Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News
The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia
September 19, 2001
7:00 P.M. EDT

BROKAW: I am joined now by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at his post in the Pentagon. Mr. Secretary, Jim Miklaszewski said in his closing comments that it's not clear whether the Pentagon has made any final battle plans. I know you're not going to give away any secrets, but have you come to some conclusions about what you're going to have to do?

RUMSFELD: Tom, the president has indicated what we have to do. We have to defend the United States of America and our interests against the very vicious type of attack that terrorists around the world are consistently attempting to impose on us. It seems to me that that's the task. The president said it would be a broad-based sustained effort. It will include political, economic, diplomatic, as well as military activity, and he is very steady and purposeful about this.

BROKAW: You and the Attorney General today said that there were a number of foreign countries that had connections to these terrorist networks around the world. Does that mean that there will be multiple operations, and are some people going to begin to call this World War III?

RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know what people will call it, but I think we're going to need a new vocabulary as a people to think about it because the 21st century is very different than the 20th. It is an important defining moment for our country, and let there be no doubt. But it seems to me that we have to be realistic. There is no question but that there are terrorists who, because of the availability of weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of these technologies, have the ability to impose enormous damage on free people. And they strike exactly at the very heart of what we are as free people.

We can't let that happen. We need to defend ourselves against that, and the only way to do it is to attack the terrorists where they live and to deal with those countries that are harboring and fostering and financing and tolerating that kind of violence.

BROKAW: Mr. Secretary, once military operations get underway, as we have learned in the past, there could very well be reprisals against Americans. What are you telling your family and friends about traveling outside the United States?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'm not telling them anything about that. It seems to me that people have to live their lives, and they obviously, as the president said, have to recognize that this is a dangerous time and we have to live with a certain heightened awareness, but we can't stop living. If we stop living, the terrorists have won, and we don't intend to let them win.

BROKAW: Finally, Mr. Secretary, there's something called information warfare, which is part of the 21st century as well. Some of these countries that are harboring terrorists, should they expect that their transportation and communication and banking systems might be electronically interrupted?

RUMSFELD: Tom, I'm old-fashioned. I just don't think it makes any sense for people who know anything to talk about intelligence matters or operational matters. It puts people's lives at risk.

BROKAW: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being with us tonight.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

BROKAW: I know the whole country wishes you well.

RUMSFELD: Thank you, Tom.