Combating International Terrorism

Testimony by Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., Coordinator for Counterterrorism, before the House of Representatives, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington, DC, March 5, 1996.

Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for this opportunity to testify about the responsibilities and activities of the Department of State in combating international terrorism. Americans view with growing concern the threat of terrorism at home and abroad. The Administration considers the struggle against international terrorism as one of our top foreign policy priorities, because of the threat it poses to the U.S., and to many other nations. In speeches last fall to the United Nations, the President and Secretary Christopher called for accelerated international cooperation against this menace and in Washington, we are strengthening our own capabilities.

Since there are many dimensions to international terrorism, effective counterterrorism calls for the skills and resources of various elements of the U.S. government. We have learned from past experience with fragmented efforts that coordination of these resources is essential. For this reason, the President has designated the Department of State, in keeping with its overall responsibility for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, as the lead agency for managing and coordinating counterterrorism policy and operations abroad, whereas the Department of Justice has been designated the lead agency for domestic terrorism. These responsibilities were reaffirmed recently in Presidential Decision Directive 39, signed by President Clinton on June 21, 1995.

Since the creation in 1972 of the forerunner of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, my office — known as S/CT — has been the focal point for this coordinating activity. Coordination, Mr. Chairman, is central to State’s counterterrorism role, and I want to emphasize this at the outset of my testimony, although the focus of this hearing is on specific responsibilities of State, Defense and the FBI. For this reason, I would like to explain State’s particular contributions in the context of our coordinating role.

Diplomacy and International Cooperation

Terrorism affects the security and the political and economic stability of nations. Acts of international terrorism, by definition, involve the citizens or territory of more than one nation, and terrorists are expanding their regional and global reach. Diplomacy and international cooperation are, therefore, critically important to a successful effort against the terrorist threat.

To enhance such cooperation, my office conducts frequent consultations with many foreign governments, usually with interagency teams, which might include colleagues from Justice, FBI, CIA, DOD, FAA and other agencies. These consultations are a valuable means of projecting U.S. policy aims and obtaining foreign cooperation. In recent months, I have led interagency teams to Moscow, New Delhi, Islamabad, Riyadh and Sanaa. We have held consultations with over 20 governments in the past year, and we have met with counterterrorism experts of the European Union and the Group of Eight.

This network of international cooperation is growing stronger, as more and more nations realize that cooperation is essential. A series of regional and international conferences on counterterrorism is a sign of the growing trend toward cooperation. In August, I led a U.S. delegation to Buenos Aires to attend a conference of the states of the southern cone countries in Latin America, plus the U.S. and Canada. The agenda was cooperation in fighting international terrorism against the backdrop of the 1992 and 1994 bombings in Buenos Aires. And we are now working with our partners in the Organization of American states to prepare for a hemispheric conference on counterterrorism in Lima this April, which was called for by the Summit of the Americas at Miami in December, 1994.

A Ministerial Conference on Terrorism of the Group of Eight in Ottawa in December, which grew out of the Halifax Summit in June, addressed concrete ways to enhance international cooperation against terrorism on a global level. The International Conference on Counterterrorism at Baguio in the Philippines last month, was the first such initiative in Asia.

Department of State-Law Enforcement Coordination

Strengthening the rule of law is a major tenet of U.S. counterterrorism policy. As my colleague from FBI will describe, terrorism is a crime under various U.S. laws and the laws of many other nations, and effective law enforcement and aggressive prosecution of international terrorists are thus critical to U.S. and international efforts against terrorism. Therefore, the Department of State works closely in support of Justice and FBI efforts to pursue terrorists abroad who violate U.S. laws. State facilitates anti-terrorism law enforcement overseas in a wide variety of ways, for example, in establishing and supporting FBI investigations abroad, and working with FBI, Justice and foreign governments when extradition or rendition of terrorist suspects to the U.S. is an option for bringing them to justice.

My office, working closely with the Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser and with Justice, is also making a major effort to persuade other governments, who have not yet become party to the ten existing international treaties and conventions on terrorism, to do so.

State – Intelligence Coordination

Identifying international terrorists and their networks, providing warning so that protective or deterrent measures can be taken, and gathering information on terrorist acts requires a major U.S. intelligence effort. For this reason, the U.S. intelligence community and the technical and human resources they provide are an indispensable element in our overall approach to international terrorism.

My office relies heavily on State’s Office of Terrorism, Narcotics and International Crime (INR/TNC) in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research to provide us with timely, all-source intelligence on terrorism, and analysis on issues of current policy concern. Intelligence is the lifeblood of effective counterterrorism, and without INR’s expert, round-the-clock support, we could not do our job. It is essential that INR be given adequate resources to perform its indispensable role.

State depends as well upon intelligence collection and analytical support from other elements of the intelligence community. We have a very close working relationship with the DCI’s Counter-Terrorism Center. And officers from the Center are our close partners in working groups, international consultations, and counterterrorism operations, which we coordinate.

State – Defense Cooperation

Our superb military counterterrorism capabilities, which my colleague from Defense will describe, are another important tool in our arsenal to combat international terrorism. When peaceful means fail and the use of military force is feasible, we need the world’s best specialized military expertise to rescue victims of terrorism, apprehend terrorists, or deter acts of terrorism, and we rely on the Department of Defense for other forms of counterterrorism support.

Emergency Response Capability

To respond promptly to terrorist incidents abroad which require varied U.S. resources, we have developed a unique fast reaction team. This team, led by an officer from S/CT, consists of experts from DOD, CIA, FBI and other agencies, as needed. At the request of a foreign government or a U.S. Ambassador abroad, this team can be dispatched within a few hours on a specially dedicated aircraft provided by DOD to any place in the world. The team’s job is to provide support to the Ambassador and the host government in resolving a terrorist crisis, and to advise on additional U.S. assets that might be needed. Throughout the year, the response team joins our special forces in major training exercises. The team also supports our regional CINCS by providing role players for exercises.

Flexibility and responsiveness are the watchwords of this team concept. Small, tailored teams can be launched, depending on the crisis, and specialists from individual agencies can be sent alone, as the situation arises.

Other Examples of Coordination

Other recent examples of the integrated, coordinated process which State directs to deal with terrorist crises abroad include the following: a series of extradition, rendition and law enforcement cooperation efforts which resulted in the return in 1995 of two World Trade Center bombing suspects to the U.S. including ring leader Ramzi Ahmed Yousef; discovery of and preventive measures to deal with a plot by this group to bomb U.S. civilian aircraft in Asia, and the successful return to the U.S. for prosecution of two more members of this group; investigation of the terrorist murders of two U.S. Consulate officials in Karachi; the bombing of the U.S. Training office for the Saudi National Guard in Riyadh in November, which killed five Americans; support and assistance to Argentina after the bombing of the Jewish cultural center in 1994; efforts to learn more about and take measures to deal with threats arising from the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks in Tokyo; responding to a request by Israel for extradition of a suspected HAMAS terrorist; and investigation of the recent bus bombings in Jerusalem, in which two Americans died.

These efforts required resources and careful teamwork from many members of the U.S. counterterrorism community, including Justice, FBI, and often CIA, NSA, Defense, Treasury, Transportation, FAA and INS, as well as the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Because these cases involved international terrorism and foreign governments, they often require rapid reaction, intricate planning, and complex coordination. In each case, State played its coordinating role, relying on excellent cooperation from all elements of the U.S. counterterrorism community.

Protection Abroad, Visa Denial and Threat Warnings

State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security is another important actor in the U.S. counterterrorism community. DS is responsible for protection of U.S. official civilian personnel and facilities abroad against terrorist and other threats. Since 1979, there have been 460 such attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel, buildings and vehicles. Twenty-five diplomats have been killed by terrorists, and fifty-five have been wounded.

In addition to protective duties, Regional Security Officers at U.S. missions abroad have intelligence and investigative responsibilities, for example, to investigate passport and visa fraud, which often accompanies terrorist crimes. In Washington, DS plays an important part in the process of issuing warnings against terrorist threats and travel advisories. DS agents are active in many counterterrorism investigations, and played a lead role in the apprehension of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef. DS also helps U.S. business firms and NGO’s abroad, through its Overseas Security Advisory Council, which maintains an electronic bulletin board for exchange of security related and terrorist information abroad.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs is another important player in State’s counterterrorism effort. CA, working with INR, S/CT, DS and the intelligence community and our consulates abroad, maintains systems for denying entry into the U.S. of terrorists and suspects. It also issues threat warnings and travel advisories to American citizens overseas.

Identifying State Sponsors of Terrorism

Identifying State sponsors of terrorism and mobilizing international pressure against them is a major element of U.S. policy, in accordance with Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act and related laws. The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, working with regional bureaus, INR and the intelligence community, makes annual recommendations to the Secretary of State, which provide the basis for his annual review of state sponsors. We pursue through diplomatic channels, and through the UN in the case of Libya and Iraq, the maintenance and broadening of economic and other sanctions against these states. Mr. Chairman, I believe we can point to this policy as one reason why terrorist acts sponsored by states or their proxies have declined in recent years, although state sponsors like Iran remain a serious threat.

Anti-Terrorism Training, Research & Development and Rewards

State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, administered by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security with policy guidance from the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, is another effective tool in reducing the danger of international terrorism. Over the last decade, over 17,000 officials from 89 foreign countries have received training in a wide variety of ATA courses. This low cost program, funded at about $15 million annually in recent years, has been a superb investment in reducing the terrorist risk to friendly countries and to U.S. citizens and airlines abroad. We are pleased that the conferees recently increased the appropriation to $16 million for FY 1996.

State also coordinates an interagency research and development program for counterterrorism technologies, through the Technical Support Working Group. The bulk of the funding for this important program is provided by the Department of Defense. We also chair U.S. delegations that participate in joint research in counterterrorism technologies under bilateral agreements with the UK, Canada, and Israel.

State’s International Terrorism Information Rewards Program is another important part of our counterterrorism effort. This program has paid out more than $3 million to individuals who provided information leading to the prosecution of terrorists or the prevention of acts of terrorism.

Analytic Reports

The most prominent unclassified report by the Department of State on terrorism is our annual “Patterns of Global Terrorism.” This report, which the Congress requires by April 30 each year, has become the recognized authority in this field. We are grateful for the many contributions we receive for Patterns from INR and CIA. From time to time, S/CT also publishes unclassified public papers on individual terrorist groups or countries. We have urged the Congress not to impose additional, mandatory reporting requirements because of manpower constraints.


Mr. Chairman, from my experience as Coordinator for Counterterrorism at State, and from my intensive work with colleagues from other agencies, I can say with conviction that the United States is well served by our counterterrorism community. All U.S. Government Departments concerned share the strong commitment of the President and Secretary Christopher to giving our counterterrorism efforts the highest priority. Our counterterrorism community is professional, dedicated, and committed to a coordinated, team effort. Terrorism is a difficult and dangerous enemy, but we are making a determined and impressive effort to combat it in all its evil aspects.

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