COORDINATOR FOR COUNTER-TERRORISM BILL, H.R. 22 -- H.R. 22 (Extension of Remarks - January 05, 1995)
HON. BENJAMIN A. GILMAN
in the House of Representatives
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 1995
- Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, today I introduce H.R. 22, a bill to preserve the coordinator for Counter-Terrorism Office at the State Department. I was pleased that during the 103d Congress, we were able to enact into law my amendment to the State Department authorization bill to at least temporarily reverse the proposed reorganization plan that would have eliminated the Office of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism. That very important and high level, as well as independent office, was first established during the Reagan era as a response to international terrorism, and it reported directly to the Secretary of State. The office faced the cutting-room knife as the new administration began in 1993, when it was planned to be merged into an office responsible for narcotics and international crime as well.
- The State Department is the lead U.S. agency in the battle against international terrorism; it is inconceivable in this day and age of a renewed threat from terrorism, both at home and abroad, not to have this high level, independent, and single function office maintained permanently in place. Observers at the heritage foundation, and other renowned experts in the counter-terrorism field, have hailed the efforts to save that important counter-terrorism office in the 103d Congress. Many have urged that we do so again in this Congress.
- I led the preservation fight for that critical State Department counter-terrorism office's existence last year; I will do so again this year along with many of my colleagues, who recognize what the real threat from terrorism is in today's uncertain world of ours.
- My bipartisan amendment in the 103d Congress helped us to maintain a permanent statutory office at least temporarily, with the lead role in U.S. international counter-terrorism efforts. The position was maintained at the high visibility equivalent to the Assistant Secretary level in the State Department, reporting directly to the Secretary along with the same functions and responsibilities it had as of January 20, 1993.
- I was especially pleased to have the gentleman from New York [Mr. Nadler] who represents Lower Manhattan, the site of the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist bombing, join me, along with the gentlewoman from New York [Ms. Molinari], the gentleman from New Jersey [Mr. Saxton], along with many others in the 103d Congress, to help prevent the ill-advised planned elimination of that office through merger.
- I am hopeful that this proposal will not be objected to by the administration again in the 104th Congress. However, we cannot take any chances. So unless we act and send a clear signal before April 30, 1995, when my current amendment's statutory authority to keep this office in existence expires, that vital counter-terrorism office could disappear from the U.S. Government's structure and vehicle for responding to the threat of international terrorism.
- The U.S. State Department is the lead agency against terrorism overseas, while the FBI has the lead domestic role here at home. Both have done a good job, and they need all of our support and encouragement, and certainly not any diminution of our visible commitment to fighting this scourge, especially now.
- Unless we act prior to April 30, 1995, the State Department's counter-terrorism office, and the critical and important function it plays, could very well still be relegated to a mid-level Deputy Assistant Secretary in a multiple function office, responsible for narcotics, terrorism, and international crime.
- The international narcotics function alone, as we know, could easily consume the proposed new multifunction bureau's Assistant Secretary's entire time, focus, and attention.
- In fact, in the 103d Congress the battle against drugs, especially overseas did not go well. For example, the State Department's international narcotics matter [INM] budget was cut by one-third. In addition, we had the disastrous aerial drug trafficking intelligence sharing cutoff with source countries Peru and Colombia over a questionable legal opinion many view, including President Clinton himself as he said on December 9, as `nutty.'
- The damage from that shootdown policy debacle in these two key source nations on our international struggle against narcotics, will take years to undo. We also saw during the 103d Congress, that drug use is on the rise for the first time since the Carter era.
- Let us be thankful, that we didn't let the administration do for international terrorism, what they have done for the war against drugs in the last 2 years.
- The United States witnessed an increased level of international terrorism directed at American political leaders, citizens, their property, and their very safety and security now even here at home. For example in 1993, we had the New York World Trade Center bombing, which took six American lives--one a constituent of mine--injured 1,000 people and cost over $600 million in property damage and business disruption; never mind the incalculable psychological damage to America's sense of internal security.
- We also had the terrorist plots uncovered against commuter tunnels, Government facilities, and political leaders in New York City as well in 1993. In 1994, we had the deadly terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Panama, Argentina, North Africa, Europe, and other spots around the globe. Terrorism hasn't gone away in the post-cold-war era, despite the hopes of many, and the naivete of some.
- In light of these events, and the developing new loosely knit terrorist groups, and other forces promoting terrorism around the globe, this is not the time for America to be lowering its guard against the horrors and threats from international terrorism.
- We must make international terrorism a high level national priority in our foreign policy agenda, and as part of our Government's permanent planning and response structure.
- The proposed State Department downgrading of the counter-terrorism function would send the wrong signal at the wrong time, both to friends and foes alike, around the globe. Former career Ambassador at Large for Counter-Terrorism Paul Bremer, an expert in this area, said it best when he told the 103d Congress:
- * * * I am disappointed, indeed, dismayed by the administration's decision to downgrade the bureaucratic level of the State Department's office for combatting terrorism. It seems to me this will not only make interagency coordination more difficult and problematic in our Government, but will make us much less effective when we go to our allies or to state sponsors and ask them for help. In my experience, other governments are not often persuaded by importuning Deputy Assistant Secretaries (emphasis added).
- The bill I am introducing today would make permanent what the 103d Congress did temporarily in preserving the Counter-Terrorism Office at the U.S. State Department reporting directly to the Secretary of State. In addition it will elevate the position of coordinator in that Office to an Ambassador at Large in an effort to even further increase the Office's clout, both overseas and within the U.S. Government bureaucracy.
- I am pleased that my colleague and friend from New York, Senator D'Amato will introduce a similar bill in the other body. The New York congressional delegation, because of the World Trade Center bombing, has a particular interest and understanding regarding what is at stake when America might mistakenly lower its guard against the terrorist threat, either at home, or abroad.
- These bills being introduced here in the House and the other body, make it clear there can be no retreat from the struggle against terrorism. Let us today go firmly on the record against diminishing the U.S. response to international terrorism. I urge my colleagues to join in support of this proposal before the April 30, 1995, expiration date on the current life of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism Office at the U.S. State Department.
- Now is the time we must permanently authorize the Coordinator's Office and its bureaucratic survival in order to guarantee an aggressive and tough U.S. counter-terrorism policy. We will then anticipate and expect a no-nonsense aggressive policy from this high level independent office we are empowering to undertake this important responsibility on behalf of our national interest. Nothing less will be expected from the Coordinator's Office once it's status and survival is resolved.
- I request permission to enter into the Record a letter I received last year from world renowned author, Claire Sterling, who has written extensively, and is an expert on international crime, terrorism, narcotics, and knows of what she speaks.
- Her letter destroys the arguments of those who have said that the terrorism and drugs efforts at the State Department needed to be merged, as the administration tried last Congress. I cannot add to her cogent, clear, and persuasive arguments in favor of my position against such a merger. The letter speaks for itself, and I urge my colleagues to read her persuasive arguments as well, and join me in preventing a major mistake from being made in America's struggle against international terrorism.
- Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to join in support of this proposal before the April 30, 1995 expiration date on the current life of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism Office at the U.S. State Department. I request that the full text of this measure be inserted at this point in the Record.
August 12. 1994.
Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman,
Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Congressman Gilman: As I have been travelling for the past month, it is only now that I have been able to catch up with your letter of July 13.
I willingly add my voice to those who oppose the State Department's proposal to merge its Counterterrorism Office into the Bureau of International Narcotics Matters. Indeed, the proposal seems to go against all logic.
It is true that the paths of certain international terrorist groups and narcotraffickers cross occasionally, where such terrorists rely on drug money to help finance their operations. But that is essentially a marginal part of these two altogether distinct and equally insidious problems. The fact that both are of global proportions certainly doesn't mean they can be dealt with as one.
The world has made enormous progress in containing terrorism since the U.S. took the lead in developing international channels for the exchange of intelligence information and operational collaboration. The knowledge and expertise, the mechanisms, the international relationships that have come of this are highly specialized--unique. The entire pattern for fighting the global drug trade is different.
Should the merger be approved, the fight against terrorism is bound to be downgraded, diminished, subordinated to a war on narcotics that has understandably become a matter of obsessive international concern. Such a shift in our attention and resources would seem to me senseless, dangerous and destructive.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. COORDINATOR FOR COUNTER-TERRORISM.
(a) Establishment.--There shall be within the office of the Secretary of State a Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism (hereafter in this section referred to as the `Coordinator') who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
(b) Responsibilities.--(1) The Coordinator shall perform such duties and exercise such power as the Secretary of State shall prescribe.
(2) The Coordinator shall have as his principal duty the overall supervision (including policy oversight of resources) of international counterterrorism activities. The Coordinator shall be the principal advisor to the Secretary of State on international counterterrorism matters. The Coordinator shall be the principal counterterrorism official within the senior management of the Department of State and report directly to the Secretary of State.
(c) Rank and Status.--The Coordinator shall have the rank and status of Ambassador-at-Large. The Coordinator shall be compensated at the annual rate of basic pay in effect for a position at level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5314 of title 5, United States Code, or, if the Coordinator is appointed from the Foreign Service, the annual rate of pay which the individual last received under the Foreign Service Schedule, whichever is greater.
(d) Diplomatic Protocol.--For purposes of diplomatic protocol among officers of the Department of State, the Coordinator shall take precedence after the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State, and the Under Secretaries of State and shall take precedence among the Assistant Secretaries of State in the order prescribed by the Secretary of State.