TERRORISM (Senate - March 21, 1991)

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I would like to address one of the most serious national security issues of our time, the fight against terrorism. I have had a particular interest in terrorism since coming to the Senate and, thanks to the kind authorization of the Senator from Ohio [Mr. Glenn], I chaired a hearing on this issue in September 1989 before the Committee on Governmental Affairs. The witnesses included: Adm. Stansfield Turner, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Morris Busby, Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the State Department; and Oliver Revell, Associate Deputy Director--Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Since then, I have invited various terrorism experts to address aspects of counterterrorism policy with Senators in a series of seminars. I would like to offer particular thanks to: Ambassador Jerold Bremer, who discussed U.S. efforts to improve international cooperation to combat terrorism; Oliver Revell who briefed us on the FBI's efforts to counter domestic terrorism; Steve Emerson and Brian Dufy, who spoke about their book on Pan Am 103; Dr. Martin Kramer of the Woodrow Wilson Institute, who analyzed the hostage situation in Lebanon; and Dr. Raymond Zilinskas of the University of Maryland, who discussed the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

I would also like to thank Noel Koch, former director of special planning, Department of Defense, and Alton Frye, director of the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations, for their contributions to these discussions.

Finally, I have appreciated the participation of Senators Glenn, Grassley, DeConcini, Cranston, Lautenberg, Kasten, and Robb.

Based on these discussions, I believe that the United States has made significant progress in combating terrorism in a number of important areas:

Embassy security: Beginning in the 1970's, terrorist attacks against our embassy personnel escalated dramatically. One only has to look at the two plaques on the State Department wall commemorating members of the Foreign Service who died in the line of duty. The first plaque took 187 years to fill; most of the people on it lost their lives to accidents or disease. The second plaque took only 20 years to fill; most were murdered by terrorists.

Fortunately, we have made progress in this area. During the 1980's, we spent more than $1 billion on embassy security to install shatter-resistant glass and reinforced concrete walls. These measures have foiled a number of attacks, including the most recent one by the German Red Army faction against our embassy in Bonn.

Airline hijackings: During the 1960's and early 1970's, there were 15 to 18 hijackings a year. In 1970, for example, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine highjacked three airliners in one day. Since then, the United States and the international community have developed nearly universal screening procedures of airline passengers for weapons. As a result, hijackings have declined dramatically.

International cooperation: Since the mid-1980's, the United States has provided training to more than 4,000 people from over 40 countries in counterterrorism techniques. This has paid off in improved airline security, bomb squads, and intelligence monitoring. The United States also has successfully renegotiated extradition treaties with Great Britain, Germany, Canada, among others, in order to facilitate the trials of terrorists. Finally, Western and Third World intelligence officials now meet on a regular basis, whereas contacts in the past were sporadic.

Despite this progress, there is still much work that must be done in other areas:

Airline security: Since the Pan Am 103 disaster, the United States has urgently sought to develop devices that can detect the Semtex explosive that brought down the aircraft. The most promising device uses low energy neutrons to activate the nitrogen nuclei that are usually found in explosives--thermal neutron analysis. The nuclei then produce gamma radiation of a characteristic energy, which are detected and identified. Unfortunately, this machine still suffers from a high false alarm rate. Further progress in TNA devices is necessary.

Other devices must also be examined, including the following:

Computerized tomography, based on x-ray and computing technologies, could produce a detailed three-dimensional image of explosives.

Advanced vapor detectors may be able to `sniff out' explosives.

None of these technologies are on the verge of full exploitation, but progress in miniaturization is permitting more accurate devices.

Weapons of mass destruction: There has been much discussion of chemical and biological weapons as a result of the war with Iraq. Based on my discussions, it appears that biological weapons have a potential to kill hundreds of individuals, but probably not thousands. Chemical weapons are bulky, but still could be used by terrorists in such targets as air conditioning systems of skycrapers. We need, therefore, better devices that can ferret out these kinds of materials.

Research and development: Because of the terrorism threat regarding airline security and weapons of mass destruction, we must continue to expend time and money for more research and development [R&D]. We have already created a national counterterrorism R&D program, overseen by the State Department. About two dozen other agencies take part in the program through a coordinating committee called the Technical Support Working Group [TSWG].

Unfortunately, the amount of funds for this program has been cut in recent years. Last year, for example, Congress did authorize and appropriate the Administration's full request of $3 million for R&D as part of the State Department appropriations bill for fiscal year 1991. However, the State Department subsequently cut the program by $1 million. The cuts were ostensibly made because of the unexpected evacuations and other expenses resulting from the Persian Gulf crisis.

Nonetheless, there is always a danger of placing a higher priority on short term requirements, as opposed to longer term ones, such as R&D. Such cuts are regrettable since the amount of money involved--only several million dollars--is paltry in comparison with the potential pay-offs. In short, this program should no longer be slighted.

Executive Order 12333: Executive Order 12333, which was signed in 1974, bars agencies of the U.S. Government from participating in the assassination of any foreign individual. Even if the U.S. Government, for example, knew of a terrorist act being planned by Iraqi terrorists, it could not try to prevent it by targeting those individuals. This conceivably could save many American and foreign lives. No other government in the world has such a prohibition. We should clearly revisit this issue.

Mr. President, no one can promise a world free of terrorists. We still have a long and difficult struggle before us. Intelligence regarding terrorist groups is often difficult to obtain becasue of the tight-knit nature of these organizations. Captured terrorists willing to talk after an attack are often low-level operatives who don't know much about the inner workings of their organization. Even if we learn about the terrorist leaders, we may not know where they are located at any given time.

Nonetheless, we have already made progress regarding international cooperation, hijacking prevention, and embassy security. Terrorism is ultimately the weapon of the weak, the cowardly, and the marginal. I am confident that we can prevail through a sustained effort of will and ingenuity.

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