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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 2, 2007


Deputy Secretary Negroponte's Travel to Latin America / Trade, Energy, Regional Cooperation on Agenda
Training and Mental Health Support for Employees Serving in Difficult Posts / U.S. Mindful of Stresses of Job
Democracy and Elections / Turkey is Friend and NATO Ally
U.S. Rejects External Interference into Domestic Political Affairs / Turkish People Must Determine Leaders
U.S. Committed to Working With Turkey and Iraq on Terrorist Issues
Free, Democratic Turkey Critical For Turkey, Europe / U.S. Calls For Respect of Democratic Process
Rumors of Changes to Visa Waiver Program Untrue / Program Not Subject to Bilateral Negotiations
Meetings at Sharm el-Sheikh on Iraq / Agenda to Help Advance Cause of Free, Peaceful, Democratic Iraq / Iran's Actions Must Live Up to Rhetoric /
U.S. Not Ruling Out or Ruling In Meetings with Iranians
Important for Institutions to Evolve and Adapt over Time / Reforms Necessary
Under Secretary Burns's Meetings in London
IAEA Report Expected Shortly
Iran Has Not Met International Community's Demands
Attack on Estonian Consulate in Moscow / Movement of Monument / Relocation Up to Estonian Government and People / U.S. Urges Respect for Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
U.S. Supports Constitutional and Legal Processes, Opposes Violence


1:30 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Pleasure to be here with you. I do have one opening announcement I'd like to make before we move on to your questions. This is something we'll be putting out a paper copy on a little later, but this concerns Deputy Secretary Negroponte's travel to Latin America.

So, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will travel to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama on May 7-12 this year to discuss pending trade agreements, energy issues, and regional cooperation. Following the President's 2007 visit to the region, the Deputy Secretary is also going to be highlighting some of the issues that the President talked about, including advancing the cause of social justice in the Western Hemisphere, in supporting governments that are fair and effective and that meet the basic needs of their citizens.

I also expect he'll be talking about a wide range of bilateral issues in these countries not only with government officials, but also in meetings with local business executives and civil society representatives, human rights groups, and just as for -- in terms of who else will be traveling with him, Tom Shannon, of course, our Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, will also be part of his traveling group.

QUESTION: When is he going?

MR. CASEY: What's that?


MR. CASEY: The 7th to the 12th.

QUESTION: Will he take press?

MR. CASEY: I don't believe so.

QUESTION: How come?

MR. CASEY: Not generally been a tradition around here, but as far as I know, he's traveling commercially as well, so -

Any questions?


QUESTION: A new topic?

MR. CASEY: Okay with me.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there evidence that U.S. diplomats who have been serving in Iraq are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome? Is the State Department doing anything about it if that's the case?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, first of all, I assume you're referring in part to a story that ran in a major American newspaper this morning. First of all, I just want to say that it's very important, I think, that people understand something the Secretary said, that our foreign service officers, civil servants, contractors and others are very much a part of the effort in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other very dangerous places throughout the world. And that does mean that they run, in many ways, the kinds of risks that some of our service members are from the Defense Department.

We're very mindful, obviously, of the consequences of that service for our individuals. We do have a large number of unaccompanied posts or unaccompanied slots right now not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in some other countries, where dependent travel is not permitted because of the security circumstances there. So we have put in place a number of things to try and assist individuals who are either preparing to go to these kinds of assignments or are coming back from them.

As you know, we have a series of briefings available through our regional medical office to help prepare people as part of their preparation for going to post. There is, of course, a three-day orientation program for service in Iraq and that includes elements from the medical division as well as from Diplomatic Security. And most people are familiar with what those of us in the service refer to as "crash and bang", which is actually a very serious program that's designed as a five-day Diplomatic Security antiterrorism course that helps provide people with some skills and some abilities to help cope with some of the situations they might confront in countries where terrorism or other dangers present themselves.

There is also, I think you may have seen, a new anonymous survey of all alumni from Iraq and other unaccompanied posts that we're undertaking that's related to physical and mental health concerns, and part of that is simply making sure we have as complete a picture as possible of what, if any, issues people may be confronting. We also have, and are setting up, an alumni support group for people who served in unaccompanied posts and that, I believe, should be formally launched the beginning of next month.

Now obviously, our State Medical Services folks do outbriefings for people as they're coming off of this kind of difficult service. They are available both in-country as well as afterwards to try and provide support and get people help if they are, in fact, suffering from any either physical or emotional consequences of their service there. But we are very conscious of the need to take care of our people and very conscious of the need that these kinds of situations, while they're not unprecedented in the history of the Foreign Service, are something that are very special and that we do need to very carefully evaluate people and make sure that they have the kind of support that they need again in the instances where they have any physical or mental issues coming out of it.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Do you know how people are going to be receiving this questionnaire in the first -- I mean, right now, the people set down for a figure of 1400 in the newspaper article you mentioned. And also, are these being sent out because there is evidence of people suffering from this post-traumatic stress syndrome?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think first of all, we're again appreciative of the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan and some of these other unaccompanied posts do present some pretty difficult challenges for our people working in the field, and we want to make sure we just have as complete a picture as possible and that we are -- have a full understanding of what issues there are. Certainly, I think you saw one or two people quoted in that article about some of their personal experiences.

So obviously, there are some individuals who have -- again, either because they've suffered physical injuries or because they've had some emotional issues related to their service come up. And we want to make sure, first of all as a department and as a service, that anyone that has a problem is comfortable to raise it with officials in the building here and get the appropriate support that they need. These are things, again, that I think Foreign Service officers have had to deal with unfortunately over the years. It's just that we now have a, I think, larger body of people than we've had in the past simply because not only of the couple of hundred posts -- or couple of hundred positions that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also again because of unaccompanied posts elsewhere.

I think if you ask those of us that have been around this building for a long time, unfortunately potential for being in a place where there's a lot of political violence, including political violence directed at Americans, is something that's been a part of the landscape for a while. It certainly was a factor for those who served in Vietnam during that era there, I think Ryan Crocker has probably mentioned a couple of times, I can't remember whether he did with you the other day, his service in Lebanon during the civil war there. And of course, our embassies have been bombed and attacked or otherwise threatened in any number of cases from Peru to Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to Lebanon and elsewhere. So unfortunately, there are some aspects of danger in the Foreign Service for a lot of people and that isn't new.

But again, because we recognize that there is a large number of people -- and I believe right now it's 10 percent or more of our Foreign Service officers -- who have done service in an unaccompanied post in the last couple of years. Certainly we want to make sure that we have as full and complete a picture as possible that we can, in part, I think use this as a way of prompting anyone who perhaps hasn't come forward with concerns to raise them and that we therefore also have in place whatever programs or additional measures might be appropriate to make sure that individuals who are having problems get the kind of attention and support and help that they need.


QUESTION: On this, maybe I'm missing something. Apart from this questionnaire which is going to be sent out to -- is 1,400 the right number?

MR. CASEY: I'd have to check. It's roughly 1,400, I think. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Apart from this is there anything new in what the Department is doing to help?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think what we've got, again, we've implemented mandatory training for people before they went out. That was something that isn't new. There are now mandatory outbriefings for anyone who's done service of 90 days or longer in part to help evaluate whether there are other issues there.

The questionnaire is new. The alumni or support group issues are new. And again, I think, if you talk to the folks in medical services, they will tell you that they've had a stepped-up availability of individuals to talk about mental health issues in part in relation to this.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I haven't seen -- stepped-up availability is one thing. But have they seen stepped-up numbers of people coming to them?

MR. CASEY: Matt, I honestly don't think I have or can certainly -- I can't provide you with a comprehensive study of that. That's partly what the questionnaire will help us address. Certainly, there are individuals that we know of who have had medical complications, again, both physical in some cases or emotional in others, as a result of their service there.

QUESTION: But you say this has happened before -- in other -- in Vietnam, Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, the point I'm trying to make is that Foreign Service officers for -- as long as there's been a Foreign Service, and certainly in the modern era, have served in places where they have been subject to, or victims of political violence of one kind or another. Certainly, every individual reacts differently to the situations they're put in. And certainly, I would tell you pretty clearly just based on my own personal experience, that there have certainly been individuals over time who've been through those kinds of experience, who have some mental health issues associated with that service.

So this is not a new issue for the Foreign Service, but it certainly is an issue that in light of the extensive numbers of individuals currently, or soon to be serving in unaccompanied poss, we want to make sure we have the best information available of and that we're providing the kind of support that's necessary.


QUESTION: I may have missed whether you said this, but when did the mandatory training come about that you're speaking of?

MR. CASEY: Well, the -- what I fondly referred to as crash and bang --


MR. CASEY: -- is a course that's been around at least since 1992, although obviously in modified form now. There is specialized training now for Iraq that began back in 2004 as we began to set up the Embassy. That of course has been modified as we've moved along and there are now additional training that's being provided, an additional week-long course that's being provided to those individuals going out to serve in PRTs, in Provincial Reconstruction Teams. So we are trying both to provide people with some opportunities and training before they go out to help, to the extent we can prepare them for some of the things they might face while out there as well as making sure, both through outbriefings and regular medical clearance process, and through some support services that we're providing, being able to take care of issues on the back end, once their service is complete.

And again, I just want to emphasize one more time what the Secretary has said in congressional testimony. But what is important to remember is that this is something that people in this building and people in the Foreign Service feel very strongly about. You know, we are committed to carrying out our responsibilities to doing the hard work of diplomacy and doing the hard work of diplomacy in a transformational period. But it is worth noting that that does mean that individuals make sacrifices not only in terms of being away from their families or being in some difficult circumstances, but occasionally means that when they come back from this service, they do have things that we need to help them with and help them to be able to respond to.

Let's go over here.

QUESTION: United States supports Turkish democracy, there are a lot of statements on that -- a few statements, I mean. My question is about that: How has U.S. support Turkish democracy? What does support mean? How does support Turkish democracy?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I don't think the United States needs to be dictating to Turkey how its own internal politics should work, but it means exactly that. Turkey is a friend and NATO ally. We fully support the right of the Turkish people to determine who their leaders are going to be. We certainly reject any kind of external interference into Turkish domestic political affairs and we certainly also wish to see, just as the Prime Minister said the other day, that the Turkish people should be able to decide through the ballot box who their leaders are going to be and who's going to be in charge.

QUESTION: May I follow?

MR. CASEY: Hold on, Mr. Lambros. Don't jump out of your seat quite yet.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. CASEY: Okay, I'll let him follow up, since he asked the question, and then you can follow up on his follow-up.

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes. On the same subject.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there any change on other issues such as committing PKK terrorism, Kirkuk and murder in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Well no, our positions on those issues remain the same. Certainly we want to work with Turkey and the Government of Iraq to try and combat the threat that's posed from the PKK. I think you heard a little bit from some of our briefers earlier in the week about that subject. I know General Ralston continues his mission and continues his contacts both with Turkish and with Iraqi officials, but we remain fully committed to working with the Turkish Government and the Iraqis to deal with that problem. On Kirkuk, I think you've heard our answer on that one before and I just refer you backto what we said previously.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Follow up on Turkey. Mr. Casey, the late popular Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said, "Democracy in Greece at the gun point" by U.S.-supported dictator Colonel George Papadopoulos. The popular Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said yesterday, "Today democracy in Turkey has been shot with a bullet" by the dictator today, General Yasar Buyukanit, but so far, I know who is behind. Question: Are you really concerned, Mr. Casey, about democracy in Turkey, which has been brutalized by the Turkish generals?

MR. CASEY: Well, thank you for that trip down memory lane, Mr. Lambros, but --


MR. CASEY: Look, I think the Secretary made clear in the remarks she made to the traveling press on her trip what our position is. I've stated it here again. I think you heard it from Sean the other day. We believe that a free and democratic Turkey in which the Turkish people decide for themselves who their leaders are is critical for that country. It is critical for Europe, and it's critical for the world and we will continue to support and call for respect for the constitutional order and democratic process in that country.

QUESTION: One more for the Army. A leading editorial of Washington Post, Mr. Casey, wrote yesterday "that Bush Administration quietly asked the Turkish Army to remain in its barracks" where they belong and leave the politicians alone. Do you agree as the Department of State?

MR. CASEY: Do I agree with The Washington Post editorial? Well --

QUESTION: Do you agree with the (inaudible) in common politics --

MR. CASEY: Well, since I did see -- since I did happen to see the members of the --

QUESTION: -- vote in internal politics?

MR. CASEY: Well, since I did happen to see the members of the editorial board of the Post earlier today, I certainly wouldn't want to say anything to offend them. But Mr. Lambros, U.S. policy is U.S. policy. It's quite clear we support the democratic order in Turkey. We wish to see the constitution, the ballot box rule in Turkey. And I think the Secretary and everyone else has made that quite clear. Certainly we don't want the military or anyone else interfering in the constitutional process or doing anything in an extra constitutional way.

QUESTION: Thank God.

MR. CASEY: There you go.

Arshad, welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Has the U.S. Government begun discussions with the Government of Great Britain about how to curb access to the United States by British citizens of Pakistani descent?

MR. CASEY: No. Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the Times --- The New York Times says that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has done so. Are you saying that's wrong? I'm assuming you checked between the gaggle and now?

MR. CASEY: I am telling you that according to everyone I've checked with, including the Department of Homeland Security, there are no such kinds of discussions ongoing. You're certainly free to ask them, though.

Again, I talked about this in the gaggle, but let me just kind of walk people through this. First of all, the Visa Waiver Program is something that is enshrined in legislation. It is not something that is subject to bilateral negotiations between the United States and any given country.

And while the President has talked about putting forward additional legislation to expand the Visa Waiver Program, all while being able to maintain security for our borders as we do so, the legislation has not been forward to the Hill. And certainly ideas are still under discussion. So in that sense, the U.S. Government, the Executive Branch, does not have any final proposals to put forward to Congress which has the ultimate say on this, much less engage in discussions with foreign countries about how that any changes to the legislation might work.

I also want to be clear, Arshad, it is repugnant to the values of this country and I think to anybody sitting in this room to suggest that the United States would engage in what frankly the way I read that story would amount to some form of racial profiling. I cannot imagine an instance in which that would be our policy.

QUESTION: They do have ways of keeping people off airplanes in Visa Waiver countries, you know.

MR. CASEY: I love when I get coaching. Thanks, George, for reminding me to talk about some of that, too. As you know, the --

QUESTION: You're going to miss him. (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: I am going to miss him. But we will find an appropriate tribute for George later on. And we promise George it will be embarrassing.

But what I do want to take advantage of George's question -- to remind you of, too, is that as we look at entries into the United States, there are any number of means to ensure that people who intend us harm don't come here. Certainly the law enforcement community and the intelligence community maintain various kinds of watch lists that you're all familiar with, that's certainly our one bar towards people being able to come here.

But the other thing that people will often forget is that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. Someone who comes to the border, whether they are from a Visa Waiver country or whether they have a visa and their passport does have to pass through screening from the Immigration Control and Enforcement Service at ports of entry. And I think all of you that have covered this building for a while are familiar with cases in which individuals have found their way to ports of entry and have been found ineligible to come into the country for one reason or another.

So what I want to make clear is even as the Visa Waiver Program moves forward and it is something which facilitates travel among a great many of our close friends and allies and countries with which we have a good strong relationship. We are still not saying that that just automatically means that anyone who is a citizen of those countries comes here without any kind of checks or without any kind of screening both before they get on an airplane or when they get to the port of entry.


QUESTION: Nick Burns has made some comments in London today that seem to indicate -- have a stronger possibility of an Iranian-U.S. meeting on the sidelines of this conference. He said we look forward to a good discussion around that table in Sharm. It has been 30 years since the United States and Iran have been able to negotiate on serious issues. Can you elaborate on his comments at all or say whether -

MR. CASEY: Well, I'll see your Under Secretary and raise you a Secretary. I'd just refer you back to the comments that she made on the plane on the way out to Sharm.

Certainly, you know, first of all, the importance is this is going to be both in the Compact and in the neighbors meeting, an opportunity for all of us to try and see what we can do to help advance the cause of building a free, peaceful and democratic Iraq. And we certainly hope that all the people who are coming to that meeting are going to do so with that idea in mind. What we want to see from the Iranians and the Syrians, as you know, is to have their actions live up to their rhetoric. They've continued to stress that they want good relations with Iraq. They've continued to say that they want to see peace and stability in Iraq. Unfortunately, they continue to do things like allow foreign fighters to transit, like provide support for militias, and like providing some of these most deadly IEDs to insurgent groups and others who are taking attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces. So we'll see.

In terms of a meeting again, we're not trying to rule anything else. We're not trying to rule anything in. And I'm also not trying to tell you that Nick's comments should lean you any further one way or another than the Secretary did herself last night.

Dave. Do you want to follow up, Nina?

QUESTION: Yes, but on a different subject, a brief question on Wolfowitz, still embattled obviously. (Laughter.) I know you have nothing to do with that at all but I have to get it in.

MR. CASEY: But you snuck it in, so good for you.

QUESTION: Does the Administration feel that the World Bank needs someone like Paul Wolfowitz as its steward -- really a tough taskmaster or someone that's going to make changes? And can you give examples of any changes he's implemented since he's been there?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think the President's spoken to this issue and I will, frankly, leave it where he has in terms of the specifics on Mr. Wolfowitz. But in terms of the World Bank, we do think it's important that this institution adapt and evolve itself to the times. And that does mean taking advantage of opportunities to really work to reduce poverty, to really work in some of the critical-needs countries, but to do so in a way that ensures that there really are commitments on both sides. It doesn't help any nation to receive loans if those loans don't go to good purpose or if they are not tied in some way to assurances that they will be put to good use.

And unfortunately, if you look at the history of some of these programs, there have been many governments over time who have not exactly wisely used the funds they receive. So dealing with things like corruption, dealing with things like assuring that there's a clear compact along the model that we've used with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, to ensure that there's a real understanding of what countries are going to be doing with these loans and to have some clear understanding that it really will benefit the people are very positive things and things that need to continue at the Bank.

So I think we've been on record, both before Mr. Wolfowitz joined the Bank as well as after, saying these kinds of reforms are necessary. And our voice has not been alone in that, too. I think if you check with a number of the other major members of the Bank, they will say the same thing. So those kinds of efforts that have been undertaken, in part by Mr. Wolfowitz, are things that are important. And regardless of who's in charge of the Bank now or in the future are efforts that need to continue.

QUESTION: But would the Administration, in that case, want to see some continuity?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, in terms of Mr. Wolfowitz himself and his status, I think the President made his views on this quite clear and I'll leave it with him.

QUESTION: Tom, back on Burns.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it -- can you enlighten us at all about what happened at the P-5+1 political directors meeting and also tell us about his other meeting that he had there today?

MR. CASEY: Well, he's doing a couple of things while he's there in London. One is a P-5+1 meeting. That is basically -- short answer, Matt, is no, I haven't a chance to talk with him and get a good readout. But the intent was simply to do a update on the situation. As you know, we're looking for a report from the IAEA coming out in a couple of weeks that will provide their evaluation of where Iran's nuclear program stands. Certainly, we thought it was appropriate at this time to have a discussion among political directors about how people view things, particularly after the Solana-Larijani meetings.

I wish that I could say that we saw more progress there than we do. I think you've heard from others, though, as well that what the Iranians have done and what they've continued to do is refuse to meet the one basic criteria required to start negotiations. So, you know, certainly, we're always hopeful and certainly, I'm sure there will be a lot of discussions in that P-5+1, but I don't think that the Iranians have moved forward or come further towards meeting the international community's demands.

He also is meeting with or has met, I think, already with the contact group to talk about the situation in Kosovo. That is, again, an opportunity for him and his counterparts at the political directors level to discuss the Ahtisaari plan and the state of play. I think they may have an opportunity too to talk a little bit about the recent trip taken by some of the UN perm reps to the region as part of their evaluation of the situation in advance of potential UN action on Kosovo.

QUESTION: Has that second meeting occurred?

MR. CASEY: I think -- depending on the time, I think it may be ongoing -- still may be ongoing now.

QUESTION: Can you try to get us some kind of a readout on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I will -- we will get you something --

QUESTION: On both?

MR. CASEY: -- on both those meetings and I apologize for not having been able to get through to anyone on that before I came out here.


QUESTION: Tom, do you have anything more on the situation at the Estonia consulate in Moscow which was attacked by a group of youths which they described as a Kremlin-backed youth organization? And do you think the Russian police and security were sufficient around that compound?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me do this. We're going to be putting out a statement on this subject after the briefing, but let me just go through that with you and then we'll try and answer some of your more specific questions.

First of all, we're grateful to see the restoration of calm in Tallinn following the relocation of the Bronze Soldier monument. And as I said earlier this morning, decisions related to the movement of that monument or anything else along these lines are ones that belong to the Estonian Government and people. Throughout this past week, as this controversy has continued concerning its relocation, we've urged both the Estonian Government and the Russian Government to maintain dialogue and respect for the strong feelings on both sides.

However, we are concerned and continue to be so by reports of violence and harassment, including harassment of Estonian diplomatic personnel and premises in Moscow. And we welcome the Estonian president's call today for reconciliation among Estonian citizens and dialogue between Estonians and Russians. But we also urge authorities in Moscow to do everything possible to reduce tensions and carry out their responsibilities under the Vienna Convention concerning diplomatic premises and diplomats and avoid harsh words and escalation.

So I think that partly answers your question, but yes, you know, we all want to see this situation deescalate. We certainly want to see that the premises of the Estonian mission, the Ambassador, and other officials there are treated with the proper courtesies and respect that should be accorded them as well as all diplomats and are, frankly, legal requirements under the Vienna Convention. So we would urge the Moscow authorities to make sure that everything's being done to assure their safety and assure their rights.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Albania, Mr. Casey, yesterday, Greece protested provocative actions by newly formed Albanian army bands with a fancy name called Liberation Army of (inaudible). This entity according to Balkans observers is an extension of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Does the Department of State of follow the activities beyond Kosovo or for revived Kosovo Liberation Army which was once classified by the Department of State as a terrorist organization?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with those reports. But again, I think whether you're referring to the situation in Kosovo or more broadly in the Balkans, U.S. policy has been consistent and clear in terms of insisting that people proceed through constitutional and legal means and not resort to violence. We would certainly oppose any violent actions against individuals, whether that's in Greece, Kosovo, Albania or any place else.

QUESTION: One more. Does the U.S. Government share intelligence with Greece concerning the (inaudible) role of Islamic cells in the Balkans as you are concerned, some of which has been close allies of the KLA and its close border affiliates such as the (inaudible) Liberation Army?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we have excellent relations with the Government of Greece in all areas. But certainly, I wouldn't be in a position to comment on any kind of intelligence matters. You could certainly try again my friends over at the CIA on that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) information.

MR. CASEY: Again, I think we've covered that one sufficiently.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 78

Released on May 2, 2007

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