|CLINTON URGES ANTI-TERRORISM ACTION|
August 6, 1996
President Clinton, in a speech in Washington at Geoge Washingon University, decries Congress' response to his anti-terrorism proposals, urging passage of laws that would increase wiretapping and allow explosives taggants.
| PRESIDENT CLINTON: We have pursued a concerted
national and international strategy against terrorism on three fronts.
First, on the international front, stopping the spread of terrorism clearly
requires common action. The United States has a special responsibility
to lead in this effort.
Over the past four years, our intelligence services have been sharing more information than ever with other nations. We've opened up a law enforcement academy in Budapest, which is training people from 23 nations, an FBI office in Moscow, and just last Friday, Congress gave us the funding for FBI offices in Cairo, Islamabad, Tel Aviv, and Beijing.
I've also worked to rally other nations to the fight against terrorism--last year, at the UN General Assembly, this spring at the historic summit of peace makers at Sharm El-Sheikh, where 29 nations, including 13 Arab nations, for the first time condemned terrorism in Israel and anywhere else it occurs in the Middle East and throughout the world, at the G-7 summit in Lyons, and the recently held follow on conference we called for in Paris, where we were represented ably by the attorney general.
Now the point of all these efforts with other countries is not to talk but to act. We will not rest in our efforts to track down, prosecute, and punish terrorists, and to keep the heat on those who support them. And we must not rest in that effort. The second part of our strategy is to give American law enforcement officials the most powerful tools available to fight terrorism without undermining our civil liberties.
In the wake of Oklahoma City, I strengthened a terrorism bill I had previously sent to Congress but which had not then been passed. Despite the vow of Congress to act quickly, it took a year before that bill came to my desk to be signed. The bill had some very good points. It made terrorism a federal offense, expanded the role of the FBI, imposed the death penalty for terrorism. As strong as it was, however, it did not give our law enforcement officials other tools they needed and that they had asked for, including increased wire tap authority for terrorists to parallel that which we have for people involved in organized crime now, and chemical markers for the most common explosives so that we can more easily track down bomb makers.
After the bombing in Atlanta, Congress said it would reconsider these and other measures. I immediately called the congressional leadership to the White House and urged them to put together a package and vote it into law before they left for the August recess last Friday. I am disappointed and more importantly, the American people are disappointed that that job was not done.
These additional measures would save lives. They would make us all more secure. When the Congress returns from the August recess, we will take them up again, and we must get the job done.
Finally, the third front of our struggle against terrorism is the airports and airplanes that bring us all closer together. Air travel remains the safest form of transportation, and our airlines have the best safety record and security record in business. But that's of small consolation when a single attack can take so many lives.
Last year, we began field testing new high tech explosive detection machines in Atlanta and San Francisco. We significantly increased security at our airports, and the FAA created a new government and industry panel to review airline security. After the TWA crash, I ordered new measures to increase the security of air travel. As any of you have flown in recent days will have noticed, we're doing more hand searches and machine screening of luggage. We're requiring pre-flight inspections for every plane flying to or from the United States, every plane, every cabin, every cargo hold, every time. The Vice President is leading a commission on aviation security that is to report back to me within 45 days with an action plan to deploy machines that can detect the most sophisticated explosives and other needed changes.
Now I know all this has led to some extra inconvenience for air travelers, and it may lead eventually to a modest increase in the cost of air travel. But the increased safety and peace of mind will be worth it.
But I want to make it clear to the American people that while we can defeat terrorists, it will be a long time before we defeat terrorism. America will remain a target because we are uniquely present in the world, because we act to advance peace and democracy, because we have taken a tougher stand against terrorism, and because we are the most open society on earth.
But to change any of that, to pull our troops back from the world's trouble spots, to turn our backs on those taking risks for peace, to weaken our opposition against terrorism, to curtail the freedom that is our birthright would be to give terrorism the victory it must not and will not have.