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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with CBS Early Show

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
June 11, 2002 7:05 AM EDT

(Interview with Jane Clayson, CBS "Early Show")

JANE CLAYSON: What exactly is a so-called dirty bomb? As the attorney general said, it's more technically known as a radioactive dispersion device, using a conventional explosive charge to spread radioactive material over a large area. Unlike a nuclear weapon, it would not kill thousands or do extensive damage, though it would raise long-term cancer risks. Officials say its greatest effect might not be physical, but psychological.

Paul Wolfowitz is deputy secretary of Defense. Mr. Wolfowitz, good morning.

WOLFOWITZ: Good morning.

CLAYSON: How worried should we be about the potential for someone to use a so-called dirty bomb in the U.S.?

WOLFOWITZ: We've got to be very concerned about a whole range of weapons of mass destruction. The president has pointed this out over and over again. This particular individual, Mr. Padilla, Mr. Muhajir, whatever you prefer to call him, was in the very early stages of his planning. I don't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk and his coming in here obviously to plan further deeds.

CLAYSON: So it was nothing --

WOLFOWITZ: The general problem is something --

CLAYSON: -- beyond loose talk?

WOLFOWITZ: Oh, he was definitely working on trying to do it. But it's not as though this was a plan that was on the verge of being executed. The point, though, that the president has made over and over again is that there are countries that have weapons of mass destruction who work with terrorists, and that is really the greatest danger to the United States.

CLAYSON: Was there a timetable, Mr. Wolfowitz, set for this particular attack?

WOLFOWITZ: To the best of our knowledge, there was not. He was still in the early planning stages.

CLAYSON: And what about targets? You first suggested Washington DC but backed off on that a little bit?

WOLFOWITZ: All we've ever said is that he indicated some knowledge of the Washington area. As I say, this was in the earliest stages of planning. This man, it's worth pointing out, was a petty criminal in the United States. Somehow he was recruited in jail into being something far worse than a petty criminal, and he came into this country with the intention, by various means, not just the dirty-bomb idea, of killing hundreds and maybe thousands of Americans. And now he's where he belongs.

CLAYSON: Do you believe he had access to radiological materials?

WOLFOWITZ: We don't believe he did as of the time we caught him, but he thought he could get his hands on it somewhere in this country.

CLAYSON: So how much contact did this man have with al Qaeda? And was he taking orders directly from them?

WOLFOWITZ: A great deal of contact, and clearly taking a great deal of instruction. If I might, though, just point out to your viewers where we are today; we're at the site of the Pentagon where the plane crashed in on the morning of September 11th.

We made such extraordinary progress in rebuilding the building that we're about to lay the last piece of limestone in the building. And today we're going to put this time capsule in that's going to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice that morning.

It's also a way of honoring the incredible determination and resolve of the workers who put this building back together so quickly. I think it's symbolic of the resolve of the American people to prevail over people like Padilla and Abu Zubaydah and their like.

CLAYSON: Well, congratulations to all those who have worked so hard on that reconstruction project. Let me ask you a couple more questions, Mr. Wolfowitz, about Mr. Muhajir. How long can he be held in this country without formally being charged?

WOLFOWITZ: He's an enemy combatant, and as in earlier wars, you can hold an enemy combatant until the end of the conflict.

CLAYSON: And the fact that he's an American citizen, does that give him the right to a fair and speedy trial?

WOLFOWITZ: He is an enemy combatant. Enemy combatants, whether they are American citizens or not American citizens, are subject to the same provisions of the laws of war.

CLAYSON: Are there other suspects, either in this country or overseas, who are working with this man?

WOLFOWITZ: He clearly had associates. And one of the things we want to ask him about is who those associates were and how we might track them down.

CLAYSON: So you believe there are others out there. So we've caught one man, but there are still many to be caught.

WOLFOWITZ: We have caught hundreds, and there are still probably hundreds more. That's why the president, Secretary Rumsfeld and everyone in this administration has emphasized over and over again this is going to be a long struggle. It's not over with just one man or one country.

But it is worth pointing out that if we hadn't had the success we had militarily in Afghanistan, Abu Zubaydah would still be sitting in a sanctuary in Afghanistan instead of being questioned by American law enforcement people.

CLAYSON: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

WOLFOWITZ: Thank you.

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