of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Interview with Katie Couric on the NBC Today Show
October 2, 2001
7:03 A.M. EDT
COURIC: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in charge of the military buildup
for the war against terrorism. Just a few minutes ago I spoke with him and asked
him if the U.S. was closer than ever to a military strike.
RUMSFELD: Well, as you know, President Bush has concluded -- properly, in my
view -- that the only way to deal with the terrorist network and terrorists
is to take the effort to them. You simply cannot defend at every place at every
time against every terrorist technique.
And if you want to preserve your way of life and your free way of life, the
only thing to do is to go after the terrorists where they are. And the al Qaeda
organization is indeed one of the principal terrorist networks, although not
the only one, and al Qaeda has its activities in some 50 to 60 countries.
COURIC: So what is the best approach? Is there any kind of disagreement within
the administration? I know that you have said recently that we ultimately, over
time, will be able to track down and make life so difficult, so uncomfortable,
that people won't want to be in that business. How will the United States accomplish
RUMSFELD: Well, the only way it can be accomplished is by having a very broad-based
effort that involves financial efforts, economic, political, diplomatic, as
well as military, and I would say both overt and covert military, because the
terrorist networks don't have, in many cases, high-asset-value targets. They
don't have things that they value so much, because they live in the shadows.
So the only way to do it is to recognize it'll take time and to be persistent
and to create a situation where those countries that are harboring terrorists
decide it's not in their interest to do that.
COURIC: Secretary of State Colin Powell, in fact, said yesterday that President
Bush had not ruled out an attack on Iraq. Is the administration planning to
go after state sponsors of terrorism as well? I know this has been a subject
that you all have been discussing.
RUMSFELD: Oh, I think the president has been very clear about that, that there
are a number of states that have historically sponsored terrorism and that have
been engaged in financing and fostering and facilitating, and in some cases
tolerating terrorist attacks on other countries and other people. And certainly
the president is focusing on all of those states and all of the networks that
are engaged in that type of activity.
COURIC: And yet, Mr. Secretary, the Saudis and other Arab nations have warned
that broadening the campaign, and broadening it to include other countries,
would, in fact, shatter the coalition. So how do you balance those two goals?
RUMSFELD: I think the first thing to realize is there's not a single coalition.
There are a number of groupings of countries. And some people will be supportive
and helpful with respect to some aspects of this. Others will be not supportive
with respect to a piece but supportive with respect to other elements.
So I think that it's going to be a series of coalitions that will be involved.
Some countries will be helpful publicly and some countries are going to decide
to be helpful privately but not publicly, for very good reason. And we understand
COURIC: You also said recently that, given the probability that terrorists eventually
would be equipped with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by nations sponsoring
terrorism, you would make, quote, "some adjustments in the military's command
structure to make room for domestic defense." Can you tell us how you would
do that? And is there time to move that shift in strategy through the somewhat
cumbersome bureaucratic process in Washington?
RUMSFELD: Well, we've been focusing on this since -- if you think back to President
Bush's speech at the Citadel when he was running for president, he talked about
the range of asymmetrical threats -- cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, cyber
attacks, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction. And since I came into office
in January, we have interested ourselves in the issue of homeland defense and
weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.
We just put out our defense review [ QDR ], which has a focus on that, and it's
correct; we will have to make some adjustments in our command structure, because
historically we've been in such a neighborhood, with friends to the north and
friends to the south and oceans on either side, that we have not had to worry
so much about homeland defense. But it's clear that those days are gone.
COURIC: Most experts say the response to an attack using chemical or biological
weapons will come from this country's public health system. Are you at the Defense
Department working with medical experts to outline a strategic and coordinated
response to an attack of that nature, or does that fall under the purview of
Tom Ridge and the Office of Homeland Security?
RUMSFELD: Well, basically, the issue of events of that type inside the United
States, the first responders are, as you point out, the local police and the
health officials in the area where something like that may occur. On the other
hand, the Defense Department has always been, on request, available to assist.
And we do have teams of people who are capable of assisting in things like that.
COURIC: But what will be done to beef up the response is, I guess, the question,
RUMSFELD: Well, there's a great deal being done. Indeed, there's been a good
deal done over recent years, and certainly in recent months and weeks there's
been a great deal done. There are a host of things that need to be attended
to; the issue of, for example, security of airports, security of ports, greater
heightened awareness, as President Bush has said.
And we are fashioning a new set of relationships with the appointment of Governor
Tom Ridge, as you point out, who will have a coordinating responsibility, which
is exceedingly important. And it's important that he get in place soon.
COURIC: All right, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, thank
you very much.