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Hearing of the House International Relations Committee - 9/11 Commission Recommendations for U.S. Diplomacy

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service August 24, 2004 Tuesday







REP. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for convening --

REP. HYDE: Incidentally, we will keep strict time, five minutes on the questions. So --

REP. C. SMITH: Let me be very quick then.

Let me ask-first of all, thank you, Governor Kean and Lee Hamilton-Chairman Hamilton-for the extraordinary work you did and for the great staff-Chris Kojm, Al Felzenberg, and so many others who did great work on this commission.

A couple of very brief questions.

On page 384, you make the point that for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. I note that U.N. Security Resolution 1373 and all the others that preceded it-although 1373 created the Counterterrorism Committee. They receive reports, they hold conferences. There will be one held in Cairo later on this year. A lot of the reports are late, but it seems to have no effective implementation capability to it. I looked at the 12 conventions that they are admonishing countries to adopt, and they're very good, you know, from unlawful seizure of aircraft, protection of nuclear materials, plastic explosives, financing of terrorism.

Nothing about travel as far as I could tell. Would you recommend that a convention, an international convention, be concluded so that there would be a greater emphasis among the world's countries to crack down on travel?

Secondly, you mentioned, Governor Kean, and I think so eloquently, about the importance of having a place to meet. I chair the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and on June 15th in part of an ongoing process we held a hearing, and Natan Sharansky and many others testified, speaking-Max Kampelman, our former ambassador to the OSCE-speaking to the need or the applicability of taking the OSCE model and including the Mediterranean countries.

Right now there are six Middle Eastern countries that are called Mediterranean partners: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. We frequently meet with their foreign ministers. We meet with members of their parliament. And it provides a basis for dialogue, discussion, and hopefully a working out in a diplomatic venue the outstanding issues.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, it seems to me having the 55 countries of the OSCE already there, including Central Asia, Central European, of course Russia, Canada and the United States, provides a venue, I believe, that could provide an opening to get those countries in the agreements, the process, the baskets that we have on security, trade, human rights-lend themselves-they're all universally recognized considerations-or norms. Why not apply the OSCE?

And I have other questions, but time at this point doesn't permit it.

MR. KEAN: Well, let's take the second thought first. That would be a model, I would think. We've got to have a forum where we can talk to each other. We don't have one right now. Helsinki process is perhaps a good model to proceed, for the Western and Muslim world to build on for some sort of a long-term forum. That would be good.

Travel is the time at which terrorists are most vulnerable. I mean, that's the time we should have been able to stop people before 9/11, because when they move they become vulnerable. They have to use forged documents or forged visas or whatever. They're liable to be picked up at one stage or another. They have to get on planes or other means of transportation and get tickets. They're very vulnerable at that time, and we've got to have a priority for some uniform passports, for something of a document standards. This has got to mean-and by a national agreement. I mean, we've recommended in this country, for instance, at the very least we start with having driver licenses that have the same standards. But as we move to international travel, we've got to have an international convention in this area.

REP. C. SMITH: So a U.N.-international convention is something you would recommend?

MR. KEAN: Yes.

REP. C. SMITH: Thank you.

MR. HAMILTON: Mr. Smith, thank you for bringing those up. I think they're both very important points. I agree, of course, with what the governor has indicated.

We argue in the report for a modern border/immigration system. There are a lot of aspects to that, but one aspect to it is that we have to work out with the international community standards.

Eventually we ought to have a means of real-time verification of passports worldwide. Now that's a long way off, and a lot of complexities to that, but that's what we ought to aim for. And as the governor said, the travel documents are really critical. We must know that people are who they say they are when they come into the country, and the only way you can do that is through standards that are internationally accepted. So that's a good point that you make. And the Helsinki process would indeed be an excellent model.

What impressed us over and over again-and Mr. Lantos referred to this, too-that the current mechanisms just aren't working very well with regard to this dialogue and flow of information. And that's critically important. As you all know, you can't get anywhere in resolving these questions unless you have some kind of a forum where that dialogue can take place. And the Helsinki model, that I know you've had a major role in over a period of years, I think is a good one for us to emulate.

REP. C. SMITH: Thank you.


REP. C. SMITH: I thank you for this, Mr. Chairman.

Just let me ask our very distinguished witnesses, and again like everyone else, again, I want to thank you for the great work you did.

I was struck in reading the report by-in the recommendations for public diplomacy that much of what you recommended is what Chairman Hyde and Tom Lantos have done so effectively through the State Department reauthorizations, other public diplomacy initiatives. It looked like, you know, a-you put them side by side and it was very similar. Just to give credit where credit is due-and I want to thank them for their leadership on this-you make a strong recommendation that the Broadcasting Board of Governors-it says it has asked for money, it ought to get it, and I couldn't agree more.

How would you regard the fact that the appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice and State, which has already passed the House, provides $601 million for that organization, which is doing tremendous work through public broadcasting, $65 million of which-a dramatic increase-is for Arabic broadcasting? How do you react to that? I mean, Frank Wolf, the chairman of the committee, wrote a bill. It got very, very little press. Almost no one knows about it. I didn't see anything anywhere about this subsection of his bill, which puts this enormous amount of new resources into this effort, Mr. Wolf's bill. How do you react to that?

MR. KEAN: I'm delighted. And I might say, by the way, that our-I commend, obviously, the chairman and the ranking member of the-a lot of our ideas are not new. They're the best thinking of a number of people in the Congress and in various, various administrations. We interviewed over 2,000 people. Many of them have long records of government service and gave us their ideas. So these were a compilation of the best we could do, based on some of the very good thinking that we were based on. But no, that particular-I'm delighted. I think the more we can increase in that area, the more we outreach to the world of ideas, to the Arab community in their own language, the better off we're going to be and the more we're going to see these numbers we're talking about start to change.

MR. HAMILTON: I agree.


REP. C. SMITH: Just thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank again Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton and their staff. This blueprint for action will get the deference that is due it, and that is that we will act on it. And I think much if not all, and then perhaps even in addition to the recommendations we will act and our men and women in this country will be safer.

I especially want to thank Kirsten Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg, and Lorie Van Auken, who are here, who were three of the widows. There were others who were very effective in bringing the need for a 9/11 commission to the Congress. It was, at its beginning, at least somewhat controversial, but you two gentlemen have proven that bipartisanship can trump-bipartisanship can trump all the petty differences that sometimes arise between us. Where there are real differences they need to be aired, and certainly that is the strength of a two-party system. But I think you two gentlemen have proven that when we act together, we act more effectively on behalf of America and in world peace.

I also just want to make a very brief point that on a number of the issues that were raised, from especially in the section dealing with international relations, we will act on those as well and I think we will act very quickly. We had a hearing last week under the auspices of this committee. We heard from nine assistant secretaries and deputies, including those dealing with consular affairs, with visas, and it became very clear that they're taking to heart the many recommendations you made. The fact that it was so easy to get a passport, a visa I should say, out of Jeddah and other parts in Saudi Arabia and really elsewhere in the world, and that markings on the request were fraudulent, were wrong. "Where are you going?" was obviously one of the questions posed by the consulars in the written request, and some of these individuals had put, you know, "a hotel, USA," and they still got approved. There was a very permissive attitude that did grave injury to weeding out those people who mean us harm. You again have made it very clear, and I think the administration-Secretary Harty made it very clear that they are much better informed and much more aggressive in trying to stop that.

Let me also point out as well on the textbook issue, Mr. Hamilton, you mentioned the hope of cutting the illiteracy rate by half by the year 2010. Well, there are a number of other places we need to look to help in that regard. Last week we were asking our assistant secretaries about the advisability of using UNESCO.

We're now in it, $70 million; we're back in full scale, you know, with both feet. Well, UNESCO ought to be looking at textbooks that are free of anti-Semitism and hate and are promoting tolerance, unlike UNRWA and others in the Palestinian situation, where those textbooks are replete with hatred. How do you break the cycle of violence when you have young people reading in their textbook anti-Semitism and anti-American rhetoric and vitriol? Thankfully, I think we do have some possibilities of cutting the illiteracy rate, but doing so with textbooks that are tolerant.

And finally, one thing that you did mention in the text and it needs more discussion, what is the connection between things like human trafficking, which is transnational, and billions of dollars are gleaned by the terrorists-or we don't know that, but certainly by mobsters in that nefarious enterprise, and drugs? Narcotrafficking certainly is a source of great amounts of money. What can be done? Should DEA, for example, be part of the intelligence sharing? We don't think it is right now. Maybe that's something you might want to comment on in the written text. But there's so many unanswered questions. You provided more information on financing just over the weekend, and I think that was very helpful.

But I want to thank you again. This is a catalyst for action. You did an extraordinary job.

REP. HYDE: Thank you.


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