of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Media Stakeout Following His NBC Interview
September 30, 2001
RUMSFELD: Good morning.
RUMSFELD: Well, the task for the countries that are concerned about this problem
-- and there are dozens and dozens of them across the globe -- is to gather
the kinds of intelligence that will enable us to take action against the terrorist
networks and to find ways to alter the behavior of those countries that seem
determined to facilitate and harbor and finance and encourage international
QUESTION: Do you believe that the Taliban now has bin Laden in their sights, that they
will be doing something about it?
RUMSFELD: I doubt that they'll do anything about it. They've been rather adamant
that they don't intend to do anything about it and have not done anything about
it thus far. The question as to whether or not they have bin Laden -- we keep
talking about Osama bin Laden as though he's the problem. It is a very broad
network. If he were not there tomorrow, the same problem would exist. He's got
dozens of key lieutenants, he functions in 50 or 60 countries and al Qaeda is
just one of the terrorist networks that is on the face of this earth. So it
is I think wrong to particularize the thing to a person and even to a single
But there is no question but that the Taliban has taken every kind of step to
make it hospitable for the al Qaeda in that country, and they have to know where
the key al Qaeda operatives are in their country. They know their country like
the back of their hands. They've been fighting there for decades. They have
access to 90 percent of the land space in Afghanistan, the remainder being held
by opposition forces.
But for the Taliban to suggest that they can't find the key operative in this
network is just false.
QUESTION: Have you heard the report that there have been defections of about 200 (inaudible)
to the Northern Alliance? Is that correct?
RUMSFELD: I have heard so many reports and so many conflicting comments since
this began on September 11th, that I've almost come to the point where first
reports I don't really even give much credence to. I look at them and set them
to the side and wait for a little better information.
However, there is no question but that there are a substantial number of Afghans
who do not favor Taliban, find it repressive, don't agree with it, wish it were
not there. It is also true that there are any number in the Taliban who do not
favor al Qaeda and wish it were not there. There are any number of factions
within the Taliban and tribes in other parts of the country to say nothing of
the Northern Alliance in the north, that would like the entire crowd out of
there. Not just al Qaeda but the Taliban in addition.
What does that mean? Well, it means that we need to find ways to encourage those
people and to create a situation where it's no longer in the interest of al
Qaeda to feel that they can function freely in that country and for Taliban
to find it's in their interest to encourage and harbor international terrorists.
QUESTION: In light of those comments should Taliban in any way become a legitimate
target in light of what you've just said and what the Ambassador to Pakistan
said in the last few days?
RUMSFELD: The president of the United States has characterized this war, this
effort, this campaign that it will be long and broad and sustained, and that
it is aimed directly at international terrorists and terrorist networks and
the people, the governments, the organizations, the entities, the non-profit
organizations, the corporations, the states, the non-state entities that harbor
and foster and facilitate international terrorism. That entire group has to
be the target.
QUESTION: Can you confirm for us the appointment of general --
QUESTION: -- cooperation been with other countries in that region (inaudible)?
RUMSFELD: The cooperation we are getting from countries in and out of that region
is breathtaking. It is so broad and so deep, I admit varied and different from
country to country. Some public, a great deal not public for very understandable
reasons, in my view, and I think the momentum is there, the cumulative evidence
that is coming in, the pieces of intelligence are inevitably going to provide
the kinds of information we're going to need to disintegrate these terrorist
networks, to liquidate them, to root them out and end them.
QUESTION: Will you confirm for us that General Downey is going to be appointed the
terrorist [chief] of the NSC? And how did you feel about his report on the [command]
of Khobar Towers?
RUMSFELD: I do not know him personally. I know him to have a very fine reputation.
And I tend to leave announcements by the White House to the White House.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Meet the Press you referred a couple of times to actionable
intelligence. [ Transcript ] What is the quality of the United States actionable
intelligence right now?
RUMSFELD: Well of course if you think about it, our intelligence apparatus was
developed and fashioned and arranged over decades to deal with the Cold War
problems where we focused on one or two countries, the Warsaw Pact countries.
We tended to count things -- ships, guns, tanks and planes. And we developed
a good system of understanding how they were progressing in their weapon development,
when they were deploying things, and what the nature of the threat was.
Those days are gone. Our target is not the Soviet Union. It doesn't exist. Our
targets are multiple, they're across the globe, they're much more complex. The
reality is that with the end of the Cold War there's been a relaxation of tensions
and we see the free flow of technologies across the globe. Very powerful weapons,
the means to deliver them. And it has made the intelligence gathering task vastly
more difficult. And what we have to do is to recognize that and continue the
process or reorienting it so that we are able to keep track of those things
that are particularly threatening to free people.
The Defense Department over the past months, since I arrived, has fashioned
a new strategy that is interestingly designed not to deal only with specific
threats like the threat of North Korea or the threat of Iraq invading Kuwait,
but rather to reorient ourselves towards a capability based strategy. We can
now understand the kinds of capabilities that exist in the world and the kinds
of capabilities that could threaten us much better than we can predict exactly
where that threat will come from or what entity or what country. Because of
the proliferation of these technologies, they're in many places, because of
dual use technologies, a great deal now that's being done underground, a great
deal of communication is on fiber optic, it makes the task considerably more
difficult. So we've refashioned our strategy as a country towards capability
so that we can arrange and train and organize and equip our country's military
capabilities to deal with the kinds of capabilities that are out there rather
than orienting them solely to a specific country or a specific threat on the
ground at that time.
QUESTION: But is it good enough today to find Osama bin Laden and bring bin Laden to
RUMSFELD: I think that will take the good will and cooperation and concern of
lots of countries and lots of people, even people in Afghanistan and other countries
who have relationships with al Qaeda who will for a variety of reasons decide
either that it's too uncomfortable to be supporting al Qaeda or that they no
longer think that's a good idea, and will begin providing information.
We all know how law enforcement works. It's a process of gathering information
and keeping it together, and that's what we're doing and we're darn grateful
for the assistance we're getting from individuals, from organizations, and from
countries all across the globe.
QUESTION: Do you think we can safely open National Airport and (inaudible)?
RUMSFELD: I think that it would be unfortunate if we were not able to open Washington
National Airport. It is our capital airport. And to the extent we decide we
have to -- either we alter our way of life or we alter the terrorists' way of
life. Our goal is to say look, this is not about retaliation, this is about
self-defense. The only way to defend against terrorists is to take the battle
to them, and not simply acquiesce and begin closing in and not doing things
that free people normally do.
I think that the solution for Washington National Airport is much more likely
to come on the ground than it is in the air. That is to say that I think the
protection of aircraft, the screening of passengers, the screening of baggage,
and the presence of air marshals probably will provide the kind of security
that will enable our airports to function, as opposed to fighter aircraft in
the air trying to make a judgment as to what American airliner is a target and
what isn't. That is an enormously complicated problem that I think we can do
some of it, but I think that we're more likely to find a solution on the ground.
QUESTION: Do you think there's any message from the demonstrators today, asking for
a peaceful (inaudible)?
RUMSFELD: The message is it's a free country, and people can think anything