Rumsfeld, Powell Discuss 9/11 Commission on Sunday Talk Shows
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2004 The Defense Department's top civilian today said he supports the 9/11 commission's investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, while noting the necessity of preventing future terrorist acts.
"The commission has got a legitimate task to do, and it's an important task," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told host Chris Wallace on the Washington- based "Fox News Sunday" television program.
Rumsfeld went on to say he hopes the congressionally appointed commission will "connect the dots after the fact and help this country understand what actually happened."
The Defense Department has "cooperated extensively" with the commission, noted Rumsfeld, who, along with other senior DoD and other government officials, has provided commission testimony in recent days.
Rumsfeld also said he hopes "the commission will have spent enough time focused on an important issue -- and come up with some recommendations for the future - - that will enable our country to do a better job" in preventing future attacks.
The secretary also expressed empathy for grieving families and other loved ones of 9/11 victims, and called the government's inability to prevent the attacks "a failure."
However, at the time of the attacks, DoD was organized "to fight armies and navies and air forces," Rumsfeld pointed out to Wallace, and "not to do individual manhunts" to uncover potential terrorist threats to the homeland.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today noted to CBS newsman Bob Schieffer and Time Magazine's Karen Tumulty on "Face the Nation" that the government was concerned and had acted on potential terrorist threats against U.S. interests prior to 9/11.
However, the U.S. government "just didn't know that the threat was a domestic one, an internal one," Powell acknowledged. "We never got the information or intelligence that we needed to tell us," he said, that the 9/11 terrorists were in the United States preparing to launch their attacks.
Rumsfeld told Wallace it's now time to look forward. "Our job in government," the secretary said, "is to say, 'What should we be doing today to prevent an attack or a terrorist act, and people being killed, tomorrow and the next day and the day after?'"
There is "no doubt," Rumsfeld later told George Stephanopoulos and George Will on ABC television's "This Week," that terrorists would again try to attack the United States. However, Rumsfeld pointed out, it's impossible to defend against every possible point of terrorist attack. That's why, he explained, it is important to go after terrorists before they can mount an attack.