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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability in Washington

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 16, 2001 10:45 AM EDT

Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001 - 10:45 a.m. EDT

(Media availability in Washington, D.C.)

Rumsfeld: (in progress) -- who are attacking our way of life do not have armies, navies or air forces. They do not have capital. They do not have high-value targets that the typical weapons of war can go in and attack. They have -- which is why the president has said what he has said. It will take a broad, sustained effort that will be -- half to use our diplomatic, our political, our economic, our financial strength as well as our military strength and unquestionably unconventional techniques. And it will take time. It's not a matter of days or weeks. It's years. It's going to take the support of the American people, and I have every confidence it'll be there. It'll take the support of countries around the world.

There are a number of countries that are harboring terrorists. They in some cases facilitate them, in some cases finance, in other cases just tolerate. But these people could not be functioning around the globe with the success they are unless they had that help from countries. And those countries, some of them do in fact have armies and navies and air forces, and they do have capitals and they do have high-value targets. And we are going to need them to stop tolerating terrorists.

Q: (Inaudible) -- Taliban capital?

Rumsfeld: The last thing you're going to find me doing is to discussing intelligence matters or operations.

Q: Secretary, Abdul Abdullah of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance has offered his organization's support in any operation against the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. What roles should these Taliban resistance groups play and what role will the U.S. ask them to play?

Rumsfeld: The United States needs assistance from countries with intelligence information. We need assistance from countries to deny terrorists and terrorist networks the access to their real estate and their facilities. We need them to cooperate in a host of ways if this goal is going to be achieved.

My guess is there will be a number of different coalitions that will be functioning over time. Some will be able to do some things; other will be able to do other things. And how that will work and how that will play out, I think it's hard to say at the moment. But the one thing you can be sure is it'll take a lot of time; it'll take years not days.

Q: Do you think it's achievable -- (inaudible) -- that you've outlined?

Rumsfeld: I do think it's achievable. I think that it is particularly something that strikes at free people. Everyone of the people listening got up this morning and walked out of the door of their house and they did not have to look to the left and look to the right. They didn't have to wear a flak jacket. They didn't have to get into an armored car. They didn't have to hide in their basement, because we have enjoyed all of the privileges and opportunities of free people. And it's a wonderful thing. And we cannot allow terrorists to deny that of us. Therefore we must -- there is no choice other than to root out terrorists wherever they are across this globe.

Q: Will you be seeking --

Q: Do you support changing the U.S. policy on assassination?

Rumsfeld: I'm not a lawyer. There's no question but that there are networks and countries that need to change their ways, and we need to find a host of ways, political, economic and military, to stop them.

Q: Will the assistance you're seeking from your allies include the use of non-American troops in some of these operations?

Rumsfeld: This is not a problem that's unique to the United States. There's not a doubt in my mind but that there will be other countries that will volunteer a variety of different types of assistance.

Q: Have you asked Britain for that yet?

Rumsfeld: I don't think -- I have certainly been in touch with the minister of defense of the U.K. And as you well know, they are cooperating with us in various coalitions already in Iraq, and they fly beside us. They are certainly a very close ally with capabilities that are important.

Q: Will you use the military to secure airlines and the airports?

Rumsfeld: The United States military is war-fighters. The role of air marshals is a notably different thing. And people need to be trained for that to be good at it, and our people have not been trained for it. And we have any number of demands on our people at the present time around the world, and I think it is --

Second, the armed forces of the United States have as their charter the defense of the United States from threats from the outside. The threats from the inside tend to be the task of the local law enforcement, the FBI, the sheriffs and people like that, unless there is some unusual event that requires the calling up of the National Guard as opposed to the active force. But because of the laws and the Constitution and posse comitatus, the practice has been for us, the armed forces of the United States to address external threats.

Q: Are you thinking about closing National Airport?

Staff: Last question.

Rumsfeld: Any decision that alters the way we live our lives is unfortunate. Clearly, for a period, we're going to have to be living and functioning with a heightened sense of awareness. Given the attack on the Pentagon, given the attack on the World Trade Center and given the risks that exist and the flight paths being right near the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol building, it seems to me a necessity to close National Airport for a period. And I think it was the correct decision.

Q: And how long will it be before you --

Q: (Inaudible.)

Rumsfeld: We have airports at Dulles; we have airport at Baltimore, which give a great deal more time for a fighter interceptor to do something than a plane taking off from Washington National Airport, which flies right past the Pentagon day after day after day and right past the White House.

Q: Did the FAA give you a timely warning about a plane approaching D.C.? And why did our nation's air defenses fail to protect the Pentagon?

Rumsfeld: We don't have air defenses that are designed to protect the American people from a person inside the United States commandeering an American Airline plane filled with American citizens. That is a customs, immigration, local law enforcement task. Anyone who has looked around the skies over the past several years knows that we do not keep aircraft in the air to anticipate some local situation like that.

Now, what happens is, when an aircraft goes off-course, the FAA, as a matter of normal behavior, calls our combatant commander, our CINC, as we say, at NORAD, which is the North American defense zone, and says, "There's a plane that's off-pattern." In this case, a plane took off from Dulles apparently and flew west and then came and circled Washington, D.C., and then plowed into the Pentagon. You have matter of minutes, unless you have airplanes in the air or something like that that you would use.

We do of course today have some fighter aircraft in the air at various places in the United States. In addition, we have aircraft on strip alert, 10- to 15-minutes notice, at some 26 bases across the country. Our forces are on what's called DefCon 4 at the present time, down from 3, a heightened sense -- status of alert. And in terms of force protection around the world and the United States, we're on what's called Charlie. We were at Delta, which is the highest, and we've moved to Charlie. It is a very high state of alert.

The reality is that a terrorist can attack at any time in any place using any technique, and it is physically impossible for a free people to try to defend in every place at every time against every technique.

Now, what does that mean? It means that the president is exactly right, that we have to take this battle, this war to the terrorists, where they are. And the best defense is an effective offense, in this case. And that means they have to be rooted out.

Q: How long before -- (inaudible) -- first action?

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

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