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Remarks on Terrorism and an Exchange With Reporters

July 29, 1996

The President. Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, first let me thank the Members of the congressional leadership who are here to discuss this very important issue. I think when the bomb went off in the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, that park literally became our national common ground, a symbol of our common determination to stand against terrorism, domestic or foreign, and to do everything we can to combat it.

We have followed a three-part strategy consistently. First of all, we have worked with our friends around the world to try to increase international cooperation against terrorists and to isolate the states that support terrorism. Just today in Paris, the G-7 conference on terrorism is opening, and I believe after this meeting the Attorney General is going to Paris to represent the United States there.

We have intensified our antiterrorism efforts here at home. And I want to again thank the congressional leadership and the Members of Congress from both parties that strongly supported the antiterrorism bill and other efforts that we have made to strengthen our hand here at home. And we've had some results, preventing terrorism actions, catching people who commit terrorist acts. We intend to do more.

The third thing we have done is to increase airport security. And we will be looking at what else we can do through the commission that I've asked the Vice President to head to intensify airport security in the weeks and months ahead.

Again, let me say, if you look around this room—the Speaker, Senator Lott, Senator Daschle, Mr. Gephardt, Senators Hatch and Biden, Congressman Hyde and Congressman Conyers, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the representatives of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies—you can see that when we are attacked, whether it's from within or without, we come together. And that's what we're doing here.

I hope we'll be able to discuss some specific things that we might be able to do to strengthen our hand against terrorism, some things that we proposed before, maybe some other new ideas people have, including some very specific and limited use of wiretaps, perhaps discussion of the taggants issue again and some other issues that will come before us. The main thing is we need to get the very best ideas we can, and we need to move as quickly as we can to do everything we can to try to strengthen this country's hand against terrorism.

And the Speaker made a point the other day which I think is very important, which is that the people who do this thing are always trying to stay ahead of the curve. Whatever we do, they'll try to find some other way to get around it. That means that this has got to be a long, disciplined, concerted, united effort by the United States. And I think we ought to take every tool we can and take every possible advantage we can because this is not going to be easy. But we have shown that we can get results when we work together and do the right thing and the smart thing.

So I'm glad that the leaders are here. I'm looking forward to the conversation. And I'd like to give the Speaker a chance to say a word and Senator Lott and perhaps the minority leaders.

[At this point, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senate majority leader Trent Lott, House minority leader Richard A. Gephardt, and Senate minority leader Thomas A. Daschle made brief remarks.]

Q. Mr. President, what more do you need in the way of wiretaps? What about those constitutional bounds?

The President. Well, first of all, we shouldn't do anything that violates the Constitution. I think the question is whether—if you have someone that you have a strong suspicion and strong evidence is involved in terrorism who is moving around all the time and the traditional laws governing wiretaps which tie to residence and place of business don't operate. We'll discuss that, and we'll be able to talk more about it later.

I think we need to start our meeting now. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:22 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House, prior to a meeting with congressional leaders.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Terrorism and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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