Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Interview with Matt Lauer on the NBC Today Show
The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia
September 20, 2001
7:03 A.M. EDT

LAUER: Donald Rumsfeld is the secretary of Defense. Mr. Secretary, good morning to you.

RUMSFELD: Good morning.

LAUER: Jim Miklaszewski said a second deployment order is on the way. Have you signed that yet?

RUMSFELD: I really don't talk much about deployment orders.

LAUER: So you won't tell me if that's coming in the near future?

RUMSFELD: No, I don't intend to discuss deployment or operations or intelligence matters at all during the course of this activity.

LAUER: The president has said that this effort, this military action, will be long and sustained. Why is it necessary to move troops so quickly, only eight days after the attack on America?

RUMSFELD: Well, we, of course, do need to reposition forces in various places of the world so that we're able and capable of doing whatever the president may request of us. And we have a significant presence in that part of the world, but we also have a presence in other parts of the world. And as the president said, this is a problem that's worldwide. It's not restricted to one country or one particular terrorist network. So we will be moving forces and we are moving forces, and we do that fairly continuously.

LAUER: There's a report in the New York Times this morning, Mr. Secretary, that says that somewhat of a rift is developing in the higher ranks of this administration over the scope of retaliation. Some want Iraq to be targeted because of Saddam Hussein's sponsorship of terrorism in the past, and I guess to take away his ability to do so in the future. Would you call Iraq a legitimate target right now?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, there is no rift developing in the administration. The Department of State, the Department of Defense and the president are all on the same sheet of music. It's the president's policies. The president has a range of advisers. He likes to hear different views.

I think there's no question but that there are a number of nations that are on the official public list of terrorist nations, nations that either have sponsored terrorism or been involved in it. And we know that a number of those countries are in the Middle East.

LAUER: And so all of those nations on that list would be at this moment legitimate targets?

RUMSFELD: You know, those are judgments that the president has to make. And I think the important thing is to listen to his words. His words have been very consistent, and they are that terrorism is a direct attack on our way of life and it was a direct attack on the United States of America. And the only way to deal with that kind of an attack is in self-defense, to go after the terrorists that are perpetrating those crimes. And one must also go after the nations that are harboring and financing and supporting and facilitating and tolerating those terrorists.

LAUER: You talk about nations that support those terrorists. If it's found that an individual living somewhere in a foreign country has funneled money to someone like Osama bin Laden, in your opinion, Mr. Secretary, would that individual be a legitimate target for military action or a target for law enforcement?

RUMSFELD: You know, you can't really say. The president has pointed out that this is a very broad-based effort. It does include diplomatic. It might be diplomatic. It might be political. It might be economic. It might be financial. It might be law enforcement. It might be military. And it depends entirely on the situation.

But what is necessary for our country is to recognize that we are seeing a terrible, terrible attack involving the loss of lives of thousands of people. A weapon-of-mass-destruction attack somewhere in the world would involve multiples of that, and we have an obligation to root out terrorists and to persuade countries that are helping terrorists to stop doing that. And that means we'll bring into play the full range of capabilities of the United States.

And I must add, this is not a U.S. problem. There were 50, 60 nations who lost people, some of them hundreds of people, in the attacks that took place here on September 11th. That is why we're seeing such overwhelming support from across the globe.

LAUER: When you talk about that support, have other countries pledged military support, or have countries at this point only pledged logistical support or even financial support?

RUMSFELD: It runs the full spectrum. Some countries really don't have the capabilities to provide military support. They're offering various other types of support.

LAUER: Which countries have pledged military support?

RUMSFELD: My instinct is to leave the indications of what a country has decided to do by way of participating with us to those countries to announce. I can assure you that it runs the full spectrum. And there are some countries who, because of their circumstance, are helping us very privately and secretly.

And I must say, we need help. This is such an enormous problem and it's so difficult to root out these terrorist networks. I mean, we're not going to root out a terrorist network with bombers or with cruise missiles. It's going to take people on the ground providing information. And, God bless them, they are, in fact, providing that kind of information and it's being very helpful.

LAUER: And in just a few seconds left, Mr. Secretary, in terms of life in this country in the future, how much more of a military presence should people, citizens of this country, be prepared to see in their daily lives?

RUMSFELD: Well, I hope it's minimal. I think that we always have to find that balance between our freedom and our security. And when people are fearful, they're willing to tolerate very careful baggage checks at an airport, for example. But basically we are a free people, and to the extent we yield to the terrorists and give up those freedoms, we've lost something very special.

LAUER: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld, thanks very much.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.