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NBC - Interview With Catherine Chomiak

Interview

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Location: New Delhi, India

QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing this, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Happy to be with you.

QUESTION: NBC is reporting that Mr. Snowden is not on the flight he was previously booked on from Russia to Cuba. Does the United States Government know where he is right now?

SECRETARY KERRY: I'm not going to get into the details of what is going on, except to say that we continue to hope that the Russians will do the right thing. We think it's very important in terms of our relationship. We think it's very important in terms of rule of law. These are important standards. We have returned seven criminals that they requested for extradition from the United States over the last two years. So we really hope that the right choice will be made here.

QUESTION: Are you taking it as a sign that he's not on this plane that President Putin and the Russian Government is cooperating with the U.S. to an extent?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, again, I'm not going to -- I really don't want to speculate. I simply want to say that we have very high hopes that the Russians, who have said they want to cooperate and have a strong relationship with us, will understand that this is important. This is a man who has been accused, publicly now with the complaint that's been filed against him, of three counts of espionage. It's a very serious offense. The country -- we take it very seriously. And we simply hope that, as I said, the Russians will understand this should not be taken lightly and we hope very much that in one way or another -- and there are several ways it could be done -- that there would be some cooperation here.

QUESTION: Since you've become Secretary of State, you've worked on the U.S.-Russia relationship quite a bit. What does it say about the relationship that the Russians didn't immediately agree to send him back to the United States?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I don't know -- I mean, again, I'm here in India and I wasn't directly in touch with the Russians, so I can't tell you what they did or didn't agree to immediately. I know that our FBI director, others -- I know that in the State Department, Deputy Secretary Bill Burns has been in touch with the Russians. So we're communicating, and that's what's important here, that we are talking. I hope it's a good sign he isn't on that flight and that something else may take place, but I'm not going to prejudge anything, except to say that this obviously is important to us and I hope the right thing will happen.

But we have a lot of things to work on with the Russians, obviously, and this is one of them.

QUESTION: What does it say about the U.S.-China relationship that Mr. Snowden was able to leave Hong Kong for Moscow?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, again, if the Chinese authorities at the highest level knew about it and approved it, it would be, obviously, not a good measure by any imagination. But I don't know for certain yet whether they did or didn't. The likelihood is someone in Beijing was notified, because Hong Kong normally wouldn't make that kind of decision for itself. But again, that is something that really needs fact before we start making public criticisms or judgments.

QUESTION: The New York Times is reporting that before Mr. Snowden left Hong Kong, the Chinese downloaded the contents of his laptops. How damaging is that for the U.S.? And how do Mr. Snowden's leaks complicate President Obama's argument to the Chinese that they should stop hacking into our military and business interests in the U.S.?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, what Mr. Snowden did has nothing to do with one country or another country attacking the other. This is a man who betrayed his country by taking files that he had access to out of our country. That's very different from hacking from another nation. And it's very clear this issue of hacking was raised by President Obama during the meeting with the Chinese in California. It's a very serious issue, and we've agreed to have a working group that will immediately begin to focus on it. We are told that the Chinese themselves are obviously concerned about what other countries might be doing.

So cyber is this new entity within the international world of negotiations and of relationships, and we're going to have to work on it on a global basis, which is what we're doing. But I think that hopefully the Chinese will recognize that this was not the right judgment and we will have to figure out exactly what happened before we make judgments about what steps we might or might not take.

QUESTION: You just said Mr. Snowden had betrayed his country. He's disclosed a classified U.S. surveillance program. Now he's charged with three felonies. Some have said he's a traitor. In your estimation, is he a traitor?

SECRETARY KERRY: Look -- listen, I'm not going to play word games about what he is or isn't. He is alleged to have betrayed to his country, and in that sense, I suppose could anybody could make a claim, yeah, he's a traitor to his nation; he's a traitor certainly to the oath that he took, to the promise he took to his fellow employees, to the place that he was employed at, to the duty that he took on freely by his own choice. And there is no way but to make a judgment about the way in which he has done harm to America's national security interests. So I think -- you can use almost whatever term you want. I think those actions are despicable and beyond description. So I'm not going to worry about the words; I'm going to worry about our hopefully apprehending him and seeing that he feels the full weight of the legal system, which is what he ought to do.

QUESTION: Switching gears, The Financial Times reported this weekend that there are philosophical differences between you and Mr. Obama on foreign policy. Do you think that view contributes to the perception that the U.S. is ambivalent about its involvement in Syria?

SECRETARY KERRY: Who reported that? I'm sorry.

QUESTION: The Financial Times did.

SECRETARY KERRY: That's totally erroneous. It's news to me. The President and I are completely on the same page with respect to each and every engagement that we're involved in right now -- the Middle East peace process, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, our efforts in the Maghreb, Egypt, Syria. I'm carrying out the President's instructions with respect to my responsibilities, and we're totally in sync with respect to what we're trying to accomplish.

QUESTION: Overnight the public was made aware that Nelson Mandela's condition has gone from serious but stable to critical. What would you say to him if you could be in South Africa today?

SECRETARY KERRY: I'd say thank you, a profound thank you for incredible leadership. I mean, I had the privilege of standing in his cell at Robben Island. I've met him a number of times. I think any man who can spend 27 years in a prison and turn around and hug his jailers and ask a country to unite is a remarkable person.

QUESTION: Great. And I'm being told we're out of time. Thank you so much for doing this.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Appreciate it.


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