1998 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Statement for the Record

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh 
before the 
Senate Judiciary Committee,

September 3, 1998

Good morning Chairman Hatch and members of the judiciary committee. I
am pleased to be with you this morning as you explore the U.S.
Government's response to international terrorism.

I will focus on three specific areas this morning. First, I'd like to
briefly discuss the threat posed by international terrorist groups.

Second, I will provide an overview of the response to international
terrorism -- focusing both on the countermeasures adopted by the U.S.
Government and the efforts the FBI has implemented to respond to the
terrorist threat.

Finally, I will discuss aspects of the government's counter terrorism
efforts that can be strengthened in response to the continually
evolving international terrorist threat we face.

The threat of international terrorism directed at American nationals
and U.S. National interests is following a general pattern we've
identified in terrorist activity worldwide. Although the number of
attacks directed at American interests remains comparatively low, the
trend toward more large-scale incidents designed for maximum
destruction, terror, and media impact actually places an increasing
proportion of our population at risk. As you are aware, and as the
bombing of the world trade center in February 1993, Khobar Towers in
1996, and the recent tragedies in East Africa demonstrate, this threat
confronts Americans both here and abroad. America's democratic
tradition and global presence make Americans a fast, and often
all-too-easy, target for opportunists who are willing to shed the
blood of innocents for their causes.

For many of us in this room, the threat of international terrorism was
literally brought home by the bombing of the world trade center on
February 26, 1993. Although the plotters failed in their attempt to
topple one of the twin towers onto the other, an outcome which could
have produced thousands of casualties, they succeeded in causing
millions of dollars worth of damage in a blast that killed 6 people
and wounded more than 1,000.

Two years later, a sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subways demonstrated
the wide range of weapons available to contemporary terrorists. This
attack resulted in the deaths of 12 commuters and injured thousands,
including 2 Americans. It also raised the specter of a similar attack
being carried out in the United States.

The November 1997 attack on foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt,
underscores the savagery in which radical terrorists can engage.
Although Americans were not among the victims, there is an indication
that the attack may have been carried out in an attempt to force the
release of convicted terrorist Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman from an
American prison.

Shaykh Rahman was convicted in 1995 for masterminding a planned reign
of terror in New York city. He and his followers had plotted to
assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in New York in 1994. The
group also plotted to bomb several New York city landmarks, including
the United Nations building and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels.
Working together in a joint terrorism task force, the FBI and New York
city police department foiled the plot. Ultimately, Shaykh Rahman and
his co-conspirators were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other
federal charges. Had their plot been carried out, it could have been
the most lethal act of terrorism ever to occur on American soil.

As these cases illustrate, the threat of terrorism is real. And as the
trend toward more destructive terrorist plots continues, the threat to
Americans will increase. In fact, the random victimization that
large-scale terrorist attacks produce plays to the insidious strengths
of terrorists. They have learned that widespread and random
victimization yields a greater degree of terror. Today, Americans
engaged in activities as routine as working in an office building or
commuting home during the evening rush hour can become innocent
victims to the aims of international terrorists. Americans traveling
and working overseas, unfortunately, may face heightened risks.


The current international terrorist threat can be divided into three
general categories. Each poses a serious and distinct threat.

The first category, state-sponsored terrorism, violates every
convention of international law. State sponsors of terrorism include
Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, and North Korea. Put simply,
these nations view terrorism as a tool of foreign policy. In recent
years, the terrorist activities of Cuba and North Korea have declined
as their economies have deteriorated. However, the activities of the
other states I mentioned continue, and in some cases, have intensified
during the past several years.

The second category of international terrorist threat is made up of
formalized terrorist organizations. These autonomous, generally
transnational, organizations have their own infrastructures,
personnel, financial arrangements, and training facilities. They are
able to plan and mount terrorist campaigns on an international basis,
and they actively support terrorist activities in the United States.

Extremist groups such as Lebanese Hizballah, the Egyptian Al-Gama'
Al-Islamiyya, and the Palestinian Hamas have supporters inside the
United States who could be used to support an act of terrorism here.
Hizballah ranks among the most menacing of these groups. It has staged
numerous anti-American attacks, including the 1983 truck bombings of
the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon and the
bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex there in 1984. Elements of this
group were also responsible for the kidnapping and detention of U.S.
Hostages in Lebanon throughout the 1980's.

The third category of international terrorist threat stems from
loosely affiliated extremists -- characterized by rogue terrorists
such as Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and international terrorist financier Usama
bin Ladin. These loosely affiliated extremists may pose the most
urgent threat to the United States because groups are often organized
on an ad-hoc, temporary basis, making them difficult for law
enforcement to infiltrate or track. They also can exploit the mobility
that technology and the lack of a rigid organizational structure

The FBI believes that the threat posed by international terrorists in
each of these categories will continue for the foreseeable future. As
attention focuses on Usama bin Ladin in the aftermath of the East
African bombings, I believe it is important to remember that rogue
terrorists such as bin Ladin represent just one type of threat that we
face. It is imperative that we maintain our abilities to counter the
broad range of threats that confronts us.


In the face of these threats, the United States has developed a strong
response to international terrorism. Legislation and executive orders
enacted over the past 15 years to expand the FBI's role in
investigating international terrorism directed at American interests
has strengthened the ability of the U.S. Government to protect its
citizens. For this, Congress and the Executive Branch deserve the
gratitude of the American people. We cannot accurately gauge how many
potential strikes our strong stand against terrorism has discouraged.
We can, however, measure with considerable satisfaction the success we
have had in preventing plots detected in the planning stages and our
success in investigating and prosecuting individuals who have carried
out terrorist activities.

In the 15 years since President Reagan designated the FBI as the lead
agency for countering terrorism in the United States, Congress and the
Executive Branch have taken important steps to enhance the Federal
Government's counter terrorism capabilities. The FBI's counter
terrorism responsibilities were further expanded in 1984 and 1986,
when Congress passed laws permitting the Bureau to exercise Federal
jurisdiction overseas when a U.S. National is murdered, assaulted, or
taken hostage by terrorists, or when certain U.S. interests are
attacked. Since the mid 1980s, the FBI has investigated more than 350
extraterritorial cases. Several ongoing extraterritorial
investigations are currently among the FBI's most high profile cases,
including our investigation into the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in
Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen, and the August 7, 1998,
bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 12

More recently, the Anti-Terrorism and Intelligence Authorization Acts
and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 have
broadened the FBI's ability to combat international terrorism.

But the threat of international terrorism demands continued vigilance.
Today's terrorists play by a different set of rules than those of
years past. The terrorists of tomorrow will have an even more dizzying
array of weapons and technologies available to them. As I will discuss
in a moment, specific initiatives can help further strengthen our
ability to counter the wide range of terrorist threats we face.

Terrorism is perpetrated by individuals with a strong commitment to
the causes in which they believe. An action in one location can bring
about a reaction somewhere else.

The web-like nature of terrorism underscores the need for vigilance in
counteracting terrorist groups. Unfortunately, American successes can
spur reprisals. As the United States develops a stronger investigative
and prosecutorial response to terrorism, we may witness more attempts
at reprisal both here and abroad.

There are five traditional offensive ways through which the U.S.
Government fights terrorism: diplomacy, sanctions, covert operations,
military options, and law enforcement action. Some of the measures in
place span more than one of these areas. For example, the
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996
includes both diplomatic and law enforcement provisions.


Enactment of the AEDPA will enhance the ability of the U.S. Government
to respond to terrorist threats. As mentioned, this act includes a
wide range of counter terrorism provisions. For example, section 302
of the act authorizes the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the
Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury, to designate as
Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOS) groups that meet certain
specified criteria. This designation means that funds raised in the
United States by FTOS can be blocked by U.S. Financial institutions.

The FBI provided information concerning various organizations to the
State Department to assist it in compiling the list of foreign
terrorist organizations. However, in keeping with the provisions of
the act, the FBI did not make recommendations concerning which groups
should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.

The act provides law enforcement with a potentially powerful tool.
Among other things, it gives us a means to disrupt the ability of
terrorist organizations to fund their destructive activities.

However, it would be overly optimistic to consider this act a panacea
to the problem of international terrorism. Financial investigations
are by their nature personnel-intensive and time-consuming.
Investigations into the financial operations of clandestine
organizations on the shadowy fringes of transnational politics can be
particularly complex. It will take time for the AEDPA to have
significant impact on the 30 groups designated as foreign terrorist
organizations. I encourage the Congress to give the AEDPA time to
work. As with many measures of this type, its most powerful impact may
stem from its deterrent effect. As investigators build successful
cases and prosecutors develop sound prosecutorial strategies to
enforce the provisions of the AEDPA, targeted groups may decide that
fund-raising activities in the United States are not worth the risks.

In a recent test case, the FBI used the new law to disrupt terrorist
operations by seizing assets. On July 23, 1998, the FBI arrested Fawzi
Mustapha Assi, a procurement agent for a foreign terrorist
organization, in Dearborn, Michigan. The FBI and U.S. Customs service
seized $124,000 in sensitive night vision and navigational devices.
Assi was charged with title 18 United States Code (U.S.C.) 2339(b)
(material support to a foreign terrorist organization) title 22 U.S.C.
277(b) (export of materials on the munitions control list), title 50
U.S.C. 1704(b) (International Emergency Economic Powers Act), title 22
(export violation), and title 15 cfr 774 (export violation).


During the past decade, the United States has successfully returned 13
suspected international terrorists to stand trial in the United States
for acts or planned acts of terrorism against U.S. Citizens. (This
figure includes the renditions of two suspects in the August 7, 1998,
bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Mohamed Rashed Daoud
Al-'Owhali and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh.) Based on its policy of treating
terrorists as criminals and applying the rule of law against them, the
United States is one of the most visible and effective forces in
identifying, locating, and apprehending terrorists on American soil
and overseas.

The majority of terrorist renditions engaged in the United States
government have been accomplished with the cooperation of the foreign
government in whose jurisdiction the terrorist suspect was located.
The rendition process is governed by Presidential Decision Directive
(PDD) 77, which sets explicit requirements for initiating this method
for returning terrorists to stand trial in the United States. Despite
these stringent requirements, in recent years, the FBI has
successfully used renditions to bring international terrorists and
criminals to justice in the United States. These include Ramzi Yousef,
mastermind of the world trade center bombing, who was rendered to the
United States from Pakistan on February 7, 1995; Mir Amil Kansi, who
shot and killed two CIA employees in Langley, Virginia, in 1993, and
who was rendered from Afghanistan to the United States on June
17,1997; and Tsutomo Shirosaki, suspected Japanese red army member,
who was rendered to the United States on September 20, 1996, more than
10 years after firing rockets at the U.S. Diplomatic compound in
Jakarta, Indonesia, on May 14, 1986. This last case demonstrates the
FBI's long memory when it comes to terrorist acts committed against
U.S. Interests.


As you are aware, congressional appropriations have helped strengthen
and expand the FBI's counterterrorism capabilities. To enhance its
mission, the FBI centralized many specialized operational and
analytical functions in the domestic counterterrorism center.

Established in 1995, the FBI counterterrorism center combats terrorism
on three fronts: international terrorism operations both within the
United States and in support of extraterritorial investigations,
domestic terrorism operations, and countermeasures relating to both
international and domestic terrorism.

The FBI counterterrorism center represents a new direction in the
FBI's response to terrorism. Eighteen federal agencies maintain a
regular presence in the center and participate in its daily
operations. These agencies include the central intelligence agency,
the defense intelligence agency, and the United States secret service,
among others. This multi-agency arrangement provides an unprecedented
opportunity for information sharing, warning, and real-time
intelligence analysis.


This sense of cooperation also has led to other important changes.
During the past several years, the FBI and CIA have developed a closer
working relationship that has strengthened the ability of each agency
to respond to terrorist threats and has improved the ability of the
U.S. Government to respond to terrorist attacks that do occur.

An element of this cooperation is an ongoing exchange of personnel
between the two agencies. Included among the CIA employees detailed to
the FBI's national security division is a veteran CIA case officer who
serves as the deputy section chief for international terrorism.
Likewise, FBI agents are detailed to the CIA, and several serve in
comparable positions.

To further enhance operational cooperation, the FBI and CIA also hold
joint counter terrorism training conferences. To date, four regional
conferences have been held, and additional conferences are being


Because warning is critical to the prevention of terrorist acts, the
FBI also has expanded the terrorist threat warning system first
implemented in 1989. The system now reaches all aspects of the law
enforcement and intelligence communities. Currently, more than 45
federal agencies involved in the U.S. Government's counter terrorism
effort receive information via secure teletype through this system.
The messages also are transmitted to all 56 FBI field offices and 32
foreign liaison posts.

If threat information requires nationwide unclassified dissemination
to all federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the FBI
transmits messages via the national law enforcement telecommunications
system. In addition, the FBI disseminates threat information to
security managers of thousands of U.S. Commercial interests around the
country through the awareness of national security issues and response
(ANSIR) program. To date, the FBI has disseminated eight separate
information cables via the terrorist threat warning system, NLETS, and
ANSIR concerning the bombings in East Africa and related events. These
communications have helped keep the nation's law enforcement and
security officials informed of the latest developments relating to
potential threats to our nation's security.


The FBI's counter terrorism capabilities also have been enhanced by
the expansion of our legal attache -- or LEGAT offices -- around the
world. These small offices can have a significant impact on the FBI's
ability to track terrorist threats and bring investigative resources
to bear on cases where quick response is critical. As I've mentioned,
the FBI currently has 32 such LEGAT offices. Many of these have opened
within the past 3 years in areas of the world where identifiable
threats to our national interests exist. We cannot escape the
disquieting reality that in the late 20th Century, crime and terrorism
are carried out on an international scale. The law enforcement
response must match the threat. By expanding our first line of
defense, we improve the ability of the United States to prevent
attacks and respond quickly to those that do occur. Given the nature
of the evolving terrorist threat and the destructive capabilities now
available to terrorists, the American people deserve nothing less.

The value of this "forward deployment" of FBI investigative resources
was recently demonstrated in the immediate aftermath of the U.S.
Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. FBI agents from the
Pretoria, South Africa, LEGAT were able to quickly deploy to Nairobi
and establish an almost immediate FBI presence there that greatly
enhanced the initial stages of the investigation. Likewise, an FBI
agent from the Cairo, Egypt, LEGAT was the first U.S. Law enforcement
official on the scene in Dar es Salaam. Responding LEGAT personnel
quickly established a cooperative working relationship with police
authorities and assisted in establishing logistical support for the
FBI evidence response teams and other investigative personnel that
subsequently arrived at both locations.

Terrorism is increasingly an indiscriminate crime. Those who bombed
the U.S. Embassies in East Africa exhibited little concern about who
their victims would be. Their primary interest seemed simply to ensure
a high number of casualties. Likewise, Ramzi Yousef and his
co-conspirators in the 1993 world trade center bombing gave little
thought to their potential victims. Again, the nature of the attacks
indicate that the primary goal was to cause as much destruction and as
many casualties as possible.

How does a free society respond to such threats? that is a question
that the Congress has addressed in years past and undoubtedly will
continue to confront for years to come. During the past five years,
the United States has made great strides in strengthening its counter
terrorism capabilities. But, there is more to be done.


Would like to close by talking briefly about steps we can take to
further strengthen our abilities to prevent and investigate terrorist


One of the most important of these steps involves the FBI's encryption
initiative. Communication is central to any collaborative effort --
including criminal conspiracies. Like most criminals, terrorists are
naturally reluctant to put the details of their plots down on paper.
Thus, they generally depend on oral or electronic communication to
formulate the details of their terrorist activities.

For this reason, the law enforcement community is very concerned about
the serious threat posed by the proliferation of encryption
technology. Current standards do not allow for law enforcement access
or the timely decryption of critical evidence obtained through lawful
electronic surveillance or search and seizures.

The FBI supports a balanced encryption policy that satisfies fourth
amendment concerns for privacy, the commercial needs of industry for
robust encryption, and the government's public safety and national
security needs.

The encryption capabilities available to criminals and terrorists
today effectively thwart the ability of law enforcement agencies to
implement the court-ordered surveillance techniques that have helped
put some of the nation's most dangerous offenders behind bars. Whether
a state police department is racing the clock to find a kidnapped
child or the FBI is attempting to track and prevent the destructive
ambitions of an international terrorist group, the need for timely
access to legally obtained electronic surveillance cannot be


Another area of vital interest to the FBI is the proliferation of
chemical, biological, and nuclear materials within the criminal and
terrorist communities. These weapons of mass destruction represent
perhaps the most serious potential threat facing the United States
today. In response to this threat, the FBI has significantly expanded
its investigative capabilities in this area.

Prior to the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings, the FBI
had dedicated a very small staff to investigations of WMD terrorism.
Those two investigations, which required thousands of FBI agent and
support personnel, prompted the attorney general to authorize an
increase in the number of field agents dedicated to the WMD program by
175. To coordinate the activities of these personnel, the FBI has
created two WMD units at FBI headquarters. one unit addresses
operations, cases, and threats, which have tripled in 1997 over 1996
figures -- in 1997, the FBI investigated over 100 WMD cases. The other
unit implements our countermeasures program, which coordinates
exercises, deployments, and the first responder training initiative.

A successful WMD terrorist attack could prove catastrophic, and would
require a unified response from various agencies at the federal,
state, and local levels. To improve response capabilities on a
national scale, the FBI is working closely with five other federal
agencies -- the Department of Defense, the Department of Eenergy, the
Public Health Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the
Federal Emergency Management Agency -- that make up the nucleus of the
response to WMD incidents. The FBI also maintains extensive liaison
with members of the intelligence community, including the CIA, the
national security agency, and others involved in WMD and counter
proliferation matters.


Cooperation among law enforcement agencies at all levels represents an
important component of a comprehensive response to terrorism. This
cooperation assumes its most tangible operational form in the joint
terrorism task forces that exist in 16 cities across the nation. These
task forces are particularly well-suited to responding to
international terrorism because they combine the international
investigative resources of the FBI with the street-level expertise of
local law enforcement agencies. This cop-to-cop cooperation has proven
highly successful in preventing several potential terrorist attacks.
Perhaps the most notable cases have come from New York city, where the
city's joint terrorism task force has been instrumental in thwarting
two high-profile international terrorism plots -- the series of
bombings planned by Shaykh Rahman in 1993 and the July 1997 attempted
bombing of the New York city subway.

Not only were these plots prevented, but today, the conspirators who
planned them sit in federal prisons thanks, in large part, to the
comprehensive investigative work performed by the joint terrorism task

Given the success of the joint terrorism task force concept, the FBI
plans to develop additional task forces in cities around the country.
By integrating the investigative abilities of the FBI and local law
enforcement agencies these task forces represent an effective response
to the threats posed to individual American communities by
international terrorists.


Likewise, the expansion of the number of FBI LEGATS around the world
has enhanced the ability of the FBI to prevent, respond to, and
investigate terrorist acts committed by international terrorists
against U.S. Interests worldwide. As evidenced by developments in the
embassy bombing cases in East Africa, the ability to bring
investigative resources to bear quickly in the aftermath of a
terrorist act can have significant impact on our ability to identify
those responsible. I encourage Congress to support our efforts to
counter the international terrorist threat by continuing to support
expansion of our LEGAT program.


To adequately understand the international terrorist threat currently
facing the United States, we must appreciate the unique position
America occupies in the world today. As the sole super power, the
policies of the United States are viewed with intense interest by
nations and individuals around the world. To individuals and groups
who feel powerless to effect their own destinies through legal means,
the breadth of influence and power wielded by the United States
represents a stunning contrast -- and an attractive target for their

The FBI has developed a broad-based response to the many external
threats that confront the United States today. Due to the measures
I've discussed and several other initiatives, we are much better
prepared to address the international terrorist threat than we were
just a few years ago. But as the bombings of our embassies in Nairobi
and Dar es Salaam demonstrate with brutal clarity, the United States
confronts determined and very capable enemies who will resort to
terrorism against innocent victims to achieve their goals. The United
States must continue to move toward strengthening its capabilities to
confront this threat. The FBI welcomes the commitment of the Judiciary
Committee to this objective and looks forward to cooperating with it
to further enhance our response to international terrorism.

(End text)