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Secretary Rumsfeld Stakeout at NBC

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 01, 2001

Sunday, September 30, 2001

(Stakeout at NBC Studio in Washington, D.C.)

Rumsfeld: Good morning.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: Well, the task for the countries that are concerned about this problem -- and there are dozens and dozens of them across the globe -- is to gather the kinds of intelligence that will enable us to take action against the terrorist networks and to find ways to alter the behavior of those countries that seem determined to facilitate and harbor and finance and encourage international terrorists.

Q: Do you believe that the Taliban now has bin Laden in their sights, that they will be doing something about it?

Rumsfeld: I doubt that they'll do anything about it. They've been rather adamant that they don't intend to do anything about it and have not done anything about it thus far. The question as to whether or not they have bin Laden -- we keep talking about Osama bin Laden as though he's the problem. It is a very broad network. If he were not there tomorrow, the same problem would exist. He's got dozens of key lieutenants, he functions in 50 or 60 countries and al Qaeda is just one of the terrorist networks that is on the face of this earth. So it is I think wrong to particularize the thing to a person and even to a single network.

But there is no question but that the Taliban has taken every kind of step to make it hospitable for the al Qaeda in that country, and they have to know where the key al Qaeda operatives are in their country. They know their country like the back of their hands. They've been fighting there for decades. They have access to 90 percent of the land space in Afghanistan, the remainder being held by opposition forces.

But for the Taliban to suggest that they can't find the key operative in this network is just false.

Q: Have you heard the report that there have been defections of about 200 (inaudible) to the Northern Alliance? Is that correct?

Rumsfeld: I have heard so many reports and so many conflicting comments since this began on September 11th, that I've almost come to the point where first reports I don't really even give much credence to. I look at them and set them to the side and wait for a little better information.

However, there is no question but that there are a substantial number of Afghans who do not favor Taliban, find it repressive, don't agree with it, wish it were not there. It is also true that there are any number in the Taliban who do not favor al Qaeda and wish it were not there. There are any number of factions within the Taliban and tribes in other parts of the country to say nothing of the Northern Alliance in the north, that would like the entire crowd out of there. Not just al Qaeda but the Taliban in addition.

What does that mean? Well, it means that we need to find ways to encourage those people and to create a situation where it's no longer in the interest of al Qaeda to feel that they can function freely in that country and for Taliban to find it's in their interest to encourage and harbor international terrorists.

Q: In light of those comments should Taliban in any way become a legitimate target in light of what you've just said and what the Ambassador to Pakistan said in the last few days?

Rumsfeld: The president of the United States has characterized this war, this effort, this campaign that it will be long and broad and sustained, and that it is aimed directly at international terrorists and terrorist networks and the people, the governments, the organizations, the entities, the non-profit organizations, the corporations, the states, the non-state entities that harbor and foster and facilitate international terrorism. That entire group has to be the target.

Q: Can you confirm for us the appointment of general --

Q: -- cooperation been with other countries in that region (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: The cooperation we are getting from countries in and out of that region is breathtaking. It is so broad and so deep, I admit varied and different from country to country. Some public, a great deal not public for very understandable reasons, in my view, and I think the momentum is there, the cumulative evidence that is coming in, the pieces of intelligence are inevitably going to provide the kinds of information we're going to need to disintegrate these terrorist networks, to liquidate them, to root them out and end them.

Q: Will you confirm for us that General Downey is going to be appointed the terrorist [chief] of the NSC? And how did you feel about his report on the [command] of Khobar Towers?

Rumsfeld: I do not know him personally. I know him to have a very fine reputation. And I tend to leave announcements by the White House to the White House.

Q: Mr. Secretary, on Meet the Press you referred a couple of times to actionable intelligence. [ Transcript ] What is the quality of the United States actionable intelligence right now?

Rumsfeld: Well of course if you think about it, our intelligence apparatus was developed and fashioned and arranged over decades to deal with the Cold War problems where we focused on one or two countries, the Warsaw Pact countries. We tended to count things -- ships, guns, tanks and planes. And we developed a good system of understanding how they were progressing in their weapon development, when they were deploying things, and what the nature of the threat was.

Those days are gone. Our target is not the Soviet Union. It doesn't exist. Our targets are multiple, they're across the globe, they're much more complex. The reality is that with the end of the Cold War there's been a relaxation of tensions and we see the free flow of technologies across the globe. Very powerful weapons, the means to deliver them. And it has made the intelligence gathering task vastly more difficult. And what we have to do is to recognize that and continue the process or reorienting it so that we are able to keep track of those things that are particularly threatening to free people.

The Defense Department over the past months, since I arrived, has fashioned a new strategy that is interestingly designed not to deal only with specific threats like the threat of North Korea or the threat of Iraq invading Kuwait, but rather to reorient ourselves towards a capability based strategy. We can now understand the kinds of capabilities that exist in the world and the kinds of capabilities that could threaten us much better than we can predict exactly where that threat will come from or what entity or what country. Because of the proliferation of these technologies, they're in many places, because of dual use technologies, a great deal now that's being done underground, a great deal of communication is on fiber optic, it makes the task considerably more difficult. So we've refashioned our strategy as a country towards capability so that we can arrange and train and organize and equip our country's military capabilities to deal with the kinds of capabilities that are out there rather than orienting them solely to a specific country or a specific threat on the ground at that time.

Q: But is it good enough today to find Osama bin Laden and bring bin Laden to justice?

Rumsfeld: I think that will take the good will and cooperation and concern of lots of countries and lots of people, even people in Afghanistan and other countries who have relationships with al Qaeda who will for a variety of reasons decide either that it's too uncomfortable to be supporting al Qaeda or that they no longer think that's a good idea, and will begin providing information.

We all know how law enforcement works. It's a process of gathering information and keeping it together, and that's what we're doing and we're darn grateful for the assistance we're getting from individuals, from organizations, and from countries all across the globe.

Q: Do you think we can safely open National Airport and (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: I think that it would be unfortunate if we were not able to open Washington National Airport. It is our capital airport. And to the extent we decide we have to -- either we alter our way of life or we alter the terrorists' way of life. Our goal is to say look, this is not about retaliation, this is about self-defense. The only way to defend against terrorists is to take the battle to them, and not simply acquiesce and begin closing in and not doing things that free people normally do.

I think that the solution for Washington National Airport is much more likely to come on the ground than it is in the air. That is to say that I think the protection of aircraft, the screening of passengers, the screening of baggage, and the presence of air marshals probably will provide the kind of security that will enable our airports to function, as opposed to fighter aircraft in the air trying to make a judgment as to what American airliner is a target and what isn't. That is an enormously complicated problem that I think we can do some of it, but I think that we're more likely to find a solution on the ground.

Q: Do you think there's any message from the demonstrators today, asking for a peaceful (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: The message is it's a free country, and people can think anything they want.

Thanks a lot.