July 19, 2024

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On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby
On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

National Security Council Via Teleconference 1:39 P.M. EST MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us for today’s on-the-record news of the day gaggle.  I will turn it over to Kirby for a few opening words, and then we’ll go to questions. MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Sean.  And thanks, everybody.  I’d like to top […]

The post On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby first appeared on Social Gov.

National Security Council

Via Teleconference

1:39 P.M. EST

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us for today’s on-the-record news of the day gaggle.  I will turn it over to Kirby for a few opening words, and then we’ll go to questions.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Sean.  And thanks, everybody. 

I’d like to top today by speaking briefly about Iran’s deepening military partnership with Russia, which is, of course, not only harmful to Ukraine but also to Iran’s neighbors in the region and to the international community. 

Iran has been providing Russia with significant numbers of drones, guided aerial bombs, and artillery ammunition, which Russia has been using to some effect to attack Ukraine. 

In addition, and as I warned last month from the White House podium, Russia negotiations — Russian negotiations to acquire close-range ballistic missiles from Iran have been actively advancing. 

Now, just yesterday, Reuters published a story indicating that Iran has provided Russia with hundreds of ballistic missiles.  This article appears to be based on comments from Iranian government officials who are bragging about providing Russia with missiles that can be used to kill Ukrainian civilians. 

While we have been monitoring this closely, we have not seen any confirmation that missiles have actually moved from Iran to Russia.  But in this press reporting, the Iranians are clearly indicating that they will ship ballistic missiles to Russia, and we have no reason to believe that they will not follow through.

If Iran proceeds with this provision of ballistic missiles, I can assure you that the response from the international community will be swift and it will be severe.  For our part, we will take this matter to the U.N. Security Council.  We will implement additional sanctions against Iran.  And we will coordinate further response options with our allies and partners in Europe and elsewhere. 

We have demonstrated our ability to take action in response to the military partnership between Russia and Iran in the past.  We will do so in the future. 

In response to Iran’s ongoing support for Russia’s brutal war, we will be imposing additional sanctions on Iran in the coming days.  And we are prepared to go further if Iran sells ballistic missiles to Russia.

I do think it’s important to keep this issue in some sense of perspective.  It comes at a time, without new security assistance deliveries from the United States, when Ukrainian forces are rationing out their bullets and artillery shells and when they are having to make difficult decisions on the battlefield just about holding on to key terrain. 

Consider what Ukraine is up against.  Russia is receiving arms and ammunition from Iran and North Korea.  We also remain concerned about the support that PRC companies are providing to the Russian defense industrial base.  Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives is leaving Ukraine to fend for themselves. 

Do not think for a moment that Vladimir Putin isn’t capitalizing on all of this.  Yep, he’s been deepening his relationship with Iran now for many months, but the potential pursuit of ballistic missiles with a range and destructive power that they could bring is further evidence that he believes Congress will not act.  He clearly believes now is his best chance to bring Ukraine to its knees, that now is the time to strike deeper behind their lines, destroying military bases and military units and their defense industry.  He’s counting on the West giving up and on Ukraine being left to fend for itself.  And the regime in Tehran is only too happy to oblige. 

So the question for Congress is: What are we willing to oblige?  Are House Republicans willing to see Ukraine fall to Russia?  Are House Republicans willing to stand aside while Iran deepens its partnership with Russia and actively participates in the killing of Ukrainians and the further destruction of that country?  Are House Republicans willing to hand Putin and the Supreme Leader such a victory?  Because that’s what this comes down to.  You can’t say that you believe in American leadership and American strength and American national defense and then embolden two leaders who are actively working to undermine those things. 

We need the supplemental bill passed now.  With each passing day, the Ukrainian frontlines are growing thinner and our own national security is increasingly being threatened.  Iran stands with Russia.  We need to stand with Ukraine. 

And let’s be clear: Iran is not helping Russia for free.  In return for Iran’s support, Russia has been offering Tehran unprecedented defense cooperation.  So, in total, Iran is seeking billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment from Russia.  This will increase the threat posed by Iran not only to the United States, but to our partners throughout the Middle East region. 

And with that, I’m happy to take some questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We’ll go to Zeke Miller from the Associated Press.

Q    Thanks, John.  I was hoping you could provide us an update on Brett McGurk’s travels in Cairo and Israel today, potentially to Paris tomorrow.  Any deliverables or outcomes of that meeting?

Separately, do you have any details — has the NSC been briefed or in contact regarding these reported cell outages or any reason to believe that they may be the result of any sort of foreign malign activity?

And then lastly, I was hoping you might be able to address reports that Estonia has disrupted a plot of some — they claim to be Russian operatives who’ve tried to destabilize the situation there.  And is there any planned response on Russia as a result of that?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, Zeke.  There’s a lot there.

So, on Brett: Brett had a good couple of hours with counterparts in Cairo yesterday.  Today in Israel, he met

independently with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  He also met with Defense Minister Gallant, as well as other members of the war cabinet, including their leaders from Israel’s intelligence agency.

He is, as we speak, meeting with family members of the American hostages.  We have not gotten a full readout of his discussions yet.  He’s, obviously, actively engaged right now.  So he’s, again, doing a very important meeting with the hostage families. 

But the initial indications we’re getting from Brett are these discussions are going well.  They are constructive.  He is, obviously, keenly focused on trying to see if we can’t cement a hostage deal for an extended pause to get all of those hostages home where they belong and get a reduction in the violence so that we can get more humanitarian assistance. 

And obviously, nothing is done until everything is done, and not everything is done in that regard.  But Brett is working really hard on that.  And he’s also talking to the war cabinet, too, about their thinking on Rafah.

So, pretty substantive set of meetings for him, and they’re ongoing.  And that’s about the best I can give you for where we are right now. 

On the AT&T issue, or the cellular network issue: As I understand it, Zeke, the FCC has been in touch with AT&T, and those conversations are ongoing, and they’re trying to kind of figure out what exactly happened here.

I don’t think all networks have been restored, but as my understanding is that everybody but AT&T is back up and running completely right now.

I also can tell you that DHS and the FBI are looking into this as well, working with the tech industry, these network providers, to see what we can do from a federal perspective to lend hand to their investigative efforts to figure out what happened here. 

But the bottom line is, Zeke, we don’t have all the answers to that.  I mean, this just happened earlier today.  And so, we’re working very hard to see if we can get to ground truth of exactly what happened, not to mention I know folks in the industry are working hard to get restoration of services to those that are still without those services. 

You know, as you mentioned — Poland and Estonia.  They just recently announced the arrest of individuals that had been planning sabotage activities on what is believed to be on behalf of Russia’s security services.  And we’re certainly concerned by these activities.  But we obviously commend our Polish and Estonian law enforcement colleagues for taking these actions and for doing it swiftly and effectively. 

We believe that these arrests send a very clear message that individuals who participate in Russian sabotage activities inside Europe are going to be held to account.  And again, we applaud the work being done by law enforcement in both Poland and Estonia to get to that.

MODERATOR:  Next up, we’ll go to Gabe Gutierrez.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hey there.  Thanks so much for doing this.  John, I have a few. 

First of all, I want to get your reaction to the Kremlin saying that President Biden was trying to appear as a “Hollywood cowboy” following his remarks last night calling Vladimir Putin a “crazy SOB.” 

And then, I also want to ask about Aleksey Navalny.  His mother now saying that Russian authorities are trying to blackmail her to avoid a large memorial service.  She says she saw her son’s body.  I want to get your reaction to that. 

And then, finally, on that dual national that is being detained in Russia, her boyfriend now says she went over there in early January.  Her employer says she donated $51 to a Ukrainian charity.  What is the NSC tracking regarding that case?  And is it acceptable that she’s being detained for treason?

MR. KIRBY:  Obviously, I’m limited, Gabe, as to what I can talk about when it comes to campaign comments.  But what I’ll say is — and you’ve heard this from — you’ve heard from the President throughout his trip — we have serious national security concerns, particularly where it comes — when it comes to Russia on a range of issues, from what they’re doing in Ukraine to, of course, this potential development of an anti-satellite capability, to this burgeoning relationship with Iran, which I just spent quite a bit of time in the opening statement talking about, and other efforts that they are effecting to try to undermine the international order that we and our allies built after World War Two. 

And the President is focused keenly on those national security interests.  And when he speaks about the threats and the challenges coming from Vladimir Putin and from Russia, he speaks not only from a visceral sense of the seriousness of the danger, but also from the perspective of a man who has been involved in foreign policy for the vast majority of his public service.  And he knows what he’s talking about.  He knows these leaders; he knows these challenges.  And he speaks about them plainly and directly, because that is exactly how we need to look at the threat posed by Russia: plainly, directly, transparently.  And that’s what he’s doing. 

And while he’s out there talking about the threats and challenges from Russia, the House Republicans are on recess.  While he’s out there talking about what we need to counter — what Russia is doing with Iran, what Russia is doing in Ukraine, what Russia is doing elsewhere, in cyberspace and in space — the House Republicans are doing nothing.  And that’s what we’re focused on. 

Now, I can’t confirm the reports of blackmail, that you mentioned, to the mother of Aleksey Navalny.  I mean, I’ve seen the reporting on that, but we’re not in a position to confirm that it’s true.  Nevertheless, this is the man’s mother.  It’s not enough that she gets to see the body of her son; she should be able to collect the body of her son so that she can properly memorialize her son and her son’s bravery and courage and service, and do all the things that any mother would want to do for a son lost in such a tragic way. 

The Russians need to give her back her son, and they need to answer for what befell — specifically what befell Mr. Navalny, and ato- — and acknowledge that they, in fact, are responsible for his demise.

I don’t have anything additional on the dual national that was arrested in Russia.  Again, we’re somewhat limited as to what we can talk about here, out of privacy concerns.  But I can tell you that we’re watching this very, very closely.  Our embassy in Moscow is working very hard to see what they can do in terms of getting more information here.  We are deeply concerned about this.  But again, because of privacy concerns, I’m limited to how much more I can offer.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Next up, we’ll go to Aurelia End.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hi, thanks.  Thanks for taking my question.  John, can you confirm — first question — that the President is endorsing Mark Rutte as next boss of NATO?

And second question: If you could give us not a preview but tell us something about the major sanctions package that we’re awaiting tomorrow.  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  What I can tell you on Mr. Rutte is that the United States has made it clear to our Allies, our NATO Allies, that we believe Mr. Rutte would be an excellent Secretary General for NATO.

And I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to go into more detail about the sanctions package that you can expect us to announce tomorrow.  As you know, we never get ahead — it’s just policy that we never, for obvious reasons, get ahead of specific entities that are going to be sanctioned and/or individuals that will be included in that regime.

I would point you to the Treasury Department.  And I understand that they’ll have more to say about this.  But we’re not going to get ahead of that.

MODERATOR:  Next up, we’ll go to Michael Gordon.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    John, my question is: Since, as you pointed out, North Korea is providing ballistic missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine, and Iran may be moving to do so, why has the Biden administration not decided to provide longer-range 300-kilometer unitary round ATACMs to Ukraine as a counter to the systems that you’re concerned about?  The Pentagon still has some drawdown authority, and it has over a thousand of these systems.  What’s the thinking behind that? 

And you talk about responding to such actions with sanctions, but why not respond with — why wouldn’t providing such ATACM systems be a useful counter?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, the first thing I’d say, Michael, is we have responded with a whole hell of a lot more than sanctions over the last two years.  The United States continues to lead the world in security assistance to Ukraine, although we are now not able to provide that security assistance without the supplemental funding.  But prior to Congress failing to do its job, we were leading the world in contributions across a range of systems — from short, medium, to long range — and of course, artillery ammunition, ground vehicles, armored vehicles, you name it. 

So I simply refuse to accept the premise that we’ve only relied on sanctions to increase the pressure on Russia in terms of their fighting on the ground in Ukraine. 

The second thing I’d say is: We have provided a version of ATACMs.  As you know, the APAMs have been provided to Ukraine, and they have used them to good effect. 

And the third thing I’d say is: We never took ATACMs off the table.  They are still part and parcel of the discussions that we’ve been having with Ukraine.  Ukraine does have the ability and has been provided similarly long-range capabilities by other countries, and we are still having conversations with the Ukrainians about the longer form — longer-range version of ATACMs.  Nobody has taken that off the table. 

And you mentioned the drawdown authority.  Yes, there’s existing drawdown authority.  But as I mentioned a couple of days ago, there’s no replenishment authority that goes with it.  And that’s critical for our own needs, for our own national security requirements.  That replenishment authority is not something to just be blown off.  It very much and should factor prominently in the drawdown packages that we have and hopefully will be able to provide Ukraine in the future, because it affects our own national security by the ability to replenish our own stocks. 

So I guess that’s where I’ll leave it.

Q    Okay.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Next up, we’ll go to the line of James Rosen.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Thank you.  Sean and Admiral Kirby, thank you both.  I have two questions.  One on Russia/Ukraine, the other on Israel/ Hamas. 

And to the delight of my listeners and my many critics, the second question will be much shorter than the first.

On Russia/Ukraine, this situation with the supplemental spending package brings to mind for me the words of the late Henry Kissinger, who once said of Chile, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people.” 

For nearly six months now, President Biden and his top aides, you included, have warned that the security of the United States and its allies, indeed the stability of the global geopolitical order, will be severely compromised, perhaps irreparably damaged, if U.S. funding for Ukraine is not swiftly renewed. 

So if the consequences of such inaction pose such an existential threat to the safety and security of the United States and the Western alliance, why is President Biden, by his own account, standing by and allowing the irresponsibility of a small faction of the U.S. Congress to place the entire world order in such jeopardy?  Shouldn’t he be finding some other way, overt or covert, to get Ukraine what it needs?

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks.  I mean, I kind of addressed this before.  And this kind of gets a little bit to Michael Gordon’s question a little bit ago.  There’s no magic pot of money here.  You know, supporting Ukraine requires resources, resources that we do not have right now.  And we have helped support Ukraine to a fare-thee-well over the last two years.  We absolutely have to make sure that, in so doing, we don’t sacrifice our own national security and that we still have sufficient stocks and inventory of weapons and systems to defend global interests around the world. 

Now, that’s a tough balance to strike, and we’ve been striking it quite well over the last two years with the support of Congress.  We need Congress to act.  We cannot just wish this money into existence.  We cannot just find it under a couch cushion.  We absolutely need Congress to put forward legislative funding in order for us to continue to support Ukraine. 

And the idea — the notion that we’re just sitting back on our hands doing nothing is — simply flies in the face of the facts.  We have been working diligently with members of Congress, both sides of the aisle, both chambers, to try to get this funding through.  The President submitted that supplemental funding back in August, for crying out loud.  And here we are in February, and the House Republicans decided to go on vacation. 

So we’re working really, really hard.  We’re doing everything we can to get this over the finish line.  But ultimately, you know, it requires a co-equal branch of government, the legislature, Congress, to legislate this money so that we can spend it not only for Ukraine and for Ukrainian soldiers, but for our own national security. 

Q    So just as a follow-up on this quickly, before I advance to the Israel/Hamas question: I guess what you’re saying is we need for the American people to understand and we need our allies to understand that the President is willing to allow the legalities here to override the security exigencies.

MR. KIRBY:  The counter to what you’re suggesting is that we should somehow send a message to the American people and to our allies that we don’t believe in the rule of law, that we don’t believe in the importance of having appropriated funding to support our national security needs. 

I mean, my goodness, the Constitution is built on that whole foundation.  And the President believes in the power of the Constitution; he believes in the power of a co-equal branch of government, in the Congress.  And in working with the Congress, he’s got a lot of experience doing that. 

It matters how you do things, not just what you do.  And the President is going to continue to obey the law and to work with Congress on establishing law, legislation — funding, in this case — that meets our national security needs.

Q    On the Mideast: So that the context and the stakes should be sufficiently clear for all to see, is the war between Israel and Hamas properly viewed as one between the forces of good and the forces of evil?

MR. KIRBY:  I think there’s no question that Hamas is evil.  I don’t even think that that’s up for debate.  I mean, look at what they did on the 7th of October.  Read — please, go read.  I say this all the time, but I encourage — go read their 2017 manifesto and the one that they put out about 10 years before that.  You can’t read that manifesto and not think that this is a terrorist organization with truly genocidal inclinations against Israel and the Israeli people.  And what they did on the 7th of October, you cannot look at anything from that day and not come away believing that this group is evil.

MODERATOR:  Next up, we’ll go to the line of Laura Kelly.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

We don’t seem to have Laura.  We’ll go to the line of Trudy Rubin.

Q    Hi.  Thanks, John.  I just want to follow up on Michael Gordon’s question.  We not only have stocks of long-range ATACMs, but also Lockheed Martin has an active production line and exported 500 last year, including to places like Morocco. 

The Ukrainians feel that these weapons are essential right now, especially in the area where they’re having success in the Black Sea and Crimea. 

So, again, I want to ask, why are we still only keeping this issue on the table?  For the last year, there have been repeated stories that ATACMs were going to be sent, and then all that was sent was the shorter-range APAMs with cluster munitions warheads.

So what is the problem with sending Ukraine the weapon that it is even now consistently saying it desperately needs?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, first of all, Trudy, it’s great to hear your voice.  It’s been a long time since we spoke.  And I’m glad you jumped on the gaggle today.  It’s good to hear from you. 

And again, a fair question.  It was a fair question when Michael asked it. 

And what I can tell you is, again, we have had and will continue to have conversations with the Ukrainians about what they need.  Clearly, they need — right now, they need to focus on air defense systems, as Russia is trying to take advantage of this lull in Western support to overcome — to force the Ukrainians to use their air defense systems and also to target their defense industrial base. 

But we recognize that medium- and long-range capabilities are important to Ukraine.  As I said, they are getting some from other countries as well.  They did get a shorter version, APAMs, from us, as you rightly pointed out. 

And again, we’re actively talking to them about their needs going forward.  We have not taken ATACMs off the table, but I just don’t have a decision to speak to today or — and I certainly wouldn’t get into the decision-making process about that. 

Regardless, right now, we’re hamstrung.  We can’t even send Ukraine artillery shells.  So while we still talk to them about their needs — and as I said, ATACMs is not off the table from a philosophical perspective — we’re hamstrung about what we can send them writ large, anything, because we don’t have additional supplemental funding from Congress.

MODERATOR:  Next up, we’ll go to the line of Jennifer Jacobs.

Q    Hey, John.  Back on that cellphone outages again, can you say have any government communications been disrupted because of the outages? 

And then also, FirstNet was impacted.  So can you say if they can still do what it’s supposed to do at this point, which is sustain communications for first responders?

And then one other question on Navalny.  Is the President meeting with his family members today, can you say?  Thank you very much.

MR. KIRBY:  As I understand it, JJ, there was some impact to commerce, but I don’t know the extent of that.  I don’t think it was crippling, but there was some impact to commerce.  I don’t know about the Earthnet.

I’m sorry, and you had another question on this as well.

Q    On FirstNet, can it still do its mission, which is to sustain communications for first responders?

And then, on Navalny, did you say — is the President meeting with his wife and daughter today?

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  Yeah, no, you said — I thought you said Earthnet.  But FirstNet.  So, FirstNet, which does come under Congress, was the only government equity that was impacted.  That’s what I was referring to.  I’m sorry.  I thought you said Earthnet.

And it’s our understanding that it has now been fully restored, FirstNet, as a nationwide public safety network.  So,

yes, it’s been — it was impacted, and it’s my understanding that — our understanding that it’s been fully restored. 

And as for the President, his schedule today, I don’t have anything to offer or confirm today.  Obviously, we continue to

urge Russia to do what’s right by the family, release his body, come clean on the specific manner of death, and hold themselves responsible.  We certainly hold them responsible. 

But I don’t have anything on the President’s schedule to speak to right now.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Next up, we’ll go to Humeyra.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hello, hi.  Thank you, Admiral, for doing this.  You talked about Brett’s meetings.  And I’m wondering if the Israelis have presented their humanitarian and military strategy to you about — to him — about Rafah.  

And based on his meetings, can you confirm that — this Paris meeting tomorrow with Bill Burns, (inaudible) chiefs of Israel, Egypt, and Qatari prime minister on hostage talks?  Is that happening?

And again, based on Brett’s conversations, yesterday Benny Gantz talked about early promising signs in the hostage talks.  Do you share those promising signs?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Okay, lots there.

I know that Brett had a chance to meet with the war cabinet.  And as I said earlier, he absolutely was going to ask them about their plans for Rafah, where they were.  I am still, as I sit here with you today, not aware of any plan that’s been

shared with us, any specific plan that’s been shared with us.  But I know that Brett was absolutely going to talk to them about sort of where they were in the thinking on that. 

And nothing has changed about our view that any operation in Rafah, without due consideration and a credible, executable plan for the safety and security of the more than a million Palestinians that are seeking refuge in Rafah, would be a disaster.  We would not support that. 

But again, I don’t want to get ahead of where Brett’s conversations are.  As I said, he’s meeting with the families of American hostages right now.  And we just haven’t had a chance to check in with him and get, sort of, a full readout of

what he discussed in his meetings with the war cabinet. 

On the reports about a Paris meeting, I cannot confirm those reports other than to tell you that we remain fully committed to doing everything we can to get a hostage deal in place and an extended pause, a reduction in the violence, an increase in humanitarian assistance.  And that’s being worked, of course, by Brett, who is, again, in Israel today.  It has continually been a focus of our CIA Director, Bill Burns, and his efforts.  And he continues to have conversations with

interlocutors about that.  And obviously, it’s top of mind of President Biden and the entire National Security Council team. 

So I can’t confirm the specific reports about Paris, but I can absolutely reassure you that discussions are ongoing, they are active, and as I said earlier, we believe they’ve been constructive. 

And I think I missed another question in there.

Q    Hi.  Thanks for that.  No, it was — I was asking whether you share Benny Gantz’s comment that there were early promising signs about the hostage deal.  I’m asking this specifically because there is little time left for Ramadan, which is March the 10th.  So just wondering if the U.S. shares that optimism. 

MR. KIRBY:  I would just leave it the way I just did.  You know, talks have been ongoing, they’ve been active, and we believe they’ve been constructive.

MODERATOR:  We have time for a couple more.  Next up, we’ll go to Zolan Kanno-Youngs.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hey, thanks for the opportunity to ask a question.  Thanks, John. 

I wanted to ask about this report that my colleagues just put out on this inquiry, that was eventually dropped, into potential ties between allies of President Andres Manuel López Obrador and cartel affiliates.  Did the White House know about this inquiry?  Has the administration reached out to Mexico to discuss this inquiry, either before the report today or after?

And then, just more broadly, these allegations about potential ties to the cartel, how will this impact the relationship between the Biden administration and the AMLO administration?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  As I think the Department of Justice has already made clear, there is no investigation into President López Obrador.  And they at DOJ would have the responsibility to review any allegations.  So I’d have to point you to DOJ on that.

And then, separate and distinct from that discussion, obviously, we continue to work with Mr. López Obrador’s administration to do what we can to deal with this unprecedented migration in the hemisphere and the situation at the border, which continues to be a key focus for President Biden and for this administration.  Another reason why we were hopeful about that Senate deal to pass the supplemental funding, which included additional funds for security at the border. 

But again, I’d have to point you back to DOJ for anything specific.  And as they’ve already said on the record, there is no investigation into President López Obrador.

MODERATOR:  Next up for our last question, we’ll go to the line of Edward Lawrence.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks, Sean.  Thanks, John, for doing this.  I just wanted to press you a little bit on the AT&T outage.  Was there any chatter going into this — or going after a cellphone or a cell service by state actors or non-state actors?  And any heightened awareness, and that’s the reason the FBI and DHS are looking into this?

MR. KIRBY:  And I truly don’t know the answer to that question.  I mean, I’m not aware of any chatter prior to the outage.  But again, that’s why DHS and the FBI want to look at this and see what exactly happened.  Again, it’s good that the vast majority of customers have had their service restored.  It’s good that FirstNet is back up and running.

But obviously, we got to do spadework to figure out what happened here.  But I just don’t have any intelligence to share today about any indications we had before it happened from actors external to the United States or to the government. 

We’re going to look at this really hard.  We’re going to work with industry to see what we can find out. 

But right now, we’re being told that AT&T has no reason to think that this was a cybersecurity incident.  But again, I want to be careful — we won’t know until an investigation has been completed.  And obviously, we’re going to work from the federal level to assist the network providers in doing that to the best that we can.

MODERATOR:  Thanks, everyone.  That’s all the time we have for today.  We’ll do this again soon.  Hope you have a good rest of your day.  Thanks. 

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, everybody.

2:15 P.M. EST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/02/22/on-the-record-press-gaggle-by-white-house-national-security-communications-advisor-john-kirby-2/

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