Terror is other side of technology coin, Clinton Tells Grads

Thursday, May 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW LONDON, Conn. -- Describing the world as a global village where advances in technology create both opportunity and peril, President Clinton yesterday plugged his China trade policy and said threats ranging from computer viruses to terrorist plots require a $300-million expansion of programs to counter terrorism.

That money would be in addition to the $9 billion that the United States already spends annually for antiterrorism efforts, Mr. Clinton said in a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy. "It sounds like a lot of money. . . . When you see the evidence of what we're up against, I think you will support it."

Globalization presents new opportunities for peace and economic growth but gives the old problems of terrorism and disease fertile new possibilities, Mr. Clinton said in addressing the 184 graduating cadets.

"The central reality of our time," he said, "is that the advent of globalization and the revolution in information technology have magnified both the creative and the destructive potential of every individual, tribe and nation on our planet.

Mr. Clinton pushed his campaign for normalizing trade relations with China -- an initiative bitterly opposed by some elements in his own Democratic Party, most prominently organized labor. A key vote on the issue is scheduled in the House next week, with both Rhode Island representatives, Democrats Patrick J. Kennedy and Robert A. Weygand, pledged to vote against it.

In the Senate, Lincoln Chafee, a Republican, says he will support the president's initiative, while Democrat Jack Reed is undecided.

"Will China emerge as partner or an adversary? Will it be a society that is opening to the world and liberating to its people, or controlling of its people and lashing out at the world?" Mr. Clinton said.

Rejecting the trade agreement, Mr. Clinton said, would "strengthen the hands of the reactionary elements in the [Chinese] military and the state-owned industries who want America for an opponent to justify their continued control and adherence to the old ways and repression of personal freeedom."

Bringing China and its huge potential market into closer trade association with the Western nations will open the doors to democratic ideas, Mr. Clinton argued.

He noted that 20 million people in China are using the Internet, up from 2 million two years ago.

"When over 100 million people can get on the Net, it will be impossible to maintain a closed political and economic society," Mr. Clinton said.

"There are brave people people in China today working for human rights and political freedoms," he said. "There are brave people within the government of China today willing to risk opening the Chinese economy, knowing it will unleash forces of change they cannot control."

Yet Mr. Clinton acknowledged the downside to globilization and the spread of technology.

"The same technological advances are making the tools of destruction deadlier, cheaper and more available. Making us more vulnerable to problems that arise a half a world away: to terror, to ethnic, racial and religious conflicts, to weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking and other organized crime," the president said.

Mr. Clinton also accused the terror network allegedly operated by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden of plotting to harm Americans gathered for New Year's Day millennium celebrations.

"Last December, working with Jordan, we shut down a plan to place large bombs at locations where Americans might gather for New Year's Eve," Mr. Clinton said.

"We learned the plot was linked to terrorist camps in Afghanistan and the organization created by Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the 1998 bombings at our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which cost the lives of Americans and hundreds of Africans," Mr. Clinton said.

Shortly after the plan was uncovered, a Customs agent in Seattle discovered bombmaking materials being smuggled into the United States, the president said, "the same material used by bin Laden in other places."

It was Mr. Clinton's most extensive discussion of bin Laden's activities.

Among the new anti-terrorism measures announced yesterday are installation of high-resolution camera technology on the U.S.-Canadian border; increasing the number of Justice Department prosecutors and legal staff to support the prosecution of terrorists; intensifying efforts to track and analyze the financing of terrorist organizations and expanding the Treasury Department's office of foreign asset control.

It was an imposing graduation scene: about 5,000 relatives and friends of the graduates watched from bleachers as Mr. Clinton spoke from a stage overlooking the Thames River, with the Coast Guard cutter Reliance anchored in the river.

Sun sparkled off the river and a stiff wind riffled the flags as Mr. Clinton waxed nostalgic, noting that his days in the White House are numbered.

"This is a highly appropriate place for me to give what is, for me, a very nostalgic address," said Mr. Clinton, who leaves office next January. "It is the last speech I will ever give as president to a graduating class of one of our military service academies."