Spokesman Richard Boucher
State Department Daily Briefing
State Department
Washington, D.C.
September 28, 2001
1:00 P.M. EDT

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I could, I'd like to talk about one or two things off the top, and then we can go on to your questions.

The first is I suppose in the way of normal business, getting back to normal. We have -- the Foreign Service exam is going to be given tomorrow. We have been thrilled with the success of our efforts to get people to sign up. We encourage everyone who has signed up to turn out for the exam. There are more than 23,500 people who have registered, nearly than twice the number of registrants in the year 2000. The increase in the number of minority registrants has given us approximately 6,000 minority registrants.

We've been making phone calls and efforts to get the people who signed up to actually show for the exam. In the past, there's been something like a 36 percent no-show rate. So we've been making phone calls from people in this building, as well as others. But by 7:00 p.m. on Friday, we will have made approximately 6,000 calls to minority applicants to show up. In addition, those who have had further questions have been referred to State Department employees who spent their own time calling candidates, and several hundred calls have been made by Assistant Secretaries, from Senior Foreign Service officers, junior officers, people around this building to prospective applicants to the Foreign Service. So people like Phil and I have been calling other people besides journalists.

So that's good. We've also sent a series of electronic postcards from the Secretary of State to the applicants for the exam to remind them to show up, and to remind them of the importance of the work that they are applying for.

So that's the situation with the Foreign Service exam tomorrow.

QUESTION: Of the exam?

QUESTION: No, not of the exam.

MR. BOUCHER: You'd like the answers, too?

QUESTION: No, on the e-mail.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we can do that.

QUESTION: Is it pass/fail? And if it is, passing doesn't assure you a job, does it?

MR. BOUCHER: No, it's a scored exam, and Sahar has taken it more recently than I have. I took it 25 years ago. It's a scored exam, and then there's a benchmark given, depending on the number of people we can take in. We're hiring now the Civil Service and Foreign Service, so this is only part of that. We're hiring about 1,400 people this year. But it's a scored exam, and a large number of people who pass the writtens, and then you have to go for an oral examination as well.

QUESTION: Do people who have specific languages this time already -- who already have languages --

MR. BOUCHER: We generally don't require any specific language. Once people pass the examination process, which has to do with the United States and history and world affairs and geography and all that stuff, then we look at people's language skills as part of the admissions -- the actual final decision on induction.

But we tend to think that languages -- it's always good to get people who have languages, but we also teach a lot of languages, too.

QUESTION: Did you say that you are making these calls to minority applicants exclusively, or is that --

MR. BOUCHER: I think it's especially to minority applicants. I'm not sure if it's exclusively. But that's the group that we have targeted the most.

QUESTION: Was this question asked before? How do you know? Do they say? Do they indicate on the form?

MR. BOUCHER: People, when they sign up, I think -- well, I guess the form may not be on the Web anymore, but when they signed up, they indicated their status.

QUESTION: You had two things.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, the second thing I'd like to talk about is the financial aspects, controlling the finance of terrorism that the President started off the week with, by announcing that we were opening up a major effort on that front. And we have seen, I think, a number of steps taken around the world. Twenty-some governments have taken concrete action either to freeze assets or impose new regulations. We've also seen a number of countries sign the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism.

The United States signed this some time ago and it is now under consideration up at the Senate and we are working with the Senate to get ratification. There are now about 36 countries who have signed the convention. And just in the last week or two, we have seen a number sign up. Turkey, for example, signed it yesterday. We certainly very much welcome that. The other countries -- Belgium signed it yesterday; Jordan signed it the 24th; Indonesia on the 24th; Denmark on the 25th; Luxembourg on the 20th.

So in addition to all the work we have been doing and the individual regulations and then the United Nations resolution that we are working this week, there is I think a growing international momentum for signing and then implementing this International Convention on the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism.

QUESTION: When did the US sign it?

MR. BOUCHER: We signed it in January of 2000.

QUESTION: And a year later you still haven't been able to get it through the Senate?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it has been up on the Senate, but I think at this point we are working very constructively with the Senate.

QUESTION: Is there some kind of opposition to it?

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of at this point.

QUESTION: If you are encouraging all of these other countries to sign it and put it into effect, how come the United States hasn't made a big push to get this done immediately as a model for other countries to follow? I mean, how come this wasn't --

MR. BOUCHER: Who said we hadn't?

QUESTION: Well, it's still -- if it's still up on the Senate. How come the Senate didn't pass this --

MR. BOUCHER: Didn't I just answer Matt's question?

QUESTION: I'm asking again, I guess.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, you can ask again. I'll give you the same answer. We signed it in January 2000. We think it is important. We have been working now with the Senate to try to get it ratified. We are making a big push. We are working constructively with the Senate. Matt asked me if I knew of any opposition up there and, frankly, I don't at this point. It looks like it will be done soon. And we are welcoming other countries signing it. Not enough have ratified it yet for it to enter into force. But that's the kind of momentum we are trying to establish, and I can assure you that we and the Senate agree the United States ought to be part of that.

QUESTION: Still on this, Richard. I'm sorry, I haven't read this as closely as perhaps I should have, but is signing and ratifying this treaty part of the resolution that you're shopping around up at the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it's probably referred to in there. One of the virtues of the resolution at the UN is, under Chapter 7, it would make mandatory the taking of a number of steps that roughly parallel those in the convention. So it would encourage countries not only to join in the convention but also to start carrying out the kind of steps that would be called for in the convention. So, in a way, the UN resolution gives us a jump on implementing the steps in the convention.

QUESTION: But can the UN Security Council compel a sovereign nation to sign a --

MR. BOUCHER: It can't compel it to sign. But the Chapter 7 resolution would be mandatory on people to carry out those steps that are delineated in the resolution.

QUESTION: Richard, it seems to me after reading this document -- this draft resolution -- that you are going to run into the --

MR. BOUCHER: How come everybody has a copy except me?

QUESTION: -- you're going to run into problems with countries saying, well, we don't consider this group to be a terrorist group and we don't accept your definition -- why should we accept your definition. Because it doesn't attempt at any stage in this to identify any particular groups or provide any objective definition of what we're talking about.

How are you going to get around that problem when it comes up?

MR. BOUCHER: We're going to work with other governments as we have been. I think there is a clear recognition among most members of the international community that people who run airplanes into large buildings are terrorists.

QUESTION: Aren't we talking about other people, though?

MR. BOUCHER: We're talking about other people as well. And that there will be a great deal of effort expended to work on this. We have identified ourselves the foreign terrorist organizations that we know of. We have identified in our own executive orders the groups and organizations that work at least with al-Qaida, and we will have a very active effort with other governments to identify and restrict the sources of financing for terrorist organizations. There is also, if you have read your resolution, a committee to be set up by the Security Council to deal with implementation issues, and I am sure these issues would be raised and discussed there.

QUESTION: Have you happened to -- can you say if you found an Algerian link? I mean, the Algerian terrorists were running their own nice campaign --

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to explain the law enforcement effort and the status of the investigation.

QUESTION: No, no, but I was saying, apropos --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's apropos but, no, I'm not going to comment on the investigation.

QUESTION: No, I'm sorry. All right.

QUESTION: A number of the men who were just posted on the FBI web site last night were Saudi nationals. Has the Saudi Government in any way cooperated in trying to look into the cases of these individuals?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, not to comment on any specific actions that governments have taken, but we have found the cooperation with the Saudi Government on a variety of issues to be excellent.

QUESTION: On that, Richard, has the Secretary sent a letter to the Sudanese, basically saying in the coming days -- the Sudanese Foreign Ministry this morning released something that they said was a communication between the Secretary and their foreign minister. I just want to make sure that that was -- was there a letter specifically sent to Sudan, or is this some kind of form letter that went out to everyone, saying we want your help?

MR. BOUCHER: We're checking.

QUESTION: Can we step aside from this for just a minute to perhaps have you say something about the exile by China of the writer, Wu?

QUESTION: Are we going to go to China now, or are we staying --

MR. BOUCHER: We're going to go to China. This is the case of Mr. Wu Jianming who, as you know, we have been talking about for some months. And our people, especially at our consulate in Guangzhou, have been raising this case with the Chinese and have been working very closely with Mr. Wu since his detention on April 8th.

We are pleased that he has been released. We are pleased that he is returning to his family in the United States. And our consular officers have reported that he appeared to be in generally good health. So that has happened, and we're glad to see it.

QUESTION: Did this come up with Foreign Minister Tang and the Secretary?

MR. BOUCHER: The issue of detainees and general human rights issues did come up. I can't remember if the specific case was mentioned. But this is something that we have pursued at a variety of levels in the past and I'm sure that it has been discussed with other members of the party.

QUESTION: Do you think the timing has any significance? Or what significance does the timing have, in your view?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. You would have to ask the Chinese on the timing. We are just glad he is out and glad he is able to return to his family. We have been working hard on this for a long time.

QUESTION: How about the detainees in Afghanistan? The status?

MR. BOUCHER: The people in Afghanistan. There is not a whole lot of news there. But let me tell you what there is. The Pakistani lawyer who was selected by the detainees has entered Afghanistan. He is on his route to Kabul. We understand he has a meeting with Taliban officials Saturday morning -- tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock. The lawyer has told the consuls, for the Americans, for the Germans and the Australians who are in detention, that he hoped to see them on Saturday. He's planning on taking a package of food and medicine and letters and personal items for the detainees. That package has been put together by their parents.

He will also keep family members and the US Embassy in Islamabad informed of the progress of the case. The parents of the American detainees are currently in Islamabad, and our embassy there remains in very close touch with them.

This is a Friday, a holiday for the Taliban, so US Embassy officials had no contacts with the Taliban representatives today about the welfare and the status of the Americans. But we've been in frequent contact with their officials in Islamabad to express our concern about these people and our concern about their welfare.

QUESTION: There are Christian groups around the world that are saying they are going to redouble their efforts to go into the Muslim countries. Do you find this a destabilizing factor?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of those statements. I wouldn't have any comment at this point.

QUESTION: Is it still your understanding that the trial is going to resume tomorrow, or is this what --

MR. BOUCHER: We don't know for sure. The lawyers told us that if the trial resumes, then he'll stay in Kabul; if not, if there are further delays, he'll go back to Pakistan. So at this point, we really don't know for sure if it's going to resume right away or not.

QUESTION: And is he going -- is the lawyer going for something special? I mean, is there some kind of --

MR. BOUCHER: He's going to see the detainees, first of all.

QUESTION: So there isn't any --

MR. BOUCHER: He's going to see his clients, you might say. And I guess he's there at this moment. If the trial starts, he'll be there for the trial.

QUESTION: So you're not aware that he's going for any specific proceeding?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't know of any particular proceeding. He wasn't able to pin that down before he left.

QUESTION: Was he told explicitly that he would be able to see the detainees?

MR. BOUCHER: No. He was told that he would have a meeting with the Taliban Saturday at 10:00 a.m. That's what he knows at this point -- what we know from him at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, do you consider the detainees to be human shields?

MR. BOUCHER: We consider them to be Americans who are detained, and we're concerned about their welfare.

QUESTION: Richard, what is Mr. Bolton doing in Uzbekistan?

MR. BOUCHER: Under Secretary Bolton is traveling in the region, including Uzbekistan. He is traveling as part of our diplomatic effort to counter the threat of terrorism.

QUESTION: Can you give us the other countries?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any other information on that.

QUESTION: How long has he been there?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information on that.

QUESTION: I understand that in this new war on terrorism that a lot of information that we may have gotten before is not going to be available to reporters. But the itinerary of a diplomatic mission in the region, why is that now not something you're going to disclose publicly?

MR. BOUCHER: Because in this particular circumstance, it's not something we want to disclose publicly. Because that's essential -- we think it's a factor in the success of the mission.

QUESTION: But when you said the region, you mean Central Asia? Or do you mean South Asia? What region are you talking about?

MR. BOUCHER: The region around Uzbekistan.

QUESTION: Well, when we report this --

MR. BOUCHER: In Central Asia.

QUESTION: You mean Central Asia.

MR. BOUCHER: Central Asia and that region.

QUESTION: Speaking of that region, the Secretary is meeting today with the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan. And the Kazakhs on Monday -- I'm sure you'll have no problem, since they came out and said that they were going to cooperate and they would offer over-flight access to their airspace. Have you guys availed yourselves of this?

MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we have not been confirming what we might or might not be doing, asking, or availing ourselves of in particular countries. But certainly, we have noted Kazakhstan's strong support. I expect the Secretary will thank the Foreign Minister this afternoon. We think Kazakhstan has made the clear commitment to the fight against terrorism and we appreciate the cooperation and coordination we have had. And I am sure the Secretary and the Foreign Minister will talk about the way forward.

QUESTION: Do you know if Mr. Bolton traveled commercially to Uzbek on Air Uzbekistan?

MR. BOUCHER: That is not something I would be able to comment on.

QUESTION: Can you give us some kind of time frame to this mission that he is on? I mean, our understanding was that he had been there since Monday and he was staying right through next week. It seems to suggest you've actually set up a whole kind of department over there.

MR. BOUCHER: That's not anything I have any information for you on.

QUESTION: Richard, without going into specifics as you don't want to, as what individual countries are doing, you have thanked certain countries for their support and noted in cases where they have provided a lot of support. Would you say that the Uzbeks are as forthcoming as you would like them to be at this point?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to characterize too many individual countries, and that directly relates to what I am not able to talk about. So I am afraid I am not going to be able to talk about it.

QUESTION: There have been some countries that have offered a lot of support --

MR. BOUCHER: And we have left it to those individual countries to make statements about what they are prepared to do or not to do.

QUESTION: But that wasn't the question. Just as you said you welcome this support --

MR. BOUCHER: I can't characterize their cooperation unless they talk about their cooperation.

QUESTION: But you have characterized Saudi and Pakistan, at least, as being cooperative. And somehow I thought you had done that for Uzbekistan as well, but I don't remember.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember having done it. I have talked about the kind of support and cooperation that we have had in Central Asia. We have been pleased with that. We are working with a number of governments in the region. But that is about as far as I can go at this moment.

QUESTION: Pakistan also has its own security concerns with Islamic extremists. What kind of obligations does the United States have in helping Uzbekistan if we do --

MR. BOUCHER: We have worked for a long time with Uzbekistan and with other governments in the region on the fight against terrorism. We have supported their efforts. We have had cooperative programs and training, we have had meetings together with other governments in the region. The problems created by the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan, which is a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaida, have been things that we have been working on with them for many years.

QUESTION: Do we also still express concern about human rights and religious freedoms there?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, absolutely. We have not dropped our concerns about human rights all over the world. In terms of the way we have dealt with the problems of terrorism in the region, we have frequently made the point that an essential part of that is to separate the terrorists from the believers, from legitimate and peaceful believers in Islam. And that that is a human rights question, but it is also an essential element of the fight against terrorism.

QUESTION: Same subject. Have you got -- has the US Government received a fresh rejection, as it's being reported on one cable network, from the Taliban so far as releasing Usama bin Laden? I mean, it's a standing request, of course. But there was a report a while ago that they said no, again.

MR. BOUCHER: There haven't been any particular contacts with the United States. We haven't had any direct discussions with them. I don't know if it's in relation to the Pakistani -- there was a group of Pakistani clerics and government people, I think, who were going. We are aware of that trip. Nobody is carrying any message on our behalf.

But, clearly, we would expect them to express the view to the Taliban, the view that is shared by the United States and Pakistan, that the Taliban need to do what the President told them to do -- asked them to do -- last Thursday night in his speech. And if they don't do that, they're going to suffer the same fate.

QUESTION: Richard, has the time for diplomacy, as far as the US is concerned with the Taliban -- has the time for diplomacy run out?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to try to make statements like that. I am not offering any sense of timing of other measures.

QUESTION: When you say you don't want to talk about Mr. Bolton's itinerary or his -- but can you say when he left the United States, not necessarily when he arrived in wherever he might be?


QUESTION: And the reason being? That his departure from the United States is somehow a classified secret?


QUESTION: Then I don't get it.

MR. BOUCHER: We are engaged in a broad-based campaign that has many elements, many people doing different things. Under Secretary Bolton is part of this. He is traveling in the region of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, to try to help accomplish this mission. But, frankly, some of the details of the who, what, when, where and how and what he is doing are just not going to be made available because we think it's important for some of these missions to be able to occur with a sense of discretion.

QUESTION: But you have just come out and announced that it's happening. I don't understand why you can't say when exactly he left the United States. I can understand that you want to keep his arrival and wherever he is going --

MR. BOUCHER: It's not too hard to calculate when he might have arrived in various places based on the time he left. There's no essential difference.

QUESTION: Can you say that this is a diplomatic mission, or are there any -- is there a Pentagon element in this, by any chance?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't talk about that.

QUESTION: When you talk about this mission, can you be more specific?

QUESTION: The reason -- I just want to clarify -- the reason why you don't want to be forthcoming with a lot of the details about this trip, does that have anything to do with the safety of the party, or is it because of the discretion of the actual diplomacy involved?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want us to get started down that road, Eli. You start talking about security concerns, you start talking about the nature of the mission. It's just not a mission that we feel it's appropriate to talk about, because we think the success of the mission would be enhanced by not talking about it.

QUESTION: So you're saying -- what is the mission?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to answer questions about the mission.

QUESTION: He said he wouldn't talk about it.

MR. BOUCHER: The mission is to coordinate with governments of Central Asia on the fight against terrorism.

QUESTION: Is he alone?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't answer that.