WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a European Union/United States Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Press Conference: 12:40 P.M. ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Good afternoon. I am pleased to have this opportunity to host the European Union/United States Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial this early in my tenure as Attorney General. Joining me on stage today is my co-host, Secretary Michael Chertoff of the Department of Homeland Security; Vice President of the European Commission for Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini; and representing the Portuguese presidency of the E.U. are the Minister of Justice of Portugal Alberto Costa, and the Minister of Interior of Portugal Rui Pereira. We are also fortunate to have with us today the Slovenian Interior Minister Dragutin Mate and Slovenian State Secretary Robert Marolt. I look forward to working with them when Slovenia takes on the E.U. presidency for the first half of 2008. I think this meeting shows how important the United States considers its relationship with the E.U. and with the member states. The range of topics we discussed over dinner last night and at our meeting today illustrates both the extent and the depth of that relationship. I want to focus in particular on three topics that we discussed: counterterrorism, narcotics and organized crime, and the legal framework of our relationship. After reviewing the record of our achievements together since September 11, 2001, I fully agree with the statement that was made by E.U. High Representative Javier Solana that our joint action to fight international terrorism is, as he put it, one of the unsung transatlantic success stories. At our meeting today, we discussed a number of joint responses to terrorism, including our continuing efforts to deal with the problem of radicalization. There is one area of counterterrorism cooperation to which I would like to call special attention. Prosecutors and police in a number of E.U. member states have devoted enormous efforts toward investigating and prosecuting networks that smuggle terrorists into Iraq to attack Coalition forces. Our troops and the Iraqi people are safer because of these efforts and I want to express our deep gratitude to our law enforcement colleagues. We in turn are redoubling our efforts to work collaboratively with European prosecutors and police on this problem. I expect this to be just the first of a series of meetings with our counterparts on how we can increase information sharing on this issue. The second matter I would like to discuss is that of narcotics and organized crime. Again, our focus was on increasing practical cooperation to respond to the flow of heroin out of Afghanistan and the increased smuggling of cocaine from the western hemisphere into Europe. With regard to Afghanistan, we discussed efforts that we've undertaken to strengthen the rule of law in that country, including multilateral assistance to Afghanistan's counter-narcotics task force, as well as the law enforcement response both in Europe and in the United States. With regard to smuggling of cocaine from Central and South America into Europe, we welcomed the opening of the European Union's new Maritime Operational and Analysis Center in Lisbon. Our law enforcement agencies have begun working at that center and that cooperation already has resulted in significant interdiction of smuggled narcotics. Finally, with regard to the increasing dangers posed by high-level organized crime, I am pleased that EuroJust has brought together E.U. and U.S. prosecutors to discuss joint strategies for responding to those crime groups. My third topic is the legal framework of our relationship. As a concrete and specific sign of the breadth of the E.U.-U.S. law enforcement relationship, I am pleased to report that the administration is preparing to transmit the landmark E.U.-U.S. Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties to the Senate for its advice and consent, and we look forward to working with the Senate on those treaties. We also look forward to deepening our engagement with EuroPol and EuroJust in the coming year, both who are designated representatives to those organizations, and through further meetings such as the one held this year at EuroJust on international organized crime. I would like to conclude by noting that, as always, our efforts against crime and terrorism must take place within the context of respect for civil liberties and the dignity of the individual. Working together, the European Union and the United States have determined to protect our citizens within the rule of law and we are stronger in doing so together. Now I would like to turn the podium over to Secretary Chertoff. SECRETARY CHERTOFF: I would like to thank the Attorney General for hosting us. I would like to thank the Portuguese presidency for its fine work during their term and also welcome the Slovenian presidency and, of course, my good friend, Vice President Frattini. I have to say -- pause for a moment on a personal note to say that standing up in this podium, it's like dej� vu all over again with some of you reporters out there, because as some of you know, I used to be working here as opposed to where I'm currently working. I do think that this meeting has been a great opportunity to emphasize the tremendous amount of cooperation that takes place on a regular basis between the European Union and its member states and the United States, including work on some cases of great significance. Obviously, the disruption of the August 2006 airline plot, work we did cooperatively with respect to the arrests earlier this summer in Germany as a result of the IJU plot, and all of this is against a series of measures that we take together to make our policies operate in a way that synchronizes and furthers a partnership in fighting against terrorism and organized crime. I think -- I want to mention briefly four things we discussed that I think are very important as we go forward. One is, as the Attorney General said, we are seeking to deepen the framework of data sharing and protection. The key to partnership against terrorism is better sharing of information within a framework that makes everybody feel confident that we are safeguarding their privacy and their civil liberties. As I've said, I believe that we have fundamental agreement on the basic principles. Sometimes there are some historical or cultural differences that we have to work out, but what we are really seeking to do here is identify those fundamentals so that we can continue to build on the kinds of agreements that we recently achieved, for example, with passenger name record information. And I think that's a good sign for the future. Second, we talked a lot about the need in general to build systems that work in a cooperative and, dare I say, interoperable fashion so that we can more freely and flexibly share information to make sure that those who are innocent can pass without hindrance and those who are dangerous can be detected before they can cause harm. Third issue which is a matter, I know, of great concern to many of our European friends is our discussion about the visa waiver program. As you know, Congress passed legislation earlier this year that did give us some extra flexibility with respect to admitting some of the states that had been unable to gain entry into the visa waiver program because of the visa refusal rate. This new flexibility will come on line once we get our electronic travel authorization up and under way. As I told my colleagues from Europe, we are obviously waiting for Congress to act on appropriations bills which are the precondition to getting electronic travel authorization moving. And obviously, we want to get that done as quickly as possible. But we do anticipate that next year we will begin to work with some of the individual member states on what they need to do to prepare for that moment when we will be able to welcome them into the visa waiver program, in a way that promotes travel but does it in a manner that actually enhances our security at the border. Finally, we talked a little bit about the fact that we are all concerned, both here and in Europe, about the use of -- ability to use our technology to further promote security, whether it's in transportation or whether it's crossing our borders or whether it's in dealing with disasters and catastrophes. And I talked particularly to Vice President Frattini about using some of our research in our Science and Technology Directorate in cooperation with a recent European Research Forum that the E.U. has set up to see whether we can't leverage some of our creativity in coming up with technological tools that will help all of us do our job better. So now I would like to ask Minister Pereira to address you. MINISTER PEREIRA: [As interpreted.] Thank you very much. I would like to thank first of all the Attorney General and the Secretary of State [sic] Chertoff for being excellent hosts and for the excellent meeting that took place between the European Union and United States. At this meeting, I had the opportunity to represent -- to present the results and priorities of the Portuguese presidency of the European Union in each internal issues. I would like to remind what these priorities were. One, the global approach to migration. This global situation would include regulation -- the balanced regulation of legal immigration in such a way that legal immigration becomes a way of developing the origin countries, the destination countries and protecting the immigrants, but would include also fighting illegal immigration. Illegal immigration in the perspective of the European Union is a phenomenon that creates serious problems of exploitation of immigrants, humanitarian problems and it's linked to organized crime, specifically human trafficking.. In this context, we mentioned the importance of the Border Agency of Europe, FRONTEX, and the importance of rapid action teams from the European Union that were formed recently. And they protect our common borders. The first exercise of those teams of rapid response took place a few weeks ago in Oporto, a Portuguese city. And I also mentioned another Portuguese priority which was the enlargement of the -- freedom, security and justice space of the European Union, thanks to a project that was developed by Portugal -- the Schengen for all -- it was possible to bring the -- the issue to deal with the new borders of the new members who were joining the European Union. They will have the common borders of the European Union. This enlargement of the Schengen space is excellent news for the new state, for millions of citizens of European Union. But it is also a condition for the various security of the European Union as a whole, so that the Union will be able to have a more balanced dialogue as a whole with the United States of America. And thirdly, I mentioned the terrorism prevention. It was a priority of extreme importance for the Portuguese presidency. We are convinced that global terrorism, which we are facing nowadays, it's a very serious threat to the United States as well as against the European Union. It questions the rule of law, the democratic organization of our societies and it questions human rights. This is why it's necessary to fight firmly this kind of terrorism and it's necessary to fight on the area of prevention, most importantly, avoiding radicalization, avoiding recruitment of new agents for terrorism. Because our communities are vulnerable to these maneuvers of getting more people. And these aspects correspond to priorities and achievements of the Portuguese presidency and we found out there is a community of points of view, of similar points of view, between United States and the European Union. And so we can make new steps towards the future to deepen our cooperation. MINISTER COSTA: [As translated.] I would also like to thank the hospitality and the very constructive environment in which we had this meeting between the European Union and the United States of America in the area of justice and internal management. We dealt with different issues and I would like to concentrate on two of those aspects. The first one has to do with the level of the exchange of information between American agencies and two important European agencies, EuroJust and EuroPol. It is essential when we fight criminality nowadays to have good and recent information and this is why this exchange between European and U.S. agencies is an essential aspect to fight successfully terrorism and organized crime, including drugs, child pornography and other criminal scourges of present days. Our dialogue was geared to promote a new level of exchange on these issues. It's known that in Europe, we attribute great importance to protecting personal data, personal information. But it's important to mention that we also confer great importance to exchange of information in cooperation with the United States in information. Without that, there will be no success in the present day world. And we are aware of that, of that need, the European Union. Another point that I would like to point out deals with fighting drug trafficking, taking into account that the road or the way cocaine goes through Africa, West Africa, where the lack of responsive structures create a great vulnerability place that weakens all our countries. Our talks were geared to expand our cooperation and also taking into account the great experience and background that the U.S. has in terms of institutional preparedness, helping countries that would not otherwise be able to be responsive through their justice system. This is a big front of the struggle against crime and it is necessary to stop the creation of new trafficking, drug trafficking. And we see that Europe and the United States of America can do a lot together today and during the Portuguese presidency. We created in Lisbon a center for analysis of anti-trafficking operations which was mentioned before. And many European countries participate as well as the United States of America as an observer. It's a promising presence. It's linked already to different forms of cooperation with American agencies, and we are convinced that its presence and cooperation represent the way, the necessary way to face the great criminal threats of the present. VICE PRESIDENT FRATTINI: -- with the outcome of our meeting. We have been discussing about important topics. I would like to stress just three points. Our first point on terrorism. We focused on radicalization and recruitment of terrorists. I've informed all the American friends, in particular the Attorney General and Secretary Chertoff, about some ongoing initiatives already undertaken, like a collection of best practices in all 27 member states, about how to address radicalization, how to counter spreading messages of violence in prisons, in schools, among younger generations. And how to tackle violent radicalization by promoting positive messages in Europe and outside Europe. For example, by improving capacity of moderate Muslims to speak and to promote messages of tolerance and cooperation. The results of all these studies will be published in early 2008, in the first weeks of January. I said, I'm ready to share all the information with my American friends. Europe is ready to cooperate. Also to accept the very important proposal made by the American delegation, by the Attorney General, Secretary Chertoff to have I would say a transatlantic compendium of best practices on how to tackle violent radicalization. I'm ready to engage with U.S., United States, on this. I'm ready to cooperate on exchanging best practices. I'm ready to put forward early 2008 in the first quarter a comprehensive communication on radicalization and home grown terrorism which is a quite concerning phenomenon to us in E.U. The second point, how to strike the right balance between granting and promoting the right security, which is in itself a fundamental right, because it is first of all the right to life, and the other fundamental rights and civil liberties, including data protection. I completely agree with the importance of having a political discussion at ministerial level. We decided to organize during the next troika meeting under the Slovenian presidency a ministerial meeting building on the conclusions of the high-level group discussion on security and privacy protection, in order to make it possible to get consensus of new member states and to have a final political endorsement at the highest possible level, in order to make it possible to, on one hand, show the common political good will, on the other hand to show concrete results not only at technical level but at political level. And that's why it's very important to set up a very ambitious agenda, not only technical meetings that of course will take place early 2008, but a ministerial meeting, and looking at possibility of having a highest political endorsement of our comprehensive euroatlantic approach, security and privacy protection. The third point, how to move ahead with European border security strategy. I have informed the colleagues about some initiatives I have in mind. I've announced the intention to present a border package in February 2008 next year, including an European electronic entry-exit register and an idea of somehow ETA at European level, electronic travel authorization, aiming at interconnection with ETA of United States. So to have one day interoperability between systems aiming at promoting facilitated, bona fide travelers' circulation while catching criminals in the E.U. and in cooperation with United States. That's our idea to have a secure space where honest people can move freely and criminals are caught. Finally, I've stressed once again the importance of working together towards the lifting of visa requirements for all the new member states' citizens. I am very pleased by the announcement made by my good friend Michael Chertoff about importance of cooperating with a number of member states that are eligible to be part very soon of the visa waiver program, provided that proper financial means are provided for to government of the United States in order to translate the recently approved American law into practice by the introduction of electronic travel authorization. I'm looking forward to working closely in cooperation with United States in order to have some concrete results in terms of concrete announcement of measures that can be taken before I publish in June 2008 my next report on the state of play or reciprocity. Thank you. MINISTER MATE: Hello. I presented in that meeting the next presidency and the main priorities between European Union and the United States and practically everything was on the plate now when the Vice President explained what he will be doing next year. But I think it's the most important part that we made decision today that we will continue with the work of high-level working group, we will continue that work in January, and we will have the political framework in March when we will have the next meeting, United States-European Union, and where we can put together the whole framework, the political framework of the goals that we want to reach. That's crucial. We must have ambitious plans and if we have those ambitious plans, we can come closer to that cooperation between Europe and United States. That cooperation is crucial for the security of both partners in that relation, for United States and for European Union. And another thing that is quite important what we discussed today is how to encourage the countries, the western Balkan and some other countries, to improving their travel documents. We encourage them by preparing the biometric passports. And our American friends agreed that they will encourage them, too. It's very important that if they have that kind of travel documents that we can have better security on our borders and that we can easily have bona fide travelers through our borders. And security of borders of European Union are now enlarged, you know, so that the whole space of European Union of Schengen area is enlarged and we need good security on our borders. Our conference, what we will have in European Union, about the security on our borders will be connected with a meeting with United States and Europe. And we believe that we can exchange good practices from both sides and that we can make more security for Europe and for United States. Thank you. MR. ROEHRKASSE: All right. At the outset, we are going to rotate questions. As I mentioned earlier, the first question from the U.S. press corps. Q General, Judge Mukasey -- ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Either one will do. "Mister" is fine. Q Mr. Mukasey, could you talk a little bit about whether or not you have been able to review whether the OLC memos on waterboarding, whether you think that waterboarding is indeed torture, and whether or not the tapes that the CIA destroyed would have helped you make that decision? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Could everybody hear the question? The question is whether I reviewed what were described as OLC opinions on waterboarding. Whether I think that the tapes that were destroyed would have contributed to -- Q Any decision you've made on whether or not waterboarding is torture. ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Any decision on whether waterboarding is torture. What I committed to do -- the question has an assumption in it. The assumption is that waterboarding is in the memos. Without either confirming or denying that, what I committed to do at my hearing and what I am in the process of doing is first of all being read into the CIA program, and secondly reviewing OLC opinions to see two things. First of all, whether I think they are sustainable within their four corners and, secondly, whether the CIA program conforms with them. And that's a process that I am engaged in. More than that, I don't want to say. I can tell you that I've started. I can't tell you more than that. Q But do you think these tapes would have helped you? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: That's not something that I can determine now, and I'll leave it at that. MR. ROEHRKASSE: We'll take the next question from someone from the E.U. press. Q A question for Commissioner Frattini. About CIA activities in Europe, did you raise that issue at all today with your colleagues? Until now, you have been saying the national investigations have to be completed. But the national investigation could go on forever. I mean, are you, yourself, doing anything to find out about what the CIA is doing in Europe? VICE PRESIDENT FRATTINI: Well, you know perfectly I was the first to help and to support the European parliament and Council of Europe inquiries. But the rule of law is very clear. I cannot and I don't want to interfere into national investigations. It is up to judges. It is up to independent prosecutors to decide whether and how to go ahead. That's why I said many times my wish is that national investigations will continue but is not within my responsibility to put pressure. And of course, it is not my wish nor my responsibility to replace judgments and draw final conclusions until investigations are concluded. Q Mr. Mukasey, can you say what the Justice Department is doing to investigate destruction of the CIA tapes? And does the investigation include the Department's role in advising the CIA, if at all, on what to do? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: What I can say is that there is under way what is called a preliminary inquiry that is headed by the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the National Security Division, who knows something about investigating and who has a substantial background, Ken Wainstein, in cooperation with and in conjunction with the IG at the CIA who is cooperating willingly and fully. And we're going to go and he's going to go where the facts lead him. If the law leads him someplace, he's going to go there too, wherever that may lead. Q The question would be either for Secretary Chertoff or the Attorney General. On the issues you discussed on today's meeting, do you expect during the Slovenian presidency any significant step forward? SECRETARY CHERTOFF: I think we do. The Slovenian ministers have made it clear they want to be very energetic in proceeding on all of these issues. Of course, we accomplished a lot in the last year, and so that's a good precedent for continuing to move forward in the future. In particular, I think we are very eager to reach some understanding relating to these principles about data sharing and data protection and I think we would very much like to move that along during the next presidency. Q General Mukasey, later today the U.S. Sentencing Commission is expected to vote on whether reducing the disparity between crack cocaine sentences and powdered cocaine sentences should be retroactive. What is the Department's position? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Well, the department has opposed that. Whether the commission is actually going to vote that way or not, I'm told they're voting this afternoon. Live in hope, die in despair. Our position is clear, we oppose it. How we are going to respond to it I think is something that is going to await the vote. Q What are your basic opposition points? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The opposition points are numerous. Principal among them, I think, is the fact that each of the cases that was handled under those guidelines was handled on the assumption that there was a certain regime in place for sentencing. Whether you agree with it or not, it was there. And the cases were planned around that assumption. To change that after the fact would, in a sense, be unfair because it would undo a lot of decisions that might have been made otherwise had those guidelines not been in place. Obviously, it's also problematic that if those guidelines are made retroactive, you're then dealt with the question of how you deal successfully with the people who would, in the ordinary course, be released. How they can be worked into the probationary and supervisory mechanism that has to be in place before they can be let go. So for both of those reasons, we think it creates problems. Q For Secretary Chertoff, I believe, the E.U. is setting up its own passenger name record system now. Do you expect that the U.S. will have access to that system? SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Well, I think that -- first of all, I am very sympathetic and understanding of why the E.U. wants to set up its system. Ours works very well. And as I think we discussed during our meeting, Vice President Frattini indicated that we ought to try to have systems where we can exchange information and data and agree to operate in a way that mutually respects the privacy of everybody concerned. The more we can share under a set of agreed principles, the better off people all over the world are going to be. Q General Mukasey, James Meeks from the New York Daily News, sir. Did the CIA ever notify any component of the Justice Department that they were going to destroy video or audio tapes? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: That's a matter that is going to be found out, if it is going to be found out, through the preliminary inquiry that I mentioned. And Ken Wainstein, I'm sure, is going to inquire into any notification of anybody in addition to any other matter or issue that's encompassed by that, and then we'll find out what the facts are. And then if there is law to be applied, it will be applied. Q Minister Frattini, the United States recently adopted a requirement that visitors present all 10 fingerprints when entering the U.S. What do you think of that? And do you think will European countries have a similar requirement? VICE PRESIDENT FRATTINI: Well, I saw this new system and I understand that concerning the procedure it will make even quicker the procedure to put fingerprints. The problem in Europe is not yet on the table because, as you know, we decided to put fingerprints of two fingers in passports as from April or March 2009, in all passports to be issued in member states. We are not yet discussing about 10 fingers, 10 fingerprints. What is very important to me is how to continue to guarantee appropriate level of protection of personal data regardless of the fact that you put one finger or you put 10 fingers. Of course, if you consider security of identification, it's much better to have 10 fingers than just two, but it depends on different system. We do not have, again, I repeat, on the table a discussion in Europe on this. Not yet. SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Just so people who may not have seen the system understand how it works, it doesn't operate like that old thing with the ink where you have to roll the hands. It's electronic. I saw it yesterday. It's about five to six seconds to do the whole process, very quick. Q This one is for General Mukasey. Sir, in recent days, there have been some calls for a special prosecutor in this tapes issue, in part because the Justice Department either was requesting the tapes for prosecutions or weighed in on some of the interrogation legality questions. Do you think that that's -- do you have any thoughts on that, whether you oppose it or agree that in principle that it would be a good idea to get to the bottom of this? Or do you think that the Justice Department is capable of doing it itself. ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Let me answer the last question first, and that is I think the Justice Department is capable of doing whatever it appears needs to be done. That is -- the question of a special prosecutor is the most hypothetical of hypotheticals that isn't going to be faced until it has to be. And if it has to be, it will be. Q Secretary Chertoff, when you were -- during your tenure at the criminal division, were you aware in any way at the existence of the tapes or in any discussion of what to do about them? There are reports that this was debated within the administration over a long period of time. SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Of course, as you know, Stephanie, I left in 2003. in terms of shedding light on these matters, if somebody has any questions to ask me, they will ask me questions. But I don't think I'm going to participate in an inquiry about it in front of the press. Q If I can follow up, the CIA itself has said in its statement last week that the Justice Department was consulted. And I think people want to know whether that -- whether that's the truth. SECRETARY CHERTOFF: I think you are going to have to ask the Attorney General after he conducts whatever review is done about what everybody did and knew about in this building and elsewhere. I presume he will enlighten everybody about it. MR. ROEHRKASSE: Two more questions. Phil? Q General Mukasey, you said you were in the process of reviewing the legality of the interrogation techniques. How close are you to the end of that process and thus far have you found any evidence that anything was done wrong? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The how-close-are-you question used to be asked of me when I was a judge, how soon are you going to decide the case, and invariably the response was, if I knew that, I would have already decided it. It's a process and one question or issue or letter may lead to another. I don't want to say that I'm this close and then find that I'm that close. I'm going to complete the process and, when I complete it, as I said I would, I'm going to report to Congress. Q And the second part, have you seen any evidence thus far that anything was done wrong? ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I am not going to report it in segments; I am going to report it at the end. MR. ROEHRKASSE: Last question. Terry. Q General Mukasey, how do you plan to communicate to the public when you have reached any conclusions about the -- what constitutes torture, about the OLC memos, even about this investigation? What are your plans for keeping the public informed. ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I haven't got any specific plans at the moment. What I will say is, I undertook to report to Congress. There is obviously intense interest in this. How and when and if it would be reported to the public is something I have to decide after I reach the conclusions and after I decide precisely what to report to Congress. But I recognize the importance of it.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice