Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell was pressed by an AP reporter on Thursday on the announcement that the U.S. recognizes the Syrian government using chemical weapons. The AP reporter asked, “What has changed in the last 25 hours when you said … there was no … indication of chemical weapons use?” Ventrell referred the reporter to the Department of Defense and said that intelligence is not the responsibility of the State Department. The AP reporter responded, “So this was all cooked up in the last 24 hours; is that the line?” “That’s not what I said,” Ventrell replied.
April 24, 2012:
QUESTION: Has there been anything new on the Israeli assertion that there has been use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military?
MR. VENTRELL: Said, I don’t have anything new for you from what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: Have there been further conversations – the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but since then, have there been further conversations by the Secretary or others with the Israelis regarding the chemical weapon allegation?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’re in very close consultation with the Israelis, with the British, with the French, with other interested parties, and we’ve said that that cooperation would be intensive and ongoing to get to the bottom of what may have happened in Syria.
QUESTION: Well, they seem to have gotten to the bottom of it, so what are you exactly cooperating on?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I’ll refer you to them for their conclusions, but we’re consulting and continuing to look at the body of evidence.
QUESTION: Right. But you’re saying that you’re cooperating with them to get to the bottom of it, but they’ve made conclusions. So, what, are you telling them to take back their conclusions or are you trying to learn why you should make the same conclusion?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I’d refer you to those other parties for their description of what they’ve concluded.
QUESTION: Well, we know what they’ve concluded. It was pretty clear.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, we’re working –
QUESTION: I want to know what you’re actually talking to them about, if they’ve actually made this conclusion, and you say we’re working with them about an ongoing process of trying to figure out what happened. They’ve figured it out, so I don’t quite understand what the conversation’s about.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we think that, given the conflict in Syria, that it’s very difficult and challenging to make a final conclusion on this, and we have not made a conclusion. So that’s our position. I refer you to the other parties for their opinion.
April 25, 2012
QUESTION: Can you say what changed in the last 25 hours, or however long it was since you briefed yesterday, when you said that there was no – you were still sticking to the lines, as it were, that there was no indication of chemical weapons use?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I really refer you to DOD and to the White House. It was Secretary Hagel over at the DOD who had mentioned the 24 hours. And these are intelligence assessments, which you know are not the final responsibility, of course, of this building. But a White House official already addressed this in some depth in terms of providing Congress the most accurate assessment of the Administration.
QUESTION: So this was all cooked up in the last 24 hours; is that the line?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I wouldn’t – that’s not what I said.
MR. VENTRELL: The bottom line is that this is something we’ve been looking – if you take the lens back a little bit, and remember this is something we’ve been looking at for many months, it’s something we’ve been concerned about. You’ve heard me over many months at this very podium issue very stern and clear public warnings about the potential use and how strongly we’re urging the Assad regime not to make this grave mistake. And so this is something we’ve been watching very closely. And in terms of the White House decision to –
QUESTION: Yeah, but what have you seen then that has made this sudden about-turn in your assessment? Why did it change suddenly?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to get into an intelligence analysis from this podium. But we need to establish credible and corroborated facts, and we’re going to continue to look at this in a methodical and rigorous way to get to the bottom of what may have occurred.