of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
September 16, 2001
10:45 A.M. EDT
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 -- half 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
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- Taliban capital?
RUMSFELD: The last thing you're going to find me doing is to discussing intelligence
matters or operations.
QUESTION: 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.
QUESTION: 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.
QUESTION: Will you be seeking --
QUESTION: 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.
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 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.
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 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.
QUESTION: 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.
QUESTION: And how long will it be before you --
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.
QUESTION: 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.
QUESTION: How long before -- (inaudible) -- first action?