State Department Noon Briefing, Friday, October 19

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2000 12:50 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) Q: There were hearings today with Zinni there talking about the clearance for Yemen to be used for refueling, and there was a lot of tough questions about why that was allowed. I know there was some back and forth about who bears the ultimate responsibility for clearing the port, but since the State Department does have a role in all of this, is there some rethinking going on now about how ports will be cleared in the future? And then I want to ask about the Travel Advisory that went out yesterday. MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of any broad rethinking. I think everybody involved in these situations will try to learn as much as possible about them. Certainly in the case of Yemen, the military, in the usual -- in consultation with us and experts throughout the Government, has suspended further visits, which makes a lot of sense obviously given the situation in Yemen. And I am sure that as anybody involved in this whole process, whether it is the military making its final decisions or the rest of us who are involved in consultations, advice, or whatever with them, will try to learn as much as they can from this event, and hopefully draw conclusions that help our forces in the future be safer and safer. Q: And then on the Travel Advisory that went out yesterday, we talked about it a lot with Phil. But as he pointed out, there was nothing specific in terms of when there might be specific terrorist action taken, where it might be taken. And, apparently, according to various different government officials, that type of broad-based warning went out before the USS Cole attack, but they kind of put it off to the side because they didn't have more details. Was the decision to put out this caution yesterday in part based on that, not wanting to repeat maybe what might have been seen as an error of not taking those kinds of broad-based threats more seriously and bringing them to the public's attention? MR. BOUCHER: Well, we had a public Worldwide Caution on October 12th. I think we have had them in the past before that. I'm not sure if that was a replacement or new one at that point, but the October 18th one that Phil discussed with you yesterday says, "Individuals may be planning terrorist actions against United States citizens and interests in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey." That is the best information that we can provide at this time. Clearly we have a policy that if we know of a specific threat at a specific location or time or flight, that we - if we cannot counter the threat adequately - we make that information public as well. But this is a broader thing based on the nature of the information that we have. Q: Can you say whether - when someone looks at that type of thing and it doesn't tell them not to go there, is it State Department advice not to go there at all? MR. BOUCHER: State Department advice is explicitly stated in the warning, and it is precise depending on what we know and what we feel we can advise people based on what we know. In this case, it says, "US citizens should exercise caution in considering travel to those areas at this time." (The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)