Daily Press Briefing: India & Pakistan

1:14 p.m. EST
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a couple toppers and then we will get your questions. A trip update first. Yesterday in Riyadh, the Secretary had meetings with foreign ministers of Gulf Cooperation Council countries. He also had meetings with King Salman, with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and with the Bahraini foreign minister as well. He also held a press availability, as I’m sure all of you saw. He then flew to London where he is today. Tomorrow he will stop in Paris for a meeting with Foreign Minister Fabius and then a Quad meeting with Foreign Minister Fabius, Steinmeier, and Foreign Secretary Hammond, before returning to Washington.
Next, we strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We extend our prayers to those injured that they may fully recover. There is no justification for such attacks. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians and Israelis want to live in peace and security, and the United States will continue to stand with those who reject violence and seek a path forward toward peace. It is critical for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions and reject violence.
Just a couple more, guys. As you may know, today the State Department will honor 10 women from 10 countries with the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. This was supposed to happen yesterday, because of the snow is happening today. The award goes to women who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment. This award is an opportunity for us to highlight the accomplishments of women who are leaders and agents of change in their communities. It’s also a moment for us to reiterate that the United States is a strong ally of women and girls everywhere, and we’re working to champion gender equality and advance the status of women and girls globally.
And finally, I’d like to welcome a group of students from the Ohio State University to today’s briefing. I’m wearing my scarlet jacket today for you. They’re in Washington for a politics, society, and law scholars program. I don’t think your university’s ever been mentioned so much as when I am at this podium in this room. But welcome and I hope it’s interesting, you get a taste of what our press briefings are like.
No pressure, Brad.
QUESTION: And you’re not even going to mention the national championship.
MS. HARF: The national champion Ohio State University Buckeyes. (Laughter.)
Yes. How could I forget?
QUESTION: Yes. Before we get onto —
MS. HARF: But thank you for reminding me.
QUESTION: You’re welcome. Congratulations again. What may or may not be more or less important matters, could I just ask about London for the Secretary?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: What is he doing there exactly?
MS. HARF: Today he’s meeting with his staff, conducting some phone calls before he goes to Paris tomorrow. Don’t have more details on his schedule today.
QUESTION: All right. And can we get some more clarity on what exactly the Department is doing as part of its review into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails?
MS. HARF: Yes. We are doing a review of her emails for public release, as she asked us to do on Wednesday evening in the tweet I’m sure you all have now seen. We will use FOIA standards for the review. So the standards by which we process FOIA requests, we process documents to be released, those are the standards we will use for the review.
The initial press report that we’re doing an investigation of her emails for security reasons was not correct. It has since been changed to reflect that. Again, we will start that review for public release and work as quickly as we possibly can.
QUESTION: So will you be looking into whether any sensitive but unclassified – I mean, if you come across sensitive but unclassified material that was sent over a non-official email account, what will you do? Will you not report it? Will you report it? Will you —
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what might happen in that situation. I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of the review for release of the 55,000 pages. Again, that will start soon and we’ll work as quickly as we can.
QUESTION: So yesterday a senior official said something similar about prejudging, but it implied that you’re not going to talk about whether she breached a provision because you don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the review. That would —
MS. HARF: Well, we just don’t know what’s in the emails yet.
QUESTION: But that would imply that your review would look into whether she did that or not, no?
MS. HARF: Well, no – well, no. Both things aren’t necessarily true. The review is for purposes of public release. So if someone sent in a FOIA request, if – I’m sure all of you have done this – there’s a process by which we review documents for public release. That looks, for example, at whether there’s things like personally identifying information that is not released under FOIA – social security numbers, for example; that’s just one example. Obviously, I’m not going to prejudge what might happen as a result of looking through these 55,000 emails to release them publicly. That is the purpose of the review. Those are the standards by which the review will be done.
QUESTION: But what is the normal protocol then if someone breaches the provision that you shouldn’t send sensitive but unclassified information via personal email?
MS. HARF: Well, again, the Foreign Affairs Manual, which I think you’re referring to, contains policies and procedures that provide guidance to Department employees. That is quite separate from the federal regulations. Those are just two different things, and I am just not going to speculate on – on those kinds of hypotheticals.
QUESTION: But you see how that’s problematic. You’re saying there is a possibility that if you come across this, nothing will happen, nothing will be said.
MS. HARF: I did not say that. I said I’m not going to speculate on what might happen.
QUESTION: But why aren’t there —
MS. HARF: I am not ruling anything out.
QUESTION: Why aren’t there policies in place for how to deal with this? It just seems like a pretty simple thing.
MS. HARF: Well, I think nothing about this issue is simple, as we’ve all learned in the past four days, and I’m not going to speculate on what would happen throughout the course of this process if that is, in fact, found. I’m just not going to speculate on that.
QUESTION: So there are no rules in place for potential breaches of this FAM provision?
MS. HARF: I can check and see. I haven’t seen any myself, Brad —
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: — but I can check and see.
Yes, Justin.
QUESTION: Marie —
MS. HARF: We’ll just go across the front row here.
QUESTION: Thanks. The other day you said you’d check to see what policies were in place while Clinton was in office that might forbid her from using a private email account. Have you had a check – a chance to review that policy?
MS. HARF: Well, no, as I said, there was nothing in place at the time that prohibited her from using a personal email account for official business as long as the records were eventually preserved. I said that three days ago.
QUESTION: Right. But as you are aware, there have been now IG reports and cables that have surfaced that state clearly in one case that State Department officials should, quote, “avoid conducting official department business from personal email accounts.”
MS. HARF: Well, let’s – let me talk through some of that.
QUESTION: And Scott Gration appears to have been reprimanded for using personal email.
MS. HARF: Let’s talk through that.
QUESTION: Yeah.
MS. HARF: So let’s talk through those issues because they’re a little bit different and I think you’re oversimplifying it. So let’s talk through them.
When it comes to former Ambassador Gration, he resigned his position, contrary to some press reports. The IG report I believe you’re citing also refers to that same FAM. We’re all talking about the same provision in the Foreign Affairs Manual which deals specifically with sensitive but unclassified information, not – it was not a general – not a general policy or guidance about email use in general. It refers to one specific kind of email use: sensitive but unclassified. That is the same FAM that is referenced in the cable. It is the same FAM that’s referenced in the IG report.
Yes, Lesley.
QUESTION: Yeah, I was going to ask a follow-up to the same question. I mean, is there anything here from the outset that she broke any rules as far as using her personal email?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I am not going to prejudge what’s in these given that we haven’t looked through them yet. The Foreign Affairs Manual is guidance or policies for State Department employees. It is not a federal regulation. It is different than that. And again, the FAM that we are all talking about, I think, refers specifically to one kind of information and personal email use, not to personal email use in general. As we’ve always said, it is permitted, but given that things need to be preserved.
QUESTION: I think the cable itself does not refer to that one specific FAM.
MS. HARF: It does. I’m looking at the cable right here, Reference A, 12 FAM 544.3.
QUESTION: Which refers to Letter F of that – sorry to get really arcane.
MS. HARF: No, I have the FAM in front of me too.
QUESTION: But that’s just an index of the referenced FAMs, and that has nothing to do with the other subpoints of the text.
MS. HARF: No, no. So let’s – two points – three points on the cable.
First, the cable references the FAM that deals with sensitive but unclassified information as – that is the FAM that deals with SBU information. I have it in front of me. I can —
QUESTION: Right. Referring to auto-forwarding, which is not what we’re talking about.
MS. HARF: No, no, no, no, no.
QUESTION: Why don’t you read it? Why don’t you read it?
MS. HARF: FAM – okay. Our Ohio State visitors, this is not usually what happens. (Laughter.)
FAM 544 – 12 FAM 544, starting with point one, point two, point three, that all refers specifically to sensitive but unclassified information. So that FAM deals with one kind of information, not with personal email use in general.
But more broadly speaking on the cable, this is – this cable is a guidance on best practices. It’s certainly not regulations. It was more couched – and if you look at it – what can you and your family members do? It’s more —
QUESTION: Regardless of whether it’s sensitive —
MS. HARF: Wait, can I finish and then you can follow up? No, no, let me finish and then you and follow up. It’s helpful tips for people when they’re talking about this issue, again referencing a FAM that deals entirely with SBU information.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that when it says to – “Beware emails with fake password links,” that’s only about sensitive but unclassified information?
MS. HARF: No, I’m saying two things —
QUESTION: When it says, “Create —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — “Create strong passwords,” that’s about sensitive but unclassified —
MS. HARF: Again, isn’t that – that’s guidance, Brad.
QUESTION: When it says, “Do not reveal your personal email address,” that’s only about sensitive but unclassified?
MS. HARF: No, I’m not – that’s not what I was saying.
QUESTION: This is general guidance, correct?
MS. HARF: I said – well, two things. Look, two things are true here. I think you’re saying that one of them has to be and the other can’t be.
QUESTION: No, I think it’s both.
MS. HARF: Two things are true here – one, that the only reference listed in this cable is the one we’re all talking about that refers to SBU information. But this cable in general is talking about – is guidance on best practices, colloquial guidance for people when it came to personal email. It also uses words like “encouraged to check,” “in general, avoid doing this.” So this is certainly not a regulation or a policy.
QUESTION: That’s fine, but has —
MS. HARF: But I think that context is important.
QUESTION: If it’s general guidance, do you accept the notion that the secretary, the former secretary, didn’t follow her own guidance on best practices?
MS. HARF: I don’t. I think that’s a oversimplification of what’s going on here. I understand there’s a cable that in general is – has some guidance and best practices in it, but I think drawing that conclusion is going a step too far.
QUESTION: If she had followed everything in here, would you have said that she had followed her best practice guidance?
MS. HARF: This isn’t her best practice —
QUESTION: Or would that be an oversimplification as well?
MS. HARF: Also, this isn’t her best practice guidance. Her name is at the bottom of the cable, as is practice for cables coming from Washington.
QUESTION: It was —
MS. HARF: Some people think she wrote it —
QUESTION: Right.
MS. HARF: — which is not accurate.
QUESTION: We know that, but —
MS. HARF: Well, not everyone knows that.
QUESTION: — it was her department, so —
MS. HARF: That is true.
QUESTION: — regardless of whether she wrote this herself or punched it into the keyboard herself or —
MS. HARF: Or some – right.
QUESTION: — her personal account herself, this was her department.
MS. HARF: But I feel the need to correct some misinformation.
QUESTION: Well, just to follow up —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — because I was going to follow up on my question earlier, was Secretary Clinton at the time discouraged from using her own email given the knowledge that you had that this could cause issues?
MS. HARF: I just don’t have details on that.
QUESTION: On that kind of thing —
MS. HARF: I just don’t have details on that.
QUESTION: And you’re not suggesting that she wasn’t sensitive but unclassified information from her —
MS. HARF: I’m saying that we don’t know; we haven’t gone through the emails yet.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, she’s – she was the secretary of state. How could any reasonable —
MS. HARF: So you’re happy to assume what’s in those even though you haven’t seen them, Tristan?
QUESTION: I think it’s a fair assumption – 55,000 emails and she didn’t —
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, let’s talk after we go through them, and then we can have that conversation.
Indira, let’s move on.
QUESTION: So, Marie, on the same cable, a couple things. First of all, would you be willing to release that cable for us so that we could all see is?
MS. HARF: I think everyone can read it at foxnews.com if they’d like to. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. And then specifically it refers in the text of it that we’ve seen —
QUESTION: Is that an endorsement? (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: That was in no way an endorsement. (Laughter.) (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: I didn’t know whether any of it was missing. I didn’t know whether any of it was missing or whether it’s complete.
MS. HARF: I actually —
QUESTION: I mean, I don’t know if it’s a complete account.
MS. HARF: Let me check.
QUESTION: But what —
MS. HARF: I don’t mean to be flip about it. Let me check.
QUESTION: What we’ve seen is that it refers to the risks of using personal email in light of Google’s Gmail hacking problems. And so that seems like that hacking problem would apply to anything, not just sensitive but unclassified information.
MS. HARF: Again, this is general guidance about personal email use. So I don’t have much more for you than that on this cable from 2011.
QUESTION: Okay. And then can you explain to us what – was there a particular issue that caused that to be issued other than the Google hacking issue? And then also in 2013 and 2014, was there some incident that precipitated the rules being strengthened, the regulations that we’ve talked about being strengthened?
MS. HARF: You’d have to check with NARA on that given – I think you’re referring to the NARA regulations from 2013 and 2014?
QUESTION: Mm-hmm.
MS. HARF: I mean, you’d have to check with them. Not to my knowledge —
QUESTION: Nothing at State happened that caused you to strengthen those regulations?
MS. HARF: I have no idea. I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay.
MS. HARF: This is – but to be fair, the – and those regulations I think you’re talking about in 2013, 2014, were about preservation, not about security. So that’s —
QUESTION: That’s right. It’s a separate thing.
MS. HARF: It’s a separate thing.
QUESTION: Yeah.
MS. HARF: And again, what we’ve talked about in this room is that the rules have been unclear when it came to preservation for some time. And I know NARA is constantly trying to update them to sort of keep pace with just the amount and sheer volume of email, for example, we use, and to keep up to speed on that. I – this cable, having read a lot of cables, looks fairly ordinary to me and doesn’t look particularly like it was prompted by anything. Not knowing the backstory, this sort of looks like, again, some helpful tips when you’re using personal email.
QUESTION: Okay. And then back to the question of security, since the State Department was aware from the start that Secretary Clinton was using her personal email, can you tell us, or if you don’t know, find out for us, State Department security internet folks you would think would either have gone to her house to look at her server or would have gone over with her passwords, what devices was she going to use this on. We had that whole thing about President Obama wanting to use a Blackberry. So the security of high-level U.S. officials using devices – on what devices was she going to use it. Can you please lay out for us what steps were taken to check that?
MS. HARF: I just don’t have any details for you on that. I know there are a lot of questions about that. As we get information —
QUESTION: Will you look into it?
MS. HARF: — we can share, we will. But I know there are a lot of questions in general about this, and as we get information we can share – I just don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Okay. Then, so specifically, if someone – if you could find out for us, take the question of did someone go to her house and look at her —
MS. HARF: Indira, this question has been asked for three days now, and I am happy to keep seeing what information we can share. I don’t have any information for you at this – on this – about that at this time.
Margaret.
QUESTION: So have you sought that information, just as —
MS. HARF: I always try to get answers to your questions.
QUESTION: No, not you. Has the Department sought that information from —
MS. HARF: From inside the Department?
QUESTION: From former Secretary Clinton. Questions on what her server was, did it have encryption – have these questions been asked of the former secretary?
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to have details on that for you.
Yes, Margaret.
QUESTION: Marie – I mean, along those lines of – was there a carve-out for Secretary Clinton at the time? I mean, if the State Department was —
MS. HARF: What do you mean, a carve-out?
QUESTION: Well, if the State Department was aware that she was using personal email for work purposes, did the State Department’s lawyers bless that? I mean, if this was all kosher, it sort of changes the entire conversation if the State Department lawyers said it was fine.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have details to answer that question either for you. We know what the federal regulations were at the time and are now – I just don’t have much more for you – beyond that for you.
QUESTION: But was – when she came to office – I mean, I think generally when a secretary comes in, her chief of staff or somebody on her staff would’ve been briefed on what those regulations are.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, that’s certainly the case.
QUESTION: Did that happen in her case?
MS. HARF: I can check and see if there are details on that to share.
QUESTION: Well, I mean – and if you would, and if you would find out if there were any differences. I mean, she was an extraordinary person coming into this, a very different profile than other secretaries. I mean, were there special standards for her that there weren’t for previous secretaries given not only the changes in the technology, but she herself? I mean, if the White House had signed off on this, it would’ve been a different conversation today.
MS. HARF: I can check and see if there’s more to share for you on how those decisions were made at the time.
Any – what else on this? Elliot?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) different topic.
MS. HARF: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: No, same topic.
MS. HARF: Yes, Josh.
QUESTION: I want to just follow up on our discussion Tuesday and I guess Wednesday on the genesis of the October 2014 letter to the former secretaries.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yep.
QUESTION: First, can you tell us who sent the letter?
MS. HARF: Who specifically signed it at the State Department?
QUESTION: Yeah. Right.
MS. HARF: I can check. I’m sorry, I do not know that. I can check.
QUESTION: Okay. And can you tell us anything more about how it began? Because there’ve now been press reports that the concern about this issue arose out of the Benghazi select committee’s investigation sometime during the August timeframe, and I’m just curious whether that had played any role whatsoever in the Department’s decision to take this pretty unusual step of approaching former secretaries.
MS. HARF: I wouldn’t call it unusual, and what I would say is I think there are also Administration sources in those press reports saying it would be grossly simplistic to say that any one thing prompted us to send this letter. As I noted, I think to you the other day in the briefing, this predated the request from the select committee just from a time perspective —
QUESTION: All their requests?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: All their requests to the Department?
MS. HARF: I can check on that. But the request that was pertinent, I think, to her email was later; that’s my understanding. It came a month later, I think.
But a couple points: This actually isn’t that unusual. We are – we have been struggling in trying to figure out how to preserve all the records given the use of email now that wasn’t even that way five years ago. And so we have had an ongoing process, as NARA has had too, to update regulations, clarify policies, make sure we have the records we need. So that was part of that process. And again, it came before the request. So I would – it would be incorrect to say that any one issue prompted this letter.
Of course, we have worked closely with the select committee and with Congress on this, have been transparent and provided as much as we can in response to their requests, so certainly, that’s a factor. But I would not say – as we’ve said now a few times, it was not any one thing that prompted this.
And we really have been – I know it’s not always in the news until now, but there has been a process of trying to update our records. NARA has actually done a lot of work to clarify what the responsibilities are of senior officials in terms of preservation, and that is an ongoing process.
QUESTION: Can you tell us – one of the press reports also said that Secretary Kerry played some role in the discussion about this email situation. Do you know if he’s played any role in that?
MS. HARF: The – about what part of it? I haven’t talked about it with Secretary Kerry.
QUESTION: In making a decision to go to the former secretaries. I mean, it does still strike me as somewhat unusual that lower-level officials in the Department would take the step of going to retired former secretaries and ask them to return records to the Department.
MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t say – first, I don’t know who signed it. I mean, some of those – I’m not sure the press reports referenced the Secretary. I think they talked about his staff —
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: — his senior staff, including his chief of staff – well, former chief of staff as of today, if everyone saw the news about Jon Finer. I think it’s appropriate that if – as we as a Department are trying to work through how to update the records of senior officials, including secretaries, the Secretary’s staff would be the one involved in those conversations. There’s – I don’t think there’s anything unusual about that.
QUESTION: Okay. And two other quick things on this.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Is the inspector general at this point, as far as you know, conducting any review of how this email matter was handled?
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that. You know the inspector general is independent, but – so I think you could check with them, but —
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: — not that I’ve heard, but I’m not sure I would have.
QUESTION: And at the very outset, you mentioned the FOIA review process. Among the various things they look for, is one of the things they look for in documents prior to release classified information?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: In the FOIA review process —
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — among the various things that they look for – you mentioned PII, Social Security numbers —
MS. HARF: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: — SBU. Is one of the things they look for in that process, even in records that don’t bear classification markings, sensitive national security information?
MS. HARF: That – well, sensitive national security information is different than classified information.
QUESTION: Well, let’s say classified information.
MS. HARF: So which are you asking about?
QUESTION: Classified information.
MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t have all the FOIA regulations in front of me. I would also remind people that SBU is not a national security classification. It’s just not. But I can check on that and see if there’s more of a list of what FOIA looks at.
QUESTION: And as a follow-up on the FOIA —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: By the way, you said it was Jon Finer leading it. It’s not Jon Finer.
MS. HARF: No, I said if everyone saw the news about Jon Finer. He’s the new chief of staff.
QUESTION: Oh, yes.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: A follow-up to —
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
MS. HARF: David Wade is leaving. No, no, no. Jon Finer didn’t leave on day one. (Laughter.) He’s just staying in London. (Laughter.) No, Jon Finer is our new chief of staff.
QUESTION: Hardships.
MS. HARF: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
QUESTION: On the FOIA standards you mentioned —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So does that mean the FOIA office will be conducting this review?
MS. HARF: I don’t have more details on that. I know it’s a good question. There’s a lot of process questions. It’s a huge batch, as we’ve talked about. So as we have more to share on the process, I will. I just don’t have it today.
QUESTION: So it hasn’t started – the process – by any means —
MS. HARF: I don’t —
QUESTION: — if we don’t know who’s actually doing it?
MS. HARF: Let me check. Let me check.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: Let me check.
QUESTION: On the emails?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Which other former secretaries have submitted their emails? Or have all of them submitted their emails?
MS. HARF: So we sent the letter out a few months ago. No other secretaries have yet responded. I understand Secretary Powell’s office may have said they are going back and looking to see if they have anything. It’s my understanding no other secretaries have responded.
And I would say – and I know there’s a lot of questions about transparency, but it is – I mean, what we are doing now going forward – and there’s lots of questions about the past, and I get that – she has asked us to look at all 55,000 pages and determine what is appropriate for release. So that process is going to happen. And what we determine is appropriate under those FOIA standards will be public, which I think is actually a pretty extraordinary thing.
QUESTION: So why haven’t other former secretaries responded and submitted their emails?
MS. HARF: I think you’d have to ask them. I don’t speak for them.
QUESTION: But we’re only talking – we’re talking about two other secretaries, right?
MS. HARF: So we sent —
QUESTION: I mean, Henry Kissinger wasn’t asked —
MS. HARF: No, the furthest back —
QUESTION: — to provide his 1970 —
MS. HARF: — we went was Secretary Albright.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: So Secretary Albright, Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, and Secretary Clinton.
QUESTION: So you don’t expect to withhold any of the 55,000 due to classification —
MS. HARF: I’m not going to prejudge —
QUESTION: — sensitive classification —
MS. HARF: I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of a review.
QUESTION: They should all be —
QUESTION: As part of this review, are the emails that her staff had on the personal server going to be reviewed as well? And if not, why not?
MS. HARF: Well, this is a review of her emails and her records.
QUESTION: But they were working for her, they were State Department employees, they were ostensibly working —
MS. HARF: But that’s a different thing.
QUESTION: But if they’re working on her behalf, if they’re helping to represent her opinions, her views to the rest of the Department, why wouldn’t their emails be looked at as well?
MS. HARF: Well, I understand the question, but we’re talking about a batch of emails in response to a request from the State Department to update our secretary of state records. So we have hers, and that’s the review that we’re doing right now.
QUESTION: But the employees are – also have an obligation —
MS. HARF: I understand that.
QUESTION: — to provide and to make certain that those —
MS. HARF: I understand that.
QUESTION: — records, which are public documents, are made available. Why not just bring them all in right now and look at everything —
MS. HARF: Because you’re talking about —
QUESTION: — as opposed to a drip, drip, drip?
MS. HARF: Well, this –55,000 pages is not a drip, drip, drip, Roz. That’s a pretty big stack of paper. But I would also say this was a request for former secretaries. We can talk about separate issues about her staff, who had – who did have state.gov accounts and who were responsible for preserving that, their records there. So that’s just a separate issue, and I just don’t have anything for you on that today.
QUESTION: Will any attempt be made to check whether these are all the emails, or will you just be accepting the secretary’s word on this?
MS. HARF: Well, as we have said, her staff has said these were all the responsive emails they had to our request, and that’s really a question for her staff to answer.
QUESTION: Well, no, no. My question is: Will the State Department be attempting in any way to verify whether they are all the emails? I mean, what I imagine is there are various methods you can use to look at whether they’re in sequence or whether there are gaps. I mean, will there be any attempt to verify this?
MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. First, as I’ve said, it covers the breadth of her time at the State Department. So it covers the span of when she was here. But —
QUESTION: The request does, but —
MS. HARF: No, the records in response cover – the emails she gave us back cover the breadth of her time at the State Department.
QUESTION: How do you know that? How do you know they’re all —
MS. HARF: Because I know when she started and when she left, and they correspond to that and they cover all of the time in between. Second —
QUESTION: But she —
QUESTION: But you don’t know that there’s gaps or deleted emails or some that just weren’t sent –
MS. HARF: Well, of course, but like – there’s not, like, two months missing, right? That’s – right.
QUESTION: But you don’t – you can’t say for sure – his point is that every email and —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — some critics or —
MS. HARF: Correct. But I would —
QUESTION: — whatever you want to call them have picked up on this, that you can’t know that —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — you have every email unless —
MS. HARF: And I’ve said that.
QUESTION: — you see the server.
MS. HARF: Well, I’ve said that, obviously, her staff has said that. But I would make a second point, though, is that each individual employee has a responsibility under the federal regulations to preserve their own records with a State Department account or a personal account. When you walk out the door, it is your responsibility to provide those. Does that make sense? Regardless of what kind of account it is.
QUESTION: When you walk out?
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but there’s a difference because —
QUESTION: Right, but there’s no way to check it that makes —
MS. HARF: But there was no time – right, right.
QUESTION: There’s a difference —
MS. HARF: That was colloquial, Josh.
QUESTION: — because in a FOIA request —
MS. HARF: But thank you for fact-checking me live and instantaneously during my press briefings.
QUESTION: In a FOIA request —
MS. HARF: You should come more often, I like it. What?
QUESTION: — or a congressional subpoena, then the State Department would have the ability to look through its server to see if everything has been sent. In this case —
MS. HARF: But that’s not —
QUESTION: — you don’t have access to that server, so there’s —
MS. HARF: That’s not the process of how it works, even with state.gov emails, Brad, generally speaking.
QUESTION: You’re saying that the State Department – for all FOIA requests, it relies on the goodwill of the individuals?
MS. HARF: I am not saying that for all – anything. I’m not making a general statement about FOIA, and I’m also saying it’s not about goodwill. What I am saying is, in general, each employee is responsible for being responsive to records requests, document requests. I’m not going to get into “always,” but —
QUESTION: That sounds like goodwill if it’s up to the employee himself to do it.
MS. HARF: No, it’s not goodwill, it’s a responsibility.
QUESTION: That’s the same thing.
MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s the same thing.
QUESTION: It’s not – there’s no independent mechanism separate from that employee.
MS. HARF: Well, then maybe you have a problem with the FOIA process.
QUESTION: No, I’m asking – I don’t think you’re right, actually, but —
MS. HARF: I would bet you 100 bucks I’m right.
QUESTION: All right, I’ll take it on. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I have a few more.
MS. HARF: No, but my point – look, my point is that like I understand your question, the crux of your question; I do. I cannot stand up here and say – that’s a question for her staff to answer. They have answered it. They can speak to that.
QUESTION: No, my question wasn’t have they been provided. My question was: Is the Department going to take any steps to verify they will be provided? That’s a different question.
MS. HARF: And I just don’t have – okay. I just don’t have any more details for you on that. I understand the question, I understand why you’re asking it, but I just don’t have more details for you than that.
QUESTION: So when the purpose is to preserve these emails as a history, so why you’re not asking for all the emails?
MS. HARF: We asked for all of her records that she had that were federal records, so we did. We asked for all of them.
QUESTION: But her office is saying they have not provided all the emails, right?
MS. HARF: Her office said that yes – no, that’s not correct, actually.
QUESTION: So then why didn’t – you haven’t asked them —
MS. HARF: Her office said – and I’m not the spokesperson for her office. People may have been confused about that this week. But what her office said is she provided everything that met that criteria.
QUESTION: But that criteria, would it be decided by the State Department, rather than her office?
MS. HARF: Well, there is criteria that NARA lays out about what is a federal record. It’s anything related to official business. So I think as her people have said, it wasn’t spreadsheets for her daughter’s wedding, but it was anything related to official business.
QUESTION: But wouldn’t people, people, Americans several decades after this would like to know what the secretary of state did at that time of her —
MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s why she’s asked us to review all 55,000 for public release —
QUESTION: I have one more question.
MS. HARF: — which I can’t think of any other public official asking anyone to do, actually.
QUESTION: So when other former secretary of states submit their emails, would that be sort of the same kind of review which you are doing right now?
MS. HARF: For public release? I don’t know, who knows. This resulted because she asked us to do this.
QUESTION: One for public release, one if there were any breach of State Department regulations?
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say we were looking at her emails for that purpose; I said we are not.
QUESTION: She asked you to do it, but she wouldn’t have been in compliance with the law had she not asked you to do it, correct?
MS. HARF: No. The law says nothing about releasing them publicly. The federal regulation —
QUESTION: But turning them over.
MS. HARF: Turning them over, that’s different.
QUESTION: Yes. Yeah, okay.
MS. HARF: That’s different. Still on this?
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: I have one more.
MS. HARF: I think we have like eight more, but —
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
MS. HARF: Oh, hello.
QUESTION: Hi, there.
MS. HARF: Wait, we have a special guest in the briefing room today. Go ahead —
QUESTION: Oh, yes.
MS. HARF: — playing the role of Elise Labott.
QUESTION: Not – I am, poorly. Not to ask you to prejudge this specific case with Secretary Clinton, but just the process of a review, wouldn’t it be incumbent on the State Department to reveal if they found any sensitive but unclassified documentation, information in emails that were reviewed?
MS. HARF: I know I’m going to go back to the same line again, but I’m not going to prejudge what might happen —
QUESTION: But I’m not asking you to prejudge her case.
MS. HARF: Or what would happen, though.
QUESTION: I’m talking about a policy on the general review process. It seems very reasonable to assume that in the course of it, if SBU was discovered that it would have to be —
MS. HARF: That that would be made public?
QUESTION: That it would be somehow dealt with, right?
MS. HARF: Again – and this was to Brad’s question – I’m happy to go back to our lawyers and see if there’s more on this about what might happen if something is discovered, but again, I don’t want to speculate on that, and we just don’t know what would happen in that situation. There are so many variables and factors, I really just don’t want to speculate.
QUESTION: Well, I have (inaudible) —
QUESTION: How did the agreement come to be?
MS. HARF: Which agreement?
QUESTION: Discussing the review, Secretary Clinton tweeted that she has asked the State Department to release these emails. Obviously, I imagine on her side that may be her aides, that’s her, that’s her lawyers. Who at State is sort of brokering the terms of this with her?
MS. HARF: Well, there aren’t terms – I mean, the terms – I’m not exactly sure what you mean by terms. There was —
QUESTION: Who’s interacting, who’s interfacing with Clinton and her team on this?
MS. HARF: There’s senior officials here; I’m probably not going to go into more details. I can check and see if we can. But senior officials here, obviously, have talked to her team throughout this process, whether it’s just an open line of communication to make sure – from a legal perspective, to make sure we’re getting what we need, or conversations with the secretary’s staff when they said – okay, we’re – when they came to us and said we’re going to ask you to review them for release, we agreed that was a conversation between senior aides here and senior aides to her.
QUESTION: You said on Wednesday you were asked about whether the cyber security office here at State had concerns. Have you gotten an answer on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t have more details for you on that.
QUESTION: Have you checked on that?
MS. HARF: I’m checking on all of this, I promise, but I just don’t have more details to share about that.
QUESTION: So – but what’s the reasoning for not being able to share that information?
MS. HARF: I just don’t have details on that to share.
QUESTION: Is it someone not providing it, or is it sensitive, or —
MS. HARF: I know there are a lot of questions about this and other issues. As we get definitive answers that I can share, I am happy to, but there are going to be questions like that that we may not be able to share information on.
QUESTION: Can I ask —
MS. HARF: I will attempt to share as much as I can.
QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up on the sensitive but unclassified?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh, yes.
QUESTION: Two days ago, you said that it would take months to review this process because —
MS. HARF: It’s expected to take several months.
QUESTION: — you would have to scrub any sensitive but unclassified information.
MS. HARF: That’s not what I said.
QUESTION: You would have to – you mentioned, I think —
MS. HARF: Personal identifying information.
QUESTION: — personal – which is sensitive but unclassified.
MS. HARF: Not necessarily.
QUESTION: If it’s a Social Security number, if it’s a home address, if it’s —
MS. HARF: It’s not – no, not necessarily. PII is not always SBU. We’re going to get into really Wiki stuff on this, guys. I’m ready.
QUESTION: So if – so – whoa, whoa. You would scrub sensitive but unclassified information as part of this —
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. We can take —
QUESTION: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You’re going to publish people’s Social Security numbers?
MS. HARF: I also didn’t say – I didn’t say Social Security numbers are SBU. Those are PII. It’s a different term, different thing. No, don’t roll your eyes at it, Brad. There’s – if you go into my email and I have to put a portion marking at the bottom, those are two separate portion markings.
QUESTION: Look —
MS. HARF: What I am going to commit to you is to see if there are more detailed FOIA standards that they – that we do these reviews under that we can share. There may not be, but I think that might be helpful to folks as you say, “What are you looking for in her emails”.
QUESTION: So general practice is you take out sensitive but unclassified information. Is that not correct?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. Let me check on that. Let me check.
QUESTION: But here’s the deal: You’re talking about scrubbing some information potentially, correct?
MS. HARF: Using the FOIA standards that would have been used if we had the emails at the time.
QUESTION: Using the FOIA standards. So —
MS. HARF: The same standards that would have been used no matter when we got the emails.
QUESTION: If you put out these documents in however many months or years or whatever, and you say this is the breadth of the information and you don’t say what has been scrubbed, there’s a problem with that —
MS. HARF: Well, why would we say what has been scrubbed if it was scrubbed for a legitimate reason?
QUESTION: What category?
MS. HARF: What – you want us when we release them to say what category?
QUESTION: You generally do. You pick the reason —
MS. HARF: Okay, I’ll let our team who’s doing the review know that —
QUESTION: No, listen, listen, listen.
MS. HARF: — and we’ll take that under consideration.
QUESTION: So to say – but to say today that you won’t say whether or not there’s any sensitive but unclassified info —
MS. HARF: I did not say that, Brad. I said I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of this review. What we will —
QUESTION: I think I just said the same thing. You won’t say whether or not you will do this.
MS. HARF: Right. I’m not going to say what we’re going to do in any way at the end of this.
QUESTION: But usually you have to explain your redactions. So if you do take something out, you would have to say why you took it out —
MS. HARF: I said —
QUESTION: — what type of information it is.
MS. HARF: I said we will use the FOIA standards. I can go see – Brad, look, I’ve never submitted a FOIA request. I don’t know what letter you get back and what it says about the documents. I’m sure many of you have and can speak to that. I am happy to go back to the FOIA office and see if there’s more to share about this process in general. But I’m not going to stand up here and say at the end of this process this is what we’re going to do. How would I know that? We haven’t even done the process yet. That seems wholly speculative, hypothetical, and not instructive.
QUESTION: It doesn’t – if you’re saying you’re applying the FOIA standards, usually there’s rules guiding what you take out and what you disclose about that.
MS. HARF: And I said I will check with the FOIA office to see what those are. I’m not just going to take your word for it.
QUESTION: It’s not a prejudge —
QUESTION: Marie, given that —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — Secretary – former Secretary Clinton is a presidential hopeful in 2016 —
MS. HARF: I will let you do that analysis.
QUESTION: Well, that’s what pundits are saying —
MS. HARF: One great part about this job is I worry about elections overseas, not at home.
QUESTION: They would probably not be this focused if it wasn’t the case. So —
MS. HARF: Do you think so, really?
QUESTION: Number two, does this Department feel under pressure in any way to be going through those emails and scrubbing, as Brad calls, sensitive – that would not ruin those – so is there any pressure that this Department is under?
MS. HARF: That’s why I wanted to say very clearly today that we’re going to use the FOIA standards, the same standards we would have used regardless of when we got these emails, regardless of who the official is. And there are career experts who do this; that’s what’s going to guide this process. I want to be very clear about that.
QUESTION: But if there are correspondence between secretary of state and her foreign counterparts, would you be consulting your foreign counterparts, foreign countries before releasing these emails?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to prejudge about how this review might unfold.
QUESTION: Does that include (inaudible) under the FOIA guidelines?
MS. HARF: I just said I will check on the FOIA guidelines. I’m going to go take a whole class on FOIA after this.
QUESTION: So Marie —
MS. HARF: Yes, Roz.
QUESTION: — to be very explicit to Lesley’s point, is this Department feeling any political pressure from the White House, from the Clinton camp, from any Clinton supporters to review and to remove information that could potentially be embarrassing to a possible Clinton campaign?
MS. HARF: No. No.
QUESTION: Just quick follow before I go to a new subject.
MS. HARF: Margaret’s trying desperately here, which I appreciate.
QUESTION: Just quick follow before I go to new subject.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: As far as these emails are concerned, madam, these were on personal accounts by, you said —
MS. HARF: Account, one account (inaudible).
QUESTION: Right – several secretaries, of course, in the past also.
MS. HARF: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: So that means they were talking sensitive issues with foreign governments?
MS. HARF: I don’t know what’s in their emails. I haven’t seen them.
QUESTION: So you think they will also leak by the WikiLeaks and other leaks, part of that?
MS. HARF: I have no idea how you’re trying to bring these things all together and relate them to each other, but I don’t have much more for you than I think I’ve already said.
QUESTION: Let’s do a different topic.
QUESTION: Can we change —
MS. HARF: We can change the subject.
QUESTION: Can we go to South Korea? Do you have an update —
MS. HARF: We can, yes.
QUESTION: — on the current status —
MS. HARF: I would just like to point out that this is a very important story that I’m surprised it took us so long to get to. Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you give us an update on the status of Ambassador Lippert?
MS. HARF: Yes. Ambassador Lippert is in stable condition in spite of the serious injuries that he sustained. He’s expected to stay in the hospital until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. The ambassador is in good spirits but is likely to remain, as I said, in a hospital in Seoul for a couple of days.
As we said over the past few days, he underwent successful surgery in Seoul. I know the medical team there at Severance Hospital is giving periodic televised updates to the press gathered at the hospital, and I think weekend updates are scheduled for 9:00 A.M. on both Saturday and Sunday local time, just as you want to follow it over the weekend.
As we have said, he was at – in Seoul attending a breakfast lecture as the guest speaker. The attacker’s weapon was a knife. No others were reportedly injured in the attack. The President has spoken to Ambassador Lippert, as have other senior officials as well. President Park also spoke to him – excuse me – spoke to him as well.
QUESTION: And when can we expect Ambassador Lippert to return to duties?
MS. HARF: As soon as he can. As soon as he can. Of course, this – he is recovering. This was a pretty serious attack, but as soon as he can get back to the job.
QUESTION: And this – one more question —
MS. HARF: Okay, let’s do one at a time.
QUESTION: Yeah, this is —
QUESTION: Is this going to require any —
MS. HARF: Let’s – let me finish here, Roz, and then I’ll go to you.
QUESTION: This might be speculation, but do you have any insight as to what may be the possible motive for the attack?
MS. HARF: We don’t have any information on that yet. The assailant has been taken into custody, as we’ve seen, by the Korean Government. They are leading the investigation. Nothing to share on that at this point.
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: Is he going to require any sort of plastic surgery? Eighty stitches is a lot.
MS. HARF: He did have 80 stitches. I’m probably not going to get into more details than that at this point.
QUESTION: Okay, but – okay, but —
QUESTION: Marie, you said that —
QUESTION: Eighty between his arm and his face? Sorry, 80 between his arm and his face?
MS. HARF: I can check if they were all in his —
QUESTION: Total, total.
MS. HARF: Total of 80, yes.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay, I want to ask about his security.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Lippert was quite known for being very much out in the public, meeting, greeting, walking his dog. What was his security posture? Who was checking security at this event? There are reports that there was minimal security and that this man was able to basically walk up to the table and start slashing him.
MS. HARF: Yep, so let me – a couple of points. Within each diplomatic mission, the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security conducts thorough threat analysis for each post, coordinates with the regional security officers, the embassy emergency action committees, and the host government. So they manage the post’s overall security program for the ambassador, of course working with the host country to do so.
A couple points on his security detail. So it’s – Diplomatic Security works with the host country in each post to determine what the security will look like. The ambassador had one full-time bodyguard assigned from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency to the U.S. ambassador in Seoul. I would note that the U.S. ambassador is the only chief of mission in the Republic of Korea to have a Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency police officer assigned in official capacity. Given the Republic of Korea’s strict gun laws, police officers are generally not armed. For personal protective operations, only those providing protection to ministerial-level or higher officials generally are armed. They have augmented his security with several other officers since this attack.
I’m trying to think of what your other question was.
QUESTION: Are they local police, or are they embassy personnel?
MS. HARF: They’re Korean national police.
QUESTION: Is there any thought to having him provided with DS security, with Marines, with U.S. personnel protecting him?
MS. HARF: So DS officers are typically only assigned to protect ambassadors in high-threat environments, during periods of heightened risk, or when the host government does not have the resources to fulfill its Vienna Convention obligations. As you know, Seoul is not a high-threat environment. The Korean national police have augmented his bodyguard with additional police at this point. I don’t have anything – we’ll continue to look at the situation, but nothing additional at this point.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: But let’s —
MS. HARF: Let’s all do one at a time, guys. Believe me, I’ll stay up here for three hours and answer all of them.
QUESTION: At the time of the attack —
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
MS. HARF: Yeah, believe me.
QUESTION: — was it just this one bodyguard that was with him, or what else?
MS. HARF: Correct, correct, which is —
QUESTION: Just the one?
MS. HARF: Yes, which is standard procedure for the ambassador in Seoul.
QUESTION: Because there were some reports about 29 others who were outside.
MS. HARF: There may have been other security officers in the room that weren’t specifically assigned to him. I don’t have that detail. He has one full-time ambassadorial bodyguard.
QUESTION: And then just – I mean, who is to blame for, one, a man who has been known to attack foreign envoys —
QUESTION: Convicted.
QUESTION: — being – right, convicted, being allowed to get so close to him, and two, with whatever 20-inch knife?
MS. HARF: Well —
QUESTION: I mean, who was in charge of the security of the actual meeting?
MS. HARF: Of the event? Well, look, I’m not going to put blame at this point. The details are still coming out. The facts are still coming out. There’s an investigation that’s ongoing, so I’m not going to —
QUESTION: This – it’s a Korean investigation, or —
MS. HARF: It is. It is.
QUESTION: And is the United States participating in that investigation?
MS. HARF: I – let me see if I have anything on that. They’re – yes, we are – they are closely coordinating with the embassy in Seoul, so yes, we are.
QUESTION: Could Mr. Kim face any U.S. charges given that he attacked a U.S. citizen?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to speculate on that for you.
QUESTION: And there’s no concern even though Seoul is considered a very safe city – and I’ve been there, it is a very safe city – but there’s no concern about trying to expand his security with U.S. personnel just because of random things such as this?
MS. HARF: Well, look, these decisions are made by the post, by Diplomatic Security, by the emergency action committees each post has to look at the threat picture. I’m sure we’ll look at the details, and if they think anything else needs to be done, we’ll ask for it. But this is a low-threat – a very safe place to live. Unfortunately, this was a very serious situation that happened. The Korean National Police have augmented his security detail. But I don’t have anything more to predict for you than that.
QUESTION: Marie, you described the —
QUESTION: This question came up during —
QUESTION: Wait, I’m sorry. This question came up during the incidents after Ambassador Stevens was killed about whether Diplomatic Security personnel felt intimidated by ambassadors who may have wanted to have as public a profile and as open a profile —
MS. HARF: This has nothing at all to do with – and I’m horrified by the notion that anyone would even bring up Benghazi in this conversation. This is a wholly different situation, Roz.
QUESTION: No, but we’re talking about security. This ambassador – right – no, but —
MS. HARF: I understand in general we’re talking about security, but let’s not equate the two.
QUESTION: No, but given the size of the knife, which has been broadcast around the world, it is not inconceivable that Ambassador Lippert could have been gravely injured. Now – so we have – so —
MS. HARF: Of course, and as someone who knows him very well —
QUESTION: Yes.
MS. HARF: — that is a very scary thought.
QUESTION: So – right, so we have to ask the question: Is this government doing enough to make certain that its ambassadors and diplomats in general, who want to be among the people where they’re serving, are adequately protected? Is it enough to assume that the host countries are indeed capable of protecting U.S. diplomats?
MS. HARF: I’m happy for you to ask the question. I don’t think you need to bring Benghazi into this. That was my only point.
Going back to my original point, we make decisions on security for ambassadors at each of our posts based on a variety of factors that the experts who do security for all of our hundreds of posts around the world look at every single day. This was the posture they believed was most appropriate for the ambassador in South Korea. As we’ve said, the world is a dangerous place. We are looking at whether we could do more, but let’s not draw broader conclusions about security at the State Department. We look at each post. Seoul is a very safe place. They’re looking right now if there’s anything else they can do. The Korean National Police have given us more backup as well. But let’s not draw broader conclusions from something. I think that would be a mistake.
Yes, Margaret.
QUESTION: Marie, but Seoul is very safe. I think a lot of us have spent time there. But given the tension with North Korea, given the fact that this Administration has talked at length about the cyber attack that country allegedly carried out —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — very successfully, given the fact that these military exercises are happening jointly between the U.S. and South Korea, why wasn’t this considered a high-threat time period?
MS. HARF: I’m happy to bring a security expert up here and have them walk you through why their professional judgment was that it wasn’t. And let’s also be clear, we have no idea why this person did this at this point. We’re all making a lot of assumptions when we talk about, given X, Y, and Z, shouldn’t there be – well, we don’t know X, Y, and Z played a role.
QUESTION: Right, but this is anticipating threats. I mean, it’s not just acting on specific intelligence.
MS. HARF: And you can anticipate threats all over the world and in D.C. and in the United States and in many, many places. We make – our experts, our security experts make decisions based on the operating environment, the capabilities of the national – of the host country. The South Koreans have very good capabilities when it comes to security. And that’s how they make decisions. Are we looking at that now? Of course we are. But let’s not draw any conclusions here, and we’re still getting all the facts about how people were screened to get into this event, how people were on the list, how they were allowed in. That’s – those are ongoing questions we have too.
QUESTION: But given the – broadly speaking – put this guy’s motivations, whatever they are, aside – I mean, do you really believe there is such a thing as a low-threat post for a United States ambassador in this global terror environment when we’re talking about soft targets?
MS. HARF: That is such an oversimplification of the threat picture. There is no way to not look – there is no —
QUESTION: You don’t believe that American ambassadors are targets?
MS. HARF: Of course they are. But you can’t just —
QUESTION: So I think it’s a fair question.
QUESTION: — say, “Okay, so we’re going to treat every ambassador in every country the same way and give them the same security.” You have to tailor it to the environment and where they are and what the national government is capable of doing and whether they do it or whether DS does it. I mean, there’s a whole range of factors that experts look at.
And in hindsight to people I know it seems like, “Well, of course you should’ve had more.” But I mean, that’s hindsight. And so obviously, we’re looking at the situation. This was a horrible thing that happened to our ambassador. I think we’re all happy that he is going to be okay. And we’ll look and see if anything else needs to be done, but I don’t think the notion that there’s – “of course we should’ve done something differently” is justified in this case.
QUESTION: So there’s no reconsideration of security at posts beyond Seoul at this point in light of this attack?
MS. HARF: In light of this attack?
QUESTION: Yes.
MS. HARF: Not that I have heard. We are constantly evaluating our security posture at posts and will, based on the situation there individually, and take precautions. I can check again with our team and see if there’s more —
QUESTION: Can I just – one follow-up. You said the – and this appears to be a very serious attack here, and thankfully —
MS. HARF: Thankfully, yes.
QUESTION: — not life-threatening. But how close to the jugular, I mean, were these wounds? They appear to be quite serious. Two and a half hours of surgery, 80 stitches.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: I mean, the South Korean Government —
MS. HARF: It was very serious.
QUESTION: — is saying that they’re looking at attempted murder charges.
MS. HARF: It was incredibly serious, absolutely. And in no way are we downplaying that, of course. This – I mean, believe me, for those of us who know him, who’ve worked with him – I know many of you have – this was – this is awful. And thankfully, he will be okay. I’m not going to get into sort of a medical judgment about what possibly could have happened. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
QUESTION: Just a quick rejoinder, if you will. One of the earlier questions mentioned Marines, and it’s been something that’s been talked about. Is it even conceivable that an ambassador in South Korea would have a squadron of Marines follow him with assault rifles into a grocery store in Seoul?
MS. HARF: I cannot imagine —
QUESTION: I mean, does this happen —
MS. HARF: — a case in which that would happen, no.
QUESTION: So this is not something that should be spoken about as a realistic option in a low-threat environment by —
MS. HARF: No. I mean, I’m not a security expert. But I think we all need to be realistic when we talk about all of our posts around the world, the number of ambassadors we have at posts around the world, the number of consul generals we have at posts around the world, and resources and how we allocate our security resources. And that’s why you make judgments about the threat at each post and don’t treat each equally. The ambassador in Kabul should not have the same security as the ambassador in New Zealand. That just doesn’t make any sense, just if you think about it from a common-sense perspective.
Yes, Elliot.
QUESTION: Can I just clarify a couple of quick points, just to make sure I understand correctly?
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: You said that a few more officers had been assigned to his detail.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Is that a permanent change?
MS. HARF: I don’t know that. It may not be. Let me see if I have anything else on that. I don’t know if they are permanent or not.
QUESTION: Okay. If you could check on that, that would be great. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Let me check and see if I can get more.
QUESTION: And then on the U.S. role in the investigation, is there anything more you can say? Just that they’re coordinating with the embassy?
MS. HARF: Yeah, I don’t have more than that. If there’s more details to share, I’m happy to.
QUESTION: Because it sounds like that could just be the police sharing information with the embassy.
MS. HARF: I think – I’m sure we’re sharing information as well —
QUESTION: Sure.
MS. HARF: — that we may have – that any of our people at the event may have seen. I mean, obviously, I think we’re probably helping in any way we can.
QUESTION: Okay, and then just one more. The police have said that they are looking into the suspect’s ties to North Korea —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — that he had traveled there repeatedly. Are you also independently looking into that?
MS. HARF: They’re running the investigation —
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: — so obviously, I know there are questions about that. We’re in close touch with the South Koreans on the investigation. They’re running that. And again, too soon to speculate about motive here at this point.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: The South Koreans also said that they were not requested beforehand for any additional security for this event. Can you confirm that, that there was no —
MS. HARF: I don’t believe that they were. There were also some erroneous reports out there, though – let me just get this out there; I think it’s been fixed at this point, but – that the ambassador had refused security from the Korean Government. Those were wrong over the past few days.
QUESTION: But there was no request for —
MS. HARF: Not that I know of. This event – I have a little bit more about the event.
QUESTION: And you – can you say categorically there were no specific warnings or threat indications before this event?
MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I haven’t heard of any, Brad, but I don’t want to say anything categorically.
QUESTION: Marie, a follow-up this incident. I feel sorry about something happened in South Korea, that incident.
MS. HARF: Thank you.
QUESTION: And concerns about the relationship between U.S. and South Korea over these matters, and do you have any official statement of this?
MS. HARF: No. I mean, look, the alliance with South Korea is part of the cornerstone of our relationship in Asia. It’s an incredibly important relationship. I think the fact that President Park and other senior officials have either called or gone to visit Ambassador Lippert shows the strength and depth of our relationship. That certainly won’t change at all because of this event, this awful situation. Certainly, our relationship will continue as strong as it ever has been going forward.
QUESTION: Thanks.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Marie —
MS. HARF: Let’s go here.
QUESTION: — after the incident you strongly condemned it as a act of violence and also Secretary John Kerry described it as a senseless attack. But – and South Korea – some government officials and some media are looking at it a terror act or terrorist act or act of terrorism. How would you describe it?
MS. HARF: Well, I’ve described it the ways you just said and what the Secretary said. Obviously, this was a horrible act of violence, certainly. We don’t have more details yet about the motivation or exactly what happened here, so I’m probably not going to put more labels on it. But I think we’re less concerned about what we call it.
QUESTION: How is it different from the act of terrorism, terrorist act with violence?
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into a question about why we call things what. What we’re focused on is determining why this person did this and working with the South Koreans on that.
QUESTION: On a new subject?
MS. HARF: I think there’s – is there any more on this?
QUESTION: Same subject.
MS. HARF: Same subject. Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: The North Korean official agency has reported – said about this attack as just punishment. I don’t know if it’s a correct translation to English, but anyway, that’s the way it reported. Do you have any reaction to this North Korean characterization?
MS. HARF: We have seen the statement, which was outrageously callous but unfortunately consistent with the nature of the regime and its rhetoric. I can’t condemn it in any stronger terms than that, I don’t think.
QUESTION: And do you have any information from the South Korean side about the potential tie this guy has with North Korea?
MS. HARF: They’re looking into that right now. I just don’t have more on the investigation to share.
Same subject or —
QUESTION: Different subject.
MS. HARF: Okay, go ahead. Wait, anything else on this? No. Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Earlier this week Pakistani and Indian diplomats met in Islamabad.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Given the tensions in the disputed Kashmir region in the last six months, how do you view this development?
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly were encouraged that they decided to resume dialogue and obviously believe that both India and Pakistan stand to benefit from practical cooperation and an improved relationship, which I think would be good for regional peace and stability in South Asia. We certainly welcomed the visit.
QUESTION: And do you think that the two countries will be able to resume their comprehensive dialogue towards the resolution of outstanding issues?
MS. HARF: I’d leave that to them to speak to. But in general, obviously, we think cooperation is a good thing.
QUESTION: And just a follow-up?
MS. HARF: Yep, and then I’ll go to you.
QUESTION: Madam, a couple question on South Asia. Before going to Islamabad, former Indian ambassador to the U.S., now foreign secretary, Mr. Jaishankar was in Washington. Whether he met anybody here at the State before going to Islamabad as far as these talks between India and Pakistan?
MS. HARF: I can check on that.
QUESTION: And another thing. The new U.S. ambassador in Delhi also spoke about this India and Pakistan should talk and all. All these information —
MS. HARF: I agree with Ambassador Verma on most things, if not everything.
QUESTION: And now finally, as far as talks had been going on for many, many years between the two countries but they have not reached where they should reach because India’s stand is again today saying that unless until Pakistan brings those wanted terrorists sitting in Pakistan, India will not have positive talks with Pakistan because number of terrorists are still wanted by India sitting in Pakistan.
MS. HARF: I just don’t have more analysis on this to do for you.
QUESTION: And one more on India, please. As far as Prime Minister Modi’s visit in Washington at the White House and also, of course, at the State Department luncheon, he spoke at the UN that 70th anniversary of the United Nations this year that India should be the member of permanent UN Security Council seat, and of course, President Obama endorsed that in India and in Washington. So what State Department is playing the role now for – as far as the seat is concerned in the UN?
MS. HARF: It’s a good question. Let me check with our team. I don’t have any details on that.
Let’s do a few more here. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
MS. HARF: Hold on, I promised going to the back and then I will —
QUESTION: It was a minor one, so —
MS. HARF: Are you sure? Okay. (Laughter.) I like the honesty on a Friday afternoon.
Yes, go ahead. Go ahead, minor one. We’ll do the minor one and then you are next.
QUESTION: Okay. So what are the issues you don’t agree with Ambassador Verma? Is it related to India?
MS. HARF: I actually pretty much agree with Ambassador Verma on everything.
QUESTION: You said (inaudible).
MS. HARF: I know. No, no, no. But I’ve known Rich for a long time and really like him and think he’s a great ambassador.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: I think he’s doing a great job so far.
MS. HARF: Thank you. I will be sure to pass that along. (Laughter.) What else do we have today, guys?
QUESTION: On the visit to India —
MS. HARF: Wait, wait. I’m going to the back. I’m going to the back.
Go – please ask a question about foreign policy.
QUESTION: Yes, I have two questions. One is on China and Japan. Today they announced they are going to hold the first security talks in four years. So what’s the reaction from U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: I didn’t see that announcement, but we obviously believe that good relationships between China, Japan, and countries in the region is an incredibly important thing for peace and stability in the region. So let me check and see if we have a specific on that, but in general, that would be my response.
QUESTION: And also, the second question is: For the first time, China mentioned about a new theory in its annual work report. It’s called a new model of international relations, which is quite similar to new model of great powers between U.S. and China, but it covers much bigger area. So I’d like to know: What’s your evaluation on China’s foreign policy after Xi Jinping took office?
MS. HARF: That’s a very big and broad and complicated question, and I’d love to talk to our experts to see if they have something in terms of analysis on that. So let me talk to them and get back to you.
Let’s go to Laura. Yeah, and then I’ll go to you. I think Laura’s changing the subject, though.
QUESTION: I am. Yeah, is this on the same subject? Because mine is a different one.
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. On Yemen, I just wanted to know if – since the announcement on Tuesday if any decisions had been made on a sort of practical, logistical level about this office in Jeddah.
MS. HARF: No, I mean – well, Jeddah has been chosen for the team – for Ambassador Tueller and the team to work from the U.S. Consulate there while the Embassy is closed in Sana’a. It was obviously chosen due to its close geographical proximity to Yemen and central location among regional players. I don’t have more logistical details to share at this point.
QUESTION: Will a majority or – I know you can’t speak in terms of numbers, but of the staff who were in Yemen be there?
MS. HARF: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s a majority. I know a number of the staff will go there to Jeddah and operate out of Jeddah.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Cuba.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do – when are the next talks scheduled, please?
MS. HARF: We don’t have a date for them yet. We’re still working to finalize that.
QUESTION: And do you know where the review on removing Cuba from the terrorist list stands?
MS. HARF: It’s ongoing.
QUESTION: Do you know at what level the next talks with Cuba will be? Will it be —
MS. HARF: I would assume Assistant Secretary Jacobson, but I shouldn’t just assume that, so I will check.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: So no date?
MS. HARF: No date yet.
QUESTION: And no location?
MS. HARF: No location yet.
QUESTION: Okay. But talks will happen?
MS. HARF: Talks will happen. I can guarantee you talks will happen.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: So and – on the second issue on the Palestinians, also changing, so the Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank have halted security coordination with Israel. Has the Secretary spoken to either side? What are the – what do you see as the implications of this?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve seen the resolutions that I think you’re referring to from the PLO Central Council. It’s our understanding that no decisions have been made on how these will be implemented, so there are a lot of outstanding questions here. This is obviously a very complicated situation. We continue to urge all parties not to take escalatory measures and believe that security cooperation is something that has benefitted both Israelis and Palestinians. Strongly believe it would be a mistake to end it.
QUESTION: So —
MS. HARF: And I don’t believe the Secretary has spoken to either in the past few days.
QUESTION: So when in London, I believe, the Secretary said he was very concerned about the fact that the Israelis were not paying the tax revenue —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — to the Palestinians. What – how has he taken that up since their discussion, and how does this play into any of that?
MS. HARF: Well, we have consistently engaged with key stakeholders, including the Israelis, the Palestinians, the EU, the UN, the Russians, the Arab League, and others over the past few weeks on this issue, and we’ll continue to do so.
QUESTION: What about Congress? Have you asked for any U.S. money?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, but I’m happy to check
QUESTION: Wouldn’t that be —
MS. HARF: We engage with Congress all the time on a range of issues, Brad.
QUESTION: Given the gravity of the issue, as Secretary Kerry explained it, wouldn’t it be something you might want to consider?
MS. HARF: I don’t know if that would be an option, but I’m happy to check.
Yes, Michele, and then you’re next.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. A question about Iran’s role in the fighting against ISIS in Iraq: How worried is the U.S. about this, and particularly about the fact that Qasem Soleimani is involved?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly watching. And as I said two days ago, not the snow day, if Iran were to participate in a way that would exacerbate sectarian tensions, that would not help Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqis try to do this in a multi-sectarian way, then that would be something we would be concerned about. I don’t want to make judgments on that yet. So we’re watching. And I think this will be instructive going forward as to what’s happening on the ground.
QUESTION: Do you – are you in contact with the Iranians? Was this brought up during the negotiations yesterday?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, and we are certainly not coordinating with the Iranians on this.
Yes.
QUESTION: Still on Iran —
QUESTION: To follow – wait. To follow up on that, there have been videos circulating in Iraq of Iraqi army and Iraqi militias committing human rights abuses against the Sunnis, which is going to exacerbate the sectarian tensions, along with the Iranian involvement. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: I’ve seen those reports. Obviously, very concerning and have encouraged the Iraqi Government to fully investigate any allegation of abuse. Certainly, that is something we feel very strongly about doing – having investigations done. Obviously, not what should be happening, if true.
Brad.
QUESTION: Still on Iran, in Riga, I think, High Representative Mogherini mentioned that she thought some steps, I think she said, stand in the way of a framework or understanding on the nuclear program, but she also said a deal – a good deal is at hand. Do you share that assessment that a good deal is there for the taking at this point?
MS. HARF: I share the assessment that a good deal is possible. We’re not going to accept a bad one. There are still roadblocks we are trying to overcome, but we believe we can get there by the end of March.
QUESTION: Well, you’re a little less forward leaning, then, that —
MS. HARF: I didn’t see her comments.
QUESTION: — that a good deal is at hand. It sounds as if the deal is basically done or close to done.
MS. HARF: I don’t think I would agree with the notion that the deal is done.
QUESTION: Well, I’d – to follow up on that because —
MS. HARF: Let’s do a few more. Our visitors came on a day that was a very long briefing. Thank you for bearing with us, guys.
Lesley, go ahead.
QUESTION: To follow up, well, same as in Riga, Laurent Fabius actually said that the commitments that they’ve seen haven’t gone far enough, and that’s why there are discussions in Paris tomorrow.
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, certainly, we’re not where we need to be, because we don’t have an agreement yet. That is true. The discussions in Paris, I think, will cover a range of issues tomorrow.
QUESTION: There’s concern among some of your allies that the Americans might be rushing this deal, but – and – which is probably going to be part of those discussions tomorrow. What are —
MS. HARF: If we had rushed it, we would have taken a deal last July, we would have taken it in November, we would have taken it any of the times we could have taken it up until this point. I think many people would think the opposite, that this has taken longer than they thought it would – just commentary people, not people inside the negotiating team.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. doing to reassure its allies in the P5+1 that the Americans are – because it look – I mean, that’s what the – where the negotiation is between the Americans and the Iranians – that this is not going to be a rush deal, and that the U.S. is not making a – that this is not going to be a deal between the Americans and the Iranians, leaving the others on the side?
MS. HARF: It is absolutely not. The P5+1 has remained united on this. We are negotiating, all of us, with the Iranians. They all have bilateral talks with the Iranians as well, so we’re not the only ones that do. We are constantly briefing each other on what our negotiations, in a bilateral setting, cover, and – but at the end of the day, this is going to have to be an agreement between the P5+1 and Iran, and that is very clear. We are constantly talking to our partners about that.
And this notion that we’re somehow rushing to a deal is just not borne out by the facts here. We’ve extended the Joint Plan of Action twice, we could have taken a bad deal either time, and we didn’t. We are going to take the time to do this right. But I think you’ve also heard the President and the Secretary say we’re not going to negotiate forever, and that Iran has to make some fundamental decisions here, and we’ll see if they can.
A few more, yes. Last two.
QUESTION: Yes. This one’s on Japan. Last December, Japanese Government officials contacted McGraw Hill, the publisher of a world history textbook, asking them to revise or remove two paragraphs about Japan’s wartime comfort women system. The publisher said no, they wouldn’t make any changes. And now, in the latest issue of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives On History magazine, there’s a letter signed by 20 historians condemning the Japanese Government’s action as an effort to censor history.
So I guess our question is: Do you agree with these historians that the Japanese Government went too far in contacting an American publishing company and asking for revisions to a history textbook?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen any of those reports and don’t know any of those details. If you give it to us after the briefing, I’m happy to look into it. I’m just not familiar with the details.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: We’d all be interested in any follow-up you have on it.
MS. HARF: I would be happy to let everyone know, but I’m just not – I don’t know the historians, I don’t know the context. I don’t want to —
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. HARF: — even give a comment on it until I do.
QUESTION: Sure.
MS. HARF: Laura is going to bring us home now.
QUESTION: Mine is exceptionally brief. Do you have any additional —
MS. HARF: I’ve heard that before. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you have any additional information on when the next round of ministerial-level talks with the Iranian Government will be?
MS. HARF: I do not. I would assume in the not-too-distant future given we’re pushing up against the end of March.
QUESTION: Can I sneak in one last one?
MS. HARF: Yes, Brad, you can sneak in one.
QUESTION: My colleague will be very happy.
MS. HARF: Which colleague?
QUESTION: Matt Pennington, my Asia correspondent – (laughter) – the other Matt. On Burma, do you have any comment —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — on the police’s suppression of student unrest?
MS. HARF: We are concerned by reports that authorities have arrested, and in some case, used force against peaceful protestors. Such actions are not in keeping with Burma’s efforts to transition to full democracy. We respect the right of protestors to assemble peacefully. This is obviously an important part of any democratic society.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to the Burmese Government about their response?
MS. HARF: I do not know if we have through diplomatic channels.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Everyone have a great weekend.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)