(Interview with Jennifer Blome, KSDK-NBC, St. Louis)
Question: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has closed a newly formed Office of Strategic Influence. That office was set up after September 11th as part of the Bush Administration's effort to influence public opinion on America's war on terrorism abroad. Secretary Rumsfeld is our guest today. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Secretary.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. I'm pleased to be here.
Question: Can you explain to our viewers why you closed the office?
Rumsfeld: Sure. The office was set up, as you indicated, late last year after the September 11th attacks. When we were engaged in Afghanistan and were receiving an awful lot of difficulties because of the misinformation that the Taliban and the al Qaeda were putting out, they were trying to make the world believe it was a war against Muslims and a war against the Afghan people and the allegation was made that the food we were dropping was not culturally appropriate or that it was poison. We wanted to issue reward leaflets. So we set up a series of things that would enable us to do it. To do that, you have to have some sort of a mechanism.
The difficulty was that a couple of people reported on the office as though it planned to do things that were improper and in some cases, illegal. Obviously we're not going to do that. We haven't done it in the past, we aren't doing it now, we wouldn't in the future. But the office as such was so badly kicked around that I decided to talk to the man who was in charge of it, Doug Feith, and Doug said goodness, let's just abolish it and we'll get the things we need to get done elsewhere, and end the problem, end the excitement.
Question: There's also a warning we heard today from the FBI for farmers to be on the alert. What does that mean?
Rumsfeld: Well, of course I'm not connected to the FBI and I did not see the report with respect to it. But there's no question but that we as a country have to be respectful of the fact that terrorists have been interested in a variety of ways of damaging the United States including chemical and biological capabilities, and I suspect that the food supply, we've always known that the food supply is a potential target, just as a water supply would be.
Question: Many St. Louisans are concerned about the future of Boeing since there have been so many layoffs since September 11th. What are your feelings about Boeing's future?
Rumsfeld: Well, Boeing's of course a fine company. We have very few defense contractors, I think we're down to three or four or five, and it's helpful to the United States to have competition among defense contractors, and certainly Boeing is an important one.
Question: How scared do you think the average American should be right now of terrorism?
Rumsfeld: That's a tough one. I don't know that I'd even use the words "should Americans be afraid or scared." I think the proper way to approach it is what President Bush said and that is that we do need to be aware that the threats are there and that we should have a heightened sense of awareness. And to the extent that we in our individual citizens' lives see things or hear things that we think could be of importance, providing that information to the appropriate authorities is a wise and prudent thing to do.
If you think about it, I don't know how much air travel you have to do in your post, but those who do travel by air today clearly are doing so with a heightened sense of awareness. They are thinking about their responsibilities as citizens.
So I think we have to be honest with the American people and recognize that there were literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people trained in terrorist training camps over the past decade or two and that they are around the world, they're well financed, they do have cells in 40 or 50 countries, and that they have the training, excellent training as you could tell from the air attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Those people were very well trained and organized.
So there are threats and dangers there, but on the other hand we have to go about our lives and live our lives and that's what the President has urged the American people to do and that's what they did at the Olympics very recently. And it was a wonderful success.
Question: Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thank you very much for joining us.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.