Terrorism Forces Tight Security Unknown to Most Americans
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
CAIRO, Oct. 5, 2001 Egypt has had its share of problems with terrorists.
"They, like other countries in the region, have had to live with that," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said while on his way here to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks to reporters during a late-night briefing at his hotel in Cairo. Rumsfeld met earlier in the day, Oct. 4, 2001, with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Mubarak has been an assassination target for years. He was wounded by an assailant in Port Said two years ago. While no clear link to terrorists has been established in that incident, Osama Bin Laden's fingerprints were all over a 1995 attempt on Mubarak's life in Ethiopia.
The Mubarak government tried and convicted more than 100 extremists in April 1999, including Egyptian Islamic Jihad members responsible for planning an attack against the U.S. Embassy in Albania in August 1998. His country's largest terrorist group, Al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians in a November 1997 attack in Luxor. Both groups have links to bin Laden.
Having to live with terrorism means taking security to levels unknown to most Americans. Reporters attending a planned Rumsfeld-Mubarak press conference walked through metal detectors at the presidential palace gates while their bags were emptied and searched. Their cell phones were confiscated temporarily by the omnipresent armed guards, and all electronic equipment had to be turned on and demonstrated until inspectors were satisfied the pieces were what they appeared to be.
The reporters then walked across a small courtyard and went through the entire drill a second time before they were allowed into the building where the brief was scheduled.
Not wanting or having to live this way is why it's important for Americans to go after terrorists and stop them in their tracks, Rumsfeld observed. Still, he told reporters, fighting terrorists doesn't necessarily mean a large military campaign.
Rumsfeld said he believes the war on terrorism will more closely resemble the Cold War. He noted the Cold War took 50 years but didn't involve any major battles. "And when it ended, it ended not with a bang but through internal collapse," he said. "The threat against the world just disintegrated from the inside."
That's what he hopes to see happen to modern terrorist networks. "The important thing is to see that we put enough pressure on the terrorists or the people who harbor (them) through a variety of means so that they have to alter their behavior and they have to move from where they are ... and that people are less eager to help them," he said.
Though he wouldn't have time during this brief trip to visit any of the nearly 20,000 U.S. troops in Egypt to participate in the combined U.S.-Egyptian Exercise Bright Star, he said he appreciates the Egyptians conducting the biennial exercise with American service members. "The Bright Star exercise has been an important part of the relationship between United States and Egypt," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary left the message with the press that the United States will leave no stone unturned in its war on terrorism.
A reporter asked whether America knows if bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is still in Afghanistan. "I mean, if I were a terrorist and knew the world was coming after me, I might go to Miami," the reporter said.
Rumsfeld's stone-faced reply: "Well, then, we'll look in Miami."