Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 5, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing
    • The U.S. Embassy in Sana'a Yemen has reopened; a revised security assessment dictated rationale
    • World Food Program suspends operations in Somalia because of Al-Shabaab threat; U.S. will continue to provide food aid to the people of Somalia
    • A/S Johnnie Carson in Rabat, Morocco meeting with Guinea's ruling junta acting leader
    • A/S Craig Kelly in Central America meeting with Honduran President-elect Lobo
    • Secretary Clinton participating in Counterterrorism meeting at the White House
    • U.S. focused on moving the San Jose Accords process forward; U.S. supports the formation of a government of national unity and the restoration of democratic rule
    • There remains an ongoing threat to U.S. Embassy in Yemen; one aspect of the threat was dealt with
    • U.S. has been providing security assistance to Yemen for quite a while; U.S. needs to see a more consistent effort by the Government of Yemen in addressing extremist issues and security concerns
    • U.S. participating in multilateral meeting in London on 28 Jan with focus on Yemen and Afghanistan
    • U.S. has recently increased assistance to Yemen; no 1208 funded projects qualified in 2008
    • UK's denied Abdulmuttalab visa based on immigration grounds, not terrorism; there is a good flow of information and intelligence sharing between the U.S. and the UK;
    • The U.S. is constantly seeking better ways to collaborate and to update and improve security cooperation and procedures
    • 1,700 visas revoked since 9/11/01; since foiled 12/25/09 airplane bombing attempt, the U.S. has done additional scrubbing of databases and a number of visas have been revoked; we've intensified our efforts and adjusted criteria as to who is on a watch list and a no-fly list;
    • The screening process for getting on an airplane is different from the process of getting a visa; everyone who seeks a U.S. visa has an interview with a consular staff; it is not a static process, as the threat evolves in a particular country, the U.S. may adjust the criteria
    • The U.S. is getting feedback from the 14 countries where the U.S. is taking more precautionary steps and where visa requesters may undergo some additional scrutiny; the U.S. welcomes people coming to the U.S.; revoked visas will be based on our assessment of the risk concerning those individuals
    • The U.S. will continue to dialogue with China regarding current sanctions on Iran and to get clarity concerning the possibility of additional sanctions being levied
    • U.S. disappointed with Taiwan's decision to ban certain cuts of beef
    • Secretary meeting with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden
    • S/E Holbrooke on his way to London to prepare for future meetings
    • No information concerning Kim Jung Il's possible trip to China
    • Taken Question regarding new Dep. Minister of Defense who maybe banned from travel to the US


1:24 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Department of State and Happy New Year to you all. A few announcements before taking your questions. The United States Embassy in Yemen reopened today for business following a two-day closure prompted by credible information that pointed to the likelihood of imminent terrorist attacks in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. And the Embassy is offering its full range of consular services as usual today.

We note that there were – there was some action by Government of Yemen security forces yesterday north of the capital. Those actions addressed a specific area of concern and contributed to the Embassy’s decision to resume operations today. Nonetheless, the threat of terrorist attacks against American interests remains high and the Embassy as well, obviously, as you know, has been subject to attacks in the past.

We note that the World Food Program has suspended its operations in southern Somalia because Al-Shabaab, a foreign terrorist organization, and other violent extremists are systematically attacking and threatening humanitarian aid workers. The World Food Program provides lifesaving food aid to more than 3.8 million people throughout Somalia. The actions of Al-Shabaab mean that approximately 900,000 of these beneficiaries in southern Somalia, or approximately one-third of WFP’s caseload, will not have access to this critcal assistance.

The United States remains committed to working with the international community to meet the humanitarian needs of the Somali people. We will continue to work with the World Food Program and other UN and nongovernmental partners to provide – continue to provide vital humanitarian assistance to the people of Somalia.

Obviously, it’s an example of why the United States remains the primary donor to the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia; as a clear alternative, the TFG working clearly on behalf of the people of Somalia and organizations like Al-Shabaab denying the people of Somalia the assistance that they need.

Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson met today in Morocco along with his counterpart from France with members of Guinea’s ruling junta. The meeting happened in Rabat to discuss the political crisis in Guinea, its impact on regional security, and our ideas on how to – in seeking a peaceful resolution to the political situation in Guinea. It’s our position, as Assistant Secretary Carson noted today, we support the establishment of a civilian-led transition government leading to free, fair, and transparent democratic elections.

And finally, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly for Western Hemisphere Affairs is in Honduras today. He’ll be there today and tomorrow meeting with leaders from various sectors, including President-elect Lobo, continuing our efforts to move the process forward, the Tegucigalpa-San Jose process forward as we approach the inauguration of the new president on January 27th. And we continue to work with those parties on the expeditious formation of a national unity government and the establishment of a truth commission.

With that --

QUESTION: On that --

QUESTION: Hold on a second. To start --

MR. CROWLEY: Wait, hang on. One final point. This afternoon, obviously, the Secretary will participate in the White House meeting as the President reviews not only steps taken in the aftermath of the December 25 attempted bombing of the airliner, and working across the interagency to compare ideas on how we can make the system more effective.

QUESTION: Can I go to Yemen, or do you want to start with Honduras?

QUESTION: Well, I just want one on Honduras. I mean, isn’t it a little besides the point now? I mean, you’re going to kind of implement the San Jose process. You already have a president-elect. You have an inauguration coming up. You’ve already pretty much said that you’re going to accept and deal with the new government. So what is this kind of symbolic box-checking of making sure that you implement the San Jose Accords before the new government --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t think it’s symbolic at all. I mean, obviously, what happened back in June represents a breach in the heart of Honduran society, and to some extent that tension is still there. So yes, you’re right; there is a new government that will be installed on January 27th. The real question is: Can that government be a vehicle through which you begin a healing process and you have a situation where the Honduran people can unite behind this new government? That is our primary effort here: How do we help Honduras move forward and to overcome the clear tension that resulted in the actions taken last June?

QUESTION: Well, but the tension was from Zelaya’s rule and the people that wanted him back in versus the people that –


QUESTION: Whatever.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s true. By the same token, our interest here is in seeing a true restoration of constitutional and democratic rule, and to see Honduras advance as a stable and contributing member of the international community.

QUESTION: But – I understand that, but if you undo what you --

MR. CROWLEY: And, oh, by the way, we do have some decisions to make in the future about the future nature of our relationship. As we said back in November, the election was a step forward. We felt that the results did reflect the will of the Honduran people. That said, the election by itself was not enough to – we have some decisions to make in terms of the nature of our relationship, the nature of assistance in the future.

So there are still steps that Honduras has to take, and we are encouraged by comments by President-elect Lobo, but we are there to continue to move this process forward not only to get to January 27, but most importantly, to see that government advance once it’s in office.

QUESTION: Well – I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Is that --

MR. CROWLEY: Is that --

QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry. No. I have a couple more questions on this.


QUESTION: How – I mean, I understand about moving forward, but how by undoing what you did – not what you did, but what was done in Honduras at the absolute last minute right before the inauguration of this new president that you – by this new president repairs the constitutional breach that took place? And why would you need to reevaluate what kind of relationship you need with Honduras going forward? This was all about the interim government and the former deposed government. And why would you punish this new government for what happened before that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, remember, not only do we support a government of national unity that reflects all of the components --

QUESTION: For a day or a couple of days?



MR. CROWLEY: Well, no – we support the formation of a national unity government that represents broad interests in Honduras. But most importantly, you need to have this truth commission that is part of a healing process that has to occur if Honduras is going to advance. So it is – there are a number of steps in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords. Some of them have been implemented, but not all, and this continues to demonstrate our commitment to the people of Honduras and to the future relationship between the United States and Honduras. But there are definitely – Craig is there to communicate clearly to a variety of parties that there are still things that Honduras has to do.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Yemen? Yeah? All right. You said that the actions that were taken yesterday by the Yemeni Government addressed a specific area of concern and contributed to the Embassy’s decision to reopen. Is that another way of saying that they neutralized the threat yesterday, or the remain --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there is an ongoing threat to our interests, to our Embassy, and to American citizens in Yemen. We --

QUESTION: Yeah, but the specific threat the caused the Embassy to close is now no longer there because of what happened yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there – one aspect of the threat we think has been dealt with --

QUESTION: Yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: -- based on the actions that the Yemenis have taken.

QUESTION: Yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: Yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. And then yesterday, also, the Secretary in her comments said that at this London conference coming up at the end of the month, and even before then, that the U.S. and its partners who are trying to help Yemen would put condition – certain -- there were certain conditions and expectations that the Yemeni Government had to meet if, in fact, this assistance was to continue to be forthcoming. Can you be a little bit more specific about what conditions and expectations she was talking about?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, recall the challenge of Yemen security within the country, the impact of extremist elements in Yemen both to the region and more broadly – this is nothing new. We only have to go back to October 2000; remember the attack on the USS Cole.

QUESTION: Okay. But my question is about the conditions and expectations.

MR. CROWLEY: We have – right. We have been providing security assistance to Yemen for quite some time. We will continue to work with Yemen. But we are making clear to the Government of Yemen that there are things that they need to do. Now clearly, things like the action taken yesterday are a step in the right direction, but we need to see out of Yemen a much more consistent approach to dealing with extremism within their borders.

It is also under – important to understand that there are layers of conflict within Yemen. There is the threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. There is the ongoing struggle between Shia and Sunni elements within the country. There’s the conflict on the border which has drawn Saudi Arabia at times into this struggle. What we want to see is – and part of what the Secretary talked to her counterpart from Qatar yesterday was, in fact, how do – does the United States, working collectively with countries in the region, how do we provide important support to Yemen, but also make sure that we help Yemen improve its own performance in terms of dealing with these threats.

So on January 28, there’ll be an important meeting in London. Part of that meeting will be focused on Afghanistan. Part of that meeting will be focused on Yemen. We’re still working out the specific arrangements with the British and other countries on exactly how that will take place. But clearly, we have, as Ian outlined yesterday, provided significant support to Yemen. We are going to continue to do that. But we want to see Yemen’s performance improve as we go forward.


QUESTION: In Ian’s rundown yesterday on the 1206 funds, he mentioned what they got in 2009, but it doesn’t look like they got anything in 1206 funds in 2008. So doesn’t that call into question the consistency of the U.S. support for their counterterrorism areas?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, you’re talking about – Yemen did not receive any 1206 funds in 2008, but they have a very specific set of uses. And there weren’t any specific counterterrorism projects for Yemen that met all of the requirements for that particular fiscal year. That said, as he outlined, we have a broad program assistance to Yemen in terms of development, in terms of security assistance.

We have recently expanded and increased that assistance significantly, and we’ll continue to both assess what Yemen needs, provide what we can, work with other countries in the region to provide assistance to Yemen. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, other countries have contributed significantly to Yemen, but we obviously need to see capacity increase in Yemen and determination increase in Yemen to deal with the extremist elements there, the threat in Yemen, the region, and the United States.

QUESTION: But it – so the U.S. in 2008 didn’t see any requirement in Yemen that would have allowed them to release these 1206 funds?

MR. CROWLEY: Before, there were no projects that qualified for that particular subcategory of funding.

QUESTION: In the development and security assistance that Ian talked about yesterday, can you separate out what is development and antipoverty or reconstruction projects from the security part of it?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll tell you what. Why don’t I – if you want this in detail, let’s see if we can’t put together some kind of just very --

QUESTION: Well, it’s still a little confusing because when you say development and security assistance – I mean, security assistance, presumably some of that could go toward things that would normally be covered by the 1206 money. So – I mean, at least it sounds that way,


QUESTION: So if we could just --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I don’t have a specific breakout here. We have, rounding off, $40 million for FY ‘09.

QUESTION: No – right.

MR. CROWLEY: We have 52 million for FY ‘10. We – and --

QUESTION: Yeah, but what I’m interested in is knowing how much of that is for development or for --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Right.

QUESTION: -- non-security things.

MR. CROWLEY: Let us see if we can’t get into greater detail on it for you.

QUESTION: Also on Yemen, are you fully satisfied with the communication links with Britain over sharing intelligence on the December 25th bombing when the British apparently also knew that Mutallab was radicalizing or suspected of radicalizing others? And weren’t you aware of that or --

MR. CROWLEY: If the question is “Has Britain shared important intelligence information with us broadly and relative to this case,” the answer is yes. There was a particular sub-issue that has percolated around the press in recent days. Britain made a particular decision regarding a visa application by this individual. I have found no one who says that that information was shared with us nor would that be necessary.

As I understand it, Britain made a decision on this individual based on immigration grounds, false information in his visa application. That was based on domestic criteria that had nothing to do with terrorism. But we have cooperated with Britain on this particular case, as we do broadly. It’s one of our closest allies, and we share information all the time.

QUESTION: But would you say that this case has highlighted the need for better coordination among allies and sharing information about visas, about revoked visas, about people who could provide a potential flight risk?

MR. CROWLEY: This has been, I think, a significant component of our combating extremism in the post-9/11 era. We have, in a number of ways with many, many countries, expanded our intelligence sharing and cooperation. That continues.

Now, obviously, as part of this review that’s ongoing, we will look at all aspects of this. But I can’t say that we are currently focused on that as a crucial aspect of this. We think that – we value the cooperation that we get with a variety of countries, including Britain. And we will always look for better ways of collaborating, sharing information, and working jointly where it’s appropriate.

QUESTION: But I mean, clearly, you know, in looking at like, what went wrong and how you can fix it, I mean, there must be a realization that better kind of – if not coordination, then sharing of information among various countries, that if someone presents a flight risk in one country, that he presents a flight risk in, you know, an ally country and that --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, sure.

QUESTION: -- you know, eventually if he’s going to be making his way into our country, that he --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s look at this a little more broadly. I mean, for – as the President said, and obviously today’s meeting is in response to his assessment, rightly so, that the system, our system – failed in this particular case. And we at the State Department have taken our own – some internal steps. The Secretary will be sharing her perspective with her counterparts and with the President as the national security team assesses what can we do better.

Now, there is – across a broad range, there’s international cooperation in the aviation sector, in the counterterrorism sector, in immigration issues, border issues. We are always looking for ways in which we can do more, update procedures so that ultimately the people of the United States can feel confident that they are secure, and other countries can feel confident in the security cooperation they have with the United States.

So, this is a – I think this is a constant process. But obviously, it’s in sharp relief given the events of December 25. So, will we be looking for ways in which we can improve across the board? Sure. That’s part of the review that the President has instituted.

QUESTION: A couple of more things on visas. First of all, there’s been some reporting that either yourself, or through the government interagency process, that several visas have been revoked as a result of this particular review – perhaps people that were on one watch list and have been moved up to another – if you can shed any light on that.

And then there are some critics that say that the adjudication and processing and security related to the visa process has gotten a lot more – a lot harder over the years and perhaps it should be moved from the State Department and put in a kind of law enforcement agency like DHS, like other countries do where every – all border protection, including visas, should be handled, for instance, by DHS and not the State Department. And what are your thoughts on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. Let’s take those two issues first. As I think the White House indicated yesterday, we have been – collectively across the interagency, we have been scrubbing databases and as a result of that action, additional visas have been revoked for people that we believe have suspected ties to terrorism. I’m not going to get into – there are a lot of numbers out there, but this is an ongoing process, and rest assured that in light of what happened on December 25 we’ve gone back over these databases and there have been additional actions taken.

QUESTION: Can you just – can you quantify that in terms of like dozens, hundreds?






MR. CROWLEY: I mean, put it this way --

QUESTION: But how do we know that it’s actually happening --

QUESTION: Or that it’s just one?

QUESTION: -- if you don’t know --

MR. CROWLEY: I do know it’s happened --

QUESTION: We’re taking your word for it?

MR. CROWLEY: Put it this way: I can say broadly that since 9/11, roughly 1,700 visas have been --

QUESTION: Since 9/11?

MR. CROWLEY: Since 9/11 --

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m sorry, but that’s --

MR. CROWLEY: -- roughly 1,700 visas have been revoked by the Department of State because we had suspicions that individuals --

QUESTION: Right. But first of all --

MR. CROWLEY: Let me finish. Let me finish the statement.

QUESTION: Okay. But we knew that last week. You guys put this out last week.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m just saying – now, so – and have we added to that number since December 25? The answer is yes. I’m not going to talk about a number. It’s not that we don’t know. It’s just I don’t think it’s fruitful to get into a scoreboard about how many people have we found today that we think have links to terrorism. That’s not something that we feel comfortable discussing publicly.

QUESTION: Well, hold on a second. You may not think it’s fruitful, but I think to the general public it is fruitful and it’s useful to know that their government is actually doing something and that something has actually changed --

MR. CROWLEY: And I’m here to tell the American people that the government is doing something. We are taking action. We are adjusting the criteria through which we decide who’s on a watch list, who’s on a no-fly list, and who might have a visa that should have it revoked. We are taking specific actions, and that’s the purpose of the meeting with the President this afternoon to see what else we need to do. So are we doing that? We are. Do we have to discuss numbers at a podium in public? We don’t think we do.

QUESTION: What about the geographic sweep? Is it across the world or is it focused on the Middle East or Africa?

QUESTION: Or (inaudible) different countries?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s global.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a question, because my understanding was there were five visas that were revoked since the 25th. Now, if there’s 1,700 since September 11th, that actually is on the same pace of one every two days, if you do the math. So I mean, how can you say that this is an intensified process? I mean, how can you say that you’re scrubbing the names? It seems like it’s the same pace as it’s been for the last eight and a half years.

MR. CROWLEY: That might suggest that actually the system that we have, while not perfect and can be better, actually does work.

QUESTION: Right. But I’m curious – I mean, you made the assertion that this was an intensified process, whereas the numbers would seem to indicate it’s the same pace.

MR. CROWLEY: Put it this way: I believe my colleague, Bill Burton, over at the White House yesterday, talked about a fact that in light of December 25 we’ve gone back, we’ve rescrubbed databases. That includes our own. We’ve intensified our efforts across the interagency to make sure that all information relative to terrorism cases is on the table. And have we take further – have we taken further action since December 25? The answer is yes.

Now, there are various numbers – there could be a number that might have been true three days ago, and additional steps have been taken since then. That’s why it probably is not fruitful to say at any particular point in time that this is a number because this is something that we do do every day. We do this every day for a variety of reasons. We revoke visas because of fraudulent information. We revoke visas for terrorist information. That is something that is a continual process, the State Department working across the interagency. So if we put out a number today, by this afternoon it may be different again. So that’s why – among the reasons why it’s very hard to think about this in scoreboard terms.

QUESTION: I think my point was only that the numbers don’t seem to back up the fact that this is an intensified process. It’s the same exact pace for eight and a half years --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way --

QUESTION: -- including the last 10 days.

MR. CROWLEY: All right, let me try it one more time. Given what happened on December 25, we’ve gone back over our databases. Some additional actions have been taken. If the answer is that’s a – it’s a relatively modest number – and I’m not saying you’re right or wrong – then that’s a sign that much of what we’ve put in place actually is working effectively. That said, clearly, it wasn’t working as it should relative to this specific case. So can we do better? Yes. The Secretary said it yesterday. The President said it last week. And we have this across-the-government effort to try to see how we can improve the system.

Now, to your second question, the President said very clearly the system failed. That doesn't mean the structure failed. It is a tried and true instinct in Washington, D.C., when something goes wrong, let’s change the bureaucracy. We don’t think that this is something that is necessary to do. There is a very good reason why Consular Affairs rests within the Department of State. It was something that was considered in-depth in 2002 and 2003 when the Department of Homeland Security was formed. It was decided at that time that Consular Affairs will remain within the Department of State, but the policy in terms of visas would rest with the Department of Homeland Security. In 2003, the Department of State reached a memorandum of understanding with DHS in terms of the policy of visas and the adjudication of visas. Policy would be in DHS. The adjudication would be at our hundreds of posts around the world. We think that this is a system – this is a structure that makes sense.

In light of what happened on December 25, along with the rest of government, we’re going over what were the criteria that were used in assessing this particular threat; do those – does that criteria need to be adjusted in any way. And that’s part of the process that is ongoing.

QUESTION: So there’s no discussion about completely moving the rest of the adjudication of visas to DHS?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, to the extent that members of Congress have surfaced this idea, there could very well be hearings on this subject. We will welcome the opportunity to discuss this further. But in our view, this remains an idea whose time has not come.

QUESTION: P.J., just going back to the non – the numbers and non-numbers game that you want to play, I’m not sure I understand. This Administration makes a big deal out of putting out interim progress reports on all these kind – on all sorts of things – stimulus money, from that to God knows what else. And just because the number may change by the end of the day, I don’t think it’s – I don’t think that means that a number that you might be able to give us right now is not useful. So let me just put that out there. And then if Kirit --

MR. CROWLEY: I would say --

QUESTION: So assuming you --

MR. CROWLEY: -- (inaudible) fruitful. We – you can judge.

QUESTION: Well, you used the word “fruitful.”

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Okay. I’m --

QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand why it’s not fruitful.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not prepared --

QUESTION: But that’s a discussion for another time. Maybe we can --

MR. CROWLEY: -- to address the number today.

QUESTION: All right. Well, assuming that the number that Kirit gave you was right or wrong, is it safe to assume that this guy – Mr. Abdulmutallab – that his visa has been revoked now?


QUESTION: So it’s at least one.

MR. CROWLEY: He – well, put it this way. He’s --

QUESTION: Since December 25th, you’ve revoked at least --

MR. CROWLEY: -- not doing any traveling.

QUESTION: I don’t care whether he’s locked in a jail cell or not. Does he have a valid visa still to get into the United States?


QUESTION: All right. So at least one person you can say has lost his visa since December 21st? (Laughter.) This is why – I don’t understand why it’s not useful or fruitful to get – to give us numbers.

MR. CROWLEY: I am – Matt, I’m not going there.

QUESTION: Well, you --

MR. CROWLEY: Put it this way. It’s not just about visas. There are issues about visas; there are issues about watch-listing; there’s issue about no-fly listing. We – as a general rule, we give you broad numbers in terms of the number of people who might be on this list, that list, or in this database. We don’t normally share the daily adjustments to any of this process and I don’t think we’re going to start here.

QUESTION: Can you at least say it’s more than two or three visas in addition to --

MR. CROWLEY: It’s more than one.

QUESTION: -- than Abdulmutallab? Because you did mention --

MR. CROWLEY: It’s more than one.

QUESTION: On the issue of visas themselves, are you changing the criteria by which the U.S. gives the visa? You have a visa diversity program which gives out visas to a lot of these countries that were on not only the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, but on this list of 14 countries now that are receiving special screening and everything, is there any consideration to looking at quotas of visas from various countries and changing the criteria or the quotas?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, remember, the issue that is before us is not the original decision to --

QUESTION: No, I understand. This is a separate question that has nothing to do with revoking a visa.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, let’s go back over this. I mean, because of changes made after 9/11, unless you’re in a visa waiver country, everyone who seeks a visa has an interview. The consular officer has, through various databases, access to information into – so that he or she can make a fair determination as to whether the individual that is sitting in front of him or her is entitled to a visa. This process now is subject to participation by various agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, that gets to weigh in on these decisions.

There is also – even if you get a visa, there’s also the fail-safe, which is when you present your visa at a port of entry, the final decision as to whether you get in the country is made not by the State Department --

QUESTION: Well, that doesn’t help someone that’s getting out of --

MR. CROWLEY: -- but by Customs and Border Protection. So I think broadly speaking, we are comfortable with the process that has been put in place since 9/11. That said, there was an issue in this particular case not with the decision to issue the visa going – in the first place, but whether, in light of information --

QUESTION: No, I understand.

MR. CROWLEY: -- the visa should be revoked. So let – I mean, there’s – that is the larger point that – from your question, there’s this tendency, when a specific failure comes to light, that you want to change the whole process.

QUESTION: Well, you’re changing the whole process for these 14 countries.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re changing the whole system and structure. There are specific aspects in this particular case that showed gaps in the way that the interagency is functioning regarding terrorism issues. The President has said we’re going to – it was unacceptable and we’re going to fix this. And we are earnestly working across interagency to do that, and that’s why the national security team is meeting with the President this afternoon.

QUESTION: No, I understand that. But you made these special kind of new screening requirements for the 14 countries. I’m just asking whether, you know, these 14 countries --

MR. CROWLEY: That’s not – and just to clarify, that’s not a – related to getting a visa.

QUESTION: Well, I understand.

MR. CROWLEY: It’s related to getting on an airplane.

QUESTION: I understand it’s not related to getting a visa. But I’m asking, if there’s new criteria for people applying for a visa from these 14 countries, like – is it kind of like if you’re from Yemen or you’re from Nigeria or you’re from one of these 14 countries, can you like, give up all hope of getting a U.S. visa now?

MR. CROWLEY: Not at all, not at all. That’s one of the reasons we opened – reopened the Embassy in Yemen today. There are people who are seeking to come to the United States every day. We welcome people from around the world to visit the United States to study, to work, to go to Disneyworld, whatever the case may be. We’re certainly not suggesting that we set up a Fortress America. In fact, setting up a Fortress America is counterproductive. It’s not something that is of value and it’s not going to make us more secure. So we continue to seek the commerce that comes with having a visa to enter the United States.

That said, we recognize that for people who are seeking to come to the United States, not everyone has the best of intensions. And so we’re going to continue to work through this. This is – and to the extent that this entire process shows that there are things that we have to continue – I mean, have to continue to focus on or adjust, we will do so. Remember, this is not a static process, and the threat evolves. It shifts from this country to that country to some other country. So in particular countries, we may adjust our focus based on our perception and assessment of risk, but certainly, as a broad process, we continue to welcome people of the world to come to the United States.

QUESTION: Are you hearing from those 14 countries any blowback? Apparently, the Nigerian foreign minister spoke to the Ambassador today complaining that Nigeria is on the list. Any other countries?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not here to go through the list of the 14 countries. We could have a flash quiz. There are four state sponsors. I don’t know if everybody knows that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, the Nigerian example in particular.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. But I mean, to the extent that there are countries that are now subject for the time being to more intensive screening procedures at the airport, yes, we’re hearing some feedback from a variety of countries. I’m not going to get into specifics. But that said, this is part of a process of assessing not only those countries that we have longstanding concerns about their support of terrorism, but other countries where we think there may be existing safe havens. And for the time being, we’re taking this precautionary step.

QUESTION: Is Cuba on the list just because it’s on the state sponsor list, or is there some of these additional concerns also?

MR. CROWLEY: Cuba is a designated state sponsor of terrorism, and we think it’s a well-earned designation given their longstanding support for radical groups in the region – the ELN, FARC, et cetera.

QUESTION: Are you saying – can you go back to where you talked about the reopening of the Yemeni – the Embassy in Yemen? Did you – you said that one of the reasons that you reopened it was so you could give more visas to Yemenis? The people are going to have a field day with that.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have over 200 posts around the world where consular activities are available for people who seek to travel to the United States of America. We welcome people coming to the United States of America. It is in our interest.

QUESTION: Right. But I just want to make sure --

MR. CROWLEY: And are there people in Yemen that we think still merit travel to the United States? The answer is yes. I don’t think that we’re not --

QUESTION: Yeah. But given the situation there --

MR. CROWLEY: -- we don’t have that sweep and a broad brush --

QUESTION: Fair enough. But given the situation there and the fact that you had to close the Embassy down for two days, don’t think that it might be wise or well-considered to have a little pause in visa issuances in Yemen?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have at the top of my head the specific population figure for Yemen, but your question suggests that there’s a fairly broad sweep here. All we’re – and the short answer is we are – for those who seek to travel to the United States from Yemen or other countries, they may be subject to more intensive --

QUESTION: Right. But the question here --

MR. CROWLEY: -- screening procedures at the airport. That certainly does not suggest that if you’re a Yemeni citizen the door to the United States is closed. It’s not. We welcome the interaction that we have with every country --

QUESTION: I understand. But if the steps that you’re taking – well, let me put it this way. Last week, you said that – or it was said that the – or the Department sent out a notice telling people that on these VISA VIPER cables that they should say whether the person has a visa, a valid visa, or not.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s true.

QUESTION: I’m presuming that that is the – well, is that the only step that’s been taken thus far? Have the criteria for – during the interviews, have the criteria actually changed, or is that still subject to the review?

MR. CROWLEY: The criteria that the consular officer uses to evaluate any visa application, that criteria has not changed.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then if it hasn’t changed and it’s under review and you’re going to make it stronger, why all of a sudden start issuing visas in Yemen again?

MR. CROWLEY: Hang on a second. Now, just to the second point, because you mentioned VISAS VIPER, it is important to recognize VISAS VIPER is specifically a report that’s related to an individual who we have information on and is associated with some terrorism aspect. And we have made the adjustment that in this report, from now on, it will specifically say – stipulate whether or not this individual has a current U.S. visa.

That is a different element than the average citizen, whether he or she is Yemeni, Pakistani, Afghani, or from any other country, from Poland, and the ability of that individual to come to an embassy or consulate, present an application, and receive a visa to be able to travel to the United States. We want to have these people come to the United States. It’s in our interest. It’s in our foreign policy interest. This interaction between the American people and people of other countries is actually part of the process by which ultimately we will defeat and mitigate political extremism.

So we’re not closing our doors to the United States; far from it, we welcome people coming to the United States. We’re going to make sure that the process by which people come here and travel here is as safe as it can be.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Wait, I got – have you seen the comments from the Chinese foreign ministry and also the – their UN – their ambassador to the United Nations today about how it’s not time to talk about sanctions for Iran? And how does this square – if you have, or even if you haven’t, I’ll tell you that that’s what they said. How does that --

MR. CROWLEY: My favorite report. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: How does that square with the grand international consensus that you say that you’ve formed on the prospect of sanctions?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, first of all, let’s recall there are already existing sanctions against Iran.

QUESTION: I’m talking about more sanctions.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. And we are in conversation with our partners in the P-5+1 process, which includes China. And now that we’re into January, there’s a new composition on the UN Security Council. We are talking to those countries. And this is a subject that was discussed yesterday, as the Secretary and foreign minister noted, in our discussion with our counterparts from Qatar.

We are going to continue to have this conversation going forward with lots of countries, including China. It’s no secret that China and the United States look at the utility of sanctions differently. Nonetheless, we will continue to work on this, and we would expect – as the Secretary said yesterday, we will continue to work on both tracks. But specifically on that pressure track, we are talking to countries about additional sanctions.

As the Secretary said, one possibility is to focus more specifically on the Revolutionary Guards, the IRGC. We’re taking a much more prominent role within Iran. We want to do this in a way that can target specific entities within the Iranian Government but not punish the Iranian people, who are clearly looking for a different relationship with their government.

So this is an ongoing process of dialogue. At any particular time, a country might say this is a good idea, this is a bad idea. We are going to continue our discussions and we would expect to move forward with this in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have a plan? I mean, does the U.S. feel that China’s participation in any proposed sanctions, either within the UN framework or outside of it, is imperative for the sanctions to work? Or is there a plan – are you guys working on a plan to move forward with sanctions which wouldn’t include China?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think part of this is a discussion of what the current situation is. I mean, perhaps others might have this hope that Iran will at some point respond differently than it has in the past four or five months. We continue to look at this with a very sober focus. Iran has been unable or unwilling to respond to the offers on the table. This is not a static situation, so whether or not today a particular minister within the Chinese Government has a view, whether that is still the case two weeks from now, four weeks from now, after we have further discussions, after we start to attain some clarity and some consensus on the nature of future actions, the nature of potential steps, the likely impact on a country like Iran, views can change.

QUESTION: But could a sanctions policy work without China?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, at some point, if this is going to be an effective global effort reflecting the will of the international community, it will have to be presented to the UN. And obviously, China has an important role within the UN.


MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, but then this ultimately – if at some point in the future something is presented and something is voted upon, China has a number of options: It can vote yes, it can vote no, it can abstain.

QUESTION: But how much --

MR. CROWLEY: That will be a decision for China to make, but we are going to continue to talk about China and continue to talk to other countries and make the case that while the door to engagement remains open, to the extent that we see recalcitrance on behalf of the Iranian Government, that there will be a cost that Iran will pay for that unwillingness to respond to the international community’s concerns.

QUESTION: P.J., I’m sorry, I have to go back to the visa thing just for one --


QUESTION: -- one very quick question. You said it was – this guy – Abdulmutallab’s visa has been revoked and it’s more than one. The other visas that have been revoked, what reasons were they revoked for? I mean, one doesn’t actually have to actively try to blow up a plane to get your visa revoked, do you?


QUESTION: I mean, this is based on information from VISA VIPER cables that these other – did the others, without giving any numbers, that the others were revoked?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. We have revoked multiple visas since December 25 on – based on information that we have related to terrorism cases.

QUESTION: But not actually attempting to blow up a plane? I mean, I’m just trying to get the --

MR. CROWLEY: It’s based on --

QUESTION: If they didn’t actually do anything --

MR. CROWLEY: It’s based on our assessment of the risk associated with specific individuals on information that we have from various sources but ---

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to get at it – you don’t actually have to commit a crime --

MR. CROWLEY: Correct. No, no.

QUESTION: -- like trying to blow up a plane to get your visa revoked, right?

MR. CROWLEY: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. I got another --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, back in the back.

QUESTION: But you’ll probably get your visa revoked if you do.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on beef issue?

QUESTION: Probably.

MR. CROWLEY: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: On beef issue. The Taiwanese legislature just vote to forbidden import of U.S. ground beef and other parts. What is U.S. reaction on that?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re very disappointed with the Taiwan legislature’s decision to ban certain cuts of U.S. beef in violation of our bilateral agreement signed just over two months ago. We remain committed, however, to further developing our broad-ranging and positive relationship with the people of Taiwan.

QUESTION: And do you see any – I’m sorry, did you finish?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. Certain cuts of beef.

QUESTION: Do you see any impact between the two side, U.S. and China – Taiwan, especially in terms of the arms sale?

MR. CROWLEY: No. U.S. Government policy and decisions in the security arena are based on the Taiwan Relations Act. And as stipulated in the TRA, the United States will continue to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services needed for Taiwan’s self-defense.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton met with NASA Administrator Bolton this morning. I was wondering is that just a courtesy call or is there more involved in that.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. She did meet with NASA administrator Bolton. It was highly productive, in our view. It exchanged ideas about how the State Department and NASA could be mutually supportive in using space to advance foreign policy goals and using foreign policy to advance space objectives.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: There you go.

QUESTION: A quick question about Assistant Secretary Cochran’s trip to Morocco. Can you tell us did he meet with or discuss --


QUESTION: Carson – sorry. The health of the junta leader who I think is still being treated there – has he seen them? What are they being told? And was there any discussion with the junta leaders that he met with?

MR. CROWLEY: He did not meet with Captain Dadis Camara. He did meet with acting junta leader General Sekouba Konate. He was representing Guinea in this meeting.

QUESTION: And did they discuss whether or not Captain Camara will be returned to Guinea?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I – as to his future plans, he’s still – as I understand it, he’s still in a hospital in Morocco recovering from the wounds he sustained in Guinea. I mean, we support the return to – the transition to a civilian government and hope that Guinea will begin a process that leads to a free, fair, and transparent democratic election. And we have had specific meetings with Captain Dadis in the past and told him the very same thing.

QUESTION: Is it your view that that would be more likely to happen if Captain Dadis remained outside of the country?


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you know where Holbrooke is?

MR. CROWLEY: I think Ambassador Holbrooke is on his way to London to begin to do preparatory work for the meeting on January 28th.

QUESTION: And does he plan to go anywhere else?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. Why don’t you ask us that tomorrow.

QUESTION: Well, what – I mean, is he coming back?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure that the ambassador will be traveling back to the region as he does from time to time. Whether he’s doing that on part of this trip or --

QUESTION: Well, I ask because he’s supposed to be back on Friday. He’s supposed to be giving a speech on Friday.

MR. CROWLEY: Then I would expect he’d be back on Friday. So I --

QUESTION: So, in other words, he’s not going to be going that far --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m just aware that he’s in London.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: On North Korea, there are some reports that Kim Jong-il may be visiting China anytime soon. And there’s also news that the tighter security on the border between China and North Korea since January 5th. And are you expecting his visit to China anytime soon?

MR. CROWLEY: Whatever the dear leader decides to do is up to him. I think that if he does travel to China, he’ll see – he’ll hear the same message from the Chinese that he heard from Ambassador Bosworth last month, which is --

QUESTION: Did his government contacted with you regarding his trip to China?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not know.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on missionary Robert Park who entered into North Korea? There are reports that he was being moved into northern Hamgyong province for investigation --

MR. CROWLEY: I think, through our protecting power, we have asked for consular access, and at this point, we have not received it.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S. Government’s plan to rescue him? What’s the – what is U.S. Government trying to do for that issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the first step is, in fact, to seek consular access.

QUESTION: P.J., do you guys have any view of the new deputy in the Indonesian new – sorry, let me start again. Do you have any view on the new deputy Indonesian defense minister who’s suppose to be sworn in tomorrow? And if you don’t – the reason I’m asking is that he is apparently banned from coming to the U.S. because of his involvement in violence in East Timor in 1999. And if you don’t have anything on it, if you could take the question, I’d appreciate it.

MR. CROWLEY: I will take the question.

QUESTION: Especially as it relates to U.S.-Indonesian defense and diplomatic cooperation.

MR. CROWLEY: I will be happy to take that question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:15 p.m.)