As a world superpower, the United States has an obligation to help maintain peace and stability and to promote democracy throughout the globe. By doing this we create and strengthen many international friendships. At the same time, however, we encounter those who disagree with our goals and actions. Most of this criticism comes peacefully; some of it, unfortunately, comes violently.
The culmination of this violence results in such incidents as the bombing of Pan Am flight 109--where 189 Americans died over Locherbie, Scotland--or the bombing of the World Trade Center, where 6 Americans were killed and more than 1,000 were injured by a terrorist act on our own soil. Fortunately, these large scale anti-American incidents are more the exception than the rule.
However, American citizens are often the victims of many smaller international terrorist incidents. Of course, this does not mean that the average American citizen should fear a terrorist attack while walking to the local grocery store. In fact, between 1988 and 1994 there were only 10 terrorist attacks throughout all of North America, compared with the 973 attacks in Latin America, 906 in Western Europe, and 628 in the Middle East. Relatively speaking, Americans are still quite safe in their own country.
The problem occurs when U.S. citizens are working, living, and traveling abroad. In fact, in 1994 approximately 21 percent of all terrorist attacks were directed at American targets. This, Mr. President, is a relatively large percentage. Since Americans can be found in every corner of the Earth, it would be near impossible for the U.S. Government to ensure the safety of all of its nationals. What, then, can be done to help protect American nationals and their property from the threat of terrorism?
The answer: We must strike at the roots of international terrorist organizations. This, Mr. President, is the goal of the Omnibus Counter-Terrorism Act of 1995, which I introduced along with Senators Biden, Specter, and others. This legislation will make it a crime to raise funds within the United States for terrorist organizations while simultaneously enhancing the Government's ability to expel those aliens who are, or have been, engaged in terrorist activities.
Mr. President, the sad truth is that fundraising for international terrorism now has its roots in America--and has even reached the Midwest. In fact, in 1993 a group of Palestinian immigrants, linked to the infamous Abu Nidal terrorist organization, actively raised money here for terrorism abroad. Surprisingly, this terrorist cell extended from St. Louis to Dayton to Racine, WI. After their arrest, three of the men were accused of plotting to kill American Jews and to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington on behalf of the Abu Nidal. They admitted to smuggling money and information, buying weapons, and planning terrorist activities. In July 1994, they pleaded guilty to Federal racketeering charges.
How can we work as hard to fight terrorism abroad, but allow foreign terrorism to flourish within our own borders? The Omnibus Counter-Terrorism Act will put an end to this ironic situation.
Mr. President, our legislation is simple, effective and straightforward. This bill will create a comprehensive Federal criminal statue to be used against international terrorists, while expanding current U.S. antiterrorism laws to apply to any terrorist attack on a U.S. citizen, regardless of location. By clarifying and elaborating on our current laws, this bill takes a firm and stand against terrorism both in the United States and abroad.
Mr. President, our Nation has the responsibility to promote stability and to protect our citizens throughout the world. International terrorists, however, undermine these goals and sabotage American interests. The Omnibus Counter-Terrorism Act of 1995 is not a perfect piece of legislation--we do need to make changes so that we do not circumscribe civil liberties. Nevertheless, this bill does take a step toward combating international terrorism. By preventing terrorist fundraising and enhancing antiterrorist laws, this act will strike at the roots of terrorism. Not only will it help to make the world safe for Americans, it will help to make the world safe for all.