Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 10, 2014


Index for Today's Briefing
  • CUBA
    • U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords
  • IRAN
    • Ongoing Technical Discussions
  • INDIA
    • Dr. Khobragade's Departure / Diplomatic Immunity / Judicial Process / Status of the Maid
    • Foreign Diplomats / Obligations under U.S. Law
    • Expulsion of U.S. Official / U.S.-India Relationship
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Designations of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Individuals
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Secretary's Travel / Arab Peace Initiative
    • Settlements
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
    • Discussions on Political Transition / U.S. Urges Transparent, Inclusive Process
    • U.S. Citizens in C.A.R.
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Status of the BSA
  • NORTH AFRICA/MIDDLE EAST REGION
    • U.S. Foreign Policy Interests / Actively Engaged in Diplomatic Efforts around the World
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Reports of Child Killed / U.S. Regrets Any Loss of Life
  • TURKEY
    • U.S. Engaged with Range of Officials


TRANSCRIPT:

12:24 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Friday.

QUESTION: Happy Friday.

MS. PSAKI: I have one item for all of you at the top. On Thursday – yesterday, I should say – U.S. and Cuban officials met in Havana to discuss the implementation of the 1994 and 1995 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. This marks the second time since January of 2011 that these talks have been held. Under the accords, both governments pledge to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States. The agenda for the talks reflected longstanding U.S. priorities on Cuba-U.S. migration issues, as well as cooperation on aviation security, search and rescue, and consular document fraud.

The U.S. delegation highlighted areas of successful cooperation in migration, exchanging information on the interdiction of undocumented migrants, and clarifying aspects of Cuba’s recent changes in migration policy. The U.S. delegation reiterated its call for the release of Alan Gross, who was arrested by Cuban authorities on December 3rd, 2009, and later sentenced to 15 years in prison. The U.S. delegation was led by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Alex Lee, and the Cuban delegation was led by the foreign ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs Josefina Vidal Ferreiro.

I also know there’s a lot out there in the news today. I have a hard stop shortly after 1:00, so let’s try to get to as many topics as we possibly can during that time.

Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re right, there is a lot going on today. So let’s start with Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and the talks, and whether – there are reports out there, and the EU is saying they’ve made good progress. There are reports in Iran that a deal has been done, it just needs to be signed off on capitals. What can you tell us?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as you mentioned, these are – they’re ongoing at this point. I will get an update for all of you after the briefing, but that was the last update that I received before I came down. As we said before and I said yesterday, these are detailed technical discussions. We’ve made good progress over the last several days. There have been a few outstanding issues, but at this point the reports that everything has been finalized are incorrect. In terms of the status of the talks, as I understood it as I came down, they were ongoing.

QUESTION: Well, but there’s two ways you can look at that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, one is that, yeah, all right, the deal hasn’t been – the deal isn’t done because capitals haven’t signed off on it yet. But have the actual negotiators reached an agreement that is ready to – or gotten to the stage where there is a document or something that is ready to be sent to capitals for them to sign off on?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And so what I was trying to convey is, as I understood it before I came down, the accurate description would be that they are ongoing.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: The negotiations are ongoing. But obviously, they’re happening today, so we will get you all an update later this afternoon.

QUESTION: So just to put a fine point on it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- they are not yet at a stage where they have something to present to capitals for a final agreement. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: As far as the last update I received, yes.

QUESTION: And wait, I’m sorry, but I still don’t fully understand --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- your responses to Matt because saying that everything is finalized is, of course, quite different from some kind of an agreement that covers most aspects or all aspects, even if it’s not finalized.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said either one.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: So my last update is the same place we were yesterday, which is that the talks are ongoing.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, Under Secretary Sherman had departed yesterday or the day before. There were technical experts on the ground. The EU is leading that. So I did not have an update when I came down here that indicated any development past that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: So I wasn’t announcing either of those items.

QUESTION: Okay. But you did say that the reports – I think you said that --

MS. PSAKI: I think I said it would be – my last update was that it would be inaccurate to say that things have been concluded. So but --

QUESTION: You said “finalized.”

MS. PSAKI: I was not meaning --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- to imply anything other than that the talks have concluded or that there’s been an agreement. So I know there are a range of reports out there.

QUESTION: So you didn’t mean to imply anything except that the talks have not been concluded and that there has not been an agreement reached.

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But obviously events are very fluid on the ground --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as I just came down here, so we will venture to get you all an update, perhaps even by the end of the briefing. But I didn’t want to --

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

I have one on India if we can switch, unless we need more Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I had a quick one on Iran. When you say technical in nature, what are they discussing? What does that mean?

MS. PSAKI: Technical engagement? Well, that’s been an important part of this process all along. These issues are complicated, they’re complex, and there has been a need for technical experts from all sides.

QUESTION: Okay. The – I mean, do they discuss facilities, progress? I mean, what is it --

QUESTION: It’s all about implementation of the first-step agreement, right?

MS. PSAKI: This is all about implementation. The technical experts have been central to it all along. Let’s move on to India --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- because I know there are a lot of issues on the docket.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In a comment attributed to a senior U.S. State Department official yesterday, late, the senior State Department official stated that the U.S. Government had approved the transfer of the Indian diplomat to the Indian mission to the United Nations; that the U.S. Government had then – therefore giving her diplomatic immunity – that the U.S. Government had then requested waiving --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- her diplomatic immunity; that the Indian Government refused and that she was going home.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Here’s what I don’t get: Why would you ask, given that on December the 19th and December the 20th in the briefings you and Marie made clear that were she to be granted diplomatic immunity, she would still be liable for any alleged offenses committed prior to that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So why would you – why are you asking for her diplomatic immunity to be waived once she has been transferred to the Indian mission to the UN? Is she accused of having committed new crimes post that point?

MS. PSAKI: So let me try to address this. There’s a couple of updates. I know there’s been some confusion --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- out there in the reports. We did put out a statement last night confirming, of course, as you mentioned, that we accepted the request to accredit Dr. Khobragade, and we accepted that request on Wednesday, January 8th. It’s important to note – unfortunately we don’t have discussions about this every day in here, but – that we would only refuse accreditation and a request for accreditation like this in rare circumstances such as events related to national security risks.

So to your point, Arshad, we then requested a waiver of the immunity. It wasn’t granting immunity; it was granting – accrediting UN accreditation, which immunity comes with that. We requested a waiver of the immunity, which is standard practice. That’s government policy to request that. It doesn’t conflict with what we said before. When there are serious – it’s an indication of the serious charges, the seriousness of the charges that have been waged against her.

So that hasn’t – those charges still remain in place. That hasn’t changed. We requested the immunity. It was denied, and --

QUESTION: Why --

QUESTION: Requested the waiver.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, we requested the waiver. It was denied. And our policy as a government is to then ask for that individual to depart when there are serious charges involved.

QUESTION: Why did you request the waiver of her immunity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if there – if a waiver of immunity is granted, then you can move forward with the charges.

QUESTION: So you could not move forward with the prosecution of the prior charges --

MS. PSAKI: For the time --

QUESTION: Let me finish.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just, yeah, so you could not move forward with her being prosecuted for the charges previously brought against her without waiving the immunity that you had just conferred on her?

MS. PSAKI: Only for the time she has the immunity, only the time an individual has the immunity. Let me just give one update on this as well.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: So, as you all know and we’ve discussed in here, representatives of members of the United Nations enjoy immunity from personal arrest or detention. However, her accreditation in this case to the UN does not remove existing charges, as we’ve talked about consistently. In addition, now that she has left the United States, she no longer enjoys immunity. So that was applicable for her time here while she was serving for the UN. In the MFA statement, they made clear she was being transferred over to the foreign ministry in India.

QUESTION: So why did you grant her – why did you approve her transfer and thereby confer upon her immunity that made it impossible for the period of that transfer for her to be prosecuted by another arm of the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: Because, Arshad, unless it is an event of – related to national security risks, like espionage, it would be very unlikely or very rare for us to decline a request for an accreditation.

QUESTION: I get that it’s rare. What I don’t get is why it is a higher virtue for the U.S. Government to ensure that she could not be prosecuted once she acquired the diplomatic immunity than it is for the United States Government to prosecute accused felons.

MS. PSAKI: Well, these are two different processes. Her – the charges against her have not changed. Once she departed – prior to her departure it was conveyed to her and to the Government of India that she is not permitted to return to the United States except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. Her name would be placed in visa and immigration lookout systems to prevent the routine issuance of any future visa, and upon her departure, a warrant may be issued for her arrest. This does not change the charges. The charges remain in place. There are processes that are standard processes in each of these cases which we were abiding by throughout this process.

QUESTION: But why is it more important for the U.S. Government to grant her immunity, ensure that she doesn’t prosecuted during that --

MS. PSAKI: We did not grant her immunity.

QUESTION: -- let me – wait --

MS. PSAKI: We approved accreditation. That’s part of it.

QUESTION: -- that led to – but that led to her being conferred with diplomatic immunity?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I think that’s – I mean, I get your point, but the point still is the United States Government took an action that resulted in her receiving diplomatic immunity --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- ensuring she couldn’t be prosecuted for the time that she had that immunity, and then it let her go. And what I don’t understand and I think there may be an answer that maybe your relations, your diplomatic relations with India are more important than your ensuring that the laws of the U.S. Government are upheld.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would refute your claim that we’re not upholding the laws of the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: Really.

MS. PSAKI: There’s a judicial process --

QUESTION: She’s being prosecuted?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: There’s a judicial process underway. There was an indictment issued yesterday, as you know. There’s also a standard process that is underway that is underway in cases like these as well. So we followed that process from here. It doesn’t change the charges. The charges are not wiped. The judicial system – and that’s led by the Southern District of New York – can reiterate that and make that absolutely clear. This is not related to anything other than following the process here, working through the best way to manage a difficult circumstance.

QUESTION: But she’s not being prosecuted is the whole point. And when I raised the question of upholding the laws, the laws normally would require that somebody who did not, when they allegedly committed the crimes, enjoy immunity that would prevent their prosecution be prosecuted for it, have their day in court, and either be acquitted or convicted; whereas you have contrived a circumstance whereby she will not face that unless she returns to the United States someday.

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s inaccurate to say we’ve contrived a circumstance. There are two processes here in place – how we manage an application for accreditation with the UN. We handled that in the standard way we would handle it unless an individual poses a national security risk. There is a judicial process. That is ongoing. I just reiterated what was conveyed to her on her departure, what has been conveyed to the Government of India. That doesn’t change. Her charges are not wiped.

QUESTION: But why would it not have been better – why would it not have been more in the interest of the United States Government for her to have been – to have faced prosecution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, again, because there are different processes in place, if India had waived the immunity, then that would have been a process that would have been undergone if she were not a diplomat. There are a lot of scenarios that are not related to what the reality of this case is, so what we were following was the processes that were appropriate for this case.

QUESTION: But I still don’t understand why it is not more in the interest of the United States Government to ensure – I mean, look, if any diplomat knows that basically they can allegedly flout U.S. laws and allegedly mistreat and underpay domestic workers, and allegedly commit visa fraud, right, and the worst that’s going to happen to them is that they get sent home, then you – then the deterrent effect of violating the law and being penalized for it goes away. So I don’t --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s far from what happened – is happening here. So I would argue with your --

QUESTION: She’s being prosecuted?

MS. PSAKI: -- with your characterization. Again, the charges remain in place. The Southern District of New York runs point on that. All of this was conveyed to her and made clear. She no longer has immunity. So there are a lot of events at play here, Arshad, and what we’re working throughis the best way to manage the process with all of those pieces in place.

QUESTION: So is it correct that she, as well as the Government of India, have been told that if – should she attempt to return, if she should apply for a visa, it will be denied, one, or approved only if she comes back to submit to the jurisdiction of the – at least until the statute of limitations runs out.

MS. PSAKI: Right. I wouldn’t --

QUESTION: I mean, we are talking about a person here who has children who I believe are U.S. citizens, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding by the reports in the media.

QUESTION: As – right. As is her husband. So she has been – is it correct that she’s been told she can’t come back except – unless she comes back to face the charges?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this is a very important characterization here because we wouldn’t speak to or outright claim a denial of a visa. But obviously, as I outlined, there are a couple of pieces that you touched on. So if she is return – permitted – she is not permitted to return unless – except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. She will be put on – her name would be placed in the visa and immigration lookout system that’s, obviously, as people apply for visas. And of course, I mentioned the third one about a warrant as well. So I just wanted to be specific.

QUESTION: No, sorry. What was the warrant?

MS. PSAKI: Upon her departure, a warrant may be issued for her arrest.

QUESTION: Upon her departure from --

MS. PSAKI: From the United States.

QUESTION: Well, she’s left. Has one been issued?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Justice and the Southern District of New York for any details on that.

QUESTION: Okay. But then does that mean that you would like – you would ask Interpol to put out a red notice or something on her?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get into a hypothetical. I’ll let them speak to the judicial part of this and any other details.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Can I ask a broader housekeeping question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because we’re talking about violations of U.S. law and this Administration has tried to drive home the point that human trafficking is a priority for stopping, and these charges fall under that rubric, what are foreign diplomats told about following U.S. laws when it comes to bringing in domestic workers and governesses and whomever --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- while they’re here? How are they briefed on this? Is there a brochure? Is there a class they have to take on U.S. laws? What is it that they have to know, because any American citizen knows that ignorance of the law does not prevent you from being prosecuted if you violate those laws?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, let me just reiterate, since you gave me the opportunity, that the fact that the Department of State investigated this matter and requested the Indians waive immunity so that she could face the charges against her shows how seriously we take these issues, human trafficking issues and all of the charges that have been placed against her.

We are committed – and this is standard practice as we communicate with foreign diplomats, of course – to ensuring all domestic workers are paid for all hours worked. We continue to work with foreign missions in the United States to ensure all diplomatic and consular personnel are aware of and abiding by their obligations under United States law. So that is what we communicate as a standard practice.

QUESTION: Can you say in practical terms how they learn this information, since obviously there is a difference in the way that domestic workers are treated in India, across the Middle East, in sub-Saharan Africa, for example?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s – we communicate what the United States laws are here. I don’t have any additional level of detail in terms of how. Obviously, we communicate with diplomatic missions in a range of ways, especially as new diplomats are coming in.

QUESTION: Then I just want to come back to Matt’s point about her family ties, being connected here in the U.S. Has a catch-22 essentially been set up for Ms. Khobragade that she –her children are still here, as we understand it – that the only way that she’s going to be able to have freedom of movement, at least to come to the United States, is to submit to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I wouldn’t characterize it that way. I laid out what legally would be required if she were to return. I can’t speak to her plans or the plans of her family. That is just, as the U.S. Government, what would happen if she were to return.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the family thing?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Don’t you think the U.S. is following double standards? On the one hand, you go out of the way to evacuate an Indian citizen just for the purpose of, you said here, for uniting the family, right, of the family of the maid? U.S. Embassy paid the tickets and brought them here, gave them the green card. On the other hand, they are here, they are U.S. citizens, husband and two children, and then you are not allowing them to unite together in the U.S. Isn’t it a double standard (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I would not agree with your assessment. I can’t, for privacy reasons, speak to the status of the maid and her family. In this specific case, we were following and abiding – and in some ways in reference to what Roz was referencing and what Arshad was talking about, about the United States laws, what the United States laws are – abiding by what our processes are. And of course, the Department of Justice has their own process.

QUESTION: So you can’t, for privacy reasons, talk about the status of the maid, but you’re more than happy to talk about the status of this diplomat who – right? Is that because she’s been charged with a crime?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, this is --

QUESTION: Has she forfeited her right to privacy? Because I --

MS. PSAKI: She’s not a – she’s --

QUESTION: Neither is the maid. So I just want to make sure that we’re going to be consistent about this --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in future cases.

MS. PSAKI: I know you like consistency, Matt.

QUESTION: In future cases where people have been charged with crimes and you’ve – and you refuse to talk about things because of the – because of privacy issues, I’m going to raise this point –

MS. PSAKI: I look forward to it. Every case is different.

QUESTION: Can I just --

QUESTION: And then I just have one more thing --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- which is you have been – the foreign ministry, the Indian foreign ministry, says that they have asked you to remove one person from your Embassy. Have you been – is that correct? Have you been told?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Who is that person? Are they coming back? And are you hopeful that this now ends this rather unfortunate saga?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I can confirm that a U.S. official accredited to the Mission India – to Mission India will be leaving post at the request of the Government of India. We deeply regret that the Indian Government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel. This has clearly been a challenging time in the U.S.-India relationship. We expect and hope that this will now come to closure and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place.

I don’t have any other specific details in terms of the individual and the name of the individual or their specific travel plans at this point.

QUESTION: Did they PNG a specific person, or did they just ask you to reduce the head count by one?

MS. PSAKI: It was an individual.

QUESTION: An individual?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And do you understand why they selected that particular individual?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Government of India for their explanation of that.

QUESTION: And when you say that you hope that this will now come to closure and that the Indian Government will take steps – I don’t remember the exact words, but to restore a more constructive relationship --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- do you have any reason to think that they’re actually going to do that? I mean, they could have just – they got their diplomat back; they could’ve just let it go rather than PNGing somebody. So what makes you think that they’re actually going to lay this to rest and be constructive?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, time will tell. And as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. So we’re looking to move our relationship forward, we’re looking to move past this challenging time, and we hope they’ll be a partner in that.

QUESTION: So the --

QUESTION: And the technical – on a technical thing --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you described their decision as an expulsion and some – and PNG. Was the Indian diplomat PNG’d?

MS. PSAKI: No. It – we would qualify it differently.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you say --

QUESTION: Just a follow up?

QUESTION: -- and you may not want to specify because this is a security question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but we’ve all seen the video of the security barriers being towed away from outside the U.S. Embassy. Has the U.S. requested that the physical barriers be reinstated? And in – unless and until they do that, what security measures have been enhanced in order to protect the U.S. mission in New Delhi?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question, Roz. I don’t have any particular updates on it today. I will see – check with our team and see what level of concern – if there’s a level of concern and what update we can provide to all of you.

Lalit.

QUESTION: You said there are a lot of differences between India and U.S., at least on consular matters. Is – that’s going to be part of your discussions when – between the two countries now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lalit, as we’ve said a couple of times in here, as there are issues that the Indians want to raise, as there are issues that we may want to raise, we’ll raise those privately. But I think the larger point here is that there are a lot of strategic and economic issues that we work together on and we’re eager to get back to that partnership.

QUESTION: But do you get the sense that after this issue is resolved – it looks like is it resolved from your point of view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly – we certainly expect that this period will come to closure, and we are eager to move forward.

QUESTION: And in the process --

MS. PSAKI: Anymore on India?

QUESTION: Yeah, one more on India.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In the process of granting – considering and granting Ms. Khobragade’s immunity --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- was it taken into consideration that one of the crimes she was accused of, which is visa fraud, does entail potential national security risks?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to what we consider and how our considerations work with national security risks and what that means. One of the examples I can give you is espionage. That would qualify, of course, as a national security risk. Obviously, that’s always taken into account. In this case, clearly we moved forward with the re-accreditation – accreditation.

QUESTION: Are you worried that this might set a precedent for someone who would otherwise not be allowed into the United States being brought in under a fraudulent visa?

MS. PSAKI: In what – I think obviously the fact that we have issued these charges, the fact that they have – we have asked for a waiver of immunity, the fact that we have asked her to return to India, speaks to our – the seriousness with which we take this case, and no one should take it or indicate that there’s an openness to a precedent.

QUESTION: Just on the technical aspect of what I was asking about before --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- if you do not regard her departure from here as an expulsion and a PNG, and you do – and the Indians did PNG and expel your diplomat, is it – does the Administration or does the State Department consider the Indian reaction to be an act of reciprocity?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Indians for --

QUESTION: No, no. But this is your interpretation of it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- because let’s – in many cases where diplomats are expelled, there is – it’s a one-for-one, tit-for-tat kind of thing. You do it with the Russians, you do with Belarus, everything. Do you or do you not regard what the Indians have done to your diplomat as a reciprocal, and thereby justifiable, action?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any other further comment on it.

QUESTION: But you do make a distinction between the departure of the Indian diplomat from the U.S. and the departure of the U.S. diplomat from India?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you asked me if it was --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- if it was PNG’d, and we would not characterize it that way because it was a different case with a member of – who was accredited by the United Nations.

QUESTION: All right. And then the last --

QUESTION: Was this an Indian overreaction?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Was it Indian overreaction?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve spoken to it. I don’t have any further --

QUESTION: Then the last one is that there is a group, or there is a move afoot from some human rights groups --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- including Indian American human rights groups, to get the Administration to ban or to deny visas for domestic workers of Indian diplomats coming into the United States. One, are you aware of this? And two, if you are or even if you’re not, can you take the question as to whether this is something the Administration might consider?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’m happy to. I haven’t heard of that until you mentioned it. Any more on India?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s – you said we are moving forward. But India had two demands. One was an apology and one was a dropping of charges against the Indian diplomat. None of those two have been fulfilled. And so where do we stand today? Is there an apology going to come? Is there – are you going to drop the charges?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve spoken to where we stand on this. Obviously, we’ve had a range of conversations behind the scenes with the Indians privately. We’ll let them speak to whether they’re open to and looking to move our relationship forward, and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to do that soon.

QUESTION: No, the question is that – are you considering an apology? Yes or no?

The second is about dropping of charges. Are you considering dropping the charges? Because the charges started from the State Department, not from the judicial – not from the Department of Justice.

MS. PSAKI: The charges were issued by the Department of Justice. Obviously, as I said, the charges remain in place. I would point you to the Department of Justice for any other update on that.

Said?

QUESTION: And the apology?

QUESTION: I want to go to Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, go ahead. Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: And the apology part.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything further for you. We’ve said in the past we expressed regret around some of the circumstances. Obviously, there have been weeks that have passed. A number of conversations have happened behind the scenes, and we’re looking to move things forward.

QUESTION: India. India, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yes, first of all the – in a bigger issue, I mean, are you reconsidering or are you taking into consideration to reconsider the diplomatic immunity issue in order some of these loopholes will not be used by more than 190 countries out there?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t consider it a loophole. I’m not aware of any consideration of changing our policy.

QUESTION: And the second one is related to – at the peak of this crisis, there was, like, contacts, phone calls, whatever, between officials involved with that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the last 24 hours, are there any contact or not?

MS. PSAKI: We have remained in very close contact both on the ground through our ambassador, through senior officials here at the State Department, with the Indians as we work to move our relationship forward.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Diplomatic immunity was for less than 24 hours, I believe, given the sequence of events that you gave us.

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s, I guess, a correct – I will leave it to you the mathematical number of hours. But --

QUESTION: And also, technically, her visa has now been revoked, then? She no longer has an American visa?

MS. PSAKI: I have to check on that specifically. I think what I conveyed before was that if she applied for a visa – let me just go back to this. One moment.

QUESTION: Yeah, I think you said something like if she applied for a visa, there’d be some – yeah. But I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Her name will be placed in the visa and immigration lookout system.

QUESTION: So that was just that her visa’s been revoked as she left the country?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that specific technicality for you. I just don’t want to speak out of turn.

QUESTION: Just to mark, as I’m sure Matt would like to, you just answered a question both hypothetical and about a visa application. If she applied for a visa, her name would be placed on a watch list.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that’s --

QUESTION: I’d just like to thank you for that.

MS. PSAKI: Her name would be placed in the visa and immigration – that was what – what I said was what was conveyed to her when she departed, so it wasn’t actually a hypothetical.

QUESTION: And it was issued –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Hasn’t it already been put on the watch list?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was what was conveyed to her. Obviously, she’s en route and I don’t have the exact tick-tock of the exact timestamp.

QUESTION: And she was issued the G visa, G-1 visa, right?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I just don’t have any other updates on it specifically.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on India?

QUESTION: No. Can we move on?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. One more on India, and then we can move on.

QUESTION: Just on – can you give us a – you might take this question – that – has there been in the history – how many diplomats have been imprisoned, arrested, and strip-searched?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any statistics along those lines and it’s unlikely that anything like that would be public, but I’ll check on that for you.

Said.

QUESTION: Very quickly on the designation of Ansar al-Sharia --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- as a terrorist organization in Benghazi, Derna, and Tunisia. Could you elaborate – were there any particular incidents that caused that, or no?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just – I know that there was a media note that went out this morning --

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. PSAKI: -- so let me just reiterate some of the points in there. Today the State Department officially announced the designations of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, Ansar al-Sharia in Derna, and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia as separate Foreign Terrorist Organizations. In addition to these group designations, we also designated a number of individuals whose names I will not pronounce but are all in the media note that we sent out. And these designations, of course, as standard, will be published, if they haven’t already been, in the Federal Register.

Well, as we’ve said, and I believe I spoke to this about two days ago when there was news reports of this, we – while these – let me just get to this, one moment, because I want to answer your question directly.

Today’s announcement is not an assertion that Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar al-Sharia in Derna were the only two organizations whose members were involved in the attack in Benghazi, that those organizations pre-planned the attack well in advance, or that the organizations are somehow more responsible than any others involved. Obviously, that’s a part of this. And then the individuals are leaders of a number of these groups, but it doesn’t indicate, as there’s an ongoing investigation, whether – what we’re announcing today is the designation of the groups and individuals. We’re not designating them because of any new information to point to in terms of Benghazi and the events there.

QUESTION: So it is not any one particular incident, but they are because of their activities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there were a range of details in the media note. I would point you to that in terms of the impact and the reasons, as well as a fact sheet that we sent out that has detailed information.

Lucas?

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Also in your statement, you said that Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia has ideological ties to al-Qaida and ties to its affiliates, AQIM. I assume that means both official and unofficial affiliates. Is that an admission by the Administration, the State Department, that terrorism is on the rise?

MS. PSAKI: I would refute that. Wow, you jumped to that last question rather quickly. As you know, Lucas, we regularly designate individuals and organizations as needed. This today represents the largest number that we have done in one day, so I would point you more to a recognition that we are focused on this issue. These are not affiliates of core al-Qaida.

We talked about this, or Matt asked this question a little bit the other day, or maybe you did, about what that means and how we designate someone or how we acknowledge that an organization is affiliated with core al-Qaida. As you may or may not know, there is sort of an official process for affiliates to claim allegiance to core al-Qaida. We’ve seen it with other groups. The established al-Qaida affiliates include al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in Iraq – in the Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and al-Shabaab in Somalia. All of these affiliates have publicly sworn an oath to al-Qaida senior leadership, and there’s a public process that they go through.

QUESTION: Is that the process? Swearing an oath publicly?

MS. PSAKI: There’s – I’m not a spokesperson for how you become a member of al-Qaida, so I would point you to the terms that there – are used on their ends, but that is the information that we know.

QUESTION: Now, you said that I jumped to conclusions, but certainly this makes today more groups on the terror list than were yesterday, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, it’s also a recognition that this is a focus that the United States Government has, that we are looking to crack down and hold these groups accountable. And that just means we’re busy at work.

QUESTION: But why refute the facts, Jen?

MS. PSAKI: What – because I don’t agree with your facts. That’s why I refute them. Or your claims.

QUESTION: But this is turning into more of a campaign instead of – or is this official State Department policy that you’re reading?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Is this a campaign to kind of stymie the admission that al-Qaida is on the rise, terrorism is on the rise, or is this the official statement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, we, for quite a long time – long before I arrived here – we’ve been designating organizations, we’ve been designating individuals. This is a big focus of the Administration and it indicates that we take these threats seriously, we’re working hard, and we have some – have some information to announce publicly, so that’s why we did it.

QUESTION: Well, but does it, to you, naturally follow that if there are more groups on the list, there is more terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: No, I would --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- refute that notion.

QUESTION: So you don’t – so the premise that you’re being presented with is one that you disagree with?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And would you – so you would not regard it as a fact that more individuals and more people on any given designation list means there is more bad stuff going on in the world?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, I would refute that.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Do we --

QUESTION: And as for – al-Sharia Tunisia does have ties to al-Qaida, so doesn’t that mean ergo there are ties to al-Qaida and there, al-Qaida, the threat is on the rise?

MS. PSAKI: What I’m talking about, Lucas, and we had this conversation a little bit the other day, is official affiliates. There’s a difference between official affiliates, and there are different groups that have had connections or interactions between individuals. There is a difference in terms of what is being directed by core al-Qaida and what is not, so --

QUESTION: So just to be clear, making an official declaration of support for al-Qaida makes you an official affiliate?

MS. PSAKI: There are other details, Lucas. I would point you to what is publicly available on that specific issue. Do we have more on this issue or --

QUESTION: The Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: -- does – are you, Scott, on --

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Secretary’s trip very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay, this week and next week.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, he’s going to meet with the Arab Follow-up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what – he’s going to update them on the progress of the talks? Or is he going to, let’s say, suggest things that may also amend one more time the Arab Peace Initiative?

MS. PSAKI: I think I made clear yesterday or the day before that’s not an effort that’s underway. As you know, the Secretary, when he began to pursue this effort with the Israelis and the Palestinians, he promised the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-on Committee he would provide regular updates. That is – this is a part of that effort. We were just in Saudi Arabia and Jordan just earlier, this weekend. But this is an opportunity to provide them an update on the discussions going on on the ground, our efforts to agree on a framework for negotiations. And certainly he’ll hear from them as well. So that will be the focus of the meeting.

QUESTION: Okay. And referring to success last April in making them amend --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the Arab Peace Initiative to cite land swaps and so on --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is there anything akin to that with regard to the Jewish nature of the State of Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Said, and obviously, the Arab Peace Initiative remains a very important component of our efforts moving forward.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the Israeli announcement about new housing settlements?

MS. PSAKI: I am. Our position has not changed. It’s quite clear: We consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate, and we express that, of course, on a regular basis as needed.

Do you want to move on to another – oh, let’s go to Scott, and then we can --

QUESTION: But I’m wondering if you can expand on that --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- a little bit. I mean, I kind of doubt that you will want to or will be able to.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But do you regard this as detrimental to the Secretary’s efforts to get the two sides to at least get to a framework agreement? Is it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reality is the discussions are ongoing on the ground with our negotiators and with both parties. It is never helpful to have steps taken that are not conducive to our efforts to move forward on peace. We consider – we’ve called on both sides, as you know, many, many times to create a positive atmosphere for negotiations. So anything that doesn’t do that is unhelpful. But the reality is both sides remain committed to discussing the framework, committed to moving forward, and we’ll keep working with them.

QUESTION: As far as you know, there’s nothing about this specific announcement that is any worse or – worse – or less detrimental or more detrimental than any previous settlement announcements? It all falls under the same – it all gets --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a bit of a subjective question, of course, because it’s about --

QUESTION: Well, right, and I’m asking --

MS. PSAKI: -- what – how it impacts people on the ground.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s what I’m asking. I mean, an announcement of one apartment in East Jerusalem is clearly different than an announcement of 1,400 all over the place, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to quantify it because obviously it’s up to the parties on the ground to determine how it impacts them. But we continue to press our case.

Go ahead, Said.

MS. PSAKI: Should we expect that the Secretary might go to Ramallah and Jerusalem on this trip?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure he will soon, I would bet.

QUESTION: No, I’m saying during this upcoming trip.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not planned at this time. If that changes --

QUESTION: But it could happen, right?

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ll of course let you know.

QUESTION: It could happen right after --

MS. PSAKI: It’s not currently planned.

QUESTION: -- the 13th or the 14th?

MS. PSAKI: Anything could happen, Said. Who knows.

Let’s go to Scott in the back.

QUESTION: In the Central African Republic, the interim president and former rebel leader today resigned. Is it the expectation that that might improve the security situation in the Central African Republic?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States welcomes the active leadership of ECCAS in convening leaders and representatives of civil society from CAR for discussions in – for discussions on a political transition in C.A.R. We understand, as you’ve referenced earlier today, that – the announcement of the resignation of both C.A.R.’s transitional president and transitional prime minister.

At this point, what our focus is on is moving forward, and we urge C.A.R.’s National Transition Council to now conduct a transparent, inclusive process as they deliberate on the selection of the new transitional president. The council should ensure that the new leadership is committed to restoring security for the people of C.A.R. and holding elections no later than February of 2015. So that’s what we are working with them on the ground and what we are hopeful of moving forward.

QUESTION: Do you think the resignation of Djotodia will actually help things there on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have – I don’t want to evaluate that given it just happened. Obviously, our efforts now are moving forward and how we can move towards elections next year.

QUESTION: Is there a worry that there could be some kind of power vacuum left? Who’s going to stand in for him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s why we’re urging the transition council to conduct a transparent and inclusive process as they deliberate on the selection of the new transitional president, and hopefully they’ll move forward with that soon.

QUESTION: Can I go to Afghanistan? Is that possible?

QUESTION: I have just one more quick one on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know there is a Travel Warning for C.A.R., but there are a number of American citizens we’ve been speaking to there. Do you have an estimation of how many American citizens remain? Would you urge them to leave now? And what are the plans in place should the situation deteriorate to evacuate them out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of things, Catherine. Since U.S. citizens are not required to register their presence abroad, we don’t maintain comprehensive lists of U.S. citizens residing overseas. We also don’t discuss evacuation plans, if there were evacuation plans, anywhere for security reasons.

As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the U.S. Embassy suspended its operations on December 28th, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in C.A.R. U.S. citizens who have decided to stay should review their personal security situation and seriously consider departing, taking advantage of commercial flights. That was a Travel Warning issued at the end of December. There hasn’t been a new updated one since then.

Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I wondered if you had any comment on the report of the Washington Post overnight about the cable from Ambassador Cunningham that President Karzai is probably not going to sign the BSA any time – at all.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as a matter of policy, we cannot comment and don’t comment on alleged classified documents. Our position continues to be that we – if we cannot conclude a BSA promptly, then we will initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan. We recognize that at this time it is up to President Karzai to determine what is in Afghanistan’s best interests. And we continue to work on the ground with President Karzai and his team on encouraging them to sign the BSA. So those efforts remain underway, and there should not be any confusion of that piece.

QUESTION: So at what point to you start your planning?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve said that in weeks, not months, they need to sign the BSA. I don’t want to give a prediction of when planning may begin. Obviously, we always have contingencies, but that’s why we continue to press for them to sign it.

QUESTION: Given President Karzai’s public comments, do you think that – quite apart from a cable that appears to state the blindingly obvious – do you have any reason to think that President Karzai has any intention of signing this, given his public statements?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to give a prediction of what he may or may not do. It’s up to him. Obviously, there’s a strong case to be made of why it’s in the interest of the Afghan people, which you’ve heard us make many times and we continue to make on the ground.

QUESTION: If there were to be a classified cable that says the sun rises in the east, would you be able to comment on the content of such a cable?

MS. PSAKI: Hard to see why that would be classified, Matt.

QUESTION: Right, which is exactly why it’s hard to see why a cable that says that Karzai is unlikely to sign this deal would be classified either, because it would seem to be common knowledge, no?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve noted your expression of concern.

QUESTION: All right. So can I ask --

QUESTION: Is that a hypothetical question? If there were to be a cable – (laughter).

QUESTION: Can I ask just a very – I realize this is a broad question and I just need --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: A broad Middle East question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which is I’m wondering if you can respond to criticism from quite a few people on the Hill and others that the Administration’s policy from basically West – North Africa to Afghanistan and Iraq is pretty much in shambles, is scattershot, and for using – to use Elise’s favorite terms, one of her favorite turns of phrase, kind of a whack-a-mole approach.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it would surprise you that I would refute that claim and claims made out there and criticism that’s made out there. There is – one, there’s a lot to say here, so let me see if I can get it all in. First, the policy of the – the Secretary’s policy, the policy of the Administration, is that diplomacy should be the first option. To argue that we are not actively engaged in diplomatic efforts around the world is completely inaccurate and is baseless.

As you know, and I’ll just reiterate some of these pieces, the Secretary, the President have just engaged in the first negotiations that we’ve had with Iran moving towards a diplomatic process. We’ve restarted the Middle East peace process. We are working – we’ve worked to – and it’s well underway to gain agreement through the UN to remove chemical weapons from Syria. The Secretary, the President, everyone up and down the Administration has been engaged in every aspect of what’s happening in – I know you mentioned North Africa so I’m just going to reference that as well – recently. But the issue with some of these comments is it seems to equate engagement with military action. And engagement should not be measured by military action. Diplomacy is our first priority. Diplomacy is what we do from the State Department.

Let me just say a few more words. We also make decisions – the United States does – based on our foreign policy interests around the world. And it’s never in our interest to have troops in the middle of every single conflict in the Middle East or to be permanently involved in open-ended wars in the Middle East. It’s in our interest to spend significant diplomatic efforts and resources to resolve these conflicts. So I think the evidence – the proof is in the pudding, for lack of a better term, and our engagement, the Secretary’s engagement, is evidence of how committed we are to these issues.

QUESTION: Okay. And just as a corollary to that, is it really the Administration’s view that people on – that Congress, people in Congress – members of Congress who are supporting this Iran sanctions bill really want war?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think it’s hard to argue that you’re for diplomacy and you’re for that path if you are taking steps actively that are opposed to it. And so the alternative to a diplomatic path forward, we feel, would be war. And so that is the connection we’re drawing there.

QUESTION: But of course, they would argue just the opposite, that they are trying to help with the diplomacy. You think that that’s a canard?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’re dealing with the reality of what’s happening with the negotiations and what is productive and what is unhelpful to moving negotiations forward.

QUESTION: But as you yourself just said at the very beginning, there is not yet an implementation agreement.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, but we are --

QUESTION: So thus, it is still the case that you are not bound by the details of the agreement reached on November 24th.

MS. PSAKI: And we expect that implementation plan to be agreed to soon. But it’s also not about what is – just about what we are bound to; it’s about what it is in the spirit of the negotiations, how to abide by our commitments made through the P5+1 with our international partners, and what is the best way to move forward on a diplomatic path with Iran.

QUESTION: Can I just --

MS. PSAKI: I only can do about two more here, because I have to go to a meeting.

QUESTION: One more on Afghanistan, actually --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- which is related, that there – I wondered if you have any information about an incident in which a four year-old boy was killed in the southern provinces of Helmand, apparently in an incident with U.S. trips. Karzai has come out and he’s – his spokesman is condemning it in very strong terms.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the reports. I don’t have any specific additional details on it. Obviously, we would regret any loss of – any casualties, loss of life, if these reports are indeed accurate.

QUESTION: Can we do Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I just need to do one more here. Go ahead. Turkey.

QUESTION: Yesterday you talk about Turkey, and you talk about that you have been talking to stakeholders in Turkey. Could you tell us who are those stakeholders that you have been talking to?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other particular specifics to lay out for you. Obviously, our ambassador on the ground, as you know, is very engaged with the government, with officials on the ground, and we communicate with a range of officials. The Secretary has been in touch with Foreign Minister Davutoglu in the last couple of days about a range of issues, but really more focused on the upcoming Geneva conference, given that they are such an important partner.

I’m sorry. I have to complete because I have a meeting to go to, but we’ll do this again on Monday. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:14 p.m.)

DPB # 10

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - January 10, 2014]