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TERRORISM: U.S. POLICIES AND
COUNTERTERRORISM MEASURES

By Ambassador Francis X. Taylor
Coordinator for Counterterrorism
U.S. Department of State

thin blue line


photo of Francis X. Taylor "The war we are waging will be a long struggle with many dimensions," says Ambassador Francis X. Taylor, the State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism. "Our goal is to eliminate the international terrorist threat to people, installations, and other interests."

September 11, 2001 is a day that will redefine history. Before the tragic events of that date occurred, articles appeared in journals and newspapers accusing the U.S. Government of overstating the terrorist threat. This is no longer the case. The terrorist attacks that were launched, on that day in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania claimed victims from some 88 nations, from our close neighbors Canada and Mexico to countries as far away as Australia and Zimbabwe, and in large numbers from India and Pakistan. For many countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany, and Switzerland, the horrors of September 11 claimed the most lives of any terrorist incident in their history. For the United States, it was the bloodiest day in America since the 1862 Civil War Battle of Antietam.

The attacks may have been conceived as a blow against America, but in reality they were attacks against all of humanity and civilization itself.

The war we are waging will be a long struggle with many dimensions. Our goal is to eliminate the international terrorist threat to people, installations, and other interests. We will do this by:

  • Smoking out terrorists from their hiding places,
  • Draining the swamp where terrorists find safe haven,
  • Pressuring states to stop supporting terrorism,
  • Preventing planned terrorist attacks, and
  • Bolstering the capabilities of our friends and allies to combat terrorism.

The nations of the world are banding together to eliminate the terrorism scourge. Numerous multilateral organizations have issued declarations of support -- including the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum -- and many others have expressed their strong solidarity.

I recently traveled to Brussels where I met with the North Atlantic Council. I made the case that the al-Qaida organization led by Osama bin Laden was responsible for what happened on the 11th of September. I traced the history of this organization, its recent activities, and the events that occurred just prior to and just after the 11th.

In response, NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson stated that the facts contained in the briefing were "clear and compelling" and point "conclusively to an al-Qaida role in the attacks." As a result of the briefing, NATO concluded that the attacks were directed from abroad and will "therefore be regarded as an action covered by Article V of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack on one or more of the allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all." This was the first time Article V was invoked in the history of the NATO alliance.

NATO allies have agreed to provide the United States with the wide range of assistance that we had requested. This includes unlimited use of their airspace, base facilities, seaports, logistics, extra security for U.S. forces in Europe, intelligence sharing, and early warning aircraft. AWACS surveillance planes belonging to NATO are currently patrolling the skies over America as a result of the Article V invocation.

The Organization of American States invoked the Rio Treaty, which also covers collective self-defense. OAS foreign ministers, meeting in Lima, Peru on the day of the attacks, were the first to condemn them.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference -- the most important and comprehensive grouping of Muslim states, 56 in all -- strongly condemned the savage September 11 attacks and unequivocally declared that terrorism is never sanctioned by Islam. We believe the face of terror is not the true face of Islam. Terrorism is a perversion of religion, and those who hijacked our airplanes on September 11 also hijacked the faith they claim.

Other nations, great and small, have made pledges and contributions to what is a global response to a global attack. We have received numerous offers of diplomatic, political, police, intelligence, and military support. We have what amounts to a coalition of coalitions, with some nations forging ahead to deny terrorists access to banking systems, for example, and other nations more active in other areas. Individual members are dedicated and are holding steady. Our challenge will be to hold the coalitions together until the campaign is successful.

FORGING THE TOOLS TO FIGHT TERROR

This campaign will be unlike others we have fought. The battles are as likely to be fought in small conference rooms among bankers, at border crossing points, or in forensic laboratories as over the skies of some hostile power. Our victories will be counted in the drying up of financing, the withering of political support, the rounding up of terrorist cells -- not in the conquest of foreign land.

TERRORIST FUNDING

The September 11 terrorists apparently had enough money to make their preparations many months, if not years, in advance. Funding is a critical element in recruiting supporters and launching large-scale terrorist operations. We need to dry up terrorist fundraising and money transfers.

The first shot in the war against terrorism was fired on September 24 when President Bush signed executive order 13224. This shot froze the assets of 27 terrorists, terrorist organizations, and terrorist financiers associated with al-Qaida and blocks U.S. transactions with such persons or entities. The Executive Order was later amended to include 39 additional names of persons and organizations known to conduct or financially support terrorism. In addition, the assets of all 22 of the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists are now subject to this blocking order. Additional names will be added in the months ahead.

A previous Executive Order, in effect since 1995 and renewed each year since, includes such groups as Hizballah and HAMAS, as well as al-Qaida, that represent a terrorist threat to the Middle East peace negotiations.

On September 28 the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1373, which is binding on all states under international law. This resolution goes to the heart of how terrorism operates. It obliges all member states to deny financing, support, and safe haven to terrorists. It will also expand information sharing among U.N. members to combat international terrorism. A Security Council follow-up mechanism has been set up to monitor compliance on a continuous basis.

This effort has already yielded results. The United States has frozen some $4 million and is reviewing many other accounts. We have received reports of millions of additional dollars being frozen around the world. Other nations are still seeking to identify terrorist assets that they have pledged to block. In all, 111 nations -- more than half the world -- have acted to choke off the oxygen of money for terrorists, and this is only the beginning.

Another important tool in countering terrorist fundraising is formally designating groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, or FTOs. Designation of FTOs makes it a criminal offense for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to knowingly contribute funds or other material support to such groups. U.S. law also allows freezing of the groups' assets and denial of visas for their leaders and other members. Secretary of State Colin Powell designated 28 such groups, including al-Qaida, in early October.

Using tools like these, we have urged other countries to tighten up their own laws and regulations to curb terrorist fundraising and money transfers. Great Britain already has done so, and countries such as Canada, Greece, India, and the Philippines have new laws or proposed counterterrorism legislation in various stages of consideration.

In addition, the administration is making ratification of the 12 U.N. conventions against terrorism a high priority. These cover a range of activities, such as hijacking, hostage taking, bombing, and terrorism financing. The conventions form a strong legal framework for fighting terrorism.

OTHER MEASURES

There are a number of other tools that we have been using to counter terrorism, and we are sharpening and improving them in this new struggle.

We are utilizing training-related programs to help combat terrorism overseas and thus help protect Americans living and traveling abroad. The State Department's Antiterrorism Training Assistance (ATA) program in which we train foreign security and law enforcement officials is a pillar of this effort. The program not only provides training but also helps promote our policies and improve our contacts with foreign officials to achieve our counterterrorism goals. We have trained more than 20,000 officials from over 100 countries to date. We are hoping for additional funding for the ATA program in the wake of the September 11 attacks to permit us to accelerate the pace of this training.

We also have developed a Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP), which utilizes sophisticated computer data base systems and improved communications to help identify potential terrorists who try to cross international borders. This program will be most effective in countries that are major transportation hubs.

The Department's contribution to the interagency counterterrorism research and development program, the Technical Support Working Group, also helps to make advances in explosives detection and other areas and bolster our cooperative R&D efforts with other key allies.

We have proposed increasing our "Rewards for Justice" program, which pays up to $5 million for information that prevents a terrorist attack or results in the arrest of a terrorist. This important program saves lives and puts terrorists behind bars.

Many challenges lie ahead. Maintaining the international coalition will be one. However, in the months that have elapsed since these nations proclaimed their solidarity against terrorism, the coalition has gotten stronger. Another challenge will be to counter the notion held in some quarters that Osama bin Laden is some type of hero and that the United States is somehow the aggressor. I believe, that, through active public diplomacy, we can effectively convey the message that bin Laden is evil, and his actions are a manifestation of evil. Moreover, the United States has no designs on foreign real estate. We are not an invading force. But we will forcefully attack the terrorist network that represents a threat to us all.

The horrific events of September 11 require a broad based, long-term strategic campaign, in concert with the nations of the world that abhor terrorism. Together we will root out and bring to justice those that use terrorism. We are in for a long haul. As President Bush has told the world: "Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."

Back to top | Contents, U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda, November 2001