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Secretary Rumsfeld Briefs the Nation

Aired September 16, 2001 - 10:10   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago Mayor Giuliani spoke with the mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Omar, and we wanted to share a small part of that conversation with you right now.


RUDY GIULIANI, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: All of the people of New York City appreciate greatly the support that we have in our sister city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city that's even older by a lot than New York is -- a city that we feel tremendous affection for and attachment to. It's the -- it's the site of the three great religions of the world, the three great religions that have effected western civilization. And we feel tremendous bond with the people of Jerusalem.

And I particularly feel a very close personal bond with Everett -- with Mayor Omar. Having been to Jerusalem during the period of time where you went through and are still going through things like we're experiencing today. And I remember riding the bus with you, Everett, when the people of New York City were shocked and frightened and upset and overcame it ...


ZAHN: All right, we interrupt Mayor Giuliani right now as our Secretary of Defense gets a briefing underway. Let's listen in.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE OF THE UNITED STATES: ...who are attacking our way of life do not have armies, navies of air forces. They do not have capitols. They do not have high value targets that the typical weapons of war can go in and attack. They have to -- which is why the president has said what he's said. It will take a broad, sustained effort that will -- that will be -- we'll 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 will be there. It will 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 do have high value targets. And we are going to need them to stop tolerating terrorists.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Taliban government?

RUMSFELD: The last thing you're going to find me doing is discussing intelligence matters or operations.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the northern -- of Afghanistan's northern alliance has offered his organization's support in any operation against the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. What role should the 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 some things, others 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 will take a lot of time. It will take years, not days.

QUESTION: Do you think it is achievable (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

RUMSFELD: I do think it's achievable. I think that it is -- 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 flack jacket, they didn't have to get into an armored car, they didn't have to hide in their basement because we have enjoyed the -- 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.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the U.S. policy on assassinations?

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.

QUESTION: 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.

QUESTION: 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 UK. And as you well know they are cooperating with us in various coalitions already in Iraq and they fly beside us. And they are certainly a very close ally with capabilities that are important.

QUESTION: 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 and 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 -- I think it is . . .

Second, the armed forces of the United States have -- has 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 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the practice has been for us -- the armed forces of the United States to address external threats.



RUMSFELD: The -- 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 to be a necessity to close National Airport for a period. And I think it was the correct decision.

QUESTION: How long do will be before you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

RUMSFELD: We have airports at Dulles, we have airports 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.

QUESTION: Did the FAA -- did the FAA give you a timely warning about a plane approaching DC? 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 Airlines plane filled with American citizens. That is a Customs, Immigration, local law enforcement task. We -- 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 Synch 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, DC and then plowed into the Pentagon.

You have a 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 in 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 Death Con Four at the present time down from three -- a heightened sense of -- status of alert.

And in terms of force protection, around the world and in the United States we're on what's called Charlie. We were at Delta, which is the highest and we've to Charlie. It is -- 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.

Thank you very much.

ZAHN: There you have it -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrapping up his -- wrapping up his briefing this morning. Again, repeating a warning that we've heard from a number of cabinet secretaries, that Americans should be ready for a prolonged campaign -- in his words, "One that will take years, not days." He talked a little bit about the kind of help the United States needed from friendly nations including intelligence information.

And in one of the more interesting comments he had he talked about the fact that he believes a number of different coalitions will be built over time.

Let's check in with John King right now to see what he thinks the significance of that means. What does that mean? He was asked a question about the Northern Alliance, which is the opposition force to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Is that what he was hinting at that perhaps their 15,000 members in some way will join in some sort of effort to help get Osama bin Laden found and turned over to authorities. Is that what he meant?

JOHN KING, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, certainly from an intelligence and information standpoint the Defense Secretary serving clear notice there that if you live around the world and you think you have any relative information about Osama bin Laden, his network or anyone else who might be involved in this the Pentagon and the United States government is most interested in speaking with you.

That is why we have seen outreach to not only opposition groups in Afghanistan but directly to the Government of Pakistan. A very tough warning to the Government of Saudi Arabia we are told to not only to crack on the Taliban and to distance themselves from the Taliban but to turn over any information it has about financial support from Saudi Arabia into the bin Laden organization.

And what you're seeing this morning -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld out in public, the vice president, Dick Cheney, granting interviews as well. This part of a coordinated administration effort to lay out the challenges ahead for the American people.

One of the great concerns is in the recent years Americans may have become accustomed to seeing Cruise missiles launched into Afghanistan or the Sudan. Those fighter jets still patrolling over Iraq 10 years later dropping smart bombs. The administration trying to condition the American people that this will be different in going after terrorists. That we have a very different kind of campaign -- some of it military, some of it diplomatic, some of it a financial effort to crack down on financial support.

As we continue the discussion I'd like to bring in our Kelly Wallace. She's been tracking the president this weekend and his discussions with senior advisers up at Camp David.

Kelly, the administration is clearly trying to prepare the American people on the one hand saying that Wall Street will open tomorrow, baseball will resume tomorrow. On the other hand -- buckle down. This is a war that could take years.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, John. And you're hearing that from the president and as you noted all of his top advisers going out really on the Sunday talk show, again, really preparing the American people for what we've heard the president and all top administration officials say will be a lengthy campaign -- a political, economic, even a military campaign against terrorism.

I thought it was quite interesting we heard from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the end of his meeting with reporters saying, "You can't really defend in the United States against every terrorist, everywhere." So he says the best defense is really the best offense and that's why he's saying we should go after the terrorists where they are. And, also, John, pretty strong words for those countries he said who support them, who harbor them. He said those countries have capitals and have high level military targets. We hear definitely a strong threat there from the Defense Secretary about any countries encouraging or harboring terrorists.

Now another top official going out today -- Vice President Dick Cheney. And he repeated what we've heard from the Bush administration as well -- that the administration in Mr. Cheney's words is quite confident that Osama bin Laden is the prime suspect behind Tuesday's attacks in New York and Pennsylvania and in Virginia.

Also the vice president talking a bit about a development we've reported all day -- the Pakistanis sending a delegation to Afghanistan basically to issue the -- an ultimatum to the ruling Taliban militia -- either turn over Osama bin Laden or face a massive military retaliation. Mr. Cheney saying he is quite encouraged that the Pakistanis have decided to stand with the U.S. and the international community.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The key here to keep in mind is that what we're asking nations to do -- in which the Paks have clearly made a decision to do -- is we're asking nations to step up and be counted. They're going to have to decide -- are they going to be -- stand with the United States and believe in freedom and democracy and civilization or are they going to stand with the terrorists and the barbarians, if you will.

And that's a fairly clear-cut choice. And I'm delighted to see that Pakistan has in fact stepped up to the task.


WALLACE: And President Bush remaining at the presidential retreat near Camp David. Expect though, John, to see the president in the days ahead definitely continuing to use the bully pulpit to, again, prepare the American people but also to let Americans get on with their lives and as well, of course, John, to continue to remember those who lost loved ones and those who are still missing. John?

KING: Kelly, standby there at Camp David. I want to bring Bob Franken into the discussion. Bob is standing watch over at the Pentagon. Bob, when the Vice President, when the Defense Secretary say, "This could take years," what do they mean and why?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they mean is that it could take a very long time capturing bin Laden, taking out part of the Afghanistan government, for instance, is not going to really address the problem. The very nature of terrorism is what makes this so, so difficult.

Terrorism can be accomplished by just a couple of people -- witness the Oklahoma City bombings. Those were domestic, of course, but they were domestic terrorists -- two or three of them -- no more than that.

That, of course, is going to make it difficult. How do you get to a couple of people who just decide that they believe in something strongly enough that they're going to do something about it?

Several years of what? How long do the American people -- do they believe that the American people will tolerate massive inconvenience when it comes to flying around the United States? Massive inconvenience, for instance, when it means going to a sporting event or to a concert or something like that? These are very difficult problems testing the American will. These are not conventional problems.

The nature of terrorism is surprise as we found out so tragically last Tuesday.

KING: OK, thank you, Bob, there are the Pentagon. Thank you, Kelly Wallace, standing by at Camp David. We need to go back now to New York and Paula Zahn.



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