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Monthly Archives: February 2012
Following Through: Detention & Interrogation Consistent with our National Security, Our Laws, and Our Values
When the President signed the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in December, he issued a detailed statement making clear that “The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it.” He noted that he had serious reservations about certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists, and indeed the potential for the bill to interfere with the effective system this Administration has developed was a subject of intense negotiation with Congress — not to mention one of great concern to many Americans.
In the closing of his statement, the President said that despite having won several crucial changes from previous versions of the bill, concerns remained, and pledged that “My Administration will aggressively seek to mitigate those concerns through the design of implementation procedures and other authorities available to me as Chief Executive and Commander in Chief.” Today the President is making good on that pledge.
One section of particular concern in the bill was Section 1022, which would seek to require military custody for a narrow category of non-citizen detainees who are "captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force." Initially conceived of as a requirement for a group of suspected terrorists to be held in military detention, the Administration worked with Congress to obtain broader authority to interpret and implement the military custody requirement, and to waive its application in individual cases or categories of cases, to better preserve both our national security and our values.
In essence, these procedures seek to preserve the framework for the detention, interrogation, and trial of suspected terrorists that this Administration developed, and has executed with great success for more than three years. Specifically, the procedures are intended to ensure that the executive branch can continue to utilize all elements of national power — including military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic tools – to effectively confront the threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces within the framework of our legal authorities, and will retain the flexibility to determine how best to apply those tools to the unique facts and circumstances we face in confronting this diverse and evolving threat.
Our military and intelligence capabilities have been enormously effective in our campaign against international terrorism. Similarly, our criminal justice system has demonstrated unrivaled effectiveness, unquestioned legitimacy, and the flexibility to preserve and protect the full spectrum of our national security objectives. That system has proven to be invaluable means of disrupting terrorist plots as well as incapacitating and collecting intelligence on terrorists through prosecution and incarceration, and must continue to be an unrestricted counterterrorism tool going forward.
For Immediate Release
PRESIDENTIAL POLICY DIRECTIVE/PPD-14
SUBJECT: Procedures Implementing Section 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012
The executive branch must utilize all elements of national power – including military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic tools – to effectively confront the threat posed by al-Qa'ida and its associated forces, and must retain the flexibility to determine how to apply those tools to the unique facts and circumstances we face in confronting this diverse and evolving threat.
Under the Authorization for Use of Military Force of September 18, 2001 (Public Law 107 40)(2001 AUMF), the executive branch has the authority to detain in military custody individuals who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and persons who harbored those responsible for the September 11 attacks, as well as individuals who are part of or substantially supported Taliban or al-Qa'ida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 (Public Law 112 81)(NDAA) affirms that authority.
A rigid, inflexible requirement to place suspected terrorists into military custody would undermine the national security interests of the United States, compromising our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals. This Directive specifies policies and procedures designed to ensure that section 1022 of the NDAA is implemented in a manner that is consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. Specifically, this Directive sets forth the procedures required by section 1022 of the NDAA for determining when the military custody requirement of section 1022 applies to non-citizens detained by the United States, when and how any such determination will be implemented, and when and how to waive the requirements of section 1022(a)(1) when it is in the national security interests of the United States. This Directive also issues several national security waivers.
I. SCOPE OF PROCEDURES AND STANDARD FOR COVERED PERSON DETERMINATIONS
A. Scope of Procedures. Subject to sections I(B) through I(F), the procedures set out in sections II through V of this
Directive apply only when (1) an individual is arrested or otherwise taken into custody by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) or another Federal law enforcement agency on or after the date of this Directive; and (2) officials of the agency detaining the individual have probable cause to believe that the individual is a "Covered Person" under section 1022 of the NDAA.
B. Covered Persons. For purposes of this Directive, the phrase "Covered Person" applies only to a person who is not a citizen of the United States and:
- whose detention is authorized under the 2001 AUMF, as informed by the laws of war, and affirmed in section 1021 of the NDAA; and
- (a) who is a member of, or part of, al-Qa'ida or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qa'ida; and (b) who participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.
C. Attack or Attempted Attack.
- An "attack" means the completion of an act of violence or the use of force that involves serious risk to human life.
An "attempted attack" means an overt act or acts beyond a substantial step when (a) performed with specific intent to commit an attack; and (b) no further step or act by the individual would be necessary to complete the attack.
D. Application to Individuals Captured or Detained by, or in the Custody of, the Department of Defense. Any time an individual is captured or detained by, or otherwise taken into the custody of, the Department of Defense, the requirement under section 1022(a)(1) of the NDAA will have been satisfied, regardless of whether there has been a final determination as to whether the individual is a Covered Person, and regardless of the authorities under which the individual is captured, detained, or otherwise taken into custody. Therefore, individuals captured or detained by, or otherwise taken into the custody of, the Department of Defense shall not be subject to the procedures outlined in sections II through IV of this Directive. Any subsequent law of war disposition of the individual effectuated by the Department of Defense consistent with section 1021(c) and 1022(a)(3) of the NDAA satisfies all requirements of section 1022 of the NDAA, subject to the conditions on transfer in section 1028 for any individual detained at Guantanamo.
E. No Effect on Individuals Held by State or Local Authorities. The requirement in section 1022(a) of the NDAA does not apply to individuals arrested by, or otherwise taken into the custody of, State or local law enforcement agencies, and the procedures and requirements set out in this Directive shall not apply while individuals are held in the custody of State or local law enforcement agencies.
F. No Effect on Individuals Held by Foreign Governments. The requirement in section 1022(a) of the NDAA does not apply to individuals who are arrested by, or otherwise taken into the custody of, a foreign government, and the procedures and requirements set out in this Directive shall not apply to individuals held in the custody of foreign governments, including but not limited to circumstances where intelligence, law enforcement, or other officials of the United States are granted access to an individual who remains in the custody of a foreign government.
II. WAIVERS TO PROTECT NATIONAL SECURITY INTERESTS
A. Statutory Authority under NDAA. Section 1022(a)(4) of the NDAA authorizes the President to waive application of the military custody requirement under section 1022(a)(1) where doing so is "in the national security interests of the United States." Such waivers ("National Security Waivers") apply to the requirements of section 1022 of the NDAA.
B. Protection of U.S. National Security Interests. In accordance with section 1022(a)(4) of the NDAA, and consistent with section 1022(c)(2), which provides the executive branch with broad discretion to design implementing procedures to ensure that the requirements of section 1022 do not interfere with various authorities necessary to disrupt or respond to terrorism threats, and to ensure that counterterrorism professionals have clear guidance and appropriate tools at their disposal to accomplish their mission effectively, I hereby waive the requirements of section 1022(a)(1), regardless of whether an individual has yet been determined to be a Covered Person, and certify that it is in the national security interests of the United States to do so, when:
- placing a foreign country's nationals or residents in U.S. military custody will impede counterterrorism cooperation, including but not limited to sharing intelligence or providing other cooperation or assistance to the United States in investigations or prosecutions of suspected terrorists;
- a foreign government indicates that it will not extradite or consent to the transfer of individuals to the United States if such individuals may be placed in military custody;
- an individual is a lawful permanent resident of the United States who is arrested inside the United States or is arrested by a Federal agency on the basis of conduct taking place in the United States, to the extent the individual is subject to the requirement of section 1022(a)(1);
- an individual has been arrested by a Federal agency in the United States on charges other than terrorism offenses (unless such individual is subsequently charged with one or more terrorism offenses and held in Federal custody in connection with those offenses);
- an individual has been arrested by State or local law enforcement, pursuant to State or local authority, and is transferred to Federal custody;
- transferring an individual to U.S. military custody could interfere with efforts to secure an individual's cooperation or confession; or
transferring an individual to U.S. military custody could interfere with efforts to conduct joint trials with co-defendants who are ineligible for U.S. military custody or as to whom a determination has already been made to proceed with a prosecution in a Federal or State court.
C. Authority to Issue Additional Categorical National Security Waivers. The Attorney General, in consultation with other senior national security officials, shall have authority to waive the requirements of section 1022(a)(1) of the NDAA in the national security interests of the United States for categories of conduct or categories of individuals consistent with section 1022(a)(4).
D. Authority to Issue Individual National Security Waivers. The Attorney General, in consultation with other senior national security officials, shall have the authority to waive the requirements of section 1022(a)(1) of the NDAA in the national security interests of the United States on an individual, case-by-case basis, consistent with section 1022(a)(4). A decision to issue such a waiver shall take into account factors such as: the legal and evidentiary strength of any criminal charges that may be brought against the individual; the likely punishment if convicted; the impact on intelligence collection of maintaining the individual in law enforcement custody; the legal and investigative risks posed by a transfer to U.S. military custody; the effect any transfer to U.S. military custody would likely have on cooperation by the individual in custody; the effect any transfer to U.S. military custody would likely have on cooperation by foreign governments in a particular investigation or related investigations; the risk associated with litigation concerning the legal authority to detain the individual pursuant to the 2001 AUMF, as informed by the laws of war; and the need to preserve a long-term disposition of the individual that adequately mitigates the threat the individual poses and protects the national security interests of the United States. A waiver is also appropriate if the Attorney General determines, in consultation with other senior national security officials, that a prosecution of the individual in Federal, State, or a foreign court will best protect the national security interests of the United States. The Attorney General may delegate this authority to any appropriate subordinate officials of the Department of Justice who hold positions for which Senate confirmation is required.
E. Timing and Effect of National Security Waiver Determination. The Attorney General shall have the authority to issue a National Security Waiver at any time, including before a determination is made that an individual is a Covered Person. If the Attorney General issues a National Security Waiver or determines that an existing National Security Waiver applies, no determination whether an individual is a Covered Person is required.
III. LAW ENFORCEMENT ARRESTS OF INDIVIDUALS BELIEVED TO BE COVERED PERSONS
A. Notice to Attorney General of Arrests of Proposed Covered Persons. As soon as is practicable after the FBI or another Federal law enforcement agency arrests or otherwise takes into custody a person it has probable cause to believe is a Covered Person under section I(B) of this Directive, the arresting agency shall notify the Attorney General that it has arrested or taken into custody such a person. The arresting agency may also submit to the Attorney General its views as to whether a National Security Waiver applies or would be appropriate.
B. Screening. For each individual in custody about whom the Attorney General has been notified in accordance with paragraph (A), a screening shall commence as soon as practicable after sufficient information is available, in the estimation of the Attorney General, to establish that probable cause exists to believe that the individual is a Covered Person and that the individual is not currently subject to a National Security Waiver. In the event the Attorney General determines that there is not probable cause to believe that the individual is a Covered Person or determines that the individual is subject to an existing National Security Waiver, no further action shall be required under section 1022 or this Directive.
C. Process for Making Covered Person Determinations.
- Where the Attorney General determines that there is sufficient information to establish probable cause to believe that the individual is a Covered Person and that the individual is not subject to an existing National Security Waiver, the Attorney General, in coordination with other senior national security officials, shall be responsible for determining whether the individual is a Covered Person for purposes of section 1022(a) of the NDAA. In consultation with other senior national security officials, the Attorney General is authorized to issue further implementing guidelines as necessary to ensure that Covered Person determinations are made efficiently, accommodate the operational concerns of all relevant departments and agencies of the Federal Government, and are consistent with the NDAA and the requirements in section III(C) of this Directive.
- The Attorney General, in coordination with other senior national security officials, shall, to the extent reasonably practicable, review information in the possession of the United States Government relevant to determining whether the individual is a Covered Person under section I(B) of this Directive, as well as whether the individual is subject to a National Security Waiver under section II(B) or II(C) or whether a separate National Security Waiver should be issued under section II(D). Such information shall include available information from the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies as to the citizenship and/or immigration status of the individual. All relevant departments and agencies shall assist the Attorney General in collecting the information required for determining whether an individual is a Covered Person or is or should be subject to a National Security Waiver.
On the basis of the information reviewed, the Attorney General, in coordination with other senior national security officials, shall determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the individual is a Covered Person under section 1022 of the NDAA.
No further action shall be required under section 1022(a)(1) of the NDAA or the procedures set out in this Directive if the Attorney General, in coordination with other senior national security officials,
- determines that there is not clear and convincing evidence that such individual is a Covered Person;
- determines that such individual is subject to a categorical National Security Waiver specified in section II(B) or issued pursuant to section II(C) of this Directive; or
issues an individual National Security Waiver under section II(D) of this Directive.
- No further action shall be required under section 1022(a)(1) of the NDAA or the procedures set out in this Directive if the Attorney General, in coordination with other senior national security officials,
D. Final Determinations. If the Attorney General, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence, concludes that there is clear and convincing evidence that such individual is a Covered Person, that the individual is not subject to an existing National Security Waiver, and that a National Security Waiver with respect to that individual should not be issued, then the Attorney General shall make a final determination that the individual is a Covered Person and provide notice of that final determination to other senior national security officials.
E. Effect of National Security Waiver. As provided in section II(E) of this Directive, nothing in this Directive precludes the Attorney General, in consultation with other senior national security officials, from issuing a National Security Waiver at any time. Once such a waiver is issued, the Covered Person determination process for an individual covered by that waiver shall cease, and no further action shall be required under section 1022 or this Directive.
F. Effect of Covered Person Determination. A determination that an individual is a Covered Person not subject to a National Security Waiver shall be without prejudice to that individual's appropriate disposition under the law of war in accordance with sections 1021(c) and 1022(a)(3) of the NDAA, the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, and the interests of justice.
IV. IMPLEMENTATION OF COVERED PERSON DETERMINATIONS
The FBI or any other Federal law enforcement agency that has taken a Covered Person into custody shall, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense, ensure that any transfer to U.S. military custody occasioned by a Covered Person determination does not result in the interruption of any ongoing interrogation, the compromise of any national security investigation, or the interruption of any ongoing surveillance or intelligence gathering with regard to persons not already in the custody or control of the United States. In no event may a Covered Person arrested in the United States or taken into the custody of the United States by the FBI (or any other Federal law enforcement agency) be transferred to military custody unless and until the Director of the FBI or his designee has determined such a transfer will not interrupt any ongoing interrogation, compromise any national security investigation, or interrupt any ongoing surveillance or intelligence gathering with regard to persons not already in the custody or control of the United States, consistent with section 1022(c)(2)(B) of the NDAA. For these purposes, and to ensure that vital intelligence is not lost, an "interrogation" is not limited to a single interview session and extends until the interrogating agency or agencies determine that all necessary intelligence gathering efforts have been exhausted.
V. NO ABRIDGMENT OF DOMESTIC LAW ENFORCEMENT
The agency with custody of the proposed Covered Person shall continue to operate in accordance with the agency's standard authorities and practices and consistent with applicable law, unless and until (1) the Attorney General, in coordination with other senior national security officials, makes a final determination that the individual is a Covered Person not subject to a National Security Waiver; (2) the Attorney General provides notice of that determination to other senior national security officials, including the head of the department or agency with custody of the proposed Covered Person; and (3) the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with other senior national security officials, determine that the individual can safely and securely be transferred to the custody or control of the United States Armed Forces, consistent with applicable laws, including the law of armed conflict, and all applicable Department of Defense policies and procedures. After a Covered Person determination is made and implemented, the Department of Justice and the FBI shall retain lead responsibility for coordinating the investigation, including interrogation, while the Covered Person is held in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.
Nothing in the NDAA nor in this Directive alters the existing law enforcement and national security authorities of the Department of Justice, the FBI, or other Federal law enforcement agencies. In particular, nothing in this Directive shall be construed to affect the existing law enforcement and national security authorities of the FBI or any other law enforcement agency with regard to a Covered Person (or proposed Covered Person), regardless of whether such person is held in U.S. military custody. The FBI continues to have lead responsibility for investigations of terrorist acts or terrorist threats by individuals or groups within the United States, as well as for related intelligence collection activities within the United States.
VI. DISPOSITION DETERMINATIONS
In the event that an individual is determined to be a Covered Person not subject to a National Security Waiver, relevant departments and agencies shall determine the individual's disposition under the law of war.
VII. GENERAL PROVISIONS
This Directive shall be implemented consistent with the Constitution and other applicable law including: the Convention Against Torture; Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions; the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005; and other laws and Executive Orders relating to the transfer, treatment, and interrogation of individuals detained in an armed conflict.
Any determination that there is not clear and convincing evidence that an individual is a Covered Person shall be without prejudice to the question of whether the individual may be subject to detention under the 2001 AUMF, as informed by the laws of war, and affirmed by section 1021 of the NDAA. Nothing in this Directive is intended to affect or alter the jurisdiction of Federal courts to determine the legality of detention or the substantive or procedural standards that apply to such determinations.
The procedures set out in this Directive are not designed to resolve legal issues with respect to the detention by the United States of any Covered Person or individual proposed to be a Covered Person. If, at any time, material information calls into question the legality of an individual's detention, the matter shall be referred to the Attorney General for appropriate action, consistent with this Directive.
For purposes of this Directive, the phrase "senior national security officials" includes the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, Director of the FBI, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as any other official I designate. Such officials may delegate their responsibilities under this Directive to appropriate subordinate officials.
This Directive is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
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For Immediate Release
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:05 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming to the White House for your daily briefing. It's always good to see your shiny faces.
Before I get started I just wanted to note that — as the President predicted last week when he gave a speech at the University of Miami — upon its return to Washington, Congress, or at least some members in Congress, are politicizing the issue of gas prices. The Speaker of the House apparently spoke with reporters this morning in which he suggested that the President wasn’t in support of expanding domestic oil and gas production, which is demonstrably, categorically false — and suggested that somehow simply by drilling or approving the Keystone XL pipeline, that that would lower gas prices, that would lower prices at the pump. And that's the kind of empty promise that politicians make when we face hikes in the global price of oil that is really dishonest, the kind of promise that — promises that are dishonest with the American people.
So as you know, the President has from the beginning supported an all-of-the-above approach to our energy challenges that includes expanding domestic oil and gas production. As you know, oil and gas production has been up all three years that he's been in office. It includes investing in alternative energy sources — renewables, wind, solar, biofuels. It includes approving the construction of the first nuclear power plant in this country in 30 years. It includes encouraging the construction of pipelines domestically like the one that the company TransCanada announced it intends to build from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico.
That's the approach the President takes. He, being honest with the American people, makes clear that there are no silver bullets here, there are no quick fixes. We need an all-of-the-above approach to increase our energy independence and make America stronger economically in the 21st century.
Julie, I'll take your first question.
Q Thank you. Was the President's speech to the UAW convention this morning a campaign speech?
MR. CARNEY: Not at all. The President was speaking to American workers, which he certainly enjoys doing. He was speaking to them about several things, principally the resurrection of the American automobile industry, which is a subject that has been a focus of his attention since he took office when he made some very difficult decisions to ensure that General Motors and Chrysler would restructure themselves, make themselves more efficient; that unions and management would make very tough decisions, and in return for taxpayer support — would do that in return for taxpayer support. Those decisions saved a million jobs in this country.
And the President is very gratified by the fact that General Motors is once again the number-one automaker in the world, that Chrysler is the fastest-growing automaker in the world, that Ford is expanding its workforce and bringing jobs home from overseas, that American car companies have produced — not just selling cars, they're making really good cars that out-compete around the world. And that is a subject that is very important to him.
And he also noted today that he had signed an executive order creating the task force that will deal with interagency trade enforcement — rather, the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center that will deal with trade imbalances to make sure that American workers and American businesses can compete on a level playing field with countries around the globe, including China.
Q But the speech today wasn't just the President touting the auto bailout. He spent a good amount of time using rhetoric that we hear in his campaign fundraising speeches. He took some shots at politicians who didn't support the bailout. We know that some of the Republican candidates fall on that side. I just wonder why the White House is so reluctant to acknowledge that the President might be focused on the campaign.
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, there's no question that the issue of the saving of the automobile industry in the United States is a subject of — in the news and a subject of debate. There's no question about that. And the President is very proud of the decisions that he made that were difficult, that were not popular at the time. The fact that he's been talking about the need to do this from the beginning, in 2009, and now other politicians are talking about it and making their opinions known about it — I mean, I think you have to look at cause and effect here.
The President has been talking about this since 2009, when he made these very difficult decisions, and consistently since then. Other politicians have been talking about it now for other reasons. And he pointed out where they try to rewrite history, about where they were or what decisions were made on whose behalf. That's a perfectly legitimate policy discussion that obviously engages — reflects the political debate as well. But these are substantive policy issues that affected hundreds of thousands, even millions of Americans, and they're very worth speaking about as President.
Q On another topic, can you confirm that Israeli officials have told the U.S. that they would not warn the U.S. if they were to strike Iran?
MR. CARNEY: I have no comment on discussions between government officials — United States government officials with officials of another government. I would simply say that we obviously have very close cooperative relationships with the Israeli government, with the Israeli military and the Israeli intelligence services. But beyond that I have no comment.
Q Does the White House believe that it should be alerted by the Israelis should they strike Iran?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply repeat what I said, which is that we have very close relationships with our Israeli counterparts. We have deep engagement at every level. But I wouldn't discuss speculative — I wouldn’t answer speculative questions like that.
Q I wanted to ask about Syria. France said today that the U.N. Security Council would start working on a draft resolution focused on halting hostilities to allow in humanitarian assistance. I wonder if the U.S. supports a resolution like that, is it a step along the way, or what the response is.
MR. CARNEY: Well, two things. I mean, we're counseling with our partners on a variety of next steps — one. And two, our longstanding support for Security Council action is well documented. We were very disappointed by the veto of the Security Council resolution leveled by Russia and China. And we are engaged diplomatically with those countries and all of our international partners and allies on this issue to take the next steps towards supporting the people of Syria, towards further isolating the Assad regime, further pressuring the Assad regime through more punitive sanctions, through developing ways to provide humanitarian relief to the Syrian people and assisting the Syrian opposition in organizing itself and unifying.
But we're dealing with the issues — the steps that we're looking at taking are the ones that, at this point, seem most likely to have an effect and to have success.
Q Would allowing in humanitarian aid count in that category?
MR. CARNEY: Sure, but we're certainly working with our partners to try to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrians.
Q I also wanted to ask — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that it could be argued that Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal but that using labels like that could limit options to persuade leaders to step down from power. Could you address that and clarify a bit whether the United States would like to see Assad tried as a war criminal or prefer to see him seek asylum?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would simply, in many ways, restate and rephrase what the Secretary of State said. Obviously, the actions that Assad and his cronies have taken are reprehensible and brutal, and we have seen evidence of that that is all too vivid.
The fact of the matter is our interest is in ensuring a transition sooner rather than later in Syria so that the Syrian people can get what they deserve and what they desire, which is a democratic transition to a better and more peaceful and prosperous future. Accountability is very important, and we're — we are focused on accountability. But right now, our number-one priority in terms of Syria is to work with our partners, to work within the "Friends of Syria" coalition to continue to pressure Assad, isolate him, to try to bring about his stepping aside so that peace can be restored in that country, the brutal murder of its people can stop, and the transition to a more democratic future can begin.
Q Just to be clear, stepping aside could mean a variety of things –
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I’m not going to speculate about how that will transpire. What is of the utmost importance is that it does happen sooner rather than later.
Let me move around here. Christi.
Q Jay, is the President considering moving any red lines with respect to Iran at some point during the coming week?
MR. CARNEY: I read the story that you’re talking about. The President’s position, the administration’s position could not be more clear. We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We take no issue — no option, rather — off the table when looking at how to deal with Iranian behavior.
We do, however, believe that there is time and space to pursue diplomacy, to pressure the Iranian regime, to sanction it further to get it to change its behavior. There is a road out of — or a path out of this dead end that Iran has been pursuing, which is to honor its international obligations, forsake its nuclear weapons ambitions, and rejoin the international community by living up to its obligations. And we believe that the policy that we have pursued with our partners has put unprecedented pressure on Tehran, on the regime, has put great strains on the Iranian economy, great strains on the Iranian political leadership, and that is a course that we will continue to pursue.
Q I didn't hear anything new in what you just said.
MR. CARNEY: That's because our policy remains exactly what it was.
Q And do you expect that the President will say anything new in public during the course of the Netanyahu visit? Or any of his –
MR. CARNEY: Well, he will speak, as you know, to AIPAC, and I’m sure the issue of Iran will be discussed. But his position is what it has been, which is that we will take no option off the table, but we believe that there is time and space to allow for a diplomatic resolution through the pressure that we are asserting on Tehran through sanctions and other means with our international partners.
Q So the President’s intent is to project the same message that he’s projected over the past few months?
MR. CARNEY: Exactly. And we are keenly aware of the fact that Iran has continued to fail to live up to its obligations, continued to behave in a way that casts doubt on its intentions with its nuclear program, continued to engage in the kind of rhetoric that makes this process even more difficult for Iran. It has also made the world aware of the fact that these sanctions that have been engaged in by the international community have had significant impact.
And we work with our allies to step up the pressure every day, every week. In the entire time I’ve been Press Secretary, I can hardly remember a two- or three-week period that has gone by when we haven’t increased — either the United States, its allies, or through international action — increased the pressure on Iran, and that is clearly having an effect.
We are committed, as Israel is, to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And we have pursued a policy that we believe there is time and space at this point to allow — to have an effect, to have the result that we desire.
Q Can I just follow on that? So the line is developing a nuclear weapon?
MR. CARNEY: We’re determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran clearly has a nuclear program. Iran clearly is not living up to its international obligations by refusing to take steps to assure the international community that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. So we are — that is why we have engaged in the kind of intense effort through sanctions and other means to pressure Tehran, to pressure the Iranian regime, and why our allies in Europe and around the world have joined with us in that effort. And that effort has had demonstrable effect.
Q I’m just trying to understand. So that’s the benchmark, is when they acquire a nuclear weapon — then we would perhaps act militarily?
MR. CARNEY: No, that is not the benchmark. The benchmark is we are determined to prevent them from acquiring one.
Q So how and when would we act to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon?
MR. CARNEY: We've been acting since this President took office to increase the pressure on Iran; to institute unprecedented sanctions; to take a dual-track approach that has reversed a dynamic that existed before President Obama took office which had the world divided with regards to Iran, and Iran united, internally, on this issue. Now the reverse is true — the world is united against Iran. The world is absolutely clear about Iranian misbehavior on this issue. And Iran is under intense economic pressure; it is isolated in ways that it never has been before and it is experiencing strains in its political leadership because of the pressure of the international community. That's the action that this President, this administration has taken since day one.
Q The sanctions have had an effect on the people of Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu says he does not believe, though, that they will ultimately work. What evidence is there that the sanctions have had an effect on those who are working to develop nuclear capability?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the Iranian regime has clearly been affected. There have been — there's been ample reporting on strains within the leadership, ample reporting and explicit expressions of the fact that — by Iranian leaders of the impact on the Iranian economy, the effect on the currency. The fact is the pressure is unprecedented, and it is being felt in Iran.
Now, we have to continue to step it up. We have to continue to work with our partners to make it clear to Iran that the price of a continued refusal to live up to its international obligations is very high indeed, and that there is a path — there is an alternate path here for Iran if they were to choose it, and that is to abide by their obligations, to renounce their nuclear weapons ambitions, and to reengage with the international community.
Q And then, can I ask you just about the President's speech today to the UAW? I know that you were asked if it was a campaign speech, and you said not at all. But repeatedly the President drew a contrast with Republicans in the speech. I mean, talking about "these folks trying to rewrite history," "these folks who said let Detroit go bankrupt." Who is it that said, "let Detroit go bankrupt"?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think a number of critics of the President's decision said that in a variety of ways, Norah. The fact is when the President took action to rescue the automobile industry in this country, to force it to restructure in a way that would make it more competitive and efficient in exchange for taxpayer assistance, it was not a popular decision. It wasn't popular even in Michigan. But the fact is it was the right decision because, as he said, hundreds of thousands of people's jobs were at stake, an iconic American industry was at stake, and he made a decision to press forward with the rescue of the automobile industry, which has turned out to be very much the right decision.
It has helped restore a key sector of the American manufacturing economy. It has led to the creation of 200,000 new jobs, with more jobs online to be created by the Big 3. And this was a legitimate policy debate to have. It continues to be a legitimate policy debate to have. And this President is very happy to engage in that debate because he thinks the right decisions were made on behalf of the American worker and on behalf of the major American automobile companies.
Q Any names of particular folks come to mind?
MR. CARNEY: You can — I mean, there’s a whole list of people, Ed, who opposed this policy and who oppose it now, although try to alter the way that they suggest that they opposed it. But, I mean, this is important stuff. These are the key policy decisions that this President made and that America’s elected officials have to make in times of severe economic crisis, which certainly existed in 2009.
Q Can I just follow on Norah on IAEA and Iran? Because I think what she’s asking about — the sanctions, you’re saying it’s having an effect on Iran’s economy, but then another IAEA report came out saying that they're reaching alarming new heights in terms of enriching uranium and not letting inspectors in. So the question is, it may be hurting their economy, but is it really stopping them from acquiring a weapon?
MR. CARNEY: Well, let’s be clear that the purpose of the sanctions is to pressure them to the point where they decide to renounce their nuclear weapons ambitions. That they have not yet done that is clear, which is why we continue to work with our international partners to intensify the pressure, to intensify the sanctions. That remains — there remains time and space to do that.
Now, let’s be clear that there are IAEA inspectors in Iran. They are able to monitor the main nuclear facilities in Iran. But you are absolutely right that Iran continues to limit its level of cooperation in a way that certainly casts even more doubt on the sincerity of their insistence that they aren't pursuing nuclear weapons. The international community has every reason to doubt their sincerity, and that’s why we have engaged in this concerted, unified international pressure on Iran.
Q But that’s also why Israel has clearly made the calculation that they don’t think the sanctions are working and they may have to take military action. So when you were answering the questions before, it's not just a hypothetical or speculation. They are considering military action. So why won't you say whether or not you want a heads-up on that? You're — it's a key ally. Do you want them to tell you whether or not they're going to attack Iran?
MR. CARNEY: I will simply save the leader-to-leader and defense minister-to-defense minister conversations for those participants. Our cooperation with the Israeli government is full and engaged at every level — governmental, military, intelligence — and we have significant cooperation with Israel on a variety of issues.
But I'm not going to get into discussions that the President will have and does have with the Prime Minister, that the Defense Secretary has with the Defense Minister, Foreign Minister with the Secretary of State. That’s for those individuals to have.
Q Last thing. Secretary Panetta was testifying on the Hill about the budget, and was saying, when asked directly by Senator Graham could we deal with Iran militarily if we had to, he very clearly said, yes, he was confident we could. But then, when asked if sequestration goes forward with the big defense cuts, do you have concerns, and he flatly said, "That would hurt us." Secretary Panetta did. So I guess my question is, what is the President — I know it's in Congress' — the ball is in their court to do something about sequestration. But since the President's own Defense Secretary is saying it could harm us and we could not wage a war, potentially, what is the President doing to make sure those cuts don’t go forward?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it's a good point, Ed, that you have Senator Graham, Republican, on one side, you have the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, of this administration, on the other, you have a President — all of them agree that the sequestration should never come to pass; that, by design, the sequester is terribly onerous not just on defense spending but on other issues. That was the point. And the point was to force Congress to choose the less onerous alternative of reducing the deficit and getting our long-term debt under control in a balanced way.
Now, perhaps Senator Graham or others, in looking at this challenge, might say, you know what, maybe my side, the Republican side, ought to do what bipartisan commissions have said all along ought to be done, which is take a balanced approach to deficit and debt reduction, to agree with — the overwhelming majority of the American people and the complete consensus of these bipartisan commissions agree with the President and many others in this town that the only way to get our deficit and debt under control in a fair way is to do it in a balanced way, which includes dealing with revenue.
The reason why we do not have — why the super committee did not succeed and why we do not have legislation passed into law that would render the sequester null and void is because of a refusal by, unfortunately, Republicans in Congress to deal with the obvious fact that to balance — to get our fiscal house in order, to deal with our deficit and debt, we need to take a balanced approach.
The President continues to hold out hope that Republicans will do that, and is certainly willing to make tough choices, as he has demonstrated in the past, to reach an agreement that does achieve the kind of balanced deficit and debt reduction that this country needs.
Q I think one of the reasons why people seem so surprised that you’re saying that the UAW event wasn’t political was because there were at least five specific references to Mitt Romney, although he wasn’t mentioned by name. Two of them were specific quotes from an op-ed he wrote in November 2008. So I guess the question is just this disingenuousness that, no, what are you talking about?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, Jake, first of all, I think many individuals in our public life opposed the auto bailout. There’s no question.
Q But only one wrote an op-ed called, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
MR. CARNEY: Perhaps — I didn’t read every op-ed. But certainly that sentiment was shared by a number of –
Q You never read that op-ed?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not saying I didn’t — I’m not saying — I said I didn’t read every op-ed. So others may have also certainly shared that sentiment if not the same sentence. The point is, is that, you’re right, this is a matter of public debate right now and it is certainly appropriate for the President to make his policy positions known and to engage in that public debate. Especially on a policy that he is so intimately involved in, which was the decision to rescue, in exchange for significant reform, General Motors and Chrysler.
I’m not denying that there are political implications to that debate, but that’s the reality we live in. These were difficult policy choices that had to do with — that were unpopular at the time, that had to do with whether or not to allow General Motors and Chrysler essentially to liquidate, to cease to exist; and by allowing that to happen, to then let supplies possibly go under — or likely go under — and then because that happened, to see Ford struggle and possibly go under. These were big, big decisions, and they continue to reverberate three years later.
Q All right, but why quote a Republican presidential candidate but refuse to mention his name? I mean, what’s the kabuki there?
MR. CARNEY: There’s no — look, you guys have decided that that's the most important issue –
Q — is in quotes in the President’s speech.
MR. CARNEY: Sure. But what’s your point? This is a matter of debate right now. We have some people who still say it was wrong to take this action. We have a President who took that action. In speaking to the UAW today, a group that was very affected by this decision, who made clear what his position was, and contrasted it –
Q — four more years.
MR. CARNEY: — and contrasted it with the policy opinions of a number of critics, including the governor of Massachusetts, but not exclusively the governor of Massachusetts. I mean, that's a legitimate conversation to have.
Q Okay. Anyway, moving on. Secretary Clinton gave a couple interviews on Sunday after the conference in Tunis, and she talked about some of the misgivings that the administration has when it comes to taking further action with the Syrian opposition, mentioning both the support of al Qaeda to the Syrian opposition as well as Hamas. And I guess my question is, there seemed to have been a way for the U.S. to have supported the Libyan opposition — and I know that they're not directly related, I understand all the differences — but there seemed to have been ways to support the Libyan opposition without arming some of the more nefarious parts of that opposition, the parts that maybe supplied fighters to Iraq against the U.S. or other parts. Is the — are our intelligence services not able to distinguish between the parts of the Libyan [sic] opposition that are unsavory and affiliated with Hamas or al Qaeda, and the parts that are not? Or do we not have that ability?
MR. CARNEY: Well, without getting into assessments of our intelligence capabilities, I would simply say that we are aware of the fact that al Qaeda and other extremists are seeking to take advantage of the situation created by Assad's brutal assault on the opposition, and to try to pretend — contrary to their history, their rhetoric, their reason for being — that they are on the side of greater freedom and democracy for the people of the region — in this case, of Syria.
It's not clear right now the extent to which al Qaeda extremists are working with the Syrian opposition, and obviously that's something that we assess, as was the case in Libya and elsewhere, as we go on. Our position, independent of that — well, related to but not solely dependent on that, is that now is not the time to further militarize the situation in Syria. We are working, rather, with our allies, through the "Friends of Syria," to isolate and pressure Assad, and to try to get him to realize that his days are numbered and to cease the brutality that he's been waging against his own people.
But in terms of assessments of what numbers or percentage or which individuals might be affiliated with extremist groups, I can't address that from here.
Q Okay. And then lastly, just to follow up on the question about Israel and Iran — what is the U.S. hearing from our Arab allies in the region which also do not want an Iran with a nuclear weapon? Obviously what our Arab allies say in public and what they say in private sometimes can be a little bit different. And I'm wondering, what is the message, without getting into specific countries, that we're hearing from some of our allies in the region?
MR. CARNEY: Well, without specifying, certainly there — concerns about Iran's rogue behavior, its pursuit of nuclear weapons technology and nuclear weapons is not limited to the United States, Europe or Israel. It's shared by countries around the world, and countries within the region. The threat that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons technology presents is clear to Israel, it's clear to the United States and its allies, but it's also clear to the countries in the regions for whom the beginning of a nuclear arms race would have terrible and unpredictable effects on those countries. So, again –
Q Are they more concerned with that than they are with Israel potentially, hypothetically, taking out any of the nuclear facilities?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn't — again, I would steer away from kind of engaging in that conversation. But there is certainly — the concern is not ours or Israel's or Europe's alone. It is concern that is broad and stretches across the globe as well as, specifically, to the region.
Q Thank you. On Iran, a while ago you said there is time and space to pursue diplomacy. When does the window of time and space close?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't think that I will give you a specific date by which the –
Q What action closes that –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think it's important to remember, as I noted to Ed, that there are IAEA inspectors in Iran who monitor nuclear facilities there. We do have, therefore, vision into Iran's nuclear programs and — to an extent. And we, without getting into too much detail, monitor their activity and have certain insight into their activity. For that reason and others, we believe there is time and space to pursue a diplomatic path, a path that intensifies the sanctions, intensifies the isolation, and attempts, through unified international action, to get the Iranian regime to change its behavior.
Having said that, I need to make clear every time that I do that the fact that this is the policy we are pursuing now, that this is the option we are pursuing now, does not mean that we are removing other options from the table. As the President has made clear and others have made clear in this administration, all options remain on the table with regards to the way that we will deal with and we are dealing with Iran, even as we pursue a diplomatic path because we believe there is time and space to do that.
Q But it would seem to me that at least if not publicly, privately, there are discussions about when enough is enough. Is there a marker that has been set privately?
MR. CARNEY: Well, without getting into too much detail from the podium here, I think that there has been a fair amount of reporting on what is known about the Iranian program and the fact that we have IAEA inspectors in Iran looking at Natanz and the other site and we have some visibility there. I wouldn’t want to get into more detail about what constitutes action that would change the nature of our evaluation of the time and space needed to pursue a diplomatic path.
Q On gas prices. A lot of what we have heard from the White House has been more long term, a long-term view. For people out there who are filling up their tanks and seeing that price go up almost daily, what is it that the President believes can be done now, in the short term, to bring those prices down?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Dan, I would simply say that, as an administration, we are constantly looking at — evaluating a situation like this that has been recurring almost annually now for some time. The fact remains that there is no silver bullet, there is no quick fix to the challenge that high global oil prices present.
The long-term solution here, the medium- and long-term solution here is to take the all-of-the-above approach that the President has put forward, which includes increasing our output of domestic oil and gas. It includes investing in nuclear technology, investing in clean energy technologies. It includes quite significantly taking action — as he did without Congress — to put in place historic fuel-efficiency standards for cars that will result in huge savings for Americans when they fill up their gas tanks.
It will mean literally when these new standards are in place that they will be able to fill up their gas tank — whereas before they would do it once a week, it would be once every two weeks. That's the result of these fuel-efficiency standards, so that's an enormous savings. And it’s enormous savings at a macro level in terms of the amount of oil and gas that this country would use because of that.
Q So the message is be patient? Is that the message?
MR. CARNEY: The message is that there are a number of factors that go into a spike in global oil prices. And any politician who tells you otherwise is not being honest with you. And you guys know that, and I think most Americans are aware of the fact that when a politician comes at them with a 3-point plan to reduce gas prices to $2 or $2.50 a gallon, that they're blowing smoke, because there are a number of factors that go into a spike in oil prices, including economic growth.
It is a negative side effect, if you will, of increased global economic growth that — because of higher consumption of petroleum products, the price of oil goes up often. And that's why we need a long-term strategy to decrease our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and that's the strategy this President has been pursuing since he took office.
Q One final thing. Just before we came out, a third student died in the Ohio shooting from yesterday. The President and the First Lady have put the spotlight on anti-bullying for quite some time. Given that that’s one of the things that possibly could have been behind the shooting, is that message — that anti-bullying message — not getting through to kids in junior high and high school?
MR. CARNEY: I would very much hesitate to draw any conclusions about what happened in this incident in Ohio before there is a full investigation. Obviously the President and the First Lady are committed to anti-bullying. But the tragic incident that led now to the deaths of three high school students is — it’s terrible and unforgiveable.
Q Thanks, Jay. Following up on the U.N. Security Council draft resolution that’s being worked on right now, do you have any reason to believe that China and Russia might approve whatever final version comes out?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would point you to the comments by the Secretary of State in general about our disappointment with the Russians and the Chinese and their decision to veto the previous Security Council resolution, and simply the statements that she and others have made, and I have made, about being on the wrong side of history here by siding with Assad. As you saw from the General Assembly vote on a similar resolution, the overwhelming number of nations in the world is on the side of Syria, the Syrian people, and not with the Assad regime. So the isolation becomes — or the starkness of the comparison becomes all the more clear with the General Assembly vote.
So we will continue to discuss with the Russians and the Chinese, as well as our other international partners and allies, the need to take action by the international community to pressure Assad, to isolate him to get him to step aside. I think that we need to focus on those actions which have the greatest chance of success. And that includes efforts to organize humanitarian aid; it includes efforts to further isolate and pressure Assad; it includes efforts to assist the Syrian opposition to organize itself and unify, and then continue to work with our allies at the highest levels to examine additional steps that might be taken.
Q In those discussions that you just mentioned, do the officials who have been involved in those discussions have the sense that Russia –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the Russians have — I will let the Russians speak for themselves, as I should, and I don't want to characterize beyond what they've said what their position is. But we will continue to discuss with the Russians and others the need to take action to prevent — or to get Assad to stop killing his own people.
Q And, Jay, the campaign — the President's campaign has said that the 2012 race is going to be tough, it's going to be close. And during his remarks to the UAW, President Obama said, when I leave office in five years, I'm going to buy a Chevy Volt. Does he share this view that it's going to be a tough, close race?
MR. CARNEY: Oh, absolutely. The fact that he is confident that the American people believe that his vision — or will believe when he presents his case that his vision for where we need to go to grow the economy, where we need to go to create jobs, where we need to go to further secure America's national security interests is the right vision — and that debate will be engaged and that theory will be tested in November.
But he is confident, although he is certainly aware that when you're in the kind of economic environment that we've been in for the past three-plus years that this will be invariably a very competitive election. And he intends to make his case to make clear what his vision is, to explain the decisions that he's made and the policies that he's put into place, and why he thinks they were the right ones to get this economy into a situation where instead of hemorrhaging jobs at 775,000 per month, it's been growing steadily — the last jobs report I believe was 250,000 created, for a total of 3.7 million jobs created so far in the private sector. And he will — he looks forward to the time when the other party has chosen its nominee to engage in that debate directly with his opponent.
But he will continue to make the point, as I have, that there is still time between now and November to get things done for the American people. Because the American people, while they will and should participate in the election, engage in it, make their views known and then vote in November, they rightly do not believe that Washington ought to freeze and stop acting on their behalf. There are things we can do, including acting on the President's refinance proposal; including acting on a variety of measures that would enhance economic growth and create jobs. So the President will continue to press Congress to do those things because he believes there is time to do them.
Q Jay, following up on what you just said and what you said at the beginning of the briefing, about Boehner's comments on energy — he has released a letter to the President saying he wants to discuss a common ground approach on the energy issue at the President's "earliest convenience." Based on your comments about what he said, do you feel that there is a prospect for that kind of discussion?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there should be, and I'm sure the President will engage in that discussion when it takes place.
There is an opportunity when it comes to energy policy or approaches to enhancing prospects for small businesses to grow, or helping Americans refinance their homes, there is or should be, given what the American people are demanding and the positions that this President has taken, there should be and there is room for bipartisan compromise on these issues.
But the point I was making at the beginning is that you have to be direct and honest about the situation we face. And calling, for example, in the statement I believe he made this morning, on the President to approve the Keystone pipeline right away when there isn’t even a proposal that exists for that pipeline to be approved is suggesting to the American people that there is a cause and effect here that doesn't exist.
So this President is pursing an all-of-the-above approach to our energy challenges and certainly believes that there is ample opportunity to work with Republicans to achieve the goals that he’s put forward.
Q Finally, a question on a totally different issue, Jay. Did the report on the Dover mortuary reach the White House level?
MR. CARNEY: I’d have to check that. I don't know.
Q If you would, I'd appreciate it.
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q Panetta has been briefed on it. There was a mishandling of remains of 9/11 victims among the findings there. Just wondering if that has reached the President or anyone else here.
MR. CARNEY: I’ll find out for you.
MR. CARNEY: Mara, and then Donovan.
Q Other than remarks that he makes at fundraisers, has the President given a campaign speech this year?
MR. CARNEY: Sure, he — oh, you’re saying other than at political events? No, I think that's where he gives his campaign speeches. And there will be time, as I’ve said, for the President to engage fully in the political campaign.
Q Will you announce when he's starting? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think –
Q It's hard for us to tell. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think, again, you guys set a lot of standards about what constitutes campaign activity, based on where he's allowed to travel –
Q That part I get. This was an in-town speech.
MR. CARNEY: — if you took every state that is supposedly a battleground, you'd remove more than half the country from his itinerary and where he would be allowed to travel as President on official business.
So the fact that the decision to rescue the American automobile industry is a matter of political debate doesn’t make it an important policy issue, and so the President ought to be able to — and did, today — address that issue in his discussion to the UAW.
Q Usually this comes up in the context of travel, like you just mentioned, in terms of allocating funds. But this was just in town.
MR. CARNEY: And there will be a time where, beyond the political events that he has participated in, where he will be in a more sort of comprehensive political posture. But that time is not now and it's actually not for some time, I believe.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: And then Donovan — sorry.
Q In his speech today, the — thank you. Well, I can defer to Donovan.
Q That’s okay. Go ahead.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I — go ahead. And then Donovan you're next.
Q In his speech today, the President criticized those who had suggested that Detroit be allowed to go bankrupt. Without trying to pull you into the Mitt Romney debate, but in point of fact, they did go through bankruptcy.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I want to be clear. I do understand that former Governor Romney did suggest that that should happen. I'm not suggesting — I'm not pretending otherwise. But the point was that a lot of folks opposed it and took that position at the time.
Q What I was trying to get to is in the bailout, they did go through bankruptcy. They went through a three-package bankruptcy. What Romney was — what former Governor Romney was suggesting was a managed bankruptcy, not a liquidation. And the question is, is there a big difference? Because as part of bailout, they did go through bankruptcy.
MR. CARNEY: Well, there's an enormous difference, because you're leaving out the fact that some critics and, I believe, Governor Romney, have suggested the private capital should have been sought in that process. And part of the point was there was no private capital available. We were in a severe economic crisis, with predictions of a second Great Depression. Private capital — private equity firms, for example, were not willing to invest in the automobile industry at the time.
The reason why the policy that the President chose was pursued was because other options weren't available. As he made clear at the time, he wasn't looking to have the American taxpayer bail out the automobile industry. That’s not a platform he ran on. But there was a crisis situation, and a decision had to be made as to whether or not we would allow General Motors and Chrysler, two of the Big 3, to essentially liquidate and cost up to a million jobs in the United States. Faced with that choice, the President made the decision he did.
It’s convenient in retrospect to suggest that there were a variety of other alternatives to get to the same outcome. The fact is there weren’t. And tough choices had to be made, unpopular choices had to be made, and the President made them.
Q Just a quick follow-up. Does the administration still consider Chrysler to be an American automobile manufacturer, given the majority stake that Fiat has?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that Chrysler is an American iconographic automobile company, and, yes, we do.
Q Thank you, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Donovan. Sorry.
Q Thank you. You kind of answered my first question, which is why won’t you use Governor Romney’s name. You just used it, so, thank you. Republicans are repeatedly criticizing the President for not working with them on their jobs act. What is the President’s position on working with the Speaker and others on their version of a jobs act?
MR. CARNEY: I think there is great opportunity to — and great overlap between this administration’s position on some of these issues, especially with regards to small businesses. I believe the House Majority Leader put forward on Politico some of his policy proposals and there’s real opportunity to work to get a lot of that done.
And it goes right to the point that I’ve been making that conventional wisdom holds that we can't actually accomplish things that both the administration and a Congress controlled largely by the other party can agree on. But that's not true. And I think that's a perfect example of an area where we can find common ground and can achieve some of the things that — after all, a number of the items that the House Majority Leader put forward in that op-ed, I guess it was, in Politico are ones that the President first suggested back in September and he reiterated at the State of the Union address.
Q So who's not coming to the table? Is it the Majority Leader –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we need to — that Congress needs to come together, and there is an opportunity — again, if there’s a willingness to compromise on the margins, if you will, because there is great overlap here, to get those bills and those items done where there is agreement. So we certainly hope and expect the Congress will do that.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: One more, Kate.
Q Back to Peter’s question on the mishandling of some remains of 9/11 victims, is there a sense that there has to be some changes at Dover? This isn’t the first time something like this has happened –
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry. I just — I haven’t had a discussion about that so I would hesitate to offer an official answer from here. I’ll have to take the question.
Q Will the President be briefed later on this?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I just would have to go look at this.
Q And on the Iraq vets dinner tomorrow night, can you talk a little bit about the purpose of the dinner, why the President and Secretary Panetta are hosting it? Is the President going to be meeting with any of the vets privately beforehand?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I certainly — he will certainly be engaging with those in attendance at the dinner. I think it’s to note the remarkable accomplishments and sacrifice of the men and women who served in Iraq in a difficult military engagement, a difficult war that lasted for eight years — or nine.
So the President looks forward to this. He is enormously appreciative of the sacrifice and service that the men and women in uniform who served in Iraq provided to their country. And obviously, some of them provided the ultimate sacrifice, and he — as I think I’ve said before, he looks forward to his encounters with the men and women who have served our armed forces very much.
Thanks very much, guys.
1:58 P.M. EST
Today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services has suspended payments worth an estimated $2.3 million per month to 78 Texas home health agencies suspected to be involved in an alleged fraud ring. That’s more than $27 million in hard-earned taxpayer dollars that could be saved over the next year.
The suspension of payments was part of today’s announcement that:
“A physician and the office manager of his medical practice, along with five owners of home health agencies, were arrested today on charges related to their alleged participation in a nearly $375 million health care fraud scheme involving fraudulent claims for home health services.”
Today’s suspension of payments are part of efforts that recovered $4.1 billion in taxpayer dollars last year, the second year recoveries hit this record breaking level. Total recoveries over the last three years were $10.7 billion. Prosecutions are way up, too: the number of individuals charged with fraud increased from 821 in fiscal year 2008 to 1,430 in fiscal year 2011 – nearly a 75 percent increase.
In addition to cracking down on fraud, we are also taking aggressive steps to cut payment errors in Medicare and Medicaid. We dramatically reduced the government-wide rate of improper payments in fiscal year 2011, including significant reductions in every Medicare and Medicaid program. All told, we have avoided over $20 billion in improper payments over the past two years, as part of our efforts to reduce waste and error across government through the Obama Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste.
During Black History Month, we pause to salute and reflect on the contributions African Americans have made to the rich fabric that makes up the United States. There are many untold stories that reveal the best of Americans who stepped up when duty called, broke color barriers, or quietly made their communities better one person at a time.
In tribute, President Obama recently invited six special senior citizens to visit the White House to honor as unsung heroes. These unsung heroes are individuals who strengthen their communities through extraordinary everyday acts of service done with reliability and commitment, but who seldom receive recognition.
Among those who visited with President Obama were pioneers in the struggle for racial equality, educators who changed their communities through the classroom, and people who believe that a lifetime serving others is a life well spent.
For Immediate Release
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ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INTERAGENCY TRADE ENFORCEMENT CENTER
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to advance U.S. foreign policy and protect the national and economic security of the United States through strengthened and coordinated enforcement of U.S. trade rights under international trade agreements and enforcement of domestic trade laws, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. Robust monitoring and enforcement of U.S. rights under international trade agreements, and enforcement of domestic trade laws, are crucial to expanding exports and ensuring U.S. workers, businesses, ranchers, and farmers are able to compete on a level playing field with foreign trade partners. To strengthen our capacity to monitor and enforce U.S. trade rights and domestic trade laws, and thereby enhance market access for U.S. exporters, executive departments and agencies (agencies) must coordinate and augment their efforts to identify and reduce or eliminate foreign trade barriers and unfair foreign trade practices to ensure that U.S. workers, businesses, ranchers, and farmers receive the maximum benefit from our international trade agreements and under domestic trade laws.
Sec. 2. Establishment. (a) There is established within the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (Center).
(b) The Center shall coordinate matters relating to enforcement of U.S. trade rights under international trade agreements and enforcement of domestic trade laws among USTR and the following agencies:
(i) the Department of State;
(ii) the Department of the Treasury;
(iii) the Department of Justice;
(iv) the Department of Agriculture;
(v) the Department of Commerce;
(vi) the Department of Homeland Security;
(vii) the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and
(viii) other agencies as the President, or the United States Trade Representative, may designate.
In matters relating to the enforcement of U.S. trade rights involving intellectual property rights, the Center shall consult with the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.
(c) The Center shall have a Director, who shall be a full-time senior-level official of USTR, designated by and reporting to the United States Trade Representative. The Center shall have a Deputy Director, who shall be a full-time senior-level official of the Department of Commerce, designated by the Secretary of Commerce, detailed to the Center and reporting to the Director. The Center shall also have an Intelligence Community Liaison, who shall be a full-time senior-level official of the Federal Government recommended by the Director of National Intelligence and designated by his or her agency, as applicable, to be detailed or assigned to the Center.
(d) To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, and in consultation with the Director of the Center, agencies enumerated in subsection (b) of this section, and others in the Intelligence Community recommended by the Director of National Intelligence, are encouraged to detail or assign their employees to the Center without reimbursement to support the mission and functions of the Center as described in section 3 of this order.
Sec. 3. Mission and Functions. The Center shall:
(a) serve as the primary forum within the Federal Government for USTR and other agencies to coordinate enforcement of U.S. trade rights under international trade agreements and enforcement of domestic trade laws;
(b) coordinate among USTR, other agencies with trade related responsibilities, and the U.S. Intelligence Community the exchange of information related to potential violations of international trade agreements by our foreign trade partners; and
(c) conduct outreach to U.S. workers, businesses, and other interested persons to foster greater participation in the identification and reduction or elimination of foreign trade barriers and unfair foreign trade practices.
Sec. 4. Administration. (a) Funding and administrative support for the Center shall be provided by USTR to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(b) The United States Trade Representative, through the Director of the Center, shall direct the work of the Center in performing all of its functions under this order.
Sec. 5. Definitions. For the purposes of this order:
(a) the term "U.S. trade rights" means any right, benefit or advantage to which the United States is entitled under an
international trade agreement and that could be effectuated through the use of a dispute settlement proceeding.
(b) the term "domestic trade laws" means any trade remedies available under U.S. law, including, but not limited to, sections 201, 301, 406, and 421 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (19 U.S.C. 2251, 2411, 2436, and 2451); sections 332 and 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1332 and 1337); section 281 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (19 U.S.C. 3571); and self-initiation of investigations under Title VII of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1671).
Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Directive to an executive department, agency, or head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a progress report on the work Congress and the Administration have done over the last year to tackle duplication and fragmentation and take advantage of cost-saving opportunities in the Federal government. In addition, it released a second report suggesting areas for future action. We appreciate GAO’s work in these important areas. Big problems require all of us – the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch– to come together around big solutions.
We have examined the GAO report, and our analysis of it is here. The key findings are:
- Nearly 80 percent of the issue areas for which GAO recommended action last year, and more than three-quarters of the recommendations for Executive Branch actions associated with those areas (76 percent) were addressed in some way.
- Congress addressed less than 40 percent of the GAO recommendations that required congressional action (39 percent) in some way.
GAO found progress over the last year reducing duplication in areas as diverse as data center consolidation, food safety, interagency contracting, and arms control. It found cost-saving progress in areas as diverse as the management of DOD spare parts, government wide improper payments, strategic sourcing, and electronic filing of tax returns.
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