Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 25, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Op-Ed in USA Today / NSA Programs
    • Review of Surveillance Capabilities / Counterterrorism Efforts
    • Discussions with Allies / Long Term Relationships
    • United Nations Resolution / Privacy on the Internet
  • IRAQ
    • Ongoing Dialogue / ISIL / Al-Qaeda
    • Foreign Minister Zebari to Visit Washington
  • NIGERIA
    • Two U.S. Citizens Kidnapped on Vessel / Coordination with Parties
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Congressional Authority over Assistance
    • BSA / Technical Review / Loya Jirga
  • ROK / DPRK
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with ROK Director of National Security Kim Jang-soo
    • Policy Approach to North Korea
    • Improved Inter-Korean Relations
  • LEBANON
    • Condemnation of Violence
  • LIBYA
    • Benghazi
  • IRAN
    • Consultations with Congress / Sanctions
    • Negotiating Strategy / Diplomatic Progress
  • PAKISTAN
    • Review of Amnesty International Reports
  • JAPAN / CHINA
    • Encourage Dialogue


TRANSCRIPT:

1:35 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. Happy Friday.

QUESTION: Yay.

MS. PSAKI: I just have – what did you say?

QUESTION: I said, “Yay.”

MS. PSAKI: Yay. I have one item for all of you at the top.

I know there’s been quite a lot of discussion in here over the last couple of days about, of course, the recent NSA disclosures. I wanted to point you all to an op-ed that Lisa – by Lisa Monaco that ran this morning in USA Today, and as we work to communicate through a range of mechanisms with both the domestic audience and the international audience on what these programs are and aren’t, what we are doing, what reviews are underway, this is part of this effort.

And let me say before I kind of highlight a couple of points that, as you know, it is no secret that over the last few months, a series – these unauthorized disclosures of classified information have of course led to criticisms of our intelligence activity by many of our friends and partners. It’s created significant challenges in our relationships with some of our partners and has been, of course, a public distraction, as you even saw over the last couple of days. But in our effort to communicate, I just wanted to highlight a couple of points.

One is no one disputes the need for careful, thorough intelligence gathering. It’s not a secret that we collect information about what is happening around the world to help protect our citizens, our allies, and our homeland. So does every intelligence service in the world. There are conversations that have been ongoing with a range of partners around the world about these activities, including over the past week or so. Our capabilities – while our capabilities are unmatched, the U.S. Government is not operating unrestrained. Three branches of government – all three branches of government play a role in overseeing our intelligence activities, and though we collect the same sort of intelligence as all nations, our intelligence community has more restrictions and oversight than any of these country – than any other country in history.

What are we doing moving forward? This is a good question, an important question, and one that was addressed by this op-ed. As many of you know, because you’ve reported on it, but many people in the public don’t know, the President has directed us to review, directed the government to review our surveillance capabilities, including with respect to our foreign partners. We want to ensure we’re collecting information because we need it and not just because we can. And there’s also been a review group, the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, created to provide recommendations on these issues, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is reviewing our counterterrorism efforts to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are appropriately protected as well. As you also know, this review we expect to conclude by the end of the year.

Finally, going forward, we will of course continue to gather the information we need to keep ourselves and our allies safe. We of course will factor in the views of our friends and partners as we have those discussions with them, and we’ll continue to balance our security needs with privacy concerns. We fully expect – and I know this is another question that’s come up, of course – that allegations – more allegations will surface given the quantity of classified information leaked by Mr. Snowden.

But I want to set the precedent – or set the point, I guess, from here today that we have no plans to lay out our tactics or further specific details from here. We’re not going to confirm or deny every report. And we feel, as you’ve heard us say a couple of times, that the best place to have these conversations is with our allies, with our diplomatic partners. Those will continue, and we’ll address pieces as they come.

So with that, let me turn it over to you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Well, thank you for starting out with that, because that was what I was going to start out with as well. I don’t think that anyone disputes that the United States, or any other country for that matter, has the right, and in fact, the obligation to use intelligent – to conduct intelligence operations to protect their citizens.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But what I think the problem is is that it appears as though, although you say this is not your – the government is not operating unrestrained, it appears as though it may be, and that some of the information gathered does not directly relate to intelligence, and it’s been used by U.S. officials at the United Nations and elsewhere to get an unfair – well, one might say unfair – but to get an upper hand in negotiations with friends and potentially rivals.

I don’t think, again, anyone disputes the fact that the United States is going to act in its own best interests, but let’s face it: If the UN or negotiations on trade treaties or anything like that were a casino, you guys would get tossed out for cheating. And that, I think, is the concern for people. So can you say, from here, how it is exactly that gathering intelligence on the phone calls of foreign leaders, their emails – particularly when they’re allies – keeps America safe – keep Americans, America, and its allies safe, and isn’t just a way for you to have the upper hand in any kind of international conversation?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to, as I’m sure will come as no surprise and as I previewed a bit, outline the reasons or outline the processes. But what is important here – and maybe I can give a little bit more here on the review and what the review is doing – that that is underway. It’s a high-level group of outside experts who will review our intelligence and communications technologies. Obviously, we wouldn’t be doing that if that wasn’t something that the President and the teams felt was essential to evaluate all of these programs – what’s being gathered, what is it used for, et cetera.

They will consider as part of this how we can maintain the public’s trust, how the surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public. As I mentioned, that review, we expect it will be concluded by the end of the year. And as we have that review concluded, I’m sure we’ll have more to say on it.

QUESTION: All right. Well, I think I would take issue with your idea that you need to maintain the public trust. I think you’ve probably – the Administration has lost the public trust and you need to regain it rather than maintain it. But can you say – when you say, and Ms. Monaco says in her op-ed, that you’re not operating unrestrained and that this government is operating with more restrictions and oversight than any other country in history, is it not the case that those restrictions – or that there have been violations of the restrictions on – that the FISA court and others have put on your intelligence gathering operations? And is it also not the case that your overseas operations are not restrained by either the courts or the legislative branch?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, this may be unsatisfying to you, but I just would point you to the fact that these programs are being reviewed. They wouldn’t be reviewed if we didn’t feel there was a need to review them. And as we look through them and look through all the details, we will make evaluations.

QUESTION: Well, can you assure people that the restrictions that you’re talking about apply overseas to overseas intelligence gathering as they do to domestic?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look into more specifics on the different restrictions and where they apply, and don’t want to speak out of turn.

QUESTION: All right. And then domestically – and I realize this isn’t your purview --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is it not the case that there have been violations, and that the restrictions haven’t always been followed?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, again, we’re reviewing these programs because we think there’s a reason to review them. And it’s also important to note, as you all know – and I realize you’re covering the State Department, but you also cover all these issues as they relate – these programs are not run out of the State Department; they’re run out of the intel community. We have a role to play that, of course, is important given our role as diplomats around the world.

QUESTION: But you are – this building is a consumer and apparently a voracious consumer of the information that is harvested, particularly on – at the UN and overseas. So I don’t – while you may not be doing it yourself, you are taking advantage of it. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: The fruits of the --

MS. PSAKI: -- speak to that, Matt. But I also think there is an important role that we play as we work through our relationships and work through conversations about these issues, absolutely.

QUESTION: All right. I have one last one which is logistical, very brief.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about this German delegation that’s coming to talk about --

MS. PSAKI: I know this was just recently announced. I know German officials plan to travel to Washington in coming weeks. We expect they will meet with a range – have a range of meetings with relevant officials across the interagency. We don’t have specifics on those yet.

QUESTION: You don’t have dates, or do you know if this building is involved at all? Or is it mainly an intel-to-intel thing?

MS. PSAKI: That’s still being determined. When I – and I spoke with the Secretary about this this morning, and that we – certainly, over the last couple of days, as many of you know who were on the trip or followed the trip, these issues came up in some of our conversations. He is happy to play a role where appropriate in talking through them. I don’t know yet, with that delegation, whether that will be applicable to us or not.

QUESTION: Jen, yesterday the Secretary spoke about the U.S.’s image and its influence abroad.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And given what the scandal has now done to that image --

MS. PSAKI: The shutdown, or the --

QUESTION: No, we’re talking about the spying one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How – and also given that this building is at the forefront of diplomacy, do you think that the scandal has further tarnished that image? I mean – and the other one is: How do you restore that trust? Because this is an issue of trust.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s not about anything – it’s about your allies continuing to trust you as they move ahead on trade talks, on other issues.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, a couple things in there, so let me see if I can try to address them.

There’s no question that the disclosure of classified information has become – has posed a moment of tension with some of our allies. We’re having discussions with those allies. Those will continue, as is evidenced by the German delegation that will be coming here in the coming weeks. Even in the past week, if you look at the Secretary’s trip, this is an issue that he discussed with the French and an issue he discussed with the Italians. And he certainly recognizes that as we look to pursue a range of diplomatic priorities, whether that’s working together on global issues like Syria or Iran or TTIP – you mentioned trade negotiations – it would really be a mistake to let these disclosures get in the way of that, which is why he is open to and certainly happy to play a role as needed as the nation’s chief diplomat to have these conversations.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to anybody this morning, the European allies, about this? Or has this been mainly handled by the White House?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe he has. I’ll check on that for you and I’m happy to. I don’t have any calls that he’s done this morning. He’s had a pretty active morning with internal meetings, et cetera. But as you know, he spoke with Prime Minister Letta about this, and he also spoke with Foreign Minister Fabius about this over the last couple of days.

QUESTION: And I have a last question on – I’m just saying that you believe that there are more allegations that are going to come forward. I mean, can you give some sense of – isn’t it best to just break the ice and say, look, we think that this is – this has been happening elsewhere, we will stop doing it and we will agree to a pact --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- a no-spy pact?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly – what I said – and it’s important, the language – is that we expect – we don’t know – but we certainly expect that that is something that could happen in the weeks ahead. There have been conversations about intel gathering and these programs long before Edward Snowden entered all of our lives, and those will continue. These are programs we work with other countries on. As there are concerns that are expressed, we will have addressed those and will continue to moving forward.

QUESTION: Just – can I follow up on --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Well, why don’t we go to Shaun right here --

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: -- and we’ll get around.

QUESTION: Just on that, the European Union in Brussels at their talks today, there was a call for – by the French and the Germans --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to have talks with the United States by the end of the year, specifically on the eavesdropping issue. Is that something that the United States is agreeable to, having these talks with the French and the Germans specifically by the end of the year?

MS. PSAKI: I know this was a new proposal, of course. As I mentioned, the Secretary is open to a range of requests that come about. We are still reviewing and have not made a decision, but I think as evidenced by the fact that we have invited the Germans to come here, the Secretary has had conversations with the Italians and the French, we’ve had officials – high-level officials who are not the Secretary of State and not the President have conversations as well, as evidence of our openness of having them. But I don’t have anything specific on that for you.

QUESTION: But is that something that, in general, the State Department or the United States would be conducive to?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly are open to having conversations about these issues and addressing concerns as they come. And what I was trying to point to was evidence of – the past couple of days and weeks as evidence of that.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up to that?

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to follow up on something that Lesley referred to.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: She – in mentioning the surveillance of foreign leaders, she said the word “scandal.” Do you agree that this is a scandal? Do you agree that this – the surveillance of foreign leaders is in fact a scandal?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to put additional words on it, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I said that this has caused tensions at times, as you all know. This is an issue that has been a public distraction. I think that’s how I labeled it, and I’ll stick with that.

QUESTION: Okay. Now for these foreign leaders to raise concerns or to complain about these things --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- do they go through diplomatic channels, the embassies, or they can pick up the phone and speak to the President directly or to the Secretary of State?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d refer you to my old friends at the White House for specifics on that, but the Secretary speaks with his – as you all know from the range of calls he does with his counterparts around the world frequently. As this issue comes up, he’s happy to address it. But ambassadors and other officials within our Administration are also often involved in discussions.

QUESTION: Now, these alleged surveillance activities, are they different for each different leader, or is it like a standard one yardstick fits all or a cookie-cutter approach?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to detail that, but conversations about them can range from country to country.

QUESTION: A follow-up --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- question about the delegation coming over next week. They were quoted as saying they want to discuss potential legal remedies for EU citizens. And I was wondering: Does the U.S. Government reject out of hand the idea of paying reparations stemming from such claims?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those reports, Lucas. Obviously, we have discussions about concerns and proposals that are put forward, but I don’t have anything specific for you on that.

QUESTION: And yesterday I had asked Jen – or excuse me, asked Marie to get back to me on whether President Obama had been spied on. Is there any follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: I would pose that question to the White House, but I don’t have anything on that. You’re the first person who’s asked, who’s asked us that question.

QUESTION: Understood. But she said she would take it, and I was wondering if you could take it as a taken.

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s anything to tell you on that.

QUESTION: Thank you. And finally, just one more. Ben Rhodes said at the Reuters summit that the NSA scandals had no across-the-board impact and suggested that Brazil was an exception. But given the response from Germany and France, it would seem that this fallout is actually transcontinental.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what he was referring to is our long-term relationships and the work we do with these countries on a range of other issues, which is something I touched on a little bit. And it’s an important point in that it would be a mistake for discussions over disclosures and concerns about intel gathering from other countries to distract from or take away from work we’re doing on other very important issues. And even in the last couple of days, while this did certainly come up, as we said publicly, with the Italians and the French, the conversations in the meetings were focused on many other issues that we work together on.

QUESTION: But you agree with Mr. Rhodes that Brazil is the exception?

MS. PSAKI: I think the public comments that have been made and the steps that have been taken by the Brazilians is perhaps evidence of that. But again, we work case by case with each country.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that. You’ve been – I understand your anxiety about commenting on the allegations themselves, but you’ve been very open about the diplomatic back and forth.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s the role the State Department plays.

QUESTION: Absolutely.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And in that light, I mean, we know the German Chancellor has been in touch this week and the French President has. Have any of the other 35 world leaders that we wrote about yesterday specifically asked whether they’ve been spied on, to your knowledge?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific on that. I mean, the conversations that I’ve mentioned are ones we’ve talked about a bit but are ones the Secretary has had. Obviously, there are a range of officials in the government in touch with a range of officials overseas. So beyond the Secretary’s conversations, I don’t have anything for you.

QUESTION: But as well as – I mean, those have been general conversations, but there are specific concerns about leaders being spied upon. And you have accepted that the Germans --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- have made that question. I wonder: Do we take from that – your silence and others – that they haven’t been asking that question, or can you just not say?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more for you on it.

QUESTION: And just one quick follow-up on a point that was raised a minute ago about the sort of possible repercussions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As well as calling for talks, the French and Germans today have said they want to review their cooperation with the U.S. on intelligence matters. Can you talk a little bit about your concerns about that, whether there is a danger that this will reduce your ability to act on sort of more pure counterterrorism matters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first that we are happy to have those conversations and listen to and hear from our partners around the world as they express their concerns. We cooperate with those countries and many other countries on counterterrorism operations, and we expect and are hopeful that that will continue.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Same topic.

MS. PSAKI: Oh.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well --

MS. PSAKI: Margaret.

QUESTION: Jen, I mean, more broadly here, the extension of the story, you said you wouldn’t be surprised if further questions come forward --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and further reports. And in some ways, it’s the drip, drip, drip nature of this information --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that is making this a continued story that is building and building. It becomes this death of a thousand cuts scenario.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So is there the thought within this building to have proactive communication in country perhaps with some of the other ambassadors so that they can communicate with the countries that they’re in rather than waiting to be demarched after something appears in a newspaper report?

MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, it’s not as if we here have a communications plan in our clutches for how information may or may not be alleged – allegations may or may not be leaked moving forward. But it is important to note that there have been ongoing conversations long before this about programs on intel gathering and others with a range of countries, and those will continue.

QUESTION: But is there the thought of, if not doing it in country, then just having some sort of uniform disclosure with the European parliament or something? I mean, is there any proactive communication so it’s not responding to a newspaper report but saying here’s what we have, here’s what --

MS. PSAKI: There are proactive communications about a range of issues that have been ongoing since before Snowden entered our lives on a range of issues. Beyond that, I don’t have any predictions for you on some of the points you’ve mentioned.

QUESTION: So in your opening you said that this had created big challenges. Can you elaborate on what those challenges are?

MS. PSAKI: Well, even, Matt, pointing to the fact that we’re talking about this now and it’s --

QUESTION: Instead of talking about drones?

MS. PSAKI: -- or instead of talking about efforts on Iran or what we’re doing on Syria, Egypt --

QUESTION: Okay. So in other words --

MS. PSAKI: -- the fact that the Secretary has addressed it and that this is even a part of the discussion.

QUESTION: So it’s more of a – so it’s a distraction. It’s keeping you from attending to what you regard as more important business of the nation. Is that essentially what you mean by challenges?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, that’s part of it, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then you also said it would be a mistake to let these disclosures get in the way of that. And I believe that “that” – the “that” in your sentence there – was the TTIP --

MS. PSAKI: Well, a range of – TTIP is an example, but discussions on Iran, on Syria, on all of the issues we work together on.

QUESTION: All right. So basically any kind of negotiation, it would be a mistake to have these – for these disclosures to get in the way of ongoing --

MS. PSAKI: Making progress on, say --

QUESTION: Right. So can I --

MS. PSAKI: And TTIP is a good example.

QUESTION: All right. So can I ask you this, though?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, if you’re involved in a negotiation and you find out that one side is cheating, why is it a mistake for them not to at least initiate a pause? I go back to my casino – no, here’s something better: I mean, if you’re negotiating to buy a house and the person that you’re negotiating with, the owner, knows that you have an upper limit that you will go to and that they can extract that much out of you with inside information that they got from monitoring you, why continue to stay in the negotiation? Why is it – I guess the question is: Why is it a mistake for other countries, once they have found out that you are operating in a way that they find to be offensive or objectionable, why shouldn’t they stop?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t, as I am sure you will not be surprised by, validate your description. But I will say that that’s why we’re having conversations with these countries, why we’ve invited the Germans to have meetings here through the interagency. And the point is – and TTIP is a good example. That’s a trade agreement that will create thousands of jobs here and in Europe. That’s very important and would benefit the American people, the people in Europe, create jobs, economic growth. That’s something we still think should proceed, and we’re open to addressing concerns about this or anything else as well.

QUESTION: So you would reject the idea that you have been cheating in negotiations over that or anything else by monitoring conversations of foreign officials? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I would reject that description, yes.

QUESTION: You would. So then the – I mean, the whole premise of this intelligence operation is to protect from terrorist threats, right? You are not able, I don’t think, to assure people that you have been – that the information that you have collected has been limited to only that. Am I correct?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, let me – I’m not going to outline what the information was or wasn’t used for. Again, we’re reviewing these programs to look at all of these questions that you’re raising.

QUESTION: In at least one of the documents that I think The Guardian published, or at least quoted from, it talks about then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice basically giving a testimonial to how wonderful this – the NSA was because it allowed her to get information about other countries’ negotiating positions, particularly on Iran sanctions. Is that an appropriate use of the intelligence that you – that was harvested from this program?

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, we’re looking at what information is gathered, what it’s used for. There’s a review ongoing.

QUESTION: Well, is – in the end, does the review – will the review – or is the review designed to make sure that intelligence gathered from these programs is only used to protect from – protect against terrorist threats?

MS. PSAKI: The purpose of the review is to evaluate how the surveillance impacts our foreign policy while also striving to protect the security of the American people as well as --

QUESTION: Okay. And how do you go about assuring foreign publics in particular, or foreign governments and foreign leaders, that the information that you get is not being used for anything other than that? Do they just have to take your word for it?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, as I said, we’re having conversations with a range of partners and allies. Those conversations are private. That’s where we feel the negotiations should happen.

QUESTION: But the bottom line is that they have to take your word for it, right?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: Well, if you’re not --

MS. PSAKI: -- outline for you --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- what information we’re sharing and not during private conversations.

QUESTION: Okay, fine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the bottom line is that they have to take your – they have to trust you that you are not going to use this information that’s been hoovered up all over the place for anything other than protecting national security and protecting against terrorist threats.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we outlined the purposes and what we do, and have conversations addressing their concerns.

Do we have any more on this topic?

QUESTION: You said you were reviewing your capabilities and your technology, but shouldn’t you already know that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Lucas, part of this is that more information is becoming public, more information is available. This is a system that we’ve obviously taken a step back, or I should say a process that we’ve taken a step back, and the President has asked for a review of that. It’s not that it’s not known; it’s a review of what’s appropriate and what isn’t, and that’s part of that process.

QUESTION: So this building did not know it was capable of what it had done?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I’m referring to. Obviously, there are a range of activities that the intel community undergoes. Those are under review. That’s what that means.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I mean, setting aside Germany and Italy and France, for instance, the Spanish Prime Minister has asked the U.S. Ambassador for some explanation regarding this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What can an American diplomat say in this case? Like, we were listening to your conversations just for your own sake, for your own good? Or --

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think any of those conversations are most appropriate being had – having – happening, I should say – being had, it’s not even grammatically correct – happening at the level between our diplomats serving in these posts around the world and the relevant governments, and they would outline for them many of the things I just said about the purposes, the fact that we’re undergoing a review. But beyond that, I’m not going to outline what happens in private conversations.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, in the green. And we’ll go to you right next.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: With regards to the 35 world leaders’ names, can you say that the UK has not been a recipient of this monitoring? And how has that changed the relationship, perhaps, with these closest allies?

MS. PSAKI: I know that the White House, I believe, has addressed this specifically. I’d point you to that. Beyond that, in terms of our conversations with them, I know we’ve been having ongoing conversations. I don’t have anything new for you though.

In the back.

QUESTION: You mentioned the – that’s the – there is an ongoing review --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the results will be over at, say – the outcome will be at the end of this year.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: ‘Til that, which is the end of this year, the business is done as usual at – which means whatever it was – surveillance was going on in the same way ‘til the end of the year, ‘til the review is coming out, or it’s posed or it’s --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into details on that. Obviously, the review is important. I’ve talked about that a bit. These conversations with countries are ongoing. That, of course, will factor into decisions that are made moving forward as well, and those conversations will happen over the coming weeks.

QUESTION: A point of clarification. I mean, you mentioned that we invited the Germans.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You invited the Germans, or did the Germans ask to come?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. Let me see if I have any further clarification. I know I’ve been saying that so I don’t want to – let me see if I can get some clarification on that. Obviously, often what happens is you work through with a country their interest in coming and then you invite them, but I will see if there’s more.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, just because if you are inviting, I mean, I was going to ask if you are planning or having in mind to invite other people or not.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have been having discussions with a range of other countries, so we’ll take it case by case. But I’ll see if I can get some clarification on that for all of you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: He mentions that the intelligence gathering is carried out by the intelligence community and not the State Department. Not exactly clear if that’s the case given recent reports. I was just wondering if you’d answer if any State Department employees offered contact information to foreign – of foreign leaders to the NSA?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen those reports. I don’t have anything for you on it.

QUESTION: So you don’t know if there were any State Department employees that --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t anything for you on it.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: You said that U.S. is gathering foreign intelligence, gathering information, in the manner in which other countries are doing it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But we haven’t seen any classified, unclassified documents or leaks in the public domain about other countries. So is your statement based on guesswork, or there’s some concrete facts that other countries are doing it?

MS. PSAKI: Our statement is based on cooperation with a range of countries, and obviously the information that has been leaked, the classified information that’s been leaked over the past couple of weeks was U.S. information, so that might speak to that.

QUESTION: I got one more brief one.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s just that the French and Germans have expressed interest in going to the United Nations for some kind of UN action on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is this something that the United States believes is appropriate or is – do you believe it’s best handled in bilateral talks between you and whoever has a problem?

MS. PSAKI: I think it was – was it Brazil and Germany or was it the French and Germany?

QUESTION: I really can’t --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I just wanted to make sure I was talking about the same thing.

QUESTION: But there is – whoever it, I mean, there is – there has been – there have been suggestions to bring this – so do you think that that’s the right venue to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen that. We know there have been reports, I believe it’s of Brazil and Germany.

QUESTION: Okay

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure if the French are involved of considering a resolution on privacy in the internet. And we’ll, of course, review that when text is made available. I would point you to one of the statements that was made. The Germans actually said that they’re putting all efforts into forging a joint understanding for the cooperation of the intelligence agencies between Germany and the U.S. and France to create a framework for cooperation.

So I know I would refer you, of course, as usual, to them on their reasons and their thinking --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but we haven’t seen the text yet, so --

QUESTION: But it’s not something that you’re opposed to in principle.

MS. PSAKI: No, no. We will look at the text when the text is available.

QUESTION: But the UN, not the German – not the joint German-U.S. friendship.

MS. PSAKI: No. That’s a different --

QUESTION: I’m talking about (inaudible) might be, the UN.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll have those. Our – obviously, our U.S. – our UN mission in New will review the text as usual when that’s available.

QUESTION: But you have (inaudible) from that statement. I mean, is it fair to say that this idea of the Germans of drawing up an understanding, is something to which you’re warm to?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t reading it to speak to that. I was reading it to convey that their comments were an effort at cooperation – that’s what they pointed to. What form that cooperation means, we’ll pursue discussions over the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Jen, just as a matter of record, do you know if the tensions you’ve spoken about has jeopardized in any way the P5+1 talks, or any upcoming talks over the next several days or weeks?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Whether they are --

MS. PSAKI: I was making more of a general comment. I’m not sure if there’s --

QUESTION: So the Europeans haven’t said, we’re putting a pause on this until it’s cleared up?

MS. PSAKI: Again, there’s a range of conversations going on every day, so I – but not that I’m aware of. It’s just a general point given all of the work we do with our European partners.

QUESTION: Can you --

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Can we do Allie since she hasn’t had one yet?

QUESTION: I’ll follow-up on that question about the tension.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The characterization of this is just raising tensions. Seems like something that could be – something easily papered over, but don’t you foresee some lasting damages to this? I mean, what kind of lasting damage do you see as might be a result of these revelations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a good question. But the point is we’re hopeful it’s not, and that’s why we’re working so hard to have these conversations to continue to encourage these countries to work with us on the range of issues that we work with them that are so important to making progress globally, and why we have expressed an openness to having them. And that’s one of the reasons that the Germans are, of course, coming here in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Are we – okay. Go ahead. Iraq.

QUESTION: One of the issues eclipsed by this discussion. Anyway, could you confirm or deny that Iraq has agreed to renegotiate strategic arrangements that they had with you in view of the uptick of the violence that is taking place right now, such as perhaps supplying them with drones, or in fact the U.S. using drones to go after terrorist camps?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not aware of that and I have not heard of that, to be honest.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We do have an ongoing dialogue with the Government of Iraq to help improve its capacity, and to address and degrade ISIL’s ability. That’s true. Those conversations are of course ongoing. We consider them an essential partner in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq and that’s why we’re focused on it. But in terms of renegotiation of anything, I’m not aware of that as being planned.

QUESTION: The reason I am asking that is this is, of course – Prime Minister Maliki is coming to town next week.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And Iraqis are saying or claiming that you have assured them to speed up the process, delivery of F-16 fighter jets and also to – they are looking at – they are sort of – they’re looking positively at the idea of the U.S. perhaps using drones in their fight against terrorism. That’s why I’m asking.

So has there been anything in that realm, and that, in fact, Secretary of State Kerry is involved in this process?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I know we’re working with the White House and preparing for this trip, but I’m not aware of the specifics on the plans at this point along those lines. But we work with Iraq closely; this is another opportunity to do that, as they visit.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. PSAKI: Is it Iraq?

QUESTION: No. Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, can we go here and then we’ll go right to you?

QUESTION: Nigeria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The snatching of two Americans, I was wondering if you had any update whether the – in terms of the U.S. Government response or about the condition of the two Americans who were captured?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have much new, but let me just see what I have and see if it offers anything new for you. And I know Marie spoke to this yesterday, it was just – days are running into each other. But as I think she said, we of course are aware that the two U.S. citizens have been kidnapped from a U.S.-flagged vessel. We continue to seek additional information about the incident. We’re not going to outline details publicly, in part because our primary concern is the rapid return of these two citizens. And we’re continuing to coordinate with appropriate parties, but I really don’t have any additional public update at this point.

QUESTION: Sure. Is there any action that potentially is being planned, contemplated, to --

MS. PSAKI: We’re just not going to speak to our efforts publicly.

QUESTION: Jen, the Nigerian Navy has said that they’ve located the ship. I’m – if you have anything on that, great, but more broadly --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- how frequently are you in touch with the Nigerian Navy? How often are you getting updates from them?

MS. PSAKI: The navy, specifically, I can’t speak to. We are, of course, in touch on the ground with our Nigerian colleagues through diplomatic channels. Of course, as I stated, we are very focused on returning these two individuals safely and that’s something that our Embassy on the ground is working on.

Any more on Nigeria? Okay.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, I almost didn’t go to you next. Sorry about that. Afghanistan. I didn’t – Allie jumped ahead of you.

QUESTION: Senator Carl Levin has just concluded his week-long to Afghanistan and today he issued a statement saying that U.S. will not give any aid to Afghanistan until – unless a BSA is signed. Does the State Department agrees with his views?

MS. PSAKI: So I have seen his statements, and I would point you --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Senator Levin.

QUESTION: Levin.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you, of course, to his office for clarification on what that means, but ultimately Congress has the authority over whether the United States will provide assistance to Afghanistan in the future. We the Administration intends to continue our close partnership with Afghanistan and support its development moving forward, even past 2014. It is – there’s no question it would be difficult, if we failed to conclude the BSA, to justify our programs to Congress and make that case.

So that is certainly accurate. But currently our bilateral assistance to Afghanistan continues as normal. There’s no changes at this time. And as you know, because we were just in Afghanistan a week and a half ago or two weeks ago – I can’t remember the dates now – we made progress on the BSA, there’s been announcements about the timing of a Loya Jirga. That’s the next step on the ground, and we’re certainly hopeful about continued progress on that.

QUESTION: Jen, from – on the BSA from the U.S. side, I presume that everything that the Secretary and his colleagues, when we were in Kabul, said stands.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it correct? Did – I know there was some talk about how it needed to be basically lawyered up back here.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, a technical review. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The lawyers had to get – and so do you know, is that review, one, complete? And two, if it is complete, did they make any changes to it, or is it essentially the same thing that the Secretary agreed to with Karzai in Kabul, from the U.S. side?

MS. PSAKI: My understanding, Matt, is it’s ongoing. It’s a good question. I will check and see if there’s been --

QUESTION: Do you have a way to put the question – is all that is needed now Afghan blessing through the Loya Jirga and parliament?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Or is there still something that has to be – that you guys want to change?

MS. PSAKI: Right. My understanding is the technical review is still ongoing. I will double-check on that. And as the Secretary said when he left Kabul, or as we confirmed when he left Kabul, there was an agreement on the text. And that’s the text that would be taken. I understand you’re asking if there were any changes to the text --

QUESTION: From your side.

MS. PSAKI: -- from our side. Not that I’m aware of. I believe the review’s ongoing, but I will check with the team and see.

QUESTION: Jen, if there’s changes from the Loya Jirga’s side, some recommendations, would the U.S. would be willing to open the text --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get into a hypothetical. We left Kabul with an understanding that that was the text that would be taken to the Loya Jirga. As you know, they’ve talked about a timeline for that, so that’s really one of the next steps on that end.

QUESTION: Jen, Secretary Kerry met with South Korean Director National Security Kim Jang-soo this morning.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you read out on that?

MS. PSAKI: I can. So the Secretary and the South Korean National Security Director Kim Jang-soo had a productive exchange on a range of bilateral and regional issues. I should mention Under Secretary Sherman was also part of that meeting. Both sides reaffirmed our intention to coordinate and closely cooperate with respect to our policy approach to North Korea.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that?

QUESTION: Did they discuss on North Korean nuclear issues at the meeting and seriously about the Six-Party Talks?

MS. PSAKI: They discussed an agreement to continue to cooperate and coordinate. Our position hasn’t changed, that the ball is in North Korea’s court. So nothing has changed on that front as of this morning.

Oh. I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: Has there been any progress on the issue of wartime operation control? On several occasions the South Korean officials expressed their hope that they can postpone the timing of transfer indefinitely until there is no security threats on the Korean peninsula. Has there been any --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that from here. I believe that he was also meeting with Secretary Hagel today. And an update on that would probably be more appropriate to come from the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Just to follow up briefly on that, there’s – yesterday or the day before, there was a think tank report talking about expansion of tunnel work in North Korea at the testing site.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How concerned is the United States with potential expansion of the North Korean nuclear program. Is there a sense that things are actually stepping up with the program?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to that, as I’m sure is not unexpected, in terms of our intelligence and what we’re looking at. Obviously, our position hasn’t changed in terms of the steps they need to take. Unfortunately, I just don’t have anything more for you on that.

QUESTION: So you said that Mr. Kim meeting with the Secretary Hagel today?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that he – you’d have to double-check with them, but I believe he met with him as well today. So they may have an update or a readout for you as well.

QUESTION: Did they have a more discuss about defense issues and with --

MS. PSAKI: That would make sense, but I would point you to them for any more specific readout. I have to wrap up to do a Twitter Q&A. Tune in.

Margaret.

QUESTION: Sorry. On the topic of South Korea, does this building view it as a positive or hopeful step that the North Koreans released six prisoners in a surprise decision? I mean, does this signal anything?

MS. PSAKI: We of course support, as you know, inter-Korean – an improvement – an improved inter-Korean relations. I would refer you to the South Koreans for more specifics on this. I know this was just a report as of this morning, I believe.

QUESTION: Just quickly --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- a follow-up: Matt asked yesterday about a Kurdish activist, Kerim Yildiz. There is – the ACLU was complaining that allegedly he wasn’t receiving a visa out of concern --

MS. PSAKI: I know Matt asked about that yesterday. Let me just see if I have – well, Matt, sorry to disappoint you.

QUESTION: No, I already got the bad news earlier.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. But for your answer, Shaun, as – well, as is standard operating procedure, visa records are, of course, confidential. I don’t have, unfortunately, anything – any light to shed for you on this specific case.

QUESTION: Jen, any reaction to the clashes in north Lebanon that injured and killed more than 50 or 60 people?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen those. I don’t have anything specific on it for you. Of course, we would condemn any acts of violence and call for calm. I will see if there’s more specific that we can get you in terms of a comprehensive comment.

Lucas.

QUESTION: Jen, any more from yesterday, my questions pertaining to the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program and why the Benghazi suspects are not included?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new for you beyond what my colleague said yesterday.

QUESTION: Understood. I just wanted to bring something to your attention. Congressman McCaul’s office is circulating a letter to Secretary Kerry around Capitol Hill today. I was wondering how you would respond.

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t received the letter yet. I’m sure we will review it as we would any letter from Congress and respond accordingly.

QUESTION: I’ve got two brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Oh --

QUESTION: One more quick one, Matt, if you don’t mind?

QUESTION: Nope.

QUESTION: Also, we’re reporting that – at Fox – that three of the suspects have senior al-Qaida ties. And if that is the case, why would they not be included on that list?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more light to shed for you. I know my colleague outlined some details on the program, but beyond that, I don’t have anything new for you.

QUESTION: And very nebulous details.

MS. PSAKI: There you go. I’ll let you evaluate.

QUESTION: Well, she did, actually – on that, she did say that she would take questions to see if she could answer whether – if there was reason that perhaps these people didn’t meet the criteria to be on the list. So if I could restate that request for information, because --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Certainly.

QUESTION: Two unrelated, very brief.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One: On – as recently as two weeks ago, before the Geneva P5+1 talks, the Administration was telling Congress that it thought it would be a good idea not to move immediately with new sanctions on Iran and at least pending the – that – the Iranian presentation in Geneva.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if that is still the case, or if the Geneva presentation left you with the impression that maybe it would be good --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to add more heat to the mix.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we mentioned at the time when Under Secretary Sherman was leaving or returned from Iran, we would – or Iran, pardon me – returned from Geneva, we would start having close consultations with Congress, and those have obviously started. And as we have in the past, we have conveyed that any congressional action should be aligned with our negotiating strategy as we move forward.

So while we understand that Congress may consider new sanctions, we think this is a time for a pause, as we asked for in the past, to see if negotiations can gain traction. As you know – I think was reported, and many of you did – there was a meeting with some officials at the White House yesterday. That outreach will continue, and certainly we’ll be a part of that. And we feel that it’s important that any new proposals take into account the progress we’re making diplomatically and leave open the flexibility. There’s always time for sanctions in the future as needed, but this is an ask we’re making to Congress now.

QUESTION: All right. So it’s your view, then, that the Iranian proposal was something that can be worked on; it’s not something – it’s something that you can work with – it’s not acceptable as it may be presented now, but it’s something that you can work with and that new sanctions now might hurt?

MS. PSAKI: We think – let me say it slightly differently, but hopefully this answers – that the flexibility right now would be helpful in putting a pause on sanctions to see if this process will work out moving forward. We aren’t satisfied. Yes, there’s more work to be done, but we feel it would be helpful to the process.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. But it was my understanding that the Administration said that the reason – one of the main reasons, or maybe the only reason, that Iran agreed to come to the table this time was the sanctions were so hard. So wouldn’t it be logical that once you’ve got them to the table, adding more pressure would help and would make them more willing to compromise than saying – than holding off?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the – it is true, and we still feel firmly that one of the main reasons we’re here is because of the pressure of the sanctions.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: None of those sanctions have been pulled back, as we’ve discussed.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And that’s, of course – but our negotiating team, through our National – and working with our National Security team, made the decision that this would be helpful --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- in terms of providing some flexibility while we see if these negotiations will move forward.

QUESTION: Which – and it’s an argument that – I guess I understand the argument. I’m not sure that I – it makes much sense to me, though, because it would seem if you’ve got them, now would not be the time to ease the pressure. This seems to be a concession that you’re giving to the Iranians before they have presented even an adequate enough proposal for you to consider.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, what hasn’t changed is that we can always support and work with Congress on putting new sanctions in place.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: We certainly haven’t taken that option off the table.

QUESTION: But that’s – right, but --

MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about negotiations that are --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: -- in 10 days, so --

QUESTION: Right, yeah. But it’s a two – but it’s a door that – the door goes two – both ways. You could add sanctions, add more pressure to the Iranians to try and get them to concede more at the negotiating table, and then take them away. I just don’t understand. It seems to me that you’re forfeiting the opportunity to improve on what you have said as – is the only thing that brought the Iranians to the table in the first place. But apparently, you don’t agree with that.

MS. PSAKI: What I can convey to you is that the evaluation was made that this was the appropriate step in order to see if these negotiations can gain traction.

QUESTION: Okay. And then – wait, and my last one --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and I’m sure it’s going to be a very brief answer.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Have you guys finished reading the – reviewing the Amnesty International drone report on Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: It’s still under review.

QUESTION: Still under review? Somebody – so, what, it’s about an hour – a little more than an hour a page for this building of, what, 30,000 people to --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not just reading. It’s discussion always, Matt.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. Can you say if someone in this – anyone in this building has read the entire report yet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I have not spoken with them about that level of detail on their reading.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it would seem to – it seems to me that --

QUESTION: Will there be a response to it, then? I mean, earlier in the week you dismissed it as saying we can’t respond until we’ve read it. I mean, I think this is a serious allegation. Is it going to be responded to?

MS. PSAKI: I will talk to them and see if there will be. I understand, and obviously, we undergo discussions about reports that come out. I don’t have any prediction for you on what we’ll say about it at this point.

QUESTION: All right. You’re aware that some – the people who are mentioned in this report are going to be coming to this – Washington next week and will be testifying on the Hill. Do you know if they have any meetings here?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to check on that for all of you. I have to wrap this up. Let me do one in the back here.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. Could we do an East Asia --

MS. PSAKI: You can email me or Twitter, tweet me questions.

QUESTION: I tweeted you a question.

MS. PSAKI: I saw it.

QUESTION: Am I going to get an answer?

MS. PSAKI: You will.

QUESTION: Be careful on Twitter.

QUESTION: Yes, exactly. Be careful what you tweet.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Thanks. Prime Minister Abe of Japan made some pretty strongly worded comments in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying that if China made an attempt to change the status quo in the region, that they wouldn’t be able to emerge peacefully, and that many nations expect Japan to forcefully assert that they shouldn’t do that. Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I believe you’re referring to the report about the steps that they want to take, is that – about the report. I’m not sure I’ve seen these specific comments.

QUESTION: I don’t think so. Okay. It was a recent interview in The Wall Street Journal --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- where he made some – the comments that I just said about the regional disputes between U.S., Japan, and China.

MS. PSAKI: Our position, as you know, has been very consistent, which is that we believe that these debates, discussions should happen through dialogue. That’s something we continue to encourage both sides to do. I am happy to take a look at the interview and see if there’s more we can add to that.

QUESTION: As a general stance, does the U.S. welcome a more assertive Japanese role in security matters in the region?

MS. PSAKI: As we’ve talked about a bit in the past, and I know they’re looking at their constitution and a range of other issues, these are decisions, of course, they’ll make within Japan. And we discuss them with them.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)

DPB #177

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - October 25, 2013]