State Dept. Daily Press Briefing February 27, 2002
Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, February 27, 2002 12:55 p.m. EST
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
ANNOUNCEMENT 1,3,4 Rewards for Justice Program: Reward Offer for the Murder of Daniel Pearl/Spreading Rewards for Justice Program Overseas/Other Aspects to Campaign Against Terrorism/ Timing of Announcement
GEORGIA 1 Georgia's Release of
Diplomat Jailed for Drunk Driving
Accident 6 U.S. Train and Equip Program for the Georgian Military 7 Presence of "Foreign Fighters" in Georgia
RUSSIA 1-2,7 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Chechen Language Broadcasts
MIDDLE EAST 2-3 Polling in the Middle East by Gallup Organization Regarding September 11 Attacks
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY 4-5 Overseas Campaign Against Terrorism
PAKISTAN 4,7 Extradition Request/Ahmed Omar Sheikh's Dual Citizenship 8 Extradition Versus Rendition of Individuals from Other Countries
MEXICO 8 Ambassador Davidow's Confirmation of Identity of Narco- trafficker
NICARAGUA 9 Reports About United States Training Elite Squad to Fight Drugs and Terrorism BELARUS 9 Assistant Secretary Pifer's Visit to Belarus/ Concerns About Government of Belarus Selling Weapons to Rogue Nations and Training Officers of Iraq's Military
NORTH KOREA 9 Contact with North Koreans
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2002 (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:55 P.M. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, let me just tell you about one thing that you can find on the Internet site of RewardsforJustice.net. It will make clear once again that we were outraged by the senseless murder of Daniel Pearl. We have condemned it in the strongest terms, and today we're announcing a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of those responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. We posted this rewards offer on the Rewards for Justice website. We'll also advertise this offer in Pakistan in the near future.
I'll once again repeat that both the United States and Pakistan are firmly committed to identifying all the perpetrators involved in Mr. Pearl's murder, and bringing them to justice.
With that announcement, I'd be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: No questions on that? Have you seen the story about Mr. Makharadze in Georgia, who is being let out after serving about half of the term?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen that particular story. That would be something I'd have to check on for you.
QUESTION: Staying in that region, I understand that the broadcasts by RFE/RL have been put on hold. Does the administration intend to seek a long suspension in those broadcasts?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a specific amount of time for the suspension. This was a request from the Broadcasting Board of Governors to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, that these radios delay the start date of broadcasts in the North Caucasus languages in order to allow time for the administration and the Congress to consult on the proposed program and the process.
We are in consultations with the Hill on these broadcasts. At this point, I can't tell you how long the delay might last, or what the results of the consultations might be.
QUESTION: The formulation of that makes it sound as if it was in fact the Broadcasting Board that sought the delay. But I understand it was the administration. Can you clarify that?
MR. BOUCHER: The Broadcasting Board is the one that decides, that makes the request. They have authority. We obviously participate ourselves in the Broadcasting Board and have a lot of contacts with the members. You'll remember that Deputy Secretary of State Armitage wrote a letter to the Broadcasting Board. So yes, we've made our views known, but they take their decisions on these matters. They're the responsible authority.
QUESTION: Can I follow up one more time? In your consultations with Congress, what are you seeking, exactly?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're talking to the Congress about the advisability or the timing, both, of starting up broadcasts in North Caucasus languages. As we've noted before, these areas are already quite well served in the Russian language, and we have felt that perhaps broadcasts in these local languages could be counterproductive to the overall effort to get a dialogue started in Chechnya, to try to move that situation towards a political solution.
We've made absolutely clear, I think, on a policy point of view, that we believe that the only way to solve the problems there is a political solution. We want to make sure that everything we do contributes to that goal and doesn't detract from it.
QUESTION: I think you may have answered my question. But is that why the administration felt that this was the right thing to do now, to suspend it?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any response to the poll in USA Today on the fact that the US's message doesn't seem to be getting through in the Arab world? There are countries who are staunch allies of ours, whose populations don't seem to believe what this country has said about who was responsible for the attacks on September 11th.
MR. BOUCHER: Any response to the poll, I don't know that I'd respond directly to particular polls. Let me talk about the whole issue, though, and what is reflected in this data, and I think the Gallup organization did a presentation yesterday on the results of some of their polling in the Middle East.
The kind of reports that we're seeing on the views of America, the values that we have, the values that they have, and the kind of social aspects to this, are very similar to other data that we've seen. In many ways, they're reflected also in the reporting we have from the field, because we have public diplomacy officers and others throughout these regions, at our embassies, out making the case for America, talking about America. And they report back what the obstacles are, and we therefore are aware of all this research, looking at other research, examining the research on this, as well as the views of our own people -- have been designing programs, materials, campaigns, and other efforts to try to counteract some of these views.
And we know it's not just a matter of how we explain our policies per se, but it's a matter of making the connection, opening up the dialogue, making the connection on the basis of shared values. And there are indeed, if you look at even these poll results, I think, you'll see that a lot of the values that we hold as Americans are in fact reflected by others overseas. And there is a connection to be made there that we have not effectively made.
So we have been working on these issues. The President, in his State of the Union speech, I think, in one of the most important parts, talked about the universal values, and how the United States would continue to stand for universal values. And in some ways, the challenge of all these data, the challenge of all these analyses, is to make that connection on the basis of universal values. And that's what we're trying to put together campaigns to do.
QUESTION: You all announced earlier a series of radio ads explaining 9/11 and seeking help for finding those who were responsible, right?
MR. BOUCHER: We announced -- yes, Rewards for Justice.
QUESTION: Rewards for Justice. Now, you -- that program was going to spread overseas the first part of this year. Has that happened?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll double-check on that. I don't think that particular campaign has started overseas yet.
QUESTION: There were supposed to be other aspects to that campaign as well.
MR. BOUCHER: And there are indeed various other aspects that we're working on. Some of these things are already up and running. We're working with foreign TV stations, for example, who want to do documentaries, who did documentaries on the Muslim holidays in America and how they're being observed.
We've had journalist tours, where we show foreign journalists America, and just let them report as they wish on what life is like in America. Again, trying to make the sort of family connections, the personal connections, the connections of values to the populations overseas.
We have, I think, tried to highlight Muslim life in America on our website and in other materials that we've used, as a kind of demonstration of the kind of society that we are, in terms of tolerance, in terms of the opportunity that we offer to people of all faiths and of all national origins. So there are some of the efforts underway I can point to and are visible already. Some of the other efforts will be visible over time.
QUESTION: Back to your announcement about the $5 million dollars. I know that it's a common practice to offer money for information, but I also know that $5 million is a lot of money. Is that in any way a reflection of a concern on your part that the police or the authorities in Pakistan won't be able to arrest all the responsible in the murder of Danny Pearl, unless they rely on other information?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, up to $5 million, I want to make clear. We're not offering necessarily $5 million for every piece of information. But up to $5 million is the standard amount that we're able to offer under the law for information relating to past or future attacks against Americans. So that's sort of the basic program.
The fact that we are advertising the case of the availability of this money for Danny Pearl's murderers, and people involved in that murder, reflects the concern we have about this particular case. And second of all, it's always seen as part of the investigation tool, part of the law enforcement tool. We've always, in any of these particular situations, it's seen as another tool, another way of offering, of supporting the investigation. And that's the way it's seen in this context. It's not meant as any criticism of the investigation, but rather the investigators themselves usually recommend this as one of the tools that they want to have available.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up, Richard? Will you update us on the Pakistani position about the request yesterday? Because there have been several reports, and some of them have gone as far as saying that the President actually in principle agreed to --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I've seen a variety of reports. First of all, I can't speak on behalf of the Pakistani Government. I don't have anything, any new information or views from them. As we said yesterday, this will be a topic that we'll probably discuss with the Pakistani Government over time. There are a number of issues that need to be dealt with. But they said they were examining our request, and we'll keep in contact with them as they formulate a response.
QUESTION: Back to the $5 million reward. Why didn't you guys do this sooner? Is it because it takes a certain amount of time to get approval to post a reward? Or --
MR. BOUCHER: No. It's really done -- and I think every time we've done this, somewhere into an investigation, we're always asked, "Why not last week? Why not next week?" And the answer is it's really done in conjunction with the investigators at the time, at a time that they believe it most useful.
The general reward is in fact available if somebody had called us a month and a half ago and had been able to say, "I know who kidnapped Danny Pearl," we would have been able to offer a reward as a general matter. But advertising in a specific case is usually done in conjunction with the investigators.
QUESTION: I'd like to stay on the subject of the overseas campaign for a moment. You said that you acknowledged there are some connections that have not been made yet. Does that mean that the efforts that have been put out there so far are being reviewed, the more present, visible presence of US State Department officials in interviews and things like that? I mean, that was a real push. Has that not worked? Or do you just think it's too early to tell whether these will be effective in the long term? And if you could, even if you don't have it today, could you update us on whether there are TV commercials still in the works? We've heard inklings of this for months and months, and not seen any of the materials come out yet. Of the overseas campaign.
MR. BOUCHER: Let's not take a short-term attitude on this. These attitudes that have built up overseas have built up over many years. Sometimes over a period of time where, frankly, we decreased a lot of the programs we had overseas.
I'm not going to stand up here and explain US policy, or go on TV to explain US policy to the Arab world, to the Muslim world, or to any other part of the world, and have people who have built up a series of attitudes over time, due to any number of factors, suddenly say, "Oh, yeah, that's right." The fact is you need to explain your policy on the level that we do it here, the discussion, logical, intellectual level. But you also need to make a connection with people on a more basic level. And I think what a lot of this data reflects is that some of those connections haven't been made.
And so we need to keep doing what we're doing, in terms of explaining the policy, getting on Arabic TV, putting out information, putting out brochures, having our press officers work around the world, having our speakers go out around the world, and all those things that we have done more and more of -- and I would think with some success. But we also need to keep working with people on the basis of those universal values that the President stressed in his State of the Union speech, and make clear that there is a connection with the United States.
And people feel this connection with the United States. The United States attracts immigrants from all over the world, offers opportunity to the many Muslims who have moved here or who live here. The United States -- whether it's on an educational level, a private level, a corporate level, or a government level -- has been a force for opportunity for many, many people in this part of the world. And I think people also see us in that way.
So we do want to make some of these other connections. But you need to work on both levels, the explaining the policy, getting your word out there, but also making the connection as well. So the conclusion that we have drawn from these kind of data is that we need to work perhaps more broadly, and at all levels. The Secretary, in bringing in Charlotte Beers to be our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, has really sort of, I would say, taken us to another level in terms of the kind of approach that we want to take. Not to get rid of what we've done before, but to enhance it and go to different places as well.
QUESTION: Well, why haven't we seen any of the things that Charlotte Beers' office was planning to do? Is this longer than you expected it to take to get them on the air?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first I said you have seen some of the things, if you looked at them, that Charlotte Beers' office has helped us do: the network of terrorism brochure, the Muslim life in America information, the expansion of our cooperation with foreign broadcasters, a lot of things that we've been providing in terms of film overseas and stuff like that, so people can see what we're really like. So a lot of that is being done, has been done. But there's more to come, yes.
QUESTION: And can I go back to Georgia? To the diplomacy aspect of the US -- the Pentagon's activities there? Foreign Minister Ivanov seems to be less delighted by this than he was by your activities in Central Asia. Are we to take it that a kind of Olympic chill has set in in your relationship? Or have you actually coordinated this with Russia, and they're secretly quite happy about it?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I'll take option three, none of the above.
Let me first try to explain what we are doing in Georgia. And really, what needs to be remembered is the context of this. We have been working cooperatively with Georgia over the past several years to enhance the country's counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities. The US and the Georgian government have enjoyed a strong security assistance relationship for more than five years. We are now working on a train-and-equip assistance program for the Georgian Ministry of Defense and other security forces. The program will assist Georgia in developing the capability to control its own borders, and to conduct limited counterinsurgency operations against terrorist elements.
In doing this, we are working for the stability and the security of the Caucasus. We believe that Georgia's ability to handle these types of problems on its own is also in Russia's interest. And we've kept Moscow apprised of our intentions and our plans for the train-and-equip program in Georgia, and we would expect to continue to do so.
QUESTION: Will you be trying to convince them, since they clearly don't believe you so far?
MR. BOUCHER: We have often discussed Georgia with the Russians. We believe that our cooperation with Georgia contributes to the overall stability of the region, and therefore is in the interests of everybody in the region, as well as the Russians. To the extent that we can improve the ability of Georgia's own security forces, military, border forces to control their borders and their territory, we can cut down on the movement of fighters, the movement of foreign fighters through this region. And that's in everybody's interests, including Russia's. And so we'll continue to do these programs, first of all, because we do believe that to the extent we can help the Georgians, we can help everybody in the region. And second of all, we'll continue to be transparent and open in terms of explaining it to the Russians.
QUESTION: Well, have you promised, then, that there will not be anything beyond a train-and-equip program? That you will not send troops there of your own?
MR. BOUCHER: I think various Pentagon spokesmen have already made clear this morning that we have not talked about sending US troops into combat there, and don't plan on that.
QUESTION: Have you told that to the Russians?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's been quite clear, but I have to assume so. I think this is the way to put it.
QUESTION: Was there any consultation with the Russians regarding the Caucasus language broadcasts?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if it's come up. I think the Russians have made clear their view that they don't want us to do it, but I don't remember in what context.
QUESTION: Back to Georgia. Shevardnadze used to always deny that there were Chechen fighters or al-Qaida fighters in his territory. Was he the one who initiated, who wanted this joint training program? Or did the US encourage him to accept it?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been working with the Georgians on these kind of things for a long, long time. And I know from the Secretary's discussions with President Shevardnadze, we've always talked a number of times about how to improve their capabilities, particularly border, in border areas. So this kind of program is a follow-on to many things that we have been doing, and were doing, in fact, before September 11th.
But I believe at this point the Georgian government has talked about the presence of foreign fighters in the region. We have talked, in our Patterns of Global Terrorism report before, about how some of the Chechens have connections with al-Qaida. And so this whole mix of things, I think, has been apparent for some time, and has been the subject of programs that we've been designing and working on for some time as well.
QUESTION: I want to just -- it's not the first time that you've talked about "foreign fighters" in Georgia, and not specifically al-Qaida. Is there a reason for that? Or is it just semantics?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can define exactly who the people are. What we've said is that some of the Chechen terrorists have links to al-Qaida, particularly in the form of training, and that we've seen the presence of foreign fighters crossing in and out of Georgia. So I'm not quite sure if I can make that final link and say these are them, and thems are those.
QUESTION: -- that some of them are Chechen, rather than anything else?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you that they're Chechens who've received training from al-Qaida, is what I'm saying.
QUESTION: You can't?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I can't. Because, I can say Chechens have received training from al-Qaida. I can say Chechens have gone in and out of Georgia. But I can't say that the people who have received training from al-Qaida have gone in and out of Georgia, although, you know, I'm not quite sure that's an important distinction.
QUESTION: Back to the death of Daniel Pearl for a minute. What legal grounds does the US have to extradite Omar Saeed, given the fact he's a dual citizen?
MR. BOUCHER: I went through yesterday the history of our extradition treaty that we have with Pakistan, and so there is a basis of extradition in that treaty. It's been used before. There are extradition treaties in the world that prevent extradition of citizens. I don't actually think that's a factor in this case.
QUESTION: Is the United States using the verb "render" rather than "extradite" in its discussions with the Pakistanis?
MR. BOUCHER: We have used the words, "get our hands on him," which is, as you know, a legal term but much more general in nature.
But what we have said is that people who commit crimes against American citizens, including horrible crimes like the murder of Daniel Pearl, we want to get them in custody. We want to bring justice. And that's what we've made clear to the Pakistanis.
There are, as we explained yesterday, various ways of conducting transfers of prisoners, of people between nations -- extradition, renditions, deportations, expelling, a variety of things. Those issues need to be discussed, are being discussed with the Pakistanis.
Second of all, the issue of what their justice system wants and requires for crimes that he committed in Pakistan, how that works out with the crimes that we have seen against Americans; that's another issue that needs to be discussed. So we're working through all those things. Those are the subject of our discussions with the Pakistanis. And as I said, they're examining our request at this point.
QUESTION: Is it the (inaudible) of the United Stated to ask for the extradition or the rendition of people who committed murders of Americans abroad? Or is it something specific to this case, Daniel Pearl's murder? In other words, if the assassination had taken place in another country, in Europe or elsewhere, would you ask for his extradition?
MR. BOUCHER: It's very common that we would ask to be able to try those people. But as I said, in each of these cases, there ends up being a discussion with the other legal system about what they want to do, and what we want to do. If somebody's wanted in two jurisdictions for crimes, then the authorities in the two jurisdictions have to work out how, when, what charges, what transfers, and things like that. That's a normal practice between nations.
QUESTION: On Mexico, Ambassador Davidow yesterday said to some Mexican reporters that the United States is almost certain that the narco- trafficker, or supposedly the narco-trafficker who was killed in Mazatlan on February 10th was in fact Ramon Arellano-Felix. My question to you is do you know if he has received any information from the DEA or FBI who are investigating the case in collaboration with the Mexican authorities?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check on it and see.
QUESTION: There's been reports that the US is going to be training an elite squad of anti-drug, anti-terrorist fighters in Nicaragua. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen those reports.
QUESTION: The chief of Nicaragua's military yesterday --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into that and get you something on it.
QUESTION: Can I ask another question, too?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: About Belarus, the Assistant Secretary of State Pifer, I believe, was recently there after a group of US Congressmen visited Minsk to address, among other things, concerns that the government there is involved in selling weapons to rogue nations and training officers of Iraq's military. What I wanted to know is, besides just very speculative media reports that we've seen about this, what information does the US have that this is actually going on? What did he draw, what kind of conclusions did he draw from his visit? And are you assured by Lukashenko's comments that this is not happening?
MR. BOUCHER: We often find it very difficult to answer questions about what information we have, because we have a variety of ways of getting information that we don't normally point to. So I'm not sure I can do much on that. I will see if I can get you something on what happened during the visit, and where we think we stand on these issues.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the contact with the North Koreans that the Secretary talked about?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new. We do intend to continue our contacts with their representatives in New York. We've made clear that we'll sit down for serious discussions any time, any place, and have tried to maintain a certain level of contact with them in New York.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 P.M. EST.)
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