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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2001 > May

Testimony on Counterterrorism before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Testimony on Counterterrorism before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
Washington, DC
May 8, 2001

[As Prepared]

As Delivered

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is a very great pleasure to be here, and I thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning. And, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman -- all -- and the most distinguished panel you have put together, Senator Gregg, and I do appreciate the opportunity.

Mr. Chairman, members of the group, the committee, I am pleased to testify before you on the subject of terrorism and I applaud this initiative to continue the dialogue on how America can improve its response to terrorism.

At the Department of State, we welcome your interest and your past work in this area, including creating the concept of the Administration's Five-Year-Plan an action to which we have contributed.

Let me begin my testimony by talking about the United States' response to international terrorism and the State Department's role as lead federal agency in this effort.

Our embassies, run by our ambassadors who are the President's personal representatives, constitute our first line of defense against terrorism. They provide a critical early warning system alerting us to threats against our interests.

Moreover, our diplomats deliver a consistent message on terrorism to foreign governments, reinforce that message with practical support to the willing, and we mobilize the international community to isolate, through political and economic pressure, those who support or use terrorism.

In international fora, as well as in our bilateral relations, we work to create an environment intolerant of terrorism, and to isolate those who threaten us, our friends, our allies, and who terrorize innocent people and threaten innocent people everywhere in the world.

The State Department also serves as the focal point for informing American citizens abroad about potential dangers and threats, and warning them when appropriate. We are constantly watching the trends and watching the intelligence to judge when such public announcements and travel warnings are necessary.

In addition to these efforts, the Department is a leading member of the Counterterrorism Security Group, which regularly tracks threats and develops coordinated tactics to combat international terrorism.

This interagency body serves as an excellent means of keeping open the lines of interagency communication. Members and their staffs meet often, train together, exchange information, and work together to ensure that their various responsibilities and programs are closely coordinated and act as force multipliers. We work closely with other agencies on a number of other programs that are important to our counterterrorism efforts:

First, the Terrorist Interdiction Program, led by the State Department, is an important interagency effort to increase host nation capacity to prohibit terrorists from travelling through those host countries.

The Department's Anti-terrorism Assistance program draws on the expertise of many agencies in training foreign nations in better anti-terrorism techniques.

The Technical Support Working Group, chaired by State, is an outstanding example of interagency coordination. This group's goal is to improve the technical capabilities available to combat terrorism. We share the results of the group's research with domestic first responders. For example, the explosive disrupter developed within this program is now a standard part of the equipment package of many American police bomb squads.

In going after terrorist fund raising, we work closely with the intelligence community and the Justice and Treasury Departments to identify and designate foreign terrorist organizations and to take measures to discourage contributions to illicit charities and front companies. Our Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism now includes officers detailed from the FBI and the CIA to ensure better interagency coordination both day-to-day, as well as in an emergency situation.

In addition to our prevention efforts, we must also enhance our actual defenses against terrorism as well as our response capabilities.

To protect our installations overseas, our first line of effort is again our ambassadors and their country teams.

As we have seen in Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Sanaa, Quito, and Manila to name only a few posts our Chiefs of Mission, our Ambassadors, are responsible for coordinating the actions of the agencies that work within our embassies to defend against and, when defense fails, to respond to terrorist acts.

With the exception of those people directly under the authority of a regional military CINC, Commander in Chief, our Chiefs of Mission are responsible for all official Americans working on behalf of the American people, whether they are Legal or Defense Attaches, Intelligence Officers, or Foreign Service Officers or Civil Service Officers.

The State Department also leads the Foreign Emergency Support Team, FEST team, which is deployed to serve as an ambassador's consultative and support unit in response to a terrorist attack or sometimes in anticipation of a potential threat.

In the past year, this team has been deployed to such far reaches as Manila, Aden, and Quito.

With respect to an actual terrorist incident, this interagency team, led by experienced State Department professionals, plays a crucial role in our response. It helps us ensure that those first days, weeks, and often months after the incident are focused on accomplishing the daunting tasks of securing American lives and assets, taking good care of the people involved, working intimately with the host government to ensure that justice is served, and keeping Washington informed on critical developments.

The State Department also provides excellent physical security for our missions around the world, and we are trying to do an even better job, as I have testified before this committee previously. Our Diplomatic Security corps is watching threats around the clock to ensure that American officials based or traveling abroad are secure. And as you may recall from my budget testimony, we are going to hire more of these professionals with the money that is now in the President's budget request for 2002.

Also from my budget testimony, you know the pace at which we are approaching embassy construction and refurbishment and that this is an additional element of our defense against terrorism.

So America's international defense and response capabilities are clearly defined, coordinated, and functioning well. We are working closely with our government interagency partners here and abroad. We are constantly reviewing and exercising our response capabilities to ensure they continue to address changing needs.

We have already taken steps to strengthen coordination with domestic efforts. Most recently we did this by participating in TOPOFF, an exercise in which senior government officials trained to respond to a weapons of mass destruction terrorist event.

Although the international response was a limited portion of this domestically-focused scenario, we were ready to respond and gear up the State Department activities in such a case.

TOPOFF participation also helped us to identify the international issues associated with a domestic terrorist weapon of mass destruction incident. We are continuing to work with the Department of Justice on future exercises.

We also serve on Joint Terrorism Task Forces in several domestic locations, such as Los Angeles and New York. This effort, strongly supported by the Congress -- and I thank the Congress for that support -- strives to maximize communication among enforcement and intelligence agencies.

And I know that this larger matter of interagency coordination is of particular interest to you, Mr. Chairman, and to other members of this committee; so let me take a moment and highlight some other additional efforts that we are taking to improve cooperation and effectiveness:

The leaders of our Foreign Emergency Support Teams head interagency exercises at least twice a year to ensure that our teams are ready for different and changing types of emergency response needs, ranging from airplane hijackings to nuclear blackmail. The composition of the team depends on the incident and includes specialists such as FBI hostage negotiators and forensic experts, or WMD consequence management planners.

State Department officials, both in Washington and abroad, regularly train for emergency response in an interagency environment. We strive to maintain a high level of readiness in our Washington-based taskforces and international emergency action response capabilities.

Our Diplomatic Security people constantly review their extensive programs with other law enforcement agencies and activities to ensure that they develop and maintain the best possible capability to protect our official people and facilities overseas and to ensure that we are adequately protecting Americans abroad.

Before I wrap up and take your questions, let me touch briefly on two other important aspects of our counterterrorist efforts.

First, at the State Department we believe that affording the best possible protection to American citizens is our duty, wherever those citizens may work or travel overseas.

But we cannot succeed in this effort without the support and cooperation of foreign governments. These governments bear the primary responsibility within their borders for preventing terrorism, protecting our citizens, responding to terrorist attacks, and investigating attacks against Americans.

It is also through the cooperation of foreign governments that we have extradited and rendered to American justice thirteen wanted terrorists since 1993. This is another compelling element of proof of why our diplomatic corps is so crucial to the fight against terrorism.

And secondly, the State Department needs resources to continue its leadership role overseas and to provide for the safety of American citizens and assets abroad.

Whether we are training foreign officials who will serve as protection around our embassies, or training ourselves to respond to, say, a biological attack, or getting our message out through active public diplomacy, it takes money. We need the dollars to do so effectively.

We remain the front line of prevention, defense, and response, but cannot perform effectively if we do not have adequate financial support. Since I have already given you my budget testimony, I will leave it at that.

Mr. Chairman, America's international counterterrorism capability is strong. At all levels of government, we meet regularly, train together, share information, and use our resources as force multipliers. At the same time, we are working to build a stronger bridge between our international and domestic counterterrorism efforts.

As the lead federal agency in dealing with terrorism overseas, the State Department stands ready to accomplish the mission. Does that mean we are going to thwart or successfully defend against every terrorist act? Of course not. That is not possible.

But it does mean that we are doing all that is humanly possible to prevent and defend against terrorist acts directed at our citizens, workers, and facilities and, those efforts failing, to pursue the terrorists until they appear in court to answer for their criminal acts.

And there is another important point to make here, Mr. Chairman.

Americans do not want to hunker down in their embassies and their consulates and await the next attack, as inevitable as that next attack may in fact be.

That outlook is against all that we stand for. It is against the very spirit of our people.

Terrorism is a part of the dark side of globalization. However sadly, it is a part of doing business in the world business we as Americans are not going to stop doing.

Indeed, if we adopted a hunkered down attitude, behind our concrete and our barbed wire, the terrorists would have achieved a kind of victory.

We don't want to avoid controversial causes, nor shrink from our fullest responsibilities overseas, nor slow or cut back on our overseas travel or the flow of our citizens throughout the wider world. After all, our citizens are our best ambassadors.

At the end of the day, what America is to the world is not only what we say or do, it is who we are. And we are not helmeted giants huddling in our bunkers awaiting the enemy.

We are entrepreneurs, artists, businesspeople, and diplomats, as outgoing, as extroverted a people as any the world has ever seen.

And we must remember that in combating terrorists we are dealing with criminals. But that does not mean -- it does not mean -- that we let them have their way.

We need to keep these things in mind as we craft our counterterrorism efforts and the public diplomacy associated with them.

We will continue to strengthen our cooperation with those fighting terrorism domestically.

We know also that we can improve further our interagency integration and cooperation so that we have the most effective government team possible, whether operating in preventive or defensive mode or responding to another terrorist act. And we are working diligently, Mr. Chairman, to improve that interagency integration and cooperation.

This program has the President's highest priority and it has my highest priority and my personal support.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for allowing me to present this statement, and I look forward to your comments and questions, and those of the other members of the panel.

Released on May 8, 2001

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