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Administration, Congress Take Steps to Crack Down on Domestic Terrorism

With concern about domestic terrorism mounting, the Clinton administration and members of Congress are working to identify suspected terrorists and prevent them from entering the United States.

Last week, for example, the State Department reinterpreted its counterterrorism reward program to include cash payments for information on terrorist acts committed in the United States.

Previously, the department had offered its international rewards program only for acts committed against Americans outside U.S. jurisdiction.

In an unprecedented announcement Friday, the State Department said it was now offering a reward for information concerning one of the suspects in the bombing of the World Trade Center, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who is believed to have fled to the Middle East.

The new State Department policy was welcomed Friday by the Anti-Defamation League, which had been working with Sens. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) to codify such a change in the reward program.

ADL backed an amendment to the fiscal 1994 State Department authorization bill, recently passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which would grant monetary rewards for information on terrorist incidents committed inside the United States.

ADL Counsel Michael Lieberman argued that the State Department’s new policy should be codified, so there is “no doubt in the future” about the scope of the State Department program. “There should be no confusion on this,” he said.

CHANGES IN VISA SCREENING PROCEDURES

Many members of Congress have been concerned of late not only about finding terrorists once they commit deadly acts, but also about why the terrorists are allowed to enter the country in the first place.

After a series of terrorist incidents including the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and shootings near the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in northern Virginia earlier this year, members of Congress and administration officials are in accord that the system by which U.S. Embassy personnel screen visa applicants needs to be changed.

In hearings last Thursday before a House subcommittee, State Department officials testified about antiquated equipment and lenient procedures that enable terrorists and those linked to terrorism to enter the United States.

There has been particular concern about how Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the now-notorious blind Moslem cleric tied to the suspects in the World Trade Center bombing and the plot to blow up New York targets, entered the country.

State Department Inspector General Sherman Funk, who testified last Thursday along with Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Mary Ryan, said the department was reviewing its policies.

Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on international security, which held the hearings, said in a statement that the department’s current policy of “not automatically barring a member of a terrorist group is simply ludicrous.”

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