State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 12, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 12, 2006
Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact with Ghana
ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS/LEBANON
Israeli Response to Hezbollah missile attacks and hostage-taking
Secretary Rice's Discussions with Foreign Officials
Historical Links Between Iran and Hezbollah and Syria and
Hezbollah and Hamas
Israel's Right to Defend Itself
Terrorist Challenge to Lebanese Sovereignty
Syrian Responsibility to Support a Positive Outcome
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch's
Travel in the Middle East
Computer Security Incident with Unclassified Systems
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher
R. Hill's Travel in Asia
Status of Potential UN Security Council Resolution against North
International Community's Shared Objective on North Korean Nuclear
Topics for Discussion
Progress Concerning Illicit Weapons Trade
Resignation of Colombian Ambassador to the United States
Secretary Rice's Confidence in Iraqi Democracy and Security
12:50 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have one opening statement about Ghana and the approval today of the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with the Government of Ghana today.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, the MCC, approved a $547 million poverty reduction agreement with the people of Ghana, the single largest MCC compact to date. To be awarded a grant, nations must develop proposals explaining how they will further address the needs of their people and increase economic growth, proposals that set clear goals and measurable benchmarks so that governments can make the right choices for their people. And we link new aid to clear standards of economic, political and social reform.
The Ghana compact will help one million rural poor in that country live a better life by providing investments to modernize Ghana's agriculture. Special emphasis will be given to improving rural transportation networks to allow farmers to get their goods to market faster and at less cost. The agreement will also support initiatives on land tenure and credit access for small farmers and agri-business as well as programs to improve education, water and sanitation.
I'd just note that to date the MCC has approved compacts totaling more than $2.1 billion with nine nations.
And with that, I'd be happy to --
QUESTION: How many nations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nine. Happy to take your questions. Elise.
QUESTION: On Hezbollah, we saw the statement by the Secretary earlier today. The Israeli Government is saying that it holds the Lebanese Government responsible for Hezbollah's actions and that the Lebanese Government will bear the consequences. What's the U.S. take on this? And if you could expand a little bit more on the Secretary's conversation with Prime Minister Siniora, what was the message this morning?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple things. Let me back up a little bit. You have the Secretary's statement in which she condemned the kidnapping of these two Israeli soldiers and the unprovoked attack on the Israeli soldiers. I would also note the fact that as part of this attack the Hezbollah militia launched missiles and fired on innocent civilians and civilian populations.
So we of course condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms and think it is a cynical attempt to provoke a reaction, it's a cynical attempt to try to escalate tensions in a region where tensions are already high as a result of the acts of Hamas, another terrorist group.
So we would call upon all interested countries to do everything that they can to help secure the release not only of the soldier held by Hamas but the two soldiers now held by Hezbollah.
Very clearly the Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization and a militia that is operating outside the control of the Lebanese Government, is trying to drag the Lebanese people into a situation that is very clearly not in their interest. So as the Secretary said, we are united in our determination to achieve the release of the Israeli soldiers. Syria has a special responsibility to use its influence to support a positive outcome and all sides must act with restraint to resolve this incident peacefully and to protect innocent life and civilian infrastructure.
And that really is her message to leaders in the region, the people with whom she has talked this morning. She's talked to Secretary General Annan. She's also spoken with Foreign Minister Livni. She's spoken with Prime Minister Siniora. She's spoken with Prime Minister Olmert as well. So parties are -- interested parties, including the UN, are going to do everything that they can, we will do everything that we can, to see that this incident is resolved peacefully and without harm to innocent civilians. I think that's in everybody's interest.
But we also very clearly recognize Israel's right to defend itself. This was an unprovoked attack. This was an attack on soldiers who were on Israeli territory, Israeli soil, by a terrorist organization. So clearly it's a serious situation. We would urge the Government of Lebanon to speak out about this challenge to their credibility, their sovereignty. This is a challenge from Hezbollah to the Lebanese people and to the Lebanese Government's sovereignty, so we would urge them to speak out about that. We would urge them also to do everything that they can to see that these two soldiers are released immediately and unharmed.
QUESTION: Can I -- just a couple of follow-ups. When you say that this is a threat to the Lebanese Government's sovereignty, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a challenge. A challenge.
QUESTION: Challenge. Sorry. But Israel has the right to defend itself. Do you see Israel as defending itself from the Lebanese Government or from Hezbollah specifically? And then also, when the Secretary asks Syria to use its influence, what specifically are you looking for Syria to do and how does Iran fit in? What would you like Iran to do in this particular instance?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the historical ties between Iran and Hezbollah are well known and Syria also has very close ties to Hezbollah. Again, there's a long history there and it's well known.
I would just point out in terms of mentioning Syria having a particular responsibility, there is that linkage between Damascus and Hezbollah. There's also a linkage between Damascus and Hamas. Khaled Meshal, the, I guess, head of Hamas who resides -- resides in Damascus. So very clearly these are attempts by those in the region who want to derail any possibility of reconciliation between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian people, any attempt to further the cause of peace in the region, further the cause of stability in the region and further the cause of greater prosperity for the people of the region. So Syria has a very particular responsibility in both of these cases to try to bring about a positive outcome; that would be the release of those soldiers unharmed and returned to their families.
I know that states in the region are very concerned about the situation. The Government of Egypt is going to do everything that it can on this case today in trying to urge Damascus as well as others to release those two soldiers, and that is the focus of our efforts.
QUESTION: Sean, back to the challenge that you say Hezbollah poses to the government. Well, the government is clearly siding with Hezbollah today. The Lebanese Ambassador was on CNN within the last hour and he said that the only way to release the Israeli hostages would be for Israel to release Lebanese prisoners. So it seems to me that there is no daylight between the two --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't -- I haven't seen those statements, Nicholas.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, what --
MR. MCCORMACK: And we would look for --
QUESTION: -- was the message that the Prime Minister gave to the Secretary this morning?
MR. MCCORMACK: We would look to -- for Prime Minister Siniora to very clearly address what I think the rest of the world views as a challenge, a challenge to the Lebanese people and a challenge to the sovereignty of the Lebanese Government, as well as trying to drag the Lebanese people into the situation. And look, this situation existed before. We all know about UN Security Council Resolution 1559 in which it calls upon the Lebanese Government to exercise certain authorities and certain control over its territory. We again reiterate that 1559 is important. The Lebanese Government has certain responsibilities in that regard.
So we would urge Prime Minister Siniora to speak out. And I don't believe we have heard from him yet at this point. And I hadn't seen the remarks of this Ambassador.
QUESTION: Oh, the Prime Minister spoke with the Secretary this morning, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. They did speak. But speak out in public.
QUESTION: That's right. And do you -- so are you saying that what happened today is perhaps an indication about the weakness of the Government in Beirut?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's not -- that's not what I'm saying. There is a pre-existing condition where you had Hezbollah as a militia operating outside the control of the Government of Lebanon. We all know that. That is a preexisting condition and UN Security Council 1559 was meant to -- is meant to address that situation. And the United States, as well as other countries around the world, have been very supportive of the Government of Lebanon as they go through a political evolution. Let's remember that they only within the past couple of years emerged from Syrian occupation of Lebanon. And certainly nobody wants to see a return to a situation where the people of Lebanon aren't able to determine their own future.
At this point right now, you have a terrorist organization, a militia, operating outside the control of the government, that is now seeking to influence the direction of Lebanon and the direction of the Lebanese people. We would urge Prime Minister Siniora to address that situation.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you've made the link between Damascus, Hamas and Hezbollah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you see the hostages -- the Israeli hostage that Hamas took and now what's happened today -- as a sort of broader attempt to destabilize the region even further than it already is destabilized?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it is very clear, Nicholas, that if you look at these actions, these are deliberate attempts to try to escalate tensions in the region. And you look at the timing of it with the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier just outside of Gaza and the killing of two soldiers in that attack, you look at the -- just days later you have this action, this unprovoked action by Hezbollah. Very clearly there are individuals here that are seeking to provoke a negative reaction in the region, that are seeking to forestall any possibility of moving forward towards goals that most peace-loving people share in the region: a better way of life for the people of the region; more peace, more stability in the region. Clearly these are actions by some individuals who have no interest in that. And we have, in our discussions with governments and individuals in the region, sought to encourage them to try to address these immediate issues so we can get back and focus on the objectives that peace-loving people in the region share: the expansion of freedom, the expansion of democracy, the expansion of greater prosperity for the people of the region.
QUESTION: Why don't you be more frank and say Syria and Iran behind this Hezbollah thing today? I mean, you had a pretty low focus on Syria than Iran. Don't you think the timing of this today serves Iran's --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can't connect all the dots here, Samir, but clearly there are those historical links, clearly there are those countries in the region that have an interest in cutting off any sort of peaceable reconciliation. They have an interest in taking the region back to the status quo. They have an interest in trying to stop the advance of freedom and democracy in the region. So while I can't draw -- connect any particular dots for you in this case, I think that there are some pretty clear indicators that there are governments in the region who don't have an interest in seeing the spread of democracy. You have Hamas headquartered in Damascus. You have Hezbollah with very clear links, historical links, with Damascus as well as Tehran.
Yeah, Samir, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you consider the situation need more pressure on Syria or to send back the U.S. Ambassador to Damascus?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think our sending back our Ambassador to Damascus is going to influence the Syrian Government. That action, removal of the Ambassador, was taken for good reason.
Look, the spotlight needs to be on the behavior of the Syrian Government in this regard. You have their hosting terrorist organizations in their capital. You have them -- organizations that are resident in their capital seeking to cut off any positive movement forward in terms of peace and security and stability in the region, trying to determine for people living in the Palestinian Authority areas and the people of Lebanon what kind of future they're going to have. I don't think that's what the people living in those areas really want. They don't want their future dictated by people living in other capitals. That's not -- that's certainly not in their interest.
QUESTION: The specific question that Elise Labott raised before had to do with Israel's determination to hold the Lebanese Government to account for this terrorist kidnapping activity. You, just a few moments ago, explicitly stated that Hezbollah acts outside the control of the Lebanese Government. Therefore, is it logical and safe for me to assume that you don't believe that the Lebanese Government should be held accountable for these specific actions by Hezbollah?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, James, let's focus on who actually committed these acts, and that's Hezbollah. And it is a statement of fact that they do operate outside -- this terrorist organization with its militias operates outside of the control of the Government of Lebanon. That's been one of the focuses of 1559 and the efforts of the international community is to have the Government of Lebanon over time address the situation where you have armed groups operating outside the control of the government. Clearly in any -- in a democracy, in any strong, functioning democracy, you can't have armed militias operating outside of the control of the government, so it's a situation that we've talked to them about. I can't speak to what exactly the motivations of Hezbollah were in this regard, but I think one can certainly assume from their actions and the timing of their actions that they're seeking to provoke a reaction, that they are trying to drag the people of Lebanon into a situation that clearly is not in their interest.
QUESTION: Has the United States Government discerned any progress on the part of the Lebanese Government in fulfilling that particular provision of 1559 that calls for the dismantling of terrorist groups and the disarming of terrorist groups like Hezbollah in its midst over the last year?
MR. MCCORMACK: James, I think there's still a lot of work to be done in that regard. I think today's events show that. But let's keep the focus on where it needs to be. We want to see the return of these two soldiers immediately and certainly we want to do everything that we can as part of the international community, working also with the United Nations, to help the Government of Lebanon move forward to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559. So that certainly is going to be where our -- the focus of our efforts over the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: Is Assistant Secretary Welch planning to go to Beirut?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point he doesn't have any plans to go to Beirut. He was in Cairo earlier today. Currently he is in Amman for meetings -- he and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams -- on a prescheduled trip to the region.
QUESTION: One more thing about -- you've asked this question. Hassan Nasrallah has said today that there is no power in the world can release the Israeli soldiers, that indirect negotiations between Hezbollah and Israel and the swap of prisoners are the only solution.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the solution here is their immediate and unconditional release. I think that's what the international community is looking for.
QUESTION: Did I hear you correctly to say that among the calls by the Secretary was to Prime Minister Olmert?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you expand in any way on that? And specifically what I would wonder about it is, as I understand the gist of what you just said, there are certain forces that would like to see escalation, conflagration and so forth, so is there any viewpoint that by Israel launching a couple of hot wars on its borders that, you know, this is playing into the hands of certain forces in the region? And is there any concern about, you know, the killing of civilians, the things spinning out of control and so forth? Is this strategy an appropriate response?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Secretary had a paper statement that went out. I don't have anything to add to that.
In terms of her call with Prime Minister Olmert, I think that certainly she wanted to talk to him about the current situation. She wanted to express our deep concern about the fact that these two -- that Israel has suffered from an unprovoked attack and that two of its citizens, its soldiers, have been kidnapped as a result of that attack. So that was the basic gist of the conversation. Beyond that, I'm not going to get really into any more details of it.
QUESTION: Israel is holding 9,000 Palestinians. Many of them are political prisoners. More than 300 are young boys. There have been no charges and no trials. What is your position on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, look, there was a point when President Abbas and the Israeli Government were working together on the release of prisoners. There was a point when the Palestinian Authority, President Abbas and the Israeli Government were working together on the withdrawal from the Gaza. That happened. That was successful. You don't have that right now. Why don't you have that? You don't have that because you have a terrorist organization that is heading the Government of the Palestinian Authority that is not a partner for peace. So you don't have, at this point, because of the actions of Hamas, you do not have the ability to have that dialogue where you might -- you might be able to talk about the release of some of those prisoners.
So let's keep the focus on where it needs to be. The focus needs to be on Hamas taking actions: releasing the Israeli soldier and taking the steps that have been required of it, that have been laid out for it by the international community. This isn't just a requirement by the United States Government. This is a requirement of the international community.
QUESTION: Sean, surely you don't think that Israel should negotiate with Hezbollah on the release of these prisons, some of those prisoners, but do you think Israel should negotiate with the Lebanese Government on the release of some of the prisoners that are currently in Israel?
MR. MCCORMACK: We think that the two Israeli soldiers need to be released immediately, unconditionally and unharmed.
QUESTION: On what Israel said today that what happened is a declaration of war is -- you first said that you hope this will be resolved peacefully and then you said that Israel can, you know, has the right to defend itself. And I don't see how it can reconcile peaceful solution with Israel defending itself. I mean, isn't there a point when Israel will have to take military action that would not be peaceful?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Israel is going to take its own decisions about what is in the interest of the Israeli people and its self-defense. Those are for the Israeli -- the Israeli Government to make.
Certainly every -- I think it's just a statement of fact that the international community -- we would like to see this situation resolved peacefully, despite the fact that Israel was provoked and it was attacked. And the way to go about that, the way to possibly arrive at that solution, is for these soldiers to be released. But we as always have said -- we repeat it -- that Israel has a right to defend itself. It was -- this was an unprovoked terrorist attack.
QUESTION: Should they regard this as a declaration of war? Do you agree with their assessment?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, we want to see -- we want to see the situation resolved. We hope that it can be resolved in a way that there's not further escalation of tensions in the region.
QUESTION: Sean, apparently President Abbas is frustrated, he's lost control with Hamas and possibly might tender his own resignation. Has the Secretary spoken with him?
MR. MCCORMACK: She has not spoken with him recently.
QUESTION: Can we move onto other topics?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Are we ready to move onto other topics? Okay. I am.
QUESTION: You are, okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: You are, good.
QUESTION: And I am. At the UN there's apparently a new resolution by Russia and China on North Korea. Can you talk about the state of play of that resolution, how the Administration feels about it and also the other resolution that was in play the Japanese sponsored?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's -- I can tell you that there are ongoing discussions up in New York concerning a possible resolution. We're still -- we, as an international community, the Security Council are still giving the -- trying to give the Chinese diplomatic efforts some time to work. Thus far, the North Korean Government has been uncooperative in engaging either with the Chinese Government or with the South Korean Government in this regard. The world is looking for a positive response from the North Korean Government. The cosponsors of the Japanese resolution wanted to give this Chinese diplomacy a chance. But the route of the Security Council in New York still is a viable, active, diplomatic track. We are trying to work on several diplomatic tracks here simultaneously.
So at this point, Charlie, the decision has not been yet made to schedule a date for a vote on a resolution. But certainly that possibility is a alive and active diplomatic track at the moment.
QUESTION: Sean, what does it say about giving the Chinese diplomacy a chance to work -- what you say you want to do -- yet China puts out a resolution with Russia calling for less severe action than you like?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's always discussion and give and take in multilateral diplomacy. It holds true for New York and Security Council resolutions as well. But I think if there is a decision to take a vote on a Security Council resolution, we expect that it will be a strong resolution. It will send a clear message to North Korea that it has to meet the conditions laid out for it by the international community: come back to the six-party talks, come back and engage in a constructive manner and live up to the North Korean Government's stated moratorium on missile launches, don't launch any more missiles.
QUESTION: The other day when we were talking about this issue you said that what you're committed to, what the allies are committed to is a change of behavior by North Korea. And that was in response to my question as to whether or not the allies are committed to a resolution vote. I just wonder whether the allies feel that the strong message that needs to be sent to North Korea can be done in some mechanism or form outside the Security Council, or this must involve the Security Council.
MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer, James. We have multiple tracks right now: You have Chris Hill who in Beijing working with them, you have the Chinese who are trying to work with the North Koreans and you also have the Security Council. At the moment there are still discussions going on about language and the form of a resolution and a date has not been scheduled at this point for a vote on the resolution. But it remains an active option. We would have hoped that the North Korean Government would have by this point given a positive response to what was clearly a united international community in condemning the missile launches and clearly an international call, united international call, for them to come back to the table and engage in constructive behavior. They have not done so to this point.
So we will see if we need to take the step of voting on a resolution. That is certainly an active option at the disposal of the international community to try to use that lever to bring about a change in behavior.
QUESTION: Is there anything -- it might be a little early but there's some initial reports that the P-5+1 in Paris decided to kick the Iran issue back to the Security Council because you haven't had an answer from Iran on your offer. Have you had a readout of the meetings yet and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't. When I came out here, they were still meeting.
QUESTION: Is this on Iran?
QUESTION: Yeah, this is.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we can do that. Basically, stay tuned. Paris. They'll have a statement. The plan is that the -- just as in Vienna, the P-5+1 foreign ministers would come out. There would be a minister that reads a statement on their behalf. That was the plan going in. We'll see if that holds. There have been a lot of discussions here in Washington, there in Paris. So I would just say stay tuned for Paris.
QUESTION: Back on Korea. You've been emphasizing the unity of the international community on the missile tests, but a competing resolution in the Security Council doesn't give the impression of unity; it gives the impression of, actually, division. Isn't there a way to sort of prevent having a second resolution on the same subject within five countries? I mean, it seems to me that you probably knew about this resolution, or did you not know about the resolution that was tabled today, or what was the diplomacy behind the scenes?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's the Japanese resolution and there, like I said in response to Charlie's question, in multilateral diplomacy there's going to be a lot of give and take. There are going to be people -- there are going to be countries with points of view, they want to tweak language, they want to talk about the form of a resolution or whether or not it should be -- whether it should be a resolution or a statement. These things are natural. They happen all the time in the Security Council.
And we talked --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, and we talked yesterday about the fact that South Korea has a particular point of view on the issue, China has a particular point of view, Russia does, the United States does, Japan does, as well as other interested countries. But everybody shares a common objective. And so what we are doing right now is we're talking about what mechanisms will be most effective in reaching the common goal that everybody has.
Within the Security Council, those discussions center in particular language, clauses, what the resolution will require North Korea to do, what it will require member-states of the United Nations to do. And that gets to questions of form, you know, a Chapter 7 resolution versus other kinds of actions. This is all going to be -- if we do decide to push forward with a vote on a resolution, these things will all be resolved through diplomacy up in New York as well as in capitals. But we're confident that there is a shared objective here in terms of North Korea's behavior and in terms of getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs via a negotiated settlement.
And we also agreed that we -- that North Korea should not be in the business of launching more missiles, so everybody agrees on those things and we are going to -- like I said, if we decide to push through with a vote, we're confident that we're going to have a strong signal coming out of the Security Council should we decide to push forward with that vote.
QUESTION: Push forward votes on both resolutions or there will be only one that will be put to a vote?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect that there's -- Nicholas, you know, I don't know exactly what the regulations are that govern Security Council actions, but I expect that there will be a single signal that comes out of the Security Council if we decide to go down that path.
QUESTION: I'd like to switch back to Iran. On this -- you want to stay? Okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you had a question.
QUESTION: Chris Hill had also had some negative comments on North Korean response and can you say that Chinese delegation to Pyongyang couldn't get any positive sign from North Korean side?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let the Chinese Government speak in detail about that question, but I think at this point there have not -- it's safe to say the international community, whether it's China or South Korea, have not yet gotten any positive signals from North Korea that they are willing to meet the conditions that have been laid out for them by the international community.
QUESTION: Is he coming back to D.C. tomorrow?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right now he has some other meetings scheduled. I think he has some tentative plans to return to Washington tomorrow, Beijing time, so it would be later on tonight. But again, those are tentative plans. He'll see -- I think his travel schedule will be dictated by what the diplomacy yields.
QUESTION: How much longer can you wait for Chinese to get some result from North Koreans?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. We'll see. We'll see if the diplomacy yields anything. That's going to be a decision that's taken at the political level by ministers about when is the right time to say that this particular round of diplomacy by the Chinese as well as others has not yielded what we had hoped and is it time to schedule a date for a vote on a Security Council resolution. So this is something that's being considered, I think, probably on a day-to-day basis, where are we, and we'll try to keep you updated as best we can on where the center of gravity of our efforts is going to be. I would say right now it is in the region. We'll see if in the coming days that center of gravity shifts to New York and discussion about -- discussion and vote on a Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Something about North Korea and Iran, but just tangentially. (Laughter.) You had -- it's really about the G-8 in the sense that you have a lot of items on the agenda that aren't about specific national security challenges, like energy security, poverty and things like that. How much do you think that the G-8 is going to be overshadowed by some of these huge foreign policy crises that you see right now, like North Korean, Iran, the Middle East crisis escalating today?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms -- G-8s, at least the ones that I have witnessed and been involved in, have followed a form of a common script of items that the leaders will discuss. And you mentioned in this case energy security, fighting infectious disease around the world, as well as other items that governments in their discussions and preparations for the G-8 have put on the agenda and in many cases prepared deliverables for the summit. That is also the case with the G-8 summits because you have leaders from these countries all gathered in one spot and inevitably many of the headlines of the day are also a topic of discussion; in this case Iran and North Korea. I expect they're going to be significant topics of discussion. I think it's just natural when you get leaders together they will talk about those issues that are most important and pressing on the agenda. You take that opportunity to have the leaders talk about the issues and put out statements on those issues and act on those issues.
So I don't know if overshadow is the right word because there's been a lot of work that's gone into the preparation of the summit and there's going to be a lot of initiatives that might not garner headlines or a lot of big news stories but that are still important in terms of having a practical effect on people's lives, as well as practical effects in terms of moving diplomacy forward on issues that may not end up on the nightly news every night.
QUESTION: Can we move to Iran or is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Joel.
QUESTION: Partly a question to what Elise has just said. Every time there are situations throughout the world, especially with terrorism and what's gone on since 9/11, you're -- from the podium here, whether it be you, Richard Boucher, Adam or others, you're talking generally about dire consequences, leverage on a particular situation, the world community. And it's, as you just pointed out, linked in with how world media is treating this and then hopefully you'll have talks with other groups of nations. And there seems to be a disconnect, because when everything does come hopefully to the United Nations and the Security Council it's taken a good length of time.
For instance, with humanitarian-type rights it's generally a five or six-year timeframe until someone ends up at the World Court at The Hague. Is there any way that you want to let, especially with the G-8 summit coming up, a series of resolutions to go -- to get all the countries to, in effect, get to the root cause of this: the influx of black market weapons and/or the rhetoric?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, the sort of proliferation of different kinds of weapons of mass destruction technology around the world is a very serious matter. We've made great gains in that regard and, you know, programs like the Proliferation Security Initiative that is designed -- that are designed to fight the inflow of technology money know-how to those countries that are trying to illicitly develop weapons of mass destruction around the world.
Joel, sometimes diplomacy takes time and you have to stand back and take a look at what is the strategic direction. There's been a lot of change in the world over the past five years. President Bush has an ambitious foreign policy agenda. I think you can -- he has aimed high in terms of what he wants to do in making the American people safer, making the world a better place. And sometimes what we're -- you're going to see immediate results sometimes, sometimes those results you might not see for 10, 20, 30 years down the road. What you're doing is really laying a foundation for change in the world, just as those -- President Truman and others in the immediate post-World War laid a foundation for fighting communism and ultimately winning the Cold War.
So again, to get at your question, Joel, sometimes diplomacy takes time. You have immediate challenges that you need to address, but there are also some longer term challenges that you need to address. And that's what we're doing.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up. (Laughter.) On Iran, I have a follow-up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: I assure you we will keep our ears peeled for when the statement comes out of Paris.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I expected you all to get up and leave the briefing room.
QUESTION: But in the meantime, Secretary Rice has already spoken a bit on the subject en route to Paris and I wonder if you could elaborate for us, please, on why Secretary Rice found or saw fit to say that she found the Iranian response disappointing and incomplete. What is it that she has heard from Javier Solana that leads her to that conclusion? If you can just elaborate on it, please.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to choose not to elaborate on what she said. Look, James, I talked a little bit yesterday about --
QUESTION: You gave your best stuff to Joel? Is that what -- (laughter).
MR. MCCORMACK: I talked a little bit yesterday about our initial reactions to what we heard from Mr. Solana out of his meetings. She talked a little bit more on the plane ride over to Paris about that. Look, we have -- the ministers are either right now meeting or just finished meeting and so we're -- I'm just going to wait to -- I'm going to wait to see what they have to say on the matter. I'm not going to try to elaborate any more from Washington about she was saying en route to Paris.
QUESTION: Could you be a pal and restate verbatim what she said for the purpose of the camera in the back of this room?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the transcript here, James.
QUESTION: What are you doing to me? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Libby.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the ongoing investigation into --
MR. MCCORMACK: Shameless, Rosen. Shameless. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On this ongoing investigation into State Department computers being hacked, can you tell us which bureaus were affected and also what level of information may have been compromised?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, let me -- you know, I have to say there's been a little breathless reporting about this that's been going on. Let's get a couple things straight.
First of all, the systems affected were unclassified computer systems. And let me just say that this was, as these things go, a textbook example of how you monitor -- detect, monitor and immediately address a challenge to the integrity of a computer system in terms of cybersecurity efforts. Our folks monitored this attempt and took immediate steps to prevent any loss of sensitive U.S. Government information. There is an ongoing forensic investigation to examine exactly what happened and to try to learn from that, but the initial findings of the investigation are that there was no compromise of sensitive U.S. Government information.
As a precautionary step we at the State Department have taken some steps. There have been some administrative steps that we've taken. There has also been the change of some passwords as well. But our people as part of the interagency task force that deals with these things immediately notified all the relevant U.S. Government agencies, including the FBI.
QUESTION: Sean, on the bureaus question, can you tell us whether the office that dealt with China was being targeted?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would characterize it less in terms of bureaucratic divisions as more a -- from where we believe these attempts originated, which would be in the East Asia Pacific region. So it's more oriented, I believe, towards the geography and it started in that region and then the attempt migrated here to Washington. So I can't speak to exactly who was responsible for this. There's -- you know, our people work with the CERT people, who are based, I believe, in Pittsburgh, to try to determine who exactly might have been responsible for it, what individuals might have been responsible for it, and to try to learn as much as we can from these attempts.
QUESTION: So you don't think it was -- it was premature to say that no information was compromised? I mean, you can say with certainty that -- how do you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: There's an ongoing investigation. But again this is something that unfolded over the course of several weeks. So like I said, our initial investigations find that there was not -- and this was what the people who do those investigations tell me -- that there was not a compromise of sensitive U.S. Government information. And I think it's important, again, to underline the fact that this dealt with unclassified computer systems. The separate classified -- the classified computer system is separated from this and unaffected by it. There were -- some people were affected by this in terms of while they had to change their passwords as a precautionary measure. And some of the internet service to some people in some of our embassies and some people here was affected. But the system as a whole was up and running throughout this entire time.
QUESTION: Was there a sense that information on the unclassified side that could have been compromised, right?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again -- again I repeat, what our investigators tell us at this time -- I have to emphasize that it is an ongoing investigation -- is that there was no compromise of sensitive U.S. Government data.
QUESTION: But, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to split hairs or anything, but you said that the investigation is still going on.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. It's a forensic investigation as -- look, institutions, businesses, government institutions around the world, every single day, are having to deal with cyber security threats. It's a fact of life with -- in the world in which we live. So these things are not unique to the State Department. They're not unique to the U.S. Government. They're not unique to businesses. So we have a great team in place here that, again, this was a textbook example of how you monitor attempts to threaten the integrity of the computer system that we have here and to take actions to prevent any compromise of that system. This is, you know, in terms of how it was explained to me, this is how you do these things.
So again, I think there was a little breathless reporting out there yesterday. We tried to address that and provide people the information. I'm trying to address it right now.
QUESTION: Sean, can you tell us more about the timeline and when the FBI was notified?
MR. MCCORMACK: I am not going to get into a lot of details about this for how -- when we exactly detected these attempts and when we acted. Because that will provide information to the people who tried to do this and others who try -- who might make similar attempts about our methodology about how we address these things. So I'm not going to provide a lot of detailed information, but I can say that we were -- we are aware of these attempts and we acted immediately when individuals tried to -- attempted to compromise data.
QUESTION: Sean, can you --
QUESTION: Can you tell us when -- you'll tell us, as a result of the investigation, if sensitive, unclassified information got out?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- you can ask the question. You can come up periodically. I don't think it's incumbent upon us at this point to provide a detailed readout of this forensic investigation. These forensic investigations are done so that we can learn and so that we can learn about how people are trying to come at our computer systems. So again, I've provided the details that I have provided. You're free to ask the questions. I'll try to provide answers as best I can.
QUESTION: Sean, can you be more specific about what you mean when you say it started in the East Asia-Pacific region and then migrated here? What exactly does that mean?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the -- well, again, I don't want to get into too many of the details. But I think the -- initially these attempts were detected at some of our embassies in the region.
QUESTION: Can you say specifically the steps that State has taken, even if it is a textbook version of how you monitor and take care of this? Can you give us the steps that State has taken besides changing some of the passwords?
MR. MCCORMACK: There have been some -- again, I'm just going to describe it in very general terms, just some administrative steps that were taken. But I'm not going to get into anymore than that.
QUESTION: Can you give us some of the information security-type steps, or did you find there were any gaps in policies, information security policies that may need to be --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think -- no, it wasn't -- it didn't have to do with policies, no.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: Wait, I'm sorry, cyber security policies or U.S. policies?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, cyber security policies.
QUESTION: Have you given -- have you had initial determination of -- I know you don't know exactly who was trying to do it, but what they were trying to figure out, who -- whether it was a government, whether it was a specific organization --
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't --
QUESTION: -- or anything like that?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, we don't have this information, Elise.
QUESTION: Do you even know if there's a way to trace it back?
MR. MCCORMACK: You talk to the computer experts, talk to -- I mean, they work with the -- let me get the exact name. I think it's the Computer Emergency Relief Team.
MR. CASEY: Response Team.
MR. MCCORMACK: Response* Team, CERT team, C-E-R-T. These are the folks that monitor systems and they're really the experts. So you can talk to them about what's the likelihood of being able to trace things back and how they do that.
QUESTION: Can you talk more about how coordinated an effort this might have been or is this one person or what?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you at this point.
QUESTION: Is the threat ongoing or you feel you've stanched that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, like I said, James, every single day U.S. Government institutions or American businesses, businesses around the world, face cyber security threats.
QUESTION: Well, I meant the threat posed by these specific individuals.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we have to know who they are and what their intentions are. I couldn't tell you if these individuals, if it was the first time they tried to do this or who it was or what their intentions were, James.
QUESTION: So you don't think they're still trying to do it, I guess?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I can't tell you.
*Readiness, instead of Response
QUESTION: Sean, I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, but because -- (laughter) -- there's still apparently some confusion. On the one hand, you say it's the unclassified system that was attacked. On the other hand, on the question of whether sensitive information was compromised, you're not. Do we have to fall back on the definition of what sensitive is? I mean, there can be sensitive information that isn't classified.
MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie, again, I don't want to get into details of this. I can only emphasize the fact that our people acted immediately when they saw an attempt to compromise data. And the attempt, this attempt which they had been monitoring and detected, was for a small amount of data. And again, this is -- these are unclassified systems that don't deal with classified material in any way, shape or form.
QUESTION: So even having succeeded, it sounds like it wouldn't have been a terrible blow to your cyber security or to your store of data.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, that's sort of a "what if." The fact of the matter is our guys detected, monitored and acted on this thing.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question about travel to Israel or is -- can I ask a question on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'd be happy to -- one more? Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea how this intrusion was conducted? I know there is different types of cyber security ways of -- or cyber ways of getting into systems.
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't. Couldn't tell you.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Israel has been banning Arab Americans from entering the country. Are you doing anything about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Israel has been banning --
QUESTION: Arab Americans.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll look into it. I'll look into it for you. I'm not aware -- not aware that that is occurring so we'll try to get an answer for you.
QUESTION: This is on a completely different topic. Do you have any reaction to the resignation of former Colombia President Pastrana as the Ambassador to the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: I understand that former President Pastrana, Ambassador Pastrana, tendered his resignation. I think that this the course of diplomacy and democracy, where you have individuals that move in and out of positions. I understand that President Uribe is going to send a very strong replacement for President Pastrana. Our government certainly had a very good working relationship with President Pastrana. Together, the U.S. and Colombia have accomplished a lot over the past years and we look forward to working with the new Ambassador and to accomplishing even more in the future.
QUESTION: What about the reason that he resigned, though, because the appointment of a disgraced Colombian leader as Ambassador to France?
MR. MCCORMACK: Those are decisions for the Colombian people and the Colombian Government to make, not for us.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about the two U.S. diplomats expelled from Kyrgyzstan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me see if I can get something for you on it.
We have one back here and then one here. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, Iraq.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: I was a bit taken aback yesterday reading the remarks the Secretary made during her appearance with the Pakistani Foreign Minister. The last question was about Iraq and she said she was quite certain, which I put quote marks around, that the insurgency -- and of course please don't nitpick me but she was saying that, you know, that they would eventually get a handle on the security and so forth. And yet Ambassador Khalilzad, in town this week, is being very careful about talking about the danger of the sectarian violence and it could potentially threaten the government. And then one of the top military officials this week also said the Baghdad military campaign has not been going as well as he had hoped in recent weeks. So my question is: Why is the Secretary quite certain that this is going to work out when people that are on the ground seem much less certain? And I was rather -- she seems to be so very careful about what she says and I just don't understand why she would say that. Could you enlighten us?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again, if you want to point me to some specific remarks these other individuals made, I'd be happy to address those.
QUESTION: They were in the paper today.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, they're there. You can see them.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm sure they are.
Secretary Rice has confidence in the strategy that we have. She has confidence in the strategy that the Iraqi Government has. She has confidence in Iraq's leaders. President Bush talked about his confidence in Iraq's leaders. It is not to undersell the challenges that they face, but we believe and she believes that we have the right policies in place and that the right people -- both on the American side, the international side and the Iraqi side -- are in place and they are committed to the strategy that we have.
Are there day-to-day challenges? Absolutely. I think we see those reported every single day. But every single day there's also a little bit of progress made in Iraq in terms of strengthening government institutions. Our job is to try to support the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people as they build stronger institutions in Iraq. President Bush is committed to that. You know, as for the security situation in Baghdad, it certainly is difficult; but ultimately, we believe that we and the Iraqis together are going to succeed increasingly with the Iraqis in the lead.
QUESTION: And you're quite certain of that last part, too?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: A few months ago the State Department made a demarche on behalf of Microsoft to the European Commission. Are you satisfied that the European Commission afforded Microsoft due process?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:45 p.m.)
DPB # 115
Released on July 12, 2006