THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN CONGRESSIONAL MEETING
The Cabinet Room
2:22 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, first let me thank the members of the congressional leadership who are here to discuss this very important issue. I think when the bomb went off in the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, that park literally became our national common ground, a symbol of our common determination to stand against terrorism, domestic or foreign, and to do everything we can to combat it.
We have followed a three-part strategy consistently. First of all, we have worked with our friends around the world to try to increase international cooperation against terrorists and to isolate the states that support terrorism.
Just today in Paris, the G-7 Conference on Terrorism is opening, and I believe after this meeting the Attorney General is going to Paris to represent the United States there. We have intensified our antiterrorism efforts here at home. And I want to again thank the congressional leadership and the members of Congress from both parties that strongly supported the antiterrorism bill and other efforts that we have made to strengthen our hand here at home. And we've had some results -- preventing terrorism actions, catching people who commit terrorist acts. We intend to do more.
The third thing we have done is to increase airport security. And we will be looking at what else we can do through the commission that I've asked the Vice President to head to intensify airport security in the weeks and months ahead.
Again, let me say, if you look around this world -- the Speaker, Senator Lott, Senator Daschle, Mr. Gephardt, Senators Hatch and Biden, Congressman Hyde and Congressman Conyers, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the representatives of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- you can see that when we are attacked, whether it's from within or without, we come together. And that's what we're doing here.
I hope we'll be able to discuss some specific things that we might be able to do to strengthen our hand against terrorism, some things that we proposed before, maybe some other new ideas people have, including some very specific and limited use of wiretaps, perhaps discussion of the taggants issue again and some other issues that will come before us. The main thing is we need to get the very best ideas we can, and we need to move as quickly as we can to do everything we can to try to strengthen this country's hand against terrorism.
And the Speaker made a point the other day which I think is very important, which is that the people who do this thing are always trying to stay ahead of the curve. Whatever we do, they'll try to find some other way to get around it. That means that this has got to be a long, disciplined, concerted, united effort by the United States. And I think we ought to take every tool we can and take every possible advantage we can because this is not going to be easy. But we have shown that we can get results when we work together and do the right thing and the smart thing.
So I'm glad that the leaders are here. I'm looking forward to the conversation. And I'd like to give the Speaker a chance to say a word and Senator Lott, and perhaps the Minority Leaders.
SPEAKER GINGRICH: Well, let me just say that, speaking on behalf of Atlanta and of all of Georgia and of the people who organized the Olympics -- I met yesterday with the team in charge of the investigation and the team in charge of security -- I think that with the federal government involvement and the state and local government involvement and the Olympic Committee, that really a tremendous effort was made before this incident, a tremendous effort has been made since. I appreciate your press conference on Saturday and the work you did. And I think we have people focused back on the Olympics in a very positive way.
But I wanted to come today and say that we want to cooperate in any way we can to ensure that both in terms of international terrorism and the importance of human intelligence and of our capabilities overseas and in terms of domestic terrorism, that we want to work with the administration. This unites all Americans in their commitment to make this country safe and to protect innocent people. And we look forward to having a serious discussion here about how we can work with you to continue to strengthen our ability to deal with these kind of people.
THE PRESIDENT: Senator.
SENATOR LOTT: Well, Mr. President, on behalf of the Senate, we certainly will be looking forward to working with you on this very important issue. Terrorism and acts both at home and abroad that involve terrorists or anybody else, there are many things that we need to do. We passed legislation that we think could be utilized to help improve the situation, the Aviation Security Improvement Act that we passed in 1990. There are still some provisions of that with regard to explosive detection devices that have not been fully implemented. We think that would be helpful with situations here domestically like the TWA incident.
We also think that with regard to the Antiterrorism Act of 1996, there are some more things that we can do, working with the CIA and the FBI and in terms of deportation. There are a number of things that we can do to help address these very critical issues. And we're looking forward to working with you on both domestically and in foreign.
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Gephardt.
REPRESENTATIVE GEPHARDT: Mr. President, being from the home city of TWA, I want to thank you and your people for the work that has been done on TWA Flight 800. Head of the FBI, Louis Freeh, has been in touch with us. Your other people have been out there and have been doing a fabulous job, and we appreciate that.
We will work with you in every way possible. I will urge every Democratic member of the House to vote for whatever legislation can be put together. As quickly as possible we need to address this. It's a test of our country. And whenever our country has been tested we have always met the test. And we're going to do it now.
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Daschle.
SENATOR DASCHLE: Mr. President, I, like the others, want to compliment you and the administration and in particular the FBI for their significant effort they've put forth and the tremendous professionalism they have shown under very difficult circumstances now in two incidences.
Like all of my preceding speakers, I think that it's very important that we try to find a nonpartisan way to try to resolve the many challenges that we face in light of the incidences that have occurred.
I think we be expeditious and not rash, that we be as far-reaching and yet stay within the constitutional bounds that guide us as we make these difficult decisions. I would like to revisit some of the issues that we raised earlier. I think they ought to be reconsidered. I think in a reasonable way we can do so in a fashion that will allow us to work together and in a way that will live up to the expectations of the American people.
Q Mr. President, what more do you need in the way of wiretaps? What about those constitutional bounds?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we shouldn't do anything that violates the Constitution. I think the question is whether, if you have someone that you have a strong suspicion and strong evidence is involved in terrorism who is moving around all the time and the traditional laws governing wiretaps which tie to residence and place of business don't operate. We'll discuss that and we'll be able to talk more about it later.
I think we need to start our meeting now.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:30 P.M. EDT