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Attorney General Gonzales, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and Others Hold News Conference Following Meeting with European Leaders on Counterterrorism
LIST OF SPEAKERS
GONZALES: Good afternoon. I am joined on stage by a number of my distinguished colleagues. I'd like to welcome Home Secretary of the United Kingdom Clarke, Minister of the Interior of Austria Prokop, Minister of Justice of Austria Gastinger, and Vice President of the European Commission Frattini. Of course, my co-host in homeland security, Secretary Michael Chertoff, is also here. We've just completed a very successful meeting on a range of counterterrorism and law enforcement topics of interest to the European Union and the United States. The bonds that unite our nations and our citizens across an ocean remain very, very strong. And we all understand a common truth that underscores the relationship between the E.U. and the U.S., and we are stronger together than apart. We are bringing that truth to bear on the challenges we face as freedom-loving nations. As you might expect, today we focused a great deal of our attention on the global war on terrorism. Joint actions between the United States and the European Union to combat international terrorism, including practical cooperation between our prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, is, as E.U. High Representative Solana has said, one of the unsung trans-Atlantic success stories of our generation. Today, to further our joint actions, we have agreed to a number of practical steps that my colleagues will talk about, but two of which are: We will exchange threat assessments regarding terrorism and organized crime, and we will monitor together the process being made. And, two, the U.S. will increase its cooperation with Europol and Eurojust, including assigning an FBI agent to Europol and concluding our negotiations regarding an agreement with Eurojust. The strategies, action plans and practical recommendations that we discuss today will help protect Americans and Europeans from violence and terrorism in the future. Our work, of course, is never done, but the free exchange of ideas and a critical examination of joint proposals, examples of the work we've accomplished today, will help us achieve our goals together. GONZALES:
And now Mike Chertoff will say a few words. Mike? CHERTOFF: I haven't been here in a while. It's good to see some of you again. It's a real privilege, as well as a pleasure, to join my colleagues and counterparts, both Attorney General Gonzales and Vice President Frattini and the home secretaries from Britain and the ministers from Austria as we move forward on an international agenda dealing with all the perils that our citizens face. This is, of course, an issue of terrorism, but it's also an issue of other hazards we face, natural hazards ranging from hurricanes or avian flu or other challenges. We have seen in recent years that every corner of the world can be touched by tragedy and can be touched by devastation, whether it be Bali a few days ago, whether it be London a few months ago, whether it be the hurricanes here in the United States or the tsunami in Asia, these are all common challenges which we do better facing together than facing separately. Today, the U.S. and the E.U. justice and home affairs ministerial troika represented here has reaffirmed the commitment we've made all along, most recently in June 2004 in the declaration on combating terrorism, to cooperate in our efforts to fight global terrorism and to address the conditions that breed terror. This, again, reaffirms something that the U.N. in fact said just within the last few weeks when again it rededicated all civilized countries to the struggle against international terror. There are a lot of things we covered today. A couple that I think are appropriate for me to mention are progress on border security -- this is a matter of great importance to every country, particularly to the countries of the European Union and the United States. We are trading partners, we are travel partners. We want to continue to have a robust set of relationships that is secure, but that is free, one that respects our privacy and our values and also protects the lives of our citizens and our property. So we're working forward to continue to exchange information. We recently had a visit from privacy representatives of the E.U., looking at the way we've handled passenger name record data. We've been very transparent in doing that. We want to continue to move forward in dealing with this issue. Similarly, with the obtaining of advance passenger data, we are working very closely with our counterparts and with the industry to find a convenient way to get information we need for screening as soon as possible in a way that minimizes inconvenience. Finally, let me speak on the issue of preparedness. During our meeting today, I think we all agreed that a critical part of our response to terror and other hazards is
preparedness. That means how do we respond, how do we protect our infrastructure? How do we make sure that if our infrastructure is affected by an attack or by a natural catastrophe that we are resilient in building it up again?
CHERTOFF: And we've agreed to go forward in the next few months both at a working group level and at a higher level in talking about what our mutual plans are, exchanging some of what we've been able to do in research and working together to have a common picture of the way in which we can best address the issue of preparedness across the board, from prevention all the way through response and recovery. CLARKE: Can I, on behalf of the European Union delegation, firstly thank you, Al, and you, Michael, for hosting what I agree has been an extremely constructive and positive set of meetings. The challenges that we jointly face, whether from terrorism, whether from serious and organized crime -- people trafficking, drug dealing -- or dealing with the issues of immigration asylum are issues that can best be tackled by working together. And what we've been encouraged by is the very great desire both within the European Union but with our colleagues in the United States, to work together to address these issues. So thank you very much indeed. I'm particularly going to mention what we've agreed on documents, security and visas, where we agreed, between ourselves to set out clearly by the end of this year a timetable on biometrics. That means photos, fingerprints, iris recognition -- for key identification documents -- passports, visas, where appropriate, ID cards. We've agreed to work together on those issues, a very challenging and a very tough agenda, and equally to get a timetable of how we can move better forward on visa reciprocity and deal with those issues in an effective way. We've been particularly concerned about the fraudulent, lost and stolen passports. And so, in London, we'll be hosting a meeting of Interpol, the European Union and experts from the United States later this year to establish best practices in detecting fraudulent passports. So a very concrete, very substantial work which I'm delighted that we're carrying through. Franco Frattini is the vice president of the European Commission, will now sum up some other aspects of our agreement today.
FRATTINI: Thank you very much. I've not much to add to what Secretary Chertoff, the attorney general and Secretary Clarke just said. It was a very fruitful meeting. We touched up on very concrete initiatives. One very important political message on which all agreed is the importance of building a network of security against the network of terror.
FRATTINI: Network of security means to get involved all the relevant actors in security field, in the industry, on research and so on, in order to have operational cooperation in all field of common concern. We talked about also the prevention against radicalization and violence. We talked about initiatives like, on one end, broader dialogue with the religious communities, like Muslim communities, on one end, and the importance of exchanging information about people spreading violence, spreading messages of incitation to violence. And that's extremely important, in my view, in a moment where Europe is preparing its strategy by the end of this year against the radicalization and factors that contribute to the recruitment of terrorists. Finally, I would like to stress two other points very briefly. The first point is another political point: the importance keeping a balanced approach between strengthening security, on one hand, and promoting and protecting fundamental rights of people. We, the Europeans, and you, the Americans, are lands of liberties. We cannot reduce the level of our liberties like privacy protection. And that's why I've informed my colleagues about the initiative undertaken by the commission on the privacy protection on data retention that will form in the intention of Secretary Charles (ph) and my intention will form a package to be submitted to the council and to the European Parliament by the end of this year.
FRATTINI: Finally, we talked also about organized crime and the best way to prevent and fight against all kinds of trafficking. And we talked about protection of intellectual property is a source of serious concern in Europe. And that's why I presented in July a proposal to punish all kinds of infringement of the intellectual property, aiming at harmonizing 25 member states' national laws.
Thank you. PROKOP: First of all, I want to say that I want to thank the same way, because we are the next host, the next presidency after the United Kingdom. And our wish is to proceed in this way we have done until now. And so I will take all those parts, like Mr. Frattini just said, up, organized crime, fight against terrorism. But we can't be only in Europe and the United States, we have to widen that. And we want to pull in the next partners on the western Balkans. And I am happy that Austria will host a conference, an E.U. conference, in Austria in the end of November which will deal with those problems, especially on the western Balkans. Organized crime -- organized crime, like corruption, working together with the police here and border security, more border security, more safe documents, you know, those countries, drugs traffic coming from Afghanistan through the Balkans and child trafficking. That's the problems we are going to discuss there. And the second point is terrorism, especially their financing and recruiting.
PROKOP: And there, we will start the discussion -- the dialogue, the dialogue between religions and cultures. I think that's the only way to work together. I think we're on a good way. Thank you. And we hope we'll continue next year the same way we did this year. GASTINGER: Thank you very much, dear ladies and gentlemen. It's always difficult to be the last one who has the opportunity the speak, I have to say, because so many things were already said. My focus is, as minister of justice, mainly as you might know, on the Justice Affairs. And from my personal point of view, I also have to thank you, Mr. Gonzales and his team (inaudible) and Mr. Frattini for the very constructive meeting we had today. From my personal point of view, we really made a tremendous step forward to a much better cooperation between the European Union and the USA. The most important thing is that we really focus on very concrete steps forward. This is of great importance. Mrs. Prokop already mentioned that there will be a conference on the West Balkan states for home affairs. There will be also a conference for the ministers of justice of the
West Balkan states and we will focus on institutional building and all the justice matters which area also of great importance for a good relationship between the European Union and those countries. During our presidency, the West Balkan countries will be one of the priorities. And one priority from the point of view of the Ministry of Justice will, of course, be the point which was mentioned by Mr. Frattini: to find the right balance between security, which is necessary for all our citizens on the one hand side and the right of freedom and the right of -- of the human rights on the other side because I think this is one of the most important points for our future and I'm hopeful that we will succeed in this point. Thank you very much. GONZALES: OK. Questions? Any questions? QUESTION: Attorney General Gonzales, on a different matter: I wondered if you have any additional information on the FBI intelligence analyst who was arrested and accused of falsely passing on classified information?
GONZALES: Well, it is an ongoing matter and I'm not going to talk about the specific facts related to that particular case. And I'm sorry, but I can't. QUESTION: Can you tell us how concerned you are about the scope investigation, how seriously it's being taken, considering the fact that he also worked at the White House? GONZALES: Well, we take all investigations, of course, very, very seriously, particularly investigations that might involve jeopardizing very sensitive information relating to the actions of our government. And we're looking at it very seriously as we look at take seriously all investigations. QUESTION: General Gonzales, you worked in the White House complexes. Are any of the justice agencies involved in the vetting of aides who work there for security purposes? Or is that done internally by the Secret Service or, in the case of Marines, by the DOD? GONZALES:
Well, we have people that work at the White House. Some are employed by other agencies. They're detailed into the White House. Some directly work in the Executive Office of the President. So depending on who may employ, that may determine who actually vets them when they come to work in the White House. QUESTION: And the military people, the vetting is done by the DOD rather than the FBI or Secret Service. Is that... GONZALES: I don't know the specific answer to that question. QUESTION: Could I ask Commissioner Frattini: How do you -- you talked about visa reciprocity. But when the European Union can't really control its own borders properly, as we've seen (inaudible) as we're seeing in Moldova, how can you expect the United States to extend visa reciprocity? I had one other question for Attorney General Gonzales. Now that British officials have come out and said what American officials have been hinting at for a while, that Iran is directly implicated in providing the insurgency in Iraq with sophisticated weapons, how concerned are you about the network of Hezbollah supporters, the networks of Hezbollah supporters which there are in the Western Hemisphere, both in North America and in South America? FRATTINI: Well, on the visa reciprocity, let me tell you that I'm aware of the fact that all the two sides have to do more. From my side, from the European side, of course we have to guarantee better and high level of protection for the external borders of European Union. We have, of course, expectations from the United States to extend the visa waiver program to the 10 new member states of the European Union. But we understand very well that we need to secure more than in the past the new borders of the new member states that are European external borders.
FRATTINI: And that's why we are improving funds to help the new member states to secure their frontiers. And, for example, we have an important fund that we called Facility Schengen that aims exactly at providing new member states with equipments, also technology equipments, training and so on.
In the coming years, we expect, by the end of 2007, old and new member states, I hope, will be able to meet the requirements for drawing the Schengen area. And so I expect that from now until the end of 2007, there will be a real road map to evaluate on a state-by-state basis which member states will meet. Again, I repeat: all the requirements for securing its border. And that's what I expect from the United States, to have a real road map to evaluate new member states on the basis of security. Of course, because we are fully aware of that. GONZALES: I'm now responding directly to a question about the level of concern. Let me just say generally that, of course, we're concerned about any organization or any group assisting or participating with a country. They may have the intentions to harm America, American interests our American friends and allies. Do you have a question? QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Chertoff. In your opinion, are European laws strong and strict enough to deal with terrorism? CHERTOFF: Of course, we want to be careful to respect that fact that each country has its own systems and its own constitutional requirements. One of the things we've talked about today is the need to work together to see where we can find common ground. I know European institutions are now moving forward on a number of fronts to allow a greater ability to share information, to be effective in terms of extradition and exchange of evidence and in a lot of other ways so that we can work cooperatively together. We all have the same common objective. We want to increase our security, we want to enforce our laws and we want to do so in a way that respects our fundamental values.
CHERTOFF: And I think that that common set of objectives is what drives all of us in the same direction, and we will obviously achieve that within the individual frameworks of our own national systems. CLARKE: I support Secretary Chertoff's answer. In Britain, for example, we don't, today, think that our legislation is strong enough to deal with terrorism. That's why we've tabled new
legislation today, published it, it will be considered by our parliament over the next few months, to strengthen our legislation in a variety of different ways. As Secretary Chertoff has said, I think it's true in each European Union member state that they are going through precisely that sort of consideration. For example, Italy passed new legislation two or three months ago, precisely to respect that fact. So I think the polarization you suggest in your question, saying the Europeans think we've got it all sorted and the Americans might not trust that, or whatever it might be, is not correct. I think throughout the European Union -- certainly in Britain, but throughout the European Union, we're looking to ways to strengthen our anti- terror legislation and are actively engaged on that task. And we will continue to do that. And one of the most fruitful aspects of the discussions with Secretary Chertoff and Attorney General Gonzales was to exchange thoughts as to how we could make that work still further, because one of the key aspects of strengthening our counterterrorist effort is to develop our international cooperation. QUESTION: This is for Attorney General Gonzales and Secretary Chertoff: President Bush this morning said that the United States and our partners have disrupted at least 10 serious Al Qaida terrorist plots since September 11th, including three plots to attack inside the United States, and stopped at least five more Al Qaida efforts to case targets in the United States. Can you guys go into some detail: Is he talking about plots that have already been publicized and known like, you know, the shoe bomber? What can you tell us about those plots that he's talking about, specifically ones that have not been publicized, if any? Or is he talking about things that are already out there in the public? CHERTOFF: What I can say is that we have been successful in disrupting certain plots. Some have been made public. They are in the public domain, like Richard Reid. Others are classified, and I'm limited for national security reasons in talking about them. But the president is absolutely correct when he says that we have been successful because of the work of the federal government working with our partners overseas, very important relationships, have been successful in disrupting various plots. And that's all I can say about that. QUESTION:
(OFF-MIKE) that you can't talk about, either here or overseas? CHERTOFF: That's all I can say about that. QUESTION: Which three was he referring to? CHERTOFF: That's all I'm going to say about that.
QUESTION: You mentioned stolen -- I think Commissioner Frattini might have mentioned the issue of stolen passports. I know this has been -- the I.G. has investigated this. Congress in the 2006 appropriations bill has asked the Department of Homeland Security to look at the question of stolen passports. Have you all discussed or do you have any sort of concrete plans on how to handle that issue? CLARKE: We had a very good discussion about this this morning, drawing on a lot of the experience which you're implicitly referring to in your question, about the research which has been done. The central conclusion we came to was that we needed to have more discussion about this question to understand strategically exactly what's happening; that we need to get better understanding between the European Union and the United States, on the one hand, but also Interpol, the international police agency on the other. And that's why I said that we decided this morning that we would host in London an event with the European Union, with the United States, with Interpol to scope out exactly the essence of the problem and to agree what common steps need to be taken to address it. We're already taking actions in a number of areas which are delivering results, but we were concerned in the conversation that we weren't doing enough, and that's why we felt we ought to work further on it. So to the extent there's been discussions here in the United States of the type that you referred to, I think what we're doing is responding to those concerns by saying we're going to really get hold of this and make sure we've taken it forward by the means I've just set out. CHERTOFF:
The only think I would add is, we've, in addition to dealing with it as a matter between the U.S. and the E.U., we've had discussions with some individual countries where there has been an issue, making it very clear that we really need to be able to get a rapid indication of where there are stolen and lost passports in order to enter them into our system and obviously be on the lookout for them. We've got a very aggressive intelligence effort focused on detecting these kinds of passports. I should make it clear, we don't only rely on what we get from other countries directly, but we are very familiar with the kinds of passports that we deal with. We have good techniques for eliminating fakes or detecting forgeries. And, of course, the long-run is, as we migrate to a biometric, electronic, secure document, it is going to be that much harder for people to either alter it or to take a lost or stolen passport and misuse it. So we are very focused on it. I've talked to members of Congress about it. And it's a very high priority for us.
QUESTION: Can someone comment on: Has a new timeline been set for the biometric passport? Where does that stand? CLARKE: I wouldn't quite say a new timeline, but we certainly agreed today for a new urgency and to the whole approach. What we agreed was that we firstly need to align the ambitions for biometrics -- as I said earlier, the different biometrics, the different documents -- both within the European Union and between the European Union and the United States, so we have a clear leadership and a goal that says, "By year X we will try and achieve this in a coordinated way." Secondly, we've agreed we want to do it in cooperation with the industry -- for example, the airlines and so on -- so that we work in a way that everybody understands and work in a cooperative way. And to that end, we've agreed that we would publish between ourselves and the E.U. and the U.S. a short set of ambitions for consultation with the industry more widely, hopefully to reach conclusion by either the end of this year or early next year to give a new impetus to making this happen. We believe that there's a major progress that can be made in the way that Secretary Chertoff set out just a second ago by getting to that approach. And we think that we've got a particular responsibility to put a new direction into it. There are quite difficult, technical questions which arise as well. They're by no means straightforward. But each country has their own approach. We in the U.K. have
what we call our E-Borders Initiative which is designed to make sure that people can be checked before they leave their own country to come to our country. The API initiative, which Secretary Chertoff has been pressing, is a similar way of looking at it in a lightly different way. And we're saying we want to give it a real push, and that was the decision this morning, to accelerate the program which is already there. I should, perhaps, just mention that the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on terrorism in September, which was Security Council Resolution 1624, which specifically called upon member states of the United Nations to develop their work in this area. I discussed with Secretary General Kofi Annan at the United Nations earlier this week and so we want not just to do it ourselves but as part of the United Nations effort to secure our borders more effectively against terrorism.
CHERTOFF: I want to add one thing on a more specific point. I'm not quite sure if you were asking about the deadline in terms of the visa waiver program. If that's what were you asking about, obviously we have that deadline. We are working with all of the countries that are part of the program. Many of them have already achieved what they need to achieve. I think the others are working hard and we're hopeful that everyone will be where they need to be by the time the deadline comes. And that, of course, would be a terrific result. GONZALES: OK, thank you. CQ Transcriptions, Oct. 6, 2005
List of Speakers
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY MICHAEL CHERTOFF BRITISH HOME SECRETARY CHARLES CLARKE AUSTRIAN INTERIOR MINISTER LIESE PROKOP AUSTRIAN JUSTICE MINISTER KARIN GASTINGER EUROPEAN COMMISSION VICE PRESIDENT FRANCO FRATTINI
Source: CQ Transcriptions
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