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President George W. Bush Holds Press Conference

Aired December 20, 2001 - 14:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Today, December the 20th, is 100 days since the terror attacks of September 11. President Bush, among other things, is marking this day by announcing at the White House in just a moment that he is taking another step in the financial war on terror, by going after two foreign organizations that are believed to be funneling money to terrorists and to terrorist organizations.

For a little bit more on what the president is going to be announcing in an about a minute, let's go to our Major Garrett at the White House -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Judy, no details on these two organizations, but senior administration officials told CNN just moments that the White House believes that once the two organizations are named by the president, it will represent the most significant effort to date in the financial war against terrorism.

And the point of this entire Rose Garden event, this White House official said, is for the president to remind the nation that a strike against terror financially is just as important as a military strike against terrorism. And you can see when the Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill joins the president, and the Secretary of State Colin Powell, that there will clearly be a financial and diplomatic element to this announcement the president is going to make.

Again, the 100 days are sort of an artificial demarcation point a lot of journalists here in Washington put, either on a domestic agenda for a president, or in this case, the war on terrorism. The White House thought it was important, as the holiday season kicks in, to remind the country again what's at stake, what the president and the administration and the coalition have been doing. All that's going to be a part of this event in the Rose Garden -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Major, we're getting closer to the president coming out. They do think they're making progress here, I assume.

GARRETT: Progress on many fronts, not only militarily. Clearly, the things on the ground are going well in Afghanistan. Much work remains to be done, but a lot of successes. The administration also believes the financial war is going well.

I can see the president. Let's turn to the president now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... afterwards, to answer any questions you have on this particular initiative, that we'll be announcing today.

This the 100th day of our campaign against global terrorism, and in those 100 days we've accomplished much. We've built a broad international coalition against terror, and I want to thank the secretary of state for his hard work. We broke the Taliban's grip on Afghanistan. We took the war to the Al Qaeda terrorists. We're securing our airways. We're defending our homeland. And we're attacking the terrorists' international financial network, and I want to thank the secretary of the treasury for his hard work.

Today I'm announcing two more strikes against the financing of terror. We know that Al Qaeda would like to obtain nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and we know that oftentimes they do not act alone. Al Qaeda has international supporters, and some of those supporters hide themselves in the disguise of charity.

Last year a former official of the Pakistani atomic energy commission set up an organization known as the UTN. UTN claims to serve the hungry and needy of Afghanistan, but it was the UTN that provided information about nuclear weapons to Al Qaeda.

So today I'm adding UTN and three of its directors to our list of terrorist-supporting financial organizations and individuals. We're issuing orders to block any of their assets within U.S. jurisdiction, and putting the world on notice that anyone who continues to do business with UTN and its principal figures will not do business with the United States.

Since September the 11th we've witnessed a series of terrorist attacks aimed at the United States and our friends around the world: anthrax mailings here at home, suicide bombings against Israel, and only last week an armed attack on the Indian parliament.

The legislature of the world's largest democracy, a nation founded on the principles of freedom and speech, freedom of worship was ruthlessly attacked. The terrorists killed eight innocent people. If their mission had succeeded, they would have kidnapped and killed many of India's elected representatives.

Last week's attack was only the most recent terrorist assault on the institutions of Indian democracy. More than 30 people were killed in a car bombing at the state legislative assembly in Srinigar on October the 1st.

These attacks on Indian's parliament buildings remind us that whatever grievances or causes the terrorists may cite, their real target is democracy and freedom.

The United States condemns these terrorist attacks against India, and we extend our sympathies and friendship to the families of the murdered.

American power will be used against all terrorists of global reach. And so today I'm adding another terrorist organization to the list of those whose assets are blocked by my executive order. Lashkar- i-Taiba is an extremist group based in Kashmir. LAT is a stateless sponsor of terrorism, and it hopes to destroy relations between Pakistan and India and undermine Pakistani's president, Musharraf. To achieve it's purpose, LAT has committed acts of terrorism inside both India and Pakistan. LAT is a terrorist organization that presents a global threat, and I look forward to working with the governments of both India and Pakistan in a common effort to shut it down, and to bring the killers to justice.

I'm optimistic about the future of our struggle against terror. I know we've accomplished a lot so far, and we've got a lot more to do.

Over the past 100 days, we and our British allies and others in the coalition have destroyed at least 11 terrorist training camps inside Afghanistan, terrorist factories that produce thousands of trained operatives.

We've also destroyed 39 Taliban command-and-control sites. Senior Al Qaeda and Taliban officials have been captured or killed. And potential escape routes for the survivors are constantly being blocked to prevent the cowards from running.

American, Australian and German aid workers held hostage by the Taliban have been liberated.

We've dropped some 2.5 million humanitarian rations to the hungry people inside Afghanistan.

Our attack on terrorist finances is progressing. The assets of more than 150 known terrorists, their organizations and their bankers have been frozen by the United States; 142 countries have issued freezing orders of their own. The result: More than $33 million in terrorist assets have been blocked inside the United States; more than $33 million more have been blocked abroad by our partners in the international coalition.

At home, we've created a new Office of Homeland Security under my friend Tom Ridge and worked with Congress to provide more than $20 billion to safeguard our territory.

New airline security legislation has been signed into law.

Our law enforcement agencies are protecting our safety while respecting the constitutional rights of our citizens.

We listed the 22 most wanted foreign terrorists.

We're reorganizing the INS so it can more effectively prevent the entry into the United States by those who want to threaten our national security.

We arrested one of the murderers of the September 5, 1986, hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73, showing would-be terrorists and current terrorists that we have a long memory, that we're patient, that if you think you can hide we'll come and find you and bring you to justice. We made the first indictment against the terrorists, those murderers of September the 11th. We and our coalition have done much in the past 100 days. With the help of freedom-loving countries around the world, we will do much more to rid the world of evil and of terrorists.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Your deliberations over John Walker, and have you...

WOODRUFF: President Bush, announcing that two more organizations outside the United States have been added to the list of those that the United States will not do business with, and will freeze the assets of -- one of them based in Pakistan, the other one based in Kashmir.

Major Garrett, still with us from the White House. Major, in moving to this organization in Kashmir, this was not an organization aiming its terror at the United States. It apparently, he is saying, had something to do with the attack on the Indian Parliament.

GARRETT: That's right, Judy. And as advertised, these two announcements are very significant. The first one, the one about the organization in Kashmir, is significant for the very reason that you explained. This is not about terrorism or threatened terrorism against United States, but terrorism among two recent allies, recent coalition partners in the war against terrorism: India and Pakistan.

And there had been some criticism from the Indian government, though much muted. And nevertheless, it was felt here at the White House that the initial White House reaction last week on the Indian Parliament was not stout enough, was not loud enough, in condemning what happened. And only two days ago, Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, was saying the only really White House reaction was that both nations would act responsibly in trying to resolve the situation.

As the president just said, it was an attack on the seat of government for the world's largest democracy. So this announcement puts the United States and those who seek to join and stay in the coalition, four square against this organization, which the president has said is trying to destabilize the situation between these two nuclear powers, who have fought for decades over Kashmir.

And the situation in Kashmir has become so volatile that many senior U.S. policymakers are concerned about possible armed hostilities between India and Pakistan -- the last thing this government would like to see occur as it continues to wage the global campaign against terrorism -- and waging it most specifically in Afghanistan.

But this other announcement about Pakistan, and the organization UTN the president mentioned there, also significant in its own right, because the president said that organization has tried to create and funnel money to al Qaeda in its pursuit of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons -- weapons of mass destruction -- which the president, senior advisers say, has now added to the list of potential terrorist threats around the United States.

Any attempt to obtain weapons of mass destruction by organizations the president believes could pose a threat to the United States in the coming years, is a legitimate target in the war on terrorism. So, taken together, these are two very significant developments in the financial campaign against terror -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, Major, just quickly, we heard the reporter shouting a question at the president about a decision on John Walker, what's to come of him. We learned today that the president is still, in effect, receiving the advice of his attorney general, Defense Department officials, as well as others.

GARRETT: That's right. The Defense Department has been working on the military tactical information from John Walker, extracting as much as they can from him about what he knows about al Qaeda and the Taliban. Now the Justice Department is over there. The FBI are interrogating him, and the president is going to review all options from defense and justice. And again, it's going to be a situation where the U.S. government is going to try to decide what charges best fit John Walker's behaviors there. They don't have all the facts yet. That's why the president is reviewing you all options -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett, joining us from the White House. Thank you, Major.

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