May 1, 2001: Headlines: COS - Tunisia: Terrorism: USINFO: Briefing by Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Edmund Hull (Tunisia RPCV) on "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000 Report"

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Briefing by Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Edmund Hull (Tunisia RPCV) on "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000 Report"

Briefing by Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Edmund Hull (Tunisia RPCV) on Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000 Report

Briefing by Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Edmund Hull (Tunisia RPCV) on "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000 Report"


Caption: US Ambassador Edmund Hull Lays Cornerstones For US-Funded Projects In Al-Jawf

MR. REEKER: As advertised, we now have our Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Edmund J. Hull here to take your questions. He may have some additional comments. So we will turn it straight over to Mr. Hull. Thanks.

MR. HULL: I would like to make a few comments. First, I would like to thank Secretary Powell for kicking off this year's Patterns of Global Terrorism, as well as Deputy Secretary Armitage and Under Secretary Marc Grossman. It is strong support from our 7th floor that makes my job a lot easier.

Secondly, I would like to point out that although this report details a lot of successes, and it is coming out of the U.S. State Department, these successes by no means are the exclusive responsibility of the State Department. We have very strong partners throughout the U.S. Government, including in the White House, Justice, the FBI, CIA, DOD, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Treasury, and really one of the great strengths of counterterrorism, as it is done by the U.S. Government, is this interagency cooperation and teamwork. Without that, we would not have the kinds of successes that we can report to you today.

Finally, I would like to say a word of thanks to my staff and our partners around the building and in other agencies that work so hard on this report, pulling it together and making it available to you, and we hope that it is useful to you as you go about your coverage of this important subject.

I would be happy to take questions.

Q: You have some critics of the report who say there are some countries, such as Cuba and North Korea, which are on the list, and countries not on the list that should be there, Pakistan among them. And what is your response?

A: I think we can go down that case by case. I would be happy to do that. You mentioned Cuba. Cuba does remain on the list of state sponsors. Our problems with Cuba relate to its continuing provision of safe haven to wanted terrorists. This is a very important point for us because one of the principles of our counterterrorism policy is we will pursue terrorists for their crimes as long as it takes. We have a very long memory and we have as long an arm as possible.

So that is an important point for us with Cuba. They also have some associations with terrorist groups, like the ELN and the FARC in Colombia. Then finally I would point out that Cuba's position on terrorism is just very equivocal. In the Ibero-American conference that took place last fall, Cuba was the only country participating that declined to join a consensus in condemning the ETA and the upsurge of terrorism in Spain, and that, quite frankly, is not a position that is helpful in terms of the international counterterrorism effort.

Q: Can you tell us if you are likely to take measures against the Real IRA and (inaudible) IRA in the near future?

And secondly, can I ask you if you have any evidence that since the Good Friday Agreement, the provisional IRA has bought weapons in the U.S.?

A: I would like to answer the question on designations, really not only in terms of the Real IRA, but also a number of other speculations that exist. We have a designation process and, by virtue of that, we keep under close watch any number of organizations that are accused of engaging in terrorism. And that is a continuing undertaking.

We designate Foreign Terrorist Organizations according to a law. It is a very, very rigorous process. It requires a legal basis, because they can be challenged in court.

Now, we have recently moved away from a set schedule for those designations to rolling designations whenever we believe the case is made and we go forward on that basis. We did it last fall with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. We will proceed with other organizations when and if they meet the requirements of the law.

Q: There was some recent reporting out of Tehran during the summit that there is a new agreement or working relationship between HAMAS and Hizballah against Israel. Can you tell us, how accurate is this, and what are the ramifications if it is accurate?

A: What we have seen in the Middle East over the recent period is continuing very high involvement by Iran in promoting terrorism against the Middle East peace. This is a longstanding activity by the Iranian Government. They have used as their surrogates in this, not only the organizations that you have mentioned -- HAMAS, Hizballah -- but also the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. I believe it is clear that Iran is encouraging these organizations to act individually and to act in concert.

Q: And how big a threat is this renewed activity, if you will?

A: I think it is a significant threat. We have seen an upswing in terrorism in the Middle East, particularly in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and in "Patterns" we characterize that situation as grim.

Q: In the report about Israel and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, you repeated a lot of the Israelis' accusations. Now, you have people on the ground there. You could have collected this information for yourself, yet you haven't mentioned any accusation by the Palestinians, like PLO, of targeted killing of activists, et cetera, and (it) is rich with accusation. Many people think that it was unbalanced.

A: I think the report includes some Israeli reports, but it also includes a lot of independent judgments on our part. What I would say about the situation is this. Really, if you look at Israel and the Occupied Territories, it breaks into two very distinct periods. In the early part of this year, there was very little terrorism -- successful terrorism -- being conducted in that region, and that was largely because of very effective counterterrorism cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Since September 28th and some setbacks to the peace negotiations and a reduction -- a significant reduction -- in that counterterrorism cooperation, we have seen an upsurge in terrorism in that area. We have made clear the responsibilities of both sides in that regard. Secretary Powell, as recently as April 17th, spoke to that.

With regard to Israeli actions, I think you have to understand that Patterns of Global Terrorism, as we explained in the introduction, deals with phenomena that meet a specific definition; i.e., that is terrorism. Other phenomenon of concern and certainly worthy of attention are addressed either in bilateral statements that we make, or many of them, such as the issue you raised about extra judicial killings, are addressed in the Human Rights Report, and they are addressed at some length in those documents.

Q: You mentioned when you were answering George's question about certain countries, the other side of the question was Pakistan. I noticed in your report you say that those who kill people will be held responsible regardless of when. Well, there were a number of Americans killed in Pakistan three or four years that I don't think have been brought to justice.

Why, again, would Pakistan then not be on the list?

A: You are talking (about) the list of state sponsors, as opposed to foreign terrorist organizations, because we're dealing with two lists here and I think we ought to keep that straight in our minds.

As regards state sponsorship, though, we designate a country as a state sponsor based on the totality of its actions in the area of counterterrorism. Pakistan is in many ways a challenging case for us because, on one hand, the Pakistanis do provide significant assistance in the area of counterterrorism. They have been instrumental, for example, in some of the legal prosecutions and renditions for crimes against Americans. As recently as I think last month, they cooperated in making officials available that were important in the ongoing trial in New York of some of those accused of bombing our embassies in East Africa. They also provide a considerable amount of security for our embassies and other presence in Pakistan. That is all to the good.

But as "Patterns" makes clear, we have a number of areas in which we have problems with Pakistan's position, their support for groups engaged in terrorism in Kashmir, the HUM and other groups that we are watching. I think probably most significant in terms of U.S. terrorism problems is the Pakistanis' traditional support for the Taliban and the result that has in Afghanistan.

In this regard, I would note, as we do in "Patterns," that Pakistan has formally undertaken to respect Security Council Resolution 1333 and the sanctions imposed on the Taliban. I think that is an important commitment on Pakistan's part, and we want to do everything we can to encourage Pakistan to fulfill that commitment.

Q: Actually, my question was the same as Nick's on Pakistan. But in the area of state-sponsored terrorism, you seem to indicate that Pakistan and Lebanon, for instance, are a stone's throw away from being put on the list.

Was that your intention?

A: I don't think we characterized it as such in the report.

Q: I want to go back to the question of the Palestinian and Israeli comments. What goes into the decision to cite comments of one of the participants in the struggle? And why not -- it seems to me just to be a backhanded way to criticize the Palestinians without saying that you're criticizing the Palestinians. So why would it even be included in that way if you wanted to be critical of their actions, and the Administration has, you know, many times.

Why don't you just say that instead of bringing in Israeli comments? It seems a bit cowardly to me.

A: Again, I think if you read the section of the report, there is a lot of independent information that is put in there. As I remember it, there is one report that is attributed to Israel. By including that, we obviously indicate that it has some credibility. It may be that we are not able to address the question or resolve it, but we think it is worthwhile to at least raise the issue.

Q: Keeping in mind that it would be unbalanced by not providing one from the other side? I mean, that all goes into the equation, right?

A: Well, if it is appropriate, we would provide material from the other side.

Q: You welcome the increased cooperation on Greece between Greek and U.S. authorities, and you also talk about meaningful steps by the Greek Government to combat terrorism. Could you elaborate a little bit?

A: Yes, I can. I think we have seen in Greece over this period some steps forward in counterterrorism. Tragically, I think the catalyst for many of those steps was the murder of the British Defense Attach?[Stephen Saunders]. But in the wake of that event, the Greek authorities did, I think, speak out more clearly than they have in the past in condemning these kinds of actions. Mrs. Saunders, herself, was given opportunities to address the Greek people, with great effect I believe. So you can see the beginning of, I think, popular questioning of a phenomenon that has been remarkably un-criticized for many years.

Beyond that, of course, you have a strengthening of the counterterrorism unit, and the Greeks have under consideration right now some tougher counterterrorism laws. I think all of that is to the good. I think we have to keep our eye on the ball, however, and in this case it is very much arrests, convictions, putting these people in jail. Therefore, until we get those kinds of results, I don't think we and I don't think the Greek Government should rest.

Q: Last year, we were told that there were some countries on the list that were fairly close to getting off the list; that, for example, North Korea, was a couple of rather straightforward steps away. Would you agree with that assessment this year, and which countries would you name that are now on the list of being basically close to getting off, and the most willing to work with the United States in getting off this list?

A: I guess I better be careful about predictions, based on past record. I think there are a couple of interesting relationships there. You have mentioned North Korea. We did have a number of meetings with the North Koreans, and we did come to a joint declaration of principles regarding counterterrorism, which was an important step. We are now watching to see how those are put into practice. I think the report makes clear there are a number of areas where more needs to be done, concerns about the JRA terrorists who continue to have safe haven in North Korea, and some contacts with various terrorist organizations.

But I would add with regards to North Korea, we do have an ongoing policy review on that subject, and as part of that, we will be addressing next steps in this area, and when and as appropriate, be in a position to reengage.

I think the other area that is of interest is Sudan. Again, we have had since last June a counterterrorism dialogue with Sudan. I think they have evidenced a serious interest in getting out of the terrorism business. That is something that we want to encourage, and we have had a long series of exchanges with them to define exactly how we see the problem and to point them in the direction of steps they can take to resolve it.

So I believe that is perhaps the most active area in which we have a state sponsor striving to get out of the terrorism business.

Q: Going back to the Middle East for a moment, the reference that you do have in the report citing Israeli accusations that Palestinian Authority security officials and Fatah members facilitated and took part in shooting and bombing attacks. Does the United States have any independent evidence that would confirm those Israeli accusations?

A: I think what I would like to do on this is really reiterate what the Secretary said on April 17th, and that was to call on both of the parties to fulfill their commitments, and with regards to the Palestinians, those are commitments to implement their renunciation of violence and terrorism, to control elements and to punish violators of those. I will leave it at that.

Q: In this report, you highlight international cooperation. You also highlight the resolution of imposing sanctions against Taliban. On that resolution you worked very closely with the Russians. The Russians now at the UN are considering drafting a resolution that would put sanctions on Pakistan for its links with the Taliban, which you also highlight in this report.

Is this something the U.S. is discussing with Russia, and would you in your expertise recommend such a move?

A: I think I would have to disagree with your premises. To my knowledge, the Russians are not considering sanctions on Pakistan. I think the key there is to listen to what Islamabad itself has said about the resolution, that they are pledged to respect the resolution, pledged to implement the resolution, and then to have the international community follow that issue of implementation very carefully.

Q: Can you tell us what is the practical effect of this report and of these terrorism lists? Is there any country that has ever stopped terrorism because of this list, or any terrorist organizations that have sort of decided to go straight because of this list?

A: I don't think it is a question of the list itself, being on the list effecting that kind of change. I think it is a more subtle phenomenon than that.

What is clear to me in my position is that most of these governments are extremely uncomfortable with the stigma that comes attached to being accused of sponsoring terrorism, and they will over time often seek ways to escape that stigma. I think Sudan is one case in point. But it is not as simple as putting someone on a list and shaking a finger at them.

With regards to the other list that we maintain, the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, there we do have some indications that terrorist organizations are aware of U.S. laws and penalties, and have altered their behavior, one, so as not to operate in the United States in ways that will bring them at odds with those laws. Many organizations will not raise funds in the United States or try to raise funds in the United States for fear of running afoul of the law.

The other indicator we have had on a couple of occasions is an acute awareness by some of these groups that if you target Americans, if you engage in terrorism against Americans, that greatly increases the chance that you will be designated, and that is by virtue of the law that we are following.

So in both of those ways, I think there is an impact from the list, but it is not as dramatic as you suggested in your question.

Q: In the list of terrorist organizations, there is a designation for "Other Terrorist Groups." Can you talk a little bit about what that means, and why the Colombian paramilitaries were added this year?

A: The FTO list is -- the first list is the list of the organizations we have formally, legally designated. We have gone through this rigorous legal process. But that list does not include all of the terrorist organizations in the world. Clearly there are other organizations that we watch for one reason or another. In the case of the AUC, I think our concern over the past year has been a dramatic increase in their activities and a tendency to change their tactics towards more terrorist tactics, including kidnappings, for example, or murders of civilians. So this is something that has caught our attention and caused us to look more closely at this organization.

Q: And just a quick follow-up. There's a lower threshold to get on that other list?

A: Yes. That list is not based on a legal process. It reflects groups that have caught our attention.

Q: Last fall when the previous Secretary went to North Korea, one of the topics that was raised was the alleged abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea. I noticed in your description of North Korea in this report that's not mentioned. Is there a reason why that was left out? And is this an issue that will be pursued by the United States?

A: That is an issue of continuing concern to the United States. It is one of the issues that is being handled in diplomatic channels. It is an issue on which we consult very, very closely with the Government of Japan. So it does continue to be of concern.

Q: If I could, I would like another whack at the Israel section.

A: Whack away.

Q: The State Department's own PLO Compliance Report released earlier this month stated unequivocally that members of the Palestinian security forces were involved in attacks on civilians. Why, then, do you have to hedge in this report and attribute it to Israeli authorities? Getting back to Barbara's question, why, then, can you independently confirm that the U.S. understands and knows that there are some terrorist attacks taking place from the Palestinian Authority?

A: I think the report that you refer to talks about elements or individuals and doesn't reach a conclusion on the leadership or the organization.

Q: Palestinian individuals that are members of Palestinian security services.

A: Right, but not on the organization per se. And that is, I think, a distinction.

Q: Could you comment on the statement by a CIA official not too long ago that, in fact, every time Israel tortures someone -- and the torture is continuing -- she creates two terrorists, one the father and the other the mother -- I'm sorry, and the other the brother. Could you comment on that?

And you describe this as a disease, but aren't you dealing only with the symptoms and not the underlying cause?

A: I think I would direct -- in terms of the first question, I think I would direct you to the Human Rights Report in which we do address the question of Israeli methods.

Quite apart from that specific instance, if you are asking what is the relationship of human rights to counterterrorism, I think there is a relationship. It is one of the reasons that when we do the training of foreign security officials in counterterrorism there is a very heavy dose of human rights training as we go through that process because you do have a problem if, in responding to terrorism, you use methods that alienate more and more of the population.

So, in principle, we acknowledge that connection and we do what we can in our training to address that issue.

Q: I have a very simple question. I wondered what the basis was for your extraordinary statement in this report that the bombing of the USS Cole was not driven by events in the Levant and what is the basis for that? And if not, what was it driven by?

A: Jonathan, I think if you had not had the al-Aqsa intifada, you nevertheless may well have had the Cole because we know that there were previous attempts well before September 28th to conduct that kind of operation. So that is the distinction we are making.

Q: Last year, in this same press briefing, when they talked about the status of the paramilitaries in Colombia they said that that was under review and that eventually might ending up to be considered an FTO. I want to know if that is under discussion and if narco-trafficking could be one of the reasons for them to be included on that list.

A: I will reiterate what I said earlier. Any time we have a number of groups under consideration for designation as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, it is a very rigorous process; the requirements are laid out by U.S. law. Those requirements do not include narcotics activity per se, but are rather focused on terrorist activity.

Q: I suppose just by including the paramilitaries in the list, you can imagine that you are trying to send a message also to the paramilitaries. What exactly are you trying to accomplish putting the paramilitaries in there without having sanctions or being in the main list?

A: I think any group that is tempted to use terrorist tactics in their activity has to weigh in the balance the likely effect that will have on alienating not only the United States, but alienating the international community.

Q: On Iraq, the report said that the regime or the Iraqi regime hasn't attempted an anti-Western plot or attack since '93. Is that an indication that it's in the decline; terrorism there is in the decline? And how would you rate it?

A: I wouldn't -- personally, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions in that regard. I think the Iraqis have a lot of things on their plate. They continue to be a safe haven for many, many groups, including Abu Nidal, some of the most notorious groups. They continue kind of planning and they retain a capability to conduct terrorism. So I would caution you against drawing any kind of sweeping conclusions based on the fact that they haven't actually engaged in an operation in that time.

Q: To get back to Cuba, you said earlier that you are not putting people on the list and then shaking your finger at them, but isn't that essentially what is being done with Cuba, which has not supported, sustained, or actively contributed to any sort of terrorist or anti-American terrorist actions. I mean, a diplomatic statement at the Ibero-Am obviously was less than productive in their harboring of potential former terrorists, notwithstanding.

I mean, what has Cuba done in the past 10, 15 years to merit their inclusion on this list, without it being U.S. finger-pointing?

A: I think it is wrong for us to minimize the giving of safe haven to terrorists because if these individuals can act with impunity, if there is a statute of limitation and they can wait out the United States or the international community for a period of time, then it is a very powerful incentive for the conduct of this kind of activity. So it is very important to us, not only with regard to Cuba but with regard to North Korea and other state sponsors that they, as part of their getting out of the terrorism business, they come to deal with this question of terrorists that they are providing safe haven for.

So from our perspective, that is not a trivial issue, and it is something worth insisting on.

Q: So Cuba is the only country that merits being included on this list because it's the only country that's got safe haven for terrorists?

A: No, not at all. There are other countries that we just talked about -- Iraq. We talked about North Korea, Iran certainly. Cuba is not the only safe haven for terrorists, but that is a problem that they have not yet addressed.

Q: I have a question on sanctions. The Administration and Secretary Powell says he will be reviewing, I believe, all sanctions at some point. Does this include those that are automatically imposed with the listing? It may only apply to state sponsors. I don't know that he is talking about reviewing sanctions toward FTOs. But there is a lot of discussion, a lot of criticism of these automatic sanctions, that they prevent dealing in a bilateral way with some of the other issues, like weapons of mass destruction.

Is that part of the sanction review?

A: I believe the sanctions review will be broad, but I think that the counterterrorism or the terrorism sanctions have certainly clear rationale in terms of the U.S. interest involved and the stakes that we see.

I would also take advantage of your question to point out that moving towards "smart sanctions" is something that we have tried to do, quite apart from sanctions review. "Patterns" this year gives information related to Security Council Resolution 1333, which is very, very carefully targeted to avoid broad economic sanctions and to target sanctions against the Taliban, and particularly its military campaigns.

So in that sense, quite apart from any review, we working in counterterrorism have found a utility in trying to target sanctions more precisely.

Q: In the Southeastern Europe section you mention some of the Albanian extremist groups. They are not even -- they are not labeled as even one of the other groups. Many State Department officials from this podium have talked about their terrorist activity. I think Secretary Powell once even called them terrorists, although not official terrorists I guess with a capital "T." But why are they not on the list, even of others? And their activity this year in Macedonia -- does this make them in any more danger of being designated in the near future?

A: I think you are pointing to one of the factors, the fact that a lot of that activity is somewhat recent. This report is for the past year, 2000. We are concerned about the use of violence by these groups. We are also very concerned about the bombing in February, February 16th, of the bus and the civilian casualties that resulted from that. And again, I think our message would be any groups that do use terrorist tactics are quite likely to find themselves in a different category the next time we are together on this.

Q: You talk about -- in the Afghanistan portion you talk about groups that they are allowing to operate out of their territory. Can you elaborate on that and whether you have seen an up-tick in that activity last year or from, say, the year before?

A: There are a number of groups -- al-Qaida is perhaps the most familiar to Americans. But you have the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, you have the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, you have of course Kashmiri groups, you have (inaudible), you have Chechens. So it is, in many ways, terrorist central for the international community.

In terms of an up-tick, I would say we see continued very high levels of activity and very large numbers of people being trained, so that you have tens of thousands of people who have now gone through these camps and are part of the Arab Afghan alumni network. So it is a very troubling phenomenon and continues to be that.

Q: Can I just follow up? What did we -- is this a classic case of blowback, since all of these groups were originally trained by us in the '80s?

A: I think the continuation of the training capability is quite -- has led it to a different level and has really expanded the problem where it has international scope now, well beyond anything that was happening in the '80s. If you talk to Europeans, if you talk to people in the Middle East -- I was recently in Central Asia -- a phenomenon that used to be kind of a local phenomenon now has spread so that quite a remarkable number of countries in the international community find themselves with this problem. I think it is the internationalization of the phenomenon, which is causing so much attention and generating such a strong position on the part of the international community.

Q: Why do you think that is happening? What, is this just another part of globalization? Why is this possible, or is it another result of what is happening --

A: We have often seen terrorists take advantage of countries where they can do their training, do their planning, do their equipping in safety. Now, a lot of those swamps, as we call them, have been drained over time. If you'd look at Libya, for example, there is a lot less terrorist training going on there. The Sudanese also have by and large shut down the training camps.

So as these groups are squeezed out of other areas and look for safe places to conduct this activity, I think more and more of them have gravitated toward Afghanistan and that is why the problem is so acute there.

MR. REEKER: Thank you very much.

(end transcript)

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