14 September 2001
Transcript: Powell Points to bin Laden as a Suspect in Terrorist Attacks
(He was interviewed on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer Sept. 13)
Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterated on the Public Broadcasting
System the evening of September 13 that the United States is "creating
a coalition to go after terrorism" that would include the United
Nations, NATO, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic
Countries, the Organization of American States and others.
The Bush Administration, he said, is asking "everybody -- to join us
once and for all in a great coalition to conduct a campaign against
terrorists who are conducting war against civilized people."
The attacks that took place in Washington, DC and New York City
September 11 "were directed against America," said Powell, "but they
really are directed against civilization, and we have to respond with
a full-scale assault against this kind of activity, beginning with the
perpetrators of the attacks against us this past Tuesday."
Asked if Usama bin Laden is a prime suspect in the September 11
terrorist attacks on the United States, the Secretary of State said,
"I think when you look at that region and when you examine the kinds
of terrorist organizations that are around that have the
sophistication to conduct such a series of attacks, you would
certainly have to identify Usama bin Laden and his organization as
being one of those suspects."
Powell also pointed out that Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the United
States, Prince Bandar, said September 12 that bin Laden's Saudi
citizenship had been "taken away from him.
"The Saudis consider him a disgrace to their nation and to his own
heritage, and they have condemned his actions," said Powell.
Following is the transcript of the interview released by the State
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
September 13, 2001
Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell
On The News Hour with Jim Lehrer
September 13, 2001, 6:08 p.m.
MR. LEHRER: And now a Newsmaker interview with Secretary of State
Colin Powell. He joins us from the State Department. Mr. Secretary,
SECRETARY POWELL: Good evening, Jim. How are you?
MR. LEHRER: Just fine. Exactly what is it that you and the President
are asking these international leaders to do?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are creating a coalition to go after terrorism.
We are asking the United Nations and every other organization you can
think of -- United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the Organization
of Islamic Countries, the OAS, everybody -- to join us once and for
all in a great coalition to conduct a campaign against terrorists who
are conducting war against civilized people.
The attack that took place in Washington and the attack that took
place in New York were directed against America, but they really are
directed against civilization, and we have to respond with a
full-scale assault against this kind of activity, beginning with the
perpetrators of the attacks against us this past Tuesday.
We are asking all the nations to join together to use political
action, diplomatic action, economic action, legal action, law
enforcement action, and if necessary, join with us as appropriate and
if necessary in military action when we have identified the
perpetrators and decided what military action might be appropriate.
And so there is a lot that we can do.
And the point I also want to make is that no country is safe from this
kind of attack. It crosses every geographic boundary, social boundary,
religious boundary, cultural boundary. And we must see it in those
terms and respond in a unified way.
MR. LEHRER: Has thus far everybody signed up?
SECRETARY POWELL: I am very pleased with what has been accomplished
over the last 48 hours: an Article V declaration for the first time in
its history from NATO; solid support from the European Union; the
United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that is a strong
one; the General Assembly of the United Nations did the same thing.
I have been on the phone this afternoon with the Chairman of the
Organization of Islamic States, and I expect they will be putting out
additional statements. And I have been talking to leaders around the
world, as has the President, to mobilize this coalition, and we have
been getting solid support from almost everyone.
MR. LEHRER: Almost everyone. Who have been the dissenters?
SECRETARY POWELL: As has been noted earlier in the day, Saddam
Hussein, not to my surprise, is not somebody you would expect to share
MR. LEHRER: What about the president of Pakistan? You talked to him
SECRETARY POWELL: I had a good conversation with the president of
Pakistan. He met with our Ambassador earlier this morning and we met
with Pakistani representatives here in the United States. And we gave
him some items we thought would be useful for us to cooperate on, and
he expressed his desire to cooperate with us fully. He is reviewing
that list now and I expect to talk to him again in the very near
future. But I am very pleased with the response we have gotten from
MR. LEHRER: And that includes intelligence information about Usama bin
Laden and possible military staging areas -- that sort of specifics?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it includes a variety of things. And when you
look at all those things, it is very, very inclusive, all-inclusive.
But I would not like at this time to go into the specifics.
MR. LEHRER: But there is no question that Usama bin Laden is a prime
suspect; is that right?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think when you look at that region and when you
examine the kinds of terrorist organizations that are around that have
the sophistication to conduct such a series of attacks, you would
certainly have to identify Usama bin Laden and his organization as
being one of those suspects.
MR. LEHRER: And it would make it much easier for us to go after him
with Pakistan's cooperation; is that what you told the President?
SECRETARY POWELL: If that were the organization we finally determined
was responsible, then of course it would be a lot easier with the
cooperation of Pakistan.
MR. LEHRER: Now, you and the President have talked to people in the
Arab world as well; is that correct?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we have, and I am very pleased with that
response. The President has spoken to President Mubarak and King
Abdallah in Jordan. I have been in touch with Saudi officials, Qatari
officials, and I will be making more calls tonight and tomorrow.
MR. LEHRER: Now, the Saudis are very important in this, are they not,
because bin Laden is a native of Saudi Arabia. His money comes from
Saudi Arabia, does it not?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, he is a native of Saudi Arabia, but I have to
draw your attention to the very strong statement that the Saudi
Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar made yesterday, which
reminded everybody that his citizenship was taken away from him. Bin
Laden's citizenship was taken away from him. The Saudis consider him a
disgrace to their nation and to his own heritage, and they have
condemned his actions.
He has sources of money from various places throughout the world, but
I am absolutely confident that the Saudi Government is not supporting
his efforts in any way.
MR. LEHRER: Why have we been unable to dry up those sources? If we
know he's got $300 million and they're all over the world, why haven't
we been able to stop that flow of that money?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that we really do know what all of his
sources of money are and how much he actually has access to and who
else might be supporting him. I'm sure we know quite a bit, but
apparently not enough because he is still in operation. And he has a
rather far-flung network, and parts of that network are able to
sustain themselves in the places that they are located.
MR. LEHRER: In general, Mr. Secretary, how close are we to knowing who
was responsible and how they did it?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think the evidence is building rapidly now, and
the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies have done
a terrific job in just a short period of time. And I think in the
not-too-distant future we will have enough confidence in what we have
gathered, the information and evidence we have gathered, to make a
definitive judgment and then a definitive statement as to whom we
believe is responsible.
MR. LEHRER: I know the specifics are off limits at this moment. The
President spoke of what it's going to take to stop this kind of thing.
Can you give us, as a military man before you became a diplomatic man,
give us a feel -- give the American people a feel for the magnitude of
what lays before them as a people, as a nation.
SECRETARY POWELL: What lies before them is a long, tough campaign. We
should have no illusions that a few missile strikes will take care of
this problem. They are well entrenched, they are well dispersed. It is
not an enemy sitting out in the middle of a battlefield waiting to be
attacked. They are clever. They are resourceful and they are thinking.
They are always trying to think what we might do to them.
So we have to see this as a long campaign plan, using all of the
weapons and tools at our disposal -- political, economic -- to isolate
them, diplomatically isolate them, isolate those countries that give
them support and serve as their host; in terms of legal actions, go
after their sources of money, go after their ability to move back and
forth around the world, put them on watch lists, be on the lookout for
those who we know are identified with this organization; and, always,
always, be prepared to conduct a military strike when targets surface
and targets become available that make it clear that you have found
the perpetrators and somebody we ought to go after. And of course
there are covert things that one can be doing that I wouldn't discuss
here, but you are familiar with, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Sure. But if somebody is thinking that there is going to
be Desert Storm II, 500,00 US troops and it's going to be over in a
few days, forget it?
SECRETARY POWELL: Forget it. This will take time and we'll have to use
all of the weapons and tools I've described. And the other thing we
have to remember is that Usama bin Laden and his organization is not
the only terrorist organization out there, and we have to see this not
just in terms of Usama bin Laden if that is the one we determine we
have to go after, because he is responsible for this, and we should go
after him anyway and have been trying to get to him because it is a
terrorist organization. But there are many others out there who are
responsible for crimes against American citizens and crimes against
citizens of other nations.
So it's going to be a long campaign against many terrorist
organizations, and the whole world has to be united in that campaign.
MR. LEHRER: But for Americans listening to you now, should they also
know that this may not be free of casualties; this may not be a war
that can be fought in such a way that either US military or even more
civilians in counter-retaliation from other terrorists, et cetera? I
mean, this is not risk free?
SECRETARY POWELL: Nothing is risk free in life, especially battle. And
we are now entering a number of battles to deal with this, and it will
not be risk free. But we are a proud people, a brave people, and I am
confident we will do what is necessary to prevail in this conflict.
And that will involve -- I regretfully have to say that will involve
casualties, and we should not look for some cost-free options. They
really don't exist.
MR. LEHRER: Finally, Mr. Secretary, let me ask you this. The President
mentioned today as well that the people who committed these awful acts
on Tuesday hate us and hate what we stand for. Where does that come
from? You were a military man for years, now a Secretary of State. We
think of ourselves as the good people of the world, we Americans. Why
do these people hate us so that they would fly an airplane into
targets and kill themselves in order to kill Americans?
SECRETARY POWELL: The reasons are very, very complex. In some
instances, they don't like our value system. They don't like the
system that treats every individual as a creature of God with the full
rights of every other individual. They don't like our political
system, our form of democracy. They don't like who some of our friends
are in the Middle East and the fact that we are strong supporters of
Israel and will remain so. They resent, in many instances, our
successes of society.
But rather than debating us on our values, rather than listening as we
listen to them, they choose another form of debate with us: debate on
the battlefield. And they choose terrorism, a weapon that is available
to them because they can't defeat us on a conventional battlefield.
And I wish that were not the case.
What we also have to remember is that this is not a conflict against
Arabs or Muslims or those who believe in one particular religion or
not. This is a conflict against terrorists. The other day we saw some
images from the occupied territories from the West Bank and people
cheering what had happened, and that sort of was seared in our mind.
But I got a message in from our Consul General in Jerusalem saying
that his switchboard is swamped with calls from Palestinians --
Palestinian officials, Palestinian people -- expressing their distaste
for that kind of display, and letting us know that they were
expressing their condolences and sympathy to us as well. That is the
MR. LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Jim.
(end State Department transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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