Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:
QUESTION: Can we go back to --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Libya?
QUESTION: Yeah, Libya first, and --
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we start with Libya?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: After the - I mean --
QUESTION: Please, just go around.
QUESTION: I came in late. I don't really care what you guys want to talk about. If you want to go to Pakistan --
QUESTION: Go, go, go, Matt.
QUESTION: No, I wanted to go to Libya, but I just (inaudible).
QUESTION: On the ARB, I just want to make one thing - the - they are - are they going to incorporate the FBI report into their report? They're not going to do a separate report on the actual incident, are they? As I understand, the ARB is - will look at and make recommendations for how something like this could be - might be able to be prevented in the future. And that is - that's their mandate, in addition to investigating the actual - what happened. But I'm curious; I mean, are they really going to waste their time doing a - their own report, their own - sorry, their own investigation, interviewing witnesses, et cetera, after the FBI has already talked to these people and reached their own conclusions?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can't speak to how the ARB will decide to proceed with its mandate, whether it will decide it needs to call people in, who, how extensive. I would guess, obviously, they'll want to talk to people. But you are right in the sense that the mandate of the FBI investigation is to respond to the fact that we have Americans killed overseas. They have to investigate all of the circumstances under which that happened. They have to then determine whether there are judicial follow-on steps that need to be taken in the United States or in collaboration with our partners.
With regard to the mandate of the Accountability Review Board, we put a little information out last night, but let me just repeat it here on the record. The ARB, under statute, is responsible for making written findings determining the extent to which the incident was security-related; whether security systems and security procedures at the mission were adequate; whether the security systems and security procedures were properly implemented; the impact of intelligence and available information; and any other facts or circumstances which can be relevant to the appropriate security management of U.S. missions abroad.
So further to the question you asked, all of those things will be looked at in the ARB context. The FBI will look at many of the same things, but in the context of a criminal case.
QUESTION: All right. Is it still the Administration's position, at least publicly, that the information you have suggests that this was a protest, or a somewhat peaceful protest, that got hijacked by militants? Was that -
MS. NULAND: Well, we --
QUESTION: That's what Secretary - or Ambassador Rice said on Sunday. That's what people have said. And I'm just wondering, is that - are you sticking with that or is that changing? Is that position evolving?
MS. NULAND: Well, I don't have any update to the public statements that have been made by many Administration principals over the course of the week. Some of them have been updated, particularly on the intelligence side, as more information has become available. From this podium, we are simply going to say that we now have an FBI investigation, we have the ARB, and we don't anticipate having further information to share until those two come forward.
QUESTION: Well, can I just follow up? Two things.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: First of all, people that were at the scene on the ground - and Libyans in particular - are saying that they didn't see anything around the Embassy until these people stormed the Embassy. So that would contradict with your assessment that this was a planned protest, was - sorry, was a peaceful protest gone astray.
And then also, there is a - there are some reports that the compound - the building - certain buildings of the compound were - that diesel fuel was poured around the compound and set afire. And that would also indicate that it was preplanned, because I'm not sure that people just walk around with cans of diesel fuel. I mean, I just - it's not about, like, little details. It's about the picture, that you say this isn't preplanned. Some of the things that are coming out of the scene directly contradict that.
MS. NULAND: Elise, as everybody who has spoken to any of these details has said, starting with what we said here, what everybody along the way has said, the information we've given to date is based on initial assessments. We've given you all kinds of caveats, including from here, that the investigation was going to have to tell us the complete and final story. So I can't speak to whether there will ultimately - it will ultimately prove out that some of the initial information that some of us had wasn't accurate. We're going to have to wait now.
And with regard to diesel fuel, without being able to speak directly to whether that assertion is right, diesel --
QUESTION: Do you not know?
MS. NULAND: Can I just finish my --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Diesel is the - one of the main fuels that goes into Libyan cars, and most Libyans have it in the back - in the trunk of their car. So it is broadly available, but again, I can't speak to the veracity of the report, okay?
QUESTION: So on that point, has it been determined whether it was actually arson, the fire was caused by arson, or firing?
MS. NULAND: None of this has been determined, as I've said about four times already.
QUESTION: Is there a time limit under which the ARB has to prepare its report?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is under statute, there's no time limit, but as we said last night, historically ARBs have completed their work in an average of about 65 days.
QUESTION: So the Secretary hasn't actually set a time limit when she --
MS. NULAND: It's not her place to set a time limit. It's the board's place to tell her and the Congress when they are ready.
QUESTION: Toria, the - some of the legislators who met with the Secretary and others from the Executive Branch yesterday said that they found their explanations wanting - that they wanted more information, and some have repeated a call for an independent commission to look into what happened last week. Would this building oppose that, support that? And has there been any discussion about participating in an independent probe?
MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the ARB, that is an independent group that is - it's established, obviously, by the government, but the expectation is that they will make an independent set of judgments based on what they find.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)