THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING ON INTERNATIONAL CRIME BY DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY JAMES JOHNSON, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL MARK RICHARD, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE JONATHAN WIENER, AND NSC DIRECTOR FOR GLOBAL ISSUES, FRED ROSA The Briefing Room
11:00 A.M. EDT
MR. RUBIN: Good morning. This is going to be a briefing on the President's International Crime Control Strategy. The speaker will be Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. Also with him is Assistant Secretary of the Treasury James Johnson; Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jonathan Wiener and NSC Director for global issues, Fred Rosa. Thank you.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Good morning. Today, the President announced the release of the United States' first-ever international crime control strategy. The strategy is a blueprint for the United States law enforcement community and our foreign law enforcement partners in the fight against the growing threat of international crime.
The strategy will have a direct and positive effect on our job -- protecting Americans from criminals, both foreign and domestic. It's important to keep in mind that this strategy is not about a distant threat. Every day, United States cities and communities are impacted by international crime, whether in the form of drug-related violence, terrorist attacks, or financial scams that target our elderly citizens.
The growth in international crime is fueled in large part to changes that are fostering economic and political opportunities, improved computer and telecommunications technology, easier movement across national borders and the globalization of trade. The facts speak for themselves, and I'd like to share some facts with you.
Most of the illicit drugs consumed in this country, worth tens of billions of dollars, are grown elsewhere and are brought here by foreign organized crime groups. Two-thirds of all counterfeit currency detected in the United States is created abroad. About 200,000 of the cars stolen in the United States each year, worth over $1 billion, are taken across our land and sea borders. Economic espionage against U.S. businesses, often involving foreign competitors, is increasing.
Computer crime and attacks on our critical infrastructures are up with the method used increasingly, using the Internet. And Americans continue to be the targets of choice for terrorist groups and kidnappers.
These are the clear and present threats we in the law enforcement community are addressing every day. This strategy responds aggressively and forcefully to this threat. The strategy is an innovative action plan that will serve as a road map for a coordinated, long-term attack on international crime. And let me stress that this strategy is the product of an outstanding inter-agency effort to identify the most serious forms of international criminal activity and to reduce their overall impact on Americans.
Can we do more? Of course we can. And the strategy sets the course for our future efforts as well. As the President said today, we cannot win the battle without the continued cooperation of our international partners. But there are certainly things that we can do that are well within our own control. We are already devoting additional resources to the fight against international crime. We are expanding our overseas law enforcement presence, we are increasing the resources devoted to interdiction along our borders. We have created, in February, a national infrastructure protection center, headquartered at the FBI, to counter attacks on our critical infrastructures.
Another thing we can do is to give law enforcement -- federal, state and local -- the additional tools they need in the fight against international criminals -- and the International Crime Control Act is a good start. It would allow for the prosecution here in the United States of organized criminals who victimize Americans abroad and of criminals who commit financial crimes abroad affecting U.S.-based financial institutions.
It would make it easier for our immigration officials do deny entry to suspected narcotics-traffickers and alien-smugglers. The bill will provide new tools to combat contraband smuggling across our borders in both directions, including enhanced border search authority and a new felony that would apply to smugglers who try to evade border inspections by speeding through border checkpoints and endangering law enforcement and civilians. It would make -- that is, the bill -- will make it easier to transfer to the United States defendants and evidence, including witnesses, so we could prosecute crimes committed here in the United States even when the case has international ties that complicate prosecution. And the bill will also provide new authority to investigate computer crime.
We know what the problem is, we know what our job is, and we have a strategy to get us where we want to go. Now, we must move forward in the same cooperative spirit that helped forge the strategy and continue our work toward a better, safer world in which Americans and our friends and allies abroad can prosper in peace.
Thank you, and we would be glad to respond to any questions that you might have.
Q Are all your computers being brought up to date to not have any problem in the year 2000?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Well, that's certainly an administration-wide effort. I can say that the Justice Department is on track with regard to that effort, and it is something that is constantly monitored. The President has made a special effort, the administration has made a special effort so that when we get to the year 2000 all the government's computers will be able to make the appropriate transition.
Q The legislation that you're describing that would make it easier to prosecute criminals who I guess would be overseas, wouldn't that also require some cooperation from other countries? Or, can you go into a little bit more about what the problems are?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOHNSON: Thank you. That's a very good question. We have a variety of methods and techniques to facilitate acquisition of defendants and facilitation of prosecution in the U.S. What the bill will do will enable us to obtain prisoners who have been found extraditable, for example, who are sitting in foreign countries awaiting termination of their sentence before coming here.
The bill, if enacted, will enable us to work with other countries to, in effect, borrow the body for purposes of prosecution in the U.S. and on condition that they be returned for completion of their sentence abroad after the completion of our prosecution.
Q Is that currently barred by U.S. law?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOHNSON: It's not barred, but it requires a special article in a given treaty, and rather than have it solely dictated by treaties -- and we have over 100 treaties -- this statutory authority would enable us to do that absent a treaty provision.
Q Deputy Attorney General Holder, there are seven or eight new proposals in this package; how many require new legislation and how much money are you going to ask to implement them?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: I'm not sure how many just off the top of my head would require new legislation. With regard to money, there is not really the need for new money. There is, contained in the budget request that we have made, and specifically with regard to the Justice Department's budget, the necessary funds to support the effort that the President has announced today.
Q Mr. Holder, in response to the Herman independent counsel decision yesterday, the President said it was required by the act that the independent counsel be appointed. What you know of the thinking behind this, was it that there were facts in the case that required it, or the statute is so strict that there wasn't much choice in terms of --
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: I really wouldn't want to get into that matter. That will be something that is ongoing and I was recused from that matter as well.
Q But you had to know something about how the act itself acts. Is the act so specific, maybe not referring to this case, that it's hard to avoid appointing an independent counsel in a case like this?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: We at the Justice Department look at the act and apply it to the facts and the law -- the facts as we develop them, and the Attorney General makes those decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Q What new authority are you seeking to investigate computer crime?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOHNSON: As you know, the wire-tap statute is applicable to specified offenses. The proposed act would add computer crimes to those lists of authorized predicates, if you will, for acquiring wire-tapping authority.
That is only a portion of the total effort to deal with computer crime. The Attorney General last year met with her counterparts in the G-7, P-8 setting and came up with an action plan for dealing on the international level with computer crime crossing the national boundaries. And that is set forth in the strategy, I believe, articulating the plan and what additional steps that are being taken to respond to computer crimes.
Q Does anyone know why Mayor Barry was at the event this morning?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Well, I think one of the things you have to understand is that although this is an international crime bill, the things that we are attacking, or hope to attack, have a very profound effect on the average American. And that's why I think the Mayor was here as well as members of the D.C. City Council.
One of the things that you have to understand is that in terms of drug-trafficking, that obviously has an effect on a day-to-day basis on the lives of average Americans. The number of cars that are stolen every year obviously has an effect on our insurance rates, among other things; and that is why there were local representatives here as well as members of law enforcement.
Q Will all these ideas be new to the people at the G-8, G-7, whatever it is?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY WEINER: Hi. Jonathan Wiener from the State Department. No, as a matter of fact, we've been discussing most of these ideas within the context of the Eight over the last several years. At the Halifax Summit in Canada some three years ago, the heads of government decided that there were potentially substantial gaps in our international efforts to combat serious transnational organized crime and asked us all to start looking at it -- representatives of State and Justice and Treasury and all of the law enforcement agencies have been working with their counterparts in the three years since then.
And the crime summit that's taking place in Birmingham follows a Lyon summit two years ago where 40 recommendations were adopted by the Eight to combat crime and the Denver summit, where some specific commitments were made to start looking at illicit firearms smuggling, border control and smuggling in people, the need for an international convention to combat transnational organized crime and further steps to take against high-tech crime. And, in fact, I think the Eight will be announcing a series of commitments in that connection following on the commitments made in Denver last year. So this is very much complimentary to the work we're doing multilaterally.
And, in fact, as the President and Vice President both made very clear, these strategies cannot work in isolation. No country -- not even the United States -- can protect itself solely through domestic means. International cooperation is absolutely required to deal with the transnational phenomena. There's no alternative.
Q Are there any countries that are refusing to cooperate?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY WEINER: In fact, what we are building right now is literally a global network of international cooperation. And if you talk about the countries where there is substantial international trade, there is also substantial international cooperation on law enforcement.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOHNSON: I wonder if I could just point out that the International Crime Control Act that will be submitted has significant impact on state and local authorities as well, because they are impacted. It's not just a federal problem, as the Deputy indicated. This is a problem that reaches out to all levels of government and various provisions of the act specifically impact on state and local capabilities, including the ability to acquire fugitives from state and local cases as well as providing a mechanism in order to supplement on a budgetary basis their ability to fund extradition, mutual legal assistance requests abroad.
So it is a bill that contains a variety of provisions that impact significantly, we think, on the ability of state and local officials to respond to this problem.
Q Will the new bill include new measures against drug-trafficking and terrorism? Could you be more specific about it for those?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOHNSON: There are a variety of provisions that will impact on all types of crimes, all serious crimes, including drugs and terrorism. Our provisions for dealing with the extradition, for forfeiture, for dealing with the border protection -- all of these impact on a variety of offenses, including terrorism, drug-trafficking, as well as arms-smuggling and the like. So they're not necessarily just directed at terrorism or drugs, although specific provisions are in that category. But many of the provisions will be applicable to a whole range of crimes, including terrorism and drug-trafficking.
Q You had said -- when I asked you about the appointment of the independent counsel -- I'm sorry -- but you had said that you would look at the facts and apply the law. Was there a difference of opinion in the Justice Department whether, even under the law, the independent counsel is necessary? The Attorney General took until the very last moment. And also, is the law written in such a way that the independent counsel is -- often have to be sought -- I mean, as a former prosecutor looking at the case on the facts, would you without the independent counsel statute have gone forward in a prosecution, say, for instance?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Well, again, I don't want to comment too much on that matter other than to say -- I mean, there is always, within the Department of Justice, a free exchange of ideas and thoughts about a whole variety of matters, among them the independent counsel matters, that we have to consider.
Then again, we just look at the facts as we develop them, look at the law as it has been given to us by Congress and then make the appropriate decision.
One of the things I'd like to just maybe amplify to give you some statistics -- before, people had asked me about why were some local representatives here. If you look at some of the international problems that, as I said, have a local effect, you will see that in 1997, $50 billion -- Americans spent more than $50 billion on cocaine and heroin, all of which originated obviously from abroad; 123 terrorist attacks against U.S. targets worldwide; $1 billion worth of stolen cars taken from the United States. United States companies lost up to $23 billion from the illegal duplication and piracy of films, compact disks, computer software and other things.
So you can see that at that level, this has a very dramatic effect on, as I said, average Americans.
Q Can you tell us where the money is coming from to implement this and how much will it be?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: The money is contained in the budget requests that have been submitted to Congress for Fiscal Year 1999.
Q And how much will that be?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Well, it's embedded money. I guess at least at the Justice Department we have about $280 million I think that has been allotted for this.
Q Why did you have to recuse yourself from the Herman decision?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: I've known --
Q Personal friend?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Yes, I've known Alexis for a number of years. My wife's family has been very close with her for a good number of years. She spoke at my installation as Deputy Attorney General.
Q Mr. Holder, back on the Herman issue. The question of race was brought up yesterday to Mike McCurry, and what are the thoughts about the fact that many minorities in the administration have been probed by the Justice Department? Is there a possibility that race is playing a part in some of these investigations?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: We get allegations, we examine those allegations. The conduct is always examined in a race-neutral way. The decisions that are made by the Attorney General are made in a race-neutral way. Anybody who would look at the record of this Attorney General and the way in which she has conducted herself not only in Washington but in Florida, I think would be hard-pressed to say that anything that she has ever done is done for racial purposes.
Q Just a question generically on the independent counsel law. Do you feel that it does trigger -- that there is a presumption in favor of appointing an independent counsel the way the law is written now?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Don't you guys want to talk about international crime? (Laughter.) I think we obviously -- the act expires in the middle of next year, I guess June of 1999 and I think there are certain parts of the act that we need to look at and see whether or not they need to be redone.
Q Like what? (Laughter.)
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: International crime. International crime.
Q Mr. Holder, do you think it will be renewed next year?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: International crime?
Q No, sir, independent counsel --
Q Mr. Holder, what about --
MR. RUBIN: If there are no more questions on international crime, I think we'll wrap it up.
Q What would you say to Microsoft who continues to say that the government intervention would stop them from developing new technology on the Internet?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: The Justice Department's enforcement efforts with regard to Microsoft have all been designed to give the American people choice when it comes to the computer products that they would select. We have no intention, no desire to in any way inhibit the growth of that very important industry to the nation generally, or to the efforts of Microsoft to grow and to prosper specifically.
Q And when is the Justice Department going to announce its steps against Microsoft?
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: I would not say that we can anticipate that the Justice Department is going to do anything against Microsoft. We are pretty close to making a decision as to what we will do, if anything, in that regard, though.
MR. RUBIN: Okay, thank you very much. I'd like to thank our guests for coming.
END 11:22 A.M. EDT