White House, State Dept Send Inquiries to Each Other to Avoid Answering Questions

White House, State Dept Send Inquiries to Each Other to Avoid Answering Questions

As international sanctions against Syria were reversed, the Administration has avoided comment on U.S. involvement in the region by referring to other agencies, elected officials, or simply refuse to give “details.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney avoided answering questions on Tuesday about Senator McCain’s trip to the Syrian border by referring journalists to the State Department and Senator McCain’s office. The State Department on the same day told journalists they were “not going to get into specifics” on Senator McCain’s trip and referred journalists to the Senator’s office for more details. 

It was also announced on Tuesday that the European Union is ending an arms embargo into Syrian territory. The lifting of these restrictions will not only allow weapons to be delivered into the hands of the Syrian opposition, but also into the hands of Assad. Multiple reports have indicated the Russians will be providing the brutal Assad regime with advanced weapons systems that not only directly threaten the Syrian rebels, but neighboring countries, such as Israel, as well. 

When Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked if Senator McCain delivered any messages to Syrian rebels on behalf of the administration, Carney referred journalists to the State Department. State Department Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell told journalists that the Department always coordinates with officials on international travel but he was not “going to get into the details of our communication with an individual senator about foreign travel.” 

This is not the first time the Administration has avoided comment by referring to other internal agencies. In January of this year, then State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland referred journalists to the White House for information and reaction of escalating violence in Egypt. Nuland said that Carney was “asked a few questions on this and spoke extensively.” However, Carney’s response focused on broad statements of a need for “lasting solutions” for democracy in Egypt and he referred journalists to the State Department for more. 

When Carney was asked specifically about the U.S. Government or the President being in contact with Egypt, he told the press he knew the President had not spoken to Morsi, but to talk to the State Department for more:

Q    I want to ask one more on Egypt as well.  Can you tell us whether the President has spoken with Morsi since the last few days of violence began?  I know we don’t have a readout yet, but I know he has made some foreign leader calls.  We saw a call with Netanyahu read out today.

MR. CARNEY:  He has not spoken with President Morsi that I’m aware of.  I don’t have any new calls to read out to you.  We are always engaged with the government of Egypt at appropriate levels, but I just don’t have any communications to read out to you.  You could check with the State Department for more.

Q    I’m hoping you could flesh out a little bit what sort of communications.  Things really have changed and worsened in the last four or five days.

MR. CARNEY:  I would have to refer you to State for any communications we’ve had — our government has had with the government of Egypt in the last several days. 

When the State Department was asked about communications with the Egyptian government, Nuland said that the Department has worked with the Egyptians to secure embassy perimeters “in the wake” of the Benghazi attacks. In other words, no confirmation or denial that there was recent contact with the foreign government. Nuland added, “We are always in constant contact with all different groups in Egypt.”

Additionally, McCain’s office was mum on the recent Syria trip as well. According to Politico, “McCain’s office provided no details beyond confirming the trip.” This report came out a day before Carney told journalists to contact McCain’s office for details. So, outside of an overview report by the Daily Beast, with information provided by another attendee of the trip, no information on U.S. involvement of a growing international security issue is making it into the press because all involved can simply refer to each other or refuse to give details.