The White House Briefing Room

August 13, 1998


                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                           August 13, 1998     

                         PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                          MIKE MCCURRY AND   
                        COLONEL P.J. CROWLEY
                        The Briefing Room    			     

2:12 P.M. EDT
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Since, as you'll quickly see, I have 
nothing on anything, P.J. -- Colonel Crowley, who, in my absence the 
last week, I think has done a masterful job in talking about the 
events in East Africa -- he went out to Andrews with the President 
today, and if anyone wants to start at that point, Colonel Crowley is 
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I think, just to show you how I can 
date myself, I feel like Arnold Zanker (sp) about to give the podium 
back to Walter Cronkite after the -- how many years ago was that?  A 
few.  (Laughter.)
	     Q	  Who's Walter Cronkite?  (Laughter.)		     
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Touche.
	     Q	  That was 1967.
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  We were all younger.
	     Q	  The President of the local --
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Very good.  
	     You, of course, were observing the very moving tribute 
to the 12 Americans, 10 of whom came home this morning out at Andrews 
Air Force Base.  For about an hour prior to the ceremony the 
President and First Lady met with the families in an area adjacent to 
the ceremony site.  They were escorted through the room -- each 
family was situated at a separate table -- by Under Secretary Tom 
Pickering who was kind of overseeing the support that the State 
Department and the other agencies have provided to the families as 
they've either come to Washington or returning to the United States.  

	     The President and the First Lady spent about five 
minutes or so -- some families were a little larger, some smaller -- 
with each.  I think you could feel in the room a tremendous sense of 
loss, of course, but also an enormous sense of pride that these 
families had in the service that their sons or daughters, husbands or 
wives, sisters or brothers performed in service of the country.
	     During the course of the hour, Secretary Cohen, 
Secretary Albright, after she landed with the C-17 -- also Secretary 
Shalala and Surgeon General Satcher also were in and out moving and 
greeting the families as well.

	     A couple of things that struck the President -- I think 
each of the families, in way or another, had a history of service to 
the country.  Many had served in the military or other ways of 
serving the country.  So I think in a sense they understood the 

dedication that these people manifested and also the risks that were 
involved in the career choices that they had made.
	     The President afterwards, on the helicopter back, said 
how fortunate we are as a country to have people like this serving in 
the foreign service or serving in the military.  And I think he was 
also struck by the strength of the families.  They obviously had 
enormous pride in the accomplishments of their loved ones even 
through the loss that they are suffering.  There were many smiles in 
the room.  They were telling the President stories and the First Lady 
stories that brought these great Americans alive for the benefit of 
the First Family.  
	     And a couple of families had some just practical 
requests of the President that the staff is already working just in 
terms of how they are coping with the immediate aftermath of this 
tragedy.  One family, for example, who has a nephew in the service 
wanted to be sure that the nephew would be able to return home in 
time for a funeral.  So that gives you a sense of the ceremony that 
you saw, or of the family meeting beforehand.  But I think the 
President was struck by the extraordinary strength that these 
families have manifested throughout this tragedy.
	     Q	  P.J., did any of the families express concerns that 
security had not been up to standard at the embassy in Nairobi? 
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  The President specifically -- we asked 
him that afterwards, and he said no.
	     Q	  P.J., can you say -- can you give us some idea of 
how high a priority it has been for the administration to push for 
funding for security improvements?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I think as we explained yesterday, 
this will be a high priority.  The President gave clear instructions 
to the State Department and OMB to come back with a prioritized list 
of additional security measures that can be taken at various 
embassies around the world.  And we expect that list in a couple of 
days, and we would expect to consult with Congress about an emergency 

	     Q	  I know it's something that you're concerned about 
now.  The real question is, what about before the embassy attacks?  
And obviously, it's been 13 years since an attack; is it something 
that both the administration and Congress just didn't seem to be 
quite that concerned about? 

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Jim, actually quite the opposite.  
There was a detailed briefing last evening at the State Department 
which clearly showed the priority that we have placed on security at 
our embassies around the world.  This was an embassy, for example, in 
Nairobi, that had undergone a series of security reviews.  In each 
case, once there was a review there were practical implementations 
made that improved the security measurably at the embassy.

	     The one thing that was agreed to by the State Department 
was that this was an embassy that did not meet the Inman standards, 
and it was not something that could be done in the time that 
Ambassador Bushnell surfaced it with the Department.  Hey, she said, 
we need a new building; the Department agreed.  But it would have 
been four years at a minimum before we could have reconstruction at 
Nairobi, so that would not have changed the outcome.
	     Q	  You acknowledged yesterday there was a shortfall of 
funds.  What I'm trying to get a sense of is whether or not you think 
that is because Congress has not been sensitive enough to this, or 
that the administration perhaps, having had 13 years of no attacks, 
wasn't quite as concerned about it.  I mean, why have we had a 
shortfall for what you think -- where you should have had more money?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I don't think that there is an 
ambassador or a commander or anyone who would say I'm always going to 
have everything that I need.  These requirements have been clearly 
identified.  The State Department is working through these 
requirements in a systematic way, making measurable security 
improvements as the process goes along.  But as was explained 
yesterday at the State Department, there's a great deal of 
competition around the world for new construction, for example.  
That's something that is prioritized at the State Department based on 
the construction needs around the world -- for example, if there's a 
new country that pops up, there's a new embassy requirement.  If a 
country decides to move a capital, then there's a construction 
requirement there as well.
	     They had made a prudent judgment based on their risk 
evaluation of this embassy that, relative to other posts, this was 
not as high a priority as other locations for new construction.
	     Q	  Is it clear, P.J., why -- the Ambassador seemed to 
feel fairly strongly about the risk.  Is it clear why the Secretary 
of State, even if it wouldn't have changed the outcome now, why the 
decision wasn't made to either ask for funds to go ahead with a new 
embassy or --
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I think what was clear from the 
briefing you received yesterday at the State Department was that 
every time there was a security issue raised at that embassy, just as 
there are in others, reviews were undertaken and measurable 
improvements were made.  The one thing that could not be done was the 
construction of a new embassy.
	     Q	  Why couldn't -- because there were no funds for it?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  It's a management of risk that is 
reviewed by a board over at the State Department, and they set the 
construction priorities overseas, based on the funds that were 
	     Q	  How concerned is the President that on two or three 
occasions, Ambassador Bushnell asked for help, and it was ignored?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Wolf, I take exception to that.  Her 
request for assistance was not ignored.  She raised her concerns; 
reviews were done even as earlier as this year; funds were 
appropriated for additional improvements that, it turns out, probably 
were not made at the time of the blast, but had been programmed to be 
done.  So all of the concerns that she raised, all of the concerns, 
likewise, that Central Command raised, were clearly addressed and 
action was being taken.
	     Q	  Some of the critics say the tragedy is it takes a 
tragedy like this to get the administration and Congress to 
appropriate the funds to protect U.S. diplomats abroad.

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Wolf, security has been a clear 
priority for the State Department, for the administration.  As we've 
seen that terrorism has been an emerging threat for us in the last 
decade or so, both the State Department, Defense Department, all 
agencies that have employees serving overseas have taken measurable 
steps to improve security.  In fact, the Defense Department said a 
couple of days ago that actually instances of threats against 
Americans and attacks against Americans have actually been 
diminishing as a result of some of the steps that have been taken to 
improve security around the world. 

	     Q	  Did any of the families complain to the President 
about anything, either the security issues beforehand or the 
treatment and timing of what's happened in the aftermath of the 

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  No.  Not that they expressed to the 

	     Q	  Do you have any developments to report in terms of 
the investigation -- any developments you can report in the 
investigation of the bombing?

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Actually, I think there has been a 
briefing today in Africa by Kenya officials and FBI officials, and I 
will defer to that briefing. 

	     Q	  The reasons why she kept asking for money to 
enhance or beef up security -- were there specific threats against 
this embassy?

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Again, Helen, on the aspect of threats 
and actions taken, other than the systematic reviews that we had done 
at this embassy and others, other warnings that were in the system at 
the time, I think we'll refer to the investigation.
	     Q	  What improvements were planned for the Nairobi 
embassy and why were they held up?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I think I'll defer to the State 
Department on the specifics.  Pat Kennedy gave a detailed briefing on 
that yesterday.  I don't know the specifics.
	     Q	  P.J., on the review that the President has ordered, 
is it strictly applying to embassies?  What I'm saying is, what about 
U.S. installations. worldwide?  Why wouldn't they be at risk?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  To the extent that -- I'll check on 
that.  But it was a direction to the Secretary of State.  I will 
check and see to the extent that there may be some concerns within 
Defense Department or other agencies.  Absolutely, if there are needs 
that need to be met around the world, we'll do it.
	     Q	  P.J., there were reports this morning that the 
President's going to ask Congress for a billion dollars, 
approximately, for work on embassies.  Is that accurate?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I think there's no final figure until 
we receive a report back from the State Department and OMB in terms 
of what they think the priorities are.
	     Q	  Did Clinton have any reaction after he met with the 
families other than what he said in his public remarks? 
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I mean, he was clearly struck, he was 
clearly moved by the event and by both the distinguished service that 
is obvious when you read the bios of these 12 Americans.  But also, 
you could see palpably in the room how the families that have so well 
supported these great Americans -- you could feel that, you could see 
that in the way that they reacted when the President and First Lady 
came over to them.  The mood started out, it was a very solid group 
of people, very proud of what their loved ones have accomplished.  I 
think it became a little more poignant towards the tail end of the 
reception as they realized that the plane had landed with their loved 
ones on board.  But it's what you would expect on an occasion like 
this -- pride, sorrow, joy, sadness all mixed in, and the First 
Family felt that the same way.
	     Q	  P.J., in that connection, did you notice any tears 
in the President's eyes during this meeting?

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  You could tell he and the First Lady 
were both deeply moved.  They spent a lot of time with each 
individual family member.  In particular, the President spent a lot 
of time -- two or three of the families had very young children, bent 
down a couple of times to talk to the young children and make sure 
that they were taken care of during the course of the event.

	     Again, what he said on the helicopter was how lucky we 
are to have both these Americans who have served us so well and the 
families who are so strong and have supported them so well. 

	     Q	  P.J., is there a sense that there is a new threat 
environment now as a result of these two attacks?  I mean, we're 
looking for a lot of extra money to do medium- and short-term 
security improvements, things that you might have pursued before 
these attacks.  So is there a sense that you have a new level of 
threat that you must now respond to? 

	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Jim, I think if you look back to the 
start of the administration, the President has been at the forefront 
in this post-Cold War environment of viewing where the new threats 
were going to come from, both from terrorism, from cyber-terrorism, 
from counternarcotics, from international crime -- that's something 
that he spoke about back in May.  So this has been something that we 
have -- we have seen attacks on Americans growing through the years.  
We have anticipated in the post-Cold War environment that this would 
be something that we'd be confronting more and more.  We've taken 
concrete steps to both improve security, improve the way the federal 
government anticipates these kinds of threats, combats terrorism in  
improved cooperation with our allies and partners around the world; 
have reorganized the government and reorganized the office of the 
President to be able to respond more aggressively to these kinds of 
emerging threats.

	     So this has been something that I don't think we're 
surprised -- regrettably, we're not surprised by what has happened, 
but it is clearly something we anticipate as being the emergent 
threat for today and one we'll face into the next century.
	     Q	  But you're asking for additional emergency money 
now that you didn't ask for a month ago, so clearly, something has 
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Well, clearly, we had a very 
coordinated bombing against two embassies last Friday.  We are 
assessing the implications of that, and to the extent that there are 
specific steps we can take in light of that, we're prepared to take 
	     Q	  Did either the President or the family members 
mention in any way the possibility of retaliation or the desirability 
of that?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I think the President, as did the 
Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, spoke clearly about 
our determination to see that the perpetrators of this crime see 
	     Q	  P.J., any progress in finding those responsible?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  The investigation, Wolf, continues.
	     Q	  P.J., is there anything on Iraq?  What's the U.S. 
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Before we leave this, you guys gave me 
a little bit of homework yesterday to follow up on.  There were 
questions yesterday about the United States policy towards 
assassinations.  I want to report back that Executive Order 12333 
prohibits assassination by the United States government.  It states, 
quote -- that's true of spokesmen as well as other government 
officials -- (laughter) -- "no person employed by or acting on behalf 
of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage 
in assassination."  And while we repeat our objective to bring the 
perpetrators of these terrorist attacks to justice, I'm not aware of 
any plans to change this directive.
	     Q	  Well, that was the question, P.J.  We knew the 
policy.  The question was whether the President thought a new law or 
change of policy might now be necessary.
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  We contemplate no change in that 
	     Q	  What year was that executive order?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  It was 1974.
	     Q	  So that would have been Ford?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Ford.  


	     Q	  Before you leave, along the lines of the 
assassination report you gave us, is there a presidential executive 
order or directive on the subject of extraterritorial arrests that 
you might be in a position to share with us?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  On that issue, I think I'd probably 
refer you to Justice on exactly -- we have extradition treaties with 
a number of countries, and that is you work through law enforcement 
	     Q	  There is a policy in place now which allows that as 
far as our government is concerned.
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  Again, I defer to Justice on those 
kinds of legal questions.
	     Q	  P.J., on that executive order, would that also bar 
action like shooting up a terrorist's safe house or dropping a bomb 
on a terrorist's home?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  I don't think it's appropriate to get 
into a legal seminar here.  There's a very clear declaration of 
policy there in that statement and we have no plans to change it.
	     Q	  What does that definition mean?
	     COLONEL CROWLEY:  It says we do not engage in 
assassination, period.
	     Q	  Does it define assassination -- so that's up to an 
	     Q	  The killing of somebody without the color of law.

	     MR. MCCURRY:  I think President Clinton has participated 
both at Dover, and I believe at Andrews as well, and, unfortunately, 
has had too many occasions like that to celebrate.

	     Let me underscore two things that P.J. said first.  The 
briefing that Assistant Secretary for State for Administration 
Patrick Kennedy gave last night at the State Department, which was 
both informative and heartfelt, covered a lot of the same questions 
that you've posed.  So if you have not seen that transcript from 
State Department, you should get that.  

	     The second point I would make is for six years this 
administration has been trying to make clear the case both to 
Congress and the American people that we don't spend all that it 
takes to assert America's presence overseas in the way sometimes we 
would like.  The Function 150 account in our federal government 
represents something like 1 percent of what we spend as a government.  
If you ask most Americans, they think it's much higher than that.

	     And one of the arguments we've made is that chiefs of 
mission, as they try to carry out the work of U.S. diplomacy and 
foreign policy abroad, have to balance out risk assessment with 
performance of mission.  And sometimes it requires difficult choices 
when resources are scarce.  I think this is another argument that to 
do what we expect of the United States of America in the world 
requires the kind of support and funding that this administration has 

	     Q	  But, Mike, you're saying you believe the 
administration pushed as hard as it should have or -- 

	     MR. MCCURRY:  I know that we have pushed very, very hard 
over the last six years to get the kind of funding for the U.S. 
presence overseas that this administration believes is warranted in 
the post-Cold War era.  And from that account comes the resources 
that are available to an ambassador both to protect the mission, but 
also to perform the mission, to carry out the kind of work that these 
brave U.S. personnel carried out and that others every day carry out.

	     Q	  But on the matter of U.S. embassies abroad and 
construction and security, hasn't Congress increased the funding over 
what the administration asked for? 

	     MR. MCCURRY:  There have been some increases if you look 
at specific programs.  And remember, too, that the military has done 
some assessments, particularly in the wake of the Khobar bombings, on 
other U.S. installations.  So there's different pots of money for 
different types of programs.  But it generally comes out of the 150 
account, which is the account that we use to support our overseas 
presence, and as this administration has argued, has been 
under-funded given the challenges that we face. 

	     Q	  Mike, are you saying Congress shares the blame here 
for what happened?

	     MR. MCCURRY:  No, this is not a question of blame; it's 
a question of making a positive case for support for the kind of work 
these diplomats were doing and hundreds of thousands of other 
diplomats do around the world every single day.  And to acknowledge 
that when you have scarce resources, you have to set priorities -- 
and Pat Kennedy described very clearly last night that the question 
of a new embassy in Nairobi ranked less in priority than others.  And 
I think in a very heartfelt way, he said that choice -- in hindsight, 
of course -- is a tragic one, but it's the reality of what American 
administrations have been doing for quite some time now.
	     Q	  Mike, can I just follow up on that one point --

	     Q	  Getting back to the security of U.S. embassies 
abroad, since it's a matter of money, limited number of dollars 
available, that you have to go through priorities -- 

	     MR. MCCURRY:  And an assessment of the threat and 
reassessments of the threats when you have tragedies like the ones 
that have been experienced. 

	     Q	  Would the President be willing to make an exception 
of the budget surplus for Social Security in order to protect the 
U.S. embassies abroad?

	     MR. MCCURRY:  Requests for emergency funding by the 
Budget Act fall outside the calculations that are made for long-term 
surpluses -- I think is right.  When you make an emergency 
supplemental request, it doesn't count against what the overall 
numbers are.  For exactly that reason -- if you need to do it, you 
don't have to calculate it as part of the surplus.

	     Q	  What if the President said, let's just use some of 
the budget surplus to build new embassies?

	     MR. MCCURRY:  The point is you don't have to use "the 
surplus" because emergency supplemental requests are considered 
differently by federal law. 

	     Q	  Do you think the billion-dollar figure is about 
right for the supplemental?

	     MR. MCCURRY:  I don't know. 

	     Q	  Two years ago when Senator Phil Gramm was chairman 
of the appropriations subcommittee that was over the State 
Department, he accused them of building marble palaces, in reference 
to the embassies.  And there was a great deal of hostile rhetoric 
toward the State Department budget at the time.  Can you talk about 
that and the kind of politics that's been involved with the State 

	     MR. MCCURRY:  Well, there have been -- I mean, when 
there has been debate about the State Department budget, it's been 
good that there has at least been a debate.  I think the problem has 
been more one of lack of engagement.  People are not -- you 
frequently here the argument, why are we spending all that money 
overseas?  The answer is because we're doing very important work 
overseas and we need places to do it and those places need to be 
secure and they need to be adequately funded.

	     My point -- the larger debate has been a more 
interesting one, which is that most Americans don't know how much we 
spend overseas.  It's far less than they think.  You ask them, how 
much do you think we spend on our presence overseas, and they say, 
10, 15 percent.  And they think it's too much.  Then they say, well, 
what do you think is about right?  And they say 5 to 7 percent.  And 
then when you tell them it's really only 1 percent, they are usually 
quite surprised by that. 

	     So I think it's a question of helping people understand 
what our commitments are in the world, helping them understand what 
it takes to get the job done, and hopefully doing it in an 
environment where we don't need a tragedy to underscore the reality. 


	     Q	  The request for upgrading the Nairobi embassy was 
made only recently, so there is no indication that if Congress had 
been appropriating the amount of money that the administration says 
it has wanted, that it would have changed this specific situation, is 

	     MR. MCCURRY:  As made clear by Pat Kennedy last night, 


	     THE PRESS:  Thank you.  

             END                          2:58 P.M. EDT