Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Interview with CNN (edited)
September 13, 2001
Against the background of this terrible catastrophe in the United States, what
has been the reaction of the British people, and what help can the UK give?
The reaction of the British people is a shared and profound sense of grief.
I dont think it is very different from the sense of grief felt in the
United States by people outside the immediate area of New York itself. Our bond
with the United States, for all sorts of cultural and historical reasons, is
very powerful. We have international companies operating in London and New York.
We have huge affection for New York how could you feel anything else
but affection for New York? And there a this deep and underlying sense of gratitude
by people in this country that in our hours of need in the First World War and,
above all, in the Second World War, the United States very selflessly came to
NATO ARTICLE 5 ACTION AND UN SECURITY COUNCIL DECISION
You and the Prime Minister have both said that Britain will stand shoulder to
shoulder with the United States in what happens now. Does that mean in a military
sense if necessary?
We are part of a military alliance. It is called NATO. NATO was founded in 1949,
not least at the initiative of the then Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, partly
to thank the United States for their contribution to Europes security.
It was also intended, as was recognised at the time by President Truman, to
ensure that there was collective security within the territory of any of the
member states, and that is what Article 5 is about. It is about ensuring mutual
assistance, such assistance as is required.
It is the nature of these things that there has to be discussion about this,
and of course there will be discussion within NATO and the NATO Council but
above all between the United States and the United Kingdom because of our very
close association. The NATO decision has, quite properly, received a great deal
of coverage. What has received rather less coverage is a unanimous decision
of the United Nations Security Council which talks in very, very firm language
about holding to account those not only who were directly responsible for what
has happened, but also indirectly harbouring and sustaining these people and
says that: The Security Council expresses its readiness to take all necessary
steps in pursuit of the objectives of catching and holding to account those
Can you just clarify, does that mean more than just moral support? Does it mean
actual military action?
Of course NATO is not just about an expression of moral support. NATO is about
providing tangible military support. That is the point. That is what Article
5 is about. If you are asking me to speculate on the nature of that military
or intelligence support I cant, but Secretary of State Colin Powell gave
some indication of the kind of support for which the United States might be
looking to if they decide on particular military actions.
Will Britain or NATO seek independent verification of the involvement of whoever
action might be taken against?
Well, again, it doesnt quite work that way, with respect. There is a close
association between the British Intelligence Service and the CIA and also between
our law enforcement agencies and the FBI and other local law enforcement agencies
in the United States, so there would be a process of discussion. And it is in
everybodys interest that if there is targeted military action of whatever
kind, it is targeted on the right suspects, and not the wrong ones.
Will there be discussion between NATO and America of the level of any military
response that there is?
I apologise for not getting into the realms of speculation, but you say will
there be discussion between NATO and America. There will be discussion within
NATO of which America is one key partner of others and that is the way it will
work. And NATO is the most successful Alliance I would suggest that we have
ever seen. And it not only works at a political level, but it works well at
a military level with single command.
In situations like the Middle East and in Northern Ireland the response of Governments
is frequently to say that retaliation is not the answer. Why should there be
a different response to this?
These people are calculating. These people have decided to declare a war on
the United States and on the civilised world. And these are also people who
have decided to ratchet up their actions. If they were to pay no price at all
for what happened in New York, no-one would think the world would then resort
to peace. The world would become a place of greater danger.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
You have said that the world will never be quite the same again after this biggest
ever act of terrorism. Can you spell out in what way life is going to change
for all of us?
Well, it will change in direct ways, for example, in terms of airport security
and so there will be inconvenience. I think that is a small price to pay for
But it will have to change in bigger ways as the international community accommodates
itself to changing threats. The current idea of the international community,
and of international law around that international community, was formed after
the last war when there had been territorial wars between nations. So that framework
was put in place, and in many ways it has stood the test time, but we now face
new challenges. For example, terrorists these days are able every day to exploit
the differences in domestic legal systems, to claim human rights
when they are trying to resist transfer from one jurisdiction which is democratic
and fair, to another jurisdiction which is democratic and fair. So we have to
look at that.
We also have to look very carefully not only at those individuals or groups
who may have been responsible for what has happened, but also at those states
who have, to put it at its mildest, equivocated about whether or not they mind
having groups within them who are going to undertake terrorist actions. We have
to face every state in the world with a very, very stark choice about whether
they are going to be members of the international community and accept the responsibilities
but also the huge benefits for their people that go with that, or not.
And what do you do to them if they are not going to accept that?
We come together and we work out how they face that choice, but one thing is
very, very clear. As soon as we know, or have a very good idea as to who is
responsible for this action, those states which harbour terrorist activity,
in the words of the United Nations Security Council Resolution, have to be held
to account and cannot any longer have the kind of easy ride they have had in
Are we going to see much tougher visa regimes worldwide, and are countries,
like Britain, which have so far avoided the carrying of personal identity cards,
going to have to think about things like that?
Visa regimes are in place, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, in respect
of a huge number of countries, and they are looked at from time to time. The
issue of identification card, identity cards, I made it clear in my previous
job as Home Secretary, we have an open mind on, although I have to say that
in looking at those countries which have ID cards, they are not necessarily
a protection. They may help. But they wont by themselves ensure better
One of the most terrifying things about the act of terrorism in New York and
against the Pentagon is that it was performed by a few people on board aircraft
armed only with a few knives. Does this make you think twice about Americas
grandiose plans for missile defence. That wouldnt have done any good in
this case, would it?
There has to be a serious debate about the issue of missile defence, and I have
made it clear, and people have criticised me for this, that I think there needs
to be an open debate and we need to engage in discussion with the United States
Administration, and take it on a step by step basis. One thing I do know, with
almost complete certainty, is that the kind of people who have perpetrated these
acts in the United States are people who will ratchet up that destruction if
they think they can do so. No-one should be lulled into a false sense of security
that the only future way in which terrorists are going to operate is by hijacking
aircraft and driving them into buildings. Worse could happen.
And do you think we will see an end now to Summits and occasions like that,
given the degree of capacity that the terrorists are showing?
No, it is essential that democratic leaders meet. Absolutely essential. It is
out of meetings of democratic leaders that we got NATO, that we got the United
Nations, we got the things that have helped to make our planet relatively safe
over the last 55/56 years, and those meetings are essential.
Finally, Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has talked about
building as it were a coalition against terrorism. What does that mean in practical
It means speeding up the work that we undertake to counter terrorism. Sharing
intelligence better. Above all sharing enforcement better. Trying to ensure
that these terrorists are no longer able to exploit national borders and different
national legal jurisdiction in the way that they have in the past. We have just
about done that. For example with the International Criminal Court work in respect
of the suspects responsible for what happened in the former Yugoslavia. But
we have to ensure that if the world is one place and if terrorists can operate
across borders, then so too should our enforcement.
Crown copyright material reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO.