U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #41, 00-05-05
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
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
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
13 Is There Heightened Threat to Travelers / Status of US Embassy
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
14 US Congratulates New Turkish President-Elect Sezer
14 Arrest of US Embassy Employee on Charges of Accepting Visa Bribes
14-15 Notification of Secretary Albright Speech at Freedom Forum / US
Seeks A Procedural Fix for International Criminal Court
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
17 Preview of FM Fischer Meetings with Secretary Albright Next Week
18 Putin's Inauguration / US View of Alleged Plan to Restructure
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
QUESTION: Would the possibilities include American military personnel for
such things as communications and other things that you've done in the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.)