Secretary of State Colin Powell
Interview on CNN
Washington, D.C.
September 12, 2001

QUESTION: 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?

SECRETARY POWELL: It means that we will use our full resources to go after those who are responsible for this. And it is not an action that will 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 responses we have received so far from international organizations and 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.

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.

QUESTION: 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?

SECRETARY POWELL: The intelligence community is hard at work. The CIA, the FBI, and other agencies assembling information, doing forensic work at the two sites yesterday. And a body of evidence will be developed in the days ahead. And I don’t think it will 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.

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

SECRETARY 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.

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

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

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

SECRETARY 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.

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

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

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

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I can not. 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, be the kind of society that would not be reflective of American values. And all of those are issues are under consideration this morning and are being studied by various members of the Administration.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, good of you to join us. We know how taxing of the last 22 hours you have had, or 23 hours. Thank you so much for being with us.