of State Colin Powell
Interview on CNN
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
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 dont 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
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