April 1, 2004 Thursday
SECTION: CAPITOL HILL HEARING
LENGTH: 14909 words
HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM, NONPROLIFERATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: AL QAEDA THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES AND ITS ALLIES
CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE ELTON GALLEGY (R-CA)
WITNESS: COFER BLACK, STATE DEPARTMENT COORDINATOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM
LOCATION: 2172 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And, Ambassador Black, thank you for being a lifesaver. Thank you for dedicating 28 years of your life to protect Americans and our interests abroad.
You have one of the most difficult portfolios, I think, at the State Department and in the U.S. government, and I think you should know everybody here deeply respects and are grateful for your work.
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REP. C. SMITH: They do mean it.
And let me just ask you a couple of questions. At the 9/11 commission hearing this month, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that the terrorist attack on our two embassies in Africa, the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, which killed more than 300 people and wounded thousands more, was her worst day. You probably heard her say that. And obviously, for many of us it was a terrible, terrible day and the aftermath of that, which was a culmination of a number of incidents going back to the Beirut bombing, in which one of my constituents, Paul Enisendi (ph) was killed, a Marine, during that terrible tragedy.
On March 12, 1999, I chaired a hearing. I chaired the International Operations and Human Rights Committee for six years. We were putting together the State Department bill for that year, and we had a hearing on security of U.S. missions abroad. And our principal witness was Admiral Crowe; as you know, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our ambassador to the U.K.
The Crowe commission, which had these two accountability review boards that looked at those bombings, made some very, very troubling findings about what the status was in terms of our security. Admiral Crowe said that there was a collective failure of the U.S. government over the past decade-that would be the 1990s-to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. diplomatic missions to terrorist attacks in most countries of the world.
Admiral Crowe pointed out that-and this was his statement-the boards were most disturbed regarding two interconnected issues. The first was that there was an inadequacy of resources to provide security against terrorist attacks; and second, there was a relatively low priority accorded the security concerns throughout the U.S. government by the Department of State and other agencies in general. And he said this was found in Washington as well as in the field.
He also said that the administration's request at that time was inadequate. It just wasn't enough. My good friend Mr. Delahunt was at that hearing, and when we quizzed Admiral Crowe and others he made the point, and rightfully so, that a request had been made for more money but the Office of Management and Budget had intervened and said, no, you're not going to get it.
We then forced the issue. I pushed my bill, which we dubbed the Embassy Security Act, to completion. It was signed into law as part of this overall State Department reauthorization. It had a lot of disparate elements, but that was the engine that drove it. And in the end we got some, but I don't think all, of that money, particularly by the time we got to the appropriations process.
And I guess my question is that-you know, we've been hearing the blame game, and which I, frankly, resent when I hear people talking about it, because there's blame all around. But frankly, when good people do all they can possibly do and OMB steps in, as they did then, to say you're not getting it, there's a problem. And our hearing highlighted that problem.
I remember Dan Gentzler (sp) from the Foreign Service Association, he was president, he made the point that we go from one crisis to the next, and everybody is Johnny on the spot for the first year and then it just falls off the table and people are no longer as diligent. I have not seen that in this administration. I have not seen it over the last three years. And believe me, I have followed it very, very closely.
My question to you would be about resources. Have we allocated sufficient resources to do the job? And I would just say parenthetically, so many things may have led to 9/11; maybe not.
But when I was in Berlin not so long ago as part of the USCE Parliamentary Assembly, which I chair, we heard from some people within the State Department, one of whom told me that in Bangladesh-this is just one little tidbit of information, but it plays into what really happened and what preceded the horrific events of 9/11 -- that on 31 occasions, people had gone to our embassy or our consulate in Bangladesh, had sought a visa, and their express purpose was for flight training. This was in the 1990s, late 1990s. They were denied, every one of them. They probably went somewhere else and eventually got it or got it under other pretext, but they had actually said flight training was why they wanted to come over here. And it didn't ring any bells there, even though they were denied.
There was no follow-up here in Washington. And in the end, those records were destroyed after a two-year period, so we don't even know if Atta or anybody else were among those who were seeking that. So no bells went off. And that was in the 1990s, late 1990s.
But my question really goes to the adequacy of resources, if you could speak to that, because that was a very serious-the first year after the bombings of our embassies, $1.4 billion as requested by Admiral Crowe was provided like that; the next year, zero funding for 2002 -- 2000, I should say-for the very things that Admiral Crowe had agitated for and asked for.
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REP. C. SMITH: If I could, Mr. Chairman, very briefly just follow up? And the issue isn't just hardening and setbacks and making sure that the glass is sufficiently protected so shards don't kill people if there's a bombing; the issue is also personnel, so that the eyes and ears of the American government extend in that venue so that if there is a threat, we have an early warning device before it comes here, because that is the outer reaches of the U.S. interests.
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