Testimony of Acting DCI William
OMNIBUS COUNTERTERRORISM ACT OF 1995
To the House Judiciary Committee
April 6, 1995
Good morning Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. It is a pleasure
to appear before you today in support of the Omnibus Counterterrorism
Act of 1995. The Intelligence Community supports this bill as a significant
step forward in the fight against international terrorism. This legislation
is needed to give our nation's law enforcement agencies, with which
we work so closely, the proper tools to carry out this fight.
I have been asked to provide an overview of the international terrorist threat. I am happy to do so from the foreign perspective and I understand that Director Freeh will address it from the domestic side. Some topics may relate to ongoing criminal investigations or prosecutions, and I would have to defer to my colleagues Deputy Attorney General Gorelick and Director Freeh. Some aspects of this topic, and some of your questions as well, may touch upon very sensitive information that cannot be discussed in this open session. I would be pleased to address any such issues in executive session or in written answers to the Committee.
Mr. Chairman, we have seen a most disturbing change in the nature of the terrorist threat over the recent past, and this change will make the world an increasingly dangerous place for Americans. In general, international terrorists today are focusing less on hostage-taking and hijackings and more on the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. Although the number of international terrorist incidents has decreased over the past 10 years, the trend is toward a higher number of civilian casualties, more extensive property damage, and increasingly devastating effects on economies. We recorded 321 international terrorist incidents during 1994, down from the 431 recorded in 1993. However, beginning in 1993, the number of casualties has risen significantly.
For instance, the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 resulted in six deaths and over 1,000 injured. The 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires left nearly 100 people dead and over 250 wounded. The recent gassing of the Tokyo subway killed 10 people and injured over 5,500 others. These incidents have also resulted in substantial property damage. The pace of terrorist incidents during the first three months of this year has increased significantly due primarily to a spate of firebombings by Kurdish separatists of Turkish targets in Europe and the Tokyo attack.
The preferred targets of terrorist attacks continue to be "soft" targets, such as business and tourist sites and facilities. With their limited security precautions, these targets are easier to attack than government buildings or military installations. Attacks on foreign interests, particularly tourist targets that are prime sources of foreign exchange, effectively hamper national and regional economies. US interests and citizens continue to be favorite targets of terrorists, as we were reminded by the murder of two Americans last month in Karachi, Pakistan. Attacks against American citizens and interests over the past five years account for about 40 percent of the total number of terrorist incidents.
Particularly disturbing is the terrorist use of a chemical weapon, possibly the nerve gas sarin, in the attack on the Tokyo subway. We hope that it does not herald the dawn of a new era long feared by counterterrorist experts: the use of weapons of mass destruction against urban populations.
The consequences of a terrorist incident involving a weapon of mass destruction can be enormous, including massive casualties, widespread contamination, and serious economic dislocation. Unfortunately, we believe that we will witness more of this type of attacks. Production of biological and chemical agents is relatively easy because the ingredients and manufacturing instructions are readily available. Also, the possibility of "copycat" attacks increases with media exposure of major incidents and with prolonged investigations by civil authorities.
Equally frightening, but less likely, is the use of nuclear materials or devices in a terrorist attack. The most serious threat of nuclear terrorism is use of materials or devices diverted from the Russian stockpile. Continued economic destitution, deteriorating living conditions and morale within the military, and the rise of organized crime could undermine the stockpile's security, making thefts of warheads or subcomponents possible. Warheads in transit by rail between military facilities or to assembly and disassembly facilities could also be vulnerable to direct attack or theft.
Small, portable devices, even with severely degraded yields, could still be several times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb and powerful enough to bring down a target like the World Trade Center. Even with no nuclear yield, such a device could cause significant radiological dispersion, contaminating the area of an attack and threatening survivors and rescue personnel.
Adding to the threat of indiscriminate attacks are ethnic and separatist movements produced by savage regional and ethnic conflicts around the world. These groups are becoming more of a threat to US facilities and interests abroad. The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, heads the list of such groups because the group has made international terrorism a key weapon in its fight for an independent homeland in Kurdish-inhabited southeastern Turkey. The PKK has been especially active in Europe, and we fear that its tactics may become a model for other ethnic and separatist movements being spawned in the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. Bosnia and the Central Asian region offer potentially fertile ground for some of the Middle Eastern groups to operate or seek recruits, and American involvement in humanitarian or peacekeeping missions in the region increases the potential threat to US interests and citizens. Financial and logistic support for Muslims in these regions could come from some of the radical Islamic groups and their state sponsors.
State sponsors of terrorism include Iran, Syria, Libya, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, and Sudan. Of these, Iran is the most active instigator of terrorism, especially against dissidents or enemies in the region. These outlaw states consider terrorism a legitimate instrument of statecraft. Recently, they have become more adept at concealing their own activities. Additionally, they are getting better at hiding their support for their surrogates, which includes providing safe haven, funds, training, weapons, and other assistance.
The greatest terrorist threats to US interests today come from extremist groups who claim--however falsely--to act on behalf of a religion, especially Islam. Some of these groups fit the traditional terrorist mold. These include the Lebanese Hizballah, the Palestinian group HAMAS, and the Algerian Armed Islamic Group. They remain extremely dangerous. Although these groups comprise a small minority in the Islamic world, they have used Islam as a guise to offer alienated segments of the population an alternative to secular governments in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Some of these groups also pose a threat to the Arab-Israeli peace process.
In addition, a new Islamic extremist threat is on the rise. These groups--often ad hoc--are even more dangerous in some ways than the traditional groups because they do not have a well-established organizational identity and they tend to decentralize and compartment their activities. They also are capable of producing and using more sophisticated conventional weapons as well as chemical and biological agents. They are less restrained by state sponsors or other benefactors than are the traditional groups. These new groups appear to be disinclined to negotiate, but instead seek to take revenge on the United States and Western countries by inflicting heavy civilian casualties. The World Trade Center bombers are prime examples of this new breed of radical, transnational, Islamic terrorist.
Both the traditional Islamic terrorists and the new breed have filled their ranks with militants who trained in the Afghan war, where they learned the value of violence in defeating a major power. They are well funded. Some have developed sophisticated international networks that allow them great freedom of movement and opportunity to strike, including in the United States. They also are attracting a more qualified cadre with greater technical skills. Several groups have established footholds within ethnic or resident alien communities here in the United States. These communities offer terrorists financial support and a source for new recruits.
All these characteristics shield these groups from effective counterterrorism operations by government security forces. This makes it even more crucial that the United States obtain the close and continual cooperation of other countries. One of the best ways to ensure this cooperation is to protect the information that these countries share with us about terrorists. Foreign governments simply will not confide in us if we can not keep their secrets.
One goal of section 201 of the bill is to provide a mechanism to do just that by protecting classified information in special removal hearings for alien terrorists. The objective is to permit the court to consider classified information as evidence without risking the compromise of sensitive intelligence sources and methods or foreign government information. The Intelligence Community strongly supports this objective.
In addition to requiring the cooperation of foreign governments, the war against terrorism requires close and continual cooperation within the United States Government. A prime example is the Counterterrorist Center (CTC). Since its inception in 1986, CTC has been responsible for anticipating and preempting terrorist operations and for penetrating, disrupting, and destroying terrorist groups that target the interests of the United States and its allies. The high degree of cooperation with law enforcement agencies is evident from the staffing of CTC. In addition to CIA, nine other agencies are represented: FBI; Secret Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Security Agency; Department of State Diplomatic Security; Federal Aviation Administration; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and Department of Energy. Detailees from these various agencies sit side by side, share information, and tackle joint problems. This close cooperation has permitted the two communities to learn from each other to the ultimate benefit of the security of the nation.
Counterterrorist work by necessity must be done out of the glare of publicity if we are to protect those who would provide us with vital information and to protect methods critical to us if we are to continue to keep Americans out of harm's way. There are several cases, however, that can be mentioned here today that demonstrate the excellent results of the close cooperation between law enforcement and the Intelligence Community.
One such example is the attempted assassination of former President Bush in Kuwait. CIA used its substantial analytic capability, its ability to collect foreign intelligence, and its technical analysis of forensic evidence, in cooperation with the FBI and the Department of Justice, to establish that the assassination attempt was ordered by Saddam Hussein's regime.
The Intelligence Community also contributed to the FBI's arrest of Umar Mohammed Ali Rezaq, allegedly responsible for hijacking and murder in November 1985. He is charged with shooting three Americans, killing one and leaving another with permanent brain damage. On the World Trade Center bombing, CIA worked closely with the FBI and local law enforcement officials on the foreign side of the investigations. Finally, the Intelligence Community and law enforcement are working together to bring Mir Aimal Kansi to justice. He is accused of brutally murdering two CIA employees and wounding three others outside our Headquarters in 1993.
In closing, international terrorism remains one of the deadliest and most persistent global threats to U.S. security. The motives, perpetrators, and methods of terrorist groups are evolving in ways that complicate analysis, collection, and counteraction and require the ability to shift resources flexibly and quickly. The rise of the new breed of terrorist who is interested in inflicting mass death and destruction does not bode well for the future security of American interests. These groups can strike at any time, anywhere, spurred by seemingly unrelated events for which they judge the United States to be blameworthy. They have a widening global reach and a high degree of technical proficiency with more sophisticated weapons and tactics. The Intelligence Community plays an important role in supporting law enforcement efforts to prevent attacks on American lives and property and to apprehend those who commit these heinous crimes. This bill strengthens law enforcement's ability to combat terrorism and at the same time takes steps to protect sensitive intelligence information. We, therefore, believe it is worthy of your support.