Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/10/2013
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:37 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. Thanks for being here. Welcome back to the White House on this Monday. Before I take your questions, I wanted to note that tomorrow morning the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Todd Jones to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Todd Jones is a highly qualified nominee who has decades of experience in law enforcement and a track record of effective leadership as Acting ATF Director. He also enjoys strong law enforcement support, including the Fraternal Order of Police.
The ATF is a critical law enforcement agency that helps protect our communities from dangerous criminals, gun violence, and acts of terror. Yet for the past six years, it has been serving without a confirmed director because Senate Republicans have blocked every nominee regardless of their qualifications. As part of this common-sense plan to reduce gun violence -- or rather, his common-sense plan to reduce gun violence, the President called on Congress to finally put a confirmed director at the helm of this vital agency, and we hope that they will act swiftly to do so.
With that, I will take your questions. Nedra.
Q Thank you. Now that we have an identity of the NSA leaker, and you heard a little bit about why he says he did that, can you talk about how the President views him and his motivations, and how vigorously this administration is planning to pursue an investigation?
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for the question. There has obviously been some news over the weekend. I will say at the outset that there is obviously an investigation underway into this matter, and for that reason I am not going to be able to discuss specifically this individual or this investigation, nor would I characterize the President’s views on an individual or an ongoing investigation.
You heard the President talk on Friday, on a couple of occasions, about his views in general of some of the revelations that have been made, the leaks that have occurred, and I think he spoke fairly expansively about both his concerns and his belief that we need to strike the appropriate balance between our national security interests and our interests in privacy. The fact that upon coming into office, he assessed and his team assessed the programs that existed and, in some cases, enhanced oversight, and he believes that with the oversight that exists and the implementation of the programs as they are implemented, that the balance is appropriately struck -- has been appropriately struck.
But it is an absolutely appropriate topic for debate both now and going into the future, because the kinds of technological advances we've seen when it comes to communications will only continue, and this is a matter that is absolutely appropriate for public debate.
Q Well, on a debate, there’s a lot of pressure coming from Congress and now even overseas over concerns on this. And Germany’s Chancellor says she’s going to bring this up and wants to talk to the President about it in their meetings next week -- concerned about privacy of Germans who might be using U.S. systems. Does the President fear that that could damage this trip and the relationship-building he was trying to do?
MR. CARNEY: No, I don't believe he thinks that. I think that he believes that this is a conversation especially worth having, and debate especially worth having here in the United States, but obviously beyond as well. He believes when it comes to Section 702, which the Director of National Intelligence has discussed in some detail, that it’s entirely appropriate for a program to exist to look at foreign data and foreign -- potential foreign terrorists.
But there are procedures in place, as the Director made clear and as the President made clear, both at the congressional, executive and judicial levels that provide oversight over these programs. And there are briefings that happen consistently, in terms of members of Congress, and continual oversight by the judiciary as well as by the executive branch.
Q One other topic. We understand there’s a meeting here today with top officials from several federal agencies on Syria. Does this indicate the President is moving toward arming the rebels or some other action now to oppose Assad’s advance?
MR. CARNEY: There are frequent meetings, as you would expect, here at the White House and elsewhere within the administration on that subject. Syria is an ongoing challenge as a policy matter, and there are continual discussions about the implementation of our policy and our assessments of the options available to the President.
The President has made clear, I have made clear that all options remain on the table in terms of Syria, and -- although he has also said that he does not foresee a circumstance that would involve American boots on the ground. But he insists that all the options be available to him, and he is constantly reviewing them. But I have no announcements to make about new policy.
Q It just seems there might be some more activity. Secretary Kerry has cancelled his trip to the Middle East. Do you think that’s accurate that there’s --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not sure about the Secretary’s schedule. But again, I think, and I know, that there have been meetings periodically about Syria for some time. This has been a problem for a long time now. The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. We provide substantial assistance to Syria, both humanitarian assistance and assistance to the opposition as well as to the Supreme Military Council. And we are always reviewing our options when it comes to how best can we achieve our goal; what policy tools will help achieve our goal, which is a transition in Syria to a post-Assad government that respects the rights of the Syrian people and that gives that country a chance for a better future, a democratic future, and an economically prosperous future.
Q Jay, does the United States know, or do U.S. authorities know where Edward Snowden is right now? And are they trying to get in touch with him?
MR. CARNEY: There is, as has been stated, an investigation into this matter and this individual, and I would refer you to the investigative bodies for that information.
Q One of the things that he has been quoted as saying is that the reason he allegedly provided this information was because he was disappointed in President Obama and he felt that he was failing to live up to his pledges of transparency. How does the White House feel about that accusation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I’m not going to comment on a specific case or an individual. I think that the President’s record on transparency is broad and significant. I think the President’s record on making the kinds of changes that he promised he would make to the ways that we pursue our fight against al Qaeda and our fight against terrorists and extremists he has lived up to. I think that if you look at the distinction between how that fight was engaged in the previous administration and how it is engaged now, you will find that he has lived up to those promises and kept those promises and made those changes.
I mean, if you think about it, under the previous administration, the top four things, if you will, that we remember was the decision to invade Iraq as part of the war on terrorism. It was the decision to allow so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, otherwise known as torture; the decision to open a permanent detention facility, Guantanamo Bay; and the allowance of warrantless wire-tapping.
In every case, the President’s policy -- this President’s policy has been different. He has ended torture. The programs that we’ve discussed because of the leaks that have happened lately, while legitimate subject of debate and discussion when we talk about the balance necessary, all involve court approval; they involve judicial -- I mean, they involve congressional review and oversight.
When it comes to Guantanamo Bay, as you know, the President has sought to close that facility. The President’s Chief of Staff was just there on Friday with Senators McCain and Feinstein, and they issued a joint statement calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. And of course, the President ended the war in Iraq.
Q Going back to Nedra’s question about Syria, Britain and France both recently lifted their prevention -- prohibitions against arming the rebels. Has the President or the National Security Advisor been in touch with Britain and France to discuss Assad’s recent advances in that civil war?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any conversations to read out to you or to make public at that level. I’m sure there are constant communications at different levels between this government and the governments of our allies, very close allies, allies that we work with on this issue and many others.
When it comes to Syria, as I said earlier, the President is constantly reviewing the options available to him and assessing those options through the lens of -- through a decision-making process that is geared towards achieving an objective and making sure that options that we pursue help bring that objective closer and don’t push it further away.
Q Jay, on Friday the President said, “When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program.” What’s he talking about?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the so-called, I think, Section 215 program has been notified to all members of Congress. I would point you to a letter from Senator Feinstein where she says -- this is from the business records provision of the Patriot Act in 2001; it was renewed in 2005, 2010 -- rather, 2009, 2010, and 2011 before the last two renewals -- “Both the vice chairman of the intelligence committee and myself sent a letter to every member of the Senate saying this was the case.” Additionally, the intelligence committee has had hearings on this, the judiciary has had hearings on it, and it's been out on the floor.
I think that --
Q Was something comparable extended to members of the House? Because I've asked around and nobody has been able to find any similar offer to House members.
MR. CARNEY: In these cases, there has been substantial provision of information to Congress, both depending on the section we're talking about of the Patriot Act, either to all members or to the appropriate committee members and leadership.
It is also important to step back and recognize that when we talk about "section this" and "section that," we're talking about sections of a public statute that was debated, passed, renewed, debated again, passed, altered, passed, with bipartisan majority. But here's --
Q But on that point --
MR. CARNEY: Well, Jessica, let me finish.
Q -- Congressman Sensenbrenner, who is the co-author of the Patriot Act, says the FISA order related to telephone calls is not consistent with the Patriot Act, as he understood it. And Senator Udall said, while the law itself has been public, the ways it's interpreted has been secret until now, and he says the law should be reopened. Does the President agree that the law should be reopened and this is an opportunity to do that?
MR. CARNEY: The President made clear on Friday that he believes that it is entirely appropriate to debate these matters. As we find the appropriate balance between our national security interests -- our security interests, on one hand, and our privacy interests on the other, he also made clear that you cannot have 100 percent security and 100 privacy, or zero inconvenience, and that he believes we are achieving an appropriate balance; that he believes these programs are effective when it comes to protecting --
Q Would you welcome --
MR. CARNEY: Let me finish -- when protecting --
Q -- efforts to reform the Patriot Act?
MR. CARNEY: Again, he believes, as he said on Friday, that we are finding that appropriate balance. But he welcomes a debate. And certainly, if that debate were to lead to building a consensus around changes, he would look at that. Because, again, I think the President has been very clear that he takes the concerns about these issues very seriously, because he thinks these are broad matters -- broader in some ways than the specific instances that we’re talking about.
And, as I alluded at the top, in the age that we live in, with the technological innovations that we see constantly, this is an issue that will be with us as a nation and a world from this time forward. So it’s something that we need to constantly assess and debate. But it is also true that we need to be very mindful of the fact, as the Director of National Intelligence has said and others, that these programs exist in order to protect the United States and its citizens from attack by --
Q He himself emphasized the importance of oversight.
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely.
Q He used -- he mentioned oversight in the Congress or the courts 20 times in his remarks on Friday. And it seems that most of the oversight is done in secret. The FISA Court since 2006 has had more than 13,000 applications and has denied only seven -- had denied only one since President Obama has been in office. Is the President comfortable that these judges are doing more than rubberstamping the requests?
MR. CARNEY: I think the President spoke to this, and I think that the questions you raise are questions that should be asked. It is the case that in some of these matters, some of these issues, we are dealing with information that's highly sensitive and classified for a reason, because to provide a roadmap to those who would do harm to the United States or its citizens for how we try to combat their efforts would assist them in fulfilling their objectives, which is harming the United States and harming American citizens. So there has to be some discussion about this that's not open to the public. But there are procedures in place for that purpose.
But we should debate those, and there should be -- there has been and there should be a debate in Congress, because it should be acknowledged -- I remember because -- and I’m sure you do, too -- the original Patriot Act was debated with great animation and the renewal of it, the reauthorization of it, and all of its iterations were matters of sustained and interested debate, as it should be. And that should continue going forward as far as the President is concerned.
Q Will you just tell us how he learned about Snowden? Did he watch the video?
MR. CARNEY: The President was briefed by members of his senior staff about that development and others, and he has been briefed regularly as these matters have occurred over these last several days.
Q Has he seen the video?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into what information he has consumed. I can tell you that he has been regularly updated and briefed on these matters.
Q Jay, how much damage has been done by these series of leaks?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that the -- I believe the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence has said that they will be doing a damage assessment. The DNI’s National Counterintelligence Executive, rather, is conducting a formal damage assessment. And for details on that process -- I don't believe they’ve reached conclusions -- but for details on that, I would refer you to them.
Q Well, we did hear from one of Clapper’s statements over the weekend, saying that “grave damage” has been done to our intelligence-gathering capabilities. Does the White House share that view?
MR. CARNEY: We certainly support what Director Clapper has said. And again, I think that that assessment is ongoing, but he’s certainly in a position to know, broadly speaking, that revelations like this can be and have been damaging.
Q How do you square that with what you just said a few minutes ago about how every member of Congress was told about this, there was a public debate on all of this? How do you square this with being kind of “nothing new here,” programs that have been in place for years that have been thoroughly debated, with it being something that causes grave national security damage?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I can spell it out for you, Jon. Obviously, there are specific classified operations and programs, but there are authorizations for this overall effort that are public, part of a public statute. That’s the public debate about the Patriot Act and its reauthorizations. Then there are procedures for oversight -- whether they’re through the FISA Court or through briefings to members of Congress -- that are necessarily not public because they deal with this very sensitive operational information. But those procedures were put into place precisely to provide that kind of -- those checks and balances that the President believes are necessary.
When he came in, he instituted and his team instituted a series of additional oversight measures through the executive branch to enhance that process of providing checks and balances precisely because he believes it’s important. But again, as he said, and I’ll repeat, he thinks this is a worthy subject for discussion. This is not the manner by which he had hoped to have the debate. He spoke about this just a few weeks ago in his long speech at the National Defense University -- spoke about a number of matters, but actually talked about surveillance and privacy and national security, specifically.
And he is interested in having that debate and having this discussed. He believes it’s in our interest as a nation to discuss it and debate it, and for us to collectively assess where that balance should be struck. He has, obviously, because of his responsibilities in office, assessed and made determinations about the efficacy of programs that exist that are in the interest of our national security, and taken action to ensure that the balance is struck, in his view, appropriately. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to debate this, because it is a matter of great national interest.
Q Snowden and The Guardian have both suggested that there is more to come. What is being done to ensure that this 29-year-old does no more damage to national security by leaking more classified information?
MR. CARNEY: Well, those are the kinds of assessments and actions that will be done and taken by investigative authorities as well as the intelligence community. So I would refer you to them, except to say that, as you would expect, action is being taken and will be taken to protect our national security information.
Q And then just one more. There’s a petition on the White House website saying, “Pardon Edward Snowden immediately,” calling on the President to issue a pardon -- 12,000 signatures last time I saw. What is the White House reaction to such a notion and to the sense that he is a hero? Some are calling him a hero for being a whistleblower on this. What does the White House say to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I won’t comment specifically on an individual or his status. When it comes to the petitions, we obviously await a threshold being crossed before we respond to it, and that threshold has not been crossed.
Q Well, not on him; the notion of whoever leaked this, whether it be him or whether it be somebody else -- what do you say to the notion that whoever leaked this is a national hero?
MR. CARNEY: I think Director Clapper has spoken about this, I think the President has, that in general, leaks of sensitive classified information that cause harm to our national security interests are a problem -- a serious problem. And they’re classified for a reason. And as I said I think to Jessica, when you -- and I’m basically paraphrasing Director Clapper -- that when you divulge information that provides a playbook, if you will, to how we -- to efforts that this government undertakes to counter the efforts of those who would kill Americans or attack the United States in some way, or our allies, you’re assisting them in evading those measures.
But again, I’m just paraphrasing the expert here, if you will. Assessments are being made more broadly about the damage done here by the appropriate authorities.
Q Mike Hayden said yesterday that this administration has put in more protections and evidentiary standards than the Bush administration had for this type of surveillance, but that it’s also engaged in a much larger and wider scope of surveillance. Would you agree with both statements?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would point you to the agencies that undertake these efforts. I’m not sure I could make that qualitative assessment. I would simply say that --
Q But you have about one.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q You have about one element of what he said, which is the safeguards and evidentiary standards the administration has put in --
MR. CARNEY: But again, I’m not going to comment on programs and the scope of efforts that we undertake to combat terrorists or extremists with any specificity. What I can tell you is that the programs are judged by the President and by his national security team to be necessary and effective. They are also accorded oversight by all three branches of government, as is appropriate, and it is also the case that these programs and the general principle about finding the balance between our security interests and our need and desire for privacy is something that we should constantly engage in.
Q You said the President is comfortable having this debate, but it’s obvious the debate would not be happening unless there had been a leak. The leak is now subject to prosecution.
MR. CARNEY: I would point you to the speech the President gave prior to the leaks, where he --
Q I read the speech. You read it, too, and it had nothing to do with this. It didn’t discuss the specificity --
MR. CARNEY: Major, I would refer you to his speech. There was a section on this.
Q No, no, it didn’t discuss these specific methods.
MR. CARNEY: It talks about -- he talks -- well, if you’re saying that he didn’t leak classified information, I agree with that. But the --
Q But I’m saying, if the President is comfortable with this debate, it’s a debate that is now happening because somebody leaked information, correct?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s -- I think I just said earlier that the President doesn’t obviously welcome this way that this debate has been --
Q So how is it going to happen?
MR. CARNEY: The President gave nearly an hour-long speech in which he talked about a variety of approaches to counterterrorism, and he talked --
Q But it’s just --
MR. CARNEY: If I could, he talked specifically about surveillance programs and finding the balance between --
Q Right -- subject to interpretations that this administration has carried out under those very sections, interpretations that are largely not --
MR. CARNEY: With oversight by the judiciary and Congress.
Q -- that are not viewable by the public, generally speaking.
MR. CARNEY: Right. Again, I think that the question you asked is how are we -- would we have had this debate, and I would point you to the fact that the President gave a speech calling for this debate several weeks ago, prior to these leaks.
Q Jay, on this question, if it is doing so much damage to our national security, where is the anger? Where is the outrage? You seem to just be saying, well, it’s being investigated. Was the President personally angry about this? Is there any --
MR. CARNEY: The President spoke to this on Friday. I would point you to his comments. Neither he nor I is going to comment on a specific case that’s just under investigation, but I will point you to what the Director of the DNI said and what the President said about the harm done by the leak of highly sensitive classified information.
And I think that both are true -- that we have to be mindful of the fact that this information and this -- in these, broadly speaking, these instances are classified -- this information is classified for a reason; that as Director Clapper said, there is damage done by the revelation of this information.
And then, on the other hand, we can talk more broadly about the debate that we have had and should continue to have about finding the proper balance between our security interests and our privacy interests.
Q You mentioned the President's comments on Friday. To follow on what Jessica was asking about oversight -- on Friday, you referred to that -- the President said, "Every member of Congress has been briefed on this program." Why, then, are not just Republicans but Democrats like Keith Ellison saying, I heard nothing about this. He said he checked his email; he had his staff go back through records. He hasn't been briefed on this.
MR. CARNEY: I can't speak to individual members. What I can tell you is that --
Q But the President said every member of Congress has been briefed on this.
MR. CARNEY: The chair and ranking members of the intelligence committee have made clear that every member was advised of this and had the opportunity for briefings. As was widely reported over the weekend, the Department of Justice and intelligence officials have taken multiple actions to inform members of these authorities, including providing in-person briefings and classified white papers. The classified white papers were provided by the intelligence committees in December of 2009 and 2011, along with a formal request that the white papers be made available for review by all members.
The intelligence judiciary committees have been briefed on these operations multiple times and have been provided access to copies of the classified FISA Court orders and opinions relevant to the use of Section 215. And I would point you to statements by other members of Congress about the fact that this congressional oversight exists.
Again, I can't speak to every individual member. What I can say is that it is simply true that there is substantial congressional oversight, but that’s simply a matter of course and as it should be. It does not mean that these matters shouldn’t be debated or that voices shouldn’t be heard if there's disagreement about where we have found that balance and whether we ought to consider making adjustments. But that debate should also include an understanding and appreciation for the need for programs like this in the world that we live in and given the threats that we face.
Q Two other quick ones on this -- but we were told that all House members are getting a briefing on Tuesday about these surveillance programs. It sounds a little bit like retroactively, if the President Friday says, "Every member of Congress has been briefed" -- now, if they have been briefed, why are they getting another briefing on Tuesday? Have there been major updates?
MR. CARNEY: Ed, I'm not aware of any -- I'm not aware of it. I would refer you to the agencies that are briefing.
Q You're not aware of a briefing? There's a briefing on Tuesday.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'm not personally giving it, but I would refer you to the agencies that might be involved. But I can just point you to what numerous members of Congress have said to the very facts about congressional oversight here, and tell you that it’s an important part of this process; that both the courts and Congress provide oversight of these programs, as does the executive branch through inspectors general and through other means, to make sure that there are checks and balances in place.
That doesn't make them perfect. It means that the programs do have the oversight that was sought in the past as a means of ensuring that they were conducted properly and in legal -- both conducted properly and legally and consistent with our values.
Q Last thing. In light of this debate that we’re talking about, some comments the President made as a state senator in 2001 about the Patriot Act are getting some notice because he specifically said when these kinds of things “apply to everybody, there tends to be sort of a majoritarian check,” a suggestion, perhaps, when you have a wide scope, you’re not targeting individuals, you’re having a broad brush here. Is that the view inside the White House still?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not even sure -- you have to give me more context to that.
Q He said you would be more concerned about encroachment on civil liberties if these kinds of provisions in the Patriot Act just applied to people selectively, but when it’s a broader brush it doesn’t target people individually. Is that the --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm hesitant to judge that specifically. First of all, that was in the initial debate about the Patriot Act. It has since been altered and reauthorized, and additional oversight has been included for some of these programs.
But I think on -- I'm not quite sure the question you're asking. I think when you were talking about the Section 215 program that, again, I think has been made clear does not deal with content or the names of individuals, that further investigation would require further oversight, another warrant from the court, as is the case in criminal proceedings. But I'm not even sure if that's what your question goes to.
Q Part of the defense from the administration has been that you're not targeting individual Americans and that this is a broad brush; you're just looking at phone numbers. So what I'm trying to get at, is that part of the defense, that it’s such a broad --
MR. CARNEY: It’s not a defense. These are issues -- this is a matter --
Q But there are people who disagree with that and say actually you are targeting them.
MR. CARNEY: Well, that's just not the case. As has been amply discussed by Director Clapper and others, the way this program works -- as well as by members of Congress -- is that when you're talking about the Section 215 program, again, part of the Patriot Act, it involves telephone numbers and the duration of phone calls; it does not involve individuals or the content of phone calls. Any further investigation would require court approval. And again, all of this -- all activity like this is subject to the oversight regime that's in place.
So the suggestion that the program itself targets individuals is just a misstatement.
Q Jay, since 2012, as we've noted in the front row, I think there have been about 1,789 cases brought by the government before this FISA Court; zero denied. I want to get a sense of who provides the alternate argument in that FISA Court.
MR. CARNEY: I would point you to others to answer that question. What I can tell you is that the FISA Court is established to provide oversight over exactly these kinds of matters, and the FISA Court, as a piece of oversight, as one of the pieces of the oversight puzzle that was put together as part of the legislation, is backed by bipartisan majorities. And when it comes to questions like that in terms of the role that the FISA Court plays, I think that, and I think the President believes that it’s perfectly appropriate to have that debate.
Q So having that debate that he says he welcomes, should that be a cause of concern, based on the conversations we've all had that appears there is nobody who provides -- there is congressional oversight, as you would indicate, but there’s nobody providing that alternate argument? Is that a cause for concern?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not sure that’s the case. I think that the judiciary is an independent body not subject to political influence. These are lifetime appointments to the bench. And the independence of the judiciary exists for that reason. But in terms of the specific reviews of these matters, I would refer you to the agencies that bring them, or to members of Congress who have concerns about them. But the oversight exists, and it is certainly worth discussing and debating whether or not the balance that we’ve struck is the right balance.
And the President spoke to this on Friday. Members of Congress have spoken to it. Members of Congress have voted on it on numerous occasions.
Q So we’re asking for your -- the White House’s position on that.
MR. CARNEY: I think the President spoke to it on Friday, twice.
Q Then, more broadly, with this debate as well, does the President have a sense that now as you’ve had limited time to review this, but as the White House obviously has focused great attention on it, that too much information is being classified?
MR. CARNEY: I think that, broadly speaking, that is a subject that is worth discussing. It is a subject that has been debated periodically.
Q What’s the White House --
MR. CARNEY: Again, that's a broad question, and I think that we have to look at specific matters here. I don't have a specific opinion to render here on that except to say that that is certainly a matter to debate.
What is not a matter to debate, again pointing to what Director Clapper said, is that the kinds of revelations we’ve been talking about of late certainly fall within the category of information that is sensitive and classified for a reason.
Q Concerning President’s trip to California, meeting with the President of China, was [there] any progress on any issue that matters to the two countries? And on Turkey, you said us before the U.S. administration is closely monitoring recent events in Turkey. What does the President think about the Turkish Prime Minister’s approach to protesters?
MR. CARNEY: On Turkey -- let me begin with that -- we continue to follow the events there closely and with concern. And as we have said, the United States supports full freedom of expression and assembly, including the right of peaceful protest as fundamental to any democracy. And we believe that the vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful, law-abiding, ordinary citizens exercising their rights.
We continue to have serious concerns about the reports of excessive use of force by police and large numbers of injuries and damage to property, and welcome calls for these events to be investigated. We also continue to urge all parties to refrain from provoking violence. We’re monitoring these developments and continue to have the concerns that we’ve expressed.
On the President’s meetings with President Xi, our National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, I think briefed the press pretty extensively about the meetings that were held -- the substantive meetings that were held between the two leaders and their teams, and I would say that there was progress made and they were productive meetings.
Mr. Donilon spoke about a number of topics. I think he spoke in some depth about the discussions over cybersecurity and the President’s concerns that he raised with President Xi about the theft of economic information. But I would refer you to Mr. Donilon’s comments on that.
Q Thank you, Jay. Does the President’s call for this debate, as you mentioned -- does the President believe that Americans are armed with sufficient information to really make a reasoned judgment about where the line -- where the balance is -- where appropriate balance has been struck between security and privacy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s an excellent question and I think that that, too, is a matter for discussion. When it comes to dealing with classified information, necessarily classified information even that is dealt with by the appropriate congressional committees, obviously the people’s representatives are elected and sent to Congress to represent them, and on some of these matters, represent them in their dealings with issues that are classified.
But again, I think that this is a broader concern and should be a broader subject of debate going forward in our country because of the world that we live in when it comes to electronic communications and technological innovations.
Q Would the President like to lead this debate? Would he like to convene meetings for this debate? Would he like to push legislation in Congress that might spark a discussion in Congress about the debate?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything to preview for you, Peter. I would simply point you to the major speech the President gave that preceded these recent leaks in which he talked about this matter as well as others to demonstrate his interest in having the debate and the legitimacy of asking probing questions about these matters.
Q Jay, both you and the President referred to some additional safeguards that were put in place after he came into office with, as he said, healthy skepticism. Can you just elaborate on that?
MR. CARNEY: I can try. As I understand it -- and I have to get it for you -- but there were -- when the President came in there were additional oversight safeguards placed in -- regarding the executive branch, in terms of executive branch oversight. But we can get more information for you on that.
Q Jay, does the President think it's ever acceptable for a member of the national security establishment to leak classified material to journalists when that person believes that the law is being violated, or something is wrong?
MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you is that everyone who takes an oath or signs an oath understands that divulging classified information is a violation of the law and a violation of that oath. There are provisions in place for people who work in the intelligence community to pursue concerns that they have. But I hesitate to speak broadly because it will be applied very narrowly to a single case, and I'm not going to comment on a single case.
Q Let me just ask a related question. You mentioned earlier the President had opposed torture, warrantless wiretapping -- practices that came to light because of national security leaks which were condemned at the time as these are being condemned today. Do you see those leaks and this current leak any differently in any qualitative sense?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that the oversight that exists is qualitatively different, as you know, and that the fact is that while we are having a debate and we will continue to have a debate about these matters, broadly speaking, and the balance between security and privacy, what the revelations of late have made clear is that these programs are legal. They are subject to the appropriate oversight from three branches of government. And while we should continue to debate finding that balance, we should recognize that as well. And I think the President spoke more eloquently than I have to this on Friday.
Q Jay, can I bring it back to Syria for a moment?
MR. CARNEY: Is the President -- I want to let you guys --
Q The President has started.
MR. CARNEY: Has he started? You are welcome to leave if you’d like to listen to him.
Q General Salim Idris, who is, as you know, the U.S.’s principal contact in the Syrian military opposition, said over the weekend that if the U.S. and other countries don’t begin supplying the rebels with arms and ammunition, he will not attend a peace conference in Geneva. Do you think that’s a reasonable position for him to take?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we believe that the -- pursuing the Geneva Communiqué is an important aspect of helping bring about a resolution to Syria. And we are working with our allies as well as the opposition, working with the Russians and others, to help bring that about.
When it comes to the seriousness of the situation in Syria, when it comes to reviewing the options available to the President, we are constantly doing that. But we think that the process of reviewing those options, making policy choices that help bring about or bring us closer to the ultimate policy goal are one thing, and then the necessity of bringing the parties together around the Geneva Communiqué is another. Now, they’re related, but we’re evaluating them separately.
Q Would you urge him, under the circumstances that you laid out, to attend this conference even without that kind of --
MR. CARNEY: We’re in the process of working with our allies and others on constituting that conference and participation in it, but we obviously believe it should take place and that the necessary parties ought to participate.
Q Can you do the State IG report before we leave? The State IG report -- do you have any comments on that?
MR. CARNEY: That is an IG report that I believe has not been released, and therefore --
Q No, there is a final report that’s been released -- the internal memo we got access to, but the final IG report has been released.
MR. CARNEY: I have certainly not seen it. I have not -- I’m not aware that anybody here has seen it, so I don’t have a commend on it at this time. Thanks, all, very much.
Q Question from The Guardian?
MR. CARNEY: Question from The Guardian.
Q Thank you. Given that you welcome this is an appropriate debate Edward Snowden started, and there is concern on the Hill, would you in general be willing to admit someone like that to testify at hearings on the Hill if they were to be called?
MR. CARNEY: Admit someone like what?
Q Someone who has released classified information and is currently fleeing the country?
MR. CARNEY: That’s a general question that goes right to a specific individual who is under investigation, so I would not engage in a hypothetical like that, I’m afraid. But thank you very much.
2:19 P.M. EDT