The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Daily Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/24/2013
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:17 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Wait, is this televised? (Laughter.) Nobody ever told me. Good Monday, everyone. Thank you for being here -- always good to have you on a slow news day.
Before I take your questions, I just wanted to note that this week represents an important step in our efforts to start delivering on the promise of expanding access to quality, affordable health coverage for millions of Americans. We are launching the new and improved HealthCare.gov, which you can see behind me, and which will be the marketplace’s online home starting in October. For Spanish-speaking customers, CuidadoDeSalud.gov has also been updated in preparation for the marketplace. The screen behind me gives you a sense of the new website.
We’re also opening a consumer call center that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This toll-free service will help answer questions and, starting in October, it will provide personalized assistance for callers who are filling out their application or selecting a plan.
Beginning October 1st, a new health insurance marketplace will open in every state, giving Americans a whole new way to shop for health insurance. For the next 100 days, the team at HHS will be working to educate the public about enrollment. For the first time in the history of the private insurance market, consumers will be able to go to one place to check out their coverage options, get accurate information in easy-to-understand language, and make apples-to-apples comparisons of plans before they make their decision.
I do recommend that you visit the site. It’s I think very well designed, very user-friendly, and represents the efforts underway to help inform the American people about the options available to them under health care reform and the Affordable Care Act -- HealthCare.gov; CuidadoDeSalud.gov also.
Q Thank you. What can you tell us about Edward Snowden’s whereabouts? And is the White House working under the assumption that he is still in Russia?
MR. CARNEY: We understand that he departed Hong Kong yesterday and that he arrived in Russia. Beyond that, I would refer you -- with regards to his whereabouts -- to Russian authorities.
Q So you can’t tell us whether you’re working under the assumption that he’s still there?
MR. CARNEY: It is our assumption that he is in Russia, yes.
Q And what kind of conversations are happening right now between the U.S. and Russia? I know there was a statement last night saying that you’ve asked the Russians to look at all options for trying to expel him. Are they receptive? Do they say that they are working towards that goal?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that we are obviously in conversations and that we are working with them or discussing with them -- or rather expecting them to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged.
I would note that given our intensified cooperation with Russia after the Boston Marathon bombings and our history of working with Russia on law enforcement matters, including returning numerous high-level criminals back to Russia at the request of the Russian government, that we do expect the Russian government to look at all the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States.
Q But if they -- have they responded by saying, yes, we are --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have details of conversations to read out to you. Obviously we’re monitoring the situation very closely and are in contact with Russia and other governments as appropriate.
Q And Snowden left Hong Kong. What type of influence do you think Beijing had in that decision?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, let me say that the request that was made complied with all of the requirements of the U.S.-Hong Kong Surrender Agreement. At no point in all of our discussions through Friday did the authorities in Hong Kong raise any issues regarding the sufficiency of the U.S.’s provisional arrest request. In light of this, we find their decision to be particularly troubling.
Since June 10, when we learned that Mr. Snowden was in Hong Kong, U.S. authorities have been in continual contact with their Hong Kong counterparts at the working and senior levels. Attorney General Eric Holder placed a phone call on June 19th with his counterpart, the Hong Kong Secretary for Justice, stressing the importance of the matter and urging Hong Kong to honor our request for Snowden’s arrest.
There have been repeated engagements by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong. There have been repeated engagements by the FBI with their law enforcement counterparts. And finally, there have been continual communications by the DOJ Criminal Divisions Office of International Affairs with counterparts at Hong Kong’s Department of Justice International Law Division and Mutual Legal Assistance Unit.
On June 17th, Hong Kong authorities acknowledged receipt of our request. Despite repeated inquiries, Hong Kong authorities did not respond with any request for additional documents or information, stating only that the matter was under review and refusing to elaborate.
On June 21, Hong Kong authorities requested additional information concerning the U.S. charges and evidence. The U.S. had been in communication with Hong Kong about these inquiries, and we were in the process of responding to the request when we learned that Hong Kong authorities had allowed the fugitive to leave Hong Kong.
With regards to your question about the Chinese government, we are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship.
Q What are the repercussions in U.S.-Chinese relations for this decision?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to speculate about the repercussions, but the Chinese have emphasized that importance of building mutual trust, Steve, as you know, and we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem. And that is a point we are making to them very directly.
Q Has the President spoken with President Xi about this?
MR. CARNEY: I have no presidential communications to report out to you, but obviously we are communicating with our counterparts at the appropriate levels.
Q Are there repercussions for Russia in U.S.-Russian relations if they do not --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn’t want to speculate on outcomes here. Again, as you know, we understand Mr. Snowden to be in Russia and we are, of course, in discussions with Russian authorities about that. And as I just noted, we have a strong law enforcement cooperative relationship with the Russians, and that relationship has resulted in that past in us returning criminals to Russia. And we are expecting the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States.
Q How frustrating is it to the President that, first, China lets him go and now Russia seems to be on the verge of letting him go?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I wouldn’t want to speculate about anything that has not happened yet. I would simply say that our frustration and disappointment with Hong Kong and China is reflected in the statement I just made.
Q How did the President react when he learned that Snowden had left Hong Kong? And what -- well, start there.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would say that the President has been updated by his national security staff continually on developments, as you would expect. I don't have a characterization of his reaction to developments except to say that he’s monitoring it closely and that the disappointment that we feel in the handling of this by Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese is evident by what I just said.
Q Does he want answers on why Snowden’s passport wasn’t pulled sooner and other steps that could have been taken?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there’s been -- well, let me say a couple of things about that, because the State Department explained this yesterday. As a routine matter and consistent with U.S. regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to having their passport revoked. Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status. Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr. Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than is necessary to return them to the United States.
Now, because of the Privacy Act -- and anyone can note the irony there -- we cannot comment on Mr. Snowden’s passport specifically. But I can say that the Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of his travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited travel, as appropriate.
Q It sounds like a bunch of bureaucracy --
MR. CARNEY: No, no. Let me repeat --
Q Is the President enraged?
MR. CARNEY: Jessica, let me repeat, I can say that the Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Mr. Snowden’s travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited his travel, as appropriate. And I think I did reflect our concern and disappointment in the actions -- or the failure to act by Hong Kong authorities, as well as the fact that we do not buy the suggestion that China could not have taken action.
Q You said the Attorney General has reached out and FBI. Has the President made a call to President Putin? And if he has not, why not?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't have presidential communications to read out to you except to say there is no reason why, given international law, given the relationships that we have with the countries in question, that this would require a communication from the President. Again, I'm not reading out presidential communications. There are communications at all the appropriate levels, and we note, as I just did, that we have a strong, cooperative relationship with the Russians on law enforcement matters and we expect the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States.
Q Does he see it as a loss of prestige if he makes the effort and he isn't returned?
MR. CARNEY: I think that, as I just said, when it comes to our relations with Hong Kong and China that we see this as a setback in terms of their efforts to build -- the Chinese -- their efforts to build mutual trust. And our concerns I think are pretty clearly stated.
Q Does the administration feel that Mr. Snowden has already revealed everything he has to reveal? He said that he has access to the full roster of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, undercover assets around the world. Do you believe he has access to that kind of information?
MR. CARNEY: There is a damage assessment that is being undertaken and I don't have specifics on the progress of that assessment for you. The DNI and NSA would have more on that for you. I can simply say that we're concerned about, in general, the leak of -- unauthorized leaks of classified information. We're concerned about the kinds of information that has been leaked. I think that's reflected in the action taken by the Department of Justice. And we've said all along that disclosure of this kind, of highly classified material, is extremely damaging to our national security and gives our terrorist enemies a playbook for our activities designed to thwart them. So the implications of this kind of unauthorized release of information are pretty profound.
Q Russian News Agency has speculated that one reason for the delay in his departure may be that there's concern that the U.S. might try to force down the Russian airliner carrying him to land on U.S. territory so that we can retrieve Snowden. Would we go after him with force like that?
MR. CARNEY: We are communicating with the appropriate authorities in Russia and elsewhere on this matter. I'm not going to respond to speculation in a Russian newspaper. It's been a long time since I've done that.
Q How far would we go to get him? Would we, for example, force down an airliner from another country?
MR. CARNEY: I think that we expect the Russian authorities to examine all the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden appropriately. And I think I can leave it at that.
Q So you’d rule out any kind of use of force?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to engage in speculation about various options. I would simply say that we're working with authorities in a variety of countries on this matter.
Q And is there any information on what has happened to the four computers he is supposed to have been carrying?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any information. I think that -- as I said, we remain concerned about the unauthorized leaks of classified information and the potential for leaks of more classified information. There is a damage assessment ongoing. I think it's safe to assume that information that he has both provided and may still have is already compromised, and that the damage assessment would have to take that into account.
Q But there are stories out there that -- one story has the computers having been left behind at some point. Another story has the Chinese having had a chance to copy the information. What do we know?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have specifics about that. Maybe the Department of Justice does. But I can tell you that it's safe to assume in the damage assessment that's ongoing that any information that he might have that's unauthorized that he has not already provided publicly we would expect to be compromised.
Q Jay, you said the President was disappointed in China's handling of this. What about the U.S. handling of it? Who is actually sort of leading the efforts? Is it the White House? Is it the Justice Department? Who is sort of quarterbacking the U.S. response here?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there's a variety of people involved on issues like this -- obviously, the State Department at the diplomatic level; the Department of Justice at a law enforcement level; the White House as a coordinator of --
Q But is there a point person, given the complexity of all of that?
MR. CARNEY: Point person for what issue?
Q To track him down.
MR. CARNEY: The Department of Justice has obviously issued an indictment and has a lead in that matter. But there are other agencies involved in the effort to deal with this situation, and that involves diplomacy as well as law enforcement.
But again, I think that, to your question about the U.S. handling of it, I think I addressed the issue of the passport -- again, without being able to be specific about an individual's passport because of the Privacy Act. I was able to say what I said about the fact that Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Mr. Snowden's travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited his travel as appropriate and there was no indication in any of the conversations between U.S. officials and Hong Kong officials prior to their request for information that preceded the departure of Mr. Snowden that there were any problems.
Q And along the same lines, in terms of U.S. handling, there have been some suggestions in reports that Interpol was not contacted early enough in this process to alert them to the fact that the U.S. wanted their help. Is that true? When were they contacted?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think that you need to understand, as I believe is the case, that on matters of Interpol red notices, that in general, a red notice is most valuable when the whereabouts of a fugitive are unknown. Here we knew the fugitive was in Hong Kong and directly sought his provisional arrest pending extradition while the charges were under seal.
It is unfortunate that Hong Kong inappropriately failed to take action on our requests and permitted a fugitive to simply leave their country in an obvious attempt to escape justice.
Q Last thing on this. The administration was obviously embarrassed when you had a 29-year-old person as contractor just leak all these documents in the first place. Is the administration embarrassed now that you can’t track him down, that he’s -- this cat-and-mouse game that’s going on for all the world to see?
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve been very clear about the actions we’ve taken and our assessment of the failure of authorities in Hong Kong to act appropriately on a provisional arrest. We have known where he is and believe we know where he is now, and there are ongoing conversations about that. Beyond that, we’ll have to assess as time passes.
Q Jay, we’re more than six hours removed from the supposed airplane he was supposedly going to be on, on the way to Havana. Is him not on an airplane yet -- should that be taken as a sign that negotiations between the U.S. government and Russian government are making progress? They’re ongoing? Is that a positive sign as far as the U.S. government is concerned, that Mr. Snowden did not get on -- has not gotten on any airplane?
MR. CARNEY: All I can say, Chuck, because this is obviously an ongoing situation, as you describe it, is that we have asked the Russians to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States.
I can note, as I have, that we have worked cooperatively with the Russians in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and have a fairly substantial history of law enforcement cooperation with Russia as a backdrop to this discussion. But I wouldn’t want to characterize communications at this point or speculate about outcomes. This is clearly fluid and we’re monitoring --
Q -- so far they’re cooperating?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, it is our understanding that Mr. Snowden remains in Russia. Beyond that, I wouldn’t want to speculate about next steps except that we have communicated to the Russians our hope that they will look at all options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States.
Q Does the U.S. government believe that if he is allowed to leave Russia then you probably -- the U.S. government is probably going to give up on getting him back?
MR. CARNEY: I wouldn’t want to speculate about that. I don’t think “give up” is really a way to characterize the situation. Right now, we believe we understand where he is, and we’re having appropriate conversations about that, and I wouldn’t want to get ahead of that.
Q Quickly on immigration. One of the House Democrats who’s tried to be involved in the talks has said that it’s not -- doesn’t believe it’s a blow to immigration reform if a version of it does not pass the House before the August recess. It seems to be different from where the White House wants something to pass the House before the August recess. Are you guys comfortable with the idea that if the House doesn’t act by the August recess you can still get immigration reform?
MR. CARNEY: We want progress in both houses. We have seen substantial progress in the Senate and consider the agreement that was reached on border security to be a very positive breakthrough in the bipartisan effort toward common-sense immigration reform and comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. This process is continuing. We look forward to action by the Senate and continue to work with the House as they take up the issue.
But your question is a good one because it reflects that there are obstacles that remain before we get to where we want to be, which is to a place where we have bipartisan legislation passed by both houses of Congress that meets the standards set by the President, those principles that he laid out, so that he can sign it into law. And this is always going to be -- was always going to be a heavy lift. We are encouraged by the progress we’ve seen, but we recognize that we’re not there yet and a lot of work remains to be done in the House, certainly, and the Senate as well.
Q Do you anticipate a bill out of the House?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to draw any lines in the sand about what we’re hoping or expecting to see out of the House. We would want to continue to see progress. And we believe that there is the kind of progress in the Senate that reflects a broader consensus in the country. And assessments that have been made about the bill in question here reflect the broad benefits that immigration reform will provide to the country -- to the middle class, to our businesses, to economic growth, to reducing our deficit, as the CBO noted -- substantial deficit reduction through comprehensive immigration reform.
So there are plenty of benefits here. There is an assessment by the CBO about the benefits of legal immigration reform and the benefits that that would have on innovation and entrepreneurship in this country, because, as you know, immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants in this country are disproportionately responsible for business startups, and business startups -- new businesses, small businesses -- help drive our economy forward and increase growth and job creation. So this legislation and this issue is much bigger with far broader benefits than I think is sometimes recognized.
Is that it? Yes, sir.
Q Can you talk a little bit about the government's assessment of President Mandela's condition -- or former President Mandela's condition, and what the thinking is of sort of how that might be handled going forward, given the President's trip as it stands?
MR. CARNEY: At this point, I think I can say that we are assessing -- that we are monitoring the situation and understand from the reports that former South African President Nelson Mandela is in critical condition. And our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and with the people of South Africa. I wouldn't want to speculate about the impact of Mr. Mandela's health on the President's trip.
He continues to look forward to the trip and to his visit to South Africa, and to continuing to build on our already very strong partnership with the South African government and people. The President obviously has long seen Nelson Mandela as one of his personal heroes, and I think he is not alone in that in this country or around the world. And we all express our thoughts and prayers -- or note that our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family at this time.
Q Understanding that a lot would be in flux, but would you anticipate were he to pass before the President left, that some kind of visit, however changed in tone and what have you, would still take place?
MR. CARNEY: I think it's really hard to say. And I think it just wouldn't be appropriate to speculate on that right now. We're all wishing for his recovery.
Q Jay, back to the Snowden situation, can you detail a little bit more the President's personal involvement in this over the last few days? How often is he being briefed? Is he kind of personally monitoring things? Or is this all operating below him like at the Justice Department and with the NSC?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't have presidential communications to read out to you, but I can say that the President has been regularly briefed by his senior staff on this situation and by all the appropriate officials. With regards to one of the earlier questions, this is a circumstance where all the appropriate steps were taken, all the appropriate communications were made with Hong Kong authorities. And as has been detailed by the State Department, we see no reason or no justification for the failure to provisionally arrest Mr. Snowden in Hong Kong by Hong Kong authorities in accordance with our negotiated agreement.
So this process continues and we're in conversations with other governments about this situation.
Q A question about climate and the President's speech tomorrow. Does the President feel that the EPA, even if Gina McCarthy is not confirmed, has the ability to carry out the regulations that he'll outline tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: First of all, Gina McCarthy is uniquely qualified to lead the EPA. She has decades of experience serving both Republicans and Democrats. And she has a long track record working with industry and business leaders to find common-sense solutions. The Senate should confirm her without delay.
As you saw over the weekend, we announced that the President will speak tomorrow at Georgetown University on the growing threat of climate change and the need to reduce carbon pollution, and that we need to do that for the sake of our children and future generations. He will lay out his vision for where he believes we need to go. I'm not going to get into specifics about what he will announce tomorrow, but he will present a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, to prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and to lead global efforts to fight it.
This is a serious challenge, as the President said, but it's one that we are uniquely qualified here in the United States to deal with, and that it, in a way, plays to our strengths and so we should be leaders in this effort.
Q But my question was if the EPA doesn't have a confirmed -- can it still have --
MR. CARNEY: We would not accept the premise, because Gina McCarthy is uniquely qualified to run the EPA. She has served --
Q Even if she isn't actually confirmed?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we believe she should be confirmed. And there is no reason for her not to be confirmed. She is qualified for the post. And we will continue to work with the Senate to see her confirmation through.
Q I just have one other question. Do you have any reaction to the Supreme Court ruling today on affirmative action or the fact that they're going to take up the recess appointment case next fall?
MR. CARNEY: Well, those are two different issues. On the recess appointments, we are confident that the President's authority to make recess appointments will be upheld by the courts. As you know, we posted a blog item about our legal arguments on whitehouse.gov. We can recirculate that. I think it's important that the issue here is about the President having the authority that all of his predecessors have had to make these recess appointments. But beyond that, in terms of our legal argument, I'll point you to that blog post.
Q And on affirmative action?
MR. CARNEY: On affirmative action, again, this is an ongoing case -- I think that that was the decision made by the court today -- so I don't have further comment. You've seen what we've said about it. You've seen the brief that we filed to that case and you can find our position in it. But I have no further comment on the decision by the Supreme Court to send it back to the lower courts today.
Q Yes, back to Snowden. Can you -- you mentioned the talks that are going on. Can you describe what kind of level they’re at?
MR. CARNEY: Not more than I have; the appropriate level and -- or appropriate levels.
Q Well, you need --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I made the point that this is the kind of thing that, based on the cooperation that we’ve had in the past, that we can discuss at the appropriate levels with counterparts in other governments, and we are doing that both with Russia and with other countries.
Q And has there been any communication between the administration and Ecuador on the request for asylum?
MR. CARNEY: I can’t quite recall if we have anything on that. Let me see if we have anything on Ecuador. The answer to that is the United States has been in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit or that could serve as final destinations. I don’t have more details for you on those conversations except that they’ve been held through the appropriate diplomatic and law enforcement channels.
The U.S. is advising these governments that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than is necessary to return him here to the United States.
Q Thank you. We had a story the other day about the insider threat program that the administration has to crack down on leaks. It goes beyond a lot of just national security leaks. And, just briefly, it deals with coworkers sort of monitoring other coworkers; the fact that agencies are telling employees that stress, divorce, financial problems could lead to leaks; and it equates leaking to espionage or treason. I’m wondering what the President’s level of support is. Does he -- how knowledgeable is he about it? I believe it stemmed from an executive order, so perhaps he is knowledgeable about it.
MR. CARNEY: I confess I didn’t see the story so I’ll have to take the question.
Q Well, could you get back to us on that?
MR. CARNEY: I have to read the story first. Then I’ll know.
Q Jay, on Snowden, when you say you know where he is, do you mean -- how specifically do you know where he is? Do you know if he’s in --
MR. CARNEY: What room in what building? (Laughter.)
Q Yes. And the phone number there. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: We know that he wasn’t in seat 17A, apparently -- (laughter) -- based on the reporting of your colleagues.
Again, I’m not going to get into specifics, but it is our understanding that he’s still in Russia.
Q And when you said that you would hope that Russia would expel him in an appropriate manner, what would that look like?
MR. CARNEY: It would look appropriate. And, again, I think as I’ve described, our general conversations with governments about the fact that he is subject to felony charges and we would expect him to be prevented from taking further international travel except for the travel that would return him to the United States.
Q So how does that work? Does the United States send a plane to pick him up? Does he get put on a commercial flight?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have modalities for you. I think that we will have the appropriate discussions with the appropriate officials and the appropriate governments, but the general principle applies regardless of the mode of transport.
Q Thank you. Going back to Hong Kong, do you believe the Hong Kong government knew exactly where Snowden was and was able to get their hands on him? And number two, what’s the United States’ relationship with Ecuador, and is there any reaching out to their foreign ministry to prevent Snowden from going to Ecuador?
MR. CARNEY: I just answered the Ecuador question by noting that we’ve been in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit or that could serve as final destinations. Obviously, Ecuador has been a speculated-about location.
Q And how would you describe the U.S. relations with Ecuador on something like this?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a characterization on the relationship as it regards this. We would simply be noting to other governments the fact that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges and that he should, as such, should not be allowed to proceed with any further international travel except as necessary to return to the United States.
Q Did Hong Kong let the United States know that they knew where he was and could have seized him?
MR. CARNEY: I think he was at the airport at some point, and passing through customs and immigration control. They probably knew that it was Mr. Snowden, no doubt. So we have ongoing conversations, as I just detailed, from the Attorney General and other officials with Hong Kong authorities about Mr. Snowden, so the answer would have to be yes to that question.
Q Thank you. Does the President believe that the Chinese have broken the trust of friendship of kind of relationship which the two countries are trying to make?
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s fair to say that this is a setback in the effort by the Chinese to help develop mutual trust. And I think, as we’ve said with regards to the failure by Hong Kong to provisionally arrest Mr. Snowden, that we don’t buy suggestions that the Chinese weren’t a part of -- that this was just a logistical or technical issue in Hong Kong alone. So we do believe it’s a setback.
Q And the kind of statement that you’re giving now -- is the relationship between the U.S. and China heading towards some kind of Cold War kind of thing?
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s getting a little bit ahead of things.
Q Is it the administration’s perspective that the countries that are cooperating are offering safe harbor to Mr. Snowden are doing that to harbor him or to access the information that they believe he possesses?
MR. CARNEY: Let me say this about that question, which is that Mr. Snowden’s claim that he is focused on supporting transparency, freedom of the press, and protection of individual rights and democracy is belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen -- China, Russia, Ecuador, as we’ve seen.
His failure to criticize these regimes suggest that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the United States -- not to advance Internet freedom and free speech.
I think that with regards to the first part of your question, I’ve made the point that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information -- the kind of information that has already been disclosed -- has an enormous negative impact and there are ongoing damage assessments being done. But, certainly, it would be our assumption that any information -- any further classified information that he has that has not yet been divulged publicly would be compromised, or has been compromised.
Q Doesn’t that undercut your argument that he’s a criminal, that he’s more like a spy? So why would they give him up? In other words, if he’s going to hurt the United States --
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, no, no, I didn’t say -- I made no comment on any activity here by any other government. I simply said that you have to assume that this -- if he’s got -- has taken without authorization classified information that, as the damage assessments go on, you have to make the assumption that that will either be leaked publicly or will be compromised in some way. You can’t assume that it’s protected or safe, because he has taken it with him and left the country. So beyond that, he’s been charged, as you know, and you’ve seen the unsealed indictment.
Q Can I follow up and ask about the speech tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q So based on the President’s State of the Union address and his discussion about environment and climate change since then, does the President have a dim view or have hopes of getting any energy and climate legislation through in his second term?
MR. CARNEY: I think his view reflects reality. We’ve seen Congress attempt to deal with this issue and fail to. And the President has made clear that he will act where he can with Congress, where possible, but where he can on this and a range of issues. So if there is a sign that Congress has the will to take up matters related to reducing carbon pollution and doing other things to positively affect the development of clean energy, or reducing the impacts of climate change on the American people then we will obviously be more than happy to engage with Congress and we’ll do that. But the President will, as he did in his first term, take the actions that he can, using his authority, to address this challenge.
As you know, what he was able to do in the first term when it came to reducing -- or increasing car emission standards, was historic, and will have a dramatic impact on the amount of carbon pollution in the air. And he was able to do that, working with -- the administration was able to do that, working with automobile manufacturers, and it did not require congressional action.
Cheryl. I’m going to have to do one more after you because I’ve got a 1:00 p.m.
Q Real quick on climate change. The big question is whether the EPA should regulate existing power plants. Can you say whether the President will call on EPA to regulate existing power plants?
MR. CARNEY: At the risk of shocking Yahoo, if they’re here, I’m not going to preempt the President -- nor am I going to randomly divulge classified information. So the President will give his speech, and you will learn about his proposals and the actions he proposes taking from the speech.
Q I was listening to the Assange presser before coming over, and they implied this physical threat to Snowden. So my first is very -- is there an implied physical threat to the safety, physical safety, of Mr. Snowden from the U.S. government?
MR. CARNEY: Of course not.
Q Now or in the future? Of course not. My real question was, you are -- (laughter) --
MR. CARNEY: That’s like a Chuck Todd special -- (laughter) -- before I get to my question, I have something to ask. (Laughter.)
Q You kept referring to how well we cooperated recently, and then right now you sort of made a critical remark about the “nature” of regimes in some countries, which seem to be a little contrary to what you’ve been saying.
MR. CARNEY: I think we’re just making factual statements in all cases.
Q Okay. When I look at this, I think the U.S. has been supporting people like Snowden throughout -- ever since the Soviet days. They were called dissidents, political dissidents. They were called political prisoners. I look at Snowden -- he’s a classical political dissident. And I look at Manning -- he’s a classical political prisoner. Why is that different? And if so, why don’t they deserve being supported for the desire to tell the truth about their own system?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Andrei, you feel very passionate about this, I can tell. But the distinctions, I think, are pretty evident if you look at them clearly. When it comes to Mr. Snowden, he’s been indicted for the unauthorized release of classified information. And, again, I think the point I made is that if his passion here is for press freedom and freedom of the Internet and the like, that he has chosen unlikely protectors.
But, again, I will let the case itself --
Q The political prisoners whom you -- the political dissidents whom you supported committed crimes all the time, including terrorist crimes. You probably remember the Brazinskas case, where they hijacked the plane and killed the air hostess, and came to the U.S. and were given refuge by the U.S. because they were dissidents.
MR. CARNEY: Again, Andrei, I think there are real distinctions between the legal regimes that have been in place in different countries at different times, the consequences of violating laws, either -- and being charged with laws in different countries at different times. I think you know that as well as I do and know the history as well I do.
We very clearly believe that Mr. Snowden ought to be returned to the United States to face the charges that have been set against him, through an open and clear legal process that we have in this country.
Thank you all very much.
Q Has the President talked to the Mandela family?
MR. CARNEY: I have no presidential conversations to read out at this time.
12:59 P.M. EDT