USIS Washington 

17 September 1998


(State Department, congressional experts outline views) (700)

By Ralph Dannheisser

USIA Congressional Correspondent

Washington -- A State Department official and a congressman outlined
the changing face of terrorism before a business group, and warned
that it poses increasing concerns for Americans at home and abroad.

Gordon Gray, director for regional affairs in State's counterterrorism
office and Representative Jim Saxton, a New Jersey Republican, were
among the speakers at a briefing for business leaders September 17
sponsored by Equity International, Inc.

Gray told the group that "the good news is the decline in state
terrorism." But, he quickly added, "the bad news is the same thing --
the decline in state terrorism."

That seeming contradiction comes into play, Gray said, because "the
decline in state sponsorship poses new problems, as we see more and
more loosely knit organizations" like that headed by Saudi Arabian
businessman Usama bin Ladin -- groups that by their nature are harder
to get at. Bin Ladin is thought to have been behind the recent bombing
of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Gray portrayed a mixed picture with respect to terrorist activity.

On the one hand, he said, "last month's bombings at the two U.S.
embassies and in Northern Ireland "painfully reinforce the dangers
posed by terrorists," whose "attacks are becoming far more lethal in
recent years," -- even as the critical infrastructure in our
increasingly sophisticated society "becomes that much more

But at the same time, Gray observed, "There are some positive signs."
For example, he reported, the total number of terrorist incidents in
1996 and 1997 fell to a 25-year low.

"It's important that we not exaggerate what the actual threat is.
That's exactly what terrorists want to do" to intimidate their foes,
he said.

Gray cited four pillars of U.S. policy with respect to terrorism:

-- a strict refusal to grant concessions to terrorists;

-- a determination to apply the rule of law;

-- steps to help friendly countries increase their capabilities to
combat terrorism, and
-- a continuing effort to put pressure on state sponsors of terrorism
as well as the terrorists themselves.

Would-be terrorists must be convinced that "our memories are long, our
capabilities are strong," he said.

Saxton, chairman of the House Task Force on Terrorism and
Unconventional Warfare, told the audience of business executives there
has been a distinct change in the use of terrorism in the decade of
the 1990s.

The United States demonstrated to foes, most notably in the Gulf War,
that "our conventional capability was rather overwhelming," and so
"the same group of nations with the same long term agenda had to find
different ways to carry out and achieve their objectives," he said.

He named Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan and North Korea as
"hotbeds of international terrorist activity."

And, Saxton said, it is "an unfortunate fact of life" that many
terrorist nations "are beginning to avail themselves of technology
that we generally refer to as weapons of mass destruction."

A real threat now exists of attacks on American cities, perhaps using
nuclear devices, he warned. While most Americans outside Washington
have not paid much attention to the threat, it is "something we have
to do for our own survival," he said.

Saxton rejected the notion that bin Ladin is operating independently.
"Bin Ladin is a puppet....He is paid big money to carry out acts of
terrorism by the leaders of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan,
Libya," he declared.

Asked why Pakistan is not on the State Department's list of terrorist
states, he responded, "I can tell you they're on our (the task
force's) list. We believe they're a major sponsoring state. We believe
that they are one of the more dangerous sponsoring states." But the
Department has resisted efforts to classify the country as such, he

Saxton contended that state sponsors of terrorism are spending more
than $500 million a year on "groups like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad"
-- organizations that he said get their funding from drug traffic,
counterfeiting and "contributions from Islamist fundamentalist groups
around the world" in addition to direct government payments.