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Press conference of Ambassador J. Cofer Black, U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism

Ambassador Black leads U.S. delegation to session of Inter American Committee Against Terrorism Jan. 28-30

Feb. 2, 2004


Radisson Hotel, Montevideo, Jan. 29, 2004

Ambassador Black:
It is a pleasure to be here in Montevideo to join our 33 partners in the OAS for the Fourth Regular Session of the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE).

I have the honor of leading the U.S. delegation which includes our Permanent Representative to the OAS Ambassador John Maisto, Ambassador Cris Arcos from the Department of Homeland Security, and Deputy Attorney General John Malcolm.

The United States, in collaboration with the other CICTE members at this Fourth Session, will focus on developing effective counterterrorism regimes in the hemisphere that include strong legal, border, and financial controls, as well as cybersecurity – an OAS mandate. This meeting will also give the United States and the other 33 members an opportunity to add transportation security to CICTE’s mandate – particularly ports and airports.

We are all engaged in a global campaign against terrorism. Terrorism threatens our democratic way of life – our freedom to live and prosper peacefully. As President Bush has said, the war on terrorism is likely to go on for a considerable period of time.

We urge all countries that have not yet done so to ratify the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, the 12 United Nations conventions and protocols on terrorism, as well as other related instruments.

We encourage CICTE and its members to enhance collaboration with other OAS organizations, such as CICAD and CIFTA; international organizations, such as the UNCTC, G-8’s Roma-Lyon Group and Counterterrorism Action Group, PAHO, and APEC; and, non-hemispheric countries, such as Spain and Israel.

We encourage member states to implement the counterterrorism recommendations made in the Declaration on Security in the Americas adopted in Mexico City at the OAS Special Conference on Security Conference last October.

Participants at this special security conference identified the links between terrorism, illicit trafficking in arms, asset laundering, organized crime, and drug trafficking as posing a threat to hemispheric security. The conference participants pledged to strengthen every state’s capacity to prevent, punish, and eliminate terrorism.

We encourage member states to stand with Colombia and support the efforts of the Uribe Administration to eradicate terrorism in Colombia. We fully support Colombia’s democratic security policy, because it protects the people of Colombia from the threats posed by terrorism and fosters an atmosphere in which reconciliation and peace are achievable.

Investment now in counterterrorism cooperation, prevention, and eradication will pay significant future dividends in a secure homeland, safe trade, and expanded tourism throughout the entire hemisphere.

CICTE is an outstanding – perhaps the best – example of a region pulling together to defend itself, its democratic way of life, and its freedom to live and develop peacefully – all shared values among OAS members.

The United States strongly supports developing CICTE as a premier multilateral vehicle for providing capacity – building assistance, facilitating information-sharing, and serving as an effective technical body of counterterrorism and homeland security experts.

And, that is why it brings me such pleasure to announce that the United States intends to provide CICTE $1.6 million in 2004 to support the fight against terrorism.

These funds will be provided by the U.S. Department of State for capacity-building assistance in the hemisphere and support CICTE’s administrative functions. The funds will be especially targeted on enhancing member states’ capacities to secure their ports and airports. To date, U.S. cash contributions to CICTE have been over $2 million.

The U.S is fully committed to CICTE’s development and has the greatest confidence in Uruguay as the next CICTE chair.

Again, it is such a pleasure to be here. It is nice to see so many of you have an interest on the topic of counterterrorism. This delegation here today covers a pretty wide spectrum of knowledge. To my right is the Ambassador who is in charge of issues in the hemisphere of a political nature, and we have Ambassador Arcos who is from our Department of Homeland Security. In particular he is in charge of its International Department, so among the three of us we will attempt to answer whatever questions you may have.

Q.: Buenas tardes. I would like to ask Ambassador Arcos - who I know was in Buenos Aires and also gave his opinion about the port situation in Buenos Aires regarding security -what is his vision about the port of Montevideo and Carrasco airport in relation to their vital importance in the combat and prevention of terrorism.

A.: Thank you. First I would like to thank you for your question because it focuses on the themes that are discussed in this conference. Specifically, what we are doing in relation to ports and airports is evaluating the capacity that each one of them may have in the world. So far I believe we have 19 or 20 maritime ports in the world where we have a program called Container Security Initiative (CSI) and this involves a procedure of capacity evaluation. We are also doing preliminary studies in the region to see which are the ports that can be part of this program. First they must adhere to the regulations established by the International Maritime Orgranization (IMO) for ports in terms of security. This is what we have to determine first, and we are working on this bilaterally, not through CICTE or another organization. However, I can't say anything else about this because at this point we are just doing the evaluations.

Q.: In the case of Uruguay, have you already started?

A.: There was a visit some months ago by our Department and they also visited Buenos Aires and other ports in Latin America. We are now preparing a larger group to come and evaluate the capacity.

Q: (Kevin Gray – Associated Press – Question for Ambassador Black)

Just curious. Is Al-Qaeda still viewed as the biggest international terror threat? If so, why? And if not, what is the biggest terror threat? Is it an organization in Asia, Europe, Iran or Saudi Arabia?

A.: Thank you very much. The answer to your question is in particular from the American perspective, if I can be allowed that. Before 9/11 the terrorist group that had killed more Americans actually was Hesbola and with the catastrophic attacks of 9/11 Al-Qaeda moved up in that deplorable category as having killed more Americans.

The Al-Qaeda organization that existed at the time of 9/11 can be described as being under catastrophic stress. More than two thirds of its key leadership has been arrested, detained or killed. The international hunt among the world’s law enforcement and security services is intense and continuing; and the remaining one third will be rendered to justice. For them the clock is ticking.

We are very much concerned about the effective incitement of young people who are misguided, who watch the wrong television programs, draw the wrong conclusions and who have inaccurate facts, as a particular future threat.
The threat represented by Al-Qaeda and associated groups is truly international and has demanded, and received, international response. The community of nations have come together, have cooperated effectively, exchanging intelligence information, law enforcement information on a timely basis and we are making great progress.

The threat is very real. We are concerned about those terrorists that have not yet been caught, who spend most of their time being defensive in reaction to the international hunt by the world’s law enforcement for them. Yet whereas they tend to be increasingly defensive, increasingly less offensive and it takes longer to prepare operations, they do remain very dangerous and they justly deserve the attention they are receiving from the world’s law enforcement services.

Success in the global war on counterterrorism is really defined by our collective ability to defend innocent men, women and children. This is the reason that organizations such as CICTE were created and show every sign of being increasingly successful over time. We are very concerned about external terrorist threats and the likelihood of their future projection into the hemisphere. I am pleased that the status that we enjoy right now will focus primarily on financial links and from this hemisphere to terrorist organizations, particularly in the Middle East. We need to be positioned, we have to be mindful, we have to work together effectively so that we prevent any survivors from terrorist groups fleeing other areas in the world looking for safehaven. We do not want them to come to our hemisphere here.
I hope that answers your question.

Q.: Ambassador Black, I am Mary Mellikan from Reuters. I want to ask you about the tri-border which is something that isn’t talked about too much these days. We have new governments in the three countries with those borders and I wanted to ask you, are you satisfied with the level of collaboration from the governments of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay? And also, what has latest intelligence in the tri-border area turned up and has it changed your perception of the area in the immediate aftermath of 9/11?

A.: I think the cooperation has been exceptionally good. There is a format that we currently describe as the three-plus-one, the three countries that you mentioned with the United States playing a supporting role to our three partners in the region. There has been a validation of the threat in terms that we want to make sure that our hemisphere is free from this type of terrorist threat. The tri-border area I think partially is a result of the intervention of the three-plus-one. We are in a position to look effectively for links to financial groups in the Middle East. We are mindful that these groups utilize clandestine techniques. We have increasing understanding of what we are up against. We have not to date identified any established source of the Al-Qaeda organization. As the community of nations proceeds with the war on terrorism, we put stress on these various terrorist groups. We have to be mindful of likely areas that they could fall back to seeking safehavens where they can equip and train in comparative peace. This was the situation before 9/11 that the terrorists enjoyed in Afghanistan. That was denied to them
and it becomes increasingly difficult to find such areas and we, the three-plus-one countries as well as CICTE, now are determined to make sure that this region and certainly the tri-border area is not used for that purpose, is not utilized. The commercial infrastructure gives a local advantage to them. We think it is important to remember that when coalition forces went through caves in Afghanistan, there were travel posters of the falls. I don’t think this is an accident.

Q.: (Carlos Montero de Radio Netherland - Spanish) The creation of your position as Coordinator for Antiterrorism in the United States was based on or discussed due to the lack of coordination and divisions among the official security organizations prior to Sept. 11. Do you think that those problems have been solved during your time, and how would you rate the coordination of information with Latin America compared with the already existing one with Europe on the subject of anti-terrorism?

A.: If I understand the question correctly, I will try to answer it quickly. One of my colleagues has something to add and I will ask him to speak.

My job as coordinator for counterterrorism is to assist in the development of U.S. policy in the field of counter-terrorism and to deal with our friends abroad. We seek to encourage the nations of the world to have the will to fight terrorism, to take it straight on and we also seek to assist our friends abroad to have this world fight terrorism in their capacity to fight terrorism, so we attempt to give them appropriate, useful training and equipment and support as appropriate. I understand that the relationship that the United States enjoys with the countries of the hemisphere in general is excellent. I stated this in my remarks to the CICTE where I had a very particular acknowledgment to and expressed appreciation for the help of Mexico and the Mexican government over the holidays assisting Americans in effectively addressing the threat to its air security. The desire of the President of the United States to have the most efficient and effective organization to address the terrorist threat resulted in part in the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security to pull threats together with an emphasis on defending the homeland against attack. I would like to call upon Ambassador Arcos to discuss a little bit the Department of Homeland Security and what it does.

Amb. Arcos (translated from Spanish): Thank you Mr. Ambassador. First, as Ambassador Black has mentioned, the events or the tragedy that occurred two years ago led to the reorganization of the U.S. Government and the creation of the Department of Interior Security. "Homeland Security" represents the biggest organization in the history of the United States in civilian terms after the reorganization of the Department of Defense 50 years ago at a multi-billionary cost. We have already redistributed inside the United States more than 4 thousand million dollars in preparations for local and state emergencies in what we have called "First Respondents" to any tragedy. But what I want to say is that, as Ambassador Black has said, we are concerned with providing training to the countries which are allied with us in terms of customs, migration, aviation and also maritime. This includes our Coast Guard, Secret Service and the old Inmigration, Migration and Customs Department and other aspects that we have added to the new Department. My office is mostly in charge of coordinating with the Department of State our policy in terms of helping countries coordinate their policies to combat terrorism, so that they can be efficient and transparent. This conference here in Uruguay shows the disposition of the United States and our Department to take part in the implementation of any help or technical assistance that may be necessary.

Q.: I know you've been talking about combatting terrorism, basically to reinforce security and to take precautionary steps and fundamentally to try to preserve the security of the territories of the countries affected. But yesterday, there were comments made in this summit about combatting the causes that foment terrorism -- social discontent, ethnic conflict and economic inequities. Is the US working on this more than the problems that emanate security and preservation of the terrirotires of the affected countries?

A.: The issue, I think, has been given a lot of thought by the United States. I think it is very important to recognize one point and that is that terrorists kill innocent men, women and children. I think it is very important to underscore that nothing justifies this, no cause, no religion and the community of nations needs to come together to constructively address this issue. Terrorists are criminals, they need to be addressed and also at the same time they need to be mindful that it is important to remove those fundamental causes that encourage radicalism leading to terrorism. The most important part is I think for civilized people to accept that nothing justifies murder. Poverty does not, religion does not. A lot of people that feel personally challenged do not resort to murder. They have to put things in their proper context. Civilized people get together and they talk out their problems. And they leave innocent people, men, women and children, aside. I think this is what this is all about.

Q.: I am from French news agency – AFP – I want to ask a question about the reform of the statutes that has been discussed here in Montevideo. Apparently there is a debate, quite strong debate, about a possible too strong influence of the military in the CICTE. So, what is the position of the U.S. and if you think this is really a point, what is your position? And also an extension of the previous question about the tri-border, what is the other area that is a matter of concern for the U.S., Central America? Can you give other examples of where you are focusing your attention? Thank you.

A.: Thank you very much. First of all the meetings have not been concluded and I would not want to speak for CICTE. But the United States sees CICTE and has every reason to believe it, as a civilian organization primarily, if not virtually exclusively. It may have some contacts and associations with military entities surely from a standpoint of practicality. This is a civilian organization. All the members of CICTE view the hemisphere defense against the terrorist threat to be of a very high priority in terms of particular areas. This is a transnational threat, it is international, it is global and the areas that we are particularly concerned about are not necessarily national. I think that CICTE is looking very closely at improving our collective ability to defend and deny transportation links. And particularly air transport, air systems, airports and maritime ports. This global threat is transnational and whereas each country does what it needs to do, the solution, the success, is a collective hemisphere response and that is called CICTE and that is why the United States is so pleased to support it.

If I may speak for my colleagues, we have enjoyed meeting with you today and thank you very much for coming.

 

 

Links:

January 14, 2004
Special Summit of the Americas: Declaration of Nuevo León

January 2, 2004
U.S. Engagement in the Western Hemisphere

Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism

23 January 2004
U.S. Officials Outline Goals for Hemispheric Anti-Terrorism Meeting

Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002: Latin America Overview

Dept of State Counterterrorism Office

December 3, 2003
Meeting of the "3+1" Counterterrorism Group -- Communique Asuncion, Paraguay

Washington, DC, February 20, 2002
International Terrorism: American Hostages U.S. Government Policy

October 30, 2003
How U.S. Diplomacy Supports the Campaign Against International Terrorism
Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks to the Council on Foreign Affairs
Baltimore, Maryland


Washington, DC, May 23, 2003
Current list of FTOs
Fact Sheet, Office of Counterterrorism
Foreign Terrorist Organizations

Rewards For Justice program

Response to Terrorism website from IIP

CICTE website

National Strategy for Combating Terrorism
White House, Feb 2003

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