PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD -- Asked if the conviction of American journalist Roxana Saberi by an Iranian court constitutes a setback to U.S.-Iran relations, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said ON CAMERA that he "would echo the statement that Secretary Clinton put out on this. The president is deeply disappointed at this news. His thoughts and prayers are with her and her family. And I think we will continue to express the concerns that we have through the Swiss to the Iranian government, and make sure they underscore and understand our deep concern for these actions."
Yes, but is it a "setback?" the reporter pressed.
"Without getting too far into it, I think what we think is important is that the situation be remedied," Gibbs said, "and that without getting too deeply into that, I will leave it at that."
Experts say the cautious language Gibbs and other officials of the Obama administration are using is so as to not make Saberi an even bigger target than she already is. They almost certainly fear that any language elevating her case publicly to what it is privately could make her more of a pawn in the already tense relationship between the U.S. and Iran.
Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications at the White House's National Security Council, added today that he spoke about the matter with President Obama this morning.
"I think that he saw it as a real setback and real disappointment for the family in particular," McDonough said. "He was very struck by how difficult this must be for the family. He underscored our belief that she is wrongly charged. She is an American journalist who has just been practicing journalism."
McDonough added that the U.S. would "be making our views on this particular case known through our intersection with Tehran which is run by the Swiss."
- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller