Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Pittsburgh, PA, 6/17/2014
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
11:50 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make the first of two stops, the first being to Pittsburgh, where, as you know, the President will be meeting with workers at TechShop, a company that helps American investors make affordable prototypes. He’ll continue his drumbeat about expanding opportunity for all Americans by focusing on additional ways that we can create good jobs by continuing to spur innovation, entrepreneurship and manufacturing.
Tomorrow, as you know, he’ll host the first-ever White House Maker Faire as part of this effort. And that Maker Faire will feature Americans who are making new, innovative products, and who reflect the best of our country’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Ahead of today’s visit, we announced new steps to further spur manufacturing and innovation, including a partnership with mayors across the country who will bring this makers movement to their own backyards. At TechShop today, the President will take a tour of their facility before delivering remarks and taking questions from TechShop workers and member organizations who use their services.
I have, obviously, more detail, and you may as well, about TechShop and about today’s event. Happy to take questions on that and any other subject.
Q Josh, can you -- or, Josh --
MR. CARNEY: Josh! (Laughter.) How quickly we forget!
Q Sorry, I take it back. Let me start again. Jay, can you talk a bit about this Libyan raid that captured a suspect in the Benghazi attack? What the U.S. plans to do with him in terms of the judicial system, how he will be detained, and how he will be treated?
MR. CARNEY: I can only tell you that the Department of Defense has issued a statement confirming that the United States military, in cooperation with law enforcement personnel, captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a key figure in the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in September of 2012. He is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya. For more details and any questions about the operation, I would refer you to the Department of Defense.
More broadly, we have made it clear since that cowardly attack on our facilities that we would go to any lengths to find, apprehend, and bring to justice those who perpetrated it and were responsible for the deaths of four Americans. The capture of Abu Khatallah is not the end of that effort, but it marks an important milestone.
So this is an important development, but I’m not going to get ahead of things. The Department of Justice -- I mean, rather, the Department of Defense will be providing more details later in the day.
Q Just about him, though, is it accurate that he is a mastermind, the mastermind? Can you fill us in on that a little bit?
MR. CARNEY: I wouldn’t want to characterize that. He obviously was a key figure in the attacks, but beyond that I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.
Q Is he at Guantanamo?
MR. CARNEY: He’s at a secure location outside of Libya.
Q Typically, those have been U.S. military ships. Can you say that?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to comment beyond what I’ve just said about him being at a secure location out of Libya.
Q And the process for bringing him to justice would be a military tribunal court system?
MR. CARNEY: At this point, Jim, because obviously this has just been reported and the initial statement has just gone out from the Department of Defense, I don’t have more details about the process moving forward at this time, but we will.
Q Anything about when and where it’ll happen?
MR. CARNEY: Again, as I think you’ve seen in the reports, and the Department of Defense and I just noted, it was an operation involving U.S. military personnel as well as law enforcement personnel that led to the capture of this individual. But more details will be forthcoming later in the day.
Q Jay, reports are that this guy had been kind of operating openly in Libya. Any idea why it took to this point to capture him?
MR. CARNEY: For details on the operation I’d refer you to the Defense Department. What I think this makes clear is that
when it comes to doing what we, as the United States, said we would do, which is bring to justice those responsible for the acts in Benghazi, there’s no time limit on that. We’re patient and we fulfill our commitments.
Q What do you think this says to the political critics of the President on Benghazi in terms of -- I mean, does this, from your perspective, silence some of their criticisms?
MR. CARNEY: I really think this is entirely about the objective that we had as a country in the immediate aftermath and ever since, which is to bring those responsible to justice. That’s been our focus and continues to be our focus -- that and of course taking the steps necessary to ensure that we can prevent these kinds of attacks in the future.
Q After last night’s meeting, what’s the timetable for the President’s decision on Iraq? Can you give us any more insight into that?
MR. CARNEY: The President, as we noted, met with his National Security Council yesterday, late yesterday, to discuss the situation in Iraq. And he will continue to consult with his national security team in the days to come. They will also -- he and his team will continue to consult with members of Congress to share views and discuss possible responses. Those consultations will continue, including closed briefings with a number of committees this week.
As you know, the President directed his national security team to develop a range of options, and that work is ongoing. I think that rather than discuss timetables, I would note that the national security team is preparing options that are part of a comprehensive strategy -- because we have been clear, the President has been clear, that this is not primarily a military challenge. It is evident, of course, that Iraq needs significantly more help to break the momentum of extremist groups and to bolster the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
But there is no military solution that will solve Iraq’s problems, which is why we’ve been urgently pressing Iraq’s leaders across the political spectrum to govern in a non-sectarian manner; to promote stability and unity among Iraq’s diverse population; to address the legitimate grievances of Iraq’s Sunni, Kurd and Shia communities; and build and invest in the capacity of Iraq’s security forces.
Along those lines, we welcome the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court’s ratification of the April 30th election results. This is an extremely important step as Iraq undertakes a peaceful transition of power from one elected government to another. With the election results officially ratified, we call on Iraq’s leaders to move forward expeditiously to form an inclusive and representative government that represents the people of Iraq as determined through the democratic and constitutional process.
It’s critical that all political leaders come together without delay to put the interest of the Iraqi people foremost in their negotiations to establish the makeup of a new government.
We have also supported Iraqi political and religious leaders and their call for national unity to confront the ISIL terrorist threat. Most notably, were calls from Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s office over the weekend to avoid sectarian actions that would harm the unity and national fabric of the Iraqi people. And he also emphasized the need for volunteers to work through the legal framework. In that light, Iraqi National Security Advisor Fayad also announced the formation of a public mobilization effort to regulate the thousands of volunteers who have stepped forward to assist Iraq’s security forces at this time of need.
Q So does this constitute the move toward an inclusive political agenda that the President said he wanted to see before he would consider military action?
MR. CARNEY: It’s an important step. It is still very much an imperative that Iraq’s political leaders take steps to become more united, to govern in a non-sectarian manner so that it is clear to all members of Iraq’s diverse population that ISIL is a threat to the Iraqi nation and to all Iraqis, and that the government and the security forces are working on behalf of all of Iraq’s citizens regardless of their religious and ethnic background.
Q Jay, there are reports ISIL is 40 miles from Baghdad. What kind of time does the President think he has before he at least moves to protect that city?
MR. CARNEY: Jim, the President has tasked his national security team to develop options, and that effort continues. The President made clear that in his view there is not a military solution to Iraq’s problems. There is a near-term challenge presented by the movement of ISIL through the north and west of the country and towards Baghdad. And we are assessing that situation and will continue to do that, and will continue to look at options available to us to assist the Iraqi security forces in that effort.
Q Jay, did the President narrow any options at the NSC meeting last night?
MR. CARNEY: Did he what?
Q Did he narrow anything?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to characterize it beyond to say that the President tasked the national security team to develop options. And at the meeting yesterday, the national security team and the President discussed the situation in Iraq and the development of those options.
Q Did he offer -- or do you have deadline to have the options and go over things for -- by Thursday, by Friday?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into a timeframe. I think that the President has made clear that the issue here in terms of the United States and our national security interest is the necessity to prevent ISIL from establishing a terrorist safe haven in the region. That’s first and foremost, obviously, our primary interest when it comes to the national security of the United States and our partners and allies.
And to that end, the President is also making clear that the medium- and long-term challenges that Iraq faces cannot be solved militarily, they must be solved through actions taken by Iraq’s leaders to govern inclusively so that it is abundantly clear to Iraq’s citizens that extremist groups like ISIL do not have their interests at heart, that their actions have virtually nothing to do with domestic Iraqi politics, but have only to do with advancing a brutal extremist ideology in their country.
Q Ambassador Ryan Crocker this morning on CBS said that Secretary Kerry should already be on a plane to Baghdad, saying that the U.S. should take a stronger lead in diplomacy. Given that the White House has said that this is a diplomatic solution, why haven’t we seen that? Or will we expect to see that?
MR. CARNEY: Secretary Kerry has obviously been very engaged in this effort, as has Vice President Biden and other members of the President’s national security team. For the Secretary’s travels, I would refer you to the State Department.
Q You talked about consultations with Congress. How much consultation has there been with allies like France and the UK? And now that that refinery has been closed, that main refinery near Baghdad, at Baiji, has there been consultations with partners in the region about oil supplies?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any updates on that issue, the second part of your question. We are obviously in regular consultation with our allies and partners about the situation in Iraq.
Q The 275 people sent mainly to protect the embassy, but there were others there, are any of them allowed to interact with the Iraqi military -- give training, give advice? Anything like that?
MR. CARNEY: A couple of points. At the request of the U.S. State Department, the Department of Defense continues to provide security assistance for embassy personnel inside of Iraq. Over the weekend, a number of teams, totaling approximately 170 U.S. personnel, began arriving in Baghdad from within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The personnel will provide assistance to the Department of State in connection with the temporary relocation of some staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the U.S. Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman.
These U.S. military personnel are entering Iraq with the consent of the government of Iraq. There have been a number of times when we have filed similar war power resolution letters and we have needed to augment existing security at our embassies. The safety of personnel serving in diplomatic missions abroad is among our highest priorities.
The military has also moved approximately 100 personnel in the region to provide airfield management security and logistics support if required. So their mission is to provide that security that I just described to the Department.
Q What about training or advice?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, we have a relationship -- a security relationship with Iraq that involves providing security training outside in a third country, as well as an advisory capacity. These troops are focused on -- or these personnel are focused on security for the embassy and embassy personnel.
Q Jay, regarding allied contacts, has the President himself made calls to foreign leaders on the issue?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any foreign leader calls to update you on.
Q Without any readouts. But has he made calls?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any that I have information on for you.
Q Are all three of these events tonight fundraisers? The galas --
MR. CARNEY: There is one event in which the President is attending as a participant, but he is not in this context -- sorry, this is the event -- I forget which one this is. This is an event where he is attending the event as a special guest. We announced his participation in super PAC events in February. For the context, the President does not ask for or solicit funds at this event. The other two I believe are committee events.
Q So this is a PAC, it’s not a fundraiser event?
MR. CARNEY: Well, his participation is not -- is guided by what I just said.
Q Anything on the maritime -- on this maritime executive action. When is he going to do that?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything on that for you, Jim.
Q I think you put it right before we took off, didn’t you?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t think I have anything on that, Jim.
Q There doesn’t seem to be much drilling in that area of the Pacific maritime region that they’re talking about.
MR. CARNEY: This the ocean stuff?
MR. CARNEY: President Obama is committed to protecting the ocean and its marine ecosystems. Americans all over the country depend on the ocean for food, jobs and recreation. But the health of our ocean is under threat on multiple fronts, from over-fishing to carbon pollution. Recognizing these significant challenges, President Obama launched the National Ocean Policy early in his first term.
This week, the State Department is hosting the “Our Ocean” Conference, an international conference on sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and ocean acidification that concludes today. As part of the conference, the President is announcing several steps that the U.S. is taking to answer that call, including protections for world-class marine areas and steps to combat black market fishing and supporting fishermen.
For more details, I’d refer you to the State Department and the Council on Environmental Quality. I hope that was responsive.
Q Thank you, sir.
MR. CARNEY: It’s been a pleasure.
Q And congrats.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you.
12:09 P.M. EDT