THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:13 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start with one housekeeping item and then two issues that I think you want to get into. First, to tell you that at 3:00 p.m. today we will have an embargoed, on-the-record, not-for-broadcast briefing by Leon Panetta, which will support some things the President wants to address in his weekly radio address tomorrow. And we'll give those of you who are interested in having a nice long holiday weekend an opportunity to put things together in advance. That will be at 3:00 p.m.
Q What's the subject?
MR. MCCURRY: The subject will be the President's concern about aspects of Republican budget plans that would lead to tax increases on working Americans. One of the things that many people have not noticed is the degree to which the Republican budget proposal would result in billions of dollars of tax increases on working people at the same time that the Republican majority wishes to cut taxes disproportionately for the wealthiest Americans. So the President wants to highlight some of those. You've heard him talk about subjects like the earned income tax credit and other issues before, but he's got a very important argument that he wants to make that really looks across the entire range of actions that are coming together under the Republican Congress and how they would impact negatively on people who work for a living, how it would, in effect, raise their taxes.
Q Mike, you said this is embargoed and not on the record?
MR. MCCURRY: It is on the record, not for broadcast, embargoed to coincide with the President's Saturday radio address tomorrow.
Q Which we will get when? Not until tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you won't get until tomorrow -- the President is pretaping that earlier in the morning, but the transcript ought to be available just prior to the 10:06 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time address.
Q I thought he was doing it up in Edgartown tomorrow.
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct.
MR. MCCURRY: No, he's pretaping it just prior to. Okay?
Q Can we get cameras inside the taping of his radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q In addition to EITC and such, will Mr. Panetta also be addressing specific tax cut proposals that are in the plan?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll be talking about the revenue-related aspects of the Republican budget proposal. But, no, he won't be talking specifically about the kinds of things I suspect you might be most interested in -- let's put it that way.
Second, the President today is pleased to announce a major reform of our computer export controls that will adjust to the global spread of technology while preserving America's vital national security interests. Effective export controls are a critical part of our national security, especially a strong nonproliferation policy. For over two years now, the administration has been looking at how we can update controls to ensure that computers that could have a significant military impact on United States and allied security interests around the world -- how they can remain carefully controlled while, at the same time, the controls that are unnecessary and ineffective are removed.
We've got a long statement from the President that details some of this policy -- I think a lot of you have already covered this -- and also a fact sheet that runs through some of it. I've got a whole wealth of people here who can talk about this and I can do one of two things: I can kind of run through the substance of this or you can wait for the paper and ask some questions now. Some of you, I believe, have followed this already. What is the preference? Would you like to hear more?
Q Yes, a little bit.
MR. MCCURRY: Why don't I -- Dan, why don't I run -- you want to run through it? We can do it either way. Why don't you take over at this point and then you can run through the elements. We've got a fact sheet that will cover some of this, but he will give you enough of a sense of how this new export policy will work, how various groupings of nations will be affected, and then we'll take a few questions and get the paper to you.
Let me introduce Dan Poneman who is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council, who's been doing a lot of the interagency work, heading up the interagency work that has led to the President's policy announcement today.
Q Can you spell that --
MR. MCCURRY: P-o-n-e-m-a-n. Is that right?
MR. PONEMAN: That's right.
MR. MCCURRY: Pretty good.
MR. PONEMAN: Thank you very much, Mike. Rather than read anything out of the fact sheet, let me just explain briefly what we have done.
Some of you may recall two years ago, in September 1993, we went through an internal review of our export controls, and specifically, how far we could modify those controls to assure that we continued to control those items, and specifically,those computers that could still make a difference in a military or proliferation sense, at the same time, relieving industry of unnecessary controls that were no longer effective. And that was a major reform that we have since implemented.
At that time, in light of the continuing, rapid advances in computer technology and a growing marketization of those computers, we said we would have to revisit this question in about two years. And that is what we have now done and we have now concluded.
About six months ago, we asked the agencies -- and the Department of Defense, which is represented here, took the lead -- to analyze from first principles the continued validity of export controls in the computer controls in the computer area, what military applications that were still vitally affected by computer technology, and specifically, the extent to which the foreign availability of computers made them controllable or uncontrollable and how we could gauge our computer controls so that it kept controls on those computers that still made an important military difference or proliferation difference and yet did not needlessly impede legitimate commerce.
There were a number of reviews that were conducted, and we had a thorough discussion among the agencies, and we came up with two essentially critical points in terms of measuring computer performance. I will try to stay out of the arcana, but you'll forgive me if I use an acronym or two.
The two critical nodes that we found, one was 7,000 MTOPS -- MTOPS standing for Millions of Theoretical Operations Per Second -- we found that below that level of 7,000 MTOPS that you could not effectively control computers through U.S. export controls. Why? There are just too many of them. They are available globally. They are available all over the world. And, in addition, the changes in the nature of computers mean that you no longer are looking at very large machines that fill up a room and need air conditioning, but increasingly smaller machines, work stations where you can increase their power by plug-in boards. You can network them together. In short, below 7,000 we did not find that U.S. export controls could be effective in restraining machines from reaching countries and destinations that we'd be worried about from a military or proliferation standpoint.
The second critical node that we found was at the threshold of 10,000 MTOPS. It was at that threshold that we found a number of critical national security applications that are mainly in the advanced warfare, advanced conventional weapons, military operations field that could still usefully be done by single-vector machines that could not be easily replaced by clusters of smaller work stations.
We then proceeded to build a position around those two findings and we separated the world into a number of groups of countries about which we have more or less concern from a variety of perspectives, and we came up with four groupings.
In the first category, what we call Group A, which includes Western Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, it allows essentially all computers to go under what we call a general license, which means there will be record-keeping requirements, but there will not be prior governmental approval.
For the second grouping of countries, which includes South America, South Korea, South Africa, certain parts of what used to be considered Eastern Europe -- Hungary, for example -- those countries would be able to receive computers up to 10,000 MTOPS under a general license, no prior governmental approval; above 10,000 MTOPS you do require an individual license.
For the third group of countries, Group C, this includes countries about which we still do have some concerns and which perhaps do not have the same kind of nonproliferation credentials that the first two groups have. I'm talking about here the former COCOM proscribed countries, the former Soviet Union, China, all of the Middle East because of the general risks there, South Asia -- those countries are under a stricter regime. The general license, which means no prior government approval, is only available up to 2,000 MTOPS. Between 2,000 and 7,000 MTOPS we have a special kind of a license, which means that if you are a military end user, you need prior governmental approval, and if you're a civil end user, you do not. Above 7,000 MTOPS, you do need prior governmental approval. And at 10,000 MTOPS you need a substantial set, or you can be required to have a substantial set of safeguards attached to it.
I'm almost done. The last piece, Group D, are essentially those countries with which we have no computer trade -- terrorist countries -- it includes Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea.
In a nutshell, that is what it does. I would note the following: The control levels that we have now promulgated and the President has approved take due account of changes we've witnessed in technology in the last couple of years. These changes will continue, and we will continue to have to revise these levels. But to supplement this, if you would, in a broad-brush approach to the export controls, we will continue to rely on special controls that we already have in regulations and will strengthen something that is known as the Enhanced Proliferation Control Initiative to single out and stop any specific computers that could be going to a military or a proliferation-related end use.
I will subside there -- if there are any questions? Wolf?
Q Does this mean that countries like India or Pakistan or Israel, which are suspected in being involved in nuclear bomb development, will not be able to buy these supercomputers, or will they be allowed to buy supercomputers?
MR. PONEMAN: The countries that you just named are in Group C. They will be able to buy any computer up to 2,000 MTOPS, okay. After 2,000 MTOPS, they have to separate out if it's a civil or military end use. And military includes proliferation end use. If it's military they need a prior license. If they say this is going to a not-permitted end use, we would deny that license.
But to just -- there was an implicit part of your question and that was your reference to supercomputers. Part of what we found in the study is the whole characterization of supercomputers is losing relevance, and I should say for the point of clarification, right now the supercomputer threshold that we are operating under is 1,500, so this new set of proposals, in essence, overtakes the old definition of supercomputers. You will not hear us talking about supercomputers anymore because, as I said, the whole concept is losing relevance. And we will, in fact, be entering into consultations and have begun consultations both with Japan on the specific question of the bilateral arrangements we have about supercomputers and also with all of the other partners we're trying to establish this follow-on regime to COCOM with to persuade them to come up with the same kind of set of controls.
Q Just as a point of reference, what's the theoretical operations level of a standard available Pentium computer that's on the market everywhere today?
MR. PONEMAN: Pentium? Who knows the --
Q Well, you know, just commercially-available stuff that's out there.
MR. PONEMAN: The things that you're probably typing on, the small computers are way down in the single digits of MTOPS, the sort of old PCs. I think Pentium is up to like 600 -- 100 MTOPS. What we're talking about are work stations that are now available in sort of the tens of thousands around the country.
Q At what point is technology going to force you to revisit this again? Are you going to have to do it all over again in two years?
MR. PONEMAN: We set up these controls with the idea that they ought to last for about two years. We need to have a situation in which our policy generations don't get out of whack with technology generations. Now, the next time we go through this whole exercise we're going to have to start again from first principles and see exactly what makes sense. One thing that has happened is the whole notion of MTOPS in and of itself is no longer the be all and the end all of how you define computational power.
Q From a practical standpoint, what's to prevent one of the countries in the first three groups from clandestinely sharing this technology with one of the countries in the fourth group?
MR. PONEMAN: What we are doing now does not undercut existing re-export controls. Now, if something is done clandestinely, it's illicit, and if you're in breach of your controls, there are actions that we could take to exporters that breach existing controls.
But in terms of physical impediments, what we're saying is -- the philosophy behind it is you are dealing with countries that have good export controls, that share our general commitment to nonproliferation. If there are malfeasors who are in breach of those, then we would take the appropriate steps under our own regulations, such as this Enhanced Proliferation Control Initiative, under which there are both, for example, criminal and civil penalties.
Q As you say, if it's difficult if not impossible, to regulate the flow of computers below 7,000 MTOPS, why are you attempting to regulate between 2,000 and 7,000?
MR. PONEMAN: That is a good question. We thought and recognized that only when you get to Category C do we look below 7,000. And the answer is, right now, the proposed supercomputer threshold that we had advanced two years ago was 2,000. We thought precisely because the President is so committed to nonproliferation that it would be useful to keep some tabs -- even though we recognize it's not perfectly controllable -- on that set of computers for that set of countries.
Q Can anybody there say what this is going to mean to American computer exporters? Can you gauge it somehow? Quantify it somehow?
MR. PONEMAN: It is a little hard to gauge because you're looking out into the future, but I think our ballpark estimates is that over the next couple of years, you're talking about $1 to $2 billion worth of sales.
Q What percentage increase does that represent?
MR. PONEMAN: Ninety percent of the market will be de-controlled.
Q What are you doing about computer hackers?
MR. PONEMAN: Today's announcement relates to what we are doing with respect to computers that are sold in commerce. It is not trying to --
Q -- you have computer hackers who can get into any system. If they can get into Citibank system, which lost millions of dollars. What about --
MR. PONEMAN: One of the things that is done under this set of regime is to impose, in certain cases, safeguards. Those safeguards could include, for example, password protection that would protect against that kind of thing.
Q If we were able in the United States to build bombs in the '50s, '60s and '70s using technology today that would be rudimentary and primitive, what's preventing people from using technology now that isn't state-of-the-art, but can still build bombs with it? I don't understand why this isn't a futile exercise if you can use even something that comparatively low-tech to build a bomb.
MR. PONEMAN: Well, that is another good question. We found in this study that at -- especially at the 10,000 level and above, there are still a number of applications they have shifted largely to military operations and advanced conventional stealth kinds of technologies -- that sort of thing. It is true, as you say, we can, indeed we did, build our nuclear arsenal with much less powerful computers. It does not mean, however, that those kind of computers cannot be very useful, and perhaps accelerate your efforts. Our effort here seeks to strike a reasonable balance. It does not seek to control the uncontrollable, but it does seek to control those things that still are, A, controllable, and B, have military applications.
Q How does the new control regime fit in with the sale practices of other advanced, industrial countries? Are they going along with what you're proposing or are they going to breach this and, therefore, not only are you going to be able to take them by technology, but also by competition?
MR. PONEMAN: Yes. That's a good question. As many of you know, we have been working very hard since President Clinton in April '93 proposed the creation of a follow-on regime to COCOM to get our partners together on a set of procedures that would prevent that kind of undercutting.
In the past weeks, and now we're much more intensively go into an intense series of consultations with our partners to try to get them to agree to a similar set of controls and, in the meantime, in that same negotiation, we are seeking exchange of information that would permit us to consult with our allies. That would give us an opportunity to work with them so that we are not undercutting one another and so that, hopefully, we are living up to essentially the same kinds of national controls.
Q But right now you have no such commitment?
MR. PONEMAN: Right now the commitment we have is from our partners to try to work with us to get this, what is now being called the "New Forum," follow-on to COCOM, up and running by the end of the year. It's in that context that we will try to get this kind of agreement set.
Q Are there any other countries that build computers with 10,000 MTOPS?
MR. PONEMAN: Well, the Japanese are our principal competitors at the high end. But the range that we're talking about ranging up to 10,000, 4 -, 5 -, 6,000, there's an increasing number of countries that have got the chips, they've got the plug-in boards. They can put together a series of stacked-up machines that get you up in that region. I don't know if anybody wants to -- is that all right?
Q With massively parallel processing, what's the real -- I mean, how can you really stop it? Anybody could do it.
MR. PONEMAN: That's why we're saying what we're doing now is something that we believe can hold for the next couple of years. You're asking, Bill, exactly the kind of question we'll have to be revisiting in that follow-on review.
MR. MCCURRY: Thanks, Dan. I also want to thank everybody else, especially Mitchell Wallerstein, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Defense for Counterproliferation Policy, for being able to all of you, too. Thank you.
And you'll see in the President's statement, I guess, Peter, in response to your question, he really does emphasize -- on the question of third-party transfers -- the importance of working with our partners in the New Forum, the successor regime to COCOM, on a lot of the issues that would calibrate our policy in connection with what some of the other higher tech users are doing. Okay. Thank you.
Next, you noticed in the President's speech this morning that he made reference to some adjustments, a series of steps that he has directed in order to invigorate the Cuban Democracy Act. These are all consistent with this administration's firm support for the Cuban Democracy Act and in furtherance of our goal of promoting a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.
Q Have you heard anything from Castro on this?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we will -- I don't know if we've had a readout, but I can tell you that after the President's announcement this morning we have had a presentation made by our Cuban intrasection in Havana to the Cuban Foreign Ministry. So they have presented this material. I don't know that we have heard back yet on what type of reaction we've had from the Cuban government.
Let me just do a couple things specifically on what steps beyond the things I think the President pretty well covered this morning, but just go through a little bit on that. And then I've got a team here who can help you if you've got any additional questions.
First, to point out what I think is the main point the President was making today, that the series of steps that he directed to be taken today will ultimately strengthen our enforcement of the embargo, which remains a primary tool available to the United States government as we seek change in Cuba and as we implement the law, specifically the Cuban Democracy Act.
Q Why do you say that?
MR. MCCURRY: Because the types of measures that we allow today will make it possible for those who enforce the law -- and, by the way, the Office of Foreign Assets Compliance -- is that right -- Control -- that enforces this embargo at the Treasury Department will be considerably strengthened as a result of measures the President announced today, but it will allow them to focus on egregious abuses. It doesn't -- right now, technically, when you've got someone who has got a dire humanitarian concern in Cuba, a relative who is sick who doesn't have time to wait to apply for a license at Treasury, Treasury technically has to enforce the law and look at situations like that. They now will be freed from those specific types of cases and they can concentrate on what are clear violations of the law and clear violations of the embargo. But that's among others --
Q Can I just follow up?
MR. MCCURRY: Can I just tell you what we're doing, and then you can ask whatever questions you'd like.
First of all, the President, as he noted today, stresses that the steps he's taking are consistent with the spirit and the letter of the Cuban Democracy Act and they implement precisely what the act itself calls for, which is to use the embargo effectively to put pressure on the Castro government and help those people and forces in Cuba that are struggling to achieve democratic change in Cuba.
Nothing in today's decision reflects a weakening of the President's commitment to the embargo. In fact, on the contrary. Every element of the embargo remains in place and the means to enforce it will be strengthened. At the same time, the administration will reenergize its efforts to reach out to the Cuban people through the free flow of ideas and information, and by strengthening the island's fledgling civil society, really reaching out to those who are themselves taking risks to promote peaceful change in Cuba.
We have seen as the Cold War ended and as democracy and market economics emerged triumphant around the world where totalitarianism held sway, that ideas, information, the exchange of information about the benefits of democracy really were the driving force that inspired those who were able to bring down communist, totalitarian regimes. What we're seeking to do here is to reach out to the Cuban people who themselves are struggling against the effects of totalitarianism so that they can bring about the type of peaceful change in Cuba that will improve the lives of civil society in Cuba.
Now, specifically, what steps the President directed today: First of all, he directed the Attorney General to step up enforcement of the embargo and the Neutrality Act. He directed a strengthening of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at Treasury, both here in Washington and I guess at regional offices that they maintain in Miami.
As far as promoting democratic transition in Cuba, the steps initiated by the President today would authorize the issuance of licenses on a case-by-case basis for transactions that support the Cuban people. Support would be allowed, for example, for activities of human rights organizations or specific Cuban individuals or nongovernmental organizations. This would allow them to conceivably send faxes to groups down in Cuba to exchange ideas with people who are themselves promoting change in Cuba. And you heard the President announce today the first grant that would be available under this new policy which he made to Freedom House which will be working with Cuban nongovernmental organizations.
Q How much money?
MR. MCCURRY: $500,000. It was a $500,000 grant that the President awarded today.
The President also authorized the issuance of specific licenses for the establishment and operation of reciprocal news bureaus here in the United States and in Cuba so that U.S. news organizations that wish to cover Cuba more carefully or more directly would be able to establish a presence in Cuba. And then, should that happen and should we be satisfied that there is a commitment by the Cuban government to allow news organizations that type of access, we could reciprocally provide that type of access to Cuban news organizations here in the United States.
Q Are you saying the Cubans have to allow U.S. news organizations to operate first, and then the U.S. would respond?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. We'd like to see that they begin to work with you all and with news organizations and allow the establishment of permanent bureaus, presumably in Havana or elsewhere, before we would take any reciprocal measures here.
Q Who can tell our people specifically what steps they need to take?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think the point of contact, first, would be Treasury because my guess is most of your news organizations have had contact with the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the past. When you've arranged for a journalist to go to Cuba, they would, in the past, would have needed very specific license approval to do that. So you've got a working relationship or people that you work with have got a working relationship already. But that would be the first point of contact for those news organizations interested in a bureau there.
Q You mean at Foreign Assets Control?
MR. MCCURRY: At Treasury, correct.
Q And it's effective immediately?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. These steps are effective immediately. They do not require any legislative act, but they do require some amendments to the Cuban assets control regulations which Treasury maintains. And those will be made effective immediately.
Q Mike, are you familiar with plans by a group of 47 corporate executives to travel to Cuba today?
MR. MCCURRY: That's the Time Magazine news tour?
Q Yes. How are they traveling, and are they traveling as journalists? Are they traveling as business leaders? And isn't this a crack in the embargo?
MR. MCCURRY: No. They are traveling under sponsorship of something called The Time Magazine News Tour which is something Time, Inc. runs, I believe, every 10 years. It's a group of high-level figures from journalism or from the private sector who make various -- they will be touring various places around the world. And then they customarily come back and prepare a report on their activities. This group, for this particular trip to Cuba, applied to Treasury under the previous regulations. There's nothing about it, with the steps the President announced today, that affected this particular group because they had to submit formally their license applications to Treasury under the existing regulations. And they were reviewed properly by Treasury and granted licenses.
Q As what? Journalists?
MR. MCCURRY: They are traveling -- I believe, they are traveling as journalists. But is it a collective group or was each individual licensed? Collective group.
Q Mike, if a little bit of information and exchange and openness is a good idea, why wouldn't a whole lot more be better? I mean, why not just get rid of the embargo? Some of the dissidents who you mentioned and the President mentioned, in fact, in Cuba and in Florida say that's a policy that the United States should pursue.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, our sense of what it will take to bring about change in Cuba is predicated on the premises set forth very clearly in the Cuba Democracy Act.
It's important to point out that the Cuban Democracy Act enjoys bipartisan support. It has been the tool that both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch have committed to use as we seek to bring about changing Cuba.
I think everyone here is aware of the different points of view in the Congress on how to most effectively bring about changing Cuba. But I'd stress that what we are doing today is by allowing a freer exchange and by, in a sense, opening up to the Cuban people more information about the benefits of democracy, we can help promote that change consistent with the Act. And simultaneously, we can continue to use the embargo as a way to bring pressure on the Cuban regime itself to make the necessary changes.
Q Mike, how about family remittances?
MR. MCCURRY: Let me go through -- I stopped short of finishing the other aspects of the steps the President announced today.
They will also -- regulations governing travel to Cuba will be clarified and amended. Specific license will be issued for transactions relating to travel to Cuba and for all genuine research, new gathering, cultural, education, religious or other human rights purposes. Transactions related to tourism will continue to remain strictly prohibited.
Remittances -- your specific question -- there's not chance in the rules. Money transfers to Cuba are allowed to pay currently for legal immigrations costs, and in cases of humanitarian need, the only adjustment here is that the President has authorized Western Union to open offices in the United States and Cuba which will allow -- I presume -- electronic money transfers to take place. That will make it easier for these transfers to occur and cheaper for the individual people who are attempting to make those transfers, consistent with current law. But it would help those who are seeking to lawfully immigrate from Cuba when they have a right to do so.
On travel -- there's one -- let me just finish the one last aspect of this. On travel the steps the President directed today would also authorize general licenses for transactions in connection with travel to Cuba to visit close relatives. In humanitarian cases, this would involve getting a general license which would apply to a once-only per calendar year visit to Cuba for specific humanitarian needs. And that would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
In short, these are, I would say, fairly modest adjustments to the current regime of regulations that we maintain consistent with the embargo. But they are specifically allowed, in fact anticipated, in the Cuban Democracy Act. They represent a commitment by the administration to that Act and to steps that we believe can continue to bring pressure to bear on the Cuban regime to get on the right side of history and get on with the type of change that will bring democracy and market economics to the people of Cuba who so desperately need it.
Q Mike, to encourage democracy in Haiti, the administration sent U.S. troops, but to encourage democracy in Cuba, you're sending bureau chiefs. (Laughter.) Is the goal here that this will open up forces that will cause the Castro regime to be more democratic and more market-oriented, or it will open up forces that will overthrow the Castro regime?
MR. MCCURRY: Laugh though you might, if you think about the history of Eastern Europe, if you think of the extraordinary events in Tiananmen Square in 1989, if you think about the change that has occurred in this world fairly recently, there's good reason to believe that free-flow of information, exposure to democratic ideals and the example that the United States sets in this world can be a powerfully motivating device when it comes to helping people make change. And so we would suggest --
Q To reforming Castro or to leading to forces that get rid of Castro?
MR. MCCURRY: We are interested in peaceful change in Cuba. That is the premise of the Cuban Democracy Act and it has been the long-standing policy not only of the Clinton administration but prior administrations.
Q Is Castro coming to the U.N. for the 50th anniversary?
MR. MCCURRY: He's -- to my knowledge, he has not yet applied for a visa. There's no visa application pending.
Q The change presupposes the fact that we are going to let journalists go. Have the Cubans said they're going to allow -- or is this a way of putting pressure on them to put their money where there mouth is and say --
MR. MCCURRY: You'll have to ask at the State Department as they get a report from the initial discussion we've had with the Cuban government through our interest section in Havana. That will -- we would certainly hope so. We would expect so. We'd see no reason why the Castro regime would seek to bar those news organizations interested in providing coverage from the island. But it will be subsequent discussions.
Q Mike, with the, what you call -- in these restrictions today, it would seem you're still clamping down much harder on Cuba in terms of economic quarantine and isolation than we ever did with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. We had bureaus in most of the Cold War and we had far more trade, of course. We had Jackson-Vanik, but that doesn't amount to an absolute economic quarantine. If, as you say, you look forward to the dynamic of interchange and exchange of ideas as providing some movement toward democratic reform in Cuba, why not go further? Why not use the very thing that we said after the Cold War to produce the results with perestroika and Gorbachov and reform finally in the Soviet Union -- why not accelerate that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, several points. First, in a sense, that's almost precisely what we're doing here. By allowing more information to be available to allow more contact between the people of Cuba and people from the United States who can certainly be ambassadors of goodwill, we will, hopefully, engender exactly that type of phenomenon.
But I would caution against assuming there's one paradigm that describes change as countries make the necessary transition from totalitarianism to market economics and democracy. Every country is going to experience that transition in a different way. The policy, carefully calibrated policy, that has been developed with respect to Cuba is the result of a longstanding series of agreements between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. They reflect, frankly, the political reality that everyone here is aware of and they reflect what we believe we can do and what Presidents and Congresses consistently have believed we can do to bring about that type of change.
Q But what you're really saying, Mike, is that Florida politics was not an inhibiting factor with regard to your Soviet relations.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I didn't say that. Look, you can already --
Q Well, what do you mean by political reality?
MR. MCCURRY: You can listen to any number of members of Congress who will have a variety of views that they will express on these steps. There will be some who say this is not -- doesn't go far enough, which is the premise of your question, and you'll hear today from members of Congress presumably who will think this is not a good idea, or at least some people within the Cuban American community who will say it's not a good idea. You'll also hear from people who say this makes sense. This is exactly the type of carefully calibrated response that is anticipated by the Cuban Democracy Act and it also does not represent any fundamental change in the thrust of the policy which is embedded in that act. And that's as it should be.
Q There was some confusion in Newark the other night about what, if anything, the President and the Pope had to say to each other on the subject of Cuba. And I just wondered if the President had given the Pope any indication of this plan that he is announcing today.
MR. MCCURRY: No. This would be, frankly -- compared to the discussion they had, which I understand was generally on the situation in Cuba, what we saw as the prospect for changing Cuba, and broadly defined, this would be much too narrow a subject in a sense for the Pontiff and the President to explore.
They had a, I think as you were briefed by Mary Ellen Glynn, a very brief discussion of Cuba, it was fairly general in nature, was my understanding -- although her account of that was authoritative.
Q What is the difference between the tightening of the embargo that you're imposing now and what Helms wants to do?
MR. MCCURRY: The difference -- you want to take a -- the Helms-Burton Act has got some features that we like, but I think's it's probably correct to say some of the things that we like about it are reflected here.
But let me introduce -- I've got a variety of people here and I'll introduce them and they may want to correct anything wrong I've said. But in particular, Richard Nuccio is the Special Assistant to the President and Secretary of State for Cuba, who has been the overall coordinator of the work that our interagency process is doing on Cuba. Anne Patterson is here also from the State Department. She is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs and also Head -- oh, I didn't even realize; congratulations -- Head of the U.S. Delegation for the Cuban Migration Talks. That's a promotion since the last time I saw here. And Richard Newcomb, who's Director of the Office of Foreign Access Control at Treasury, is here, too.
Let me, Rick, turn it over to you and see if you've got something specific and then --
DR. NUCCIO: What the Secretary of State said in the letter that he issued as part of the Statement of Administration Policy is that while the Helms-Burton bills -- and there's some difference between them -- have the same goal of a peaceful democratic transition, his analysis of them -- and I would say I share that analysis -- is that many of the specific measures go in the opposite direction of proposing -- promoting a peaceful democratic transition.
It's already been used -- the provisions on property have already been used by the regime to promote the idea inside Cuba that people in the United States are only interested in reclaiming houses and hospitals and schools from the Cuban people. It will provoke a fight, public fight, with some of our closest allies. And it places Cuba above every -- virtually every other interest that the United States has in the world, whether it's promoting a democratic transition in Russia or our trade obligations with our NAFTA partners, or with our GATT partners. And I think there's only person who wants Cuba at the center of U.S. foreign policy, and that's the President of Cuba, not of the United States.
So we have some differences in the instruments, although we share the goal of the Helms-Burton bill, and we're trying to produce changes that would allow the President to cooperate with him.
Q Does it make it more likely, then, that the President will veto Helms-Burton?
DR. NUCCIO: I think the recommendation is on the Burton bill, which has many more problems for the administration than the Helms bill. We met two weeks ago. We will be meeting again with some of the people behind the Helms bill. And we hope to resolve the remaining differences, although we're getting later in the game than we would like to be.
Q Some Democratic congressmen who have been involved in the Cuban issue are complaining that the White House did not adequately brief them on these changes in policy towards Cuba. Is that -- was there a major mistake involving this?
DR. NUCCIO: Well, I guess they'll have to tell you if it was a mistake, but I was authorized by the President during August and early September to speak a with a number of people -- those we thought would likely be favorably disposed to some of the issues we were considering, and those we thought would be most adamantly opposed to them. And when the President made his decisions, he had -- he was able to reflect upon the feedback he had gotten from those consultations. We did not consult with everyone, but we did include Democrats among those with whom we consulted.
Q Can I follow up? Were there any informal exchanges or notifications through back channels or diplomatic channels to the Cuba government of President Castro that these changes were about to occur?
DR. NUCCIO: No -- I understand that I will be contradicting what you said just a little while ago, but that's not the case. These are all track-two measures. That is, they are things that we do unilaterally because we believe they're in the interest of the United States, and because we think it would help the Cuban people. And the Cuban government was informed today after the President's decision -- I guess it was today -- after the President's decision simply out of courtesy that they would hear it from us rather than reading perhaps some erroneous accounts in their own newspapers.
Q Well, how can it be unilateral when everything is really mutual and reciprocal?
DR. NUCCIO: Well, there's only one thing in here that has a reciprocity to it, which is the news bureaus. And the way this would work is, you will go and negotiate with the Cuban government -- your company, your bureau will negotiate with the Cuban government. We will only get involved as a government when you come back with an agreement, and we will reflect on whether we have a range of national print, electronic, regional media represented in Cuba that give a fair and objective coverage for all of the United States, not just a couple of agencies.
Q So then it would have to be reciprocal?
DR. NUCCIO: Well, it has to be reciprocal in that sense -- that when we see good coverage for you and access for you to Cuba, we will happy to have the benefits of having Granma and Radio Rebelde here.
Q Well, you who have drafted this easing up surely don't think that people are not going to think this is a softening and an easing of the restrictions. I mean, no matter Mike's rhetoric, you cannot interpret it as anything else but an easing.
DR. NUCCIO: Well, I speak on the Cuban issue a lot, and a lot in Miami, so I'm used to people interpreting what I say exactly the opposite of what it is. But I'll have to tell you that having worked for Congressman Torricelli, having been a part of the Cuban Democracy Act, I learned a long time ago that the only way to work on Cuba policy is precisely to go forward on two tracks -- to both tighten the embargo and reach out to the Cuban people. And that's what these measures do.
Q But you can't expect us to call this a tightening of policy.
DR. NUCCIO: Well, I can't require you to do anything, but I can explain what our intention and what we think the measures actually do in terms of Cuba. And I'll bet you that you will see pictures in the newspaper with some people with their arms behind their back having been arrested by U.S. officials not for dealing in cocaine, but for trying to traffic money into Cuba from the United States.
Q Will there be any chance soon for some pharmaceutical and food companies to do business in Cuba?
DR. NUCCIO: No, there's no change in the embargo prohibition on sales of food and medicine to Cuba.
Q Can I ask either a question to you or to Mike, actually, which is, what is intended by the symbolism of meeting with the 47 heads of industry today at the White House, will meet with the senior foreign policy team, and then travel to Havana tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have an extensive schedule that goes well beyond Cuba. This is sheer coincidence that this particular announcement was made by the President today and that group is here today. In fact, we -- to be very candid, we had initially anticipated doing this yesterday, but we just had -- I was thinking of all of you -- we had quite a bit of news yesterday, and we held this announcement until today simply to make everyone's life a little bit easier.
Q And when was the trip approved?
MR. MCCURRY: At least several weeks ago, because it's been -- I was contacted at least a month and a half ago just to make some arrangements for them to have briefings.
Q What happened to the offer to establish --
Q How many -- 147?
MR. MCCURRY: To be honest, we were scrambling around to try to get people to be available to brief them, because it's a distinguished group, and we wanted to greet them graciously here. But it was, I assure you, not connected to anything relating to this -- adjustments in our policy.
Q What happened to the effort to establish direct postal links with Cuba? Has it been dropped or has it been offered to Cuba?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, say again?
Q Postal links.
DR. NUCCIO: Whoever read a classified memo to some members of the press read an earlier version than the version that the President had, and when they were violating the law. And we didn't need to get a presidential approval of direct mail. It's in the Cuban Democracy Act. The President is already authorized to talk about that. And we may well do that. And that, in fact, would be the only thing we would have to talk about with the Cuban government, government-to-government.
Q It's not among the measures, the steps taken today?
DR. NUCCIO: It was not in the series of decisions that the President took. But we don't need a presidential decision on that issue. It's a part U.S. policy.
Q When will direct mail begin?
DR. NUCCIO: In the past we have raised the direct mail issue. And the answer of the Cuban government has been, when we establish commercial flights between Cuba and the United States. We haven't asked that question, and we haven't gotten their answer recently, and so we may ask it and see if there's any different answer. But we have no plans to change air charter relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Q -- immigration issue became very strong a few months ago that the United States imposed a lot of restrictions on Cuba. Then you reached an agreement on immigration with the Cuban government on Guantanamo. Can I ask you a question? Are these measures going to be lifted? Some of them seem to have been lifted today.
DR. NUCCIO: No, there is -- I want to underline, there is also a mistake in another well-known newspaper. There are no changes in the remittance policy. The only adjustment that we have made is to having had a fictitious permission for Cuban American families to go to Cuba -- fictitious because the Treasury Office was literally collapsing with the weight of applications. Everyone with a doctor's certificate saying that they had a dying family member inside Cuba --it was fictitious -- you had permission to go, but you couldn't get your license until after your family member died and was buried.
So we have allowed people now to go without seeking a prior license. They can assert they have this emergency, get on the plane once per year. If they do it more than once a year, they still have to go to through the license procedure. But we're not going to have dying grandmothers and aunts before people can even get to Cuba, which we thought was a real -- something that the United States government had no business in supervising, frankly. So that's the only adjustment to the August measures.
Q So when is this Time Magazine group coming to the White House?
DR. NUCCIO: They were here this morning. They left --or will be leaving for Cuba shortly. I think they have dinner with President Castro, and then they're on to another country tomorrow. But I want to underline, this decision was taken completely apart from these decisions today before the President I think even may have seen the memo on this issue. It's not connected to this; it's all -- I hope the businessmen, acting in a journalistic capacity, will ask some tough questions about what the Cuban government is going to do when the United States takes steps to clearly open up to the Cuban people, if they're going to block that or facilitate it.
Q Richard, the State Department yesterday said that relations between the U.S. and Colombia were at an all-time low, and the Ambassador is now on vacation -- the U.S. Ambassador is on vacation at a time when relations are at an all-time low. Is that a signal that is trying to be sent to the Colombian government? It's really for Mike.
DR. NUCCIO: I have the privilege of not working on anything --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't have anything to add. I think the characterization that was provided at State yesterday about the status of our relationships is the one that you should rely on. Those concerns and the concerns reflected in what we discussed yesterday at State are certainly shared here at the White House, and we have been looking at those sets of issues about our bilateral cooperation on issues from narco trafficking to other issues very carefully.
Q Why would the Ambassador be on vacation at a time when the State Department has clearly said the relations are not very good?
MR. MCCURRY: I will have to refer that to the State Department. They would be in the best position to answer that.
Q Can I ask --
MR. MCCURRY: I need to go back and correct one thing. I used the term -- having Cuba policy not in my head on a daily basis. I indicated earlier in this briefing that I would use the term carefully calibrated response. That's actually a term of our --in the Cuban Democracy Act that refers to the possibility of changes in U.S. policy when we see demonstrated change in Cuba, and I should not have used that in connection with these measures. These are measures that are adjustments we're making in our own interest because they will strengthen our own enforcement of the act and the embargo, and I should have said this is a disciplined policy decision, but I just wanted to correct that for the record.
Q Then changes that we made in immigration policy toward Cuba a few months ago seem to have provoked quite a bit of opposition in the Cuban-American community, and now here we go again seemingly stirring up quite a bit of opposition. Has the White House written off the Cuban American vote in Florida and perhaps in New Jersey?
MR. MCCURRY: No, by no means. I think you do an injustice to the Cuban American community by assuming that its opinions are monolithic. There are different points of view, there are, for all of the reasons we've described here, reasons why many people in the Cuban American community will warmly greet some aspects of this decision. If you've got a very ill relative in Cuba and you are desperately anxious to visit that relative, you'll be pretty happy about these decisions today.
Taken as a whole, there will be some voices in that community that will no doubt object to these measures; there will also be voices that say this makes some sense. There will be voices in that very community who will say that this doesn't go far enough. And I think we believe we are doing the right thing, consistent with our interests, we will certainly make the case as effectively as we can in the Cuban American community, that this is the right thing to do if you believe that there must be peaceful change in Cuba, and the President will be as satisfied and appreciate the support that he will get from whatever segment of that community that wishes to support him.
Q Mike, on the question of news bureaus, is there a specific criteria that Cuba has to meet that would satisfy a reciprocal arrangement?
MR. MCCURRY: It's kind of a know-it-when-we-see-it. It, frankly, will depend a lot more on your reaction. As we hear from news organizations that go down and attempt to negotiate and see what type of experience they have in dealing with Cuban authorities, as they attempt to establish a presence there, we will be able to get a better opinion ourselves.
Q The administration will insist, for example, on certain electronic media, print media, regional, national, a mix --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we would expect to see a good cross-section of news organizations that are allowed access to Cuba for coverage, and treated as our representatives of news organizations from other foreign countries. It's sort of in a similar fashion. But as I say, we don't have any strict criteria for that. We would mostly rely on the impressions we get from executives from your news organizations as they take advantage of the opportunities we hope they will.
Q Will the White House receive Cuban American groups here to have a dialogue with them, or will Mr. Nuccio have to go back to Miami or New Jersey and do some explaining?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's fair to say that our team has been in close contact with that community; will continue to be. I believe -- were you there?
DR. NUCCIO: I was there three weeks ago, I guess, the last time.
MR. MCCURRY: He went down three weeks ago, and has been to South Florida on a regular basis.
Q I mean, after this announcement. About to stir up hornet's nest.
MR. MCCURRY: We will be, and there is, both through our NSC folks and through our Office of Public Liaison here an extensive effort to make sure people have the facts about what's been announced. It's easy when we talk about measures about this, they're very often mischaracterized, so we will make sure people know exactly what we have done and what we have not done. You've already seen some examples of some things that are not necessarily correct that have already been reported, and we are trying to sort out a lot of that now.
Q Mike, can you give us a quick week ahead?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I can do that in a minute. Any more on this subject?
Q In what sense does this embargo really need to be tightened, and in what areas do you notice it's leaking since you are going to clamp down --
MR. MCCURRY: It's more -- that's an enforcement question. Rick, do you want to take a stab at that? Let me turn it over to Rick Newcomb.
MR. NEWCOMB: I think primarily we're looking at -- by rationalizing these areas of travel where travel will now be permitted on a case-by-case license, making the family reunification, humanitarian travel easier, we're able to deploy resources to third country travel, illegal remittances, compliance of the family remittance forward -- travel service providers and financial institutions so that there is, in fact, a tighter enforcement regime.
By having this rationalized consistent with the Cuban Democracy Act, we hope there will be greater community awareness and compliance with the activities that we plan with the Cuban American community.
Q Mike, would the U.S. okay a visa application from Castro to attend the U.N.?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we would certainly consider, consistent with our obligations as the host nation and, to my knowledge, we have never denied a head of state request connected with an appearance at a U.N. General Assembly session. Is that correct -- yes.
Q This Time Magazine group -- who did they see at the White House this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to check. Can you check on that and see? We were trying to set them up with Tony Lake and with Berger and George and a couple of other people. Panetta was there, Sandy Berger was there, John White was there and Peter Tarnoff from the State Department.
Q Has Governor Chiles endorsed this? You've contacted him; is he on board?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to let the Governor's Office speak for the Governor on that. But as you can expect, as we have all along, as we've taken steps related to Cuban policy, we've had good and constant contact with the Governor's office.
Q Mike, this comes just a few days after the Pope asked us to sort of drop the entire embargo. Is there any relation between one and the other?
MR. MCCURRY: No, this has been in the work for a long time. Richard gave you a good indication of how extensively we have attempted to consult and to develop this, when he indicated just a short while ago that as far back as August, the President authorized members of our foreign policy team to consult with members of Congress on the steps. So this has been underway for some time.
I think it would be inaccurate to say anything more about the President's visit with the Holy Father other than on the subject of Cuba. They both shared the same desire, which is a desire for peaceful change in Cuba that can bring greater prosperity, democracy, greater human rights and greater political freedom to the people of Cuba.
Q Next week.
MR. MCCURRY: Next week. Any other subjects we want to do before --
Q Did, in fact, the Pope ask the President to stop the trade embargo?
MR. MCCURRY: There's nothing -- I was not there and I have to rely on my Deputy's characterization of the meeting, but nothing about what I heard from here, what I've heard from others would indicate that they had any discussion at that level of specificity.
Q Do you know if there was anyone from the administration that's going to participate in the Million Man March, and to what degree is the administration supporting the march?
MR. MCCURRY: We are aware of it and have had discussions with the African American clergy in particular about it just so we're aware of it. But I'm not aware of anyone participating as a formal representative of the White House.
Q You've had talks with clergy who support it or those that don't?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's been a little hard to know the answer to that because there have been mixed points of view. So I think we've talked with all sides. We've also talked to Reverend Jackson, as well.
Q But do you think it's a good think in general?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think the President as a general proposition feels that when people take responsibility for their behavior and when they think about their responsibility to the community and to their families, and when there's an event that helps to instill those types of values, that is a good thing.
Q Well, Mike, do you think Alexis Herman or someone from her shop would be monitoring it, would go down there to watch it?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that they have had some contact with people who are attempting to organize this march so they just understand what the facts are. That's about all --
Q The President won't be here, will he?
MR. MCCURRY: He's not here and doesn't plan to participate. We plan to have no formal representative that I'm aware of.
Q Specifically with regard to the boycott of non-black-owned businesses, how does the President feel about that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure I know what you're referring to.
Q The organizers of the march have asked that African Americans around the country boycott non-black-owned businesses.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that would be one of several aspects related to the march that might be of some concern to the President, as you can imagine.
Q Mike, I'm a little confused. It seemed to me just in response to Paul's question you suggested that the President thought the march was a good thing.
MR. MCCURRY: No, he thinks that when people come together to express concern about values, and come together in the interest of getting people to think about their responsibilities to their families, to themselves and to their communities, that that can be a good thing. He is not endorsing this march. He's not saying that this march is a good idea. There are certainly people who are going to participate in this march who have got exactly that attitude. And I think the people are also well aware of some of the things that might trouble the President about this march.
Q How about security? Will there be any lending of help to the city?
MR. MCCURRY: You'll have to ask the Park Service and Metropolitan law enforcement officials.
Q Week ahead.
MR. MCCURRY: Week ahead? We've got -- the President, as you know, will be enjoying Columbus Day, along with Mr. Panetta, on Monday --
MR. MCCURRY: -- and others. On Tuesday --
Q Where? And what are your plans?
MR. MCCURRY: He is here. We've got -- we will be working kind of a Saturday schedule on Monday. So there will be no briefing. We're not planning any --
Q The President's schedule?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has no public schedule on Monday.
Q But his plan is to come from the Vineyard on Sunday back?
MR. MCCURRY: He did plan to return from Massachusetts on Sunday -- Sunday morning, I believe. And then he'll be here with no schedule on Monday. He begins his State Visit with President Zedillo on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, we've got -- he's currently planning to address the International Monetary Fund and he will be certainly talking about some of things he addressed in his speech today, particularly as they relate to Mexico, NAFTA and international economics. He has further working sessions with President Zedillo on Wednesday.
On Thursday, we are projecting an event related to AmeriCorps International Service Campaign. And then on Friday, the President will go to Williamsburg, Virginia, to address the Business Council. Is that -- the DNC Business Council or is it a --
MS. TERZANO: I have to find out.
MR. MCCURRY: It's a business event in Williamsburg Friday night.
Q Evening or --
MR. MCCURRY: Evening speech.
Q Is that a pool event?
MR. MCCURRY: We're still working on the details of coverage.
Q Mike, will there be a joint press conference with President Zedillo?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have the scenario. I think they -- my understanding from President Zedillo's Press Secretary when I met him is that we will have a joint press conference.
Q Here? Tuesday?
MR. MCCURRY: Wednesday or Tuesday?
MS. TERZANO: It's the one with the state visit -- Tuesday, I believe.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we don't have it -- it doesn't say which of the two days.
MS. TERZANO: It's the arrival -- the same day that he arrives.
MR. MCCURRY: That's Tuesday then. So it will be Tuesday the 10th.
Q -- deadline for the cease-fire? The first deadline is actually 6:01 p.m. Monday. Is there going to be anybody here to talk about that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we'll be doing -- receiving as we did, connected with the various deadlines that passed on the NATO enforcement actions, we'll be getting reports from the United Nations. Since UNPROFOR is, under the agreement, going to monitor and supervise the cease-fire agreement, we'll be getting reports from the United Nations and we can make them available as they become available.
My guess is since it's a country-wide cessation of hostilities agreement, that there will be a desire by the United Nations to assess the status all around the country. So it's not likely in -- as far as I know now -- not likely we would have any formal evaluation of the cease-fire compliance until late in the day on Tuesday, if not Wednesday.
Q Will the White House at all monitor the game tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: You would be referring to the contest between two 4-and-1 southwestern powerhouses that happen to correspond to the states of the President of the United States and the Vice President of the United States?
MR. MCCURRY: Tennessee-Arkansas game? Do we -- does the White House have a position on that?
Q Do you have a wager on that?
MR. MCCURRY: It's very dangerous to have an opinion on that game, but given who is President and who is Vice President, I think the White House view is that Arkansas will win by a Razorback's edge.
Q Is there a wager on this game?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of a wager, but knowing the Vice President and the President's interest in that game, my guess is that there will be one by tomorrow. And we'll find out what it is if there is one.
An hour and five minutes -- it's an all-time record.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
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