State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, December 1, 2010

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 1, 2010.

2:22 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Department of State. Several things to mention before taking your questions. The Secretary remains in Astana, Kazakhstan today at the OSCE Summit. In her remarks during the plenary, she extended her appreciation to President Nazarbayev and the government and people of Kazakhstan for hosting this important summit, outlined priorities for the OSCE, namely an increased role in supporting our mutual interests in Afghanistan, greater capacity to respond to urgent conflicts, the need to address serious shortcomings in implementing our commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Secretary had meetings with a number of foreign leaders participating in the summit. I can run down the list if you wish. From UN, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to the President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev, the President of Turkmenistan, Prime Minister Berlusconi, Georgian President Saakashvili, the President of Lithuania, foreign minister of Belarus, Deputy Prime Minister Clegg of Great Britain, and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

She will travel tomorrow to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. While in Bishkek, she will meet with President Otunbayeva and other Kyrgyz officials. In Tashkent, she will meet with President Karimov to also discuss a wide range of matters, and then it’s onto Bahrain later in the week, where she will participate in the Manama Dialogue 2010. In Bahrain, she will attend a luncheon hosted by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. She will also meet with Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa and provide the opportunity for the Secretary to discuss regional security issues and other matters of mutual interest with an important partner and friend in the Gulf. Her dinner remarks at the Manama Dialogue will focus on the role of the United States in regional security, and during the course of the conference, she’ll have the opportunity to engage with a number of her counterparts and other leaders from the region and touch base on some of the urgent issues that we confront from Iran to Lebanon, to Middle East peace.

Speaking of Iran, obviously, Lady Ashton has confirmed that the P-5+1 will meet next week in Geneva. Under Secretary of State Bill Burns will be the U.S. representative for these talks. And you perhaps caught some of Under Secretary Burns’ testimony this morning before the House of Foreign Affairs Committee, where he focused on the fact that we continue to aggressively implement sanctions, both international and national sanctions, and that we believe this is having a material impact on Iran with the loss of perhaps 50 to 60 billion dollars in energy investments, as well as a range of companies across multiple sectors withdrawing from the Iranian market. At the same time, he indicated that we will approach next week’s discussions with no illusions, but by the same token underscoring that we believe that there is still the opportunity for serious engagement if Iran is prepared to do so.

Today is World AIDS Day, a day to remember the individuals lost to HIV/AIDS and to celebrate the successes that we have achieved in the fight against this deadly disease, thanks in large part to American leadership, the world has made great strides in providing HIV services to communities impacted by AIDS in developing countries. And today we announced new information on the number of people reached with HIV prevention, treatment, and care, supported by the American people through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, program. These numbers show continued, dramatic progress towards our ultimate goal, saving lives. And going forward, the global community has shared responsibility to build on the successes achieved to date by making smart investments that will ultimately save more lives.

We continue to be focused on the election results in the Ivory Coast, and we continue to await the announcement of results from Sunday’s runoff election in Cote d’Ivoire. The release of results from the second round has now taken three days longer than the first round. It is apparent to us that the full results from all regions have been submitted. A variety of international observers have characterized the second round as democratic. Results must be released immediately and without further delay. It is unacceptable for any party to hijack the democratic process, putting personal political ambitions above the will of the Ivorian people. The United States stands firmly behind the Ivorian people and supports their right to have their voices heard.

And as you saw, we announced a short while ago that Secretary Clinton will host a trilateral ministerial on Monday with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kim and Japanese Foreign Minister Maehara to discuss the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula and their impact on regional security, as well as other regional and global issues. This demonstrates the close coordination between the United States, Republic of Korea, and Japan and our commitment to security in the Korean Peninsula and stability in the region.

QUESTION: So on that, what are you expecting to get out of this? Are you expecting that the three of them will come to some kind of conclusion as to how you want to go ahead with the Chinese and the Russians and the North Koreans?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are broadly consulting, and we will continue to do so. This provides an opportunity for us to engage with two key partners in this process, but we expect to have further meetings beyond next Monday’s.

QUESTION: So you still don’t think the time is right for a Six Party —

MR. CROWLEY: As we’ve stressed, we believe that right now it’s up to Korea to show demonstrably that it is willing to be a constructive player in the region. It is not right now with its series of provocations. We are not interested in talks, and talks are no substitute for having North Korea fulfill its international obligations, meet its commitments, and cease provocations. As North Korea demonstrates a willingness to do that, then we will act accordingly.

QUESTION: Well, so what have you told the Chinese about – I mean, it was their idea to have this Six-Party meeting. Are you – have you basically come out stronger and said, "Look, no dice, we’re not going to — "

MR. CROWLEY: Well, right now, we’re focused on the meeting that we have announced today. I’m not ruling out further consultations beyond that, but we look forward to the meeting on Monday.

QUESTION: Were the Chinese invited to this meeting that’s taking place on the 6th of December?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that they were.

QUESTION: About the trilateral, do you have the time for it?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Do you have the time for next Monday’s meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t. We’ll get – try to get that time to you.

QUESTION: Peace talks, on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Yesterday, you condemned strongly the statement made by Al-Mutawakil Taha, who is the deputy minister of information in the Palestinian Authority. Did you request his resignation, or would you like to see him resign?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s not a decision for us to make. We have condemned his statements. We thought they were historically inaccurate and fundamentally irresponsible. But those – that’s a decision for the Palestinian Authority to make. We just want to cease – to see an end to that kind of inflammatory rhetoric that we believe is an obstacle to progress.

QUESTION: Yeah, but if his statement was so inappropriate, then I’m sure you conveyed to the Palestinian Authority your displeasure with his statement. Wouldn’t that lead you to say – to like —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have had discussions with the Palestinian Authority on this, but I’ll leave those private.

QUESTION: On WikiLeaks, yesterday at the (inaudible), Ambassador Burns said that release of these documents by WikiLeaks has posed difficulties for the American diplomats working overseas. When you came to know about these documents would be released in coming weeks, in – was there any way to look into it if these documents could be stopped from being published by using an illegal means?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, just to – on your first point, clearly, the release of this volume of documents has an impact. Our – first and foremost, our concern is that people with which we have engaged around the world, particularly in authoritarian societies, their lives, their careers have been put at risk through the release of these documents.

As to whether we could have prevented the release, well, you’ve got multiple faces of this. First and foremost, somebody inside the United States Government who has authorized access to this material, downloaded it and passed it to someone who is not authorized to have it. That is a crime and we are investigating that crime and we’ll hold the people responsible fully accountable. As we have detailed yesterday, we have taken steps and will continue to review security procedures to make sure that this cannot happen again.

We also called, in an exchange of letters over the weekend, for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange to cease releasing this information which is a continuation of the crime which we believe occurred here in the United States. He has the power to do that. And that would be the most effective way to stop further compromise of this material and further damage to our national interests.

QUESTION: Does this declare that the U.S. —

QUESTION: Sorry, what was the crime in this?

MR. CROWLEY: Pardon me?

QUESTION: What was the crime in —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the fact that one or more individuals inside the United States Government downloaded this material and passed it to someone who is not authorized to receive it. That is a crime.

QUESTION: And yet – and you’re saying —

QUESTION: Didn’t that happen in Iraq?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – this is being fully investigated.

QUESTION: Are you saying that it happened —

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to jeopardize the investigation from here.

QUESTION: Well, are you saying it happened in the United States?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m just saying that someone within the United States Government did this. We believe it’s a crime. We are fully investigating it. We’re going to hold the individual or individuals responsible.

QUESTION: Well, I just want to make clear, because you just said that the crime happened in the United States, the crime was committed in the United —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, a crime happened under U.S. law and we are going to hold those responsible fully accountable.

QUESTION: And a follow-up on this —

QUESTION: You mentioned an individual or more than one individual. Is there more than one individual?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, Charlie, I’m being very cautious in what I say just to make sure I don’t jeopardize an investigation. Don’t draw any particular conclusions. This is under investigation and we are going to pursue this matter aggressively under our laws.

QUESTION: Is revealing government secrets a burglary, a crime, or is it a tantamount to treason?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Is revealing government secrets in this case – how is that characterized?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the transfer of —

QUESTION: I mean, the way that it’s told on the scale between —

MR. CROWLEY: The transfer of classified material to people without a proper clearance is a crime.

QUESTION: What kind of crime? I mean, it is treasonous? I mean, is it —

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we are investigating. We will prosecute those responsible. I’m going to leave it to the lawyers to determine, under U.S. law, what the charges will be.

QUESTION: Has the State Department —

QUESTION: Can you detail some of the steps that have been taken recently – as recently as Friday to clamp down on the access to the State documents or information like this? Would there – since WikiLeaks came out much earlier with other material, were there any previous attempts to begin closing access or preventing unauthorized access?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Jill, first of all, we have been investigating this for several months since we first learned of the unauthorized leak. We have taken steps. We wanted to, first of all, understand fully what happened. And remember, this is a challenge across the United States Government. We have taken steps within the Department of State, but the leak of information did not happen within the Department of State. We are learning from what happened and we’re making some adjustments inside our operations. Other agencies are doing the same thing and this has been something that we have been doing since we first learned of this.

QUESTION: Is the publication of these documents, especially with regard to Pakistan, has it strained your relationship with Pakistan? Have you received any feedback from them?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me start with Pakistan, but then reiterate more broadly. Our relations with Pakistan, with other countries are guided by our national interests and Pakistan’s national interests. Those haven’t changed by these revelations. We are pursuing a strategic partnership with Pakistan because we face a common adversary. That doesn’t change either. We have taken aggressive action. Pakistan has taken aggressive action. We are helping Pakistan improve its military capability, improve its civilian capability. That’s not going to change by what has happened here.

QUESTION: Has the State Department played in any role in temporarily shutting down the Wikileaks website at all?


QUESTION: On Egypt, one more question.

MR. CROWLEY: On Egypt.

QUESTION: The Egyptians have actually dismissed your statement and they called it blatant intervention, foreign intervention. I want to ask you: What practical steps are you prepared to take to ensure that civil society in Egypt remains independent and it is robust and its integrity as a civil society not manipulated by government intervention is there?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, first and foremost the issue is not a matter of foreign interference. We haven’t interfered in any way with the plans or execution of the recent elections. We just felt that it fell short of international standards and we’ve told Egypt that. The real issue here is the relationship between Egypt and its own people and we believe that the election fell short of the expectations that the Egyptian people have for what they want to see in terms of an open political process, a chance to play a more – or a significant role in the future of their country, a chance to participate more fully in a political process. That’s what the Egyptian people are saying to the Egyptian Government and, as a friend of Egypt, we are communicating to Egypt that we hope it will improve its electoral standards and its electoral performance. It’s still not too late. There’s a runoff election coming up this weekend and we would continue to encourage Egypt to take appropriate steps so that this is a credible result – again, not so much in our eyes, but in the eyes of the Egyptian people. Our focus is on helping the Egyptian people achieve the aspirations that they have for a more open political process.

QUESTION: Could you reassure society organizations in Egypt that you will give them the aid that they need –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have – we will continue to engage civil society in Egypt. We have programs where we have helped to promote the ability of domestic observers to participate in the electoral process. And we will continue to invest in civil society and democratic institutions in Egypt.

QUESTION: Other subject –

QUESTION: (Inaudible) out of Iran – the Iran talks next week. What are your expectations for these talks? I mean, are there any indications that Iran is coming – ready to negotiate with you? And do you think the Wikileaks could actually help by showing Iran what all of its neighbors think of it?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Let me take the first thing first. We would like to see Iran engage in a real process. I think I quipped last year: What’s our objective for the first meeting? A second meeting. But that would signal Iran is ready to answer the questions that the international community has. I mean, Iran is alone in the fact that it is unable or unwilling to answer the questions that have arisen about the nature of its nuclear program. But these are not impossible questions to answer. We will come next week prepared to engage on the nuclear issue, engage on other topics of interest with Iran. We hope that they will come to this meeting with the same seriousness of purpose. We’re under no illusions here. We understand that this may be difficult and we understand that Iran may not come prepared to engage constructively. But we’re showing that we’re willing to offer this – continue to offer this engagement and we hope that we will have a productive meeting next week.

QUESTION: And on Wikileaks, whether – Wikileaks, whether you think that adds to the pressure that Iran feels.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, Iran is among the most isolated countries in the world. We think that they’re under enormous pressure. The United States, other countries in the region, other countries around the world share a concern about not only the concern that everyone has about Iran’s nuclear program, but also its behavior in terms of its support of terrorist organizations and its actions that are less than constructive in the region. So I don’t think it necessarily changes any geostrategic calculation here. We will come to next week’s meeting prepared to engage constructively and we hope that Iran will do the same.

QUESTION: Another subject?

QUESTION: Have you asked the Japanese to review its arms embargo policy to work with them on missile defense?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. I don’t know.

QUESTION: START? Could you just give us a status on where we are, prospects for getting it passed in the session? And also, some of the opponents of START argue that Russia has cheated essentially on every single agreement that it signed so far and citing some sort of State Department study. Are you aware of any study that shows that Russia has cheated on their agreement?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, let’s start with START. We believe that this is in the national security interest. We believe that it will continue stability and predictability between the two world leading nuclear powers. We think that lower levels of nuclear forces are in our interest and they certainly are consistent with the President’s long-term vision. We think we’ve made this case. We’ve had any number of briefings, hearings. We’ve answered every question that senators have raised. We understand that there are people who are perhaps opposed to this treaty,

and they continue what I would characterize as a disinformation campaign to add questions that are really not there. Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, other senior American leaders have made clear under oath that this treaty is in our national interest and that this treaty in no way limits or constrains our missile defense programs, and any suggestions to the contrary are false.

There have been questions raised about conversations that we’ve had with Russia about missile defense cooperation. There are claims of a secret deal. There’s been no secret deal. There have been no secret negotiations. We have had these engagements with the Russians in plain sight. This Administration has pursued – has had conversations with Russia about missile defense cooperation. The Bush Administration has had conversations with Russia about missile defense cooperation. There are no secrets here. There are no secret arrangements, no secret deals, no secret negotiations, and there’s nothing that’s going on that in any constrains our missile defense programs.

So we will continue – I mean, just as we saw in Lisbon, NATO and Russia have agreed on missile defense cooperation, including theater missile defense exercises. We will continue to engage with Russia both in a multilateral setting – we haven’t ruled out further conversations with Russia on missile defense cooperation. If and when we do that, it will be, again, in plain sight. But we think the time has come for the Senate to act on this treaty, ratify it before they break for the holiday.

QUESTION: Are you encouraged by Senator McCain and others saying that they might consider a vote on this (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: We think we’ve made the case. There have been some constructive statements made by senators on both sides of the aisle. We would continue to remind that we have a great tradition in this country of bipartisan support for the START treaty. It’s hard to argue that this is not in our national interest, and we are continuing to encourage the Senate to act on this treaty before it leaves for the holiday.

QUESTION: So tell us all about these secret deals and secret talks with the Russians on missile defense. (Laughter.) I’m curious because there was a story in one newspaper this morning, which I think you were alluding to, which said that there were suggestions that Secretaries Clinton and Gates may have misled Congress when they —

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a serious charge, and that charge is false. That paper and that reporter were given direct information to refute that suggestion and chose to ignore that information.

QUESTION: They were given direct – by this building?

MR. CROWLEY: By me and by others.

QUESTION: At other buildings?

MR. CROWLEY: Others here. It is not true. Any suggestions that either Secretary Gates or Secretary Clinton have testified falsely under oath is categorically false. There are no secret negotiations to limit our missile defenses. There was a question about something called circular 175 authority. Again, this is something that is necessary to have a conversation with a country like Russia that might involve, with some sort of agreement, an exchange of sensitive information. We have kept Congress fully informed. There were suggestions that a briefing paper provided to Congress last week was somehow a secret report. It was nothing of the kind. It was a specific briefing paper prepared, in fact, for the meeting that occurred last week to keep Congress fully informed of what we are doing.

I mean, the irony is there’s a claim of some sort of a secret deal, when, in fact, in our conversations with Russia earlier this year we inquired as to whether Russia was prepared to pursue a missile defense cooperation agreement, and Russia’s answer was not at this time. We will, in all likelihood, have a conversation with Russia at some point in the future in light of the agreement in Lisbon to pursue cooperation in the multilateral context. Again, we think this is in our interest. If we have an agreement with Russia that involves military exercises, there will need to be an exchange of appropriate information to pursue that. If that is the case, we will have proper authorities to do that and we’ll keep Congress, again, fully informed.

QUESTION: In this circular 175 or whatever it’s called, it says that basically Russia rejected the offer in May and it makes the suggestion about the possible misleading of Congress by the two secretaries – said that happened in June.

MR. CROWLEY: Right. And if you go back to —

QUESTION: Perhaps —

MR. CROWLEY: If you go back to the hearing testimony in June, the Secretary made clear what the status was at that particular time based on an earlier conversation that —

QUESTION: Would their answers have perhaps had been more complete had they said that there were talks going on but that they hadn’t achieved anything? Or did they, in fact, say that in June?

MR. CROWLEY: No. In fact, in June there were no talks going on because the —

QUESTION: Well, they had ended a couple weeks before.

MR. CROWLEY: It ended before that.

QUESTION: Right. But perhaps their answers could have been more complete if they had said that, no?

MR. CROWLEY: We – the testimony is a matter of public record, and we stand by that testimony.


QUESTION: Can I ask a question on AIDS, this being the international day? P.J., five or ten years ago, the issue was up front and center, and everybody was talking about it and it was perceived as an alarming situation. Is it so much less alarming today or there are many less cases, let’s say, in Africa that the issue is eclipsed? Is that your assessment?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think – I think everyone celebrates the progress that’s been made. There are a record number of people being treated today. We are also, at the same time, investing significantly in the medical infrastructure in key countries necessary for the proper delivery of medicine and assistance to people who are afflicted by HIV/AIDS. But where there might be progress country by country, we are very sober in recognizing that this is still a very significant global challenge. I don’t think anyone is declaring victory at this point. We still know that we have a lot of work to do.

QUESTION: Can I ask one on WikiLeaks, although you’ve talked about it at length? The Secretary said Monday that relations between governments aren’t the only concern created by the publication of the material, that U.S. diplomats meet with local human rights workers, journalists, religious leaders, and others. Do you have particular cases that are coming to your attention already, or are there particular parts of the world, countries, where they’re at threat?

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, we have great concern. There are – again, without getting into any particular cable, there are clearly sources identified in these documents, people particularly in authoritarian states that have talked to us, and we believe that the release of these cables definitely puts real lives at risk.

We have taken steps in anticipation of this release. Our embassies around the world have been in touch with those civil society and human rights activists. We have warned them of what’s coming. We are open to help them and protect them in any way that we can, if necessary.

QUESTION: Are there cases in Pakistan that have —

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not talking about any particular country. I’m just saying that, given the broad sweep here, we have no doubt that lives have been put at risk. We’ve done everything that we can to reach out to them. We are prepared to help protect them if that becomes necessary.


QUESTION: Have any cases come to your attention yet? Have any particular cases linked to these documents come to your attention?

MR. CROWLEY: To my knowledge, at this point, not yet. But this is clearly something that remains a serious focus of ours.

QUESTION: Have you made any offers of asylum? Are you prepared to make offers of asylum to people who might be put at risk?

MR. CROWLEY: We are prepared to help protect people, if necessary. I’m not aware that that has become necessary, but that is something that we are prepared to do.

QUESTION: Well, it is something you are prepared to do?

QUESTION: Asylum? Asylum is something that you are prepared to do —

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it —

QUESTION: — to protect people —

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave it where I left it.

QUESTION: Protect —

MR. CROWLEY: We will take steps to help protect people if we believe that they are at risk.

QUESTION: Can you give us a general idea of what protective steps you could take? I mean, you would study a certain number of steps, including asylum, perhaps?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, asylum is a particular category that has a particular standard of care associated with it. But if we have to help relocate people for a period of time, we are prepared to do that.

QUESTION: On the same topic, Under Secretary Burns said today that the disclosures have done substantial damage to the ability for American diplomats to carry out their efforts overseas. Why is there such a gulf between him and Secretary Clinton on —

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think there’s a gulf at all. What we were just talking about is a perfect example of where people that we have relied upon to help us – provide us information and perspective on global events have been put at risk. We do understand that in the immediate term, that this will make our jobs more difficult. It – but we are aggressively doing everything we can to mitigate that impact. We are – we have taken steps in recent days to have conversations with virtually every post around the world, help them understand that our mutual interests have not changed and that we will continue to be fully engaged.

So we do expect to work through this, but I don’t think there’s a difference between what Secretary Clinton said in terms of real risk to lives and interests, and obviously a degree of difficulty that comes with the release of this volume of classified material.

QUESTION: P.J., you were asked earlier if the State Department had anything to do with WikiLeaks being inaccessible at the moment. You said —

MR. CROWLEY: And I said no.

QUESTION: And you said no. Are you aware of any other government agency that might be – they appear to have lost their server.

MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware that – I don’t know the circumstances, but I’m not aware of any government involvement in that development.

QUESTION: The U.S. Government or any other government?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can – I just am the spokesperson for the Department of State and the United States Government.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)