THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Tallahassee, Florida)
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY The State Capitol Tallahassee, Florida
9:45 A.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: What's going on? What do you guys want to know about?
Q Guatemala and Haiti.
MR. MCCURRY: Guatemala. We're going to have, before we depart here we'll have a statement by the White House Press Secretary that will say, among other things, that the President, upon arrival in Tallahassee last night asked the Intelligence Oversight Board to conduct a government-wide review of any and all aspects of the allegations surrounding the 1990 death of Michael Devine, and the 1992 disapperance of Ephraim Bamaca Velasquez, and may make some reference to additional Americans who are believed to have been murdered in Guatemala.
Q How many?
MR. MCCURRY: He has asked the board to consult with the CIA and Justice Department Inspectors General who are now conducting an inquiry into these matters; we've told you about that on a prior occasion. The State Deparment's Executive Secretary has also been reviewing State Department documents and information related to these matters.
The President has asked the Intelligence Oversight Board to determine the facts surrounding these cases and make recommendations based on its findings. The President is concerned about allegations surrounding these incidents, and he's committed to determining all related facts. Once the findings are complete, the President intends to take any and all appropriate action and to provide to the American public as much information about the review as possible. The statement that we'll have will have a little more background on the IOB and how it's -- I think, if I'm not mistaken, is a subcommittee of PFIAB, which is the Intelligence Advisory Board.
Q What about the allegations of document-shredding and documents being destroyed?
MR. MCCURRY: There are allegations that have been raised by Congressman Torricelli, as some of you know, and among other things, the President is obviously very concerned about those allegations. The President has taken appropriate steps to secure documents and information relating to these incidents, and the Justice Department is pursuing the allegations that have been raised by the Congressman.
Q What about these other murders? We're about to have a speech; I don't think we can wait for the paper. Can you --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have further details on that now. We'll see how that --
Q Do you have any numbers?
MR. MCCURRY: No. There was a -- for those of you who got copies of The New York Times, there's an op-ed piece in The New York Times that walks through some of that.
Q Walks through the other murders?
MR. MCCURRY: Just one other additional case.
Q What do you know about it?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing.
Q Has there been any order from the President about agencies stopping any document destruction?
MR. MCCURRY: The President instructed the National Security Advisor to inform all relevant agencies that they were to take immediate steps to secure any documents and information related to these allegations and to the incidents that are subject to the review now being conducted by the Inspectors General.
Q Mike, is it the case that the U.S. does believe that there were other Americans, or there is just the possibility that that might --
MR. MCCURRY: Just allegations raised that the President would like to get additional information on. These are all --
Q By who, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Just take a look at the op-ed piece in The New York Times; you'll get a good idea.
Q Mike, what about military spending? Has it been definitely stopped to Guatemala, or did that continue in --
MR. MCCURRY: We've -- most military assistance training through the IMET program, which is how we provide military assistance programs, had been cut. We cut the additional remaining amounts in March after the State Department issued its statement.
Q What about liaison expenses to the Guatemalan military from the CIA?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information I can share on that.
Q Mike, did the President act after he heard about the Torricelli letter on NSH stationery?
MR. MCCURRY: White House officials met with Congressman Torricelli yesterday and reviewed the substance of the allegations and then developed a plan of action that they reviewed with the President last night, which the President approved.
Q Who met with Torricelli?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe the Chief of Staff did. There were others, too. I think Tony Lake did, and there may have been some other White House --
Q Who is the head of the Oversight Board?
MR. MCCURRY: We're checking on that right now. Former Secretary Aspin is head of PFIAB, I think, but I don't believe -- there's someone else is the head of this subunit, which is the Intelligence Oversight Board.
Q Did you say in this op-ed piece they talk about murders or another murder?
MR. MCCURRY: There was another case described in that, and that just is cause of some concern at the White House today.
Q Is it about one murder, or --
MR. MCCURRY: Just take at the -- I haven't seen it myself; just take a look at it.
Q Mike, on the Haiti murder, the assassination of Durocher Bertin, what is the status of that now? The FBI is investigating and it's --
MR. MCCURRY: Jill's question is about the murder of Ms. Bertin in Haiti. I can confirm that information was developed by U.S. forces participating in a multinational force that led to the arrest and apprehension of several individuals in Haiti. The Haitian government, based on the information provided by the multinational force informed Ms. Bertin that she was the target of an assassination plot, and I think as you know, as a result of her murder, President Aristide requested from the United States law enforcement assistance in responding to that request. The Attorney General Directed an FBI team to go to Haiti. That team is, I believe, now in Haiti, cooperating with Haitian law enforcement officials.
Q She was a Cedras supporter, and so the allegation is that this was Aristide's own people who were carrying out this assassination.
MR. MCCURRY: The identity of those who committed the murder is unknown.
Q The people who were arrested, how many are they, and do they belong to any particular group?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if they belong to any particular group. I believe -- I'd have to check and see how many. It was several. I believe it was three, but I'm not entirely certain it was three.
Q Are they known to be close to some political groups or some factions?
MR. MCCURRY: They have a variety of associations which are now being examined by Haitian law enforcement officials in cooperation with the FBI.
Q There was one report that the people picked up by the Ameicans told the Americans that there was an Aristide faction involved. Can you confirm that?
MR. MCCCURRY: They made some allegations related to sponsorship of the plot, and those allegations are now being investigated.
QAllegations that there were people involved --in the Aristide government --
MR. MCCURRY: They made some allegations of that nature that are now being examined.
Q Will Clinton talk about this with Aristide on Friday, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: The general subject of violence and the need for national reconciliation has been the constant theme with President Aristide, and has been a constant subject of dialogue between our two governments.
Q What's the intent of the speech?
MR. MCCURRY: This is a great opportunity for the President to review both the economic progress that's been made in the South, summarizing some of the results of the conference yesterday, and then also look ahead to the need to reinvent government, to provide states with the type of flexibility that they need to reform welfare, to address both economic and social concerns, and the President will be reviewing those subjects, and maybe even in a speech that we might get a text of.
Q And how did the choice of Florida, this state house come up?
MR. MCCURRY: He was invited after the Governor had discussions with the legislative leadership, the invitation was extended by the Governor to address the Legislature, and that seemed like a dandy idea to the President.
Q Is that his word, "dandy"?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it might be something like that.
What else is going on?
Q Are we on background?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I want to put this -- I think you all know the wires are moving stuff attributed to a Senior White House Official. I'd like to move it over and put it on the record on my name, and we'll have a statement coming out shortly.
QOn the Guatemalan --
MR. MCCURRY: Just on the Guatemalan stuff, yes. And all this is on the record.
Q On the Guatemala stuff, are you on background or on the record?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm on the record.
Q Any word on the Americans shot in Haiti?
MR. MCCURRY: The two missionaries? No. They are looking into that now. The multinational force has been cooperating with law enforcement officials. There's nothing that would suggest that - - nothing at this point that would suggest that this should be within the province of the work that the FBI team is doing.
Q Mike, this -- just to clarify, this Intelligence Oversight Board? Is this a presidentially-appointed board?
MR. MCCURRY: The Intelligence Oversight Board, we're getting more information on that. I believe it's a standing committee of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, PFIAB. And the Board is charged with a lot of things, but it reports -- makes recommendations on intelligence matters referred to by the President. It is sort of the oversight board for the intelligence community -- and the conduct of intelligence- gathering activities. They've looked at a variety of issues in past years related to U.S. intelligence activity.
Q Is the FBI involved in the investigation of this -- already address that?
MR. MCCURRY: They have been at the -- the President asked the Justice Department to look into allegations that have been raised by Congressman Torricelli, and I believe as a result of that, the Attorney General has instructed the FBI to look into those issues.
Q What else?
MR. MCCURRY: As soon as we can get a speech. Baer was out with the President working on the speech this morning. I think it's a TelePrompTer speech. We're hoping we're going to actually get a true text of this since we've got to bolt out of here pretty quickly, so stay tuned.
END 9:52 A.M. EST