Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP)
(CNSNews.com) – Despite now being 113 days past the federally mandated deadline for releasing the 2014 Human Rights Reports, Rear Adm. (ret.) John Kirby, the newly appointed spokesperson for the State Department, said during a press briefing on Thursday that “of course [Obama officials] have to obey the law” that requires the department to release the annual reports by Feb. 25.
Kirby then blamed the historical and largely unexplained delay on Secretary of State John Kerry’s “very intense travel schedule” and “routine staff and administrative delays.” Kirby also declined to say whether the reports are actually completed and when they will be released.
During the briefing, CNSNews.com asked Kirby, “I just want to go back to the Human Rights Reports real quick. State Department officials, including yourself, have now indicated that they’re just waiting on a scheduling opportunity to be released. Can you confirm that these reports have been completed and are just waiting to be published at this point?”
Kirby said, “I don’t want to get into tick-tock, in terms of the report. But as I said, I think you can expect us to release this report very soon.”
“Okay, so they have been completed then,” CNSNews.com pressed.
“I’m not going to talk about, you know, how dry the ink is on these things,” said Kirby. “But I can tell you that we will release the report very, very soon.”
“Well it’s now 113 days late [on June 18], which is a historical record by almost a month,” CNSNews.com continued. “The Foreign Assistance Act mandates that these things be released by February 25 of every year. Does the Obama administration believe that they have any obligation to obey that law?”
“Well, of course, we have to obey the law. We know we’re late. We’re working on the report. We’ll have it out very soon,” Kirby stated before attempting to move on.
Another reporter followed up, “But could you say why it’s -- I mean, it seems to be late every year. Is like, this year dif -- I mean maybe this year is a little bit longer, but they never come out on time. So --.”
“I can’t speak to the institutional history of homework here at the State Department. But again, we’ve acknowledged that it’s late. We understand that. We know the concerns surrounding that. It will be out very soon, very soon,” Kirby said before moving to a different topic.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). (AP)
Earlier in the briefing, a third reporter questioned Kirby on recent allegations from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that the State Department is refusing to release the reports until the administration wraps up negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Can you assure Senator Cruz and others who are suggesting that this delay is designed to protect Iran from criticism on its human rights record because of the negotiations, the nuclear negotiations, can you assure them that they are wrong?” the reporter asked.
“Yes I can. The delay has nothing to do with the Iran negotiations whatsoever,” Kirby said, adding, "there’s absolutely no truth to that at all.”
“We recognize that the report is late by several months. We’re working very hard on that, and I expect that you will see that report released in the very near future,” he added.
“Okay, but the reason that it’s been late has to do with the secretary’s travel?” the reporter asked.
“There’s been a host of reasons. One of them is a very intense travel schedule by the secretary over the last few months. But also just the routine staffing and administrative delays,” Kirby claimed.
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 as amended requires only that the State Department submit the Human Rights Reports to the Speaker of the House and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by the Feb. 25 deadline. Nothing in the law or any of its related amendments require the secretary of State to hold a press conference to release the Human Rights Reports, or for the State Department to release them to the public by the due date.
As CNSNews.com has reported, this is the latest the State Department has ever been in releasing the Human Rights Reports since they first began issuing them in 1977, surpassing the 2012 record of 89 days by almost a month as of June 19.