U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #54, 00-06-06
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Tuesday, June 6, 2000
Briefer: PHILIP REEKER_
1 Notice on Opening Ceremony of the Digital Mapping Exposition
1 Senator Gregg on Release of Funds for UN Operations in Sierra Leone
1-2 Foday Sankoh and Role in Peace Process
2 British Proposal to Ban Diamond Trade
3 Status of the Lome Peace Agreement
4 US Consideration of Requests for Logistical Support to UN and
4-6 National Commission on Terrorism Report
4-5 Report's Recommendation for Sanctions on Greece and Pakistan
6 President Putin's Proposal on Anti-Missile Shield
IRAN / IRAQ
6-7,11 Iran's Reopening of Waterways/Potential for Iraqi Smuggling
7,15 Reported Iranian Defector
7-8 OAS Meeting in Windsor / Resolution by OAS General Assembly on Peru
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
8 Secretary's Travel in the Region/Meetings with Prime Minister Barak
and Chairman Arafat
8-9 Chairman Arafat Acceptance of President Clinton's
Invitation/Expected June 14 in Washington
SERBIA / MONTENEGRO
9-10 Serbia Claims US Diplomats Behind Zugic Assassination
10-11 Update on Situation in Fiji
11-12 Reported Bounty Offered by Mexican Advocacy Group for Killing of US
Border Patrol Agents
12-15 Ambassadorial Appointments and Security Issues
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JUNE 6, 2000, 2:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Just one notice. I think you all received in paper a notice
regarding the opening ceremony for the Digital Mapping Exposition. That
ceremony will take place Thursday, June 8th, at 11 o'clock in our Exhibit
Hall here in the Department. I encourage you all to attend that.
With that simple notice out of the way and my usual caveat that there are
traveling parties -- or, in this case, the Secretary remains traveling in
the Middle East -- and I would obviously defer to her on those issues, Mr.
Gedda, I'd be happy to take your question.
QUESTION: Senator Gregg has released $50 million of funds for UN
operations in Sierra Leone. He says the reason he did it is because the US
has changed its policy toward Foday Sankoh and his group. Do you have any
MR. REEKER: Yes. First of all, I saw those statements and we do want to
welcome very much Senator Gregg's statement on the floor of the Senate made
just a short time ago and welcome this positive development. We look
forward to the removal of the remaining holds, and particularly for this
one. This will allow us to help invigorate the UN process there in Sierra
Leone, which we've discussed at great length over the days.
I think in regards to Foday Sankoh, we discussed yesterday the fact that
the Lome Peace Agreement had offered Sankoh a window of opportunity to
participate politically in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of his
country and to help bring peace to all the people of Sierra Leone. He
completely wasted that opportunity and, as Senator Gregg noted, as
Ambassador Holbrooke and the Secretary have noted, the United States does
not believe that Foday Sankoh should play any role whatsoever in the future
political process in Sierra Leone.
Through our contacts with the Sierra Leone Government, the regional states,
and at the United Nations, the US is seeking to help reinforce, as I noted,
the UN force in Sierra Leone, to restore the cease-fire there and return to
the implementation of a credible peace process. That's what we're going to
be working towards, and again we very much welcome Senator Gregg's comments
and these developments. The Secretary and Ambassador Holbrooke have worked
very closely with the Senator to move this ahead.
QUESTION: So you're suggesting there was no shift in position on the
MR. REEKER: I think I've said for quite a while here that Foday Sankoh
had squandered an opportunity that was presented by the Lome Accords, which
were signed by his Revoluntionary United Front, by the Government of Sierra
Leone as a method, as a peace process to resolve the crisis in Sierra
Leone. He had an opportunity; that opportunity is squandered; he is now in
the custody of the Sierra Leone government.
The US believes very much, as I've said before, that there must be both
peace and justice in Sierra Leone, and that means that there should be
accountability. We will support the people and Government of Sierra Leone
in their efforts to bring Sankoh to justice. I said that yesterday, and I
noted that any crimes committed by the Revolutionary United Front since the
Lome Peace Agreement was signed last July are not covered by the domestic
amnesty, and we are very much in consultation with the government of Sierra
Leone, with the regional states at the UN, and with other countries in the
international community, United Kingdom for example, to review the possible
steps to bring the perpetrators of any crime to justice.
QUESTION: Is the US going to get behind the British proposal to ban all
diamond trade except those certified by the government?
MR. REEKER: We have consistently supported international efforts to ban
trafficking in what we call "conflict diamonds" from Africa. In fact, I
think we recently put out a fact sheet regarding US efforts in that
direction -- yes, May 23rd -- and I would refer you to that for a lot of
detail. We have worked very closely with Congress, with the United Nations,
with the diamond industry, and the British on ways to eliminate illegal
diamond sales from Sierra Leone, and other countries on the continent.
We're going to need to review, of course, the British proposal that I've
read the reports on today, but we're very much prepared to support any
effective measure to reduce the diamond smuggling that fuels the arms
trafficking and brings so much suffering and tragedy to countries like
QUESTION: Phil, has President Kabbah or anyone inside Sierra Leone gone
on the record saying that they would not and could not ever see Foday
Sankoh as a part other the government again?
MR. REEKER: I don't have an exact readout of their governmental
statements. I think I've told you very much what our position is. We've
discussed that over the days and the weeks here. As the Senator stated on
the floor of the Senate today, he's been in contact with Ambassador
Holbrooke and Secretary Albright, and I think we've made that quite
QUESTION: The reason I ask is, if I remember correctly, you've been
saying for the last couple of weeks that the US didn't feel it was its
position to tell the people of Sierra Leone whether or not Foday Sankoh
could be a part of the government; it was up for them to decide. I'm just
wondering why it is that the US is making a pronouncement on Mr. Sankoh's
MR. REEKER: I think it was very clear, and it's been reflected certainly
in Freetown, that the opportunity Sankoh had to try to participate
constructively through the Lome framework that was worked out by the
parties there in Sierra Leone as a solution to the tragedy there, that he
failed miserably in that, and he is now in custody. The determination of
his fate is something that will be dealt with by the Sierra Leone
Government, and I think our statements stand very much for that.
We continue to talk with the UN, with the British, and of course others in
the international community and certainly in the region about further steps
to strengthen the UN mission and the peace process in Sierra Leone.
QUESTION: What's the status of the Lome Peace Accord?
MR. REEKER: I think we're continuing to talk. We expect the UN Security
Council to take up the question in the course of discussion on the
Secretary General's fourth regular report on Sierra Leone, which was issued
a couple of weeks ago on May 22nd. I don't think any decisions have been
made or taken in terms of a change in the current mandate, but that's what
will be looked at and discussed at the United Nations. And that's what we
continue to be very much involved in talking to the groups that I mentioned,
particularly the democratically elected government of Sierra Leone, the
countries in the region who have been actively involved, and others in the
international community through the UN rubric.
QUESTION: But what is the US position on the Lome Accord? Do you feel
it's still valid?
MR. REEKER: We are working to have an invigorated peace process. That
accord is something that was signed less than a year ago to bring peace to
a terrible situation. It was an attempt to move ahead after a cease-fire
had been reached to bring the people of Sierra Leone the peace and the
opportunity they have, what they deserve to have -- hope to rebuild their
lives. That's what we want to see. That's the framework we want to work
with -- again, as I said -- working with the Government of Sierra Leone,
invigorating a UN mission, which is very much a part of that process, and
working with others in the international community to see that we can do
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but would peace have to take place under the
framework or within the framework of the Lome peace accord?
MR. REEKER: I think the Lome accord provided a very good structure for
that. Decisions on changing or reworking aspects of that will be made in
the context of decisions made by the Sierra Leone Government, in working in
the United Nations, and with the regional actors playing a very important
role in supporting that. And that's what we just have to let evolve over
QUESTION: And on Sierra Leone still, a lot was said about the US
providing logistical support to this invigorated UN mission, or in the
process of invigorating it. Where are we on that?
MR. REEKER: I think what I just said. We're discussing very much with the
United Nations, with regional countries. No decisions have been made. The
President made available $20 million -- we discussed that some time ago --
to support that where we can offer assistance through logistics, lift, but
right now there are no decisions final. We're still studying what steps
will be taken to invigorate the UN force there. As I said, the General
Assembly is expected to take this up -- or the Security Council -- I'm
sorry -- is going to take up this question in the course of their
QUESTION: Does that mean none of that money has been spent yet? It hasn't
been decided where that money will be used?
MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to the Defense Department to see
specifics on that particular money, but I don't think any decisions have
been made. We're very pleased, as I noted, that the hold has been lifted on
the peacekeeping funding. That's vitally important so that we can make our
contribution to the UN peacekeeping mission which is so crucial for Sierra
Leone and allows us to use our funding with a multiplier effect internationally
to invigorate that mission.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the National Commission on
Terrorism has issued a report and recommending that there should be
sanctions against Pakistan and Greece? And also this Department is in touch
with the Pakistani and those governments?
MR. REEKER: Obviously, you weren't here yesterday because we went through
that at great length, so I would refer you to the transcript of yesterday's
briefing, which we would be happy to provide for you.
QUESTION: The report was issued today.
MR. REEKER: The report was issued yesterday, Monday. It was given to
Congress. We can try to help you get a copy, if that would help. We're
looking at that report. I think we participated as much as we could to help
that Commission in terms of supporting their six-month review of US counter-
terrorism policy and facilitated their work. Under Secretary Pickering,
Ambassador Sheehan and others met many times with that commission.
So the report deserves careful study, and we're not going to have any
particular responses immediately to it, or to any specific recommendations;
however, I also yesterday referred people to the Secretary, who spoke to it
Sunday. Secretary Albright spoke from Moscow, saying that the Administration
is not considering sanctions against Greece or Pakistan.
QUESTION: And nor anybody in touch with the Pakistani authorities from
MR. REEKER: I think we've had regular contact with Pakistan authorities --
QUESTION: No, on this report.
MR. REEKER: Under Secretary Pickering was recently in Pakistan, and we
discuss these issues regularly.
QUESTION: On the same subject, have you received any reaction from Greece
on that report since yesterday?
MR. REEKER: I'm not aware of any formal reaction from the Greek
Government. I spoke to great length about our concerns about terrorism
involving Greece and the work we're doing there to facilitate attention to
that, and the history of some of the problems in terms of attacks against
American businesses, American individuals, five embassy employees who had
been assassinated in Athens since 1975, and serious concerns that we've had
for over two decades about terrorist attacks against American interests in
But we're working very closely with the Greeks on that subject. Ambassador
Burns has a very effective working relationship with the Minister of Public
Order, and with the Greek police, and that's where we're going to
concentrate our efforts, on quiet cooperation with the Greek Government, to
address and counter these terrorism issues.
QUESTION: You did not speak at length, however, about your contacts with
the Pakistanis on this report, and I am wondering if the fact of a military
government being there makes it more difficult for you to have talks with
the government and to have some effect on the government, trying to
accomplish what you want to accomplish.
MR. REEKER: Our discussions with Pakistan on terrorism issues have been
ongoing for many, many years, and I think we discussed just last week Under
Secretary Pickering's recent visit there to discuss issues -- broad issues
related to South Asia, but also specifically on terrorism issues.
In terms of this specific report, which let me remind you is not a State
Department or US Government report -- it's a report of an independent
commission -- I'm not aware of specific talks that we've had on that. The
report stands for itself. We think it's a very important document that
we'll be looking at closely, but we also have our annual report on
terrorism, which was released just a few weeks ago, and which addresses
issues concerning Pakistan as well.
QUESTION: But does the government there complicate your efforts to
accomplish your anti-terrorism goals with Pakistan?
MR. REEKER: I think we continue to have a vigorous discussion with
Pakistan, both in Islamabad, through our embassy there, and visits by high
level officials, and here in Washington through their embassy here. And
that's what we will continue to work at, because our goal is to solve the
terrorism problem in all of its aspects around the world and countries
where we need to work to improve the situation regarding terrorism.
QUESTION: Just a coincidence, just a follow-up, the coincidence last week
Usama Bin Laden, the greatest terrorist on this earth today, and wanted by
the US and $5 million or more reward. He had changed, as I said last week
also, his bodyguards replaced from Saudi to --
MR. REEKER: You raised that last week, and I think I told you then I have
no information about that.
QUESTION: With Pakistani militants, it's coincident with the report.
MR. REEKER: I'm not aware of the reports that you're referring to.
QUESTION: Another region?
MR. REEKER: Switching regions, okay.
QUESTION: What is your position on the proposal from the Russian
President Vladimir Putin yesterday in Rome, who said that Europe should set
up it's own anti-missile shield, with participation from NATO and the
MR. REEKER: Let me refer you again over to the White House where the
traveling party has just returned late last night. I believe Mr. Lockhart
was briefing today, for reactions and readouts of the trip. As I did
yesterday, I just need to defer to them in terms of that.
I do know that Defense Secretary Cohen is expected to travel to Moscow as a
follow-up. I'm sure we'll be discussing those issues and reviewing those
with Russian counterparts when he's there. And I refer you to the
Department of Defense; it might be addressing that as well.
QUESTION: If I can move on to another country, Iran. I wondered what you
had to say about
-- I know the Defense Department has already spoken about this, but I
wondered what the implications might be for relations in general with Iran
given that there's been this surge of ships, suggesting they've been
MR. REEKER: You're correct that my colleagues at the Defense Department
were addressing that. I've spoken to them about it. We are aware that
vessels are again departing the Shatt al-Arab River which runs between Iraq
and Iran, but we are not sure exactly what the Iranian role is.
As I think is no surprise here, Iraq has long used Iranian territorial
waters to smuggle illegal gasoil which funds, among other things, terrorist
activity directed against Iran. So it's in the interest of all the states
in the region to do what they can to prevent this illegal smuggling
activity. That smuggling, of course, is contrary to UN Security Council
resolutions which enforce that. So we would consider any renewed Iranian
support for Iraqi gasoil smuggling a negative development, which is
certainly not in the interests of any of the states in the Gulf region.
QUESTION: I have read what you said yesterday about the Iranian defector,
and I'm just wondering if you have anything new to add.
MR. REEKER: I have nothing new to add to that.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to the National Council of Resistance
of Iran which said this morning in some very detailed allegations against
named individuals who they say were involved in the Lockerbie bombing?
MR. REEKER: I haven't seen their reports. I have nothing to add on that
QUESTION: Five days ago, you were saying (inaudible) as vigorous a
response as possible to
-- by the OAS to the alleged election fraud in Peru. And the OAS took
action yesterday, which seemed to be kind of tame.
MR. REEKER: In fact, George, I'd refer you to the statement issued by our
delegation yesterday in Windsor. As indicated in that statement, we very
much welcome what was in fact a strong consensus of approval for the
resolution by the OAS General Assembly. We believe that the mission that
will now be led by the OAS Secretary General and the Canadian Foreign
Minister, Mr. Axworthy, is a very important and timely response to the
developments in Peru. In fact, we're very pleased that through the regional
structure of the OAS, the hemisphere has demonstrated its commitment to
democracy by adopting a resolution that, as I said, had extremely strong
consensus and that, in fact, Peru accepted this resolution and the mission
which will travel immediately to Peru.
So we are calling upon Peru to fulfill its commitments. It was reiterated
yesterday -- those commitments. And they need to strengthen democratic
institutions there. This is a long-standing pledge in Peru, going back to
the remarks that President Fujimori made at the OAS back in 1992. And we'll
be watching very closely, as Under Secretary Pickering said, along with
others in the region how the Government of Peru will meet its commitments
under the OAS resolution.
QUESTION: The impression certainly was left that you wanted more than a
mission to Peru in the background comments that some of us heard last week.
This looks like a carbon copy of what happened in 1989 with Noriega.
MR. REEKER: I think right how this is a very appropriate next step. As we
said last week, we were going to take this one step at a time and try to
follow the appropriate steps. We wanted to consult with our partners in the
region. That's what we've done, first on Wednesday at a special session,
and then took it up at the ministerial level. At the General Assembly
meeting in Windsor there was a resolution that was passed with very strong
consensus, and now we look forward to a successful mission. We're prepared
to assist that mission in any way we can.
As we've said all along, and I think everyone has made very clear -- and
Ambassador Pickering reiterated last night -- we reserve the right, as
always, to draw our own conclusion and to take our own actions, as
appropriate, in response to the degree of progress actually made by the
government of Peru. But what remains now is to see that this mission can go
with two very fine diplomats to Peru and do exactly what the resolution
called for: to explore with the Government of Peru and other sectors in the
political community options and recommendations. And then we will consider
those at the appropriate time.
QUESTION: Did you already cover the Middle East peace? I walked in late.
I'm just curious because --
MR. REEKER: Are we done with Peru? Okay. Middle East peace is really, as
I indicated, with the traveling party.
QUESTION: But those of us who are traveling to this building every day in
a dedicated attempt to still monitor from here what's going on with the
traveling party, can you just give me any information?
MR. REEKER: From the reports you've seen and the reports I've had from
the party during their meetings with Secretary Albright, Prime Minister
Barak and Chairman Arafat reiterated their commitment to working to narrow
gaps and reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on permanent status.
I think the important news, which the Secretary announced this morning, was
that Chairman Arafat has accepted the President's invitation to a meeting.
We expect him here in Washington June 14th. That would be next Wednesday.
And we understand that negotiations will resume early next week in the
Washington region, again trying to move forward to narrow gaps on reaching
But for, really, any more details I'd want to refer you out to the
QUESTION: I'm not looking for details. I'm must looking for an explanation
of what it meant by this summit that is being touted.
MR. REEKER: If, by that, you mean what we said for a long time, that the
President is prepared to host a summit with the leaders if there is a
proper basis for such a meeting, the Secretary has noted that again that we
need to make sure the conditions are right for such a meeting. So there's
nothing to announce in that direction.
What has developed today was the fact that Chairman Arafat accepted the
President's invitation and will be coming to Washington next week and that
negotiations in the region, the Washington region, will resume sometime
next week as well.
QUESTION: So Arafat's acceptance is the only new thing? Because we
already knew he was coming. I mean, it was already something that --
MR. REEKER: The President had extended an invitation to him, and the
Secretary announced this morning that he has accepted that invitation and
will be coming on the 14th. So if you're looking for more detail from the
talks and then from tomorrow when the Secretary will visit Egypt on her way
home, I'd refer you to the traveling party.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, there is no plan -- this same ongoing
discussion of a possible summit? There is just suggestions from the wire
reports coming out of the area that there is something new to the summit in
terms of --
MR. REEKER: I think the position on the summit in so much as the
President has said for a long time that he would -- he is prepared to host
a summit with the leaders if the basis for such a meeting is proper and
that the conditions are right for that meeting. So that remains to be
QUESTION: I was just going to ask, do you presume them to be Bolling-
MR. REEKER: I don't have any indication of exactly how those talks will
work. There may be something more you can get from the party on that.
QUESTION: New subject. The Yugoslav Government today, there were some
officials that held a press conference accusing the CIA of involvement in
the death of President Djukanovic's security advisor. And they apparently
put forward -- in fact, they e-mailed to all kinds of people -- what they
say are audio intercepts. And they have a couple of US diplomats that they
And I'm just wondering if -- first of all, what's the State Department's
response to this?
MR. REEKER: Let me just say that these claims are absurd, completely
false, and I'll remind you that the same spokesman who is making these
claims is the Serbian official who says that Serbia is now a greater nation
than it was ten years ago, which I think gives you a certain amount of
indication of the type of statements he can make. Suggestions from him that
Milosevic is a constitutional leader or that there's no corruption in the
Serbian Government are right up there with the false statements and the
absurdities that he's made again today.
QUESTION: They named two US diplomats, and I'll just read the names to
you. And I don't know if you're able to confirm whether or not, in fact,
they even work at these embassies. But one is Shaun Byrnes, who they say is
MR. REEKER: I've seen the reports, Andrea. I've seen the same things that
QUESTION: Okay, and Gabriel Escobar.
MR. REEKER: We have a number of US Government officials who maintain
regular contact with the highest levels of the Montenegrin government.
Their role is to work with that government, and with NGOs to advance
Montenegrin democratic evolution. And we work very vigorously in the region,
as you know, to promote democracy, support democratic development in line
with our policy, and the integration into Euro-Atlantic mainstream of the
countries of the region.
So we have regular contacts with individuals in the region that are working
and pushing for democratic change, and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: But can you tell us whether or not Shaun Byrnes and Gabriel
Escobar are assigned to those --
MR. REEKER: I don't have readouts of who's assigned where to missions in
the region. As you know, I spent a lot of time in the region myself, and
all of us that worked in that region, and continue to work in that region
are very much dedicated to working with democratic forces and trying to
help the people of that region reach the legitimate aspirations that they
have: to have a democratic structure, and join the Euro-Atlantic mainstream.
QUESTION: Could you at least find out whether or not these individuals
work at those embassies, if they are posted overseas?
MR. REEKER: I'd be happy to talk to you afterwards and look into it but,
again, these charges are absurd in the extreme, absolutely false, and
typical of the type of statement that we see coming out of individuals like
the person that issued those statements.
QUESTION: New subject.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: Any update on Fiji after the Department issued a travel warning
for Americans in the region?
MR. REEKER: We've talked about Fiji fairly regularly over the period, but
we didn't cover it yesterday. I don't have anything particularly new to
report, because developments there I don't think are particularly new. We
remain very concerned about the situation. The hostage situation is truly
intolerable, and remains unresolved, despite some of the earlier reports
that agreements might have been reached to end that.
We repeat our calls for immediate and unconditional release of all the
hostages involved in the situation there, and a return to constitutional
government. We, as you know, strongly oppose overthrow of democratically
elected governments by force. As you noted, we do have a travel warning for
Fiji, which was put out again on the 2nd of June, which urges citizens to
defer any non-essential travel to Fiji because of the continued uncertainty
and instability in that country.
QUESTION: If anybody is in touch from here, or from the US Embassy with
the military leader, directly or indirectly, about these sanctions or
ending the hostage crisis?
MR. REEKER: Well as you know, our Ambassador remains in Fiji with a small
staff. He has met with a number of prominent persons in Fiji, including
Ratu Mara, who was the president, with the Secretary of the Great Council
of Chiefs, with the former Prime Minister Rabuka, and with the head of the
armed forces to express, as I've done from here, our concern about the
situation, and our call for a release of those hostages, and for a return
to constitutional rule.
He's urged all of them to assist in securing the immediate and, as I said,
unconditional release of all persons being held hostage. He has not met
with George Speight, or with any of the other hostage-takers.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran for a minute? You said that it would be a
very negative development if there was an upsurge in these shipments. Would
you go as far as to say that the United States would consider reversing its
lifting of the sanctions against the those -- the carpets --
MR. REEKER: I think it would be premature to characterize anything beyond
what I said already, which was that we would consider any renewed Iranian
support for Iraqi gasoil smuggling as a negative development. It's really
in the interests of all the states of the Gulf region, including Iran, to
comply with the UN Security Council resolutions. And, of course, the
Maritime Interdiction Force will continue to monitor, inspect and interdict
as appropriate in the Gulf.
QUESTION: On Mexico, I'm wondering if the State Department has any
response to the fact that a Mexican citizens group, let's see if I have the
name, the Citizens Defense Committee, has placed a bounty of $10,000 on US
Border Patrol Agents?
MR. REEKER: We are aware of the media reports that Carlos Ibarra Perez,
who heads a local advocacy group in Reynosa, Mexico, has offered a $10,000
bounty to anyone who kills a US Border Patrol Agent. We take such threats
extremely seriously, and we certainly welcome the Mexican Embassy's recent
statements to the press, condemning this outrageous statement and offer as
an irresponsible and an intolerable provocation.
We understand that US law enforcement agencies are looking into the matter.
We are very much committed to working with the Mexican authorities to
promote border safety, and I think that was talked about a great deal at
our recent conference here in the State Department. This matter may be
raised as part of a broader discussion of border issues at a meeting of the
Lower Rio Grande Border Liaison Mechanism which is scheduled for June
QUESTION: Okay, has anyone here at the Department spoken with anyone
either at the Mexican Embassy here, or in our US Embassy over in Mexico?
MR. REEKER: I don't have specific readouts on talks. We have discussions
everyday with our Mexican colleagues here in Washington, and certainly in
Mexico City, and obviously we have a continuous dialogue with our own
embassy in Mexico City, but I can't give you a readout of specific things.
However, I did note -- and we all noted -- the strong statements that were
recently issued by the Mexican Embassy on this very issue, and we welcome
those statements and stand firmly with our Mexican colleges on those
QUESTION: Perhaps to balance out Senator Gregg coming around on the
peacekeeping funds, other senators are determined to raise the issue of
ambassador nominations of people who have security violations on their
personnel records, with some senators on the Foreign Relations committee
saying they're going to hold up these nominations. You know they've been
held up before for other reasons, but I think perhaps security violations
may be -- it's the first time that these have come up in these hearings.
How seriously does the State Department view this, both from the point of
getting their ambassador nominees through, and from the fact that people
who do have security violations on their record are being promoted?
MR. REEKER: As you know, because we've discussed it at great length, and
the Secretary herself has spoken to it at a variety of platforms, she is
firmly committed to supporting the very highest standards of security
awareness and practices in the Department, and at our missions overseas. In
terms of ambassadorial nominees and the nomination process, prior to
recommending any career officers for chief of mission or ambassadorial
appointments, the Department reviews a range of factors in determining a
candidate's suitability, and that includes checks with the Office of
Security, personnel files obviously, with the Inspector General, with the
Legal Advisor, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
Candidates undergo a rigorous, full field security investigation, and
financial disclosure review, and the majority, I think, of security
violations are incidents that were received by some of the career nominees
who are currently awaiting Senate confirmation, occurred many years ago.
These are often senior officers who have been in the Foreign Service for
Officers certainly receive security warnings, counseling, briefings by
Diplomatic Security when there are issues of concern. We take this very
seriously, and as you know, we're undertaking a number of measures to
further enhance security in the Department, and at our posts overseas, and
in fact as the Secretary announced, she has specifically directed the
incoming Director General of the Foreign Service to weigh security factors
in all personnel decisions and nominations and promotions.
I think one of the important things to look at in terms of context for this
is the term "violation," which we all in the Foreign Service use as a sort
of catch-all word, and can be mis-used to categorize every type of security
incident. Our program on security incidents, which results in these
violations, in fact reflects I think the seriousness with which we take
security here in the Department, and at all of our missions overseas, and
is a program which demonstrates the strong backups that we have to monitor
classified and sensitive information, and to maintain a program that
provides for strong security of all the material and information we use
So security violations can occur when classified information is not
properly safeguarded, or could lead to possible compromise overseas or
domestically. We have security infractions which may occur when materials
are not properly safeguarded, but have not led to a possible compromise of
I can't go in to specific nominees or information that I don't have, and
this often relates to personnel files, and Privacy Act information, but I
can reiterate what the Secretary has said many times, and we've discussed
here is that she and all of us take security extremely seriously, and are
firmly committed to supporting the highest standards of security, here and
abroad at our missions. It's ultimately important, and we are taking a
number of steps, a number of measures which we've discussed to further
enhance security here in the Department and abroad, and we'll continue to
monitor this very closely.
QUESTION: One of these people apparently has 22 violations. How could
somebody with 22 violations continue to be promoted?
MR. REEKER: I can't continue on the specifics of the situation. All I can
say is to put in context for you violations, as we call them, in terms of
infractions that have been noted through the process of backups, which
monitor the materials that we have overseas, the cable traffic, the
documents which we read as part of our business overseas.
I can't get into the specifics. I don't have the specifics. I've only seen
the reports of them. But what I can say is that we take this very, very
seriously. As the Secretary said, this is to be weighed as a factor in
terms of promotions, in terms of nominations, and there is a process in
terms of recommending career Foreign Service officers for chief of mission
or ambassadorial jobs, which is a very vigorous review of files, of
security issues, of financial disclosure, and really the full career of
these officials. And that's the process we continue to follow, continue to
support, and that will continue to be a very vigorous process.
QUESTION: Can you give us an illustrative example of the type of
infractions, without naming names?
MR. REEKER: I can't, because I haven't seen it.
QUESTION: Why haven't the people upstairs -- why haven't the people
upstairs provided you with that? I mean, it's a legitimate question.
MR. REEKER: I can give you examples from being a Foreign Service officer
and serving overseas. We have Marines and security officials within an
embassy, for instance, just as we have in the building, who go through
offices, after hours, locked offices, to look for any potential document
that's been overlooked, that's been left in an in-box, something that may
be marked confidential in a corner, and needs to be retrieved and held
until it can be clarified that the document is secure.
That's the kind of rigorous process that we have, in terms of our security
incident program. Everyone is very aware of it. There's extensive training
in terms of using safes, locking up disk drives inside secure buildings,
both here at the Department and at our embassies overseas. But I just can't
delve into the specifics of what these infractions may entail because I'm
not privy to that information, but I hope I've been able to provide you at
least a glimpse.
QUESTION: But even in general, if somebody has a record of 22 violations,
and these are all written citations on their record, it doesn't give the
impression that the Secretary is holding individuals accountable; as she
said, you're a failure if you're a -- if you don't hold up security.
MR. REEKER: Again, I think, Terri, I tried to make very clear that it's
impossible to make any specific declarations about anybody's particular
record, based on some very vague information. The Secretary takes this very
seriously. She has raised this; she has talked about it publicly before a
town meeting. There are high standards of security that have been part of
employees' careers for many, many years, and I just can't go into specifics
of these cases. It's impossible to know exactly what's being referred to
here, and what that mentions.
QUESTION: I don't think we need to know that to discuss that anybody with
22 violations of any kind --
MR. REEKER: Terri, I don't know what those 22 violations mean, and I
don't have information to that effect. What I'm telling you is what the
standards are, how seriously the Department and the Secretary as the head
of this Department takes security, and how seriously we take the nomination
process for making recommendations for chief of mission or ambassadorial
QUESTION: I'm not sure if, in fact, you would have the information to be
able to tell us, but does the Department at all take issue with the
characterization of some of the infractions as being serious ones?
MR. REEKER: I just don't know anything -- all I've seen are reports
raised by a letter, and we take any reports about security seriously. We
look into them. I'm unable to go into any detail. I don't have any detail
because these obviously are things that involve personnel records, privacy
But what I can tell you is the seriousness with which we view security, at
all levels, and try to give you some context for the security incident
program, the various layers of backup we have in the building and abroad,
to guarantee that materials and documents are safeguarded, that information
that may be critical at a variety of levels of classification is handled
properly, and according to vigorous regulations.
QUESTION: Which departments are currently looking into this right
MR. REEKER: I guess I don't -- we look into it all the time. Security is
a nonstop thing.
QUESTION: No, no, no, these allegations, the ones that were made about
the ambassadorial appointees, about the nominees. Who is looking into --
MR. REEKER: I think that would be an issue that would have to be dealt
with by those involved in the nominating process and in the legislative
process, in terms of nominations before the Senate. Obviously, personnel
and Diplomatic Security are involved in those. I think I indicated at the
beginning of this line of questioning that there's a range of factors that
is used in determining a candidate's suitability for nominations to chief
of mission jobs, and that includes checks with the Office of Security, as
well as other offices.
QUESTION: Just to follow --
MR. REEKER: Anything more on this?
QUESTION: Do you see any corruption at overseas US missions, as far as
especially in the south, South Asia?
MR. REEKER: You raised this question with my colleague about two weeks
ago, and he answered it extremely fully, and I don't have anything to add
QUESTION: Back to Iran, sorry. Do you have any information about a second
Iranian official having defected to join the other one?
MR. REEKER: I do not. Other issues? Matt's not here, so we didn't touch
on many things. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:45 P.M.) Back to the Press Briefing
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