960430 Special Briefing on Patterns of Global Terrorism  Return to: Index of "Arms Control, Counter-terrorism and Military Affairs || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Department of State
96/04/30 Briefing: Amb. Wilcox on Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1995
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism

[Excerpts from the Daily Press Briefing, April 30, 1996]

                            Special Briefing by
                        Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox
                  U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism
                          U.S. Department of State
                               April 30, 1996

     MR. BURNS:  .....I'd like to turn the podium over to Ambassador 
Philip C. Wilcox.  As you know, he's the U.S. Coordinator for 
Counterterrorism.  He has been in that position since 1994.  He is one 
of our most distinguished Foreign Service officers, one of our most 
distinguished diplomats.  He's had a number of very challenging 
assignments in his career all over the world and here in the Department.  
He will brief you on the Department's annual report to Congress on 
"Patterns of Global Terrorism in 1995." 
     As you know, this report is Congressionally mandated.  The 
Department is required to provide Congress with assessments of foreign 
countries where significant terrorist acts occurred, as well as on those 
countries that are on the State Department's terrorism list. 
     The Department has been producing this report for over 15 years, 
and this latest report covers the calendar year 1995. 
     Following Ambassador Wilcox's presentation, he'll be glad to take 
questions from you.  When he is finished, we'll have a 10-minute 
adjournment, and then I'll come back and we'll resume the Daily Briefing 
on all other issues of interest to you. 
     Mr. Ambassador. 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Thank you, Nick.  Good afternoon, ladies and 
     As you know, "Patterns of Global Terrorism" is published annually 
by Congressional mandate.  You will be glad to know that it will be 
available this year on the Internet; the Internet address will be posted 
in the Press Office. 
     As President Clinton said when he signed the new Counterterrorism 
Act last week, combatting terrorism, both domestic and international, is 
a critical priority for this Administration.  Although terrorism kills 
or injures relatively few people compared to other forms of violence, it 
inflicts an extraordinary psychological, political, and economic toll.  
It's random quality, the fact that it strikes without warning, the fact 
that it preys upon innocent victims, gives it a particularly evil 
quality.  It increases our collective sense of fear and vulnerability.  
That's why we pay so much attention to it. 
     Terrorism is also a powerful, yet low-cost political weapon.  It's 
also used for strategic purposes -- to bring down governments, to foment 
revolution, to reverse historical initiatives like the Arab-Israeli 
peace process, and to turn back political, social and economic change. 
     Historically, terrorists have failed to achieve such strategic 
goals.  Although they often proclaim to be revolutionaries, today, 
they're most often in the rear guard rather than the vanguard. 
     They're predominantly reactionary and anti-democratic.  In the 
court of world opinion, they and their causes are increasingly on the 
defensive, and that's where we want to keep them. 
     But the damage they inflict -- for example, the threat they pose to 
the Arab-Israeli peace process -- shows that terrorism still has 
strategic potential.  We pay a great deal of attention to it, therefore, 
as a foreign policy priority. 
     Democratic open societies likes ours are especially vulnerable to 
terrorism.  We have exposed infrastructures on which we are very 
dependent, and terrorists are increasingly mobile and technically 
sophisticated.  That makes us all the more vulnerable. 
     The poison gas attacks on the Tokyo subway last year are a clear 
warning that terrorists also may use materials of mass destruction.  
This is a new and ominous dimension of terrorism.  We're taking measures 
to guard the United States against this, as are other governments. 
     Recognizing the threat posed by international terrorism to our 
foreign policy interests, the Clinton Administration has intensified our 
foreign policy efforts in this area.  The new Counterterrorism Act, for 
example, which the President signed last week, strengthens our ability 
in many ways to deal with international, as well as domestic terrorism. 
     The major planks of our counterterrorism policy are spelled out in 
"Patterns," but let me review them because they're important. 
     We don't surrender to terrorist blackmail.  We don't make deals.  
We treat terrorists as criminals, and we pursue them aggressively 
wherever they are, using extradition treaties and international treaties 
to the maximum. 
     We work to condemn and isolate state sponsors of terrorism.  We 
work to strengthen our cooperation with other governments through 
diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence cooperation, training, 
cooperation in research and development, in document security, and in 
many other areas.  We also go after fund-raising for overseas terrorists 
in the United States. 
     These policies, I'm pleased to say, are producing results.  Active 
diplomacy, for example, and intensive investigation and good 
intelligence won the U.S. custody of almost all of the suspects in the 
1993 World Trade Center bombing. 
     Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and three members of his gang, who are suspected 
for that crime, as well as for a plot to blow up U.S. civilian aircraft 
in the Pacific, were all brought into U.S. custody in 1995 as a result 
of very intensive U.S. efforts and close cooperation from foreign 
     More and more nations like ours are treating terrorism as a pure 
crime which cannot be condoned or excused for political reasons.  
International cooperation is accelerating.  There are lots of signs to 
this in 1995. 
     The P-8, which is an extension of the old Group of Seven, held a 
ministerial counterterrorism conference in Ottawa in December.  That 
grew out of the Halifax summit last year. 
     There was a conference on terrorism in Buenos Aires last year which 
was the predecessor to a conference last week, to which I led the U.S. 
delegation on terrorism in Lima, Peru.  The Guatemalan Government was an 
active participant in that conference.  There is a growing consciousness 
and willingness to cooperate among the states of our hemisphere. 
     There's also a willingness on the part of the U.N. and other 
regional bodies to work together to condemn terrorism unambiguously.  
This is quite a change from a decade ago when there was a lot of 
ambivalence about terrorism for political reasons. 
     Let me turn to the statistics for 1995 and make a few comments.  
They're ambiguous.  But the long-term trend toward a reduction in 
international terrorism continues.  The peak year for international 
terrorist acts was in the mid-Eighties.  Such acts have declined by 
roughly half since then. 
     Deaths in 1995 from international terrorism were about half the 
1994 toll -- 165 versus 314.  The number of wounded, however, soared 
because of the attack on the Tokyo subway.  The number of Americans rose 
from four to 12.  Attacks on U.S. Government and military personnel 
declined.  There were 39 in 1995 versus 200 in 1986.  This speaks well 
for the intensive security efforts that we have made abroad. 
     Aircraft hijacking has declined tremendously thanks to much 
stronger civil aviation security measures. 
     On the downside, terrorist attacks against businesses around the 
world have remained about steady.  They continue to bear the main brunt 
of international terrorist attacks. 
     The attacks against all American targets rose slightly -- 99 
compared to 66 in 1994.  Yet, there were 187, by comparison, in 1987. 
     As in most previous years, some of the most devastating attacks 
took place in the Middle East. The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad 
intensified their terrorist attacks -- bombing attacks -- in Israel, 
killing 45.  These suicide bombing attacks multiplied in early 1996. 
     As you know, an Israeli extremist also assassinated prime Minister 
     Terrorism by states we've designated as sponsors of terrorism also 
continued to decline because of international pressure and unilateral 
and international sanctions. 
     Iran, however, is the exception.  Iran assassinated seven dissident 
Iranian politicians, or dissident figures in 1995 compared to four in 
1994.  Iran continued its policy of giving material, logistic, and 
financial support to the rejectionist groups which are committing 
terrorism against the Israeli-Arab peace process. 
     Libya also continues to defy the mandates of the U.N. Security 
Council resolutions which oblige Libya to turn over the suspects for the 
Pan Am 103 bombing to the U.K. or the U.N. 
     Before taking questions, I want to stress an important point about 
counterterrorism.  Defeating terrorists depends not only on good law 
enforcement, good intelligence collection, and professional 
counterterrorism efforts.  It depends, to a great extent, also on a 
strong overall U.S. foreign policy and ample resources to support that 
     Not always but often, terrorism arises from political, social and 
economic conflicts.  These are often the breeding grounds for some of 
the most venomous and dangerous terrorist movements, and we in this 
country have led the way since World War II in helping resolve such 
conflicts and by mobilizing other nations to help us in that effort. 
     Our effort in conflict resolution and the cooperation we need from 
foreign governments requires resources, and our leadership depends upon 
our willingness to continue investing in conflict resolution and in such 
areas as economic development, population control and environmental 
     Our spending in this country on international affairs has been cut 
by about 51 percent in real terms in the last decade, and we're now at 
the point where we're beginning to live off invested capital to maintain 
our leadership.  If this trend continues, I'm concerned that our 
counter-terrorism interests, like many other U.S. interests in the 
world, are bound to suffer. 
     I'd be pleased to take your questions. 
     Q     You know that Iran has continued to give material and 
financial support to terrorists.  You didn't mention Hizbollah, but you 
mentioned those who have targeted Israel and the peace process.  To what 
extent is that aid still channeled through Damascus? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  The Government of Syria still permits the 
Hizbollah to import weapons through Damascus, and, as you've said, Iran 
is the principal sponsor of Hizbollah terrorist activities.  Our view is 
that all of the Hizbollah terrorist acts overseas, have been committed 
with the guidance and support of Iran. 
     Q     (inaudible) you're saying that Damascus has taken some steps 
to restrain international terrorist groups.  What kind of steps are you 
referring to exactly? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Last week, as you know, after seven days of 
difficult negotiations, Secretary Christopher was able to achieve an 
agreement among Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, in which the previous 
undertakings have been renewed and strengthened to prevent Hizbollah 
attacks across the border against Israeli citizens as one of the main 
features of that agreement. 
     That is an example of the efforts that Syria has made to restrain 
terrorist acts in south Lebanon. 
     Q     Can I follow up?  In the course of this last year, has Syria 
done anything to restrain the PKK? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  That's a point of real concern for us, because 
the PKK, like the Palestinian rejectionist organizations, continue to be 
allowed to maintain a presence and offices within Syria. 
     Q     Ambassador, with all due respect, the example you gave 
happened last week, whereas this report is, of course, on '95.  Can you 
give us any examples of what steps Syria has taken in '95 to restrain 
the international activities of these groups? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  I can say that Syria, in general, did take some 
steps to restrain the activities of all of these groups in southern 
Lebanon.  Nevertheless, the fact that the Government of Syria still 
permits these groups to maintain a presence in Damascus -- groups which 
are committing terrorist attacks inside Israel -- is a very serious 
problem.  It is one that we have raised repeatedly with the Government 
of Syria and which we hope will be resolved. 
     Q     On your policy, the third point about bringing maximum 
pressure on states that sponsor and support terrorists and treating them 
-- imposing economic, diplomatic and political sanctions -- how does 
that jibe with U.S. policy towards Syria?  We have continual contacts 
with them for good, pragmatic reasons, but it seems to be inconsistent 
with that third point. 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  It's really not inconsistent.  The policy of 
sanctioning unilaterally and urging multilateral sanctions against state 
sponsors of terrorism is not inconsistent with maintaining relations 
with these countries.  We do have diplomatic relations with Syria, and 
those are very important, and we have used those diplomatic relations to 
good effect to work with the Government of Syria to urge it into a full 
participation in the peace process.  So maintaining diplomatic relations 
and contacts with Syria is not at all inconsistent with the efforts that 
we have made through sanctions and to persuade Syria to desist from its 
support for these terrorist groups. 
     Q     Could you give me an example of any economic, diplomatic or 
political pressure or sanctions that the United States has brought on 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Yes.  Under the law, under which we designate 
formally governments which are responsible for a sustained pattern of 
support for terrorism, we withhold various kinds of trade, and there are 
very severe limits on the kinds of items that the U.S. companies can 
export to countries which are on the state sponsor list. 
     Q     Such as? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Any kind of weapons which could -- or dual-use 
materials that could contribute in any way to the support of terrorism. 
     Q     Are they denied assistance as well if you (inaudible). 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Yes, they are.  They do not receive economic 
assistance from the U.S. or other economic benefits. 
     Q     What about the nuclear reactor project for North Korea? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  That is not proscribed by the law, and that is 
a very constructive effort to move North Korea away from a policy of 
developing nuclear fuel producing power plants, toward more benign forms 
of nuclear power. 
     Q     Last question.  I'm a bit mystified that Afghanistan is not 
on the list of countries that sponsor international terrorism.  It seems 
to have a far worse record than some of the countries that are on the 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Afghanistan, indeed, has a very poor record. 
Afghanistan, however, is not controlled by any government.  There is a 
government in Kabul, but its sway does not extend far beyond the city of 
Kabul.  Much of the terrorist activity which issues from Afghanistan 
comes from training camps throughout Afghanistan territory which are run 
by various warlords.  While we have urged the Rabbani authorities in 
Kabul to do everything they can to use their influence to stop these 
activities, we recognize that it is a country that is effectively 
without a real government. 
     Q     Back on the point of dealing with terrorist groups, leaving 
aside the question of Syria and also Iran, which was quite closely 
involved in negotiations last week, how do you -- can you assert that 
point when the deal that the Secretary brokered involves Hizbollah, a 
group that you name in your report as a terrorist group? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  The United States, as I said, does not 
foreswear contact with groups who may have some association with 
terrorism.  In some cases, we have maintained these contacts because 
it's necessary to reduce the threats of terrorism, and the Secretary's 
negotiations in the Middle East last week were a very good example of 
that, and the result, I think, was a very good example of positive, 
energetic diplomacy which reduces an overall terrorist threat. 
     Q     Don't those types of negotiations tend to bring this -- 
legitimize this group's activities -- 
     Q     -- as legitimate resistance, which they claim? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Certainly not.  We've done nothing at all to 
legitimize their activities, and we've been unqualified in condemning 
their attacks against civilians. 
     Q     But you still deal with them? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  We deal with them indirectly, and we expect 
those who have influence and control over them to use that influence. 
     Q     This is Chung-soo Lee of Korean Broadcasting System.  Your 
report said that the list -- in the terrorism countries list -- the list 
is sent annually to Congress, although countries can be added or removed 
at any time (inaudible) warrant.  If so, if North Korea, as you say, 
give up the nuclear weapons development and accepts the four-party 
meetings and ease the tension at the DMZ and the deployment of forces 
backward, can you remove North Korea from the terrorism list before the 
next year's annual report? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  We can remove a country from the terrorism list 
at any time.  There are various conditions which a country has to 
fulfill before it can be removed from the list.  It has to demonstrate 
by act -- by word and act that it has thoroughly renounced any kind of 
support for terrorism, and we hope that all seven countries on the list 
will do so, including North Korea. 
     Q     So North Korea, you said -- North Korea still supports 
Rabbani.  If they stop support for Rabbani, do you think U.S. is more 
willing to be (inaudible) of North Korea? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  In the 1970s and '80s, North Korea had a very 
serious record of committing very serious acts of international 
terrorism.  North Korea has made statements, indicating that it no 
longer does support terrorism, but those statements would have to be 
matched by deeds.  For example, a commitment to joining other countries 
in condemning terrorism and in other kinds of actions which would 
establish clearly that they have abandoned this policy. 
     I can't predict what precise combination of efforts by North Korea 
would be necessary, but, as I said, we hope very much that North Korea 
will move in that direction. 
     Q     I am struck by your remarks that to get off the terrorism 
list, a country has to thoroughly renounce any support for terrorism.  
It says in the report here that there continue to be credible reports in 
1995 of official Pakistani support to militants fighting in Kashmir, 
some of whom engage in terrorism.  Can you sort of square the conditions 
that a country has to meet to get off the list to the conditions that -- 
you've apparently a separate set of criteria that you apply to deciding 
whether a country should get on the list in the first place? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  No, the criteria are the same.  There has to be 
a sustained record of support for terrorist activities before we 
designate a country and doing so is a very serious act, and so we look 
at the information carefully before we take those steps.  We have been 
concerned about evidence of Pakistani support for terrorism. 
     On the other hand, the Government of Pakistan was extraordinarily 
helpful to the United States last year in a major anti-terrorist effort 
-- the arrest and extradition of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the leader of the 
World Trade Center, gang. 
     Q     A year ago, or two years ago, perhaps, we considered putting 
Pakistan on the list of terrorist supporting nations, state sponsors of 
terrorism, precisely because of its official support to militants 
fighting in Kashmir, some of whom engage in terrorism. 
     For two years now you've said that there continue to be credible 
reports of such official support, and I'm kind of curious to know why 
you've decided not to pay more attention to them. 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  We pay a lot of attention to it, but there has 
to be a substantial body of evidence that is sustained before we will 
take that very important act, and we have not discerned that evidence 
exists in the case of Pakistan. 
     MR. BURNS:  We'll take three more questions, starting with Charlie. 
     Q     Ambassador Wilcox, can you address the link, if any, that you 
found between Ramzi Yousef and the people arrested in state-sponsored 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  Obviously, we have looked very, very carefully 
and pursued all possible clues that there might be some state 
sponsorship behind the World Trade Center bombing.  We have found no 
such evidence, in spite of an exhaustive search, that any state was 
responsible for that crime.  Our information indicates that Ramzi Ahmed 
Yousef and his gang were a group of freelance terrorists, many of whom 
were trained in Afghanistan, who came from various nations but who did 
not rely on support or guidance from any state. 
     Q     Ambassador, Turkey, one of the NATO allies -- Greece give 
permission to some PKK front organization to open an office in Athens.  
Also, they give another permission to (inaudible).  Do you contact with 
the Government of Greece on this subject?  Do you raise your concern on 
this subject? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  We have very close relations with the 
Governments of both Greece and Turkey, as you know, and counterterrorism 
is very high on our agenda with both governments. 
     Q     Have you seen any evidence -- in fairly recent time -- of 
Iran or its surrogates targeting Americans or American interests, 
particularly say, in this country or in Europe outside the Middle East 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  I can't get into specific intelligence reports, 
but there is continued concern about Iran's terrorist activities and its 
capability of launching terrorist attacks around the world. 
     Q     I guess without going necessarily into specific reports, you 
talk about Iran's attack against its dissidents and others.  I think the 
question really goes to what degree do they seem to, in fact, be acting 
on the anti-American rhetoric with, indeed, actions to support folks or 
supply weapons to those who may be attacking American targets, or to 
what degree is it rhetoric? 
     AMBASSADOR WILCOX:  I think Iran has various motives, and certainly 
the anti-American animus is one of these, but it has various other 
motives -- the desire for hegemony in the region, a fundamental 
opposition to the Arab-Israeli peace process.  So it's not all the 
product of anti-Americanism. 
     MR. BURNS:  Thank you. 

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