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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 29, 1996
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY


The Briefing Room

1:00 P.M. EDT

MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are going to open this afternoon's briefing with a special briefing on the ministerial meeting on terrorism of the 8, which will take place tomorrow in Paris by the delegation led by Attorney General Reno. Your briefing today is going to be on that issue. Your briefers are Samuel Berger, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Philip Wilcox, the Ambassador-at-large for Counterterrorism; and Mark Richard, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International Enforcement in the Criminal Division.


MR. BERGER: Let me begin this by putting the meeting tomorrow in a little broader context and then ask Mark Richard and Phil Wilcox to go through with you the substantive agenda for the meeting.

As the President said yesterday in his speech, the fight against terrorism necessarily takes place on a number of fronts at the same time. On the domestic side, we are continuing the unrelenting effort to identify and apprehend and punish the perpetrators of these acts. As you know, those investigations are proceeding, and we are confident that, just as in the case of Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center, if there are criminal acts involved we will get to the bottom of them and we will hold accountable those responsible.

Also on the domestic front, we have moved to continue to strengthen our capacity to combat terrorism. As you know, on April 24th, the President signed legislation strengthening the powers of our domestic law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism. That law was on the Hill for some period of time and a number of the provisions that we had proposed in that legislation fell by the wayside in the course of its consideration.

Later this afternoon, the President, as you know, will be meeting with the congressional leadership to discuss and hopefully seek agreement on a package of additional measures that were not acted upon earlier by the Congress that could strengthen further our domestic law enforcement capacity to deal with these kinds of threats.

And we will, as the President has made clear, continue to tighten the security measures here at home. That's why the President announced the measures he did last Thursday with respect to airport security and asked the Vice President to undertake to chair a commission to report back very quickly on further security measures that may be appropriate.

At the same time we do what we need to do on the domestic side, we know increasingly that this is a global challenge which requires an unprecedented degree of international cooperation. The problems that we have faced here are manifest as well on the streets of Moscow and Tel Aviv and Tokyo and throughout Europe and elsewhere. And therefore, dealing with the threat of terrorism requires a growing level of collective action.

The meeting in Paris tomorrow, the ministerial meeting, which will be led -- the American delegation -- by Attorney General Reno, with Under Secretary Tarnoff and others, is the latest step in an effort that has been underway now for -- since really the beginning of this administration to increase the level of international cooperation to deal with this global threat.

Let me just briefly describe the background of this meeting tomorrow. You'll recall that as we were getting ready to leave for the G-7 summit in Lyon, we had the tragic bombing in Saudi Arabia, the Khobar Tower bombing. And the President determined that he would seek to make terrorism the number one item on the Lyon summit, on the G-7, P-8 summit in Lyon that took place immediately thereafter in the last week of June.

A number of actions that had been under discussion by experts groups that deal generally with law enforcement cooperation on international crime, generally -- whether that's drug-trafficking, international criminal cartels, terrorism, things like greater cooperation on extradition, money-laundering, border measures -- were adopted by the leaders at Lyon. And at the same time, the President, with the support of President Chirac, asked that a ministerial meeting take place as quickly as possible, by the end of July -- this was the last week of June -- to talk about further steps specifically focused on terrorism that could be undertaken by the international community, that could be endorsed by the eight leading nations, both in terms of measures they could take together and measures they could seek others to take.

Over the past four weeks, there has been a very intensive effort at an expert level to develop further measures, working with our other partners in the 8, and as a result of that, some two dozen measures have emerged, which Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Richard will discuss in more detail, that we hope will be adopted by the ministers meeting tomorrow in Paris. I will not describe those. I'll leave that to Mark and Phil, who have been working on this over the past several weeks.

Let me just say, finally, in putting this into broader context, that the Paris meeting is yet another step, another important step, in an on-going and intensifying effort by this President and this administration to step up the battle against terrorism. That effort has included successful operations to locate and return terrorists to the United States who have been identified around the world; steady, professional, investigative efforts that have led to the arrest and prosecutions on key terrorist cases such as Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center; heading off major terrorist incidents before they have taken place, including the plot to disrupt New York City and the alleged plot by Ramzi Yousef involving airline incidents; a heightened degree of cooperation in the Middle East regions, particularly with Israel and with our Arab partners, specifically to intensify our bilateral cooperation with those countries in seeking to hunt down and find terrorists; a much stronger FBI internationally which now has the FBI working in 40 countries on counterterrorism efforts; a beefed-up CIA counterterrorism effort and increased pressure that we have placed on state sponsors of terrorism with the economic sanctions that we have imposed on Iran and Sudan and others. And the -- we're working with Congress now to enact further legislation with respect to Iran, Libya, which the President expects to sign in the next several days.

Let me just say finally that there are no magic bullets in this effort. This certainly cannot create a risk-free world. But the steady, unrelenting leadership from the United States, and from President Clinton in particular, both on the domestic and the international front will continue, A, to find those responsible and punish them; B, to enhance the safety of the American people; and, C, to preserve the freedom of the American people.

With that background, let me ask Phil Wilcox and Mark Richard to talk specifically about the issues and items that will be discussed in Paris tomorrow. Phil Wilcox first.

AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Thank you, Sandy.

We have learned over the decades, as have our allies, that while tough domestic counterterrorism policy and legislation is critical, we can't go it alone. And as a result, there has been an increasing tempo of international cooperation in counterterrorism, much of which takes place at a discreet level among diplomats, law enforcement officials and intelligence officials. It's a kind of cooperation that the Group of Seven has been concerned with since its inception and it's taken a major role in this area.

             The success of this activity, this kind of international 
cooperation, as Sandy Berger mentioned, was reflected in     our 

ability to bring to justice the World Trade Center suspects and those who associated with Sheik Abdul Rahman in the conspiracy to bomb public installations in New York. And there are many other examples.

The purpose of the meeting tomorrow is to add to a whole series and a whole network of international cooperative measures in an aggressive way. All of these nations are affected by terrorism. All of them realize that more must be done.

There will be two special themes which we hope will emerge from this meeting -- much greater attention to transportation security and to the threat of terrorist bombing. Terrorist bombings are the weapon of choice among terrorists. Our nation and many others have been assaulted by a series of terrorist bombings over the past year. And so around these two themes there will be a number of practical initiatives that we will promote and which will flow from this meeting.

I'd like to ask Mark Richard to address the topic of transportation and security and the practical measures that we want to see emerge from that debate.

Q Could I just ask you a question? While you talk about all this wonderful cooperation, the U.S. has identified the people who are believed to be responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103; yet they still haven't been turned over and the country that is harboring them continues to have economic relationships with a lot of our allies. How can you say that you have all this terrific international cooperation when there's something so concrete that's not being done?

AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Bringing to justice the suspects in Pan Am 103 is indeed unfinished business. There is an unprecedented regime of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Libya which has isolated Libya and prevented it from further acts of terrorism. But we won't be satisfied until those two defendants appear in court and are prosecuted and convicted.

Q When you say prevented from further acts of terrorism, are you positive, are you assured that Libya had nothing to do with the TWA -- downing of the TWA flight? Do you know that for a fact?

AMBASSADOR WILCOX: I'm not going to get into the TWA flight, but as a result of our unilateral and multilateral sanctions, Syria is no longer a major player in state-sponsored terrorism.

Let me ask Mark Richard to talk about some of the measures.

Q Syria is no longer a player in --

AMBASSADOR WILCOX: Libya is no longer a major player because it has been isolated. But Libya is still on our list of state sponsors of terrorism and it will remain there until it changes its policies.

MR. RICHARD: Thank you, Phil.

Let me say that we in the enforcement arena and elsewhere in the administration have demonstrated by our actions that we have a long memory and we do not forget these instances and that's been reflected by our recent conviction of Mr. Rezak (phonetic) in the District of Columbia for a terrorist act committed in the early '80s, and our ability, through cooperation at the international level to secure his apprehension while he attempted to return to safe haven in a North African location. So it is a situation where, as I said, we have a long memory and do not forget and continually try to effectuate apprehensions through a variety of devices and means.

Let me say that with respect to our efforts in Paris we will, as Mr. Wilcox indicated, focus among other things in the issue of safety of mass transportation. Here we have in the international regime a variety of mechanisms, conventions and the like, focusing on primarily aircraft and maritime transportation. We now want to expand that scope and reach others, as well as improve additional mechanisms dealing with aircraft and maritime security.

In this regard, we will be convening a meeting of transportation safety experts for just this purpose of sharing information in mechanisms for securing both ground and air transportation.

We will also be asking the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, to negotiate and implement uniform international standards for bomb detection and screening procedures at international and domestic airports. In a similar vein, we will be urging the International Maritime Organization to establish uniform security standards.

We will be also focusing at the suggestion of the FBI on specific investigative tools that will enhance our ability to rapidly identify and capture terrorists. In this regard, not just for an investigative objective, but also for humanitarian purposes, we will be seeking the standardization of passengers manifests. We want to ensure that we have rapid retrieval, accurate names, countries of origin, final destination, method of payment, identification of travel documents and the like for all traveling passengers.

Likewise, we want to standardize cargo manifests around the world for the same very reason. We want to also establish an international regime for vehicle identification. The majority of vehicles are currently produced in the P-8 nations, and yet there is no mechanism, no standardization of methods for identifying vehicles.

As many of you know, in the U.S. we have a limited regime, a statutory regime, expanded upon by our automakers dealing with identification of specific vehicles and specific major component parts. We want to standardize this. This will assist us in the course of investigating the nature of explosions after they occur.

Q Do you mean --

MR. RICHARD: Yes, major part -- major components. This aids in a variety of investigative avenues that have to be explored after the fact. These are some of the mechanisms that we will be employing, utilizing in the course of tomorrow's meeting.

We will also be seeking to establish and explore the feasibility of establishing a forensic database for use by all nations. And this -- the Attorney General has directed the FBI to explore the establishment of such a database and to report back on its feasibility to her within 90 days. Assuming that it is feasible, we will then seek to engage our P-8 partners in the enforcement community and at the ministerial level to see whether there is interest in establishing such an international database. We will start, at best, with an international fingerprint database directed at international terrorists, and if it's feasible thereafter expanded to other forensic areas.

Q It will record the fingerprints of convicted terrorists or --

MR. RICHARD: No, others. It doesn't have to be convicted. For example --

Q All the FBI fingerprints would be dumped into an international database?

MR. RICHARD: No, what will be dumped here, on a voluntary basis, for example, are fingerprints of terrorists that have been identified in Middle East countries, for example -- fingerprints picked up, maybe not necessarily even identified but associated with other terrorist incidents around the world, and have them in our database, notwithstanding the fact that they may not, on a specific incident, have a U.S. connection. These are specifics that are being explored and if it is viable we will try to implement them shortly after the study is completed.

Phil, I think we'll go into the second thing.

Q Could you just go over just one more time the thing that you said -- talk about the uniform procedures for screening and uniform security standards, tell us a little bit more about that?

MR. RICHARD: Yes. Right now, I mean, there is no uniform international standards for screening people entering airports and the like. There are a variety of mechanisms that are in place, but there is no uniform international standard. We want to standardize that process.

Q And did you say that would be for domestic as well as for international flights?

MR. RICHARD: Yes, yes.

Q And cargo? Better checking of cargo?

MR. RICHARD: Yes, especially with respect to the articulation of cargo manifests. Having the ability to articulate reliable items that are going into cargo holds are critical. The fact that you have a reliable, easily retrievable manifest regime not only enables an investigation to continue and proceed apace, but it also serves as a deterrent once it is appreciated that this is a mechanism that is difficult to circumvent and will easily, basically lead back to the perpetrators.

Q Why do you want uniform standards for bomb detection and checking people coming in and out of airports? Why should that be uniform?

MR. RICHARD: Why should it be uniform?

Q Yes, how does that help you?

MR. RICHARD: Well, I think it -- from a prevention and predictability point of view it is very desirable to ensure that there are minimum standards employed all around the world. We have American nationals traveling all over the world; it is not sufficient to just simply say that we rely on host countries to employ whatever standards they think are adequate. We want to ensure that there is agreement that there is a baseline standard employed all over the world.

Q A question, Sandy. What do you expect out of tomorrow? Do you want a statement from all these countries that sign on to the specifics, or just more talk?

MR. BERGER: No, I think what's expected tomorrow is agreement to a set of steps, many of which will be self-executing, some of which will have follow-up mechanisms that will be built into them, we hope. That is, the experts will come back with specific measures by so and so. So we expect tomorrow for the ministers to adopt some concrete measures, some commitments that they will undertake with respect to their own countries in terms of increasing their own domestic measures and some steps that we can take together that will have some follow-up mechanisms.

Q Sandy, I'd like to follow up on Rita's question. How do you expect to put a dent into terrorism when you cannot get a unified front in combatting and isolating state-sponsored terrorism and those states that sponsor the terrorism?

MR. BERGER: Well, there's no question that -- in this constellation of issues that are involved in terrorism, state sponsorship of terrorism is one very important dimension of it. We have been, and the President in particular has been, very, very firm and forceful from the very beginning about the need for the United States and our allies to take stronger measures with respect to Iran, with respect to other countries that are engaged in state-sponsored terrorism. We, ourselves, have acted in the case of Iran to place, essentially, virtually an economic embargo on Iran.

We expect our allies to do more, and we have pressed them -- there is almost no meeting that takes place with this President and a foreign leader in which this subject does not come up.

The President this week will sign legislation which will go a step further with respect to Iran and Libya, legislation that we have worked on cooperatively with the Congress. Not all of our allies are happy about that legislation, but we believe that with respect in particular to these two countries, and in particular to Iran, that business as usual is not appropriate; that we want to put increasing pressure on that government; and where, in the case of Libya, for example, companies -- foreign companies are violating the U.N. sanctions, then the United States is prepared to take some actions with respect to those companies. Where, in the case of Iran, companies are engaged in new investment in the energy sector of Iran, we believe that some U.S. actions may be appropriate to put pressure on them not to provide that support.

Q Mr. Wilcox just indicated that Libya isn't really much of a problem anymore. I'm not sure what the administration's position is here.

MR. BERGER: Well, Libya is a problem, first of all, until the suspect of Pan Am 103 are turned over, until there is full compliance with the U.N. sanctions. We have met frequently with the families of Pan Am 103. Until we can meet with them and say that we have satisfaction in terms of turning over the suspects of that terrible crime, Libya will continue and is a problem. I think what Mr. Wilcox was saying is that the fact here is that the international pressure on Libya probably has had some effect on its behavior in terms of isolating it.

Q Sandy, at the meeting tomorrow, will the United States press for greater allied cooperation in cracking down on state sponsors of terrorism?

MR. BERGER: I think that will come up. I think this meeting tomorrow is focused primarily on law enforcement measures; that is, ways in which -- since this is a combination of foreign ministers and interior ministers and justice ministers, I think the focus will be there primarily on the kinds of specific, concrete, cooperative law enforcement measures, extradition steps, criminalizing certain behavior in countries that are not now criminalized -- very practical steps. And we will continue to pursue the issue of state-sponsored terrorism on a number of different fronts.

Q As you concentrate the way you do on techniques and physical matters, do you ever discuss among yourselves why someone wants to blow up something, why the enemy is motivated to do what the enemy does?

MR. BERGER: You know, I think there are a lot of different reasons for that. I think there are crazy people, number one. Number two, I think there are politically-motivated groups and people who seek to, for example, destroy the peace process in the Middle East and create a divide between us and our allies. I think there's a broad -- this is a multifaceted problem; it has many faces, some domestic, some foreign. There's no single answer. There's no magic bullet, as I said before. There's no single profile. It's a complicated challenge, but America has faced difficult challenges before. We've met them and we will meet this challenge, as well.

Q Can you give us any color on an investigation that exists that has been frustrated because of the lack of a forensics database or the lack of uniform international vehicle codes?

MR. BERGER: Well, I will -- I suspect that my colleagues here will not want to speculate about particular cases. I will give them that opportunity, if they would like.

Q It would help us make it concrete in some way.

MR. RICHARD: You can appreciate that where you have car bombs and other types of vehicles used in the course of terrorist incidents that are destroyed in whole or in part, obviously, tracing that vehicle, establishing its identity, who purchased it and so forth becomes a critical investigative lead to explore. And the ease in which you can accomplish that from an investigative point of view is critical, critical in terms and timing and the like. So, I mean, you can imagine a variety of scenarios where the ability to trace immediately the vehicle used would be of significant importance.

Q Was that key in the Dhahran bombing, for example?

MR. RICHARD: I can't go into specific cases, but I can assure you it's a real and not hypothetical issue.

Q You went over the transportation security measures you plan. What about -- you also mentioned, I think, Mr. Wilcox, terrorist bombings was the second focus. What are you going to seek there?

AMBASSADOR WILCOX: There are now 10 international treaties and conventions on various kinds of terrorism. There's a big gap in this regime. There is no treaty which addresses terrorist bombings in general. And we hope that this meeting will agree to begin work on a treaty of that kind. That treaty would oblige nations to extradite or prosecute terrorist bombers of all kinds. It would require them to help each other. It would make terrorist bombing an international crime. There's a big need for this, so we think that will be a step forward.

There's also a big need for increased investment in research and development into explosives detection technology. And we think that the aid will also call for this.

In recent days we have read a lot about taggants, and our law enforcement officials for a long time have been looking for ways to place markers, or taggants as they're called, in explosive substances so that in investigating acts of terrorism by bombing, they can trace the origin of the explosives. This is another subject which will come up at the meeting and where we think the ministers will take action.

Q Is it true, as some claim, that by placing chemical taggants in explosives makes the explosive more unstable and volatile? Has that been proven?

AMBASSADOR WILCOX: That's a technical issue. I think we're doing research into the taggants issue ourselves, and we have told our allies that we will pleased to share with them the results of our research. We're asking them to deal with this issue as well.

Q Is that research completed?

AMBASSADOR WILCOX: I don't believe it is.

END 1:35 P.M. EDT