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Homeland Security

19 August 2004

Battling Terrorism Requires a Global Response

Congressional Report, August 19: Hearing on Diplomacy, Terrorism

Washington -- The United States is facing a global terrorist threat, which calls for a comprehensive diplomatic strategy and a global response, says the State Department's chief counterterrorism official.

Ambassador Cofer Black, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, testified before the House International Relations Committee August 19 that the United States is safer from potential terrorist attack now than before September 11, 2001, but not absolutely safe, arguing that much more needs to be done.

The International Relations Committee, which has oversight responsibility for foreign policy issues, met in a rare August hearing to examine the role of U.S. diplomatic efforts in the struggle against global terrorism. The committee heard testimony from two staff members of the 9/11 Commission and from nine senior officials within the State Department, covering a wide range of issues.

Hearing Committee Chairman Chris Smith said that at issue is the strategy used by the State Department, which is the lead cabinet-level agency for foreign policy-making.

"Today, we are focused on how the State Department plans to prosecute this war, and how things have changed in the State Department since 9/11," Smith said in opening remarks. "Its role stretches far beyond the rarified ceremony of high diplomacy; in fact, it may well be that State represents our very first line of defense."

The hearing was called in response to the 9/11 Commission report, released July 22, that recommends changes be made by the president and the Congress to protect the United States more effectively from future terrorist attacks.

Black also said that one of the major issues facing the United States is the need to prevent the growth of future terrorist safe havens.

He said the department is working with allies to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in six regions identified in the 9/11 Commission report on terrorism. Those regions include potential safe havens in areas of Africa and Southeast Asia, he said.

Smith said the commission's report called upon the State Department to develop aggressive efforts to battle misinformation, gross distortion, and demonization of the United States by its enemies.

"The 9/11 Commission suggests that the United States more effectively engage in the struggle of ideas. If we let the lies and the hate stick by not responding robustly, we unwittingly permit the next generation [of terrorist recruits] to grow the hatred," Smith said.

Patricia de Stacy Harrison, acting under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said that since the terrorist attacks three years ago the State Department has executed a strategy that communicates U.S. values of individual freedom, the non-negotiable demands of human dignity, and economic opportunity.

"We are working within an environment of instant global communication through the Internet, print, radio, television, video, and film, and we are using all of these channels to reach younger and wider audiences in their own language," she said. "We're reaching out as well to the universe of people who are responsible for youth education and development, what I call youth influencers."

Harrison added that programs that bring Americans and foreign citizens in direct contact can and do have tremendous positive impact.

Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, said significant progress has been made in improving U.S. border security through changes in the visa process, through the use of biometrics and enhanced information sharing within the U.S. government and with allies.

"Our goals are to push out our borders beyond the physical limits of the United States, to identify terrorists and to deny them entry into the United States," she said. In addition, the State Department has strengthened procedures after the revocation of visas to speed up notification to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, she said.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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