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Military

Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 19, 2007

INDEX:

>IRAQ
Appointment of Ambassador James Foley as Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees
Formation of Joint Commission to Examine Personal Security Detail Operations
Investigation of Incident Involving Blackwater / Jurisdiction and Legal Authorities
Security Contractor Incident Reporting
Not Aware of Change in Blackwater Status in Iraq
Restriction of Personnel Movement Outside International Zone
Worldwide Contract for Personal Protection Services
Involvement of Department of Defense in Incident Investigation
>LEBANON
Assassination of Antoine Ghanem / Syrian Interference in Lebanon's Affairs
Pattern of Political Assassinations
>COLOMBIA
Senator Cordoba's Request for Access to FARC Detainees in U.S. Custody
Matter for U.S. Department of Justice
Americans in FARC Captivity
>DEPARTMENT
Congressman Waxman's Letter Concerning the Inspector General
Inspector General's Statement / Allegations will be Addressed
AFSA Statement Calling for Inspector General to Step Down
>NORTH KOREA
Contact with Chinese on Envoy-Level Meeting / Reason for Postponement
Notice to Congress on Funding for Heavy Fuel Oil Procurement


TRANSCRIPT:

12:47 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Glad to be here with you. I have a couple of statements that I'd like to read to you, both of which are related to Iraq, and the first is a personnel announcement.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has appointed Ambassador James Foley as the Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues. In this new position, Ambassador Foley will be working with the Iraq Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Task Force, as well as other government agencies to enhance our response to this important issue.

And I think many of you know Jim as one of the former illustrious Deputy Spokesman for the Department. But what you may not know about his background as well is that he's been serving currently as the Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor at the National War College and, of course, has also been Ambassador to Haiti and Deputy Permanent Representative at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, where of course he had extensive experience working with organizations like the International Organization for Migration and the High Commissioner for Refugees. He's also been a diplomat-in-residence and served in a number of other posts throughout the world. He's one of our best career Foreign Service Officers and we welcome his appointment to this position and look forward to him taking on the tasks, as Sean said, of being a bureaucratic brick-breaker, of being someone who can help ensure that the policies that have been established are being thoroughly and completely implemented and that any bureaucratic roadblocks that come up are being handled appropriately.

Let me do the other announcement before we go to questions. And this second one concerns the formation of a U.S.-Iraq joint commission.

So the Government of the United States and Iraq have agreed to establish a joint commission to examine issues of security and safety that are related to U.S. Government-affiliated personal security detail operations in Iraq. This follows the loss of life that resulted from the incident that you're all familiar with involving one of our convoys on the 16th.

The commission's goal is to make joint policy recommendations, including specific suggestions for improving U.S. and Iraqi procedures regarding government-affiliated personal security details. And the commission will also hear from, and receive the findings of, the U.S. review of the specific incident that occurred on the 16th. As you know, Secretary Rice has spoken to the Prime Minister about that incident. The United States regrets the loss of life and we reiterate our commitment again to a comprehensive and transparent investigation of the incident and to full participation by the U.S. and activities of this commission.

So with that, let me go to your questions. Matt.

QUESTION: But this commission isn't actually going to investigate the incident that happened on Sunday. It's going to investigate, or it's going to look into what -- how better to coordinate the security for diplomats?

MR. CASEY: Well, there are two issues here, Matt. There is the individual incident itself and then there's the broader question of security and safety issues that are related to personal security detail operations in Iraq. And I expect that the commission will deal with this incident. Again, they'll receive the results of the U.S. investigation on this and be able to review them and make policy recommendations both based on that review as well as on an examination of this larger issue of the operation of personal security details there.

QUESTION: So the answer is no, it's not going to investigate this incident?

MR. CASEY: It is not conducting a specific investigation into this incident. This incident will be a significant portion of what it deals with, however.

QUESTION: So the Iraqi side and the U.S. side are doing separate investigations, (inaudible) then feed into --

MR. CASEY: Well, the commission is going to be jointly co-chaired by the U.S. and Iraq and there's going to be equal representation from both countries and they will be able to review the results. Certainly, from our part, we're committed to providing all the results of our investigation to the commission for its review and for its deliberations. I'm presuming whatever investigation or investigative efforts that the Iraqis are doing on their own would also feed into that, but I'll leave it to the Iraqis to formally tell you that.

QUESTION: Who is going to represent the U.S. in this? Is it at the ambassador level? Is this at the --

MR. CASEY: We're still working out the terms of reference and the staffing issues for this, Charlie. I would expect it would be a fairly senior level. But I can't tell you at the moment who it will be from either side.

QUESTION: Is this an acknowledgment that the Iraqis have strong concerns about the operation of private security contractors?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's an acknowledgment that this issue has raised a number of concerns; some of them are not new. But I think what's important about this is it demonstrates that we and the Iraqis are committed to working together both to address the activities or the response to the specific incident that's occurred, as well as to look at the broader issues of the operation of personal security details in Iraq. So this is, I think, something that again demonstrates that we are and will work together on this issue, and we want to arrive at some common joint recommendations and solutions that each government will then be able to implement.

QUESTION: Can I just ask --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Why is this commission not going to investigate this incident? Are you -- does the United States believe that there's no need for a joint investigation into this; that your investigation is enough?

MR. CASEY: Well, Matt, we have an investigation that's already underway.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MR. CASEY: The Iraqis, I believe, have one of their own as well. I think rather than stopping those investigations and starting from scratch probably isn't a particularly productive way to proceed. I also think this commission is intended not just to deal with a specific incident, but deal with the larger questions involved. And I don't think anyone's intending that this commission be composed of forensic police experts.

QUESTION: Well, but -- so they're going to take -- they're going to get the U.S. investigation?

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: And then you’d suggested that they will also get the Iraqi investigation?

MR. CASEY: That would be my assumption.

QUESTION: And they were going to try and mesh the two of them together?

MR. CASEY: No. Again, Matt, that will be part of the information they have to look at, but the purpose of this is not to investigate or reach a specific conclusion about this specific incident. This specific incident raises questions about the larger issues of safety and security involving the operation of these contractors, of these personal security details.

So the focus of this is to look not only at that incident, but at the broader question. And to the extent that the investigative results help those deliberations and help us come up with joint recommendations -- help the commission come up with joint recommendations -- then it's very much a part of their work. But it is not an investigative body doing field forensics on this particular matter.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Related question. Do the contractors that serve the State Department security -- are they covered by some sort of -- the equivalent on the military side of a status-of-forces agreement? Or are they susceptible to Iraqi justice if Iraq sought to punish people like that?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I -- the answer that Sean gave you yesterday is the one that applies. This is an "it depends" answer and it depends on what the actual facts are. And until we have results of the investigation and know what facts we're dealing with, know whether, in fact, you know, any activities that might have violated laws occur, you can't really deal with the question of who would have specific jurisdiction or how you would resolve issues of competing jurisdiction that might be out there.

Kirit.

QUESTION: It was my understanding that the contracts for these security forces dictate that they have to report all of the incidents that they -- that occur every month to -- I think it's to the Embassy. Is this commission going to be receiving those and looking into those specific incident reports?

MR. CASEY: Again, I think the terms of reference of what the commission will want to obtain or need in terms of information either from the Iraqi Government or the U.S. Government will still have to be worked out. Certainly, I think in looking at the broader questions here, if there's information that we can provide that'll help their deliberations, again, we're full participants in this commission with them, then I'm sure we'll find a way to share the information we need.

QUESTION: All right. And then do you know how many of these incident reports come in per month? My understanding was on the order of a couple every month.

MR. CASEY: Incidents -- when you say incident, what do you mean?

QUESTION: Well, these contractors are required per their contract to submit a report every time there is a shooting incident involving one of their security details. Do you know how many of those happen every single month?

MR. CASEY: I have no idea and I would imagine it would vary from day to day and month to month. I don't have a number for you, and I think we would probably not want to talk in any particular detail about security threats to our folks.

Certainly, though, as with any other -- what I can tell you is certainly if a representative of Diplomatic Security, and I would apply that to any contractors as well, is involved in an incident that involves them being threatened or something that would affect the security of themselves or the people they are responsible for, that of course that gets reported because that's how we -- part of how we evaluate both the threat and our response to it.

QUESTION: And then I guess one last question about investigations into this incident and then -- .

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you -- are confident that you're able to -- I mean, how do you do an investigation in a war zone? You can't go out and collect forensic evidence. I mean, how do you expect to go out there and determine what exactly happened?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly -- and I'll leave it up to the folks that do this for a living to talk about how they do their work -- but certainly there are challenges in doing any kind of investigation in a difficult circumstance like Baghdad. But you have a variety of eyewitnesses out there. You have a variety of forensic evidence. And certainly, I think, there is ample opportunity for folks to consider the information that's available. Is it perfect information? Well, I don't think any investigation ever has perfect information. But I think we're confident that we can develop a good understanding of the basic facts and what happened. And part of what this commission will do, of course, is consider this incident and the results of the investigation as well as other information that's out there in terms of making recommendations of how we want to move forward together and in terms of how we want to deal with security and safety practices related to these kinds of contractor services and other personal security details.

QUESTION: Tom, the witness accounts that you just mentioned are -- appear to be diametrically opposed to the account provided by -- well, the account provided either by the contractors themselves or by people -- just by people who were in the convoy. I don't understand how this commission is supposed to look at the way ahead if it can only accept -- if it is unable to accept a joint report or a joint -- you know, if they're unable to agree on the findings of what happened, how are they supposed to --

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure anyone has said that there's -- that it's not possible to agree on a basic set of facts here. And I would certainly hope that the commission, as it, you know, looks at not just this incident but others, would ultimately have a common set of facts that the commissioners could agree to.

Again, Matt, I don't think -- anyone that's ever been at the scene of an auto accident knows that witness accounts often vary greatly, and part of what investigators do is weigh up and tally all the reports, weigh it up against what forensic evidence is available, and try and reach reasonable conclusions about what happened. And that's what I assume will happen in this investigation as well.

QUESTION: Tom.

MR. CASEY: David, yeah.

QUESTION: What is your understanding -- what is the State Department's understanding of Blackwater's status? Is it working? Is it suspended? Is it pending an expulsion from Iraq? Or is it just sort of continuing --

MR. CASEY: David, I have nothing beyond what we've said before on this. They're a contractor with the State Department as well as with other agencies of the U.S. Government. They continue to be so. I'm not aware of any particular change in their status in Iraq. We certainly haven't been informed of that by the Iraqis.

QUESTION: In her conversation with Prime Minister Maliki a couple days ago, it's been reported and I think it's kind of logical that the Secretary of State argued against an expulsion of Blackwater because they're needed. Is that safe to say?

MR. CASEY: Look, David, we've said what we've had to say on that conversation, and I don't have any more details to share with you on it.

QUESTION: Can I just follow that up a little bit?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure, Charlie.

QUESTION: In establishing the commission, wasn't the continuation of the Blackwater operations a part of that discussion?

MR. CASEY: Well, the purpose of this commission -- again, let's go back to what we're trying to do here. We've had a very serious incident involving one of our convoys. It's raised a number of questions. Some of those questions are specific to this incident and it's very important to all of us that we understand what occurred and why it occurred and respond appropriately to that. But the purpose of this commission is to recognize that there is a larger issue that this specific incident raises, which is the general idea of, again, security and safety related issues involving personal security details and contractor operations in Iraq.

And so what we want to do, in light of this incident, is have an opportunity to, with the Iraqis, work out a joint understanding of what we might be able to do to improve the effectiveness and safety of these operations and that's why it's important that this is a joint commission, that it's fully staffed from both sides, and that they are able to work together and come up with joint recommendations. Because again, this isn't a U.S. problem, this isn't an Iraqi problem; it's something where we as allies and friends and partners need to work together to be able to come up with some common solutions.

QUESTION: But parallel to that, aren't there the operations of the United States Embassy officials who have curtailed or suspended their groundwork?

MR. CASEY: Look, I think there's been a lot of overblown discussion about this. Whenever you have a major security incident like this, it is rational and expected that those responsible for the security of our folks are going to say, "Hey, wait a minute, let's stop a minute, let's take a look at what we're doing, and let's make sure before we send more people out there that we understand what's gone on here and make sure that we're not putting other people unnecessarily into harm's way."

Again, I can assure you that the U.S. Embassy is fully functioning, that it's able to carry out its needed activities. I would note that of course, what we're referring to here are transport through civilian means. The U.S. military, of course, is out doing the kind of activities that it normally does. And certainly, we have their support in a number of areas and ways to be able to make sure that if people need to get somewhere, they can.

QUESTION: Tom.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What you're saying is it's fair to assume that there will be no movement of civilians outside of the Green Zone until this joint understanding is reached, unless by military --

MR. CASEY: Well, no, I -- what you can assume from this is that the Embassy took a pause that will last for a time that I don't think will be that long, but that will allow our Regional Security folks a chance to make sure that if there's any immediate changes they need to make to our procedures or operations for civilian transport, that we have a chance to review that and implement it. But I would not -- I do not, in any way, link the movement of our officials to the commission coming up with any particular results or recommendations.

QUESTION: And do you think that this stop going to last weeks, months? I mean, how long are they going to --

MR. CASEY: I -- you know, that's a decision for Ambassador Crocker and our Deputy Chief of Mission there as well as our Regional Security Advisor. Those are the kind of decisions that really do have to be left to the folks on the ground. But I wouldn't expect it would be a particularly long pause.

Yeah, Matt.

QUESTION: On the contract issues I was asking about this morning --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has the Department made some determination that this multibillion dollar umbrella contract for worldwide personal protective services is secret and needs to be kept from the American people, either the entire thing itself or its components with the three -- the tens of millions of dollars that are spent by the government for these three companies to provide security in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Matt, you know, in terms of the specific document that's been signed by people, I honestly don't know whether there are some elements of contracts for security reasons that aren't public, whether this document is specifically publicly available or not.

I don't believe there's any great secret about it and again, as we've said, the operations of Blackwater in Iraq are covered under a worldwide protective services contract. That contract has a ceiling on it of several billion dollars. That contract is -- has been awarded through a competitive process to three companies. Blackwater is one of them. DynCorp and Triple Canopy are the other two. Off of that general contract, there are individual task orders that are given for operations for varying amounts at varying times depending on the services needed. And those three companies compete for each of those task orders.

So these are public contracts, they're competed through the regular, normal system. I don't think there's any particular surprises in them. And again, we -- I don't think it also comes as any surprise to anyone out there that we spend tens of millions of dollars every year through our Diplomatic Security service as well as through these contractors to protect our officials out there, and not only our officials in Iraq, but under the worldwide contract, officials in a variety of other countries and locations. Unfortunately, it's the world we live in and we need to make sure that our people can do the job they need to do, but that they also have the proper kinds of security necessary to ensure that they can do that job safely and securely.

QUESTION: So if they're public and there's nothing secret about them, why can't we see them?

MR. CASEY: Matt, I'm not sure you can't. I just, you know, didn't bring a sheet of contract documents with me.

QUESTION: Tom, I've spent three day -- two and a half days now, almost three days trying to find -- trying to get a hold of these things and nobody seems to be able to help me.

MR. CASEY: Well, Matt, you know, what can I tell you? I'd invite you to talk to our folks in the contracting office and certainly, there are, you know, other means at your disposal for getting these documents.

QUESTION: Such as?

MR. CASEY: Such as the Freedom of Information Act, such as the conversations that you might care to have with our contracting officials. I'm not a contracting expert. I don't have contracting documents carried around in my pocket. But the fact of the matter is these contracts are a matter of public record. They, I'm sure, are something that you can obtain and peruse at your leisure.

But I also still don't quite understand what the point is about whether it's 20 million dollars or 30 million dollars or 50 million dollars. We had an incident here in which innocent loss -- life was lost. We want to do what we can to figure out why that happened and we also want to deal with some of the larger issues that are raised here and that's why we've got this commission established. But I'm still kind of at a loss to understand what the value of an individual contract does or has to bear on that discussion.

QUESTION: Well, you seem to be hooked on the idea that it's the value of the contract and that's not necessarily what -- although it is an important element and one that I think that the American taxpayer probably deserves to know, it is not the -- certainly, the only thing that would be in these contracts and tasking orders that you mention. There are other things as well that are in there that would be of extreme interest to people, I think.

MR. CASEY: Matt, I invite you to talk to our folks that do contracting. And to the extent these are public documents, I'm sure they'll be happy to provide them to you.

QUESTION: But you just said that they are public documents, so I guess --

MR. CASEY: Matt, I do not know the status of any of these individual contracts. My assumption is contracts that are competitively bid have at least certain elements of them that are public, whether all of them, part of them, whether fifteen lawyers would give you fifteen different answers, I don't know. But I'm -- there is no secret about any of this. There's nothing that's being hidden from you or anybody else.

QUESTION: Tom.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: Samir.

MR. CASEY: Oh, Samir. Sorry.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Oh, it's okay.

MR. CASEY: Okay. So I really need new contacts, Samir. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: It's okay. Do you have any reaction to the events in Lebanon today, please?

MR. CASEY: Okay. First of all, we've seen the reporting out of Lebanon about this incident and we strongly condemn the assassination of Lebanese Member of Parliament Ghanem who was murdered today in Beirut, along with several other innocent people. And I think as you know, since 2004 there's been a pattern of political assassinations and attempted assassinations that are clearly designed to intimidate the people of Lebanon who are working to establish a sovereign and democratic country and working to make Lebanon for the Lebanese. The victims of these attacks were again the kinds of people who have stood against Syria and Syria's interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. And I don't think any of us view it as a coincidence that as Lebanon's preparing to elect a new President, this incident has occurred. So we're going to continue to work with the Government of Prime Minister Siniora and with everyone in Lebanon who wants to stand for democracy, who wants to stand for a Lebanon that is run and controlled and operated fully by and for the Lebanese people.

QUESTION: And this is the same statement issued in June after the killing of (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: It is unfortunately a statement very similar to that. And what is clear as well is that those forces, including those represented by Syria, who are out there are continuing to try and intimidate the Lebanese people and continuing to try and exert their influence over that country. And this is something that we know the government of Prime Minister Siniora and many other patriotic Lebanese wish to stand against. And unfortunately in some cases, is at the cost of their lives.

QUESTION: Are you holding Syria responsible?

MR. CASEY: Look, I think we need to actually let people examine and investigate this incident before we specifically attribute responsibility. But as I said, it's unfortunate that you can see a pattern here of political assassinations, of political assassinations specifically directed against those who have opposed Syrian interference and Syrian domination of Lebanon. And it's hard to see it as a coincidence, Charlie.

QUESTION: Tom, do you expect Secretary (inaudible) relatively close by to where this happened and she's going to be meeting one of the -- this is going to be one -- or Lebanon at least is going to be one of the topics of conversation between her and the French Foreign Minister here on Friday. Do you expect her to say anything about this while she's out there or do you not know?

MR. CASEY: You know, I'm honestly not sure, Matt. I wouldn't be surprised if it came up in conversations or including in public conversations she has with your colleagues out there. But I'm not sure whether she's planning anything at the moment.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Blackwater for one final question?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Just want to get your reaction to this Iraqi investigation which seems to run counter to what Sean said from the podium yesterday that the shooting was in response -- or was a defensive action in response to a car bombing. The Iraqi report seems to say that this was taken at their own initiative.

MR. CASEY: Well, look, the important thing here is that we come up again with a common understanding of this. At this point, what I would like to do is let our investigators review this, see what the facts are and then we'll deal with it from there. I think, again, from our perspective it's premature to talk about, you know, a sequence of events or what happened there. We know the convoy came under attack. What happened before, during and after is the subject of the investigation. And I think we need to let that investigation play out before I or anyone else is really in a position to assert definitively what we think happened.

QUESTION: But you're still maintaining that this was a defensive action in response to an attack. This is -- I mean, that's (inaudible) what the Iraqis were saying.

MR. CASEY: You know, what I know and what Sean said yesterday is the convoy came under attack and there was defensive fire as a result of that. There are various, and Matt pointed out, there are eyewitness accounts that say a whole variety of different things as to what the sequence was and where fire came from and all that. That's what the investigation has to figure out. I don't want to try and assert for you that things happened in a specific order of events because I just don't know if that's true, Kirit.

QUESTION: Okay. But this is different from an eyewitness account. This is the Iraqi investigation. So are you discounting their investigation?

MR. CASEY: You know --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) taken into account.

MR. CASEY: -- again, Kirit, until -- you know, I have someone from Diplomatic Security say here's the results of our investigation and here's what we believe happened, I'm not discounting any possibilities because that's what the investigation is for.

QUESTION: Tom, one more on this.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Pentagon said they're ready to help State with the investigation, if required. Do you have any plans to ask them to get involved?

MR. CASEY: Well, as we've said since the beginning, we expect and as far as I know, are using some support and help from MNF-I, meaning the U.S. military, to conduct the investigation and very much appreciate their support and help for us in this. In terms of what specifically they are doing to assist this, I don’t have details for you. But we expect that we’ll be using some of the resources that the U.S. military has to be able to help us in this investigation and to come up with a full picture of what happened.

QUESTION: But there won't be an independent DOD investigation.

MR. CASEY: No. These were State Department contractors. They were operating under Chief of Mission authority and that's where the investigation is.

QUESTION: Tom, just on that.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Pentagon also this morning just put out numbers and figures for all of its contractors in Iraq. Is the State Department willing to do the same thing?

MR. CASEY: I don't know, Matt. I'll have to look for you.

Yeah. Good.

QUESTION: On Colombia. Senator Piedad Cordoba, who is the government representative, or the Colombian Government representative, in the prisoners' exchange is coming to Washington to have a meeting -- to try to have a meeting with Simon Trinidad (inaudible) and Sonia. Does the U.S. Government going to allow these meetings?

MR. CASEY: Well, I --

QUESTION: What's your position about this?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. I'm aware that she made a request through the U.S. Embassy. Obviously, the State Department is not in a position to grant or deny access to prisoners held in the U.S. prison system, so this is a request that we've forwarded to the Department of Justice. And I understand the Department of Justice is considering it but hasn't made a decision one way or the other. And frankly, at this point, I'd refer you to them for any further information on their deliberations on it.

QUESTION: But the United States Government, like, what's the position about it? Do they agree with that?

MR. CASEY: Our position is that this is a matter for the Department of Justice to decide, and they haven't made a decision on it yet.

Yeah.

QUESTION: In this matter, will you be open on a negotiation of those (inaudible) in exchange of the North Americans that are held by the guerilla?

MR. CASEY: Well, our views on the American citizens who have been, unfortunately, in FARC captivity for way too long have been clear. The FARC is responsible for their situation. The FARC is responsible for their health and safety. We want to see them be released immediately and we want to see them be released immediately and unharmed. In terms of our views and our standing position on making concessions to terrorists and hostage-takers, those views are well known and I don't have anything to add to it.

Yeah, back here.

QUESTION: On these allegations against the Inspector General, if any of these do turn out to have any weight, what can the State Department itself do to look into this given that it's, you know, the office that's supposed to be responsible for internal oversight?

MR. CASEY: Well, look, a couple of things. First of all, we have received a letter from Congressman Waxman that makes a number of requests and includes a number of issues and concerns that he has raised. Our Inspector General, who is actually on travel in the Middle East right now, has made his own statement on this. He has said that he believes these charges to be without foundation and that he welcomes the opportunity to talk to the committee about them. Certainly, we have no information that would substantiate any of these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to have the Inspector General talk to the committee about this.

QUESTION: Tom, on that, a couple of things. One, you said that he said that it was without foundation. In fact, that's not exactly what he said. He said that some of the allegations, or at least some that had been described to him, were “replete with inaccuracies,” which is not exactly --

MR. CASEY: Well, Matt, I would --

QUESTION: -- the same thing as --

MR. CASEY: Matt, I apologize if I didn't have his exact language in front of me. I would simply say that he has addressed this issue. He has responded personally to it. He has also expressed an interest in working with the committee on this. My understanding is that will likely take place in the form of a hearing to be held sometime in October. So I think what we would like to do at this point is let that hearing take place and give him the opportunity to address these charges.

QUESTION: Okay. So recognizing that the IG's office is kind of a separate entity, it's in the State Department but it is the independent --

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: Does the rest of the Department still have confidence in Inspector General Krongard?

MR. CASEY: Again, Matt, I have no reason to find any substantiation for these charges. We've seen the letter. We'll cooperate with the committee. But at this point, what we have is a series of unsubstantiated allegations.

QUESTION: Okay. And you're aware of the statement from AFSA today that says that -- calls for Mr. Krongard to step down, at least temporarily, while pending a resolution of the investigation?

MR. CASEY: I have seen it, yeah.

QUESTION: And what do you think of that?

MR. CASEY: I think that's AFSA's opinion. Just like when you asked me this morning about what I thought about Blackwater's statement, I think that's Blackwater's opinion.

QUESTION: And then -- no, that's it.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you got a reaction to the arrest of a senior Khmer Rouge figure today?

MR. CASEY: If I knew anything about it, I might. We'll have to look into that for you. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, let's go back here.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the six-party talks? What do the Chinese say (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Not much beyond what we talked about this morning. We have been contacted by the Chinese about a next envoy-levels meeting that they have proposed take place next week. We are certainly amenable to that and would like to see it happen. As far as I know, the -- they have not completed consulting with all the other parties, but at least at this point those they have talked to have all said they'd be willing to come then. So Chris' bags are packed and ready, and hopefully he will be in Beijing next week and meeting with his counterparts in the six-party talks.

QUESTION: And the Chinese have talked to the North Koreans, as far as you know?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is they've already talked to the North Koreans about it, yes.

QUESTION: And what was their response?

MR. CASEY: Well, as I said, all the people they've talked to have been amenable to the dates they were proposing.

QUESTION: Have you got any official letter or notice (inaudible) from North Korea? Why -- reason why they are postponed the talk?

MR. CASEY: Well, the Chinese did not, as I recall, give us any detailed reason for the postponement. Whether that was because of the North Koreans or because of others, the Chinese can detail for you.

QUESTION: I mean not Chinese. It's North Korea and between United States direct talks, maybe you (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Well, no, I mean, we've -- in terms of the envoy level meeting and what our expectations would be, I would expect that Chris would have bilateral consultations with all the other members, including with the North Koreans. But I wouldn't expect anything beyond what you've seen at previous envoy-level sessions.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea of how much tons of fuel oil is going to be provided by the $25 million that you're redressing to the Congress?

MR. CASEY: I haven't checked the stock market recently. No, I don't. Again, this is something that is out there. We've put forward a notice to Congress saying that we were reprogramming some funds in anticipation of being able to provide heavy fuel oil as part of the contribution of the other five parties to North Korea's energy needs in response to them taking steps on the denuclearization front. But exactly how much that dollar figure would amount to, I'm honestly not sure.

Joel, I'll give you the last one.

QUESTION: All right. Last week when Christopher Hill was here in this briefing room, he was badgered with questions concerning perhaps a transfer of nuclear -- either equipment and/or nuclear technologies to Syria. And under those circumstances, is he prepared to talk to the North Koreans? There's a possible -- also a connection with the A.Q. Khan network. And furthermore, the Syrians are saying that they're going to bring this to the Security Council at the UN. With the Secretary in the region right now, is she prepared or not prepared to further talk with the Syrians directly concerning these matters?

MR. CASEY: Joel, with respect to the press reports that are out there, Sean's addressed it, I’ve addressed it, Chris addressed it, and the Secretary addressed it in her plane briefing yesterday. I don't think I have anything to add to that.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

DPB # 165



Released on September 19, 2007



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