(Interview with Brit Hume, Fox News Live)
Q: Good morning. Thanks very much. I'm pleased to be here with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It has been six [seven] months and a day since the September 11th atrocities.
Mr. Secretary, good morning.
Rumsfeld: Good morning.
Q: How far along are we in the quest to stop this from ever happening again?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's a big order, of course, to stop something from ever happening again. Again can be a long time, but we've made wonderful progress in six months when one thinks about it. The Taliban are no longer repressing the people of Afghanistan. There's an interim government that will be succeeded by a more permanent government. The al Qaeda are on the run, and a lot of them have been captured, a number of have been killed. The pressure has been put on all over the world in making their lives more difficult. I'm sure it slowed down recruiting. I'm sure it slowed down fundraising and the ease of transferring money, the ease of movement between countries.
So I feel like we've got a lot of pressure on them through the cooperation of wonderful countries, NATO and coalition nations all across the globe, but there's a lot left to be done because these al Qaeda cells and global terrorist networks still exist in the world and weapons of mass destruction are increasingly available.
Q: We haven't had a successful attack on the United States since that day. How much of that in your estimation, if you can estimate it, owes to the efforts we're doing, what we're doing overseas and how much to the domestic efforts by law enforcement?
Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness, I don't know that it's possible to put a weight on the two. They're both critically important. There's no question that airport security and port security and heightened awareness on the part of citizens, plus better law enforcement and checking at borders has all helped. I think also the pressure that we've put on in Afghanistan and in Europe and in the Far East. I mean, for example, the fact that you can find some information, intelligence information in an old adobe house in Afghanistan and within a matter of days stop three terrorist attacks in Singapore suggests that this fabric that's being developed, the information that's coming together -- and it's all being pieced together -- is, in fact, helping us put pressure on these folks and making their lives more difficult.
Q: Now, let me ask you about Abu Zubaydah, captured senior bin Laden lieutenant. You've expressed a desire and the hope that he will be cooperative. Do you have any indications that he will be or is he perhaps already?
Rumsfeld: I am a little reluctant to get into day-to-day reports on these. We've got three or four -- 300 plus terrorists who are -- people who are now detained.
Q: But he was big fish.
Rumsfeld: He is a big fish. You're absolutely right. I checked this morning and his health is better. He is stabilized somewhat. He's still in his medical condition, still is difficult, but --
Q: You don't doubt he's going to make it?
Rumsfeld: It's pretty clear to me at this point that he has a good crack at making it. I think he will make it, and they have been visiting with him. There is some information coming out, but --
Q: From him.
Rumsfeld: From him, but he's having a little trouble talking, and he had three bullet holes in him.
Q: And the indications, though, are that he may indeed be willing to talk?
Rumsfeld: I think that's premature.
Q: All right. Now, what about the other intelligence that was yielded by that raid in Pakistan? To what extent has that allowed you to head off, that you know of, terrorist operations elsewhere in the world?
Rumsfeld: We did gather up a good deal of information from the people. There were 50, 60 people who were taken in those raids, multiple raids in Pakistan through the wonderful cooperation of the Pakistani armed forces and the Pakistani government law enforcement officials, and that information has all been brought to the United States. It is all being examined and the information then is pieced together with other intelligence information. I can't say that anyone piece of it has led to any particular step, but there's no question but that additional people will be arrested because of it and who knows what that might prevent.
Q: To what extent is the current crisis in the Mideast a hindrance to your prosecution of the general worldwide war on terrorism?
Rumsfeld: Well, it certainly is not a help. There's no question but when there's that kind of violence and just another terrible suicide attack in Jerusalem with dozens of people apparently wounded and a number killed, it is harmful. Terrorism is a terrible thing. It kills innocent people and the region is not calm understandably and of course, that's unhelpful, but it has not had any specific damaging effect on our efforts.
Q: But what about the efforts you must make and continually make to build and hold together a coalition, including countries in that part of the world? How badly is that affected by this situation in the Mideast?
Rumsfeld: Well, as I say, the loss of life is terrible, it's tragic, but I --
Q: What about your potential partners who are now perhaps not satisfied with American policy whose focus is directed on Israel. What about that?
Rumsfeld: It has not thus far been a problem. It is something that one has to be concerned about and attentive to, and the President and the Vice President and the Secretary of State have all been working very hard on the problem. They are today and they will be tomorrow.
Q: To what extent do you detect the hand of Iraq, for example, in keeping that pot boiling there?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's pretty clear if a country has announced that they want to pay $25,000 to the family of every suicide bomber who is successful in killing themselves and killing other innocent people that your purpose is to stir it up.
Q: Then why is it to their advantage to do that?
Rumsfeld: I suppose what Iraq is trying to do is to get support from the Palestinian people and other Arab countries and try to demonstrate that he cares about the Palestinian people, which, of course, he doesn't at all. He has not -- Iraq has not been a place that has been hospitable to Palestinians, nor have many Arab states.
Q: But doesn't that help to divide the United States from other allies, Saudi Arabia, for example, as we seek perhaps to put pressure on Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't think so. I think most of the people in the region know what Saddam Hussein is. He's a man who has used -- he is developing weapons of mass destruction. He has some. He's used gas on his own people. He's used it on his neighbors. He invaded one of his Muslim neighbors, Kuwait. The people in the region are intelligent people. They know exactly, they know him for what he is and he's a person who is on the terrorist list for good reason.
Q: Now, one last question to you. If at the very height of our operation in Afghanistan when the situation with the Taliban was still in doubt Israel had approached you and said, Mr. Secretary, this is roiling the waters in our region, it is causing us problems, stop and withdraw. What would you have said?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think, first of all, it's not for me to say, it's for the President to say, and the President has already said what he has said, and in his State of the Union message and in his speech on September 11th or September 12th shortly after the attacks on the United States he told the truth, that the free world can't live with terrorist networks and that the only way to defend against them is to go after them, and that means you simply must go and find them where they are and root them out and stop them from killing people.
Now, if you don't and if they do get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, the world is not going to see 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 people killed, as we saw here in this building where we sit and in the World Trade Centers on September 11th. They're going to see tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people killed. And that means that our margin for error is relatively modest and we'd best stick at this task, and no country is going to deter or dissuade the United States from going after terrorists.
Q: Is it, therefore, fair for us to try to deter Israel from doing that?
Rumsfeld: I don't think that the United States is trying to deter Israel from going after terrorists. The President has said he understands the devastating effect of terrorist attacks on Israel and that they have to take steps to stop terrorists and to protect their people. Israel has got a very complicated set of problems, and the President's speech a week ago, Thursday I guess it was, was right on the mark. It cast this problem exactly the way it ought to be cast in my view.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
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