Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 16, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Sentencing of former State Department employee Walter Kendall Myers, and wife Gwendolyn Stein-Graber Myers/specific details deferred to the Department of Justice
    • Secretary's phone conversation with Foreign Secretary Hague/discussed Prime Minister Cameron's visit to Washington/Secretary extended appreciation to UK for support of new U.S.-E.U. agreement re Terrorist Finance Tracking Program/Megrahi release viewed as a mistake/No discussion of Iroquois case
    • Congrats to Nelson Mandela on 92nd Birthday
  • UNITED KINGDOM
    • No discussion of Iroquois case during Secretary's 12-minute phone conversation with Foreign Secretary Hague
  • LIBYA
    • Letter from senators/Appears UK has made final determination/invitation to hearings left to Chairman's discretion/still evaluating how we can work through requests made by senators/defer to British Government what precise action they will take/circumstances surrounding decision made by Scottish authorities a year ago/fidelity of medical information/questions about BP and its contact with UK Government/Megrahi's return to Libya/an affront to families and victims of Pan AM 103
  • IRAN
    • Statement on bombings at mosque in Iran/President Obama's condemnation/Mr. Amiri/not in a position to corroborate any details/expressions of condolence and condemnation of terrorism attack/we condemn terrorism in all of its forms anywhere in the world/Mr. Amiri's visit to U.S. and return to Iran
  • COLOMBIA
    • Recent Report of Colombian Government/Examining Reports/ FARC/Concerns of Cross-border interaction involvement in insurgent-terrorist activities
  • JAPAN
    • Working-level talk on Futenma/Meetings continuing today/working through details/unsure of completion date
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Doubt Secretary will join Iranian foreign minister at Kabul meeting
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Final destination is clear/ North Korea's failure to comply/still a work in progress
  • ISRAEL
    • Assistant Secretary Shapiro's speech/Importance and value of U.S.-Israeli relations


TRANSCRIPT:

12:40 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Walter Kendall Myers, a former State Department official, and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, have been sentenced for their respective roles in a 30-year conspiracy to provide highly classified U.S. national defense information to the Republic of Cuba.

I’ll defer to the Department of Justice for specific details on their sentences. But we believe that in this case of Kendall Myers, the severe punishment was warranted by the nature of his crime. This was a serious breach of national security. And by committing acts of espionage, he grievously violated the confidence placed in him by the Department of State and the American people.

Also this morning, the Secretary had a conversation with Foreign Secretary Hague. The primary purpose of the call was to compare notes prior to Prime Minister Cameron’s visit to Washington next week. But she also used the opportunity of the call to thank the United Kingdom for its support of the new U.S.-EU agreement regarding the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. And the two agreed on the importance of continuing our efforts to prevent terrorists from using our financial systems to launch attacks.

They also talked about the situation with respect to Mr. Megrahi. Both the Secretary and the foreign minister agreed that in our mutual views, the release of Mr. Megrahi last year was a mistake. The Secretary just signaled to the foreign secretary ongoing congressional interest in this matter. And I think we’ll have more conversations with the British Government on this as we – as Congress continues to focus on the issue.

And finally, we released a statement last night, but obviously, everyone in the world congratulates Nelson Mandela on his 92nd birthday this Sunday.

QUESTION: Can I go back just briefly on the Hague call?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Where is the foreign minister right now? I don’t think he’s in London. He’s traveling, I believe. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there if you don’t know. Did they talk about the Iroquois case at all?

MR. CROWLEY: They did not.

QUESTION: So basically, that’s a dead letter as far as you’re concerned?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, from our standpoint, we’ve done what we can do. And it would appear to us at this point that the UK has made their final determination.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the BP thing, have you been invited – has anyone from State been invited to the hearings that Senator Kerry is going to be holding and --

MR. CROWLEY: At this point, no.

QUESTION: Do you expect to have someone at the hearings?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that’s up to the chairman to decide who he wants to attend them – Kerry.

QUESTION: And what would – when you say that more conversations with the British are likely on this subject, what – why would more conversations be necessary after --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, the Secretary’s mindful that she has a request by the – a handful of senators to look into this matter if we haven’t decided what steps we will take. But clearly, the information that would need to be revealed by any follow-up action is resident within the UK Government and the Scottish Government. So, in anything that we do, we would need their cooperation. So she mentioned the issue, mentioned its importance not only to the Congress, to our government, but most importantly, to the families of the 103 victims. And I think we will be – continue to work with them to see how we can answer the questions that have been raised in recent days.

QUESTION: Did she specifically ask for cooperation from the British Government?

MR. CROWLEY: At this point, we have not made a specific ask of the British Government. The purpose of the --

QUESTION: Well, in general?

MR. CROWLEY: Right, but this was to alert the foreign secretary of the importance of the issue, and in fact, obviously, I think that’s already recognized within the UK. BP has put out statements in the last couple of days. So has the new government in the UK. Again, in the conversation, they agreed that in our joint view, this was a mistake. But we’re still evaluating how we can best work through the requests that the senators have made of us.

QUESTION: Did they indicate that the British Government might be amenable to cooperating if such an investigation is launched? And did the Secretary say that this was likely to come up when the prime minister visits next week?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the Secretary indicated that it might be appropriate for the British Government to communicate with Congress as well to make sure that they fully understand what transpired a year ago. That was something mentioned. Again, I’ll defer to the British Government to decide exactly what precise action they’ll take.

QUESTION: And how about the meeting next week? Is it likely – did she say that this might be on the agenda when the prime minister visits?

MR. CROWLEY: It was not that specific. I mean, the Secretary and the foreign secretary will also see each other in Kabul.

QUESTION: About how long was the call and how much of it was devoted to this --

MR. CROWLEY: It was 12 minutes. And the bulk of the call was devoted to specific issues related to the prime minister’s visit next week.

QUESTION: Which did not include the BP, so how much of a – what percentage of those 12 minutes were devoted to the BP issue?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) I can’t tell you. Seven minutes and 43 seconds. I can’t go --

QUESTION: Oh, so then most of it then.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I don’t know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: P.J., what exactly does Congress want the Secretary to do, to find out?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t have the letter in front of me from the four senators. I think they want us to look into circumstances surrounding the decision by Scottish authorities a year ago. Obviously, there have been more than one correspondence. There are questions regarding the medical advice – who gave it, how was it considered, how did the Scottish authorities reach a judgment that on humanitarian grounds, based on an understanding that Mr. Megrahi had a relatively short time to live, that they would make this decision to release him on humanitarian grounds. That’s one area. And clearly, some questions have been raised about the fidelity of the medical information that entered into the Scottish authorities’ thinking.

On the other hand, there are questions about BP and its contacts with the UK Government in a kind of – in an earlier timeframe regarding the negotiation of a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya. And I think the UK has been clear that these two issues were worked on separate tracks.

So, we are – the purpose of her mentioning it today was simply to highlight for the foreign secretary this is a very important issue to the American people and it is going to be something that we will be addressing for a period of time. As we have pledged, we will respond to the four senators, and like I say, we’re working through how – what is the best way to provide the perspective to the Senate that they’ve requested.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more on that? Is there any attempt or is the State Department looking into any type of pressure that it could put on Libya to reverse Libya’s original decision? Or actually, I should say to reverse the return of Mr. Megrahi to Libya. Is there anything that the U.S. could do – some are asking?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, again, this – I mean, in terms of pressure, obviously, we continue to express our concern and to state categorically that every day that Mr. Megrahi spends as a free man in Libya is an affront to the families and victims of Pan Am 103. That is how we believe and that’s – I think that’s a firmly held belief by the American people.

From a legal standpoint, this – his sentence was – the case was carried out and the sentence applied under a special Scottish tribunal. We respect the fact that this was a decision that the Scottish authorities had the authority to make. We regret that decision. As to whether we have any legal recourse, these are the kinds of things we’re looking into. It’s unclear that we do.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Last night, the Secretary put out a statement about the suicide – or the bombings at the mosque in Iran. That was followed this morning by a statement from President Obama also condemning the (inaudible) and the death of innocent Iranians. I’m wondering, in light of this, why it appears that members of the U.S. – members of the Administration are actively trying to get Mr. Amiri either jailed or executed for his role. Presumably, he is also an innocent. Why is it that people are coming out and talking about his role as a CIA mole inside Iran and then providing information to the U.S. while he was here?

MR. CROWLEY: You’ve made two links there that puzzle me, quite honestly.

QUESTION: Well, you’re expressing concern about Iranian civilians at one hand, and then on the other hand, you seem to be for – not using very diplomatic terms, trying to screw someone who screwed you guys. So what’s the deal here?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Well, first of all, for whatever reason, I think, the only person in Washington speaking on the record about Mr. Amiri is me, and I’m happy to pass that chalice to somebody else.

QUESTION: The Secretary also spoke.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, but there – I know that there are a number of unidentified voices who are providing certain details. I’m not in a position to corroborate any of those details about what – who did what to when, where, and how. Our expressions of condolence and our condemnation of the terrorism attack and the claim of responsibility by Jundallah – we have actually made similar statements in the past. We condemn terrorism in all of its forms anywhere in the world. Any citizens of any country who are victimized by acts of terrorism we find regrettable and we find those acts of terrorism cowardly and repugnant.

So I wouldn’t link the two. We are actively combating terrorism in all its forms all over the world. We are seeking cooperation from all countries around the world, including Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism itself. So we are determined to work as we can with countries around the world to reduce the threat of terrorism to all innocent civilians anywhere in the world.

QUESTION: Why is it important for the Administration to get the word out that Mr. Amiri was a spy for the United States?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not here to characterize Mr. Amiri one way or the other. He paid a visit to the United States and he chose to return to Iran.

QUESTION: Are you at all concerned that these press reports that Matt’s citing are putting his life in danger or his – in Tehran?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, during this entire period of time, Mr. Amiri acted, made decisions on his own. Whether those decisions have put the – his life in danger or those of his family and friends, I can’t say.

QUESTION: But you don’t --

QUESTION: But he didn’t make these decisions to be labeled as a U.S. spy in the U.S. press.

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we did not kidnap Mr. Amiri. He traveled to the United States freely and he has traveled back to Iran freely. The consequences of these actions I can’t predict.

QUESTION: Well, wait a second. The consequences of his actions you might not be able to predict, but don’t you think that it’s more likely that he’s going to face some kind of punishment, whatever it is, in Iran now that people are coming out and talking about what his role was?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I --

QUESTION: Is this intended to be some kind of a – are you getting – trying to get rid of this program whereby you encourage defectors to come over? Because you’re doing a – seems like you’re doing a pretty good job of it by – not you personally, but the Administration is doing a pretty good job of sabotaging its own program. Or it’s sending a warning to other people who might be part of the program who are here and that they should not, because if they decide to return on their own free will, you guys are going to blow the whistle and make it more difficult for them to live.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sending any messages to anybody on this podium -- not on this case.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Colombia, do you have any reaction about the recent report that Colombian Government was sent yesterday, which appears that there are members of the FARC acting from Venezuela?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve – we are examining those reports. Some of this is not new in the sense that there have been concerns for some time of cross-border interaction involvement in insurgent activities or terrorist activities within Colombia. Venezuela is obliged, as a member of the United Nations, the OAS, and UNASUR, to deny terrorist groups the ability to operate within its territory. We’ve been concerned about this for some time and it’s one of the reasons why, since 2006, Venezuela has been judged not to be fully cooperating on antiterrorism efforts.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Japan, do you have any readout from yesterday’s working-level talk on Futenma and do you think this discussion on details on the Futenma issue will be completed by the end of August as U.S.-Japan agreement --

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, the meetings are continuing today. I don’t know what that foreshadows, but we’re earnestly working through the technical details of the basing arrangement.

QUESTION: Do you expect that it’s going to be completed by the end of August?

MR. CROWLEY: I know that that is a target, but as to whether we’ll work through all the details, I just can’t say at this point.

QUESTION: P.J. –

MR. CROWLEY: Do you – I’ll come back to you –

QUESTION: -- Iran’s foreign minister is apparently going to attend the Kabul meeting. I was wondering if –

MR. CROWLEY: Start again.

QUESTION: The Iranian foreign minister is going to attend the Kabul meeting conference, it appears. Will the Secretary interact with him?

MR. CROWLEY: I doubt it.

QUESTION: P.J., there is a bit of concern in southern Florida over the plans by a Spanish oil company to drill off Cuba’s northeast coast. Do you have any concern – does the State Department have any concern about this in light of what is happening not too far away?

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) let me take the question. I don’t know how much we know about that particular –

QUESTION: It’s called Repsol. They’re in an exploration stage.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, I’ll take the question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Are you – hold on – almost. Almost free. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Assistant Secretary Campbell has mentioned, regarding the U.S. concerning talks with – negotiation with North Korea. What is the United States final destinations of diplomatic relation with North Korea in the future –

MR. CROWLEY: What’s our final destination?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: Our final destination is pretty clear. It’s a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a North Korea that is able to play a constructive role in the region. That is not currently the case and we are trying to see how we can move North Korea along a different path to that final destination. That’s still a work in progress.

QUESTION: On Assistant Secretary Shapiro’s “The Obama Administration loves Israel; please vote Democratic in November” speech this morning –

MR. CROWLEY: Say what?

QUESTION: You heard me. He said that the Obama Administration has taken action to expand security cooperation and assistance with Israel to an unprecedented level. But I’m wondering, he also refers to the 2007 memorandum of understanding with the – between – it was signed by the Bush administration and Israel to increase – to provide 30 billion in assistance in Israel – security assistance over 10 years. I’m wondering if what this Administration has done is anything more than what would have been done anyway regardless of who had won the last election. In other words, if the unprecedented level to which he refers would have happened anyway based on the 2007 memorandum of understanding.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s say, first of all, that there is broad continuity in U.S. foreign policy and across Democratic and Republican administrations. We all have recognized the value and importance of the U.S.-Israeli security relationship. As Andrew Shapiro said in his speech today, and I think he’s quoted this morning in the paper, we think it’s important and a secure Israel will be better positioned to make the difficult decisions that it faces on peace with its neighbors. So it is in our interest to work significantly with Israel to ensure not only its security, but also in the projects – the wide range of projects that we have with Israel. We share information, technology, and this, in turn, benefits the United States. So there was a lot – there’s been a lot going on on this front going back several administrations to Israel’s foundation. And security cooperation has intensified over the past 15 or 20 years.

I think all we’re saying is how we found it in 2009 – we have continued to aggressively work and nurture this relationship. A lot of these – there have been new program starts since 2009. There’s been a maturation of programs that were started not only by the Bush Administration, but by the Clinton Administration, and probably going back to the first Bush Administration. So this is an indication of the continuity, but I think in the story in today’s paper, we got high marks from one individual who doesn’t normally go out of his way to commend a Democratic administration for its handling of this particular dimension of our relationship. So this is something we put a lot of emphasis in – on over the past 18 months because security is a fundamental dimension of the – our efforts to achieve lasting security and peace in the region.

QUESTION: So you don’t believe it’s a bit disingenuous for the Administration --

MR. CROWLEY: No, not at all. Not at all.

QUESTION: -- to take credit for bringing this to an unprecedented level when it would have been brought to an unprecedented level anyway based on an agreement that was signed in – three years ago?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s – I don’t think that’s hyperbole at all.

QUESTION: But if you can’t --

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve placed great emphasis in this. We can – we have tangible accomplishments that Andrew pointed to in his speech. And what’s crucial is that this cooperation is mutually beneficial and it reinforces what we’re doing with George Mitchell in the region as we speak.

QUESTION: Fair enough, but can you point to anything specifically that wouldn’t – that this Administration has done that wouldn’t have been done anyway?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, tell you what. Let me go back and review his speech and see if there’s anything I want to flag for you.

Have a nice weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)

DPB #116

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - July 16]