INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM (Senate - March 15, 1989)

[Page: S2538]

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, there was a very significant conviction yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that ought to be noted--the conviction of Fawaz Yunis. This is a rare occurrence when we can take pride in an accomplishment in our battle against terrorism.

I suggest, Mr. President, that compliments are in order to the FBI, CIA, the Department of Justice, and, yes, even to the Congress of the United States, because as a result of joint action on legislation passed by the Congress in 1984 and investigative action taken by our law enforcement agencies, we have brought to justice an international terrorist with a new innovative approach: by arresting that terrorist outside of the United States, bringing him to the United States, and trying him and convicting him in this country.

Mr. President, the event starts on June 11, 1985, when five heavily armed men, one of whom was Fawaz Yunis, seized a Royal Jordanian airliner in Beirut. There was a turbulent international drama which then unfolded. There were violations of law, because the terrorists severely beat Jordanian sky marshals on board and threatened to kill hostages, one by one, unless their demands were met. After two unsuccessful flights over Tunis, the terrorists returned to Beirut, released the hostages, blew up the plane and escaped.

Aboard that plane, Mr. President, were U.S. citizens. This fact gave our Government jurisdiction over this case under legislation passed in 1984 making air piracy and the taking of hostages a violation of U.S. law. That law was expanded in 1986 to cover instances in which an American citizen is attacked anywhere in the world.

Mr. President, I believe that we ought to expand our use of this long-arm jurisdiction. We have put international terrorists on notice firmly that the United States is prepared to act, even if it involves ferreting out terrorists anywhere in the world, as was this defendant.

Mr. President, at this juncture, I believe we have to look to the next step. The next step, I suggest, is to pursue the sense of the Congress in 1986 legislation to establish an international court to deal with terrorists.

The Congress reiterated this general theme in 1988 in the drug bill by expressing the congressional sense that the President should explore the possibility of having an international court to deal with drug dealers as well.

Mr. President, before coming to the floor, I was attending the hearings in the Foreign Operations Subcommittee where Secretary of State James Baker is testifying. Upon the conclusion of these brief remarks I intend to go back to that subcommittee to raise a related issue and that is the issue of the participation by the PLO on Mideast peace talks.

I noted yesterday that Secretary Baker had commented before a House subcommittee that it was the hope of the United States that there would be negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians without the PLO. But if the talks between Palestinians and Israelis did not become fruitful, then perhaps the PLO would have to be admitted.

Mr. President, I believe if that is United States policy it is just an open invitation for the PLO to terrorize any prospective Palestinian representatives to make sure that there will be no meaningful talks between other Palestinians and Israel.

Earlier this year, Mayor Freij in Bethlehem made a very unique peace proposal and was intimidated by a direct threat from Yasser Arafat.

I can speak to that with firsthand knowledge because I had occasion to meet with Mayor Freij on January 12 of this year and heard with my own ears the threats that intimidated him to withdraw his peace proposal.

So on an occasion when we can note with some pride an accomplishment of the use of a new international legal device, long-arm jurisdiction, to bring Fawaz Yunis into the United States for acts of terrorism against U.S. citizens abroad, let us renew our efforts by moving toward an international court. Also, we must maintain our efforts by not dealing with terrorists like the PLO, for to do so permits such terrorists to shoot their way into international negotiations.

Mr. President, that is obviously a complicated subject and I thought it important to take these minutes today so that there may be some greater understanding of what we accomplished with that conviction yesterday. The conviction should give us renewed determination to move ahead and courage not to deal with terrorists even if the route to peace may be somewhat longer.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that my prepared statement on this subject be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the statement was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Mr. President, I take this opportunity to call the attention of my colleagues an important development in the battle against international terrorism. Yesterday, a federal jury in the District of Columbia convicted Fawaz Yunis of participating in the 1985 highjacking of a Jordanian airliner in Beirut. The conviction of Fawaz Yunis sends an important message to terrorists around the world about this country's determination to root our and punish terrorist acts against Americans, wherever committed.

This conviction is the culmination of a story of terror that began over 3 1/2 years ago. On June 11, 1985, five heavily armed men, one of whom was Fawaz Yunis, seized a Royal Jordanian Airlines jet in Beirut. The terrorists hijacked the jet for a 30-hour journey to Cyprus, Tunisia, and Sicily before returning to Lebanon. More than 50 passengers, including at least 2 American citizens, were aboard the plane throughout this ordeal.

During the hijacking, the terrorists severely beat Jordanian sky marshals on board and threatened to kill hostages one by one unless their demands were met. After two unsuccessful flights over Tunis, the terrorists returned to Beirut, released the hostages, blew up the plane and escaped.

Two years later, however, Fawaz Yunis was brought to justice. An elaborate undercover operation executed by a team of U.S. law enforcement agents lured Yunis onto a yacht moored in international waters off the coast of Cyprus. Yunis believed he was to take part in a drug deal aboard the luxury yacht, but instead found himself in U.S. custody. Yunis confessed to the crime and was brought to the United States for trial. Now he stands convicted of hostage taking, air piracy and conspiracy, and faces a maximum term of life imprisonment at his sentencing next month. The fact that the defendant was acquitted of three lesser counts does not diminish the impressive accomplishment of the federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents in this case.

Mr. President, the Fawaz Yunis case has significant ramifications for our ongoing efforts to thwart terrorism. The Yunis case sets an important precedent for the United States to bring international terrorists within the purview of American justice. Fortunately, there is now a full statutory arsenal with which to pursue this goal. The 99th Congress passed the Terrorist Prosecution Act, a law extending the reach of American criminal jurisdiction to extraterritorial acts of violence against American nationals (Pub. L. 99-399, tit. XII, codified at 18 U.S.C. 2331). Because of the ex post facto clause of the Constitution, Fawaz Yunis could not be prosecuted for his 1985 terrorist acts under this 1986 criminal statute; instead he was charged with hostage taking (18 U.S.C. 1203), air piracy (49 U.S.C. App. 1472), conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 371) and other crimes. Nonetheless, there is now a more complete set of criminal statutes designed to safeguard Americans overseas by deterring those who would contemplate violence against American nationals.

There is another important lesson to be learned from the Yunis case. The time is ripe for the United States to enter into multilateral treaty negotiations to define terrorism as an international crime and to establish an international forum in which such offenses may be prosecuted.

In 1986, the Congress adopted an amendment to the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorist Act calling on the President to pursue negotiations to establish an international court to try terrorists. Section 4108 of the Omnibus Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 calls on the President to pursue negotiations to establish an international court with jurisdiction over international drug trafficking and other violations of international criminal law.

I applaud the daring law enforcement effort to bring Fawaz Yunis into an American courtroom, but the effort to bring such outlaws to justice must be institutionalized. My discussions with a variety of foreign leaders persuades me that the civilized international community is prepared to speak with one voice to condemn terrorism. The creation of an international criminal court with jurisdiction over terrorism, hijacking, crimes against humanity and international drug trafficking would be an eloquent expression of that condemnation.

For today, I salute the excellent work of the law enforcement agents and Federal prosecutors whose diligent efforts resulted in this well deserved conviction of Fawaz Yunis. For tomorrow, I pledge to continue my efforts to bring the force of international law to bear upon the scourge of international terrorism.

[Page: S2539]

Mr. STEVENS. Mr. President, I am pleased that the Senator from Washington has presented his statement. As a Senator from a timber-producing State dealing with great problems of our national forests I welcome his very thoughtful statement.

I remember so well that a former Senator from Washington, Senator Scoop Jackson, labored long and hard trying to find a similar solution with in the days of the debates over the Alaska lands bill. We tried to find a way to assure that there would be a base to perpetuate the timber industry of southeastern Alaska and actually wrote into the law a guarantee of 4.5 billion board feet of timber from the areas not set aside for wilderness in the Alaska Lands Act so that our timber community would know and have some certainty, on a long-term basis, as to the availability of timber.

Unfortunately, as the Senator knows and the Senator knows, we are once again locked in controversy over those who demand that some of the timber that is absolutely necessary in order to assure the compliance with the existing law, as to the availability of 4.5 billion board feet over a 10-year period, now be set aside for wilderness or other uses to the extent of forbidding timber harvest in a portion of the forest that we thought would be available.

I think it is time, Mr. President, as the Senator from Washington has indicated, for us to take action which permanently designates portions of the national forests as being available for timber production. After all, that is what the forests were originally set aside for, was to guarantee that from public lands, the national forests, there would be an assured supply of timber which would be a yardstick to measure the efficiency and the management practices of the industry that uses private lands throughout the United States. Slowly but surely that yardstick is being cut down so it is not about a foot long rather than a yardstick, Mr. President. We just do not have the timber available now to provide the measurement under Federal practices of the procedures and practices of the industry and private lands.

I think the Senator from Washington has made in excellent statement. I look forward to working with him and ask that he include me in those negotiations. I would very much like to be part of them.

Mr. GORTON. I thank my distinguished colleague.