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Reno defends billion-dollar anti-terrorism plan

September 12, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EDT

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick told reporters the U.S. remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks from abroad -- but that much of the proposed "fix" must remain secret, while his boss, Attorney General Janet Reno, faced the bright lights of a Senate panel Thursday trying to defend the billion-dollar counter-terrorism proposal.

"Intelligence we receive makes us concerned about continuing efforts to target Americans. We remain vulnerable and we know that there are international terrorists who are targeting American citizens here and abroad." Gorelick said in a briefing at the Justice Department.

The Justice Department's second highest official expressed some frustration that so much information on combating terrorism must be kept from the voters.


"Much of it cannot be presented in public," Gorelick said. "A great deal of it is classified, which is inevitable but unfortunate -- because it would help the American people a great deal to know that there are very substantial efforts ongoing right now."

Reno, meanwhile, began her testimony in open session, defending the funding request in very general terms. However, the panel later closed the meeting to the press and public.

Gorelick did reveal in her meeting with reporters that the existing counter-terrorism effort is increasingly successful. "We have been very successful as a country in deterring acts focused on the United States. In recent years the percentage of successful terrorist activity in the U.S. has dropped from forty percent to approximately twenty percent."

Gorelick acknowledged the World Trade Center was the last successful terrorist attack on the U.S. from outside the country, but pointed to the foiled plots to bomb U.S. airliners in Asia, and to destroy tunnels and bridges in New York as evidence of a continuing overseas terrorist threat.

The wide-ranging counter-terrorism package requested by the administration includes a beefed-up domestic airport security plan, improved security for U.S. military troops stationed overseas and more FBI agents.

Congressional Republicans are demanding to know where the Clinton administration plans to make cuts to fund the anti-terrorism program. And GOP critics claim the administration program is too much, too late, and contains many controversial proposals.


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