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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Gen. Kelly in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Press Operations

Commander, U.S. Southern Command, General John Kelly
March 12, 2015
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STAFF: Hello everyone. It's my pleasure to introduce, and I think most of you already know him, General John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

Sir, the floor is yours.

GENERAL JOHN KELLY: Thanks.

To those of you that I know, hello, and great to see you all again.

And to new friends, hopefully we'll have a -- a great relationship that starts right now.

I just came from the -- my hearing on the SASC. And I appeared there with Shortney Gortney, the NORTHCOM commander.

Topics were, and I'm sure you all know this, Russia, GTMO, imagine that, Venezuela, the -- they're always fascinated when we talk about this network that leads from around the world up into the Western hemisphere, and into the United States.

Mostly, right now, up through Mexico. But the isthmus. So, the network's always of interest to them.

And then, you know, the bright shining object right now, Islamic terrorism and extremism. So that came up as well.

And -- and Gortney took all of the -- you know, naturally, all of the questions that have to do with NORTHCOM, and I did the best I could not to screw up any questions that had to do with SOUTHCOM.

So, about a half an hour I guess, and here we go.

Q: General.

One quick clarification of something you said earlier today, and then I have a -- a question on the Islamic extremism.

You said 20 -- that you expect to interdict 20 percent of the drugs coming across, is that correct, versus 25 before? Is that accurate?

GEN. KELLY: Yeah, we're supposed to -- the collective is supposed to get 40 percent. Somewhere in the past, someone said that if you took 40 percent of the cocaine flow, that something would happen. I don't know what. I wasn't here then. And I’ve asked 100 times. And I don't know what's supposed to happen at 40 percent, but it's a good number.

We're at about 15 to 20 percent. I mean, it's -- it's hard to ... In DEA, FBI, but particularly DEA and frankly CIA, do a very, very good job of doing the best they can to track the -- the amounts that are produced that gets into the transit, but it's a -- you know, it's a very decentralized production operation, and I think you all know this, but you know we -- we get all of our cocaine from Colombia, and they just do heroic things to -- to fight that battle for us.

Their number three used to be number one in the world. Number one today is Peru. Number two is Bolivia. Peru is terrific in terms of their cooperation with us. And we help them go after the cocaine. We get zero cooperation of any kind from Bolivia, and that's too bad, because we -- we certainly would like to help them deal with the -- with the problem that they have, because even though these countries are not user countries for the most part, the -- because they're production, the amount of money used for intimidation, murder, death, all that kind of thing, is astronomical really.

And then as the cocaine moves up, and heroin, moves up through the isthmus and into Mexico, it's just unbelievably violent, and really is -- has impacted these countries terribly in terms of their legal justice system, police, violence against everybody, women, kids, I mean, it's just really horrible.

Q: Well in your -- you made a comment earlier today about less than or about 100, you think people have gone from largely the Caribbean to Syria. Can you give us sort of a -- a little bit more depth on where they're coming from, what you think they're doing, and have you seen any indications that any of them even tried to come back?

GEN. KELLY: Yeah.

Q: How big of a problem is this?

GEN. KELLY: Well, I mean it's -- I guess like in our own country, there's some small number reportedly that have gone to, you know, have radicalized for one way or another here in the United States. Much larger numbers go from Western Europe, go into the fight in Syria. I would suspect they'll get good at -- while they're in Syria, get good at killing and pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and you know, beheadings and things like that.

And everyone's concerned to -- (inaudible) -- if they come home, because if they went over radicalized, one would expect they'll come back at least that radicalized. But as I say, with really good job skills that they've picked up in the fight.

Do we have any indication right now of like any -- any scheme to attack the United States?

No.

But the smaller countries, as I say, I mean are -- they don't have -- you know, we take for granted in the United States that we have, you know, a functioning legal justice system, that we have an FBI, that we have, you know, layers and layers of clean policemen and women. A lot of these countries just don't have that.

And so if these people return, when they return, where we can monitor them, check them, more or less know when they might be coming back to the United States, if they were from the United States, these countries I'm talking about, Trinidad, Jamaica, places like that, Surinam, small numbers, but they don't have that ability to track these folks.

That's kinda the first issue. The second issue are there are a couple of, from a recruiting point of view, they -- just like in our country and Western Europe, some of them get recruited or radicalized off the net. You know, the home pages and what not.

But there are a couple of pretty -- pretty radical mosques in the region. Some of the places I've just mentioned.

And so that's kinda how they go.

But 100 certainly doesn't seem like a lot, and it's not. But the little countries that they come from, with a total inability to really deal with it, that's kinda what their concern is. So, we watch them.

Q: And those three countries are mainly the ones that you are talking about?

GEN. KELLY: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, a little bit -- a little bit Venezuela, Surinam.

I think that's all.

Yeah?

Q: Follow on that sir.

So, is the U.S. helping those countries to track those folks?

I mean, it's our impression the U.S. has pretty good tabs on the Americans that have gone over, in case they do come back. And in your hearing, you mentioned you thought you said if and when those guys could just come through, the -- the same, you know, networks that come right up through the border, you know, now we're talking about the ISIS at the border threat, and how real is that?

GEN. KELLY: Well, they don't have nearly the ability, these countries I'm talking about, and in general, the countries in the Western hemisphere, they don't have nearly the ability to track people like we do. Again, FBI, homeland security websites, not websites, but databases and all that kind of thing.

And they -- when you're in this part of the world, you travel pretty freely between countries. There are legal ways to do it, but then there are just simply people walk across borders. And then as I've described many times, the network that comes up through the isthmus and Mexico that carries anything and everything on it, it could be a relative, and again, not to take anything away from the Department of Homeland Security men and women, FBI, and all. They just do a magnificent job. But the amount of movement is what I think overwhelms our ability to -- to -- and the sophistication of the network overwhelms our ability to stop everything.

So, I think if they get back to some of these countries that I've described it’s pretty easy for them to move around.

Q: And as far south as the U.S., whether it's your command or other --

GEN. KELLY: Yeah, we -- we -- this is depending on what country it is, we share a great deal of either intelligence or information.

We've -- we've worked out some ways, as an example, to -- to share information with some of these countries that then interdict drug movements as an example.

So, it's not technically intel, but information or other countries that we share information with, but I do some of that, but some of our -- our intelligence agencies, law enforcement is huge in -- in you know, we think of DEA agents working the streets of Boston or something like that. But there, they -- they have networks of people that they work with in, say, Colombia, Bogota, Cartagena -- very cooperative police institutions that work with our DEA and our FBI, and other countries like that.

Most countries are pretty much on our side in the drug fight and in the -- in the -- any -- any stink at all of terrorism.

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. KELLY: Sure.

Q: Sir, this morning you said that sequestration would eviscerate your ISR capacity. I was just wondering, first of all --

GEN. KELLY: Did I say "eviscerate"?

Q: Yes, eviscerate.

GEN. KELLY: Did I say that?

Q: Yeah.

GEN. KELLY: I thought it was "catastrophe." Well, I said "eviscerate" too?

Q: I got a -- (inaudible).

GEN. KELLY: Is that on the record? (Laughter.) Okay. It will.

Q: (inaudible) -- your ISR. What -- what are you -- what types are you using, broadly, you know --

GEN. KELLY: Yeah, we have -- we have from my ISR point of view, we have Navy P-3s. We have DHS P-3s that fly over the Caribbean. We periodically get JSTARS, very few, but JSTARS is -- is a game-changer for us because it can see the entire Caribbean and well out into the Pacific. So JSTARS.

We've got -- we use B-52 sorties that are carrying sensor packages. And we have contract ISR that we simply pay for and try to fill in the gaps, but we don't get an awful lot of it.

Q: And so where would you lose the most capability? And what -- how would you make up for that if sequestration were to return, except for JSTARS -- (inaudible) -- you said that -- (inaudible).

GEN. KELLY: I -- we would lose I'd say at least 50 percent of the ISR that we have now. And we only have a fraction of what we need. But we would lose certainly the -- the P-3s. The Navy P-3s would be hit pretty hard. DHS, I don't really -- I know that we'd lose them, but I don't know -- you know, they -- they would have to prioritize within their own agency to decide what they're going to -- what they're going to keep doing.

The same thing would apply, say, to Coast Guard cutters. Right now, the commandant of the Coast Guard is triple -- doubled -- or at least the commitment is to double the number of cutters, the bigger cutters. But that only takes it to, like, five.

If he was hit by sequestration, he'd have to make his own priorities. You know, does he continue doing the drug fight 1,000 miles from U.S. shores? Or does he -- does he focus more on -- Tony, how are you doing? -- does he focus more on, you know, closer in? That's a priority he'd have to make.

But -- and of course, the contract ISR takes money to contract. If you don't have the money, probably that would fall through pretty quickly, too.

Q: General, I'd like to follow up on some comments you made this morning, and in particular an exchange with Senator Ayotte. You talked about sort of the EO complaint that's been filed on behalf of – inaudible --. You didn't think the argument had much credibility.

But I was wondering if you could walk us through the process in which that will be resolved? Specifically, what steps will be taken next?

GEN. KELLY: Yeah, I mean, the background is we have two judges that put temporary orders in place, that restricted the use of female guards because they're female. You know, call me crazy; sounds like gender discrimination, but I'm not a lawyer so I can't make that determination, nor am I a judge -- and under certain circumstances.

So we -- when we move them to do certain things, we couldn't -- we can't use female guards. Ironically, when we moved them to do other things within the camps -- say, go to recreation, watch a movie -- they're fine with the female guards.

So you can see it's -- it's a -- they're master manipulators. And in a very real sense, we -- we're part of the -- we open ourselves to this. But anyways, we had two judges, two separate orders, temporary orders so they can study the problem.

And in the meantime, the guards -- of course, we follow the order, even though, again, I -- I feel -- I'm almost ashamed that I'm doing it because I am discriminating against my soldiers because they're female. They're trained. They're capable. They're ready.

So, the first group, they turned over in December. And ironically, a number of the women that worked at that particular camp were National Guard, and they were prison guards in their other life. And the thing they couldn't understand was, you know, in the prisons we work in, we work with men all the time. We work with Muslim men all the time.

There's apparently, again, I'm not a lawyer, but I'm told there's all sorts of case law that allows exactly what we're doing with the women. But long story short, we're restricted.

One of the -- this all happened about November. One of the judges, military judges, lifted the temporary order, but we still have one in the case of the -- of some other -- and I misspoke this morning. I said they were the 9/11 Five and the Cole bomber -- not the Cole bomber. It is the 9/11 Five, and then another one.

So, and then 15 of the soldiers then in the normal, equal opportunity process, anyone for any reason if they feel they've been discriminated against can register an EO complaint and 15 of the guards did that. Actually, seven or eight of them were men and then the rest were women.

And we had a -- the governing document for us is the Army regulation 600-20. And it requires an investigation. It then requires to try to -- to try to settle the issue. So we sent down a one-star because the commander -- no, because the judges are colonels and lieutenant colonels, we had to send an investigating officer that's more senior to that -- to those two.

So we sent the one-star Navy admiral down. He did the investigation. We've kept the complainants informed and briefed up, which is part of the process. The commander at GTMO signed off on it. It was found to be discriminatory. He can't do anything about it. He passed it to me. I can't do anything about it.

We hope that the second judge lifts the order, and we're -- we're just back to where -- you know, to normal, but we don't know.

Q: And if the judge doesn't lift it, what -- what is the process going forward?

GEN. KELLY: I understand there is an appeal process.

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. KELLY: This building, I think, but I don't know. It's out of my hands if it goes to that point.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. KELLY: Sure.

Q: I'm working for French television. General, what's your view at this moment on the 9/11 trial and the frustration of the families who are thinking that this trial is never going to happen. That's my first question.

And my second question, do you think Guantanamo will close one day?

GEN. KELLY: I wish you hadn't asked either one of those questions, actually. (Laughter.) Most of you know this. We don't -- I don't run the commissions. I support them. The commissioners are run by -- out of, you know, there's a commissions process. There's a law, you know. You know all of that.

I know they're frustrated. All I can tell you is, you know, once again I -- my defense is always I'm not a lawyer. I'm just kind of a simple Marine and I know right from wrong, and I know -- I don't know -- I don't know what the complications are, so I really shouldn't comment on the length of time the commissions are taking, because I don't know, you know, what the process is in that courtroom. I just am confident, Mark Martins, of course, is the head prosecutor. I'm just confident Mark is doing whatever he needs to do to push this thing along. But the families are very, very frustrated.

The other question is about closing GTMO. Guantanamo Naval Base is a hugely useful facility to the United States. And one of the big -- one of the big things, actually -- I have a mission in mass migration-type scenarios and it's happened before. And actually, it happens pretty regularly where we pick up either Haitians that are trying to get somewhere else, and they go out on these rickety little boats, and the same thing with the Cubans.

Coast Guard saves their lives, generally brings them to GTMO. And they're under DHS, Department of Homeland Security, authority at that point. And then they repatriate them, or at least listen to the stories and then make a decision if they're going back to Haiti, Cuba, or if they're going to possibly go to the United States.

At a certain point when that process gets overwhelmed, and the last time it really got overwhelmed was in the mid-1990s when 47,000 Haitians, and who knows how many died because a lot died, but U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy saved all of these lives, moved them to Guantanamo. Then the military then doesn't take authority or responsibility for them, but houses them, takes care of them. DHS is still in charge. We support.

But we construct camps, temporary camps; treat them right; feed them; you know, take care of them in the way that, you know, the U.N. particularly has got guidelines for refugees. And then we assist the DHS in repatriating them. So it's a very useful base.

If you're talking about Guantanamo in terms of detention ops, I don't know. Certainly, the president wants to close it. And until that happens, I will take care of those prisoners in a dignified way that sees to their every need.

Q: General?

GEN. KELLY: Yes, sir?

Q: In talking earlier about the situation with the female guards, you said there's a second judge who's the holdup. Is that a civilian judge, a military --

GEN. KELLY: No, no, they're both -- these are commission judges. Yeah, this is not in the federal system, but the commissions.

Q: Okay. General, also this morning, I'm talking about Guantanamo, you mentioned some of the -- I think the words you used were "pretty abusive behavior," by some of the hard-core types toward the guards.

You mentioned "splashing." Could you elaborate on that? I mean, what kind of abusive behavior are you talking about? And what happens when one of them is abusive?

GEN. KELLY: Yeah, splashing, if you don't know, they concoct a cocktail, usually it's feces, urine, sperm, vomit, and they turn it into a little cocktail. And then when the guard comes to, say, take their trash or move them to -- each one of the guards, no matter who -- I mean, each one of the detainees, no matter whether they're in the communal setting, meaning they're just living, you know, as a group, or some of them are in individual cells, but the ones, even in the individual cells, have to get recreation time every day, have to get -- go out to the playground -- or the -- playground -- the rec field, every day. They have that.

So when the guards go to give them food, take their trash, move them to watch a movie, whatever, they will splash them. So that's one form, and it's pretty vile.

Another form is simply if they can get -- if they can assault the guards physically, they'll do that. That's why when we move them, we move them in a certain way -- you know, department -- Federal Bureau of Prisons has kind of the guidelines for this. It's the same way they're moved if they're in a state prison. Essentially , the state -- you know, a state prison in any state in the union, federal prison system, Leavenworth, Quantico brig, there's a way to do this. There are commonly accepted practices. And I will not back off from protecting them.

The one, number one mission failure to me at Guantanamo Bay is one of my troops gets killed or seriously injured, I mean loses an eye or something like that. That's mission failure for me down there.

And so, we sometimes will have a detainee be very, very cooperative for a long time. And then, the first opportunity he gets, knees someone in the groin, or tries to scratch an eye out or assault them. I will not back off on the common procedures for movement of these guys from one point to another.

Now, that said, the folks that are in communal, they live in a big communal, what we call a pod. Now, they have individual cells that they go in and out of, but they have about 22 hours a day where they can walk outside on their own into the -- into the big recreation field, play soccer, read a book. And it's not -- it's very much -- it's nothing like prison. It's everything like a detention facility that is well run.

And we lock them down -- or they go into their cells at night and for about two hours, and then we have like the preventive medicine people come in, making sure they're cleaning the place up and there's no -- you know, there's no -- make sure the place is sanitary enough to live in.

Periodically, we'll just randomly search cells for contraband of one kind or another.

So, I don't know if I've answered your question there. But the assault is usually from the -- from the detainees who have -- who have -- are in the single cells. So, if they're in the communal setting, which is what we prefer, because it's, a, easier on the guard force, and, b, you know, we're the good guys and, you know, we'd like to see them at least in the minimal setting in terms of restriction.

But if they go after one of my guards or do something like assault a guard, then we'll move them to a single cell for a period of time. And that varies.

Tony?

I'm sorry.

Q: I was hoping to draw you out a little bit on Venezuela.

(CROSSTALK)

(Laughter.)

Q: I was wondering if you'd talk a bit about this -- (inaudible), if you saw a risk of -- or you thought the country was imploding.

Could you address, kind of, first of all, what do you think of some of these accusations that have been launched against United States recently, the apprehension of what they said was the U.S. pilot? Also --

GEN. KELLY: Right. U.S. Air Force pilot, they actually said.

Q: You know, what's your understanding of actually what's going on there?

And then, you know, the country has experienced coups before. What you think the risks are that that could degenerate into that kind of situation?

GEN. KELLY: Yeah, I mean, the first thing I'd say about Venezuela is, you know, it is really -- it is really sad because they're sitting atop the largest oil reserves on the planet. They have nothing but fiscal potential.

But over the years, due to a number of decisions made by the government, that has all atrophied to the point now where you have an unbelievable inflation rate of, you know, 65, 75, 80 percent.

Anyone that lives there will tell you they don't -- you know, you go into a store. Someone said to me, in fact the charge' of the country said now it's gotten to the point like in the old Soviet Union, if someone's walking down the street and sees a line, you get in the line. Because you don't know what's at the end of the line, but something must be at the end of the line, so you get in the line. And it might be bread, it might be milk, it might be toilet paper, that's kind of a critical item. Everyone talks about the complete lack of toilet paper in the country.

So, that's where the place is economically.

You know, where the place is from a political point of view, and obviously he's clamped down pretty well on the -- on the -- on the newspapers, on the media. There's a fair number of people being arrested that are in the opposition. I mean, I think the opposition, it's gone from being the political opposition to an enemy now. So, real, real restrictions on them.

A coup? You know, I don't know anyone that would want to take that mess over, but it might be that we see, whether it's at the end of his term or whatever, I wouldn't say -- I wouldn't necessarily a coup, but there might be with -- the same ruling party makes some arrangements to change leadership.

But I certainly am not involved in any way, shape, or form with coup planning. I don't know anyone that is. And I probably would know if someone was, so. And as far as the Air Force -- or, they claimed it was a U.S. Air Force pilot. This would really be a question for the State Department. But I believe it was a U.S. pilot.

But you have to remember the -- all of the drug flights come out of Venezuela. A lot of people in cahoots with this whole thing, because it cannot possibly operate without -- and those drug flights typically are making their way up the island chain, trying to get to, say, Puerto Rico, or maybe Dominican Republic, or they were going in almost exclusively into Honduras. These are dirt strips or bits of road. They land. They offload. And then they -- and then they take off again, or just destroy the airplane.

We see them now going deeper, further, because the Hondurans, with no help -- military help from us, but just some advice and some encouragement, have started to occupy -- they've moved their military -- and these are very, very remote areas of Honduras, on the Caribbean side -- they've moved their military out there. And the drug traffickers know they're there, so they have started to deflect the drug flow in another direction.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: -- a pilot that is a civilian --

GEN. KELLY: We believe it was a U.S. pilot, and the chances are -- I'm guessing -- but chances are he was on his way -- well, I don't know what he was doing. But all of the drug flights come out of Venezuela.

Tony?

(CROSSTALK)

Q: You alluded to the old Soviet Union just offhandedly. Today, in your testimony, you said that Putin's policies are leading to a clear return to Cold War tactics.

How concerned are you that those tactics could translate into a confrontation between U.S. vessels and a Soviet reconnaissance -- Russian reconnaissance vessel, as you talked about, or bomber patrols, if in fact, they happened?

GEN. KELLY: Yeah.

Q: How concerned are you that a confrontation could escalate, you know, not in the missiles of October type of scale, but -- another JFK had to deal with -- but on a lower level?

GEN. KELLY: I don't think, Tony, much at all. Again, I think they're really just a nuisance to me. I mean, we watch them come, we watch them go.

Very little possibility of them actually having a confrontation with U.S. ships or airplanes because, frankly, I don't have any down there. So -- I didn't mean it to come out quite that way.

(Laughter.)

They last year we saw -- we saw I think for the first time since 2008, we saw a three-ship task force, two cruiser/destroyer type ships and then a kind of a military logistics ship came to the Caribbean. They stopped at Venezuela once or twice. They went up to Cuba once or twice. Went to Nicaragua. Kind of just steamed around a little bit, and then -- and then went back home to Russia.

We had a long-range bomber mission come down, spent a few days there. Hopped around a little bit. Violated some airspace, not ours, but some other country's airspace a couple times. And then it went home.

There -- you know, there's reportedly Nicaragua and a few of those other countries entered into just discussions of agreements, MOUs, if you will, with the Russians so that they could maybe land long-range aviation, refuel, pilot rest, that kind of thing, but not bases or anything like that.

So I don't think there is an issue, Tony.

Q: If the United States and NATO ratchet up the pressure in the Ukraine, arming the Ukrainian military, are you -- are you concerned that Russia in a somewhat tit-for-tat would become more of a nuisance in your part of the world just to show we're there?

GEN. KELLY: Yeah, I think so. But more of a nuisance, not a threat. Maybe increase the number -- and they're very -- I mean, one, really, in the last couple years, but -- but none since -- you know, since 2008 or something.

So you ratchet it up with a few more, you know, bomber missions. That -- that gets people's attention, obviously. Navy ship operations, that kind of thing, just to -- you know, I think he's just kind of making his point that they're still around and, you know, that they can come into what has -- well, into our hemisphere.

But there's very little support from -- you know, the vast majority of the countries like the United States, want to associate with us, like the fact we're equal partners, they want to trade with us.

So "nuisance," again, would be the word I would use.

Q: (off mic) one last question.

Hi, general. Thank you.

Carla Babb, Voice of America.

I had a follow-up on the Islamic State and Islamic extremists that you mentioned.

Now that you've identified a potential weakness, what are you recommending as the solution?

Are you recommending more funding to countries that -- this list includes Venezuela -- to help them track people where we know that they arrest political prisoners? Are you suggesting maybe more ISR sharing with some of these four countries that you identified?

What is the solution to stop the Islamic State from using this -- this loophole to kind of get to the United States?

GEN. KELLY: I mean, really, the solution, I think in many ways, are in place, and that is our CIA, our FBI and the way they interact with their counterparts in various countries, a willingness for all of the countries in the Western Hemisphere, pretty much all of them, to -- to cooperate with the United States and other nations.

So I think the -- I mean, it's -- it's the old story. You got to watch them. And the CIA and the FBI and people like that do a really good job tracking the network.

But, you know, it only takes -- there's -- there's a lot of people coming and going, and it only takes one to -- to cause you problems.

But for me, I -- I -- I continue, to the degree that I can, to partner with countries that want to partner with the United States, which is most of them. I have very, very good relationships.

You know, my -- my intelligence officer has great relationships with all of their intelligence officers. My operations officer has great -- the -- the -- my -- my Navy component commander, two-star out of Mayport, Florida -- he has very close relations with all of the Naval CNOs. And you see the point.

My -- my Army component out of San Antonio, same thing. We have -- we have very, very good friends, mil-to-mil as well as -- mostly, in my case, directly to presidents and -- and ministers of defense, ministers of interior, foreign affairs.

So we're -- that's the solution, I think, the cooperation piece.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Thank you, general --

GEN. KELLY: This is the second to last question.

Q: (inaudible) -- South Korea in the United States in joint military exercises going on right in South Korea recently quoted that missing Navy helicopter sensors during this exercise, as we already know that.

Could you please give details --

GEN. KELLY: I know absolutely nothing about that. Really, I don't know anything about the issue, long way.

Although I do know that the -- the various ships and vessels that are produced in South Korea are considered to be very, very high-quality and is -- South American countries who are in -- in -- in talks with purchasing some of the smaller naval vessels.

So The reputation of your navy shipyards -- or your shipyards are very, very high in the region.

One more?

Q: (off mic) the Russian thing, general.

You'll probably know that we've had quite a lot of fly-bys --(inaudible) -- around the U.K. coast. One of the things that's come out of that is that those aircraft have refused to communicate in any way.

Did you make any -- or your people made any attempt to communicate with these aircraft or ships that have buzzing around in the Caribbean?

GEN. KELLY: Not -- not in Southern Command.

I don't -- I don't -- that would be a better question, really, for the -- the NORAD folks in -- in -- (inaudible).

But they -- once they have entered the the area of operations that I -- that I am responsible for, we did not try to -- and they didn't do anything hazardous. They just flew into national airspace, landed where they landed.

The only in-and-out -- well, there was one country that got a little concerned, but I think they may have just been off-course a little bit.

But no. And there really will be one question.

Go ahead. One more.

Q: Thank you. Julia Harte, the Center for Public Integrity.

My question is about one of the units of SOUTHCOM, the Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University.

My organization published yesterday findings that the center employed, for many years, two professors who are linked to human-rights abuses in Chile and Colombia. And one is now detained in Chile standing trial. The other is still teaching at National Defense University.

I was wondering what your thoughts are on this and if you have any insights into how the vetting process could be improved at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies to avoid such situations --

GEN. KELLY: I mean, Perry Center doesn't work for me; it works, actually -- I'm going to throw them right under the bus -- it works for OSD Policy. I wish it did work for me.

But I did hear about the Chilean. And I -- I don't know about the Colombian, and I certainly don't know how they vet the professors.

But yeah, I mean, I would tell you that -- I am very, very heavily involved in -- in human rights. I -- I -- I meet with human-rights groups here in Washington about every three or four months, large group over at the Perry Center, actually, and spend a couple -- three hours talking to them. They share their concerns.

Sometimes they'll ask me about specific cases, I can pick the phone up and call the ministry of defense in Guatemala or someone else very high up in -- in Honduras and, "Can you give some -- you know, situational awareness on that." But anyway, it's a good dialogue.

And then when I travel to the various countries -- just about every time I go down there to any country, I will sit -- sit -- have a discussion for a couple hours with local human-rights groups.

I was just down in Cartagena. I never know what I'm going to get, but -- I mean -- because they all have kind of specialties.

I was down in Cartagena recently, and two people that were very, very involved in LGBT rights kind of caught me off guard, because it's a big deal, these -- you know, human-rights in general, but LGBT, big deal. I get questions about it.

But it caught me off guard only because it was the first time I have -- you know, had ever sat down and had a long conversation with people that were experts in that field.

Women's rights, there was another couple of representatives. And then Afro Colombians -- I did not know this until I got to this job, but there're probably about 30 percent of Colombians that are -- that are of African descent.

And so it was a lively two-hour conversation, again, getting -- getting an awful lot of situation awareness from them.

What was very interesting to me, and what I get out of these, is, are they talking generally about, say, these rights or violation of rights in the society, or are they talking about the government doing something?

And in the -- in the Colombia case, it's never about, the government is doing this; it's more societal attitudes and how it'll take time to change these things, but -- and that's very telling, because there's other countries you go to that it's -- you know, you got to get the president to stop his people from doing X, Y and Z.

The other thing in -- in Colombia, all of the human-rights complaints tend to be about way in the past or the FARC, which, in my mind, are the most -- I mean, they're just serial -- serial human-rights abusers, have been for most of their existence.

But the good news is, anyways, the Colombian government has got some human-rights issues in the past, and they're working those, investigating them. Guatemala does, as an example. They're investigating them.

But generally speaking, pretty high marks about how things are going today.

In fact, the Hondurans were just taken off the -- kind of the bad-boy list in the OAS, which is a new -- a new thing.

So I don't know if that answers your question.

Back to the vetting, I get this -- I'm sure OSD knows that this other gentleman's working that has -- that has the accusations against him from Colombia. I mean, this is -- this is known, right, that there's a Colombian there has accusations against him?

Q: It is -- it is widely known. The reports -- the human-rights reports about him are publicly available --

GEN. KELLY: I'll double-check with OSD. I mean, they're the boss, so I mean -- but if you say that it's widely known, then it's probably known. There's probably some process they're going through.

But thanks for the question.

Okay. Thanks, everyone.


 

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