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Rumsfeld Speaks to Troops in Salt Lake

Aired February 20, 2002 - 10:29   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.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go live back to just outside of Salt Lake City. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld taking some questions from troops that are there to protect the Olympians.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ...have to be attentive to the problems of security, and certainly the folks in this room and the policemen and the firemen and the wonderful people from the state of Utah have all done a wonderful job.

And as the governor said, it's a gold medal performance.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there's been reports about the (OFF- MIKE) Could you give us your comments about whether the Pentagon should be issuing disinformation to the foreign press and any comments on that?

RUMSFELD: Well, the Pentagon is not issuing disinformation to the foreign press or any other press.

QUESTION: Will they be?

RUMSFELD: No, the United States of America has long had policies with respect to public information, and we have policies where certainly we make a practice of assuring that what we tell the public is accurate and correct. And if, in any event, somebody happens to be misinformed and say something that's not correct, they correct that at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Department of State of the United States of America has an Office of Public Diplomacy, I believe it's called. The Joint Staff has an Office of Information Operations, and the office called SOLIC has the office you're referring to, of strategic influence.

If you think about it, in the Afghan conflict, for example, or the war on terrorism, we dropped millions of food rations for starving people of Afghanistan. They were in yellow packets, and they were dropped from aircraft. And the Taliban and the Al Qaeda were lying to people and telling the Afghan people that, in fact, that was poisoned food. It was not poisoned food. It was wonderful food. It was culturally appropriate food.

So we have an information operation where we explain to the -- drop leaflets explaining to the Afghan people that it was very good food.

There was also a problem where there were same similar colored packets that had some bomblets (ph) in them, and we dropped leaflets explaining the difference.

And we have a Commando Solo, which is a radio ship aircraft that flies over and drops -- we drop leaflets, for example, in offering awards for the capture of various Al Qaeda. And all of that is part of this strategic influence or information operations.

RUMSFELD: The word deception is an interesting one because it would be wrong to use the word in any context other than a strategic or tactical deception.

For example, if the Special Forces of the United States were getting ready to...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: Oh, we've got some partisanship.

(LAUGHTER)

Way to go. Let's all do it for the special forces.

(APPLAUSE)

If they're getting ready to undertake a direct action against an Al Qaeda stronghold some place in Afghanistan, and they want to come in from the west, they may very well do things that will lead the people in that enclave to think they're coming in from the north instead of from the west. And that would be characterized as tactical deception.

And if you think back to World War II -- well, you're too young.

(LAUGHTER)

But I can think back to World War II, and you remember the Normandy invasion. Prior to the Normandy invasion, General Eisenhower had a great deal of activity that lead the Germans to believe they were actually going to land at Calais. Now, they didn't land at Calais, but they -- and they never lied to the world and said they were going to land at Calais.

What they did do is they did a whole series of activities that lead people -- the Germans -- to believe they might land at Calais. And that would be called strategic influence or information operations.

So it seems to me that what people have to understand about this is very clear: Number one, government officials, the Department of Defense, this secretary and the people that work with me, tell the American people and the people of the world the truth. And to the extent that anyone says anything that at any time proves to have been not accurate, they correct it at the earliest possible opportunity.

And I've read some of these articles that are floating around. And my advice is to think of it in the way I've just described it. That's the way it works. That's the work it has worked. That's the way it will work in the future.

QUESTION: Do you plan to change the regime in Iraq? And if so, do you have a military plan and support for that plan to change the regime?

RUMSFELD: The president of the United States makes decisions like that, not the secretary of defense.

QUESTION: Has he informed you of any decision he's considering in that respect?

RUMSFELD: When I talk to the president and when the president talks to me, we tend to do it in private.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

I want to take this group with me everywhere I go.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: What are the chances of military action in Iraq? What would be an odd's (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: I don't play odds.

QUESTION: In the new war against terrorism, to what extent will the Office of Strategic Influence being doing any kind of different tactic in the way of deception that you had described? Will there be any change?

RUMSFELD: I think I've answered that question fully. I think I've answered it correctly. I even think I've answered it pretty well.

(LAUGHTER)

And I don't know how I could elaborate on it.

QUESTION: Is there anything additional that they're going to be doing that they weren't doing before because of the new demands of the war on terrorism?

RUMSFELD: Well, that's a good question. In a major conflict, like World War II or even Desert Storm, things are kind of clear. There are enemy forces here, and there are allied coalition forces there, and there are lines.

That's not the case in the war on terrorism. Here, we have cells of terrorists in 40, 50, 60 countries across the globe.

Even in Afghanistan, notwithstanding the fact that the Taliban no longer rules that country, there are pockets of Al Qaeda and Taliban that still exist. It's a very dangerous place to be. People are still getting killed. So we do have to think of it in a different way. How it will play out over time -- I don't know.

Our goals are really rather clear. Our goals are to stop terrorists from going around the world killing innocent people. One way to do that is to catch them. That's hard to do, because they're well financed, they're well trained, they've been through a process that is very disciplined, in terms of how you kill people and how you do that -- go out and killing innocent people. That's what they're trained to do.

On the other hand, our goal also is to gather information. And we're being very successful with that. We're collecting an awful of intelligence information. And the goal is to prevent them from doing it, and we've got them on the run all across the globe.

They are not doing well. They are finding it harder to raise money. They're finding it harder to recruit people. They're finding it more difficult to retain the people they have recruited. They're finding it more difficult to communicate. And they're finding it harder to move between countries. There's much greater security. And that means that the number of terrorist incidents that will occur in the period ahead will not -- no one can suggest it will be zero. Indeed, one can almost predict there will be additional terrorist acts, simply because there are so many of them out there. But there will be fewer than there otherwise would have been.

And if we keep at it and if we keep being successful at it, I think eventually we'll create an environment that's so inhospitable to terrorists that it will be dramatically reduced. And certainly given the nexus between terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction, it is just urgent that we do the best possible job to gain the kinds of intelligence so that we can stop these folks before they use those considerably more powerful weapons.

QUESTION: To what extent do you reapply...

RUMSFELD: Why don't we try someone else, and we'll make this the last question.

QUESTION: $310 million on defense for the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games, is the -- financially -- is this the beginning or the end, or can we expect, as a nation, have to pump more money than this as we go? Or can this be some type of an ending for that?

RUMSFELD: I would not think that the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City would be characterized as the ending of having to invest in security, homeland security or in the war on terrorism.

This is an important world event. And you're right, we have more people in Utah participating in this joint task force Olympics and various aspects of it than we do in Afghanistan. And we have that because it's such an important event and because we want to make sure it's a safe event for the world.

But we will, as a country -- you know, it's interesting, if you think about our country, we are so fortunate to have what we have and the freedoms and the opportunities. And what we do in providing for our security and contributing to peace and stability in the world is what makes those freedoms and those opportunities possible for us and for the other people in the world.

And it's the coalition forces across the globe that contribute to peace and stability and, in fact, create the underpinning of all the opportunities we have for the free press to be free and to go about saying what you want and thinking what you want, and for the people in this room and their families to be free.

And it is such an important contribution, and the money we spend is an investment in preserving those freedoms. And we have to be wise enough and steady of purpose, not over a year or over two years, but over -- think of it, the Cold War lasted 50 years, and it was because people were willing to make those investments to preserve peace and freedom. And God Bless them for doing it.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

KAGAN: A very receptive crowd for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as he visits with some of the troops that are in the Salt Lake area to protect the Olympians and the guests that are there to watch the Winter Games. Some great questions asked of the secretary of defense, including the last one: Is the security force we see at the Olympics a sign of times to come, and the defense secretary said, this, indeed, will not be the last time you see homeland defense built up like this in order to protect the way of life here in the United States.

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