In an extraordinary turn of events, US Secretary of State John Kerry has agreed to answer all allegations about the US government bugging the offices of the European Union and other democratically-elected governments. This is a live transcript from the press conference…
KERRY: With respect to the question of the err… of the ummm… of the possible overhearing of the err… let me just tell you that… (He fiddles with the microphone.) Is this thing working? (He fiddles with microphone some more.)
GERMAN JOURNALIST: The microphone is working! Please proceed with your answer.
KERRY: Well, you can never be sure… (fiddles with microphone.) Sometimes these things are switched on, sometimes they’re off. You know what I mean? (He winks.) I’m just saying, you can never be sure. (Long pause.)
GERMAN JOURNALIST: Well?
KERRY: Well what?
GERMAN JOURNALIST: You were telling us about bugging the EU.
KERRY: Oh yes, the bugging thing. Well, let me tell you that I’ve got off a long flight, and before that I was dealing with that whole Middle East peace thing. That’s going great, by the way. I mean, President Obama really fixed that whole Middle East peace thing back in 2009, for which he deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize. Apart from the Benghazi thing, of course. (He pauses.) But that really couldn’t be foreseen. It was an unforeseeable blip in our intelligence, that Benghazi (coughs)… that Benghazi blip. But overall President Obama has pretty much won the war on terror… not that there ever was a war on terror, not really. That was just something Bush and Cheney cooked up, so they could hold on to power. But hey, if the American public are going to elect those guys, what can you do? I tried to tell them, but they didn’t listen to me. It was ‘swift boat’ this and ‘swift boat’ that, and before you knew it, everyone had stopped listening to me. So what was I saying? Oh yes, I’ve been in the Middle East, crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, so to speak. Crossing t’s and dotting i’s is all that’s needed, following all the success that President Obama had in his first term, especially with all the hard work done by my predecessor, Secretary of State Clinton. I expect there will be nothing left for her to do, by the time she’s President again. Apart from fixing the US economy, that is. Though that’s going great too.
FRENCH JOURNALIST: Please, Monsieur Secretary of State, will you stick to the point?
KERRY: I will. So that’s what I’ve been doing. T’s and I’s… which has kept me incredibly busy. There’s a lot of t’s and i’s out there, in the Middle East. I mean, there’s only one ‘I’, and one ‘T’, in ‘Middle East’, but you know, they’ve got a whole bunch of other words with t’s and i’s that also need crossing and dotting. Yup, a lot of t’s and i’s… not so much ‘T and A’, if you know what I mean. You hardly ever see that kind of thing out there in the Middle East, though my security guards know a few places. (He winks.) But there’s a whole lot of t’s and i’s. So that’s what I’ve been doing. And that’s why I don’t know anything about any bugging.
GERMAN JOURNALIST: Do you seriously expect us to believe that? You were a senator for 28 years. You spent the last 4 years as head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. The Obama administration said that all senators have been briefed about the US’ spying program. So how can it be that you know nothing?
KERRY: Well, yes. There’s knowing nothing, and then there’s knowing nothing, if you know what I mean. Not that you would, because you’re not in the US government, like I am. (He winks.) Erm… no, that didn’t come out right. Disregard that wink I just gave you. I mean what I say, when I say I know nothing. I honestly hadn’t heard about it, hadn’t seen about it, hadn’t read any reports, don’t have any advisors to tell me these things. Erm… we had an internet blackout – somebody said the server was made in China, I think – and then there was some screw-up with paying our cable TV bill so that was cut off temporarily, and literally every newsagent was sold out, when we went to get the papers. And, as you know, and I’m sure you do know, I’ve been having lots of late nights and early, early mornings on this Middle East thing… (He fiddles with the microphone…) Is this still working? (He fiddles again.)
FRENCH JOURNALIST: Pardon, Monsieur Secretary of State, but I have to sympathize with my German colleague, and ask, why it is you are not answering the question he has asked? We would all like to know about the bugging.
KERRY: Yes, as I was trying to say, before you interrupted, I have been so so so deeply immersed in the Middle East. Let me tell you, it was like being buried in sand up to my neck, not that that literally happened, mind you. I mean, there was a private beach at the hotel where I was staying, but nobody buried me in sand or anything like that. I just walked on it. But not in my bare feet – it was too hot for that. I was wearing sandals.
GERMAN JOURNALIST: Please will you answer the question? We want to know about the bugging!
KERRY: Yes, and so would I. Though, to be clear, the President always briefs the rest of government and is way way more transparent, far less secretive and paranoid than Bush and Cheney used to be. So if there’s anything to know, I’d know, but I don’t know, so there’s probably nothing to know. (Coughs.) There’s almost certainly nothing to know. But if I did know something, not that I do, I’d know that every government – literally every government – does the same thing as whatever it is that we’re not doing. Err… And err… I want to see the allegations – that’s number 1! – before I can comment any further.
GERMAN JOURNALIST: The allegation is that the US government has bugged the EU’s offices and the government offices of other American allies.
KERRY: Well, err, that’s hearing the allegation. I said I needed to see it, to be precise. But I was going to go on to say… number 2, is that, err… (he coughs)… I need to, err (he coughs again)… I need to find out what the truth (coughs), what the situation is, and then I’ll share it with you, our allies, with whom we have a very very special relationship, with all of you.
BRITISH JOURNALIST: But we’ve heard that Baroness Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, has already quizzed you about the bugging?
KERRY: (Coughs.) Indeed. (Coughs.) Let me tell you what I told Lady Ashton, which is that… (coughs)… which is that she did indeed raise it with me, and I told her that (coughs) I’d get back to her on that. (Fiddles with microphone.)
BRITISH JOURNALIST: Excuse me? Is that all you said to her?
KERRY: We agreed to stay in touch. I agreed to stay in touch with her, and she agreed to stay in touch with me. I mean, we normally stay in touch anyway. It’s not like we’re out of touch with each other, but this Middle East thing has been keeping me very busy, though we greatly appreciate the help and support of our EU partners in helping and supporting that. (Coughs.) But we’ll be making a special effort to keep in touch, as befits our special relationship.
GERMAN JOURNALIST: A lot of American politicians have been on American television recently, answering allegations that the NSA spied on the internet. Their answer, and even President Obama said this, was that your spy agencies focus on spying on foreigners, and that they only spy on Americans if they have a court order. Don’t you think it’s a bit ridiculous to pretend you don’t know anything about spying on the rest of the world, when your President and your former colleagues in Congress keep reassuring American voters by promising them how very much the US government is spying on everybody outside of America?
KERRY: You saw that? Really? We, in America, we didn’t know the rest of the world could see our TV. How did you come to see that? I mean, what channels do you get – are you watching C-SPAN? I tell you, I was in the Middle East, and I couldn’t get HBO, which was a shame, as I’m really missing Game of Thrones, I can tell you.
GERMAN JOURNALIST: Please will you stop treating us like fools, and answer the question!
KERRY: (Coughs.) I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in international… err… you know… international… err… you know, international affairs of national and international security… which I suppose is most of them, though I’m not sure about the Vatican City, maybe not so much them… err… well, err, but I suppose they might worry about terrorism too, err, though we’ve pretty much won that war on terror, not that it can ever be won, so to speak… (coughs) what I will say is that all of those countries, without exception, is engaged in… err… (coughs) what I’d call the err… the undertaking of lots of protective activities to protect its national citizens from terrorism, and all kinds of information contributes to that.
FRENCH JOURNALIST: Are you saying that officials who work for democratic governments should be spied upon because they are like terrorists?
KERRY: (Coughs.) No, no, no. Or ‘non’, as you’d say. I speak a little French, you know? La plume de ma tante est… (coughs) No. You’re not terrorists. You’re nothing like those guys in Boston. For a start, we didn’t bother to spy on them. Though it had nothing to do with them being American citizens. It had nothing to do with that. Although we respect their constitutional rights as American citizens, not to be spied upon. Although, (coughs) we respect your rights, (coughs) your human rights, although that’s not in the American constitution, of course. Not that your human rights aren’t respected by the American constitution, which I’ve sworn to uphold.
GERMAN JOURNALIST: Mr. Kerry, you must be aware that many citizens in countries that are ‘allies’ to America still retain a deep-seated resentment and distrust of Americans and their government, believing them to be arrogant and totally untrustworthy. Do you agree, after this shambolic display, that you’ve just made that a hundred times worse?
KERRY: All I know is that… err… protecting people is, err… (coughs) not unusual for lots and lots of nations, as well as the United States, although I don’t know if we’re, err… protecting American citizens, or not. I mean, we might be. Then again, maybe we’re not (coughs) protecting them. I really can’t say. Because I don’t know. I’ve been busy, you know. (Kerry turns to face an aide, and speaks aside:) They’re not going to see this press conference in America, are they? No? No, I didn’t think so, they won’t be interested in what I say to some cockamamie foreign hacks, unless I make a major goof. What’s that? (He turns to face the front.) Oh yes, this microphone is on. (He fiddles with it.) Did you hear that? Not that it really matters either way. And beyond what I’ve said, I’m not going to comment on this any further, until I’ve had all the facts, and find out precisely what the situation is. And when I do, I promise to come back, and to, err… (coughs.)
GERMAN JOURNALIST: What do you promise to do?
ALL OTHER JOURNALISTS: Yes, what are you promising to do?
KERRY: I promise to err… (coughs.) I promise to be as candid with you on that day, as I’ve been here today. Thank you very much, no more questions.
(Kerry runs off stage.)
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