Richard Boucher, Spokesman
October 11, 2001
COALITION AGAINST TERRORISM
1-3,4 Saudi Support for Coalition
4-5 Freezing of Assets to Al-Qaida and Usama Bin Laden
6-7 Indian Support for Coalition
12 OIC Statement
13 Classified Briefings
13 Pre-taped Interviews of Usama Bin Laden
15-17 Public Diplomacy Efforts/Web Activity/Radio Free Afghanistan
20 Terrorist Organizations
3 Security Situation in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
3-4 Security Situation
6 Efforts for Rapprochement
7,8-9 Pakistanís Future Government
18 Pakistanís Ties with the Taliban
7-8,10 Military Attacks/Views on Future Governments
9-10 Mullah Omar Phone Message to VOA
11 Attempts to Minimize Civilian Casualties
18-19 Shelter Now Detainees
11 Human Rights Dialogue
11 Training for Counterterrorism
14-15 Mailroom Incident
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon. I don't have any new statements or announcements today. I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Let's, if we could, return for a minute to the issue of Saudi cooperation. Now there is a report in a newspaper that the Saudis are declining to freeze assets of terrorist groups, that they're dragging their heels, similar to the idea a week or two ago that they wouldn't permit the US use of their Prince Sultan base. Could you characterize Saudi behavior on asset freezing for us?
MR. BOUCHER: I would be glad to, and it remains where we -- what we have said before. We are very satisfied with Saudi cooperation. They have been with us in many areas of this coalition and many of the steps that need to be taken. You know, they have helped to isolate the Taliban diplomatically. They have worked with us on a number of military requests that we have had. And we are working together in the financial area as well. So we are very satisfied with the cooperation. We found that they have been together on everything that we have asked.
Specifically, on the question of financial discussions, we have had financial discussions with Saudi experts on how to take steps together in the financial area. We will have those discussions continue. As the President and the Secretary have made clear, we are in a long-term campaign against terrorism. Combating terrorist financing is an integral part of that, but not necessarily one that leads to instant results. So we are working together with the Saudis on that.
As far as the specifics, as you know, we are not trying to speak for other governments. But I do know that the Reuters news agency has reported half a dozen or several different things the Saudi Government has done. And since they are present in the room and like to be mentioned, let me cite that October 1st, Reuters said that Saudi Arabia had announced it was about to join the convention for the suppression of the financing on terrorism. That they have ordered banks to check for dealings with suspect groups and individuals on the 9th, which is two days ago. The Ministry of Commerce in Saudi Arabia issued detailed instructions to chambers of commerce on monitoring of reporting of suspicious business dealings and financial transactions.
So these are facts that I am sure you will all check out before making sweeping statements. But, at least according to the reports I have, they are taking specific steps and I know that from the kind of cooperation we have expected, we have found the kind of cooperation to be very satisfying.
QUESTION: Richard, I was under the impression you guys didn't think that wire stories were the be all and end all of accuracy --
MR. BOUCHER: I said that people will want to check this out and make sure the wire stories are correct. But, obviously, those are verifiable facts that you could probably find out for yourself.
QUESTION: And only that one agency, or have other people reported this as well?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess this is the one we happened to be reading at the time that we noticed these things.
QUESTION: I noticed at the hearing when a member of Congress congratulated you for being able to be unflappable when tormented by reporters. You didn't say --
QUESTION: By horrendously unpleasant people.
QUESTION: By horrendously unpleasant people.
QUESTION: -- horrendously unpleasant people, you didn't jump across the table and punch him out. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't have a chance to disagree.
QUESTION: Well, do you share Congressman Lantos' opinion that the State Department press corps is a particularly unpleasant bunch or some of us are?
MR. BOUCHER: I plead the Fifth Amendment. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: There was a Saudi prince in New York today who made some comments against the US Government's policy on the Middle East, saying we have to examine some of the issues that led to this attack, the US Government should re-examine its Middle East policy. Those comments were made after Ari Fleischer this morning said that the Saudis were giving us everything, their cooperation had been fine.
Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know who you are talking about and what exactly they said.
QUESTION: Well, that's been said.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's -- thank you. I'm going to have to see it myself in the wire stories before I comment on it. But we all know that the Saudi Government has been concerned, has been interested in the Middle East. We talk to the Saudis as a close friend and ally about the Middle East all the time, and we will continue to work with them.
I think it is important to remember that these people who are attacking the United States and attacking civilization have attacked the World Trade Center twice, once when the Middle East process was in full swing and making progress, and once now when we are still grappling with the issue of violence. So frankly the activities of al-Qaida seem to be totally unrelated to the status of the Middle East peace process.
QUESTION: Well, have the Saudis told you that they're unhappy with your policy towards Israel and the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: As I have often said, we talk with the Saudis all the time about the Middle East peace process, and I will let the Saudis express their opinion if they want to.
QUESTION: Richard, in Saudi Arabia and actually in Kuwait as well, overnight -- also in Saudi Arabia last week -- there have been a couple of incidents, security-related. In Kuwait there was a Canadian who was shot and killed, and I know that the embassy -- I think it was Kuwait -- was that right? The embassy there has put out a message saying, be extra careful. And then in Saudi there was apparently a bomb that may have been targeting some Germans who escaped unharmed.
But I'm just wondering -- and then there was the bomb that killed an American last week -- have you guys linked this -- any of these incidents -- to terrorism? And even if you haven't, what's the security situation now in the Gulf?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double check on that. As you know, embassies around the world have put out the Worldwide Caution that we issued the other day, and they have mostly issued it to the local American community through the warden network to tell people to be extra careful and to exercise all possible caution. That's the Worldwide Caution that we have issued being repeated by our embassies.
As far as the specific situation in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, I will have to check. I'm not aware of any particular situations there, certainly regarding Americans. But I will check on those incidents and see what our interpretation is.
QUESTION: Okay. And then on the same lines, I noticed that the embassy in Indonesia is going to be closed through Friday because of the continuing demonstrations, and also that this radical Islamic group says it has begun sweeps. What do you -- what's the situation in Jakarta right now and outlying areas?
MR. BOUCHER: One, we've got a Travel Advisory that mentions the "sweeps," as they're called, and advises Americans specifically about Indonesia, to be careful out there. Second of all, I think I said yesterday, the embassy in Jakarta was going to be closed to public services until the 12th. That's tomorrow, Friday, like you said.
And yesterday, there were two peaceful demonstrations in front of our embassy in Jakarta. Again, the police protection was outstanding, and there were no demonstrations at the consulate general in Surabaya. Clearly, we remain concerned about threats made by radical groups against US citizens and property. We are working closely with Indonesian police to ensure appropriate security.
Our embassy was open today for employees and for emergency American citizen services. So the general public -- we are not open to the general public, but we are open to others for emergency services.
And I would point out that yesterday, on Wednesday, the Secretary did talk to President Megawati and discussed the cooperation of the coalition, as well as the security situation for Americans.
QUESTION: Not to be too technical, but when you say opened some -- those American citizens, you mean?
MR. BOUCHER: Emergency services for American citizens, yes. Not open to the general public, the way we might be in other places.
QUESTION: Can I go back, just to go back to Saudi Arabia, can you specifically whether or not you have requested the Saudis to close certain bank accounts and certain charities, and whether or not the Saudis have agreed to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't. From the beginning, we have established the policy of not being too specific about the requests that we have made, nor am I going to talk or disclose for other governments what they might have done. That is a question you will have to ask them. If they want to talk about specific steps they have taken in the financial area, we would be happy to have them do that.
I have cited three or four that I have seen already discussed in public by the Saudis.
QUESTION: But given these statements from Saudi officials, regarding that they have said they have not gotten any request and now this New York Times report, I mean, there is a bit of confusion when you and Mr. Fleischer tell us that there has been cooperation on all these levels --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't account for confusion created in the newspapers. I can only tell you the truth.
QUESTION: Richard, you had said earlier in the week that you would check on whether you could quantify for us bank accounts, the financial -- the freezing of financial assets and how that was going. Can I see if you have anything on that, and add on to that, how effective do you think this is really going to be in choking off al-Qaida? We don't know necessarily whether bin Laden has other resources that wouldn't be held in banks. In fact, we know he probably does.
So do you have any guess yet on how effective this is going to be?
MR. BOUCHER: I am still double-checking on some of the numbers, frankly. I am trying to reconcile some of the different numbers to make sure that what we give you is accurate and true.
I would say two things to keep in mind even as we try to look for numbers and look at numbers. The one is that many of the financial steps are to prevent the banking system from being used by terrorists. A lot of what is going on is people put in regulations and laws that prevent that from happening. The Group of Seven, as you know, over the weekend decided that they would extend their cooperation in this area. They decided that the Financial Action Task Force, which has been very good in helping countries put in place laws that prevent drug money laundering, would extend this work to terrorism as well. The goal is to deny access to the international financial systems, to deny the facilities.
Now, there are other ways to move money in the world. There are informal mechanisms. And we need governments and countries to go after those as well, to investigate and to use law enforcement tools as well as banking regulations to stop those from being used as well. So the amount of money seized depends somewhat on where the money happened to be at the time. But the denial of access to the financial services is the primary goal of having these regulations in place.
QUESTION: There are plenty of things that they may do, that al-Qaida may do, that don't take money. I mean, obviously, the big plane crashes, the training --
MR. BOUCHER: It is part of the bigger picture. That is why we say we are going to use every tool at our disposal. Finance is definitely part of the picture. You can't do these things without money, and you can do them more easily if you are able to move money and finance them. But, certainly, we have to get to this in any number of ways, and that is why we say the diplomatic tools, the political cooperation, the law enforcement cooperation, the intelligence sharing, the information sharing more generally, the financial tools and the military ones are all going to have to be used to try to prevent these kinds of incidents.
QUESTION: When Secretary Powell goes to India and Pakistan soon, what messages is he going to take? And specifically on the question of nuclear instability there and on Mr. Vajpayee's statements earlier suggesting that India might take military action in Kashmir?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to get into too much detail and specifics or to predict which aspect will be discussed. But I think the most important thing is to thank India and Pakistan, each in their own way, for their cooperation, to talk about how to continue acting together and moving together against terrorism, and to talk about the very important relationships we have with India and the very important relationship we have with Pakistan as well.
QUESTION: This morning, the Ambassador of India was speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and he said that if India will have another terrorist attack supported by Pakistan, India will attack Pakistan. Now, in the midst of this war going on against Afghanistan and all that, so how Secretary will ease this tension? I mean, is he going to talk with General Musharraf that what he is doing into India, it's better not to do at this time?
MR. BOUCHER: I would go back to what we have said before on this. I think we have had this discussion two or three times in the last few days. The United States has all along tried to work with all the parties in that region to encourage them to deal with each other, to encourage them to act with restraint, to encourage them to take steps to calm the tension. We've always done that; we'll continue to do that. We welcome the meetings that they had earlier this year; we welcome the phone calls of the last few days, which we see as steps designed to do that.
We have also asked the parties in the region to use their influence wherever possible, to deny facilities or to make it more difficult for terrorist groups to operate, and we have asked them to use their influence to try to get groups to refrain from violence and seek political solutions. So that, I assume, would continue to be part of our message.
But as I said, the trip now is focused on the coalition. The trip now is focused on the cooperation and the relationships we have each with each of these countries. To the extent that there are things to discuss as far as their relationship with each other, I'm sure there will be discussions on that point, because that has always been part of our discussion with each of them in the past.
QUESTION: Could you characterize -- well, there aren't too many democracies outside of Europe that are part of the coalition, but India is one. Could you characterize for us a little bit what areas of cooperation they have been useful in? And when you talk about restraint, how about that old saw about provocative statements, which is the admonition usually given in another part of the world? Isn't it pretty much a tinderbox, and provocative statements aren't welcome by the US?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't like provocative statements anywhere in the world, I guess you might say. But, Barry, I don't -- if you're asking about -- don't take that remark and try to apply it to something you're not telling me about. That's what I'm saying. Don't try to say that, you know, so-and- so said this, and the United States complained.
QUESTION: Oh, sure.
MR. BOUCHER: Because I don't know what I'm commenting on.
QUESTION: No, I don't want to link it to anything. I mean in the general sense.
MR. BOUCHER: We don't like provocative statements. That's for sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, where's India's cooperation --
MR. BOUCHER: Once again you're putting me in the position of trying to speak for another government and describe --
QUESTION: General terms. We hear it about the Europeans all the time.
MR. BOUCHER: We have a lot of important cooperation with India on the coalition against terrorism, but at this point, we will leave it to the Indians to describe it. They have talked somewhat in public about the things that they were prepared to do.
QUESTION: There have been reports that the United States is not attacking the Taliban forces opposite the Northern Alliance north of Kabul, and that this is part of a strategy of the future of Afghanistan, of bowing to Pakistan and other governments who don't want to see those guys take over, that there's something going on. What does the future of Afghanistan look like to the United States, and is the United States in fact acceding to a Pakistani wish that the Northern Alliance not be allowed to take Kabul?
MR. BOUCHER: This is an interesting theory. As far as the US military attacks, you can ask the Pentagon. As far as the future of Afghanistan, I think you can ask a crystal ball. As far as our position, I will repeat what I have said before. We do believe that Afghanistan needs a broad-based government. We have been working for many years with the UN and others on that. We have been keeping in touch with all the various parties. And we have made quite clear that were there to be such a broad-based government in Afghanistan, we would intend to help that government with reconstruction, with developing the country.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? Are you saying that you have no plan for helping in the assistance and the setting up of some sort of government to replace the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: I just said that we were talking to a lot of parties, encouraging them to organize, to work together to form a broad-based government for Afghanistan, and if there were such a government, we would support it.
QUESTION: Richard, that was an interesting half-slip of the tongue you just made earlier. Does the United States still believe that Pakistan needs a broad-based and elected government?
MR. BOUCHER: Our views on democracy in Pakistan haven't changed.
QUESTION: And have those been brought up in recent meetings? Is this something that you -- or is that kind of --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Or is that to be assumed --
MR. BOUCHER: I would expect it to be discussed when the Secretary goes. I think you remember when Tony Blair was out there, he mentioned in his press conference that he had talked about a return to democracy there, and we have discussed it before.
QUESTION: And more along the lines of what Ben was asking, how -- is there any update in your contacts with your favorite deposed monarch?
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea who you might be talking about. We don't have any favorite deposed monarchs --
QUESTION: The former King of Afghanistan, has there been any --
MR. BOUCHER: We don't play favorites. We are not choosing a faction, we are not choosing a favorite in the Afghan horserace.
QUESTION: I wasn't actually meaning that he was your favorite in Afghanistan. I just meant in general, favorite deposed --
MR. BOUCHER: Among deposed monarchs of the world?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we don't choose our favorite deposed monarch.
QUESTION: Have there been any contacts with the King lately?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing particularly that I'm aware of. I don't have any news on that.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, can you describe or say if Pakistan has any place at all in this broad-based process that you would like to encourage in Afghanistan in terms of coming up with a government? Is there any role for Pakistan in that?
MR. BOUCHER: Pakistan has long been a member of the Six-Plus-Two group, which has discussed these issues and tried to work with Mr. Vendrell of the United Nations, the Secretary General's senior high representative or something like that -- Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan. So we have all worked with him. This idea of a broad-based government has been discussed before and we have all discussed it with the various factions that we keep in touch with.
So, certainly, I think there is general support in the international community for the idea that a broad-based government in Afghanistan would have the support of the international community. And I said just a moment ago if there were such a government, clearly we would help with reconstruction and development.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on the Six-Plus-Two comment, does that mean that Pakistan's role in any kind of government in Afghanistan would be the same as Iran or Russia or, for that matter, the United States, as any of those people on that group?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think any of us pretend to be choosing the future government of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: The Pakistanis would like to choose the future of the government of Afghanistan --
MR. BOUCHER: You can ask the Pakistanis that. This whole process has been supportive of the idea of broad-based government for Afghanistan. But what that government is, how it is chosen, how it is formed, is up to the Afghan people to decide.
QUESTION: Richard, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman gave a press conference, apparently and asked -- and denied that American troops had landed in Pakistan. And then he said that they would deal with whether they give visas to US troops to land when the situation arises.
I just didn't know. Do troops need visas? (Laughter.) I mean, he's answering the question and I just think it seems like a strange question.
MR. BOUCHER: It depends on the country and the arrangements that we make.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not -- that's chatter. That is not comparable in any way to any situations we are facing right now.
QUESTION: I wasn't -- does Pakistan require them?
MR. BOUCHER: Somebody else was.
I don't know. That is a question for the Pakistani Government to answer, as far as what the formalities might be for the entry of military personnel into their country. I would say only that, as far as troop presence, you can check with the Pentagon. I am not going to get into any operational aspects of our cooperation. But we are confident that Pakistan will fulfill its commitment as a key member of the global coalition. Pakistan continues to cooperate fully and closely with efforts to end the use of Afghanistan as a haven for terrorists.
QUESTION: Are you aware of a taped phone message received by VOA from Mullah Omar yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Could you check to see whether you have been apprised of it and whether you have any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: The US is clearly playing a direct role, obviously, in the military campaign. And once it wins the war or if it wins the war, how direct a role will the US be playing to try to win the peace? Beyond encouraging the political parties to form a broad-based government, what sort of overt, explicit role do you anticipate in setting up institutions of government?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we just talked about that for 10 minutes. I don't have anything to add to what I said in the last five minutes.
QUESTION: You talked about encouraging a broad-based government. I am trying to flesh out what does "encouragement" mean and what do you do beyond encouragement?
MR. BOUCHER: We are meeting with all the parties. We are telling them two things. We are telling them, one, you guys have to figure out how to form a new Afghan Government. We would encourage you to make that as broad based as possible because a broad-based government is what is needed to bring some stability to the country.
Second, when you have a broad-based government in Afghanistan, we would very much intend to continue the kind of support we have given to the Afghan people for the last 20 or so years. We have been the major donor, and we would intend to help you with reconstruction and development of the country.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that you are leaving open the possibility that at least some members of the present Taliban would be able to take part in this?
MR. BOUCHER: We are not choosing favorites among the groups. We are not picking in or picking out.
QUESTION: Richard, right now -- it's either now or tomorrow in Bishkek, there is a counterterrorism meeting of the Shanghai Group -- the Chinese, the Russians and the 'stans. Do you know if anyone from this building is going to be making a special effort to see what's happening at this meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: We are not members. But anyplace an international meeting like that takes place, our embassies generally try to keep in touch with the parties and give us a rundown of what happens. We often hear as well directly from the parties sometimes. So I am sure we will be following what's going on out there, but we are not participants.
QUESTION: I know it is in this country, but do you have anything on three men being held in Hudson, New York, three Pakistani men, after being caught near a water treatment plant?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: The US-China human rights dialogue that has been going on in this building, have those meetings ended and can you say anything about what is being discussed?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think they have ended yet. We were, I think, yesterday mentioned that they have been discussing a very broad range of issues. We have pretty much brought up everything that was important to us. But I don't think they have finished, so let me double check and get you something when they are over.
QUESTION: Is that at the assistant secretary level?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, Assistant Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights and Labor.
QUESTION: The Government of the Philippines has apparently said that US troops are going in there to train and equip their forces to fight against terrorism. Can you elaborate on what exactly the US is sending to the Philippines as pertains to the war on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, let me go through a little bit of what is going on and what has been going on and basically tell you that there are no new steps that have been decided, but we have had a long cooperation with the Philippines as partners in the fight against terrorism. We have recently spent $2 million to train a Philippine Military Counterterrorism Light Reaction Company, and both the United States and the Philippines have been very pleased with the successful results of that training.
I think our joint determination to combat terrorism has only intensified in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and we are talking to them about further ways of strengthening Philippine counterterrorism capabilities. But, as I have said, no new steps have been decided at this point.
We are grateful for the President's strong support -- the President of the Philippines -- strong support for the efforts of the international coalition. We do intend to build on this strong commitment to continue both our bilateral and multilateral steps to fight terrorism.
QUESTION: There have been reports of large loss of life in Afghanistan. What is the United States doing to attempt to minimize the civilian casualties?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing to remember is that those reports are unconfirmed and unverified. So it may be difficult to sort out exactly what loss of life there might have been.
Second of all, I would like to say that we have taken every possible step -- and I think the Pentagon will give you more on this -- we have taken every possible step to avoid civilian casualties, to make sure that the US military response is carefully targeted, as the President has said.
Any assertions that we are deliberately targeting civilians are totally baseless. I know there have been all kinds of rumors circulating in Afghanistan, perhaps some of them exaggerated by the Taliban. One was that we dropped food and then bombed people afterwards. That is totally false. One was that the food was somehow poisoned. That is totally false. So there have been a variety of very nasty and very untrue rumors circulated.
Our forces are making every effort to avoid harm to civilians. This is, as we have made clear many, many times, not an attack on the Afghan people. The objective is to end the terrorist threat to the world community. We have no quarrel with the Afghan people; in fact, we have done more than anyone else for the last 20-some years to try to help them, feed them, give them the supplies that they needed, despite a series of problems with government and problems with drought and other things. The fight is not against Islam; the fight is as much for the sake of Islamic peoples of the world and the people of Afghanistan as it is for anyone else.
QUESTION: Richard, the two rumors that you just mentioned, do those -- do you know if those -- were those actually reported by someone, or are they just things that your people in Pakistan have picked up?
MR. BOUCHER: These are things that we hear are circulating in Afghanistan. I think we hear them from -- well, I probably shouldn't specify -- but people who have been in touch with people in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: But --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I've seen any of them in the press.
QUESTION: Specifically like in the streets of Pakistan, that this isn't -- I mean, that's not where they're coming from? It's Afghanistan? In Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: This is what we hear as some of the rumors circulating in Afghanistan, perhaps aided by the Taliban.
QUESTION: Have you had a chance yet to have a closer look at the final statements from the OIC meeting in Qatar, and what do you make of its rejection of attacks on Arab and Islamic countries?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't make nothing of it. I still haven't found that phrase in the statement. I read it twice yesterday, and other people read it as well, and that phrase is not --
QUESTION: I think that you don't have the right document.
MR. BOUCHER: Or perhaps you don't.
QUESTION: Richard, does this building have any position of support -- what part of this do you support on President Bush's restrictions on classified briefings to members of Congress? How will that change the way -- obviously this --
MR. BOUCHER: We support everything the President said. That is another general proposition I would like to state today.
QUESTION: He's changed a few things. Yes, a few things have changed. Does this building think that that's important? Does it share the outrage and the concern about some of the things that have been leaked?
MR. BOUCHER: Clearly, we feel that it is very important to protect classified information. The President has also made clear that we intend to work closely with the Congress. We do work ourselves with six different committees on the Hill, and we will continue to work with them, keep them informed. The President has made clear that we need to do that, and we need to keep working with them, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Were there any accusations directed at certain departments or certain buildings, that leaks were coming out of other places than Capitol Hill when this discussion was going on about cracking down?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't made any accusations, that's for sure.
QUESTION: Has anyone made any to you?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: What do you make of reports that Al Jazeera has declined the request to voluntarily not air pre-taped bin Laden interviews?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not made any such request, so I don't make anything particular of it.
QUESTION: Well, there was -- yesterday, Spokesman Ari Fleischer did say he hoped other media organizations would follow suit with American media, considering that everyone is getting this stuff from Al Jazeera. I mean, are you at all concerned, given the potential for coded messages and so forth?
MR. BOUCHER: I leave that to the White House. The White House discussed this extensively. We have not made any particular request of any foreign media, and I will just leave it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: -- with the Qataris about this?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we haven't made any particular request there.
QUESTION: Richard, did you ever figure out what the substance was in the mailroom yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: It was a non-hazardous powder, something like talcum powder. People did respond appropriately to an unknown substance. We called the DC Fire Department. Let me give you the chain of events, since we are on this subject.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't. It is still being analyzed.
It was about 3:00 p.m. that we found a powder-like substance in one of our mailrooms at the State Department. The mailroom employees noticed it, could not identify it, and reported it to Diplomatic Security. Our uniformed guards responded immediately, closed off the area. The Medical Unit was called immediately. A medical officer examined the employees; they had no symptoms, felt fine, and eventually they departed.
As a precaution, the building manager shut down the air handlers serving the area. The DC Fire Department was called, and at their recommendation the FBI Hazardous Materials Response Team was notified. Both of them responded immediately. The FBI collected and removed the substance, took it to an appropriate facility for analysis. The final analysis is expected to take a few days.
At this time, it does not appear that this substance is hazardous. The area was determined to be safe at 6:00 p.m. The mailroom remains secured pending results of the investigation.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) emergency medical technicians, and an employee that works near the substance that was found. He as under quarantine, they told me, and he said one of his colleagues had passed out because of this. Is there any --
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, you all know, yesterday afternoon there were a zillion rumors floating around. We try to give you the facts and the truth. I was walking down a corridor, and somebody came up to me and said, "Where is the bomb anyway?" (Laughter.) And I said, there ain't no bomb, and it ain't here. Sorry, but so we have to be careful when there's stuff like this going on. We did appropriately -- I think employees found an unknown substance, called the right people. People responded, took care of everybody. There is an analysis going on. But, at this point, there is nothing hazardous about it.
There was one employee, not one of those who actually worked in the area, who went to GW Hospital yesterday saying he didn't feel well, but he was released after an examination by a physician.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- sent to the State Department or going out from the State Department?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is the kind of thing we don't exactly know at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, you mentioned that the HVAC system in the area around it was shut down but -- well, it was shut down in the basement too. Was it the whole building or was it just the sixth floor?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. This is an old building; it has very strange ductwork.
QUESTION: So we're on the same duct?
MR. BOUCHER: You can find an office here, an office there that are somehow connected to the air handlers, and they shut down what they need to.
QUESTION: New topic? Have you talked to the Czechs or asked the Czechs for any information, as there are now more and more reports coming out that there was more than one meeting with the suspected hijacker, Mr. Atta, and Iraqi intelligence? Have you guys been talking to the Czechs about this?
MR. BOUCHER: That is a question I can't answer on three counts. One, it is asking for intelligence information. Two, it is asking for investigative information. And, three, it is asking about the specifics that we might have asked a foreign government. So, sorry, can't answer that one.
QUESTION: Do you know someone named Commando Solo? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: No. He was on TV, wasn't he?
QUESTION: Is there a US airplane named Commando Solo flying around Afghanistan beaming radio broadcasts?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you need to ask the Pentagon about that. I am certain that they are prepared to tell you all about it.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, is there a campaign of public diplomacy, which is what they call USIA after it was gobbled up, to reach the Afghan people? Is there such a campaign, a task force right now going on?
MR. BOUCHER: There are a lot of people in this building working on it. There are a lot of groups that meet together. We had an hour-and-a-half, two hours of testimony yesterday on this subject in front of the Congress and I discussed it here somewhat yesterday.
There is definitely an effort underway on our part to make sure our story gets out. We are doing that through people in the Department. You have had the Secretary of State meet with foreign media and wire services. He dropped in, in this room the other day, on a group of Central Asian journalists who happened to be passing through on a tour. He has spoken to Al Jazeera. He has done an interview with Al Hayat and various other media outlets.
We have tried to make available American spokesmen for outlets that we know are listened to in Afghanistan, like the Voice of America, which has something like an 80 percent penetration; 80 percent of Afghan males are said to listen at least once a week. So we try to make sure our point of view is -- we have spokesmen available to talk about the facts.
Our ambassadors and embassies around the world are very active. They are writing op-ed pieces, they are providing information to the local press. So, yes, there is a broad campaign to make sure that US views get fairly represented in the foreign media.
QUESTION: Is there a transcript of the Secretary's comments to the Central Asians that we could get, like maybe, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Did we do a transcript of that? Yes, I think so.
QUESTION: And also, on your public diplomacy campaign, yesterday you had some general idea of the surge in Internet hits you were getting on your website. Do you have any more details on that?
MR. BOUCHER: There are two sites that are involved. One is the www.state.gov, which is operated -- I would have to say, the information is designed to be for Americans more than for foreigners, although everybody in the world visits the site, sees the transcripts. That is where many of you get the transcripts of the Secretary's comments, the transcripts of my briefings. There is a quote of the day on the front of the site and things like that, which is very useful.
That has gone from about one million hits a week to about four-and-a-half million hits a week. And previously, the most visited parts of that site had to do with travel warnings and information, and now the terrorism page is getting more hits.
There is also -- is it usinfo.state.gov? Is that it? Yes, I think it's usinfo.state.gov that is operated in conjunction with the public diplomacy aspects of things, where they have six different foreign language pages in addition to an English page. They have a lot of information designed more for foreign audiences on what is going on in the United States, links to some of the same material, transcripts, and other things that we are saying, but trying to sort of take a slightly broader view for people who may not be as familiar with who we are and what we do.
And that's gone from about one million to, I think, two million hits a week.
QUESTION: Is one of the languages Arabic?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm pretty sure. I don't have a list with me today.
QUESTION: On the public diplomacy, is part of what we're doing in terms of the overall message, especially particularly with regard to Afghanistan, is to try to get what you were saying before about the idea of the need to support a broad-based solution as an eventual government for the Afghan people, is that part of what we'd like to see? I know that it's hypothetical now to talk about a Radio Free Afghanistan, but --
MR. BOUCHER: I think to the extent that people in our government are asked these questions, we answer these questions, everything we say is broadly available and I'm sure reported on by outlets such as the VOA or the BBC and others. Part of what we do is just to get the true facts, make sure the true facts are available so that when you have questions about food deliveries so that it is known that we are actually delivering food to the Afghan people, so that it is known that we are not targeting civilians, so that it is known that we have support from a broad coalition around the world.
So a lot of it is just trying to make sure the facts get into circulation in that part of the world.
QUESTION: Richard, same subject. There's talk in Radio Free Europe circles of resuming broadcasts to Afghanistan. Do you know anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: This is the proposal for a Radio Free Afghanistan that was discussed I think extensively in front of Congress yesterday, and I talked about it a little bit at the briefing yesterday.
QUESTION: Can you -- I mean, just to go back this one -- are you making any special efforts, though, regarding what you've told us about the political future for Afghanistan, to get that message in Pashtu to the Afghan people?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you better check with VOA sort of for that matter, what they've been reporting. When we make people available for interviews, they usually get asked a whole series of questions. We talk -- I did a VOA interview on Sunday -- I can't remember if this question came up. But in most interviews you get several of these issues, and you get a chance to make our case. And frankly, it is important that people do understand we're not choosing the future government of Afghanistan, we're not trying to impose the government; we're supporting a broad-based government that can bring a representative government and true stability to the country.
QUESTION: Richard, what (inaudible) that US is helping Pakistan and Pakistan is helping Taliban now. As far as Taliban is concerned, it's not a government; there is no government; then how come they have embassy in Pakistan --
MR. BOUCHER: Can I just stop you right here and say it's not true. The Pakistan Government has taken, I think, a very strong view against terrorism. They've taken -- made some very significant and serious comments about the al-Qaida organization and about the Taliban recently, and I would invite you to look at those and be a little more precise.
QUESTION: And if we are after Taliban, then the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan is also part of Taliban, then why we are not after him? I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: This is a subject we have discussed. If you do your research, you will see what the UN resolutions say about this. Certainly, we welcome the fact that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have cut off ties, but it is something that we will keep under consideration and discussion with the Pakistani Government as well.
QUESTION: And the Heritage Foundation is calling on the United States that countries who are on the list of countries supporting terrorism, they should be expelled from the United Nations. So what --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen that. I don't have any comment on it. We expect all the governments around the world to take a stand against terrorism, and that would apply to anybody on our list as well.
QUESTION: On the diplomatic relations thing, is it not true the fact that because Pakistan has diplomatic relations, it makes it somewhat easier for you to get information about the two Americans who are being detained in Kabul? And also -- well, that's one. And two, is there any new information on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to specify a particular mechanism. We have from time to time had information from the Taliban representatives in Islamabad about the status of our detainees. But as you know, we have also talked to their lawyer quite a bit, and that seems to be the most active and up-to- date information that we get.
He met with all of the detainees today for over three hours to go over his response to the indictment. He has told the US Consul General in Islamabad on the phone that the detainees do continue to appear to be well. He met them at the detention center in Kabul. Mr. Ali Kahn also met today with Taliban Supreme Court Justice Saqib, S-a-q-i-b, who informed him that the court will begin to hear the detainees' case on Saturday, October 13th. Other than that, he had no updates on the trial.
The detainees' parents remain in Islamabad, and of course we are in very close touch with them there.
QUESTION: Have your analysts been able to translate the charges yet against the detainees?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to give you an analysis of the charges, but I will check.
QUESTION: Have you -- does the State Department now know what the charges are?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check.
QUESTION: Can you say if the parents are going to try to travel to Kabul for the trial?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can speak on their behalf. I will have to check on that and see.
QUESTION: Did Mr. Ali Kahn give you any -- did he have any idea or indication of how long the proceeding --
MR. BOUCHER: He told us he thinks the court might review the case for two or three additional days before it would render a decision. That's his prediction; the Taliban haven't given us any particular indication of how long it would continue.
QUESTION: I mean, they haven't given you or they haven't given him?
MR. BOUCHER: Either one of us.
QUESTION: Is that -- I guess this is probably a question that should be asked of the lawyer himself -- but does he have experience in the Taliban court system? I mean, is that where he is drawing this prediction from, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: All I can say is this is the lawyer that the families and the detainees have chosen, and they are relying on him; we're relying on him. I'm not able to give his background.
QUESTION: An elementary question. Afghanistan is not considered a state sponsor of terrorism. Is it simply because the US doesn't recognize the Taliban government as a state?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments that General Musharraf, he fired a number of his top military --
MR. BOUCHER: I was asked yesterday. I didn't yesterday and don't today.
QUESTION: No, but they are offering, or they have offered their help to the Taliban.
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't aware of that. I don't have any particular comment. It would seem very unwise for anybody to offer help to the Taliban at this stage.
QUESTION: Because you've seen -- because since September 11th and perhaps even before, we seem to be dealing with various groups which are not governmental; they are religious-type groups. Is the State Department working with the foreign governments to specifically give a list of maybe complaints or suggestions to religious-type entities, who are possibly fueling some of this rhetoric and lawlessness and demonstrations and so forth?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think the issue is misstated. We know of terrorist groups that try to put themselves in the cloak of religion. But as you see from the Islamic Conference statement, as you see from statements of religious leaders around the world, these activities are against the tenets of all the world's major religions, including Islam.
So in terms of terrorist groups, yes, we deal with foreign governments, and we have talked to them. This whole campaign is about using all the powers of all the governments of the world to crack down on terrorism, to make it hard for them to operate, to get financing, to travel and to carry out their activities.
Thank you. [End]
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