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United States Will Treat Attack As Act of War

Aired September 12, 2001 - 07:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we are going to head to Washington, where I am going to check in with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Sir, can you hear me?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes.

ZAHN: I know you have said that the attacks yesterday constituted an act of war and the United States will treat this as if it is a war. What does that mean?

POWELL: It means that we'll use our full resources to go after those who are responsible for this and it is not an action that'll be over in a week or two. This has got to be a full scale assault not just by the United States, but by the civilized community against terrorism, and it has to be fought on the political front, it has to be fought on the diplomatic front, the military front and the intelligence front.

And we are deeply encouraged by the response we have received so far from international organizations, but especially from countries around the world who have expressed solidarity with us and who have come to the realization, I hope, that all of us have to respond to this because none of us is safe from this kind of attack.

ZAHN: You have said rather...

POWELL: Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives. This is a tragedy for our nation but at the same time we are a strong nation. We are a resilient nation and we will come through this and people will see what America is really capable of doing and capable of responding to.

ZAHN: Mr. Secretary, I know you have said that you will go after whoever is responsible for perpetrating these attacks. You will also go after those who might have harbored others involved in this attack. Where are you in the process of determining who was behind these attacks yesterday?

POWELL: The intelligence community is hard at work, the CIA, the FBI and other agencies assembling information, doing forensic work on, at the two sites yesterday, and a body of evidence will be developed in the days ahead. And I don't think it'll take too long, but that process is well under way. But we don't want to start speculating or making a judgment now before we actually have the evidence.

ZAHN: Mr. Secretary, Senator Orrin Hatch was saying this morning that U.S. intelligence actually intercepted communications between Osama bin Laden supporters discussing the attacks. What can you tell us about these intercepted communications?

POWELL: We should not be talking about intelligence methods used by the United States of America. All we do is put them at risk. So we should not be talking about such things and I will not.

ZAHN: Are you suggesting that Senator Orrin Hatch has been irresponsible in floating this information?

POWELL: We should not be talking about how the United States collects information in cases such as this.

ZAHN: Well, let me move onto this. What kind of group or groups do you think actually have the sophistication to pull off an attack of this magnitude?

POWELL: It has to be a group that one, has money. Two, has, I think, a significant number of adherents, members. It has to have a network. It has to have the ability to move people around the world. So it is quite a sophisticated organization with a very sophisticated planning and execution capability. And I think the fingerprints are quite clear that it has to be an organization with that level of complexity associated to it.

So it isn't your average fly by night car bomber. This is a sophisticated outfit.

ZAHN: Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen is saying this has the blueprints of an attack by someone perhaps involved with Osama bin Laden. Can you rule Osama bin Laden out this morning?

POWELL: We rule no one out and we will be ruling the perpetrators in in the near future, I'm quite sure.

ZAHN: One last quick question. Can you explain how four hijackers were able to take over four airliners yesterday?

POWELL: No, I cannot. Obviously we need to do more with respect to security at our airports. We need to do more with respect to tracking people within a society that is an open society. And we have to do it in a way that protects us but at the same time does not cause us to be a closed society, the kind of society that would not be reflective of American values. And all of those issues are under consideration this morning and are being studied by various members of the administration.

ZAHN: Secretary Powell, good of you to join us.

POWELL: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: We know how taxing of a last 22 hours you have had, or 23 hours. Thank you so much for being with us. POWELL: Thank you.

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