State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, December 3, 2010

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 3, 2010.  


Charlie Wolfson Farewell
Secretary Clinton in Bahrain / Manama Dialogue
One Full Year Since Original START Treaty Expired
Upcoming Bilateral Meetings with Japan and South Korean Foreign Ministers
Bill Burns Travel to Geneva for P-5+1 Meeting / Possible Pull-Asides / Express Concern about Hikers
U.S.-Russia Adoption Talks Ongoing / No Final Text
UNESCO Adding Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
U.S. Congratulates Guinea on Successful Presidential Election
U.S. Government Conversations with other Countries on Preventing Publishing / Tracking Where Documents are Emerging / Laws / Warning Variety of Sources / Talks with News Organizations / Withholding of Cables / Secretary Clinton Calls / Other Calls /
Travel Warning / Democratic Transition
Concern over Releasing of Insurgents / U.S. Discussions with Afghans
U.S. Following Case of Mohammad al-Jassem Closely / In Touch with Kuwaiti Government


11:47 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Well, good morning. And we will dedicate this briefing to Charlie Wolfson, who departs us – abandons us might be another way of putting it – after 16 years of covering the State Department. But as we said to you privately, we wish you all the best, and you’ll come back to visit us.


QUESTION: And thank you, and perhaps. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Just to —

QUESTION: That means no. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, it means – or we’ll meet at a bar somewhere, which is perfectly fine.

Just to run through several cats and dogs here before taking your questions. The Secretary will be giving her speech at the Manama Dialogue here in about an hour’s time, give or take. She had a number of high-level meetings today with senior Bahraini officials talking about bilateral and regional issues.

We just take note of the fact that Sunday will mark one full year since the original START Treaty expired. At the core of the START Treaty is Ronald Reagan’s maxim, “Trust but verify.” And since it went out of force, we’ve had only trust without verification. New START not only restores an effective verification regime, which includes 18 short notice, on-site inspections a year, but the treaty also continues the trend of making modest reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals. A number of senior officials, present and former, have all called for ratification of the treaty and we would hope that the Senate can finish the job and give its advice and consent on the ratification of New START before it adjourns.

Coming – I just want to give you a couple of – you asked yesterday for some kind of indications of what will happen next week. On Monday, here at the State Department, as we’ve indicated, we have bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Maehara of Japan and Foreign Minister Kim of Korea. The bilateral with Minister Kim will occur around 11:15 on Monday morning. There’ll be a camera spray on that. And then there’ll be the bilateral with Minister Maehara will happen, I think, at about 12:15, and then the – or 12 o’clock and then the trilateral will be from 1 until 3 with a press availability afterwards.

QUESTION: Is that a camera spray also?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. There’ll be two camera sprays and – I mean, these times might adjust or slide a few minutes in one direction or the other. That just gives you a kind of sense of what we’re expecting, how the day will be structured.

QUESTION: What time do you think the press availability will be happening?

MR. CROWLEY: Around 3:15 would be our guess for about 30 minutes.

QUESTION: And where?

MR. CROWLEY: If I were a betting man, I would probably say in the Franklin. I think some of the details are still being worked out today.

QUESTION: And all three of them will speak not just the Secretary?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, exactly. Exactly right.

And then Bill Burns will depart Washington on Saturday night for Geneva. He’ll have some preparatory planning meetings on Sunday. It is our expectation at this point that the P-5+1 meeting in Geneva will begin on Monday and likely carry over until Tuesday. On precise details, we will defer to High Representative Catherine Ashton and her office. But my expectation again is that on Tuesday, there’ll probably be a statement by Lady Ashton and then – which will give you the readout of the meeting.

QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of what her meetings might be – say this meeting might be on Sunday, the preparatory meetings?

MR. CROWLEY: Just preparatory meeting.

QUESTION: One-on-one or each of the other five or what? I mean —

MR. CROWLEY: A good question. It will not be visible whatever it is.

QUESTION: Is there any possibility of Under Secretary Burns having a bilateral conversation with the Iranians during the course of these three days – Sunday, Monday or Tuesday?

MR. CROWLEY: One, in answer to your question, I don’t know, first of all. We will come to Geneva prepared to talk about the nuclear issue and any other issue that the Iranian Government might raise. In – last year in Geneva, as I recall, Under Secretary Burns had the opportunity on the sidelines of the P-5+1 to have a pull-aside conversation with Mr. Jalili. I wouldn’t rule out that something like that might happen again. But I don’t know that there’s any formal meeting planned. In fact, I’m fairly confident there is no formal meeting.


MR. CROWLEY: Other than – outside of the P-5+1.

QUESTION: You’re certainly open to the possibility of such a pull-aside? I mean, the first time he went – I think in ’05. I forget the year, I’m sorry. I think he wasn’t even supposed to like do more than shake hands with them. So you’re perfectly open to such a pull-aside if it – if the opportunity would present itself?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we – I think, for example, were such an encounter to take place, I’m confident that Under Secretary Burns will again express our concern about the two hikers who remains – who remain in Iranian custody. So there may well be an opportunity for those kinds of conversations on the sidelines. We’ll, of course, let you know if such conversations take place.

QUESTION: Is there a catch in to holding one of those or that just you’re open to it? I’m just trying to get a sense of —

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I don’t know that there’s anything planned. We are – we’re coming to Geneva prepared to engage, and we’ll see what – when we get there what the Iranians are prepared to do.


QUESTION: But he has no restrictions of what he can do or say from the Secretary?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve accepted the opportunity to participate in this meeting with Iran. And if there is an opportunity for a side conversation, there are other issues that we might want to raise with the Iranians. If that happens, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Does he have any messages from the parents of these hikers?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s been a clear message from the United States Government, which is that these two hikers should be released. And if he has the opportunity, I’m confident he will reiterate our view.

QUESTION: Aside from the expected statement from Ashton, do you expect either she or Ambassador Burns would speak to the press at any point or —

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t anticipate that – I think Lady Ashton will give the readout on behalf of the P-5+1. We’ll – for those of you who might plan to travel to Geneva – I believe Mike Hammer from the White House will be there. And if we can arrange a side conversation, we’ll – that will be up to Mike.

QUESTION: He doesn’t have anything public from the (inaudible) as he leaves office?

MR. CROWLEY: No, nope.

Okay, just to kind of tick off a few other things. We just put out a formal statement marking the one-year anniversary of the detention of Alan Gross, spoke about that yesterday, and certainly we will continue to press hard for his release.

I want to bring you up to date on the U.S.-Russia adoption talks. They are ongoing today, but for a variety of reasons it does not appear as though we will actually finalize the text today. On the one hand, the lead negotiator on the Russian side was ill and actually did not make the trip. But – and on the other hand, I think the formal translation and finalization is simply taking slightly longer than had been anticipated. So we will probably need to have another meeting – I wouldn’t say that there were any showstoppers; it’s just a matter of working through the mechanics of finalizing the agreement, and it will likely not be finished today.

QUESTION: And just so we’re clear when you say another meeting, not like one over the weekend, but you expect the Russian team to go back and then you’ll have another meeting at some point.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s my impression, yes.


QUESTION: Could it be like next week? Are we talking sooner?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s to be scheduled, to be determined.

QUESTION: And how many days of the week did they meet?


QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: And I would call attention – this is where I’m going to do the long pause. This is an important day for the state of Hawaii and the United States. UNESCO has added to its prestigious world heritage list the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That’s why this isn’t on camera?

QUESTION: Is that why this briefing isn’t on camera?

QUESTION: I don’t at all mean to imply that any of my colleagues don’t know how to spell that, but I do not, so do you mind spelling that?

MR. CROWLEY: P-a-p-a-h-a-n-a-u-m-o-k-u-a-k-e-a.

QUESTION: Just like it sounds. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Why is this not on camera, by the way? Just for the record, I wanted to know.

MR. CROWLEY: Just for the record, when I leave here I’m going to lunch with my DOD colleagues. And since Mr. Toner is gone this week for FSI training, that is why we’re trying to do this relatively quickly and off camera today.


MR. CROWLEY: No other motive.

QUESTION: What’s happening at the lunch with your colleagues?

MR. CROWLEY: Huh? (Laughter.) And finally the United States Government congratulates Guinea on a successful completion of its first democratic presidential election since gaining independence 52 years ago. And while the 2010 presidential race is a great leap, this is only the first step on the road to democratic transition and civilian rule. And we hope other countries in the region, such as Cote d’Ivoire, will follow Guinea’s example.

QUESTION: Can we go to France and WikiLeaks? As you’ve probably seen, the French industry minister has asked if there is some way that the Government of France can prevent WikiLeaks from being hosted by French companies or companies that fall under French jurisdiction. And this is, obviously, following Amazon’s decision to cease their web posting for them. Has the United States Government asked France to do this? Has the United States Government asked any other government to try to cut off WikiLeaks’s ability to publish, as it were, via the web? And is the United States Government itself doing anything to try to make it harder for them to – I’m not talking about cyber attacks or distributed denial-of-service attacks, but are you reaching out to U.S. internet companies and saying, “Hey, please don’t host these guys.”

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any conversations by the United States Government either – any internet host here or any government over there at this point. I will say that we are – we have reviewed – I mean what we are doing is we are tracking where these documents are emerging from, just to keep track of what is being released and, as we have been doing for some time, trying to assess impact. So we are monitoring where documents are emerging from. But at this point, I’m not aware that we’ve had any conversations (inaudible).

QUESTION: When you said over there, you meant not just France but anywhere in the world, correct?


QUESTION: And on the legal side of this – yesterday you said several times he’s not a journalist, he’s not a whistleblower. But it kind of feels that there’s a reason that you’re saying that, perhaps this legal approach to defining him so that he might be prosecuted. Are the State Department lawyers looking at that issue right now and what potentially might be done? Because members of Congress —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Justice Department is investigating this case, and I will defer to Justice.

QUESTION: So nothing of —

MR. CROWLEY: I mean obviously, this is a very complicated issue. And we are actually kind of reviewing, if we were to have a conversation either within this country or elsewhere, what would be the guiding principles, what are the guiding laws. And a lot of this is still uncharted territory, to be honest.

QUESTION: You were saying that they were looking at the – what the response has been. But a lot of names have been redacted from these documents. Have there been sources coming to you, asking for protection? The other day you said it hadn’t been necessary yet, but has there been any change in that?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we’ve taken any action yet. As we’ve indicated, we have had – we did warn a variety of people around the world who have been sources of valuable information to us, and we have had conversations with some. But as of this point, I’m not sure that any action has been necessary.

QUESTION: Has there been any request for help or —

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve had discussions with various people. As we’ve indicated, we’re still prepared to help if that becomes necessary. I’m just not aware that it’s become necessary at this point.


QUESTION: Does it appear that any of them – hold on, hold on, hold on.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. I just want to know, because it’s a different thing to say that you haven’t had to take any steps yet. I want to know if anybody’s requested any help yet?

MR. CROWLEY: And I’ll just repeat what I said. We’ve had conversations. I’m not aware there have been any formal requests yet. We are prepared to act on any requests that actually occur.

QUESTION: P.J., was there any indirect or direct State guidance to WikiLeaks about what should be redacted from – because – among other redactions? Did that come from State?

MR. CROWLEY: Laura, can —

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MR. CROWLEY: Come again? I’m trying to understand your question.

QUESTION: Did State directly or indirectly provide any guidance to WikiLeaks about what should be redacted from the documents that have been released so far?

MR. CROWLEY: Various news organizations have come to us and asked if we had concerns about particular cables. We have responded as – to those questions, and it is our understanding that our concerns have been relayed to WikiLeaks.

QUESTION: But you have not talked to WikiLeaks directly or indirectly – I mean only indirectly through other —


QUESTION: Do you know as a result of any of your concerns cables were published?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry. What?

QUESTION: Do you know if as a result of any of your concerns any cables were not published?

MR. CROWLEY: On a case-by-case basis, some outlets have withheld posting of cables at our request. Obviously, it’s a complicated situation because one outlet may withhold a cable then only to see another outlet release it. That’s the primary reason why we put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Assange. That – under the – based on the actions that he’s taken, there is, in all likelihood, no systematic way of protecting people who are listed in these cables and who we believe are now at greater risk. That’s why we called on him over the weekend to withhold the documents and to return them to us, and he’s failed to do that.

QUESTION: So these pleas to him not to – I mean to withhold documents, et cetera, when you said some outlets have withheld postings of documents at our request, in other words, you publicly have said, “WikiLeaks, do not release these documents,” but you have not talked directly —

MR. CROWLEY: We sent – no, no. We sent a specific letter to him over the weekend, and we gave him specific instructions, which he has ignored.

QUESTION: But just so we’re clear on what I think was Jill’s question, the documents that have been withheld from being posted is solely as a result of your conversations with news organizations, non-WikiLeaks news organizations, choosing to withhold them. Correct?


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And legal – was it the State legal and the public affairs who determined what redactions you would be asking for or what —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, unfortunately, it’s the news organizations that determine the redactions. We have made a range of requests. In some cases, news organizations have responded to us. In some cases, they have not. As we’ve made clear, we do believe that in the release of these cables lives are being put at risk. We do believe that critical military and intelligence operations are being put at risk. We do think that our national interests are put at risk because of what’s being done here. We’ve made that clear to – in any conversation that we’ve had with any news organization.

QUESTION: Who’s working with you and who isn’t? I mean there are five major news organizations that got them, right? Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, El Pais, and Le Monde are –have – who’s been —

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – I’ll keep my conversations with various news organizations private?

QUESTION: Has cable traffic gone down? (Laughter.) I’m serious.

QUESTION: That’s a great question.

MR. CROWLEY: It is a great question. Let – I’ll – we’ll monitor that, see what we can tell you. I mean, of course, you’re coming to a period of the year where I think if you look back, historically probably traffic would begin to decline this time of the year anyway.

QUESTION: P.J., may I ask you about the bill that Lieberman – Mr. Lieberman has presented yesterday, the SHIELD Act, to —

MR. CROWLEY: Are you talking about Joseph Lieberman or —

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Lieberman, yes. I’m sorry, not the Israeli one. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: There are multiple Liebermans. I am quite honestly not familiar with a legislation that Mr. Lieberman has put forward.

QUESTION: P.J., what do you make of the Turkish leader’s comments, saying they’re convinced that Israeli – Israel and even the U.S. may be responsible for leaking these cables?

MR. CROWLEY: I was asked that question by a fine news organization yesterday. I mean, I know there are a lot of conspiratorial theories out there. We – this is about a crime. It’s not about grand strategy. I can assure everyone that, as I said to The Wall Street Journal yesterday, no one in the United States Government with a brain in his head wanted to see this happen. We – unfortunately, as we’ve made clear, at least one person in the United States Government is responsible for this. This was not done by policy.

QUESTION: Just to go back to your conversations with news organizations, you said you’ve asked them specifically to withhold some cables from publishing. Was the first thing that you asked them, “Don’t publish any of these?”

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, that – we have a policy: The publication of classified information is harmful to the national interest. We’ve made that clear. But your counterparts in news organizations have a different point of view.

QUESTION: Is there any update to diplomats who have been booted out of countries or recalled or anything like that for WikiLeaks reasons?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any cases like that at this point?

QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any more calls?

MR. CROWLEY: Not today as far as I know. She will make more calls, but I’m not aware of any that have happened today. If any have happened, I will of course let you know via Twitter.

QUESTION: Are you absolutely certain that the WikiLeaks-related calls are only 11 that she has made thus far? And I realize some of those covered other topics as well. Are you absolutely certain that the number is 11, other than something that may have happened today, and it might not be a couple of dozen?

QUESTION: Wasn’t there –

QUESTION: I thought it was —

QUESTION: There was a UAE call last week, wasn’t there?

MR. CROWLEY: Put it this way: We’ve made lots and lots and lots and lots of calls, from Secretary Clinton to Deputy Secretary Steinberg. Under Secretary Burns has been burning up the phone lines. Assistant secretaries have been on the phone and down to ambassadors around the world. So there have been many, many efforts at outreach. I’ve given you the list of calls that the Secretary has made that are Wiki-related.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m just – I was asking just about her, so not about anybody else.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, I understand that. Yeah.

QUESTION: My understanding, just based on the list that you gave yesterday, did not include the UAE. And I had understood that she had made a call to, I think, either the Crown Prince or someone else. I just wanted to make sure if that was the case or not.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. Yeah, I’ll – if there is confusion, we will – we’ll put out, via email, the definitive list one more time to make sure there’s no confusion.

QUESTION: On that, can you – if you want to put it out on Twitter, fine, but —

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll send you – we’ll —

QUESTION: — can you send a normal State Department press email?

MR. CROWLEY: I just said we’ll do it by email.



MR. CROWLEY: So Julie Reside, if we could just double-double check the definitive list to make sure there’s no confusion.

QUESTION: P.J., one reason there’s a question at least in my mind is the background briefing by a snior aministration oficial the other evening I believe mentioned several dozen phone calls that she had made. I just wanted to make sure —

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll tell you what. I’ll just repeat what I said. She – we’ll go over the WikiLeaks – now, she – we’ll go over the Wiki list with you. That’s the list that she’s made since the release.

QUESTION: Well, no. I mean —

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: — recent – she made some prior to the —

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: — regarding the release dates —

MR. CROWLEY: All right. We’ll go over it again.

QUESTION: Not on Wiki, on Iran – is Einhorn – who else is going with Burns to Geneva?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a very good question. I don’t have an answer.

QUESTION: On the – what?

MR. CROWLEY: All I know is Bill Burns is going and Mike Hammer is going.

QUESTION: The President’s in Afghanistan right now. What’s – anything that we should be thinking about in terms of the significance of his visit?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to my colleagues at the White House. This President and the past president both made it a point of visiting the troops near the holiday, but as to what is – precisely is going on, I’ll defer to the White House.

QUESTION: Are you at all concerned that the President’s not going to meet face to face with President Karzai, that that’s – this is the house of diplomacy and —

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Again, I’ll defer to the White House, but my understanding —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: But my understanding is there are actually weather challenges on the ground.

QUESTION: It’s funny, because the people on the ground in Bagram are saying they’re – that we have in Bagram are saying there’s no weather problems.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Again —

QUESTION: The White House ignored it, so is this a concern with WikiLeaks?

MR. CROWLEY: Third time’s a charm. For the President’s visit to Afghanistan, I’ll defer to the White House.

QUESTION: Are we Wiki-ed out?

QUESTION: Charlie.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: I got other stuff. I got other questions. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thanks very much.


QUESTION: Matt wasn’t here, (inaudible).

QUESTION: I’m here, buddy.


QUESTION: I am here for you, Charlie.

QUESTION: How about Ivory Coast warning? How worried are you about the situation?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we obviously are concerned about it. We’ve made a number of public announcements. This is a situation where a democratic transition is long overdue. The current president is five years past the end of his actual tour. There has been an election. That election has been described as democratic. The results have been announced. And now, it’s time for the leadership in Ivory Coast to recognize those results, respect the will of the people, and work towards a peaceful transition in Cote d’Ivoire.

QUESTION: P.J., I got two short ones.


QUESTION: I think this is the fourth time I’ve asked you this week for a comment about a story that we had out of Afghanistan regarding officials there saying that senior Afghan Government officials are releasing insurgents for political or financial reasons. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CROWLEY: We were seeking a clarification this morning as to whether this is a – over a broad period of time or over a fairly recent period of time. There’s some confusion over precisely what you are asking.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I think I’ve emailed the story, but I’m happy to email it again if there’s any —

MR. CROWLEY: Are we talking recent or are we talking a broad trend?

QUESTION: It’s five days since I read the story and first began asking, so I don’t remember.

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So it can’t be that recent.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it is something that we have – are concerned about, and we have discussed with the Afghan Government. It is imperative that law enforcement and judicial institutions be able to perform their important functions free of inappropriate political influence.

QUESTION: Great. And then one last one for me. I asked you over the summer about a man named – a Kuwaiti blogger and journalist named Mohammad Abdul-Kader al-Jassem. He was originally arrested and faced up to 18 years in prison on charges, I think, of – let me get this right – allegedly insulting Kuwait’s head of state. I believe the case was eventually dismissed and he was freed, and his daughter says that he’s now been arrested again. Do you have any concerns about this? Have you raised this with the Kuwaiti Government? Do you think he should be freed?

MR. CROWLEY: We are following this case very closely. We continue to be concerned. We understand that Mohammad al-Jassem is appealing the court’s decision. We are in touch with the Kuwaiti Government. I’ll defer to the Kuwaiti Government in terms of the details of the case. But our view is the ability of citizens and journalists of any country to freely and vigorously discuss, debate, and critique the actions of government does not threaten national interest, and it strengthens civil society and makes governments better and more accountable.

QUESTION: And when you say he is appealing the court’s judgment, what case is that? I wasn’t aware that there was a judgment that had led to his being imprisoned again. That may reflect my ignorance, but —

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, and I can’t say whether he is back in custody or not. I know that there – the case is ongoing and there was an appeal, but it is pending.

QUESTION: Wait, so you don’t know if he’s back in custody?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I mean, you said he’s been rearrested based on his daughter. We have no reason to doubt that and it could well be that our Embassy is in touch with her directly. I just – myself, I can’t verify that.


QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Charlie.

MR. CROWLEY: Best of luck.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Applause.)

QUESTION: Let the record reflect that the applause was for Charles Wolfson – (laughter) – of CBS News, retiring today.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, indeed.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:20 p.m.)