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pd01fe99 Remarks at a Memorial Service for Governor Lawton Chiles...

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[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page i-ii]
Monday, February 1, 1999
Volume 35--Number 4
Pages 109-155

[[Page i]]

Weekly Compilation of



[[Page ii]]

Addresses and Remarks

    See also Meetings With Foreign Leaders
        Community in Beebe--118
        Community in Little Rock--116
    Gov. Lawton Chiles of Florida, memorial service--136
    Millennium Evening at the White House, fifth--123
    Pacific coastal salmon, partnership, telephone remarks--134
    Radio address--115
    Social Security and Medicare, roundtable discussion--127
    Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings--141
    U.S. Conference of Mayors--143
    Virginia, employment initiative in Oakton--137
    Welfare to work initiative--119

Communications to Congress

    Cyprus, letter transmitting report--141
    Terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process, 
        letter transmitting report--135
    U.S. Air Force operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada--152

Communications to Federal Agencies

    International financial institutions and other international 
        organizations and programs, memorandum on funding--143
    Kosovo, memorandum on assistance--125

Interviews With the News Media

    Exchange with reporters in St. Louis, MO--127
    Interview with Judith Miller and William J. Broad of the New York 

Meetings With Foreign Leaders

    Vatican, Pope John Paul II--126, 127


    National Consumer Protection Week--151

Statements by the President

    BP Amoco's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions--122
    Colombia, assistance in earthquake aftermath--135
    Transportation Department's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise 

Supplementary Materials

    Acts approved by the President--155
    Checklist of White House press releases--154
    Digest of other White House announcements--152
    Nominations submitted to the Senate--153
Editor's Note: The Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents is also 
available on the Internet on the GPO Access service at http://


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[[Page 109]]

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 109-115]
Monday, February 1, 1999
Volume 35--Number 4
Pages 109-155
Week Ending Friday, January 29, 1999
Interview With Judith Miller and William J. Broad of the New York Times

January 21, 1999

Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons

    The President. Before you ask questions, I just want to say that I 
really have appreciated the stories you've done, because I think it's so 
important that--it's sort of a balance thing, but I want to raise public 
awareness of this and awareness also with people with influence who can 
influence decisionmaking without throwing people into an unnecessary 
panic. And I think these stories have been exceedingly valuable.
    Sandy was making fun of me today before you came in. Sandy Berger 
was--he said, when you started talking about this 6 years ago nobody 
around here--people just didn't--they hadn't thought about it.
    Q. Six years ago.
    The President. I've been asking them to think about this for a long, 
long time. And of course, we had it more or less in the context of 
terrorism because we had the World Trade Center and all the other things 
to worry about. But anyway.
    Q. But actually, one of my first questions--because we've heard so 
many rumors about how you got interested and none of what has happened 
would have happened without your interest. But what was it?
    The President. Well, it was--first of all, I spend a lot of time 
thinking about 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now. I 
think that's one of the things that Presidents are supposed to do and 
especially when things are changing so much. But we had--keep in mind, 
we had the World Trade Center issue; we had the CIA killer; and then 
later you had the incident in the Tokyo subway and then Oklahoma City. 
We've had a lot of terrorist incidents, culminating in the bombing of 
our Embassies in Africa and what happened in Khobar, other things.
    One of the things that I have worried about from the beginning with 
the breakdown of the Soviet Union before my time here was how to help 
them deal with the aftermath of the massive nuclear system they have, 
and starting with the Nunn-Lugar funds, going all the way up to our 
threat reduction proposals in this year's budget, you know, we tried to 
hire--keep the scientists and the labs working and do joint projects of 
all kinds that would be constructive.
    But it was pretty obvious to me that, given the size of the Soviet 
biological and chemical programs and the fact that we know a lot of 
other nations are trying to develop chemical capacity and some 
biological capacity, that we had not only nuclear problems, but we have 
a chemical and biological problem. And of course, the Vice President and 
others sort of sensitized me to this whole computer problem. We had the 
incident with the defense computers just a few months ago. But before 
that, I kept reading about all these non--in the line of national 
security, all these computer hackers. You know, I'm technologically 
challenged. I can do E-mail and a few other things, you know. But it 
struck me that we were going to have to find some way to try to deal 
with that, too, because of the defense implications, as well as the 
other possibilities.
    And I've had all kinds of--I also find that reading novels, 
futuristic novels--sometimes people with an imagination are not wrong--
Preston's novel about biological warfare, which is very much based on--
    Q. ``Hot Zone'' or ``Cobra Event''? Which one impressed you?
    The President. ``The Cobra Event.''
    Q. That's the one.
    The President. Well, ``The Hot Zone'' was interesting to me because 
of the Ebola thing, because that was a fact book. But I thought

[[Page 110]]

``The Cobra Event'' was interesting, especially when he said what his 
sources were, which seemed fairly credible to me. And then I read 
another book about a group of terrorists shutting down the telephone 
networks in the Northeast and the Midwest.
    Q. What was that? Do you remember?
    The President. I can't remember. I read so many things. I can't 
remember. A couple years ago. But anyway, when I--and a lot of times 
it's just for thrills, but a lot of times these people are not far off. 
You know, they sell books by imagining the future, and sometimes they're 
right; sometimes they're wrong.
    So I've gotten--I don't want to sound--I've gotten a lot of sort of 
solid, scientific input. I've also solicited opinions from people 
working on the genome project, for example, and about what the 
implications of that might be for dealing with biological warfare. And 
last year, we had a whole group of experts come in here and spend an 
extended amount of time with me and then follow up with the staff on 
biological issues in particular. So I've had a real interest in this, 
and I think we're about to get up to speed.
    But we just have to be prepared for it. I mean, it's--if you look 
back through all of human history, people who are interested in gaining 
control or influence or advantage over others have brought to bear the 
force of arms. And what normally happens from the beginning of history 
is the arms work until a defense is erected, and then there's an 
equilibrium until there is a new offensive system developed, and then a 
defense comes up, going all the way back to--well, even before it, but 
castle moats which were overcome by catapults.
    And so, basically, I think what has concerned me is that we, because 
we're moving from one big issue--will there be a nuclear war between the 
United States and the Soviet Union, to now a whole lot of proliferation 
of issues, dealing with smaller scale nuclear issues, chemical and 
biological issues, missile technology and, of course, the related 
computer cyber-crime issue--is that I just don't want the lag time 
between offense and defense to be any longer than is absolutely 
    That, I think, is the challenge for us, is to try to--before 
anything really tragic happens not only in the United States but 
anywhere else. We've had enough warning signs out there now, enough 
concrete evidence, and we need to close the door of the gap between the 
offense and defense.

Gravity and Timing of the Threat

    Q. How worried should we be, and how--we don't want to panic people. 
And research has seen some of these warning signs, and readers call, and 
they want to know, is this--how worried should we be? Is this serious 
today, and is the threat rising? Is it going be more serious in the 
    The President. I would say that if the issue is, how probable is it 
in the very near-term an American city or community would be affected, 
I'd say you probably shouldn't be too worried. But if the issue is, is 
it a near certainty that at some time in the future there will be some 
group, probably a terrorist group, that attempts to bring to bear either 
the use or the threat of a chemical or biological operation, I would say 
that is highly likely to happen sometime in the next few years. And 
therefore, I would say the appropriate response is not worry or panic 
but taking this issue very seriously, expecting all elected officials 
with any responsibility in this area to know everything they can, and to 
do everything we can both to erect all possible defenses and then to try 
to make sure we are doing everything we can to stop this.
    Now, we know right now--we know that a lot of what we've done 
already has delayed WMD programs, some of which I can't talk about, but 
slowed the development of WMD programs of missile technology development 
that might deliver such weapons and other things. And we're doing 
everything we can to stop or slow down the ability of others, insofar as 
we know about it and can do something about it. And meanwhile, we're 
doing everything we can both to develop defenses and emergency 
responses. But I think we've got an enormous amount of work out there 
ahead of us, an enormous amount of work.
    And a lot of this has to be done with great cooperation between the 
Federal Government--we need cooperation of the private sector on the 
cyber issues, the computer

[[Page 111]]

issues. We need cooperation with local government on public health 
response issues, exposure--if there appears to be an outbreak. We had 
all these sort of false alarms of anthrax in California--how many?--more 
than a dozen, I think, in the last month. So we need to be able to 
diagnose and to treat and also to manage those things.

Biological Threat and Developing a Response

    Q. Does one of these threats worry you more than another, and does 
any one in particular keep you awake at night?
    The President. Well, I have spent some late nights thinking a lot 
about this and reading a lot about it. I think in terms of offense 

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