Attorney General Reno's Weekly Media Briefing, Oct. 19

WEEKLY MEDIA AVAILABILITY WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, D.C. 9:30 A.M. EDT THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2000 Q: Ms. Reno, can you tell us why FBI Director Freeh decided to go to Yemen? What was the purpose of his visit? How long will he be there? ATTY GEN. RENO: Director Freeh has, I think, always made it a practice to try to be on the scene as soon as it is nondisruptive at the scene. I think it's an example, again, of his hands-on approach to major issues and major tragedies such as this. And I feel -- have always felt, once I've had Director Freeh's assessment of the scene, that we're both in a better position to determine what steps to take for the future. Q: Ms. Reno -- Q: Can we have an update of where we are in the investigation? Have you talked to the director this morning since he's been there? ATTY GEN. RENO: I've not talked to the director since he's been there, but I look forward to hearing from him when he returns. Q: Are you confident that the agents, the U.S. personnel that are in Aden, are safe and secure from some kind of follow-up terrorist attack? ATTY GEN. RENO: This is one -- an issue paramount in Director Freeh's mind and in my mind since the beginning, and we want to make sure that we take all possible steps to ensure their security while at the same time leaving absolutely no stone unturned until the people responsible for this tragedy are brought to justice. Q: Ms. Reno, there seems to be some confusion as to why the director is in Yemen. Is he there to oversee the investigation, or is he just getting an assessment? ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't know how you all generated that confusion. Director Freeh is there to assess the situation, as he has often times been in previous situations. He wants to see for himself. He wants to talk to the people at the scene. We want to do everything we can to make sure that we're taking steps to bring these people to justice. Q: And was he on a previously scheduled trip to that area when he want to Yemen? I understand he's going to other capitals in the region. ATTY GEN. RENO: No. I don't know what his schedule was before, but I do know that he is making this trip with this specific objective in mind. Q: Ms. Reno, are you confident at this point that U.S. investigators are getting the cooperation that they needed and you expected from the Yemenis? ATTY GEN. RENO: I think that you should listen to Director Freeh's -- if you have not heard it, listen to him directly so that you hear it from him directly. He had the opportunity to meet with the police, and I think he expressed support for what they were doing. He indicated that we were working with them and supporting them in the work that they had been doing. But I want to make sure that we do everything we can to support the Yemeni police, that we have the people on the scene that are necessary to ensure thorough support of all investigative efforts. Yesterday, I was in Norfolk, and I had an opportunity to meet with families who had lost loved ones and to meet with injured sailors. The American people should be so proud of the United States Navy. These are fine young people, and they were brave in what those that were injured wanted to do was to get back and support their shipmates. We must do everything now to see that the people responsible for this crime are brought to justice. Q: Ms. Reno, the Yemeni police have been releasing results of their investigation, talking about finding a van, finding a trailer, finding a so-called bomb factory, whether it's in the apartment is not clear. Is the FBI working along with the Yemeni police in those pursuits, or are they functioning separately? ATTY GEN. RENO: I think, as you would have heard if you'd heard Director Freeh this morning, that we're working to support the Yemeni police. They have taken some important steps, and we want to work with them in every way possible. Q: Are U.S. law enforcement agents being allowed to interview potential suspects, witnesses, or are they leaving that to the Yemenis and then relying on the information second-hand? What exactly are they doing on the ground in terms of investigative work and talking to people? ATTY GEN. RENO: I am, as you know, not going to talk about what we're doing. But I think we have a good working relationship that will permit us to pursue all appropriate investigative leads in support of the Yemeni police. Q: Ms. Reno -- (Cross talk.) Q: Thank you. It's been just a week since this attack, and yet there seem to be no limit of leads to follow. Are you surprised at how far along this investigation seems to be so soon after the event? ATTY GEN. RENO: No. Q: Ms. Reno, based on the cooperation in Yemen so far, do you have an opinion as to whether prosecution can and should take place there, or do you anticipate seeking an extradition if suspects are arrested? ATTY GEN. RENO: I think all those comments, all those issues are premature. I think what we must do now is to pursue the investigation as thoroughly as possible. Q: But there is no extradition treaty. The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Yemen, does it? ATTY GEN. RENO: I won't comment on the processes. I think it's -- the first thing we must do is find out who did it and be able to prove it. Q: Ms. Reno, from the evidence that you've seen so far, can you tell us how sophisticated or organized they were? Do you think they might be -- (inaudible)? Others have obviously indicated that they think this is a fairly high level, perhaps global operation versus some sort of renegade -- renegade bunch. ATTY GEN. RENO: I think it's premature -- until we identify just who is responsible, I think it's premature to speculate on the nature of it. .... Q: Ms. Reno, in the initial deployment of U.S. investigators to Yemen, apparently there was a limit negotiated by the State Department on the number of American investigators that could be in Yemen at any given time. As I understand it, some of the folks who were there had to leave and fall back to another country while some other people came in; and it was kind of a revolving door. And yesterday, in an interview on state television, the President of Yemen said he expected the Americans to be there no more than a week or 10 days. Are you convinced that we have a sufficient number of investigators there who can stay a long enough time? ATTY GEN. RENO: I will let Director Freeh comment upon his return. But my understanding is that the original limitation was based on the fact that there are limited accommodations in Aden, and it was just a matter of logistics, and trying to get in the key evidence recovery team and bomb squads as early as possible to ensure appropriate collection of the evidence. I think working with the ambassador, working with the government of Yemen, we can address all of these issues, but we must do everything we can to secure our agents and make provision for their safety, while at the same time giving them the support they need to do the evidence recovery and other steps that need to be taken. Q: In that same interview yesterday, the Yemeni President said that he'd been told by the Americans that the explosive material was something that would be found only in the United States, Israel, or two Arab countries. Is it fair to conclude, therefore, that the American investigators had at least a working theory on what the explosive material was? Whether you can say what it was or not, do they at least have a working theory of what it is? ATTY GEN. RENO: I would not comment.