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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

May 20, 1998


                           THE WHITE HOUSE
                    Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                May 20, 1998     
                         PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                            MIKE MCCURRY 
The Briefing Room 
1:50 P.M. EDT
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'm sorry I was late.  I was standing in 
line at the local 7-11 to buy Powerball tickets.  (Laughter.)
	     Q	  What would you do if you actually won?
	     Q	  Stay right here with us.
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Sam, I think you could effectively 
conclude my service here at this podium would come to an abrupt end.  
	     Q	  You mean your effective service?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Or my less than effective service would 
come to an end.  (Laughter.)  That's something to contemplate.  You 
get on a plane, start flying.  Where you'd end, no one would know.
	     All right, what all do you want to know about today?
Mr. Blitzer, yes.  Fire away.
	     Q	  Mike, would you care to respond to Newt Gingrich's 
call for a special committee now to investigate these latest 
allegations that Chinese money went from Johnny Chung to the 
Democratic Party and may have resulted in the lifting of satellite 
technology restrictions on China?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That sounds like a mouthful.  Sounds like 
a mouthful.  I'm not sure that any of that has been established at 
all.  I'm not even sure --
	     Q	  Well, I thought they were allegations.
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'm not even sure that those are 
allegations in some respects.  I think those are suspicions, but no 
one has made those allegations.  The Speaker apparently believes that 
people should know more about this, and so do we, and the Speaker may 
want to be in contact with Chairman Gilman because he may 
inadvertently be undercutting the work that Chairman Gilman and the 
International Relations Committee is already doing with respect to 
that matter, or he might not be aware of the extensive work we've 
done to try to help the committee understand those matters.
	     Q	  Trent Lott is also announcing a committee in the 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Well, he, I guess, didn't want to be left 
	     Q	  Well, but will you cooperate with these committees?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  We've got -- we are already cooperating 
with the committees that are looking into this.  We've given members 
and staff briefings on these matters, and by the end of the week, as 
Mr. Ruff notified both the Speaker and the Majority Leader today, 
we'll be producing documents to help the House committee understand 
the matters that they have been pursuing.
	     Q	  Who notified them?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Mr. Chuck Ruff has written to both the 
Speaker and the Majority Leader today saying essentially that -- 
well, saying, first of all, that these decisions were made purely in 
the best interests of the United States, consistent with policies 
that have long been the policy of the United States; consistent with 
determinations made as far back as September 1988 by President Ronald 
Reagan; that we are acting and carrying out a policy that has long 
been recognized by the United States government and by President 
Clinton's two immediate Republican predecessors that there is 
interest in having the United States participate in commercial -- or 
the launch of commercial satellites using other nations.  In the case 
of China, that requires a waiver, because of Tiananmen Square.  And 
as did President Bush, President Clinton has granted waivers for 
launches of commercial satellites.  The reason why is abundantly 
clear to everyone today.   We need -- 
	     Q	  Did he just send that letter out?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That letter is going out today to, and we 
can get a copy.
	     Q	  Going out today?
	     Q	  But in this case it's a matter of record -- 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I think it's gone out.  We can get a copy 
if you need it. 
	     Q	  In this case, it's a matter of record that the 
President overruled his own Justice and State Departments in this 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That's just simply incorrect.  That is 
incorrect.  That is not correct, Sam. 
	     Q	  Secretary Christopher did not argue against it?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  The State Department initiated the request 
for the Loral license in 1988.
	     Q	  In the case of both the Hughes and Loral, you're 
telling us that -- 			
	     MR. MCCURRY:  You're confusing, Sam, a separate issue.  
There's a separate issue going back to 1996 that involves who has 
jurisdiction for what's called the munitions list versus the dual use 
list.  We're talking about commercial satellites, the kind of 
satellites that help people get pages and help you all transmit your 
reports around the world.  
	     That was deemed in 1996 by a decision of the President 
to be something that ought to be regulated by the Commerce 
Department, which regulates so-called dual use technologies.  The 
State Department regulates things that are on the munitions list 
under a separate aspect of federal law.  
	     There was an interagency discussion back in 1996 about 
who should be responsible in our government for the launch of 
commercial satellites.  And it was a pretty heavily debated 
interagency bureaucratic issue back and forth.  The decision was 
ultimately made to transfer the regulation of those launches or the 
satellite launches themselves to Commerce, where the President 
believed they properly belonged because of the nature the technology 
involved  -- at the same time, preserving an extensive interagency 
review process, so anytime you do one of these launches, there is a 
very thorough review of that by all the affected agencies.  
	     Now, that's a whole separate matter from the question of 
a specific license for a specific launch in 1998.  So go back and 
make sure you separate apples from oranges.
	     Q	  What about munitions?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  The munitions list is regulated by the 
State Department and that involves a host of things that are 
regulated consistent with -- what's the name of that group, Eric?  
The Zangger Group.
	     Q	  If he didn't overrule State and the Pentagon, what 
about Justice who was doing an investigation on --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  We appropriately inquired Justice's views 
and they submitted them.  The Justice Department can tell you more 
about that. 
	     Q	  So he did overrule Justice then?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  They, to my knowledge,      	    did not 
take any position in opposition of the granting of a license.
	     Q	  What persuaded the President to grant the licenses 
in the Loral deal?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  What persuaded the President was the 
argument that it would be in the best interest of the United States 
and its people for us to be able to engage in satellite launch 
commerce with other countries, including China, irrespective of 
sanctions in place because of Tiananmen Square.  It's the same 
decision, same argument, same rationale used by George Bush nine 
	     Q	  And that extended to helping the Chinese work out 
their guidance system problems?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  No.  Under these licenses, the licenses 
specifically prohibit you from transferring any technology whatsoever 
that assists a country's launch vehicle capacity.  That's not even 
the allegation.  You all are very confused about even what has been 
	     Q	  Well, you are saying that no such technology 
transfer occurred from Loral?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'm saying that there are -- the Justice 
Department is examining the question of whether Loral may have 
transferred technology information, but that's irrespective of the 
licenses that have been granted under the export control act 
provision that we're talking about.
	     Q	  Just to follow up and put a button on this, it was 
not the President's intention that that kind of technology be 
transferred to China, if indeed it was?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  The President wouldn't even dream of it 
because it's specifically prohibited by law.  And all the licenses 
that we grant are consistent with -- have built into them protections 
and restrictions that specifically prohibit that kind of technology 
transfer that would allow another country to --
	     Q	  You're saying the President didn't change his 
policy or this administration's policy in this regard?  Is that what 
you're saying?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'm saying that this administration has 
pursued the exact same policy pursued by the Bush administration.  We 
made one change which is where should properly these transactions be 
reviewed within our government, who should have the lead in doing the 
review.  And in 1996, it was transferred from the State Department to 
Commerce after a very lengthy consideration that was largely about 
where best these kinds of transactions should be regulated.
	     Q	  So that was what State argued against, the transfer 
of the control?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  They will be able to tell you more about 
their views, but if you go look back, they obviously have within our 
bureaucracy having responsibility for that type of commerce.  They 
wanted to keep it.  There was a good argument that they ought to go, 
like other dual-use items, over to Commerce.  It was an interagency 
bureaucratic squabble.
	     Q	  Well, in 1996 you transferred this from Warren 
Christopher's State Department to Ron Brown's Commerce Department?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Well, he transferred it from the State 
Department to the Commerce Department; the individual arguments or 
identity of whoever was Secretary at the time had little to do with 
the argumentation that was presented about where they best should be 
	     Q	  Well, the President's critics will certainly --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I know exactly what the President's 
critics will say, and they are wrong.
	     Q	  -- point out that Ron Brown came from a political 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Warren Christopher was Bill Clinton's 
campaign manager and transition director.  So I don't know how you 
would make that argument. 
	     Q	  Are you saying that Warren Christopher and Ron 
Brown are equivalent in their political orientation?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  In this discussion, for purposes of who 
best should handle policy on commercial satellite launch, they were 
equal.  They were both Cabinet members making an interagency argument 
on behalf of the views of their department. 
	     Q	  But you're not saying that funds from a Chinese 
lieutenant colonel to the President's campaign was proper, are you? 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'm not -- I don't believe anyone has 
alleged that anyone in the White House or in the administration even 
knew that's the source of the funds.  The presumption was the funds 
were given by Johnny Chung and Johnny Chung -- 
	     Q	  Why didn't the President look into the sources of 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Look, that's a question that goes -- we've 
answered now more than a year ago.  
	     Q	  Why didn't you? 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Because we had very lax vetting procedures 
for contributions, and we've acknowledged that now more than a year 
and a half ago -- 18 months ago.  And we spent a considerable amount 
of time and millions of dollars in looking into the source of these 
contributions, and they were returned.  If, in fact, it's true -- and 
I have no idea whether it is true or not -- that the source of the 
funds that Johnny Chung used was from this woman who was an aerospace 
executive, then that money has long since been returned.  In any 
event, it had absolutely no impact on the President's thinking, since 
to my knowledge no one at the White House even knew that was the 
source of the contribution.
	     Q	  Are you saying, Mike, that after that Chinese 
missile exploded, destroying a $200 million U.S. satellite, neither 
Loral, nor Hughes gave the Chinese any technology to help them -- 
	     MR.MCCURRY:  I am not saying that.  I'm not saying that, 
Wolf, because that is precisely the question the Justice Department 
is looking at.  I'm not going to comment on their investigation in to 
that subject.  The allegation is not that anything done by the 
administration led to that technology transfer.
	     Q	  Let me just follow up.  Did the U.S. government 
authorize Loral and Hughes to provide China with some technology that 
would help them avoid the kind of explosions that destroyed that $200 
million U.S. satellite?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Not that I am aware of.  The only 
information I have available is that the actions taken were 
consistent with what the law requires with respect to the licenses 
	     Q	  In the course of that, the Justice Department is 
investigating Loral and Hughes for possible violations of licensing 
procedures in the course of the investigation of the missile failure.
Loral two days ago admitted that they give information to the Chinese 
before giving it to the State Department, thereby violating at least 
their own corporate policy.
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'm not going to comment on any of that 
because that all goes to the heart of what the Justice Department is 
looking at.  I'm just not going to comment on that.
	     Q	  If that's factual background, the President then, 
earlier this year, grants another license to Loral for the same type 
of export, thereby, in Justice's view, apparently undercutting their 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That is not Justice's view, and it's 
unfair to suggest that that is Justice's view.  They'll tell you what 
their view is.  They expressed concern and they did not do anything 
to take steps to prohibit the transaction that I'm aware of.  And in 
the letter you get from Mr. Ruff today to the Speaker and to the 
Majority Leader, we make very clear that the specific provision in 
law allows us to go ahead and grant that license, absent any kind of 
indictment that's arisen from a criminal investigation.
	     Q	  Why grant a license to a company that is under 
investigation for possibly violating the procedure --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Because we don't presume guilt, we presume 
innocence.  You may have heard of that sometime ago.  I know we don't 
acknowledge that principle very often. 
	     Q	  Why not wait until end of the investigation and 
then make a decision?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That's a good question.  That's one of the 
reasons why we consulted with Justice on their views before we 
granted the licenses.
	     Q	  That seems like a legitimate question, though, 
because you say, why presume guilt, but the presumption is that you 
don't want to do anything that would transfer technology to the 
Chinese, even if -- 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That's correct.  There is no allegation 
that anything about the license that we granted transferred 
technology to the Chinese.  Can you all please get that straight?
	     Q	  I think the point is, why give Loral another 
license in the midst of an investigation that they may have violated 
the law on sensitive technology?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Because the license had nothing to do with 
the proposed act that Loral was about to undertake with the Chinese, 
which was to take one of their satellites and put it on top of a 
rocket so it could be launched so we could get pager service and 
	     Q	  -- a license -- 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Because they're required under the law to 
have it.  The allegation that is being examined has something 
entirely different -- it has to do with the rocket itself that was 
launched and what the discussions were between the companies and the 
Chinese on the rocket, which is not something -- 
	     Q	  The allegation is that Loral violated the 
procedures under which they got their --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  That is not true.  That is not the 
allegation.  You misunderstand what you think you're reading in 
someone else's newspaper.  
	     Q	  Well, what are the allegations? 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  You can read it, and all I'm suggesting to 
you is sort out the basic facts before you attempt to write about 
	     Q	  On Loral, just a clean-up question.  You suggested 
that this administration is cooperating fully with the Gilman 
investigation and say that if there is another probe that you'll 
cooperate with that one.  Yet, the Speaker of the House and the 
Majority Leader of the Senate sent letters complaining about the 
slowness of the response of this administration on that very issue, 
especially regarding documents.
	     MR. MCCURRY:  As I said, the White House Counsel has 
sent a letter to both of them indicating that we expect to produce 
documents by the end of the week.  One of the things we've been doing 
is to make sure, from the viewpoint of the Justice Department, that 
nothing that is produced would jeopardize any ongoing investigatory 
work that they're undertaking.
	     Q	  But to follow up on that, though, sir, is that 
cooperation -- would you consider it foot dragging, has there been 
foot dragging?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  There has not been foot dragging.  There's 
been cooperation and that is -- look, it's in our interest to 
cooperate because if they're interested in getting to the truth, the 
truth will demonstrate that this administration acted consistent with 
the best interests of the American people.  So we welcome an inquiry 
that's legitimate. 
	     Now, the problem we've got is so much of the smoke and 
fire emanating from the Speaker's direction sounds like it's politics 
as usual.  This is a matter where we ought to stay very focused -- 
because the Speaker has made some serious allegations now, we ought 
to stay focused on the truth rather than making it appear that we're 
making charges and allegations for political purposes, which is what 
I think everyone in this room would agree is what it appears the 
Speaker is doing.
	     Q	  Well, the Speaker says that you're the Jerry 
Springer Show, he says you have a level of disrespect --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  It's exactly comments like that that would 
make the American people say, well, this sounds like it's just more 
political mud-wrestling as opposed to a serious inquiry into a very 
complicated area of law, you know, the export control restrictions 
that exist in law on the launch of commercial satellites.  You know, 
that's a complicated area of the law.  The reasons why President Bush 
and President Clinton had granted waivers were very heavily discussed 
and debated within the administration, and both Presidents agreed to 
move ahead with the licenses that allow that for reasons that we have 
set forth very publicly in the past.  But the Speaker is fond of 
making comments like that that sound like they emanate more from the 
direction of politics than from the direction of legitimate 
	     Q	  What is your position on the Defense Department 
report that said that there was -- the national security -- quote -- 
"was damaged"?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Well, the report today is that the same 
agency at the Pentagon also then agreed to support the issuing of the 
license.  So I would leave it to the Pentagon to address that, and I 
assume that they were addressing that today. 
	     Q	  Mike, can I do satellite follow-up --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  No, I've done enough on that.  All right, 
one more. 
	     Q	  On the commercial satellites, is the administration 
looking into the possibility there could have been sabotage involved 
in this, or was it a pure mistake?  I'm talking about the commercial 
one that went out last -- 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I assume that someone somewhere is looking 
into -- in fact, I think that's exactly why Loral was engaged in 
trying to find out more about what happened to the rocket that blew 
up, that they were trying to determine a cause, but I refer you to 
other agencies. 
	     Q	  No, I'm not talking about the satellite last -- 
commercial satellites that went out last -- 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Oh, I refer you to other agencies on that.  
I haven't heard anything to that effect. 
	     Q	  Could you check it please and look into whether 
they -- 
	     MR. MCCURRY:  If we have anything here that we need to 
pass on, we will, but I'm not aware of anything. 

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