State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 7, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 7, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 7, 2005
Statement on Terrorist Attacks in London
U.S. Condemns Attacks / Extends Condolences and Support to British Citizens
Secretary Rice to Sign Condolence Book at British Embassy
U.S. Embassies Worldwide to Review Security Status
Toll-Free Number for Inquires on American Citizens in the U.K.
17,570 Inquiries Already Received
Reaction to Arrest of New York Times Reporter Judith Miller
Al-Qaida Website Claims to have Executed Egyptian Ambassador to Iraq
Detention of Cyrus Kar
Refugees / Due Process Under International Law and Treaties U.S. Military Base
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson Invited to Travel to North Korea
Release of Prisoners / Aung San Suu Kyi
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have a statement by the Secretary and we'll be putting this out on paper after the briefing. But this is from the Secretary:
"The United States condemns the terrorist attacks in London this morning. I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of the United Kingdom. Today, the President spoke to Prime Minister Blair and I spoke with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to extend our sympathies and offer our support to the government and the people of the United Kingdom.
"The United Kingdom has no better friend than the United States and we stand with the United Kingdom in the fight against terrorism."
And also just to update you on a couple of things, the Secretary will be going to the United Kingdom -- Embassy of the United Kingdom at about 1:15 to sign a condolence book. And also, up at the UN, the Security Council is considering a reaction to the terrorist attacks. I think they are meeting as we speak.
In other updates, just to bring you up to date on what the State Department has been doing this morning, early this morning the Secretary spoke with the President, who was in Gleneagles. She also spoke with Foreign Secretary Straw, as I mentioned. She spoke with our Chargé at the Embassy in London.
Also, Under Secretary Nick Burns, who was with the President's party in Gleneagles, convened a conference call among our European embassies to instruct them to review their security status. The Secretary also ordered this morning our embassies around the world to review their security posture.
We have here at the State Department a task force that is in operation that convened early this morning. As of 11:30 this morning, we have received 17,570 inquiries on the welfare or whereabouts of American citizens who might have been affected by the bombings. Not all inquires represent missing American citizens who have not been accounted for. Our officials at the Embassy continue to work very closely with British officials in trying to locate any Americans who might need assistance in the wake of this tragedy and the State Department has established a toll free number for those concerned about the welfare of American citizens in London. The domestic number here in the United States is 1-888-407-4747. And for those calling from overseas, the number would be 202-501-4444.
And with that, I would be pleased to take your questions.
QUESTION: You're calling it a terrorist attack, although the nature of it certainly is.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: But do you know if a particular terrorist group is responsible for the attacks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any particulars, specific knowledge on that, Barry. I believe the officials in the UK are working to address the immediate aftermath of this attack. They're also looking at who might be responsible. I know that there is a -- I've seen reports of a claim by a group on a website. I'm not in a position to confirm any particular responsibility at this point for this attack. But I think it's very clear to all that this was an attack meant to murder innocent people on their way to work, just going about their daily lives, and we condemn this attack in the strongest terms, as you heard from the Secretary and you heard from the President earlier today.
QUESTION: And is it still the case that there are no known American casualties?
MR. MCCORMACK: As of right now, that is correct, yes. We'll try to keep you updated within the limits of the Privacy Act on those matters.
QUESTION: Did Secretary Rice offer Britain, in her conversation with Foreign Secretary Straw, any help with an investigation or dealing with or helping their casualties?
MR. MCCORMACK: Her offer was one of assistance to the Foreign Secretary and we stand ready to assist the people of the UK in any possible way. We, of course, have very close working relationships among law enforcement and intelligence, and those communities here in the United States have been in touch with their British counterparts.
As for any other assistance in dealing with the immediate aftereffects of this attack, we certainly stand ready. The capabilities in London are quite robust in that regard, but again, we would stand ready to assist in any way.
QUESTION: Sean, the FBI has said that they're going to be -- I don't know if it was a formal announcement, but officials are saying a small team of FBI agents are going out to help the British with the investigation. Will there be any State Department contingent with that team?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll try to keep you updated on any personnel that might be going over to assist with that. Our Embassy remains open today. I don't know if it's open at the moment, but it didn't close down. The Consular Section of the Embassy was closed to the public as well. And we also would like to thank officials in London for helping secure the perimeter around the Embassy with everything that they had to deal with. We certainly appreciate those cooperative efforts.
QUESTION: Have there been any additional security precautions taken here around the State Department as a result?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have taken some additional precautions. The Diplomatic Security Service, in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service Uniform Division Foreign Missions Branch, has put in place heightened security measures within the diplomatic community in Washington, D.C., and particularly around the British Embassy. And in addition, Diplomatic Security at the State Department has contacted its field offices throughout the U.S. to coordinate heightened security around UK facilities in conjunction with local law enforcement. And I think here there were some additional measures around the State Department that people saw, but I would have to refer you over to Diplomatic Security for them to talk about what those might be.
Yes. Any other?
QUESTION: Another issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Anything else on this matter? Okay.
QUESTION: Yeah --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, wait a minute. Jump in, Elise.
QUESTION: Just to clarify. Just to clarify, you said that there were 17,500 inquiry calls. I mean, do you know how many are outstanding?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. This is as of 11:30 and I think the calls are coming in. I don't have any update --
QUESTION: Do you know how many of those were answered?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I don't have those figures. We'll try to keep you updated as best we can on those things.
QUESTION: On another issue.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, you have the floor.
QUESTION: Yes. What is your position on the frightening report that Judith Miller, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, was sent to jail yesterday and a federal judge declared that she was "defying the law" by refusing to divulge the name of her confidential source following strictly her rights to protect her journalistic duties?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any comment on this. This is a matter that's being dealt with in the courts.
QUESTION: How do you kind of balance that issue of it being dealt with the courts with your calls from this podium for free press around the world?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, our -- the -- I think just the very fact that I'm standing up here taking questions from a free American press is demonstration of a free press here. This is a matter that it is within the courts. When we talk about a free press, what we're talking about around the world in those places where it isn't necessarily free, where there are threats and intimidation to a free press, and where there is not the accountability of a government to a free and open press. There are places where the foreign affairs ministry spokesman doesn't stand up before a press to answer questions. So that's what we're talking about. I think they're completely different situations.
QUESTION: When you push for greater freedom, including media freedoms around the world, have any governments retorted that -- you cited the case of Miller here as raising doubts to sincerity about press freedom?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any such retorts.
QUESTION: Switch to Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are al-Qaida -- or an al-Qaida website has a claim on it that the Egyptian Ambassador to Iraq has been killed. Do you have any confirmation of it, anything to say in reaction?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't confirm those reports. I've seen them. And we would reiterate our -- that this diplomat who is working on behalf of his country to try to help the Iraqi people should be returned to his government and his family as soon as possible, at the earliest possible moment and unharmed.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in touch with Foreign Minister Gheit today?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not since the conversation, I believe it was yesterday or the day before, that we talked about.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on our response to the call by Central Asian countries for the withdrawal of the U.S. military, for the setting of a deadline for the withdrawal of the U.S. military?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. This came up the other day and I don't have any updates to what I said at that time.
QUESTION: This one's on Georgia. The UNHCR is looking for countries to take these Uzbek refugees, including some who might have been leaders of the protest. Is the United States willing to accept them?
MR. MCCORMACK: That would be -- first of all, we have to determine the status of these individuals. We have talked to Kyrgyzstan about the importance of adhering to international standards with respect to not returning these people to Uzbekistan. We have been in contact with the Kyrgyz officials as well as officials at the relevant international organizations about this matter. The Kyrgyz Government has told us that they are not at this moment returning these individuals.
As for matters of determination about whether or not the United States would accept individuals, those are -- there are established procedures for making those determinations. And I don't have any information with respect to whether or not those -- any such requests have been made.
QUESTION: Well, just to be frank, I mean, the UNHCR requested -- I mean, invited the United States to a meeting along with other countries. They said we're worried about these people staying in Kyrgyzstan, they can't stay very much longer because their safety can't be -- you know, we can't guarantee their safety there. We think they are refugees and will you take them? What is our answer? I mean, I don't know what we --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, I'm not aware that they said that. I don't have information in that regard.
Second of all, as I said, there are established procedures for dealing with this, for dealing with refugees and refugee admissions to the United States. We are very generous in accepting refugees into this country. It's part of our tradition.
With respect to these particular individuals, I don't have an update for you. But the United States has been deeply involved in ensuring that these people are granted all due -- all process that should be accorded to them by international treaties, as well as international practice.
QUESTION: Do you expect to have an answer for them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I'll try -- I'll keep you updated as best I can.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan -- has anybody asked about this yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Saying that that military base was used by the U.S. for the war in Afghanistan, it wasn't intended to give the U.S. any longstanding use of the base. Has anybody had a chance to look at that and at least inquire what they mean by this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Department of Defense has the lead on this issue with respect to its interactions with the Uzbek Government concerning this base. My understanding is that it continues to be used, although there are some restrictions on its use. The U.S. military has taken some steps to secure other facilities that would allow them to continue their operations because of the restrictions on this base. DOD will have more information for you on the details of that.
As I talked about yesterday, this has been an arrangement that is between two sovereign states, between Uzbekistan and the United States. I believe it has been mutually beneficial to both sides.
And as for an update on the status of discussions regarding the base as well as details about its current use, I think DOD is probably the right address for that.
QUESTION: Can I ask you just one more thing about restrictions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: New restrictions, recent restrictions?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know exactly when the restrictions were put in place, but I don't -- I'm not aware of any new restrictions. But you'd have to check with DOD on that.
QUESTION: Related. It seems the Uzbek Government has pretty much stonewalled the pressure for an international investigation of the Andijan events. Is there -- would there be consequences for them because of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we push for -- we continue to push for an international investigation. We've made that very clear. We continue to work with our friends and allies around the world on this matter. We are always looking at our policies with respect to the facts as they are before us. We think that it is crucial that there be a transparent international investigation of this incident. And as I said, we always look at, you know, what our policy stance is vis-à-vis certain -- vis-à-vis governments and the facts as they are before us.
QUESTION: The action on the base -- do you think you're paying a price for taking this stand, this principled stand? Are they retaliating -- Uzbekistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'd have to talk to the Uzbek authorities about the reasons for their restrictions on the base.
QUESTION: Daily New York channel check.
MR. MCCORMACK: Daily New York channel check. I'll have to check on the daily New York channel check for you.
QUESTION: Governor Richardson, who has been to North Korea before, has been invited. He hasn't said yes or no, said he'd stay in touch with the State Department. Has he been? Do you have any advice for him that a visit would be of use?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of the contacts, Barry. I'll check for you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, one more back here.
QUESTION: Can I revisit a matter from yesterday, the Burmese Government's prisoner release? It does appear that they did release over 200 political prisoners, among them one of the top -- the longest-serving dissident. I was looking for a reaction.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. We note the release from Burmese prisons of several hundred prisoners, including more than 100 held for their political beliefs. At this time we are not in a position to verify the release of any particular individual. We also note that arrests of pro-democracy supporters continue unabated, despite the junta's periodic releases of small numbers of political prisoners, many of whom had already completed their sentences.
We again call upon Burmese authorities to release Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo, Hkun Htun Oo and all other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, to engage the democratic opposition and ethnic minority groups in a meaningful dialogue leading to genuine national reconciliation and establishment of democracy.
QUESTION: Were you asked about the Egyptian diplomat?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes. No, I can't confirm those reports.
QUESTION: You can't confirm it?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I've seen these reports, but I can't confirm them for you.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in touch in light of these reports?
MR. MCCORMACK: I was -- I was just asked that. No updates on phone calls with the Egyptian Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
QUESTION: Somebody --
MR. MCCORMACK: All right, okay. No. One more over here and that's it.
QUESTION: Cyrus Kar. Yesterday, you were going to check and see whether there were any contacts with the Baghdad -- the Embassy in Baghdad.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Embassy Baghdad learned in May of the arrest and detention of Cyrus Kar in Iraq. Mr. Kar is being held by the multinational force in Iraq and the U.S. Defense officials from the multinational force have been in regular contact with him.
As for any other questions about Mr. Kar's detention, DOD would be in a position to provide any information that they might have, that they're able to release to you.
We do not, here at the State Department, have permission in the form of a Privacy Act waiver to release further information about Mr. Kar.
QUESTION: Is contact with the family being made through to the Embassy in Baghdad?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yes.
QUESTION: On Iraq? According to reliable sources, Mr. McCormack, the Department of State recruited 200 Kurds from the U.S.A and sent them to Iraqi Kurdistan as advisors for an annual salary of $118,000, plus $6,000 for transfer expense, promising them after three months that their salary will raise $180,000. Do you have any idea what this is all about?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on that.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)