Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–August 20, 2014.
2:17 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing.
MS. HARF: Thank you, Said. I just have one item at the top and then I will open it up for your questions.
As you heard President Obama say today and Secretary Kerry in a written statement just moments ago, I would also like to express our heartfelt and deepest condolences on the tragic loss of James Foley. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and to all whose lives he touched. As the President said, Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. ISIL has rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence.
Let’s be clear that ISIL speaks for no religion. No faith teaches people to massacre innocents. As the President said, when people harm Americans anywhere, we will do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. And the United States will continue to do what we must to protect our people.
So with that, Matt, let’s open it up for questions.
QUESTION: Okay. Just before we get to the statement from the President and also the Secretary, I just want to know – I’m wondering if you have or are able to share any more than the White House, than the NSC, your colleague Caitlin was able to share, about the authentication of the video, if your intel people have been able to figure out the when and the where of when this video was made, with – that kind of thing.
MS. HARF: Well, as the NSC did say, we have – the intelligence community has completed its authentication of the video. There are a variety of ways we go about doing that, many of which we don’t talk about publicly because we’d like to be able to use them if, unfortunately, they’re needed in the future. We’re looking at all of those issues right now. Our intelligence community is evaluating that to see if there’s any information that we can use to either bring to justice those responsible or – of course, you saw the other American citizen, Mr. Sotloff, in the video as well, and we remain very deeply concerned about his safety and whereabouts.
QUESTION: Right, okay. Does that mean that the jury is still essentially out on determining where and when and who actually did this?
MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. I’m not – well, let’s do a couple of points on that. I’m not saying that. I’m just not going to specifically outline what we do or don’t know from the video, given much of that is used for intelligence purposes. Prime Minister Cameron did speak a few moments ago as well, and he said that we have not identified the individual responsible, but from what we’ve seen, it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen. We agree, of course, with that assessment, are working very closely with the United Kingdom, our partners there, to determine who may have been in the video.
QUESTION: Sorry, you agree with Prime Minister Cameron’s assessment that —
MS. HARF: That it seems increasingly likely that it is a British citizen.
QUESTION: Then this is just the person who was on the video, not anyone off-screen or any —
MS. HARF: Correct, and obviously, the intelligence community —
MS. HARF: — is looking to get anything they can to possibly use from this video.
QUESTION: All right. Can I ask two brief ones on both – first the President’s statement and then on the Secretary’s statement?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, you can.
QUESTION: One of the – what seems to be one of the main operative paragraphs of the President’s statement is the one that begins, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of this kind of nihilistic ideology.”
How is that going to translate in policy terms? What exactly is the Administration going to do to make sure that there is, from governments and peoples across the Middle East, a clear rejection of this kind of thing?
MS. HARF: Well, there’s a couple things at play here, and that is a key part in this statement because we have talked to a number of partners who understand how serious the threat ISIL is, not just to Syria and Iraq, but to their countries as well. And countries in the region are very, very concerned about this. We’ve worked with them on working to cut off financing, working to cut off the flow of foreign fighters so we can start to deprive ISIL of the oxygen that it’s had and has really allowed it to flourish.
But we’ve also been clear, separate and apart from that, that we will, no matter how long it takes, find people responsible for hurting Americans and bring them to justice. That’s a key part of what the President said and what the Secretary said. I think we’ve shown – very committed to doing that, and that certainly is the case here.
QUESTION: The statement suggests that you aren’t – at the moment, at least, the Administration is not entirely happy, satisfied with all of the governments and peoples of the Middle East, that you believe that there are some peoples and governments that could do more or aren’t really behind this effort.
MS. HARF: I think —
QUESTION: Is that correct?
MS. HARF: I think what today and the last 24 hours really underscores is that we all need to be doing more.
QUESTION: All right. Well, is —
MS. HARF: And I would caution you from reading too much into that one line about anyone specifically.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: We have been working closely with our partners in the region on this.
QUESTION: So in other words, this does not indicate or herald a new policy initiative to get people on board on the anti-ISIL –
MS. HARF: That’s been an ongoing policy initiative. Obviously, the – what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours underscores how critical that effort is, but it has been an ongoing effort.
QUESTION: All right. My last one: From the Secretary’s statement, one – the line in here says that “We will confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred.”
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Does that include Syria? And if it doesn’t why does he say, “Wherever it tries to — ”
MS. HARF: Well, he meant what he said in his statement. Obviously, I’m not going to outline what tactical, military, or intelligence options are at our disposal to respond here, and don’t want to get ahead of any discussions in that regard. But we have the ability to hold people accountable for what they’ve done. We have reserved the right to take action to protect our people, including when our people have been harmed. That principle will guide what we do going forward. The President was very clear that we will continue doing what we’re doing in Iraq. Today, the U.S. military took an additional 14 strikes around the Mosul Dam. So those are all ongoing conversations about the best way to fight ISIL.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that it is possible that the U.S. could take action, some kind of action, against ISIL either generally or to bring the perpetrators of this murder to justice inside Syria?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to specifically rule anything in or out from this podium in terms of policy options. What I will say generically is that the United States reserves the right to hold people accountable when they harm Americans. What that looks like going forward, those conversations will be happening.
QUESTION: All right. Well, then it sounds like you’re leaving – you’re now saying that it is possible that there could be some kind – I don’t know, maybe like a bin Ladin-type raid or something like that.
MS. HARF: I’m not ruling anything in or out.
MS. HARF: I’m not ruling anything in or out in terms of policy options. One of my main jobs here is not to rule in or out policy options, but again, these are principles that guide what this Administration has done when other Americans have been harmed, and that will guide what we’re looking at going forward.
Let’s go around the room here one at a time. Yes, go ahead, Said, and then we’ll go down the row.
QUESTION: Of course, first of all, our heart goes out to —
MS. HARF: Thank you.
QUESTION: — James Foley’s family. Do you have a figure on the number of journalists that are actually kidnapped by ISIL at the present time in Syria?
MS. HARF: Did you say journalists?
QUESTION: Yes. There is allegedly some 20 journalists from all over the world —
MS. HARF: I don’t have a number for you. We are aware of other American citizens, including, as you saw, Mr. Sotloff being held in Syria. I don’t have a number beyond that. We also know that ISIL has, as you point out, taken a number of journalists hostage, including many Syrian journalists who are just trying to shed light on the horrific situation there. So we know it’s a constant threat, and it’s one that we’re very cognizant of.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, is it true – isn’t it true that basically, you were looking the other way while the sources of financing were going to ISIL in, let’s say, a year or a year and a half ago from Kuwait, from Qatar, from Saudi Arabia, from the Gulf countries by individuals?
MS. HARF: Not at all. We have been very focused on the ISIS threat as it’s evolved in Syria, as it’s evolved in Iraq over the past weeks and months as well. It’s a threat we’ve been very focused on. And we have worked with our partners in the region to try, as I said, to deprive it of oxygen that it really needs here. We’re doing that in a number of ways, but we have been very focused on it for some time.
QUESTION: And hasn’t the Syrian regime, like it or not, been on the forefront of the fight against ISIL? I mean, some bloody fighting?
MS. HARF: Not at all. I don’t want to in any way put us on the same page as the Syrian regime. It is because the Syrian regime has allowed them to flourish that ISIS or ISIL is what it is today. They are directly responsible for the growth of this terrorist group. So I think we need to be very careful. While on the right hand, the Syrian regime might be bombing them, on the left hand, everything they’ve done has allowed this group to flourish. So it’s fairly disingenuous.
QUESTION: Okay. I just want to understand “allowed them to flourish.” Do you mean facilitated them, gave them weapons, gave them money, gave them transportation? Or were they actually —
MS. HARF: Facilitated their movement to Iraq, as we’ve seen. They’ve fostered the growth by facilitating the flow of al-Qaida’s foreign fighters during the Iraq conflict, which was really the precursor in some ways to what we’ve seen today. They encouraged violent extremists to transit through Syria to Iraq for the purpose of fighting coalition forces there. This history goes back quite a way with some of these same guys who were part of that group and now have morphed into something even more, if that’s possible, barbaric.
QUESTION: Okay. And my last question: On Kuwait, there is a focus on Kuwait that a great deal of financing comes from that small country which you liberated back some 23 years ago and so on. And in fact, the Kuwaitis arrested a cleric on Sunday, Shafi al-Ajmi, and they released him thereafter. He was propagating, basically, for ISIL. So would you call on the Kuwaitis to re-arrest people like that to stop the —
MS. HARF: I’m not aware of his case, Said. I’m happy to look into it. But we’ve called on all the countries in the Gulf, who themselves understand how serious the threat is, to crack down on financing – and not just in the Gulf; I should say in the region writ large – to crack down on private citizens trying to finance this group. There is – if there is anything we’ve learned about ISIL, and we’ve learned a number of things, unfortunately, about them over the past weeks and months, it’s that they will kill Sunni Muslims, they will kill Shia Muslims, they will kill Yezidis, they will imprison and rape women – it doesn’t matter where they’re from or what religion they belong to. So I think people realize this is a threat to everyone in the region, and we would encourage people to do more accordingly.
QUESTION: Just – Kuwait —
MS. HARF: Yes. Let’s go across the row. We’re going to get – we’ll get to everyone. Go ahead, Lucas.
QUESTION: Just going back to other Americans being held, did you have a number specifically on that?
MS. HARF: We’re not giving a number. We’re aware of other Americans, but for their safety and security, aren’t going to be providing details.
QUESTION: And was Mr. Foley being held in Raqqa, do you think, the northern province in Syria?
MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – we’re not going to be giving more details about those kinds of issues, Lucas.
QUESTION: Okay. In addition to the statement yesterday from the NSC, you said that “generally, we are appalled at the brutal murder.” Is that all? Just appalled?
MS. HARF: I think you saw the President be very clear what his feelings are on this, as the Secretary was as well.
QUESTION: Marie, French Foreign Minister Fabius has pressed all countries in the region, including Iran and Arab countries, to join Western states in fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Can we imagine or expect that the West states plus Syria and Iran in the same front fighting ISIL soon?
MS. HARF: I think that’s a fairly simplistic reading of the situation there on the ground. What we have said is anyone who is willing to help degrade ISIL’s capabilities, that that would in the long term be a step in the right direction. But when it comes to a country like Syria, for example, the regime there, the Assad regime, by their actions has allowed this group to flourish. So what we’re focused on is building capable partners, particularly in Iraq, and among the moderate opposition in Syria, that can increasingly go after this group on their own. We have these kind of partnerships around the world, whether it’s a place like Yemen, for example, where we’ve really helped them build their own capacity to do this, stood by them as we did. But that’s really the kind of effort we’re focused on.
QUESTION: And what about Iran?
MS. HARF: Well, I think all countries in the region understand that ISIL is a threat to them. And if they are interested in playing a constructive role in helping to degrade ISIL’s capabilities, then I’m sure we can have that conversation then.
QUESTION: Fabius added that the international community bears a heavy responsibility in Syria, and he said if two years ago we had acted to ensure a transition, we would not have had Islamic State. What do you think about that?
MS. HARF: I think there’s no one who would rather have had a political transition in Syria a year or so ago than – other than the Syrian opposition – than the people working on Syria in this building and in this Government, if it were only that easy. I’m very hesitant about people who say if only we did X or Y, everything would be different. It’s very complicated.
We have consistently supported the Syrian opposition. As we have provided them with additional assistance, we have to make sure we’re vetting them, because there are a number of groups in Syria that we don’t want our assistance to fall into the hands of. We’ve continued that process; we will continue doing even more. But this is quite complicated, and we are very committed to putting in place in the long term a way we can really degrade ISIL even further.
QUESTION: Last question for me —
MS. HARF: Last question from you, okay.
QUESTION: — regarding French foreign minister’s statement. He said that the French will – or France will arrange a conference in September on the threat posed by ISIL. Are you aware of this conference?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t heard of that conference specifically. As I think somebody asked me about the other day, the President will be chairing – let me just pull this up here, because we weren’t able to talk about this the other day – if I still have it. Very quickly, somewhere in here – the President will be chairing on the – at the UN General Assembly – hold on. Let me just pull it up here.
Yes. The week of September 22nd, he will host a head of – heads of government-level Security Council summit to focus on the acute threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. We will work through our U.S. mission to the UN with partners on a resolution to address the phenomenon, emphasize the need for states to have the tools and mobilize the resources to help prevent it. This will be the first head of government-level Security Council session since the President hosted one on nonproliferation in 2009. Obviously, the threat of terrorists traveling to foreign conflicts is not a new one, but the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have highlighted this threat. We believe there are an estimated 12,000 foreign terrorist fighters that’ve joined those conflicts.
QUESTION: Are you coordinating with the French Government?
MS. HARF: I am sure we are. I just don’t have any specifics for you on that, and I don’t have the details behind that proposal.
QUESTION: You mentioned the 14 strikes from Central Command around Mosul Dam —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — in the last 24 hours. Were those strikes conducted after the video was released or obtained by the U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: It is my understanding that they were, yes. I believe they happened today.
QUESTION: Right. Is there a concern – today as in our time or today as in Iraqi time? I guess —
MS. HARF: Today Iraqi time.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there a concern that these airstrikes – I mean, given the threats that were laid out in the video that were pretty explicit, is there a concern that the continued airstrikes around Mosul Dam on ISIL targets will lead directly to the death of Mr. Sotloff?
MS. HARF: Well, let me make a few points here. First of all, there is no justification for these kind of barbaric acts, period. None. Second, we don’t make concessions to terrorists. The United States Government has a longstanding policy that we feel very deeply about that we do not do that. The President was clear we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. And I would also note that, as I said earlier, ISIL has been willing to kill and rape and enslave anyone who gets in their way, regardless of what country they’re from, regardless of the policies of that country. They’ve been – shown themselves very willing to kill Christians and Muslims and Yezidis and people from all across Iraq and Syria. So again, while highlighting that there is absolutely no justification for this in any way, we have seen them be very willing to kill people – really anyone who gets in their way.
QUESTION: And you call on ISIS, I assume, to release Sotloff, even though —
MS. HARF: To immediate release Mr. Sotloff, yes.
QUESTION: And in terms of the video, was the Secretary and the President – they were briefed on the video. Did they watch the video?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I’m happy to check. I have not watched the video and don’t intend to.
QUESTION: This horrific event – would this event is going to trigger any kind of assessment of your policy for the last 18 months when the ISIL spread very rapidly without any real check on it?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you’ve seen us, as ISIS – and ISIL now in Iraq – has gained in strength, that we have continued to assess our policy and use the tools at our disposal to work to degrade their capabilities. You’ve seen that with the airstrikes that the U.S. military has taken beginning about a week and a half or two weeks ago now. They’ve taken – I think I have the number here – 84 total airstrikes since August 8th.
So in that vein, we are constantly looking at how we can further degrade their leadership, their financing, their capabilities. We know they’re a threat. We have known that for some time, and that’s what we’ll be focused on going forward.
QUESTION: Would you be able to tell us, is there any regret on your part that the U.S. Government did not take more robust action in Syria to stop ISIL?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, I think to Michel’s question, I’m hesitant when people say if only we had done X, everything would be different or everything would be fixed. I think we have constantly looked at ways in Syria, in a very complicated situation where there are no easy answers, to improve the capabilities of the moderate opposition to fight not only the regime, but also terrorist groups like ISIL and Nusrah.
So this is an ongoing process here. We are committed to fighting this in the long term. I can assure you we are putting all the resources of this Government – military, diplomatic, intelligence – towards finding Americans who are being held and bringing them home, and towards, in the long term, taking out the capabilities of ISIL, because we’ve seen what they can do. As the President said, there’s no place for this kind of group in the modern world, and that is what many, many people are working on every single day.
QUESTION: So it’s safe to say that you don’t have any regrets? That’s what we should —
MS. HARF: Just not – I think I made very clear what my position was.
QUESTION: Marie, can I just clarify something as it relates to Syria?
MS. HARF: You can.
QUESTION: For the last three years, the policy of the Administration has been that all options are on the table except for boots on the ground.
MS. HARF: Boots on the ground, correct.
QUESTION: Is that no longer the case?
MS. HARF: That is still the case.
QUESTION: Well then, how can you say that – okay. So then I want to make sure that I understand this. You’re —
MS. HARF: We’ve always said all options except for boots. And what I was saying in response to your questions was I’m not going to rule in, beyond that, any specific policy options – either in or out. That’s not what I’m going to be doing today. What I am saying is we are committed to bringing these people to justice. We are committed at fighting ISIL long-term. We are determining the best way to continue our efforts to do that.
QUESTION: All right. But you also just said that you would go to no – to every length possible to find and free, I think —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Bring home.
QUESTION: Bring home, find and bring home —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — Americans —
MS. HARF: — who are either being held —
QUESTION: — American captives or —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: So does that mean you’re not ruling out some kind of a rescue operation?
MS. HARF: I’m not ruling anything in or out specifically. I don’t – I’m not going to have more specifics to share with you right now on that. But I just want to be very clear that we – no effort is spared in trying to bring our people home. While we can’t always talk about it publicly for obvious security and safety reasons of the remaining people being held, I just want to make very clear that we are taking and will continue taking steps.
QUESTION: All right. And also just on this, and that presumably applies to Mr. Foley’s remains as well, right, to bring him home? Does that —
MS. HARF: Correct. It does. Yes.
Lucas, go ahead.
QUESTION: Will the Administration be taking a law enforcement approach to bringing Mr. Foley’s killers to justice?
MS. HARF: Well, there will be, if there’s not already, an FBI investigation, given he’s an American citizen. But it’s broader than that. As I just said, we have intelligence resources, we have diplomatic resources, we have military resources; we will spare no effort to hold accountable those people responsible for his death.
QUESTION: And you directed me to the President’s remarks earlier —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and the President said one thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has, quote, “no place in the 21st century.”
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: Isn’t it self-evident that they do have a place? Of course, a nefarious place.
MS. HARF: Not any place any of us want to live in.
QUESTION: Marie, can you confirm whether Mr. Sotloff was actually kidnapped in Libya?
MS. HARF: Where?
QUESTION: Yes. Was he —
MS. HARF: Mr. Sotloff?
QUESTION: Sotloff, right. There were reports that he was actually —
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: — kidnapped in Libya.
MS. HARF: I can check, Said. I’m sorry, I don’t have that in front of me.
QUESTION: Will this military operations in Iraq go beyond the two goals you were talking about yesterday?
MS. HARF: Well, the President, as you said, outlined two goals. We’ve talked about those since August 8th now, and that’s what we’re operating under. So I don’t have anything further to announce than that or to speculate on, I should say instead. But we’ve said we are very committed to protecting our people, and we’ve always said – even before this recent action – that we reserve the right to bring people and hold them accountable when American citizens are harmed. So we’re focused on the two goals the President outlined, but one of those is protection of American citizens, which speaks directly to what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours and to the remaining hostages.
QUESTION: On this one, Marie, U.S. officials have said minutes ago that military planners are weighting the possibility of sending more Americans forces to Iraq mainly to provide additional security around Baghdad. Do you have anything on this?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those comments. I don’t have anything to announce at this point in terms of any additional folks.
QUESTION: You don’t know if the State Department has requested additional troops?
MS. HARF: I can check. I can check.
QUESTION: Talking about 300 soldiers.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Just one more question. According to Iran foreign ministry spokesman, dialogue between Iran and European Union about ISIL has begun. Do you know any —
MS. HARF: I think the EU and Iran would probably know more than I would about that.
Yes, go behind you. Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can I change the topic, please?
MS. HARF: No, I think we have a few more on this.
QUESTION: One more.
MS. HARF: Yes, go back here and then we’ll go to Catherine, and then to Indira.
QUESTION: I have been saying many times in the past as far as these terrorists are concerned, mostly they are from the Muslim or Arabic world and operating from there and supported by some of those governments in the name of charity. And today, President is saying that those nations are not speaking against those terrorists, harming them also, but those nations want you to speak on their behalf and go after those terrorists. My question is: Are you also now going after those nations who are supporting them or wherever they are? And also, this is not the first American journalist beheaded by those terrorists, another one in Pakistan by the ISI and those terrorists operating there also, Wall Street Journal journalist.
MS. HARF: Daniel Pearl?
QUESTION: What I’m asking you: Where do we go? Those nations are enjoying in the name of that America will go after those terrorists.
MS. HARF: Well, look, the President wasn’t intending or meaning to speak for other countries in the quotes that we’ve read today from what he said. And I think the other countries in the region do understand the threat and most of the funding, unfortunately, for ISIL has come from kidnappings and ransoms and criminal acts. So that’s part of what their modus operandi has been, and that’s part of the reason we want to deprive them of funds.
But we are working with governments in the region where we believe there are private citizens funding ISIL to get them to clamp down even further to cut off those sources of funding. We need to attack ISIL on a variety of fronts, one of which is the bombs that the Pentagon folks are dropping on them right now. One of them is not letting them have access to resources. So that’s something we’re very focused on, and we will certainly continue with that effort.
QUESTION: One more.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Trust me, many nations in the name of charity or God or Islam, they give money, they give in the name of charity to many charity groups, but much of the funds ends up in the hands of terrorists and they use that money against innocent people.
MS. HARF: Well, we look at any way to cut off funding. I know there are a variety of ways these groups end up with money, and we look at any way we can to really starve them of these resources. And as the President said and as I said at the top of this briefing, ISIL does not operate in the name of any religion. The President was very clear about that, and I think the more we can say that and underscore that point, I think the better.
QUESTION: What has the State Department contact been with the Foley and Sotloff families? We saw President Obama call the Foley family. Has Secretary Kerry reached out to either family?
MS. HARF: We have had regular interactions with both of the families since the kidnapping of their loved ones. We have regularly met with the families, both representatives from the State Department, also the FBI, the intelligence community, and the White House. So we have been in constant communication with them. I don’t have any details on communications today, but if there are some to share, I am happy to read them out.
As you saw in the Secretary’s statement as well, he had met James Foley and the Foley family when he was a senator, knew them. The Foley’s are from the state right next door to his, and so obviously has been very focused on this case.
QUESTION: And there are also reports that Steven Sotloff’s mother is in Washington D.C. today. Is she meeting with anyone at the State Department?
MS. HARF: Oh, I don’t know. I can check. I’m sorry, I can’t confirm that. Let me check on that.
Indira, yes. Hello.
MS. HARF: A welcome addition to the briefing.
QUESTION: Thanks. So a couple of questions. First, I’m really interested in the funding streams. I know you’ve been answering the various people’s questions about that, but can you give us a little bit more on how the ISIL funding streams differ from what your people are already used to dealing with in terms of al-Qaida and some of the other groups? What are the challenges that make their funding streams different or harder to cut off, or will you be targeting them with sanctions, or it’s not really a group where you sanction its funders?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve designated them as an FTO —
MS. HARF: — which carries with it some – I don’t know if the official term is “sanctions,” but – I think it is – but which attempts to cut off any possible funding that could come from the United States or any assets they may have here. I don’t know, quite frankly, if – what the extent of their assets is there, but certainly, we’ve taken the steps that we can under our financial system to cut off their funding.
I do think that one of the challenges is that much of their funding comes from criminal activity, whether it’s stealing money from banks, like we’ve seen in Mosul and elsewhere, whether it’s kidnapping for ransom, which is a huge problem, which is, again, another reason the United States does not make concessions to terrorists, because we don’t want them to get more funding. So those are not unique challenges, but a little different than some of the other terrorist groups we’ve seen in terms of financing.
We are also concerned about financing from private citizens from other places in the region. We have worked very hard – and I don’t have more details for you – but we’ve worked very hard with partners in the region and countries to really – because they understand the threat to get them to crack down on this financing.
QUESTION: And so are there individuals in these countries who you’re aware of who are funneling money that you can go after them, or does their government have to go after them?
MS. HARF: I believe the Treasury Department has actually – may have designated some people individually for their support to ISIL, but let me check on that and see if I can get you some more after the briefing.
QUESTION: Okay. And then —
MS. HARF: We would obviously – if there were someone that we could individually sanction, I think we’d certainly be looking at those options.
QUESTION: And then – clarification – earlier you referred to 12,000 fighters who had joined —
MS. HARF: Foreign fighters who —
QUESTION: Foreign fighters.
MS. HARF: — have gone to join Iraq and Syria.
QUESTION: So it’s not necessarily just ISIL? It’s all different groups?
MS. HARF: Correct, correct, including Nusrah and others as well, I’m sure.
QUESTION: So foreign fighters. And are those mostly from Europe? Is that your understanding?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I think many are probably from the region, some from South Asia, some from Europe. I can check and see if there’s more of a breakdown.
QUESTION: And do you have an idea of how many of those are Americans?
MS. HARF: I believe some officials have spoken to this recently. Let me see if I can get you some numbers on that.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on the question of this video that was released, is there anyone in this building or in the Administration who is of the view that in some ways this video may be self-defeating for them, because they show themselves in many ways – this is just one example – to be so brutal that it could turn more support against them, that maybe some of those who were supporting them either tacitly or actively might stop doing so? Is there any – a view of that?
MS. HARF: Well, I think – not just this video, but what we’ve seen them do – I mean, it’s not, unfortunately, just limited to this video. We’re very focused on it, of course, because it’s an American citizen. But if you look at the pictures and the stories coming out of northern Iraq, coming out of Syria – stories, by the way, that James Foley was there to tell and wanted to bring to the world – their barbarity is really boundless. And all peace-loving Muslims have to do around the world is look at these photos to know they don’t represent their religion. And I’d note that the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, that nation’s highest religious authority, yesterday said that the Islamic State and al-Qaida were the enemy number one of Islam and not in any way part of the faith. So I certainly don’t want to speak for him, but he was very clear about how, at least, Muslims in his country should view what ISIL is doing, period.
QUESTION: Now, I know you said that you had not seen that report that’s come out during the briefing about the State Department requesting an additional 300 troops for Iraq.
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Can – is it possible to get confirmation during the briefing about that?
MS. HARF: It’s – that – unfortunately, we don’t have a system where we can confirm things during the briefing, but afterwards we’ll see. We’re constantly looking at what our security posture looks like but I’m unaware of specifics of that nature. But again, happy to check after the briefing.
QUESTION: I thought the system was sending someone running outside into the hallway.
MS. HARF: No. Have you ever seen someone pass me a note up here? I should start doing that. I’m going to send Matt to go find out. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Another one? Can I —
MS. HARF: Let’s continue on this. Yes, and then we’ll go around.
QUESTION: Yeah. I just wondered very quickly, I mean, seeing that most of these ISIL fighters are actually foreign fighters in terms of —
MS. HARF: That’s true. That’s true.
QUESTION: — Syria and Iraq, they cross borders and they cross —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — borders of countries that are friendly to you, like Turkey, like Jordan. I mean, because —
MS. HARF: We are working with those countries and others to cut down on financing but also the flow of foreign fighters, absolutely.
QUESTION: So you think these countries were lax in controlling their borders?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to say that, Said. I’m going to say it’s a tough challenge. It really is. And so we’re working with them on it. We’re working to help improve their capacity to monitor these things as well.
Yes. Yes, and then I’ll go to you, Lucas.
QUESTION: Yeah. You said —
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: You said there are individual providing fund for those —
MS. HARF: Private citizens.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you nominate some of their country or for which country?
MS. HARF: Let me see if there’s more specifics to share with you. Let me see. I’m not – I don’t have that in front of me. And I think we actually have designated some individuals, but let me check on that and maybe have more details to share later.
QUESTION: Marie, on this one – sorry (inaudible).
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: But on this one, Germany’s development aid minister has accused today Qatar of financing ISIS. He is not saying individuals as you are saying, but he said —
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we don’t have evidence that governments are supporting this group. I said that over and over and over again in this briefing room. We’re constantly looking at ways to cut off financing to them. I don’t have many more details on that to share.
QUESTION: Does that mean if you don’t have evidence that governments are – what does the President mean when he says, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be — ”
MS. HARF: That we all need to work together to fight – you’re reading something into that statement that I don’t think is actually there. He was saying that we need – and I haven’t —
QUESTION: Well, I’m reading into this that you’re actually going to do something. Are you saying – I mean do something to get the – to get countries that you don’t believe —
MS. HARF: To help —
QUESTION: — are —
MS. HARF: No, you’re just – you’re just linking that to the financing piece. What the President was referring to – and I have it right in front of me here as well – is that all of the countries need to come together to fight ISIL in any way we can. You’re linking it to a specific piece and think – and reading into an accusation in it that I don’t actually think is there. It was a broad statement about the fact that this isn’t a U.S. fight against ISIL. This is a fight that every country should feel deeply about and should take on.
QUESTION: Well, I guess I’m just wondering then: Why did he feel compelled to say something like this if, in fact, everything is going along swimmingly, according to —
MS. HARF: Well, I think —
QUESTION: — I mean —
MS. HARF: — we would be the last people to say everything’s going along swimmingly today.
QUESTION: No, no, but —
MS. HARF: But —
QUESTION: But if you’re already happy with what the people and governments around the Middle East are doing —
MS. HARF: I didn’t —
QUESTION: — to extract the cancer —
MS. HARF: To be clear —
QUESTION: — why would —
MS. HARF: — nobody is happy today —
QUESTION: — he say it?
MS. HARF: — about anything related to this.
QUESTION: No. Well – all right. Happy is not the right word. If you’re already satisfied or believe that everyone in governments and peoples across the Middle East are already doing everything they can —
MS. HARF: That’s not —
QUESTION: — to extract —
MS. HARF: That’s also not what I said. Those are – you’re —
QUESTION: No, I’m trying to find out what —
MS. HARF: I know. But what I said to his —
QUESTION: — the President means and I can’t —
MS. HARF: — answer was we don’t have evidence that governments are financially supporting ISIS. Okay. But we need all the governments in the region to work together with us to fight ISIS in any way —
QUESTION: Okay. But —
MS. HARF: — because clearly, it’s a threat that’s grown and clearly – I think what —
QUESTION: I understand this. I’m not trying to be confrontational. I’m just trying to figure out if you need —
MS. HARF: What the President was trying —
QUESTION: — all the governments to work together —
MS. HARF: — to say —
QUESTION: — do you think that they’re not all working together now?
MS. HARF: Clearly, there’s more we can all do to fight ISIL.
QUESTION: All right. So there’s no specific country or specific —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — people or governments —
MS. HARF: That was not intended for any specific country.
MS. HARF: It was intended – and I think this is an important point. I think ISIL wants to make this about the United States and our actions. And I think what the President was trying to say is that this is not about the United States and what we do; this is about countries in the region coming together to fight a shared threat, and this is not about us. And I think that’s the point he was trying to make and was not singling out any country or any specific thing with that statement.
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: Yesterday —
MS. HARF: Guys, one at a time.
QUESTION: Yesterday —
MS. HARF: One at a – one at a time. One at a time. Lucas is going to go first.
QUESTION: Yesterday you said that —
MS. HARF: Like a schoolteacher in here.
QUESTION: — the U.S. mission was to dismantle ISIS.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And if that’s the case, are you going to start targeting ISIS leadership?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, long-term how you deprive a terrorist group of its operational capacity is to degrade its leadership, to degrade its operational capability, and degrade its financing. How we do all of that is a longer-term conversation. A lot of that is going to be building the capacity of our partners on the ground, as we’ve done other places to go after terrorist groups.
QUESTION: And earlier, did you say that the State Department made the request for more increased troops around Baghdad?
MS. HARF: I didn’t. I said I couldn’t confirm those reports.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you perceive that there’s a bigger threat around Baghdad right now?
MS. HARF: I think there is – from ISIL or in general?
MS. HARF: I think there’s a threat from ISIL in many parts of Iraq, and I think that’s why particularly where our people are in Baghdad and Erbil we’re very focused on protecting them.
QUESTION: So that includes Baghdad?
MS. HARF: That includes Baghdad, yes.
QUESTION: Marie, very quickly, the President said – I’m paraphrasing here – he said that the Syrians should have a choice, not the regime or the terrorists.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you – or there is a need to go after both with the same vigor, with the same intensity —
MS. HARF: Well, there are different —
QUESTION: — with the same targeting?
MS. HARF: — there are different tools —
MS. HARF: — for each. But clearly, we believe that neither should be in control of what people in Syria do, how they live their lives; that both have shown themselves to be incredibly brutal. Tomorrow is the year anniversary of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people in the suburbs of Damascus. So I think that neither have shown themself able to have control of anyone in Syria.
QUESTION: So you’re not assigning who is more evil than the other in this case, are you?
MS. HARF: I think both have shown themselves at times to be incredibly evil, Said.
QUESTION: New subject?
QUESTION: No, no.
MS. HARF: Just a few more on this, guys.
QUESTION: On financing ISIS, you said that you don’t have any evidence that Arab states are funding ISIS.
MS. HARF: Their governments.
QUESTION: But to what extent are you confident that these governments are not funding ISIS?
MS. HARF: I can only tell you what evidence we have or don’t have, and I don’t have many more details to share on the financing issues.
QUESTION: Do you think those – that those governments are aware about – do they know anything about those individual?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to speak for those governments. We are working with them —
QUESTION: Did you —
MS. HARF: — and talking to them. We are talking directly to them about how we can all do more to cut down on the financing for ISIL here.
QUESTION: And they’ve been denying, or what?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: They’ve been denying, or —
MS. HARF: I don’t have details of those conversations to read out for you.
Any more on this?
QUESTION: Yes, on this.
MS. HARF: Elliot, yes.
QUESTION: You mentioned the increasing assessment that the perpetrator in the video was British. And sort of falling along those lines, we’ve seen a lot of social media coming out of Europe in support of ISIS. To what extent are you concerned that the – about the radicalization of Muslims in Europe and their flow into the region, and —
MS. HARF: I think —
QUESTION: — what are you doing to work with leaders in the region —
MS. HARF: Yeah, no, it’s a good question. I think we’re very concerned about it, not just in Europe but elsewhere. I think the Internet, for all of the good things it brings with it, does bring it – with it a very quick, instantaneous way for these kind of brutal groups to share their ideology. And that’s something we’re very focused on. We’re working with governments – the United Kingdom, as we’ve talked about today, very, very closely, but others as well, because we are concerned about Westerners with passports, even possibly Americans, who might go to the fight and then in the worst case return. So that’s something we’re very focused on and really are working with our partners on it.
QUESTION: New subject? India?
MS. HARF: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Well —
MS. HARF: Wait. Hold on, Matt. And then to you. Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the report that a Japanese man is also likely to be detained by ISIL in Syria?
MS. HARF: Let me check on those reports. I had seen some press reports, but let me check to see what we can say about that.
QUESTION: Sorry. I asked this question before and apparently this Department is aware of the reports. The question that I wanted to ask and which I had asked before was, is the United States willing to work with Japan on this issue of either finding this man or rescuing this man?
MS. HARF: Let me check with our team on those details.
QUESTION: Thanks, Marie.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry I don’t have those for you today.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on – you mentioned the Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is a country in which beheading is actually the legal form of execution. And it’s a country that has – you – this Department has long criticized for its human rights record.
MS. HARF: That is true. I was just highlighting comments made by their chief religious leader.
QUESTION: I understand. Right, and I understand that, but do you think that they are able to join this cause that the President is talking about in a full way if they, at the same time, have similar – have issues that you have —
MS. HARF: Well, they —
MS. HARF: To be clear, though, they have been an incredibly close counterterrorism partner. All you have to do is look at the partnership we’ve had and how – the success they’ve really had when they went after al-Qaida in their own country and really degraded its ability to operate there; how they’re helping us fight AQAP, for example; how we have information sharing. So they’ve been a very, very close counterterrorism partner and absolutely will continue to be.
Look, when we have concerns with some of their practices, we raise those. But that’s wholly separate from our counterterrorism cooperation. And I would say I was bringing up the Grand Mufti in response to what publics around the world and who people should listen to and think about when they’re looking at what ISIL is doing.
QUESTION: And can you point to any other Islamic religious leader in the Gulf or in Turkey —
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: — in Qatar to see —
MS. HARF: I just noticed his comments because they were so prominent.
QUESTION: Right. No, I did too yesterday. And I was going to ask about them, but I forgot. But – and also they probably weren’t as relevant yesterday as maybe they are today.
MS. HARF: Unfortunately.
QUESTION: But in terms of Saudi Government, I suspect – I mean, King Abdullah has been speaking out very strongly on this.
MS. HARF: Incredibly close counterterrorism – absolutely. The Saudis are very focused on the threat here.
QUESTION: Okay. And how about the Turks?
MS. HARF: Very focused. The Turks are as well.
QUESTION: President-elect Erdogan?
MS. HARF: The Turks are very focused on this. As we know, there are a number of Turkish hostages being held right now as well. So they’re certainly focused on the threat that ISIL poses. We’re talking to them as a NATO ally and partner about how they can help in the fight, how they can help cut off the foreign fighter flow, help cut off financing. Those are conversations ongoing too.
QUESTION: And in Qatar – same?
MS. HARF: We’re having the same conversations.
QUESTION: You’re – your new ambassador’s having the same conversations?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. You’d have to ask her, but —
MS. HARF: — I don’t have any conversations to read out for you.
QUESTION: All right. There is a school of thought, or a suspicion, in places like Russia, in places like Syria, in places like Iran, and also in places like Israel – but for much different reasons than the first three I mentioned —
MS. HARF: Interesting group you just lumped together.
QUESTION: — well, exactly – that the Saudis, that the Qataris, and that the Turks are not really fully on board in this fight. Would you – you would reject that?
MS. HARF: Well, look, we’re talking to them every day about what more we can all do. We know there’s more that needs to be done. We know this is a long-term fight, and we know it’s a tough one. So we’re having those conversations.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Matt’s point.
MS. HARF: Yes. And then Michael, I’ll go to you after that.
QUESTION: Today, the – some unnamed diplomat from Saudi Arabia said that during the last meeting – in the GCC meeting, Qatar refused to sign on to the Riyadh Agreement, which is – bans or bars all members from supporting terror groups. Are you aware of that?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I’m going to wade into internal GCC politics.
Yes, Michael. Let’s go to Michael in the back. I think he has a quick one, and then —
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry. Just —
MS. HARF: Popping in and out of the briefing.
QUESTION: Yeah. Deadlines are crazy (inaudible).
MS. HARF: I know.
QUESTION: Just on Gaza – obviously, it’s flared up. Netanyahu just said that Operation Protective Edge is not over. Do you have a comment on the recent —
MS. HARF: Yeah. I’ll do that very quickly, and then if we have a couple more – we need to finish on Mr. Foley.
We remain very concerned about developments in Gaza, condemn the renewed rocket fire; and as we have said, Israel has the right to defend itself for – against such attacks. We call for an immediate end to rocket fire and hostilities, and a return to ceasefire talks. We hope that the parties can reach an agreement – as we’ve said, ideally on a sustainable ceasefire, but if not, then agree to an extension. I don’t have much more of an update for you than that.
MS. HARF: Let’s go to Lucas. Let’s go to Lucas and then we’ll go to Gaza. Let’s finish Mr. Foley first.
QUESTION: The president and CEO of the Associated Press has called —
MS. HARF: Oh, uh-oh. Matt, are you listening?
QUESTION: I am listening, yes.
QUESTION: — has called Mr. Foley’s death a war crime. Do you – what’s your response to that?
QUESTION: I believe he called it a crime of war.
QUESTION: Thank you for the clarification.
MS. HARF: Oh, this is collaboration. I think you heard the President and the Secretary speak very, very strongly about what has happened here. I’ll let those words speak for themselves, and I don’t have much more analysis of what words other people are using about it.
QUESTION: Would you be in favor of an international court adjudicating this murder?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any analysis to do on that hypothetical. What I have said is that the United States takes very seriously its responsibility to hold those terrorists accountable who do these kind of things to Americans.
QUESTION: Is this like an Abu Khatallah situation where you want him brought back to the United States and tried?
MS. HARF: Well, look, no matter how long that takes, I don’t have anything to say about what that might look like. But if you look at Usama bin Ladin, if you look at Anwar al-Awlaki, if you look at Abu Khatallah, no matter how long it takes, we put resources behind finding and bringing to justice people who kill Americans.
QUESTION: So are you saying there’s going to be increased airstrikes, increased drone strikes?
MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. I’m saying we are looking at how we can do that.
QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?
MS. HARF: Any more on this? No. Let’s go to Gaza.
QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, the Israelis basically said that they are entitled to go after the families of the leaders of Hamas as well as the leaders of Hamas. Do you agree with that –
MS. HARF: I didn’t see those comments.
QUESTION: — with that premise?
MS. HARF: We have said they need to be careful and take more care when we’re talking about civilian casualties here. We have said that.
QUESTION: Because you are aware that in pursuit of the Hamas leader, they bombed – they killed his wife and his two-year-old daughter, correct?
MS. HARF: I’m aware of those reports, and we have consistently stated our concern for civilian casualties and civilian lives.
QUESTION: Okay. And also today, Prime Minister Netanyahu just a little while ago – he said that Hamas and ISIS were one and the same. Do you agree with that premise?
MS. HARF: Well, I think by definition, they are two different groups. They are – have different leadership, and I’m not going to compare them in that way.
QUESTION: So other than —
MS. HARF: I’ll let him speak for himself, but I’m not going to use that comparison.
QUESTION: Okay. But do you agree with that —
MS. HARF: They’re both designated terrorist organizations —
QUESTION: Okay. They both —
MS. HARF: — so let’s be clear about that. They’re both foreign terrorist organizations designated under United States law. But I’m not going to do any more comparison of them. Obviously, they’re quite different in some ways.
QUESTION: Are you aware of incidents that Hamas conducted outside the Gaza or in – in confronting Israel?
MS. HARF: Throughout its entire history?
MS. HARF: I can check with our folks and see if I have any more historical analysis at this time.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you alarmed at the number of civilian casualties that are growing disproportionately —
MS. HARF: We’re —
QUESTION: — as compared to the fighters? I’m not talking about the Israeli side.
MS. HARF: We’re certainly concerned about civilian casualties.
QUESTION: I’m talking about the Palestinian side. I mean —
MS. HARF: We’re certainly concerned about civilian casualties. Yeah.
QUESTION: On Gaza?
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MS. HARF: On Gaza? Mm-hmm. State – go ahead.
QUESTION: No, no. Go.
QUESTION: Al-Hayat newspaper reported today that Qatar threatened to expel Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader, from Doha if he agreed to Cairo truce draft. And Al-Hayat added that Hamas asked the Egyptians to bring Qatar to the negotiations and they refused. Do you have any comment on these reports?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports, so I can’t confirm them one way or the other. As I said the other day, we’re engaging with everyone who has close links with the participants. That includes Qatar.
QUESTION: If true, what do you think about —
MS. HARF: Well, any statement that starts with “If true,” I’m probably not going to answer because it’s a hypothetical.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you think that Qatar is playing or can play a positive role in achieving the ceasefire or the agreement between the two parties?
MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary and our senior leadership have been closely engaged with the PA, with the Israelis, with the Egyptians, and other regional players, but have also dealt with Qatar and Turkey, who have real influence with Hamas. And we need countries that have leverage over leaders of Hamas who can help put a ceasefire in place. As I’ve said, it is not possible to have a ceasefire with only one party.
QUESTION: But it looks like they threatened Mashaal to be expelled.
MS. HARF: I’ll look into those specific comments. I hadn’t seen those.
QUESTION: Marie, do you – can you give us an update, if you have one, on the contacts – those contacts that you just mentioned?
MS. HARF: The Secretary?
QUESTION: Well, if he’s had any or if Frank has or if any —
MS. HARF: Yeah. Today, the Secretary has spoken with the Israeli prime minister, the Israeli foreign minister, the Turkish foreign minister, and the Qatari foreign minister. I don’t have any details —
QUESTION: Well, that’s a very interesting —
MS. HARF: — of those conversations to read out.
QUESTION: — triple-play there. So Israel, Qatar, and Turkey.
MS. HARF: And he’s talked to a wide range – a couple days ago, the Emiratis, the Saudis, the Palestinians. He’s talked —
QUESTION: Okay. But today —
MS. HARF: — as you know, the Secretary speaks frequently to a lot of different people.
QUESTION: Yes, often for extended periods of time.
MS. HARF: For – sometimes not.
QUESTION: But I’m just talk – let’s just talk about today’s calls to those four people in three countries. Is that correct?
MS. HARF: That is true, and these are —
QUESTION: Israel —
MS. HARF: Turkey —
QUESTION: — Turkey and Qatar?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Would it be safe to assume that the subject of their conversation was Gaza and Hamas?
MS. HARF: It was. It was.
QUESTION: And it wasn’t Foley or anything else?
MS. HARF: I don’t have full readouts of the calls.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry for that. I know the primary discussion was about Gaza.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, even if —
MS. HARF: I’m sure there was likely some limited discussion, condolences on Mr. Foley.
QUESTION: Okay. But even if you can’t provide a full readout, can you say whether the Secretary got the sense that there’s any reason for optimism at all in the —
MS. HARF: In Gaza?
QUESTION: Well, for just a ceasefire or for another rolling, extendable truce. Or is it really just —
MS. HARF: Well —
QUESTION: — a complete disaster that it doesn’t really look like there’s an end to?
MS. HARF: I think the Secretary in most cases believes there is always or mostly always a diplomatic path forward here. That’s certainly the case here. We are very concerned about the latest developments, but he believes we can get back to a extension of the temporary ceasefire, but he believes that ultimately we can get to a sustainable ceasefire. Nobody thinks that will be easy. It certainly hasn’t been yet. But he’s very focused on that goal.
QUESTION: Okay. He has said in the past, as well as have others – although I think that today may have been one of the first times that Prime Minister Netanyahu said it – is that out of this mess that is the situation in Gaza and the rockets going into southern Israel, there is a possibility that one could get back to some kind of peace talks. Is that – and not anytime soon, but eventually, is that still something that the Secretary believes is possible?
MS. HARF: That is something the Secretary still believes.
QUESTION: All right. And then away from the peace process, I understand that there is an update or that a Privacy Act waiver has been signed in the Khdeir —
MS. HARF: Yes, your favorite topic. I was waiting to see if you would ask me about that.
QUESTION: Yes. So what’s the situation?
MS. HARF: Yes. We —
QUESTION: Are you satisfied – oh, go ahead.
MS. HARF: You want me to go?
MS. HARF: Okay. We can confirm that Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a U.S. citizen, was arrested on July 28th. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem is providing consular assistance. A consular official visited him on August 14th. The consulate is also in contact with Mr. Khdeir’s family and his lawyer.
We are concerned that U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem was not notified of his arrest by the Government of Israel. We are also concerned about the fact that members of the Khdeir family appear to be singled out for arrest by the Israeli authorities.
QUESTION: Do you know – so how did you find out about this if you weren’t notified?
MS. HARF: I think – well, as soon as we learned of his arrest and – we learned of it from his family.
MS. HARF: And as soon as we learned of it, we contacted Israeli authorities to schedule a consular visit.
QUESTION: And you got one?
MS. HARF: We did —
QUESTION: And that was on August —
MS. HARF: — on – I just said August 14th.
QUESTION: So does that mean that he was held without you knowing about it from July 28th until August – roughly August 14th?
MS. HARF: I think it was probably before August 14th, but it was for some time, and is not okay.
QUESTION: Is not okay?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: So has this —
MS. HARF: We are concerned that we were not notified of his arrest by the Government of Israel.
QUESTION: All right. And then on the second – have they informed you of what charges he might face, or is it simply because he appears to be related —
MS. HARF: Let me see. I’m not sure on that.
QUESTION: — or is related to the family?
MS. HARF: I’m not sure on that.
QUESTION: So your – the second part of your statement on him, which was, “We are concerned that the family is being singled out,” does his arrest fall into that area of concern or is it —
MS. HARF: That’s my understanding.
QUESTION: Or is it —
MS. HARF: Subsequently?
QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious. Is your concern about this one guy, Muhammad’s, arrest simply because you weren’t notified by the Israelis of his arrest, as they should have notified you? Or is it also because you’re worried that it’s part of this broader —
MS. HARF: It’s both, it’s both.
QUESTION: — singling out of this (inaudible) —
MS. HARF: It’s both, correct.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any – have the Israelis explained to you why this family seems to be —
MS. HARF: Not to my understanding. The conversation is ongoing.
QUESTION: Okay. And is the conversation, on a unrelated case – same related matter – the 15 year old that —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Well, what’s the status of that?
MS. HARF: Nothing new. He is currently still being held. Well, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is providing him consular assistance. A consular official visited him on August 7th and attended his hearing on August 14th and are in frequent contact with his family and his lawyer, but no new updates.
QUESTION: Okay. So just – your concerns that you’ve expressed to the Israelis – you’re continuing to express those concerns about him being held?
MS. HARF: We are. We are.
QUESTION: All right. And then one more thing on this Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Do you know where he – is he a resident in the United States most of the time and was just there visiting —
MS. HARF: I do not —
QUESTION: — or was he —
MS. HARF: — know that. I don’t have that. Let me check with our team.
QUESTION: Marie, a question on the UNHRC, which I asked yesterday. Thank you, I got a response —
MS. HARF: Oh, good.
QUESTION: — that you don’t believe that such a mechanism can contribute to the shared goal. But you also say, moreover, that this mechanism risks damaging the reputation of the Human Rights Council and its ability. Why? Why forming a commission in this case would damage its reputation?
MS. HARF: Well, we believe that much that’s what – much of what’s been done in these kind of efforts have been biased and one-sided and do damage the reputation, because they’re not seen as a neutral party here, as they should be.
QUESTION: Is it – should there be some sort of a forum? Perhaps not the UNHRC, but something else, that can have an impartial commission to go and talk to both sides and see if there – in fact, there was war crimes committed by either side?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to make a blanket statement about hypotheticals, but who we think needs to investigate is the Israeli Government. We have called on them to do so, and we’ll continue having that conversation.
QUESTION: And are you satisfied that the Israeli Government sort of investigated itself in the past with – I don’t know (inaudible) —
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have judgment on the past to make —
QUESTION: — with the kind of integrity that you would want to see?
MS. HARF: I don’t have judgment on the past to make for you. What I can say is today we will continue to raise it with them.
QUESTION: South Asia?
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) India?
MS. HARF: Let’s do a few —
MS. HARF: Let’s go to Pakistan. Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. I have seen your comments yesterday. Do you have any updates on this rapidly deteriorating situation?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any comment. I don’t have any additional comments from yesterday.
QUESTION: And then on the India-Pakistan border, there is – the ceasefire has been violated by the – by Pakistan, and there’s fears of escalation in those hostilities. Do you have anything on that?
MS. HARF: Not anything new. As we’ve said, we want both countries, both India and Pakistan, to take steps to improve their bilateral relationship. Just don’t have any more analysis for you than that.
QUESTION: Are you —
MS. HARF: Yeah. I’m going to you next.
QUESTION: One last one.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you keeping an eye on the nuclear weapons in Pakistan? Are they in safe hands?
MS. HARF: I would venture to guess that we always care about that issue.
QUESTION: Just follow-up —
MS. HARF: One more on Pakistan, then you’re next.
QUESTION: I just follow up* —
MS. HARF: Oh, go ahead. And then you can – yeah.
QUESTION: As far as talks were cancelled between India and Pakistan, if Secretary had any time to speak, either of the foreign ministers of India or Pakistan?
MS. HARF: I don’t think he’s spoken to them recently. We’ve been engaged with both countries from our embassies on the ground.
QUESTION: And as far as Pakistan situation is concerned, it’s a grave situation. Military is all over Islamabad and in Pakistan. My question is: Do you compare Pakistan today what recently happened in Iraq – change of prime minister – it could happen in Pakistan, change of prime minister, or even maybe military might take over Pakistan?
MS. HARF: Well, I’d think, maybe, caution you from using terms like “grave.” Obviously, we’re following what’s happening on the ground. Nawaz Sharif was elected and is prime minister. There is a government that was elected in place. So while we’ve called on all sides to refrain from violence, we are monitoring the situation, but we will continue working with the Pakistanis. And again, I would caution you from assuming, sort of, where this goes from here. We think there’s a path forward here that’s peaceful. We know there’s a lot of space for political dialogue, but it has to remain peaceful.
QUESTION: One more quickly. What Imran Khan is saying and others in the country, including hundreds of thousands or millions of people in Pakistan, they are not happy with the current government, and Imran Khan is saying that those elections by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were fraud and fake and they were not legitimate or he’s calling that he should step down. That’s what I’m asking. I’m saying —
MS. HARF: He’s the prime minister, period.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: So you’re not calling for Prime Minister Sharif to step down?
MS. HARF: I in no way am calling on that.
QUESTION: Does the United States support regime change in Pakistan?
MS. HARF: We support the constitutional and electoral process in Pakistan, which produced the Prime Minister of Nawaz Sharif. That was a process they followed, an election they had, and we are focused on working with Pakistan. And we do not support any extra-constitutional changes to that democratic system or people attempting to impose them.
Let’s do a few more.
QUESTION: Two quick Turkey-related questions.
MS. HARF: Two quick Turkey ones. Yes.
QUESTION: One is that follow-up from yesterday, whether U.S. finds Turkish – recent Turkish elections as fair, free, and transparent.
MS. HARF: Well, we did note that the OSCE monitoring mission said they were – candidates were generally able to campaign freely and that freedoms of association and assembly were respected. Also noted that the official position – the use of that by the prime minister gave him a distinct advantage over the other candidates and we do agree with the OSCE’s preliminary report, and in general, the elections were generally free and fair.
QUESTION: And —
MS. HARF: One follow-up.
QUESTION: One more. Turkish state agency AA’s reporter was detained yesterday in Missouri – Ferguson. And according to his account, he was also beaten by the local police. I believe there are pictures of that. Do you have any comment on —
MS. HARF: Well, I certainly don’t speak for the local police in Ferguson. What we’ve said is that freedom of expression is an incredibly important principle that we adhere to here in the United States. When we feel that there are challenges to that anywhere we speak up about it. But I don’t have any details on his case specifically. I’d refer you to the local authorities.
QUESTION: But yes, about the same question – he is one of my colleagues. He said he was threatened. Of course, there is a video footage over there as well. He was threatened by – with his life with a profane language by an officer.
MS. HARF: I’d refer you to the local authorities to speak for their own actions.
QUESTION: Yeah, but isn’t it – it’s that there are dozens of journalists facing the same threat. The question is this: From this podium as representing the United States, you have been critical to other countries – including my own country, Turkey – for detainment of journalists. And – well, isn’t it some kind of hypocrisy to decline or to remain silent against U.S. police forces using violence against —
MS. HARF: I don’t think – I think the President and the Attorney General have been anything but silent on what’s happening in Ferguson. I think the Attorney General is there today. So while it’s not appropriate for me to comment on a domestic issue, this Government has spoken very clearly about what’s happening in Ferguson. I would wholly disagree with your notion that there’s any hypocrisy, that somehow these are in any way comparable. They are not. I would, as I said yesterday, put our record here in the United States of when there are problems – when we have to course correct and fix things, we do so transparently and honestly and openly. And I would call on other countries, including Turkey, to do the same thing. And when they don’t, we will continue speaking out about it.
QUESTION: Could you remind us how many journalists have been imprisoned in Turkey over the course of the last two years that you’ve expressed —
MS. HARF: I don’t have a number in front of me, but —
QUESTION: It’s more than one, right?
MS. HARF: It’s certainly more than one, and I would also say —
QUESTION: So more than a dozen?
MS. HARF: — we’ve gone through, over the past several years, banning Twitter, banning YouTube, cracking down on freedom of press and association in a way we have spoken out very strongly against.
QUESTION: So you would say that Turkey – a protest or a complaint from the Turkish Government about the mistreatment by local police in Missouri of one reporter is something far different in scale than the rather large-scale, almost wholesale crackdown on freedom of expression and freedom of speech that you have criticized in Turkey.
MS. HARF: Absolutely. They are in no way comparable, period. I think I was clear about that yesterday. Again, people are free to express their opinions. I am also free to say when I don’t agree with them.
QUESTION: Yes, but you know that – you say that it’s a domestic issue, and that’s why —
MS. HARF: By definition, yes.
MS. HARF: It’s happening in the United States.
QUESTION: But the cases over other countries, particularly in Turkey – I’m not comparing Turkey with Syria with Iraq with Afghanistan with any other countries —
MS. HARF: But you’re comparing it with what we do here in the United States, and I don’t think there’s a comparison. I don’t think it’s appropriate to make one. I think they’re separate issues. When we have issues here, the President and other domestic officials will speak out very clearly, and we talk about it. All you have to do is look at cable news over the past few days to see how open our dialogue is about what’s happening in this country. I would put that record of openness up against any other country in the world, period.
QUESTION: Yeah, but Turkish public opinion and world public opinion, even, expect some kind of reaction to this from the State Department as well.
MS. HARF: I think I just gave you a fairly strong reaction.
QUESTION: Because you are representing the United States – yeah, that’s – Attorney General does not represent the state. The state is represented from here.
MS. HARF: The Attorney General certainly represents the United States of America.
QUESTION: But particularly —
MS. HARF: And as does the President, who has spoken about Ferguson on a number of occasions, period.
QUESTION: But really, at the end of the day, it is a local security issue.
MS. HARF: Absolutely. This is a local issue that is not my place to make further comments about.
QUESTION: Now if a foreign journalist credentialed by the State Department – if he is arrested or something, does the State Department, in this case, intervene?
MS. HARF: That’s a good question, Said, and I don’t know the answer. So let me check on that. It’s an important one. I do not know.
QUESTION: Just to – one more – speaking of press freedom in Turkey – since the Prime Minister Erdogan became elect – president-elect, now almost half a dozen journalists also got fired, including the reporter of the Economist, Amberin Zaman, who was condemned by Prime Minister Erdogan personally in election rally. Do you have any comment on the recent updates?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said in general we are concerned about the space for freedom of expression in Turkey. I’ve said that consistently. I’d also note there is some interesting commentary about yours truly in the Turkish press, which I am constantly surprised by. So there’s a lot out there. We believe in freedom of expression and we are concerned about the space for it in Turkey.
QUESTION: Are you —
MS. HARF: Just go on Twitter. It’s all on there.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that these issues – press freedom issues, since prominent journalists and reporters have been fired within a week, that the Prime Minister Erdogan —
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any comment on that specific – I just – I’m not aware of those specific cases. In general, again, we are concerned about the space there for freedom of expression.
QUESTION: As long as we’re on press freedom and foreign countries —
MS. HARF: I would love to guess where you’re going right now with this.
QUESTION: Where do you think I’m going?
MS. HARF: I have no clue.
MS. HARF: Oh, okay. (Laughter.) We could do that. I could guess where you’re going. Okay. Yes, thank you.
MS. HARF: New York Times reporter.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Things seem to have gone a little further than they had gone yesterday.
MS. HARF: Yes. We condemn the Government of Afghanistan’s decision to expel a journalist from The New York Times. This is a significant step backward for the freedom of the press in Afghanistan and may well be unprecedented there. We urge the Government of Afghanistan to reverse this decision. As I have just said many times, freedom of expression and a free press are vital to the workings of a strong democratic society in the best interests of the Afghan people.
QUESTION: All right. All that is very well and good and I understand it.
MS. HARF: But?
QUESTION: But here’s the thing. In contrast to Turkey and the exchange that you just had where this is a local or state police operation going on —
MS. HARF: In Ferguson?
QUESTION: Yeah. In contrast to that, this is the Afghan national government, the attorney general, doing this. You’re condemning it. How do you square that with the Administration’s prosecution of American reporters for violating —
MS. HARF: Well, they’re totally different things.
QUESTION: Well —
MS. HARF: This reporter in Afghanistan, Matthew Rosenberg, to my knowledge – and maybe I’m wrong here, but there was nothing in his article that violated the law. We prosecute anybody, period, as the Attorney General could speak to, when they violate United States law.
QUESTION: One of the reasons why he’s being expelled though is because he refused to name his sources.
MS. HARF: Well, there is – we believe there is nothing in this article that justifies this action the Afghan Government has taken.
QUESTION: And yet there is everything in what James Risen wrote to —
MS. HARF: I’m not going to comment on specific cases here.
QUESTION: Well, okay. So in the several cases that are going on in the United States right now, you don’t see a problem condemning the Afghans for doing —
MS. HARF: I don’t.
QUESTION: — essentially the same thing?
MS. HARF: I would – well —
QUESTION: I would – I know you’re going to disagree, but a lot of people —
MS. HARF: So we’re going to agree to disagree.
QUESTION: — a lot of people would not disagree. A lot of people think that in many ways what’s happening to Matt Rosenberg is very similar to what’s happened to journalists in the United States.
MS. HARF: Well, I would – I can’t disagree more strongly, Matt. And I can just tell you that there are ongoing legal actions being taken, and I’ll let the Department of Justice speak to those. When U.S. laws are broken, we enforce them.
MS. HARF: This appears to be banning a reporter from a country for a story they don’t like.
QUESTION: Right. So you don’t – you do not believe that he or his article broke any Afghan law?
MS. HARF: I’m not an expert on Afghan law, so who knows what the actual – who knows the specifics here or what they’ll say? But we believe there was nothing in this article that could justify this action.
QUESTION: Sorry. What’s the difference between banning somebody to covering some stories in a country and beating – breaking somebody’s camera and detaining him —
MS. HARF: I don’t think anyone in this country would say that journalists should not be allowed to freely do their job in the United States. I’m not —
QUESTION: But that’s what happened yesterday.
MS. HARF: But you need to take a step back here and take a little more nuanced and smart look at what’s happening in Ferguson. I know sometimes that’s challenging, but let’s all try today.
QUESTION: And —
MS. HARF: So wait, I’m not done yet.
MS. HARF: So what I was going to say was that when we see cases in the United States where journalists are prevented from doing their jobs, when we look at Ferguson, the President of the United States has spoken out against that and said journalists should be able to do their jobs. Senior Administration officials that deal with the domestic situation here in the United States have spoken out and said journalists should not just get arrested for being able to do their jobs.
So when problems occur, when things don’t go correctly, we say so openly, transparently, and we course correct. And that is what we do here when things happen. This is wholly different.
QUESTION: Yeah. But despite —
QUESTION: Marie, then why didn’t you just say that in response to his question the first time? Say okay yes, your colleague got —
MS. HARF: Because I was waiting for the fifth time it got asked.
QUESTION: — your colleague got beaten up yesterday and we think that —
MS. HARF: Well, I actually don’t know the specifics of his colleague’s —
QUESTION: Well, whatever. But —
MS. HARF: Well, no, but I don’t – it’s fair to say.
QUESTION: Well, but it sounds as if – it sounds credible. So why – you can just say if this happened to your colleague, then we think it’s a bad thing.
MS. HARF: Because I’m not going to comment on what happens in the United States from the State Department podium. I really don’t think that’s appropriate.
MS. HARF: I just don’t.
QUESTION: You’ll leave that to the Attorney General and to the President; is that correct?
MS. HARF: I will leave that to people that deal with domestic situation in the United States.
QUESTION: Turkish foreign ministry released —
MS. HARF: Last one from —
QUESTION: Yeah – released the – okay. Turkish foreign ministry released a statement concerning this case and said that it is unacceptable. Now I think the State Department is addressee of this statement, right? And it —
MS. HARF: People are free to say whatever they would like. I am making clear what happens in the United States when we have issue like this that arise and how we address them, which is in drastic difference than other countries, and again, which I would put up against any other country’s ability to look at what happens in their country and self-correct, and I don’t think I have much more on this topic. Let’s move on.
What else? In the back.
QUESTION: Okay. North Korea?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: North Korea says some bad, insulting things about Secretary Kerry. Spokesman for the country’s defense commission said Kerry closely resembles a wolf in appearance with a hideous lantern jaw, hollow eyes, and gray hair. And what’s your response to that?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have any response to those kinds of insults.
QUESTION: Really? Not even like, “I’ve been called worse things by better people?” (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: No response. Not going to dignify it with a response.
QUESTION: Um —
MS. HARF: Wait, I’m going here.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry.
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: I have two separate Russia-related questions.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And the one is about freedom of the press, I guess, in Ukraine. You were asked yesterday about the case of Russian photographer Andrei Stenin, who has —
MS. HARF: Yes, and I have a little information on – I didn’t have it yesterday.
QUESTION: — gone missing in Ukraine on assignment, and it happened August the 5th, I think —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — if my memory doesn’t fail. The Ukrainian authorities said last week that he was detained by the local security services. They later backtracked and they said simply that “We are looking for him.” The case created a certain stir and caused condemnation from Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, and a number of other press associations. You were completely silent on that one. I was wondering —
MS. HARF: Well, I just didn’t have an answer yesterday, and I got it for you today, which is the beauty of this daily briefing process.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. I would like to hear that.
MS. HARF: We are – we have seen the OSCE particularly has called for the immediate release of him. He went missing in eastern Ukraine on August 5th. We are unable to confirm his current whereabouts or the facts surrounding his disappearance. We do call on all parties to ensure the safety of journalists working in the region, but can’t confirm more specifics about where he’s located.
QUESTION: Do you know if you are raising this issue with your contacts with the Ukrainian counterparts?
MS. HARF: I can check on that.
QUESTION: Okay. And the other thing is completely separate: the INF treaty.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: You’ve – in light of the compliance report, the State Department compliance report and your conclusions about Russia and the INF, you proposed an immediate high-level talks, consultations to discuss those concerns —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — and conclusions of yours. Are you suggesting something specific to the Russians? Have you set the time and date —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — for those proposed talks? And is Ryabkov-Gottemoeller meeting – working group one of those possible channels to discuss these —
MS. HARF: So we have – and to be clear, before we announce the noncompliance, we also – the violation, we had also spoken directly to the Russian Government then. But we have notified Russia of our determination and are prepared to discuss this in a senior-level bilateral dialogue immediately with the aim of assuring the United States that Russia will come back into compliance with its treaty obligations. We don’t have a schedule to announce or what that might look like at this point. We have proposed it and are waiting to get details worked out on that.
Matt, did you have another topic?
QUESTION: Well, related, I wanted to ask you about Ukraine —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — and to see if you could clear up any – what appears to be this confusion over the attack or alleged attack on the IDP convoy.
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything new on that. We still can’t confirm the details around it.
QUESTION: Can you confirm —
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: — that another fighter was shot down, a Ukrainian fighter?
MS. HARF: In the last 24 hours? I don’t have that in front of me. It wouldn’t surprise me, but let me check.
QUESTION: You said three the other day.
MS. HARF: Yeah, there were – I think were four over the weekend, so let me check on that.
QUESTION: Marie, yesterday, you said —
MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll go to you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry, yeah.
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: You said that the Putin-Poroshenko meeting that is coming up, you have nothing to do with that, you don’t know much about it. Do you know, are there any more —
MS. HARF: No – nothing new today on that. Let me check and see if there’s —
QUESTION: Do you think that it’s still going to be held or —
MS. HARF: I’d refer you to them. I don’t have independent confirmation.
QUESTION: Last one: Back to Syria, is —
QUESTION: Well, wait.
MS. HARF: Wait, let’s stay on this and then stay – yeah, wait, wait.
QUESTION: I just want to —
MS. HARF: One here and then up to Matt.
QUESTION: A very quick one, a very quick point: The humanitarian convoy of Russia, which was sitting at the border for the last several days, finally is moving on, I think. Anything on that?
MS. HARF: Well, we do understand that the ICRC continues to work through necessary security guarantees, and a timeline for aid delivery is still being negotiated among all the parties. There has been agreement on certain issues related to Government of Ukraine inspections of the vehicles and their contents as well as the transfer of the aid to the ICRC. If there’s nothing to hide in them, don’t know why this should all be a problem, so we’ll watch that going forward.
Matt, did you have another one on —
QUESTION: Well, if there’s nothing to hide, then what – you mean —
MS. HARF: They need to be inspected, they need to go through this protocol and —
QUESTION: Okay. And then —
MS. HARF: Yeah, just not much new on this —
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Well, then I expect there probably isn’t much new on this, but MA17? Still nothing?
MS. HARF: I actually asked about this the other day, yeah. I got something for you on this one. There was a briefing at the UN Security Council this week. An initial report on the investigation is expected by the end of August. The investigative work continues in The Hague. Prosecutors with jurisdiction, including the Dutch, are moving forward. It’s still halted on the ground, but they’re doing things like look at the evidence they did collect, look at the black box. That work is ongoing in The Hague.
QUESTION: So we should not expect to hear anything until the end of the month in terms of —
MS. HARF: Well, that’s when the UN Security Council said that initial report from that investigation – if we have more details to share. But we are letting the investigation run its course here.
QUESTION: Right. Are you also contributing information, evidence, whatever to the international investigation?
MS. HARF: I can check. I can check. I’m not sure how much we would have except in the way of intelligence, but let me check.
QUESTION: So this is —
QUESTION: So —
QUESTION: — in reference to the Dutch-led investigation?
MS. HARF: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: You’re not sure what you would have except for intelligence?
MS. HARF: Additionally that we would have, that we haven’t already discussed with them in terms of the intelligence in the case we’ve outlined in here.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I had —
MS. HARF: But you asked if we’re still sharing, and I just don’t know if there’s any new information. I can check.
QUESTION: Well, so does that mean that we’re – you guys are done in terms of releasing what you —
MS. HARF: No, I didn’t say that.
QUESTION: You’re – okay. Oh, okay. I’m asking.
MS. HARF: I’m always pushing the intelligence community to release more.
QUESTION: Okay. But have you – are you able to say if you have shared more than what you have shared publicly with the Dutch-led investigation?
MS. HARF: Let me check. Let me check on that.
QUESTION: Back to Syria?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does it remain the stated policy of this Administration that Assad must go?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Korea and Japan?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Since we’re on a freedom of expression/journalism kick today —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — I was wondering if you are aware there’s been —
MS. HARF: Which is an appropriate way, maybe, to honor journalists who are working in really tough places, many of which are very dangerous.
QUESTION: This isn’t quite as serious as other cases, but in Seoul, the bureau chief of Japan’s Sankei Shimbun has been put on a travel ban and he’s been called in for questioning by the prosecutor’s office —
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — a number of times over a column he wrote, which there are claims that defamed President Park.
MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. Let me check on that case and we’ll get you a response.
QUESTION: Great, thank you.
MS. HARF: Anything else, guys?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Great, thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:33 p.m.)