26 June 2012

Africa: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Egypt & Ghana


Excerpts from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:

QUESTION: I have a - can I just ask you, do you know if you are providing any assistance to the Moghadam family from California, which apparently was detained in Ghana with four adopted children, which they say they legally adopted?

MS. NULAND: I think we are providing assistance. I have something from yesterday. Unfortunately, I don't have it updated today. We can confirm, obviously, that they were detained by Ghanaian officials who were looking into the legality of the adoption of these four children. A bond has been posted for their release. They've now been reunited with their biological children, and as of Monday morning, their passports had been returned to them. We visited the family. We are providing all the appropriate consular services and support, and we are monitoring the situation closely and addressing any questions to us from Ghanaian officials.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Who's been reunited with their biological children?

MS. NULAND: This was an American couple - Christine and Soheil Moghadam. We do have a Privacy Act waiver on them. They were in Ghana. They had, on June 14th, adopted four Ghanaian children. There were subsequent questions on the Ghanaian side about that adoption, and we've been working through that with them.

QUESTION: So the Moghadam family was reunited with their biological children?

MS. NULAND: They were trying to adopt four, and then they had two biological children with them as well.

QUESTION: And so -

QUESTION: But they haven't been reunited with the four adopted children?

MS. NULAND: As of yesterday, we were still trying to work with the - through the issues so that they could be and so these adoptions could go forward.

QUESTION: And have the Ghanaians explained to you why they had suspicions or what problems they see with their adoption?

MS. NULAND: They may well have. I don't have any more detail there, but I would refer you to the Ghanaians about the concerns that they had.


QUESTION: Egypt. As I'm sure you're aware, an Egyptian court today struck down the decree under which the military was given the right to arrest civilians. From the U.S. perspective, is that a good thing?

MS. NULAND: I have to say, Arshad, that I haven't seen the details. But you know that we have had concerns all the way along about these emergency powers that the military has taken for itself. We pushed for a long time to have that emergency law lifted. When it finally was, we encouraged that. And then we had some additional powers laid back on.

So I think I will take some time to review what has happened, but if it is in support of human rights and dignity for the Egyptian people, then it would be a good move.


QUESTION: And one other thing on Egypt.


QUESTION: Yesterday, as you will recall, we had a long back and forth about the visa issued to Mr. Al-Din, the self-proclaimed member of Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the U.S-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Do you now have any greater clarity as to how he came to be issued a visa and whether any U.S. laws were broken in his being issued a visa, and finally on whether there are any criminal or administrative inquiries into whether laws may have been broken here?

MS. NULAND: Well, we pushed a little harder. I've got a little bit more for you, but we are still somewhat constrained given the confidentiality of visa cases. On your last two questions I don't have any evidence of U.S. laws being broken or a requirement for criminal follow-up.

Based on the background checks that were conducted as part of his visa application and other additional information that has come to light since that time, we neither had then nor do we have now any reason to believe that this particular individual, who at the time of his application was a member of parliament, would pose a threat to the United States. So after careful review, we concluded that the appropriate procedures were followed, including a review of the claimed affiliations. So --

QUESTION: Isn't the membership in an FTO in and of itself by U.S. law grounds for their said person's inadmissibility to the United States?

MS. NULAND: In and of itself it is grounds for inadmissibility. However, there are also waiver procedures when it is in the U.S. national interest. I'm not going to get into the specifics of how this case was handled for all the confidentiality reasons. But as a general matter, yes, if you are a member of an FTO, you are excluded unless your admission is waived.

QUESTION: So what you are suggesting is that if you had known then all of what you know now, you could or you would have waived the law because he does not constitute, in your judgment, a threat to the United States?

MS. NULAND: I'm not speaking at all to how his particular visa was processed except to say that we didn't then and we don't now see a threat from this person having been in the United States.

QUESTION: You're leaving dangling the idea that he would have gotten a waiver. Are you not trying to make that point?

MS. NULAND: I am trying to protect the privacy of the visa process and not go any further with regard to the specifics of this case.


MS. NULAND: You can draw whatever conclusions you'd like.

QUESTION: So you will not be revoking his visa, even symbolically, now that he has left the country?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don't have anything further for you on that one either.

QUESTION: Did you know of his self-professed membership in the organization when he was granted the visa?

MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that neither at the time he applied nor since have we had reason to think he was a threat to the United States, I'm not going to give you - get into any specifics of the case.

QUESTION: And that means - is he able to come back to the States?

MS. NULAND: Again, all visa processing is confidential, so that would be a subject of confidentiality in his application.

QUESTION: Victoria, I'm --

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Still?

QUESTION: Have there been any - as a result of --

QUESTION: Just one more on this? Forgive me. Just related to this. Thank you. Are you trying to (a) tighten your visa procedures so that you have a better - I'm not talking about his case, but any other cases so that you have a better sense of who may be applying to come to the United States, particularly from Egypt; and (b) are you trying to look at the Egyptian - now currently Egyptian politicians, or at least those who may have been elected before the parliament was dissolved, to make sure that your current views on who is and isn't admissible are consistent with your current understanding of their positions? In other words, is there some kind of an effort by the U.S. Government to go back and take a look at people, some of whom may have been deemed ne'er-do-wells by the Mubarak regime, to make sure that you have a current view on whether they are or are not admissible? Or are you just going to deal with this kind of ad hoc if and when it comes up?

MS. NULAND: As a general matter, we have confidence in our visa procedures, in our ability to apply U.S. law, in our ability to vet and understand who applicants are. But as we've been saying all along, it's a new day in Egypt, it's a new day in a lot of countries across the Middle East and North Africa, so new political personalities are coming to light. We're learning more about all of them every day. And we have more folks who want to come here, want to know us, want to learn about the United States, want to develop relationships with us. We have the same interests with regard to them. So we are obviously going to have to continue to improve our understanding of who's who and make those kinds of outreaches that we are doing, and that's why so many of those embassies and the programs that we are support are so busy as these countries change.

Please. Said.

QUESTION: I was just going to ask you if there's been any changes in the conduct of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo as a result of the elections and the personnel. Have there been any changes in personnel or the level of alert or anything like this, or things are going as normal?

MS. NULAND: Apart from saying that they are extremely busy covering all of the new developments in Egypt and reaching out to all of these political players and economic players, I don't think there have been any major changes out there except that they're not getting a lot of sleep.

QUESTION: To go back to the earlier question about the court striking down the military's ability to arrest civilians, can you get us a formal comment by the end of the day? Do you think you'll have sufficient clarity of what happened to actually say we think this is a good thing or we think this is not a good thing?

MS. NULAND: Let me see what we can do, Arshad.

QUESTION: And the court also postponed judgment on an appeal to the constitution-writing panel, the 100-member panel, which puts, I guess, into doubt how a new constitution will be written if the panel doesn't know if it will exist or not in a couple months. So if you can include that maybe in your reaction.

MS. NULAND: I mean, I'm happy to - with regard to the constitutional process, I think this is going to be a work in progress for a little while. But let me see what I can - whether we have anything to say on either of those on Arshad's timeline.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. NULAND: Yes, please.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:31 p.m.)

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