THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY UNDER SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY FOR ENFORCEMENT RON NOBLE, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL JAMIE GORELICK,
AND DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR DOMESTIC POLICY BRUCE REED
The Briefing Room
6:25 P.M. EDT
MS. GLYNN: Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Bruce Reed and Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement Ron Noble.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: I'm going to brief you on the President's announcement today on the remainder of the legislative package. The President announced, as you know, several elements of the legislative package on Sunday. We've been working at the Justice Department and the Department of Treasury with the White House in the development of additional legislative proposals reflecting cooperation throughout the administration and with the leadership.
The steps that we are taking are: one, to hire and seek the funding to hire approximately 1,000 new agents, prosecutors and other federal law enforcement and support personnel to investigate, deter and prosecute terrorist activity. That, combined with the establishment of a domestic terrorism center, coordinated by the FBI, coordinated with other law enforcement agencies, including the ATF and state and local law enforcement, and working collaboratively with our intelligence agencies are the two most significant things that we can do to address the kind of tragic event that we had in Oklahoma City, and to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
The remainder of the legislation is programmatic. We would seek the passage of legislation within a year to require within a year the inclusion of taggants in standards explosive device raw materials, and that would permit the tracing of materials after an explosion.
We would also require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to study and report on the tagging of explosives and explosive materials for the purpose of identification and detection, to determine whether common chemicals used to manufacture explosives can be rendered inert, and whether controls can be imposed on precursor chemicals that are used to manufacture explosives.
We would also seek to amend the Posse Comitatus Act, which is what constrains the use of the military in law enforcement efforts. Right now, the Posse Comitatus Act contains a provision which allows the military to help law enforcement in the event of a potential use by a criminal of nuclear matter. We would like the same help and assistance with regard to chemical weapons and with regard to biological warfare weapons.
They have the expertise. This is not the sort of assistance from the military that the act was designed to prevent, and we would like to make that explicit. And we would be seeking certain amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which would, consistent with the Constitution, fully consistent with the Constitution and the warrant requirements of the Constitution, enhance the use of electronic surveillance to fight terrorism.
With respect to prosecution, we would seek the amendment of federal law to criminalize the use of all chemical weapons to include all forms of chemical weapons. Right now, we have the ability to attack the use of chemical weapons in gaseous form, but not in solid form. And so if you had a solid tablet, you could not use your chemical weapons prohibitions to prosecute that.
We would make it illegal to possess explosives knowing they are stolen. We have this power with respect to firearms; we do not have it with respect to explosives. We would extend the statute of limitations from three to five years to be consistent with the remainder of similar criminal law provisions to the registration requirements for destructive devices, including explosives and incendiary bombs.
We would provide the Secretary of the Treasury authority to direct the use of Department of Treasury aircraft to support emergency law enforcement situations, and we would amend our reward authority to reduce restrictions on making rewards. Right now, while the State Department, in an international terrorist incident can post a very significant bond, we are limited to a reward -- I'm sorry --we can post an only limited amount -- half a million dollars, and Treasury is similarly limited. We would like to have those limits increased.
With regard to penalties, we would increase the penalty for anyone convicted of transferring either a firearm or an explosive device, knowing that it will be used to commit a crime of violence or a drug-trafficking crime. That is a very significant improvement in the criminal law for us. And we would amend the law to provide enhanced penalties to protect all federal employees against terrorist attacks.
Right now, there are provisions that would create enhanced penalties for terrorist attacks on some federal employees, but not others. That is, generally speaking, the package. I can go into greater detail for any of you who would like me to.
Q With regard to the 1,000 new personnel -- how big an increase would that be in proportion to what you have already doing that kind of work, and two, how does it break down -- FBI, ATF --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: I don't have the breakdown for you, but I can tell you that it would be a substantial increase in the number of personnel that we have in the domestic terrorism area right now.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: I can get that number for you. It would be a substantial increase in the numbers. What I have to find out is what I can disclose to you about how many people we now have in it; that's part of a classified annex to our budget.
Q It's all new people that you're talking about?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Yes.
Q These are all new -- and on the Posse Comitatus -- could you talk about -- specifically, what would the power be? To do what?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Well, right now, we can go to the military services for advice with respect to chemical weapons or biological weapons. But if we have someone who had a cache of chemical weapons and we were trying to take those away, we were trying to disarm that person, we could only get advice from the military; we could not use their considerable expertise, their talent, their equipment, their personnel, to help take those chemical weapons safely. And that is the precise kind of assistance that we would want to have in a circumstance like that. We do not have that expertise --
Q Seize and disarm?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: -- helping to seize, helping to protect an area, helping to protect personnel -- law enforcement personnel who are involved in an operation -- that kind of thing.
Q Which of these proposals might have prevented the Oklahoma incident?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Well, it's very hard to say because of the early stage of this investigation. And I might say, though, that the things that clearly would help us in future similar situations would be more resources and the greatest possible coordination in the sharing of information and intelligence.
Q Let me ask you a question --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: I'm sorry, Ron?
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: Tagging of explosives will help apprehend the people --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Ron Noble suggests, and I agree with him, that tagging of explosives would help us in the detection of -- both in the detection and in the investigative aspect where you have an explosion like this.
Q Well, aren't explosives tagged now? I thought under current law you use taggants, and if the reports were accurate, the fertilizer and the fuel oil that was used in this bomb, they wouldn't have that. But I thought explosive material had to have taggants under present law.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: No, that is not correct. And one of the studies that the BATF would use, would undertake, would be to determine whether you could put taggants in something like a fertilizer, or whether you could render it inert in some way to attack the use of common materials.
Q Would the taggants, would those be included in gunpowder, and if so, won't that sort of send the gun control opponents ballistic?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: You're looking at -- go ahead.
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: To follow up one point first, and then I'll answer yours. For a charge like that which occurred in Oklahoma City usually require preliminary charges of smaller order where you would use explosives that could be detected and traced. And, again, the taggants would help even if you were to use the fertilizer for the major part of the explosion.
And your question?
Q Was whether or not the taggants would be included in gunpowder, and won't that --
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: Right now we're just focusing on explosives. That's what we're focusing on right now.
Q This was a major issue with the NRA a couple of years ago, opposing taggants which I thought had been, after some airplane bombings, had been required.
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: It's not required.
Q Will you seek to rewrite or relax attorney general guidelines that dictate how the FBI can go about launching preliminary investigations or full investigations?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: The guidelines have been in place for 20 years. They were adopted after the Church Committee reported on abuses by the FBI of their investigatory powers. We take them very, very seriously. Every single attorney general has reissued them in some form and they have not changed very much over the years at all. So we would take any change in them as a very serious matter. And as the President has just discussed with the leadership, he wants to consult fully with them on whether any changes would be necessary. We believe that we have considerable authority right now, and we would like to discuss very carefully any changes that might be taken in the guidelines.
Q Can we follow up on that? Is that to say that there is no proposal to change the standard of requiring a reasonable suspicion of criminal evidence before you trigger investigation?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: That is not quite an accurate articulation of the guidelines. The guidelines are quite complex and lengthy, and I can go into them with you. You may have an intelligence investigation, you can have a preliminary -- you can follow leads, you can have a preliminary investigation all before you have a fully predicated criminal investigation. So there is quite a bit that we can do.
But to answer your question directly, there is no pending proposal by this administration to change the guidelines. We are looking at them very seriously, and we will consider any ideas that others may have about changing them. We have not put a proposal on the table.
Q Was there a proposal in an earlier package about contributions to suspected terrorist organizations even their legal aspects, such as a hospital or day care centers, or --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: In the counterterrorism bill that is pending in the House and Senate as to which there will be a hearing tomorrow, there is a proposal for the licensing of certain groups when there is a finding that a group may have an affiliation with a foreign terrorist organization. And that would limit the ability of such a group to fundraise unless the organization could show that the proceeds of that fundraising would not go to terrorist activities.
Q I'm sorry, was that part of the President's proposal?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: That is part of the President's proposal, yes.
Q I want to ask you -- there's been a lot of copycats and false alarms all over the country, scaring people, emptying buildings. Are you all considering stronger criminal action against people that are doing this if you catch them?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Let me tell you --we are pursuing every single threat against federal buildings. We have emptied out more buildings in the past two weeks than I think we ever have probably -- in last week, than we ever have in the history of this country. We are taking every step to protect our employees, but we will take every possible step and pursue all means to get those who are our threatening our employees and disrupting the work of this a nation and frightening the American people.
Q What are the penalties if you catch these people?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: There are ample penalties, and I can lay them out for you. But we have ample authority to punish those who are threatening our people.
Q Has every one of these been a false alarm? Every one of the building emptyings been a false alarm?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Yes, every one of the building -- every one the building threats so far has been a false alarm, but we -- some of them have had a significant level of credibility, and we have taken those very seriously.
Q Did you consult with, or have you gotten any feedback from the civil liberties community on, particularly, the electronic surveillance changes that you've proposed?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: We have been hearing from the civil liberties community. The Attorney General is committed to ensuring that any changes that we propose are fully consistent with the Constitution, are fully consistent with our Constitutional rights, and we will want very carefully to work with those who are concerned about our civil liberties.
We believe that the steps that I have outlined today and that the President announced earlier are fully protective of our Constitutional rights.
Q I am wondering -- on this number five among the items the President has already announced, the presidential decision directive, what will fall in under that, and what do you expect more that the President can direct that's beyond legislative proposals?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: The presidential decision directive under consideration right now is in the classified form. Generically, it would divide up responsibilities among federal agencies for the mission of combatting foreign and domestic terrorism, and make sure that the lines of communication and authority are clear.
Q Is there a due date on that?
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: There will be.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: This is something that is moving along very quickly. It has been somewhat delayed by the fact that those of us in law enforcement who have responsibilities, who would have responsibilities under the presidential decision directive, also have operational responsibilities, and we have asked for a little more time to participate in this decision-making process.
Q Would the electronic surveillance changes permit wire taps without court order?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: No.
Q So the conditions would be the same?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: That is correct. And that is a critically important point, that we are maintaining in every instance the warrant requirement for electronic surveillance.
Q How soon would you start hiring the new agents, and how long would it take to get to 1,000?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: It depends on how quickly we get the funding. If the funding is approved for 1995, we could begin immediately; if it is for 1996, we would begin in the new fiscal year, and that would take, yet again, some additional time to hire. This is part of the dialogue with the leadership about the nature of the funding package and the resources that would be applied to this.
Q And we're talking about $1.5 billion dollars over five years?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Pardon me?
Q How much money are we talking about over five years?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: -- $1.5 billion over five years.
Q Of the agents that you have assigned to anti-terrorist activities now -- and this seems to be a ballpark figure -- is there a percentage breakdown between those assigned to domestic, and those assigned to foreign, and how would the added agents -- those among the 1,000 how much of that changes?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: There is a breakdown. It is currently classified, and I will have to get back to you on what I can tell you about that.
Q Would all of the new agents be for domestic terrorism, as you implied, or would they be --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: That was our intention; to put these resources into the domestic terrorism arena. But as you know, the two are interrelated, and in fact, over the years, within the FBI, we have moved personnel from one to the other, depending on the nature of the threat as assessed. So I would say, in general, they would going to both, or -- focus right now is in the domestic terrorism arena.
Q What direction has that movement then -- just as a follow-up --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: I'm sorry, pardon me?
Q I was just saying, in what direction has that movement been?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Back and forth. And that is, it has gone in both directions.
Q Can you give us a ballpark -- you said it's classified, but can you give us a ballpark of what kind of percentage this is increase? I mean --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: No. All I can do is characterize the increase as very substantial.
Q Have staffing shortages been a problem in pursuing terrorism leads before? Could you describe what sort of difficulties we've had up until now?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: I would say that we have not identified staffing shortages. On the other hand, if you apply more resources in this area, I think you will get more investigative results. And we believe that this is a fruitful area for more resources.
Q Just for a perspective, can you compare this investigation with the 1,000 new you're asking, and with any other investigation that involved hundreds of agents?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: This investigation is the most substantial investigation I think any of us have seen. It involves hundreds and hundreds of FBI agents, hundreds and hundreds of BATF agents. It involves almost -- well I won't count the number, but many, many U.S. Attorney offices around the country, a significant number of people in the Oklahoma Attorney's office and a degree of cooperation that is simply extraordinary. This experience is one that we have taken to heart in assessing what additional resources we may need in the future.
Q Could you clarify the $1.5 billion over five years? Is that just for the new agents and prosecutors, or is that for the whole package?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: That's for the whole package, and it includes -- that includes the assistance to Oklahoma City; it includes the costs of our resources across the government to address the Oklahoma City bombing; it includes the costs of the initiatives, including funding the digital telephony; it includes a wide range of needs, including the initiatives -- paying for the initiatives that the President outlined today.
Bruce, do you want to add to that?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT REED: No.
Q But not the new building?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Not the new building.
Q Secretary Noble, I'm sorry, could you just tell us the status of the Treasury Security Review and when it's likely to come over to the President, and what it says?
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: It'll be coming over to the President very soon. And I can only tell you, just to comfort you and other Americans, that all interim steps that have been required to be taken, have been taken. So there's nothing being held up because the review has not yet been finalized. Okay? We're going through a process of not only completing it, but trying to de- classify it so that we can have the public report come out fairly quickly after the classified report.
Q Was it amended in the wake of Oklahoma City? Was the reviewed changed in any way?
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: No. No, we have been thinking about the problem of Oklahoma City since the review began. So we were not surprised that sort of threat could occur in the most general fashion, but we, of course, had no information about Oklahoma City specifically.
Q For Secretary Noble, a few months -- a few weeks back that the House gave extended search and seizure authority to everybody except ATF, there have been the newspaper ads by the NRA, now you may have been the targets of this explosion. I mean, what's the sentiment over at your shop right now? I mean, people must be pretty shaken, I mean --
UNDER SECRETARY NOBLE: Well, I think the target of this criminal act was the entire federal government, a federal building that embraced 550 employees. There were only 14 ATF employees, so we view it as an attack on the American people, generally. With regard to our view or feelings about ATF, as my colleague Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick has already said, we have ATF personnel investigating this case, tracking down every lead, side by side with the FBI, so we're very proud of the very hard work they do. We find it unfortunate that anyone would criticize federal law enforcement officials that are sworn to uphold the law that members of Congress pass and the President signed. Thank you.
Q Just a technical question. The 1,000 employees, is some of that to staff the new domestic counterterrorism center that the President --
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: Yes. Yes, indeed.
Q And how many people does that center --
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL GORELICK: I can get that number for you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END6:50 P.M. EDT