[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1996, Book II)]
[September 9, 1996]
[Pages 1506-1509]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing Counterterrorism Initiatives and an Exchange With 
September 9, 1996

    The President. Thank you. Let me begin by thanking the Vice 
President and the commission for all their hard work and for this 
excellent action plan. This is partnership at its best, Government and 
private citizens, Democrats and Republicans, joining together for the 
common good.
    As the Vice President has said, we asked the members of this 
commission to do a lot of work in a little time. They rolled up their 
sleeves; they delivered. We know we can't make the world risk-free, but 
we can reduce the risks we face, and we have to take the fight to the 
terrorists. If we have the will, we can find the means. We have to 
continue to fight terrorism on every front by pursuing our three-part 
strategy: first, by rallying a world coalition with zero tolerance for 
terrorism; second, by giving law enforcement the strong counterterrorism 
tools they need; and third, by improving security in our airports and on 
our airplanes.
    The Vice President's action plan goes to the heart of this strategy. 
So I want everyone to understand that whenever this plan says, ``the 
commission recommends,'' you can understand it to mean, ``the President 
    Today I will direct the Federal aviation authority to instruct their 
personnel in the field to convene immediately those responsible for 
security at our Nation's 450 commercial airports so they can strengthen 
security as a team. I will direct that all airport and airline employees 
with access to secure areas be given criminal background checks and FBI 
fingerprint checks. I will direct the FAA to begin full passenger bag 
match for domestic flights at selected airports. And I'm proud to say 
that several of the commission's recommendations will be put into place 
    Last Thursday, Secretary Pena announced a rule to require more 
accurate and detailed passenger manifests on international flights, a 
priority for families of victims of aviation disasters. Families of 
victims also deserve a single point of contact for receiving 
information. That is why today I will sign an Executive order to give

[[Page 1507]]

the National Transportation Safety Board the job of coordinating the 
response for families of victims. And our military has agreed to 
provide, starting next week, several dozen canine teams for key 
    But as the Vice President's action plan makes clear, there is much 
more which must be done, and we cannot meet that responsibility without 
willingness to commit our resources. Shortly, I will submit to Congress 
a budget request for more than $1 billion to expand our FBI 
antiterrorism forces and to put the most sophisticated bomb detection 
machines in America's airports.
    As a result of these steps, not only will the American people feel 
safer, they will be safer. Close to half our requests will be used to 
make the improvements in aviation security the Vice President and this 
commission have asked for.
    As I said, we want to put the most sophisticated bomb detection 
equipment for screening passengers, baggage, and cargo in America's 
airports. We should do this as quickly as possible. We want to 
significantly expand the number of FBI special agents dedicated to 
fighting terrorism. We want to expand the use of bomb-sniffing dogs in 
our airports--the no-tech program the Vice President has recommended--
and train additional bomb-sniffing dogs for Government use as well.
    In addition to improving security in airports and airplanes, the 
focus of the Vice President's plan, we want to use these funds to keep 
advancing the other two parts of our strategy, combating terrorists 
beyond our borders and here at home. We need to continue to improve 
security at our military and diplomatic facilities overseas so we can 
better protect those who wear our Nation's uniform and serve our 
Nation's interests abroad. We need to continue to expand our 
intelligence capabilities to combat terrorists worldwide. We must train 
and equip fire departments and medical teams so they can respond to 
biological or chemical attacks like the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo 
subway. We must tighten protection at a number of high profile public 
sites including Government buildings, national landmarks, and national 
    These counterterrorism funds are a smart investment in our Nation's 
security and our people's safety. I urge Congress to join with me in 
combating terrorism by giving us the resources we need to do the job 
right. As I requested, the Vice President and this commission took just 
45 days to deliver their action plan. Now Congress should act with the 
same dispatch before they leave in October to pass the funding that will 
bring these security measures to life. Our people deserve no less.
    There are other areas where Congress can and should act to 
strengthen our fight against terrorism. We need new laws I have proposed 
to crack down on money laundering and to prosecute and punish those who 
commit violent crimes against American citizens abroad, to add taggants 
to gunpowder used in bombs so we can track down the bomb makers, to 
extend the same police power we now have against organized crime to 
tapping all the phones a terrorist uses so we can better prevent 
terrorist attacks. And I again call upon the Senate to ratify without 
delay the Chemical Weapons Convention.
    We need all these laws, and we need them now, before Congress 
recesses for the year. Terrorists don't wait, and neither should we. The 
American people should be grateful that the Vice President and this fine 
commission didn't wait and in fact delivered on their mandate within 
just 45 days.
    Thank you very much.

TWA Flight 800

    Q. Are you any closer, Mr. President, to finding a solution to the 
TWA crash?
    The President. Well, we don't have an answer for you. They are 
continuing to work, and they continue to piece the evidence together, 
but we don't have an answer now.
    Q. Do you think a missile caused it?
    The President. Excuse me?
    Q. A missile?
    The President. It would be wrong for me to comment until I see the 
people who are doing the reports' final report.

Counterterrorism Technology

    Q. Mr. President, the high sophisticated technology that you 
mentioned this morning for screening passengers for bomb detection 
technology can see through clothes. Do you expect there to be a major 
debate over privacy issues and civil rights in connection with the 
deployment of this technology? And could it thwart some of the 
commission's actions?
    The President. Do you want to answer that?
    The Vice President. Let me respond to that. We think that particular 
concern has been great-

[[Page 1508]]

ly overstated in some of the preliminary reports. That's only one of 
several technologies that are discussed in this report. Incidentally, 
the commission is recommending the establishment of a civil liberties 
advisory board to review and give advice upon any of the recommendations 
that might raise privacy or civil liberties concerns. But we think that 
particular concern has been vastly overstated.


    Q. Mr. President, in Iraq are we abandoning Kurdish rebels who took 
a stand against Saddam Hussein and now are being hunted down by his 
    The President. Well, what we know of what is happening is that the 
Kurdish forces themselves are continuing to fight. Obviously, Saddam 
Hussein is supporting one side over another now. But the primary fight 
is being carried on between the Turkish forces--I mean the Kurdish 
forces, excuse me. We're doing everything we can to get out of Iraq 
American citizens and those who have worked with us. And we have done 
everything we could to make it clear to the Kurds that we think that 
there should not be any cavalier killing of civilians and others who are 
not combatants in this.
    As to the intelligence matters, I can't comment. But we are doing 
everything that we believe we can do and that we think is appropriate.

Hurricane Fran

    Q. Have you gotten any updates on the damage from Hurricane Fran and 
anything else that you can do to--particularly for the people suffering 
from the flooding?
    The President. Yes. I got updates all weekend on the extent of the 
damage, and I expect to hear from Mr. Witt today about where we are with 
the floods and whether we need to do any more to go back to try to get 
some extra help for the--it's quite extensive, and I think it's--the 
hurricane itself, except for the terrible loss of life in North 
Carolina, was not as damaging as we thought it would be, but the 
aftermath of the flooding has been, I think, worse than was anticipated. 
And so I expect to get a more updated report today in terms of what else 
should be done. And when I know something, I'll say.
    The Vice President. Could I add a brief word on that, Mr. President?
    In fact, a couple members of the commission coming from Virginia 
were impeded in their attendance at this event this morning by the 
flooding. And I want to single out retired General Mike Loh, who worked 
so hard on this commission report. And the other members of the 
commission are listed in the back. Not all of them could make it here 
this morning, and a couple of them for that reason.


    Q. Mr. President, do those that you are trying to get out of Iraq 
include the members of the Iraqi National Congress, who are apparently 
holed up in a mountain hideaway somewhere and hoping for political 
    The President. I think it would be better for me not to comment now. 
I'd like to stay with my first statement. We're doing everything we 
think we can to help anybody that needs to be out of Iraq.
    Q. Mr. President, what are your concerns about the building strength 
of Saddam's ground forces, though?
    The President. Well, the main thing that we wanted to say was first 
of all, the United States has done a great deal to help the Kurds over 
the years. And we've worked very hard. They make it more difficult to 
help them when their leaders continue to promote fights within the 
Kurds, within the Kurdish faction. And as you might expect, Saddam 
Hussein would try to take advantage of that.
    Our ability to control internal events in Iraq is limited, but what 
we did do, which I thought was important, was when we found that what he 
had done contravened the United Nations resolution and constituted 
repression of his own people by carrying forward the military attack on 
Irbil himself, what we did was to expand the no-fly zone and enforce it 
and take out air defenses, which means that every day he has to pay a 
price in terms of his capacity to maneuver in his own country and 
threaten his neighbors.
    And so we have done what we thought was appropriate there. I would 
still like to do more to help the Kurds, but frankly, if you want the 
fighting--for the fighting to be ended, the leaders of the various 
factions are going to have to be willing to go back to the peace table 
and talk it through. We have worked very hard with them, but that's a 
decision they're going

[[Page 1509]]

to have to make, which will have a lot to do with the fate of their own 
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:02 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House after receiving the initial report of the White House Commission 
on Aviation Safety and Security. In his remarks, he referred to 
President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.