THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DIRECTOR OF THE DRUG POLICY COUNCIL, GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION FEDERICO PENA AND MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The President has just finished a very enthusiastic meeting of his Drug Policy Council, and I've asked General Barry McCaffrey, the President's Drug Control Policy Director, to brief you on that, along with Secretary of Transportation Pena, who's got an important role in some of the announcements you heard the President mention earlier.
The President, I think it's safe to say, charged up his team today and really put in motion some of the things that will be critical for our overall strategy. And it's a good opportunity for the General to walk through some of that and then for the Secretary to address some of the specific things that relate to transportation safety issues arising from some of the legalization questions.
But it's a pleasure, as always, to have both of you here.
Q Mike, will you be available to answer questions on camera when they're done?
MR. MCCURRY: Shortly, briefly, yes.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me, if I may, follow up on what Mike said. We had what I thought was a very important session with the second meeting of the Drug Cabinet Council this morning. We put this together shortly after I was sworn in. It's a notion that there will be a continuing body which will organize coherent U.S. government approaches to the drug issue. Today was the second meeting.
I asked the President to endorse, to articulate a strategy for the next four years. What we asked him to address was the national drug strategy, number one, to get some sense of perspective that this is not an election year issue, that this is a 10-year issue. I asked him to schedule, I might add, the Drug Cabinet Council meeting for early December, and I presented that notion to him in September -- to demonstrate that prior to the beginning of the next administration, regardless of the outcome of the election, we were going to take a longer-term view of this.
We had, during the course of the more than hour meeting, we had seven of the Cabinet officers present, formally, some of their notions on how their department can act in a positive, aggressive manner on the drug strategy. And I'd be glad to respond to your own questions on that.
And the group that I asked to not directly present their ideas in this session because I need another opportunity, is the goals four and five of our national drug strategy which deals with the air, land and sea defense of our borders from the drug threat, and from those policies in which we will go after both foreign and domestic sources of drugs. It's just another huge area of complexity. As many of you know, there's tremendous energy -- we had Bob Kramek, the Coast Commandant, present. It's just an $800-million a-year Department of Defense effort, and there's a considerable amount of the I&L State Department focus on particularly source countries like Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Burma and Laos, Afghanistan, the places where the preponderance of heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine come from.
It was a good session and I think it got us off on some very serious work. Now, I also asked the President for his continued guidance to all of us on Proposition 200-215. It's a problem. It's a threat to the national drug strategy. As many of you remember, we had referendum that passed in California -- 32 million people -- and in Arizona -- four million people. In California it was marijuana. In Arizona it was all Schedule 1 drugs -- methamphetamine, heroin, LSD -- and it purported to be a medical use of these Schedule 1 drugs. Of course, it's in violation of federal law. And federal law is unaffected by those two referendum.
Now, we're trying to sort out what the most prudent, balanced way to move ahead is. I've told the President we owe him a coherent package prior to Christmas. There's obviously some very difficult legal issues to think through, but all the Cabinet's involved in that effort.
We're concerned -- I'm concerned, the President's concerned about two things principally. One is children. We've got adolescent drug use in America up by more than 100 percent. Youth attitude's turned around in about 1990 and it's going to get worse before it gets better. And we are persuaded by the evidence, from Columbia University in particular, that drug use among adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 is gateway behavior to addictive problems in life. Some of the statistics, although you can't demonstrate the causal linkage, are overwhelming -- 85 times more likely to use cocaine if you have smoked marijuana as an adolescent.
So we're concerned about Proposition 200-215 impact on drug by children. We saw this in Alaska when by a Supreme Court decision they legalized personal possession of small amounts of marijuana. Drug use doubled among kids.
The second thing we're concerned about is the American people have in place a scientific medical process to approve drugs for use by the medical community and it produces safe and effective medicines. It involves the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration and DEA. And we don't want that scientific medical process to be violated. We want to preserve that approach to protect the American people. Those are the two principal concerns, and we will move ahead on it in the weeks to come.
Now, Secretary Pena and I have been in serious consultations on the first of the steps we will announce in response to 200-215. He's looked at the transportation industry, one that in the last few years has made remarkable progress in increasing its safety and efficiency in a drug-free environment. Now, with your permission, let me just let Secretary Pena make his own announcement.
SECRETARY PENA: Thank you very much, General.
Let me, before I address that question, say that the session we had with the President today was extraordinary because of the fact that every Cabinet member and agency that has a role to play in the five-part drug strategy the General has developed has been meeting with the President. This is our second meeting. And I don't recall another time in the history of this government where we have seen all of the departments and all the agency heads working together on this strategy. And I think that is why we're beginning to see some results. So I want to publicly commend the General for his excellent leadership and the way he has brought us all together with the President.
Today, we are emphasizing and reaffirming the laws of the Federal Transportation Drug program, that they will continue to be fully enforced without any effect whatsoever from the passage of California Proposition 215 and Arizona Proposition 200. This very clear warning means that any safety-sensitive transportation worker, such as a pilot, a railroad engineer or a bus driver, who test positive under our program may not use Proposition 215 or Proposition 200 as an excuse or a defense. If you are entrusted with the safety of the traveling public and you test positive, these propositions don't mean a thing; you will be removed.
Let me explain a few details about the federal testing program and why this message is so important. Since 1988, the Department of Transportation has mandated drug testing for employees in transportation industries. Our aim is twofold: deter drug use and ensure the highest possible levels of safety in our national transportation system for the millions of Americans who use it every day.
We require testing in several situations. For example, we require preemployment testing. That means that anyone who wants to be a truck driver, for example, must pass a drug test in order to get a commercial driver's license. Secondly, we require random testing from either 25 percent to 50 percent of all employees, such as airline pilots, mass transit vehicles operators, ship captains, et cetera. And finally, we require testing of employees in these industries anytime that they're involved in any serious accident. So that means that when there's a train derailment, the engineer must be tested. When there's a serious truck accident on a highway, the driver must be tested.
In all, over 8 million workers in airline, rail, trucking and other industries are subject to this drug testing program. It is the largest such program in the world and a model for the world.
So today, the Department of Transportation is issuing a national advisory to all of our industries making our position very clear. These propositions, which were recently passed, do not change a thing for transportation workers covered under our federal laws.
As the President has said time and time again, the people of our country want drug abuse stopped and it must be stopped. We are sending a clear message today to the nation and to the 8 million safety-sensitive transportation workers that these propositions will have no effect on our antidrug, pro-safety testing program. So if you are using drugs, you are endangering the public, yourself and your employment.
I'd be happy to answer questions of clarification, but perhaps the General may want to add a few points.
Q Could you tell us in what specific ways you consider the Mexican antidrug team better or stronger than the one that was dismissed by the Mexico government?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: They're stronger than the --
Q The one that was dismissed.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: The new Attorney General. Well, I'm not in charge of the selection of senior officers for the Mexican government. We've noted with enormous favor the fact that the new attorney general he's appointed, Mr. Jorge Madrazo, is a fellow whose reputation internally in Mexico and in the world community is excellent. He's a guy of tremendous integrity. He's a human rights activist, a legal scholar. He's got a long track record. And so we're going to deal with him as a positive force.
The last Attorney General, Lozano, was an honest man, made great efforts to root out corruption, which is part of the counterdrug effort on both sides of the border, so we treated him with a lot of respect also. The equivalent of the DEA in Mexico, the new head of that is a General Gutierrez Rabollo. He comes to this job with seven years of field command where we've watched his record. We think he's a soldier of tremendous integrity and energy and focus. He made two of the major busts on drug gangs in Mexico. We look forward to working with him.
The third of our high-level Contact Group meetings, which President Clinton and President Zedillo instructed us to start this process, to achieve concrete results, we think marks continued progress on this issue which threatens --
Q Is the federal government bringing in the drugs?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Is the federal government bringing the drugs into the United States?
Q -- repeatedly charged and made in different ways in the press and by individuals lately, and I think that is what we ought to -- you ought to tell us.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes. Well, I've been in uniform since 17 trying to defend the country, so it seems unlikely that I'm involved in it. But I don't know, I've been wounded three times trying to protect the American people and I am reasonably --
Q Well, sir, that's not --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Now, wait, you got to ask the question, but I get to answer them, don't I? Yes. So the answer is, no. I'm enormously proud of the federal government effort in trying to defend the American people. Admiral Bob Kramek, our interdiction coordinator; and I; the DEA head, Tom Constantine; the FBI Director -- we are extremely serious and focused on this problem.
Thank you for that question.
Q What about CIA, sir? You didn't say -- General?
Q What would you like to see President Clinton do about the California proposition?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, the question was, what should the President do about Proposition 200-215. We've asked all the Cabinet officers to look at their own department, because what is clear is federal law is unaffected. It has no impact at all on the process by which the FDA certifies drugs. Secretary Pena has just announced that it will have no impact on 8 million transportation workers. But having said that, it's put the states into a legal quagmire and no one is quite sure how law enforcement officials -- what do we do about Medicare and Medicaid? What do we do about the Disabled Workers Act? What do we do about matching funds? If drug addiction goes up in California, does that mean we give them more money to reward a sort of dysfunctional behavior. We've got some very serious legal issues.
Now, what is clear is that federal law is unaffected. What is not clear is what's the most prudent, balanced way for the Attorney General and the law enforcement apparatus to respond.
Q What would you suggest?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I think what we have to do is make clear that there are two crown jewels that we're protecting. One is the medical-scientific process by which we certify drugs is safe and effective for the American people. That shouldn't be an argument between people like me and Mr. Peron. It should be a National Institute of Health, Federal Drug Administration question. The American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, the American Cancer Institute and others have said, look, smoked pot is not a legitimate medicine. The process is open, though. I think we need to make that point.
The second thing we're enormously concerned about is drug use among adolescents. We've got 10.8 percent of American youngsters, by our last data source, now regularly using drugs. We believe, particularly Secretary Shalala and I, that we will see an enormous increase down the line, in five or 10 years, of addicted young Americans if we don't address gateway drug behavior. And so, those are the two things I would suggest that I'm most concerned about.
Q So you asked the President to speak out on it or what kind of action --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Indeed. He has spoken out on it and he just did again. And now he's instructed all of us to move ahead -- I'm going to give him a package -- he holds me accountable for giving him a package prior to Christmas with a more broad-ranged set of recommendations. We've talked to state authorities, we're trying to listen to those who have a viewpoint, and give him some solid answers.
Q In the area of transportation law, is the announcement that you're making today in response to actual claims of defense that have been made, or is this a preemptive move or something? In other words, have you seen the problem surface?
SECRETARY PENA: Not yet, but it's a preemptive move to warn and advise all those transportation workers who may think in those two states that by going to a doctor and getting some kind of excuse, that now they can drive a bus or fly a plan or whatever. And I want everyone to know right now that they are not defenses, they cannot be used. The federal law prevails. And so we're trying to make sure we don't have a problem, and that's the nature of today's announcement.
Q Mr. Secretary, have you considered another step here to require the states to do drug testing to get a driver's license in return for if they don't, you would withhold highway funds?
SECRETARY PENA: I think you know the President asked me about a month and a half ago to come back next month with our recommendations on how to address that question. And specifically, the question is that for young Americans who want to apply for a driver's license, should there be some kind of drug testing requirement -- and we're evaluating that and other options and I'll be presenting that recommendation to the President next month.
Q What are the issues there? Is one of them the legal right? You certainly have the legal right to withhold funds from the states if they chose not to do this.
SECRETARY PENA: I'd rather not get into all of the specifics of it because it's a very broad and complicated issue. But they range from everything from what to do with a young person, for example, who fails the drug test and, of course, rights of privacy, et cetera, and of course, sources of funds that go to states today who refuse to pass that kind of state regiment. So those are the wide range of options we're pursuing and evaluating, but we haven't made a decision, haven't made a recommendation. We'll be doing that next month.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me sort of add to that, because I think Secretary Pena's announcement exemplifies what we're concerned about. We're not going to shoot from the hip on these issues. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice, but Mr. Constantine specifically has to sort out what are we going to do about physicians. You may not prescribe a Schedule 1 drug without a waiver from the DEA. If you do, you're putting yourself at risk as a physician. So we're going to try and puzzle through that one and make sure we come out not with a preemptive notice, but with one that states the position of federal law, and will do that prior to Christmas on all of these areas, and there are a bunch of issues involved in it.
Q -- reports that Cuba is cooperating with the United States, sending some cocaine and that some Cuban officials are going to come here to testify. Can you confirm this, there is more cooperation by Cuba on drug-trafficking?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: We have a tremendous, permanent threat through the Caribbean on smuggling of cocaine and heroin. As many of you are aware -- the figure we cite is 30 percent of the drugs smuggled into the United States on the southern axis come in through the Caribbean approach -- a lot of it through Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands.
The centerpiece of what we're doing is a DEA-Coast Guard and Governor of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands effort to close the back door to the United States. And if you've seen the Coast Guard Commandant's press releases, we've made astonishing tactical progress. We also are aware that Cuban coastal waters and, in some cases, air space is used as a transit by some drug smugglers.
My own view is, so far that's not a principal threat. But these people are looking for fissures, the drug criminals, and Cuba could become another challenge. But that's -- to be blunt, that's all I'd like to say at this time. We simply have to protect, not only Florida, but the United States from drugs smuggled through the Caribbean. And it's continuing.
Q General, have you moved forward on the idea of deputizing local and state officials to seize marijuana or to arrest people?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: That is another concept the Department of Justice has to look at. They have not -- we have not gotten a package of recommendations out of the Department of Justice yet. But it's another possibility. You're quite right.
Q Secretary Pena, could you elaborate on specifically how you're going to notify all these MROs and DOT-covered workers about your policy?
SECRETARY PENA: Sure. I'm not sure everybody knows what an MRO is, but basically it's the doctor who has a responsibility for the company to certify whether or not someone has a legitimate defense.
Number one, we're issuing an advisory today, a written advisory, to all of the industry representatives. I have people from the Department of Transportation who will be doing that today. You may have a copy of it here. We'll hand that out for you. That's number one.
But having this announcement today I hope we'll begin to get that message out to people and to employees in particular who may be thinking in those two states that perhaps if they get this kind of excuse from a doctor, they now have a defense or a waiver. They do not. And we want to make sure we don't have any misunderstandings about that. So that's the nature of today's announcement.
Q Are you doing anything beyond this announcement today? I mean, other than this?
SECRETARY PENA: No, we'll be mailing the advisory out. We'll be having conversations with a number of state and local representatives. It will be a full-blown effort to communicate this with everybody involved in this in the transportation sector.
Q General, are you saying that Mexico is doing a better job interdicting in working against illegal drugs or you feel that they have the potential to do a better job?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me be unequivocal. We think that Mexican authorities are doing a much better job, a more coherent job, focused job. We have formed binational task forces along the border. Three of them -- they've stood up, they're funded on both sides of the border. We have finally gotten our mobility package through Congress. We have sent twenty helicopters to the Mexican armed forces. Hopefully, 53 more will follow, with spare parts and training programs. We have made some very serious offers which we're now implementing on administration of justice training. We have implemented much better intelligence sharing so we can tell Mexican authorities when their air space or sea space is going to be violated by international criminals, allow them to defend themselves. We believe they have made major efforts to root out corruption in the federal police force. And we have formed a partnership where we are going to make a difference.
Now, I don't believe that's a Pollyanna-ish view on my part. We are aware of the enormous corrosive effect of $30 billion of drug money, and we think it's a tremendous challenge to both of us. But we think these are serious people and they're trying to protect the Mexican people. Now, in public, we're trying to do this with some sense of mutual dignity and respect for one another. I suggest the time for finger-pointing is over, and the time for more of a sense of cooperation is the theme for the future.
We will be explicit when we find either side has shortcomings in our performance. For example, they are enormously disappointed at Proposition 200 and 215 as a signal of our seriousness to confront the drug issue. But my judgment -- these are serious people. The Mexican armed forces have destroyed more illegal drugs than any other body on the face of the Earth. I'm talking heroin production and marijuana, primarily. And they understand methamphetamines is a threat to their children as well as ours.
Q How much of the meeting today focused on Mexico?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: As I said, I tried to not do the Defense, State and other pieces of it today. It's such a big area, there's such tremendous energy in it. And I'll have another session on that. Today, the seven presentations were HHS, Education, Transportation, HUD, Agriculture, Treasury. So that whole team effort tried to explain to the President --
Q Was the CIA represented? The Federal Intelligence Agency?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes, yes. I'm familiar with it. Okay, thank you very much.
Q One question on Mexico, please. Do you see that the last assassinations in Mexico, the family of --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes, I'm familiar with the case.
Q Okay. Do you think that is an example that narco-terrorism is emerging in Mexico like in Colombia?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Look, this is serious business. There have been 24 major assassinations in the border community. There have been over 200 Mexican police officers killed. There are 21,000 Mexican soldiers in the field right now confronting the drug issue. But I should add, we've had 1,400 U.S. police officers killed or wounded last year, many of them relating to drug-related crime. We had 20,000 dead on this issue last year. So this is not amateur sports we're playing. This criminal enterprise that we're confronting is about as big a threat to our national security and the health of our families as any other issue on the table. And we think the Mexicans view it the same way.
Thanks very much.
MR. MCCURRY: Someone had one other question on another subject. Yes?
Q Is it going to be hard to find a replacement for Jack Quinn?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, it certainly will be. The question was, will it be hard to find a new White House Legal Counsel with the departure of Jack Quinn. It will be. He has been enormously helpful to the President, but more importantly to all of those at the White House who need to be absolutely sure that procedures are followed and that we address every question with the utmost scrutiny of the law that the President expects. But the President will certainly find someone who can match Jack's unsurpassed character and ability in dealing with the issues that the Counsel's Office addresses.
Q AP just reported that the President has decided to ask Janet Reno to stay on if she wants to.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President indicated to you much more authoritatively a short while ago that he intends to meet with those Cabinet members that he has not met with. He has not yet met with her and doesn't plan to meet with her until tonight or tomorrow. Most likely, much later today.
Q Does he want her to stay?
MR. MCCURRY: They were going to have a conversation about it, and we'll report to you on that conversation when it occurs or the President, himself, will report on it when he's made a decision.
Q What's the President's goal for the news conference tomorrow in terms of having appointments to announce?
MR. MCCURRY: Get out alive. (Laughter.) His goal in appointments -- he's been working hard on Cabinet-related personnel issues. He has been focusing principally on the economic team. I expect he'll have some more to say on that tomorrow.
Q Mike, can you repeat again for camera what you said this morning about the contingency plans involving Iraq, Iran?
MR. MCCURRY: I can say that there is an investigation ongoing into the Khobar bombing. How to respond to the law enforcement effort underway is a matter the President would consider once there are conclusions made in that investigation. The investigation is ongoing. There are no conclusions. Therefore, the President has not yet considered any steps that he might take as a result of that investigation. He is certainly prepared to do so, but he'll do so after a meticulous review of the law enforcement record and conclusions that are based soundly on law and the jurisprudence standards of the United States.
Q Mike, what's the President's thinking on LIHEAP? Is it going to be cut, eliminated? Exactly where does he stand on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, on --
Q On LIHEAP, the energy assistance program.
MR. MCCURRY: We handled that yesterday. There are a lot of things floating around about the budget process. The President fought the last Congress, the majority in the last Congress, to save that program because it was targeted for elimination, and the President remains committed to a program very vital to provide assistance to the elderly. But we also recognize we have to manage those types of programs prudently, and there are various discussions underway now amongst the President's budget officials about what type of recommended funding levels to submit to the Congress in February.
Q Are you saying that the Office of Management and Budget is looking in the wrong areas to find ways to balance the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm saying that they're looking -- they are under a mandate -- mandatory spending, discretionary spending anyhow. They've got to look for ways to fit the domestic social spending we need into the box that says balanced budget by a date certain. That's hard work. And it is going to require some tradeoffs, but it's far too early in this process to speculate how it's going to affect by line individual programs like that one.
Q Is it possible to balance the budget without touching programs for the poor?
MR. MCCURRY: Without touching them?
Q Without cutting them significantly?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's --
Q I mean further than they've already been cut.
MR. MCCURRY: Many of those programs have been scaled back. Some have, in fact, been cut. But the budget is a big animal and you can wrestle it to the ground by touching many of its parts. (Laughter.) That didn't work, did it?
Q I had a little trouble hearing you earlier when you were talking about Janet Reno. You said that the President would be meeting --
MR. MCCURRY: I mumbled.
Q -- meeting with her later today and that there may be an announcement today?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no I didn't -- I said exactly to the contrary. I said I didn't expect any announcements on the remaining Cabinet positions today. I indicated the President's been working on his economic team. The President told you earlier that he's got some appointments with current members of the Cabinet that he has not yet seen, the Attorney General among them, and that we would have more to report on that at a later date. My guess is not -- certainly not before tomorrow and maybe not even tomorrow.
Q Does the President want to keep Janet Reno on?
MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered already.
Q I believe it was General McCaffrey, early in the administration, who, when walking into the White House and meeting a young woman, was told, I don't talk to the military. Was her identity ever established?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea. That happened a long time ago in any event, but you can tell the respect with which we hold him now.
Q Where does the President come down on the issue of the use of using drugs that are normally classified as illegal drugs for pain alleviation and things of that sort, medical uses? I understand the President's attitude about Prop 200 and 209, but there are some things the doctors want to use.
MR. MCCURRY: That is the specific context in which he expressed disfavor with that idea. And as General McCaffrey just indicated, we have great faith in the process that exists for bringing prescribed drugs on-line for the benefit of the health needs of the American people.
Q Mike, if the President were not trying to at least send a signal to Attorney General Reno or leave her twisting in the wind, what have you, why wouldn't he take advantage of the opportunity today to say even one kind word about her when given that opportunity?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, look, he's had an opportunity to have kind words with her. He talked to her on Tuesday night and had a nice conversation with her before she made her oral argument in the Supreme Court yesterday.
Q But isn't the issue, Mike, that the public --
MR. MCCURRY: He has not said -- look, he has chosen --he has not said anything about Bruce Babbitt, he has not said anything about Carol Browner, he's not said anything publicly about Dick Riley.
Q What about Bruce Babbitt? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: And the reason is because the President believes that it's -- he's got great respect and affection for the members of his Cabinet, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, a lot of those that he has not yet had a chance to sit and talk to. And it's very reasonable to expect that the President would want to sit down and talk to them, review the progress of the last four years, talk about plans for the next four years, and then make some decisions and make some announcements.
Q Mike, he spoke to her Tuesday --
MR. MCCURRY: He called her Tuesday night to wish her well for the oral argument that she made in the Supreme Court yesterday, which went very well.
Q And they did not discuss anything else?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, no. They agreed that they would get together later in the week and have a longer conversation.
Q Is he going to have all these meetings finished by the press conference tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll see. Good question to ask tomorrow.
Q Mike, is there any real thought being given here at the White House to us going to war with Iran, and would that stop terrorism?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any plans or discussions here about declaring war on Iran.
MR. MCCURRY: All right. Good. See you tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:50 P.M. EST