Mark C. Toner
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 18, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton met with Ambassador Rice/Delivered remarks at World Refugee Day/Met with Foreign Minister Espersen of Denmark/Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the George P. Shultz Center at the Foreign Service Institute
    • USAID Administrator Shah delivered remarks on the Haiti recovery effort at the National Press Club
    • Under Secretary Hormats is in St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Under Secretary Otero will travel to Islamabad, Pakistan
    • Assistant Secretary Blake is in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
    • Assistant Secretary Posner is in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
    • Assistant Secretary Campbell is in Tokyo, Japan
    • Announcement that eight countries have been selected as the first set of Global Health Initiative-plus countries
  • DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SPILL
    • International offers of assistance
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Secretary Clinton's comments on Arizona's immigration law/Refer to Department of Justice on next steps
    • U.S. consular assistance to arrested Americans overseas/Privacy Act
  • PAKISTAN
    • Unprecedented cooperation/Engaged in an existential struggle against terrorist forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • CUBA
    • U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks
    • Secretary Clinton's meeting with the wife of Alan Gross/Urge his immediate release
    • Rules concerning travel of U.S. citizens to Cuba
  • BURMA
    • Wish Aung San Suu Kyi Happy Birthday/Call for her immediate release
  • PAKISTAN
    • U.S. officials have been granted consular access to a U.S. citizen
  • RWANDA
    • Peter Erlinder/Plans to depart Kigali soon
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Nothing to announce on visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu/Any announcement will come from the White House
    • Senator Mitchell is in the region/Met with President Abbas today/Will meet with President Mubarak in Cairo tomorrow


TRANSCRIPT:

2:34 p.m. EDT

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MR. TONER: Okay, given that I’m the only thing between you guys and a Friday evening, let’s – if you want to make it short and to the point, you’ll have a willing accomplice. I have no Angelina Jolie live feeds, though, to offer you. Fortunately.

Just to quickly run through the Secretary’s day – as you know, she met with Ambassador Rice at the Department of State earlier. She delivered remarks at the World Refugee Day. She held a bilateral meeting with the Danish foreign minister, Lene Espersen. And then she held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly expanded George P. Shultz Center at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington.

Just to quickly – on travel – I’m sorry, I should also mention that USAID Administrator Raj Shah delivered remarks on the Haiti recovery effort as the six month anniversary of the earthquake approaches, and that was at the National Press Club.

On travel, very briefly, Under Secretary for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats is traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, through June 19th. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero will travel to Islamabad, Pakistan to discuss cooperation on water issues as part of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, and that’s through today, June 18th. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, as the Secretary mentioned, is in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where he will remain through June 20th. His co-traveler, Assistant Secretary Posner, is returning to Tashkent in Uzbekistan, where he’ll meet with representatives of civil society, international organizations, and minority religious groups.

And just very briefly, Assistant Secretary Campbell arrived in Tokyo. He consulted today with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukayama, as well as the Administrative Vice Minister Mitoji Yabunaka, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, and senior officials from the Democratic Party of Japan, including Secretary General Yukio Edano.

And just one other thing I wanted to mention today. Today, the Administration announced that eight countries have been selected as the first set of GHI Plus countries, GHI being the Global Health Initiative. They are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, and Rwanda. These countries will receive additional technical and management resources to quickly implement the GHI approach. The knowledge we gain from this effort will be shared with other GHI countries, inform future decision making for the U.S. Government and our partners, and ensure that our development programs are transparent and accountable.

That’s all I have for you. I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Mark –

MR. TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Last night, and then – you put out this new chart on the deep water – the oil spill.

MR. TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Eight offers. And then you put it out again this morning. I don’t know that there’s a difference between the one last night and this morning but I’m – if you look at this chart, there are 22 countries and organizations that have offered this assistance. But out of those, only three of these offers were free of charge. And two of those were simply for information-sharing. And I’m just wondering if the Administration is at all disappointed, given the fact that when the U.S. provides aid to countries in similar circumstances, similar disasters, if the U.S. is disappointed at all that it’s being – that these offers come and they have to be reimbursed, they have to be repaid.

MR. TONER: I wouldn’t say that at all. We appreciate all the international offers of assistance. Again, as you said, there’s a chart published that’s available on our website, and I’d refer you to that for more details, as well as the Unified Area Command, which is actually making the decisions as far as acceptances go, on the ground. But no, we’re not disappointed. We’re quite pleased with the international offers of assistance.

QUESTION: But do you not see it as something of a – potentially ungrateful. I mean, you’ve given – for instance, the Chinese got hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid after the earthquake two years ago. The Croats as well. All this, and they were never asked to repay this. So, I mean, these countries are offering you things that they want to be paid for.

MR. TONER: Again, I believe these assistance offers, if you will, are being repaid by BP on a reimbursable basis, so – look, what we’re concerned with right now is getting these types of assistance, as they become available and as they’re useful to our cleanup operations, getting them into action so they can clean up the Gulf.

Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Mark, another subject?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: The Arizona immigration suit –

MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton was in an interview in which she said that the DOJ will file suit on that. Did she misspeak? Because the Department of Justice apparently says they’re thinking about it, we’re looking at that, but they indicate that they have not made that decision yet.

MR. TONER: Well, the Secretary’s words stand for themselves. And again, I’d just defer to the Department of Justice on what next steps are legally on this.

QUESTION: Could I follow up?

MR. TONER: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: To follow on that is that, actually, a governor, Arizona governor said in a written release, “To learn of this lawsuit through an Ecuadorian interview with the Secretary of State is just outrageous. There’s no way to treat – this no way to treat the people of Arizona.” Is there an apology here?

MR. TONER: The Secretary responded to a question she was asked in an interview. This is obviously an issue of great concern and resonance domestically, but it is as well in the hemisphere. And again, it was part of an interview that she gave. She was asked the question. Her words speak for themselves. And I would just defer you to the Justice Department for more information about the legal process. But the long-term solution to this, as the Secretary has said, as the President has said, is comprehensive immigration reform.

QUESTION: So you’re saying she did not misspeak?

MR. TONER: I’m saying her words stand for themselves.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I believe her words were actually that she was going to encourage – she didn’t use the word “encourage,” but press for the Department of Justice to sue Arizona.

MR. TONER: I don’t believe she said that.

QUESTION: She was (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: No. No.

QUESTION: Okay. I stand corrected.

MR. TONER: Yeah. Lalit.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: No –

MR. TONER: Oh, sorry. Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: You say that her words stand for themselves, but that doesn’t answer the question of whether she misspoke or spoke too early. Can you answer that?

MR. TONER: I would just say that, again, on the legal steps --

QUESTION: I’m not asking about the legal steps –

MR. TONER: -- I’d defer you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: I think you would want to refer me, not defer me.

MR. TONER: I said refer you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. TONER: Thanks.

QUESTION: But – although you probably do want to defer me, but – (laughter).

MR. TONER: Never, Matt.

QUESTION: But the question is not about the legal steps. The question is about what the Secretary said.

MR. TONER: And I will say for the third time that her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: In other words, that you don’t –

MR. TONER: Not in other words.

QUESTION: You don’t want to –

MR. TONER: Not in other words. And I would also say, as I just spoke, is that the President, the Secretary, others in this Administration have said the long-term solution to this is comprehensive immigration reform.

QUESTION: All right. Well, let’s about the short-term solution to the Arizona situation, not the long-term solution. Let’s talk about what she actually said in the interview. Did she misspeak?

MR. TONER: Her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: That doesn’t answer the question.

MR. TONER: No. She – her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: She did not misspeak, so the Administration is intending to sue Arizona?

MR. TONER: Her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Is the Administration intending to sue Arizona?

MR. TONER: Defer you to the Justice Department on --

QUESTION: Refer.

MR. TONER: -- the next steps legally. I said refer.

QUESTION: You’re saying defer.

MR. TONER: Am I saying defer? Well, anyway, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) ping pong with the Department of Justice. You know, State sends us to Justice, Justice goes back to State, and so on and so on. Was she – did she mean to say maybe that the Justice Department was studying this lawsuit or –

MR. TONER: Look, I’m not going to parse the Secretary’s words. Again, she responded to a question she was asked in an interview. Justice Department is best positioned to talk about next steps legally.

QUESTION: So it’s no misstatement in any way. What she said –

MR. TONER: They stand --

QUESTION: -- she stands by it.

MR. TONER: They stand for themselves, yes.

QUESTION: So she is not the best source on this?

MR. TONER: I didn’t say that.

QUESTION: You said the Justice Department is the best place to ask about this.

MR. TONER: For next steps legally, yes.

QUESTION: So she shouldn’t have been talking about this?

MR. TONER: She responded to a question in an interview. There --

QUESTION: Okay, well then, you know, this is a daily briefing. So is the Administration intending to sue Arizona over this --

MR. TONER: That’s a matter for the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Is that perhaps not the answer that she should have given when she was asked the question?

MR. TONER: Matt, her words speak for themselves, okay?

QUESTION: Would she support a lawsuit? I mean, would she – does she think it’s a good idea?

MR. TONER: I haven’t spoken to her personally about it. Again, I’d just refer you to the Justice Department.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t a lawsuit preempt similar action in Virginia and so on? There is a drive in Virginia to do the same thing as Arizona –

MR. TONER: I’m not a legal expert on this. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Has there been any communication with the governor of Arizona about this?

MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Will there be any kind of apology to the governor? It seems – she seems to be asking for it.

MR. TONER: Again, refer you to the Justice Department. I’ve said what I’m going to say on this.

Lalit.

QUESTION: On Pakistan –

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- earlier this week there was a report by London School of Economics saying that Pakistan’s ISI still has links with (inaudible) Afghanistan Taliban. And then yesterday, there was a report by the Sunday Times, London, saying that President Zardari met with several Taliban leaders who have been imprisoned inside Pakistan.

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: And then there’s another document from Pakistan’s Punjab Province saying that Punjab has been giving funds to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity wing of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Are you concerned about these reports? How is it going on?

MR. TONER: Look, Lalit, we’re in a period of unprecedented cooperation with Pakistan and engaged with them in an existential struggle against the terrorist forces in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. And we’ve got unprecedented cooperation. And I think previously this week – I think P.J., from the podium, kind of – or not kind of – dismissed the report and the findings.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Cuba talks --

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- going on today. Are they still going on? Are they finished? Was there any result? Can you tell us who was leading the U.S. side on that?

MR. TONER: I can. On the U.S. side, it was our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly. And the U.S. delegation included representatives of the U.S. Government agencies involved in managing migration issues. And I think they’re still ongoing, but we’ll try to get a readout for you later today.

QUESTION: Do you think that (inaudible) there can be some progress in the case of Mr. Gross?

MR. TONER: Well, as you saw yesterday with the Secretary’s meeting with his spouse, we remain focused on the welfare of Alan Gross. We’ve urged his immediate release so that he can return to his family. These are not connected to the migration talks, but we have raised them in this context and we just appeal to Cuba to release him immediately.

Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Mark, do you guys have guidance on rules governing Americans going to Cuba? And also, is there any indication that it might be more dangerous for Americans to show up in light of what happened to Mr. Gross?

MR. TONER: Sure. I did find some of the rules that surround travel to Cuba. The Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Department of Treasury and affect all U.S. citizens, permanent residents wherever they’re located. The regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. But these restrictions – this restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada.

And with regards to your second question, what was --

QUESTION: Well, with Mr. Gross being arrested, is there any heightened concern at the State Department for any American going to Cuba?

MR. TONER: Certainly, we’re concerned. I mean, certainly, his case raises concerns for travel to Cuba and his case.

QUESTION: I mean --

MR. TONER: We’re concerned with his case in particular and --

QUESTION: He was working for USAID --

MR. TONER: For USAID, a contractor.

QUESTION: -- as a contractor and distributing communications equipment, correct?

MR. TONER: I believe so.

QUESTION: Which is the reason, allegedly, why the Cubans arrested him on suspicion of being a spy. Is that really – travel by a regular – a non U.S. Government contracting employee, are you concerned about that?

MR. TONER: I think we’re concerned --

QUESTION: I mean, these are pretty specific circumstances in this case which don’t – wouldn't seem to apply to most Americans who are going to Cuba.

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we’re concerned about his case in particular and the fact that we believe he’s being unjustifiably held by the Cuban Government. So it does raise concerns in that framework.

QUESTION: I think in your statement yesterday, the Secretary said that his detention would harm Cuban-American relation. So can you just elaborate in what way and can it affect, for instance, the U.S.-Cuban migration talks today or --

MR. TONER: Well, I mean, it’s become clearly a bilateral issue between us, so I mean, in that respect, yes, absolutely. And we seek every opportunity to call for his release.

Yeah, go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: On Burma, the Burmese (inaudible) Aung San Suu Kyi is celebrating her 65th birthday today. Do you expect her to be released anytime in the future? Do you have – you are having talks with the Burmese leadership?

MR. TONER: Well, we wish her a very happy birthday, first of all, and just call for her immediate release. But I have no – nothing to report on that.

QUESTION: Can we go back to detained Americans overseas? The guy in Pakistan – have you seen him again and has he signed a Privacy Act waiver? Has he been asked to sign a Privacy Act waiver?

MR. TONER: We have been granted consular access to visit him in Pakistan, but due to Privacy Act – privacy waiver concerns, we’re not able to comment more on the situation. But just to answer your follow-on question, he was. And when a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, a U.S. consular officer seeks prompt access to him or her, provides a list of attorneys and information on the host country’s legal system, offers to contact his or her family or friends, endeavors to visit on a regular basis, protests any mistreatment as appropriate, monitors jail conditions to the extent possible, and provides dietary supplements where possible and as needed, and keeps the State Department informed about the U.S. citizen’s condition and progress of his or her case.

So that’s just helpful in a broader context whenever an American is detained abroad. When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, a U.S. consular officers is given access to him or her. The consular officer presents him or her with a Privacy Act waiver form. The person may choose to exercise his or her privacy rights by declining to authorize disclosure to one or more of the entities listed on the form, such as the immediate family, Congress, the media, and other federal agencies. Or, on the other hand, that person could then authorize release to one or more of those groups (inaudible).

QUESTION: So that happened in this case?

MR. TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: That --

MR. TONER: It – yes, he was – yes, the answer to your question – direct answer to your question, yes, he was presented with a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: Well, didn’t you just violate the Privacy Act by saying that?

MR. TONER: I’m talking broadly about – but have at it, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Then the guy in – the lawyer in Rwanda, is he coming home anytime soon?

MR. TONER: That’s a good question, Matt. Let me see if I have an update on that. He is making travel arrangements and plans to depart Kigali soon.

Is that it?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Oh, sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Regarding the easing of the blockade, is that likely –

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- around Gaza, is that likely to speed up the visit of the prime minister of Israel to (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: Sorry?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu.

MR. TONER: Nothing to announce. And obviously, it would come from the White House. And in terms of easing restrictions, just we stand by what we said yesterday, essentially. Welcome the statement but are looking for details.

QUESTION: Okay, one quick --

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure. Go ahead. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask – sorry if I missed this, but is there anything to report from Mitchell’s talks?

MR. TONER: He met with Abbas today. Good, constructive talks. Talked about the situation in Gaza as well as the peace process. He goes to Cairo tomorrow, where he meets with Mubarak.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Sorry, Courtney.

QUESTION: Sorry, one more. And it’s kind of random too, so I apologize. The State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, I think that Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are still not on that list. Is there any consideration to add them? I guess Faisal Shahzad was found to have been trained by the Taliban.

MR. TONER: Right. Look, I can check for an update on that. I mean, there’s very specific requirements that they have to fulfill to be listed on that. I saw P.J. walking to – oh sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: One quick question. The Obama Administration freezing of the offshore assets of North Korea – anything about that? Did I miss that? Anybody ask?

MR. TONER: I’m not aware of that story. We can try to get – we’ll try to get something – run it to ground.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:52 p.m.)

DPB # 97

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