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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

STATE DEPT / FBI STILL BLAMES NORTH KOREA IN SONY HACK SCANDAL

QUESTION: Can I just ask very briefly on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Over the past couple weeks, the government or the FBI, a different agency, has blamed North Koreans for the Sony hack. It’s become – even as alternative theories have been raised – some of them semi-compelling, at least to lay people – the Administration has stayed firm in its allegation that North Korea was behind the attack. And then on – when was it – Friday, we saw the Treasury sanctions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that it, or is that just step one? And my second question on this is: Are you still as convinced as you were – and by “you,” I mean this building, the State Department – that the FBI is correct in its assessment that North Korea was behind it?

MS. PSAKI: So this – let me take the second one first, just because it’s a little shorter. As the FBI made clear, we are confident – we remain confident – that the North Korean Government is responsible for this destructive attack. As my colleague noted last week – but it’s worth reiterating, because some of you weren’t here celebrating New Year’s Eve with us – there’s a certain amount of evidence that the FBI made public; there’s a certain amount they did not, that we’re not going to. But they remain confident and we remain confident in their findings.

In terms of whether this is the only thing, one, I would say the executive order itself, which the President signed – and obviously, there was a limited number of announcements on three entities and 10 individuals – is a broad and powerful tool, one that we intend to continue using as appropriate, especially given the FBI’s ongoing investigation. I would also note that the new executive order is the first aspect of our response, so there are ongoing discussions about other options.

QUESTION: So there will be – or there may be more (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Sure, right. I --

QUESTION: So this is --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, I’m not going to preview it, but that certainly is our expectation.

QUESTION: And I know you guys are loath to answer these kinds of questions, but I’m going to have ask --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there any practical impact that the latest designations have on these 10 entities and three individuals? And specifically for these three – on the three individuals, have they ever traveled to the United States before? Have they ever sought to travel to the United States before? Is this not the equivalent of saying, “Go to your room,” except that “your room” is North Korea and every other country on the planet except for the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, the focus of – I can give a broad answer. You’re right; we’re not going to get into specifics. Some of it is best directed to Treasury. Our focus here was targeting individuals and entities that would have the most profound impact on the North Korean Government given the series of actions. This is, again, one step – one announcement – in a broadly defined executive order, and one step in what could be additional steps. Beyond that, I don’t have anything more on the individuals, but --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, you say that it’s designed to impact – or have the most profound impact on the – the most profound in this case is what? I mean, it doesn’t seem to be profound at all. It seems to be the opposite of profound, because it doesn’t seem to have any practical impact, as these companies never do business in the United States, and these people never traveled here or even evinced an interest in wanting to travel here. Isn’t that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, there are a range of steps. I could point you to the Treasury Department. They put out a fact sheet. I would point you to them on more specifics on the impact.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:34 p.m.)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

OBAMA ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER AGAINST NORTH KOREA: SONY HACKS PROMPT RESPONSE DESPITE CONFLICTING REPORTS

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Executive Order Entitled “Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea”

Today, the President issued an Executive Order (E.O.) authorizing additional sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This E.O. is a response to the Government of North Korea’s ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment
The E.O. authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to impose sanctions on individuals and entities associated with the Government of North Korea. We take seriously North Korea’s attack that aimed to create destructive financial effects on a U.S. company and to threaten artists and other individuals with the goal of restricting their right to free expression.
 
As the President has said, our response to North Korea's attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment will be proportional, and will take place at a time and in a manner of our choosing. Today's actions are the first aspect of our response.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Executive Order -- Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea

EXECUTIVE ORDER
- - - - - - -
IMPOSING ADDITIONAL SANCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO NORTH KOREA
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code; and in view of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1718 of October 14, 2006, UNSCR 1874 of June 12, 2009, UNSCR 2087 of January 22, 2013, and UNSCR 2094 of March 7, 2013,
I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies of the Government of North Korea, including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December 2014, actions in violation of UNSCRs 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094, and commission of serious human rights abuses, constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, expanded in scope in Executive Order 13551 of August 30, 2010, and relied upon for additional steps in Executive Order 13570 of April 18, 2011. To address this threat and to take further steps with respect to this national emergency, I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:
(i) to be an agency, instrumentality, or controlled entity of the Government of North Korea or the Workers' Party of Korea;
(ii) to be an official of the Government of North Korea;
(iii) to be an official of the Workers' Party of Korea;
(iv) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support  for, or goods or services to or in support of, the Government of North Korea or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or
(v) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Government of North Korea or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.
(b) The prohibitions in this order apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order.
Sec. 2. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.
Sec. 3. The prohibitions in this order include but are not limited to:
(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and
(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.
Sec. 4. I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in section 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons. Such persons shall be treated as persons covered by section 1 of Proclamation 8693 of July 24, 2011 (Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions).
Sec. 5. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.
(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.
Sec. 6. For the purposes of this order:
(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;
(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization;
(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States; and
(d) the term "Government of North Korea" means the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and its agencies, instrumentalities, and controlled entities.
Sec. 7. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.
Sec. 8. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.
Sec. 9. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
BARACK OBAMA

Thursday, January 1, 2015

STATE DEPARTMENT BLASTS CUBA: HONEYMOON OVER BEFORE NORMAL RELATIONS EVEN START??

Detentions of Activists in Cuba


Press Statement
Jeff Rathke
Director, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
December 30, 2014

We are deeply concerned about the latest reports of detentions and arrests by Cuban authorities of peaceful civil society members and activists, including Luis Quintana Rodriguez, Antonio Rodiles, Danilo Maldonado, Reinaldo Escobar, Marcelino Abreu Bonora and Eliecer Avila. We strongly condemn the Cuban government’s continued harassment and repeated use of arbitrary detention, at times with violence, to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and freedom expression, and intimidate citizens.

Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are internationally recognized human rights, and the Cuban government’s lack of respect for these rights, as demonstrated by today’s detentions, is inconsistent with Hemispheric norms and commitments. We urge the Government of Cuba to end its practice of repressing these and other internationally protected freedoms and to respect the universal human rights of Cuban citizens.

We have always said we would continue to speak out about human rights, and as part of the process of normalization of diplomatic relations, the United States will continue to press the Cuban government to uphold its international obligations and to respect the rights of Cubans to peacefully assemble and express their ideas and opinions, just like their fellow members of civil society throughout the Americas are allowed to do.