Daily Press Briefing - July 19, 2012

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • UN Security Council Vote / Next Steps
    • Nonlethal Assistance / Contact with Opposition / Political Transition
    • Chemical Weapons
    • Assad's Location
    • Pakistan Prime Minister in Kabul / Afghan Reconciliation
    • Counterterrorism
    • Bombing
    • GCTF
    • Development in Africa
    • Omar Suleiman's Death
Patrick Ventrell
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 19, 2012


Today's briefing was held off-camera, so no video is available.

1:08 p.m. EDT

MR. VENTRELL: Good afternoon, and welcome to the State Department. I want to welcome our visitors from the University of Arkansas. I understand they are some of the top scholars from the University of Arkansas who are scholarship students and are here visiting Washington. So welcome to our briefing room today. And I’ll go ahead and turn it over to all of you.

QUESTION: Really? You don’t have anything you want to say about what happened at the UN? Or are you going to let Ambassador Rice speak for the --

MR. VENTRELL: I will very much associate myself with the words that Ambassador Rice said. We think that this was deeply regrettable. We think that it’s deplorable, and certainly we’re not pleased with the outcome of the vote. Having said that, we’re going to remain focused on all elements of our national security strategy in terms of keeping the pressure on the Assad regime so that we can get the kind of political transition that will get us in a managed way and a way that doesn’t further the chaos, the kind of political transition that will stabilize the situation.

So we're going to keep on. As you know, obviously the UN was one part of our strategy, but we have worked with more than a hundred other countries in the Friends of Syria. We’ve worked with the Arab League. We have many partners who will continue to work with us outside the Security Council as we pursue our goals of a political transition in Syria, which is really the goal of the opposition inside of Syria, of the Syrian people who are looking for a brighter future. And we’re going to continue to support them through our nonlethal assistance, which gives them the sort of humanitarian assistance, the kind of communication and organizational assistance so that they can get closer to their ultimate goal, which is a new Syria that provides safety and security for all of its citizens and respects the rights of all of its different ethnicities and religious backgrounds of minorities. So that’s what we're looking for.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s all well and good, but I thought the political transition depended – was dependent on a Chapter 7 resolution. That’s what you said from the podium. That’s what the Secretary said. That’s what Ambassador Rice had said. That’s what everyone has said. So you’re not going to get a Chapter 7 resolution. So doesn’t that mean that the Annan plan for a political transition is dead?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that was the path that we preferred. We had a resolution that we thought was a good resolution and would have supported our overall strategy. Having said that, we’ll still continue to work with the Joint Special Envoy. I understand that later this afternoon, there is likely to be a vote on a technical rollover that will at least allow the monitors to continue in place, although, of course they’ll need to have a safe exit plan if indeed the situation devolves further. And we’re all very concerned about that. We – as we've seen, obviously the fighting has continued in Damascus, has continued around the country. The situation continues to destabilize, and so we, of course, are worried about their safety and security as well.

QUESTION: The impression that you left and every – U.S. officials, British officials, French officials over the past week – in fact ever since Geneva, when, if we were to have believed what you guys were spinning out at the time, the Russians and the Chinese were onboard. Everything that has been said is that for the transition plan to work it has to be backed up by the threat of consequences in the event of the regime or the opposition not complying with it. Is that not the case anymore?

MR. VENTRELL: Clearly, that was the preferable route, Matt.

QUESTION: No, it wasn’t the preferable route. You guys were saying it was the only route. The only way this was going to work – Kofi Annan said the only way this is going to work is if there’s a Chapter 7 resolution on consequences. So --

MR. VENTRELL: Matt, again, the vote just happened. We’re not pleased with the result, but we’re very clear that we’re going to continue to work toward a political transition. The UN endorsing this Joint Special Envoy’s plan, as well as the Geneva document and giving it the kind of consequences for noncompliance, was our preferred route. Indeed, the Russians had signed onto political transition. That’s something they continue to say they want. But we’re going to continue to work through every avenue we can that the Russians are not blocking so that we can continue to work for this political transition.

QUESTION: So what’s the next step?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, this vote just happened, Ros, literally a couple of hours ago. The next step is that we here in the Department of State and the wider U.S. Government are monitoring the situation very closely because violence continues. We’re using -- planning very carefully for the next steps, because Assad is not going to stay in power, and there is going to be a change to a new government. And so we’re very actively working to make sure that we’re prepared for all potential scenarios. The opposition has a plan and a vision about what a new government can look like. We’re going to continue support them as they organize and formulate that, because when Assad does fall, we want to have that transition plan best in place so that we can move forward to a new Syria.

QUESTION: But what kind of intervention can you enjoin if this is not going to be done under some sort of UN umbrella? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but you just made it sound a couple of minutes ago as if the UN avenue, which is the U.S.’s preferred avenue, is being abandoned. Am I incorrect in what I’m hearing here? Because three times all these attempts to try to hold Syria accountable have been vetoed.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, you're right. They vetoed it three times, and we disagree with that. I don’t want to ever prejudge when other countries might change their positions. They clearly have not. We want them to change their positions, and indeed, if there's a chance where they have a new perspective, we’ll continue to work through the UN. But we've had a wider strategy, we’ve had it throughout, and we’re not going to discontinue the steps that we have been doing just because we didn’t get this resolution.

QUESTION: Sorry --

QUESTION: Are you prepared to say that the U.S. and its allies are now prepared to do something else outside of the UN framework, because --

MR. VENTRELL: Ambassador Rice – Ros, Ambassador Rice was very clear that we’re going to – as she said up at the UN today in her intervention after the vote – that we are going to be looking at avenues outside of the Security Council as we work on our strategy. The vote just happened a couple hours ago. I’m not going to preview all of our thinking and planning on this, but suffice it to say, because the violence is so severe, we are planning carefully, we are monitoring carefully, we are keeping all of our options on the table. We prefer a managed political transition that gets us – that really is the only route to stop the violence, end the bloodshed, and get us to a new Syria and a better day. But we’re preparing for all scenarios.

QUESTION: Patrick --


QUESTION: -- you said that you want to keep the monitors in place; you’d like to see them continue where they are. What good have they done? I mean --


QUESTION: -- we have seen the violence really spike ever since they have been deployed. Obviously, they’re not stopping the opposition from carrying out aggressive acts and they’re not stopping the regime from whatever, responding or quelling or quashing the opposition.

QUESTION: In fact, they were denied access, particularly after Houla, particularly after Hama, to even see what was going on in these communities.

MR. VENTRELL: We’ve had those same deep concerns. We wanted the Security Council to give the monitoring mission the kind of tools so it could do its job, which means the kind of consequences that would change the situation on the ground. That hasn’t happened.

As Ambassador Rice said a few minutes ago in a press conference, this vote hasn’t happened yet on the technical rollover. We’re willing to look at it, but we’ve been skeptical from the beginning about how the monitors are going to be able to do what they were asked to do. And while they did provide some good – obviously firsthand evidence and reporting and there were some instances where they were able to provide a buffer – in large part, they didn’t have the tools that they needed to do their job because the situation on the ground didn’t get better. It got worse.

And so, let’s see what happens this afternoon. I, obviously, don’t want to prejudge a vote that’s going to happen in a few hours. It’s not that we think that this is our – we don’t think that just letting the monitors go on indefinitely is a good thing. We were clear that, in fact, they’re going to need to have -- the UN, very clear planning and steps in place to get them out of there safely, if necessary.

QUESTION: Patrick, just so I’m clear on that --

MR. VENTRELL: Andy, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- I mean, you’ve tried – obviously took note of Ambassador Rice’s comments in the brief, final extension or however she phrased it, we might be in this technical rollover. But Jay Carney on Air Force One just told reporters that the U.S. would not support an extension of the mandate. So what’s what here?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, this is all moving very quickly. What happened is there was a Russian draft that provided a more permanent rollover and had a different plan. The Russians withdrew that resolution. So I think this is a matter of timing this morning. Now what we have is just the simple technical rollover. So I think when the White House had spoken earlier, we were still in a position where the Russian draft was on the table. And that was – that kind of plan was not one that we thought was sustainable or the right path. But Ambassador Rice did say a limited technical rollover is something we’re willing to look at.

QUESTION: Okay. So just so I’m clear – so Carney was rejecting the Russian draft, but the British alternate draft is one that you might look at.



QUESTION: So you were going to veto the Russian’s draft?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to preview exactly --

QUESTION: Just because?

MR. VENTRELL: The Russian draft was withdrawn, and we’re looking at a different draft now.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. VENTRELL: Jill, go ahead.

QUESTION: The – some in the Administration have referred to redlines. One of them would be the use of chemical weapons. Are there other redlines that this Administration has that would completely change the situation and would dictate some other type of action?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, first of all, we want all the violence to stop. And we want the Assad regime to stop killing its people. That hasn’t happened. And we’re going to continue all of our pressure to stop this from happening.

In terms of the chemical weapons, as you asked about, given the escalation of violence in Syria and the regime’s increasing attacks on their people, we do remain very concerned about these weapons. And so in addition to monitoring their stockpiles, we are actively consulting Syria’s neighbors and our friends in the international community to underscore our common concern about the security of these weapons and the Syrian obligations – the Syrian Government’s obligation to secure them.

QUESTION: But beyond that – I’m saying yes, that we know that from several days now. Are there other redlines? Are there serious things that could happen that you would consider a redline?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, but we’re planning for all potential scenarios.

QUESTION: Well, just to be clear, when you talk about Syria’s neighbors here, consulting with – you’re talking about which neighbors?

MR. VENTRELL: With its neighbors.

QUESTION: Which ones?


QUESTION: No, it’s got a bunch of neighbors, Patrick. Which ones?

QUESTION: Can you tell us what contacts people in this Department have had --

MR. VENTRELL: We’re consulting broadly with its partners.

QUESTION: All of its neighbors?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to get into it, Matt, but we’re consulting with its neighbors.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what contacts this Department --

QUESTION: No. I don’t understand why you can’t say which neighbors you’re – are you consulting with some but not others? Are you consulting with the Lebanese about this?

MR. VENTRELL: Matt, suffice it to say --

QUESTION: Or are you only consulting with the Israelis and the Turks?

MR. VENTRELL: Matt, suffice it to say, one of our deepest concerns has been the spillover of this and the impact that it can have on its neighbors. So yes, we’re discussing all aspects of this scenario with all of Syria’s neighbors --

QUESTION: All of them. Okay. Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: -- because it’s important.

QUESTION: That’s all right.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what contacts the people within the State Department have had with the opposition in the past 24 hours or so since this attack? What – have you learned any more details from them about what happened? Do you know who was responsible? And are you encouraging the opposition people that you are meeting with not to resort to these sorts of tactics?

MR. VENTRELL: Thanks, Cami. Our contact with the opposition remains intense and ongoing overnight. Obviously, as I mentioned, Ambassador Ford, Fred Hof, and other members of our Syria team continue their outreach. I don’t have additional details about the incident yesterday. Our focus with the opposition is on working with them so that they have a political transition in place to stand up a new Syria, and so we continue to stress that. And we continue to stress, both publicly and privately, our preference for an end to bloodshed. We want the violence to stop.

But, as we’ve said all along, there’s no parity between regime and opposition violence. We’re talking about people who are under fire from heavy arms and protecting themselves. And so we’ll continue outreach to the opposition; we’ll continue to say publicly and privately our preference for an end to all violence; and we’ll continue to work with them so that they have the tools in place to be able to manage a transition with the kind of technocratic partners who could compose a new government with full control – full executive control.

QUESTION: But are you concerned about this level – this sort of tactic, using bombs? I mean, you have said that you’re against a further escalation in the violence, but it seems that the opposition is increasingly turning to more violent measures.

MR. VENTRELL: Cami, we just don’t have enough information about exactly what happened in this incident. Our preference is for a political transition and for an end to bloodshed. But we just don’t have enough information about – there have been competing claims about how this incident occurred. I know the regime has characterized it, but we simply don’t know yet. We’re continuing to seek information.

QUESTION: Patrick, before when you were asked about what you were doing now that there’s no Chapter 7 resolution, you mentioned one of the things was the nonlethal assistance.


QUESTION: Now, as I recall, communications and other assistance were to help the opposition defend itself from government assaults. How would they now spur a political transition?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, the assistance – the humanitarian assistance, of course, you mentioned the communications assistance, which is to help them organize. And that organization can, as you mentioned, be to defend themselves, but also to have coherent communication between the disparate groups so that they’re all working together toward the same – to the same goal. And of course we want people to be able to communicate better in this chaotic environment.


QUESTION: Does this fall under the pretext of the opposition defending itself? Does the attack in --

MR. VENTRELL: This particular incident, Said? We still don’t have enough information to know one way or another how it occurred and so I don’t want to characterize it. But we’ve long said when it comes to the regime targeting villages, targeting civilians, targeting the opposition, that they have a right to defend themselves. Having said that, our preference is of course an end to the violence. But it’s incumbent upon the Assad regime to stop killing its people now.

QUESTION: So what would --

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Could I just – a few things with you, if I might. First, has the airing of footage on state-run TV in Syria today, purportedly of Assad attending the swearing-in of the new defense minister, satisfied the U.S. Government that Assad is a) alive, and b) in Damascus?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we don’t know his whereabouts. We’ve also seen some of the news reports that he’s left – that Assad has left Damascus for the coastal area. The situation in Damascus is obviously becoming more dangerous for the regime and it’s struggling to control the outbreaks of fighting and protests in Damascus and around the country. And so we don’t know his whereabouts, but we’ve seen some of these news reports with varying accounts of where he is.

QUESTION: So the footage doesn’t convince you?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we don’t know where he is, but --

QUESTION: The footage made no difference in your not knowing where he is, in short?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, we’re not 100 percent sure where he is.

QUESTION: Okay. Next question: You’ve said twice from the podium today, just now, that the U.S. is actively preparing for all scenarios. Obviously, yesterday’s assassination of these inner members of the Assad circle presented the Syrian regime with a very new scenario. I wonder if yesterday’s events confronted U.S. policymakers with a new scenario, i.e. a much swifter collapse of this regime, potentially, or on a timetable that is much swifter than previously contemplated, and if so, whether the pace or tempo or contours or nature of U.S. policymaking changed regarding Syria yesterday as well.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, clearly, it was a major incident. We’ve been saying consistently for some time now that the Assad regime is not going to survive this. And so we’re planning on that political transition. Yesterday’s incident was an indication that the situation continues to spiral out of control. And so our planning is very active. I don’t want to try to characterize it further, other than to say it’s very active planning.

QUESTION: No – were you suddenly confronted with a new scenario yesterday, as policymakers?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, this does appear to be a change in momentum. It was clearly a major event. So we’re watching it very closely.

QUESTION: Last question.

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You’re very kind. On today’s APTV feed, they have several sound bites from a rebel military commander who states at one point that the Syrian revolution against Assad was an orphan internationally, and who states that they never received any weapons or help from the West, and that had they done so, the regime would have fallen much more swiftly. Is that one of the major challenges for the U.S. going forward, is convincing whoever the most viable opposition leaders are going to be that the U.S. stood with them in their time of struggle with more than just rhetoric?

MR. VENTRELL: We absolutely stand with the Syrian people and their struggle for freedom --

QUESTION: Did you give them anything more than rhetoric is what I’m asking.

MR. VENTRELL: We gave them millions of dollars of assistance – of nonlethal assistance, of humanitarian support, of communications equipment, of the types of things that could help them organize. And so we thought that that was the best way that we could support the Syrian people, and we did so. And I can’t respond to this particular individual, but we responded to the needs and the requests of the opposition directly.

QUESTION: So Ambassador Rice’s message today, going outside – or the suggestion that you might go outside the United Nations, is that what (inaudible) was talking about, perhaps, in – we are looking into a future where there’s going to be other than just humanitarian aid to the opposition?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t want to preview any of our --

QUESTION: But is it something that is being discussed, this kind of maybe weaponry or training --

MR. VENTRELL: We’re looking at all options. Our preference is a peaceful solution, but we’re looking at all options.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up --


QUESTION: Repeatedly, the line from this building has been that the Administration is against arming the opposition. Has that changed at all?

MR. VENTRELL: We thought that the best way to support the opposition was through the kind of nonlethal assistance. Others made different choices, but we made our decision about the best way to support the opposition.

QUESTION: So that’s – we’re still sticking to that from this building, that arming the opposition is not the solution.

MR. VENTRELL: Our position right now is that we’ll continue to support them as they organize, through nonlethal assistance, but obviously the situation continues to develop.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Wait. Just – I want to make sure – you said – in that last answer, you said “we thought” that the best way to do this was nonlethal assistance --

MR. VENTRELL: We continue to think the best way to do this is nonlethal assistance.

QUESTION: You think --

QUESTION: And you also said others decided differently, so you’re sure that several of your partners, or some of your partners, decided to provide weapons to the opposition?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any further information for you.

QUESTION: Sorry – you also said that all options are on the table. That was something I hadn’t heard. That’s why I asked the question.

MR. VENTRELL: We’re planning for all potential scenarios. Obviously, our preference is for a peaceful, orderly transition to a new Syrian government that respects the rights of all of its citizens.

QUESTION: Well, there are arms on the table? You said all options, so he’s asking --

MR. VENTRELL: Look, right – our preference is for a peaceful solution.

Last question on Syria.

QUESTION: With this veto, have the Chinese and/or the Russians damaged their role in a political transition after the Assad regime, or is the – from this building, are we just ready to welcome them back to the planning table after this event?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’re going to continue to work on the aspects of our strategy that we can, where the Russians and the Chinese don’t stand in the way.

QUESTION: I wonder if I could ask one more question on Syria. You said that’s the last question.

MR. VENTRELL: Last question, Said.

QUESTION: Last – yeah. You said that you don’t have enough information to characterize this attack yesterday one way or the other. What would be the piece of information that would make you either characterize it as self defense or as terrorism?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, this happened yesterday. We don’t have the kind of credible information, forensics or otherwise, that would lead us to be able to characterize this further.

QUESTION: But you made similar statements after Houla, after Tremseh, and other places, in even shorter time and with a similar lack of information. That’s correct?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, we continue to seek more information on this.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Today in Kabul, the British and Pakistani prime ministers, they expressed their support for an Afghan-led process. What are your comments? Is it in line with the U.S. – what the U.S. is pursuing there?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I’d just say that we welcome that Prime Minister Ashraf of Pakistan is visiting Kabul, as well as High Peace Council Rabbani’s upcoming visit to Islamabad. We welcome both of those, and as we said in our statement of the U.S.-Afghanistan-Pakistan Core Group in Tokyo, these visits should determine and implement additional concrete steps to advance Afghan reconciliation, and so we welcome it.

QUESTION: And another question on Pakistan. Last night, U.S. House passed a legislation proposing a cut of $650 million in military assistance for Pakistan. What is the Administration’s position? Are you working with Congress on that?

MR. VENTRELL: Can you repeat the first part of your question?

QUESTION: The U.S. House of Representatives last night passed a legislation proposing a cut of $650 million on U.S. military assistance for Pakistan. What is the Administration’s position on this issue?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, we continue to consult with Congress, but I don’t have any particular reaction to ongoing legislative debate. We continue to, obviously, support our Pakistani counterparts in key areas like counterterrorism, but I don’t have a particular reaction to ongoing legislative debate.

QUESTION: On the Bulgarian bombing, if I might.


QUESTION: What do we know about the perpetrator, and specifically can you comment on reports that he served time at Gitmo?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, yesterday the President and the Secretary condemned this terrorist act. We offer our deepest condolences to the victims and their loved ones. We’re following the events closely, and we’ve offered our assistance to both the Bulgarian Government and of course the Israeli Government. At this point we’re still seeking additional information. There’s an ongoing investigation, and we’ll offer all the technical assistance possible to our Bulgarian counterparts in the investigation, but we don’t yet know what the results of that are.

QUESTION: Have we been asked for any information from Gitmo as part of these ongoing investigations? Are we supplying such information?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, the investigation is in its initial stages, we’re working with our Bulgarian counterparts, but I don’t have any information for you on that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) can I ask?

MR. VENTRELL: My understanding is that we’re in close cooperation with them and working with them, but I don’t know if it’s in a liaison capacity or if they’ve asked for particular technical assistance.

QUESTION: Do you know if there are U.S. officials on the ground there now from either the State Department or from, I mean --

MR. VENTRELL: Our Embassy continues to be open, but I don’t know if we have any officials traveling out there. We’re definitely in close communication.

QUESTION: Why would your Embassy – this happened miles and miles away from Sofia.

MR. VENTRELL: But you asked if we had U.S. officials there, and I’m saying our Embassy is --

QUESTION: No, no – in the place where the bombing happened.

MR. VENTRELL: Are you saying were there U.S. officials where the--?

QUESTION: Are there now, helping out --

MR. VENTRELL: They’re investigating. I do not know, Matt. I’ll check into it.

QUESTION: Patrick, do you know if they said that he has a Michigan license (inaudible)?

MR. VENTRELL: We’re aware of some of these reports that there were some sort of documents or fake documents, but the investigation is in its early stages and we don’t have further details at this time.

QUESTION: Related to this, did you see there have some people, mainly on the right but also in the pro-Israel community, who are saying that if the Administration hadn’t been pushing hard enough to get Israel into this global terrorism cooperation committee or whatever it is, that this should be the sign that the Administration should push harder? Are you aware if the Administration is going to now really make an effort to get Israel included in this counterterrorism cooperation forum?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we continue to work to involve Israel in GCTF activities, and we’re absolutely committed to making this happen, that they go through the steps of first being part of the working groups and eventually a full member. We think it’s very important.

Yesterday’s tragic bombing of course only underscores that Israel and Israeli citizens are targets of vicious acts of terrorism. And so we appreciate their knowledge and advice, and we think that it can be useful to many other countries. Just to give you an idea of some of the work that the GCTF has already done, it’s working with a number of newly democratic countries as they move away from repressive emergency law paradigms to have effective rule of law-based approaches to counterterrorism. And so it’s started to have some initial successes. We’ve already raised more than a $150 million for capacity-building projects. We’re going to have the first ever international rule of law training center will soon be established in Tunisia. So it’s a good group, it’s making initial progress, and we’re committed – we’re very committed to Israel participating in its activities and becoming a full member.

QUESTION: Can we come back to the suspect in the bombing for a second? There were suggestions that if indeed this person had been at Guantanamo that he was repatriated to Sweden. Has there been any conversation between the U.S. and Sweden about this as this investigation gets underway?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, the investigation is just underway. I don’t have any further information for you.

QUESTION: Patrick.


QUESTION: China’s President earlier today told African leaders that China will lend $20 billion to nations across the continent for farming and infrastructure projects over the next three years. Does this Department welcome those loans? Was there any communication between the United States and China on this aid? And ultimately, is any effort being made to coordinate China’s growing role in Africa with that being played by the United States?

MR. VENTRELL: Thanks, Guy. We did see that announcement and, as you know, China and Africa are increasingly engaging economically and in other areas, and we routinely discuss with the Chinese Government ways that we can increase cooperation between our two governments to address long-term development challenges facing many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. So we continue that dialogue with our Chinese counterparts.

QUESTION: And is China and the United – are China and the United States on the same page in terms of these specific loans?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t know about these specific loans. I know that we continue a dialogue with the Chinese Government about the development work they’re doing in Sub-Saharan Africa. We do extensive development work there as well, and so we have a dialogue and discuss the issue frequently.

QUESTION: Can you say when and under what conditions Omar Suleiman entered the United States?

MR. VENTRELL: I cannot. I don’t have further information for you, Brad. I – we have seen the reports that General Omar Suleiman, the former director of the Egypt intelligence services and former vice president of Egypt died --


MR. VENTRELL: -- overnight in the United States. He was a long-time partner of the United States in protecting Egypt and maintaining Middle East peace and security, and we send our condolences to his friends and family.

QUESTION: So you didn’t know – this Department didn’t know that he was in the United States?

MR. VENTRELL: I really don’t have further information for you. Obviously, for privacy concerns, an individual – a private individual’s travel is not necessarily something that we’re able to talk about.

QUESTION: He’s dead now.

MR. VENTRELL: I’ll look into more information. At this point, I don’t have anything for you, Brad.

QUESTION: Was he on any no-fly list to --

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I have no further information about his actual travel to the United States.

QUESTION: Do you know --

QUESTION: Can you take the question, please?

MR. VENTRELL: We can look into it afterward.

QUESTION: Do you know which agency would?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, I’d --

QUESTION: Presumably, if he entered the country DHS would – should have known about it. And presumably his long-time partner, the building across the river, would have known and gotten him to Cleveland – presumably to the Cleveland clinic, where he died. It just strikes me as being a little bit unusual, considering this is the guy who you guys dealt with for so many years, that – this building as well as the intel community – that you wouldn’t know.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, Matt, suffice it to say that a number of different U.S. agencies have responsibility for border security and for our travel arrangements, whether DHS or State and others. And so I’m looking into it. I just don’t have – I didn’t have information when I came down.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Very quickly --


QUESTION: -- anything new or any new development in terms of what may have transpired since yesterday in terms of this Department’s response to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s accusation of Ms. Huma Abedin?

MR. VENTRELL: As I said yesterday, we find those allegations preposterous, and we continue to think so.

QUESTION: Were you able to get an answer from the IG? Are they actually going to look into this?

MR. VENTRELL: I have not yet, but I’ll continue to inquire.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: Thank you, all.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:39 p.m.)