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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism > Releases > Remarks > 2001

Statement to the Organization of American States on Terrorism

Ambassador Francis X. Taylor, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks to the Inter-American Counterterrorism Committee Of the Organization of American States
Washington, DC
October 15, 2001

Mr. Secretary-General, Members of the OAS:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today on the subject of terrorism, and what we in the Americas and the Caribbean can do about it. I would also like to take a moment to thank Secretary General Gaviria and the OAS member states for their strong support and expressions of solidarity with the United States over the last 34 days.

The horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, just one month ago, were a reminder that our hemisphere is no longer safe from international terrorism. In this global era, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can no longer protect our land and our people from violence, as they have done in previous international conflicts.

As you know, the United States has presented to our coalition partners around the world clear and compelling evidence that the September 11 attacks originated in Afghanistan, with Usama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization.

We must recognize that al-Qaida could not have carried out such attacks - planned over a period of years - without relying on an extensive support network around the world. That network may include cells in some or many OAS member states, including the U.S.

Moreover, al-Qaida is but one of many terrorist organizations with extensive international networks.

International organizations operating in this hemisphere include Islamic extremist organizations such as Hizballah, al Gamaat (IG), HAMAS, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ); The Basque separatist group ETA, and even the Irish Republican Army, also have a presence in this hemisphere.

These groups, when combined with terrorist groups based in the Americas such as the FARC, Shining Path, and others - provide more proof that terrorism is a threat to all of us.

In fact, one can argue that modern terrorism originated in our Hemisphere. We date the advent of modern terrorism from 1968, four years before Munich, when revolutionary movements began forming throughout the Americas. The following year, in 1969, the first terrorist kidnapping of an American ambassador took place when Ambassador Burke Elbrick was taken hostage in Brazil by members of two revolutionary groups. In those early years of the still-new phenomenon, Latin America saw more international terrorist attacks than any other region.

Our goal, therefore, must be to eliminate international terrorist threats to citizens, installations, and other interests.

Our strategy to do this has three main facets:

  • Disrupt terrorist activities to prevent attacks
  • Deny sanctuary to terrorist groups
  • Bolster our capabilities for combating terrorism

There is growing recognition within the international community as to what terrorism is -- and is not. This recognition is reflected in UN international conventions as well as in an OAS convention from 1973.

Kidnapping, hijacking and other terrorist actions that had been justified or excused as "political," are now labeled for what they really are--criminal actions. Terrorism, we hope, is becoming de-politicized and recognized for what it truly is – criminal behavior.

Leaving the policy of terrorism for a moment, let me speak for a moment about terrorism strategy.

The fight against international terrorism is more than 30 years old, and in that 30 years we have learned the hard way what works to combat terrorism effectively:

Our strategy has two clear-cut goals:

-The first is to reduce the international terrorist threat by:

1. Disrupting terrorist activities and preventing attacks

2. Denying sanctuary to terrorist groups

3. Improving capabilities for combating terrorism

-The second goal - the goal I view as crucial to this body - is to get OAS member states to leverage their capabilities in the fight against terrorism via cooperation with other member states. By sharing tools and capabilities, we gain the strength of our neighbors.

Moving from the larger goals, I’d like to speak for a moment about specific steps. Again calling on thirty years of fighting terrorism, we have a good idea now of what works and what does not.

The first order of business is to separate light from darkness, the good guys from bad guys. One thing that sets the two sides apart is the "Rule of law." Criminals operate outside the law, and it is at times tempting to fight them with the same tools that they use, but in the end this brings us down to their level. The rule of law is not always the fastest approach, but it is the best.

The second key to is to build and sustained international cooperation. We simply cannot fight international terrorism alone.

Next, on the domestic side of things, reducing the friction between agencies is key. For example, it is crucial to build an information-sharing link between the police and military units that fight terrorists.

This coordination must be undertaken by senior officials who can provide firm direction to the effort, and settle conflicts when they arise.

Moving from what works, generally speaking, I would like to tell you about a set of counterterrorism measures - or "tools" as I like to call them, that you can call upon.

The specific tools we call upon can include:

    • Diplomacy
    • Intelligence cooperation
    • Law enforcement cooperation
    • Legislative and Judicial measures
    • Border controls
    • Financial controls
    • Training programs
    • UN conventions
    • Best practices
    • Terrorism workshop

DIPLOMACY

The diplomatic tools at your service may be your most effective ones. Bilateral diplomacy with your key neighbors is of utmost importance. We in the U.S. have a long-term CT relationship with Canada, and we wish to explore a similar partnership with Mexico. I urge all of you to ask yourselves how you could improve or broaden the level of cooperation with your neighbors.

Public diplomacy is a vital tool. A free press such that enjoyed in Colombia - at the cost of far too many journalists' lives - is the best way to expose terrorists to the light of public scrutiny. My office publishes a document entitled Patterns of Global Terrorism each year in the hopes of doing the same thing.

The Multilateral Fora provide an excellent way to promote mechanisms to punish terror groups and the nations that harbor them. The UN, OAS and CICTE, the OAU and others, come to mind. For the effectiveness of these fora, look no further than UN Security Council Resolutions 1333 targeting Taliban regime and Resolution 1373 providing broad license to fight al-Qaida.

INTELLIGENCE

Your next tool is Intelligence. Intelligence is nothing more than refined information. Without the right information, the fight against terrorists is impossible.

Calling again upon your relations with your neighbors and allies, I point at that cooperation builds capabilities.

Bilateral, service to service information sharing can have a direct security payoff. We in the US saw this when cooperation with Jordan led directly to prevention of a massive terror plot last year - the Millennium plot.

I also urge that you explore sub-regional intelligence cooperation, for example among Andean region countries or the Mercosur bloc.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

As important as intelligence cooperation is law enforcement cooperation. The investigation of August 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa is an example of significant recent cooperation. Kenya and Tanzania both worked with us, providing joint access to crime scene and evidence

This early cooperation eliminated legal complications and sped up prosecution, successfully concluded earlier this year. Such cooperation has side benefits as well: investigators share techniques and approaches.

Bad laws or lack of enforcement can be exploited by terrorists.

Good laws are a deterrent to terrorism and the lesser crimes committed by terrorist groups.

Laws must be consistently implemented by judicial system. Terrorists, like narco-traffickers, often use money to weaken judicial systems. Eliminating corruption in the judiciary makes all criminals less like to reside where they know they will be effectively prosecuted.

Your goal is not to make it impossible for terrorists to do their business, but to make it as difficult as possible.

BORDER CONTROL

I understand that the OAS and CICTE may also create a sub-committee on border control issues. I want to encourage that effort. Speaking from experience, the world’s longest non-militarized border is that shared by the US and Canada, and the second longest is that shared by the US and Mexico. Since the inception of NAFTA, these borders that were already the world’s busiest in terms of commerce, have become even busier.

An international cooperative effort to reduce the ability of terrorists to move across key borders is crucial. We know that we will never have perfect knowledge of every person and every vehicle that crosses these borders. Therefore, we in the US know that we must work hand in hand with intelligence, law enforcement, customs, and immigration officials in Mexico, Canada, as well as the Central American and Caribbean states--the U.S. "third border."

Some of the tools your work group may discuss include:

    • Identification programs
    • Training for customs and immigration officials
    • INTERPOL communications system upgrade

FINANCIAL CONTROLS

Your agenda also tells me you intend to discuss financial controls and create a sub-committee on financial flows. Cutting off terrorists’ access to funds as a sure way to limit their success. I support your efforts.

An international effort to reduce the ability of terrorists to move money can concentrate on: Banking programs, Asset tracking, ETC.

TRAINING

When it comes to increasing the capabilities the forces that fight terrorism, there is no faster path to success than via training. I hope that a key objective of CICTE will be to facilitate the sharing of training expertise and resources among member states.

This is a matter of doing what we do best. For Example: My office relies upon "Antiterrorism Assistance" (ATA) - by which we provide assistance in areas where we believe we have expertise.

BEST PRACTICES

I hope that CICTE will also be a clearinghouse for what experts refer to as Best Practices. We learn from experience in responding to terrorist bombings, shootings, hijackings, etc. For example: the G-8 guidelines on hostage-taking are based on the experience of G8 member states. These shared guidelines include Key principles: save lives of hostages; oppose concessions; uphold rule of law. These principles also cover policy coordination, operational cooperation, information sharing, media relations, and family welfare. My hope is that CICTE will be able to do something similar for OAS countries.

TERRORISM WORKSHOPS

Still on the topic of training, I want to take a moment now to offer a service to CICTE. My office would like to provide, over the months and years ahead, a series of terrorism workshops.

The Goal of these one-day sessions is to improve crisis response and consequence management capabilities of key government officials and diplomats. We have already conduced workshops conducted in 10 countries, but none yet in this hemisphere.

Therefore, on behalf of my government I wish to propose a series of US-funded workshops to take place in conjunction with CICTE Regular and Special Sessions, beginning with the next regularly scheduled CICTE session.

CLOSING REMARKS

In closing, I remind you that effective counterterrorism requires:

    • political will
    • a policy framework
    • trained forces
    • and reliance upon the rule of law

I wish you the best of luck on your special session today.

I thank the member states of the OAS for their solidarity, and I welcome the opportunity to work with you in the months ahead.



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