18 December 2012

Libya: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Libyan Investigation & Secretary Clinton's Health


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

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Tuesday. Is it only Tuesday? I think it's only Tuesday. I have nothing at the top. Let's go to what's on your minds.

QUESTION: Just, again, the logistics on the ARB. Has it been sent up to the Hill? I heard just a little while ago that it hadn't. If it hasn't, when exactly is it going to go up? Are you going to do it at like 10 o'clock tonight to try and minimize the likelihood of it leaking?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we laid out yesterday, the classified version of the ARB report is going to go up to the Hill later this afternoon so that members and staff of relevant committees will have a chance to look at it in advance of the classified briefings that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen will give tomorrow. Also to say that it will be covered by a letter from the Secretary.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the unclassified bit doesn't go up until the following day, or does it all go as one thing and they get the whole report and they can sort of look at it?

MS. NULAND: Today they're going to get the classified report covered by the Secretary's letter. I think you know that in the context of this whole ARB process, the Secretary has wanted to be as transparent as possible not only with the Hill, but also with all of you, with the fourth estate, with the American public. So in that context, she has asked the ARB to do its utmost to make a good portion of it unclassified while protecting national security, obviously. So that unclassified portion is being worked now. We anticipate being able to make that available no later than tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: So could it be today?

QUESTION: Oh, it could be today?

MS. NULAND: Again, no later than tomorrow morning, could be earlier, but certainly no later than tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: And how will it be delivered?

QUESTION: Can - is it possible to get a little bit of a heads up if it's going to come today? If it is - if it becomes clear that it won't be -

QUESTION: Tomorrow?

QUESTION: -- today, could someone let us know?

MS. NULAND: We should give you a 20-minute warning, watch the website, or -

QUESTION: So we can know --

QUESTION: If at 5:30 it becomes clear that they can't scrub everything and it's not going to come today, can you -

MS. NULAND: Yeah. We'll do what we can to work with you. We understand everybody's got a job to do.

QUESTION: When you said the website, is it going to be put up on the State Department website?

MS. NULAND: We'll make it available on the website. And at that time, we'll also make the Secretary's letter - covering letter available as well. Okay?

QUESTION: And can you give us some specifics, perhaps, just in advance of how long is the report, how many pages?

MS. NULAND: I don't have any specifics for you at this moment, Jo.

QUESTION: You can't - can you tell us anything about the procedures, how the ARB actually worked, the number of people they interviewed, the number of documents they reviewed?

MS. NULAND: I don't have any back story on any of that for you, Jo. I'm sure that that'll be one of the subjects that'll be discussed on the Hill, and we'll have more to say in coming days on all of that.

QUESTION: And what are plans for Ambassador Pickering or Mike - Admiral Mullen to brief the press?

MS. NULAND: That is also still being worked out. Their main focus, as you can imagine, today is preparing for the briefings that they're going to be giving tomorrow. So that's what they are focused on. As you know, they did ask us to collect the various press requests, which is why we established that website for you all to put your requests in, but I don't have any clarity yet on what their press plans are. I will get back to you on that as soon as I possibly can.

QUESTION: Can you also - yesterday I asked whether there was any update on the status of the Libyan authorities' own investigation, and you said you would try to get back to us with that.

MS. NULAND: Ah, I thought you were asking, Jo, about our intention to brief the Libyans on the ARB. Were you asking about the update on the investigation, on the FBI?

QUESTION: No, there was two parts of the question, one of which you answered, which was whether you were going to give the - and you said you would give them the unclassified part of the investigation, but there was also - I also was wondering if you could update us on the status of the Libyan authorities' own investigation into this incident.

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to the investigation, that's, as you know, fully in the hands of the FBI now. So they will be responsible for giving whatever press information they feel comfortable with. But my understanding is that they don't intend to do any briefing on the status of the investigation, their work with the Libyans, until they're completed, which they are not yet. With regard to the ARB and the Libyans, my understanding today is that our charge d'affaires there, Ambassador Larry Pope, will have access to the report, and he will be working with the Libyans on any necessary follow-up.

QUESTION: Victoria.


QUESTION: Could you update us on the status of the diplomatic presence - American diplomatic presence in Libya? You just mentioned the charge d'affaires. Is it just in Tripoli or is it in other places? Is there some in Benghazi or not?

MS. NULAND: Our only permanent presence in Libya at the moment is in Tripoli. They do travel as necessary to stay in touch with other parts of the country. It is still relatively streamlined there as we continue to work on the various security issues with the Libyans. You know that I never talk about numbers. We just don't do that.

QUESTION: Okay. Are the Americans hunkered down, or are they able to work with civil society groups and other groups to provide the kind of guidance and democracy and rule of law and all that stuff that you -

MS. NULAND: No, they are able to interact with a lot of Libyans, both in person and on the phone and in other ways. So I don't think from that perspective, in terms of their ability to get a sense of what's going on in the country, we're constrained, but we are constrained by numbers at the moment because of security.


QUESTION: Toria, just a clarification. You said the classified report goes to the Hill tomorrow ahead of the testimony.


QUESTION: Or excuse me, today, ahead of tomorrow's testimony. For other committees who aren't going to be in that room, when will they get access? The same time the press does to the unclassified portions I would assume?

MS. NULAND: In terms of the classified ARB, it's going up to Senate and House assigned reading rooms, like we always do with classified information. Members and staff of our committees and other committees of jurisdiction will be granted access to it. With regard to the unclassified report, obviously that'll be available to everybody when it's released.

QUESTION: You mentioned yesterday that there's a possibility or potential that leadership could be briefed separately. Is that still being considered, or has that been firmed up?

MS. NULAND: Again, my understanding is that, in terms of the classified report going up today, leadership will also have access to it. I don't have anything on a separate briefing for leadership beyond the briefings that will be given in classified session tomorrow to SFRC and HFAC.

Moving on? Can we move on?

QUESTION: On that note, are there yet any plans in motion for reopening a consulate in Benghazi as yet?

MS. NULAND: We don't have any plans at the moment.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just kind of hesitate to ask this, but do you care to have - offer any response to your former colleague John Bolton, who suggested that the Secretary is suffering from, quote/unquote, "diplomatic illness," suggesting that she is not, in fact, under the weather --

QUESTION: And the New York Post.

QUESTION: -- or ill, and that she is faking an illness to - in order not to show up. I don't - not looking for you to say what you have said in the past, which is that the Secretary is - wants to be open and has said that she will go up in January. What I'm interested in is a reaction specifically to your former colleague, Mr. Bolton's comment.

MS. NULAND: Completely untrue. We've been very clear from the beginning that she had a stomach virus, an ugly stomach virus. She got very dehydrated, she fainted, it was later discovered she had sustained a concussion. On doctor's orders, she is working at home this week. That's all we've got going on.

QUESTION: This is a guy you used to work with. Can you offer any explanation as to why this man, a former colleague of yours, worked in this building, would say such a thing?

MS. NULAND: I can't speak to his personal motivation. I can assure you he's not privy to any inside information.

QUESTION: Well, there are - I mean, there are several of these type of reports that are making these outrageous charges, so --

MS. NULAND: It's really unfortunate that in times like this, people make wild speculation based on no information. As I said yesterday, and I'll say it again today, she's on the mend, she's going to be absolutely fine. She is working at home. As you know, she got the ARB report yesterday. She read through it yesterday. She's been working on the letter that will go with it to the Hill. She's been on the phone and in email contact with senior staff. She's been working on other issues, Syria, the DPRK today. So these are people who don't know what they're talking about.

QUESTION: Well, how does that - I mean, is she working - is she doing too much work against the advice of her doctors? Because when the doctors put out the statement on, I believe it was Saturday, they said that they urged her not to have any kind of strenuous work. I don't think they meant physical; I think they meant the - when you have a brain injury of that type of nature, that some sustained rest would be required.

MS. NULAND: Well, her doctors and all the people close to her are trying to encourage her to take the time that she needs to get completely well.

QUESTION: Sorry, what else did you say she was - DPRK, so North Korea - what else?

MS. NULAND: DPRK, working on her letter that covers this report, et cetera, and other issues of interest.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific about what she did on Korea? Was it a phone call? Was it --

MS. NULAND: Well, she's obviously keeping track of the conversations that we're having in New York and elsewhere about a response, but I'm not going to get into details; the normal work that she does.

QUESTION: How did the Secretary receive the report? Did she get it in person? Was there a briefing attached to that? And can you describe for us, in general terms, what her reaction was? Satisfied, thought it took too long, didn't take enough time, whatever? I mean, any sort of general characterization of it?

MS. NULAND: The physical report was couriered to her at the house along with the regular classified pouch that goes to her as appropriate. I'm not going to get into her reaction. I think you'll get a sense of her reaction and the Department's reaction when you see the letter that she's covered the report with and when you hear the testimony of Deputy Secretary Burns and Deputy Secretary Nides. Just to remind that they are standing in for her, so the --


MS. NULAND: -- testimony that they give on Thursday will very much reflect her view and how we should go forward from this report and how we should learn its lessons.

QUESTION: Would you consider releasing that letter at the same time it goes up instead of later on? That would help greatly frame that very question today.

MS. NULAND: Well, I'll certainly convey to folks your interest in that. The current plan is to release it when we release the unclassified so it's a package, so it's not sitting out there in isolation from the report itself and --

QUESTION: Would the letter be - would the letter itself contain classified information or would it be --

MS. NULAND: The letter's unclassified.



QUESTION: Toria --

QUESTION: Where is her current (inaudible)? In New York or in Washington? Where is she actually?

QUESTION: Which couriers (inaudible)? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: And how many pillows are there and all that kind of stuff? I haven't --

QUESTION: When did she receive this? Can you say when she received the report, though?

MS. NULAND: Yesterday morning. Yesterday morning. I think I said that yesterday.


QUESTION: My question to you is that although it is Mr. John Bolton that made this accusation, and he's been known to make such accusations in the past, they do gain a certain traction and a lot of noise on a certain network. Are you concerned that they may create a lot more noise than you like?

MS. NULAND: That's why we're trying to be absolutely clear what's going on, why we put out such a full statement on Saturday of exactly what was going on, because people speculate wildly. We understand the culture and we just want to be clear.

QUESTION: Was there reporting that she - the Secretary had to be put onto an IV; correct?

MS. NULAND: I am not going to get into the details beyond saying that she's on the mend. It's a very good try.

Can we move on to some foreign policy? Is that possible? Said.

QUESTION: Hold on, wait a second.


QUESTION: This is foreign policy.

MS. NULAND: Whether she's had an IV or not is foreign policy?

QUESTION: No, no, the entire Libya investigation is foreign policy.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else here?

QUESTION: Can we --


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