THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:26 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. The President has just concluded a meeting with his national security advisers, that ran about an hour and 15 minutes. The President will be here in the briefing room at 3:45 p.m. to tell you all about it.
Q Can you give us a preview?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has approved -- upon recommendation of his national security advisers, the President has approved a series of steps that the United States will pursue with the international community and unilaterally that we believe will make it clear that there is a price for outrageous behavior. And that we believe that the measures the President has defined will make Cuba pay that price and, more importantly, make Cuba adhere to international norms of civilized behavior, especially with respect to civil aviation.
Q Mike, are these steps that will inflict pain on average Cubans? I mean, is it targeted somehow so that it just affects Castro or does it --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has looked for options that will be most effective in delivering the message to Fidel Castro, but without causing unnecessary harm to the people of Cuba, who are suffering already way too much because of the brutal nature of this totalitarian regime.
Q Are any of military actions?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will outline for you the steps that he believes are warranted at this point. He considered a full range of options. The President will make clear that other steps will be available to him in the future if they are required.
Q Is he going to tell the Cuban American leaders what he's decided before he tell us?
MR. MCCURRY: We've planned some briefings both here and at the State Department today to go through the nature of the steps the President has approved. And, of course, we'll be briefing you here after the President's remarks.
Q Mike, just a little while ago Bob Dole's said that he thinks that this shows not only that the U.S. is trying to get too cozy with Castro, but also that the U.S. is wrong to have put faith in the Aristide government, particularly because one of the last things that Aristide did before leaving office was to recognize Cuba after the U.S. had been so supportive and given so much money and that it was a real betrayal. I wondered if the President has any second thoughts about Haiti having a closer relationship with Cuba after the U.S. has poured so much money in there?
MR. MCCURRY: The White House, frankly, is surprised at those remarks because our policy towards Cuba is defined by the thoroughly bipartisan Cuban Democracy Act. This is an area in which the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch have shown a great deal of cooperation in devising a strategy that is aimed at forcing the kinds of changes in Cuba that will lead them towards market economics and democracy. And one of the hallmarks of that Act is that it has enjoyed broad bipartisan support through several administrations.
That is the policy of the United States. The policy of our government is to encourage and take steps to help stimulate the kind of change that the people of Cuba need. And Senator Dole has been supportive of that Act, is my understanding, and the President appreciates that support and will continue to use that as the fundamental premise of our policy.
Q Could you address the Haiti part of those comments, though?
MR. MCCURRY: We have addressed the decision by the government of Haiti to establish diplomatic relations in Cuba in the past and our views on that haven't changed.
Q Do you have anything more about the incident since yesterday's briefing, particularly when the two aircraft might have been in Cuban airspace at some time before the shoot down?
MR. MCCURRY: No, as we indicated yesterday in the briefings we did here, we don't have any information to that effect. The only update we have is that the search and rescue effort that the Coast Guard has pursued is continuing at this hour, but they have not found anything yet that would lead them to believe that they're going to have any success in recovering any debris or any victims.
Q You said you were having briefings later, but I think you were asked if you had specific contact with leaders of the Cuban American community, publicly.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we have. We've had contacts with them in the course of yesterday and today and will be able now to be in a position to brief them more fully on the decisions the President has taken.
Q Mike, what are your concerns in general about Americans who do violate Cuban airspace?
MR. MCCURRY: It is against federal aviation regulations for pilots from the United States to make incursions into foreign territorial airspace. So that is a matter that is then addressed by the Federal Aviation Administration and, when warranted, they can bring proceedings against private pilots who do that. In the case of Brothers to the Rescue, they do have, I believe, two administrative proceedings pending that are related to incursions into foreign territorial airspace.
Q What about the Cessna that managed to return? There is some evidence that that one did violate Cuban airspace. Is the FAA planning additional steps against --
MR. MCCURRY: They have met in the past with representatives of Brothers to the Rescue and will continue to make it clear to them that incursions into foreign airspace are contrary to federal regulation, and can run the risk of costing a pilot a license necessary to operate a private aircraft.
Q Mike, the Cuban government says that one pilot from Brothers to the Rescue is in their custody now and may be making some sort of statement. Do you have any indication who this pilot may be?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't and we will see what they do. They're pretty adept at propaganda, as you know.
Q Mike, you said that FAA representatives met with Brothers to the Rescue in the past. When was that, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there have been a series of contacts. The FAA can tell you more about it. They have repeatedly posted notices, tried to work with this group, tried to discourage them from doing anything contrary to federal regulation and contrary to accepted practices governing civil aviation.
Q What can you tell us about --
MR. MCCURRY: But they're in the best position to run you through. There's actually -- because there are, I believe, at least two administrative proceedings pending, I don't want to try to describe the nature of those proceedings, because they most likely are in some formal process that's now underway.
Q What can you tell us about federal investigation into the possibility that this pilot now in Cuba was a provocateur sent to Florida to infiltrate Brothers --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to say much of anything about that until we know what the facts are, and that they have not, so far as I know, come forward with any individual at this point.
Q -- relaxed the embargo a bit on Cuba last year, easing contact between this country and the island. Does he have any concerns about having done that, and are any of those steps likely to be affected by what he --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to make the President's announcement for him, but I will say this, that the purpose of the steps the President has taken last year consistent with the Cuban Democracy Act, they have been designed to stimulate the type of contact between people who enjoy freedom and democracy and people who are captive and do not enjoy that freedom.
And we believe in having those kinds of exchanges at a people-to-people level, you can encourage type of sentiments for democratic change and political change that would lead to the types of changes that our policy seeks to incur in Cuba. And the President believes that those have been valuable contacts; in fact, indeed, we see just in the nature of the political dynamic in Cuba continuing and increasing longing for democratic change on the island. That's what the purpose of our policy is. The President will say some more about that this afternoon and you'll see that our policy is consistent with believing we should help the people of Cuba achieve the freedom and democracy they desire.
Q Does the administration's discern in this any message from the Cuban government and, if so, what is it? And if it doesn't discern a message, to what does the administration ascribe this action?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the message here is as clear as it has been for decades.
Q No, I mean from the Cuban government.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the message here is as clear as it has been for decades, that this is a totalitarian state that's willing to wantonly violate international norms of behavior and, in effect, thus, leaves itself outside the bounds of civilization. This is a brutal regime that has pressed its people for far too long. In this hemisphere it is the only country now that does not enjoy the benefits and fruits of democracy. And it has to get with history. You know, Fidel Castro is a relic and it is time now for the people of Cuba to enjoy the types of freedom and democracy that is making a difference throughout the rest of the hemisphere.
Q Just to follow up on that. I mean, obviously, the reasons why he did what he did in October is because he thought that even those things were true -- there was some kind of hope that by doing this you could change the regime, given what they did with the planes and the crackdown on dissidence. Do you now think that those kind of methods can't help and that Cuba's changing its policy --
MR. MCCURRY: The nature of this regime is pretty clear and has not changed. What we continue to believe is the types of steps the President took will encourage the people of Cuba to see what the benefits are of democracy and market economics, and encourage them through peaceful means to help bring about the kind of change that we would like to see in Cuba.
Q But is there no speculation as to why, with the U.S. government easing some of these sanctions, as to why Cuba would suddenly do this?
MR. MCCURRY: There is no indication at all why any civilized nation would blatantly violate international law and in broad daylight shoot down two small civilian aircraft. It makes no sense, obviously, and it makes no sense even if you look at what they would hope to achieve by a statement of that nature.
Q Mike, with whom are the Cuban Americans coming to the White House going to meet here and with whom at the State Department, and get we get --
MR. MCCURRY: We can give you more of a run down. I believe they're seeing a combination of people who have been working on Cuba policy, including Rick Nuccio. And then over at State they've got a lot of people from the Inter-American Affairs Bureau who will be briefing them in greater detail on some of the things we know. Some folks from the Cuba -- the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, some people like that.
Q And when will that take place?
MR. MCCURRY: They're meeting at -- I think at 4:00 over at the State Department, and 3:00 here, if I'm not mistaken.
Q Will the President drop by that meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so. I believe the President will be preparing to come here to see you.
Q Mike, does the administration see any kind of risk as a result of the penalties the President is going to promulgate later today, the Cubans may retaliate again by having hundreds or thousands of refugees taken to seas?
MR. MCCURRY: The President analyzed that and received -- an analyst from his foreign policy advisers in making the decisions that he reached earlier today. We believe we are well prepared to deal with any contingencies related to emigration, but we fully expect -- indeed, would certainly expect that the terms of our migration agreement with Cuba would be adhered to by both parties.
Q What's the message now to American businesses who really have been wanting to get to Cuba and do a lot of business there? Hold off for now --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the events of the past several days I think reaffirm reasons why the United States has an economic embargo in place, why we have taken those steps, why we defend those steps; because it shows the brutal nature of this regime and the fact that this is not exactly a place where you can do business with confidence.
Q Does the President's announcement, will it change the administration's policy on the Dole-Helms Cuba --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll leave that for the President to address.
Q Could you just explain something? I mean, the new migration agreement, part of that was relaxing the things that he relaxed, right? So are you --
MR. MCCURRY: No, the May 19, 1995 agreement didn't deal with any of the measures the President addressed in October, in my memory.
Q What is the penalty for people who -- like these Cubans -- the American -- I guess they're naturalized citizens; are they not? These pilots who engaged in this every weekend,tantalizing the Cubans over there?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are specific procedures that the FAA has that it can pursue if there is a violation of federal regulation, that is, if they do something contrary to federal regulation. I think among the penalties that exist are revoking whatever license they have that allows them to lawfully --
Q Have they done that to anybody yet?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they do have -- as I indicated earlier, they have two proceedings pending based not on this, nothing to do with the incident on Saturday, based on prior events they have two cases pending.
Q I understand this has been going on for many, many months, every weekend flying over there?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have for -- this organization, Brothers to the Rescue, has for some time flown in the Florida Straits, especially during the migration crisis. They were out looking for Cubans who might be stranded at sea. But in the period since the migration crisis eased, they've been doing things perhaps of a more political nature and that activity really commenced last summer.
Q But they drop leaflets and there have been records, I believe, that they have dropped leaflets. That had to be over the Cuban land, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are news accounts suggesting that they dropped leaflets over Havana, so that would be over land, correct.
Q We did nothing to them for that, we have no penalty?
MR. MCCURRY: No, there is an administrative proceeding underway based on our concern that there may have been a violation of Cuban territorial airspace. Now, we have, in fact, approached the Cuban government to see if they have any information that would corroborate the allegation that there was such an incursion. And that's related to the proceeding that's underway. I suggest if you want more detail on that you go to the FAA.
Q Has the President talked to any congressional leaders about this in the last --
MR. MCCURRY: He's made several calls to the Hill. I asked him and he actually couldn't remember them all, but he said he'd done about a half a dozen. He hadn't talked to everybody, but we will be consulting more extensively on the Hill today.
Q Did he talk to Dole and the Speaker?
MR. MCCURRY: He talked -- I don't have a full list, I don't want to speculate. But he talked to -- somebody he has not talked to is Senator Dole or to the Speaker about these measures.
Q Why did he talk to them?
MR. MCCURRY: Just wanted to touch base and get some sense of what congressional sentiment was in the aftermath of this incident.
Q Did he talk to any Republicans, or just Democrats?
MR. MCCURRY: He may have talked to some Republicans, but I don't have a full list.
Q Has the American Interest Section in Havana gotten an official answer from the Cuban government yet on the incident?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't seen anything --
MR. JOHNSON: They've made their official answer public.
MR. MCCURRY: The information that has been given to Joe Sullivan, who is the head of our Interest Section in Havana, has been consistent with the public statements of the Cuban government, which I'm sure you've got available to you.
Q Can you elaborate on what the President said about giving Cabinet status to James Lee Witt?
MR. MCCURRY: The President can, as presidents often do, can take -- can elevate an individual federal agency to Cabinet status which, in a sense, the most important thing symbolically is that it gives that individual agency head a seat at the Cabinet table. There are 14 statutory members of the Cabinet; those are designations that are mandated by the Senate. And then presidents can independently elevate others to Cabinet rank. That's often done for chiefs of staff or U.N. ambassadors, for trade ambassadors, trade ministers, others, SBA directors.
The President, with this designation today of FEMA as a Cabinet-level agency has now put a total of 11 additional Cabinet chairs around the table.
Q Does he get Cabinet pay?
Q Does that mean that he would come to every Cabinet meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: It means that if there is a full Cabinet meeting, he is invited as a member of the Cabinet, correct.
Q Does he have to pay --
MR. MCCURRY: There's no change in salary levels, no.
Q It is not Secretary Witt?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He is still Director of FEMA.
Q In the line of succession?
MR. MCCURRY: He gets to take his chair with him at the end of his service.
Q There's apparently a move afoot on the Hill to attach the Medicaid, Medicare and welfare legislation to the debt ceiling, raising the debt ceiling legislation. How does the White House feel about that?
MR. MCCURRY: There are sort of three moving targets now as Congress returns to work. One is, how are we going to deal with the appropriations bills that haven't been written for Fiscal Year 1996. Two, how are we going to deal with funding for those government agencies that don't have funding after March 15th when the continuing resolution expires. And then, third is the issue that the Secretary of the Treasury addressed today, and also Mr. Panetta in the letter he sent to the Hill, and that's the debt-ceiling issue.
All three of those, one way or another, are at a place now where we expect Congress to act quickly, and as Congress must act related to the debt-ceiling, related to the continuing resolution, there will be opportunities to mix and match any number of provisions. What the President hopes happens is that in this environment with Congress returning to work, there will be a real serious effort now to give the American people what they want, which is a balanced budget.
The President has, all along, felt that as we go through the next several weeks, this is the opportunity now to go back to those elements in common, between the discussions of the Republican side and the President's side, and fashion a package that will, in fact, balance the budget in a time-certain. He still believes it can be done, he hopes it will be done, and he will certainly be encouraging members of Congress to take that kind of action, of which, to answer your specific question, Medicare and Medicaid would most likely be at peace. If there's going to be an agreement, that obviously will include those two items.
Q Mike, back on Cuba for a moment. Does your earlier answers to questions about what might have motivated Cuba to do this mean that U.S. intelligence has not provided any estimate or analysis or calculated theory as to why this might have occurred, or does the President have it and you're not in a position to say what it is?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I mean I'm not commenting on what our intelligence analysis is related to this, but it certainly is not definitive because so much of it is unexplainable. There has been no acceptable explanation from the Cuban government publicly, and it's hard to imagine there would be one privately.
Q I don't mean acceptable, I just meant correct, perhaps. Are you satisfied that -- I mean, you don't feel like -- this isn't a case of the administration's baffled, is it; or is it?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a case there may be reasons why they would have taken this type of action. Frankly, we're at a loss to explain what they could be.
Q What's more baffling -- this, or the return of the two Iraqi defectors to Baghdad -- (laughter) -- to the intelligence community?
Q Scale of one to 10.
MR. MCCURRY: Maybe Mr. Blitzer is correct. This is the Wolf full moon theory of world chaos in play. I don't know.
Q Mike, today is the first anniversary of the agreement with China on intellectual property rights, an agreement that they apparently are not honoring. What is the status of efforts to enforce that?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that the USTR has been in discussions with the government of the People's Republic on exactly that issue. They have not reached any satisfactory conclusion yet. I understand, only from news accounts that I have seen -- we can go double check this -- that Deputy Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky is due to have some other conversation with Chinese officials sometime soon in an attempt to resolve our concerns. But USTR can give you a better update on the status.
Q Last week when trustees of the President's legal expense trust made their semi-annual report they pointed out that it had come as a complete surprise to them in December to find out the President had this umbrella liability policy. And they said that the one was still enforced. Do you know or could you take to the President a question when he informed Mr. Bennett about the existence of those policies and how it was that this trust had been set up to raise money for him for then, at some point, like 18 months' duration without the knowing --
MR. MCCURRY: I can do that, but if I'm not mistaken, Mr. Bennett has addressed that. So he already has that answer. You might want to give him a call. He'd be prepared to answer that I think.
Q The President is calling congressional leaders here. Is he calling any world leaders or European or Latin American leaders on Cuba?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any, but as you know, Secretary Christopher departed yesterday for the region and will be making stops throughout Latin America. I suspect that at many stops along the way this issue and the incident Saturday will be a topic of conversation.
Q Mike, were the phone calls that the President made simply to gauge sentiment or reaction, or was he informing congressional types of what he's going to do this afternoon at 3:00 p.m.?
MR. MCCURRY: These were to gauge reactions. They really -- he was making calls last night and earlier today, even prior to making the final set of decisions that he made this afternoon.
Q Is he doing any sort of calls to let congressional --
MR. MCCURRY: He may be doing -- he's got some time on his schedule this afternoon. I would not be surprised if didn't make some calls. But apart from that, we do have some consultations going on through -- I believe both through the State Department and through the NSC, or through our congressional affairs staff.
Q Is it a setback that the U.N. Security Council has put off the debate today and that the Russians seem to be eager to get a full account before any decision is made which just might put it off indefinitely.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I understand that Ambassador Albright was encouraged by the reaction last night. She, obviously, laid before the Security Council much the same evidence that we provided publicly here yesterday. She said she was encouraged by the response of many governments. Many governments seem to be in agreement with our assessment that there was a clear violation of international law involved.
My understanding is that the Cuban Foreign Minister has apparently requested or did request an opportunity to address the Council and that should happen either today or tomorrow. So it's not surprising that other governments would want to hear whatever explanation the Cuban government might want to offer. But we continue to hope that as they have these consultations they will move toward some discussion of what public statement the international community would wish to make about the incident.
Q Will the President take questions this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't expect him to, but he makes that call on his own, as you know.
Q With Cuban American leaders coming in this afternoon and they represent a potent political force in Florida, why should we not construe that domestic political considerations were a factor in the President's decision?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, because I sat in the conversations the President had on this and domestic political considerations did not arise. This was based on how best to respond.
Now, the presence of the Cuban American leaders is something that you would naturally expect. They have relatives, friends in Cuba. There's enormous concern about what the status is of the economy there, what the effect will be of any actions the President might take on their ability to care for loved ones there, to send money to those who are desperate and in need in Cuba. And there are strong interests in what kind of response the President will have to this incident. The President, as he often does with major decisions, consults with communities that are affected by his decisions.
Now, you know -- look, everywhere in a political year, everyone writes political analysis of what decisions the President makes. But this is something where, clearly, the President had to respond, develop a set of responses based on how best to continue our overall policy goals as they're related to Cuba. And those are the ones that are deeply embedded in the Cuban Democracy Act and deeply embedded in the notion that we need to bring change to Cuba so it gets on the right side of history.
Q What does the Cuban Democracy Act say about an incident like this in anything? I mean, do you really find any guidance in the Cuban Democracy Act on how to respond when American citizens are killed in international waters?
MR. MCCURRY: No. The issue works differently, Brit. The steps that the President has taken, going back to October, encourage individual Americans to have contact with Cubans, and thus increase information about the benefits of democracy to the people of Cuba are defined and alive within the Cuban Democracy Act. Now, I'm suggesting to you that's been part of what we've reviewed, looking at the steps the President announces today, is whether or not that's consistent with what our goals are.
Q But you're also concerned about how it looks to the rest of the world when American citizens are murdered in international airspace, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q Mike, you've had the IRA bombings, you've had the bombing now in Israel, you've had this shoot-down with Cuba where we were making some progress on some refugee matters. How do these elements combine to affect the success of President Clinton's foreign policy? Are they setbacks?
MR. MCCURRY: They are individual and very different reflections of how complex the world is that we live in now, and how different the crises are that a president of the United States faces in a world in which the United States is the sole remaining superpower. These are, each of them different. You can't logically argue that there's any connection between any of these things unless you adhere to Mr. Blitzer's theory.
What you really -- what you have are problems that require patience, discipline, firmness and require very steady leadership of this nation's foreign policy, which is what the President has offered, which is why we continue to work through these problems. You know, for every problem like the Northern Ireland peace process where we're having a bump in the road, where we need to try to get things on course, we have issues that, in the past, were considered foreign policy hot spots -- whether it's Haiti, whether it's the North Korean nuclear issue -- where things are being managed effectively and we have things going in the right direction.
It's a complex world we live in. Every single day, practically, the President is required to adjust, take steps, consider different developments in different places in the world, and it's just the nature of the U.S. role in this world. I guess the argument, put it differently, is this is the price we pay to be a leader in the world, and we have to deal with the problems as they happen around the world like this.
The alternative, of course, would be to not care and to just pull up the drawbridges and come back home and be isolationists and, indeed, we've got some people who try to make that argument in this country, but that's not the President's view.
Q What people are making that argument --
MR. MCCURRY: I hear that every once in a while.
Q Other than the fact that there's a large, politically active group of Cuban Americans in Florida, why is it our business or why do we care whether Cuba is on the right side of history or not?
MR. MCCURRY: Because we know the brutal nature of this regime is keeping those people incarcerated has been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy dating back, not through President Clinton, but all the way back through President John F. Kennedy, to try to bring about the change that we would like the people of Cuba to enjoy -- the benefits of democracy, the benefits and prosperity of a market economy, and through all of these decades now, there's been a fundamental commitment to bring about that kind of change for the people of an island just so nearby the United States of America.
Q Mike, speaking of President Kennedy, did President Clinton have any view about the appropriateness or the savoriness for the Democratic Party of Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Michael Kennedy being among the delegation that met with him?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard the President express any sentiments on that.
Q Mike, what's the administration's view of Louis Farrakhan's stated plan to take this big donation from Libya?
MR. MCCURRY: Predictably, we have a rather dim view of it, but I would really refer that to the Justice Department, which is -- my understanding is, looking at exactly that question.
Q In what way? Is there some investigation under way?
MR. MCCURRY: They have, apparently, some type of inquiry or some proceeding under way. I mean, this arises out of the thug-fest tour that Minister Farrakhan had in Africa in which he met with some of the most brutal dictators and leaders of nations that the United States considers pariah states. But rising out of that is a very specific inquiry that, my understanding is, the Justice Department is pursuing.
Q Mike, you say the administration is baffled as to why Cuba would shoot down these planes. Admiral Carroll of the CDI came back, I think, within the last couple of weeks from a trip to Cuba where Fidel Castro told a bunch of foreign visitors --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I answered that same -- this came up yesterday and the same answer I gave yesterday. You know, there are -- there have been public statements by the government of Cuba that they were going to act more aggressively in protecting their airspace. There have been rumors to the effect that they were going to be operating in a more aggressive way. We were aware of that. We have consistently, in our contact through the Interest Section, urged the government of Cuba to adhere to international norms of behavior and not to use force in attempting to deal with either -- whether it's a flotilla situation or overflights, that they should adhere to the customary law of international civil aviation.
Q But my question is, pursuant to Carroll's report that the administration got, whether the administration took those threats in the last 10 days or two weeks more seriously than in the past, and whether, between Carroll's return and the shoot-downs, the administration (a) intensified its warnings to Cuba not to do this, and (b) intensified its warnings to Brothers to the Rescue to cease and desist from violating Cuban airspace. Was either of those two things done?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, both were done. Both have been done over the course of the last several weeks, not because of anything that Retired Admiral Carroll suggested to the United States government, but because we're aware of the provocative statements that were coming from Havana and we are aware that there were groups that were attempting to challenge or, in effect, skirt the territorial limits of Cuba in a way that the Cuban government had deemed provocative, if not outright incursions into Cuban airspace.
So because of that, we had had contact with both this organization and other organizations in the Cuban American community, encouraging them to adhere to U.S. law and reminding them of the importance of our policy of safe, legal, orderly migration from Cuba. We had warned them of the dangers that existed in operating below the 24th Parallel. The FAA posted notices to pilots around south Florida so that they were aware of the concerns that we had, and we again went back to the Cuban government I believe -- the State Department can tell you more -- on several occasions to tell them that we expected them to behave consistent with the Chicago Convention and consistent with the norms of civilized behavior that they presumably would want to adhere to. Clearly, they did not.
Q Have the flights been grounded now?
Q Is it fair to conclude then that you basically struck out with both sides?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's fair to conclude that the Cuban government blatantly violated international law in a way that's reprehensible. That's what you can conclude.
Q Is it fair to conclude that your warnings to Brothers to the Rescue fell on deaf ears?
MR. MCCURRY: That organization can speak for itself. They have said some things publicly where it's clear that they knew they were accepting some risk in operating in the fashion they were operating. But we did everything we believe we could have done to try to make it clear to them that there was risk.
Q Have they been grounded now, Mike?
Q What if you deny pilots permission, licenses to fly on those weekend trips?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry?
Q What if we deny those Brothers the right to fly? We could deny the flight plan to them and tell them that they couldn't go. We could have done that --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the flight plan that they filed was a visual flight plan which does not require specific FAA approval. They have to file notice of when they are going in and out of U.S. territorial airspace. And they weren't flying under instrument flight plans.
Q Well, why didn't we stop that? We knew that was raising trouble down there all the time. Why didn't we avoid that?
MR. MCCURRY: It is not against the law to fly in international airspace below the 24th Parallel, and we don't have laws that restrict that. Now, clearly, there's a new environment now and the FAA will look at that.
Q They were deliberately trying to make trouble with Cuba and tried to make trouble between the two countries. Now they've gotten the United States in a bad situation.
Q Have the flights -- are they grounded now?
MR. MCCURRY: No, but the FAA will look at that and make any adjustments that they deem necessary.
Q Doesn't that require the White House --
Q Do you expect that it's possible there will be any more flights in recent days or weeks?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe the statements, public statements of this organization indicate that they continue to believe they have the right to fly in that territory. We, of course, strongly discourage organizations from doing anything -- particularly at a time now when we've seen there may be a very unnecessary and provocative reaction by the government of Cuba, we discourage people from putting themselves at such great risk. And the FAA will analyze whether there's any further action that is necessary.
Q Have you given and allowed U.S. forces to South Korea to deter any similar provocation from North Korea?
MR. MCCURRY: I am not aware that there is any connection to that. We have a different way of monitoring military activity in that region and we have, obviously, a much different U.S. military presence in Korea to deter exactly that type of behavior.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:10 P.M.