Bletchley, United Kingdom
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I will say that I’m very grateful for the partnership and the friendship of Prime Minister Sunak and the UK to the United States.
This has been a very productive couple of days. And he has shown great leadership in bringing us all together.
It has been, of course, about a longstanding relationship, friendship, and alliance between the United States and the UK on all issues of importance but including the issue of artificial intelligence.
And I was very pleased that he was able to convene this group of leaders in such a way that it included, of course, leaders in government, leaders of nations but also the technology companies, large and relatively small, and, very importantly, civil society.
We had robust conversations over the course of the last couple of days directly with Prime Minister Sunak — I did — and then today in the two sessions. And a lot of ground was covered. There was a lot of appreciation by all for the role that the United States has played.
As we know, earlier this week, the President — President Biden — outlined the executive order for the United States but, really, with the intention that it will serve as a model for nations around what governments can do and the responsibility that governments uniquely have when it comes to this issue, especially in the context of thinking of the priorities of government, which are at least three. And that is: public safety, public education, and public health.
So, the work will continue. But I will say, potentially immodestly, that we have taken bold action in the United States that I believe is — is inspiring and instructive to other nations as a model of the work that each government can do but, most importantly, the work we can do together with our allies and partners.
I also want to specifically speak about the work in the EO that was about the creation of the AI Safety Institute. Prime Minister Sunak and I talked about the importance of the collaboration between the UK’s AI Safety Institute and ours. And that is part of the follow-up work that will happen as a result of this convening.
We also have announced, on behalf of the United States, that there is a collaboration with almost a dozen philanthropies, as a start, where our civil society partners will invest in the kind of work that needs to happen to help us look at and identify the risks that are associated with the development and the rollout of AI.
We acknowledge, as well, of course, the benefits, but we do acknowledge that there are risks. And part of the role of the United States in these meetings has been to require that there be some understanding and appreciation for the full spectrum of risks.
And as many of you heard me talk yesterday about how we should think about existential threats and define them not only by what they may be but who they may harm and how then the definition of an existential threat may differ depending on who is involved and how it rolls out.
We also have outlined, as part of our global support and the building of global support for the U.S.’s perspective on AI, that we believe and have rolled out what we believe to be the responsible — the responsible military use of AI. And again, I do believe that will be a model. Thirty countries so far have joined us in that perspective.
And then, of course, the G7 agreed to a code of conduct for AI.
Aman- — among many topics that I talked with Prime Minister Sunak about, it included, of course, our shared priority around standing for the right of Israel to defend itself after the terrorist attack by Hamas.
We have talked and I have reiterated that we believe absolutely that Israel has a right to defend itself. We also believe very strongly in the importance of the rules of law, which include the importance of no intentional attacks on civilians and the importance of satisfying the need for humanitarian aid.
So, President Sunak and — Prime Minister Sunak and I spoke about that and — and we’ll continue to work together on those issues.
We have also talked about and I have reiterated our perspective that there should be no conflation between who are the Palestinians and who is Hamas. It is also important —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No problem.
— that we always — and for the United States, that we will continue to honor the importance of — of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination and dignity.
So, these are some of the conversations that we have had incl- — including, of course, the importance running cr- — increase in the flow of aid to that region and particularly to Gaza.
I have also talked with U.N. Secretary Guterres and had a meeting with him this afternoon where he and I also talked about the issue of what we must do to ensure and increase humanitarian aid to Gaza but, again, reiterating our perspective and our position, which is that Israel has a right to defend itself.
I will also say that we have, of course, thanks to the President’s leadership, secured safe passage for American citizens out of Gaza, and a significant number have crossed today. But we still have more work to do. And it is critically important to us that American citizens are able to have safe and quick passage. And we will work to make that happen as soon as possible.
And with that, I will take questions.
Q Madam Vice President, you just talked about that full spectrum of risks. It’s been something the White House officials have talked to us; it was in your speech. Do you feel like after the conversations you had today and you’re meeting with Sunak yesterday that the leaders understand the importance of that more and are leaning toward understanding that full spectrum of risks? Is that something that should be focused on more as we move forward?
And I have another question on the (inaudible) situation, if I can.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, I do believe that the voice that we have offered in this global discussion has been significant. It has been a priority, for example, for us to ensure that civil society have an equal voice at the table.
As I said in my speech yesterday, civil society has always played a very unique and important role in holding public and private sector to account.
And as we are thinking about, in particular, safety issues and defining safety, defining risk, and defining who is vulnerable in that context, civil society has an important voice to add to the policies that will be developed.
So, we have had, I think, a great impact there. I think that the work that we are doing — the UK, the United States, and the other allies that were there — is also about a commitment that we have made, understanding that there is global action that must be required on this issue, because any one nation who creates laws around AI will invariably have an impact on millions — tens of millions and more around the world.
Q You just talked about the importance of protecting civilians and lots of conversations about the aid that Israel should be getting. So, should the United States condition aid to Israel to get them to prioritize civilian harm reduction?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We are going to continue to stand with Israel’s right to defend itself.
And let’s be clear and never forget what happened on October 7th, where hundreds, thousands of — 1,400 innocent people were killed, slaughtered — young people who were simply attending a concert.
And so, we are not going to create any conditions on the support that we are giving Israel to defend itself.
Q Madam Vice President, in your speech yesterday you talked about existential threats that we’re currently facing from AI, as well as ones that we’ll contend with in the future, and warned, specifically, that the sort of AI-generated disinformation is an existential threat to democracy. How concerned do you think we should be in America, in the UK — both countries facing national elections next year — about how that kind of disinformation could impact the elections? And do you think there’s something — you’ll talk about that specifically today — is there something that government, industry could do together to try to regulate that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, I am clear that one of the greatest threats to democracy is mis- and disinformation.
Now, the fact of mis- and disinformation is not new. But what increasingly has happened with the evolution of technology is mis- and disinformation can spread quickly. And with AI, in particular, it can take on a form that makes it very difficult for the receiver of that information to distinguish between fact or fiction.
And I have worked on this issue for many, many years because, of course, I was a career prosecutor for many years in my career, but also, most recently, before becoming vice president, in the Senate, where I served on the Senate Intelligence Committee when we investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
2016 seems like a lifetime goal in technology. And even then, we documented evidence of a nation-state attempting to interfere in the election for president of the United States.
I don’t know of a more clear example you can have of misinformation by nefarious actors being used to upend the people’s confidence in their democracy and the most important pillar of the democracy, which is free and fair and open elections.
So, I come at this issue both with the experience of having seen how it plays out in real time in our own country and understanding, in particular, how technology can be a tool in the hands of bad actors who intend to upend democratic institutions and the people’s confidence in democracies.
Q Do you think there’s anything that can be done in the short term to try to ameliorate that between now and the election?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’re going to do everything we can.
And what I can tell you coming out of these conversations and conversations I’ve been having with heads of state is that this is one of the biggest concerns that most leaders have — is the prevalence and the ubiquity of mis- and disinformation and what that can do to — to deteriorate confidence in — in democracies. Yeah.
Q Thank you.
Q Madam Vice President, Israel bombed the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza for the second time in two days yesterday. Has the Biden-Harris administration reached out to discuss with Israel the bombing of the camp? And do you and President Biden consider the camp a legitimate military target or an acceptable collateral damage in Israel’s efforts to defeat Hamas?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, let me start with this. I have seen — as you have, I’m sure — the images, the photographs of the loss of civilian life in Gaza, and it is heartbreaking — the — the injury and death to children.
I have a friend, who I talked with recently, who has family in Gaza and has lost a number of the members of her family — innocent civilians.
So, let me start by saying that it is absolutely tragic when there is ever, anywhere, any loss of innocent life, of innocent civilians, of children. And there is no word that I can offer you that — that justifies any other feeling in terms of the loss of that life. It’s tragic.
I just want to follow up specifically with the refugee camp. Do you think that that is a legitimate military target, that it’s an acceptable (inaudible)?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I — we are not telling Israel how it should conduct this war. And so, I’m not going to speak to that.
Q Madam Vice President, you’re fresh off of a college tour, where you were seeking to energize young voters, and particularly voters of color you visited with.
But as we’ve seen, campuses across the country have become places where we’ve seen a lot of dissent on the U.S. stance on the Israel war and a lot of concern for the treatment of Palestinians and the casualties.
Is there a fear of your administration of alienating young voters, particularly — particularly young voters of color? And what is your message to them as they continue to protest the conditions there?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Starting with the college tour — I initiated that earlier this year after they back in session in the fall because I do believe it is important that we listen to our young leaders and, in particular, our college-age folks.
And there are a number of issues that they care about and I want to hear directly from them about and be able to be there and also answer their questions.
And so, I have now talked with through the college tour over 10,000 students in exactly that way. And yes, of course, this issue has come up in — in one of the latest that I did in Arizona.
And the point that I have made is that we have to agree that Israel has a right to defend itself after a terrorist attack. And I do appreciate the — that there is also a lot of concern about the loss of civilian life. And we should — we should all be concerned about that. And I will continue to say exactly what I’ve said since the beginning, which is that it — from the rules of war to just what we all believe as human beings should be right, we don’t want to see any intentional targeting of human life as it relates to civilians.
Q But for those young people, is there a concern that you — you could alienate them? You have an election coming up. It’s a crucial voting bloc. But also, it’s a crucial constituency of citizens in this country who are — who are very loud and clear right now on how they feel about where we — where — how this is going, should I say.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q So, is there a concern about alienating this particular population?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say I do understand their concerns. And I will never attempt to stifle or silence young people from expressing their concerns. That is the part of what — that is part of what we do in a democracy is allow that to occur.
My position on the issue remains as I’ve repeated now a couple of times. But it is important that we create environments for our young leaders to express themselves.
Q On Gaza again. UNICEF said that there’s 400 children either being killed or wounded in Gaza daily. Entire families are being wiped out. You alluded to that. I know some of them personally. Some believe that the U.S. credibility is at risk now because they doubt, actually, that you’re exerting enough pressure on Israel.
So, Madam Vice President, why don’t you call for a ceasefire, like Senator Dick Durbin just announced now, whereby maybe it is some kind of hope where all the hostages will be released and maybe Hamas can be disarmed peacefully instead of carrying on with this war?
And I have another question.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, what I will say, again, is, to your point about the lives that have been lost — children, innocent civilians — it is something I care deeply about. And I understand the pain, and I don’t know that anyone could look at or hear — the photographs or hear the stories and not feel some level of pain.
The President has said and I certainly do believe that when we think about humanitarian pauses that we should seriously consider them, in particular as it relates to giving the opportunity and space for aid to reach Gaza and the people there, in terms of what needs to happen to create any safe passage for civilians, much less for hostages to get out. And so, I do believe that that is something we should seriously consider.
Q There’s also fear among many Palestinians that Israel will carry out a transfer of Gazans to Sinai. And this is a plan that has been in the making through more or less the history of the state of Israel. Can you — the United States guarantee that all Palestinians who are leaving now, whether for treatment or they are forced to leave for safety, they will be allowed to go back to Gaza after the war ends?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let me be unequivocally clear: The people who have been forced out have a right to return home. And there should be no forced displacement, no forced migration, and that is it.
Q Madam Vice President, the White House has said it will veto any bill that doesn’t include both Israel and Ukraine. House Speaker Mike John- — Mike Johnson has said that he wants to do Israel first alone and then move on to Ukraine and the U.S. border. What is the path forward there? And is there room for the White House to negotiate on U.S. border immigration issues in that package?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we’re not negotiating that. And we’ve been very clear that we must stand by the role of the United States as it relates to our global responsibility to uphold and defend international rules and norms and what is right.
And so, our — our proposal is that there be aid given to both places — to Israel and to Ukraine. And we are standing by that, as you have said. The President has been very clear. If any bifurcation of that should occur, he will veto the bill that you have referred to.
But let’s also be clear that these folks who want to be considered as leaders in the midst of global crises of a proportion we have not seen in a very long time are playing political games with people. Not to mention the fact — put — put a — you know, put aside the fact that what is being proposed would actually significantly increase the deficit.
But putting that even aside, this is not a time in the midst of these crises for the United States to have any form of leadership play political games with what should be our role of leadership on these issues.
Q Does the White House risk any blowback if the Congress — House and Senate — is able to agree — agree on a bill and then it — then it is vetoed and, you know, this is in (inaudible) for some period of time.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’re going to do the right thing, period.