Friday, November 9, 2012

The Hearings on the Hill: How the State Department is Cooperating

As you know, Mme. Secretary is traveling again next week when several House and Senate Committees called hearings on Benghazi.  For those who would like some details on who from DOS will attend  these hearings and what kind of information DOS is providing,  this snip from today's press briefing is helpful.

12:56 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Friday. Apologies for the delay. I think you know that the President is coming out with a statement very shortly, so we will do as much as we can until we hear that he’s going out. And then if we have things to clean up later, we can do it by phone or by email.
I want to just start by coming back to something that we mentioned either yesterday or the day before, which was that we would be participating in some Hill engagements next week on Benghazi. Just to give you the list there, on Tuesday, Under Secretary Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Boswell will brief members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Let me, sorry, go back and say that all of these are going to be closed sessions at the Hill’s request. Okay?
So first, on Tuesday, Under Secretary Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Boswell will brief members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On Wednesday, Under Secretary Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Boswell will brief members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. On Thursday morning, Under Secretary Kennedy will testify in a closed hearing before the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, and in the afternoon, he’ll testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And on Friday morning, Under Secretary Kennedy will brief Chairmen and ranking members from the House. And again, all of those are in closed, classified session and at the Hill’s request. Let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, because I came in late. This is on Benghazi, right?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: All of these are in closed session at the Hill’s request?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Do you have – did they say why these needed to be closed sessions, since they seem to be the source of all the documents that are leaking out in dribs and drabs?
MS. NULAND: Well, my understanding is that they wanted to have a conversation that incorporated classified information, including intelligence reporting.
QUESTION: Was there not classified information – did members of Congress not complain that classified information was released at the House Oversight Committee hearing that already had been held?
MS. NULAND: Matt, they’ve asked for closed hearings, closed briefings; that’s what we’re complying with.
QUESTION: The Secretary won’t appear before any of these committees?
MS. NULAND: The Secretary has not been asked to appear. They’ve asked for the individuals that are coming.
QUESTION: Would she be willing to fly back from Australia to appear?
MS. NULAND: Again, she has not been asked to appear. She was asked to appear at House Foreign Affairs next week, and we have written back to the Chairman to say that she’ll be on travel next week.
QUESTION: Are you aware that any Libyans will be called to the hearings to be talked to?
MS. NULAND: That sounds like a question for the Hill. I’m not aware of any panels other than the government panels.
QUESTION: But you have not been asked to facilitate any visas or anything like this for –
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, no.
QUESTION: -- maybe some Libyan officials?
QUESTION: Toria, I’m sorry. I was running down here to get here. You may have said this: Is there any effort by the State Department to brief us on anything that might not be classified or any information, any progress that we could talk about next week that could come out of that?
MS. NULAND: I don’t anticipate that we’re going to have new information for the press before we have the ARB report, but let’s just see where we go there.
QUESTION: Do you know – do you anticipate that you’ll have new information for members of Congress?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, they’ve asked for classified hearings.
QUESTION: I understood that.
MS. NULAND: Some of them have been – there are a lot of folks who have been out of town during this – the period that the Congress was out of session. These hearings and briefings were requested by them now that they’re coming back into session, so I can’t speak to what different members know and how much different members have followed.
QUESTION: Yeah. But, I mean, do you expect Pat Kennedy to get up there and say anything substantially different than what he’s already said in public?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to what might be spoken about in a classified session. I would guess, Matt, that it’s also going to go to issues of intelligence, which we haven’t been briefing.
QUESTION: And Pat is the person that’s discussed issues of intelligence with them?
MS. NULAND: Again, Pat is the Under Secretary for Management. He can speak to the entire threat environment that we were working under, which included both unclassified and classified information.
QUESTION: Toria, the Congress has asked for a lot of documents, obviously. Can you give us an update on even percentage-wise how much the State Department has collected, how you’re giving them these documents, or whether you’re waiting to get everything together, compiled, and then you will give it to them?
MS. NULAND: Well, thanks for that question, Jill. As you know, we’ve had requests for documents from a number of committees and from a number of staff and members. We have now made documents available to members of and staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We have told all of these requesting committees and their staff that they can see these documents as many times as they’d like to see them, for as long as they’d like to see them.
Our understanding, in fact, is that today Senator Corker of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is reviewing documents at his request. So there have been some reports out there that we’ve been withholding information or that we’ve been limiting time. None of that is accurate. We’ve really done our utmost under the Secretary’s instructions to be fully compliant, transparent, and open with the Congress.
QUESTION: And do they come over here to view them?
MS. NULAND: No, we take them up there to their classified rooms.
QUESTION: And same question really, and then you – and they review them, and then you take them back and await the next request to see them?
MS. NULAND: Exactly. We arrange whatever requests are needed after they’ve had a chance to take a first look. And sometimes you have staff looking and then they want their members to see, subset, et cetera. So we’ve been facilitating all of that.
QUESTION: Just on these hearings, I’m wondering, given the fact that the refrain from the Hill or at least some members of the Hill, has been since this all began that the American people have the right to know, they deserve to know, was there any pushback from you guys when they said that we want to have these closed, we want to have these closed hearings rather than having open so that the American people could hear?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, relatively soon after the events, there was a set of open hearings. It’s obviously up to the Congress to ask for what it wants to have. In this case, they’ve asked for a set of closed briefings and hearings, so we’re going to comply with that.
QUESTION: Fair enough. I understand, but did – was there any suggestion from this building that, hey, if you really want the American people to know, maybe these shouldn’t be held behind closed doors?
MS. NULAND: I think we are in the posture of complying with what the Congress is asking for to help them in their review and to be supportive of their understanding of the situation as we go forward. As we’ve said, we have the ARB running. We also have whatever the FBI will come forward with. So there will be a time to be as open as we can be about the findings of the ARB with the public understanding the need to protect classified.
QUESTION: More clarification on the documents. Many – there have been many different requests and sometimes defined with different parameters. How did you collect those documents? Is it the full collection of documents that has been asked for? Is it this committee gets exactly what they ask for? Or if you can get into a little more depth in terms of which documents go where and how many, and whether this is it or whether there will be more.
MS. NULAND: Whether this is it, whether this – there’ll be more, I mean, that depends on whether the scope is broadened by committees. But in fact, whenever we have – particularly when we have classified documents requested, we have to do a full search. It involves both telegrams, intelligence reports, classified email, all of that kind of thing. And then we meet the requests that the different committees have, that the different staff members have. It’s not unusual for a first set of documents to be reviewed and then additional things to be requested. All of that has to be gone through. So it’s really specific to the requests as they come in.
QUESTION: Toria, there are currently Pentagon teams that are studying the situation in Libya to see how best an army, or a Libyan army, can be built. Is the State Department involved in any way in these processes, or are you involved in any way in sort of restructuring Libyan security?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, as you know, there is a UN-sponsored effort underway to be supportive to the Libyans. We also have made bilateral proposals. We’ve had teams, mil-mil teams and other teams, out there offering support in all of the various categories where we often help transitioning countries, whether it’s destruction of excess equipment, whether it’s nationalizing a military, whether it is training, all those kinds of things.
I think one of the issues, as the Libyans have been clear about, is that in this – in the context of their being an interim government first and then having a relatively protracted period of establishing the current transitional government, they have been loath to make some of the larger structural decisions that would enable us to provide more help. But we are hopeful that, now that they have a fully agreed upon transitional government, that we will be able to do more together to help them meet the security needs of the country and to provide stronger population security. And we’re open to doing all of that.
Please, Margaret.
QUESTION: Toria, when you’re talking about this process, going up to the Hill, delivering these documents, is there a chief Benghazi point person at State? Who’s doing this? It sounds extremely time consuming. So who is focused on this specifically?
MS. NULAND: Well, there are a whole bunch of folks who, obviously, have to look at things to ensure that we’ve been complete. But as has been clear by our public presentations, Under Secretary Kennedy has the line authority for ensuring that we’re fully compliant, and obviously, our Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Dave Adams.
QUESTION: You mentioned that Senator Corker is looking at some of this stuff today. Is he the only person up there who’s so far gotten hold of any of these documents, or have they gone to other offices as well? Can you tell how many?
MS. NULAND: I think I just did that about five minutes ago.
QUESTION: Did you? I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: Maybe you slept through that piece, Andy. (Laughter.) I can do it again.
Members and staff of House Oversight and Government Reform, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs --
QUESTION: Okay. I got that list. So it’s actually gone up to all of these folks?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Correct. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. That was it. Right.
MS. NULAND: And again, with members in and out before they came back into session, we now have some members whose staff have seen documents who want to see them themselves, et cetera.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. It’s the usual --
QUESTION: Victoria, will the Secretary be appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee next week?
MS. NULAND: I spoke to that about 15 minutes ago.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. It’s just been posted on their website.
MS. NULAND: She is traveling next week, as you know. We just put out a message. So she will not appear, but we – I did give a list, at the top of this, of multiple briefings and hearings where Pat Kennedy will be appearing.
QUESTION: So just to make 100 percent sure, the Secretary is not going to interrupt her trip to come back and testify?
MS. NULAND: She has a commitment with the Secretary of Defense to the AUSMIN Ministerial. So --
QUESTION: And doesn’t she also have a commitment with the President to go to certain other countries in the region?
MS. NULAND: She does. Was that the – okay. Sounds like the President’s going to come out, so we can do the rest of this in gaggle format afterwards. Thanks.
(The briefing paused at 1:08 p.m. and resumed at 1:28 p.m.)
MS. NULAND: Here we go. Friday briefing, round two. All right, where were we, guys?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) fiscal cliff and the President’s plan to avert going over it. Are we done with Libya?
MS. NULAND: I think we are. Let’s keep moving on.