Attorney General Dick Thornburgh pledged to about a dozen publishing industry leaders that he would commit "every resource available" to stop terrorism aimed at thwarting the sale of Salman Rushdie's controversial book, "The Satanic Verses."
"There simply is no room for any threat against the exercise of First Amendment rights or terroristic activities against those that are exercising those rights," Thornburgh said Wednesday after meeting industry officials in his office.At the same time, the FBI investigated the firebombings of a weekly New York City newspaper that had editorially defended Rushdie's novel and at the offices of two California bookstores selling the book.
A federal law enforcement source said the bureau had "good leads" and some witnesses in both New York and California, although there still was no proof the bombings were linked to the death sentence imposed by Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on Rushdie and his publishers.
Representatives of the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Association and other industry leaders asked to meet with Thornburgh even as Rushdie's publisher, the Viking Penguin in New York, prepared to distribute another 100,000 copies of the book this weekend.
Following the meeting, also attended by Viking Penguin President Marvin Brown, FBI Director William Sessions and senior Justice Department and FBI officials, Thornburgh told a news conference he would carry out President Bush's commitment Tuesday that acts of violence in connecton with the book "would not be tolerated."
"Every resource available will be committed to ensuring that individuals and organizations within this country will be protected in the exercise of those rights," he said.
Thornburgh said the senior law enforcement officials discussed with the industry leaders ways of "gathering intelligence to prevent any acts of violence" and the need for cooperation in the event they occur.
Lawrence Hughes, chairman of the Hearst Trade Book Group and of the Association of American Publishers, which represents about 75 percent of the books sold in the United States, said he felt that the administration's response to Khomeini's threat was "quite slow." However, he said that now both the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are moving aggressively.
Hughes said that several publishers have beefed up security but declined to discuss specifics of the law enforcement campaign.