Documents on Terrorism
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright Testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies February 4, 1999, Washington, D.C. As released by the Office of the Spokesman U.S. Department of State

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. I welcome this opportunity to testify concerning U.S. efforts to counter the forces of international terror. As you know, the President has designated the Department of State as the lead agency for coordination of our counterterrorism policy and operations abroad, while the FBI is the lead agency for countering terrorism in the United States.

So I am delighted to be here with my colleagues, Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh. Their presence reflects the fact that the battle against terror requires effective coordination within our own government and between our government and law-abiding nations around the globe.

It also requires a partnership between the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States. And here I want to commend the Chairman and members of this Subcommittee. For no one has been more aware of the dangers to our diplomatic personnel, more supportive of our efforts to improve security, or more helpful in providing resources to respond to the terrorist threat, than this panel.

I look forward to the opportunity today to build on our partnership and to explore with you the many dimensions to our strategy. In my statement, I will provide an overview of the international threat and discuss our diplomatic actions, policies, plans, and resource needs. The Attorney General and the Director will then bring you up to date on the wide range of law enforcement, technology, crisis management and other initiatives that are underway.

We will each discuss the Five-Year Interagency Counter-terrorism and Technology Crime Plan. This Plan serves as a baseline strategy for coordinating our response to terrorism in the United States and against American targets overseas. The Subcommittee has received copies of the Plan, which was crafted under the leadership of the Attorney General. You also have the written statements we prepared for this morning. We have agreed to keep our oral presentations brief in order to honor your time for questions.

The Threat

I will begin by discussing the threat posed to the United States and the world by the forces of international terror. If you look at the statistics, you will see that the number of terrorist incidents worldwide is declining. This reflects the diplomatic and law enforcement progress we have made in discrediting terrorist groups and making it harder for them to operate. It reflects, as well, the improved political climate that has diminished terrorist activity in places such as Northern Ireland and Central America.

But you would not be conducting this hearing, Mr. Chairman, if the dangers posed by international terrorism had declined. Tragically, they have not.

Last August, I had the sad honor of bringing back to U.S. soil the bodies of Americans who perished in the embassy bombing in Kenya.

Like the members of our armed forces who died in foreign conflicts, these Americans went in harm’s way for our country. But there is a difference--for they were not combatants in a war as we have long understood that term. They were casualties, instead, of a new kind of confrontation that looms as a new century is about to begin.

In this struggle, our adversaries are likely to avoid traditional battlefield situations because there, American dominance is well established. They may resort, instead, to weapons of mass destruction and the cowardly instruments of sabotage and hidden bombs. As we know from explosions over the past decade in Africa, the Khobar apartment complex, the World Trade Center and Pan Am 103, these unconventional threats endanger both Americans and others around the world.

Accordingly, we must be vigilant in protecting against the terrorist triple threat posed, first, by the handful of countries that actively sponsor terrorism; second, by long-active terrorist organizations; and third, by loosely affiliated extremists such as, among others, Osama bin Laden, who has urged his followers to kill Americans when and wherever they can.

Our strategy must be long-term. The Five-Year Plan is only the beginning. Certainly, no single arrest or shutdown of a terrorist operation will be sufficient. The advance of technology has given us new means to counter terrorists. But it has also enabled terrorists to develop more powerful weapons and to travel, communicate, recruit, and raise funds on a global basis.

It is essential, therefore, that we work closely with others. The perpetrators of terror include persons from a wide variety of creeds, cultures and countries. And their criminality has claimed victims almost everywhere, from Jerusalem to Japan, Tanzania to Turkey, and Oklahoma City to Sri Lanka.

To counter this plague, law-abiding peoples everywhere must close ranks to detect, deter, prevent and punish terrorist acts. It is not enough for Americans to be concerned only about attacks against Americans. We must reach out to all those victimized or threatened by terror. The victims of the attacks orchestrated in Africa by Osama bin Laden, after all, were predominately African, including many practitioners of Islam. Terrorism is a highly indiscriminate form of violence. It must be opposed not simply as a matter of national interest, but as a fundamental question of right and wrong.

Fighting Back

Following the embassy attacks last August, President Clinton ordered military strikes to disrupt terrorist operations and deter new bombings.

The message he conveyed is that, in this battle, we will not simply sit back and wait. We will take the offensive. We will do all we can to limit terrorist movements, block terrorist funds and prevent terrorist acts.

As the President’s decision demonstrated, we will not hesitate, where necessary, to use force to respond to or defend against acts of terrorism. But force is only one element in our strategy.

Every day, in every part of the world, we use a full array of foreign policy tools in our zero tolerance campaign against international terror.

For example, we place the highest priority on measures to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. This imperative is on our agenda with virtually every nation and figures in almost every major meeting I have.

We constantly exchange information with friendly governments concerning terrorist activities and movements, thereby preventing attacks and facilitating arrests.

We work with other agencies and other countries to strengthen screening procedures and increase intelligence sharing on visa applications.

We are expanding our Anti-terrorism Training Assistance Program, which has already instructed more than 20,000 law enforcement officers from more than 90 countries, in subjects such as airport security, bomb detection, maritime security, VIP protection, hostage rescue and crisis management.

We are engaged, through the State Department-chaired Technical Suport Working Group, in a vigorous research and development program to improve our ability to detect explosives, counter weapons of mass destruction, protect against cyber sabotage and provide physical security. In the technological race with terror, we are determined to gain and maintain a decisive strategic edge.

We are making use of the Terrorism Information Rewards program to encourage persons to come forward with information to prevent acts of terrorism and apprehend those who commit them.

We impose economic sanctions against state sponsors of terror. Currently, the seven governments on this list are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

And both domestically and internationally, we are working to strengthen the rule of law.

The Rule of Law

At home, we have changed our statutes to block the financial assets of terrorist groups, prevent them from raising funds in the United States, and allow us to bar foreigners who support such groups.

Around the world, we couple law enforcement with diplomacy in order to bring suspected terrorists before the bar of justice. As the Subcommittee knows, we have done this successfully in the World Trade Center case, the CIA killings and to a very considerable extent, in the Africa embassy bombings--which triggered a worldwide manhunt for bin Laden and his associates in murder. The Attorney General and Director Freeh will provide more detail on these efforts, but let me stress two points.

The first is that law enforcement success often depends upon international cooperation. That cooperation has been extraordinary in some recent cases. We cannot discuss these in public, but I did want the record of this hearing to reflect our deep appreciation for the timely and lifesaving help we have received.

Second, I believe every American should be proud of the work the FBI, the Justice Department, the CIA and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service--or DS--have been doing.

When I was in Nairobi last August, I had a chance to meet some of the FBI personnel who were literally sifting the wreckage of the Embassy for clues. I was deeply impressed by their dedication and I have been even more deeply impressed by the progress made in gaining custody of suspects. I am gratified, moreover, that the partnerships in the field among the FBI, Department of Justice, DS and our embassies and other agencies are excellent. Our people are working together closely and well to investigate past crimes and prevent new ones. They are doing a great job for America.

I cannot leave the subject of bringing terrorists to justice without highlighting the tragic case of justice delayed with respect to the bombing more than a decade ago of Pan Am flight 103. As Senators know, we have challenged the Government of Libya to meet its pledge to deliver the two suspects in that case for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law. This approach has been approved by the Security Council and is supported by Arab and African regional organizations. It is an approach that is reasonable and fair and that has been on the table now for more than six months.

I would like to take this opportunity once again to urge Libya to deliver the suspects for trial and thereby gain suspension of the UN sanctions. If this does not occur by the time those sanctions come up for Security Council review later this month, we will seek additional measures against the Qaddaffi regime.

Our effort to strengthen the rule of law against terrorism is global. At its heart is the message that every nation has a responsibility to arrest or expel terrorists, shut down their finances and deny them safe haven.

Attached to my testimony is a chart showing the extent to which countries have ratified eleven international antiterrorism conventions. Our goal is to obtain universal adherence to these treaties. Our purpose is to weave a web of law, power, intelligence, and political will that will entrap terrorists and deny them the mobility and sustenance they need to operate.

As we stressed in the aftermath of the murders in Kenya and Tanzania, terror is not a legitimate form of political expression and it is certainly not a manifestation of religious faith. It is homicide, plain and simple.

It is right for nations to bring terrorists to justice and those who do so should be recognized and rewarded appropriately.

It is wrong to finance terrorist groups, whether or not specific contributions are for terrorist purposes. It is cowardly to give terrorist groups money in return for not being targeted. It is irresponsible simply to look the other way when terrorists come within one’s jurisdiction. And it fools no one to pretend that terrorist groups are something they are not.

Consider the words of Hezbollah’s Sheik Hassan Nasrallah shortly after the Wye accords were signed: "I call on any Palestinian who has a knife, a hand grenade, a gun, a machine gun or a small bomb to go out during these few weeks and kill the Israelis and the Accord." He also called for the assassination of Chairman Arafat.

Some say Hezbollah is not terrorist, because it has a political agenda. But that is sophistry. As long as it advocates indiscriminate violence and assassination, it is terrorist. The same is true of other groups, such as Hamas, the PKK, and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.

For each, the decision to use terror was a choice it did not have to make. Law-abiding nations must unite in helping them realize that the choice they have made is wrong.

In this connection, I was very disappointed that Germany failed to make good on the recent opportunity to prosecute Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the terrorist PKK; and that Italy and Turkey were unable to find an alternative way to ensure he was brought to justice. Instead of determination, this opportunity was greeted with handwringing and vacillation. Ocalan has left Italy and his current whereabouts are unknown. We call upon any nation into whose jurisdiction Ocalan comes to cooperate in ensuring that he stands trial for his alleged crimes.

Diplomatic Force Protection.

The measures we take to provide physical protection for our diplomatic personnel overseas play a major role in our strategy for countering terror. I know this subject is a matter of great interest to the Subcommittee. And certainly, nothing is of more urgent concern to me.

In the aftermath of the embassy bombings last August, I established Accountability Review Boards, chaired by Admiral William Crowe, to investigate and recommend improved security systems and procedures. I received their report last month and will be submitting a formal response this spring.

As you probably know, Mr. Chairman, the Boards found that the security systems and procedures followed by the two embassies involved were in accord with State Department policy. In both cases, the terrorists were prevented from penetrating the perimeter of the post. In neither case, did U.S. employees or members of the military breach their duty.

The Boards did, however, identify what they termed "a collective failure" by the Executive and Legislative branches of our government over the past decade "to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. diplomatic missions."

The report suggests that responsibility for this failure must be shared broadly, including by the Secretary of State; and I accept that. It reminds us all that no matter how much we care, no matter how much we do, we can always do more when the lives of our people are on the line.

The report cites some of the steps we have taken, particularly since August, to strengthen perimeter defense, increase security personnel and speed necessary construction and repairs.

It notes, as well, Congressional approval of the security-related supplemental appropriation late last year. We were, and are, very grateful for your swift action on that measure. It has helped us to resume, albeit in a makeshift way, our diplomatic activities in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. And it is enabling us to upgrade physical security levels worldwide through the hiring of additional diplomatic security agents and support personnel.

The Accountability Review Boards concluded, however, and I agree, that these measures must be viewed as just an initial deposit towards what is required to provide for the security of our posts overseas.

According to the report, "We must undertake a comprehensive and long-term strategy...including sustained funding for enhanced security measures, for long-term costs for increased security personnel and for a capital building program based on an assessment of requirements to meet the new range of global terrorist threats."

The Boards stress, and again I concur, that "additional funds for security must be obtained without diverting funds from our major foreign affairs programs." This is a key point. For it would make no sense to enhance the security of our people overseas while, at the same time, depriving them of the resources they need to effectively represent American interests.

The State Department is determined to go forward with an extensive, multi-year program for upgrading security at all our posts. The President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2000, released earlier this week, proposes the minimum amount required to move ahead with such a program.

First, it includes $268 million to fund what we call the "tail" of the supplemental. This includes the recurring costs required by additional personnel, and security improvements not addressed in emergency supplemental approved last fall. We expect such costs to run about $300 million annually in subsequent years.

We recognize the need to continue an aggressive program of locating suitable sites and building secure facilities overseas. The President’s budget includes an additional $36 million for site acquisition and the design of new facilities; augmenting FY 1999 emergency funds available for site, design and construction. It also proposes $3 billion in advance appropriations for new construction in the years 2001 through 2005.

I feel strongly that in order to have a viable security construction program, we need a long-term commitment of resources. The President’s request proposes that this be done by advanced appropriations. We have been able to work together on such arrangements in the past and I hope very much that we will able to do so in this case.

I wish to stress, Mr. Chairman, that our request for support is not special pleading. American embassies include a broad range of U.S. Government employees and their families. They host a constant flow of U.S. citizens who turn to our people for help on everything from business advice to travel tips to emergency medical aid. They are open to foreign nationals who wish to come to our country as tourists or students or for commercial reasons. And as the casualty list for the Africa bombings illustrates so starkly, many of our embassy employees are locally hired.

Under international law, the host country is responsible for protecting diplomatic missions. We hold every nation to that standard, and will assist, where we can, those who need and want help in fulfilling that duty. In an age of advanced technology and suicide bombers, no one can guarantee perfect security. But our embassies represent America. They should not be easy targets for anyone. We owe our people and all who use or visit our facilities the best security possible.

As I noted at the time I received Admiral Crowe’s report, the Department is already implementing, or studying the best way to implement, a significant number of its recommendations.

I cannot detail in public everything that we are doing, often in partnership with others, to prevent and prepare for potential terrorist strikes.

I am able to say, however, that we will continue to implement additional physical protection measures as rapidly as we can.

We are improving our programs for dealing with vehicle-bomb attacks, such as those experienced in Africa.

We see the need for additional crisis management training and have begun such a project at the Foreign Service Institute.

We are engaged, with other agencies, in a review of equipment and procedural needs related to the possibility of a terrorist incident involving the use of chemical or biological weapons.

We are striving to improve our emergency response capabilities. As the Crowe report indicates, and our Five-Year Plan reflects, we need a modern plane to replace the specially-configured aircraft used to deploy the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) that we dispatch overseas when there is a major terrorist incident. The current aircraft is 36 years old and was delayed while en route to Nairobi last August by the need to make repairs. This is not acceptable. The Department is currently engaged with the National Security Council and the Defense Department in discussions on the best way to replace the old aircraft and the Administration intends to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

Security and Diplomacy

Finally, we agree fully with the Accountability Review Boards on the need to demonstrate the high priority we attach to security issues. This is one reason why I recommended to the President that he depart from past practice and appoint an outstanding career law enforcement professional, David Carpenter, as our Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.

Assistant Secretary Carpenter is helping us to get out the message to all our posts that, in today’s world, there is nothing automatic about security. It is every person’s responsibility. No detail should be overlooked. No precaution should be shrugged off. No post should be considered safe. No assumptions should be made about when, where, why, how, or by whom, a terrorist strike might be perpetrated. Literally nothing should be taken for granted.

We all recognize that the price tag for needed measures to improve security is and may remain, at least for the foreseeable future, higher than the resources we have available for that purpose. The result is that we will continually have to make difficult and inherently subjective decisions about how best to use the resources we have, and about how to reconcile security imperatives with our need to do business overseas.

Overseas Presence Advisory Panel

In making these judgments, I am pleased to announce that we will be aided by a new Overseas Presence Advisory Panel, to be chaired by Mr. Lewis Kaden. The Panel is charged with preparing recommendations for criteria to be used in making decisions on the size and composition of our overseas posts. It will also design a proposed multi-year funding program for the Department to restructure the U.S. presence abroad.

In its deliberations, the Advisory Group will take into account the heightened security situation, advances in technology, the transformation of the world’s political lineup, and the emergence of new foreign policy priorities. The Panel is being asked to complete its work by the end of this fiscal year.


Finally, Mr. Chairman, let me say a word about coordination. This Subcommittee has stressed the need for U.S. agencies to work together in responding to the terrorist threat, and you are absolutely right. The Five-Year Plan will help. So has the President’s designation of a National Coordinator for Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism. And I have the highest confidence in the State Department’s own new coordinator for counterterrorism, Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Mike Sheehan.

Personally, I am in frequent contact with my colleagues here at the table, Attorney General Reno and FBI Director Freeh, and with the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence and other key officials regarding the full range of anti-terrorism issues. I think we work together well and are getting better at it every day.

One reason is that the President has made it clear through both his policies and statements that this issue is the Administration’s highest priority--internationally and domestically. That is true for a host of compelling substantive reasons. But I suspect it is true for another reason as well.

Over the past six years, on too many occasions, the President has had the job of comforting the loved ones of those murdered and maimed by terrorists. I know from my own experience--it is an impossible task. After the last hand has been held, and the last words of condolence offered, all you can really do is vow that everything within your power will be done to prevent similar tragedies.

That is the vow of this Administration this morning. And I suspect it is fully embraced by the members of this Subcommittee and by the American people.

Mr. Chairman, I have quoted New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster to you before. I do so again in closing my testimony this morning. "God grants liberty," said Webster, "only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it."

To that, I say "Amen," and thank you again for the opportunity to testify before you today.

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