tv Jason Rezaian Dep. Sec. of State Sherman on Wrongful Detention CSPAN September 16, 2022 10:34am-11:05am EDT
an election-year statement that does not have a lot of root in reality. host: what is the job left undone by this congress in terms of the economy and helping out the american worker? guest: the speaker asked me to chair a select committee on economic disparity. right now inflation, whatever you think of government spending, there will not be anymore pandemic relief. that is in the hands of the federal reserve. the federal reserve's job -- that is in the hands of the federal reserve. the federal reserve is in charge of reducing inflation. your question is a super interesting one. if you are really honest about what the american people >> we'll leave this here. you can watch all of our programs at c-span.org. and now live to a discussion on
>> good morning and welcome to "washington post live," i'm an opinion wroiter here at the washington post. i'm happy to be joined here by secretary wendy sherman, deputy secretary sherman, welcome to "washington post live." sec. sherman: thank you, jason. it's good to be with you and especially good to be with you here in washington, d.c. rather than you being in a prison cell in tehran. mr. rezaian: i think it's worth noting that secretary sherman is joining us in a diplomatic capacity and i in a journalistic
one but we share a background. when i was bureau chief in tehran i was detained for 534 days and during much of that time secretary sherman was the lead negotiator on iran's nuclear program. this is personal for both of us. i'm really excited to have you on the program today. sec. sherman: thank you. mr. rezaian: i want to start by asking a question about the recent executive order around hostage and wrongful detention that president biden announced over the summer. he declared this a national emergency. why now? what's changed in recent months or years that has made this such a critical issue? sec. sherman: i think we've seen governments use hostage taking as a tool, as a weapon, to
leverage things from the united states of america and the president, just like secretary blinken, understands in a powerful way what this means for families when their loved ones are taken in this way. when they are wrongfully detained. you know, the united states has a responsibility to care for american citizens wherever they are in the world. whether they lose their passport and need help, whether they find themselves in legal jeopardy, or if they find themselves wrongfully detained and a number of other circumstances as well. that is a fundamental response thoaivelt united states. but the president, in addition, just feels in the most heart felt way that he has to do everything he can to bring americans home who are wrongfully detained. i think most people know because
it's in the press that he's meeting today in fact with the family of brittney griner and paul whelan to take with them about our ongoing efforts to bring them home from russia. and so, the president wants to do everything possible, and secretary blinken does as well, so this executive order was a way to give the administration new tools to have the whole of government approach, to use everything we have possible, to ensure that we get every single american home who has been unjustly detained. mr. rezaian: just yesterday i was up on the hill giving testimony to members of congress on this very measure. you -- on this very issue. you talk about the whole of government approach. as this continues, more and more members of congress have constituents who have been affected by this. dozens currently, possibly more
than 150 or so over the past few years. so i do think there is a rising consciousness around this issue that we haven't seen before. one of the things that president biden wrote in the executive order is that this is an economic and national security threat. i think priestly we always thought of this as a personal problem that affects a handful of americans. but talk about the geopolitical dimensions of this and the challenges of balancing those two aspects of it. sec. sherman: well, as you know, jason, one of the things that secretary blinken has done is to create what we call a de-indicator in our travel advisories to americans who are traveling abroad. we have nine risk indicators for americans who are traveling, whether it may be that there's a health issue that they should be aware of, whether in fact there
is an issue of crime or kidnapping. but now we have a de-indicator if in fact a country is using the detention, unjust detention of americans, as leverage, economic leverage, geopolitical leverage. those countries that currently have -- currently have a de-indicator are burma, people's republic of china, iran, north korea, russia and venezuela. so what we're saying is, these are countries that have held americans that under the levinson act passed in honor of robert levinson, you know this case well, an american who has been missing in iran for many years now. the levinson act basically gave us a framework for dealing with these illegal, unjust detentions and ensuring that we take action
to bring americans home. so the de-indicator is one more tool to say to americans, know that if you travel to these country, even though many of these countries already have a do not travel, we want people to understand why they shouldn't travel to a given country and countries that unjustly detain americans over a period of time or in numbers get that de-indicator. and we hope americans pay attention. mr. rezaian: i want to follow up on that. it's a very important development. i think americans, when they decide to travel abroad, they should consult the state department's website for advice on recommendations how to protect themselves, places they should or should not go. but there are several countries that we have friendly relationships with that have done this over the years as well. egypt. saudi arabia. turkey.
at what point might we see countries like those or others on this list? is this a static list? or is it one that could grow or contract if these countries change their policies? sec. sherman: this is not a static list. countries can, as we say, sort of graduate, to getting a de-indicator if they do this on a regular basis if they do it over time if they increase the numbers. there are certain steps in this effort. so it won't be static. and one of the things i really want people to understand, and jason, you know this very personally, i'm going to ask you a question in a minute, is that we take each of these circumstances and make a determination about whether someone has been unjustly detained. and meets the requirements of the levinson act. it's not every american who might be jailed because sometimes americans do things that are illegal, that are
crimes. and it is not an unjust detention. but we look at things like, have they gotten a fair trial, a fair judicial process? have they been leveraged and weaponized in geopolitical terms? are they getting harsh treatment that doesn't fit whatever has gone on? are they being used in a way to make a political point? all of these are part of what goes in to the secretary of state, making a determination somebody has been unjustly detained. and then we look at each country and figure out the best strategy. we have an entire office led by ambassador roger cars ten -- carsten and their entire job is to think about, work on, and deal with these cases every single day. it is a very high priority for the president. very high priority for the secretary of state. and i guess it would probably be
helpful to those listening to hear from you, jason, about what it's like to be someone who is unjustly detained, and how you keep your hope up, how your family kept their hope up, while this is going on? mr. rezaian: well, it's -- it's rare for me to be put on the hot seat but i'm happy to answer that question. it's a horrible thing to be an american detained abroad, completely unjustly, without the opportunity or the resources to properly defend yourself. in my case i was being hold in iran with the entire islamic republic resources being weaponized against me. the judiciary, their foreign ministry, when they would come speak in public about the ongoing negotiations with the united states, would throw me deep entire the ditch that i was already in and propaganda
networks at home sullied my reputation they even produced a 30-episode television series about my supposed crimes. it's a horrible thing. and i think that that's not something that most americans can actually comprehend. but unfortunately, a growing number of us are. and a question that i have is, you know, secretary blinken has spoken often about the deterrence to this practice. you and i have spoken about this what we can do as the united states of america with partner countries to make this practice less attractive and costlier for nation states who do it. and i know, without telegraphing what's going on behind the scenes, there's a lot of work happening on this. how much can you share with us? sec. sherman: what i can share is, you're absolutely right. one of the things secretary
blinken has charged all of us with is to make sure that this isn't only about dealing with individual cases, but that we develop policy and try to establish a norm around the world that this is not something that countries should do. and so led by canada which has some of its own case, best known as the two michaels, that were held in the people's republic of china, which were -- who were eventually freed, canada has led the way in putting together a declaration that's signed on by over 60 countries now and we are working with the canadians and others to perhaps put together a collection of countries that can really work all around the world to say that this is a norm that should be established, that people should not be taken and be used as a tool for geopolitical, economic, or any other region for that matter.
mr. rezaian: this, as you know, is a subject i've been thinking a lot about since my release almost seven years ago. you and i have been discussing it since almost that time along with colleagues of yours from the obama administration, now from the biden administration, folks in the trump administration, it's something that i think about a lot. and one of the ideas that keeps coming up in conversations is, you know, this is a practice that's been going on for thousands of years. some people believe that it's a problem without a solution. i get the sense for the first time that we are dealing with an administration who believes that, while they may not know exactly what the solution is, it's out there somewhere. is that fair to say? and is the consensus within the state department, the n.s.c., homeland security and the white house, that we can figure this problem out? sec. sherman: there certainly is a determination to do that,
jason. it's not simple. i don't want to kid people. this is hard. because we really have to work all over the globe to say that this is not a tool that governments should use. that human beings are not bargaining chips and should not be unjustly detained in these ways and used in these ways. you know, when people ask me what's the hardest thing about being in my role, or being a diplomat, i've opinion lucky enough, this is the fifth secretary of state i've had the ability to work for and with. the hardest thing i do is meeting with families. i met with and talked with your family, your brother, on a regular basis, as you know, who was a tremendous advocate for you, as was the rest of your family, just never stopped pushing. i met with austin tice's mother. i've met with others, many of the iranian families of the four
that are currently detained unjustly in iran. that we're trying to get out. these are brutal meetings. i've met with christine levinson. these are brutal meetings because the pain is so deep, and so difficult, and i'm sure that the president's meeting today with the whalens and with griner's wife, will just be heartbreaking because you want to do everything you can to get americans home and then you want to work as hard as you can to really establish a norm around the world and an imperative that countries not use this tool. it is really not a tool, it is a horror show for the people who are imprisoned and for the
families who are desperate for their release. mr. rezaian: i think that you hit the nail on the head. this is a two-pronged problem. the safe, healthy return of americans, and the long-term problem of trying to make this harder in the long run. we see the case numbers rising almost exponentially. and i want to ask a question about china. right now, human rights groups believe that there are at least 200 americans who are under travel bans. unable to leave china to come back. dozens of others wrongfully detained. we already have a tense relationship with china. there's so many issues that we have to deal with. how do you factor this into that
with the myriad of other problems that we're faced with on a daily basis? sec. sherman: it is a high priority as i think you know, probably quite some months ago, i went to china, i've been fortunate to be the senior american official who has actually gone to china during this administration because it has been a very difficult relationship. out of the conversations that i've had with foreign minister -- with the foreign minister and vice minister, a set of working groups were set up and led by state department official on our side, and those working groups were -- dealt with a number of issues and one of them was these exit bans and americans who we believe were unjustly detained, and we have made some progress. it is hard work. one has to figure out what's
meaningful for the p.r.c. that would help to get americans home. we are going to continue to work those cases. the president raised those cases in his conversation by name with president xi jinping. jake sullivan has raised those cases by name in his meetings. and we are continuing to work on them. as i said, we have had some success. we will continue to work hard to deal with all of those cases. mr. rezaian: talk a bit about the tightening bonds between moscow and beijing, and how we are going to meet those challenges in the short-term, the medium term and long term.
sec. sherman: that's a very big question. i don't have all the answers today. but what i will say is there's no doubt we've seen, we've just seen president putin and president xi jinping meet in samarkand around the organization meeting. i think that this is a relationship of convenience. not necessarily one of trust. or one that will combine their efforts on all things. it was quite interest that president putin made a remark that he knew that xi jinping had concerns about what he was doing in ukraine. interesting for president putin to say that. i'm sure that xi jinping is looking for advantage while russia is continuing its unprovoked, premeditated and horrifying invasion of ukraine, a sovereign country, because
xi jinping has constantly talked about sovereignty and territorial integrity. so this doesn't square with the principles that he wants for his own views, whether it's about hong kong or tibet or taiwan. so i think this is in the a full blown marriage in all ways, shapes, and forms, but they are certainly going to work together. but they will also work for advantage with each other. many people believe and it's been in the painer that china is looking to press -- in the papers that china is looking to press advantage in central asia because russia's attention is elsewhere in the world. so we will have to work hard at this. secretary blinken gave a speech several weeks ago that set out our framework on our relationship with p.r.c. we certainly want to align with
our partners and allies around the world. we want to compete with china on america's future and the future of the world. but we want to do that under the rules of safe international order, not the rules china is trying to create for its own self, even though they've risen with those rules. we will cooperate with the p.r.c. on issues like climate change and global health but there's going to be a very decisive decade here as the president says, as we deal with this facing challenge. we also have to invest a third pillar of this strategy, to invest at home. we have seen what president biden has done in investing in infrastructure at home. the recent inflation reduction act to really help american here's at home. what we've done in the chips act to make sure that we grow our
semiconductor industry, that we deal with the -- deal with supply chain issues around the world so we have resilience here at home for whatever comes. the president is putting in place all of the pieces of the puzzle to make sure that we are strong at home and we are able to compete abroad. mr. rezaian: thank you for that. i want to turn back to iran which, you know is the subject that brought you and i together in the first place. nuclear talks seem to have stalled again. coming into the new administration in 2021, there was a lot of hope that we would be able to quickly rejoin the jcpoa for a lot of different reasons, that's become complicated. do you think we'll get back to it? i understand that diplomacy is
something you'll never fully abandon, but what are the prospects? sec. sherman: well, we're at a stalemate in the sense that iran in the latest round of negotiations has given us back a pretty tough response, one that's unacceptable to us. we've sent back a message about what we believe is necessary and what are critical elements here. and this is in iran's court. the president will continue to look for ways to move forward as long as we believe that it makes sense to do so. we are planning for any eventuality, whether the deal happens or doesn't happen, the president still believes it is in our interest to pursue the deal and will continue to do so as long as that is the case. i want to say two really important things. the president of the united states, the secretary of state,
secretary of defense, believes that iran must never get a nuclear weapon. we believe that returning to the jcpoa is the best way to ensure that. but we will be prepared for every eventuality if until -- if the deal doesn't come to pass. and going back to the original purpose of this conversation, getting families reunited and people home is a very high priority. the highest priority in many ways. and it is not dependent upon whether the jcpoa happens or doesn't happen. we are pursuing bringing americans unjustly detained in iran home. regardless of what happens with the jcpoa. and that work is continuing and will continue until those americans are safe and home and back with their families. mr. rezaian: i don't want to
press for too many details about efforts beyond the ones we see publicly, but i am the recipient of those sorts of efforts that were done behind closed doors, efforts that you initiated. and i hope that that i hope that will exist. someone who was detained along with me at that time coming up with seven years in prison and i can conclude with greater political will from the white house, he could have been home a year ago. my heartbreaks every time i see his name and speak with a member of his family, and i certainly hope that they are reunited as quickly as humanly possible.
sec. sherman: there's nothing that i can say that takes away that pain. that is very real. and i have spoken with many of the families and it is one of the hardest things any of us do because i understand what he has written. what i can say to him and to his family and to you that there is an ongoing effort with great determination and enormous focus to bring him home, his father as well and the other americans that are unjustly detained in iran. mr. rezaian: we are just about out of time, deputy secretary. i appreciated the opportunity you and i have been trying to do this for quite some time and able to make the schedule and
it's an important issue one that affects all americans whether they know it or not, and i appreciate you offering insights and time today. sec. sherman: thank you, jason. i am really grateful that you continue to put a spotlight on this tough issue. you bring your own personal experience to it, but you also bring your journalistic know-how and keep the focus on this and americans think about where they travel and what they do and give their support to these families who are so desperate to have loved ones home and i want to leave everyone with a message that this is such a high priority for the president, secretary of state. and every day we are focused on
everything we can do to solve each of these problems case by case. they are all different and different strategies and we are determined and determined as well to create a norm so that someday this does not continue to happen. mr. rezaian: thank you for all joining today. to learn more go to "washington post." i'm jason resomeday and. good afternoon. captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org. >> cato institute watch live 1:00 p.m. on c-span or our app. >> monday, the queen's coffin will be taken to westminster and
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