Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
September 8, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing
2:12 p.m. EDT
MR KIRBY: Afternoon, everybody. A couple things at the top here.
As you may have seen, we released a statement from the Secretary today on the appointment of a transparency coordinator here at the State Department. Ambassador Janice Jacobs will lead the Department's efforts to improve document preservation and transparency systems by doing a number of things, working to ensure that we're meeting the President's Managing Government Records Directive to reform our records management policies and practices, responding to recommendations from the review that Secretary Kerry already requested of our inspector general earlier this year. She's going to work with other agencies to explore best practices and perhaps even new technologies here at the State Department. And she will also focus on improving our systems for responding to Freedom of Information Act and congressional requests faster and more efficiently.
And as our statement said, she brings to this job not only a distinguished record of service in the State Department but also a track record of successfully leading critical reform efforts. She reorganized the visa office after the 9/11 attacks and reformed how our Department engages with law enforcement and intelligence communities to share information.
Secretary Kerry takes very seriously our responsibilities to the American people to be as transparent as possible and to preserve, as we must, the record of the way we conduct U.S. foreign policy around the world. He believes that this assignment is testament to our commitment to transparency and open government. And that's why, back in March, as we've talked about, he's asked the inspector general to review our systems and requested their recommendations to improve our systems going forward. As he said in his statement, "It is time to take further action." And the Secretary is committed, focused on leading on these issues and to harnessing new technological tools in order to meet those commitments.
Also I want to – just a programming note. The Secretary will meet today with Vietnam's chairman of the National Assembly and Politburo member Nguyen Sinh Hung today at the State Department to discuss bilateral and regional issues that reflect the strong and growing partnership between the United States and Vietnam, during this the 20th anniversary year of the establishment of our diplomatic relations. And I think we'll have a readout of that meeting later this afternoon.
And then finally, a quick readout. I wanted to make sure you were aware that Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke by phone over the weekend. Their conversation touched on a range of issues. The Secretary and the prime minister reiterated the need to continue pushing back on Iran's destabilizing activities in the region. And he agreed to continue to have these discussions in the coming weeks. The Secretary reaffirmed the United States' commitment to Israel's security and continued military and security relationship. They also discussed concerns about reports that we've seen in the media of Russian military – potential Russian military buildup inside Syria.
With that, Matt.
QUESTION: Can I just start with the – your first announcement? Just a couple brief questions. Who – or where will Ambassador Jacobs be working? Does she – will she have a staff? What bureau is this transparency coordinator going to be in?
MR KIRBY: She's not going to be in a bureau. I don't have staffing solutions for you right now, Matt. We'll make sure that she has the administrative support that she needs to do her job. She will be working here at the State Department. She's not going to be in a bureau. She will report directly to the Secretary and to Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, the deputy for management and resources. So she won't be embedded in a bureau.
In fact, one of the advantages of this position is that she will be able to sort of crosscut across all the agencies here in the Department to try to find efficiencies and pursue best practices that cut across our bureaucracy here.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, so you do expect that she will have some kind of a staff?
MR KIRBY: I would assume so, yes. But I'm not in a position today to tell you how many that will be or what office exactly.
QUESTION: Well, it's just that a cynic – I don't know if there are any here – but a cynic might say --
QUESTION: There's you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: A cynic must suggest that only in the federal government would you try to streamline a bureaucracy by adding a new layer of bureaucracy on top of it. (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: Well, that's not what we're – no, I certainly understand how a cynic – a hypothetical one at best --
MR KIRBY: -- could say that, Matt. But that's not what we're doing here.
MR KIRBY: I'm sure that whatever staff is supporting her will be small and nimble. And again, she's going to be reporting directly to the Secretary and to the Deputy Secretary. So the idea here is not to create another layer; in fact, far from it. It's to try to cut through the layers to try to find ways that we can be more responsive and more agile.
QUESTION: All right. Then do you have any idea – she's starting immediately, I presume?
MR KIRBY: As soon as possible. I don't have a start date.
QUESTION: And when would you expect the first fruits of her labors to become apparent?
MR KIRBY: Well, difficult to pin that down right now, since she hasn't actually started. What I will tell you is that the plan going forward is that she will have regular meetings with both Deputy Secretary Higginbottom and the Secretary on a consistent, frequent basis to talk about what she's learning, recommendations she wants to make. And then as the IG comes back with recommendations it intends to make, she will be responsible for helping the Department implement those. And so I think there'll be a series of things that she'll do over time.
QUESTION: And is there a timeline for the IG recommendations?
MR KIRBY: I would point you to the IG. I don't know.
QUESTION: All right. Last one. This is related but not directly to her. This has to do with the report in the Times about the intelligence community coming back and confirming that there was some classified – top secret classified information in Secretary Clinton's email. I understand, having read the story and seen various reports about it, that the State Department does not agree with the inspector – or with the intel community's assessment of this and that you are – I don't know if appeal is the right word, but you're going to – still making a case for them to change their ruling. Is that correct?
MR KIRBY: Yeah, Matt, I think at this time we would continue to maintain that any conclusion about the classification of the documents in question is premature. We are in the process of doing our analysis, and I expect that we will be able to present at least a portion of that analysis to the intelligence community in the coming days. We'll continue to work this very, very hard.
And the other thing I would say is that it's not uncommon or atypical for there to be these kinds of give and take, this kind of give and take between agencies on something like this. So we're going to keep working this. We still value the dialogue that we're having with the intelligence community and we're going to present – again, we'll present our analysis in coming days.
QUESTION: But who makes – if there continues to be a dispute about this, who decides? Anyone? Or is it just left kind of unresolved with the intel community saying yes it is classified and you saying oh no, it's not classified? I mean, what's --
MR KIRBY: Well, obviously --
QUESTION: What's the rest of the country supposed to think?
MR KIRBY: Obviously, the best outcome is for, as an interagency – from an interagency perspective we can come to agreement on this. And that's what we're driving for. I don't want to get into hypotheticals about where it's going to land or how it's going to go. As you know, typically it is up to each federal agency to determine ultimately classification for documents that it's handling or it's in possession of. But I don't want to – I don't – that's not where we want to get to. I think we want to get to a position where there's common agreement on the classification level for these particular emails.
I think one thing that's important to remember is that very often the State Department and the intelligence community acquire information from separate channels, and thus there can be more than one report about a certain issue or an event. And some of those reports can be derived wholly through unclassified means and some are derived through classified means.
QUESTION: Well, is there a scenario in which you can consider – you could see the State Department backing down and agreeing with the intel community? Or is the only – is your only option to get them to back down?
MR KIRBY: It's not – we're not playing chicken with the intelligence community. I think we still hold and maintain our view that these documents do not require that classification. We're building that case. We're doing the analysis to support that. That analysis is based on what – on documents that we believe only we have and information that only we have. And we, I think, believe that we've got a compelling argument to make and we're going to make it.
QUESTION: So just to be clear on this – just simple questions. One, the conclusion that has been reached by, I think, the Office of the Inspector General of the intelligence community – is that in response to the State Department's request to DNI that it do an assessment of this, or is this a separate process?
MR KIRBY: You'd have to ask the IG for the intelligence community. I don't know – I know --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) DNI.
MR KIRBY: I saw the statement that they put – I saw the statement that they put out --
MR KIRBY: -- which maintained that they haven't changed their view of this. Now, how they got to that over what period of time and over what documents that they – I don't know. You'd have to talk to them.
QUESTION: So can I ask – but the State Department asked DNI to review those two disputed --
MR KIRBY: That's right.
QUESTION: Right. You don't know if what the OIG put out reflects DNI's conclusion? I mean, hasn't DNI come back to you and said yeah, this is our conclusion or no, it's not, or we're still studying it?
MR KIRBY: I can only point you to what the intelligence community IG said last week. Again, we do not believe that the process is over. We believe that we're still in a dialogue with the intelligence community about these particular documents. And we believe that we have, based on the analysis that we have made and will continue to make, we have a strong case to back up our claim.
QUESTION: Can you check for me if – I mean, because I think you would have an interest in doing this. You asked DNI for an assessment. Can you check whether the assessment put out by the OIG is indeed the DNI – the result of that request to the DNI?
MR KIRBY: I would actually rather you ask that question of the intelligence community and the IG. I mean, it is – this is for --
QUESTION: I'm happy to do that.
MR KIRBY: This is for ODNI to speak to and the IG. What I can speak to, Arshad, is what we're doing.
QUESTION: Okay. So secondly – I mean, I can do that, but it does seem like you guys ought to want to know if what the OIG of the intel community came out with is indeed responsive to your request from DNI or not.
MR KIRBY: Well, again, we've seen their statement, we've seen the position that they're taking. We don't – we're not considering the matter closed. So in some respects, it doesn't matter to us whether the IC IG statement reflects the ODNI's views or not. We still believe there's a case to be made and we want to make that case.
QUESTION: Okay. Second thing, which goes to Matt's question about the ultimate arbiter of what is and isn't classified, is it your view that any document handled by the State Department – that the State Department is the ultimate arbiter of what is classified with regard to any document that the State Department handles?
MR KIRBY: It's not such a binary choice. I mean – and we've talked about this before – the classification of information is not black and white all the time, and often does require interagency coordination and consensus. Sometimes that can't be done. Ultimately, each federal agency is responsible for the protection of sensitive and classified information on its own, and therefore, oftentimes must determine that for itself. That's not always the case, and in some cases, when particularly information that crosses – that cuts across federal agencies, you want to have an interagency approach on this, and obviously, ODNI is a significant voice in that process.
So I can't tell you that – each case is different. We recognize that in these particular documents, there are interagency equities here, particularly intelligence community equities. That's how we got to where we are, and we're trying to respect that process, but again, we have an analysis that we're doing.
QUESTION: I find it hard to believe, though – although it may be true, I mean, stranger things have happened in the U.S. Government – that there is no procedure, no protocol for who is ultimately the arbiter of whether something is classified. I mean, if it's all decided by some squishy interagency process and it's not clear, really, who is the ultimate arbiter, then how do you have any kind of systematic or the-buck-stops-here kind of accountability for what is and isn't classified?
MR KIRBY: Well, look, each federal agency – the head of each federal agency, the buck does stop with that individual. Secretary Kerry understands that; it's one of the reasons why he's established this new position. But – and I know it would be easier for all of us if I had a very clear-cut, specific answer to your very valid question, Arshad. But the point is that because of the dynamic security environment we're living in and because information often does affect the equities of more than one federal agency, I think the American people would and should expect that we're going to approach this in a cohesive, comprehensive manner; that we're going to have discussions with our interagency colleagues to makes some of these determinations. I think that's the responsible thing to do, and that's the way that Secretary Kerry wants to approach it.
QUESTION: I totally get that, but it would seem to me that the American people would like to know who ultimately bears responsibility for making this judgment. Is your comment that the buck stops with Secretary Kerry to be – does that mean that it's ultimately his call?
MR KIRBY: It depends on the case.
MR KIRBY: It depends on the issue. Sometimes --
QUESTION: Not this one?
MR KIRBY: Sometimes sensitive information doesn't touch other agencies and the agency itself can make that determination, and we all have that responsibility. Other times the information affects others, not just one agency, and then it's incumbent upon agencies to work together to sort this out, and that's what we're trying to do in this case.
QUESTION: Is there any timeframe for sorting it out?
MR KIRBY: I don't – there's not a deadline on this. I think, as you might expect, Arshad, we want to approach this as carefully and methodically as possible. Again, we're working on our analysis and our argument for why we continue to maintain that these documents do not need to be classified.
QUESTION: One more from me. The assessment – I mean, and I know this is identical, I believe, to what they've been saying since, I think, July 11th – but the OIG – the intel community's OIG repeated its assessment, more recently reviewed by – information management officials of all likely sources confirmed that the specific information in the two emails could only have been derived from classified intelligence programs. You disagree with that assessment, correct?
MR KIRBY: We still maintain our position.
QUESTION: So where – since we're not talking – in here we're not talking about classified intelligence programs, where did the information come from? If they're wrong that it could only have been derived from classified intelligence programs, where do you guys think it came from?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, we're doing our analysis, Arshad. I'm not going to speak to the content of intelligence matters here from the podium. I think you can understand that. But we still maintain our position and we're going to make our case.
QUESTION: But this is public. I mean, this – you're – they're saying, hey, this could only have come from classified intelligence programs. You're saying, oh, no, could have come from somewhere else. So I'm not asking you to talk about --
MR KIRBY: I said it's not – I said – as I said at the outset, it's not – excuse me – uncommon for reports to come from a variety of means and different, separate channels, and some of those channels can be unclassified as well as classified. It's a mix. Intelligence is a mosaic and not every source of information that you get that leads a decision-maker to make a decision or enact a policy necessarily comes from all classified means.
I've seen their statement. We certainly respect their view. We have a different one. We're preparing our analysis for why we think our view is valid, and we're going to present that and we'll stay in dialogue and communication with them. That's the important thing.
QUESTION: Follow – yeah. So you just said you don't think it needs to be classified. So you're saying that you think it's altogether unclassified information or a different level of classification?
MR KIRBY: I'm not going to get ahead of the analysis which is still being done. We have long maintained and we still maintain that the top secret classification is not warranted.
QUESTION: Right, but you – do you think it warrants at least some level of classification?
MR KIRBY: I'm not going to get ahead of that, Justin.
QUESTION: No? Okay, you won't say that. Okay. Is – can you – can you say that it's fair to say that this new transparency appointment is directly related to the Clinton email debacle? I mean, that's not a stretch, is it?
MR KIRBY: I think the demand that making public more than 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton's emails and the demand and the resources that that's consuming certainly is a factor in the Secretary's decision to stand up this new position, but it is not the only factor. We have seen a three-fold increase in FOIA requests – Freedom of Information Act requests – here at the State Department since 2008. We've had to divert some manpower to assist the Freedom of Information Act Office to try to keep up with the demand, not to mention the constant and steady demand for information that we get from members of Congress, which is not insignificant, particularly given everything that's going on these days.
So there's a lot that went into this, and the Secretary's convinced that Ambassador Jacobs is the right person for this. She's got the experience and this is the right move. I mean, what he's showing here is leadership, his leadership, of this. He knows that we can do better, he wants us to do better, be more efficient, and that's what he's expecting Ambassador Jacobs to do for us.
QUESTION: Pardon – move on?
QUESTION: No, sorry. Just one more thing just about the ambassador.
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: In response to one of Arshad's questions, you said that this – the classification issue is one of the reasons that he was appointing. Is she going to be involved in classification issues?
MR KIRBY: No, no, no. I said that the Clinton emails and --
QUESTION: No, no. Before, in response to one of Arshad's questions, you said that he – the Secretary was committed to resolving this and that he's the ultimate arbiter and that his appointment today is one sign of that. And I just want to make sure her --
MR KIRBY: I think it's a sign of how important he takes the issue. But no, she will not be involved in determining classification issues.
QUESTION: She – okay. Has it gotten – would you – can you say whether you would or would not be in this spat with the – with DNI were it not for Secretary Clinton's emails, or just no way to know?
MR KIRBY: It'd be difficult to know. I mean, it was – it was from a batch of random emails they pulled from the collection and examined that we – that they made this determination that we are now refuting. So it's hard for me to say that – I don't know that I'd call it a spat, but it's hard --
QUESTION: Well, it's actually – it sounds like more than a spat.
MR KIRBY: I can't --
QUESTION: I mean, it sounds as though you guys are going --
MR KIRBY: I can't --
QUESTION: -- you guys are going whole hog against them. And the reason for my question is mainly – is I wonder if it is – anyone here is uncomfortable being cast in a position of the defender of Secretary Clinton against the intel community.
MR KIRBY: Well, so we don't necessarily agree about these two emails. It is not uncommon – aside from former Secretary Clinton's emails, it's not uncommon for there to be debate and discussion and disagreement within the interagency over all kinds of information, particularly and in some cases the classification of information. I've been in the government a long time; I've seen that many, many times. So it's not – this is not uncommon.
QUESTION: How many times have you seen it become public?
MR KIRBY: Not very often.
QUESTION: Can you remember one instance?
MR KIRBY: I can't off the top of my head, Matt. But I mean, the point is that we have a view, they have a view; we're working through our analysis. We want to – we believe that our analysis will justify our view, and we're going to work through with this.
QUESTION: One last email one?
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: When Bryan Pagliano was running their – the Clinton server and was also here at the State Department, did – were there obligations for reporting outside income?
MR KIRBY: We're not going to comment on whether staff has reported outside income, so I don't have any additional comment for you on that.
QUESTION: But were there obligations to? Not whether he did or not, but was he obligated to?
MR KIRBY: We don't comment – we don't comment on whether staff has outside income.
QUESTION: As a general matter --
QUESTION: Well, as a general matter – as a general matter, are State Department officials permitted to earn unlimited amounts of outside – well, no, let me just ask simply: Are State Department officials as a general matter required to report outside income?
MR KIRBY: I don't have an answer for that. I don't know our admin procedures. I'll take that question, but we're not going to comment on whether an individual has --
QUESTION: I get it. I'm not asking.
MR KIRBY: -- procured outside income.
QUESTION: I'm asking about the general obligation.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: It is correct that he is still employed as a contractor by IRM, right?
MR KIRBY: He is still a contractor, yes.
QUESTION: But he wasn't a contractor at the time; he wasn't stated to be, right?
MR KIRBY: He did work for a while at the State Department, yes.
QUESTION: Move on?
MR KIRBY: Yes.
MR KIRBY: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. A follow-up on the Secretary's call with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov the other day. Could you confirm to us whether you have confirmed that there are Russian troops and the size of those – or the size of the Russian military presence in Syria? Considering that today, I think, President Putin said that they do – they go on in aiding Syria as they always have. So I --
MR KIRBY: Well, I would point you to Moscow to speak to their military activities. I'm not in a position to do that, and --
QUESTION: But --
MR KIRBY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. But a follow-up on the Secretary's call. I mean, do you have now, like, irrefutable evidence that there is Russian presence and the size of that presence?
MR KIRBY: I'm not going to get into operational or intelligence matters here from the podium. I would point you to Moscow to speak to their --
MR KIRBY: -- but hang on a second – to speak to their military activities. It was the reports of them, largely through the media, that prompted Secretary Kerry to have this discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov over the weekend. And he made clear our concerns about these reports, and if true, the destabilizing impact that they would have. Again, I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow on Russian military activities in Syria from here. It wouldn't be my place to do that.
QUESTION: To prevent any possible cross-pathing of airplanes and fighter jets and so on, are you communicating with the Russians every time you send out a sortie, every time you send out bombing runs or anything like this?
MR KIRBY: No, we do not.
QUESTION: Would you coordinate with the Russians to target Daesh or ISIL's bases and so on?
MR KIRBY: Russia is not a member of the coalition against ISIL, and what we've said is that their continued support to the Assad regime is actually – has actually fostered the growth of ISIL inside Syria and made the situation worse. And we believe it's unconscionable for any nation to provide military or other tacit support to the Assad regime. We've made that very clear. They're not a member of the coalition.
QUESTION: And just my last question on Syria, regarding the refugees. Do you have --
MR KIRBY: And let me just – I want to make – I want to make just one more point about this. If they want to be helpful against ISIL, the way to do it is to stop arming and assisting and supporting Bashar al-Assad.
QUESTION: But you're arming, aiding, and assisting the opposition. I mean, you and your allies are arming and training, assisting, and so on the opposition, right?
MR KIRBY: Well, the goal is to try to train a moderate opposition – this is a DOD program – to go against ISIL inside the country.
QUESTION: And on the refugees, are you --
QUESTION: Well, before you --
MR KIRBY: Hang on a second, Justin. He's got – are you leaving Syria?
QUESTION: No --
MR KIRBY: Or you want to go to --
QUESTION: No, I'm still on Syria.
MR KIRBY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I want to get to the refugees, too, I just want to stay --
QUESTION: All right, sure.
QUESTION: -- on your original line of questioning about the military. I just wanted to get a plain question in about what your assessment is of the Russian military presence in Syria.
MR KIRBY: They --
QUESTION: What do you assess that they're doing?
MR KIRBY: Well, it's not entirely clear what they're doing, Justin --
MR KIRBY: -- which is why the Secretary called Minister Lavrov. I'm not going to speak for what – first, I'm not going to speak to intelligence or operational matters. I'm not going to speak for Moscow. They can speak for themselves. It was the reports of what we allegedly saw happening that prompted the phone call and the concern. They can speak for what they're doing.
That said – and you know this, Justin – that there is a – the Russians have a base there. They have long supported Bashar al-Assad and the regime militarily and otherwise.
QUESTION: You're still confident --
QUESTION: Just on this one --
QUESTION: I have one more question.
QUESTION: You're still confident about Iran's support though, right?
MR KIRBY: Are we still confident?
QUESTION: That they're doing it?
MR KIRBY: Yeah. We've seen no – nothing to indicate that Iran has stopped also supporting Bashar al-Assad.
QUESTION: And their support for Assad is also unconscionable?
MR KIRBY: Yes, it is. Absolutely it is.
QUESTION: Then why is supporting Assad, which is in principle also against ISIS, counterproductive to your fight against ISIS?
MR KIRBY: Because --
QUESTION: Iran and Assad are on the same side, and they're fighting ISIS as well.
MR KIRBY: So your argument then, if I can just run this out, is that because Bashar al-Assad – ISIL poses a threat to him, we should somehow be in cahoots with Bashar al-Assad?
QUESTION: I'm just asking why is it counterproductive to your fight against ISIS?
MR KIRBY: Because Bashar al-Assad is a principal reason why ISIL has been allowed to sustain itself inside his country. And this is a guy who's barrel bombing his own people and killing his own citizens, and causing – and I know we're going to talk about refugees – but causing the flow of millions of people outside of his country, putting them in harm's way.
So the idea that we would somehow – just because he considers ISIL a threat, that we would somehow --
QUESTION: But it seems --
MR KIRBY: -- work in concert with him is absolutely ridiculous.
QUESTION: But it seems bizarre that you find Iran's role in Iraq as kind of positive. I have heard Secretary Kerry saying that whoever kills ISIS is kind of – is positive. And then on the other side, Iran and Assad are kind of the same – different sides of the same coin in --
MR KIRBY: What we've said about Iran's involvement in Iraq is – and nothing's changed about that, that – and we understand they have concerns, they got a border there, and certainly we're not unmindful of the fact that they provide some measure of support to some of the Shia militia inside Iraq. But our message has been the same to Iran as it is to every country in the region, and that is: If you're going to get involved in Iraq, you need to do it through the Government of Iraq and – officially – and don't do anything that's going to further inflame or arise sectarian tensions.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: No, can we just stay on the refugees for a little bit?
QUESTION: Just Syria?
QUESTION: Okay. (Inaudible) everybody.
MR KIRBY: I think that's a "no," Elise.
QUESTION: All right. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: I just --
QUESTION: There are reports that you've asked Bulgaria and Greece not to allow Russian overflights to their base in Syria.
MR KIRBY: I'm sorry. Can you say that again?
QUESTION: The – Bulgaria and Greece are reporting that you have asked them or that NATO has asked them not to allow Russian overflights to their bases in Syria, which would seem to suggest that the – that you have concerns about the Russian --
MR KIRBY: We don't talk about diplomatic conversations, and I'd refer you to NATO to speak to that.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on refugees. Last week, Mark Toner said that you guys are prepared to take in 1,800 Syrian refugees by the end of the month, I think, or something like this. Are you now flexible on the issue of numbers? Will you take more Syrian refugees? (Inaudible.)
MR KIRBY: There's been no – I think what Mark said was we've taken in 1,500 since the beginning of the conflict --
MR KIRBY: -- about 1,300 of those since January of this year alone --
MR KIRBY: -- and that by the end of the fiscal year, which as you pointed out is coming here quickly, we could see several hundred more resettled here in the United States, somewhere to the tune of 300. It's not a hard and fast number there.
No decisions had been made about future resettlement going past this fiscal year. But I do think it's reasonable to expect and to assume that there will be additional resettlements going into next year. What that's going to look like, how many, I don't have a number for you.
QUESTION: Well, what do you say about some critics that your allies, such as Germany, have decided to take in like 50 – as many as 50 --
QUESTION: Five hundred thousand.
QUESTION: -- 500,000 refugees, while the United States – the number is much lower. And there's a list published by Forbes Magazine – top countries per capita for accepting refugees. There's only one European country, that's Sweden. The rest are developing countries, like such as Lebanon, which are already struggling and it's – don't you believe that a country like the United States should accept many more refugees? The United States is nowhere to be seen in the list.
MR KIRBY: Well, a couple of things. No decisions have been made about going – how we're going to do this going forward. Resettlement is something we do seriously consider. In this country, in this year, 2015, we've resettled something like 70,000 refugees from all around the world, not just from the Syrian conflict. We also have to balance that against proper vetting procedures to make sure that, particularly when we're bringing in people from that part of the world, that we're doing it safely and securely. The American people would expect that. I'm not going to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made about next year and what that's going to look like. As I said, I think you can expect that we'll continue to take some in.
We are also the largest financial donor to this crisis, this – particularly the refugee crisis that we're talking about: over $4 billion in the region to help resettle and protect and care for refugees there in the region. And to the degree possible, you want to try to take care of them where they are, and most of them are there in the region. So over $4 billion – no other country's even close to contributing that kind of money. In Europe, we've just last week talked about a contribution of $25 million to help with resettlement issues there in Europe, particularly Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia.
So we're focused on this. And as I talked about last week, Secretary Kerry has stood up a working group here at the State Department to go after this problem, to come up with options and opportunities and ways that we can contribute more. He's very much taking this seriously. As a matter of fact, at this morning's staff meeting – at the senior staff meeting – he talked about it again and told the entire room no matter what bureau you're in, no matter where you work in this building, if you've got good ideas and options for how we can better help the international community deal with this, including here in the United States, he wants to hear them.
We applaud the leadership that many countries – Germany, you mentioned, is one of them – in Europe and the sense of urgency that they are – that they're demonstrating with respect to this. And the EU, we welcome their comments that they want to approach this in a comprehensive manner. The Secretary spoke with his German counterpart this morning, as a matter of fact, about this issue, thanked the Government of Germany for what they're doing and what they're willing to do.
Nobody's taking their eye off this, and we're watching it very closely. We're going to continue to contribute and we're going to continue to look for new and other ways to do that as well. Resettlement is one option, but it's only one option. Eventually what has to happen here – and I know that it's hard to think about this when you look at the devastating images that we've seen in the last few days alone. But what really has to happen here is that the people of Syria – and I know we're specifically talking about Syria, but they're not all from Syria; some are coming from Iraq – but the people of that region need a home of their own to go to. They want – most of them want to go back home. That's where they're from; that's where their kids were born. That's where their jobs were. That's what they want. And so what has to really happen is a political transition in Syria that gives them the security and stability to be at home where they want to be.
QUESTION: Well, I'm sure you saw there was a blistering op-ed by Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post this weekend that says that the Obama Administration not only has done very little tangibly – a lot of money has been spent, but tangibly to help resolve the crisis or take in refugees or anything like that – but has also kind of made the American public kind of complicit in believing that there's no reason to take much action. It was a very, very tough critique of the Administration's policy.
MR KIRBY: No, I read Mr. Hiatt's piece, and we certainly respect him and his views. But I think we would differ that – on the central premise that we're not doing enough, that we don't care, that we're making it too easy for the American people not to care. I don't think you can look at the images that have been displayed even on your network without having it tug at you and get to you, particularly the one of the young toddler there on the beach. I mean, obviously, everybody is moved by a sense of urgency here. And as I said, the United States remains and will continue to remain the largest donor to refugee issues, and it's not like we've turned a blind eye to this issue of resettlement. But it has to be – resettlement is only one option, and --
QUESTION: No, I understand. But it was more about – to your point --
MR KIRBY: There has to be – go ahead.
QUESTION: It was more about to your – the – I guess the critique of the policy was more to your point that the people of Syria need to be home, there needs to be an end to the Syrian crisis.
MR KIRBY: What really needs to happen --
QUESTION: And that's where the U.S. – many would argue, not just Fred Hiatt, but many would argue that – has fallen short in efforts to really seek an end to this conflict.
MR KIRBY: Well, again, we're working at that particular piece of it very, very hard too. We've talked about the meeting in Doha that Secretary Kerry had with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Foreign Minister al-Jubeir of Saudi Arabia. There is --.
QUESTION: That was several months ago.
MR KIRBY: No, it wasn't. It was about a month or so ago. There are – there – but – and there has been many conversations and meetings since then. The point is everybody recognizes that what's going on in Syria is complicated and it's tough, and it's gone on for too long. Everybody understands that. And you don't have to look any further than your network alone to see the effect that the conflict and the war and the brutality in Syria is having on people. And it's not just the Syrian people, but it's people now in Europe who are welcoming in and trying to deal with this influx. Everybody has the same sense of urgency here.
What has to happen eventually is a political transition in Syria so that the Syrian people can have a home which is safe and secure, stable; they can have a chance at prosperity. That's going to take some time, and it's a devil of a problem to get to. And it's why Secretary Kerry is focusing so hard on this, and others, other leaders in the Administration.
QUESTION: And you don't think that the Russians are – and I know you spoke a little bit about this before. But you don't think that even as you're talking to the Russians about a political solution that they're building up their military, making – building housing on Syrian soil, that they're playing a double game?
MR KIRBY: Well, it's difficult to know exactly what their intent is. That's one of the reasons why the Secretary made the call over the weekend to Foreign Minister Lavrov. I think there's still a lot we don't understand about these reports, so I would let the Russians speak for their motives and intentions.
What – I'll just go back to what we've said is that the most productive thing that Russia can do for the conflict in Syria is to stop aiding and abetting Bashar al-Assad. The most productive thing that they can do, if they are serious about getting after extremist networks in Syria, is to stop arming and abetting and aiding Bashar al-Assad, the same man who has by his own brutality and violence on his own people allowed ISIL to grow and to spread inside his own country.
QUESTION: John, can I go back to the resettlement thing? Recognizing it's just one way to deal with this. When you – you were holding up the prospect of there possibly being more or more – opportunity for more resettlement, more families to be resettled, is that what you're saying? That that's the --
MR KIRBY: I don't want to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made, Matt.
QUESTION: I understand.
MR KIRBY: But I think it's – I think – look, we have taken in Syrian refugees. I think it's safe to assume we will continue to do that. I don't want to speculate about how many going forward.
QUESTION: All right. Well, the reason I ask is that because – is because it's usually between about the 15th and the second, third – third or fourth weeks of September that the new number, the number for the next fiscal year to be admitted, the total, but also with a breakdown by region, is sent up to the Hill. That number has been pretty static over the course of the last – about 70,000, of which 33,000 are supposed to be from the South Asia and the Near East regions. And I'm wondering, are you saying – are you suggesting that the total of 70 could go up, or that the 33,000 for the region that would include Syria could go up, or both?
MR KIRBY: Well, I'm actually not at liberty to provide an estimate here going forward for the next year. But what I was specifically referring to in terms was the Syrian element of that, the refugees from particularly the Syrian conflict. And again, I don't want to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made. I do think it's safe to assume we'll continue to take them in. What it's going to look like going forward, I just don't know.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, your colleague at the White House a little bit earlier fended off many numerous questions by saying, "This is all a State Department program. Go ask them." In fact – in fact, the number that gets sent to the Hill, the total – 70 – and then the breakdowns, individual breakdowns by region, doesn't come from this building at all. There is input into it, but it is sent by the President of the United States to the Congress. And the last time I looked, the President was at the White House. So it is, in fact, the White House that is – that at least signs off and submit these – submits these figures to Congress. Is it your understanding that that is still the way this works?
MR KIRBY: I have – I am not aware of any change in the process, Matt.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: On refugees?
QUESTION: Can we stay on refugees?
MR KIRBY: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Can we stay on refugees?
MR KIRBY: Sure. Are we still on refugees?
MR KIRBY: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Some of European countries increasing the number, but some officials also from, like, France, Hungary, and Cyprus, they are saying that they are going to take only Christian refugees. How do you see that one? They are limiting – they are getting the limited refugees, but as well as they are a kind of – let's say kind of religious discrimination. How do you see that?
MR KIRBY: Well, I'm not going to pontificate about every nation's decisions here. What we've been very clear about is that we want nations to do what they can to help. We'd like to see that the safety of these individuals fleeing conflict is preserved, that they are treated humanely and in accordance with international law. And these are decisions – these are sovereign decisions that nations have to make, and so I'd leave it at that.
QUESTION: I have a question on refugees. First of all, in terms of the U.S. response going forward, is the State Department considering some type of emergency response to immediately address the situation involving Syria? Or when you say you're looking at a range of options beyond resettlement, are you looking at something that would perhaps kick in for the next fiscal year or an adjustment to your original projections for the next fiscal year?
MR KIRBY: There's a lot in that, Pam. Again, I don't have any decisions to read out today or announcements to make. The Secretary made it clear that he wants the State Department focused on this, and that's why he stood up this working group to get after it. And he's looking forward to getting recommendations from them as well as from elsewhere in the building. I don't – I've not heard of any emergency response that they're talking about, but again, let the working group do their job and come back with some recommendations. And when we have things and decisions that the Secretary is ready to make or talk to, we will.
QUESTION: There was an earlier figure from a briefing late last month with an 8,000 figure for the number of – the ceiling for Syrian refugees for next year. Is that still an accurate figure or --
MR KIRBY: I would just go back to what I said before, that no final decisions have been made in terms of what the resettlement will look like next year, and I don't want to get ahead of decisions, again, that haven't been made.
QUESTION: And one final – you say the U.S. is the largest single donor? The 4 billion that has been contributed to help the Syrian refugee crisis --
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: -- is a start. Is that more than what Saudi Arabia has contributed?
MR KIRBY: I don't have the figures for every country. We are the single largest donor in terms of financial contributions to this effort. But I don't have the figures for every other country in the region.
QUESTION: Well, billions from – since the start, right?
MR KIRBY: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: One more? One more on refugees?
MR KIRBY: You wanted something different?
MR KIRBY: Okay. Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Before I go my question on India, I would like to go back to two questions. One, as far as refugees are concerned, whenever there is a crisis or whether it's a refugee crisis or fighting against terrorism, it's always Europe or the U.S. coming out to help in the name of humanitarian. My question is here: What the regional countries like OIC and other regional rich countries are doing? And we have not seen any statement that as far as whenever there's a fighting against terrorism concerned, they are all quiet. They want others to fight for them. And same thing now as far as the refugee question is concerned. So have you seen anything with the OIC and the members are doing to --
MR KIRBY: OIC?
QUESTION: Organization of Islamic --
QUESTION: It's not regional, it's worldwide.
MR KIRBY: So a couple of thoughts. I mean, we want – we obviously want other countries in the region and certainly we see countries in Europe stepping up. We obviously want to see neighbors try to help to the degree that they can. And I think it's – let's not forget Turkey's got some 2 million that they're dealing with inside their country. Jordan is also dealing with a significant influx of refugees from the conflict there in Syria. So there are countries in the region that are stepping up.
But these are, as I said, sovereign decisions that countries have to make. We obviously want to see, particularly in the region we want to see people come together and try to help, because most of these people want to stay close to home because they eventually want to go back home. So addressing the issue in the region as best you can – and that's why the $4 billion figure I pointed out was really to help with the care of refugees there in the region – that's where that money is going, because helping them where they are in the region is obviously the best outcome, at least temporarily until something can be solved inside Syria.
But – and I don't know if your question got to counterterrorism efforts, but again, I think this is, again, a threat that's shared by so many countries, not just in the Middle East but in South and Central Asia. And again, the United States has been very clear about the international cooperative, comprehensive efforts that have to happen to deal with the threat of violent extremism around the world.
QUESTION: Can I just go back one email question, please?
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: As far as this email question is going on, there must be a lot of distraction. And if you go inside the hearts of – heart of Secretary Clinton, how she's feeling this day to day, how much is impacting as far as dealing with the other countries as far as this diplomacy and the State Department is concerned? How much time you – is going on on this email issue? And there must be distraction dealing with other countries.
MR KIRBY: I'm not aware of any --
QUESTION: Including her campaign. I'm sorry.
MR KIRBY: I'm sorry. What?
QUESTION: Including Secretary Clinton's campaign, presidential campaign.
MR KIRBY: Well, look, I'm not going to get into political discussions here. Our – we have a very clear focus, Goyal, and that is one thing with respect to this, and that is to work through the Freedom of Information Act process to make public all those emails. That is the only job that we have with respect to this. It's not to talk about the content. And as you know, there are reviews and investigations going on into the practices, the past practices, of that email arrangement. We're not going to speak to that either.
Our job is one thing and one thing only, and that's to work our way through the remainder of those 30,000 emails and make them public in an appropriate, methodical way. That is one of the reasons – not the only reason, but one of the reasons – why Secretary Kerry made his announcement today of bringing Ambassador Jacobs in to help us work through process issues, and she's very good at that.
As for what other nations may or may not be viewing it and how they're – I don't know. I mean, I'm not aware of any angst that's been presented to the State Department by other nations as a result of this email traffic. I'm not tracking on that.
QUESTION: Just a quick question on India, please.
QUESTION: We're done. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: I'm going to take my turn.
MR KIRBY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Yemen. We're talking about this American, Scott Darden, whose family says that he's been held for several months. I was wondering what you can talk about, efforts to get him released.
MR KIRBY: Elise, we are aware of reports that several U.S. citizens are detained in Yemen. But due to privacy considerations, I don't have any further personal details or information to share.
QUESTION: Did you just say that you're aware of reports?
MR KIRBY: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you really saying that you're aware of reports when this guy was detained in March, and several months ago, when the U.S. was having direct talks with the Houthis, that officials said that the fate of several Americans in captivity – and he was included in this, not publicly but privately – was part of that? So, I mean, I'm not asking you to speak about the specifics of his case. But to say that you're aware of reports that he – I think are a little – is a little bit disingenuous.
MR KIRBY: I can't answer it any differently than I just did.
QUESTION: Are you – without – are you aware that Americans are actually in custody?
MR KIRBY: I've given you the answer that I can give on this. We're aware of the reports. Due to privacy considerations --
QUESTION: You're aware of your own – you're aware of press reports, or are you aware of your own reporting out of this building that you've confirmed that he's --
MR KIRBY: I understand that you'd like a different answer. I can't give you one. That's as far as I can go, I'm afraid.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I just think it needs to be noted for the record that you've said previously that Americans are in custody. And now you're changing your answer to you're aware of reports that Americans are in custody.
MR KIRBY: I just can't go into further details.
QUESTION: That's unfortunate.
QUESTION: John, actually you have a resettlement program in Iraq that's working in the IOM and also in coordination with the embassy. And as far as I know that there are 60,000 people are waiting. There are people waiting since 2010 in the process. So – and also, is there any way that you can expedite this program there? Because it was halted, suspended due to the ISIS problem last year. So is there any way that you can expedite this resettlement for the Iraqis that they applied for through this program?
MR KIRBY: I don't have an update for you on that program, I'm afraid.
QUESTION: Okay. One more on that issue that you mentioned a few times today, that the goal is to have the people, that they are fleeing from their region, their area, is to either stay in their own country or close in the regional countries in order to be able to go back whenever they want to go back to their country. So it's – there are about one million and half of them, of Iraqis and also Syrians. They are living in the Kurdish region. And recently it's not only these people that live in Iraq, and also there are people from the city of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, Doha – the stable cities that – like there is no issue of ISIS. So these people also are leaving and because the reasons – and there are studies showing that the reasons are political and also economical. Are you going to help the regional government economically and also to politically to stable their region in order to prevent the migration of the young Kurds to go to Europe?
MR KIRBY: Well, look, we have a – our efforts against ISIL are done through the Government of Iraq, and we continue to urge cooperation between the Government of Iraq in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government up in the north. We have seen that kind of cooperation and coordination. I mean, just recently a joint coordination center was stood up in Erbil that will be manned by Kurdish as well as Government of Iraq security forces and coalition members. So we're seeing good cooperation there.
I don't have anything specific in terms of these towns you're talking about to speak to. We are mindful – let me take a couple of steps back – we're certainly mindful of the scope of this challenge of these people who are fleeing the conflict. And you're right; it's not just in Syria. There are many Iraqis that are leaving as well to escape the conflict.
That is why it is so important that the coalition continues to pursue a – multiple lines of effort against ISIL, and not just militarily. There's much more to it than that. And going after ISIL means doing it economically – going after their ability to resource themselves, going after their ability to sustain themselves – and eventually going after this ideology that they purport. So there's a lot of effort going into this.
The answer is, in Iraq as it is in Syria, is good governance, stability, security, a chance for prosperity. That's the real answer and that's what we're trying to do.
QUESTION: But this joint operations center – I forgot to ask about this – is this going – it's going to work only on the security problems, on the ISIS things. It's not going to --
MR KIRBY: It is – primarily yes. Yes. It's a joint coordination center. I think I'd – a joint coalition coordination center. I'd refer you to DOD for the specifics about what the center's going to be doing, but yes, it's in the security realm.
QUESTION: Yeah. There is no efforts that you are going to help --
MR KIRBY: The point I was trying to make is we're seeing cooperation right now. It's happening as you and I sit here. And I know we like to talk about the tensions there, but they're actually working together against a common threat, ISIL, inside Iraq. And that's the important thing.
Yes. Back there.
QUESTION: Change topic about the Futenma relocation issue?
MR KIRBY: About the what?
QUESTION: Futenma relocation issue – Futenma?
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. The Japanese Government and the Okinawa prefecture failed to reach a compromise that mandates over the planning the relocation of the Futenma military base. The both side – two sides remained as far apart as ever. The – also Okinawa Governor Onaga has began to considering holding the plebiscite and – to ask the prefecture residents whether they are in favor or against the Futenma relocation. How do you – does the U.S. Government think about that conclusion?
MR KIRBY: Well, I think you can understand we're not going to get into internal Japanese politics. We continue – nothing's changed about our position about the importance of the relocation of this facility, and we continue to work with the Government of Japan to that end. And I would let officials in Okinawa speak to what they're doing and their views of it.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, one of the largest newspaper headquarters in Turkey was attacked by the government supporters and organized by AKP deputy. U.S. embassy in Ankara sent a tweet or two, but I was wondering if you have anything more than a tweet.
MR KIRBY: Well, we've seen the reports, obviously, and we call on Turkey to respect the media freedoms and due process protections that are enshrined in the Turkish constitution. They are key elements in every healthy democracy. We're concerned by reports that the protests against the Hurriyet Daily were encouraged by members of the Justice and Development Party. Elected officials must be careful not to appear to encourage violence against media outlets.
QUESTION: One of the Vice reporters, the third one, is still in the custody – over two weeks now. And another foreign journalist just detained for over two days, I believe. I was wondering if the U.S. Government is worried or have some increased concerns over the crackdown on the press freedom in Turkey.
MR KIRBY: We have consistent concerns about press freedoms around the world. And as I just said, we've expressed our concerns about this most recent incident against Hurriyet. Look, the quality of Turkey's democracy matters to us, and we expect Turkish authorities to uphold Turkey's core values, democratic foundations, and universally recognized fundamental freedoms. And that's a point that we make all around the world, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: The final one: Have you asked this to Turkish Government, this specific Hurriyet event or the recent tactic?
MR KIRBY: Well, we don't – as you know, we don't talk about the specifics of our diplomatic conversations. But since I'm talking to you here at the podium in real time, I think it's safe to say that we're making our points clear candidly and openly.
QUESTION: Now, you said the quality of Turkey's democracy matters to us?
MR KIRBY: Yes.
QUESTION: How would you rate that quality right now?
MR KIRBY: I'm not in a position to judge it. I'd be --
QUESTION: Well, then how can you say it matters to us --
MR KIRBY: It does matter to us. It does matter to us, and --
QUESTION: -- if you're not prepared to make a – well, is it poor, fair, excellent --
MR KIRBY: I'm not getting – I'm not --
QUESTION: Grade A, grade --
QUESTION: Well, but – I mean, just – why don't you look at your previous comments and acknowledge that they have not been so positive lately?
MR KIRBY: I have said that, Elise. We've noted that there's been challenges there and we note that publicly. We're candid about that.
QUESTION: So would you say --
MR KIRBY: But I'm not going to give them a grade.
QUESTION: -- less than perfect? What kind of – I mean, you say that the quality matters to you.
MR KIRBY: We recognize that there are still – there are actions --
QUESTION: Well, you've pretty much said yourself that that's a poor quality.
MR KIRBY: There are actions that they are taking which in our view don't comport with their own core values as mentioned in their own constitution. Thank you, though, Matt.
QUESTION: Very quickly to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. The Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, pointed to a data issued by the Israelis that they have plans to demolish 11,000 structures in Area C of the occupied West Bank. Are you aware of those reports, and do you have any comment on it?
MR KIRBY: No. You got me again, Said.
QUESTION: Could you – do you mind --
MR KIRBY: But – no, look – I'm not aware of the specific reports. We've had this conversation before, but we've made very clear our concerns about these kinds of activities in the past. Nothing's changed about that. So if they're true, if they're borne out, obviously we would have concern over that.
QUESTION: Because at this time of really vast humanitarian crisis with refugees everywhere, there are a few hundred thousand Palestinians that may become homeless again.
MR KIRBY: Again, we've made very clear our concerns about --
QUESTION: Could I just very quickly follow up on the Dawabsheh toddler – I mean, another toddler, another urgency? Over the weekend, the mother of the baby that was burned to death on the 31 – the 31st of July – died. And you have expressed confidence that the Israelis will bring the perpetrators to justice. You still have confidence that they can bring these perpetrators to justice now that nothing has happened over the past few weeks?
MR KIRBY: Well, first, let me offer our condolences and thoughts here. We condemned at the time this terrible attack. We continue to do so, and we urge, as we have in the past, all sides to maintain calm and to avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this very, very tragic incident. And again – I'll say it again today – we urge the Israeli authorities to quickly apprehend the perpetrators of the attack and bring them to justice. And that's – we've made that clear. We continue to make that clear.
QUESTION: Are you discouraged at all that it's taken so long?
MR KIRBY: Well, look – I mean, we obviously want to see justice had. I don't – we're not – not for us to put a deadline on that. We want – and we want --
QUESTION: I know. I'm just wondering if it's a problem.
MR KIRBY: -- Israeli authorities to work as quickly as possible. I mean, obviously we'd like to see this resolved as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Can I ask one thing? Last week, I had asked Mark when you were away about these allegations against staff for the UN – for UNWRA, the Works and Relief Agency, the one that deals with the Palestinian refugees.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know if you've gotten – he was going to take the question. I don't know if anyone ever --
MR KIRBY: I don't, Matt, but I will take it again.
I've got time for just a couple more. Yeah.
QUESTION: John, you talked about – back to the refugee crisis. We talked about resettlement figures and donations, but you mentioned other options beyond that. Could you elaborate on what those look like?
MR KIRBY: Well, I don't have – as I said, I don't have other options to speak to specifically today. That's why we've got a working group here at the State Department to go take a look at those, and they'll do the homework and they'll come back to Secretary Kerry with some ideas and recommendations, and we'll go on from there.
I think the important point is that we share the same sense of urgency about this that our European colleagues do. We understand the scope of it. It's heartbreaking to see these images and to see what's happened. There is an immediate crisis to deal with, and we're going to look for ways to improve our cooperation in those efforts. But, again, long-term what has to happen is the end of the Assad regime and good governance inside Syria so that these people can go home and get on with their lives.
QUESTION: John --
MR KIRBY: Let me go to the back here, Pam. I'll come back to you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Africa, two quick questions. One is a special emergency alert's been put on the U.S. Embassy to South Africa website, and we checked the other countries nearby – Zimbabwe, Angola – there's no alert.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you explain this further?
MR KIRBY: Well, as far as I can go is to confirm that the embassy had information indicating a potential terrorist threat and they acted on that by issuing a warning, which is what we're supposed to do. So the system worked. I don't have any specifics to share with you today on the nature of that. And I suspect – I think you'll understand why we don't get into a public discussion of that. But they did the right thing; they put it out in a timely fashion and we'll continue to monitor the situation. We want people to be safe. That's our job.
QUESTION: And the second question is you've reopened the embassy in Somalia, except it's in Kenya. How is an embassy supposed to help Americans in Somalia if it's --
MR KIRBY: It's not uncommon in certain environments, especially ones that aren't permissive necessarily, for us to have a mission somewhere else. We've seen that in Libya. We don't have the mission there in the country. And until such time as we've determined that Mogadishu is a permissive environment for a physical presence, we'll continue to operate it out of Nairobi. We're proud and we're glad that we were able to get the mission stood up and established, and while it's always – while it's always easier to be in the country, it's not necessarily better, and in this case, that's the situation. So we'll just continue to monitor the situation.
QUESTION: John, related to this, do you know if anyone from the State Department took advantage or has taken advantage yet of the authorized departure from Adana? I know you don't want to talk about numbers, but I'm just wondering if anyone has done it. Has anyone --
MR KIRBY: I don't know, Matt. Let me try to get back to you on that one.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the recent terrorist attacks in Turkey over the weekend and this morning?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, we continue to condemn these terrorist attacks against Turkish officials, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Turkish soldiers and police that were killed. We understand Turkey has a right like every country to defend itself against terrorist attacks. We want them to do that in a responsible way.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up question regarding the extremist – the threat of extremist attacks in South Africa. On the warning that went out today, is this part of what was an ongoing threat or is this a new threat that has emerged?
MR KIRBY: I'm not going to speak about intelligence matters here from the podium. As I said, there was information indicating potential harm here from terrorist activities. They did the right thing. They put the warning out. And we're going to continue to monitor it. But I'm not going to talk about the details of it.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:15 p.m.)
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