(Interview with Rob Braun, WKRC-CBS, Cincinnati)
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for talking to us today, I appreciate your time. I'll get right to it.
We have three local victims from the Philippine chopper crash, two from Butler County, soldiers; one from Warren County. What might you have to say to their families? And is the accident there indicative of the fact that possibly we are spreading ourselves too thin?
Rumsfeld: First to the families, you know our heartfelt sympathy goes to the families and the friends of the individuals who were lost in that helicopter crash off the Philippines. It is a tragedy. They were special people to their families and to their friends, and goodness knows they were voluntarily putting their lives at risk for our country and all Americans have to be deeply grateful to them.
With respect to the question as to whether we're too thin, no. I'm afraid that the nature of aviation is that from time to time planes crash and there are difficulties. We know the same thing is true with automobiles. There are thousands of people killed on the highways of America every year because of automobile accidents for various reasons.
In this case we do not have an investigation report yet. There will be an investigation. There is no sign of hostile fire that anyone in the immediate vicinity could detect. And we'll just have to await the outcome of the investigation. But I think it would be a misunderstanding of the situation to suggest that because a plane crashed America's spread too thin.
We are spread pretty thin, but so far it has not put a kind of a stress on the forces, either the people or the equipment, to the point that it creates unnecessary or undue risk.
Q: In light of what happened to Daniel Pearl is there any hope at all you can offer to our local teacher from Lakota, her name Mary Jones, who's sister and brother-in-law, the Burnhams, are being held by Muslim extremists in the Philippines?
Rumsfeld: I think what has to be said is that the people of the United States and the government of the United States care about the Burnhams. There are hostages taken all across the globe every year and we clearly work with the governments to try to secure their release.
The Burnhams have been in captivity for a good many months now and some members of that hostage group that they were a part of have already been killed by the terrorists that are holding them.
Clearly we're in the Philippines providing technical assistance, advice, training, logistics, some intelligence assistance to the 4,000 or 5,000 Philippines soldiers that are down on Basilan Island trying to aggressively go after the terrorists who are holding them.
Q: The AP is carrying a story today that the United States is asking for DNA samples from the bin Laden family. Do you believe that bin Laden is dead or alive?
Rumsfeld: Well, we don't know. It's not something that's knowable unless you physically have him in custody or you have his body. And we have neither. What we do know is that he's on the run. That he's having difficulty recruiting people, he's having difficulty financing his operation, he's having difficulty communicating and moving around physically, and we have to keep at him until we do know whether he is dead or we have him in custody.
Q: You saw what happened to the markets yesterday when the rumors surfaced that we were in Iraq. Do we have military personnel in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: We do not have forces in Iraq if you're thinking of large numbers. From time to time Americans do go into Iraq to visit with the Kurds, to look at the situation. People from various agencies and departments of the government go in there. So I wouldn't want to say that there hasn't been or may not even be at this moment some relatively small number of Americans in there. But if the implication of your question is do we have large numbers of troops in Iraq the answer of course is no.
Q: What spot in the world do you worry about the most as the biggest threat to Americans?
Rumsfeld: Of course we worry about Americans wherever they are. We worry about our deployed forces overseas; we worry about the vulnerabilities that we have here at home that have been so well underlined and punctuated on September 11th. What I worry about the most, to be perfectly honest, is the connection or relationship or nexus between states that are terrorist states and have weapons of mass destruction and terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and the risk that we face in the period ahead that terrorist organizations that are willing to kill thousands of innocent people could have access to weapons of mass destruction and develop a capability to kill not thousands but tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. That is what I worry about the most and that is of course why President Bush has been so forceful in pursuing this global war on terror and recognizing the importance of going after terrorist networks and also the countries that harbor those terrorists.
Q: Is that what prompted the action in Georgia? That concern?
Rumsfeld: Well, Georgia of course is a member of the NATO Partnership for Peace. We've had a military-to-military relationship with the former Soviet Republic of Georgia for some time now. They do have an al Qaeda related terrorist problem in the northern part of their country and we do have a handful of people in there, I think four, five, six, something like that at the present time, who have been doing assessment and trying to develop a way that we could be helpful to them by way of training and advice so that they can improve their capability of putting pressure on that terrorist organization.
To the extent they do that of course it is helpful to us because it's one more terrorist pocket that is put under pressure and forced to stop doing things they were doing.
Q: Mr. Secretary, our time has expired. Thank you, sir.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. I enjoyed it.