Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
October 5, 2001
QUESTION: (Inaudible) since September 11th? To any (inaudible)?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, a lot of this cooperation has been more active and increased
since September 11th. We have discussed, for example, the European Union, about
two weeks ago, I think, right after the bombing, made a series of decisions
that justice and interior ministers made about how they, as an organization,
could do more against terrorism.
We certainly cooperate and coordinate with them. Because, like us, they are
democracies, and like us, they want to do this in a way that is not only effective,
but which protects the basic rights and freedoms of their citizens.
QUESTION: Richard, representatives of the Iranian resistance have expressed
mystification that a group that is fighting a country designated one of the
leading state sponsors of terrorism could itself be designated a terrorist organization.
And the suggestion has been raised that this group is being put on the list
as a concession to Iran in the midst of all of the diplomatic goings-on having
to do with international terrorism. Any comment on those complaints?
MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about the Mujahedin-e Khalq?
QUESTION: Yes, the MEK.
MR. BOUCHER: This organization has a history that is full of terrorist acts,
of anti-Western activity, including support for the 1979 takeover of the US
Embassy in Tehran. The fact that the group targets Iran or Iranian citizens
doesn't alter the terrorist nature of its activities. We can't condone terrorism,
even if it's directed against a government with which we have differences, and
which itself supports terrorism. More importantly, the group is heavily supported
by the Iraqi regime and Saddam Hussein, an enemy of the United States that provides
the group with bases, training and material support.
There was an Appeals Court decision on this. The Appeals Court upheld the designation,
but it ordered that the Secretary of State give the group the opportunity to
submit materials in support of its view that it should not have been re-designated
as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The group has submitted these materials;
we have considered them carefully; and we have gone ahead with this re-designation.
QUESTION: And I understand from the Mujahedin people, who have an office in
downtown Washington, that no measures have been taken against them whatsoever,
even since September the 11th. Why not, since you're supposedly launching a
campaign against terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: As a group that is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,
they would be subject to all the controls and restrictions that I described
under the law.
QUESTION: But they're not?
QUESTION: Two years ago, they were told that they had to close -- or the implication
was made that the NCR, the National Council of Resistance, which you have identified
as an alias of the MEK, has to close its office, which is five or seven miles
MR. BOUCHER: I will double check on that and see if that's something that we
have control over. But I will check.
QUESTION: -- the group that -- it was like in Los Angeles a few months ago,
that they were arrested?
MR. BOUCHER: There were certainly people arrested in Los Angeles not too long
ago associated with this group. That's true.
QUESTION: Richard, did you give any thought to placing the Fatah Tanzim on this
MR. BOUCHER: We do look at Palestinian groups. First of all, we report on them
separately in what is called the PLO Compliance Act reports that we put out.
So those are available as well, our view of some of those organizations. And
we obviously keep groups, Palestinian groups, under review.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) not placed on the list?
MR. BOUCHER: We keep lots of groups under close watch to see what the activities
are and whether they constitute sufficient grounds to meet the legal standard
QUESTION: Do you know if the Palestinian Authority has taken action as urged
in this statement to choke off financing to HAMAS or to Palestinian Islamic
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have left other parties to describe what steps they
might have taken in regard to specific organizations, particularly the terrorist
organizations. So I think I have to leave it to them to talk about what they
QUESTION: I don't want to belabor the point, but I do sort of want to understand
what it is that you all are doing, perhaps, to make the FTO designation more
effective, knowing as we have learned in the last few weeks that members of
al-Qaida have really flown back and forth in many instances from the United
States to countries in Europe and elsewhere. And knowing that it has also come
out that some of the members have used ATM machines to get money, literally
just before the attack, I mean, clearly they must have had a bank account or
something like that.
So what measures are you all reviewing right now to try to put a little more
teeth in this?
MR. BOUCHER: As I have said before, we have done a number of measures involving
visa processing and immigration processing, that we and other government agencies
will be cooperating on. The most important thing, though, is to get the information.
And you see an enormous effort under way to collect financial information, to
share information with other governments, to identify people, to roll up organizations,
roll up networks, share information on the individuals who might be involved.
Because the most important thing is identifying who might be associated with
these organizations so that we can look for them, get them, stop them, prevent
them from getting visas, et cetera.
QUESTION: Richard, on that, can you say or can you find out how many people
may have been added to the watch lists since you began the counter-terrorism
cooperation, the sharing intelligence with people? I mean, obviously not specifics,
but how big is this list now and how big was it on the 10th?
MR. BOUCHER: I will see if I can do that for you; I don't have that information
QUESTION: So we get an idea of the quantitative impact --
MR. BOUCHER: We may not have had that influx of information quite yet. There
are people making arrests, there are people finding information around the world.
And we will see -- I will see, and check if I can see if the surge of information
QUESTION: Richard, I just want to sort out one thing. The Japanese Red Army
is being cut off. Does this -- what effect if any does this have on the status
of North Korea as a state sponsor?
MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't change the status of North Korea. The status of any
country on the list of state sponsors is a separate matter. It is the lack of
continuing terrorist activity by the Japanese Red Army that meant that we didn't
re-designate them. We didn't have information that fits that criteria of acts
over the last two years.
The 1970 hijacking that was carried out by five JRA faction terrorists remains
a criminal act, it remains an issue that must be addressed. And their continued
presence in North Korea constitutes a safe haven from judicial accountability.
This would be a key consideration on US law regarding the designation of state
sponsors of terrorists.
QUESTION: On that note, I don't know whether you would label it as a foreign
terrorist organization or a state sponsor of terrorism, but you have said repeatedly
that the Taliban is harboring terrorists. So the fact that you don't recognize
the Taliban as a government, but it is -- what would you -- are you considering
labeling the Taliban as a foreign terrorist --
MR. BOUCHER: I believe the President did what was necessary to take action against
the assets of the Taliban in the executive order 10 days ago.
QUESTION: Right, but your designation of the Taliban --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the precise legal definition would be. But I
would tell you that they are already subject to the controls of the President's
executive order a week ago Monday.
QUESTION: Are you in listing the Taliban or not listing the Taliban, you are
kind of hamstrung by the fact that you don't recognize them as a government,
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think the fact that the President already listed them and
took action 10 days ago means we're not hamstrung.
QUESTION: No, I am talking about the State Department and the State Department's
list. You can't take -- is it correct, you cannot take sanctions against something
-- against a power that you don't recognize as legitimate?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't say that. As the other questioner pointed out, I
suppose we have the option of designating the Taliban as an organization, if
we believe that appropriate under this list. There are different legal criteria.
But the fact is, that the President has already taken action that no financial
transactions or assets of the Taliban would be allowed to flow.
QUESTION: Would you mind going to another subject?
MR. BOUCHER: There seems to be a chorus in favor of that.
QUESTION: One more quick. Going back to the visa and finances? Some of these
groups or people maybe enter the United States as priests or performers or artists.
And also, they are raising funds here, and sending back home or supporting these
groups, and they may not be crossing the US banking or Treasury laws, because
their finances or monies under the US law may be in small amounts.
So what would you do in dealing with these groups in the future? I mean, how
would you control them?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, it doesn't matter what category of visa you're applying
for, if it's a business visa, a performance visa, fiancé visa or whatever.
If your name doesn't clear the list, you're not going to get a visa. If your
name doesn't clear the list, the INS is not going to let you across the border.
Second of all, as far as any material contribution to these groups, any donations
to this group, any fundraising by these groups would be prohibited under this
We had some changes of subject.
QUESTION: It looks like there's a campaign on the Hill under way to persuade
you to do what you can to stop Syria getting on the Security Council. What are
you going to do in response to this campaign, and is there indeed anything that
you can do at this stage?
MR. BOUCHER: As I said yesterday, as a matter of longstanding policy, we --
QUESTION: I'm not asking you if you didn't vote; I'm asking what you're going
to do to try and prevent the Syrians getting on the Security Council.
MR. BOUCHER: Doesn't that amount to the same thing?
QUESTION: No. No, not at all. You can twist some arms, or something.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't understand the question, Jonathan. I really don't.
QUESTION: Congressmen and women on the Hill are asking you to do --
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, that part I understood. What's the question?
QUESTION: The question is, what are you going to do?
MR. BOUCHER: What are we going to do? We are going to do what we need to do,
what we can do in the Security Council, and we are not going to disclose the
vote. So we are not in a position to disclose our votes.
There are a variety of factors that need to be taken into account. Obviously,
the question of the contributions of potential members to international peace
and security including actions on international terrorism, compliance with Security
Council resolutions, these are all key factors. We also evaluate candidates
by whether or not they have the support of the regional group. Because, as you
know, in the UN, a vote takes place in the General Assembly and generally candidates
that are uncontested within their regional group get voted in.
So we will look at this situation and we will do what we think is appropriate.
But we don't disclose, either in advance or afterwards, how we have voted.
QUESTION: The question isn't how you are going to vote. The question is, are
you going to lobby other people to try and prevent --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a particular answer to that question.
As you know, last year with Sudan, Sudan's candidacy was contested within its
regional group and, second of all, Sudan was subject to UN sanctions.
QUESTION: Wait, it was contested within its regional group because you pushed
and pushed and pushed for Mauritius. It wasn't going to be Mauritius until you
guys launched this campaign to get --
MR. BOUCHER: It was contested within its regional group.
QUESTION: Okay. And this year, you decided that there should be no -- no one
should contest against Syria in their regional group when this is decided --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't belong to the regional group that Syria belongs to.
QUESTION: Yeah, well, you don't belong to the African regional group either.
MR. BOUCHER: Matt, I will go back --
QUESTION: I don't get it. I just don't get it --
MR. BOUCHER: I would suggest then you go back and you read about a year of history
last year, to know that in fact the candidacy of Sudan was not agreed within
their regional group, it was a subject of dispute at the OAU summit. There were
some reports after that that it had been agreed but in fact we later learned
it was not. We discussed this extensively when we went to the UN last fall.
And that was the circumstance. But that's all history.
QUESTION: You can look at this then as a foregone conclusion that Sudan --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that either. I said we are not going to disclose one
way or the other how we are going to handle this.
QUESTION: How long have you known that Syria had the unanimous support from
the Asia bloc? You've known this for how long?
MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't know when they got the support of the Asia bloc.
We would more or less know it when the group decides.
QUESTION: Richard, earlier this year, a named official -- Assistant Secretary
Walker -- said that Syria is not a suitable candidate for the Security Council
seat because it was in violation -- if it was in violation of UN sanctions against
Iraq, as it continues to -- appears to continue to be. Do you think that Syria
is a suitable candidate for membership in the Security Council?
MR. BOUCHER: That is basically a rephrasing of the question, "What are
you going to do on Monday?" and I am just not able to answer that.
QUESTION: No, it's not. Well, no, it's a completely different question.
QUESTION: I mean, you can vote for Syria or not vote at all because you --
MR. BOUCHER: If we thought they were unsuitable, could we vote for them?
QUESTION: You could abstain --
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose that's true. I don't have any new judgments on that.
QUESTION: So the stated position has not changed?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no new judgments on that question.
QUESTION: So even though Assistant Secretary Walker has now left the administration,
that remains -- his comments remain valid?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no new judgment on the question. You are asking me --
QUESTION: Is the old judgment what Secretary Walker said back in February?
MR. BOUCHER: As Jonathan read it -- I would, first of all, want to look up the
quote. Second of all, as he read it, it is if they are in violation of UN Security
Council resolutions, I don't have any new judgment on that question, and I am
not sure he made one back then.
QUESTION: Georgian President Shevardnadze is visiting again in Washington.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: How important is this visit in the context of handling the international
terrorism? If it is important, why it is important?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a very important visit. Obviously, we have very close relationships
with Georgia. The Secretary met with President Shevardnadze at Blair House just
now for about 45 minutes. They had a very good discussion. They discussed the
situation in the region. They talked about the situation that Georgia faces
at home, including problems that Georgia has had with terrorism, with Abkhazia
and elsewhere. And they discussed, in fact, President Shevardnadze's desire
to reach a political settlement of the political issues there.
They also talked quite a bit about Chechnya and the need for a political settlement
in Chechnya. But also the need to do everything that we can and they can to
control any activities of terrorists in the region.
QUESTION: Does that extend to President Shevardnadze's apparent offering to
act as an intermediary in Chechnya? Is that something that you would like to
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that is anything we would have a particular comment
on. Obviously, we welcomed the steps that the Russians have taken in terms of
offering discussions. We have welcomed Mr. Maskhadov's reaction and interest
in that, and we certainly hope that that track proceeds.
QUESTION: With or without the participation --
MR. BOUCHER: As far as whether they would like to have some assistance from
President Shevardnadze. That would be for the parties.
QUESTION: One of the things that the Russians were looking for was for the US
to use its influence with Georgia in order to close the border, so as not to
allow Chechen rebels to go through to Russia. Did the US ask the President to
do that, to seal off his border?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had, for many years, some cooperation with Georgia in the
area of border security, and we indeed did talk about continuing that cooperation.
QUESTION: Did you ask him to seal off the border?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stop with that.
QUESTION: Another subject? Bangladesh. The former prime minister, or outgoing,
is still saying that elections are rigged, and she does not agree that the electional
results. And also, the new government, which is going to take place, is kind
of pro-extremists. And now they're already protest -- anti-US protests in Bangladesh,
and they are saying that they will fight for bin Laden. So do we have any comments
on the new government, and their views really, and --
MR. BOUCHER: I think the only thing, really, to say is that the election was
well carried out. The caretaker Government, we think, did a very good job preparing
this election. The election was widely recognized by foreign observers and domestic
groups as free and fair. We accept those results. We think the parties in Bangladesh
should accept those results, in that judgment, and that Bangladesh does need
stability and democracy. And we look forward to working with the new government
in that manner.