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Military

Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 28, 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Congressman Waxman's Letter to the Inspector General
Inspector General's Testimony Before the Committee will Address Concerns
Accusations of Former Employees
Department Responds Appropriately to Requests from Congress
IRAQ
Pat Kennedy's Review of Personal Security Contractors / Travel to Baghdad
Team will Conduct Broad Review of the Use of Personal Security Contractors
Media Reports on Blackwater Incident Based on Rumor / Investigation is Ongoing
Joint Commission Will Make Recommendations
Hunt Oil Deal with Kurdistan Regional Government / Deal is Not Helpful
Iraqi National Oil Law will Supersede Regional Laws
Query on PKK's Use of American Military Equipment
MIDDLE EAST
Query on U.S. Venue for Middle East Conference / No Invitations Have Been Issued
BURMA
Japanese Journalist Killed During Demonstrations
IRAN
Solana-Larijani Meeting / P-5 +2 Statement
Not Invited to Major Economies Meeting / Presence Would Not be Constructive


TRANSCRIPT:

12:38 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, guys. Happy Friday. Glad to be here with you. Don't have anything to start you out with, so we'll go to your questions.

Sue.

QUESTION: Do you have comment on this letter that Representative Waxman has sent to the IG's office complaining that the IG had threatened to fire some of his staff if they cooperated on an investigation about the inspector general's conduct?

MR. CASEY: Well, Sue, I haven't seen the letter, though, I understand it has been sent forward to the IG.

As you know, Congressman Waxman has sent a letter to him previous to this, concerning a series of issues that he has raised about the IG's conduct. Our inspector general has responded publicly by saying that he would very much welcome the opportunity to respond to those charges and to testify and believes he can clarify any concerns that the chairman may have. I would simply put this in the same category. I know that the chairman says that he has received information from former employees of the inspector general's office.

I believe this second letter cites some of those same individuals. So certainly, I think I would look at this as being part of the same -- overall series of concerns that the chairman has raised. And I think we will wait and see and let our inspector general address these charges directly with the committee when he goes to testify for them on it.

QUESTION: And also on the inspector general, his family has taken out a restraining order on him because of some kafuffle over a house deal. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. CASEY: I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with any specifics of any family disputes he may be involved in. Frankly, that's a personal matter that would be for him and his family to address.

QUESTION: Could we just stick with this for a minute?

MR. CASEY: Sure, Charlie.

QUESTION: On the most recent letter, he's -- Congressman Waxman is accusing the committee of threatening current employees with dismissal if they don't cooperate with Congress.

MR. CASEY: I think you ought to rephrase the question. The committee is threatening?

QUESTION: He is accusing the inspector general -- excuse me -- of threatening employees with dismissal if they don't cooperate with him.

MR. CASEY: Okay, look, again, my understanding -- I haven't had a chance to read the letter yet. I know there are a variety of accusations that have been made by former employees of the inspector general's office to the committee. That that is what I understand is part of what is prompting the committee's inquiries to the inspector general. Let's let the inspector general respond to these charges directly to the committee and then see where we are.

Certainly, I am not aware as I've said in previous occasions that we have any information that would substantiate those allegations. But to the extent that these are issues and concerns that have been raised, we certainly want to see them addressed. And the inspector general has said that he intends to address them very directly and forthrightly with the committee, and I think we should give him that opportunity before we try drawing any conclusions here.

QUESTION: Can you speak generally about members of the -- employees of the State Department being asked to cooperate with a congressional inquiry?

MR. CASEY: Well, in general terms, you know, we do everything we can to respond appropriately to requests for information from members of Congress. That's part of our obligation as an Executive Branch agency. I would also just again remind you too, though, that inspector generals, both in the State Department as well as elsewhere, have basically an arm's length relationship with the departments that they oversee.

Certainly, I in this case would refer you to the inspector general and to his office for specific responses to any of these issues. We obviously would be concerned if there was any indication that we had that individuals were being asked not to be forthcoming in an appropriate way with congressional investigations.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: There have been several letters from Representative Waxman this week. Do you sense that he's sort of going after you for a variety of issues?

MR. CASEY: Well, I would try not to ascribe motive to the chairman or to anybody else. Clearly, these are issues that concern him and they are issues that concern his committee. He's the chairman of a major congressional committee, and certainly we're going to do our best with these issues as well as with other concerns that he has raised in the past to provide him with information to answer the questions that he has and try and do so in a forthright and transparent manner.

Yeah. Keep going.

QUESTION: No, I've finished with that one. And then on another issue, when is -- did you have any more details on Pat Kennedy's visit to Baghdad next week and who he might be taking with him and the composition of the commission?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, well, let me tell you, I still don't have a lot of details to offer you now. We will definitely get something to you later this afternoon. But as you know, the Secretary has asked Pat Kennedy, our -- one of our most distinguished and senior management officials here in this building, to lead a review at a policy level of how we use personal service security contractors or personal security detail contractors in Iraq. And Pat has been putting together a team to do that. That will include a number of outside individuals who have some experience in working on security and diplomatic kinds of issues. He intends to leave for Baghdad this weekend and establish a general structure there and then his team will follow him shortly thereafter, so that they will be in a position to conduct an evaluation that both takes into account some of the broader policy issues here in Washington, but certainly gains a clear understanding and perspective of how things are viewed on the ground.

And Pat certainly, as you know, has a good of personal experience in Iraq that dates back prior to the establishment of the embassy there and he, of course, is certainly someone who has continued in that role to work on Iraq-related issues over time. As most of you know, Ambassador Crocker asked him to conduct an assessment of some of the internal aspects of embassy operations when he first arrived there. So Pat is someone that we all have great confidence in and, again, is one of our most experienced officers and expect that we'll have a little more for you this afternoon, though, in terms of the composition of his team. But the idea is we want to have a group of senior people who have a good deal of experience, who can really provide a thoughtful understanding of these issues and help achieve what the Secretary set out as the goal for this, which is to review broadly how we use these kinds of protective services contractors in Iraq to see what, if any, policy adjustments we might need to make.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Can we stick with this issue a little bit?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Dramatic stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times talking about chaotic events surrounding the Blackwater shooting, apparently based on a State Department Diplomatic Security report. Will you release the report? Will you comment on the reporting that's been done based on that report?

MR. CASEY: Well gee, let me tell you what I saw this morning when I looked at some of my major American newspapers and other reporting. I saw some reports claiming to be based on State Department documents that were initial accountings of what happened, our so-called spot reports, which are sort of the equivalent of the call in from the police officer who first arrives on the scene of a crime.

I saw accounts in another major newspaper claiming to have information about the investigation and what the investigation has determined at this point. I saw further reports citing Iraqi officials saying completely different things. You add all this up together and what you've got is that we have an ongoing investigation. That investigation hasn't concluded. And frankly, most of the rest of what you're seeing now is the Baghdad rumor mill working at full speed here.

What's important for us to have happen is that we do have a thorough and complete investigation of the facts. And frankly when that investigation is concluded is when we'll be in a position to really with some authority talk about what happened. I'd also point out, too, that in any kind of situation like this, whether it's a domestic law enforcement investigation by your local police department or whether it's something like this, it really doesn't help those trying to do the investigation or trying to establish the facts and it certainly doesn't help any potential actions that might follow on to that, to have lots of speculation out there on these issues.

So I would just caution people to treat very cautiously anything they hear about this because there are many, many aspects to this issue. This is not a simple situation, nor is, I think, anyone at this point in a position to really be able to accurately describe with any real clarity what the circumstances of the event was.

QUESTION: There's been that particular vignette, though, of one member of the private security detail having to turn a gun, reportedly or allegedly, on another member or members of the security detail to cease firing. Can you give us any information about that?

MR. CASEY: Look, you know, I am sure that at a certain point, once the investigation is concluded, we can deal with all those questions. But I'm not trying to rule anything in. I'm not trying to rule anything out. I'm telling you that we have an investigation that is ongoing.

I will tell you that it's a little disturbing to see individuals out there anonymously shopping stories from media organization to media organization until they can get someone to bite. And, again, I think it's unhelpful to the investigation. It's unfair to any of those involved, and ultimately while I understand why it makes for good copy, it doesn't necessarily shed any real light on the incident that's occurred.

So again I think we want to let the investigation reach its conclusions and then we'll be in a position to really be able to say what we understood happened. And again, remember this investigation is also going to feed into our joint commission with the Iraqis so that we not only have a common understanding of what actually happened on September 16th, but so that based on that and based on review of other issues or concerns that are out there about the use of personal security details, we can have a common set of recommendations and policies going forward so that we and the Iraqis know that we have a common set of operating goals and instructions and that we're doing everything we can to ensure the safety and security of our diplomats and of Iraqi citizens.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: That joint commission on that meeting today, do you have any sort of readout?

MR. CASEY: I don't. I was unable -- there's a -- we've had a little bit of a communications problem with the email system, among others, with Baghdad today. So I'm hoping to get a little more details on that. But I just don't have anything to offer you right now. I suspect the embassy will be saying something about it, though.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have a venue yet for the Middle East conference? I understand that it's apparently going to be held in Annapolis.

MR. CASEY: Hmm. Well, I don't actually have a venue that I can confirm for you at this point, Sue. Certainly we're looking at a variety of locations, as well as trying to think in terms of specific dates and some of the other logistical issues involved here. But I certainly am not in a position to confirm anything for you at this time.

QUESTION: So has the Secretary sent out any invitations yet, you know, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, you know?

MR. CASEY: I have nothing beyond what she and the folks up in New York have said on it recently. We have not issued any invitations at this point, no.

Yeah, back here.

QUESTION: I'd like to stay -- go back to Iraq but a different subject which is the --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Hunt Oil deal with Kurdistan regional government. A State Department official yesterday said that, in Iraq, said that "needlessly elevated tensions." Can you explain how?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'll let Hunt Oil speak for itself in terms of what its negotiations have been, or what its agreements are with the Kurdistan regional government. I think more broadly, though, there are a couple of issues here.

First of all, while the Kurdistan regional government has passed its own oil law and is proceeding to operate under the terms of that, it's important to note that that regional law will be superseded by what we hope to see soon, which is a national Iraqi oil law. And so I'm not sure exactly how helpful it is for either any individual corporate entity or the Kurdistan regional government to be proceeding to make deals and contracts under an arrangement that in fact may be changed, , and I expect will likely -- probably be changed as a result of overarching national legislation. So I think the main point we would make is that it's important to us to see the Iraqi Government pass a national oil law, and certainly it should be with caution that anyone engages in other kinds of arrangements -- legal, commercial or otherwise -- until such a law is passed. Because I think the basic business climate, if you will, is fairly uncertain.

Yeah.

QUESTION: If I could follow up, what did the State Department know about the Hunt oil deal, what communications did you have with Hunt Oil prior to the deal being signed?

MR. CASEY: I'm not sure how much contact there was between the company and officials, either in Baghdad or here. I think if they had asked this is -- what I'm telling you publicly now -- is the advice that we would have provided to them.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: But why now? I know you discussed this in some detail at the time the deal was announced. Why are you reentering this fray? Is it to discourage additional investment?

MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, look, I'm -- I basically was asked the question and gave the answer that we've continuously given. I think the U.S. position on this is quite clear: It's in the interest of everyone in Iraq to see a national set of laws governing the oil and gas industry and to develop an equitable revenue-sharing system. And that's something that has been a longstanding goal of the -- you know, of the Iraqi government. Certainly, I know there have been a lot of frustrations expressed in Iraq and elsewhere about the, you know, pace of the deliberations on that discussion.

But I do think that these kinds of contracts don't contribute to a resolution that is in the best interest of the Iraqi people and they do elevate tensions between the Kurdish regional government and the Government of Iraq. And to the extent that they detract from an ability to get a national oil revenue -- a national oil law completed, you know, aren't particularly helpful.

Yeah, let's go in the back.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said that PKK has some heavy U.S.-made guns and tanks. Do you have any response for that?

MR. CASEY: Guns and tanks?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: I'm sorry, I have no idea what that statement would be based on. It would be, I think, pretty difficult to see how heavy military equipment would get into the hands of the PKK. Certainly, it would not be anything that would be supported by this government or any member of the U.S. military that I'm familiar with. There is no information that I have of any kind that would support such an allegation.

QUESTION:   Do you have anything -- Turkish-Iraqi security agreement?

MR. CASEY:   I do not. I asked for something on that and was not quite able to extract it from the bureaucracy. But we'll make sure that since they didn't do their homework in time for the briefing, that they are required to submit a written response to you later today.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. A Japanese journalist was killed during the demonstration in Myanmar or Burma. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think if you saw the brief note that we put up related to the Secretary's meeting yesterday with the new Japanese Foreign Minister, the Secretary certainly offered her personal condolences to the minister on behalf of the United States for the death of the a Japanese cameraman that occurred during the demonstrations. I think, though this points out again the kind of repressive nature of the Burmese regime that we're dealing with.

Unfortunately, his is not the only death that has occurred as a result of the government's crackdown on these peaceful protestors, many of whom of course are Buddhist monks. We want to see the government end this kind of violent crackdown which if anything has only escalated over the past few days. And it is a real tragedy to see that anyone has lost their life as a result of this. And certainly a member of the media, who was simply there, trying to help ensure that the Japanese people as well as other people throughout the world can see and understand what's going on in that country.

Samir.

QUESTION: Tom, did you find out if a meeting will take place between Mr. Solana and Larijani?

MR. CASEY: Ah, indeed. I would refer you to the just released statement of the P-5, which says, in fact, and I quote -- "We have asked Dr. Javier Solana and European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy to meet with Dr. Ali Larijani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, to lay the foundation for future negotiations."

I don't have a specific place or time for that meeting to take place. I'm sure that's something that Mr. Solana will arrange appropriately with Mr. Larijani. That's obviously something that he's done in the past.

If you look at the statement that's been issued, though, what it makes clear is again, that all of us are committed to our dual-track approach. And what do we mean by that? Well, that means not just pursuing sanctions against Iran for its refusal to comply with its international obligations, but it also means continuing to offer through this established channel with Mr. Solana to Mr. Larijani an opportunity for Iran to respond to the call that it's been given, to comply with its obligations and to enter into negotiations that would allow Iran to achieve all of its stated objectives of its nuclear program.

And again, I think what you're seeing here on the part of the ministers is a real effort to reach out to Iran, to give Iran and this Government of Iran, an opportunity to do right by its people and to do right by the international community. Nobody wants to see the Iranian people further isolated from the rest of the world. And everyone wants to see the Iranian people be able to have the kind of future that they wish, one that does include jobs for a growing population, that does include meeting its energy needs, that does include dealing with the many social and political problems that exist in that country. And frankly, what is on the table from the P-5+1 is an offer that would not only help them deal with the international community's concerns about their nuclear program, but would lay the foundation, potentially, for a very new and different relationship with other countries out there. And again, it is frankly tragic that President Ahmadi-Nejad continues to headlong pursue his quest for a nuclear weapon at the expense of his people.

Yeah, in the back there. I'm sorry. You wanted to go back to the other issue, didn't you?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: I don't know if everyone is okay with that or if not --

MR. CASEY: No, that's fine. Keep going, man.

QUESTION: I'll start anyways. I'm wondering -- there's been calls by members of Congress for the State Department to answer questions, if not look into, the Hunt Oil deal, both domestically and to see what was taking place before the deal was signed in Iraq.

So what is -- is the State Department looking into it, or are you just letting it unfold on its own?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I, you know, I guess I would basically phrase this as caveat emptor. You have a company that's entered into an arrangement with a regional government, based on a regional law that I think most reasonable people would assume would be modified or superseded by the national law that's passed.

More importantly you have an agreement that was reached that if anything makes it harder for the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government to do what they have all stated as clearly being a critical objective in national reconciliation, which is get to that overall national oil legislation and a clear revenue-sharing plan, because that's critical so that all Iraqi people can understand that they're going to share in what is the principal source of wealth of their nation right now.

So I'm not aware of what, you know, possible legal or other ramifications there might be for this, but I am saying that it's probably -- it's certainly unhelpful from a political standpoint that this deal has occurred and it would be my own speculation, but one that I think would be shared by others, that it in the end may not be in the best interest of the company either. But this is a decision that they're going to have to make for themselves.

QUESTION: But is the State Department curious at all as to why a U.S. company, a well-connected U.S. company, went into Iraq, signed a deal that kind goes against stated U.S. policy in Iraq? Is that your --

MR. CASEY: I mean, look, the last time I looked, it's still a free country. And companies are free to pursue their economic interests as they see fit. I'm not aware that this agreement has, you know, has any particular legal or regulatory implications. I think those kind of questions are ones you ought to go back and ask the company. Why did they see -- conduct and concluding this kind of deal in their interest? I'm not sure, but that's really a question for them to answer, not us.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I'm asking you because it could affect -- and a lot of people are saying that it actually may have affect -- your role, the State Department's role, in trying to -- and to trying to see Iraq -- progress in Iraq and so it goes back to my question is are there any concerns because of the CEO of Hunt Oil's seat on President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, whether that affected the deal or vice versa?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Let me make this as simple as I possibly can, okay?

QUESTION: Please, thank you.

MR. CASEY: Our public and private advice to any company anywhere in the world, regardless of who's running it or who's on the board or who's there, is what I've just given you. We don't think that these kinds of deals are helpful. We don't encourage them, and that would be what the basis of our message would be to any company that would try and proceed with this. To the extent that Hunt Oil ever asked us about this, I am sure that that's the message we conveyed.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On the major emitters meeting --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So apparently Iran is the world's twelfth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and countries such as France, Australia and South Africa are lower on the list than them but were invited to a meeting. Iran, of course, was not.

Don't you think this is kind of, you know, counterproductive considering the ends of the major emitters meetings or the end goal and maybe too -- a case of standing too firmly in our principles, or --

MR. CASEY: Well, there is an interesting one for you. I couldn't tell you where Iran ranks in terms of the -- in terms of its greenhouse gas emissions or whether they're first, twelfth, fiftieth or otherwise.

What I can tell you is the company -- the countries that were presented here at the major economies meeting are all nations that are interested in making progress in dealing with the problem of climate change and working on issues of energy security. They are also nations, that combined, represent I believe over 90 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, which I think is a fairly substantial percentage of it. Certainly, we don't have diplomatic relations with Iran and I would doubt that we would in any kind of forum like this find that their presence would either be helpful or productive.

I think that -- oh, we got one in the back. Almost.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the twelfth?

MR. CASEY: Again, you've got ninety percent of the world's emitters here. I guess if what you'd like to argue is we really need their two percent and that that would be a very constructive and positive role to play, I guess you'd have to convince me why it would be.

QUESTION: I think some people did make that argument -- 92 percent and you get a couple more in there and --

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm (inaudible) -- I would -- Kirit, I'll tell you what, if at any point in time you would like to run a story that says that the meeting would have been a much greater success had Iran been present, because undoubtedly, they would have played such an incredibly constructive and positive role, you're free to write it. But I think you'll find most people would disagree with it.

All right, one in the back.

QUESTION:  Yeah. Turkey and Iraq has signed an agreement today combating terrorism. Do you have any reactions on that and --

MR. CASEY:   One of your -- you guys are playing tag team. One of your colleagues asked that a couple minutes ago. I apologize.

QUESTION: Sorry. Sorry. I was --

MR. CASEY: We did, in fact, ask for something on that a little earlier today. I'm afraid I didn't get a good answer on it before I came out here, so we'll post something later on it for everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m.)

DPB # 171



Released on September 28, 2007



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