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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 4, 2007


FBI to Take Lead in Blackwater Investigation
Timing for Completion of the Investigation
Timing of Other Reviews / Reports / Investigations / Ambassador Kennedy
State Department's Use of Personal Security Contractors
Ambassador Kennedy's Interim Report Expected Tomorrow
Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's Comments on Blackwater Activities
Reports of Separate Investigation into Incident
Role of Diplomatic Security in the Investigation
Proposed Congressional Legislation Governing Contractors
Chinese Weapons Sales to Iraq
Congressman Waxman's Comments on Corruption / DOS Classification of Documents
UN Special Envoy Gambari to Report to UN Security Council Tomorrow
Regime's Request for U.S. Charge d'Affaires to Meet with Foreign Ministry
U.S. Policy on Contacts with Burmese Government Officials
Visit by Former President Carter to Darfur
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas Meeting / Discussion
New York Times Story on Reports of Secret Interrogations
Reported Leaked Transcript of February 2003 Conversation / Aznar
North -South Summit / Progress Dependent Upon Cooperation in Six Party Process
September 2005 Joint Statement / Peace Agreement on the Korean Peninsula


12:38 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you?



QUESTION: Do you have anything to start us off with?

MR. MCCORMACK: As a matter of fact, no. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So can you explain why it is that the FBI is taking the lead in the State Department-organized Blackwater investigation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, talked a little bit about that this morning. But from an investigation point of view, from a bureaucratic point of view, and from a timing point of view, it made sense. You have an FBI team that is now on the ground, they have flown in from Washington, and the original idea that we talked about here in public was that they would assist the investigation. We, internally and in talking with the FBI, had been thinking about the idea of the FBI leading the investigation for a number of different reasons. But that discussion came into higher relief when you have the fact of the team actually arriving in Baghdad.

None of this is meant to indicate one way or the other any thoughts about what the investigation has thus far yielded in terms of facts. It just, from our perspective, made sense and we talked to the FBI about it. They agreed to our request that the FBI team would take the lead.

QUESTION: What were the -- for a number of reasons, you were --


QUESTION: -- considering having them do that. What were those, what are those reasons?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, timing-wise, it seemed to make sense. You have this group that is coming in from Washington and also, it is, in a sense, a hedge of -- in the -- against the possibility that an investigation leads to the point where there may need to be a referral. Now I want to emphasize and underline for everybody that that is not meant to indicate in any way, shape, or form any findings to date or to point you in the direction that that is where the investigation will lead. I can assure you that this is an ongoing investigation. Nobody has come to any conclusions. But that is one reason why we thought it seemed to make sense.

QUESTION: By referral, you mean referral either to the U.S. Justice Department or to Iraqi legal authorities who might choose to prosecute? And again, I emphasize, have you thought it through?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, if the -- yeah, again, if there were, in fact, any finding that there were any violation of rules, regulations, or laws.

QUESTION: Okay. And --

MR. MCCORMACK: And it also -- from a bureaucratic standpoint, it also makes sense. You have two federal law enforcement entities working on the same case and with that -- with the thought in mind that there is that possibility, it made sense to clearly designate from the beginning of this team's arrival there that the FBI would be admitted.

QUESTION: And is that -- and I've been asking you for a week why you didn't try to make this third party, while being very careful to emphasize that I do not, in any way, mean to question the integrity of the Diplomatic Security people. But the point that I kept asking about was, look, why not have it be a third party even if it's part of the U.S. Government so that there is no apparent -- you know, no one can suggest a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.

So my question is, is that part of it? You know, when you talk about a hedge, is it so that you can feel comfortable in saying if there are referrals, well, this was done not by the people who are responsible for Blackwater, but by another arm of the U.S. Government? Is that why?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't heard any of those discussions, Arshad. I couldn't tell you. Maybe -- maybe within the building, people were talking about managing perceptions in that way. I wasn't a participant in any of those conversations, so I wouldn't -- I wouldn't include that as a major factor or a factor that I am aware of.

You know, could it be in some people's minds? Could be, I don't know. And if somebody wants to take away -- take that away from this action, well, then, okay. But there wasn't anything in any of the discussions that I heard that touched on that.

QUESTION: On the issue of perceptions --

MR. MCCORMACK: Perceptions, yes --

QUESTION: -- or appearance of conflicts of interest?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.

QUESTION: Okay. And we --

MR. MCCORMACK: We are entirely confident that, you know, if there -- if the decision went the other way and DS was going to be in the lead, we have full confidence that they would be able to handle this on the ground in a way that everybody had confidence in.


QUESTION: Is it not true that DS can refer --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, they can.

QUESTION: -- cases to --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, they can.

QUESTION: DS is technically law enforcement officers?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, they are federal law enforcement officers, yeah.

QUESTION: And they do and have in the past --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think they have.

QUESTION: -- often in many cases referred situations, incidents to the Justice Department for prosecution. Can I finish?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.


MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, I can't -- I can't go any deeper into the explanation than I have at this point.

QUESTION: But it just seems to me that it's obvious that there would be a perception of a conflict of interest and that's why this would be done.

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, Matt, none of the conversations that I was involved in about this and I've talked about this with a number of different people in meetings, talking about this, considering these decisions, that never came up.

QUESTION: Is part of this that the FBI team might be able to get to the bottom of it more quickly? Is this going to speed up the investigation, do you think? I mean, not particularly --

MR. MCCORMACK: No. It's nothing more or less than I have explained here in these first couple of questions -- answers to the first couple questions.

QUESTION: Who took the decision then to make the FBI the lead?

MR. MCCORMACK: This was something that Department-wide, I think from top to bottom of the group of people that were looking at this, everybody agreed it was the right thing to do. The Secretary supports the decision, I think. Deputy Secretary Negroponte has really been the point man on this issue for Secretary Rice, internally talked to the FBI over the past couple of days about the issue at senior levels about their thoughts concerning our request. They agreed with the Deputy Secretary that the FBI would take the lead.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense for when the investigation might be completed?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't. Everyone wants us to proceed in a way so that we can have answers as quickly as possible, but nobody wants to do anything that might jeopardize the integrity of the investigation or call into question the results of the investigation just because people are trying to speed things along. But the Secretary does want to understand what it is that's happened.

QUESTION: And this is one of a number of investigations taking place simultaneously, isn't it, so there's the Kennedy group?


QUESTION: Have you got any timings on these? Which are sort of more long term, which -- is the investigation into this particular incident likely to report first before the Kennedy?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a timing either on any of these reviews and -- slash -- investigations or how they might relate to one another. And it is worth noting that they are qualitatively different. You have the investigation, which now is being led by the FBI into the events on September 16th determining exactly what happened there. And of course, based on their findings, a determination on whether any rules, regulations or laws were broken. To us, that's an investigation, a law enforcement-led investigation that's ongoing.

There are two separate reviews that are ongoing. There's one joint review between the Iraqi Government and the U.S. Government, led on our side by the DCM, Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad, Pat Butenis and on the Iraqi side by senior officials. That's designed to look into the operations of personal security contractors in Iraq. That's something that was generated -- an idea that was generated out of the Embassy in consultation with the Iraqis that Secretary Rice supports. So they're going to take into account, I'm sure, information as it is generated out of the September 16th investigation and that will feed into their review overall looking at the operations of these personal security contractors separately.

Secretary Rice asked Pat Kennedy to be the initial landing party out in Baghdad to start work on a high-level review that will involve senior outside experts that will take a look at this question, again, of personal security contractors' operations in Iraq. We've got the rules of engagement, the legal authorities. How those rules of engagement are employed, management oversight of contractors, taking a look at the entire way we do business with personal security contractors in Iraq.

Pat Kennedy is on the ground now. He is collecting information on behalf of that review.

QUESTION: On reviews?

MR. MCCORMACK: And Eric Boswell, I believe, is out there and he is one of the outside experts who we've asked to come in. I think you guys have his bio. I would expect that Retired General Joulwan and Ambassador Stapleton Roy will be traveling out there in the not-too-distant future. I don't have a date yet for their travel, but they will be out there in the not-too-distant future.

So they're going to be able to assess the ground truth for themselves as well, consult with Pat, ask their own set of questions. They're going to take the information that they've collected, both here and in Baghdad -- here in Washington and in Baghdad -- sit down, look at it, analyze it, and come up with some recommendations for Secretary Rice about the operations of these contractors.

And I have to say we are reliant on contractors in order to do some of our business, diplomatic business in Iraq. We simply don't have, within the State Department, the assets to be able to provide the kind of security we need to provide for our diplomats in Iraq resident here in the State Department. Hence, we have contractors. I would point out the Department of Defense also employs contractors for personal security, so it's not something that's unique to the State Department.

But the Secretary wants to make sure that we're protecting our diplomats. We’re doing that well. We're also doing it in a way that furthers our foreign policy and national security interests. So she's going to be looking forward to that review. I can't tell you exactly what the timeline is on it. She expects that to proceed with some pace, meaning she wants to get that done relatively quickly. But that said, she also wants it done well and she has full confidence that these individuals will be able to do that.

Now, in the interim, Pat Kennedy is going to work up a very brief, barebones interim report for Secretary Rice, and she's going to get that no later than tomorrow. It might work out that they're able to connect schedule-wise via phone. If not, then he'll submit a written report. And I would expect that that written report will also include any recommendations he has right now in the short term about how we might change the way we do business. But again, I'm going to leave it to Pat to either include or not any of those recommendations. And of course, Secretary Rice will take a look at those and make any final decisions that need to be made.

QUESTION: Is there -- there's not going to be any public document, is that it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll brief you guys on it as best I can. I don't know if we're going to actually release his interim report. As I said, this can come in a variety of forms and I expect it to be fairly barebones because you have not yet had the opportunity for General Jalwoun or Ambassador Roy to provide their input to it, and we don't want to in any way set this review on a course -- a course that has been determined without their having any input to it. But Pat will probably have some thoughts for the Secretary and I'll try to -- inasmuch as I can, I'll try to share those with you.

QUESTION: I still don't understand what the reason is. Can you explain what you mean by that hedge? I mean, why do you need a hedge?

MR. MCCORMACK: Arshad, I don't really have any further explanation for you. I think most people get it.

QUESTION: Sean, does it concern you though that Prime Minister Maliki is still making comments in Iraq about questioning Blackwater's prior activities? And I think he was responding to the congressional hearings and the details of some of their past -- allegations of their past activities. And he was calling into question their existence in Iraq. Doesn't that still concern you?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, he's the head of a sovereign government and he is, I am sure, expressing views that represent some of the concerns within Iraqi society. We fully understand that and fully expect that he would do that.

What we would ask is that we continue to be able to work with Prime Minister Maliki and his government on this issue. It's an issue of some sensitivity, certainly for the Iraqis and how these -- how the United States Government operates in Iraq. We want to be respectful of the fact that we are operating in a sovereign country.

At the same time, we have a need to protect our people. And the Iraqi Government understands that. They want our people to be able to do their work because we're working -- what we're doing there is working on their behalf, working to help the Iraqis create better conditions in their country so you have a more stable environment and they can actually start to work on building a better life for themselves and a better future for themselves.

So you know, there's a balancing of interests here, I am sure, that is ongoing on the Iraqi side. Everybody understands that. But I also think that they have a healthy appreciation for the fact that our people on the ground, our diplomats on the ground, our civilians on the ground, our military on the ground, are working on behalf of the Iraqi Government as well as the Iraqi people with a common set of goals. We all have the same end point here. But we want to make sure that we continue to work together to make sure that we are able to achieve those goals together in the way that we should.

QUESTION: Same general issue. Can you clarify -- there is also, in addition to the investigations you've talked about already, is there not an Iraqi -- unilateral Iraqi investigation into the incident of September 16th?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to them, Charlie. I've seen the news reports about it. Yeah, I understand. I saw those -- a couple of wire service reports about some of their initial findings and -- please go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. And a clarification on DS' role now. There's -- I've heard some reporting that there is an internal DS investigation into this incident and I don't know whether this is a -- you know, just words passing each other in the night.


QUESTION: Or whether that's part of the DS investigation that's now subsumed into the FBI investigation. But could you check and see if DS is doing a separate internal investigation --

MR. MCCORMACK: I will check --

QUESTION: -- with direct procedures?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I will. I don't know if DS, when you have these kinds of incidents, has internally, for their people, some -- any sort of automatic reviews that are set in motion. I'll check for you, but the -- in terms of the September 16th incident, we know what that investigation is. In terms of the overall reviews of rules of engagement and management oversight of contractors, that's what Pat Kennedy and his group are doing. I will see if there's any other separate effort underway.

Of course, we're -- DS is integral to providing information to Pat Kennedy and that overall look, so I don't know, maybe that might explain it. We'll see if there's anything else.


QUESTION: What do you make of this talk on the Hill that they might introduce new legislation for these firms? Will this be contingent on the results of these reports? I mean, how is --


QUESTION: -- the timing going to work?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen any formal proposals about new legislation for government contractors. There was, yesterday, in the House, passage of some proposed legislation that looks at the potential -- relates to the extradition of civilians and the application of U.S. law to civilians operating overseas in war zones and outside of war zones.

That doesn't necessarily just apply to contractors. It covers civilians because separately, that issue was addressed for those working for and with DOD in the previous set of laws. Those people are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So this legislation is looking at the issue of civilians who don't work for DOD overseas and the application of U.S. criminal statutes to any acts that may be committed overseas.

We're working with the Hill on that issue. I understand that the Senate is going to take up consideration of potential -- some potential legislation maybe in a couple weeks time. We're going to use that interim period to work with the Hill in trying to address what they have identified as an issue and I think that we are going to work with them in that spirit, that there is an issue here that needs to be addressed.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Do you mean -- will the report be presented to Congress? How will it actually pan out?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that the -- that the report would have a direct bearing on the proposed legislation. I think that we would be able to work with the Hill and provide our views as a Executive Branch to the Hill absent the report.

QUESTION: What are your views?

MR. MCCORMACK: On the --


MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- excuse me, the Hill identified what they believe is a gap in the law and they raised this issue. You've seen the legislation now. We have discussed it internally within the Executive Branch and we believe that there -- there is some reason to work on some legislation that covers some possible gaps in the law with respect to the application of U.S. statutes to acts committed overseas.

QUESTION: Does the administration believe there are gaps? You just said they believe and then --

MR. MCCORMACK: They believe --

QUESTION: -- you talked about possible gaps.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well --

QUESTION: Are there gaps?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, there are some questions that have -- some good questions that have been raised by this action on the Hill -- passage of this legislation that we think bear some examination and that bear working with the Hill to see if we can come to some mutual understanding.

QUESTION: Yeah, but do you accept that there are gaps in --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'll leave it the way I left it, Matt.

QUESTION: What -- but you can leave it the way you left it, but -- Sean, but I still don't understand --

MR. MCCORMACK: You can continue answering your question and I'll refer you back to the answer I just gave.

QUESTION: I'm not answering the -- I can continue to ask the question and I will continue to ask the question.


QUESTION: Does the Administration believe that there are gaps in these various laws --

MR. MCCORMACK: Refer you back to the answer I just gave you, Matt.

QUESTION: Which was?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, I wanted to change the subject but I think he has first dibs on that, so --


QUESTION: Sean, reports have surfaced that the -- Burma's military chief, junta chief, had told Gambari, UN Envoy Gambari, that he is prepared to meet Aung San Suu Kyi provided she meets several preconditions, one of which is to stop supporting sanctions against Burma, and there are other preconditions. What's your take on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Mr. Gambari, I think, is going to be reporting to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today, and our hope is that we're going to hear from him in the Security Council tomorrow so I'm not going to try to prejudge what he is bringing back to report.

Our view simply is that the regime needs to start a meaningful dialogue with all the democratic opposition groups in Burma. They need to stop the violent crackdown on those merely petitioning their government for the same basic rights that many other people enjoy around the world that have been denied the Burmese people: freedom of expression, freedom to elect those who will lead them.

So our views are quite clearly known. I think those are shared by many, many countries around the world. We'll see what Mr. Gambari has to say and we'll consider what further steps that we might take with colleagues in the Security Council based on what Mr. Gambari has to report.

QUESTION: Do you think he should start -- such a dialogue -- without preconditions? Do you have a view on that, that they should just talk --

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't believe -- it should be a meaningful dialogue. We don't believe that there need to be any conditions. This is a dialogue between the government and its people. There shouldn't -- you shouldn't need to have conditions to have that kind of dialogue.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Did you find anything out about a meeting that will take place with the chargé d'affaires and the members of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I did. And apparently, they have requested our chargé d'affaires to travel to the capital for a briefing with members of the government. I can't tell you what the topic is. I don't know what she is going to hear. So inasmuch as I can report back what it is that she heard and our reaction to it, then I'll try to let you guys know.

QUESTION: Sean, is this meeting just with her or other members of the diplomatic community --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. It's -- you know, as you might imagine, the Burmese Government doesn't like to share a lot of information, so I can't tell you whether she'll be the only one in the room or it's going to be a roomful of people. Sorry.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: She's going to go, yeah.

QUESTION: Is she going to -- what message is she going to carry?

MR. MCCORMACK: Her -- again, not trying to presuppose what the government is going to tell her. Our very clear message is -- to them is going to be what you heard from me today, that you need to start a meaningful dialogue with all democratic opposition groups, stop the violent crackdown on people engaged in peaceful protests, and encourage the development of the kinds of meaningful economic and political reforms that will make a difference in the lives of the Burmese people and bring Burma more in line with where the rest of the world is headed in terms of greater freedom and openness for people around the globe.

QUESTION: Sean, is this a kind of -- isn't it a kind of -- is this a change of policy by the U.S. Government because, correct me if I'm wrong, the U.S. had always maintained this policy of not talking to the juntas -- any high level dialogue with the Burmese Government, unless they are allowed access to Aung San Suu Kyi?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, Param. I don't know. I'll check for you.



QUESTION: Maybe I missed it. When is this supposed to happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: Tomorrow.

QUESTION: Tomorrow.


QUESTION: Will it be private or is this an official visit by ex-President Jimmy Carter to Darfur? There is a dust-up between he and the security guards that wouldn’t let him apparently visit. And has the Secretary been apprised? What are you saying to the Sudanese Government? And is this an interjection by President Carter in -- for their book or whatever, is this helpful in any way?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Joel, I don't -- I've read about the specifics of the incident. I'm not sure that the Secretary has been briefed in any more detail than that. Certainly, he was on a private visit to Sudan and we would expect that he, as well as other visiting dignitaries would be accorded all the courtesies one might expect. Now, that said, we've had our own experiences and run-ins with the Sudanese security services, so I fully understand the kinds of situations you can get yourself in very quickly with them. But beyond that, Joel, I don't have any other comment on the specifics and I don't have any further knowledge about exactly what happened.


QUESTION: Middle East?


QUESTION: President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert agreed yesterday -- at least, the spokesman has reported -- that they will begin discussing final status issues after the conference in November here. Is this your understanding? Are you on the same page? And do you -- does that mean that the conference is now going to address any final status issue at all?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, -- (laughter) -- well, I'll let the Israelis and the Palestinians speak for themselves about what it is that they have discussed and what they're working on. As we've talked about their working to memorialize on paper some of their discussions that they have had and are having right now. We'll see what that looks like. Obviously we're urging them to address all of the issues that are before them. We all -- you know, we all understand exactly what those are. And to try to work as best they can to push forward as best they can in the most constructive way not only before their conference, but after the conference as well to make it a useful and constructive meeting that will help propel forward a process that ends up in the two-state solution.

QUESTION: There was another sort of peculiar comment today by one of the aids to President Abbas who said that preparations for establishing a Palestinian state could be completed within six months after the conference. I don't know whether you saw this, but does it strike you as a bit of a -- too optimistic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, between now and the conference, and I dare say after the conference, there's going to be a lot of posturing in public from all variety of people involved in the conference. And I'm not going to comment on every single pronouncement that comes out of the region. We're going to be focusing our efforts on trying to help the parties come to some meaningful understandings and to try to push that process forward as far as they can before the conference and beyond. But you know, I'm trying to condition the ground now. Within the next -- in the next couple of months, you’re going to see a lot of statements that come out on -- from one side or another, a lot of posturing. You see that anytime you have a negotiation that's ongoing. I'm just not going to take the bait on -- in commenting on every single one of those.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you about is this story in the Post about China selling $100 million worth of weapons to the Iraqis -- and bearing in mind the insecurity inside Iraq anyway, but China perhaps stepping in where the U.S. has already given weapons, are you concerned about this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think my colleagues in the Department of Defense are in a better position to address the details of this particular matter. The State Department plays a licensing -- potential licensing role in providing arms from the United States to the Iraqis. I understand from President Talabani that this was in reaction to the pace of delivery of arms from the United States.

We're going to work to try to fulfill our commitments as best we can, as fast as we can. Any further elaboration on that or details of what we're doing to help out the Iraqis, I think the Department of Defense can handle.


QUESTION: Congressman Waxman had a -- or Chairman Waxman had a hearing today covered by one of my colleagues, I'm told said that he believes U.S. anti-corruption efforts in Iraq are in "complete disarray," that the Department has no coordinated strategy to fight corruption. He also complained about two things that I think he's raised in letters that have been made public previously. One is that State Department officials have been instructed not to answer questions from the committee, that these have to be addressed in classified session.

And two, that -- this one I don't think he had raised before but he'd said he was afraid of this, now he says it's happened, that the State Department has retroactively classified some reports that you were -- that he was seeking. Can you -- it looks like we're going to write about this. Do you have any comment on this, particularly the "complete disarray" and the classification issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, on the first, Chairman Waxman is entitled to his own views. You won't be surprised that we don't share those views in terms of his overall assessment.

In terms of -- what was the second, the second thing?

QUESTION: The classification, that you -- that the Department wanted its officials to testify --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right, right. It's hardly a newsflash that issues related to corruption, wherever they may be, whether it's in Iraq or any place around the globe, are highly sensitive. And those, in our view -- again, regardless of where you may be talking about them, usually are best talked about in a classified setting because of the sensitivities involved. So, hardly unique to Iraq.

And the third thing I think with respect to classification, that's something that Tom Casey has talked about in depth previously, so you can go back to the transcripts on that.

QUESTION: Just one thing, why shouldn't things -- even if it's sensitive, as corruption presumably is everywhere, why shouldn't it be exposed to the light of day rather than discussed in -- I mean, it's not -- you know, why just because something is sensitive doesn't necessarily mean it shouldn't be subject to public scrutiny. That's one way to stop corruption is when it gets exposed.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And we have -- we have programs around the globe to work on good governance, to fight corruption. We do it pretty effectively. And one of the ways we do that, for example, is through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. We have programs that are set up; countries need to meet certain standards. And that's an integral part of what we do around the globe.

But while you're in the middle of trying to fix what is a problem, not only for the United States long term in terms of relationship with a country and the stability -- the long-term stability of that country, because we believe that corruption is something that erodes long-term political stability. While you are working on those things, and sometimes the ways in which you know things are quite sensitive, it behooves us, we believe, to deal with them in a manner that is not public. That isn't to say that at some point you don't deal with them in public; but while you're in the midst of trying to work on a problem and address it, that's the point here is to try to address it and to try to fix a problem, that isn't always the best thing to talk about it in public.

QUESTION: Well, can I ask why on one point -- like, isn't this whole document question something that was part of a --

MR. MCCORMACK: And one more --

QUESTION: -- corruption --

MR. MCCORMACK: And one more point here, too. When you're dealing with these kinds of -- these kinds of issues, people in question are also -- also have the right to answer questions, defend themselves and to offer rebuttals to whatever information may be gathered. Again, this is information that you're gathering from around the globe, some of it very good, some of it of questionable value. But again, some things that all get fed into the hopper and are analyzed.

So again, it's partly to allow us to address the problem and to fix it in an effective way, and also partly to guard the reputations of individuals involved. Some of them may not deserve at the end of the day that protection that they're accorded prior to any public discussion of this, but that we believe that it is better to err on that side of the issue than not. And I think that that makes sense to a lot of people.

QUESTION: Isn't -- I mean, just on that point, I mean, the implication by Waxman is that the State Department is trying to cover up issues of corruption in the country. But isn't it -- wasn't this document in question that they're talking about classifying, wasn't it less a report and more of an attempt to do something about -- wasn't it part of an anti-corruption plan?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a good point. I mean, the very fact that you have an extensive effort to deal with the issue of corruption makes the point that we take it seriously. And you know, in terms of the classification issue, Tom dealt with it. It was part of an ongoing deliberative process and I'm sure our lawyers will talk to the lawyers on the committee and continue to try to work out this issue. This is a discussion among lawyers in the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. This is hardly something that is new or unprecedented. Each side is going to protect what it believes are its prerogatives: the Hill in terms of exercising their oversight responsibility; and the Executive Branch, which has responsibility for formulating and implementing and executing the policies.

QUESTION: Once you develop this kind of anti-corruption plan or strategy or something, is that something you'd be willing to share with the general public or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'd be happy to see if we can find somebody to come down to talk to you guys about our efforts worldwide on corruption. And again, that's a point that is worth emphasizing here. Yes, okay, this particular hearing is on issues of corruption in Iraq; but again, this is a problem that is global and we do have a global effort to fight corruption.

QUESTION: Well, but, I mean, in the report -- in the whatever you want to call it, I mean, in this document, I mean, there are certain charges that several ministries are corrupt, that they're run by the Mahdi army or Muqtada al-Sadr. I mean, are you -- these specific charges of corruption are pretty enormous.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And I don't think it's any secret to anybody in this room or anybody who will read the transcript or who's watching on TV that Iraq faces challenges in terms of its institutions and making sure that those institutions function in a way that the people of Iraq expect them to function. I don't -- you know, excuse me if I don't believe that's breaking news.

But we also, by the same token, take it seriously, the fact that we have a major effort to address these issues, which is, Chairman Waxman has brought to the floor, demonstrates that we do take it seriously. And the issues related to the infiltration of the Mahdi Army and other militias into various ministries, again, not an issue that is, I think, news to anybody and is also an issue that we and our embassy in Baghdad as well as the military take seriously and work closely with those in the Iraqi Government, want to make sure that the integrity of the institutions that they're trying to build isn't compromised by those kinds of infiltrations.

QUESTION: Sean, I don't know if you’d be able to comment on this, but the front page story of the New York Times about interrogation, secret interrogations.


QUESTION: Was Secretary Rice aware of this internal back-and-forth during that time period?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't ask -- I didn't ask her about the story.

QUESTION: Did you see it?

MR. MCCORMACK: I did. I did see it. I didn't ask her about the story.

QUESTION: Are you worried about allies around the world reading that story saying the U.S. is still practicing interrogation, torture interrogation techniques?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- I think my colleagues at the White House addressed the issue.


QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible) last week in the Spanish newspaper El Pais published the transcript of a conversation in February 2003 with President Bush, Jose Maria Aznar and Condoleezza Rice.


QUESTION: It seems through that transcript that the war was decided four weeks before it started. So I would like your comment on that.

MR. MCCORMACK: I think my colleagues, once again, at the White House addressed that issue and they said that it's just not true. So you can look at their transcript.

QUESTION: Do you think -- sorry. Do you think that the leak of this transcript jeopardize the trust between the two countries, like Spain and the United States?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, if leaks into the media jeopardize international relations, we'd be really in trouble. But look, we have a good working relationship with the Spanish Government, with former Prime Minister Aznar as well as the current Spanish Government.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: We had a couple more. We had a couple more. Yes.

QUESTION: Could you comment on the Korea summit on --

MR. MCCORMACK: The Korea summit? We have encouraged inter-Korean dialogue. That is something that's been longstanding. I would leave it to both sides to describe their views of this particular summit meeting.

One thing that is interesting is the fact that on the South Korean side they made it very clear to North Korea that the ability to move forward in their relationship depended, in large part, on progress within the six-party talk mechanism. I think that's important. I think what it does is it underlines the important development in -- on this particular issue that the six-party talks represents. When you're making -- when the parties are making a promise to one another, and when the North Koreans are making a promise in that context, they're making it not only to just the United States but every other party, every other country represented in the six-party talks, it's an important, important development and provides the best mechanism in order to resolve what has been a longstanding problem. And it makes it very clear that this is not a bilateral issue between the United States and North Korea. It makes it very clear that this is not just a bilateral issue between North Korea and South Korea.


QUESTION: I'm still wondering about the United States position regarding the two Korean summit joint statement. The joint statement said that two Koreas pursue the three-party or four-party summit to declare the end of the Korean War.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's a matter of historical fact that the United States is party to the armistice. And that if you just look back at the September 2005 joint statement, it talks about coming to a peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula as part of the six-party talks. But again, I think the South Korean Government talked about in the context of arriving at a peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula the need to move forward on the six-party talks as a whole and the core issue of the six-party talks, which is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:16 p.m.)

DPB # 175

Released on October 4, 2007

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