|Tuesday, 18 February 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-09-24
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
September 24, 2001
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm not going to make any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Are there any steps being taken at embassies that you could tell us about? I mean, any scaling down of personnel, any changes, and while we're at it, any phone calls by the Secretary? The usual.
MR. BOUCHER: The usual daily rundown? Phone calls by the Secretary. He talked to Foreign Minister Peres this morning. I don't know how much we have told you about the weekend's phone calls; he talked to Prime Minister Sharon and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw on Sunday, and Saturday I have to look up. Saturday, he talked to Foreign Minister Peres and the President of Turkmenistan.
I think he is now up to 100 phone calls in the last two weeks to foreign ministers and leaders of foreign governments. He is now up to 100 phone calls in the last two weeks, all this devoted to trying to build the coalition, get the support, as well as to work on very important issues like the Middle East peace process. You know he has worked very hard to encourage a meeting between Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat, and to see that the meeting could be made effective and useful to both sides. We will continue to do that, to try to encourage them to work together in that fashion.
As for your other question about embassies and consulates, all US embassies and consulates are open. There are some posts in Pakistan which had been closed that are open again. The majority of posts are providing full services, a. handful providing limited service.
Obviously, all our posts continue to exercise a lot of caution. They are all on high alert. They are all being very careful about their security and keeping their security under continuous review. Posts have also kept in touch with the local American communities and, in cases where there is security information or where even the post had to close so that services wouldn't be available, they have used warden messages to get out to the American communities about where they stand.
In terms of authorized departure, that is where we allow families and non- emergency personnel to leave post and the government pays their tickets, obviously, to come back, we have several posts that are on that status. We have the posts in Pakistan: Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. We have Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, Sanaa in Yemen, and Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic. We have issued travel warnings for all these places to indicate to the American public that there is some reasonable concern about security, that people need to be careful and should, like we have, consider leaving if they don't absolutely need to be there.
So that is pretty much the daily rundown on those things, Barry.
QUESTION: Richard, I realize they say why they are being issued in each one. But can you say from the podium that the warnings were being issued for two reasons, one because of the threat from bin Laden-related terrorist acts, but also because of any possible US retaliation?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say from the podium that each of these warnings explains very clearly what it is about and why, and I am not going to try to generalize or accept somebody else's words.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate on the Secretary's words of yesterday about this white paper, or whatever you want to call it, that might be sent to countries to justify…
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to -- I don't think there is much to elaborate at this point. First of all, the Secretary didn't use the phrase "white paper." He talked about a paper or a document in the near future. Dr. Rice yesterday talked about laying out the evidence to friends, allies, the American people and others. She talked about making the case and those sorts of things. So we do intend to put out information.
I think the Secretary and the President both discussed this again this morning and said that, first of all, we have an abundance of evidence from law enforcement and intelligence that indicates very clearly to us who did this. Second of all, we always remember that Usama bin Laden and his organization, al-Qaida, have already been indicted for various crimes before, especially the bombings of our embassies in East Africa. So there is no question that they are responsible for those actions in our mind.
And third, we have a lot of intelligence and law enforcement cooperation with foreign governments, so I think the case is becoming better known internationally to other governments. We do want to make available information to the publics and to other foreign governments, and that is what the Secretary and the President talked about this morning, making that information available as we can, when we can. But people should not conclude from what Dr. Rice or the Secretary said yesterday, or he and the President said today, that we're on the verge of some imminent release of a so-called "white paper."
QUESTION: Can you give us some sort of a timeline on when you think this information might be released?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you a real timeline at this point. I think the Secretary sort of said this morning that as we find information that is unclassified, we'll try to make it available. There's no particular fixed date or target at this point for doing that in a big show or anything.
QUESTION: My question relates to the Presidential Determination of 22 September, Removal of Sanctions against India and Pakistan. Can you confirm that in the case of Pakistan, sanctions under Glenn, which is 102, Symington, which is 101, and Pressler, which is 620.E.E, have been waived?
MR. BOUCHER: Boy, you're more familiar with American law than I am. (Laughter.) Let me go through this -- and the answer is, yes. First of all, we are continuing to work very closely with Pakistan's Government on combating terrorism. What the President waived were the nuclear-related sanctions on Pakistan and India.
As many of you know, we have been talking about this, considering this step for months. We think it's an important step forward in being able to pursue our goals with Pakistan, to be able to support Pakistan and to cooperate more easily with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.
The sanctions that were imposed after Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998 under the Glenn Amendment, those have been waived; the sanctions imposed under the Pressler Amendment in 1990 have been waived; and the sanctions imposed under the Symington Amendment in 1978 by President Carter, those have been waived as well.
Pakistan remains subject to Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act because of the military coup in October 1999, so that prohibits certain things with Pakistan. And then there are also missile sanctions in place.
But what I would point out is that the lifting of these sanctions allows us to do some things very quickly and very immediately to support Pakistan, and we will continue to look at the other provisions of law and see what we might do so that we have flexibility in working with Pakistan and India.
In terms of the specifics, there's an IMF standby arrangement that comes up for a vote on Wednesday, September 26, two days from now. The IMF standby is the third tranche arrangements for $136 million and we will be able to support that and vote for that because we have waived these sanctions.
In addition, there are things like the provision of spare parts for military goods that we will be able to look at now that we weren't before the waiver of the sanctions. And, as I said, we will look at the other pieces of legislation in place. We are talking to the Congress about how to get the ability to move forward with Pakistan and with India.
QUESTION: Would you have been compelled to vote against this tranche if they hadn't been waived?
MR. BOUCHER: The Glenn Amendment required US opposition to lending by international financial institutions for purposes other than basic human needs. So that would have required a vote against this.
QUESTION: What is India's role in all of this? What consideration is being given India so far as sanctions and so far as a role in the campaign? And, you know, should I call it the ugly notion that India and Israel can't be too prominent in that if the US expects to have the support of Pakistan and other Moslem countries? Could you address that?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to give you a particular specific description of each government involved in this coalition. I think --
QUESTION: No -- Pakistan --
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of places are important.
First of all, we have waived these nuclear sanctions vis-à-vis India, as well as vis-à-vis Pakistan; that we have for a long time had a growing relationship with India, a very important relationship with India; and I think, if I remember correctly, when Mr. Armitage was in India earlier this year, he in fact said that we were looking at waiving these sanctions, vis- à-vis India. We did it again with Pakistan as well.
We want to cooperate with every country. Every country will contribute probably in a different way, as the President and Secretary said. In some cases it will be information. In some cases it will be law enforcement. In some cases it will be financial. We are moving forward today with the financial restrictions that the President announced, and we're going out to foreign governments through our embassies to work with them on that. So it will be different in different places.
India, obviously, is an important country, and we look forward to working with them.
QUESTION: When you said you were going to talk with Congress about the sanctions on Pakistan, the remaining sanctions, are you talking about seeking some mechanism to waive the 508 sanctions which, according to the texts, appear not to be waivable in their present form?
MR. BOUCHER: That is one of the things we'll be looking at. We have consulted with the Congress on the various sanctions and the various ways of going forward to give the President the flexibility that he needs to be able to work with India and Pakistan, and so that's obviously something we have to look at. I don't have a decision on that yet, whether -- if we do decide to propose legislation, because it would require legislation. We'll try to tell you when we do.
QUESTION: It would require legislation?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can I just have a quick follow-up? Those 508 sanctions, as I understand it, cover all foreign assistance; is that right? Or is it all non-humanitarian --
MR. BOUCHER: They prohibit both military and economic assistance to Pakistan. I think there is a humanitarian clause, if I remember correctly. But I'd have to double-check the law.
QUESTION: Richard, until a few weeks ago, the thought of having all of the sanctions waived against Pakistan was considered to be highly unlikely. Is there a message in this to other countries that currently have sanctions in place against them -- similar sanctions
-- that as long as they cooperate with the US in this war against terrorism, a similar outcome waits for them?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the problem is with the word "similar." I don't know that any country has similar sanctions against them. I can't think of anybody else.
QUESTION: China. With China, and export control sanctions.
MR. BOUCHER: Nobody else is subject to these nuclear sanctions that we just waived. I would have to go through my Rolodex and figure out what other countries might be subject to the overthrow of the democratic government sanctions that apply to Pakistan.
So in many cases this is different. And there are cases where there are, for example, the missile export sanctions which applied to entities in both China and Pakistan. Those have not been waived. So we have different relationships with different governments.
I do think, though, that the fundamental question you're asking about is true, that we intend to support those who support us. We intend to work with those governments that work with us in this fight. And this has become, as the President and the Secretary have said, very, very important to the United States, but to all the civilized world. We will join together, and we will help each other in this fight.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) national security advisor is here this week. Does he have any meetings in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check. I don't know.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on the sanctions? Two things. One is, what happens to the entities list? And does the lifting of the non-nuclear sanctions mean that the entitites list will be wiped off?
And secondly, there were some sanctions, even before the nuclear sanctions, dual-use technology; what happens to those?
And I wonder whether it's possible to get somebody here to explain in detail what exactly are the sanctions lifted and what sanctions remain?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I just told you in detail what are the -- oh, on India? You want the same kind of list on India?
QUESTION: On an entities list (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Some of this is Treasury business, and I'm going to have to check and see if we can get from them that kind of information on the entities list because I don't know what that list, as it's referred to, was actually attached to, which set of regulations.
But I will check for you, and I will see if I can get you the same kind of list for India on what sanctions are waived, and what restrictions might remain. Okay?
QUESTION: Secondly, what about the dual-use technology?
MR. BOUCHER: I will look at that as we go forward.
QUESTION: On the same subject, there was a report this morning that the administration wants to lift a number of other restrictions on foreign aid and arms exports, particularly human rights restrictions. Can you tell us whether that's true?
MR. BOUCHER: The President said this morning we weren't going to do that. That is not where we are headed.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) we are told that Pressler, Symington and Glenn are also lifted. At least that is what the Embassy is saying.
MR. BOUCHER: That is what I just said.
QUESTION: Okay, and I was a little late. The other thing is that when Pressler was interpreted for F-16s, it was said that commercial sales are included as part of assistance, because all these amendments are to the Foreign Assistance Act. So I am slightly confused. What is the difference between 508 economic and military aid? You know, because it is redundant because then Pakistan will not be able to buy anything until Pressler has been lifted.
MR. BOUCHER: My understanding --
QUESTION: -- you call it aid. (Inaudible) you call it aid. So that's --
MR. BOUCHER: My understanding, which I just explained, was that the lifting of these sanctions would allow us to authorize the commercial sale of spare parts for the military, for example, so that commercial sales would become possible.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the US helping states that support it, could that extend to, for instance, Middle Eastern countries that are currently on the list of states supporting terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you should build too many images out of this. There are sanctions, there are restrictions in place that we would intend to follow. We certainly do believe it's a moment at which states that have been on the terrorism list can take the final steps and break their ties, and do what it takes to fully terminate their support for terrorism or terrorist groups or terrorists who might be living there. Were they to do that, then one would consider taking them off. But at this point, don't imagine that we would be able to go beyond that law.
QUESTION: Richard, can you describe the conversation between the Secretary and Foreign Secretary Straw, particularly whether the visit to Tehran came up? And also, are you getting any signs that Tehran, in addition to sending welcome signals about support for the US campaign on terrorism, is coming through on the other half of the equation, meaning changing at all its views and sponsorship of the groups that worry the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary talked to Foreign Secretary Straw on Sunday. They discussed, I think, a number of issues including Straw's upcoming visit to Iran. We did not ask him to take any particular message from us. But I think we look forward to hearing what transpires in those discussions.
As far as some broader appreciation of where Iran stands on these issues right now, I don't think I have anything new to say for you.
QUESTION: Back to Pakistan for a second. Can you tell us, give us an update of the State Department wing of the interagency team that was supposed to go to Pakistan and apparently now is not going to Pakistan? Does that team still exist? Can you tell us a little bit more about what they are trying to do, in lieu of going over there, how they are going to contact their counterparts?
MR. BOUCHER: The State Department is flying on one wing to Pakistan. The image is wonderful.
Let me try to explain this to you. The Secretary had talked about sending an interagency delegation to Pakistan. At this point there is no set composition, timing or delegation. In fact, it looks like we may not do that in the immediate future. The goal of an interagency group was to make sure that each of our agencies was working closely with its Pakistani counterpart, and frankly that seems to be taking place without the need for an interagency delegation. So at this point there's nothing set on that.
QUESTION: Is there still an informal grouping in the State Department that's just working on this issue, that has other kinds of contacts with their Pakistani counterparts?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, throughout the US Government, we have contacts with our Pakistani counterparts. I am sure the counter-terrorism people are talking to the counter-terrorism people, the finance people are talking to the finance people, and on down the line. And that is the point of getting a group together to go out there. It doesn't seem that we need to make that trip in order to establish the kind of cooperation across the board, up and down in these various sectors that we want to have.
QUESTION: With respect to various terrorism bases that are supposedly in some of the countries we're trying to work with, if a country says one thing and actually keeps these terrorist bases open, are we giving -- meaning the State Department diplomatically -- a prescribed length of time for those to close down and to dismantle those networks? Or are we going to start implementing diplomatic sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the President and the Secretary have both made quite clear we are looking for actions, not just words. We're looking for actions by countries around the world, and we are very gratified to see the countries around the world have been taking actions, actions either law enforcement effort, actions to share information, actions to squash the financing of these groups -- I think Japan and Switzerland have taken some steps in that regard -- actions such as the one the UAE took to close down the Taliban representation.
So we are seeing a lot of action in a lot of places. We will look for action by others as well. And in the circumstances you have described, if there are states that appear to be tolerating the activities of these terrorist groups, we would expect action from them as well.
At what point do we decide to start moving against them? I think that is not going to be the same in each instance. But clearly the Secretary and the President have made clear that we expect people to be with us and to take action.
QUESTION: Are you saying terrorist-sponsored -- that group, states that sponsor terrorism, some of them have taken action that we find favorable? Since the President said as of this moment, we will consider hostile countries -- we will consider as hostile countries that support terrorism -- carried away with his rhetoric --
MR. BOUCHER: That continue to support --
QUESTION: -- it sounded like that night was the marker, that countries are either for us or against us. And still I see the US soliciting countries that are listed as sponsors of terrorism. So either they changed their habits overnight -- the Secretary said we're looking for them to come to their senses. Has anybody come to their senses lately in that prescribed list of seven countries? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Do we have more?
QUESTION: This is a question that's got to be asked. We've been dancing around -- not you, but you know, it's been danced around for -- since the speech.
MR. BOUCHER: Since which speech, Barry?
QUESTION: The President's.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, okay. Since you want to quote the President, let's quote the President accurately. The President said "against states that continue to support terrorism", right?
QUESTION: We will consider hostile -- we will consider them hostile.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. "Continue to support terrorism" was his quote.
MR. BOUCHER: I am not in a position to go through every country in specific terms. We have taken the position all around the world that individual governments would have to say what they're doing and would leave it to them to make their announcements on their own behalf.
But I would say that we have seen action around the world from different countries. We know of a great many actions taken by governments around the world, and many of these are not visible in the public arena yet. But those include states of all kinds, some of our closest allies and some of the countries that we have not been so friendly with.
QUESTION: Does that include states that are designated as sponsors of terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go that far, because that gets to a small group of countries, and then we only have to go through a list, which I am not prepared to do.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the conversation with the President of Turkmenistan? And then I have another question I'd like to move on to. Can you give us --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have that much to say, other than that they spoke, and obviously we're looking to encourage, and cooperation, and we hope to continue that cooperation.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any reaction to comments by President Putin not long before we came into this room, in which he said Russia would not send troops to Afghanistan, but it would open a humanitarian corridor should there be some military activity there? Was the United States asking him to take any such action? Do you feel you're getting as much cooperation as you want from them right now?
MR. BOUCHER: We're very pleased with the cooperation we've had with Russia. I think we've worked quite closely with Russia, and you know that Foreign Minister Ivanov was here last week. So we've been in very close contact with the Russians on this. Both President Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov have pledged their support to the global coalition against terrorism, and we feel that we have worked very well with them.
I know he was going to make this speech. I think he made it right as I was preparing to come out, so I don't have any immediate reaction to the details of what he might have announced.
QUESTION: As far as India is concerned, daily the cross-border terrorism is continuing, and India kills about three or four people from across the border and loses some two or three.
So when you say that in the anti-terrorist coalition, state-sponsored terrorism must stop, it doesn’t seem be happening in that part of the world.
MR. BOUCHER: I would just say that our views on Kashmir haven't changed. We continue to have the same policy.
QUESTION: Due to the amount of scrutiny that is now being placed on these suspects who had student visas, obtained abroad under false pretenses, is the State Department planning to implement any new measures to maybe make the background checks stricter or maybe more follow-up once they're inside the country, although I know that gets into INS territory --
MR. BOUCHER: Inside the country gets into the Immigration and Naturalization Service. What I would say is, we are obviously looking at this whole process and how to make it safer, how to make it better. But that review, the look, the process of reviewing is just beginning.
We do operate from information that we have from a variety of US Government agencies, and we make sure that the equipment that we use, that all our embassies use to issue visas, it is impossible to issue a visa without a cleared name check. So if the information is in the database, then every visa we issue is checked against the database. No visas are issued until the applicant has cleared the system.
So we will probably concentrate on some of the other aspects rather than maybe the issuance aspect. But we will be looking at all of this, and certainly all of the agencies will be looking together at what we can do to get an improved system.
QUESTION: Can you tell me whether there is more scrutiny given to potential students coming from the state sponsors of terrorism countries, or do they get the same kind of check as anyone else?
MR. BOUCHER: Every person coming from a country where there is a state sponsorship would be looked at very carefully. But I'm not aware that that has been an issue in this particular situation, frankly.
QUESTION: In general, since September 11, have the rates at which our consular offices issued visas declined in any way? Have they stayed the same? Has there been any change in the rate at which we've issued these visas?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't frankly know. I would not assume that there would be, because certainly given the millions of visas we issue, if we turn down five or 10 or 15 more terrorists, it's not going to show up anywhere in the rates.
QUESTION: What is your response to the political demands expressed by Mullah Omar today, apparently on behalf of Usama bin Laden? And also to bin Laden's appeal for help against what he called the Jewish crusade, or whatever it is, Jewish crusade or assault?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I just need to -- I would be glad to repeat once again that the Taliban know what they have to do. Bin Laden has to be expelled to a country where he can be brought to justice. The Taliban need to stop harboring terrorist organizations. And the whole structure of support for terrorist operations in Afghanistan must be dismantled.
We are looking for action, not words, on their part; and they have to demonstrate now whether they want to support terrorism or they want to support justice. All this other talk is really irrelevant to it. There is a broad international coalition, which includes people of many faiths, many regions, many ethnic origins, that is appalled by the kind of attack that we saw in New York, appalled with the idea that anybody could be planning such actions, and appalled by the idea that any regime could be harboring people who do this.
So it's quite clear to us that the Taliban needs to act in a way that the whole world is asking for.
QUESTION: On Mullah Omar specifically, can you explain the rationale that this building had when it expressed its opposition to VOA broadcasting portions of an interview with Mr. Omar?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd be glad to. We didn't think it was right. We didn't think that the American taxpayer, the Voice of America, should be broadcasting the voice of the Taliban. We were informed that the Voice of America intended to accept an offer from Mullah Omar to be interviewed. We indicated at that time we thought it wouldn't be appropriate for a number of reasons. One is that his commentaries have already appeared on other broadcasters. Unless he was going to accept the requirements of the United Nations, then there was no news or anything newsworthy in any interview like that.
And carrying the interview would be confusing to the millions of listeners to what is essentially a US Government broadcast, paid for by the US Government. So we -- the State Department has a seat on the board, we talked to other board members -- other Board of Broadcasting governors -- about this and indicated that we felt as a matter of policy the Board should not -- that Voice of America shouldn't be making these broadcasts, putting this man's voice on our radio. And we think, whether it was the Board of Governors or the Voice of America that ultimately made this decision, it was the right decision, and we think good sense prevailed.
QUESTION: But do you still maintain that VOA has editorial independence?
MR. BOUCHER: We recognize the independence of the Voice of America. The Voice of America works for the Board of Broadcasting Governors, and we have a seat on the Board. The VOA works according to its charter. Its charter says that they should explain US Government policy and present responsible discussion about it. We don't consider Mullah Omar to be responsible discussion.
QUESTION: Well, does this mean then that you will also oppose VOA broadcasting statements from the Taliban that are released, say, through the Afghan Islamic news agency -- the news agency in Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: We would not want to infringe on their ability to report the news if there is news. But there is quite a bit of difference between broadcasting that and broadcasting an interview with Mullah Omar.
QUESTION: So does this mean that any contract, say -- this is just a hypothetical question, but if this happens again in the future with someone else, that you would also oppose that? And are you --
MR. BOUCHER: With someone else?
QUESTION: Well, if bin Laden himself called up VOA and said, would you like to interview me?
MR. BOUCHER: If he wanted to tell them something newsworthy about where he expected to turn himself in, it would be fine.
QUESTION: But how would you know that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, generally, people might say that if they were calling up. Otherwise we don't think it's up to the US taxpayer to be broadcasting these voices back into Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Hold on, Richard, can I just ask a question? Are you saying that the journalists -- the editorial wing of Voice of America -- cannot make decisions on their own as to what would be confusing to listeners? Or what would actually be considered news? I mean, is this a precedent now that you're setting? Has this happened before?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm saying the policy for the Voice of America and the other government broadcasters is set by a Board of Broadcasting Governors, which we participate in. I'm saying that it's up to journalists to make journalistic decisions, but it's also up to the policy board to make policy decisions on these broadcasts. And we don't think it's for the US taxpayer or the US Government to be broadcasting those voices into Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Hold on, so just to follow up. So it's a policy decision at the Voice of America as to whether or not you have this particular interview?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a policy decision above the Voice of America. It's a policy decision by the Board of Broadcasting Governors.
QUESTION: Can I ask, back to your earlier comment about bin Laden should be expelled to a country where he can be brought to justice. I may be mistaken, but I thought that the Bush speech -- the President --
MR. BOUCHER: The President said the United States.
QUESTION: The United States.
MR. BOUCHER: Which is a country where he can be brought to justice.
QUESTION: Okay, so you're not adjusting that --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not adjusting that. The language of "expelled to a country, brought to justice" is in the UN resolution. So it's something that is clearly and widely recognized already. The United States is clearly a country where he can be brought to justice. He has been indicted in the United States for the bombings, and that's what the President said we thought should happen.
QUESTION: I have one other question. Are you saying that he should be brought to a third country, and then would the US seek his extradition?
MR. BOUCHER: If you look at the UN resolution, I think it's fairly clear. He needs to be brought to a country where he can face justice, and then there's another clause that says, or put to a place where he could be brought to a place. I don't want to try to get into legal procedures. But it's clear that he needs to face justice in a country where he can.
QUESTION: Richard, we've been hearing a lot about how the FBI is leading the investigation, but do you have any information as to how the State Department is assisting in this investigation?
MR. BOUCHER: We're involved in a number of ways. The Diplomatic Security Bureau of the State Department works closely with the FBI and the other investigative agencies. We do things like we immediately ran down whatever visa information we might have on these individuals. We work with foreign governments, along with the FBI in places where they're located, or on behalf of the FBI and other investigators in places where they're not.
So our Diplomatic Security Agents ends up carrying up a lot of the load of investigation overseas.
QUESTION: Richard, can I go back to the VOA thing for a second? Are you saying the State Department was aware before VOA did this interview with Mullah Omar that he was not going to make any news?
MR. BOUCHER: We're saying that we had no indication that he was going to make any particular new statement.
QUESTION: So the VOA charter doesn't protect them from prior restraint?
MR. BOUCHER: The VOA charter describes what they're supposed to be doing. We think that these decisions not to broadcast are entirely consistent with the VOA charter, which is, again, what I said. Read it; you can look it up on the Web. President Ford signed it; it's out there. It says to present -- to explain US -- among other things -- to report on the news and to explain US Government policy and present responsible discussion thereof. If he's not -- if there's no indication he's going to make a new announcement, then it's not the first part of it; it's the responsible discussion part of it, and we frankly don't consider Mullah Omar to be a responsible discussion of US policy.
QUESTION: Well, what can you expect --
QUESTION: We're on the verge of going to war with this guy. You don't think that that's news, anything he has to say?
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of things that he has to say are reported, have been reported very, very widely by other media. And we're not in any way restricting that. I'm just saying that the bottom line for US Government broadcaster paid for by US taxpayers is that we shouldn't be broadcasting his propaganda.
QUESTION: Well, what can you say about -- hold on, Barry.
QUESTION: Okay, sure.
QUESTION: I'm surprised that you're not in on this. What can you say to VOA listeners out there who now may have questions about whether the news that they're listening to is going to be impartial and present all sides to the story?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm going to say, you're going to get the news, as you always have from VOA.
QUESTION: But not if the State Department objects to it.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm going to say, you're going to get the news, as you always have from the VOA, and as you continue to get every day from the VOA. You're going to get clear explanations of US policy, and you're going to get responsible discussion -- pro and con -- about US policy. Nothing different. I'm going to say exactly what's in their charter that they continue to exercise today.
QUESTION: But not from Mullah Omar?
MR. BOUCHER: Not from Mullah Omar, unless he's about to announce something that falls under another category.
QUESTION: How do you know? I don't understand how you can make this decision before --
MR. BOUCHER: If Mullah Omar wants to call up and say, I've got news for you; I want to read it out on the VOA, then it might be a different situation. But, frankly, to present another one of his statements in his voice to Afghanistan, we don't consider that compatible with the charter. We are on the board. Other members of the board did not consider it compatible with the charter and, frankly, we don't think it makes good sense to be asking US taxpayers to pay for that.
QUESTION: Was that a unanimous decision by the board?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there was actually a vote by the board. We talked to some of the board members and they seemed to agree with us.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the charter. But is it supposed to be, you know, the majority of people on the board that make this decision, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is specified in the charter; I would have to go back in the board's rules. But I think any board that -- when board members feel strongly about these things, that they do set the policy.
QUESTION: I have something to follow up, and my hand is almost numb.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm sorry, we have a numb hand over here, and a numb hand over here. (Laughter.) So we can do them one at a time. I'll get back to you, I'm sorry.
All right, you can go first.
QUESTION: First, the phrasing is --
MR. BOUCHER: You can take your hand down now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: First, your phrasing is that you don't think that it is the job of Voice of America to broadcast back Mullah Omar's comments back to Afghanistan. Does it mean that you would not object if they were included in some other service being broadcast not of Afghanistan? One thing?
MR. BOUCHER: This was a particular question that had to do with some Afghan language services. I am not going to give free license to everybody to go broadcasting Mullah Omar.
As I said, you know, they report the news. If he makes news, I am sure they will report it. This was a different circumstance, though.
QUESTION: The other thing I wanted to ask. Don't you think the US taxpayer really wants balanced news and freedom of press and First Amendment for everybody in the world? Isn't that what we are fighting for?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we absolutely do. And there is --
QUESTION: That is his point of view. Because you are accusing him. He doesn't have Sixth Amendment rights under US Constitution, but at least his point of view should be heard.
MR. BOUCHER: My turn? I think we consider it plain common sense, as well as good policy, as well as consistent with the Voice of America's charter to say that we support freedom of the press around the world, we can support all these wonderful things that you people do every day. We can fight to defend all these wonderful things that you people do every day, without asking the US taxpayer to pay for broadcasting this guy's voice back into Afghanistan.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- Pakistan perhaps could buy spare parts as commercial sanctions lifted. Now, is it only spare parts, or Pakistan perhaps can buy anything, including the F-16s, which are in storage?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to go too far down this road yet. I do want to take this one step at a time. But it allows the commercial sale of military goods, so that would be a larger universe than just spare parts.
QUESTION: You said that the Secretary had made more than 200 phone calls - -
MR. BOUCHER: I think it was 100; 100 in two weeks.
QUESTION: One hundred phone calls to several countries. Did he -- could he get full support of all countries that he talked to, or are there any different opinions or approaches within countries in the international coalition?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that there has been very, very broad and solid support around the world. I think we have counted -- let me check on today's fact sheet -- messages of condolence and sympathy from 197 countries and entities. There were 60 countries that offered specific support for the disaster, the kind of search and recovery operations that need to go on.
There have been multilateral declarations of support from 46 different international entities, from the United Nations to NATO to the Organization of African Unity to the Organization of American States. The European Union, as you all know, has been very forthcoming. The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council has issued a statement. And the list goes on and on and on.
So I think we have had very solid support around the world. We are now, I guess I would say, moving from the stage where we looked for rhetorical support, where we looked for the statements, where we looked for commitment to the stages where we are starting to do a lot of things with a lot of things with a lot of countries. And, as I said before, there are many, many things we are doing that are not visible and won't be visible. But if you look around the world, you will see all kinds of actions being taken by governments to try to squeeze the terrorist organizations, cut down their financing, cut down on front organizations, offices, their ability to move or to operate. So I think, generally, we have gotten very, very positive response.
QUESTION: One more question on this VOA issue. You spoke of some unease that the message would be misinterpreted around the world if he got on the air. Do you feel the US message which you pretty much just gave earlier in another context -- that it's a multi-ethnic coalition, that it comes from various cultures, various viewpoints -- it suggests that this argument -- I don't know what the word would be -- that this presentation the US has been making hasn't -- the US is fearful it hasn't sunk in, that you're proceeding with part of the world not sure what the US is about -- is doing here.
MR. BOUCHER: And how do you get that from what I said before?
QUESTION: Because one of the arguments you gave against letting this guy on the air was that his message might fall on naïve ears. You didn't --
MR. BOUCHER: I would say, Barry, that the message is clearly, this is a broad, multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-region coalition with people from around the world of all faiths and ethnicities, which includes virtually everybody in the world except terrorists and those who harbor them.
QUESTION: But the US has confidence that this is how this is perceived in the streets?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have confidence that those are the facts and we have confidence that we can continue to make that clear to people.
QUESTION: Let me turn to something else, if I may? This situation is unique, I mean, this whole campaign, as the Secretary has said. Still, I wondered if it could be said, with the Taliban turning you down every which way now for days, is the diplomatic phase over?
In the Gulf War, there was a definite delineation. Mr. Baker put a piece of paper on a coffee table that Tariq Aziz did not pick up and diplomacy had come to an end. Is there any room, any more, for diplomacy to turn the Taliban on this?
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, this is not the Gulf War. We have tried to make that clear. This is not a Geneva meeting with Secretary Baker and Tariq Aziz. This is an international effort to stop terrorism. This is an international campaign that is not just military. It could involve military elements, but you see us out there every day working diplomatically with governments, working on the financial controls with governments, such as we are doing today with the President's announcements, working on information sharing with governments, working on law enforcement cooperation with governments, working on immigration controls with governments.
All of these things that we are doing that are not in the nature of military action are essential aspects of a broad campaign to squeeze terrorism, to stop it, to cut off its sources of financing, cut off its ability to operate. That diplomatic effort is strong, it is, I would say, even picking up speed. And it is going to continue for years. This is what it takes to get terrorism stopped.
That involves pressure in terms of Afghanistan, it involves continuing the pressure on the Taliban, and you've seen their offices being closed down in certain cases, diplomats being withdrawn. Pakistan has withdrawn its representatives. So it involves pressure on the Taliban, as well as an effort to cut off the al-Qaida organization, to cut off its means of communication, to stop it from being able to finance itself, to stop it from being able to plan and carry out terrorist acts.
QUESTION: But is a military element here -- and I guess I was asking in a way if there is still an opportunity to avert a military move by the US, if there's some room still for the Taliban or Taliban's friends -- I assume they still have some friends -- to divert -- to avert a blow-up, a military action?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd go back to the President's speech, which you quoted before, but I'd quote the other passage that says -- that I can't remember precisely, the one about justice -- we will render him to justice or justice will be done. But clearly there are certain things the President said he expected the Taliban to do, and that in terms of the organization of al-Qaida, I repeated them again this morning, and we expect to see them do those things. That's the way to avert any further consequences.
QUESTION: On coalition-building, can you shed any light on the coalition- building among the opposition parties in Afghanistan, and in particular, are any specific representations, promises being made to them regarding whatever help they might be giving the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see. I think I'm somewhat restricted on what I can say, other than the fact that we do keep in close touch with a variety of Afghan people throughout the world, in addition to groups that may operate in Afghanistan. We have a lot of contact with Afghans abroad. We maintain contact with all the Afghan factions, as well as with significant individuals, like Zahir Shah. And we'll continue to pursue those and work those.
We have made quite clear this is not a fight against the Afghan people. The United States, in fact, is the largest foreign donor in support for the Afghan people. We are providing $173 million this year to support the people of Afghanistan from the hardship that they have suffered, both from the hands of the weather and from the hands of the regime.
QUESTION: A couple of other things to follow up on that. Does the State Department have any personnel in parts of Afghanistan controlled by the opposition?
And secondly, does -- there was some confusion at the weekend over the size of the reward that you're offering for Mr. bin Laden. The Secretary seemed to agree that it was $25 million, which appears to be derived from an appropriation included in the $40 billion bill passed by Congress.
But it's really only $5 million, is it not? Could you clarify what exactly it is?
Matt seems to think he knows the answer, but maybe -- I'd rather have it from you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I can't imagine why.
MR. BOUCHER: In that case, I'll be glad to give you the answer.
QUESTION: What is the answer?
MR. BOUCHER: There is an existing $5 million reward. There was an appropriation that, as you said, is part of the $40 billion that Congress appropriated -- $48 million has been allocated to the State Department for a number of purposes, including for providing reward money.
In this specific case, we are looking at now exactly how much we go to, and we'll do that to see where we go -- how we structure that next. So we don't have a final number for you, but we did get an appropriation of money, which we will use towards increasing the size of rewards.
QUESTION: Okay, but you're definitely thinking of increasing the reward specifically for Usama bin Laden?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're developing the program for this particular case, and I don't have an exact amount at this point yet, and how it will be defined.
QUESTION: Okay, but what about the question about if you have any presence in -- or in parts of Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's something I could speak to, even if I knew.
QUESTION: Richard, on the money, the White House statement on Friday about the $5.1 billion that he signed in emergency -- that had a little paragraph about the State Department, where it said $48 million was going.
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe that's where it came from, okay.
QUESTION: And it said half -- about half of that -- which would be around $25 million -- was going towards rewards. Is that -- can you at least say that although you haven't yet decided how much of the -- or where exactly that half of $48 million is going to go in terms of rewards, that in fact it is going to be about $25 million?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I can break down the $48 million better for you. And the answer is, not quite at this time, but I will be glad to get you that information when we have it.
QUESTION: Richard, can -- at the beginning of this briefing, you talked a little bit about all US posts being open. Can we go back to last Friday and talk about a reported threat against the US Embassy in Paris? Can you give us any information on that? Was there such a threat, even though we understand, of course, today it was open?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there's not too much I can say about this specific case, because the French Government is still investigating the people, the activities of the people that they recently arrested.
We have been working closely with the French Government, as we have been working with countries around the world. But it is an ongoing investigation. All I can say at this point is we would like to thank the French Government for their ongoing security cooperation.
QUESTION: You can't say anything about whether there might have been a threat, a possible threat?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. I have to leave it to the French to investigate first.
QUESTION: If I could just ask you about Iraq, and what the state of its weapons of mass destruction program is, to the best of your knowledge?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have anything particularly new to say on that. The United States has produced abundant reports on that and what we know, and I'd refer you back to those.
QUESTION: Back to Pakistan. Do you have any reactions to reports that the Taliban have taken over the UN offices entirely and seized 140 million tons of food aid, or something enormous like that? A hundred and forty tons, I'm sorry.
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to -- I'd want to double-check on any numbers and information like that. Unfortunately, the foreign humanitarian workers who have been working to feed the people of Afghanistan were -- had to withdraw about a week or so ago, I think, under orders from the Taliban. This has been one of the primary channels to maintain the welfare and support for the people of Afghanistan. We've been a major contributor to that.
With the withdrawal of the foreign humanitarian workers, it's made it impossible to keep funneling food and distributing food to people who need it in Afghanistan. So I think this other step that's reported by the Afghan Government -- and I can't confirm it because we don't have people there -- but it would just be another step in making it impossible to really take care of the people in the way that we've always been trying to do.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Saudi Arabia? Has Saudi Arabia informed the US that it will in fact sever relations with the Taliban? And I'm wondering, in terms of cooperation, if they're -- if you could talk about specific areas in which the US has made requests of Saudi Arabia. For instance, banking or related --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me answer your second half, and then not answer the first half. We have been working with a lot of governments around the world, and we've left it to each of them to make public what other steps -- specific steps they might want to be seen as taking, they might want to take.
So in terms of the specific areas and kind of steps and issues like the office, the diplomatic office that the Taliban have had there, those are questions the Saudi Government's going to have to answer. I would say that we have had very good cooperation with the Saudi Government. We have had excellent cooperation in the military area. We're talking to them about a variety of other steps and areas of cooperation, and we'll look for the same kind of cooperation in these other areas as well.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the list from this morning? Is it correct that the campaign against terrorism is not just limited to organizations that have international -- or that go beyond their own -- the borders of their own state, but it's to all? It's against all -- obviously focused first on bin Laden and al-Qaida, but you're going to go after all terrorist groups, even if they don't go across the ocean to do something?
MR. BOUCHER: The President described it as being a campaign against terrorist organizations with global reach.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can define it any further for you at this point, because clearly the first -- the campaign is being targeted first and foremost on the al-Qaida organization.
QUESTION: Then does that mean that such groups, or that the governments of, say, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Spain should not expect soon to have -- to see the US move against -- or the US try to get the coalition to move against groups like the Tamil Tigers and the FARC?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say these governments would expect us to continue the cooperation we already have with them -- and in many cases, very close cooperation we have with them -- to help them with their problems of terrorism.
QUESTION: But they will not necessarily be placed on a similar kind of list as the groups were this morning.
MR. BOUCHER: In the -- what is it -- 12 days since the bombing, we have worked to identify the sources of finance and support for al-Qaida. We have worked to identify the associated organizations -- that's what this list is. As we move down the road, we will identify other terrorist organizations, other areas of financing for terrorism, and there may very well be people and entities from other parts of the world placed on this list.
QUESTION: So as far as you are aware, there will be a distinction drawn between groups like ETA, that only carry -- have only carried out attacks within Spain -- and a group like --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't draw that conclusion. I would say the President said that we would go after groups with global reach. We have a list of terrorist groups. We will be looking to cut off the financing for all terrorist groups, and that will be something that we get to. In these few days, we've focused on one particular group, al-Qaida. But clearly, other individuals and organizations may be added to the list, and I don't want to try to circumscribe how far that might go.
QUESTION: And then one more briefly on the list. As it relates to bin Laden --
MR. BOUCHER: There are other -- let me -- I have to say one more thing. Sorry, I forget. There are other regulations and sanctions relating to people on the terrorism list of foreign terrorist organizations, et cetera, that do prevent people from providing financing, and were we to find such situations in the United States, clearly we would want to add them to the various lists.
QUESTION: And on that point specifically, is it not the case that the restrictions put on this morning on al-Qaida and bin Laden and several other groups are redundant, because they were already subject to sanctions by being designated FTAs?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's a fair characterization. I would say this broadens the authority of the President. It directs federal agencies to work with other nations and banking systems to block the assets. It authorizes Treasury to take immediate steps to block the assets of these organizations, of terrorists, of foreign institutions that support terrorism. And it makes the declaration of a national emergency.
It does three specific things. It expands the coverage of existing executive orders from terrorism in the Middle East to terrorism as a whole, global terrorism. It expands the class of targeted groups to include those who provide financial or other support to terrorist groups. And it makes clear our ability to block US assets of foreign banks who refuse to freeze terrorist assets abroad. So it does some very specific things in addition to taking the fight to the financial front.
QUESTION: But in terms of bin Laden and al-Qaida, and as it relates to the freezing of their assets -- the potential assets of the United States -- it doesn't add anything?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I could agree with that. I'd have to check with Treasury for more detail to see whether that's an accurate description or not. But I think, in many important ways, it broadens the authority, it broadens the scope and it broadens the target.
QUESTION: Can I just try again on Iraq? In terms of --
QUESTION: This is to help a colleague who's stuck in Baghdad. So keep that in mind.
QUESTION: In terms of -- we're talking about all these terrorist threats to the United States. From what you know about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, is that -- would you consider that just as much of a threat to the international community as some of these other terrorist activities? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm not going to start speculating and comparing every threat that exists in the world. There are a lot of things we need to work on. One of them is terrorism; one of them is weapons of mass destruction. We have very active programs on weapons of mass destruction, and we have very active programs to restrict Iraq's ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction. That continues to be a concern.
It continues to be a concern that Iraq is trying to threaten its neighbors, threaten its own people, and that Iraq has still not disclosed what it has to the international community. So we have not in any way lessened our concern about Iraq's programs for weapons of mass destruction. But I would say that clearly there is a major effort being mounted to go after terrorism.
QUESTION: One more question. Are you disappointed that the talks between Peres and Arafat have yet to go forward, and it seems that Sharon is putting the kibosh on it quite a bit?
And also, do you have any information on the -- Israel's extradition request for Marwan Barghouti -- I don't know how to say it -- Barghouti?
MR. BOUCHER: I addressed the particular issue of the meeting between Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat a little bit earlier. The Secretary has continued to encourage such a meeting. We think a meeting like that can be useful, and should be prepared to be useful.
As far as the general view of the situation, we do think it's very important that the Palestinian Authority continue to take sustained and effective steps, and take those steps immediately to preempt violence and arrest people responsible for planning and conducting acts of violence.
We strongly urge the parties to seize the opportunity in order to begin their direct and substantive dialogue, in order to end the violence and move forward with implementing Mitchell Committee recommendations. We think it's important that the Israeli Government take steps to help improve the situation of the Palestinian people on the ground, and through practical measures to facilitate the movement of goods and people.
We have welcomed Chairman Arafat's explicit call for a complete cease-fire. We have welcomed the Israeli Government's statements that it will suspend offensive military operation. We think it's essential that concrete actions -- more concrete actions continue to flow from these positive messages. We think all sides need to act in a manner that sustains and strengthens efforts to end the violence in the region.
As for the question of the request for the arrest and transfer of the senior Fatah official, I think I have to leave that to the Israeli Government. We continue to call on both sides to cooperate in the security area, to resume their security contacts as a means of ending the violence, restoring trust and confidence and moving towards a resumption of political discussions. And that would provide an opportunity for them to discuss areas like this of concern.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary getting impatient with Mr. Sharon's foot- dragging?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say the Secretary continues to work assiduously and diligently on the problems of the Middle East and will continue to do so to make sure that we do everything we can to make the situation better.
QUESTION: A question there, for a two-second answer. I think it's tomorrow, right, that the Chinese counter-terrorist people are coming?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any details about what their schedule is going to be?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Is it in this building?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see what I can get for you.
QUESTION: Thank you. [End]
Released on September 24, 2001