On-the-Record Briefing

Special Briefing
Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 28, 2009

QUESTION: You know, Ian, there are so many different questions about these – this attempted bombing thing, but I think there’s one big one that stands out, which is after everything – you know, he goes to the Embassy, tells all this stuff about his son, he’s put on the watch list. Why wasn’t his visa pulled? What is the explanation?

MR. KELLY: Okay. Well, first of all, let’s – let me just say at the top that this has become an interagency effort, this whole effort of trying to protect our borders and keep our citizens safe. The State Department role in this – of course, the most prominent part of it is the visa issuance part of it. And this individual came in to the U.S. Embassy in London – I mean, he was studying in London – and applied for a visa and was issued a visa that was good for two years. It was a standard multiple-entry tourist visa.

As you point out, on November 19, his father came into the Embassy in Nigeria in Abuja and expressed his concerns about his son. And at that point, another part of the process that the State Department has a role in --

QUESTION: Wait, just back up --

QUESTION: What was the date – oh, sorry.

QUESTION: When did he got to the embassy?

MR. KELLY: November 19.

QUESTION: No, no, no, in London. When did he get the visa?

MR. KELLY: It was June 16, I believe.


MR. KELLY: 2008, yeah. And it was valid for two years. It was good till June 2010.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about that? What was his stated reason on the visa for wanting to go to the United States?

MR. KELLY: We don’t talk about what’s on his application. But he --

QUESTION: You damn well better start talking about it because you’re about to have the hammer of God come down on your head.

MR. KELLY: Well, we understand there’ll be a lot of attention on this particular visa issuance. At the time that his visa was issued, there was nothing in his application nor in any database at the time that would indicate that he should not receive a visa. He was a student at a very reputable school. He had plenty of financial resources, so he was not an intending immigrant. There was no derogatory information about him last year – last June – that would indicate that he shouldn’t get a visa, so we issued the visa.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question, though –

MR. KELLY: By the way, there’s another – go ahead, ask your question, but after that I want to talk about what happened after November 19th, too.

QUESTION: Okay, and you can follow on that. But was there not like a State Department system in place that’s designed to track active visa holders and sort of this failed twice? Has that come up in all of this? I mean, there is a system in place that should track it, that there’s an active visa holder and that --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- didn’t it fail, and why?

MR. KELLY: Once we issue the visa, and there comes – there is information subsequent to that issuance, the State Department role is to pass that information on, which is what we did after this November 19 visit. So we sent in what’s called a VISAS VIPER cable. This is a system that was set up after November – September 11, 2001, and under this system, when we receive information that could cause the – cause us concern, we send it in to the counterterrorism community for their review. There was also set up, as you all know, the National Counterterrorism Center. And this is the interagency process that reviews the information as this information comes in.

QUESTION: Can I stop you –

MR. KELLY: And the information in this VISAS VIPER cable was insufficient for this interagency review process to make a determination that this individual’s visa should be revoked. It wasn’t – it’s not – it’s insufficient, and it is not a State Department determination per se in these kinds of issues under – let me give you the name of the act of Congress – under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, the State Department is mandated to utilize this VISAS VIPER system when we get information, like we did on November 19.

QUESTION: But did the system fail that you had in place?

MR. KELLY: I can’t address the entire system that is – this entire interagency system. It’s not my role to do that. We were obliged to report this information and we reported it.

QUESTION: Ian, did the State Department know when it sent the cable on the 20th, or subsequently before the 25th, that the individual had a U.S. visa?

MR. KELLY: Once he had the visa, once he got the visa in June of 2008, it goes into a system, a database that the counterterrorism community has access to and every consular officer here at the State Department and overseas has access to. The visa – the VISAS VIPER cable, it doesn’t require the embassy to report that the person has a visa. It requires them to report on the person’s name, date of birth, place of birth. If they have other information like passport information, they report that as well.

QUESTION: Do you know if --

MR. KELLY: But everybody has access to this database, or everybody who wanted to check could see that this individual had a visa.

QUESTION: Understood. Can you tell me if this cable did include his visa information?

MR. KELLY: Like I say --

QUESTION: Or that he had a visa even?

MR. KELLY: Like I say, it’s not up to the embassy --

QUESTION: I understand that. But can you just say in this case whether it was in there?

MR. KELLY: The Embassy in Abuja – I don’t believe that it did. And it’s not up to the Embassy in Abuja to report that he had a visa that was issued in London.

QUESTION: When you say “we” sent the cable, who exactly sends this cable?

MR. KELLY: Embassy Abuja sent the cable.

QUESTION: What is --

QUESTION: And sent it to who exactly?

MR. KELLY: It goes – it comes here to the State Department and it goes to the counterterrorism community and it goes to every --

QUESTION: Is that the National Counterterrorism Center, or when you say counterterrorism community, where does it – what’s the direct path?

MR. KELLY: It does go to the National Counterterrorism Center.

QUESTION: And how was it determined that there was insufficient evidence to revoke the visa? I mean, does --

MR. KELLY: That’s not a question for me. It’s a question for --

QUESTION: Right. But what I mean is the counterterrorism –

MR. KELLY: -- National Counterterrorism Center.

QUESTION: -- community, who is it that – the National Counterterrorism Center says – they say they’re not going to do anything, or they just don’t act on it and therefore that means there was insufficient evidence?

MR. KELLY: As I say, what we do is – it’s our responsibility to report this information when we get it. We reported it. And it’s – it would be up to the National Counterterrorism Center to make the determination whether to revoke this person’s visa or to take other action --

QUESTION: Are you saying that the State Department doesn’t have authority to revoke someone’s visa because –

MR. KELLY: It absolutely has the authority to revoke --

QUESTION: Well, then why didn’t you do it?

MR. KELLY: Because it’s not our responsibility.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t care if it’s not your responsibility.

MR. KELLY: It’s an interagency decision.

QUESTION: What’s the right thing to do?

MR. KELLY: It’s an interagency decision.

QUESTION: But you can do it on your own if you want.

MR. KELLY: We can, but we – it’s – this has to be done in consultation with other agencies.

QUESTION: But you just said that --

QUESTION: But how do you know there was insufficient evidence?

QUESTION: You just said that it didn’t. You can do it on your own.

MR. KELLY: We can do it on our own for other – for other issues. Like with Honduras, we revoked visas.

QUESTION: Exactly.

MR. KELLY: Those were foreign policy, diplomatic reasons to revoke these visas.

QUESTION: So where terrorism is concerned –

MR. KELLY: We have an interagency setup in place, and we have to follow those procedures.

QUESTION: But do you guys get some report that says there is insufficient evidence to do anything with this information, or do you just assume that there was insufficient evidence?

MR. KELLY: That’s a very good question, and I don’t know the answer to it.

QUESTION: Ian, can you say whether –

MR. KELLY: It’s my understanding that unless they come to us – that’s what we – I think it’s incumbent upon the NCTC, as I understand it, for them to come to us and ask us to revoke the visa.

QUESTION: Ian, you talked about insufficient evidence. Can you say with any specificity what the father warned U.S. Embassy Abuja about? Knowing already that he – that it was nonspecific and not imminent, can you give us a sense of what he did warn about?

MR. KELLY: I can’t, because you’re already – that’s – you’re getting – I’m getting out of my lane with that. That’s – you’re talking about intelligence information, and I can’t get into that.

QUESTION: Who did he come to, though, specifically? Who did he come to? I mean, was it the ambassador?

MR. KELLY: The Embassy in Abuja. No, it wasn’t the ambassador.

QUESTION: I mean, how did he make that contact, though? Who did he specifically contact?

MR. KELLY: I am honestly not sure who exactly he met with, but it was an embassy officer.

QUESTION: What does VISAS VIPER mean? Is that some slick acronym?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, it’s not an acronym, no. It’s – I remember when I was in Moscow, they – it’s just a – it’s a tradition in the State Department. I was in Moscow and I was the educational exchanges officer, and I would get cables that were – the subject line was “Visas Donkey Chipmunk,” and it had to do with Soviets applying for exchange visas.


MR. KELLY: It’s just a category.

QUESTION: So what’s viper mean?

MR. KELLY: It doesn’t mean anything.

QUESTION: But it’s capital – all caps?

MR. KELLY: It’s all caps.


MR. KELLY: It doesn’t stand for anything.

QUESTION: Ian, so --

MR. KELLY: Well, maybe it does. If it does, I’ll let you know. But I – this is my – we tend to use it --

QUESTION: But it might be Visas Information – you know.

MR. KELLY: It could. It could, and if it does I’ll let you know. But since my experience with Visas Donkey Chipmunk, which I also loved, I just assume they use different animal names for different categories.

QUESTION: Ian, can you tell us then that anything that the – any information the father brought to the United States Embassy? And did he use the word “suicide” mission?

MR. KELLY: I really – I can’t. I just can’t go into it, Charley. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Can I ask why? The guy’s been charged with a crime. It’s not like a Privacy Act waiver.

MR. KELLY: It’s just not my role as a State Department spokesman to talk about something that was --

QUESTION: This guy’s father walked into the U.S. Embassy --

MR. KELLY: It’s sensitive material.

QUESTION: -- in Abuja, which is run by this building --

MR. KELLY: I understand that. I understand.

QUESTION: If you’re not the one whose lane it is, whose lane is it?

MR. KELLY: It’s the National Counterterrorism Center’s lane.

QUESTION: All right. When – so who got the – when you talk about the counterterrorism community, you’re only referring to the NCTC, or are you referring to other agencies?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m referring to law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies. I don’t have a list of every agency, but I think you can probably imagine.

QUESTION: And getting back to --

QUESTION: How was –

QUESTION: -- there was a positive determination made that this guy – that the information was insufficient?

MR. KELLY: Insufficient.

QUESTION: They determined that?

MR. KELLY: That’s my understanding, yeah. But again, I think you have to ask the NCTC directly.

QUESTION: Can I ask you just to repeat what the standard operating procedure would be? I mean, just in terms of like each decision point. So you say it comes to the State Department, the State Department decides there’s not enough --

MR. KELLY: No, no, the State Department didn’t decide that. The State Department simply reported it.



QUESTION: And reported it to which agencies then?

MR. KELLY: Well, obviously back to the State Department, and that information would go into our database. So when this individual would reapply for a visa, this information would pop up. When he applied for a visa in June, nothing popped up in June 2008. When his father came in November 19, no information popped up. This cable initiated an input into the database.

QUESTION: Okay, so what day?

MR. KELLY: November 20.

QUESTION: Well, when you got the cable, did you know he had a visa when that cable went out?

MR. KELLY: Anybody who went in to input the information would see that he had a visa from Embassy London.

QUESTION: But on the 20th that – should something have popped up because the dad went the day before on the 19th? Should something have popped up?

MR. KELLY: The information was reported back to Washington on November 20. He came in on the 19th and the information was passed on the 20th.

QUESTION: Sorry, I’m confused. When you put his name where, his visa information would come up?

MR. KELLY: Where do we put it into?

QUESTION: Yeah. You said if you put his name in, his visa information would pop up.

MR. KELLY: There’s a consular database --

QUESTION: A consular database that you put --

MR. KELLY: -- for consular officers who adjudicate visas.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the security agencies that – they all have access to that?

MR. KELLY: They all have access to the same database.

QUESTION: So they would pop the name in some sort of – and this is all electronic, I’m assuming.

MR. KELLY: Right, it’s all electronic.

QUESTION: Would pop in his name and all the visa information concerning --

MR. KELLY: That’s right.

QUESTION: So the cable goes on November 20th, right?

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: It goes back and they decide – the terrorism center decides there’s not sufficient evidence to warrant pulling a visa. He buys a ticket, right? Do we know when he buys that ticket? Because you have to have a visa to buy a ticket, right?

MR. KELLY: You do.

QUESTION: Okay. Do we know when he bought that ticket?

MR. KELLY: I do not know when he bought the ticket.

QUESTION: Because I guess the question would be, is that – when it comes back in November, everything stops, that’s it? They just say, well, we had no reason to do anything, so there – he’s not flagged again? Like when he goes to buy a ticket and he shows his visa, it doesn’t pop up someplace?

MR. KELLY: The – all right. Clearly, we need to review all of our procedures, and that’s what the President has ordered the interagency community to do. And Secretary Clinton is also going to ask the State Department, primarily our consular division, to review all of our processes. We did what we were supposed to do under this Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act. But as you know, the President has ordered a complete view, and we’ll have to see what comes out of that.

One of the issues we have to deal with is that we get thousands of pieces of information that are not always completely accurate. I mean, you have a lot of – what do you call them, poison pen messages, of people trying to pass on derogatory information. So, I mean, we have to be careful about when we put somebody on a watch list. I mean, in some senses, he was already on the watch list when he reapplied for his visa, but --

QUESTION: When did he reapply?

MR. KELLY: He hasn’t reapplied for a visa. His visa was good till June 2010.

QUESTION: And you said – you get a lot of this? You get a lot of dads coming in saying I think my son’s a terrorist?

MR. KELLY: We get family members who come in who – yeah, sometimes.

QUESTION: How often --

QUESTION: Ian, can I just clarify?

QUESTION: How often does that actually happen? Can you give us a sense how many –

MR. KELLY: I have no idea.

QUESTION: Not family members, but in general, I mean, how many times --

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have that information. I’ll see if I can get it and then maybe tomorrow I can tell you.

QUESTION: Just to put it in context a little bit.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. See how often we – and I’d like to know how often we do these VISA VIPER cables, for example.

QUESTION: So when --

MR. KELLY: But every embassy in the world is mandated to do these on a monthly basis, by the way, or, as events warrant, on a daily basis.

QUESTION: So just to revisit, when and why was he placed initially on that suspected terrorist list?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure he was put on a suspected terrorist list.

QUESTION: Watch list?

QUESTION: Or watch list?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. This was on December 20th --

QUESTION: November.

MR. KELLY: November – sorry. November 20th we received this information. We were obliged to pass this information on.

QUESTION: But he already had gotten the visa, right?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And it’s not protocol to check that? It’s not protocol from anybody from the State Department or from the embassy to check that he had been issued a –

MR. KELLY: As I said before, anybody who went into the database under his name would have seen --

QUESTION: But it’s not mandatory that somebody from the State Department --

MR. KELLY: Well, it’s mandatory that you input this into the database, so as soon as we did it --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: But it was not in the VIPER notice that he had --

MR. KELLY: It was not in the VIPER notice.

QUESTION: He had a multiple reentry visa.

MR. KELLY: It was not in the VIPER notice, no.

QUESTION: Is it mandatory for anybody --

QUESTION: In your opinion, should it have been?

MR. KELLY: If they had that information because a visa had been issued there, sure, why not put it in. But it’s not required.

QUESTION: Is it --

QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t that had elevated the security?

MR. KELLY: This was basically – they were uploading a new piece of information, and they did that.

QUESTION: But do you know --

QUESTION: At that point, they don’t put the fact that he has any visa? In other words, they just take that little discrete piece of information and send it back, but not in context?

MR. KELLY: The context is provided back in Washington. The context is provided. They don’t have – every embassy is – in this VISA VIPER system they are inputting data. It’s not up to them to provide every single previous piece of data.

QUESTION: Right, but --

QUESTION: But they may not --

QUESTION: -- the crucial piece – I just want to make sure I understand. So the National Terrorism Center does not have the crucial bit of information from anywhere --

MR. KELLY: Sure they do.

QUESTION: -- that he has a visa?

MR. KELLY: Sure they do.

QUESTION: Where? Who gave it to them?

MR. KELLY: Because they have access to the database.

QUESTION: But how do you know they ran it through?

MR. KELLY: You have to ask them. I mean, this is – okay, you have to ask them.

QUESTION: When was the determination made that there was insufficient --

MR. KELLY: I don’t know. You have to ask the NCTC.

QUESTION: So, Ian, you said that you did everything you were supposed to do – we, as in State, did everything we should do. Do you think the system failed, though? Not any personal failure, but did the system fail?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, this was obviously – there obviously was a judgment call, and these kinds of judgment calls are made every day by counterintelligence officers here in Washington and all over the world. I think when an incident like this happens, it should trigger a review to see if a vulnerability has been exposed, if we need to change our procedures. And our part of this, of course, is the visa part of it. And our – you know we participate in this interagency process through the VISA VIPERS process and through the consular database that keeps all of the information coming in from all the embassies. I mean, clearly, this was a very near miss that happened, and we need to review the procedures.

QUESTION: Did the father tell the Embassy people that his son had a visa?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Can you – is that something that – that you can find out?

MR. KELLY: See, the son had traveled to the U.S. before. I don’t know if I mentioned that before.

QUESTION: Yeah. I was going to ask about that.

MR. KELLY: He had a previous visa.

QUESTION: So he traveled to Houston, right?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know where it was, but he did have a --

QUESTION: Do you know why he traveled to the United States?

MR. KELLY: I do not know why he traveled to the United States.

QUESTION: Did you say on a previous visa or previous --

MR. KELLY: He had a previous visa.

QUESTION: And do you know the details of that visa, what he had?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t. I’ve asked for the details of that visa.

QUESTION: It’s the same visa.

QUESTION: Are you sure --

QUESTION: That was the same visa.

QUESTION: -- it wasn’t the same visa that he got in 2008?

QUESTION: No, it’s a multiple --

QUESTION: You’re sure?

MR. KELLY: I’m sure, because he traveled before June 2008.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. So he did the August trip on this visa, but he had traveled previously on a different visa?

MR. KELLY: I believe so.


QUESTION: So he traveled multiple times --

QUESTION: And when was that --

MR. KELLY: I believe so.


MR. KELLY: Again, I’ve asked for more information about it. When I get it, we’ll see – I’m going to see if I can share it with you. And if I can, I’ll share it with you.

QUESTION: Can I change the topic slightly?

QUESTION: Can I ask another quick – if you’re going to – are you going to change the subject?

QUESTION: It’s the same subject, just the claim of responsibility for this. Al-Qaida in Arabian Peninsula just said it’s responsible for having attempted this attack and said that they’re calling for the killing of all Western embassy workers in the region. I don’t know if you guys know about this. Have you done anything special in the region in light of this attempted attack?

MR. KELLY: I have not heard this. I mean, obviously, we take the security of our embassy and our – our embassies and our colleagues extremely seriously. I mean, we’ll review this. If it indeed is a credible threat, we’ll review it and see if we need to take action.

QUESTION: Did the Brits ever get in touch with you, do you know, to tell you that they had revoked this guy’s visa in --

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of that. It’s possible they did, but I’m not aware of it.

QUESTION: I have a question about that, too. In terms of intelligence sharing or information sharing between the consular office, the U.K. consular office and our own, what would be the standard operating procedure when they decided not to renew his visa, considering that he still had a U.S. visa? I mean, would that – would that raise any red flags?

MR. KELLY: I don’t – I really don’t know the answer to that question about how we share consular information. I mean, obviously, we share a lot of intelligence information with our allies, particularly with the U.K., but I don’t know the answer to that question about how we share consular information. I think that’s a question that we could take and --

QUESTION: I have one more question about the VIPER. Would that then include information that had happened in that meeting, or is it – you said it included his name, date of birth – well, various stats. But would that then also include some information about this is why we are putting up a flag here or --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, it’s just a very, very short – yeah, just a very short characterization of the father’s concerns.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to speed on any contacts on the diplomatic channels between this building, the Secretary even, and her counterparts from U.K., Netherlands, Nigeria, Yemen, and the United States, or any other senior officials since she’s out of the building?

MR. KELLY: You mean in terms of the terrorist threat, you mean?

QUESTION: In terms of this specific case between anybody from this building and the U.K., the Dutch, the Nigerians, or the Yemenis?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know that on a bilateral level, of course, we’ve had a lot of contacts and through various channels, through consular channels, diplomatic channels, intelligence and counterterrorism channels. Right now, the National Security Council is taking the lead in coordinating these various efforts, and I think I’d defer to them about what kind of information we’re sharing and what kind of contacts we’ve had.

QUESTION: Anything from the Secretary?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Anything from the Secretary? Has she been in touch with anybody?

MR. KELLY: She has been following this issue very closely, starting on Christmas day, obviously. And – but I’m not aware that she’s actually made any kind of diplomatic overtures to anybody.

QUESTION: Back to the London – when he was issued this visa in London. He went in on – the visa was valid from the 16th of June 2008 to when, June 2010?

MR. KELLY: I believe he applied on the 12th, so I think it’s good till two years after he applied.

QUESTION: All right. So he applied on the 12th, it took four days for him to get it. He was --

MR. KELLY: I think he had to come in for an interview with the --

QUESTION: Even though he had already – even though he had a visa already, he had had a visa before?

MR. KELLY: That’s right.


MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you talk about resistance that the United States, the State Department particularly, may have encountered when offering other countries screening devices or encouraging them to use screening devices, be it for the full body scans, sniffer devices, things of these nature, particularly, for instance, the Dutch Government and the Nigerian Government?

MR. KELLY: Right, right. Well, I mean, I just – I don’t have that information per se. I mean, I can see if I can find out. I would suspect this is something that really would be – I mean, the State Department, obviously, is the lead foreign affairs agency, but these kinds of issues, I think, are more Transportation Security Agency and DHS. I mean, they have representatives overseas too, and I know they have a representative in Brussels, for example. So I think these kinds of technical/security issues would be handled mostly by TSA and not by the State Department. But I’m not aware of any sort of diplomatic problems with the Government of the Netherlands or anything like that about resistance or – there’s been, by and large, very good cooperation.

QUESTION: Apparently, some European countries have raised questions about health and privacy issues in regard to this.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, that’s true. They have had some – especially about data sharing, they’ve had some concerns about privacy issues. I’m not sure about health, though. I haven’t heard that.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: I have one more --

QUESTION: One more question. Had somebody in the Embassy in Nigeria seen that he had been issued a visa, what would have happened?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure it would trigger any kind of activity. This was the father coming in to express his concerns. It wasn’t the father’s passport and it wasn’t his visa, so I don’t think it would really have triggered anything necessarily.

QUESTION: Ian, could I – I’m sorry, there are so many different sources that I’ve been looking at today, maybe I’m blanking out a little bit here. But was he at one point put on a list? A list that has half a million names on it, as a result of what the father said? In other words, was he on a list, not a watch list or no-fly list, but was he on any look out for this guy list?

MR. KELLY: That’s a good question. I really think, again, it’s the NCTC that would put him on that kind of list.

QUESTION: But you don’t know --

MR. KELLY: So you’ve really got to – it’s not for me to say. It’s really for the NCTC.

QUESTION: Do you know it but you won’t say, or you don’t know and you won’t say?

MR. KELLY: It’s not up to me to say. It’s up to the – to my colleague at the NCTC. And if you don’t know the contact information, I can get it for you.

QUESTION: But talking in more general terms, if this kind of cable was sent and somebody recognized that there might be a problem, would then the next step be to put them on the TIDE list or whatever they have in --

MR. KELLY: We don’t control that list. It’s not --

QUESTION: Okay. But I’m just trying to understand the process.

QUESTION: So you put --

MR. KELLY: I think the NCTC has to walk you through that process.


QUESTION: I have one more question.

MR. KELLY: One more question?

QUESTION: The home secretary today is saying that this suspect most likely did not act alone. What’s your response to that?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have any information on that.

QUESTION: So when does --

QUESTION: How would you characterize it, though? I mean --

MR. KELLY: Well, first, I hadn’t seen that statement. And two, I don’t have any information about whether or not he acted alone.

QUESTION: Sorry, I’m just trying to differentiate between when it is NCTC and when it is State Department’s jurisdiction over suspending or revoking visas. So in an instance like Honduras, what would it take for the State Department to suspend or revoke a visa?

MR. KELLY: Well, the Secretary of State has the authority to revoke a visa when it’s in the interests of U.S. foreign policy, and she did that in the case of senior officials in Honduras who were supporting the de facto regime. In the case of any kind of suspicion of terrorist activity, however, it really comes under the purview of the interagency community under the NCTC.

QUESTION: So after the VISA VIPERS cable was sent, State really wouldn't have a part in any visa issues until he applied to renew it?

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: Or until NCTC --

MR. KELLY: Well, we would have a – we would have a role to play if the international – if the interagency community had determined that his visa should be revoked.

QUESTION: But since it wasn’t insufficient, you really wouldn't deal with it again until he was – it was up for renewal?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. And again, our role is to issue the visa or revoke it if necessary, and also to report in any information that we get from our Foreign Service folks.

QUESTION: Well, Ian, how about this? The State Department has a seat at the NCTC table, does it not?

MR. KELLY: I believe it does, yeah.

QUESTION: So did the State Department representative say – suggest that, hey, this guy’s visa should be revoked, and then he was or she was overruled?

MR. KELLY: That I don’t know.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea about how many cables were sent the day of –

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, let’s – yeah, well, I can tell you that every single embassy in the world sends a VISA VIPER cable every month. So there are over 200 embassies and consulates, so that’s a lot of VISA VIPER cables.

QUESTION: And the VISA part in the VISA VIPER doesn't necessarily mean it has anything to do with someone who has a visa?

MR. KELLY: It – well, it – it’s information that could be useful for a consular officer when somebody comes in to apply or reapply for a visa.

QUESTION: Ian, maybe I’m just reading too much into this so just tell me if I am, but you said that they are required to send one of these every month.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: But they will send it when information warrants.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: And am I to assume that in this case, whoever received the information from the father determined that there was sufficient information to send one ahead of the end of the month, but then ultimately NCTC decided that was not enough to do anything more than just put him on the list?

MR. KELLY: Well, I just – I don’t have a sense of how often we send these individual VISA VIPER cables. Frankly, if I were the DCM, the deputy chief of mission, at an embassy and somebody came in and said they had concerns about their son, I would say let’s do one. But that’s really up to the DCM.

QUESTION: And just so I understand your characterization of authority that the State Department has, the State Department would have the authority to revoke the visa even in case of terrorist – you know, suspected, but not their responsibility?

MR. KELLY: The State Department has the statutory authority to do it.


QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about – well, on the East Jerusalem new construction?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So Gibbs put out a statement, but I understand that Mitchell pretty vehemently objected to this in a meeting – in meetings last week with Israelis in New York.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, he did have meetings last week in New York with Israeli officials.

QUESTION: Do you know who?

MR. KELLY: I do not know who. Yeah, he met with Israeli negotiators last week in New York and they discussed a broad range of issues. The Israeli officials noted their plans to issue tenders in East Jerusalem. We strongly objected, noting that these types of announcements harm peace efforts. And we believe it is important to resume negotiations between the parties in order to resolve all permanent status issues, including Jerusalem.

QUESTION: There is a report today from Cairo that Senator Mitchell will carry two letters to the Israelis and the Palestinians, kind of assurances or guarantees that will encourage the Palestinians to come back to the talks. Anything on --

MR. KELLY: Well, we’re not going to – we’re not going to comment on any internal U.S. Government discussions or private discussions with the parties. That’s just – that’s been our role throughout --

QUESTION: Well, that’s great you can say that right now, but Ian, you just told us exactly what the Israelis told Mitchell and what Mitchell said in response from last week. So don’t say that and then come up with that kind of line.

MR. KELLY: Well, yeah, but I’m not going to get into the substance of any kind of private correspondence that we might have with the --

QUESTION: Is Mitchell going in the second week of January?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that he’s going. I wouldn't be surprised if he is, but I don’t have any information on that.

QUESTION: Ian, very minor point. You said, “We strongly objected.” Of course, it was Mitchell who objected; there was nobody else with him in that meeting, no other American official with him?

MR. KELLY: Oh, I don’t know who else was in the meeting. But that is – I mean, that is U.S. Government policy that we object to --

QUESTION: And he told him that –

MR. KELLY: -- this kind of unilateral move.

QUESTION: He told him that it would harm peace efforts. You’re not saying that now?

MR. KELLY: Yes, he did. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Mitchell himself. Yeah.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ian, on a separate note on Latin America, can you bring us up-to-date on the delivery of the helicopters to Mexico? And you know, the going – the increased violence over the last couple of days related to the drug war --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- has the U.S. contacted Mexican officials there or --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. You know, I’m sorry, I really – I don’t have an update on that, but I’ll be happy to take the question and see if we can get you one.

QUESTION: Ian, have there been any concrete proposals from the Japanese Government for Foreign Minister Okada’s prospective meeting in January in D.C.?

MR. KELLY: Well, there are discussions going on, but there’s no specific date set.

QUESTION: Have you guys been able to track down this guy in North Korea (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: No, we haven’t.

QUESTION: Is this the Christian activist?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, this is Mr. Robert Park. I mean, we are concerned by these reports and we’re looking into them. We don’t have any independent confirmation about either the reports that he crossed over or about his whereabouts, and so we’re seeking further information. And I know that our Swedish protecting power has offered to go in and try and get us more information.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question on Iran?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has the violence over the weekend changed the Administration’s view at all on a diplomatic approach?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, obviously, we’re very, very concerned about the violence that’s been perpetrated against Iranians who are trying to exercise their democratic right to – peaceful democratic right to self-expression. And I – you know, we all along have said that we’re willing to engage with them to try and allay our concerns about the peaceful nature of their nuclear program. And at the same time, we, of course, are going to speak out in support of those who are out there trying to exercise their democratic right.

QUESTION: Could it lead to tougher sanctions, do you think, especially if they don’t respond by the end of the year?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know, we’ve said all along that this is a dual-track policy, engagement and then also we also are working with our counterparts on the Security Council and with other allies on other options we would have to put pressure on the Iranians. But I’m not going to speculate on how these dramatic events in Iran are going to have an impact on that. We’ll have to see.

QUESTION: Given P.J.’s rather strong comments last week about China, do you have anything to say about the scheduled execution tomorrow of this British citizen in Urumqi?

MR. KELLY: No. What is this – a British citizen who’s scheduled to be executed?


MR. KELLY: On what --

QUESTION: Drug smuggling.

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t. But if you give me the name, I’ll see if we can get you a reaction.

QUESTION: Ian, do you have any additional information today about events in Iran? There have been reports that police have arrested some aides to Mousavi.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm. No, I haven’t heard that, and so I don’t really have any specific reaction to it, Paul.

QUESTION: But didn’t you just answer that question?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, I – in general terms, yeah, but I don’t have a --

QUESTION: No, you don’t know anything specific about these arrests?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know anything specific about these arrests.

Okay? All right, thanks very much.

PRN: 2009/1317