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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 30, 2002

[ ... ]

QUESTION:   I have a question on these five men that are allegedly of Arab or Middle Eastern descent that are supposed to be missing, entered the country illegally, and the US has some concerns about that.  Is there anything you can say about that in terms of --


MR. REEKER:  What would you want me to say?


QUESTION:  Well, I was told that you might have something to say about it.


MR. REEKER:  I was told you might ask me a question.  (Laughter.)  I think I know what you're trying to get at.


Regarding the FBI, the five individuals that the FBI is putting out information on and trying to locate, in working with the FBI, we have checked visa records.  There is no record of any of the five individuals identified by the FBI as ever having applied for a US visa, so there's no record of anyone with those names identified by the FBI having ever applied for or, obviously, then, having received a US visa, which I think is probably the question you wanted to ask me.


QUESTION:  Do you believe that they entered through Canada?  Is that --


MR. REEKER:  You would have to ask the INS or someone that deals with entry and exit from the United States on that.




QUESTION:  A follow-up.  Can you give us, sort of, a status report on how secure you believe the border between the US and Canada is in light of the story?


MR. REEKER:  I don't think it's the State Department that does border security.  I would direct you to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Justice Department, domestic law enforcement, military or defense.


QUESTION:  But in terms of visas being granted, do you feel that most people are coming into the country legally with visas that are granted by the United States?


MR. REEKER:  Again, entrance into the country is not the purview of the State Department.  You would have to talk to the INS about that.  We have talked at some length about the work we have been doing in terms of the visa function, the tightening up, the increased sharing, the tremendous growth in the number of names in our database, the tip-off database, the other databases where we get directly from intelligence and law enforcement the names so that they can be checked as part of any visa application.


And, as you know, that's resulted in a significant backlog in some places in visa things, but we've been trying to work on that, too, so that legitimate travelers who have strong reasons to visit the United States, whether to conduct business, to visit family, to vacation, to seek healthcare, to pursue educational opportunities, so that they can be allowed in because they make up such an important part of our culture and our economy while we keep, essentially, the bad guys out. 


And so we have been working very hard on that, coordinating very closely with the other US Government agencies, obviously, and making sure that we do just that -- let the right people in and keep the bad people out.

[ ... ]

QUESTION:  This is kind of a weird question, but do you have any information on the --


MR. REEKER:  Uh-oh.  Wait for it, wait for it.


QUESTION:  -- the supposedly cloned baby?


MR. REEKER:  Yeah, I knew it was coming.


QUESTION:  I waited. 


MR. REEKER:  Do you want to identify yourself and the station that you're with?


QUESTION:  The mother is said to be an American citizen and bringing the baby back.  So does that mean the baby has to get a US passport or a visa or something like that?  And are you aware of any of these movements? 




MR. REEKER:  I guess I have caught out of the corner of eye -- out of my mind, I suppose, too -- the reporting on this general subject and so, expecting such a question, we did do a little checking.


Without commenting on the specific situation, let me tell you about US citizenship and passports.  A child born of American citizens or citizen abroad, US citizenship is not necessarily automatic.  The American citizen parent or parents is or are required to meet certain requirements of US residence as established in the Immigration and Nationality Act in order to transmit citizenship to the child.


If the parent or parents meet the requirements, the so-called "transmission requirements," the child is considered a US citizen at birth.  In addition, an American citizen child born abroad may, in accordance with the citizenship laws of the country in which that child was born, may also be a citizen of that country.  So for US citizens born abroad, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad may be issued, and that can demonstrate US citizenship. 


In the hypothetical situation of a cloned baby, this would be a new situation and therefore, at this time, we would be unable to determine how US laws regarding nationality would apply to this child.  And of course, passport records -- I should just note for the record -- passport records are confidential. 


QUESTION:  Phil, it is correct, though, that even an infant must have a US passport.  Correct?


MR. REEKER:  Yes.  And a child, once he or she meets the -- the parents meet the transmission requirements, the child can have a passport upon birth.


QUESTION:  Do you know if people are working on something as to what would happen if --


MR. REEKER:  I'm not aware that anybody has --


QUESTION:  Or has there been any kind of -- just simply because this administration has made clear its opposition to the entire idea of human cloning, although it is not, as I understand it, technically illegal.  But you don't know of anyone saying -- telling embassies to look out for any --


MR. REEKER:  I won't get into that because that's not a State Department issue.


QUESTION:  No, I know, but you're --


MR. REEKER:  To look out for cloned children?  (Laughter.)


QUESTION:  Well, look out for special and what might be considered unusual circumstances.


MR. REEKER:  We regularly look out for cloned news reports, but I haven't been doing -- that's such a great line.  No, I'm not aware of any action being taken in this direction at all.  Obviously, it is something that lawyers would have to look at in the event that the hypothetical situation was to actually be a situation that would have to be dealt with.


QUESTION:  Phil, normally, how long after a birth would it be possible for a child to acquire a US passport, assuming normal circumstances?


MR. REEKER:  In theory, immediately.


QUESTION:  Like a day or two?  I mean, like --


MR. REEKER:   In theory, immediately upon birth.


QUESTION:  So what are these transmission requirements?  You mean these requirements are referred to the previous history of the parents, not to the post-birth.


MR. REEKER:  Correct.  Was that not what I said?


QUESTION:  No, perhaps I --


MR. REEKER:  Maybe it was too legalistic.


QUESTION:  It was rather --


MR. REEKER:  If the parent or parents meet the transmission requirements, the child is considered a US citizen at birth and therefore eligible for a US passport.  But there could be other circumstances, and obviously in the case of a cloned baby, lawyers would have to take a look at the Immigration and Naturalization Act and determine whether the single parent in question transmitted citizenship.


QUESTION:  If the single parent is the citizen and the baby is a clone of that parent, isn't that --


MR. REEKER:  That's a situation that is a case of first impression.  (Laughter.)  There was a reason I didn't go to law school.  (Laughter.)  A cloned baby would be a case of first impression and therefore we're unable at this time to determine how US law would apply. 


QUESTION:  A case of first impression means --


MR. REEKER:  It's a legal term.


Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  Patient people have been waiting.  Yes, ma'am.  And then we'll go back to --


QUESTION:  Two brief, unrelated.  New Year's Eve, historically, has been a time where there has been an expression of for security reasons in this country.  I was just wondering if you could describe any new or additional security measures in the run-up to this New Year's Eve, like the change of alert.


MR. REEKER:  In this country?


QUESTION:  Regarding terrorist threats, yes, here or overseas.


MR. REEKER:  In this country, you'd need to consult with domestic law enforcement and security agencies.  Overseas, I'm not aware at this stage that we are updating our Worldwide Caution that remains in effect for American citizens to consider threats that exist worldwide.


And then I would remind everybody who is residing overseas or traveling overseas during the New Year's period, just as any time, to consult our website for particular regions or countries and to keep in touch with US embassies or consulates in those regions so that we can advise them through our Warden systems and other methods of any other information we do become aware of.


There are dangers out there.  We want people to continue with their lives, their business, their travel, but it's important to at least be aware of the situation and take the precautions any individual deems necessary.


QUESTION:  So, at this point, are you aware of any likely international alert or any particular country alert?


MR. REEKER:  At this point, I'm not aware of that.  Today is the 30th of December.  If we have information that comes to light that we need to release today or tomorrow or any other day, we will do that as expeditiously as practicable.


QUESTION:  Number two, quickly.  The five men at the border.  Are you aware of country of origin, ethnicity, nationality, and, if so, have there been any contacts with these countries they have come from?


MR. REEKER:  No, I would refer you to the FBI for that.  The only piece of it that we had at this stage to share with you was the fact that we had done the check of the -- where did it go?  There it is.  The visa -- the check of visas.  And we had found that under the names that the FBI provided to us, there is no record of any of the five individuals as having ever applied for a US visa.

[ ... ]


Released on December 30, 2002

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