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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #41, 00-05-05

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


1159

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Friday, May 5, 2000

Briefer: Richard Boucher

AFRICA / TRADE
1	Administration Welcomes Congressional Movement of Caribbean &
	 African Trade Bill 
DEPARTMENT / SECURITY
1-2,5,6	Missing Computer Laptops
1-8	Department-wide Inventory of Computer Hardware / Congressional
	 Proposal on State Department Security / Role of Bureau of
	 Diplomatic Security in Computer Security & Investigations 
3-4,8 	Missing INR Laptop / Ongoing Investigation
ISRAEL / LEBANON
8-9	US Deplores Recent Escalation of Violence, Urges Restraint
9-10	US View of Unilateral Israeli Withdrawal From Lebanon
10	Impact of Violence on Peace Process / Update on Ross, Miller
	 Participation in Eilat Talks 
10	Status of Palestinian Talks / Albright-Shara Discussion
SIERRA LEONE
11	Possible Involvement of US Troops
11-12	US View of Sankoh Statements Regarding Hostages
12-14	US Considering A Range of Options for Assistance / Ongoing
	 International Consultations 
13	Is There Heightened Threat to Travelers / Status of US Embassy
CUBA
12	House of Representatives Approves Legislation Lifting Sanctions on
	 Food & Medicine 
16-17	Elian Gonzalez Update - Visas Issued, Visits of Elian Gonzalez's
	 Playmates & Cuban Officials to Wye Plantation 
TURKEY
14	US Congratulates New Turkish President-Elect Sezer
INDIA
14	Arrest of US Embassy Employee on Charges of Accepting Visa Bribes
WAR CRIMES
14-15	Notification of Secretary Albright Speech at Freedom Forum / US
	 Seeks A Procedural Fix for International Criminal Court 
JORDAN
15-16	Revocation of Visa for Dr. Farhan / US Regrets Failure to Notify
	 Farhan of Visa Revocation 
18-20	US Issues Apology to Dr. Farhan
GERMANY
17	Preview of FM Fischer Meetings with Secretary Albright Next Week
RUSSIA
18	Putin's Inauguration / US View of Alleged Plan to Restructure
	 Government 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #41

FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2000, 1:20 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

I don't have any statements today. I guess the one thing I did want to note was that the Caribbean and African trade bill is moving through the House and that the White House has issued a statement to welcome that. That's good news and we hope the entire Congress will move on that quickly because that's important to us.

QUESTION: The laptops? Where are we? More laptops missing, at least one I hear. But the Post thinks two.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me do what I can. I think the important thing here is to remember where the focus needs to be. The focus in this building and in the activities of the Secretary recently has been on the importance of security and the protection of classified information because the disappearance of the INR laptop raised some serious questions that she has wanted to address and is addressing.

Obviously, within any large organization, whether it's the State Department or, might I add, a large newspaper, a network, a bank or a computer company, people have machines that they use that they lose from time to time; they go missing or even get stolen. And those things are a concern to us as well. It's a question of accountable property, of the careful use of government property, and we certainly want to make sure we've done that.

When something like that happens, when a machine disappears of some value, our Diplomatic Security Service gets involved and tries to identify where it was lost, how it was lost, why it was lost, who lost it. And if there is any negligence involved, the person can be made to pay for it.

The other thing that is unique to our organization that is not necessarily present in yours is that they would also seek to identify whether there was any classified information on the machine because, at that point, it becomes a matter of national security and, as you know, that has been a very important issue to the Secretary.

So, where does that leave us? As in any large organization, these things do go missing from time to time. We know that there are two unclassified laptops that we know are missing and there is an inventory underway. The Secretary asked for everyone to conduct an inventory to make sure that we know where all these machines are. And so I'm not saying two is the end of it. We know that a machine that was in the Policy Planning Bureau has turned up missing. But DS has looked at the ones we know about so far and, as far as we know at this point, there is no indication that there was any classified use of those machines, there shouldn't have been, and as best they can determine, there was not.

So we are conducting an inventory of all our laptops, all the unclassified machines as well as classified ones. At this point, we know that there are at least two - two, possibly more - unclassified machines that have gone missing. But let's remember, the chief problem that we're trying to address at this point, in an extraordinary and important way, is the problem of control of classified information. That is the subject the Secretary has been addressing most forcefully.

QUESTION: Where did the second one -

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that information at this point.

QUESTION: We're now talking about three, two unclassified and one - and the one from January, yes?

MR. BOUCHER: We're talking about apples and oranges when it comes down --

QUESTION: No, no, no, we're talking about laptops.

MR. BOUCHER: We're talking about a laptop of a different color.

QUESTION: No, no. Without --

MR. BOUCHER: If you want to talk about the accounting for government property, at the end of our accounting, our inventory of all of the machines that we own in the different bureaus and departments, pieces of this Department, once we have completed that inventory, we'll tell you how many computers we got and which ones are missing and which ones are not.

The issue that most concerns us is the disappearance of machines that may have classified information on them. At this point, we know of the one in INR that did have classified information on it that is missing.

QUESTION: Well, is this --

QUESTION: But now we're talking about three total, right?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to add them together because they are just different things. I don't do math, anyway.

QUESTION: What is the procedure for conducting such an inventory and is this checked with an old inventory? Do you know how many you're supposed to have?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know how you guys do it in your organizations or in a network or in an IBM. A lot of these pieces of equipment are bought in different units within their own budgets and so most - much of the unclassified laptops would be owned at the bureau level. And so, basically, the Bureau of Administration has asked each of the bureaus in the Department to conduct its own inventory and report back.

QUESTION: Richard, I think while you were away, maybe five years ago, four years ago, we had a raft of theft here in our area. I mean, TVs walked, tape recorders. I don't know about a computer because basically they're - you know, they're not portable, the ones that we use.

MR. BOUCHER: How many TVs went missing?

QUESTION: Certainly I think Reuters' TV walked away. Several. And, you know, we put locks on doors. Is it possible that theft of ordinary equipment is getting mixed in with the more serious matter that --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, not on your side of the briefing room.

QUESTION: No, I mean on your side.

MR. BOUCHER: What's important, the reason that the Secretary and the Diplomatic Security Service wanted to conduct this inventory was, first of all, to make sure that we were positive there were no other classified machines missing or machines that might have classified on them. And so the first thing to do is, let's find out where all the machines are; if there are any missing, let's look at those cases of missing and make sure there's no classified on those.

So that's the primary concern. But, yes, there are disappearances of ordinary equipment and TVs and things like that. Any big building, thousands of people, not really well guarded internally at night, things have disappeared in this building. I don't think it's any worse; it's probably less than in most large organizations because we do consider ourselves relatively honest people. But you've got, I don't know, thousands of people that work here and things disappear from time to time. DS looks at those.

But particularly when it's regarding, you know, not a television but perhaps a machine that could potentially have something on it will be of national security concern, DS looks very thoroughly or as thoroughly as possible to determine whether or not that might have occurred.

QUESTION: Are these desktop computers as well as laptop computers?

MR. BOUCHER: I think they're counting them all, yes.

QUESTION: The three machines that are missing, are they the same machines? Are they something that might be coveted by thieves? And the other question would be that this all raises, Mr. Boucher, is the question of the machine with classified information could then have been a common theft rather than a theft of intelligence information, could it not? Has that been determined?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have made quite clear that, at this point, we don't really know what exactly happened to the INR laptop. It is conceivable, you know, it went missing in a benign way - well, not a benign way because it should have been watched very carefully and accounted for. But it could have been it's gone missing; it could have been stolen for the hardware; it could have been stolen for the information on it; it could have been stolen for the hardware and now whoever's got it realizes the information may have some value. There's all sorts of permutations that are possible there.

The thing that makes the INR computer different is that it's not just a loss of government property; it's the information on it. And the information is the national security concern that we have, that the Secretary has, and the extraordinary measures, the additional measures that she wants to take with regard to security, are because classified information, national security information, has gone missing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - theft or gone missing, as you say, is not known?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know until we find it.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, you may have said this but I didn't hear it. Did you say that the Secretary ordered this inventory after she learned of the INR computer just to take account of where everything was right now? And, if so, where are we in that count? Has it been finished? Is that when this report came out, or is it possible that it's still not finished and we may know more?

MR. BOUCHER: It definitely has not been finished. It's underway. And the Secretary asked for this count to be done. It's ongoing. It's expected to take a couple weeks. So I'm not going to be able to provide additional totals and things at this point, but we will provide additional information when it's completed.

QUESTION: A few weeks ago or something in regard to the laptop?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me get that for you. I think it was a week or more ago, about a week ago.

QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary - the Department has not answered in public the suggestion by Mr. Goss yesterday in the closed doors testimony that other federal agencies might play a more prominent role in your security here. Can you tell us what the response is to his proposal?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think anything that was raised, if it was, in closed doors would be responded to in closed doors, and not here. But he said something in public. I think my - I have a brief comment that I would like to say, and that is that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is a professional security organization; it's comprised not only of special agents who conduct investigations and provide dignitary protection, but also very seasoned information and computer security specialists with many years of experience in the security, intelligence and counter-intelligence arenas.

Certainly anyone who went to the town meeting the other day with the Secretary and listened to the questions and listened to several of the questioners identify them as people who work on computer security within the Diplomatic Security Service would have been quite impressed by the level of commitment that they have to their jobs.

QUESTION: You seem to be saying you don't see any need for any external assistance or supervision; is that right?

MR. BOUCHER: What I'm saying is we firmly believe the Diplomatic Security Service is fully professional and can handle this.

QUESTION: I want to try this again. If you won't add them together, can you at least say in one sentence that there are - there is one laptop with classified information missing and two laptops with un - that were never used for classified purposes that are also missing?

MR. BOUCHER: What, you're writing my sound bites here; is that right?

QUESTION: Well, you won't say - you wouldn't say it before.

MR. BOUCHER: I've explained the situation for you. You can summarize it as you wish.

QUESTION: What is the procedure for determining who gets a laptop, how a laptop is signed out, and where the laptops are going to be kept?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look in the regulations. It may vary from bureau to bureau. There's a definite difference in the procedures between a classified machine, a machine that carries classified material, that would be much more tightly controlled and much more carefully stored, than an unclassified machine that might be assigned to an individual or assigned to an office.

And some of those procedures would exist within bureaus or within offices and probably might vary, but it's basically - you know, we don't have a whole lot of money to buy computers with and so, you know, when we do buy them we would try to get maximum use and try to make sure they are used. And we probably only buy them with a fairly decent justification. But the classified machines would be much more carefully controlled. Let me see if I can get you a generic description of how we control classified machines. Okay?

QUESTION: If there is ever a completion in symmetry, can you try and find out where the third laptop was, who it belonged to? Or rather the second of the -

MR. BOUCHER: You mean the second of the unclassified ones?

QUESTION: The second of the unclassified computers.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to find that out.

QUESTION: It seems odd that, you know, this is not available since the others, we have their origin. Strange that we --

MR. BOUCHER: The problem is that the full accounting - I mean, I don't know if I'll be able to provide that to the end. I don't want to mislead anybody into thinking that we're saying there's only two others, two unclassified machines missing. We're still in the middle of doing this inventory and it doesn't seem to me useful to sort of put out every day that we lost a beeper or that somebody on the other side of the building lost their pager or that somebody down the hall may have lost his computer, he's not sure, he's still looking for it at home.

What I'd like to do is to complete the inventory, get the numbers, get the locations, and I will record that you're very interested in locations, and then - but the chief concern, as I said, is the information, is classified information. We want to make sure that when we do the accounting of all these computers and if any are missing, that there is no classified information.

QUESTION: I think you may have just answered my question. But the inventory, it's not just for laptops, right? It's for all kinds of electronic equipment or is it for everything in the building? I mean, what, are they counting paper clips or -

MR. BOUCHER: It's not automatic pencil sharpeners. Let me see.

It's an inventory of all our laptop computers. But - an inventory of all our laptop computers is being done. But I think people have been asked to look at desktops as well, based on what people have told me. So I will double-check that.

QUESTION: So there is really not much of a chance that you are ever going to have to come in here on the basis of this and be telling us about missing pagers and staplers and things like that, right?

MR. BOUCHER: But you might ask.

QUESTION: Here's a question that you'll maybe appreciate. But since laptops, by definition, are portable, why would the State Department use laptop computers, especially the two definitely very different kinds of laptops or portable computers that are missing? There's an expert speaking here, what I know about computers. But isn't it strange that one of them was in Ward Halperin's office. This is a policy planning office. That the bugging device was found in, what, Bureau of Intelligence?

MR. BOUCHER: No, the bugging device was found in -

QUESTION: In a conference room.

MR. BOUCHER: In Oceans, Environment and Science conference room.

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. Wasn't there an intelli - all I'm saying is, is there any - what's the word - is there any -

MR. BOUCHER: -- pattern here?

QUESTION: Pattern. I mean, there don't seem to be - I guess the oceans would provide the --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, I suppose electronic technology might be the pattern; that in days of horses and buggies, we didn't lose laptops. But I think, Barry, the use of laptop computers is self-evident in that we are diplomats, we do travel the world, we do have work to do all over the place. Many of us would attend academic conferences, business conferences. You know, I would go out and work on my speeches on airplanes and go to conferences and take notes and write little reports on what various people said in entirely public settings. And there are many people, including policy planning people, who try to keep in close touch with the academic community, who would use a machine for purely unclassified reasons relating to our work in the United States and elsewhere.

QUESTION: But wasn't the laptop with classified information one that was passed around and shared by various people? That's what's - that's particularly strange.

MR. BOUCHER: I know there have been reports about the precise use of that machine, but that's not something I can get into at this point.

QUESTION: [A Senior State Department Official] kind of answered this when I asked earlier about whether you had to have a password, and he said he still felt confident, even without a password, they could get into these documents. But also on the desktop computers for classified, they have those metal boxes that you have to insert into the computer before the classified portion will work and then you lock up that metal box every night.

Does a laptop that contains classified have any kind of similar device that has to be inserted before you can access?

MR. BOUCHER: That's not something I would get into. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: And what would be the code word that you would use?

MR. BOUCHER: What's the password? Yeah.

QUESTION: As long as you're talking about inventories, is the inventory just designed to cover the building here at Main State? Is it covering annexes and is it covering embassies and overseas posts?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I don't have a precise answer to that. Before I make an assumption, let me double-check.

QUESTION: Can we ask you about another area?

MR. BOUCHER: One more.

QUESTION: There were consequences in the case of the computer with security information on it. Several people were put into different jobs. Do you expect any sort of action against the people who were involved in these two missing computers?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think we've used the word "consequences" in that regard. We said that certain people were reassigned in order to facilitate the investigation process and the investigation is ongoing. Till it's finished, I wouldn't use the word "consequences."

I think we've made clear that people who lose government property, if there's any negligence involved, they can be asked to pay for those things when it comes to unclassified machines or any other sort of government property.

QUESTION: Is there shelling in -- on Israel again?

MR. BOUCHER: Same subject. Sorry.

QUESTION: According to the press report, the very first laptop which had carried the confidential information, do you share some information on this computer is the several allies. Did you urge these countries you lost this computer?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, we're not commenting on the specifics of that particular machine. We've said as much as we can, that it does contain sensitive classified information and we're very concerned about that.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the situation - now a second day of the shelling of Northern Israel? Israel hasn't retaliated yet, but I don't think you'd be surprised, if it's kept up, if they do. Has the State Department endeavored to find out who's behind the shelling or what their motives might be? Unless you think Hezbollah guerrillas are freelancers.

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, we are, first of all, I think deeply troubled by the recent escalation of violence and we deeply regret the loss of life, injuries and the damage to civilian infrastructure on both sides. We deplore the attacks on both sides involving civilians and civilian facilities. We're in contact with all the parties. We have made clear that we think it's important for everyone to exercise maximum restraint. This is a particularly sensitive situation that could escalate out of control and that could undermine efforts to advance the peace process.

The Secretary, in fact, has been in touch with all the parties. She's sent messages. Ambassador Ross and Ambassador Indyk met with Prime Minister Barak yesterday in Tel Aviv. In Lebanon, Ambassador Satterfield has spoken with Prime Minister Hoss. The Secretary has spoken on the phone with Foreign Minister Shara of Syria. Last night, at the dinner, she talked to Ambassador Ivry of Israel about it.

So this is a situation that does concern us, and we really do regret the loss of life on both sides and urge everyone to exercise maximum restraint.

QUESTION: You also spoke of attacks on both sides. We're all very aware of the Hezbollah attacks. Which of the - the Israelis attacked Hezbollah? Which attacks are you talking about - "on both sides"?

MR. BOUCHER: Larry -- Barry - sorry --

QUESTION: I mean, this is the usual even-handed approach the State Department takes in such circumstances, but could you at least spell out the attacks that the other side has initiated that you don't like - the State Department doesn't like?

MR. BOUCHER: What we don't like is the loss of life, the injuries and the damage to civilian infrastructure.

QUESTION: But you're blaming both sides equally for attacks - and I don't mean you, I mean the people that write those pieces of paper - and I'm asking what Israeli attacks correspond to the Hezbollah attacks.

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's self-evident from the news, Barry.

QUESTION: It is? All right, and you don't - and by the way, you've made no - the State Department has made no effort to determine who's behind it or what their motive is?

MR. BOUCHER: The important thing is to get restraint, to try to stop the escalation of violence, because that can disrupt the ongoing peace efforts.

QUESTION: All right, let me try policy reaffirmation, if it's still policy. Would you still like to see Israel to unilaterally withdraw?

MR. BOUCHER: As we've made quite clear, Israel has made clear on its part that it intends to withdraw from Lebanon by July, in full accord with the UN Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426. It is cooperating with the United Nations in this effort. We think that no party should try to undermine this effort, and we would call on the parties to avoid a further escalation of violence and support the United Nations - the Secretary General, in his efforts to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426. And, obviously, we supported those resolutions and, as we've said before, we would support an Israeli withdrawal in accord with those resolutions.

QUESTION: One quick fast one. Among the things you were concerned might result is undermining the peace process. Has it so far had any impact on the peace process that's noticeable to Mr. Ross and Mr. Miller?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me bring you up to date on the efforts of Mr. Ross and Mr. Miller and, more important, the efforts of the parties themselves. The negotiators, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, held serious discussions on permanent status issues in Eilat. Both sides put a variety of issues on the table and they had serious exchanges on those ideas.

They're now going to consult with their respective leaders. Special Middle East Coordinator Ross will have discussions with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak. The negotiators will resume their talks on Sunday with US participation. They remain determined to try to narrow their differences in order to reach a framework agreement on all permanent status issues.

QUESTION: Richard, the Palestinians are saying that the talks are, once again, in crisis. Do you share that opinion?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to characterize the talks at this point. We've said they've had serious discussions so far and they will resume on Sunday.

QUESTION: At Eilat?

MR. BOUCHER: They've agreed to resume their talks, but not in the Eilat area. And I don't have anything for you on where that might be.

QUESTION: Richard, in her conversation with Mr. Shara, did the Secretary explore Syria's attitude towards the unilateral withdrawal, and did she learn anything new about how the Syrians plan to react to unilateral withdrawal if it comes about?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'm not prepared to go into any detail about her conversations. I've told you generally what our policy is, and we've been in touch with all the parties along those lines.

QUESTION: The Israeli Embassy here is saying that their cabinet has voted to call for a pause in retaliation for bombings over the border between Lebanon and Israel. Is this something that the Secretary and Ross and Indyk were pushing in their meetings with Israeli officials?

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the news and so I didn't have a chance to check. But, again, that's I think the kind of detail is exactly what we discussed that I wouldn't get into.

QUESTION: I had something on a different subject.

QUESTION: Same subject. Is there any talk about Ambassador Ross perhaps going either to Damascus or to Beirut for talks himself?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, at this point, all I have is that he's going to be meeting with Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat, so that'll keep him busy.

QUESTION: On Sierra Leone, when we discussed it the other day, you said no US troops have been asked to participate, nor do you anticipate in any way that they will. Now we're hearing some talk that US troops may at least help ferry Indian, Bangladeshi, other troops, to the area. Can you tell us if any US troops will be used in any capacity as part of the Sierra Leone mission, and in what capacity you think they might be used?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I was careful yesterday to say that we're considering a range of ways of helping the United Nations meet its goals - the UN forces there meet their goals of helping - responding to requests from the United Nations Secretary General to assist with this, but that we had not been asked to provide ground troops.

We have helped other peacekeeping operations in other ways in other places, and certainly will consider a range of possibilities for assisting these.

QUESTION: Would the possibilities include American military personnel for such things as communications and other things that you've done in the past?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, we haven't narrowed this one down yet so I can't describe to you exactly what we would do. But there is a distinction between ground troops or combat troops and other sorts of assistance that we might provide.

QUESTION: What do you make of Mr. Sankoh's statements or claims today that these UN people who are being held hostage are not actually being held hostage but actually sought refuge in his barracks and are free to go?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's a news story that I hadn't heard.

QUESTION: Well, he said it. What do you make of it?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that that's not our understanding of the situation; that's not the United Nations understanding of the situation. They have made quite clear that they consider these people detained and being held hostage. For the exact numbers, I would refer you to the United Nations. But, you know, these, as we've said, are outrageous and criminal actions. We've condemned them. We've been working through diplomatic channels with members of the Security Council and regional African leaders. We're reviewing our options on how to resolve the situation.

There is, I guess, one piece of good news; that's the UN has reported that a Russian helicopter and four crew members, as well as two civilians detained earlier this week, have been released. But there are still people that we consider in detention and hostage.

QUESTION: Do we have a hostage count now?

MR. BOUCHER: No, that's got to come from the UN; we don't.

QUESTION: A couple of Cuba-related questions. The House approved legislation to lift curbs on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba. And a follow-up on the Soviet or the Russian base when you're finished with the first one.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let me go right to the second then.

On the House vote, I think that's something we'd want to consider. I don't think we've seen the full text of the legislation yet and so we will have to look at that and get back to you with something a little more considered.

On the question of Lourdes - I can't find -

QUESTION: The missing guidance.

MR. BOUCHER: The missing guidance. What happened to it? Well, let's see how much I remember. Let me get you something for you on that, then.

QUESTION: O for 2.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we don't - let me make clear. We don't support legislation that could tie this together. This is not going to be the way to get action - to get the removal of the Soviets from Lourdes

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - what's the "this"?

MR. BOUCHER: The legislation, as I remember it. Let me go back and get you a written version of this. But, basically, we don't support the bill that's been proposed to get the Soviets out of Lourdes, the Russians out of Lourdes.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Sierra Leone for a minute?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: You say you're still considering a range of options, but the situation has gotten precipitously worse with, what, 300 now being held hostage. Kofi Annan has been asking for help. He hasn't gotten any yet. Is this making the process of considering it go faster? Are you still just thinking of options or is there some sense that you have to act quicker now?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I mean, there is a sense that the situation is very difficult at this point; that we are actively working on this. We are actively in touch with all the parties and we're trying to figure out what's the best way that we could help in this situation.

QUESTION: And is there any heightened threat to foreigners there or any embassy drawdown or thinking along those lines?

MR. BOUCHER: Have we issued a caution or not? We have one in place already that is a caution on Sierra Leone. I think that's - it's fairly strong, if I remember it.

QUESTION: You don't have anything, though, on nonessential staff being evacuated?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll double-check on that status.

QUESTION: Not just US but all --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, if we decide our nonessential personnel should leave, then we put out a public statement that tells everybody that so others can do the same.

QUESTION: Do you know how long this review of your options will take?

MR. BOUCHER: It's not just a review of our options; I mean, it's a consideration of a range of options but in consultation with the others who are very concerned about this situation, in consultation with allies, in consultation with the UN Secretary General and Security Council members, and in consultation with the Africans in the region and in consultation with the people who have forces there. So what I'm describing is not a long and slow review process. What I am describing is an active process of talking to everybody involved in the situation to work out the best way that we can all deal with it and deal with it very effectively. That's what we're doing.

QUESTION: The Secretary has made it clear that there is more of an emphasis on Africa in this Administration and she is trying to head that up. And the President has called on us to be more engaged in Africa. So if the UN is now looking to Europe to be more involved in this dispute, why would the US not consider helping out in some way with ground troops?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we will consider helping out in a range of different ways. In many of these operations, we've done different things. We might consider logistical, equipment support, communications, other things that we've done elsewhere. I think we have certain capabilities that we try to contribute that maybe others don't have.

QUESTION: But we are absolutely ruling out at any point in time sending in ground troops?

MR. BOUCHER: I said we haven't - I mean, it's not an operative question at this moment. We haven't had a request, a formal request, for ground troops. We don't anticipate getting one.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - choose a new president today. Do you have any reaction on the subject?

MR. BOUCHER: A brief one. We congratulate President-Elect Sezer on his victory in the vote in the Turkish parliament today for a new president of the Republic of Turkey. We look forward to working with Mr. Sezer on the same friendly and cooperative basis that we have done throughout President Demirel's distinguished seven-year tenure.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on an article in India Globe or any details on a US Embassy employee in Delhi was sentenced to prison in Alexandria for taking bribes from visa applicants in Delhi? Now, this practice goes on on a regular basis in India and Pakistan; that many applicants, many people come in the US by bribing the local or the US embassy employees.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, among the many responsibilities of the Diplomatic Security Service is to ensure that it doesn't go on. And, frankly, it doesn't go on very often. And if we catch somebody doing it, we arrest them, we throw them in jail and we punish them - we prosecute and punish them. It is a very serious matter for us and we occasionally have had cases where people have been caught accepting bribes. But I really can't accept any sort of characterization that says that this is any kind of common practice. It is a very unusual occurrence and one that is punished severely.

QUESTION: Two things on the Secretary's speech this morning. The first is, why weren't we told about this in advance? I mean, it was very nice to get the transcript but, I mean, it was not on any schedule. That's one.

And, two, at the very end of it she mentioned something which seems to have escaped me, that the US has recently introduced a proposal to overcome concern about the International Criminal Court and that it was a procedural fix. I'm wondering if you can explain what this is?

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the speech, the Secretary explains it.

QUESTION: She doesn't say what the procedural fix would - could be. But she is unusually frank about talking about a shift in policy.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the speech in front of me but I believe there are - there is a sentence about --

QUESTION: "We are seeking a procedural fix that is consistent," blah, blah, blah.

MR. BOUCHER: Shift in policy so that even as a nonparty for the foreseeable future, the United States would be able to assist the court in ways similar to our support for Yugoslav and Rwanda tribunals. That's the purpose of the fix that we're looking for.

QUESTION: What is it?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I'm in a position to go into that. I'll find out for you.

QUESTION: Another subject. Can you tell us why the State Department revoked the visa of Ishaq Farhan, a prominent Jordanian? And, also, why they didn't inform him that they had revoked it, causing him great inconvenience?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you pointed out, there are two issues here. And, first of all, I want to make quite clear that Ambassador Burns has expressed our regret to Dr. Farhan for the Embassy's failure to notify him that his visa had been revoked. We are reviewing our procedures to preclude any similar incidents in the future.

The issue of notifying him was clearly a mistake that we made and that we should have notified him that his visa had been revoked. At this point as well, whether he is eligible for a visa, whether the revocation itself is also under review, but that's still under review so I don't have any final outcome on the rationale.

QUESTION: You haven't said why it was revoked in the first place.

MR. BOUCHER: No, there is a point at which we are not able to talk about individual cases, but I can say that we are reviewing it.

QUESTION: This is a prominent politician. He is a member of the Jordanian parliament, as well.

MR. BOUCHER: We recognize that.

QUESTION: So, I mean, is it - it seems - it's basically in the public arena. Do you have any evidence against this guy that he's done something that you don't approve of?

MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I think the question of the revocation itself is under review and it's something we're still looking at. We don't have any results from that yet.

QUESTION: Is it possible that that was a mistake, too?

MR. BOUCHER: It's under review.

QUESTION: Do you know when it was revoked?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know exactly when it was revoked. I think the key point with regard to the revocation is he was never told about it that it was revoked so he was not in a position to know, and we regret that.

QUESTION: Just one more on this. Is the US going to compensate him for his - the fact that he had to buy an extremely expensive one-way ticket back home after not being informed that he wasn't allowed in?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware that that is the usual practice.

QUESTION: You don't take responsibility for your mistakes?

MR. BOUCHER: You know, I can give you a long explanation of a visa law and what a visa is and what it provides, and the fact that it only gets you as far as the border and then you have to be admitted. But, in the end, what's important here is we did make a mistake and we regret that we did. We said so.

QUESTION: Can I go back for a minute, please? Perhaps earlier this week you've recapped things, but can you update us at all on visas, the length of stay of the playmates, whether anything has changed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, any visits by Cuban officials to Wye, or requests for that kind of visit?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, I don't have any new visas. I've got, as we've known, visits down to Wye by people from the Cuban Interest Section. I think I talked the other day about last weekend when minor children and families visited. I think minor children and families also visited on the first day. And, generally, there's been about - they've been sending about two people down to Wye every day.

QUESTION: Two people every day?

MR. BOUCHER: Most every day.

QUESTION: And do you have visits again this weekend by children and families?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know at that point. They have to notify us 72 hours in advance if they're traveling more than 25 miles from the White House. But if they want to travel in less than 72 hours, they can get our approval. So I wouldn't be able to give you a full answer on the weekend yet.

QUESTION: I might have misunderstood. Asking 72 hours in advance is an automatic approval or does that still go through the process of -

MR. BOUCHER: They have to notify us 72 hours in advance -

QUESTION: But not ask for -

MR. BOUCHER: If they want to travel with less than 72 hours, they have to ask. So there is a difference, yes.

QUESTION: And they are automatically approved with the 72-hour advance --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it's notification, so it's not approval.

QUESTION: Are you planning to extend the visas of the Cuban playmates?

MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that they were allowed entry for two weeks and that's where we are. I haven't heard of any extensions.

QUESTION: Have they asked to extend?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard of any extensions, any way, one way or the other.

QUESTION: We were told at one point that they would not be extended. So that is still a possibility, that they could be extended?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not trying to open that possibility. They were allowed in for two weeks and that's what we expect to happen.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on the same matter. Yesterday, Ms. Reno stated - in fact, invited - John Gonzalez to come to be a resident of this country, bringing his son into this country. Would the State Department be receptive to whatever validation, visa-wise, that it would require to make such an invitation?

MR. BOUCHER: It's absolutely not a matter within our jurisdiction. We don't issue visas to people inside the United States. They're here; they deal with the Immigration Service and the Department of Justice. It has nothing to do with us.

QUESTION: Mr. Fischer from Germany will be in town next week speaking with the Secretary. Can you give us any sort of preview as to what they will be discussing or what you expect from that meeting?

MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't planned on it so I didn't try to do a thorough search. But there are certainly an awful lot of issues that we have coming up with the Germans. We have NATO meetings coming up, the Balkans is also an area of concern, the President is going to Germany. So there are tons of things to discuss.

QUESTION: On a somewhat related subject, there are some reports that the US and Europe are at loggerheads again over the issue of a new president for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Can you give us any insight on that and what role the US might actually - has traditionally played or seeks to play in this election this time?

MR. BOUCHER: No. That's one of those issues where it's up to the Treasury Department not to comment. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On Russia, do you have any comments ahead of Putin's inauguration on Sunday and also this leaked document - supposedly leaked document which supposedly says that he plans to centralize power and become more authoritarian and enlist his former buddies at the intelligence agency in high positions?

MR. BOUCHER: On the inauguration on Sunday, certainly our congratulations when he was elected apply as much to his inauguration, and I'm sure will say the appropriate thing at the time.

As far as this - as you characterized it, I think quite correctly, this leaked document that allegedly says something, we have seen the press reports on this alleged plan to restructure presidential administration. We are not in a position to judge the authenticity of the document or say it reflects the thinking of the senior Russian leadership. Clearly, our view has always been that development of a democratic and pluralistic society in Russia based on the rule of law is very important to Russia's development and that's been one of our key objectives.

We've discussed this issue in general terms before. The Secretary has said that the challenge is to restore order and stability and development in Russia, order with a small "o" and not recreate the big "O" sort of Order that they had before. But, in the end, whatever the documents purportedly allegedly leaked have to say, we're going to be judging the Russian leadership by its actions and by our ability to cooperate and pursue that broader goal of developing a stable relationship and democratic, pluralistic societies.

QUESTION: Will there be somebody representing the President there? Or is this the wrong building for that?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: At the inauguration, will there be somebody there representing the US?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't have any information on that yet. I think the White House will be the one to put that out.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I wanted to stay on Dr. Farhan and we got off it for a second. He says he came to the country on Tuesday, a quick turnaround, and on Thursday the Jordanian foreign minister told him that he had asked Ambassador Burns for an explanation. So can you brief us on - and no mention of Ambassador Burns' apology. When did Ambassador Burns apologize, why did he apologize, and in what manner?

MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that Ambassador Burns called Farhan today and talked to him.

QUESTION: Wait a second. If he called him today, how did the New York Times report that he had said his regret in this morning's paper.

QUESTION: It did?

QUESTION: Yeah, it did.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check if they talked before or if they had it maybe conveyed in other ways and not - maybe it didn't get through on the phone and had somebody else convey it.

QUESTION: But its your understanding that whatever apology was issued was only an apology for not notifying him; it was not an apology for revoking his visa?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I mean, clearly the mistake that was made was that he didn't know and therefore he got on an airplane. If he had known, he would not have gotten on the airplane.

QUESTION: But some people say it's a mistake to revoke the visa of someone who is considered to be somewhat of a moderate within his party?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I know. But that question is still under review, is whether the revocation itself has to be looked at again. And that's under review.

QUESTION: Who would be responsible for such a revocation? Is there somebody who goes through lists of people who have five-year multiple entry visas and says, oh, we don't like this guy, let's strike him off the list? How would it come about?

MR. BOUCHER: Is there a visa revocation officer that sits there somewhere going through lists of people? I think it - you know, obviously, we follow all available information that we can that might lead to ineligibility of someone for a visa. If we were to find information that led us to think that someone who had a visa was, in fact, ineligible then we might - we would revoke the visa and obviously try to notify the person. What's clear in this case is that we did not notify him, and we regret that.

Whether the revocation, the ineligibility itself, was handled properly is something that we're reviewing the ineligibility to make sure it applies.

QUESTION: What level did he get to before he was put back on the plane? How high of a ranking official was notified? Or was it simply the INS guy at the airport?

MR. BOUCHER: I think you would have to ask INS about that. I am not aware that we were involved.

Okay, thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 P.M.)


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