would say, obviously, you’ve got a renowned company that has stood up and raised questions about a commercial relationship it has with China. I would put this particular situation in the context of similar discussions and similar questions that have been raised as China has evolved and as its economy and its economic impact has grown. There have been questions about how China and how Chinese firms do business. We’ve had questions over time about a range of things from intellectual property rights to the standards in terms of some of the exports that have come into this country. So I think that, at one level, this is the same kind of economic question that is a part of our relationship.

So I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re adding something new to the relationship. This – in terms of U.S.-China relations, it is a broad, it is a deep, it is an expanding and durable relationship. That said, as part of the ongoing strategic and economic dialogue that we have with China, we are going to have questions that have been raised on economic policies, on the ability of China to continue to meet international standards in terms of its products and services. But I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily different than the range of issues that we continue to work on with China.

QUESTION: Same subject?


QUESTION: The Secretary today said that they got word from Google about their concerns about this sometime in the past. Can you give us any kind of date on when that happened? I know that the President mentioned Google multiple times when he was in Shanghai. Was it as far back as his trip, or –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have had discussions with China going back for some time over questions of network security, questions of internet freedom. So this has been a subject that we have raised with China on a number of occasions, and you’ve heard us from the podium here express concerns about Chinese efforts to restrict access to the internet, and we will continue to raise those questions. Google did inform us of their concerns and the particular incidents that prompted their announcement yesterday, and they – over the recent few days.


QUESTION: Under Secretary Burns’s trip to Moscow, can you talk about what he’s going to tell the Russians on the START treaty or what you guys hope to get out of that discussion on the START treaty?

MR. CROWLEY: He is there now. I think as we announced his trip a couple of days ago, it is a broad-ranging discussion. When President Medvedev and President Obama met last summer, they set up a wide range of teams that would work on issues of importance to both countries as part of this bi-national commission. He is going there, along with others, to look at the status and the progress in that work. We will obviously be consulting with Russia, given the holiday break that we took, as to where we are in the START process and when we can expect to re-start negotiations in the coming days. So that will be a part of the discussion. We’ll see if the various issues that were still on the table at the end of last year, whether we’ve made any progress in the intervening time. And – but we obviously feel we’re very close in terms of that negotiation, but there’s still some work that needs to be done to close the deal.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what some of those various issues were that were carried over from last year?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re not going to do the negotiation from here.

QUESTION: Do you have a day for the re-start?

MR. CROWLEY: Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Do you have a day for the re-start?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that’s one of the issues that will be part of the discussion.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 4:58 p.m.)

[1] American citizens are advised to stay in a safe place until further notice from the U.S. Embassy