Attorney General Reno's Weekly Media Briefing, Oct. 19
WEEKLY MEDIA AVAILABILITY
WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO
THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
WASHINGTON, D.C. 9:30 A.M. EDT
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2000
Q: Ms. Reno, can you tell us why FBI Director Freeh decided to go to
Yemen? What was the purpose of his visit? How long will he be there?
ATTY GEN. RENO: Director Freeh has, I think, always made it a practice
to try to be on the scene as soon as it is nondisruptive at the scene.
I think it's an example, again, of his hands-on approach to major
issues and major tragedies such as this. And I feel -- have always
felt, once I've had Director Freeh's assessment of the scene, that
we're both in a better position to determine what steps to take for
Q: Ms. Reno --
Q: Can we have an update of where we are in the investigation? Have
you talked to the director this morning since he's been there?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I've not talked to the director since he's been there,
but I look forward to hearing from him when he returns.
Q: Are you confident that the agents, the U.S. personnel that are in
Aden, are safe and secure from some kind of follow-up terrorist
ATTY GEN. RENO: This is one -- an issue paramount in Director Freeh's
mind and in my mind since the beginning, and we want to make sure that
we take all possible steps to ensure their security while at the same
time leaving absolutely no stone unturned until the people responsible
for this tragedy are brought to justice.
Q: Ms. Reno, there seems to be some confusion as to why the director
is in Yemen. Is he there to oversee the investigation, or is he just
getting an assessment?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't know how you all generated that confusion.
Director Freeh is there to assess the situation, as he has often times
been in previous situations. He wants to see for himself. He wants to
talk to the people at the scene. We want to do everything we can to
make sure that we're taking steps to bring these people to justice.
Q: And was he on a previously scheduled trip to that area when he want
to Yemen? I understand he's going to other capitals in the region.
ATTY GEN. RENO: No. I don't know what his schedule was before, but I
do know that he is making this trip with this specific objective in
Q: Ms. Reno, are you confident at this point that U.S. investigators
are getting the cooperation that they needed and you expected from the
ATTY GEN. RENO: I think that you should listen to Director Freeh's --
if you have not heard it, listen to him directly so that you hear it
from him directly. He had the opportunity to meet with the police, and
I think he expressed support for what they were doing. He indicated
that we were working with them and supporting them in the work that
they had been doing. But I want to make sure that we do everything we
can to support the Yemeni police, that we have the people on the scene
that are necessary to ensure thorough support of all investigative
Yesterday, I was in Norfolk, and I had an opportunity to meet with
families who had lost loved ones and to meet with injured sailors. The
American people should be so proud of the United States Navy. These
are fine young people, and they were brave in what those that were
injured wanted to do was to get back and support their shipmates. We
must do everything now to see that the people responsible for this
crime are brought to justice.
Q: Ms. Reno, the Yemeni police have been releasing results of their
investigation, talking about finding a van, finding a trailer, finding
a so-called bomb factory, whether it's in the apartment is not clear.
Is the FBI working along with the Yemeni police in those pursuits, or
are they functioning separately?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I think, as you would have heard if you'd heard
Director Freeh this morning, that we're working to support the Yemeni
police. They have taken some important steps, and we want to work with
them in every way possible.
Q: Are U.S. law enforcement agents being allowed to interview
potential suspects, witnesses, or are they leaving that to the Yemenis
and then relying on the information second-hand? What exactly are they
doing on the ground in terms of investigative work and talking to
ATTY GEN. RENO: I am, as you know, not going to talk about what we're
doing. But I think we have a good working relationship that will
permit us to pursue all appropriate investigative leads in support of
the Yemeni police.
Q: Ms. Reno --
Q: Thank you. It's been just a week since this attack, and yet there
seem to be no limit of leads to follow. Are you surprised at how far
along this investigation seems to be so soon after the event?
ATTY GEN. RENO: No.
Q: Ms. Reno, based on the cooperation in Yemen so far, do you have an
opinion as to whether prosecution can and should take place there, or
do you anticipate seeking an extradition if suspects are arrested?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I think all those comments, all those issues are
premature. I think what we must do now is to pursue the investigation
as thoroughly as possible.
Q: But there is no extradition treaty. The U.S. has no extradition
treaty with Yemen, does it?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I won't comment on the processes. I think it's -- the
first thing we must do is find out who did it and be able to prove it.
Q: Ms. Reno, from the evidence that you've seen so far, can you tell
us how sophisticated or organized they were? Do you think they might
be -- (inaudible)? Others have obviously indicated that they think
this is a fairly high level, perhaps global operation versus some sort
of renegade -- renegade bunch.
ATTY GEN. RENO: I think it's premature -- until we identify just who
is responsible, I think it's premature to speculate on the nature of
Q: Ms. Reno, in the initial deployment of U.S. investigators to Yemen,
apparently there was a limit negotiated by the State Department on the
number of American investigators that could be in Yemen at any given
As I understand it, some of the folks who were there had to leave and
fall back to another country while some other people came in; and it
was kind of a revolving door. And yesterday, in an interview on state
television, the President of Yemen said he expected the Americans to
be there no more than a week or 10 days.
Are you convinced that we have a sufficient number of investigators
there who can stay a long enough time?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I will let Director Freeh comment upon his return. But
my understanding is that the original limitation was based on the fact
that there are limited accommodations in Aden, and it was just a
matter of logistics, and trying to get in the key evidence recovery
team and bomb squads as early as possible to ensure appropriate
collection of the evidence.
I think working with the ambassador, working with the government of
Yemen, we can address all of these issues, but we must do everything
we can to secure our agents and make provision for their safety, while
at the same time giving them the support they need to do the evidence
recovery and other steps that need to be taken.
Q: In that same interview yesterday, the Yemeni President said that
he'd been told by the Americans that the explosive material was
something that would be found only in the United States, Israel, or
two Arab countries. Is it fair to conclude, therefore, that the
American investigators had at least a working theory on what the
explosive material was? Whether you can say what it was or not, do
they at least have a working theory of what it is?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I would not comment.