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Rollout of "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003" Annual Report

Ambassador Cofer Black
Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Washington, DC
April 29, 2004

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Good afternoon. [In] the terrorist attacks that took place throughout 2003 in every region of the world, but there is some good news as well. Last year, we saw unprecedented collaboration between the United States and foreign partners to defeat terrorism. We also saw the lowest number of international terrorist attacks since 1969, and that's a 34-year low.

There were 190 acts of international terrorism in 2003. That's a slight decrease from 198 attacks that occurred the previous year, and a drop of 45 percent from the 2001 level of 346 attacks.

There were also fewer casualties caused by terrorists last year. A total of 307 persons were killed in last year's attack[s], far fewer than the 725 killed during 2002. A total of 1,593 persons were wounded in the attacks that occurred in 2003, down from 2,013 persons wounded the year before.

There were 82 anti-U.S. attacks last year, which is up slightly from the 77 attacks the previous year.

I'd like to clarify one point for you. Most of the attacks that have occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom do not meet the longstanding U.S. definition of international terrorism because they were directed at noncombatants, essentially American and coalition forces on duty.

QUESTION: At combatants?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Excuse me?

QUESTION: At combatants?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yes, at combatants. Excuse me. Thank you.

Attacks against noncombatants, essentially civilians and military personnel, who, at the time of the incident, were unarmed and/or not on duty, are judged as terrorist attacks. The very low level of terrorist attacks last year certainly does not mean that the problem is fading away; indeed, we're currently at war with terrorists, with major fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where terrorists are working with other elements to launch attacks against coalition targets.

Whether they target combatants or civilians, terrorists must know that we and our partner nations around the world will not relent in our global effort to defeat them. Moreover, numbers do not tell the whole story. Terrorists, last year, carried out attacks that were indiscriminate and intended to cause mass casualties. They went after soft targets such as: places of worship, commuter trains, hotels, police stations and crowded markets.

There is every indication that al-Qaida continues to plan mass casualty attacks against American and other targets worldwide. Although the group poses as a defender of a great faith, they have hijacked Islam as a cover for their violence. Numerous Muslims have died in al-Qaida attacks. Much of the Islamic world stands with the United States in fighting this great evil.

In 2003, we saw less state sponsorship of terrorism: Saddam Hussein no longer presides over a regime that served as a lifeline and sanctuary for the terrorists; Libya has renounced terrorism. Sudan has taken significant steps to be a cooperative partner in the global war on terrorism; and Afghanistan is no longer a breeding ground for terrorism as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Despite this progress, state sponsorship remains an unprecedented advantage for terrorists that enables them to acquire the weapons, training and logistical support they need to commit terrorist atrocities and afterwards to enjoy safe haven and freedom from the prosecution of their crimes.

Iran and Syria, especially, are culpable in this regard. They should immediately cease their sponsorship of terrorist murderers. Along with our likeminded foreign partners, the United States continues to pursue the global campaign against terrorism on five fronts: diplomatic, military, economic, intelligence and law enforcement. On that score, it's important to recognize that the record clearly shows America's most effective counterterrorism strategy is building the will and skill of indigenous forces to fight terrorism on their own turf and in their own self-interest.

This report discusses what nations are doing in all these areas, and in some cases what more they should be doing. It is vital that nations sustain the political will to wage this war as effectively as possible for as long as is necessary. Many nations have greatly improved their capabilities to fight terror and the United States will help wherever possible to build and further expand international counterterrorism capacities.

With the international counterterrorism coalition's enhanced intelligence sharing and law enforcement cooperation, we're seeing more terrorist plots thwarted, more terrorists identified, tracked and arrested, and more perpetrators brought to justice for their crimes.

It's a pleasure to be here today and I'll try and answer some of your questions.

QUESTION: Can I ask you two very, very technical questions that you probably -- you may not be the right person to answer? And they have to do with the designations, the state sponsor designations. And I realize that this report is not the, you know, the be all and end all, that the list can change at any time, but I'm just wondering, are you -- the fact that Iraq remains on that list, when sovereignty is transferred on June 30/July 1st, do you know if the interim government there, the interim government that comes in, will have enough authority to be able to do the things it needs to do to get off the list?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Okay. It's an important question. Let me try and encapsulate an answer for you. Essentially, on May the 7th, 2003, the President exercised his authorities to suspend the Iraq Sanctions Act. The President effectively waived all sanctions on Iraq as a state sponsor.

What we have here essentially is that we need to assure ourselves that a new government in Baghdad renounces terrorism as well as proves, by fact and deed, that they have renounced and they are taking every action to renounce terrorism as well as be an effective partner in the international community to do this.

So for us to be able to remove them from the list, we need a government in power. Sovereignty will be transferred on the 30th of June, and at that point we can go through with the assumption that the government takes power, that renounces terrorism and shows every indication, we then begin the process of validating that and moving forward.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the discussion for the last couple of weeks has been that this government is not going to be entirely sovereign. And I'm just asking, and maybe you don't know the answer to this, but will they, because they are not going to have complete control of their security forces, for example, be able to do what they need to do to your satisfaction to get off the list?

And secondly, if you -- as you say, Libya has renounced terrorism, which you did in your opening remarks, and that is a condition for Iraq to get off, Libya has a sovereign government. Why are they still on?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, in the first instance, what I've relayed to you is the rules and regulations, how we see this issue. We will have to see what we have after 30th of June, and we'll have to make a determination. It is likely that it will be viewed favorably. I can't assure you that would be the case.

In the case of the Libyans, indeed, they have -- they've come a long way. They have clearly renounced terrorism. They have established themselves as no longer supporting international terrorism. There are some outstanding issues with the Libyans that we're in contact with them now that we will need to resolve with them, and that is to make sure that they have no continued association with terrorist groups in any form. That will be a key determinant for consideration to recommend to remove them from the list.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Two things. One, on Libya, in the report you say you believe that they may have residual contacts with terrorist groups. Secretary Powell, in an interview earlier this week, was specifically asked if he believed that they have residual contacts with terrorists, and he said, "Not that I'm aware of."

I realize the report deals with 2003, but do you now believe that they have residual contacts, or not?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I certainly would never be in the position to reflect negatively on anything the Secretary of State would say, so what he says is absolutely true. However, we need to assure ourselves, I have to be in a position that I can recommend to the Secretary of State that, indeed, that they continue to have renounced terrorism, they're no longer supporting international terrorism, and I have to be able to assure him that they have no residual contacts with terrorist groups, and I need to do that.

QUESTION: Okay. The second question. Simply stated, why do you think there was the small reduction in the number of terrorist attacks last year and the dramatic reduction in the number of people who died? Why?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: It is a direct result of the enhanced relationships among the community of nations that are addressing this common scourge. The fact of the matter is that the world is a far better place now in terms of how we interact with each other. Communication is enhanced. The law enforcement agencies of the respective participant countries, as well as the security services, as well as most recently the financial departments of these countries, are communicating more efficiently and effectively. There is increased transparency.

It is truly what it should have been all along: a team sport. We're in this together. We have a commonality of interests. We're in the business of saving each other's people and citizens. The accepted objective is to protect innocent men, women and children. We're just doing a better job of it, and I think that's reflected in these numbers. And I think at the rate we're keeping at it, we will be more efficient and effective. Whether we're able to keep these numbers down or to reduce them further, only time will tell, but we're getting a lot better at this.

I should probably ask somebody else. Here, in the back there. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On North Korea, do you have anything else to say on that? And what sort of substantial steps do they need to take in order to combat international terrorism, to get themselves off the list?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yeah. The Koreans have been on this list something longstanding. They remain on the state sponsored list following the 1987 bombing of the Korean Air Boeing 707, as well as in light of the 1983 bombing in Rangoon.

The standards for removal are high. We have to make absolutely sure that they are no longer in the business of supporting international terrorism, that they do not have contacts with international terrorists. We're also deeply concerned about the issue of the Japanese abductees. You know, we have great sympathy for Japan and the Japanese people on this issue. The United States has raised this issue repeatedly with North Korean officials, and we also discussed this in this issue of Patterns.

I think a point that I should underscore is essentially that the United States has a long memory, and we will not expunge a terrorist sponsor's record simply because time has passed. It is the North Koreans that need to assure us. We'd be happy to work with them. They need to assure us that they are no longer sponsoring international terrorism, that they no longer have any contacts with international terrorists, and we'll be happy to review this issue with them when they feel clear to do so.

In the back, yes, sir.

QUESTION: How long before you can determine if Libya has no longer any residual contacts with terrorists?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: This is an ongoing issue that we're exploring with the Libyans, and I don't want to specify a timeframe. The burden of proof is upon the Libyan Government. We are dealing with them, and once we have -- we're confident we have the assurances that we need, then we would make a recommendation to the Secretary. And there's essentially a process of recommending to Congress that is likely to cover a period of approximately six months before they can be removed from the list if they meet all the criteria.

QUESTION: Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Looking at your list, this being the lowest number of terrorist attacks since 1969, what happens to that number if you do include the attacks on military targets in Iraq, which, after all, the President routinely calls terrorist attacks? I know they're not, for the definition's report, terrorist attacks, but they're often called by senior officials, including the President, terrorist attacks. What happens to the numbers if you include them?

And also, you talk about al-Qaida having their operations seriously, their capabilities seriously downgraded. But by my account in here, and tell me if I'm wrong, there were about a dozen attacks that are either al-Qaida or seemingly al-Qaida, which seems to me a big increase from the previous year.

So do we have an increase in the number of attacks from al-Qaida, or supposedly al-Qaida, despite the fact that it's -- they're downgraded?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yeah. I think it's important to stick -- I do counterterrorism, so I kind of stick with the basics of that.

Truly, I don't know what the figure would be if you included combatants. Certainly in Afghanistan or Iraq, you'd have to ask the Department of Defense. According to our definition, the way we view this issue, it is not terrorism if these people engaged -- engaged coalition or U.S. military forces that are armed and in a combat situation. That's conflict and combat. We don't consider that to be terrorism. If one were to include all these numbers, it would obviously be a lot higher. I don't know what that number would be, nor am I particularly responsible for it.

In terms of al-Qaida, you'd have to talk about al-Qaida and al-Qaida-associated. The way I would characterize this is to refer to statistics I think that you're pretty comfortable with, and have heard before. Seventy percent of their leadership of the period of 9/11 have been arrested, detained or killed, but more than 3,400 of their supporters and associates have also been arrested or detained.

The capability of al-Qaida has been significantly degraded as an organization of the 9/11 period. They are truly under catastrophic stress. They're very defensive. That's the good news.

The bad news is that, nevertheless, a sufficient percentage of their personnel are out there and are operating and are planning to execute attacks against U.S. interests and the United States. So the threat is very real and credible, and every day we use the full spectrum of law enforcement, security service to identify these people and to protect innocents from them.

QUESTION: Just a quick definitional question. On your definition then, would the attack on the Cole not be a terrorist attack?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, the Cole was essentially a force at rest. It was in harbor, with the crew not on alert. I think the way I personally, from my perspective, would characterize it would be they were not in a combat situation, would be analogous to the Marines that were killed in the barracks in Beirut. That was also an act of terrorism.

These are, you know, the finest, most capable troops in the world. They were not in a combat situation. They were off duty. They were at rest. That would be considered terrorism.

Yes, ma'am, right here.

QUESTION: Could I have a follow up on that (inaudible)?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Why don't I just talk with both? We'll get around to you in a minute, sir.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: I have a two-part question. They're kind of related. If you can talk a little bit about how -- many officials have talked about how al-Qaida, it's not necessarily a group anymore, but it's a mentality that's kind of following the al-Qaida philosophy.

And then some of your counterparts in some of the allied countries in Europe have said that, for instance, with the Madrid bombing, some of the suspects, you know, weren't crossing borders, weren't using a lot of money transfers, and some of the ways of sharing equipment, information, money have been much more undercover and it's presenting a challenge for counterterrorism officials as they go forward, that, you know, your traditional means of combatting terror might not apply in some of these attacks.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, I think you've asked several things there. Classically, the al-Qaida organization of 9/11 was -- had an established hierarchy, had a chain of command, had pretty established lines of communication, and orders were issued, received and moved along and validated. That organization and those people, I think, have been, to a significant degree, effectively countered and we are engaged in following up the remnants, the survivors of that organization.

I think what you're referring to are localized groups that have been vulnerable to incitement, what they see in the news media, what they hear, also influenced by very extreme radicalized preaching. And yes, many of these have limited or greatly reduced contacts with people outside of their cells.

So this represents challenges for law enforcement and security services to identify them and counter them. The good news to that is that, in general, their training, their operational experience and their ability to securely move from essentially independent localized groups through the spectrum of having the wherewithal and the equipment to conduct terrorist attacks, to do secure casings of potential targets, to bring all these things together, is not as great, and in that are significant advantages for local law enforcement and security services.

What is it dependent upon is the will of the leadership of these respective countries to support and empower the people that catch terrorists to make sure that they're funded, they have the right equipment and resources to be able to move effectively to identify these people and effectively move against them.

QUESTION: Can I -- if I could follow up. To what extent do you think al-Qaida is kind of indirectly, or even directly, supporting some of these groups? A lot of times when there's a terrorist attack, you hear it's a local group with ties to al-Qaida. But it seems like that doesn't mean what it used to mean.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yeah, I think you're right. It doesn't mean what it used to. And I think it's -- there is no longer a hard relationship. These relationships tend to be increasingly tenuous and based upon contacts and associations of the past, particularly that were anchored in the terrorist safe haven of Afghanistan, where large amounts of trainees went through, their contacts were made.

This, currently, the follow-on sets of threats are more diverse, but we do have the advantage, as long as we go about it in a systematic way, communicate among countries, use leads, pass information, do it quickly and take action when you identify them, the advantage is certainly with us.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: The United States has promised Turkey to eliminate PKK-KADEK or Kongra-Gel terrorist organization in northern Iraq. So what's going to be done to eliminate this threat?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Right. We have made it very clear to our Turkish friends that we share a common issue. There is no place in Iraq for KADEK. It cannot be allowed to represent a threat to the good people of Iraq or to the people in neighboring countries. There is no place for it, and as a threat it is our position that it needs to be taken care of.

As a result of working with Turkish officials, the Turkish Government, we have developed what has been referred to in Ankara as a "Plan of Action," where we are using the various elements of statecraft, which cover the entire spectrum. This is -- the American view, it's very important. Counterterrorism not only is not only exclusively the use of military force, military force is a last resort.

The most efficient and effective way to address this is using elements of diplomacy, to get the community of nations to assist us in this, to use law enforcement, to use financial means. So we are moving -- in our plan of action, we are moving through the spectrum of tools that we use against this target. We consider them a terrorist group. We consider them a threat. We're going to deal with them. And if we are unable to reach our objective using the -- this spectrum of elements of statecraft, we will use military force when that is appropriate.

Yes, sir, in the back. You've been very patient. Thank you.

QUESTION: Sir, by saying that the United States has a long memory, is it safe to assume that the United States is also poised to mete out some severe punishment to Hezbollah and other perpetrators of those accused of bombing the Marine barracks in 1983?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: We have never forgotten our Marines. We are determined to bring to justice the individuals that planned and committed that action. We do have a long memory and we plan to render these individuals to justice.

We do consider Hezbollah a terrorist group. We do monitor them and we do counter, up to our ability, their actions to kill innocent men, women and children. And that's what this is about, and there should be no doubt about it. We keep a close watch on them, and they should be very mindful of that. We are against killing in all its forms, and we encourage them to utilize other avenues to meet their needs.

Let's see, where -- yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. Regarding North Korea, first case, this is the first time that you mentioned the abductee -- Japanese abductee case in the report, and also you say that you are deeply concerned on this issue. So is it safe to say that the United States put a new condition to -- for North Korea to lift the sanction based on the terrorist designation? That's my first question.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I'm sorry. Could you repeat that one more time?

QUESTION: Yes, sorry about that.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I think you're rephrasing what I said. I'm not too sure. Either I or you got it right, I just want to make sure.

QUESTION: Yes. You mentioned the abductee cases --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the first time. So that means are you putting new conditions for North Korea for -- I mean, to lift the sanction, or whatever, based on the U.S. state sponsors designations? That's my first question, sir.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Why don't I answer that one --

QUESTION: Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: -- so I can keep track of them.

QUESTION: Yes.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: For North Korea to be considered to be taken off the list, we have to be absolutely sure that they are no longer supporting any terrorist group -- is the first thing -- and that they have no contacts with terrorist groups.

We are very mindful of the abductee issue, and we are pressing the North Korean Government to resolve this and to present all the information that they know. And I understand this is a little bit outside the counterterrorism, but also the repatriation of the families of abductees needs also to be resolved. So it's very important to us, and I think it is a part of our concern of North Korea being on the state sponsor list.

Did you have one other question?

QUESTION: Yes. Can I follow up on that?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Also, compared to last year's report, a little bit positive about the hijacking case and the (inaudible), the North Korean, the giving a safe haven to the hijackers at the --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Right.

QUESTION: -- with the Japanese airplanes. And that I just want to quote what the report says, "DPRK also has been trying to resolve the issue of harboring Japanese Red Army members."

You used to writing also. So that sounds like North Korea is trying to solve the problem of abductees also. Is that right understanding? And even North Korea is refusing to --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yeah. Well, whenever you talk about North Korea, it gets very complicated. Let me just say that a key element of North Korean support remains Pyongyang's provision of safe haven to the Japanese Red Army hijackers of a JAL airliner to North Korea in 1970. So we want to work with them to resolve this.

Yes, sir, in the back.

QUESTION: I have, basically, three straightforward questions. One of them is just a follow-up to some of the other questions being asked so I'll get to that first.

Understanding this, how you're distinguishing people in Iraq, do you consider a foreigner, non-Iraqi, who crosses a border into Iraq and participating in an attack on American forces a terrorist, regardless? Would you still distinguish that if our forces are at rest this foreigner who crossed the border is not a terrorist?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I, from a counterterrorism perspective, would consider this individual a foreign fighter, and depending on the target that this fighter engages and how he engages would bring into question whether this is a terrorist or not.

As an example, if this individual were to harm innocent people, whether it's Iraqis associated with the coalition, were to harm someone like that, someone who is not a combatant, that would be terrorism. Someone who plants a weapon, a bomb, kills innocent people would be a terrorist. So that's how we would view it.

QUESTION: Okay. My two questions.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yes.

QUESTION: If you go -- a specific case. If you have an Israeli soldier, whether it be a reservist or active duty, in uniform, getting on a bus to go to their place, their duty station, and that bus is bombed, is that an act of terrorism perpetrated against the Israeli in uniform?

And my other question --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: If I can -- let me just answer that one.

QUESTION: Sure.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I think that would be similar to -- I'm not a lawyer. I do counterterrorism. That would be similar to the engagement of uniformed military personnel at rest. Someone, you know, who is on home leave, you know, walking down a road with a rucksack, you know, to get on a bus would seem akin, to me, to our Marines, as an example, that were killed in Beirut.

QUESTION: Okay.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: They're not on alert. They're not in formation. They're not engaged in action.

QUESTION: And in your section on Lebanon, you say the Lebanese Government will not recognize as a terrorist group a group solely identified by the United States. So my question is, do you have any indication from the Lebanese Government what they would be looking for, for example, regarding Hezbollah? Would they be looking for the EU to designate it as a terrorist organization or the UN? What is Lebanon --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, I think the issue with Lebanon is that they don't seem to be solely acting in their own prerogative. They're heavily influenced by Syria, as an example, which is one of the leading state sponsors of terrorism, so I think their definition and their view of this issue is skewed, certainly against the position that we would encourage them to take.

QUESTION: Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Any other questions? Let's see. Who have I missed?

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can I ask about al-Qaida's infrastructure in Iraq, and is this principally Abu Musab al Zarqawi? And if you could talk a little bit about Zarqawi, he's described as an al-Qaida associate, and he's also been linked to Ansar al-Islam, so if you can shed any light on, on where he fits.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yeah, I think you've almost answered the question of another colleague. I mean, I think one needs to choose words carefully.

Zarqawi has been associated with al-Qaida for a considerable period of time. We have been watching him and watching his movements and been very interesting -- interested in him, certainly not only as a classical terrorist, but also as a purveyor of what we would describe as weapons of mass destruction.

He is a little bit of an independent actor in that he does not require the guidance and orders issued by the classical al-Qaida organization of 9/11, but he does conduct his operations sympathetically with al-Qaida's objectives. He has personnel that have been trained by al-Qaida. There are associations there. And we consider him, essentially, to be a part of the al-Qaida organization and the al-Qaida threat.

Although he is not integrated within it, he is associated with al-Qaida and its objectives, and he -- he is representative of a very real and credible threat. His operatives are planning and attempting, now, to attack American targets; and we are after them with a vengeance.

Any other questions? Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Two questions. One is you -- there was some discussion before about how the Iraq situation is not included in international terrorism in the context of this report. Also, there are some major domestic terrorism attacks. Secretary Armitage referred before to the Bogotá bombing, nightclub bombing, where I think 34 people were killed. That wouldn't be included in the statistics either.

Does that take away from the significance of this drop in -- reduction in --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, I think the attack in Bogotá, the Nogal nightclub -- is that what you're talking about?

QUESTION: Yeah.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: That would be.

QUESTION: But, for example, in Latin America, your statistics -- you've only three dead for all of Latin America for 2003, but you had 34 dead in the Bogotá attack.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, I'll have to check. That would seem like an inconsistency to me, so I'll have to check.

QUESTION: Well -- the explanation I was given to that before was that was considered a domestic attack because there probably weren't any non -- it was perpetuated by Colombians against Colombians.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Okay, I'm going to have to check. I'll take that and I'll get back to you for the record, there.

QUESTION: Just one quick, one quick follow up question on that. Not related to that. But you talked before about the difficulty of nations getting off the list of state sponsored terrorists. How about getting onto the list? Are there any nations that have become increasingly problematic over the course of the last year and may be considered candidates to be added to the list?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: We are constantly looking at all the countries of the world to see which ones have the potential to be put on the list, on this list. But we would not discuss that until we actually were to recommend that action.

QUESTION: Are there any in particular --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I wouldn't talk about that. That's not how we do it.

QUESTION: Ambassador Black, you note a slight positive trend, a reduction in the number of attacks and a less than slight, a more dramatic trend, in the reduction of number of people killed. As is usual with these reports, we're a little bit into the following year now.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Yes.

QUESTION: And I'm wondering what -- whether you think this trend line is going to continue.

And throwing the second question in at the same time, can you tell us anything about why the President has expressed to Members of Congress concern about the possibility of terrorism in the lead-up to the election?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, I think, David, I don't know what this year will look like. The situations in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been completely resolved. We'll need to see where it is.

I think internationally, if one were to remove from the equation what is essentially a combat zone in Afghanistan and Iraq, I would speculate, it's my view, that the trend line would continue, would still be positive. The combat situations, I think, sort of change the picture and make estimates harder to make.

In terms of your last question was the President's reporting to the American people that -- I think he validated their concern, I think, about the potential of a terrorist threat against U.S. actions before the November elections. And I think, as I recall, the President commented that he thought there was -- there was reason to be concerned.

I think that the terrorists have concluded that in the wake of Madrid, whereas they may not have had the intent going in, I think those, those terrorist groups that saw the terrible attack on Madrid have concluded, with the help of many others, that there may be a relationship between a terrorist action and an election in a democracy, and that these groups may decide that this is a good target date to look towards among all democracies, not only the United States, but others.

And so as long as they have the intent, we have to be, you know, mindful this is something to counter with that in mind.

QUESTION: But that's just a hypothesis. It's not that there's specific intelligence suggesting a group is targeting the United States in, say, October at the moment.

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, there are groups targeting the United States, clearly. It's our job to identify them and stop them from launching these attacks. As I tried to convey, I think terrorist groups have noted the relationship between a terrorist attack and the upcoming elections in Madrid and I think they are likely to factor this into their calculations when they conduct operations.

On the other hand, I would say that, you know, they seek to have operations that work, which means they have to overcome all of the defenses that we have, all our offensive collection activities, as well as the activities of the Department of Homeland Security. So there are hurdles and firebreaks, a concentric ring of defenses that becomes stronger with every day that they have to overcome. So it's not -- it's not easy for them.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I have a question on Saudi Arabia, which you praised rather strongly for its work, particularly since May.

You say Saudi Arabia has expressed its commitment to undertake internal political, social and economic reforms aimed at combatting the underlying causes of terrorism. What do you think are the underlying causes of terrorism in Saudi Arabia?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I think there has been an inordinate amount of radicalized teaching in the Kingdom. I think this has been recognized by the Kingdom's leadership. They have validated it. They are addressing it. As an example, they will not stand for incitement. They will not stand for anti-Semitism. They have established procedures to vet religious leaders, and those that are unable to conform to the common-held view that renounces anti-Semitism and violence, they are no longer allowed to preach.

They are looking at ways to enhance the strength of their society, and they have the issue of counterterrorism on one hand, which is basically the business of identifying terrorists and capturing them so that they can't hurt innocent people. On the other hand, they are looking at ways to reduce funding for terrorism, as well as to reduce incitement in their society.

QUESTION: What about the political and economic dimension, which you cite here? I mean, do you think that the absence of democracy, for example, in Saudi Arabia, the absence of economic opportunities for native Saudis, is part of the underlying causes of terrorism?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I think the leadership is looking to ways to liberalize, to make more equitable their society. They're also very mindful of the numbers of graduates that leave school and need to find jobs. They are mindful of the high unemployment rate among youth, and they are looking at ways to -- to resolve, if not improve, that.

Let's see, in the back, standing in front.

Yes, sir. Did you have a question or you --

QUESTION: I did on Colombia. In the Colombia section, there is a lot of emphasis on the narcotrafficking, narcoterrorist groups, the three groups; and then in the Venezuelan section, it mentions the affinity and ideology from President Chavez and the FARC.

This morning, Senator, U.S. Senator mentioned that President of Colombia has specific information about a connection between Chavez and the FARC. Do you have any information, or do you have that information that will help fight narco-terrorism in that particular area, Colombia and Venezuela?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well I just -- I would answer the question that I'm not going to address the specific contacts aspect. I will say that we are concerned about the movement of people and materiel across the border. The border is not as effectively patrolled as we would like, and I think both the Colombians and the Venezuelans should like to have. We would like to see improvements in that area, and we think that the government in Caracas can do, you know, a better job in terms of what moves across the border and to keep these groups from being as effective as they are.

A PARTICIPANT: Ambassador Black, we're almost out of time if we could --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Okay, great.

Let's see. One last -- who hasn't asked a question? In the back. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Regarding Venezuela, how do you feel about problems such civilians, air-, ground-, and waterborne illicit traffic? The Venezuela participation in the Caribbean (inaudible) network, and an interception of illicit traffic seize operations -- has seize -- Venezuela has seize operation close to 26 million kilogram of illegal drugs as a way of cooperating with -- against terrorism? And how can we improve -- can Venezuela improve the -- its way of cooperation against terrorism?

AMBASSADOR BLACK: I think, certainly it can interact more efficiently and more effective with the United States as well as the CICTE members of the Organization of American States.

We'd like to see greater cooperation in the border area between Bogotá and Caracas. We think a lot more can be done. There's not enough communication, there's not enough mutual support, and we think there is a lot of room for improvement.

QUESTION: Could I just ask about your (inaudible) in 1969? Were there simply more attacks in 1968, or was that the year that you guys began keeping these statistics, and so that's how you got -- because, I mean, I was three in 1968, but I don't -- a study of history. I mean, I don't even know if there were more terrorist --

AMBASSADOR BLACK: Well, I was 18. So I'll take the same defense on that. I don't know what the answer is. I'll have to get back to you.

Thank you very much.

2004/466


Released on April 29, 2004

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