Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
October 5, 2001
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can at the top, just
to note that I think you all have copies of the statement that we have made
on the Secretary's re-designation of foreign terrorist organizations. This was
the two-year anniversary of the designation of some groups and, therefore, as
a matter of the expiration, as a matter of law, he had to re-designate these
groups. He re-designated 25 groups; there are three others on the list, so there
are a total of 28 groups now on our list of foreign terrorist organizations.
For groups on this list, the law prohibits any persons in the United States,
makes it illegal for persons in the United States to provide any kind of financial
or material support, makes people in these organizations ineligible for visas
and takes other steps with regard to financial institutions. So this is one
of our ways of continuing the fight against terrorism, continuing to impose
restrictions on these organizations and members of these organizations, insofar
as they might wish to use the United States as a place to move money or people.
QUESTION: Can you just clarify on the record that the fact that this list is
unrelated to the list that the White House and the Treasury put out last week?
I mean, it's not completely unrelated, but it's a different list?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a different list. It is not completely unrelated. There are
several executive orders and lists that have to do with terrorism. This is a
certification process that we do every two years to identify foreign terrorist
organizations. It has certain legal implications, financial implications. There
is also an executive order, a 1995 executive order 19247, I think it is -- it
may be 12947 -- of January 1995 that lists organizations that have been trying
to harm and interrupt the Middle East peace process at that time. So that executive
order had certain implications for specific organizations, some of which are
also on this list. And then we had another executive order about a week ago,
10 days ago, from the President where he specifically listed the entities of
al-Qaida and associated with al-Qaida, in order to make them subject to very
specific controls, in the financial area particularly.
QUESTION: Could you say how successful you believe that this list has been?
I mean, you have to depend on Treasury to freeze funds, to find the accounts,
and to freeze funds. How successful do you think follow-up has been?
MR. BOUCHER: We think there is very good follow-up. Treasury works, obviously,
with the US financial and banking system to prevent in every way they can any
specific financial transactions, banking transfers associated with these groups.
Obviously, we know that some of the operations of terrorists are done through
fronts and some done through individuals and so it's in some ways very hard
to track down every one. But with regard to the specific purpose of these laws
and the ability to stop transactions involving these groups, I think we are
fairly confident we can do that.
QUESTION: Richard, is there any way to quantify how successful you think you've
been? Do you have any idea of bank accounts or amounts of money?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I don't think I can do that. Treasury might have had,
but the major importance of these steps is it prevents these people from using
the US banking system. It prevents these organizations from transferring money.
So it's money not taken that -- it prevents the facilities to be available to
them of the world's largest financial centers.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary mentioned two groups with close ties to al-Qaida;
I'm sure there are others. Could you mention them?
MR. BOUCHER: There are others. Al-Qaida is on this list, as well as on some
of these other lists as well. In fact, all the other lists of organizations
that are subject to various financial controls. There are other bin Laden-affiliated
groups that are on this list, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Gama'a
al-Islamiyya, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, the Harakut ul-Mujahidin, the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Abu Sayyaf Group. All those organizations
have ties to or receive financial support from bin Laden. And you'll find many
of these associated groups on other lists as well.
QUESTION: I understand that one of the new features of the Executive Order last
week, with the list of 27 individuals and organizations, was that it imposed,
or could impose, sanctions against banks which failed to comply. Is this something
-- a practice you intend to expand to cover other groups on the FTO list?
MR. BOUCHER: This list that we put out under this law has to do with the provisions
of this particular law that requires this list. We did say, when the President
put out the Executive Order, that we would expect to add others to the list
as time went on, but that first and foremost, we wanted to get at the al-Qaida
organization and all its associated groups. We said that when we put that out.
QUESTION: Is it correct to say that it wasn't an exhaustive list and you can
add any more at any time? Or has it have done by the end of the year?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we add from time to time. I think, this year the Secretary
of State has added the Real IRA to this list, and the AUC in Colombia. Secretary
Albright added several groups from time to time. So we always keep careful watch
on groups that are active around the world, and as we see groups that meet the
criteria, we will add them to the list.
QUESTION: Just one more on this. Based on the criteria, it says -- on the criteria
(inaudible) the criteria based on what you designate, the organization's activities
must threaten the security of US nationals, or national security, and national
defense, et cetera. Does it mean that those which threaten democracy; for instance,
the group that blew up -- tried to blow up -- the Kashmir Assembly building
MR. BOUCHER: This is a legal standard that is in our law that we use for the
purposes of this law. Obviously --
QUESTION: But then also (inaudible) threaten the United States, it threatens
only the Sri Lankan government, the Liberation Tigers --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, this is a criteria in our law that applies to the United
States and to the actions in the United States that we can carry out. Clearly,
we have a broad view of the national security interests of the United States.
But it would be measured --because of the law, anything would be measured against
these particular criteria that are in our law.
QUESTION: When the Foreign Minister of India was here, he met with Secretary
Colin Powell, and he made a plea and gave a list of, India's list that these
groups must be or should be added on the list. So where do we stand on that?
What was the reaction from the Secretary to the Foreign Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: These groups have been raised. We have certainly heard questions,
and I think the Secretary was quite clear that the attack on the legislature
in Srinagar was a horrible attack, expressed strong, heart-felt condolences
to the Indian people who suffered in that attack. And we viewed it also as an
attack on democracy.
The group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, is also listed in our Patterns of Global Terrorism
Report as an other group, and so this is a group that we do keep under active
review and it is a group that we have been looking at carefully to see if it
meets the criteria for designation.
QUESTION: As we go against Usama bin Laden and the Taliban, this group based
in Pakistan is a close ally of Usama bin Laden and Taliban. They have claimed
the responsibility. So where do we stand, since they are close to Usama and
MR. BOUCHER: I think I just told you where we stand with them, and I will leave
it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: I am sure this is going to come up later as well, but Prime Minister
Sharon said that the US should consider HAMAS and Hizballah as terrorist groups
and, of course, they have been on the list for years. What was the implication
that the US took from that? Did he just not know that? I mean, why is he --
did he not understand that they already are --
MR. BOUCHER: I think you can ask the Israeli Government the questions about
why they said what they said. HAMAS, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and
a variety of other groups have been designated as foreign terrorist organizations
for years. They are subject to these restrictions in the United States and,
furthermore, they are designated by that executive order of January 1995 that
was specifically directed at groups like that to a number of more specific financial
QUESTION: al-Qaida was -- has been on the list, am I correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: And it says here that representatives or certain members can be denied
visas or excluded from the United States. And yet all of the people who hijacked
these planes received visas into the United States. Can we conclude then that
this law is -- that this rule is basically a piece of paper that is not being
MR. BOUCHER: No, that would be a very incorrect conclusion.
QUESTION: Would you like stronger enforcement of some of these rules?
MR. BOUCHER: Would you like to hear a longer answer?
MR. BOUCHER: Everyone who gets a US visa is checked against the database that
we have of people who are ineligible. Anyone who has been identified as having
an association with a terrorist group will not qualify for a visa and will not
get a visa. It is actually physically impossible, given the equipment that we
have put out, for anyone to issue a visa unless the name has cleared the database
We therefore rely on these databases for the best possible information. If we
don't have information when somebody applies, then we don't get a hit when we
check the name against the database.
So the issue that we are looking at most closely right now is how to make sure
that the best possible information gets into our databases, so that when we
check at the visa issuance post, or when the immigration service checks when
the person arrives at the border, they know; they have the best possible information
for the US Government.
We are working with the Congress and with our other agencies in the Executive
Branch to better identify the threats to our country. We have asked the Congress
now to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make it easier to deny visas
to aliens who support terrorism. Legislation has also been introduced to give
us access to the FBI's National Crime Information Center database.
We have also implemented, at several posts, photo recognition technology. So
we are also looking to identify people who might not be using their real names.
And we hope to find a technology that can help us do that.
We have also been working with the Immigration and Naturalization Service before
September 11th as well to give the immigration service access to our electronic
visa records, so that all the information we might get at an embassy is shared
with the border examiner when the person comes in to the United States. And
that program is continuing; that program is going to be expanded.
And I would note as well, we are also working very closely with other countries,
particularly the friendly countries and neighbors, on ways to cooperate, ways
to coordinate even better on immigration issues.
So while we do have a system that prevents issuance to anyone who is on our
lists, we're trying to improve the lists, we're trying to improve the recognition
of people, we're trying to use technology better, and we're trying to make sure
that all the information we have in the US Government is better shared so that
we can do a better job in the future.
QUESTION: The people that attacked on September 11th were kind of sleepers.
They are people that have been in this country for many, many years, or even
a year or more, and there's reports in the press today that there's an expectation
of further attacks, that basically there are people in the United States right
now who are prepared to launch further attacks.
What are you doing, what is the State Department doing to identify these people,
and make sure that further attacks do not take place?
MR. BOUCHER: As I have said, anyone that we can identify, that we can get into
our name list, we can prevent from coming into the United States, because he
won't get a visa and he won't get an INS name check at the border. Beyond that,
as you know, and you will hear, I'm sure, the domestic agencies will tell you
what they are able to do about people who might have gotten here already.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? If you've started to try to improve the list, or
the way that you track these folks when you issue these types of visas, why
does the State Department continue to issue temporary visas since September
11th, with what seems to be an admission is an inadequate system, at least for
tracking all the information about these folks?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not say it's an inadequate system. It's a system that is
as good as we've got now, and we can make it better. But any time we have information
that somebody might be associated with a terrorist organization, we can stop
them from getting a visa, and INS can stop them from getting into the country.
QUESTION: But why was -- I mean, if you're trying to improve the list and your
capabilities for tracking these folks when you issue the visas, and you're trying
to make them better, then why wouldn't you at least temporarily freeze the issuances
of these visas while you were trying to beef up the system?
MR. BOUCHER: There are millions of people who travel to the United States safely,
who are friendly, who bring -- come to the United States for purposes of tourism
or business. They spend billions of dollars in our economy. We can't close the
United States off to the world. We have to protect the United States from travelers
who might want to do us harm. And that's what we and the law enforcement agencies,
working with the Congress, are trying to do.
QUESTION: Richard, along those same lines, do you guys have any indication that
any of these groups that are on -- that you have re-designated today -- actually
have any assets in the United States, or that they intend to try and raise money
here? Or is this simply a preventative measure?
MR. BOUCHER: It may be that when these organizations were first designated,
that we were able at that moment to catch any assets they might have had here.
In many cases, I doubt if it is very much money. But the purpose of having these
laws in place and doing the re-designation is to keep them from using the facilities
of the US banking system. And wherever we can identify a transaction, or wherever
one of these groups would want to undertake a transaction, were they to try
to wire money in a way that might pass through the financial centers of New
York, the banks would have the authority to stop it. Mostly, it is a preventive
step that keeps them from using the facilities of the US system.
QUESTION: Can I ask two questions? Are you imposing a new cap on the number
of people who can get into this country, like a new number of visas? Are you
reducing that number?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: And the second is, do you have a focus on certain countries that you
pay more attention?
MR. BOUCHER: We have one standard that applies around the world in all countries,
one Immigration and Nationality Act that constitutes the requirements for consular
officers. They apply this act fairly in all countries. Clearly, different countries
have different circumstances, different levels of development, different individual
circumstances. But the Immigration and Nationality Act gives the guidance to
the consular officer to talk to an individual and to find out whether under
that act they qualify for entry into the United States or not.
QUESTION: This is different. Obviously, this is different from the list that
the President sent out. Is it illegal if countries do not freeze the assets
of the groups, other countries do not freeze the assets of the groups on this
list? I mean, I know everything --
MR. BOUCHER: I was asked that question from before and I think I said this list
has certain legal bases and it is used to carry out a certain law that has the
restrictions on using financial centers, getting visas, getting material support
from the United States. The executive order that the President issued about
al-Qaida a week or 10 days ago did have one additional provision that said that
we could block accounts or block cooperation with foreign banks who might be
allowing these groups to operate. That is a list that, at present, is targeted
at al-Qaida because the President said begin with al-Qaida. In the 12 days since
the attacks, we have put together the first list of that.
But we said at the time, as I think when Jonathan asked a similar question,
I think I said, we said at the time that we would be expanding it over time
to others. There are also specific financial provisions of the executive order
in January of 1995. So if you really want to do the complete legal analysis,
you have to factor that in as well.
QUESTION: How much more attention is this list now getting from other countries?
I don't know if before other countries have lobbied to have maybe their terrorist
organizations placed on your list? And especially with the new counter-terrorism
coalition around the world, they are probably looking to sign on to something
like this to put more pressure on their own organizations. And at the same time,
I think we've heard that Britain started this list last year. Do you know of
any other countries that, in the new push against terrorism, may be starting
a list like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know. I haven't had time to do that exhaustive a
check. I will see if we have any particular list of people with lists.
We do cooperate, though, in many, many ways with other governments and countries.
We have specific bilateral activities against terrorism with individual governments
who are concerned about terrorist activities in their countries. We do training,
we do exchanges, we do seminars, we have had a series of exchanges and meetings
with the Central Asians, for example, who face threat from the Islamic Movement
of Uzbekistan, which is associated with al-Qaida.
Furthermore, we have excellent cooperation, for example, among the Group of
7 nations, who have worked very hard against terrorism, and the finance ministers
will meet tomorrow and look again at what more specific steps they can take
against the financing of terrorism.