State Department Noon Briefing, October 27, 2000
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Friday, October 27, 2000
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to
be here, a pleasure to be back with you. And I don't have any
statements right now, so I would be glad to take your questions.
Q: There has been a joint statement, the US State Department and the
FBI, complimenting the Yemenis for their cooperation. Do you want to
address that subject? I do have a question. But, well, let me --
MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't quite - I said I don't have any statements
right now because I was intending to do it a little bit later, but --
Q: Well, it's out, you know.
MR. BOUCHER: If our friends have put it out over at the FBI, I'm happy
to do it over here, too.
Q: Well, you know AP. They hear about things.
MR. BOUCHER: They hear about things. Let me just generally, since you
asked, bring you up to date and we'll get something out in writing
later. The investigation in Yemen is now completed - several initial
phases - or several phases of the initial part of the investigation,
like forensics examination of the ships and analysis of various
locations in Yemen.
First of all, we would like to express our appreciation to the
Government of Yemen for its cooperation in these early phases of the
investigations, and particularly for facilitating the forensic
examinations in Yemen. The teams that were involved in these things,
the forensic evidence teams, the laboratory examiners, the bomb
technicians, other investigative personnel, have now completed their
work, so you will see a rotation out of the people who have been doing
those phases of the investigation. That will involve the departure of
quite a number of personnel from on the ground in Yemen.
And we are now moving into a next phase of the investigation. The next
critical phase will require the US and Yemeni personnel to work as
partners in collecting information and participants in the interview
process of witnesses who might have - well, witnesses who have
information on this criminal act of terrorism.
We do count on President Salih's commitment of full cooperation as we
move to this most critical aspects of the investigation. We are
seeking to solve this act of terrorism together. It took the lives of
17 US sailors and wounded numerous other Navy personnel, and we do
look to those commitments to see the continuing cooperation of the
Government of Yemen as we proceed into the further phases.
Q: Well, you touched on something I was going to ask you about. Indeed
in this first phase, I don't know how much - how important it would
have been for the FBI to investigate - not to investigate - to
Are you saying that Yemen has agreed that American investigators will
be able to question suspects?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I quite went that far at this stage. What I
said is we have had their cooperation for the initial phases we've
done. The FBI does this methodically, and they have gone through the
forensics and the collecting of a lot of evidence from the ship and on
locations on ground.
The next step is really to start talking more seriously, to do the
interviews to the people who have been picked up, and that we do need
to participate in that. And we count on this general commitment that
President Salih has given us to cooperate. We count on that to be the
basis of the cooperation. It is critical that we have Yemeni
cooperation to make this investigation a success.
Q: So you wouldn't say, would you, that - or would you say whether
the US has asked and been told by the Yemenis that you can't talk to
MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't think we're quite at the point of having it
one way or the other at this point. We have the commitment to
cooperation. We count on that. We expect Yemeni Government personnel
to abide by that pledge from President Salih, and we do think it is
critical that we have that kind of cooperation as we all move forward
in this investigation, which they are doing and we are doing together.
Q: You mentioned counting on his statement of cooperation three, four,
five, six times in three minutes here.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's because Barry was asking about it, but the
first two times were on my own.
Q: Would it be wrong to assume that you're not satisfied with the
level of cooperation so far?
MR. BOUCHER: No, because I said exactly the contrary. I said at the
beginning that we appreciate the cooperation we have gotten so far in
what you might call the forensic and collection phase of this
investigation. We are now moving to another phase, where further
cooperation and a slightly different kind of cooperation is necessary.
We have the general pledge of cooperation; it worked to get us to
succeed in doing the first phase together, or first phases together,
and we count on that general pledge as being the basis for cooperation
in these next phases. But it is different. It is additional, and we
don't have those specifics set up at this stage yet.
Q: Do you think that there is anti-American sentiment among the
general populace in Yemen? And when you say that you have the
cooperation of the government and you expect Yemeni personnel to abide
by that commitment, do you have concerns that that anti-American
sentiment may bleed over into people that you need to work with?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a public opinion poll or a testing of the
waters of all the opinions in Yemen. I'm sure there's a variety of
opinions, some of which like us and some of which don't. But I think
the important thing is that we be able to proceed in a secure way.
Obviously, security for our personnel who are out there is paramount;
and, second of all, that we be able to proceed working with the
government on the basis of the president's commitments, which we do
have, which we appreciate, and which we expect to work with.
Q: To go back to the part about interviewing witnesses, you said that
you are going to more - in a more serious way interview some of the
witnesses and suspects. In your initial interview - attempts to
interview suspects or witnesses so far, have you had cooperation?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that kind of detail I want to leave to the FBI. I
think we do know - what I was referring to was more the fact we know
the Yemenis have interviewed a number of suspects. We need to do that
as well. I don't know if the FBI has asked to see those people yet or
Q: Is it true that more and more investigation is moving towards Osama
bin Laden, that he or his people are behind this attack?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's true that it is still premature to speculate
on what the results of the investigation might be. And, in any case,
I'll leave that to the FBI.
Q: Also, just to follow that, in New York, one of his person and a
former US military official pled guilty, and he is also saying that
Osama bin Laden and his kingdom, how they spread anti-US and others,
killing all Americans and all that.
MR. BOUCHER: The guilty plea, I think, was in a case involving the
bombings in Africa. Obviously we have been quite clear, and you can
read in our terrorism report what we think of the Osama bin Laden
network and its attempts to kill Americans around the world. We have
put out quite a bit of information ourselves on this. I don't think
you need to rely on third parties.
Q: He is linking that he might be behind this also.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, speculation at this point. Anybody can say what
they want, except for me.
Q: I mean, the US is ready or prepared to take action against Osama
bin Laden in Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you're too far down the road for us. We can't --
we are prepared to pursue this investigation wherever it leads and to
take appropriate action based on the conclusions.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 P.M.)