Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 28, 2013.
- Loss of Poland’s First Post-Communist Prime Minister
- Review of Surveillance Capabilities / Discussions with German Delegation / Discussions with other Allies / Significant Challenges
- U.S.-Egypt Relationship / Aid
- Peaceful Presidential Election / Advancing Democratic and Economic Development
- Stockpile of Enriched Uranium / Testable Device
- Geneva Conference / Political Solution / Transition
- MIDDLE EAST
- Range of Priorities in the Middle East / Remain Focused
- Peace Negotiations / Middle East Review
- 60 Minutes Segment of Benghazi / ARB / Additional Witnesses / On-Going Criminal Investigation
- Military-to-Military Relations with China / Transparency
- NORTH KOREA
- Six-Party Talks / International Obligations
- Kampala Talks / Violence
- OPCW Report
- Review of Amnesty Report of Drone Strikes
- SAUDI ARABIA
- Ban on Women Driving
1:45 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Sorry we’re a little late today. I have one item for all of you at the top.
The people of the United States offer our sincere condolences to the Polish people on the loss of Poland’s first post-Communist Prime Minister. He was – he shepherded democratic change in Poland and leaves behind an important legacy. He worked to improve relations with the West, paving the way for Poland’s eventual accession to NATO and the European Union. Indeed, the world has lost a true statesman. His legacy transformed Poland into a vanguard of democratic and free-market values.
QUESTION: That was very nice. Can we start with the NSA stuff?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Not that I’m hopeful that we’ll get much of answer beyond what we’ve gotten before. But over the weekend, yesterday in fact, Guido Westerwelle, who is the Foreign Minister of Germany, you are probably aware of, made the following comments. I’m going to shorten them, but I can read the whole thing if you want. But the two key ones that I want to ask you about is, he said, “It is wrong to eavesdrop on friends and partners.” And then at the end of his statement, or near the end, he said: “I hope very much that this view is shared in Washington.”
And my question to you is very simple: Is it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as you know, we have a German delegation that will be coming in the coming weeks to visit the United States to discuss intel gathering and a range of reports that have come out recently. We’ll have those conversations, why we undertake some of the steps we do through our intel community, and what is under review. There’s a review that’s ongoing, as you know. We’ve talked about it – actually multiple reviews, internal and external. And we’re looking at all these questions that are raised through that process.
QUESTION: So the review is going to determine whether or not the Administration believes it is wrong to eavesdrop on friends and partners? Is that —
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Is that one of the things that the review is going to look at, or —
MS. PSAKI: Matt, the review – the large umbrella of the review – is looking at what steps we take through our intel gathering, what we need to do to preserve the trust of the public, what we need to do to balance that with our own national security interests. There’s a large umbrella of questions that will be addressed as part of that.
QUESTION: Okay. But outside of the review process, can – does the Administration share the view that Foreign Minister Westerwelle hopes you share that it is wrong to eavesdrop on friends and partners?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re going to have discussions through diplomatic channels, Matt, with the Germans and with a range of officials who raise any issues about any of these programs, and we’re going to leave those conversations private.
QUESTION: So should we – I’m going to infer then, and you tell me if I’m wrong, that you do not necessarily share the view that Foreign Minister Westerwelle very much hopes that you do.
MS. PSAKI: I would – I think we’ve categorized in here quite a bit what these programs are and are not. I’m happy to go through that again and what our review is.
QUESTION: No, I thought – okay.
MS. PSAKI: But I don’t have any direct response to his comments, I should say it that way.
QUESTION: All right. Okay.
QUESTION: Do you know – do you have any more details on when the German delegation is going to come and who is going to come? Is this a Foreign Ministry delegation? Is this going to be an intelligence or other delegation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know they will be coming in the coming weeks. I think that’s still being scheduled. I do have one update for you. There was a previously scheduled group of EU parliamentarians who are going to be in Washington early this week. We expect certainly this issue could be discussed through that visit. They are meeting with officials from State, Commerce, Treasury, Homeland Security, ODNI, and the National Security Staff. We expect that when the German delegation is here, they’ll meet with a range of officials, but we don’t have yet the date or the specific agenda for their visit.
QUESTION: And are they going to meet people other than at the State Department?
MS. PSAKI: We expect they’ll meet a range of officials from the government, so I expect they would. I don’t – I just don’t have a list of who that would be yet.
QUESTION: But you can’t say that they’ll meet, for example, intelligence officials, since that seems to be what they’re most exercised about here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t want to predict, but the EU parliamentarians are meeting with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. We certainly understand what their interests are, and I just don’t have anything yet for all of you on what their schedule will be when they visit. But as soon as we do, I’m happy to share that.
QUESTION: Will they meet with any State Department officials while they’re here?
MS. PSAKI: The Germans?
QUESTION: No, the Europeans. The Europeans —
MS. PSAKI: I believe, yes, they will be meeting with officials from the Department of State.
QUESTION: Will they meet with the Secretary of State?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think they have a meeting with the Secretary of State, but we have a range of high-level officials here, as you know.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, Angela Merkel also said that this really sort of shakes the trust that Germany has in the United States of America. Are you concerned that this may be a ripple effect that will affect all of your allies?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I know we talked about this little bit on Friday, but it’s worth repeating, and I understand there are new developments on a day-by-day basis.
MS. PSAKI: Clearly, these disclosures have created significant challenges in some of our most important partnerships. We have not seen an across-the-board impact on our foreign policy. Some partners have raised concerns with us and we have some work to do, certainly, in those relationships. That’s one of the reasons why we’re having a German delegation meet, why we are open to discussions with our close allies and partners about how we can better coordinate on our intelligence efforts. But again, there’s a great deal we work together on and a great deal that we should continue to work together on, so we’re hopeful that that will be the case.
QUESTION: Also, the Spanish media is reporting that you guys have tapped millions and millions of phone calls, I guess, in one month – I mean, something really outrageous. So could you comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I do have an update for all of you on those reports. Our Ambassador there met today with the Spanish Secretary of State for European Union Affairs Inigo Mendez De Vigo at the request of the Spanish Government. I believe that was in some of the reports, the request at least was. He underscored the importance of open communication and ensured the Minister that the United States will continue to confer with our allies such as Spain through our regular diplomatic channels to address the concerns they have raised. He also talked about the ongoing review, of course, that we have underway that we’ve talked about.
QUESTION: And I have one last —
QUESTION: Can I ask one on that?
QUESTION: Sure, sure. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: By open communications, does he mean open channels of communication between the U.S. Government and the Spanish Government? Or does he mean that the Spanish Government’s communication should be open to the American Government to —
MS. PSAKI: He means open channels of communication about this issue or any issue that’s of concern to them.
QUESTION: And he was called in, lastly?
MS. PSAKI: He was. I believe that was reported in some of the reports. And he met today – our Ambassador met today with, as I mentioned, the Spanish Secretary of State for European Union Affairs.
QUESTION: I wanted to – I wonder if you have any comment on the claim made by Mr. Greenwald that a big country today will also learn and react to its citizens being spied upon.” Do you have any idea which country he’s talking about? Is it —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any insight —
QUESTION: Is it —
MS. PSAKI: — although I think that may have been the reports on Spain that were released today.
QUESTION: Spain? Okay. So it’s not a country that’s bigger than Spain.
MS. PSAKI: I – (laughter). I don’t speak regularly with him, so – or ever – so I don’t have any predictions other than the fact that there was a new report out today. That’s the one I just spoke to.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: I’m curious. When you said that the Ambassador stressed to the Spanish the importance of opening communication, is it not the case that if it were not for these leaks, your side of this open communication, which you’re pushing, would not exist?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we have had conversations about intel sharing and intel gathering with a range of countries for some time, long before Edward Snowden entered all of our lives. So I can’t speak to specifics, but it’s ongoing open communication and discussion on these issues or any issue that raises a concern.
QUESTION: Okay. So is it then the Administration’s position that the French and the Germans and the Spanish and the Italians and whoever else is involved would have known about this stuff already?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to that, Matt, nor am I going to. But I would just reiterate that there have been ongoing discussions about intel sharing and gathering with a range of countries for quite some time.
QUESTION: There is a school of thought that the European outrage or anger is completely hypocritical, that they do the same thing. And I think you’ve made that point, that other countries do exactly what you’re doing. But they certainly do seem to have been taken aback at least by the scope and scale of what’s been going on, reportedly been going on.
So when you talk, or when your ambassadors, when your envoys talk about the importance of open communication, can you assure foreign governments and people that the United States has been – has been, is being, and will be open with them in talking about the kind of surveillance operations that are being used?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.
MS. PSAKI: We’re open to discussions with our close allies and partners about how we can better coordinate. Many of those are underway now.
QUESTION: All right. And then my last one on this is —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, again, I think it was Congressman King who said the Administration shouldn’t be on the defensive here; that it should go – it should go on the offensive and start telling people about how these programs, these surveillance operations have actually thwarted plots and saved lives. Why doesn’t the Administration do that?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into details of the benefits of these programs – some higher level officials than myself have done that in hearings and other formats – other than to say that certainly the balance of our national security interests and protecting our citizens is a factor here as the review is underway. And some of these programs are responsible for that. But why strategically don’t we? I think I’m not going to address that.
QUESTION: Well, why – is it the Administration’s position that it is doing this – and by “this” I mean these operations, conducting these operations – for the benefit – for everyone else’s good, including – for everyone’s good, including the United States’?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, that’s a part of it. But obviously, as we’ve said before, the review is also evaluating that —
QUESTION: So —
MS. PSAKI: — and balancing that with issues related to privacy and transparency and what should be happening with these programs.
QUESTION: Right. But – so by – so in saying that, is it the Administration’s view that instead of being angry, the Europeans and others who are upset should, in fact, be happy, that they should feel safer and that they should feel – they should feel grateful to the United States for it extending its benevolent arm over them to help protect them?
MS. PSAKI: Those are your words, Matt, not my words.
QUESTION: Well, can I ask: Do you think that the anger is misplaced and that these people should – and that people who are upset should, in fact, be grateful for the concern that you have shown them by collecting all of this data?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I think we’re going to have these conversations privately and through our diplomatic channels about programs that we have underway and we’ve been communicating with many countries about for some time.
QUESTION: Sorry – on that point.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Also, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers said that if the French knew what we were doing for them, they should be celebrating with champagne. Do you agree?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that, Said.
QUESTION: In his town hall, the Secretary talked about trying to get ahead of this.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As Matt suggested, for the most part the conversations that have occurred about this appear to have occurred after media reports about the alleged wiretapping, eavesdropping on conversations of —
MS. PSAKI: Well, the public conversations about these issues, certainly.
QUESTION: Right. So – well, to get back to it then, have you then previously privately disclosed to your friends and allies that you have undertaken this kind of espionage on their leaders?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that. We have private conversations all the time at a range of levels with our friends and allies around the world. Those are ongoing. And often, there may be an agenda that’s 98 percent something else where this issue is discussed, given its prevalence in the news. Certainly, the Secretary feels strongly about expressing an openness to and to having discussions, to addressing concerns as they come up, and to taking every step possible so it doesn’t interrupt our ambitious diplomatic agenda. And that’s what his focus is.
QUESTION: I just don’t see how you could have had extensive private conversations about wiretapping the Chancellor of Germany prior to this, because I just doubt that she would have responded the way that she did.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m referring to the broad issue, but I’m not going to go into it any more specifically.
QUESTION: Right. But if you’re trying to get ahead of it —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — I don’t see how you can get ahead of this unless you are going to disclose to the objects of your surveillance the fact that you are surveilling them, because otherwise you just have these media drip-drip leaks, and then they get upset, and you talk to them and you’re very open about it after it’s in Le Monde, but not before. So —
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me broaden this a little, because what the Secretary was referring to was the fact that there has certainly been a great deal of media coverage around the world on these issues. These issues have come up even in countries where it has not been a public issue. So he is open to and focused on engaging on this and explaining what our programs do do, what they don’t do, what our review is addressing. And that’s what he’s referring to in terms of getting ahead of the process.
QUESTION: So – but I still don’t get it. I mean, getting ahead of the process means proactively going out and telling some of the objects of your scrutiny that you are —
MS. PSAKI: I’m actually referring to something entirely different, which is explaining what our programs do and what they don’t do, what our review is evaluating. And that’s something we’ve been communicating. Lisa Monaco did an op-ed last week. We’ve spoken about this publicly a bit, and that’s what he’s talking about in his remarks.
QUESTION: I got one other one that’s —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — not related to this but is related to the town hall.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The Secretary said he may be going to Egypt in the next – in the coming weeks. Is that for sure, and what would be the purpose of such a visit?
MS. PSAKI: We’re still determining the stops for our next trip, so I don’t have anything formal or final on that yet. Obviously, there are a range of stops we’re considering, but I don’t have anything yet on that.
QUESTION: Next trip, singular or plural?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: I didn’t hear what you said.
MS. PSAKI: I am certain there will be next trips —
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. PSAKI: — in the coming months. So in terms of our next travel, we’re still considering where we will be stopping.
QUESTION: Are we still on Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: We can be.
QUESTION: More on this.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: This issue.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lucas.
QUESTION: Thank you. This entire episode is now forcing the State Department and its various bureaus and at various levels to engage on this issue with foreign counterparts in literally dozens of foreign countries at a time when the U.S. was hoping to remain focused on trade talks, normal bilateral relations, and other more sensitive issues. Can you describe to us the drain of resources and energy this episode is creating for the State Department, or do you deny that this is a drain?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I addressed this a little bit earlier, but let me try to do it for you more succinctly here, perhaps. Some partners have certainly raised concerns with us. You have seen many of those play out in the press. We are not in denial about the fact that these disclosures have raised some significant challenges in some of our most important relationships and partnerships, and we are addressing those as they come. We are open to engagement. We are open to having a range of discussions in a range of different – through a range of different mechanisms.
But while some partners have raised this with us, we have – and we have some work to do, these disclosures, in our view, have not prevented us from cooperating with other countries, moving forward our agenda on a range of issues, including trade, national security priorities, counterterrorism cooperation, other issues that are of great significance globally.
QUESTION: And you and other briefers from other podiums have stated repeatedly that you would not comment on every allegation in the press in this episode.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yet the NSA statement released yesterday specifically rebutted a German report to the effect that President Obama had been briefed on the Merkel spying. Did the State Department play some kind of role in vetting that document?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we all coordinate closely, but I don’t have any other curtains to pull back for you on approving of statements.
QUESTION: Thank you. And one more: And what accounts for the making of this exception to this case of the allegation? Did the Germans put us up to it or did bilateral relations with the most critical European allies demand it?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to that.
QUESTION: Let me just ask one thing.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In terms of – are – is the Administration of the opinion that this will – that the concerns raised by foreign countries, foreign governments, that they can be resolved behind closed doors purely in your private conversations? Or does the Administration believe that it’s going to have to actually say something publicly beyond “There is a review underway,” in order for the hubbub to —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, when the review is concluded, I’m sure we’ll have more to say about what was reviewed and what it means.
QUESTION: Right. But do you think that —
MS. PSAKI: A lot of the conversations will happen, certainly, behind closed doors, as is appropriate.
QUESTION: But do you think that you can resolve the – at least the public outcry with private discussions between governments?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re doing a review that we will presumably release publicly what the final outcome is in some capacity, so – and we talk about this nearly every day. We did an op-ed just last week. So we’ll continue to communicate publicly about it.
QUESTION: Right, but you are aware that the – or the answers that have been provided so far don’t seem to have quieted any of the anger or the uproar, right? I mean —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as I’ve said, we’re not naive about the challenges that this has posed in some of our relationships, and we’ll continue to work on those.
Are we done with NSA?
MS. PSAKI: Egypt, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes. Last week, the Egyptian Government felt compelled to hire a high-powered lobbying firm so they can lobby on their behalf. Is the situation or the relation between you and the Egyptian Government is so bad that they need to rely on such high-powered lobbying firms to sort of begin to repair the damage?
MS. PSAKI: Said, in the midst of everything else, I had not seen those reports.
MS. PSAKI: We’re working closely with the Egyptian Government on a range of issues. We’ve talked about this quite a bit, given our decisions about aid and what aid would be held back and what aid would proceed, and those conversations are continuing with or without an outside firm which I don’t have the details on.
QUESTION: Do you find that working with the current military junta difficult? Are you having difficulty communicating with them, talking with them, carrying on diplomatic efforts or political efforts with them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s no secret that, clearly, we’ve gone through ups and downs in our relationship, but our focus is on our long-term security and strategic interests, and that’s what we keep our eye on.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. Do you feel that when countries like United Arab Emirate or the Saudi Arabia, they stipend and they give Egypt money and they’re saying, “Don’t worry about American aid,” that they are actually subverting your efforts in trying to get Egypt back on the proper track?
MS. PSAKI: What we can focus on is our own relationships and communicating to other countries why we’ve taken the steps we have. That was obviously part of what the Secretary did during his trip last week when he had a range of meetings, and will remain our focus.
QUESTION: And finally, do you take the – whatever signs or threats made by some of the military spokesmen that they can always go to Russia to get military equipment and so on as an empty threat or as a real threat?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t do an analysis of that. Obviously, our relationship with Egypt has strategic and security interests from our end as well, and that’s why we made the decisions we did a couple of weeks ago.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Tomorrow is going to be a hearing at – on the Hill and —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — three members of the Administration, two from this building or the agency will be there. What will be the – because talking about the next steps —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — do you have some main points that you think that is going to be discussed there, or just wait for tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: I would wait for tomorrow.
QUESTION: Today at this building, I think Ambassador Sherman met the Egypt Ambassador here. Do you have any readout about that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to get one for all of you if you’d like, and we’ll send it around after the briefing.
QUESTION: Elections in Georgia?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts about that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we congratulate the citizens of Georgia on their peaceful presidential election. This election clearly represented the will of the people. We support the international election observation mission and its assessment that the election was efficiently administered, transparent, and took place in an amicable and constructive environment. We also note the concerns raised in the assessment, including allegations of political pressure at the local level. We call on all candidates to act in accordance with democratic norms and submit any election grievance to the election administration. We encourage all parties to work together constructively to promote Georgia’s political stability and strengthen its civil society to advance its democratic and economic development.
QUESTION: Following up on a Georgia question that we had – maybe it was last week – about the Russian fences in those disputed areas, has there been – you called on the Russians and their allies —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — to take those fences down. Have they?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that. Let me venture to do that after the briefing and we’ll get that back to you.
MS. PSAKI: Iran, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: David Albright, a former IAEA weapons inspector, has issued a report saying that Iran could produce enough weapons grade uranium to produce an atomic weapon next month. Does the State Department have a comment or reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: I believe this was – was this last – was this late last week or was this – I believe so, but we maintain, of course, our own assessment regarding the potential timeframes by which Iran can enrich enough uranium to develop a testable nuclear device. That’s what we, of course, rely on, and we will – we continue to closely monitor, as you know, the Iranian process on its stockpile of enriched uranium.
QUESTION: But —
QUESTION: And your assessment is?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything further for you, Matt. Just that we —
QUESTION: Well, we have our own assessment, but it’s secret. Is it – can you say if it roughly – does it diverge at all from Mr. Albright’s?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we would know if this was – if Iran was at a point where this was the next step.
QUESTION: Okay. So —
MS. PSAKI: We continue to monitor it. I don’t have any other further assessment for you.
QUESTION: Well, but by saying we have our own assessment, you’re suggesting that your assessment at least differs – differs at least slightly from the assessment that was off. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. That’s correct.
QUESTION: Will this affect sanctions at all?
MS. PSAKI: Will it affect sanctions?
QUESTION: Yeah. Like on Capitol Hill, I know people are meeting and talking about —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — paring back sanctions, but if they’re going to have an atomic weapon next month – estimated, according to Mr. Albright —
MS. PSAKI: Right. I don’t have anything. I talked about sanctions a bit on Friday. Our position hasn’t changed since then. Obviously, the consultations and meetings with Capitol Hill are continuing.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. You said we would know if this was a point where they were ready for the next step. What are you talking about, exactly, there? Are you talking about enrichment? Are you talking about the overall development towards a nuclear – are you talking about breakout capacity? I wasn’t clear.
MS. PSAKI: We would know if they had developed enough – if they had – were at the point that they had enriched enough uranium to develop a testable nuclear device.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Yeah. On Iran, too, Tehran city officials have ordered the removal of some posters featuring anti-American slogans. How do you assess this step?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we, of course, have seen the reports that the billboards were removed. As we’ve said many times, the deep mistrust between our two countries spans over three decades. It’s going to take us some time and effort to get over that mistrust. We don’t know the reasoning or the specifics for why the billboards were removed, so we’re not going to analyze it further. And you know where our focus is at this point.
QUESTION: But do you see it as a positive step?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered the question.
QUESTION: Is there – sorry.
QUESTION: So you —
QUESTION: Is the comment that you – go ahead. That comment that you made about knowing if they were at the point where they had enough enriched uranium to test a nuclear weapon, is that what you would define as breakout capacity? Is that the same thing, or can you draw the distinction?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you, other than to say that we have our own analysis. We would know if they were at that point. Beyond that, I don’t have anything more.
QUESTION: And they are not, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Right.
QUESTION: Just on this, the billboard thing. I guess it’s understandable, because we don’t have an embassy there, you don’t have anyone there, if you don’t want to opine about the possible motives that the authorities have —
MS. PSAKI: Right.
QUESTION: — for moving them. But this isn’t something that has, like, come up in terms of confidence-building between Wendy Sherman – I’m not suggesting that removing billboards would do that, but —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — you weren’t – you didn’t have any advance notice of this from the Iranians or anything like that?
MS. PSAKI: No, not that I’m aware of. I was referring to exactly what you just said, which is that I’m not going to ascribe motives for it. I don’t —
QUESTION: All right. So as far as you know, this could be, like, some zoning dispute or something —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – it could be a range of things —
QUESTION: It could be anything.
MS. PSAKI: — so I don’t want to ascribe a motivation for it.
QUESTION: But it is a sign of lower incitement against the United States of America, isn’t it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more analysis on it than I just provided to all of you.
QUESTION: Okay. Can we go to Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Are there any more on Iran? Okay, Syria.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you about reports that suggest that the Secretary of State has a great deal of opposition within the Department of State for holding the Geneva conference. Could you comment?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly – and I believe that report was from late last week, was it?
QUESTION: I think it was this —
MS. PSAKI: Last week.
QUESTION: Yeah, last Friday.
MS. PSAKI: First let me say that that is a – that is not at all what – the position of the officials who are running point on these issues, including Ambassador Robert Ford, Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones. They’re all working actively to move forward on a Geneva conference.
MS. PSAKI: Ambassador Ford actually spoke for that specific story and said something quite contrary to that. So I can just – it’s hard for me to analyze unnamed officials and what it exactly means, but I can assure you that the officials who are focused on Geneva, who are focused on coming to a political solution, are working toward that goal right alongside with the Secretary.
QUESTION: Well, the opposition allegedly emanates from the fact that the opposition is not able to put together a team that will meet around the 23rd or the 24th of next month. So it was based on that, or the disarray within the opposition. So when Ambassador Ford speaks, and it was contrary to that, does that mean that the opposition is getting its act together?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Ford – what I was referring to was whether Geneva is the right step or not, and I can assure you that Ambassador Ford feels it is the right step, that there’s not a military solution.
In terms of Ambassador Ford’s work, he has been working closely with the opposition. He’s been on the ground and working with them to determine a representative body for a Geneva conference. There are a couple of steps upcoming, as you know. The opposition is going to be meeting on November 9th. There’s a meeting between U.S. officials, Russian officials, and the UN on November 5th to plan for a Geneva conference. All of those are important as we continue to take steps forward.
QUESTION: So the suggestion of – that the Secretary of State is the only person who is enthused about a Geneva conference are just false?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there sure are a lot of people working very hard in the building and outside of the building to move forward on a Geneva conference if that were the case.
QUESTION: Jen, I – the problem with your answer is that the story does not say people are opposed to having the Geneva 2 conference at all. It – the story says – and there is plenty of it floating around, plenty of the same sentiment floating around in this building from – I don’t know who they talked to, but it’s out there, apparently, that the 23rd is too early, that it can’t be done on that timeline. Can you say that everyone in the building who is running point on this issue is agreed that having – that at least right now that the 23rd is the appropriate and good date for this thing to happen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, there hasn’t even been an official date announced. You heard the Secretary say just last week that, clearly, having the opposition there with a strong representative body is an important part of having a Geneva conference and the timing of when. We’re still targeting November, but the priority remains doing it at the right time.
QUESTION: Okay, but I mean – so, okay – so then it may very well be that not everyone is in favor. Maybe even the Secretary doesn’t think it could happen on the 23rd. Is that what you’re saying? The question is not whether there’s division over whether people think that Geneva 2 is a good idea or should happen. The question is not whether there’s division over whether people think that Geneva 2 is a good idea or should happen. The question is whether there is division over when it’s feasible and when it can be —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d have to look at the story again, but I believe that was part of the issue that was raised in the story. In terms of the timing —
QUESTION: I think it was about timing.
MS. PSAKI: In terms of the timing, the meeting on November 5th, the meeting on November 9th, all of those will be determining factors in the timing and when we would have a conference.
QUESTION: Jen, did Ambassador Ford make any progress in convincing the opposition to participate in Geneva 2 since he’s still in Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know the Secretary spoke about this last week. I don’t have any other announcements other than to say that I think everybody has pointed to their meetings on November 9th as kind of the next pivotal meeting to make that determination.
QUESTION: And —
QUESTION: One more thing on Syria. Brahimi – Lakhdar Brahimi has said that President Assad can contribute to the transition in Syria without leading it in person. Do you agree with him on his assessment?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look more closely at his comments. I mean, there’s broad agreement that a transitional governing body would have to be done through mutual consent. We know that the opposition wouldn’t agree to having him on a transitional governing body, so that would present that – prevent that from being possible.
QUESTION: Is there going to be – are you going to have a representative, Ambassador Ford or someone else, at the November 9th – the meeting? Do you know if there is —
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you. We often do. I’m not sure if we’re quite there in our planning yet. Ambassador Ford and Under Secretary Sherman will, of course, both be at the November 5th meeting.
QUESTION: But —
QUESTION: In Geneva?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: But I thought this November 9th thing was in Istanbul.
MS. PSAKI: Separate meeting, yes.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update for you on who we would have there representing.
QUESTION: Do you view any role that President Assad can play in the transition?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just stated what our position is and what the position of the Geneva communique is, and we remain in the same place we’ve been for a long time, that he must go, there’s no future for him – no place for him in the future of Syria.
QUESTION: But this contradicts what Brahimi is saying.
MS. PSAKI: I’ll take a closer look at the comments and see if it actually does.
QUESTION: Related to Syria and the whole region.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Could you comment on some report that are saying that the Government of the United States is leaning towards a more modest foreign policy, especially in the region, the Middle East?
MS. PSAKI: What I can speak to is that – what I think you’re referring to the report from this weekend?
QUESTION: Yes. The report. That’s right. Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our actions, the Secretary’s travel, the President’s speech at UNGA, make clear that we have a range of priorities in the Middle East that include bringing an end to the civil war in Syria, seeing if there’s a diplomatic path to pursue with Iran, pursuing Middle East peace, and we remain focused on those. It is not – should not come as a surprise that when you have a new National Security Advisor, one who’s very close to the President, that she would take a look at our priorities and what we’re doing, and that was what was undertaken and the speech at UNGA was part of the result of those meetings.
QUESTION: So the statements made by Palestinian officials that the Secretary is really committed and so on – this kind of – these kind of reporting do not indicate in any way a more diminished kind of engagement, do they?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re connecting —
QUESTION: What I mean – this is connected in this way. So the suggestion that is – or in your response, is that the Secretary of State will continue to be engaged at least with the peace process, the negotiations, with the same energy as he has now.
MS. PSAKI: As all of those issues. But I’d also point you to the President’s speech that addressed all of these issues and pointed to our priority as an Administration to them.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell us what has really happened in the last couple weeks in these negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: On the Middle East peace negotiations?
QUESTION: Right. The peace negotiations.
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary spoke to it just last week and gave an update on the numbers of meetings, and he remains in close contact with both sides. But if you have anything specific I’m happy to address it.
QUESTION: Well, yesterday there was a meeting between Mr. Indyk and Abbas. Could you tell us if anything came out of that meeting?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’m not going to provide, as you know, and I know you don’t expect, so – updates on every recorded meeting out there.
QUESTION: The Israelis are. I mean, they’re issuing reports day in and day out. Why can’t —
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of reports out there, Said, as you know. Some are right, some are incorrect, and we’re not going to speak to all of them.
QUESTION: The New York Times article that you were just talking about, President’s Middle East review, it stated that no State Department officials, including Secretary Kerry were included or consulted during the review. Is that accurate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it also stated that the Secretary and National Security Advisor Susan Rice speak regularly, probably – nearly almost every day if not multiple times a day, about these issues and a range of issues. This was a staff-level review at the White House, one that I think most people would be pleased was – the White House was looking into. But not only does the Secretary have meetings every week with the President when he’s in town, but he speaks multiple times a day with Susan Rice if not every day.
QUESTION: I believe the article just mentioned that Ambassador Rice said she briefed Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel at weekly lunches. Was that not correct? Not – I don’t believe it said anything about phone calls every day, although I’m sure that there are.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m speaking to something separate, which is that they do speak —
QUESTION: Ah-ha. You’re giving us a new scoop that the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor speak often, every day.
MS. PSAKI: Which should not come a surprise. I know you’re going to run out and do a breaking news alert, but —
QUESTION: I – (laughter) – but when you say that the article says that, I don’t believe it did. I read it three times because I was trying to find —
MS. PSAKI: Well, let —
QUESTION: I was trying find out exactly what this review accomplished and I still couldn’t figure out by the end of the third reading, but I don’t think it said that they spoke every day. I’m sure they do, but —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I wasn’t trying to confuse things, just to convey that the Secretary and the National Security Advisor speak every day, if not multiple times a day, that they did consult on this review, but this review was an internal staff-level review of these issues, and the priorities and the decisions around it were reflected in the President’s speech at UNGA.
QUESTION: Jen, do you have anything on the Quartet meeting tomorrow on Israel?
MS. PSAKI: On the Quartet meeting, I don’t, actually. I’m happy to check on that. I don’t know if I have more details on it for you.
QUESTION: In a point of – just on the President’s priorities —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, for the record, you mentioned three things as his priorities. You said bringing an end to the civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian, or the Arab-Israeli peace process, and trying to see if there would be a nuclear deal —
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t trying to answer what the President’s broad national security priorities are, but —
QUESTION: No, no, no, I know. But for the record, I mean, he didn’t mention Syria as one of his two diplomatic priorities. What he mentioned were Iran and Arab-Israeli peace, not Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. That was what was in the speech, but I think, as you remember, a big focus of that week was moving forward on the UNSCR, so —
QUESTION: I know. But you referred to the speech —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — and Syria ain’t there on that.
MS. PSAKI: I take your point. I think it’s clear it’s a priority for the Administration.
QUESTION: Syria ain’t there? What’s the past tense of “ain’t?”
QUESTION: I don’t know. I use it so rarely, Matt. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Only in Reuters stories.
QUESTION: I’m sure your alma mater is very proud. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: So 60 Minutes ran a piece last night in which several officials, including a man by the name of Morgan – under the alias Morgan Jones talked about the events of the night in Benghazi. But what I wanted to ask you about was comments by a Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood, who said in the 60 Minutes piece that he had sent multiple warnings to Washington, including the State Department, that the special mission in Benghazi was due to be attacked and that he recommended that it be vacated at least temporarily. What, if anything, did the State Department do with those warnings?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me point you to – I know we have spoken quite a bit about this issue in here. There were no prior specific warnings that an attack was imminent.
QUESTION: Not imminent.
MS. PSAKI: This has been —
QUESTION: You’re using the word “imminent,” but he didn’t use the word “imminent.” He just said it was coming. So I just wanted to make sure we’re not getting too lawyerly here. Are you saying that Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood was mistaken or lying?
MS. PSAKI: What I can point you to is what a number of officials who are – ran point on, some continue to run point on things like the National Counterterrorism Center, former – I mean, DNI Director Clapper and comments they’ve made about this exact issue. As you know, we have participated in dozens of hearings, provided tens of thousands – I don’t even have a count anymore – of documents, and there’s been an independent review addressing all of these issues.
What DNI Director Clapper said on just October 9th is, “The challenge is always a tactical warning, the exact insights ahead of time that such an attack is going to take place, and obviously, we did not have that.” Matthew Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said on September 19th, “There were no specific intelligence regarding an imminent attack prior to September 11th our post in Benghazi.” The ARB found that intelligence provided no immediate specific tactical warning of the September 11th attacks. This is an analysis that’s been ongoing, and every point of this has been looked at through all of these reviews.
QUESTION: True. Well, I take those points. But this is a new allegation and it’s also – all of the quotes that you just mentioned mentioned “imminent” or “immediate.” But Lieutenant Colonel Wood’s point wasn’t that the attack was imminent or immediate, it was that it was coming at some point, and shouldn’t we shut down the special mission if it’s coming at some point, even if it’s not coming today or tomorrow? So I’m wondering if you could address that, taking away the whole imminent or immediate thing, which I think is something of a red herring in talking about his warning. And do you have any reaction to his comments as he made to Laura Logan (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t, other than to say that these questions have been looked into ad nauseam for months and months and months by a range of independent officials and boards. They have been analyzed, reports have come out. Beyond that, I’m not going to speak to every interview that is done.
QUESTION: You mean ad nauseam in the figurative sense, correct, not the literal sense?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Can you respond to Senator Graham’s comments saying that he will hold up all nominees until the Benghazi witnesses are given – access is given to the Benghazi witnesses to Congressional investigators? And that includes, of course, several State Department nominees who are coming up, including Rose Gottemoeller and several others.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Well, first let me say that the suggestion that holding up key positions that would help advance our interests around the world, help provide decision-making on securing posts and providing better cooperation and coordination, is absolutely the wrong tactic to take. Those are individuals, dozens of them, who we’re still waiting to have confirmed who are not in place. And I think we’ve been clear that that is something that hurts our efforts to move forward.
In terms of the facts here, in September, the Department made a Diplomatic Security official who was present in Benghazi the night of the attack available to the House Oversight Committee for a deposition after that committee had issued a subpoena despite hearing serious concerns about the risk of such a deposition to the ongoing law enforcement efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. In addition, we also made a Diplomatic Security official who was based in Tripoli at the time of the attack available for an interview by the committee. And you’re familiar with the more than dozen State Department officials who have testified on these issues.
QUESTION: So —
QUESTION: So you’re – can I just on that —
QUESTION: What you just said, are you confirming not just that these depositions happened, but the – is the entire L.A. Times story accurate to your mind?
MS. PSAKI: I did, of course, see the story. It is accurate that there was – that we did make a Diplomatic Security official who was present in Benghazi the night —
QUESTION: I understand, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the rest of the story, the stuff that you didn’t talk about, like the letters from the Justice Department and what they said.
MS. PSAKI: We do —
QUESTION: Would you say that those – that that accounting is an accurate reflection of what those letters said?
MS. PSAKI: The report – I understand the report is primarily accurate. I don’t have a specific analysis of every sentence in it, but —
QUESTION: Well, is there anything that stood out as being blatantly wrong about it, or —
MS. PSAKI: No. There was not.
QUESTION: There’s not? So, okay, so —
QUESTION: So your answer to Senator Graham is that you’re not prepared to make additional witnesses available in response to his tactic?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure we’ll receive – is he sending us a letter, or is this just a public —
QUESTION: It was a tweet, actually. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I think that’s a little different. I don’t know what our official mechanism for that is.
QUESTION: Tweet back.
QUESTION: Well, you can just tell us, and we’ll tell him.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our response is that we need to have these officials in place. That’s the only way to strengthen our interests overseas and to be able to represent our diplomatic agenda. It also is important for our security interests, which is something that many of these members of Congress seem very concerned about for good reason.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up: Last night’s CBS report mentioned two suspects in Benghazi with al-Qaida ties, one a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and another al-Qaida operative with ties to bin Ladin that go back 15 years. Is there any follow-up to my questioning last week about whether these people will be put on the Rewards for Justice list?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on the Rewards for Justice list. I will say the question has always been who exactly the attackers were, what their motivations were, and how they – the attack evolved. We’ve always said that there were extremists that we felt were involved. There’s an ongoing criminal investigation, as you are very familiar with, that you just referred to, so I refer other questions to them.
QUESTION: You call them extremists. Will you not say al-Qaida from that podium?
MS. PSAKI: It’s an ongoing FBI investigation. I’m not going to ascribe more specifics.
QUESTION: Will you consider these suspects, these two al-Qaida suspects and others, to be added to the rewards for terror list?
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your persistence on this particular line of questioning, Lucas. I just don’t have anything new for you today.
QUESTION: I’ll take that as a no, you’re not considering them.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new for you on this specific topic.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you’ll have seen this —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — because it came out, I think, after the briefing started. But Senator Corker has – his office has released a letter that he sent Secretary Kerry regarding the Vietnam 123 civil nuclear agreement —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — essentially arguing that the standards are lower than prior agreements such as the one with the UAE —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — because of permitting enrichment and reprocessing in a country that previously didn’t have those capabilities, and asking for the full text of the agreement and associated documents to be released to him. Can you take that if you haven’t seen it and —
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I haven’t seen it. I wish – it would be great if I had some sort of mechanism. But I haven’t seen it. I’m happy to talk to our team about it —
MS. PSAKI: — and get – see where we are on a response.
QUESTION: I’ve got – go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I’ve got three, but they’re really, really brief.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s do these two – or these three and the three brief, and then we’ll wrap this up. Go ahead.
QUESTION: First on China, China for the first time in 42 years has revealed its first fleet of submarines. Do you think this move is answering your call for more transparency?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that we remain committed to building stable, reliable, and continuous military-to-military relations with China. We continue to closely monitor China’s military developments and to encourage China to exhibit greater transparency with respect to its capabilities and intentions. We aren’t going to analyze or comment on what every release means.
QUESTION: By – given the timing China revealed this submarine fleet, the Japanese Prime Minister Abe came out and he warned against any move to change the status quos of the disputed islands. And also, the U.S. aircraft carrier is in the region. Do you think, have a more capable Chinese navy may raise the tension in the region?
MS. PSAKI: You know what our position is. It hasn’t changed; it’s been exactly the same. We have consistently urged all parties to avoid actions that could raise tensions or result in miscalculations that would undermine peace, security, and economic growth in this region. And that’s the message we would send to both sides.
QUESTION: So do you welcome a more capable Chinese navy?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just said we continue to work with China on military-to-military relations and continue to encourage them to be transparent.
QUESTION: About North Korea. It is said that China’s chief delegate to the Six-Party Talk and the South Korean’s chief talk – chief delegate is also coming to the United States. Can you confirm that schedule for us?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t. Let me take that and I’ll check with our team and see if there’s specific scheduling details we can share with all of you.
QUESTION: And actually, there is a wide – a huge gap between the North Korea and the United States. So if you can talk right now on how can you – can United States make progress toward the Six-Party Talk, and can you update your position on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a real update other than to reiterate the fact that our position has been the same. We have – North Korea has committed on numerous occasions, including in the September 2005 joint statement, to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. We’ll continue to hold them to their commitment and to their international obligations. And beyond that, the ball is in their court to take those relevant steps.
Scott, and then we’ll go to the few at the top here at the front.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: We talked about the Kampala talks last week —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and the need for them to accomplish something. They don’t seem to have accomplished something. On the contrary, there’s been more fighting over the weekend and shelling across the border between Congo and Rwanda. What can you tell us about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for your question, Scott. The – I know we talked about this a bit last week, or maybe it was the week before. But the fighting over the weekend is particularly troublesome in the wake of recent progress made in the Kampala talks. We call on all parties and we’re communicating to them to remain at the negotiating table and to promptly conclude the talks with a final and principled agreement that includes a permanent cessation of hostilities, the immediate disarmament and demobilization of the M23, and accountability for those responsible for human rights abuses. So they are continuing. Obviously, the violence is troublesome, but we are encouraging both parties to remain at the table.
QUESTION: M23 aside, is the United States directly involved between the governments of Rwanda and Congo to try to head off that confrontation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that – I believe that Feingold is still on the ground there. But these talks, as you well know, are happening between the parties. But we are engaged externally, I guess I should say. But I can see if there’s more specifics on meetings or anything like that we’ve had on —
QUESTION: Where on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: Where the Kampala talks are happening.
QUESTION: In Kampala, one would assume.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Well, because I saw a story quoting him in Paris, so I thought he was already in Paris.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, he was. He may have – I apologize, he may have been there over the weekend. But he was there through the thrust of last week. I’ll check and see if he’s returning.
QUESTION: But you’re not —
QUESTION: So he’s not – so he’s not still in Kampala?
MS. PSAKI: He’s not now. He may be returning.
MS. PSAKI: He’s been kind of back and forth on the ground for some time and was there most of last week.
QUESTION: All right. Here’s my three. They’re completely unrelated, but brief. One: Syria, just to go back there, did you have any response or reaction to the OPCW – the report being submitted to the OPCW on time? Is this a good thing? Are you willing to offer your congratulations or at least thanks to the Assad regime for meeting the deadline? That’s one.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, we are reviewing and assessing the completeness and accuracy of Syria’s declaration, which is more than 700 pages. We are, in accordance with OPCW regulations, not going to publicly discuss or analyze our assessment of the report.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re reviewing that one. Are you – that’s 700 pages, you said?
MS. PSAKI: That’s right.
QUESTION: More than 700?
MS. PSAKI: More than.
QUESTION: More than. So that’s going to take a long time, since I’m assuming that you’re going to tell me that you’re still not finished with the review of the Amnesty report on drone strikes in Pakistan, right?
MS. PSAKI: That review is ongoing.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. That was only 79 pages.
MS. PSAKI: As a reminder, review and read are not equated.
QUESTION: So —
MS. PSAKI: Review means discussion and analysis.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. All right. And so is there discussion and analysis going on as we speak about the drone report?
MS. PSAKI: There are. I can also confirm for you that officials – Administration officials have met with representatives from both Human Rights Watch – excuse me – and Amnesty about their reports.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the – related to that is that there are some victims testifying, I think, tomorrow on the Hill from Pakistan. Do you know if there are any meetings here at State with them?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any, but I’m happy to check on that for you.
QUESTION: And then the last one is: I’m wondering if you have any reaction to the upholding of this sentence against the Kuwaiti blogger who I think got 10 years for writing things critical of the Saudis and Bahrain.
MS. PSAKI: Let me see. I believe I do have something on this for you. One moment. And if not, I’m sure we can get you something right after the briefing. Thanks for your patience.
QUESTION: And just so I know, let me make sure, you are not willing yet to say that the Assad regime has met its goal, because you haven’t finished looking at it?
MS. PSAKI: We’re looking at the report. I will get – we’ll get you something on the blogger in Bahrain after the briefing.
QUESTION: All right. No, Kuwait.
MS. PSAKI: Kuwait. Sorry, Kuwait. Combining things.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Wait. I have one more on the Saudi driving. Have you seen any of these pictures of the women driving? And what – is there any opinion of this building whether it’s time for the Saudis to relax the ban?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the pictures, although now I’m going to go look them up after the briefing. We have – we support, of course, the right of women everywhere to make their own decisions about their lives and their futures, and the right to benefit equally from public services and protection from discrimination. We support the full inclusion of women in Saudi society. People throughout the world share the same universal rights to assemble and express themselves peacefully. And we raise human rights concerns with the Government of Saudi Arabia as part of our ongoing dialogue. So, certainly we would support their ability to drive, but I don’t have anything further in terms of the recent photos.
QUESTION: Are you saying that that – that the Administration believes as —
QUESTION: — yeah, that the right to drive is a universal human right?
MS. PSAKI: I’m saying that people should be able to benefit from public services and from —
QUESTION: Like, you mean roads?
MS. PSAKI: I —
QUESTION: Street lights? I don’t know. Well, they can benefit from sidewalks, right? I mean, I’m not trying – take it – if you’re suggesting that it is a universal human right to be able drive a motor vehicle —
QUESTION: Please don’t tell my children. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: — I mean, what about – do countries have the right to have – restrict that right by perhaps making people take tests to get licenses that would allow them to drive?
MS. PSAKI: That is always part of the process. The larger point I was making – and I appreciate Arshad coming back to me at the end of a long briefing – is just that we raise human rights issues, equal rights issues, frequently with the Saudi Government.
QUESTION: All right. So this is more of an equal rights issue than it is a human rights issue, yes?
MS. PSAKI: I think I covered all of those descriptions.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Jen, is there any dialogue with Saudi Arabia after their latest statements?
MS. PSAKI: Have there been any dialogue?
QUESTION: You talked about a dialogue with Saudi Arabia.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, the Secretary spent a couple of hours with the Foreign Minister just last week and saw him again —
QUESTION: Yeah, but since last week.
MS. PSAKI: Since last week? Well, it’s only been two days since last week. I don’t have any other updates for you —
MS. PSAKI: — but we’re in close contact, remain in close contact.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)