Interview With Scott Pelley of CBS Evening News

John Kerry
Secretary of State
New York City
August 11, 2015

QUESTION: Do you think the Chinese and/or the Russians are reading your emails?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we know that the – unfortunately, we’re living in a world where a number of countries, the Chinese and Russians included, have consistently been engaged in cyber attacks against American interests, against the American Government. And it’s an issue that we recently raised very, very strongly in our dialogue with the Chinese.

The answer is it is very likely. It is not without – outside the realm of possibility. And we know that they have attacked a number of American interests over the course of the last days.

QUESTION: It’s very likely that your emails are being read?

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s very possible. I – there’s no way for me – and I certainly write things with that awareness.

QUESTION: With all of the attacks that have come, apparently, from China on the U.S. Government, there is a sense that the United States is unable to defend itself in the cyber world. How much concern should we have?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the cyber world, as you know, Scott, it’s a very complicated and fast-moving world. We are deeply involved in fighting back against this on a daily basis. But right now it’s pretty – it’s pretty much the Wild West, so to speak.

QUESTION: And it is a gunfight. In July, the unclassified email of the nation’s top military officers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was penetrated; 22 million federal workers lost their private information when the Federal Office of Personnel Management was cleaned out, probably by China; and White House unclassified email was pilfered in a suspected Russian hack.

A little later we will hear Secretary Kerry’s honest assessment of America’s war against ISIS and why he believes the Iran nuclear deal is essential to peace.


QUESTION: And we spoke to Secretary of State Kerry about the troubled fight against ISIS, which the U.S. Government calls ISIL.

SECRETARY KERRY: This is tough, and obviously, it didn’t go well. I think it’s admirable that they’ve admitted that it wasn’t what they wanted it to be. There are – the complexity of that battlefield cannot be overstated. So I think the numbers of different people, who’s turning on who, and it underscores the complicated fight against Daesh, ISIL.

QUESTION: Is the war against ISIL worth fighting?


QUESTION: Then why isn’t it worth fighting decisively?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think that the question is who’s going to make that decisive difference. The President has decided, and I think appropriately, that American forces are not the ones best suited to be able to take that fight at the moment, and it is not in the best interests of our country.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry is campaigning for the nuclear deal that he struck with the Iranian foreign minister. Iran agreed to dismantle most of its nuclear program in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re not asking anybody to trust Iran. Iran doesn’t trust us; we don’t yet trust them. And who knows what the future brings? So this agreement is built on real-time verification now. Iran, in order to get any sanctions relief, has to reduce its program very significantly; it has to destroy its core reactor at its plutonium heavy water reactor; it has to take all of its enrichment out of other facilities; it has to hold its program back to 300 kilograms of stockpile of low-enriched material for 15 years. We are convinced through our intelligence community and through our Energy Department, which is responsible for nuclear weaponry, that we will know what Iran is doing.

QUESTION: One of the key criticisms of the agreement is a provision that allows the possibility of up to 24 days before international inspectors would be allowed into an Iranian undeclared nuclear site. Let me show you what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told us about that.


PRIME MINISTER NETHANYAHU: (Via video) “In fact, you have to give them not 24 hours’ notice inspecting a suspect site, but 24 days’ notice. Now, can you imagine you’re a drug dealer and somebody tells you I want to inspect your premises? That’s a lot of time, 24 days, to flush a lot of meth down the toilet.”

QUESTION: Your reaction?

SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) Well, my reaction is, with all due respect, nuclear material is not like drugs. You can’t flush it down the toilet. You can’t get rid of nuclear material that way. It lasts for hundreds, thousands of years.

QUESTION: They cannot build a nuclear weapon over the next 10 years in this agreement?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, they cannot, not possibly, under this agreement.

QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, thank you very much for being with us.