State Department Noon Briefing, October 29, 2003
October 29, 2003
U.S. Department of State
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2003
(1:00 p.m. EST)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Evidently, the Red Cross is cutting back in Iraq. I wondered if the head of the Red Cross or anybody from the Red Cross called the Secretary to tell him of the decision, and what the reaction might be to that decision, which is contrary to what he had hoped.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I wouldn't draw that conclusion at this point. I have just seen a wire service report that says they're staying in Iraq.
QUESTION: Not --
MR. BOUCHER: I guess --
QUESTION: -- fully.
MR. BOUCHER: I've just seen a wire service report. This is something called the Associated Press. "The International Red Cross says it was --"
MR. BOUCHER: All right.
QUESTION: I have Reuters --
QUESTION: Can we start all over again? The Red Cross says it is pulling back in Iraq, and I wondered if anybody told the Secretary, and how he feels about it.
MR. BOUCHER: All right. There have been no calls to the Secretary. I'm sure our people in Geneva are in touch with the Red Cross, perhaps, in Baghdad, as well. I've just seen the press report. So far, they do indicate that they've said that any international staffer who wants to leave will be allowed to leave.
As we discussed yesterday, and as the Secretary discussed with Mr. Kellenberger, we recognize that they have to balance the desire of the Red Cross to be there and perform an important humanitarian mission. We share that desire, but they need to balance that with this comfort -- with the safety and -- of their personnel, knowing that people are comfortable being there.
On first blush, I would say this seems to be a way to strike that balance, but I'll leave it to the Red Cross to explain further what exactly they've decided, and ultimately what their employees have decided for themselves.
QUESTION: Richard, though, on this, I mean, the ICRC has generally -- they're generally the last people to leave anywhere. I mean, you guys pull your diplomats out of places on ordered departures for far -- for far less serious -- that's not the right word -- but the Red Cross is basically always there. I mean, they're in places that no one else are. Don't you think that even a slight pullback or withdrawal sends a very bad message?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you can say that. I mean, you can't force people to stay there against their will. If they have staff who don't feel comfortable or safe being there, you can't nail their feet to the floor and say, "Stay here and do humanitarian work."
Second thing to point out -- and it's a very sad commentary on the horrible nature of the people that are carrying out the bombings in Baghdad and Iraq, is that in most places around the world, in the places we've been familiar with, whether it's Somalia or Liberia or places in southeast Asia, the Red Cross has had a great deal of respect, and that there have been, even when there was violence going on around them, people recognized and respected the Red Cross and didn't attack them.
So, the fact that you have these bombers in Iraq attacking the Red Cross, I think just shows, as the President said, how desperate they are, and how violent and unrational this violence is.
QUESTION: Does that mean that you --
MR. BOUCHER: So, there is a little more danger. There is some more degree of danger in Baghdad than there has been in other places where the Red Cross has been. They have to take that into account. But as I said, on first examination of the wire story, this appears to strike the balance between their strong desire to be there, and the need to provide for safety and security for their employees.
QUESTION: But how much, if any, of a blow to -- I'm not talking about the symbolism here, I'm talking about the actual work of reconstruction of restoring a normal functioning society in Iraq. How much of a blow to that effort do you think their decision to take international staffers out represents?
MR. BOUCHER: Unless some competing wire service has figured out how many people are leaving out of their totals, and how much of their work is going to be suspended or not, it's impossible to say, because all they're saying is they've made a decision to let some people leave if they want to. So, I would caution people away from jumping to conclusions that some blow has been struck against anything.
QUESTION: Richard, can you -- as a general principle of what you just were talking about before, is the United States concerned at all that the Red Cross appears to have lost some -- or that people -- that times have changed, that the Red Cross and the Red Crescent are no longer respected as neutral organizations?
MR. BOUCHER: We're always very concerned that some group of terrorists and bombers would attack humanitarian agencies, UN agencies and others who are in Iraq to help Iraqis, that they would attack their fellow citizens who are helping Iraqis, that's what our concern is. Whether this group you can then generalize to some worldwide times have changed, yeah, I think that's also premature.
QUESTION: Well, I don't know. They're talking about it a lot in Geneva. So, I assume that your people are as well, unless they're not -- unless you're not -- you've decided not to take part in the discussion.
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we had the terrible bombing at the UN. We had a terrible bombing in -- against the ICRC. Those things do not appear to have been repeated elsewhere. And it was August when the UN office in Iraq was bombed, and I have not seen that happen elsewhere.
QUESTION: I'm having a little trouble of putting together the Secretary's remarks yesterday in an interview to the Arab world that we're going to use -- I'm paraphrasing, but I think accurately -- we're going to use more and more Iraqi military and Iraqi police, et cetera, as he said, to give it more of an Iraqi face than an American face, with the White House's insistence that, you know, we're going to stay the course, that the U.S. is going to remain in Iraq.
I guess both are possible. But aren't -- don't you now have momentum for reducing the U.S. presence in Iraq? When the Secretary speaks of an Iraqi face, what does he mean? Americans will not do the security, but they'll be busy doing a lot of other things?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, there is no contradiction. The two are, in fact, two pieces of the same policy.
MR. BOUCHER: The United States is going to make sure through whatever means we can that Iraq -- the Iraqis are given security, that the situation in Iraq stabilizes, and that the political and economic processes of reconstruction that are already well underway can continue. That's a commitment we've made. And as the Secretary -- I think the President said yesterday, we're not going to cut out on that commitment.
Part of that effort on the security front has been, and continues to be, to help get formed and trained the various components of Iraqi security forces. Ultimately, down the road someplace, they are the ones who will take charge of security for their country, and the U.S. forces will be able to leave. But it's not an immediate thing, it's a transition that takes some time, it takes -- people have to be trained.
There are something like 40,000 Iraqi policemen out on the streets already. We want there to be more; the Iraqis want there to be more. A training facility is being set up in Jordan, and we'll train tens of thousands of other policemen, but it will take some time to get them trained and on the streets. As that process proceeds, eventually, there will be some drawdown of U.S. personnel.
Okay. That's it.
QUESTION: Did you have a chance to check Mr. Bremer's transcript, Mr. Boucher?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't. Did you find it?
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: I did a very quick web search and didn't find it. I'm sorry. I didn't spend enough time on it. I'll look again.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if you can explain the decision that Deputy Secretary Armitage has made with respect to the Trade Act of 2002, the provision in it that allows U.S. customs agents to search foreign posts' mail without warrants.
As you are aware, I'm sure, the deputy secretary determined that this is in violation of international law, and is inconsistent with U.S. international obligations. I'm wondering if you are prepared to defend this position legally, if it is challenged by the Homeland Security Department in court.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, this is legal determination that we're required to make and we made it. The Trade Act of 2002, Public Law 107-210, as you know, contains a section authorizing customs to search foreign mail transiting the United States without a warrant only if the Secretary of State certifies to Congress that such searches are consistent with international law, and the international obligations of the United States.
The decision of whether such searches are consistent with the -- with international law and U.S. international obligations was purely a legal one. It was made by the deputy secretary of state, subsequent to receipt of a recommendation from the legal advisor, who had considered the views of the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Postal Service. The recommendation was made on the basis of our international treaty obligations. So, that is a legal determination that we were required to make and we did make.
QUESTION: Do you know which ones?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have --
QUESTION: This is called the international postal union or something?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the full legal brief here.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I understand that --
MR. BOUCHER: Universal Postal Convention, and the Universal Postal Union Constitution are the places to start.
QUESTION: Okay. I understand that Homeland Security is not at all pleased with this ruling. What kind of -- what kind of contact have you had with them on this?
MR. BOUCHER: These decisions have been fully discussed within the Administration by all the appropriate lawyers. We had the requirement to make the decision. We took into account the views that we'd heard from Customs and from the Postal Service, but, ultimately, the judgment had to be made here, as a matter of law.
QUESTION: Does this now effectively nullify that Section 344 of the Trade Act, and are you aware --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's -- what the proper term is. It implements it, it says.
QUESTION: It says they can't do it.
MR. BOUCHER: It says you are authorized to do it only if the Secretary certifies to Congress.
MR. BOUCHER: So, that was delegated to the deputy. We did not certify Congress, therefore, you are not authorized to do it.
QUESTION: Do you know, in the interim, in the interim, since the -- since this bill was signed in August by the President, and now had such searches been going on?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know, actually.
QUESTION: The judgment was based entirely on international law, had been --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, the Iranians have flatly rejected the idea of sharing intelligence about suspected al-Qaida members in their country with the United States, and they have largely dismissed Mr. Armitage's comments yesterday about being prepared, should the United States deem it, in its national interest, to engage in direct talks with Iran on discreet matters.
In particular, they say it's not possible to threaten a country to block its assets, to accuse it, and then to want talks. What's your reaction, both on al-Qaida and on the general idea of any kind of talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm going to get back into the reaction to their reaction to our reaction to their reaction to their statement. I think the point's our policy has been made very clear, Deputy Secretary Armitage repeated again yesterday.
We have had a number of concerns about Iran that he stated again yesterday in his testimony. We insist that they abide by their Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments, that they stop supporting terrorism, that they turn the al-Qaida terrorists now being harbored in Iran back to the third countries or the home governments. Iran continues to be a leading supporter of terrorism. That's well documented. It includes cross-border activity as well as financing and logistical support.
So, the Deputy Secretary said that any dialogue would have to serve U.S. interests, and that we might continue such dialogue at some time -- some point in time on run-off issues. We would deal with them, but that's a decision, ultimately, the President and the Secretary would have to make. But he reiterated all our concerns. Those are the issues that we need to deal with.
Iran needs to deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency and satisfy the requirements that the Board of Governors put forward, and they need to account for the al-Qaida people who have been in Iran, particularly those senior leaders that they have said they have in some kind of custody, who might be wanted by third countries for acts of violence committed in those countries.
QUESTION: Does it particularly bother you that they're basically saying they have no intention of doing that on al-Qaida?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that's obviously the wrong decision, but we continue to make clear that they should do that.
QUESTION: New topic?
QUESTION: Well, wait. I was wondering if you have anything to say two days before the deadline, or if you're just going to wait. Is there any -- any indication that Iran is meeting its pledges to cooperate with actual options?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen their public commitments. I think there was some information turned over to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The deadline is coming up on Friday. We do expect the International Atomic Energy Agency would analyze the information and analyze the steps that Iran has or has not taken and then report to the Board, and the Board will then consider it in due course.
QUESTION: And do you know when the next meeting is?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have an exact time.
QUESTION: Well, okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: This is just hypothetical, but maybe you'll answer it. Should Iran not fulfill its commitments, at least, you determine, the United States finds that Iran has not met its commitments, are you then prepared to go directly to ask the Board at the next meeting, whenever that might be, to send it on to the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to look carefully at the report that the International Atomic Energy Agency provides, but our feeling has been and continues to be that they're not in compliance with their non-proliferation obligations, and that under those circumstances, the matter, as a matter of course, should be referred to the UN.
QUESTION: Since Ms. Ebadi won the Nobel Prize, she's been very outspoken in Iran. Have you spoken through third parties to -- concerning her welfare? She's ignoring the Islamic cleric groups and also is taking pains to endorse the ordinary Iranians.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, frankly. I don't think I would be in a position to comment anyway.
QUESTION: Did you change your mind about the Turkish forces, sir? And instead of yesterday's -- your answer to my question was, instead of emphasizing the Turkish forces, you are encouraging Turkey to make a dialogue with the Iraqi council on economy and other area. If so, when are you planning to announce your new plan?
MR. BOUCHER: You asked me a question yesterday about whether we supported a dialogue between Iraq and her neighbors, and I said yes. Because I answered your question forthrightly, I don't think you should take that to be --
QUESTION: I asked about --
MR. BOUCHER: You asked about one thing, and I answered that question. That doesn't mean we don't care about the other. We still care about Turkish forces. We care about the relationship between Iraq and her neighbors, and we care about our relationship and our cooperation with Turkey against terrorism and everything else that you might ask, but maybe not.
So don't take any -- just because you asked one question yesterday and I answered it, doesn't mean we changed our policy on something else.
QUESTION: But the Turkish Government, understand, is the same to me. So, if I am wrong, they are wrong, too.
MR. BOUCHER: Now, I don't exactly know where you're getting this from and why, but it strikes me as very odd, that just because I didn't mention something yesterday in response to a question about something else, that you think we've forgotten about it.
QUESTION: However, this prompts -- may be a good -- this as good occasion as any to ask. It's been awhile since the Administration, the State Department, spoke of the hoping for contributions from other countries. It's gotten very quiet out there. You had the donors conference. You had the -- got the money.
But the other goal was to get contributions of peacekeeping troops. Is it all quiet on that front now? Has the violence deterred, whatever hopes there may have been to get new blood in there?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Well, who's coming in? Turkey's going the other way -- or maybe.
MR. BOUCHER: We're still working this, Barry. We've been working with other governments. There are countries who were in process. I think you've seen the Japanese restate their commitment.
MR. BOUCHER: We've been talking with other governments. The military to military talks continue with countries that might want to cooperate -- might want to contribute. I don't have a daily total, but I think it has crept up gradually, and we'll continue to talk to countries that might be interested in cooperating.
The fact of the -- the very successful Madrid conference should indicate that there are many countries that want to cooperate, that want to work in Iraq, that want to contribute to the rebuilding of the Iraqi people; that applies in the economic reconstruction area. It was clear from the speeches and statements in Madrid, that applies in areas such as training police and judicial officials, and I think you'll see continuing cooperation in the military area as well.
QUESTION: I was just wondering. The Ukrainian casualties, I wonder if this is having a deterrent effect.
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I've seen.
QUESTION: Sir, I'm wondering if you've heard back from your Hezbollah television-watching diplomats in Damascus in Beirut, about the content of last night's show, and if it is, in fact, as objectionable as you --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I -- I'm sorry. I don't know. I'll check. There may be an FBIS --
QUESTION: May be a what?
MR. BOUCHER: There may be an FBIS version up that you can look for yourself.
QUESTION: Is there -- has there been any change in the U.S. policy regarding the licensing of U.S. journalists to travel to Cuba?
I'm told that journalists are now being asked for specific licenses at Miami Airport, whereas, previously, they were covered by a general license. Can you take that?
MR. BOUCHER: That's news to me. It may be a Treasury Department question, but if we have a piece of it, I'll get back to you.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the Secretary's discussions with the Chinese Defense Minister today whether anything came up about the future six-party talks, if the Chinese Defense Minister had any information?
MR. BOUCHER: No, they really didn't discuss the North Korea question today. They -- there was, I'd say, a very friendly meeting, a very broad-ranging discussion of relations between the two countries, the desire of both presidents to move forward.
The Defense Minister has had a visit at the invitation of Secretary Rumsfeld, and he's seen -- he's met with people at the Pentagon, including military officials, and was over here to call on the Secretary of State, so -- and I guess a wide ranging discussion of moving the relationship forward.
The Secretary expressed his strong support for the progress that's been made in the relationship, and the hope that we can see even more progress, including on the military-to-military relationship.
QUESTION: Speaking of North Korea though.
QUESTION: Well, can we stay on this? Did they discuss the space program at all?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary congratulated the Defense Minister on the successful Chinese space launch.
QUESTION: Speaking of North Korea, there was also a meeting, I think, that Assistant Secretary Kelly had this morning, late this morning, with a North Korean defector. Can you give out any details of that?
MR. BOUCHER: That meeting, I think, was taking place about the time that I started briefing, so I'll have to get you something later. But yes, Assistant Secretary Kelly was meeting with Mr. Hwang today around lunchtime.
I think there was also a meeting, as we might have told you, with somebody from Under Secretary Bolton's office that took place this morning, so I'll get you something, a readout, this afternoon.
QUESTION: Also related with North Korea. We have some -- one Japanese report today that is writing a story about the last week contact with North Korea in New York Chamber and the North Koreans say they're requesting or made another request of the (inaudible) later as a security guarantee (inaudible). Can you say anything on those kind -- on --
MR. BOUCHER: I never pretend to speak for the North Koreans up here. If you want to know what the North Koreans want or think, you'll have to ask them.
QUESTION: Oh, because you've got the contact with North Korea --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, but you'll have to have your contact, too, because I'm not about to try to explain their position.
QUESTION: So you don't -- you're not going to deny this story?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try, in any way, to confirm it. It's not for me to talk about the North Koreans. Our positions are very well known. The President and the Secretary have expressed them. The President made quite clear in Bangkok what he was prepared to do. And what we've also made clear is what the North Koreans need to do, which is to verifiably dismantle their nuclear weapons programs.
QUESTION: Is there -- to follow up on the North Korean defector, though, is there anything that you can hear from the North Korean defector that's going to -- that's going to sully your commitment to going forward on these six-party talks? I mean, are you -- how critical --
MR. BOUCHER: How can I answer that? I don't know what the man is going to say. I'm sorry, but --
QUESTION: Well, how critical do you view these meetings with him?
MR. BOUCHER: They are interesting, important. It's an opportunity to talk to someone with very firsthand experience of the North Korean regime and what's going on up there. It adds to our understanding of the situation on the peninsula.
QUESTION: Richard, a second HIV positive man has accused the Department now of discrimination. Unlike the last time, which was a federal lawsuit, this one was with the -- I believe it's with your Office of Civil Rights within the Department. I presume that you're not going to want to talk about it because it's a pending case, but I thought I'd try anyway.
MR. BOUCHER: I presume I won't want to talk about it, but let me find out about it, and then I'll talk about it. I'll look into it and see if there is anything we can say.
QUESTION: All right. (Inaudible) is that -- according to this man's lawyers, the Department has until next week to respond to a federal lawsuit. Are you aware of that deadline, and do you intend to meet it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not. I don't know. I would imagine we intend to meet it because we always try to meet these deadlines -- lawsuits, but I don't know about the specific case.
QUESTION: Well, okay. You'll come back on it, yes?
MR. BOUCHER: If I can say anything, I will. I just -- as your colleague pointed out, this may be a matter of individual privacy.
QUESTION: But, generally speaking, I was just wondering if the State Department doesn't think an HIV positive person can do a job. I mean, you have people in this building on wheelchairs, you have all sorts of --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we've had -- we've had well known and promulgated policies on people that are HIV positive remaining at their job and receiving whatever support they need to continue that as long as possible.
QUESTION: This is on the interview that Carl Ford, the former head of INR, gave to the L.A. Times, charging that the U.S. intelligence community badly under-performed in assessing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and should accept that it was a failure, that it did not provide policymakers with the right information to -- perhaps that they based on to go to war. And what's your response to this?
MR. BOUCHER: I kind of read the comments. They were a little bit general and hard to figure out exactly who and what we were talking about, and, first of all, say Mr. Ford is now a private citizen. He is free to speak out and say whatever he wants to.
Second of all, there was, indeed, a consensus in the intelligence community that included INR on the major issues, particularly Iraq's biological and chemical weapons programs, particularly Iraq's intention to develop weapons of mass destruction.
As you all know, there was some dispute in the nuclear, not over the ultimate intention to have nuclear weapons if he could, but over whether he was actually reconstituting the program. And INR took a well publicized and somewhat lengthy footnote in the National Intelligence Estimate that reflects the views that they had at the time under the leadership of Mr. Ford. And so that's well known and, in fact, I think, reflected in the way we've handled that issue in public.
So that's the lay of the land, as we've always understood it, and I'm not quite sure whether those comments intend to change that or not. He certainly has been on the Hill, talked to Congress. I'm not sure if it was all in public session. But he's briefed himself many times on this question of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
I think I'd have to say that Mr. Ford's views are well represented in the intelligence community, whether it was in writing or in speaking out, as well as in this building. So the analysis that we got from INR, I think everybody is quite aware of what we had.
All that said, whether those major judgments and some of the specific ones are proved true in the end or not, we'll just have to see. It's premature to reach a judgment given that David Kay continues his work in Iraq. The preliminary findings certainly indicate the kind of intent that we'd always talked about of Saddam Hussein to develop weapons of mass destruction.
They indicate the kind of research and development programs for chemical and biological weapons that we had always talked about, and I said those major issues were a matter of consensus with all the agencies including INR. But final judgment on which pieces, in detail, were right and wrong, really has to wait until David Kay can finish his work and tell us the whole story, the full extent of Iraq's programs.
QUESTION: If I could follow up. You said that there was a consensus on the major issues, but there are numerous examples of how -- not only on the nuclear, but on the biological area -- that INR dissented with the intelligence community, such as that June 2nd memo, in which INR said that some of those biological vans might not -- those mobile vans might not necessarily be used for biological weapons use
So does the State Department, the Secretary, feel as if INR's views were adequately represented in the intelligence estimates before this country went to war? It seems as if, that the INR Bureau did not feel, as a whole, that the intelligence was cold enough.
MR. BOUCHER: It seems, I think, we have to, sort of, stick to the facts that we know and not try to make judgments until we make the full set of facts. The June thing you cite is after the war, not before the war.
If I remember correctly, and there may be another example or two, the major difference -- the significant issue before the war was whether or not Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, and whether things like the tubes and the magnets and a lot of the purchases were, in fact, evidence of Iraq reconstituting its programs.
Every one agreed that Saddam Hussein had the intention to acquire nuclear weapons. The question was, was it dormant or active? And indeed, David Kay's reporting indicates that the intention was certainly there, as well as some of the finds they've made. Whether it was active or not, we'll find out eventually.
So that seemed to be, at least, the one significant point that I can remember that was a matter of contention. And as I said, that was reflected, not only in the discussions we had internally or the briefings given to the Congress, but also in the public statements that we made.
So, the simple answer to your question is yes, the views of INR were well-represented, in our internal discussions, in the briefings with Congress, as well as to the extent we could in the public arena.
QUESTION: Richard, I'm a little confused as to why you're saying it's premature, and that you have to wait for the Kay report. I mean, maybe my memory is bad, but I seem to remember the Secretary and you, as both saying that the Kay report had proved all of those things, and then you got up and said that, in fact, the botulinum that he discovered was a weapon of mass destruction.
MR. BOUCHER: There were, certainly, in David Kay's interim report, a number of the assertions that we had made, a number of the statements that we had made, that were verified by the work of the group already. But when it comes down to making an overall judgment about good intelligence, bad intelligence, did we know everything or not, that's what I would say, that kind of judgment is premature.
What we can say now is there are portions of things that we said that have already been verified by David Kay. Whether the full extent will be or not, we'll have to wait for the full extent of the Kay report.
QUESTION: Richard, there seems to be a report that says global funding is -- a trail has led to Kashmir, and that they just -- Indian army has just detained two people with about $100,000 in cash driving to a resort in Kashmir called Kud. And about two weeks ago, there was a meeting with charities here at the U.S. Treasury.
Do we now ask for the turnover of these two detainees to American custody or --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not aware of this specific case, and I'm not aware that these people -- I don't know what charges they might be wanted on, so I can't touch that. Sorry.
Let's go to the back. We'll come back. Sir.
QUESTION: Top U.S. military leaders have said, obviously, that the concerns about the illegal infiltration along the Syrian borders appear to be unfounded. Now, combining this with lots of activities of the Iraqi leaders, including the members of the Iraqi Council and leaders of the tribes visiting with the Syrian officials very intensively in the last few weeks, and also the meeting that's going to be taking place in a few days between the foreign ministers of the region concerning -- to discuss Iraq, do you -- what's your assessment of all these Syrian activities? Do you see it in constructive eyes, as the region or countries are?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can make any new judgments on that. The issue of people coming across the border from Syria and people coming across the border from Iran, those remain concerns of ours. Some of the terrorists who have appeared in Iraq came somehow, and there are reports that they might have come through Syria.
So these are continuing concerns and we've -- excuse me -- we've continued our discussion with the Syrian Government, continued to press the Syrian Government to do more to control that kind of activity, as well as to do more on the -- ending the kind of support for the violent Palestinian groups that exist coming out of Syria. So I don't think we've really changed our opinion at this point of the things that Syria is doing that causes concern.
QUESTION: Richard, I have it on pretty -- well, extremely high authority that one of the Secretary's main or -- well, one of the Secretary's high-priority tasks that he wanted to achieve -- that is, connecting all the embassies, all desks, with the Internet -- has actually now been completed. Is that correct?
MR. BOUCHER: That's correct. This goes back to the earliest days of the Administration. I think if you look in the Secretary's Congressional testimony, one of the first things he asked for was funding to bring the State Department into the modern, electronic age. And, indeed, he called for a state-of-the-art State Department.
We have now completed two major technology initiatives. All of our embassies and consulates, and approximately -- means approximately 44,000 users are connected worldwide to the internet through our internal system. There are 224 posts connected to our classified system. Khartoum, in Sudan, was the last post that we were able to connect on the unclassified system.
We are using these systems to expand electronic communication, to expand collaboration with other U.S. Government agencies via secure networks, and we are also working on the next generation procedures now to move beyond our system of using cables to using more modern methods of pages and distribution lists and other ways of distributing information.
So, with the assistance of the Congress, the Department has initiated a next generation program to keep our PCs modern and up to date, known as the Global Information Technology Modernization Program. And that's -- now that we've got to this state of state of the art, we've got a program, make sure we stay there.
QUESTION: Can you tell -- when did Khartoum come online, and how much did all this cost?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look back at the budget. And, actually, the date, I don't have the date for Khartoum; it was very recently.
QUESTION: Like, last week, perhaps?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know the exact date.
QUESTION: How much is spam reducing your productivity?
MR. BOUCHER: We have very good filters to keep span out of the system. I think you've all heard from time to time a virus creeps in and we zap it. We have occasionally had to take down the system to put in the virus blockers and checkers, but we have a very good firewall.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
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