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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #43, 00-05-12

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


1393

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Friday, May 12, 2000

Briefer: Richard Boucher

DEPARTMENT
1-13	Access to the Department by Members of the Media
1-4,6-7,9-10	Terms and Conditions of Media Access and Escort Policy
4-8,12	FBI Testimony on Foreign Intelligence Agents Posing as Media
9,10-12	Diplomatic Security Assistant Secretary's Testimony Yesterday
ETHIOPIA / ERITREA
13-14	Reports of new Fighting Along the Ethiopia / Eritrea Border
AFRICA / EUROPE
14-15	US Involvement / Concern for Crises in Africa vs Crises in Europe
SIERRA LEONE
15	US Military C-17 Loaded with Ammunition for Jordanian Reinforcements
15	Discussions with Nigeria / Secretary's Conversation with Nigerian
	 President 
16	Jesse Jackson's Role in Diplomatic Efforts
21	Prospects for the Use of US Troops
REGION
23	Passage of the Africa Trade Bill
RUSSIA
16-17	Raid on Media Most Headquarters
17-18	Opening of New US Embassy in Moscow
21	Russian Offer of Assistance with Fires in New Mexico
ISRAEL / WEST BANK AND GAZA
18	State Department Public Announcement on Possibility of Terrorist
	 Attacks 
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
18	Upcoming Presidential Elections
CHINA
19	Upcoming Vote on Permanent Normal Trade Relations For China
21	PRC Statements on National Missile Defense System
SRI LANKA
19	Update on Situation and Violence
PHILIPPINES
20	Arrest of Suspect in I Love You Virus / Possible Extradition
CUBA
21	Elian Gonzalez Case and Status of Visa Requests
INDONESIA
22	Government of Indonesia and Aceh's Armed Independence Group Sign
	 Cease-Fire Agreement in Geneva 
22	Secretary Albright's Upcoming Meeting with Foreign Minister
PAKISTAN
23	Reaction to Honor Killings in Pakistan
GERMANY
23	Status of US Embassy in Berlin

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #43

FRIDAY, MAY 12, 2000, 1:00 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everybody. I'd like to, off the top, talk about two issues: one is a reminder to everybody in the press corps about your building passes, and the second is we'll get back to foreign policy and talk about Ethiopia.

Over the last day or two as we've talked about access to this building, I've seen a number of reports and have a number of questions that indicate that perhaps some in the press corps - I'm sure not everybody - don't understand the terms and conditions of their building passes. And I want to remind everybody here, and even more the people out there in the audience, other people from the press, that your building pass allows you into this building for the sake of convenience so you can work here, but it does not authorize you for access above the second floor. You have your work areas here, you have the cafeteria access, and we've tried to make this possible.

As you all know, we close the door in your face and lock you up on evenings and weekends to this limited space, but during working hours you are allowed to go to the cafeteria. But any appointments, any visits, any discussions, any time you need to go above the second floor, you're supposed to be escorted. And you've all signed a piece of paper when you got your pass that said you understood that, so I find it a little disconcerting to have people on television and elsewhere saying that they are not subject to any restriction.

So let me remind you of those restrictions and tell you - right here and right now - that we do have guards stationed in this building at various points at various times. They check my badge, which I have right there, and they will check your badge. And if you're found above the second floor with a press badge and not an escort, the badge will be taken away from you and you will not get it back. So there's zero tolerance for this, and we do have ways of checking.

So I just need to remind people of that. I think most of you are quite aware of that and do follow the rules, but I wanted to be public about the fact those are the rules and we expect people to follow them.

We recognize, as the Secretary said, our job is diplomacy; our job is to work with you and the foreign press; they're an integral part of what we do and we want them here to be able to work here under safe and secure conditions.

Thank you.

QUESTION: This is not the way it's been going - or this is not the way operations have been for many, many years. So there are lots of questions I could ask about it, but then we'd be here all day and we don't want - neither of us wants to do that.

But if you're invited upstairs to talk to somebody confidentially - I assume officials at State still have the right to speak to reporters if they wished without getting clearance and without surveillance of their conversations and without tape recordings of their conversations - why would a reporter want to reveal to the State Department who he's going to see? And why should he be required to reveal that, any more than when he calls him up on the telephone and talks to him - unless the State Department is tapping our phones, which is my next question.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: It's happened. Kissinger tapped phones. I don't know why. You know, we're getting back to that period of paranoia. I would assume that maybe --

MR. BOUCHER: We're not tapping your phone, Barry, because we imagine it's probably just the same things that you say on the microphone here.

(Laughter.)

MR. BOUCHER: Let's get back to serious stuff here. Look, this building is a secure facility. We have classified information here. People without clearances need to be escorted when they're going to areas that have classified information.

QUESTION: To classified information?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, which is virtually any office in this building, except for most of the first and second floor. That's why you have access to that area. I'm not sure, in fact, if there may even be offices on the first and second floor where there's classified information, but we'll make sure if there are that they're protected, too.

But the issue, Barry, is that we can't have people who don't have security clearances wandering around this building any more. That was the policy for many years.

But I do want to make clear, in response to some of your comments, that you say this is the way - it is not the way things were done. That may be true. There may have been instances when people did not implement the policy. But that's where the rules have been. That's where each of you have signed a piece of paper when you got a badge that said that was the rule that you acknowledged. So if you have not followed the rule, or our offices have not followed the rule, we're going to make sure they do because that's the way the rules have always been.

QUESTION: This sounds like a protest but this is in the context of trying to figure out what you folks are doing, because there is news value in this new arrangement.

MR. BOUCHER: It's not a --

QUESTION: So when somebody has an appointment, a reporter has an appointment upstairs --

MR. BOUCHER: You can talk to you - if you're talking to a confidential source who refuses to be acknowledged, and he wants to talk to you in his office, he can get on the elevator and come downstairs and get you and bring you upstairs.

QUESTION: But they're usually generally busy and, as you know --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, you have to talk to less busy people, Barry. I'm sorry --

QUESTION: No, no.

MR. BOUCHER: You've got to be escorted. They can send somebody with them.

QUESTION: Richard, let's not - please don't make this a frivolous thing. It isn't a frivolous thing. You know and I know, and a lot of people in this room know that, but maybe most of the people who watch this on television, that most solid information, important information here, is not obtained at the briefing, with all due respect. The briefing is a clearinghouse for, you know, the day-to-day stuff, but basically reporters talk to officials - and if they didn't, they shouldn't be reporters.

So I'm saying those officials are often busy people, and they might say, "Why don't you come up Tuesday around 2 o'clock and I think I'll have a little time and I'll see you." So you troop up there at 2 o'clock, and maybe at 2:20 he or she gets free and you talk for a little bit. And this is a confidential conversation. So when a reporter is escorted into a meeting like that, who finds out that he's gone up and seen Official A, B or C? Who is told this? Who is surveilling the reporter?

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, nobody is surveilling you. We may or may not talk to each other; in fact, we usually do. But in the end, if you have an appointment with somebody in this building, that person can escort you; that person can send somebody to escort you. If they make the arrangements to see you, they will make the arrangements to see you in the proper fashion.

Okay? Any cleared employee can escort you up there, so they can ask their secretary to do it or a staff assistant, or they'll find somebody.

QUESTION: Richard, first of all, I'm a little surprised because I didn't see any reports where anyone was saying that they had unlimited access to the building, and I'm a little surprised at the kind of verbal spanking that that was obviously intended to be, at least a public one designed to get the message out to whoever your critics may be on the Hill. And I also find it a little bit disconcerting that as the FBI, not us or anyone else, the FBI and this own building, which is trying to basically place blame for grievous security lapses on one reporter, according to Mr. Carpenter yesterday, who was found wandering around the building. It doesn't make too much sense to me.

Why this little speech?

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, let me be absolutely clear. We're not trying to blame the press corps or any individual reporter for security lapses that we recognize have occurred in this building. Frankly, if you haven't been escorted to your appointments, that is a lapse as much on the part of the people who made the appointments and didn't provide an escort, didn't say, "I'll come down and get you," as it was on your part.

It's just that there has been reporting and questions that I've gotten, but also news reports and articles, that say that press have unrestricted access to this building. That's not true. There are buildings in town, frankly, where their security system is such they protect themselves inside their offices; they let press wander around. There are other buildings where there is no workspace and no entry. We're somewhere in the middle.

I'm just saying I've seen stuff in the reports for the last two days that have indicated that the rules are not well understood, and I wanted to remind you of that. But I am not - in any way - blaming you for the fact that we lost a laptop or one of our conference rooms was bugged or, you know, that we don't necessarily follow our rules as well as we should. And the Secretary is absolutely determined to make sure that the employees of this building, and the cleared employees of this building in particular, follow all the security procedures the way they're supposed to be followed.

QUESTION: Richard, can we start dealing with the substance of this, which is the existence or non-existence of foreign agents among the State Department?

MR. BOUCHER: Do you want to go right - is that part of this subject or should we --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's do that one then, too.

QUESTION: The FBI yesterday said that they did - that there were such foreign intelligence agents, hostile agents. Yesterday, they said that, if there were any, they would already have told the State Department. So, putting those together, you know who they are and how many there are and all about it. So yesterday you said you didn't know.

So can you clarify what you know and what the truth of all this is?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me try. First of all, I want to make clear we do have a very strong working relationship with the FBI on all security matters. We and the FBI regularly exchange information on law enforcement and intelligence issues, but I do have to say that at this time we are not aware of any information that any members of the foreign press are utilizing the media as cover for intelligence activities at the State Department.

QUESTION: What, was this guy just lying or did he misspeak, or what?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we've seen different statements. I can make quite clear we just don't have any information. We haven't been provided such information.

QUESTION: The FBI put out a statement last night saying that this sector chief, or whoever he was who testified to this, was speaking about historical things - which he clearly was not.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm afraid that's a follow-up question for the FBI.

QUESTION: Right, okay. So you're denying that - this FBI agent's testimony.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm just saying we work very closely with the FBI, but we're not aware of any information from them or otherwise that members of the foreign press working here are doing it as a cover for intelligence activities.

The FBI has raised some serious allegations in the testimony, and the Diplomatic Security Service has asked the FBI about this matter, and we'll see if they provide any more information.

QUESTION: Could we get also - could you deal, kindly, with the fact that Albright seemed totally surprised and nonplused? Can you address, as the State Department's Spokesman, the giving of public testimony without - if that's the case - without informing the Secretary of State or members of her staff in advance that she's going to be - her building is going to be accused --

QUESTION: It was the New York Times, though.

QUESTION: Well, the Times may be part of the government or part of the press; I'm not sure. But the question is whether it was appropriate for an FBI official to do that; and, indeed, had she and other people like her not been told in advance.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me say a couple things. I mean, one is that there is a historical context to this that appears in newspapers. We all have, in the past, known TASS correspondents during the days of the Soviet Union who were very well dressed and very knowledgeable of other things as well. And so I'm sure if you look back at the history of expulsions, you'll find some people under journalist cover at that time.

But, you know, at this point we're not aware of any information any foreign members of our press corps are involved in intelligence activities under this media cover. At the same time, I guess there is a system within the Administration, when we're talking about other people's business, we try to coordinate with them. It may not be a perfect system. I don't, frankly, know if this was in the testimony or in the questions and answers. Obviously, when somebody is talking based on their personal knowledge or in the question-and-answer period, it's not something you can necessarily anticipate in advance.

QUESTION: It was part of his testimony.

MR. BOUCHER: So it was part of his testimony. It might have been looked at here, but I think any surprise on the part of the Secretary where she has not been informed because no one here is aware of the existence of intelligence agents using media as cover.

QUESTION: We're saying two things that are very close. It's clear to me what your position is, that you're not aware of any - et cetera.. I'm also asking the subsidiary question whether the FBI told the State Department what it was going to say publicly, and how does the Secretary of State feel, if indeed, you weren't told in advance? Is that the way you operate with your close --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I guess you have two questions here. You have: if there are spies in the State Department press corps, we would expect to be told.

QUESTION: Well, you were yesterday.

MR. BOUCHER: Let me finish my answer first. If there are spies in the State Department press corps, we would expect to be told. We have not been told and, therefore, one would be surprised at such reports.

Second of all, you know, are we surprised that somebody would say this. Well, are we surprised by the fact it was said or by the substance of it? I guess we're more surprised by the substance of it because we're not aware of the existence of this situation.

QUESTION: Richard, I've been coming to this building for 12 years, and have been able to go to appointments above the second floor without any difficulty. At one point, I was told by Mr. Foley that if I'm above the second floor I have to be going to an appointment or returning to the press room from that appointment; I shouldn't be just sort of wandering around, but that there was a sort of, well, if I was caught above the second floor and then I would have to show that, in fact, somebody was expecting me in a room.

Now what you're saying is that even though you have no proof that reporters are involved in espionage, you're changing those rules. And I want to know why you're changing the rules if you have no proof there's anybody involved in espionage.

MR. BOUCHER: I want to make absolutely clear we are not changing the rules.

QUESTION: It's just the enforcement.

MR. BOUCHER: We are - well, if we're changing the enforcement on you, we're changing enforcement on our offices because, as I said, if there is any reporter that hasn't been following the rules every time there's an appointment that's not escorted, then there's an office that hasn't been following the rules. And we'll look into that as well.

QUESTION: But there's no evidence --

MR. BOUCHER: But you all got your building passes under these conditions. You signed a statement saying I understand those are the terms and conditions. If they haven't been followed, then I guess we'll just have to add that to the list of rules that maybe we haven't followed as well as we should have, and make clear the Secretary's determination for all of us who work here - obviously you don't work for her but the rest of us do - is that we do follow the security rules.

And she has said before she is determined to make sure we do, that we become as professional in security as we are in anything else. And we have said, and she has said before, that some of these lapses in security were not the question of the rules; the questions of people not following them well enough. So we may just have another instance here, but the fact is we are determined at this point to follow these rules.

QUESTION: Two questions. You said very carefully twice "foreign press." I presume that you mean the entire press corps, including domestic.

MR. BOUCHER: I think that's a response to the specific allegation. I think I can safely say that we're not aware of any American press that are using this as cover for intelligence activities, either.

QUESTION: Would you comment - this is a little diversion but very close - on the report two days ago concerning the Israeli tapping of White House and Department of State and various other agencies? Are you pursuing that?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any information to substantiate that.

QUESTION: Is the file open still?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't - it's not - first, I don't think the indication was that it would be a file over here, but we don't have anything on that at all. You can check with the FBI. I think that was where they said there might be a case. But I think they've spoken to that as well.

QUESTION: Has there been any further conversation with the FBI about the statement since the statement was made?

MR. BOUCHER: We've been talking to the FBI. We talk to the FBI all the time.

QUESTION: No, no, I mean the specific - they said something. The Secretary seemed surprised. And today you say --

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have anything --

QUESTION: -- we don't even know what this is all about. Were there any conversations on that point in the last 24 hours or so?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: All right, then here's the question. Here's a question. Is the State Department - because there are two schools of thought here. The FBI says it knows something has gone on, and you say it ain't going on as far as we know. So since you're in touch with them, I'm asking the State Department whether they have asked the FBI or been told by the FBI whether the FBI is engaged in any surveillance, such as by wiretapping or eavesdropping - the two being different under the law and the rules are different, but both being of course violations of privacy unless authorized. Are they engaged in any surveillance of reporters, foreign or Americans, at the State Department, as far as you know?

MR. BOUCHER: Barry, that's not a question for us. That's something you'd have to ask them. But I don't - I don't think one could draw that kind of conclusion or suspicion from anything that I have said or that they have said.

QUESTION: I think you could draw from what they have said. If they think there are spies running around here, then they're not defending the country by getting all the information they can about these spies - where their drops are, how their leads are secret code messages to the government of Azerbaijan. I mean, they would want to know this.

There has been wiretapping of reporters in the not-too-distant past, and there is a certain, you know, mental state that a lot of FBI people share with other FBI people. They think there are spies every place. That's their job: to be suspicious. It may not be your job to be suspicious, but it's my job to ask you if they're tapping us and if you know they are.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. On the question if we know if they're tapping you: first of all, I would not draw that kind of conclusion; second of all, that is a question for you to ask them. But if we're not aware of any information that any members of the foreign press are utilizing the media as cover for intelligence activities at the State Department, one would assume that if we had somehow been informed of investigatory tools being used against a foreign journalist at the State Department, that we would not be making that statement.

So I have to conclude from what I'm saying that we don't have any indication of an investigation like that going on or those tools being used.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a couple of questions. First of all, if this wasn't true and the State Department knew it wasn't true yesterday, why didn't David Carpenter say something about it? He was sitting right next to the man who testified that there were these people. It seems a little bit strange that Mr. Carpenter, who would obviously have knowledge of this, wouldn't say right then and there that we don't understand this to be the case or something, as weak or as strong as he felt it needed to be. He said nothing to refute it.

And my second point is that you - sort of back to Matt's point. You absolutely are giving us a verbal spanking, and that's not questionable. And I think that if you had listened to reports, for example, that I made - and I've been told that this is one that has made some people angry - people asked us if it is possible, technically possible, with a press pass to get unrestricted access to the building. The truth is, you can swipe your press pass you and can get to the seventh floor and you can walk out the door. And that is what we were asked; at least, that is what I was asked, and that is what I said.

And you need to make a distinction between saying that we could roam all over the building - which nobody would say and none of us did, I'm sure - or to say that, technically, is there anything stopping you; as in, can you swipe your pass and only get to the second floor. There is a big difference between saying that these passes can get you all over the building, if you maliciously wanted to go try to get all over the building. You could if nobody stopped you. That was the question, and that's different than saying that we are roaming all over the building, that any of us have any intention of doing so, or are doing so. And I don't think anybody in the press would want to say that we are, because we're not, and Mr. Carpenter made that clear, that it wasn't us.

So I find it strange that the sort of wrath about this situation would be turned on us today, which it has been. And also back to the Mr. Carpenter, please.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I don't what information Mr. Carpenter had at the time and whether he felt comfortable in an open hearing giving a definitive answer at that point, at that time. Some of these things, one wants to come back and check carefully before one enunciates something to the world, whether in testimony or not.

I did not try to criticize anyone's specific reports. Yes, it is true that when you come out of the cafeteria you can hop the elevator and go to other parts of this building. There are parts of this building, like the Secretary's office on the seventh floor, or the INR unit where you probably wouldn't get in, I don't think, where your passes won't go through the readers and get you in those doors.

But, yes, you could get to a lot of places in these buildings unescorted where you're not supposed to be. That's why we rely on the integrity of you all and the integrity of our offices to follow the rules. Now, we have had people saying that these rules may not always be enforced. We have people on TV saying I go up and down various places all the time. So I want to remind people what the rules are.

QUESTION: There is a difference between "can you," "can you technically do so," and "do you" or "would you" or "are they."

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you read the transcript of this briefing, you'll find that you can, and that sometimes people have said they do.

QUESTION: So the fact that only one journalist has ever been caught doing anything like that, and we don't even know that it was for nefarious purposes, that's something that needs to be distinguished as well, because we obviously don't.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I just want to make clear that there are people upstairs and guards at various points at various times, and if you're found up there without it, without an escort, we'll take your badge. And I think people ought to know that before we do it to somebody, rather than after. And I'm making that clear.

QUESTION: Richard, more on Mr. Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter yesterday said that if he had his way there wouldn't be any press in this building. What does the Secretary think of that statement, and has she expressed her opinion to Mr. Carpenter? Is there a disagreement here?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not asked her that specific question. I think the Secretary's point to deal with this is the fact that she did ask for a comprehensive review of security. That top-to-bottom review, as it's called, is being conducted by Assistant Secretary Carpenter. The review began in early March. It's an inter-agency panel - FBI, Defense Department, CIA, Secret Service. They recently completed their report, which it is expected to go to the Secretary shortly.

At this point, I'm not going to comment on the findings of the report. But that is the point at which the Secretary will deal with any recommendations across the board on how to improve security in this building.

QUESTION: With respect to what the Secretary said yesterday, it appears to be in direct contradiction to what Mr. Carpenter said. She made it clear that she wanted the press to be in this building; he said he didn't want the press. I mean, there seem to be a blatant disagreement.

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll just leave it that way for now. What the Secretary decides to do on security will come when she reviews the report and its recommendations. You know she's firmly committed to improving security, but she also has made absolutely clear that we want to be able to work with the press in this building, including the foreign press, who need to be here as well to do their job.

QUESTION: What do you suppose she meant when she said let's not go crazy with this stuff? Didn't she mean that sort of Carpentarian notion or authoritarian notion that the government would be better off if the press weren't around? Your papers would be safe; your minds would be less cluttered; you wouldn't be challenged; and you could probably just do whatever you felt like all the time without ever answering to the public. That might be a good approach by a fellow like Carpenter.

But she has spoken in familiar civil libertarian terms. Let's not go crazy with this. People are innocent until - you know, the sort of stuff you shouldn't have to - people shouldn't have to recite every few years. But she did recite them, and then here's a guy working for her who's in charge of the investigation who thinks reporters shouldn't be in the building. How do you put those two things together? Is he working for her, or is he working for the FBI or for some - I don't know what.

MR. BOUCHER: He works for her.

QUESTION: Well, I don't - and you think their views are consistent --

MR. BOUCHER: All right --

QUESTION: -- with each other?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. BOUCHER: You all talk for a while. I'll talk later.

QUESTION: No, no, you finish.

MR. BOUCHER: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Answer. Answer. I guess answer Barry's question.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. Barry, let me try to put this in perspective and not take your characterization as the way we see things. As I think I've mentioned, there are buildings around this town where people work with classified material, and if you ask about the escort policies or the access policies, different people dealing with very classified and sensitive information have different ways of dealing with it. And just as in different parts of this building - where the most sensitive, the most secret material is - we have additional safeguards.

So some places in this building I, as a Foreign Service Officer, can't go without an escort. Okay, and I think Stape Roy made that clear from his history as well, one of our most eminent diplomats.

So there are different ways of doing it, but generally within this building for many years we allowed unescorted access to this building by a variety of people. And since August '99, we've had an escort policy. The issue of having journalists in this building working in this building, I would put it this way. Obviously, from a security point of view, if that is your only consideration, it would be easier for us to be one of the buildings around town, as there are many, where there is no working space for the press and where they're never allowed in except with escorts.

We don't do that because we're somewhere in between the buildings that let people wander around and the buildings that require an escort for everybody every moment. We're somewhat in between because we do want to be able to work with you. We do want to be able to work with you and with your foreign colleagues because part of our mission is to explain US foreign policy to the American public and to the foreign public. We recognize that that is your goal as well, and we want to be able to work with you. But we have to be able to work with you under conditions that provide for adequate security for this building. That is why the State Department finds itself somewhere in between a free access policy and a full escort policy.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - about this - about, actually, just the specific FBI allegations and the fact that Mr. Carpenter, who apparently now we're saying did not - was aware that there were - is not aware of any and that the FBI would have told him so, that given what he knew, he probably should have said something like we don't know in the testimony.

I would hope that the institutional memory in this building, which itself and its members were targeted quite heavily in the '50s by this same kind of McCarthyesque tactic of saying we know that there are communists in this building or now, yesterday, we know that there are foreign reporters working for hostile intelligence organizations, that the State Department clears this up with the FBI and then comes - and then both of them come clean and explain what actually is going on here. Because it's frightening and ominous if he knew that there was no substance to what this FBI agent said, and he said nothing. It's scary.

MR. BOUCHER: I will pass on the point, Matt, but I'm telling you that we do want to be very careful about these things. We do want to give you truthful answers that are carefully checked to make sure, and I'm not going to try to explain while somebody - at a moment under the glare of the headlights in the Congress - might not have said something right then that we are able to say today. We are telling you that, at this time, we are not aware of any information that any members of the foreign press are utilizing the media as cover for intelligence activities at the State Department.

QUESTION: Is the FBI going to answer you about that clarification? Have you asked them to?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we've heard a little bit from the FBI already.

QUESTION: Have you asked them to clarify publicly?

MR. BOUCHER: We've been in touch with the FBI.

QUESTION: Could I --

MR. BOUCHER: Are we going to do Ethiopia and Eritrea one of these days?

QUESTION: Well, let me do one more on this and be a little more specific, if I might. Yes, the security has been lax in the past, and until the card readers were installed, very lax.

MR. BOUCHER: And we're going to try to upgrade that as well.

QUESTION: That's my witness. Back in 19 - in October 10th of '97, we had a journalist come here that was a very friendly guy, a Russian guy working for ITAR-TASS and he was doing his best to make friends with everybody in the press corps. And after his first visit, somebody from the front office came up and warned us that this man could be working for the GRU and to ignore him.

Now, he did not come back again until earlier this year, and about February of this year he was back. But it is common, according to Mr. - to ex-spies for Russia, to use ITAR-TASS as a cover for the GRU. So this is one guy you might be suspicious of. He was here. He was active.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. We'll look into it. Does he have a building pass?

QUESTION: Did he have a building pass? No, I don't think so.

MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's - we appreciate any information. As the Secretary said yesterday, anybody that wants to step forward can do so.

QUESTION: I have a question on China.

MR. BOUCHER: Let's change subjects. Let me talk a little bit about Ethiopia and Eritrea. And I'll put out a complete statement, but I want to make clear our concern about the outbreak of fighting. We deplore the unjustified resumption of hostilities. We have urgently called - and we continue to call on both Ethiopia and Eritrea to end the fighting and immediately resume talks.

The OAU, Organization for African Unity, peace plan offers a fair, just and durable solution to the conflict, and we think that's the way that they ought to proceed. And we'll give you a more complete version of that.

Now I'll be happy to take your questions on this or other matters.

QUESTION: The PNTR --

QUESTION: Can we stay on Ethiopia-Eritrea?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Has Ambassador Holbrooke reported back to this building on the substance of his discussions? And why was he so convinced yesterday, as obviously he was very well informed and he said they were on the verge of starting fighting again - and sure enough they did, probably, as someone said, just after his plane left their airspace.

But what was it that made him so convinced that what has happened was going to happen?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I haven't had a chance to check with him. As you know, we've been trying now for several weeks to promote the peace process, the OAU peace process. We had meetings in Algeria. The UN Security Council visited there. We have been in touch with him, obviously, throughout his trip but I don't know. I haven't gotten a personal readout, and you might check with his staff on that one.

QUESTION: The constant statements from the US Government saying don't worry, we will not send any US troops into Sierra Leone, there's nothing envisioned in Ethiopia or Eritrea, Congo, all the different areas, seems to be especially statements that are trying to make sure the Congress hears them. And it just - some people are raising the question once again, is it not racist to not respond in some way to any kind of injustices in Africa if we're going to respond in Kosovo and say that it's, in part, based on humanitarian concerns?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it is fair and necessary to reject any such allegations because they're not true. Our approach to peacekeeping generally has had a strong regional component. Now, regionally in Europe we have NATO, which is the world's most effective fighting force. So, granted, it's easier to put together an effective regional peacekeeping force or force as appropriate for the situation in Europe because the assets are there.

But in other places, if you've looked at what we've done, there has generally been a regional approach. We have, for several years now, had an effort underway with Africans to have an African Crisis Response group, and we've been working with them and supporting military training and things like that. So this is, I'd say, the general approach that we've taken.

The United States has been very concerned about this situation. We have been working actively with the parties in the region, as well as people outside. We have been providing advice and diplomatic efforts, and we're providing other kinds of support that we have that other people may not have. There's an airplane arriving this afternoon in Sierra Leone with the ammunition for the Jordanian component. We're flying that in for them. We're willing to do other things. We've got military planners and logistics people down in Nigeria who are talking to the Nigerians about their possible deployments in support of the United Nations there.

So the United States is actively working with people and is providing support where we can. That doesn't mean that the United States feels like we have to go in with combat troops every time there's a problem.

QUESTION: We did in Somalia, and it was only when that became a debacle that then the Administration changed the language and said that it was going to, from that point on, deal with these kinds of issues on a regional basis. And President Clinton has, since the fighting in Rwanda, said that perhaps it was a mistake not to do more there.

So, once again, is this an evolutionary type of view that peacekeeping is regional, and how can you assure even African American voters in this country who have raised this issue this is not a racist approach to foreign policy?

MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look at the way things have been done, obviously this is a general approach and not an absolute rule, first of all; that we have, in certain situations, gotten ourselves involved more. And we do think that maybe the lesson of Somalia is that regional peacekeeping can be more effective.

But there are different ways of looking at these things. The key here is to have an effective force. We had forces there, a UN deployment there, that was in the process of building up. We're now going to accelerate those deployments, and the United States is going to provide assistance to accelerate those deployments so that we can get an effective force not only to oversee the implementation of the peace but to make sure it's effective in getting the parties to observe the Lome Accords.

QUESTION: Can you say where that plane with the ammunition came from? Did it fly from Jordan to Sierra Leone or was it Jordanian army ammunition or US --

MR. BOUCHER: It was Jordanian army ammunition. We're helping them get it there. Let me go back and see if I have the exact itinerary around that.

US military C-17 loaded with ammunition for Jordanian reinforcements will land in Freetown today. I have to assume it's coming from Jordan because it is Jordanian ammunition that we're carrying for them.

QUESTION: In your contacts with the Nigerians, how much progress have you made towards persuading them that they could - they should take part in the response to the RUF militarily?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we've have considerable and frequent discussions with Nigeria on this subject. The Secretary has mentioned that she has talked to the Nigerian president about this. So we are, I guess I'd have to say deep in discussions with the Nigerians about how to do this, and we have told them that we are prepared to provide logistical assistance to aid them in coming in to support the United Nations in this effort.

So I can't give you a precise moment at which something will happen, but we have been having very intensive discussions with them.

QUESTION: Could you describe their response so far? Are they reluctant, enthusiastic?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I want to describe them at this point. We're talking together. They've had the meetings. You've seen a very strong statement come out of their meetings with the other West African states when they had that meeting in Nigeria two or three days ago. So they're very concerned about the situation and we're working with them to see how best we can help and work together in doing something.

QUESTION: When the Secretary spoke to Obasanjo two days ago, did she tell him that she thought - or that the United States thought - that it would be a good idea if the defense ministers of ECOWAS, when they do meet again on, I guess, Monday if they decided to re-deploy ECOMOG? Is that what the US thinks would --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make up quotes for the Secretary, but that's what we've been discussing is having - seeing if - how they could go and help augment the UN forces.

QUESTION: The United States believes that ECOMOG should be re-deployed - and help out the UN?

MR. BOUCHER: We think that the UN - that we should do - we should all do what we can to make the US - the UN, the United Nations, an effective force. And that's what we are discussing with the Nigerians and other members. I don't want to quite make an announcement at this point.

QUESTION: Richard, on Sierra Leone still?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: You're sending Jesse Jackson there to - as an envoy of the President. What's his brief? Who will he see? Where will he go?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the President - the White House made an announcement. Exactly when and where he will go, I don't think we have yet. The President has asked the Special Envoy for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa, Reverend Jesse Jackson, to travel to work with leaders in Africa for a peaceful resolution of this crisis. Reverend Jackson has been actively involved in the diplomatic effort to help consolidate the peace in Sierra Leone.

QUESTION: When does he go?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't have details at this point.

QUESTION: Has he left yet?

MR. BOUCHER: No, and we don't - we'll make details known once they are known.

QUESTION: Does the US have any reaction to yesterday's masked raid on the largest media conglomerate there?

QUESTION: It's a good idea.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: I'm finishing. Let me finish. What does the action say to the US about Putin's pledge to forward democratic reform?

MR. BOUCHER: It might surprise some of you, but we don't think it was a good idea. The facts as we understand them is that the Russian Federal Security Service and the tax police raided offices of the media, of Media Most, yesterday.

Today, prominent Russian politicians and media figures have questioned whether there are political motives behind the raid, and our Embassy will be talking to Media Most and to Russian authorities to try to further determine the facts of this situation.

We would also note that President Putin issued a statement today saying that, "Freedom of speech and freedom of the media are indisputable values. The attitude towards them does not depend on the stance of the media or the authorities liking or disliking the media."

We obviously have said before, and we believe, that freedom of the press is central to the success of Russian democracy, and as it is to the success of democracy in any country. So we find it disturbing when actions of authorities seem in contradiction to the values expressed by the President and also enshrined in the Russian constitution.

We would obviously expect the subject of press freedoms to come up in our discussions with the Russians because we do see it as an essential part of the development of democracy, and we would expect it will come up with President Clinton when he comes to the Moscow Summit.

QUESTION: So you welcome President Putin's statement, then?

MR. BOUCHER: We certainly welcome the statement, but we do find disturbing that there are actions that seem to contradict that statement.

QUESTION: Different subject?

QUESTION: No, wait, can you stay on it? You mentioned the Embassy was going to be checking it out.

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: And I noticed that today the new Embassy finally opened in Moscow after $260 million. I'm wondering if you have anything to say. And eavesdropping devices galore and --

MR. BOUCHER: I would love to. When I did this job before, I think I announced three different rebuilding plans for Moscow because things kept happening, like the Soviet Union would fall apart and we'd have to look at it again. So I would love to have a statement for you, but I don't, so I'm going to make one up.

We're glad that we're opening our Embassy in Moscow. It's a really good thing. We're worked on it long and hard, and Russia is extremely important to us. And it's good to have a secure and comfortable place to work there.

QUESTION: Will reporters be allowed in it?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check on that for you.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate at all, Richard, on the public announcement that you issued for Israel and the West Bank of a possible danger to Americans?

MR. BOUCHER: I could read the answer in my book, or I could just tell you no, I can't.

QUESTION: Can you read the answer in your book?

QUESTION: You have nothing to add?

QUESTION: Is the answer in your book simply the statement?

MR. BOUCHER: I have no additional specific information that I am able to provide about this possible terrorist threat. We have no details as to the potential target of an attack. The Department has assessed the threat to be serious enough to warrant the issuance of a public announcement.

QUESTION: Can you say whether this is based on specific information at least, or is this just a sort of political assessment of the way, you know, things are going in the peace process?

MR. BOUCHER: I have no additional specific information that I'm able to provide, and we have no details as to the potential target.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Dominican Republic - elections next week. There has been a lot of violence. Do you have any --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, it won't surprise you we think elections are good thing. The Dominican Republic will hold presidential elections on Tuesday, May 16th. There will be over 100 international monitors present, including the US Ambassador, Charles Manatt, and representatives of the Carter Center. Ambassador Manatt recently said that he expects these elections will be the most free, fair and transparent in Dominican history.

We've been working very hard with the Dominican Republic Central Electoral Commission on the electoral process. Both the National Democratic Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems have been actively working there as well. Thus far, the electoral campaign has been relatively free of violence. There were two killed this year, which is obviously regrettable, but that's compared to eight during the last presidential elections in 1996.

We believe that the people of the Dominican Republic have a strong interest in building and ensuring that these elections are fully free, fair and transparent.

QUESTION: What do you think about the story of the conduct of the campaign so far? Apart from the violence, do you think it's --

MR. BOUCHER: I think at this point we'll leave that to the observers, including our Ambassador down there. But, obviously, we're looking forward to the election and we want to make sure it is free, fair and transparent.

QUESTION: Ten days from today, the US Congress will vote on PNTR and China. And Congressman Sherrod Brown has said that before we do, we should investigate, and also calling on the Administration to investigate for slave labors in China. And, also, there was a report that China has refused to guarantee the US that they will not sell any US - any missile or nuclear technology to Iran, Pakistan and other countries they have been doing in the past. How will this affect --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as far as sort of political predictions on how various reports may or may not affect the vote, I don't think I quite want to do that here. I think, you know, we have expressed our concern about various events in China. We have tried to follow up on reports of slave labor being used, for example, and have mechanisms in place and customs officers in China who are charged with doing that. So we do raise human rights situations and things of concern. At the same time, we continue to believe that passage of permanent trade relations in China and China's entry into the WTO are very important, very valuable and important to the United States for economic reasons, for overall stability and security, our national security interests in the area, and that they also have a payoff on the human rights side.

So we do follow up on reports like these, but we don't consider that a reason not to pass this trade relations.

QUESTION: Any update on the continuous violence in Sri Lanka?

MR. BOUCHER: I can get you something on that. It shows you how long I've been here. That's a new bureau, too. It has a new color.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan yesterday launched an amphibious assault near Jaffna City, continued its attacks further south on the peninsula. There are conflicting reports about the latest violence, so I'm not exactly sure that I'm up to date and accurate. It's hard to be exact.

We are watching the situation closely. We continue to encourage an end to the violence, continue to encourage a negotiated political settlement that will provide dignity and security for all Sri Lankans while preserving Sri Lankan unity.

QUESTION: Is anyone from the State Department talking directly with the Sri Lankan Government or Indian Government? Anybody?

MR. BOUCHER: We have been, obviously, in close touch with the Sri Lankan Government. We have an Embassy and an Ambassador out there. The government of Norway, we know, has been consulting with the parties involved in the conflict, and we've encouraged those efforts. The government of India has offered to mediate if asked by both parties, and we have actually made clear that we would be willing to facilitate a process if we were asked.

So we've been in touch with other interested countries, including India, Norway and the United Kingdom, and we'll continue our contacts with concerned countries in the hopes of reaching a political solution here.

QUESTION: On that, I notice that as this latest amphibious assault began, instead of heeding what the US had done and was urging an easing of restrictions on the media, the government went ahead and banned all live television broadcasts.

Do you have anything to say about that?

MR. BOUCHER: I was not aware of that, but that's certainly not the kind of step we like to see.

QUESTION: Regarding the Philippine citizen that was arrested on the "I Love You" virus, the FBI is saying that if he were to be charged with a crime there, that we would consider extraditing him. Have there been any contacts with the Filipino Government about, you know, this case? And could you explain a little bit more about the extradition treaty?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I'll have to get you something on that. It's a legal matter and I want to be very precise. Let me give that to you afterwards.

QUESTION: I had a follow-up on Sierra Leone, and than I wanted to ask you about Cuba, so let me do Sierra Leone first. The Secretary General in the last couple of days went out of his way to praise Great Britain, saying that they originally sent their troops there just to help get British citizens out of Sierra Leone, but then ended up expanding their role and being quite helpful.

Given that Great Britain did expand the role of the troops once it got there, or seemed to at least, has the Clinton Administration said that the troops that are there only to provide the ferrying of ammunition, that the President is in any way open to seeing if there may be other things they can do once they're there that does not involve ground troops?

How restricted is their mission?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I want to be very careful about not drawing some kind of parallel between British deployments of troops prepared for combat and our flying in an airplane and the people who work on that airplane in the delivery process. We have made quite clear that we're prepared to provide that kind of support in other instances to the other contingents that are deploying on an accelerated basis. We want to make sure that we make a contribution to the accelerated deployment of the contingents that are planning on going in.

So is this flight a precedent for other things we might do? Yes, but a precedent for other things we might do of the same nature in providing logistical or transportation support. There's not been discussion of US combat troops.

QUESTION: Okay. And then can I go to Cuba? Given that there's only a limited number of democratic fundraisers for Elian to play with in Georgetown, what's the status of the visas on all the various different people who have been issued visas?

MR. BOUCHER: The visa applications that are pending remain under review. And I think we discussed the other day the fact that the - or we understood the Immigration and Naturalization Service had allowed some of the preexisting playmates to stay longer.

QUESTION: Preexisting playmates?

MR. BOUCHER: To allow some of his playmates and their families who were already here a chance to stay longer.

QUESTION: Richard, do you have anything on whether the doctor - Ponce de Leon, or whatever her name is - will be able to stay as well?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything on that.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Russia for just two seconds? Do you know anything about a request by FEMA for some Ilyushin planes to help deliver water to fight the fire at Los Alamos?

MR. BOUCHER: I think it was the other way around. What we've heard about is an offer by Russia to provide planes if necessary. And obviously we all appreciate that kind of offer, but it will be up to FEMA to say whether they find it useful or necessary. At this point, I don't think they've said it was necessary.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, the PRC has rejected US assurances that the National Missile Defense system would not be targeting their missiles and would not detract from their nuclear deterrence. What can you say to the Chinese to convince them that this is not our aim and that - and I guess I would ask, can the National Missile Defense, as planned, in fact deter or target Chinese missiles?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I'd have to say you second half involves a level of military expertise and a level of gross speculation on my part that I'm neither qualified nor prepared to enter into.

But on the first part, I do think it's important to make clear that our National Missile Defense is not directed against China; it's, rather, directed, as we've stated quite clearly, against a threat from countries that are developing missile programs or that have potential missile programs, such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

We have held discussions with the Chinese on this issue. They have expressed their concerns. But we will continue to discuss this with them. We'll continue our dialogue and continue our efforts to explain to them the basis for any decision to deploy National Missile Defense.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a non-foreign policy question?

MR. BOUCHER: No. (Laughter.) Sorry.

QUESTION: On your new job, are you really comfortable with us? Are you happy? Do you like your job?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't think of anything better I'd like to do between noon and 2:00 every day, which shows you how limited my perspectives are.

QUESTION: Earlier today in Geneva, the Indonesia and the Acehnese separatists have signed a cease-fire, a truce. I'm wondering what the US reaction is to that.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we're very pleased. We're very pleased that representatives of Aceh's armed independence group and Indonesian Government officials signed a cease-fire in Geneva today. The Secretary, in fact, looks forward to discussing this agreement with Foreign Minister Shihab, who will be in Washington next Monday. She'll be meeting with him.

QUESTION: This immediate Monday coming up?

MR. BOUCHER: Three days from now they'll have a discussion and maybe even have a chance to talk to you.

We believe the conflict in Aceh must be resolved on the basis of justice, security, greater self-government, and economic development for the province, within the framework of a United Indonesia. So we hope that this cease-fire will serve to prepare the ground for a comprehensive, peacefully negotiated settlement in Aceh.

QUESTION: Talking about human rights, Senator Tom Harkin's bill on Africa trade bill was passed as a child labor bill also. Now, there is a child labor problem around the world - there is a slave problem in China and there is honor killings continuing in Pakistan. So these are all related to human rights as per the State Department.

Any comments you have on this? How are you going to enforce that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I've quite gone through the details of the bill yet. We're certainly pleased that the bill passed. This has been something that we have worked on for six years. We think it's important that we got a successful conclusion. The bill has been the centerpiece of Administration efforts to broaden and strengthen American relationships with Africa and the Caribbean. We greatly appreciate the sustained bipartisan efforts of House and Senate leaders to get this important bill passed.

And we think the benefits can be seen very quickly, so the President I think has said that he is pleased the bill has passed and that he expects to sign it next week.

QUESTION: And the honor killings going on in Pakistan?

MR. BOUCHER: That is something that we have been quite concerned about in the past, and the Secretary has spoken about it. I'll see if I can get you something more on that today.

QUESTION: Can you take a question, because I don't think you probably have anything on this. But there was a report in some German papers today that the Germans have rejected once again this compromise proposal for the Embassy in Berlin, the security - what do you call them - the setback.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything new on that. That's something that I think the Secretary and Minister Fischer discussed the other day.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 P.M.)


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