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16 September 2001

Transcript: Rumsfeld Says Anti-Terrorist Campaign Will Take Years

(Secretary of Defense briefs on response to terrorist attacks) (1820)
The campaign against terrorism prompted by the September 11 attacks
against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will last for years,
says Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Briefing in Washington September 16, Rumsfeld said such a campaign
will require the cooperation of countries around the world, to help
gather intelligence information and to deny terrorists bases of
operation and use of facilities.
"My guess is there will be a number of different coalitions that will
be functioning over time," he said. "Some will be able to do some
things; other will be able to do other things. And how that will work
and how that will play out, I think it's hard to say at the moment.
But the one thing you can be sure is it'll take a lot of time; it'll
take years not days."
The Defense Secretary said that terrorists could not function around
the world with the success they have had without the facilitation,
financing or simple toleration provided by some countries. "And those
countries, some of them do in fact have armies and navies and air
forces, and they do have capitals and they do have high-value
targets," he said.
Rumsfeld said he thinks it will be necessary to close Reagan National
Airport in the center of the Washington metropolitan area "for a
period" because of its proximity to the White House, the Capitol and
the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld noted that free and open societies are vulnerable to
terrorist attack: "The reality is that a terrorist can attack at any
time in any place using any technique, and it is physically impossible
for a free people to try to defend in every place at every time
against every technique.
"Now, what does that mean? It means that the president is exactly
right, that we have to take this battle, this war to the terrorists,
where they are. And the best defense is an effective offense, in this
case. And that means they have to be rooted out."
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
(begin transcript)
United States Department of Defense
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001
Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability in Washington
Rumsfeld: (in progress) -- who are attacking our way of life do not
have armies, navies or air forces. They do not have capital. They do
not have high-value targets that the typical weapons of war can go in
and attack. They have -- which is why the president has said what he
has said. It will take a broad, sustained effort that will be -- have
to use our diplomatic, our political, our economic, our financial
strength as well as our military strength and unquestionably
unconventional techniques. And it will take time. It's not a matter of
days or weeks. It's years. It's going to take the support of the
American people, and I have every confidence it'll be there. It'll
take the support of countries around the world.
There are a number of countries that are harboring terrorists. They in
some cases facilitate them, in some cases finance, in other cases just
tolerate. But these people could not be functioning around the globe
with the success they are unless they had that help from countries.
And those countries, some of them do in fact have armies and navies
and air forces, and they do have capitals and they do have high-value
targets. And we are going to need them to stop tolerating terrorists.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Taliban capital?
Rumsfeld: The last thing you're going to find me doing is to
discussing intelligence matters or operations.
Q: Secretary, Abdul Abdullah of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance has
offered his organization's support in any operation against the
Taliban or Osama bin Laden. What roles should these Taliban resistance
groups play and what role will the U.S. ask them to play?
Rumsfeld: The United States needs assistance from countries with
intelligence information. We need assistance from countries to deny
terrorists and terrorist networks the access to their real estate and
their facilities. We need them to cooperate in a host of ways if this
goal is going to be achieved.
My guess is there will be a number of different coalitions that will
be functioning over time. Some will be able to do some things; other
will be able to do other things. And how that will work and how that
will play out, I think it's hard to say at the moment. But the one
thing you can be sure is it'll take a lot of time; it'll take years
not days.
Q: Do you think it's achievable -- (inaudible) -- that you've
outlined?
Rumsfeld: I do think it's achievable. I think that it is particularly
something that strikes at free people. Everyone of the people
listening got up this morning and walked out of the door of their
house and they did not have to look to the left and look to the right.
They didn't have to wear a flak jacket. They didn't have to get into
an armored car. They didn't have to hide in their basement, because we
have enjoyed all of the privileges and opportunities of free people.
And it's a wonderful thing. And we cannot allow terrorists to deny
that of us. Therefore we must -- there is no choice other than to root
out terrorists wherever they are across this globe.
Q: Will you be seeking  -- 
Q: Do you support changing the U.S. policy on assassination?
Rumsfeld: I'm not a lawyer. There's no question but that there are
networks and countries that need to change their ways, and we need to
find a host of ways, political, economic and military, to stop them.
Q: Will the assistance you're seeking from your allies include the use
of non-American troops in some of these operations?
Rumsfeld: This is not a problem that's unique to the United States.
There's not a doubt in my mind but that there will be other countries
that will volunteer a variety of different types of assistance.
Q: Have you asked Britain for that yet?
Rumsfeld: I don't think -- I have certainly been in touch with the
minister of defense of the U.K. And as you well know, they are
cooperating with us in various coalitions already in Iraq, and they
fly beside us. They are certainly a very close ally with capabilities
that are important.
Q: Will you use the military to secure airlines and the airports?
Rumsfeld: The United States military is war-fighters. The role of air
marshals is a notably different thing. And people need to be trained
for that to be good at it, and our people have not been trained for
it. And we have any number of demands on our people at the present
time around the world, and I think it is --
Second, the armed forces of the United States have as their charter
the defense of the United States from threats from the outside. The
threats from the inside tend to be the task of the local law
enforcement, the FBI, the sheriffs and people like that, unless there
is some unusual event that requires the calling up of the National
Guard as opposed to the active force. But because of the laws and the
Constitution and posse comitatus, the practice has been for us, the
armed forces of the United States to address external threats.
Q: Are you thinking about closing National Airport?
Staff: Last question.
Rumsfeld: Any decision that alters the way we live our lives is
unfortunate. Clearly, for a period, we're going to have to be living
and functioning with a heightened sense of awareness. Given the attack
on the Pentagon, given the attack on the World Trade Center and given
the risks that exist and the flight paths being right near the
Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol building, it seems to me a
necessity to close National Airport for a period. And I think it was
the correct decision.
Q: And how long will it be before you  -- 
Q: (Inaudible.)
Rumsfeld: We have airports at Dulles; we have airport at Baltimore,
which give a great deal more time for a fighter interceptor to do
something than a plane taking off from Washington National Airport,
which flies right past the Pentagon day after day after day and right
past the White House.
Q: Did the FAA give you a timely warning about a plane approaching
D.C.? And why did our nation's air defenses fail to protect the
Pentagon?
Rumsfeld: We don't have air defenses that are designed to protect the
American people from a person inside the United States commandeering
an American Airline plane filled with American citizens. That is a
customs, immigration, local law enforcement task. Anyone who has
looked around the skies over the past several years knows that we do
not keep aircraft in the air to anticipate some local situation like
that.
Now, what happens is, when an aircraft goes off-course, the FAA, as a
matter of normal behavior, calls our combatant commander, our CINC, as
we say, at NORAD, which is the North American defense zone, and says,
"There's a plane that's off-pattern." In this case, a plane took off
from Dulles apparently and flew west and then came and circled
Washington, D.C., and then plowed into the Pentagon. You have matter
of minutes, unless you have airplanes in the air or something like
that that you would use.
We do of course today have some fighter aircraft in the air at various
places in the United States. In addition, we have aircraft on strip
alert, 10- to 15-minutes notice, at some 26 bases across the country.
Our forces are on what's called DefCon 4 at the present time, down
from 3, a heightened sense -- status of alert. And in terms of force
protection around the world and the United States, we're on what's
called Charlie. We were at Delta, which is the highest, and we've
moved to Charlie. It is a very high state of alert.
The reality is that a terrorist can attack at any time in any place
using any technique, and it is physically impossible for a free people
to try to defend in every place at every time against every technique.
Now, what does that mean? It means that the president is exactly
right, that we have to take this battle, this war to the terrorists,
where they are. And the best defense is an effective offense, in this
case. And that means they have to be rooted out.
Q: How long before -- (inaudible) -- first action?
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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