Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:08 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here. Good Monday to you. Before I take your questions, I just wanted to note that on behalf of all of us in the press office, from the President on down, we want to express our condolences to the NBC family and to the Palmer family at the loss of John Palmer, who was truly one of the greats, in my view -- a wonderful man, a terrific reporter, and someone who was as old-school as you could get, and just decent to the core.
So, with that, I'll go straight to the Associated Press.
Q: Thanks, Jay. A couple of questions on the embassy closures and the threats surrounding that. Can you be a little more specific about the type of chatter that led to these closures? Are we talking about intercepts of electronic communications?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Julie, I appreciate the question and I certainly understand the interest. There's a great deal of focus and attention on this in the press, in the public, and of course, within our administration. We take the threat very seriously and have taken action because of that.
I'm not in a position to discuss specific intelligence, but we believe that this threat is significant and we are taking it seriously for that reason, and have taken the actions that the State Department announced out of an abundance of caution, and will continue to monitor this and take action as necessary.
Q: Is this threat contained just to Americans and American interests overseas, or is there any heightened threat to Americans in the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that the threat is emanating from and may be directed towards the Arabian Peninsula, but it is beyond that, potentially. And that is why we have taken some of the actions we've taken. And we can't be more specific than that except to say that the embassy closures that we've announced are in reaction to that out of an abundance of caution, and the extension of those closures does not reflect a new stream of threat information but is more a reflection of taking necessary precautions.
Q: But I just want to clarify -- you said that this largely contains the Arabian Peninsula but also beyond that. Does "beyond that" include Americans in the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: I think that the threat from al Qaeda and affiliated organizations to the United States and to the American people has been a reality that we've talked about for a long time now. I think --
Q: This specific threat --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm not going to get into specific intelligence matters. I can tell you that we have taken the action we've taken out of an abundance of caution and we have issued the warnings that we've issued in order to make sure that the American people are aware of the potential threat, the potential threat that has always been with us but which is heightened at this time. And we will provide more information as we can, mindful of the need to maintain our security.
Q: And word of these embassy closures and this threat followed the President's meeting with the President of Yemen. Obviously Yemen is at the center of this. Is there anything that came from that meeting, anything President Hadi told President Obama that contributed to this decision?
MR. CARNEY: We read out that meeting and I don't have any more detail for you from that meeting. It is certainly the case that we cooperate on counterterrorism with Yemen and have for some time. But this specific information reflects what we've gathered, broadly speaking, and that's what we're reacting to. The meeting between President Hadi and President Obama centered on a variety of topics, including our counterterrorism cooperation.
Q: Jay, should Americans in the U.S. -- to follow up on what Julie asked -- be afraid?
MR. CARNEY: Jeff, what I can tell you is that we face an ongoing threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates. There are individuals and organizations out there that are focused on doing the United States and the American people harm, as well as doing harm to our people.
Now, the statement that we put out has made clear that our current information suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond. And our information suggests that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.
What we know is that the threat emanates from and may be focused on occurring in the Arabian Peninsula, but it could potentially be beyond that or elsewhere. And so we cannot be more specific -- which is why we've taken some of the actions we've taken and made the statements that we've made.
Q: What does this say more broadly about the strength of al Qaeda in general?
MR. CARNEY: We've made clear, as I was saying earlier, that as al Qaeda core has been diminished through the efforts of the United States and our allies, affiliate organizations -- including in particular, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- have strengthened. And we have here in Washington identified AQAP as a particularly dangerous threat for some time now, a number of years. As you know, from this very podium John Brennan, now the CIA Director, then the President's Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor, spoke very specifically about the rising threat from AQAP. And that is something that we've seen in some of the foiled attempts that AQAP has been engaged in, and has been a focus of attention of our national security apparatus for some time.
Q: And if I could ask you one other question on a separate issue -- some colleagues of our at Reuters reported today that a unit of the DEA, called the Special Operations Division, gives tips to law enforcement across the U.S., and was asked to cover up evidence that is used to launch investigations against Americans. Can the White House confirm this? And are there any concerns about the constitutionality of this program?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'd say two things. One, I would refer you to the Department of Justice on this. And beyond that, I can tell you that it's my understanding, our understanding, that the Department of Justice is looking at some of the issues raised in the story. But for more, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q: Jay, in the past, the President has said that al Qaeda -- and you just mentioned this -- core has been on the path to defeat. He said this back in May; he said it in December. And I'm just curious -- with nearly two dozen embassies and consulates being closed, is it fair anymore to say that core al Qaeda is on the path to defeat?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think as most people who cover these issues understand, al Qaeda core is the Afghanistan/Pakistan-based central organizational core of al Qaeda, once headed by Osama bin Laden. And there is no question over the past several years al Qaeda core has been greatly diminished, not least because of the elimination of Osama bin Laden.
What is also true is that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations represent a continued threat to the United States, to our allies, to Americans stationed abroad, as well as Americans here at home. And for that reason we have focused a great deal of attention on those affiliated organizations.
And we have made clear over the past several years that AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is of particular concern and has demonstrated both an interest in and a willingness to attempt serious attacks on the United States, our allies and our people. For that reason, we have to be continually vigilant, and have been. And the threat that we've made public in recent days reflects the fact that we are vigilant about the willingness of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other affiliated organizations with al Qaeda to take action against us and against our allies and our people. And we are taking all the precautions we can as we gather more information.
Q: And what does it say to the rest of the world when you close nearly two dozen embassies and consulates? Some might say that that is a showing of weakness on the part of the United States that it has to shut its doors.
MR. CARNEY: Well, as I think the State Department has made clear, this is a temporary measure. It is limited to the diplomatic facilities that have been specifically identified. And it is done -- in terms of the extension of the closure -- out of an abundance of caution, which I think is the right move given the potential threat that exists.
We are engaged around the world. And it is absolutely the case that that engagement creates some risk for American personnel around the world. And decisions like these are designed to reduce that risk in the face of a potential threat. But the engagement, of course, will continue because it's in the United States' interest to be engaged around the world, including in those areas that are volatile and where the risk is higher than elsewhere.
Q: And is there any concern that you've taken your eye off of the ball when it comes to al Qaeda -- stressing for months that its core is on the path to defeat while AQAP gets stronger -- when you have affiliates like the one in Benghazi where people who might be affiliated with al Qaeda pulling off the attack in Benghazi? Lindsey Graham yesterday said that al Qaeda is on steroids. That doesn't sound like it's on the path to defeat.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think you're confusing al Qaeda core with what we have said very clearly about the threat posed in particular by AQAP, but also affiliated organizations around the region and the world. I think that any evaluation of the actions that we've taken in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations over the last several years and over the life of this administration demonstrates a pretty intense focus on the fight against al Qaeda and the effort to degrade al Qaeda's abilities and all the abilities of all the affiliated organizations.
Q: The eye hasn't been taken off the ball?
MR. CARNEY: I think any fair assessment would conclude the opposite.
Q: Jay, is there any confidence that we have enough information to disrupt whatever plot is potentially underway?
MR. CARNEY: I think we've told you as much as we can at this point about the intelligence that we have. I'm not in a position to discuss in any more detail our intelligence. We obviously, as I said earlier, believe that this threat is significant and it is ongoing. And for that reason, we have taken some of the action that we've taken. And we are obviously continuing to gather information to work with our partners and allies as we do that to combat this threat and the overall threat posed by terrorist organizations that wish us harm.
Q: And on Edward Snowden, you said that the administration was looking at the utility of this summit in Moscow in September. Have you had any further information on that?
MR. CARNEY: I have no new announcement for you today. As I said the other day, this was not a positive development, and while we have a wide range of interests with the Russians, we are continuing to evaluate the utility of a summit. I think it's fair to say that you can expect that we'll have a decision to announce in coming days about that specific issue.
Q: So how can the President go to Moscow and meet with Putin just after this slap in the face?
MR. CARNEY: I think it's fair to say that we have a range of issues, Jon, of interest with the Russians. And as I said the other day, it has been true for four and a half years now that we have dealt with the Russians in a very realistic way, in an effort to cooperate where we can and to be very clear and pointed where we disagree. We obviously disagree with the Russians very strongly about the decision they've made on Mr. Snowden. We disagree with the Russians on a number of other issues, including Syria. And we have made those disagreements plain, both publicly and privately, in our discussions with the Russians.
So when it comes to the utility of a summit in Moscow, a bilateral summit, we are evaluating that against not just our disagreement over Mr. Snowden, but some of the other issues where we have failed to see, thus far, eye to eye. And once we have fully assessed the utility of a summit, we'll make an announcement.
Q: A couple of things since we haven't had a chance to talk to you about this -- there's been a lot of speculation over the weekend that it's maybe the President's birthday, maybe it's the end of Ramadan, maybe it's the anniversary or the Kenya/Tanzania bombings, and I'd like to see if you can, in any way, shape or form, communicate something that is non-speculative about what this threat stream seems to be about and if it does have any connection to what has been speculated possible touch points that I just listed.
MR. CARNEY: I cannot shed light on what has generated this particular threat. We simply act on the information that we have. We obviously share the information we have with our partners and allies, as we identify and try to take action against those who would do us harm and pose a threat to us, and who may be organizing an attempt to attack either the United States, our allies, or a U.S. facility. But beyond that I don't have any specific information to provide to you about this particular threat and what it's related to.
Q: Okay. As you told us over the weekend, the President was routinely briefed on this. In the past, when you look at case studies of times when the United States government has announced and not announced, there have been different tactical reasons for that. And sometimes when there's an announcement, there's a change in the information flow, there's a change in the chatter, there's a change in the operational communication that potential terrorists go through. Can you tell us anything about if that's changed over the weekend, after the announcement on Friday -- the threat stream minimizing, or diverting, or changing in a different way?
MR. CARNEY: I think that's a good question and I have no new information to provide to you. We have no new threat stream that is related to our decision to extend the closure of facilities. And I can say that because, understandably, a new decision like that, coming on the original decision to close some facilities on Sunday, might be read as indicating that we have a new stream of information, and we do not. We're simply working off of the information we had coming into the weekend to act prudently in further extending the closures.
Q: Okay. Senator Graham and Senator McCain are in Egypt. I know we talked a little bit about this last week, but was there something -- for example, any conversations between the President or senior administration officials before they arrived in Egypt? Would you expect to hear back from them? And in the intervening weeks since the last spate of violence, is there anything that you are prepared to say about the direction of Egypt, either pro or con, or helpful or not helpful?
MR. CARNEY: Well, on the visit by Senators McCain and Graham, I can say that we're continuing to consult closely with Congress, and that includes those two senators, with whom we have had at the highest levels discussions about matters of national security and foreign policy. As you know, those two senators met with the President not long ago to discuss national security issues. And we will, of course, consult with them and other members of Congress on developments in Egypt in the days and weeks ahead.
More broadly on Egypt, as you know, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns was in Cairo this weekend and continued his discussions with a wide range of Egyptians, both yesterday and today, on how they can calm tensions, avoid further violence and facilitate an inclusive democratic process that helps Egypt's ongoing transition succeed. Deputy Secretary Burns has extended his trip, as has the EU Special Representative Bernadino León. The Deputy Secretary continues to consult closely with Egyptians from a range of groups and parties and sectors of society, as well as with the EU and representatives of the UAE and Qatar, who are also in Cairo.
And along with our international friends, our team is in Cairo to offer the Egyptians help as they work to calm tensions and reduce the polarization that we have seen there. Ultimately, the decisions on the path forward are for Egyptians alone to make, but we are assisting and facilitating this process, as requested by the Egyptians.
Q: Before I let you go, I know you don't want to give away everything tomorrow, but there have been for the last month or so some encouraging signs in the housing market as a part of the overall upward trend of the economy, and I wonder what's missing that the President is going to address tomorrow that's needed that he hasn't already done before.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that you're absolutely true that there has been an important rebound in the housing market. The data that describe the situation in the housing market in this country on January 20th, 2009 are daunting. I believe the American people lost roughly $7 trillion in wealth by January 2009.
And what we have seen, through the grit and determination of the American people, and through the decisions made by the administration and the policies put in place both with Congress and through executive action, has been a very positive change in direction in our housing market. But we are still not where we need to be. And there is certainly ample room to grow when it comes to providing more homeowners the assurance and the capability to refinance their homes and to further stabilize and grow the housing market across the country.
So as part of his plan to offer a better bargain for the middle class, President Obama will be in Phoenix tomorrow to lay out proposals for continuing to help responsible homeowners and those Americans who seek to own their homes.
Following his remarks in Phoenix, on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific time, the President will do an interview with Zillow to answer questions from citizens around the country that will be submitted through a range of social media platforms, including through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Vine. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff will moderate the discussion in which the President will answer questions submitted by Zillow's users and social media community, using the hashtag #askobamahousing.
So I think what is important to remember about this is that so many Americans across the country view their own economic and financial circumstances through their homes and whether they own a home, whether their home is underwater, whether they feel like they have equity in their homes. And so that strengthening of the housing market is of vital importance to the strengthening of the middle class. And that's why the President has chosen to focus on housing as one of the cornerstones of his economic agenda.
Q: Refinancing and access to mortgage is primarily the focus?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don't want to steal -- as you said at the top -- the President's thunder, so I encourage you to wait for more specifics from the President tomorrow.
Q: Jay, on Iran, you've got a new President in office, and obviously there is still a very grave nuclear threat the administration is concerned about. But do you feel like he is saying some of the right things? Do you feel like maybe there is an opportunity here?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the question. I want to mention that we, again, congratulate the Iranian people for making their voices heard during Iran's election. We note that President Rouhani -- recognize his election represented a call by the Iranian people for change. And we hope that the new Iranian government will heed the will of the voters by making choices that will lead to a better life for the Iranian people.
The inauguration of the new President presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear weapons program. Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue it will find a willing partner in the United States.
Now, as we've said consistently, we are open to discussions with Iran both through the P5-plus-1 and through bilateral talks. The focus of those talks would be, and needs to be, on Iran's willingness to forsake its nuclear weapons ambitions. And should it be willing to do that in a verifiable way, there's an opportunity for Iran to reenter the international community, to ease the burden of its isolation, and thereby to do what the new leadership in Iran has identified as its goal, which is to improve the lot of the Iranian people. And that would be both very good news for the Iranian people, as well as for the region and the world.
Q: And, finally, on al Qaeda, I want to go back to what Jim was asking you about the President's previous comments. You're correct that you and other officials have said that there's a difference between al Qaeda core and its affiliates and the threat from each. But on the campaign trail, the President rarely made that distinction. October 11th, 2012 -- "I said we'd refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11. And today, al Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead." Did he give the full picture to the American people in the campaign about the threat from al Qaeda when that was his talking point again and again?
MR. CARNEY: I think it's indisputable that the elimination of Osama bin Laden was a major accomplishment in the effort against al Qaeda. We have been clear, and the President has been clear, that the threat from al Qaeda very much remains. And I think, in answer to Jim's question, I was trying to convey that any fair assessment of the actions this administration takes and this government takes, and our extraordinarily capable men and women in uniform and men and women in the intelligence community -- the actions they take in order to continue the fight against al Qaeda and al Qaeda's affiliates demonstrates how seriously we continue to take the threat.
And nobody should be under any illusion that that threat still exists. I think that we have numerous conversations in this room and around Washington and around the country about what we need to do continually as a nation to protect ourselves against the threat posed by terrorists who want to do us harm. And the fact that we continue to do those things demonstrates that the threat is real and we have to be ever vigilant.
So as I said earlier, I don't think there's any fair reading of the efforts we've made in the fight against AQAP and other al Qaeda affiliates.
Q: But he rarely had those caveats that you're adding now. He said, on the run; he said they've been decimated.
MR. CARNEY: There's no question that al Qaeda's core --
Q: But he didn't say their affiliates might get us.
MR. CARNEY: Well, that's just not true. But al Qaeda's core leadership, the leadership that attacked the United States on September 11th, 2001, has been decimated. Al Qaeda core in the AfPak region has been greatly diminished and is on the run. And we have brought continual pressure to bear on both al Qaeda core and al Qaeda's affiliates. And we have, for a number of years now, made clear that our attention in terms of the threat presented by al Qaeda has shifted in focus to some of these affiliates, in particular AQAP. And John Brennan and others have been categorical about that in public. So I think that represents the full picture.
Q: Jay, I want to follow up on that from the other side. There have actually been numerous drone strikes that have taken place in Yemen, some of which you guys have confirmed, some of which you haven't -- understandable on that front -- but have been talked about as taking out leaders of AQAP. And I guess my question is more about -- is the drone strikes not working? AQAP, we've supposedly gone after their leadership, had success in getting -- is this as you get rid of one leader, two more come up? Is there an explanation of why -- why is AQAP apparently as operational as they are today, with all the effort that you guys have talked about in public -- like I said, some of which you couldn't -- some of it that has been reported behind the scenes -- why has this not worked?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't think that the fact that there is a continual threat from the most operational of the AQ: affiliates suggests that we haven't brought enormous focus to the effort to degrade those affiliates. We have. And we have worked with Yemen and other partners when it comes to AQAP. We have worked with other international partners around the world in our efforts to degrade al Qaeda and its affiliates in different parts of the region and the world, and will continue to do that.
But as we do that, we have to recognize that we're talking about an organization and individuals who are singularly focused on doing harm to our interests and our people, and we have to, therefore, be mindful of that threat and take action accordingly.
Q: Do you concur with Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the Intelligence Committee? He said this morning that he thinks the drone strikes, particularly in Yemen, have been a double-edged sword, that for every success you had, it's served as a "recruiting tool" for AQAP.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm not going to talk about specific means by which we take the fight to al Qaeda or its affiliates. I will simply say that it is our view that we have to continue to take the fight to those organizations and those individuals that are actively plotting to attack the United States, attack American citizens, attack Americans stationed abroad, attack our allies and their people, for as long as that threat exists.
And that effort extends beyond the kinetic actions that can be taken. It includes all of the work we do with our partners in the region and around the world through intelligence and other means, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to enhance the security of the American people and our men and women stationed around the world.
Q: On the worldwide travel alert, is this an indication that any American tourist, any American businessman traveling overseas is potentially a target? Or is this worldwide travel alert just an overabundance of caution?
MR. CARNEY: I think in this situation, it was the judgment made by the administration that providing the alert was the right course of action, understanding that it was fairly general. We are taking actions when it comes to the traveling public through TSA and other organizations to ensure the security of the traveling public and enhance that security. But as we said earlier, we can't be specific about -- or I've said earlier and others have said earlier -- we can't be specific about where it is less safe and where it is more safe, so we need to make sure that everyone is aware that there is an existing threat.
Q: Two other quick things. Why is -- are McCain and Lindsey Graham acting on behalf of the White House in this instance? I know there's been -- you said that he's been fully briefed. Their role as mediator in this situation -- are they basically there on behalf of the administration?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't know that they're there as mediators. I think they're there representing the United States Congress, the United States Senate. They're two leaders in the Senate on matters of foreign policy for the Republican Party in particular, but they have certainly been in conversation with the President and others on the President's national security team. And I think their efforts in Egypt and the conversations they have represent the broad interests that not just the administration has, but that the Congress has in what's happening there. And we'll work --
Q: You're right. I mean, they are carrying -- as far as General al-Sisi is concerned, the Muslim Brotherhood, they're representing the interests of President Obama.
MR. CARNEY: Deputy Secretary Burns is representing the administration in Cairo, as I speak, and has been for several days, and has on his prior visits there. Senators Graham and McCain are representing themselves, obviously, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Congress. But we are all focused together on the very volatile situation in Egypt. And there is no question that we consult regularly with members of Congress, especially those members like Senators Graham and McCain who have a particularly keen interest in the country and the region.
Q: Is the G20 at all in jeopardy? Is there a way -- you said you don't --
MR. CARNEY: I don't foresee a change in the President's schedule.
Q: -- adding to U.S. prestige by going to St. Petersburg?
MR. CARNEY: I don't see a change. There is not a change to announce in the President's schedule. The G20 is an international meeting, one the United States was very instrumental in setting up as an annual meeting of 20 nations to discuss international economic policy and other policies. So the President's schedule remains as it was, which includes attending that summit.
Q: Could he end up not attending, but the U.S. attends?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don't foresee a change in his participation and I don't have any further scheduling announcements.
Q: Thanks, Jay. The embassy closings come as there is this debate over the NSA's surveillance programs, and I'm wondering whether the intelligence and the ongoing threat that the U.S. has identified helps bolster the case for the NSA's activities and programs.
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to blend those two stories or those two issues together. We have a threat that we have advised the public about and discussed with you in the media, and we are acting in reaction to that threat. And we have a separate -- we have a set of issues regarding the unauthorized disclosure of some classified information that has led to a debate about the programs we have in place to protect our security and the balance that we seek and the President seeks in both protecting our security and in maintaining the privacy of the American people.
So we're focused, when it comes to the threat, on what that threat represents, how we can act against it, and ensure the security and protection of the American people and of our facilities abroad. I wouldn't blend the two issues.
Q: May I ask you -- I don't mean this facetiously. I mean, it's a real question. Operationally, what difference does it make if the AQ: core is weakened while the AQ: branches are strengthened? Does it make it easier or harder? Or is it a wash, in terms of al Qaeda's ability to organize some sort of worldwide thing if there are a bunch of branches without a core?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that some counterterrorism experts might be able to address this with greater detail. Al Qaeda core, headed by Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri and others, took dramatic action on several instances to inflict damage on the American people and take the lives of Americans. And therefore, the actions we took against, as a nation, al Qaeda core were both the right thing to do and necessary when it came to mitigating the threat that al Qaeda core represented and represents. It is diminished, but not defeated.
But there's no question that, as we've said for a long time now, some of these affiliate organizations, and in particular AQAP, represent threats as well. And we have seen in the past from AQAP attempts that have been thwarted, but were serious attempts to inflict damage on the American people and engage in spectacular attacks against U.S. interests and people, and we have to be mindful of that. And that's why we are responding to this current threat in the way that we are.
I'm going to only be able to take a couple more. Ari.
Q: The President is speaking at Camp Pendleton and then also to disabled American veterans. Is the focus going to be middle-class jobs and opportunities sort of in civilian life, or is it going to be a foreign policy speech? Is he going to focus on wars ending? Can you just give us a framework to think about these two events?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't want to steal his thunder for those events either. I think when it comes to visiting Camp Pendleton, the President very much looks forward to, as he always does, visiting with our troops both when they're stationed here in the United States and when they're stationed abroad. And I think you can expect those remarks to be focused on the troops themselves. And then obviously there are a host of issues that this President believes merit the attention of the American people and of Washington when it comes to our veterans, and in particular, our disabled veterans. So he looks forward to that event as well.
Q: So this is not branded as part of the middle-class jobs economic tour?
MR. CARNEY: This is not -- no, neither of those events are one of the cornerstones that we talked about when it came to this series of speeches, building on the original speech in Galesburg.
Q: Jay, from the start, the President is trying to get away from talking about a global war on terror, as the previous administration did. And yet, if the war on al Qaeda, as he's preferred to style it, is, in effect, a war against these affiliates as well, wherever they show up, isn't that, in effect, a global war on terror?
MR. CARNEY: Well, setting aside the nomenclature, I think that the fact is we have a continuing threat from al Qaeda, and in particular some of its affiliate organizations that have sprung up in the last decade. And we respond to those threats because they represent a real security challenge for the United States, for our allies and for our people.
But what the President has been focused on from the beginning, when he came in, was making sure that we were using our resources to counter the threat against the United States. That's why he refocused our attention on al Qaeda in the AfPak region and on the effort in Afghanistan, because that war was launched, justifiably, in response to the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
He ended the war in Iraq, as he promised he would do, and one of the reasons that that was necessary was to ensure that we could continue to focus, as we should, on the threat posed to the United States by al Qaeda and by its affiliates.
It is obviously a well-known fact that the President believed as a candidate in 2008 that through the previous years we had, as a nation and in our efforts, lost our focus on the specific threat against the United States, and that the effort in Iraq had contributed to that. So the President made sure that we would focus again on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as al Qaeda's affiliates around the world.
Last one. Cheryl.
Q: Thanks, Jay. On a question about health care, a couple months until the exchanges in marketplaces have to go into effect. Is the President personally meeting with Secretary Sebelius and other Cabinet secretaries about implementing health care at this point?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is very much a high priority of the President's, and he is engaged in discussions about progress being made on implementation, as you would expect, and certainly the rest of the administration is. I don't have specific meetings to read out to you, but this is an important priority. We need to ensure that implementation continues. As I've said all along from the podium, as others have engaged in repeated attempts -- futile attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- I think the House has just had its 40th vote along those lines -- the administration is focused on implementing a law that was passed by Congress, signed into law by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, a law that is already providing benefits to millions of Americans, to young people on their parents' insurance policies, to seniors benefiting from discounted prescription drugs, to everyone who will benefit from the inability of insurance companies to deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions.
And we'll go about the business of implementing the law so that those benefits are more widely shared by the American people. And it would be wonderful if Congress would focus on assisting in that implementation, because everyone's constituents, no matter what state you're from or what district you represent, stands to benefit from the greater access to insurance that the Affordable Care Act provides -- the benefits that the Affordable Care Act when it's implemented fully will provide to Americans across the country.
And when a citizen of district Y in state X wants to know how he or she can benefit from the Affordable Care Act, I would hope that members of Congress and their staff in those districts would provide the information to their constituents that their constituents deserve by law.
Thank you very much.
Q: Do you have any comment on the baseball suspensions?
MR. CARNEY: No, I don't have anything.
Q: Jay, happy birthday to the President and my best wishes.
MR. CARNEY: I will tell him.
END 2:50 P.M. EDT
Jay Carney, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/304490