Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
September 27, 2007
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about this U.S. Embassy anticorruption report about the Iraqi Government, which says in part that currently Iraq is not capable of even rudimentary enforcement of anticorruption laws?
MR. CASEY: Well, a couple of things. And I don't want to get into semantics here, but there's been a lot of discussion about a, quote, "U.S. Embassy report." There is no U.S. Embassy report in the context of those discussions. What I understand has happened here, and there's been a lot of odd back-and-forth on this, but let me try and walk you through what my investigative efforts have come up with about this.
First of all, there is an organization called the Office of Accountability and Transparency. This is something that is staffed by U.S. Government contractors -- there's goes that word again -- who are in Iraq to help the Commission on Public Integrity. The Commission on Public Integrity was a body that's been established through the efforts of Prime Minister Maliki and others and it sort of combines the functions of the GAO and an IG. It is designed to be a government-wide body that looks at issues of accountability and transparency in terms of the Iraqi Government.
My understanding is at some point in time -- and you guys may know, since some of them may have fallen into your hands -- a number of internal working papers that were developed by the people who work for the Office of Accountability and Transparency were leaked in one form or another. These papers were intended to be internal documents that guided the people in the embassy who work on anticorruption efforts in terms of their internal policy deliberations. So there's no idea that these were government or U.S. embassy reports or that they were intended to be part of a report. They were, again, supposed to be some internal documents to guide the policymakers in Embassy Baghdad in terms of how we would conduct our -- any corruption efforts.
And I'd also point out that if you want to get a review of what some of those efforts are, the SIGIR did do a report on that fairly recently. I think it was in -- yeah, it was in July of this past year on the status of U.S. anticorruption efforts in Iraq. And that'll give you a sense of what we have been doing over time to deal with this issue. So I think that's our basic understanding of the origin of what I understand are documents that have found their way out there in the public.
QUESTION: So would you, would the U.S. Government, then, agree with the findings of these internal documents, which appear to be making recommendations for policymakers that they are unable to enforce any anticorruption laws, have no access to ministries and a bunch of other things?
MR. CASEY: Well, I would hope that you wouldn't expect me to be able to offer you a detailed assessment of anticorruption efforts in Iraq, based on internal documents that were designed for those specialists working on them to proceed. But look, let's be clear here -- why does the U.S. Government have an anticorruption program in Iraq? Why did Prime Minister Maliki help establish the Commission on Public Integrity? And why have we both made this a priority?
We have because Iraq, like many other countries in the world, has an issue that it needs to deal with in terms of corruption, including corruption of public officials. I think if you go back to the early days here, you will find ample numbers of stories written by your colleagues, as well as ample numbers of congressional testimony by people, talking about some of the challenges that that poses.
In terms of the specific issues at hand here, we will certainly address any of the individual questions that might come up based on any of these documents or otherwise. I know -- in fact, I think Larry Butler, one of our Deputy Assistant Secretaries who handles Iraqi issues in the Bureau of Near Eastern Asian Affairs, was actually supposed to provide some testimony today and the committee postponed it. So we're fully prepared to talk about these questions. I don't think anyone's trying to hide the fact that we and the Iraqis understand that corruption is an issue and a problem for Iraq and that's why it's important that the Prime Minister has taken some steps forward in that. And it's also why it's important for us that we have folks in the embassy as well as some of these contractors trying to work with his government to be able to support those efforts.
QUESTION: I guess one final one on that. This report was -- or these documents were apparently classified after they appeared on the web elsewhere. Do you know why that decision was taken to classify them?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, my understanding again is, first of all, these documents deal with a number of issues, most of which are fairly specific internal discussions. They're based on information provided to the individuals that put them together that involves people in some of the ministries or on the Commission on Public Integrity providing information. I think you understand that inspector generals and the GAO, if people come to them and present problems or present concerns -- present things that might even be violations of law and therefore eligible for some kind of criminal prosecution -- those kinds of issues and that kind of information is generally not something that people put out there in the public domain. And part of the reason for it is the same reason why you guys protect your sources. Because if this information gets out, you would potential endanger the people who have provided that information to you. You'd probably make it much harder for anyone to follow through in terms of any investigations or prosecution. And ultimately you do a disservice to U.S. national interests and U.S. national security by tipping your hat to specific individuals or specific cases that might be involved, to make sure that -- to have them understand that they might be under some suspicion.