Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 9, 2012.
- Benghazi Investigation
- Capitol Hill Hearing
- Accountability Review Board
- National Peace Award Winner Malala Yousufzai
- Interior Minister Malik
- US – Iraqi Military Support / Foreign Military Sales
- NORTH KOREA
- North Korean Statement on Missile Capability
- Syrian Transitional Governing Structure
- Fighting in Damascus and Aleppo
- NATO Ministerial Meeting
- Turkey/Syria Cross-Border Incidents
- Report of the House Intelligence Committee
- U.S. Cybersecurity Dialogue with China
- Former President Nasheed Arrested
- Capitol Hill Consultations on Support of Democratic Transition
- Venezuelan Presidential Election
- Violence in Mali/Consultations with the French on the Situation
- Congressman Issa’s Letter
- Zeta Cartel
1:07 p.m. EDT
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Hope you all had a good Columbus celebration. We had to make sure this podium was down at the short girl height after the exalted Toner briefing. (Laughter.) It is.
I have nothing at the top. Let’s start with what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I just have kind of a broad question, and that is: Why – for the last several weeks, you’ve said that you’re not going to respond to questions about the Benghazi investigation until it’s all over; you can’t do things piecemeal. Why the change? Why have you decided that it’s now appropriate or good for you to comment on or for the building to offer comments on bits and pieces that are dribbling out of the committee before the hearing?
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not sure what you have seen, Matt, but as a general matter, we have not been commenting on timeline, et cetera, from this podium beyond what we said at the beginning. What we have been doing is responding to things that are not accurate or things that are endeavoring to understand how we do security, et cetera. We had a little conversation about what airplanes the State Department has.
So as things come up that are factual and not necessarily related to the conduct of the investigation, we do what we can to help. But in general, our posture is that we’ve got an FBI investigation; we’ve got an ARB; obviously we’re going to work with the Congress, including tomorrow. So we’ll go from there. But we’re not going to be giving a daily brief from here as we go through things.
QUESTION: Well, maybe not from here, but as of yesterday, there was quite a bit of – one might call it pushback to the comments that were made in television interviews by Colonel Wood, which would seem to me to be you guys going after bits and pieces piecemeal, which is exactly what you said you weren’t going to do. And then on the planes, we had half a conversation about what kind of planes. Maybe after the first part, you can talk – tell us why you’re still flying World War II vintage military cargo planes around.
MS. NULAND: Well, there were some specific questions that came to us that we felt that we could answer over the weekend. Again, we’re going to try to deal with what we can which doesn’t impact on the integrity of these investigations, and particularly when we’re asked factual questions about the way we’re postured, we will do what we can. So that’s just going to be hit or miss as we see some things come out that we can deal with.
With regard to the aircraft, I’m told that we have aircraft in our little State Department fleet that go from the 1940s all the way up to 2010 vintage. I’m sure that this is largely an issue of money and appropriation, but overall, we’ve got some 192 aircraft – 150 are rotary wing, 42 are fixed wing. The vast majority support our International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Counterterrorism – sorry, Counternarcotics and Law Enforcement assistance programs specifically in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
So primarily, we use these for those programs. We also use them to move our personnel around safely in Afghanistan and Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay, wait. 150 are helicopters?
MS. NULAND: 150 rotary wing, yep.
QUESTION: Yeah, for those of us —
MS. NULAND: Six different models.
QUESTION: For those of us who don’t speak —
MS. NULAND: Sorry, yes.
QUESTION: Those are helicopters?
MS. NULAND: Helicopters.
QUESTION: Correct? Forty-two are —
MS. NULAND: Helicopters, things with rotors.
QUESTION: — fixed-wing?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: How many of those date from 1945 or before?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to give you a full rundown here after the briefing. I don’t actually understand what I’ve got here. It’s all kinds of models – DC-3s and C-27s and 26s and all that stuff. But we’ll get you —
MS. NULAND: Yeah, no Fokkers. They have to be American made, I would guess.
MS. NULAND: All right. Please, Jill.
QUESTION: Toria, speaking of that, tomorrow there will be this hearing up on Capitol Hill. Are you aware that some of the Democrats on that committee are saying that they were excluded from a CODEL trip to Libya, and that also they haven’t been given adequate access to witnesses and material? Are you aware of any of these allegations, especially that CODEL?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to congressional delegations, as you know, this is the purview of the congressional leadership, so I can’t speak to whether they wanted to join CODELs and were told not to join. That would be a question to ask up on the Hill. Frankly, that’s not – we just facilitate CODELs as they come forward. I haven’t – I also haven’t heard anything with regard to witnesses. As you know, our posture is to be as cooperative as we possibly can. We consider the Hill a vital partner in our efforts to ensure that our diplomats and our facilities are secure. So we have – we are doing as much as we can to be responsive to the various requests that we’ve had.
QUESTION: Is your expectation at tomorrow’s briefing that a good deal of what is discussed would have to be done in a classified session because there are two ongoing investigations, as you noted?
MS. NULAND: Well, the request tomorrow was to come up in unclassified sessions, so we will do what we can in an unclassified setting. We’ve also been responsive to those staff members, et cetera, who have asked for classified briefings. In fact, we’ve had both Pat Kennedy and Eric Boswell up on the Hill this morning in classified sessions with staff who have requested to see them on both the House and the Senate side.
QUESTION: Is there any reason why Mr. Boswell or Mr. Kennedy are not testifying; it’s someone lower in rank who is actually appearing tomorrow?
MS. NULAND: Well, the folks who we are sure are going up from State are the two that were specifically requested by the committee: Charlene Lamb, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security – she is Mr. Boswell’s deputy – and Eric Nordstrom, who was a regional security officer, who had been in Libya earlier in 2012. We’re still talking to the Hill about the full complement for the hearings, and we’ll just see how that turns out over the course of the day.
QUESTION: I think he’s on their list.
QUESTION: He’s on the list, yeah.
MS. NULAND: We had hoped to – we had requested that he be able to participate. I hadn’t heard before coming down here whether that had been accepted by the committee.
QUESTION: Well, he’s on their website.
MS. NULAND: That’s good. That’s good.
QUESTION: Actually –
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Guy.
QUESTION: Toria, could you give us an update on the formation of the Accountability Review Board and who’s responsible for setting it up? And does Under Secretary Kennedy actually play a role in that?
MS. NULAND: It’s the Secretary’s Accountability Review Board. She’s required by law to establish it. My understanding – and I don’t have the regs here in front of me, Guy, but that the Administration puts forward four – that the State Department puts forward four names and that the intelligence community puts forward one name, and that that’s how the board was established.
QUESTION: So does Under Secretary Kennedy play a role in the process at all?
MS. NULAND: It’s the Secretary’s ultimate decision. He may well play a role, or his – the person in his position may suggest individuals, but it’s the Secretary’s decision who to nominate on the State side.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Matt’s opener about the information that you’re now commenting on? Perhaps you could comment publicly on the special support team and whether it was asked to extend or whether it, in fact, did get an extension to August.
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to go into all of these kinds of timeline details as to what we had when and where. Some of those things, I’m guessing, will be covered tomorrow in the open hearing, but again, these are all pieces that we are pulling together now. So I’m not going to get into the back and forth on all of that from this podium now.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: No, wait. Just one more.
MS. NULAND: Still on Libya. Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, just as it related to the planes, you said that it was a matter – the fleet would be a matter of appropriations, a matter of money. Is that the Department’s position with regard to embassy security in general? In other words, you can only –
MS. NULAND: You asked me why we still have aircraft in our fleet from the ‘40s, and –
QUESTION: Yeah, and you said basically it’s Congress’s fault, or it’s because of Congress that we’re flying 70-year-old airplanes around Iraq and Libya, correct?
MS. NULAND: First of all, let me say that I am confident that there is nothing that we are flying that is in any way dangerous or – that said, you know that there are aircraft in all kinds of fleets that have been maintained over many, many years. With regard to why we’re not buying all new aircraft every year, these are expensive pieces of equipment, and they’re not –
QUESTION: No. I understand that, but you said – but you made the point that it’s a matter of appropriations. Does that point not apply to –
MS. NULAND: One has to balance the money that one gets for these programs and use it appropriately.
QUESTION: Right. Does that not apply to embassy security or diplomat – the security of diplomatic missions as well?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we work with –
QUESTION: You can’t do more than what you have the money to do. Is that correct?
MS. NULAND: We obviously work with the Congress on an annual basis to evaluate what our Diplomatic Security needs are both in terms of funding personnel, funding training, funding facilities, funding upgrades. We put forward a budget. It works like any other budgeting process. But yes, it is something that we have to work out with the Congress, obviously.
QUESTION: Is it the Department’s position that all American diplomatic facilities overseas have the money to adequately defend themselves or –
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into any kind of a blanket assessment one way or the other.
QUESTION: Well, did you get a –
MS. NULAND: I will simply say that –
QUESTION: Did you get what you were looking for, say, last year?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have in front of me the figures as to whether we got the full request that we had for Diplomatic Security. I will take that, Matt, and get back to you with regard to 20 – FY12.
QUESTION: Okay. So just the main question would be: Is the Department or has the Department been satisfied with the level of funding that it’s been getting from the Hill for protection of missions over the past several years? That’s the question.
MS. NULAND: I would say, as a general matter, since the bombings in Dar and in Kenya, we have increased exponentially the amount of funding that we put into diplomatic security. We’ve done that in consultation and with the support of the Hill. This is a conversation, as I said, that we have to have every year. And like any other federal government program, we ask for a certain amount of money. We do what – we prioritize based on the money that we get. So it’s always a conversation with the Congress.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: In Pakistan yesterday, one National Peace Award winner, Malala Yousufzai, was attacked by Taliban because she was propagating peace and secular views in Swat Valley. Do you have anything to say? Are you aware about this incident?
MS. NULAND: I do. We strongly condemn the shooting of Malala. Directing violence at children is barbaric, it’s cowardly, and our hearts go out to her and the others who were wounded as well as their families.
QUESTION: And secondly, the – Pakistan’s Interior Minister was here on Friday. He met with Secretary of State. Do you have a readout on the meeting? We haven’t heard from it.
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that Interior Minister Malik was here to participate in the U.S.-Pakistan Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism Working Group, which is one of the working groups we have under our broader bilateral relationship. In the context of that, he had a chance to have a hello with the Secretary and a couple-minute conversation, but it wasn’t an extended bilateral meeting. So I don’t have any particular readout for you.
QUESTION: At the meeting, Pakistanis expressed concern over use of drone strikes; they want an end to it. What were the U.S. response to those concerns?
MS. NULAND: I can’t confirm that one way or the other, but you know that I don’t talk about that particular subject from this podium.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Please, Said.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. I wonder if you could comment on the military sale deal with – between Iraq and Russia. Because last week I asked about the – what kind of sales are in the pipeline and why they are taking so long. I’m talking about the FMF – the military sales to Iraq program, the American military sale. But it seems that they are taking a step ahead and concluding a deal with Russia.
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, with regard to U.S.-Iraqi military support, Iraq overall has initiated some 467 foreign military sales cases with the United States. If all of these go forward, it will be worth over $12.3 billion, so obviously our own military support relationship with Iraq is very broad and very deep.
We’ve seen the press reporting that one of the subjects on Prime Minister Maliki’s agenda for his Moscow trip is military sales, but I’ll have to send you to the Russians for what it is in particular they’re talking about.
QUESTION: But aren’t you at least annoyed that Iraq, after so much U.S. investment in blood and treasure, is actually going to conduct a deal or sign a deal with Russia on – over military sales going back – a throwback to the Cold War era?
MS. NULAND: Again, Said, we’re doing some $12.3 billion worth of military business with Iraq, so I don’t think one needs to be concerned about that relationship being anything but the strongest. With regard to what they may be seeking from the Russians, I would send you to the Russians and to the Iraqis.
QUESTION: Could it be that the Iraqis are frustrated with the lack of delivery of these arms sales that are actually signed and supposedly in the pipeline?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether they’re actually going to make any deals, whether they’re going to come any faster, but we have a very broad and deep relationship going forward.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Iraq, too. There are reports that Iraq is supplying Syria with oil as part of a one year deal reached in June, and the value is $14 million. Do you have anything on this?
MS. NULAND: We’re not in a position to confirm this report. We’re seeking more information from the Iraqis. But in the press reporting that we did see, it appears to be a relatively small sale of fuel oil of the kind that’s only useful for power generation, and not something that would be subject to sanctions of any kind. So we’re inquiring with the Iraqis, but it appears to be relatively small-bore.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m not asking you about Psy today.
MS. NULAND: We’re not going to dance, no. Okay. Some other day we’ll dance.
QUESTION: Okay. Actually, it’s about North Korea.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: North Korea said its missiles can strike the U.S. territory, including the mainland. It is apparently responding to a deal between South Korea and the United States on extending Seoul’s ballistic missile range. So what do you make of North Korea’s statement? Do you think it is just bluffing, or it is alarming or serious?
MS. NULAND: Well, certainly rather than bragging about its missile capability, they ought to be feeding their own people, would be our first comment. The DPRK needs to understand that it will achieve nothing by threats or provocations. That’s only going to undermine their efforts to get back into conversation with the international community. I’d just underscore that under UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, North Korea is required to suspend all activities related to the ballistic missile program.
QUESTION: Couldn’t you see, though, that they would see the U.S. and South Korea announcing their extending their range as a provocative act that would be worthy of a response?
MS. NULAND: These changes in missile guidance are defensive in nature. I would note that we haven’t changed these ranges or capabilities since 2001, at a time when the North has been very clearly working and boasting about their own capabilities. So these are defensive moves on our part and are responsive in nature.
QUESTION: Do you believe them? Do you think they do have missiles that can hit the continental mainland with these —
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into intelligence here, you can imagine. But they know what they need to do if they want to get back into a conversation with us. And again, this is boasting about something rather than taking care of the needs of their own people.
QUESTION: Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister has suggested the possibility of Syrian Vice President Farouk Sharah serving as interim leader if President Bashar al-Assad steps down. Do you support this suggestion?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’re not going to get into the business here of picking the next leaders of Syria. This is something that the Syrian people are going to have to do, and the Syrian opposition is going to have to nominate its own candidates when we get to that transition phase. We are seeing a number of people – as defections increase, as leaders identify themselves in local communities and in the opposition, we’re seeing a number of folks who could conceivably be credible candidates. But again, this is something that the Syrian people are going to have to decide.
QUESTION: Well, you say you’re not going to get into the practice of naming who Syria’s leaders should be, but you have, in fact. Haven’t you? I mean, you’ve ruled out one person explicitly and said that other people who have blood on their hands wouldn’t be allowed. So do you think that Farouk al-Sharah, the loyal Assad aide for decades, both father and son, is someone who has blood on his hands, or someone who should be ruled out, like President – like you have done with President Assad himself?
MS. NULAND: What we have said is that we support this notion of a transitional governing structure along the lines of what was outlined in Geneva, what was in the opposition’s own documents, which is very much congruent. In the Geneva document, it talked about people in a transitional structure being agreed to by mutual consent, and we’ve made clear that we don’t see any way on this Earth that anybody will consent to having Bashar al-Assad be part of that.
With regard to others, I’m not going to get into names one way or the other. This is something the Syrian people are going to have to work through.
QUESTION: Why? One name is okay, but two is not?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to be evaluating level of culpability one way or the other from this podium, except we all understand that the buck stops with Bashar al-Assad.
QUESTION: Excuse me, Toria. In light of the artillery exchange in the last five days running, do you think we may be headed towards a no-fly zone or a safe haven or something like this practically on the ground?
MS. NULAND: Our posture on those things has not changed in the last week, Said.
QUESTION: Can I ask you just a quick follow-up? Do you still believe that Mr. Assad’s days are numbered? I know you said this from the podium, but reports suggest that the regime is consolidating its power over a large portion of the capital, Aleppo, and other areas.
MS. NULAND: There is a lot of reporting on one side and on the other with regard to what’s going on in Damascus and Aleppo. Obviously, the fight is being hard fought in both of those cities, and it’s very – the level of violence is very high in both places. But the fact remains that in large parts of the country, the regime no longer has physical control outside of the major cities, et cetera. So this, again, speaks to the difficulty that we see in Assad holding on. He’s had huge numbers of defections, he’s having difficulty holding on even in the two big cities where four months ago there was no fighting at all, and now the regime is under a lot of pressure, the currency is in difficult straits, people even in leadership positions are moving their families out of the country. So that speaks to what we’re seeing.
Kim, is it still on Syria?
QUESTION: Yeah, Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Kim, in the back. Kim, in the back. Kim, in the back.
QUESTION: It sounds to me like you’re actually saying that Farouk al-Shara is not an acceptable transition person anymore, because not that long ago the Arab League plan actually called for the Vice President to step in as a transitional figure in the same way as had happened in Yemen. And on this podium you said that you supported that plan. And when we asked specifically about Farouk al-Shara, you said, well, this is the plan. So are you now saying that you don’t support him as a transition figure?
MS. NULAND: I’m not saying one way or the other. I’m saying simply that these decisions about future personnel are going to have to be made by Syrians. They’re going to have to make these decisions. It’s not helpful or appropriate for us to be picking the future leaders of Syria.
QUESTION: But the Arab League plan did call for the Vice President to step in. Is that plan, therefore, no longer acceptable to you?
MS. NULAND: That plan, which I think was dated from last January or last February, predated a lot of what we’ve seen since. At the time, we considered that if the Assad regime were willing to, first and foremost, stop the violence – which, as you know, is the first tenet of that plan and every other plan, including the Kofi Annan plan – that it was worth trying to make it work and being supportive of it.
But we are very, very far from that now, and certainly, given all of the events that have transpired since then, our fundamental position remains that the Syrian people, who have suffered so much, are going to have to be the ones to make the decisions on leadership. It doesn’t look like Yemen anymore. Let’s put it that way.
Okay. Please. Please.
QUESTION: No. Still on Syria.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Two briefly. I just don’t understand why if it’s not helpful or appropriate for the United States to get into the business of picking who Syria’s leaders are. You are – you have already gotten into the business of telling them who they can’t have as president. How is that appropriate and helpful?
MS. NULAND: Bashar al-Assad has presided over more than a year of vicious, barbaric attacks on his own people. At any point, in all of this time, he could have ended this by ceasing the violence and proceeding to a conversation or an empowerment of others to move into a transition phase. He hasn’t done any of that, as the President said months and months and months ago, and we’ve said every day, every week since, he has forfeited his right to represent and lead the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Yeah, except that all of his top aides presumably could have done something as well – I mean they could have killed him for all – what you might have been hoping for, and they didn’t. So why can’t you rule out others?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’re not going to get into the business of picking leaders.
QUESTION: All right, and then just unrelated to that, is – there seems to be growing sentiment, or at least growing opinion among some that the rebels are going – the military, the Free Syrian Army or whatever it is – the armed opposition, is going to have to get more and better weaponry if this is not continued to be a bloody stalemate. Does the Administration find any – does that ring true at all to the Administration? Is there any feeling inside the Administration that the armed opposition is going to have to get better and more weapons if it’s going to be able to topple the regime?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s start with what I’ve already said which is that over the last three to five months we’ve seen the regime lose control of vast swaths of the country in the north, in the east, even between some of the towns in the west. They have difficulty holding things that they are trying to hold. So that speaks to what’s going on on the ground. I’m obviously not going to get into either an intelligence or a military analysis of how the opposition is doing. You know our view on this, that we are not participating in the lethal support to the opposition; others have made the decision to do that. Our support have on the nonlethal side.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, and I understand that there is no thought that that policy is going to change. However, you’ve made it — also made it clear that others are going to do what they’re going to do. So is there – would the Administration be averse to telling those who are willing to do more – willing and able to do more on the weapons supply front – to do more?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to get into our conversations with other countries with regard to the support that they’re giving.
QUESTION: Quick sort of side issue. In Paris, Ban Ki-moon told President Hollande that Lakhdar Brahimi’s planning to make another trip to Syria soon after stops in several other regional countries. I’m wondering if you think this is a good time for that trip. Do you think there’s any reason to believe that this might be successful where others have failed? Or do you think this is more just sort of spinning out the clock?
MS. NULAND: Well, it’s consistent with what Special Envoy Brahimi told the Secretary when they met at the UN General Assembly that he would not put forward his own ideas until he had done another set of consultations in the region and we understood that that would also include another trip to Syria. So we are going to do let him set the timetable obviously, and we support his efforts to get a full picture before he makes proposals going forward.
QUESTION: And would it then be your expectation that he would come back from this coming trip ready, or close to ready, to outline what his plan might be?
MS. NULAND: That was the impression that we had when the Secretary met with him, but I think we have to see how the trip goes for him. And he’s obviously made clear that he is going to do this deliberatively and make his own decisions about when to put something forward.
QUESTION: NATO ministers meeting in Brussels are running to support Turkey. What is the U.S. stand on that? Will the American boots be on ground if they move in?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that last week the Turks asked for an Article 4 consultation in NATO following the beginning of these cross-border incidents, and NATO issued a very strong statement in support of our Turkish ally. Beyond saying that NATO has a full complement of plans for the defense of Turkey, as we do for every ally, I’m not going to get into the kinds of contingencies that you’re proposing here.
QUESTION: Change topic?
QUESTION: No, on this.
MS. NULAND: Still on this? Yeah.
QUESTION: One more. Yeah. What’s the American plan for Syria other than providing the nonlethal aids to the rebels?
MS. NULAND: Michel, we’ve talked about this many times. The Secretary talked about it extensively during the Ad Hoc meeting on Syria that we had at the UN, which was less than two weeks ago. It was about a week and a half ago. We have three major pillars of our Syria strategy. The first, obviously, is to work with and try to strengthen the opposition, particularly strengthen their unity in putting forward a transition plan for Syria going forward, their ability to communicate with each other, their ability to strengthen their leadership. Second, our humanitarian support. And third, our work to prepare for the day when Assad goes and Syria’s obviously going to need all kinds of support from the international community.
QUESTION: Yes. Can we change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. On the —
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You eliminated the increased pressure on the regime and the sanctions —
MS. NULAND: Sorry. Thank you, that’s our fourth pillar.
QUESTION: Does that indicate that you don’t think that that’s a viable option —
MS. NULAND: No. Thank you, Elise. Rusty Tuesday. Obviously, the sanctions that we and the rest of the international community have on Syria need to continue and they need to be increased where we can. We need to work together to close loopholes as we try to do during – with the Sanctions Working Group under the Friends of the Syrian People.
QUESTION: The Palestinian issue?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Friday, 15 leaders of 15 different Christian denominations, American Christian denominations, submitted a letter to Congress requesting an investigation of how U.S. assistance to Israel is used in facilitating the continued occupation. One, are you aware of that? And second, if they come to you for further assistance on this particular issue, would you provide it?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen the letter, Said, so I really can’t speak to the specifics of it.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, House Intelligence Committee released the conclusion of the investigation about Chinese telecommunication equipment makers. They recommended not to use and exclude all materials of these two companies from the U.S. Government computer system. What will the U.S. Government or State Department do about this recommendation?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is a report of the House Intelligence Committee, so I’m going to send you back to them for thoughts about how these ideas might be implemented.
QUESTION: One thing —
QUESTION: And also —
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. And also that conclusion expressed a concern, some concern about Chinese spy activity through the computer system inside the United States. What do you think about this – the concern by the Chinese Government or Chinese spying activity?
MS. NULAND: I think you know that under the Strategic & Economic Dialogue we have initiated a cybersecurity conversation with the Chinese Government to exchange views and deal with concerns that we have on either side. The Secretary said at the time of inaugurating this conversation, as two of the world’s largest cyber actors, it’s vital that the United States and China have a sustained, meaningful dialogue on cyberspace issues and work together to develop a shared understanding of acceptable norms of behavior. So that conversation continues bilaterally, and it’s very important to both of us.
QUESTION: One thing that an analyst who was looking at this report yesterday suggested to us was that this isn’t just a matter of protecting government secrets; this is a matter of fair trade practices. And the analyst suggested that perhaps the U.S. has been reluctant to raise these sorts of issues, especially now that China is part of the WTO. What’s your take on that?
MS. NULAND: I would reject that. As I said, we now have a formalized cybersecurity dialogue with China. It certainly doesn’t cover only our government-to-government issues. It also covers issues of competitiveness of industry, protection of intellectual property, protection of industrial information that might be proprietary, et cetera, and the impact of negative behavior on the economies of either country. So we are endeavoring to cover the waterfront in this dialogue that we’re having.
QUESTION: Was there anything more in terms of a Chinese reaction to admittedly a committee from a separate branch of government’s recommendation? I mean, it was rather striking that the foreign ministry put someone out yesterday to condemn this report. Has there been any direct complaint to this building?
MS. NULAND: I assume that we’ve heard from them in diplomatic channels in Beijing as well. Generally, when they go out in public, they’ve usually also gone to us in private.
QUESTION: How do you see the developments in Maldives – Maldives, where the former president was arrested and then released yesterday?
MS. NULAND: I have something on that here. So this is with regard to the arrest of former President Nasheed.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We’ve seen the reports by Amnesty International about allegations of police brutality. We would take any kinds of allegations of police abuse very seriously. We are looking into them in the Maldives, but we haven’t been able to confirm them.
QUESTION: Have you ever sent any message to the Maldives Government after he was arrested and released and these allegations that came up?
MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, we’ve been trying to get in touch with the former president, with whom we’ve had a regular dialogue all the way through this, to determine whether there’s any truth to this. And we will get back to you if we determine anything one way or the other.
QUESTION: Yes. It’s Egypt.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any update regarding the consultation with the Hill regarding the 450 million (inaudible)?
MS. NULAND: We are continuing our regular consultations. We had a number of folks from this building, including Ambassador Taylor, who is the Secretary’s envoy for assistance to North Africa, up talking to Hill staff about the request, about how it fits into our overall strategy of supporting the democratic transition in Egypt, and that – those conversations, obviously, are continuing.
QUESTION: About that, the –
QUESTION: Two or three days ago, I mean, there was a letter – open letter from the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Congress regarding this transition and some questions regarding – questions to the Secretary. Do you have any comment about this letter?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we’re going to try to work through all of those questions in our conversations with the Hill. We feel very strongly that now is not the time to pull back from supporting these fragile democracies in North Africa and the Middle East. It’s time to support those who are trying to take their countries in a democratic direction.
QUESTION: Toria, I just – I seem to recall that Deputy Secretary Nides was talking to Representative Granger today. Is that also part of this consultation? Is that specifically what their meeting’s about? Can you tell us?
MS. NULAND: They are going to have a phone call today, is my understanding. I am sure it’ll cover both Egypt, the money for the Palestinian Authority that we’re hoping to get released, and a number of other issues. As you know, they talk very frequently.
QUESTION: Toria, did you issue a statement one way or the other commenting on the victory of Hugo Chavez?
MS. NULAND: We issued some lines to those who were interested. I can repeat those here for you if that’s useful.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
So we took note of the fact that the Venezuelan National Committee had announced that President Hugo Chavez had won the election 55.14 percent to 44.24 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting, and that Governor Capriles had publicly conceded shortly thereafter, and we congratulated the Venezuelan people for the high turnout and for the generally peaceful manner in which the election was carried out.
QUESTION: So you do it now that the election was fair and free? (Cell phone rings.) I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: Again, that’s a decision that the Venezuelans will have to make. We ourselves didn’t have any observers there, but we would note that Governor Capriles did concede.
QUESTION: On Mali, do you support a French military intervention there? To what extent? And will you provide them with any help?
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m – you’re asserting that the French are going to intervene militarily in Mali.
QUESTION: There are stories that they will intervene. Do you support them?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we are in close consultations with the French on the situation in Mali, as we are with the ECOWAS countries, as we are with the interim authority in Mali. I think Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon’s in Paris today, or was in Paris over the weekend, and Mali is one of the subjects that we’re talking about.
As you know, we are working with ECOWAS. ECOWAS itself is working to refine its proposal for how it would take its mission in Bamako, expand it, take it into the north, and we look forward to supporting that as part of a larger comprehensive strategy towards Mali that also, in addition to security, includes a humanitarian component, includes strong support for getting to free, fair elections for a permanent government no later than April, and working to support the needs in the north and their inclusion in the political process so they’ll be less vulnerable to the overtures of extremists.
QUESTION: And in case of any military intervention, do you support such an intervention?
MS. NULAND: Again, our support has been for a well-developed, well-thought-through, well-resourced ECOWAS effort, and our understanding is that the French are also working with ECOWAS to help them to develop that plan and to bring it forward to the Security Council for support.
QUESTION: Back to Libya for a second?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said that Assistant Secretary Boswell and Under Secretary Kennedy were up on the Hill briefing people this morning. Can you tell us about any contact there may have been between their superiors or a superior and Congressman Issa yesterday?
MS. NULAND: Are you talking about phone calls with – who do you have in mind? What are you asking exactly?
QUESTION: A former First Lady.
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Whether the Secretary spoke to – are you asking whether the Secretary spoke to Congressman Issa yesterday?
QUESTION: Well, I’m telling you that she did. I’m asking you what – what was the conversation?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything to report on even whether we had that conversation. I’ll let you know if I have anything to share. But in general, we don’t debrief on the Secretary’s conversations with individual members of Congress.
QUESTION: Is she answering the letter of the – the specific letter sent by the committee, or just basically is a pledge to kind of work with the committee? Is she going to formally answer that letter?
MS. NULAND: She answered the letter by saying – and I think we released this – her response publicly the day of or the day after the letter came in, saying there are a lot of questions, nobody wants to get to the bottom of them more than I do, more than this Department does, and we will cooperate fully with you. That cooperation is continuing, including tomorrow when we put some folks forward to the – for the hearing.
QUESTION: I was wondering, just on another subject, if you might have any comment on the sort of spectacular story out of Mexico today where the Mexican navy confirmed that a man they’d killed is the senior leader of the Zetas and then his body was almost immediately thereafter snatched from a mortuary. I realize it’s law enforcement but also has something to do with the war on drugs. What’s your response to that?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen these stories. Frankly, we are not in a position to confirm any of it. We are seeking further clarification from Mexican authorities.
Anything else? Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)