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Rumsfeld Interview With CBS Face The Nation

Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With CBS Face The Nation

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Sunday, Feb. 24, 2002

(Interview with Bob Schieffer and Gloria Borger, Face the Nation, CBS-TV)

Schieffer: And good morning again. The secretary of defense is with us in the studio.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for coming.

Rumsfeld: Yes, indeed.

Schieffer: You're as aware as we are of these reports now being published that Osama bin Laden may be alive and living somewhere along the Pakistani border. What can you tell us?

Rumsfeld: Not much. We see so much intelligence information, and it's snippets of this and snippets of that and speculation about this and theories about that.

What we do know is there has not been any recent evidence that he's alive. That does not mean he's not alive. It simply means that we don't have evidence that he is or isn't. And what we'll learn over time remains to be seen.

I think it's important to recognize that the Department of Defense is clearly looking for him. We're hard at it, and it's important that we find him, and we will find him eventually.

But we're really organized and trained and equipped to fight armies and navies and air forces. We're not organized to do manhunts. That's a law-enforcement-type thing.

So we're trying to figure out different ways of doing it and gathering intelligence and getting a lot of cooperation from other people, other countries. And we'll keep at it until we find him.

Borger: Mr. Secretary, a senior administration official told the New York Times that the United States has probably gotten about one-third of the core leadership of al Qaeda. Is that your estimate right now?

Rumsfeld: Well, we keep track of the top 20 or 25 or 30 of these al Qaeda and Taliban people and some related organizations. And we try to categorize them: Do we know they're killed and dead, gone? Do we know they're possibly dead? Do we know we've captured them and have them in hand? Are they alive and uncaptured?

And we look at this every day, and it changes from time to time. People move from category to category. But we've got a number in captivity, and we have a number that we're quite sure are dead. And clearly, there are more that we're still looking for.

Schieffer: Well, what would you say the state of al Qaeda is right now? Have you broken its back? Is it still a viable force?

Rumsfeld: It is not knowable, because the manifestations that we'll find, eventually, as to whether or not they're active or inactive, will be additional terrorist activities.

And what we do know is there have not been many in recent weeks. It suggests to me that they're on the run.

We know that there were thousands and thousands of these people trained and trained very well to kill people, to kill innocent people, to engage in terrorist acts around the world in a lot of countries.

So to suggest that they're defeated would be wrong; they're not. Are they having trouble raising money? Yes. Are they having trouble transferring money? Yes. Are they having trouble communicating? To some extent, yes, we believe, certainly more trouble than they used to. They had free play. Are countries a little more careful about whether or not they want to provide haven for them? You bet your life they're more careful.

Borger: Do you see a link between al Qaeda and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl?

Rumsfeld: There is speculation that that might be the case.

Borger: Do you think so?

Rumsfeld: That is a matter that needs to be carefully looked at before charges and allegations are made. But I have seen snippets that suggest that that's the case.

Borger: So if there were a link, would the United States retaliate in any way?

Rumsfeld: You know, we're not into the retaliation or the retribution business. Our goal is to defend our country.

Rumsfeld: And to do that, we have to go after terrorists. Some people think of that as retaliation. I don't. I think of it as self- defense. If we've got terrorist networks out there and people that are killing people, innocent people, we simply have to go find them and run them to ground and see that justice is done.

Schieffer: Well, Mr. Secretary, what do you think this was about? Who do you think the people were who pulled this off? What were they trying to do?

I mean, there's been one report that perhaps it was disgruntled Pakistani intelligence agents who may have been ousted by President Musharraf of Pakistan.

Do you have any theory of what caused this and why it happened?

Rumsfeld: I don't. I saw what everyone else saw. We saw a well-planned, well-executed taking of a hostage; the use of television to dramatize it and to show the world how successful they were that they tricked him and carefully planned and executed that.

They obviously are very proud of the fact that they're brutal murderers or they would not have videotaped these things.

There is lots of speculation as to why they did it or who they -- what kinds of linkages they may have, and we don't know.

I saw the speculation you mentioned, and there's no question that President Musharraf has been terrific. He went after the ISID [Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate] leadership, changed it, and there's undoubtedly some disgruntled people there. Does that mean there's a connection between that and Mr. Pearl? Who knows. Time will tell.

Schieffer: How secure do you feel he is, President Musharraf, at this point? Because, I mean, you bring up this very interesting point. When you've got your own intelligence agencies somewhat upset with you, it's a pretty dangerous situation.

Rumsfeld: I think he is a competent, forward-looking individual. He is also courageous. And he is aware of the dangers that any person in his situation faces, and he is manages security in an intelligent way. And on the other hand, people who are that visible are vulnerable. And if people are willing to give their lives to take someone's life, they can pretty much do that, no matter who it is.

Borger: Would you ask President Musharraf to extradite Danny Pearl's murderers to the United States to possibly be tried in a military tribunal?

Rumsfeld: First of all, that's a law-enforcement issue, and I really wouldn't know whether the Department of Justice, what the extradition laws are or rules.

Borger: But would you like to see that happen?

Rumsfeld: First of all, I don't believe they've captured all of the people involved yet, but in the event they do capture them, my guess is that the Pakistani government will want to prosecute them for having committed the crime in Pakistan.

The United States government may very well want to try to extradite the people involved if possible for the killing of an American, which would seem to me as a non-lawyer to be a reasonable thing.

Whether or not that person would fit under the military order that the president issued with respect to commissions, is -- the president reserved to himself the decision as to who would fit under that, and thus far he's not designated anybody.

Schieffer: I want to come back to this whole situation in Afghanistan in a minute, but I'd also like to shift for a minute to talk about Iraq and what the situation is there.

A report in The Washington Post this morning that we have depleted our smart bomb supply to the point that we have stretched the National Guard and the regular forces to the point that if the United States decided in some way to go after Saddam Hussein and go into Iraq, that we couldn't do that for a year. That we're just simply not -- we don't have the capability to do that right now.

I'd like to hear your response to that.

Rumsfeld: Well, first, let me just set the subject of Iraq off to the side and not address it. It seems to me there's so much talk about Iraq and North Korea and Iran as a result of the president's speech. And what he was attempting do, and I think did very effectively, was to focus world opinion on those countries and how they treat their people and how they treat their neighbors and the dangers they pose from a standpoint of weapons of mass destruction. I think it was a very useful thing to do.

Full stop. Go to the question of munitions. We expended a great many of these so-called smart weapons, bombs in Afghanistan. We are rapidly replenishing them. This happens any time one's engaged.

And you can be sure that the United States of America is going to be capable of doing anything that the president asked them to do, because he'll know that before he asks anyone to do anything.

Schieffer: But how important is it, this whole business of Saddam. Are we pressing now as strongly as we can?

Schieffer: And how important is it for the United States and for the allies to be able to go in and inspect and know whether or not he is producing weapons of mass destruction?

Somebody said this morning that we want a guarantee of being able to go in there at any hour of the day or night to see what he is doing. Is that what we're after here?

Rumsfeld: Well, if you think about it, go back to when we did have inspectors in there, which was years ago. When they were there, they had an enormously difficult time finding anything.

Under the rules and restrictions that were imposed on them by Iraq, the only real information they got was not by snooping around on the ground, finding things and discovering things, because they were able to move them, hide them underground, lie about them, not allow them to go in, wait long periods before they could go in. The only real information they found was from defectors. Got away from Saddam Hussein, got out of the country, told the inspectors where to look, which they then did, and they then found some things.

Now, what's happened in the intervening period? Well, technology has evolved. The Iraqis have had more time to go underground. They've had lots of dual-use technologies that have come in. They've had lots of illicit things that have come in. They have advanced their weapons of mass destruction programs. They've developed greater degrees of mobility. They are very accomplished liars, as to what's going on. You could you put inspectors all over that place, and it would be very difficult to find anything.

Borger: So, are you saying that weapons inspections would be worthless?

Rumsfeld: No, I'm saying that if one thought that the old regime was successful, they're mistaken. The old regime was successful in part because of defectors telling them what to look for, not because they actually found something. And I'm saying today, the situation is vastly more difficult.

Therefore, if you try to use the old regime, it wouldn't work. You would have to have a much more intrusive regime and many more inspectors and the Iraqis not controlling when they could come in, where they could go, what they could do. And the Iraqis aren't going to agree to something like that.

Schieffer: I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying it's more important than ever for us to be able to go in there and inspect, or are you saying that maybe it doesn't make that much difference? I'm just not clear.

Rumsfeld: I'm saying that, under the best of circumstances, inspectors have a very, very difficult time, because you're dealing with a regime that is repressive, that kills people, their own people, frequently, that lies in very skillful ways, that's had years to take advance technology go underground, hide things, deny things, create mobility where they can actually keep them moving ahead of any inspectors. And it's just very difficult to do.

You're quite right, it's enormously important that we have knowledge about what he's doing. He has shown that he is willing to use weapons of mass destruction on his own people. He has used chemical weapons on his own people.

Schieffer: But what you also seem to be saying is that it may not be that important. We may not gain that much -- am I understanding you correctly -- by having the ability to get in there and inspect.

Rumsfeld: I guess what I'm saying is that we have to be very honest with ourselves about what we could accomplish, and recognize that using an old regime that didn't work very well except with the assistance of defectors, and trying to have that work today, with the technology having advanced, with much greater skill and denial than deception, we would be fooling ourselves. We would have to have a much more intrusive inspection regime, in my view.

Now, what will actually happen, what the U.N. will decide, what the Iraqis will agree to, what our government will ultimately agree to -- I just am saying, in all directness, that we have to go into this with our eyes wide open; that it would take a very intrusive regime for us to have any confidence that it would work.

Schieffer: We're going to have to have more than we had before.

Rumsfeld: No doubt.

Schieffer: OK. Let's take a break. We'll come back and talk more about this.

(commercial break)

Schieffer: Back again with the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Secretary, as you well know, a story this week that the Defense Department was creating some sort of new program to not only put out information but disinformation, at least that is what's reported. It caused quite a stir. You yourself said this is not going to happen.

My question to you, Mr. Secretary, is -- was this story misreported? Was this something that somebody did have an idea of doing? And if so, how could somebody get that far off the track?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, until you've run down every track and tried to figure out who might have said something -- but I have never seen a piece of paper that suggested anything like that. I have never heard anyone say anything like that.

Clearly, this secretary and the people that work with me are not going to engage in misinformation to the American people or to foreign public. We are simply not going to do it. That's not what we do.

And I have no idea really, except for the fact that we arrived at a point in the Afghan war where we clearly needed to communicate important things through the military.

The Afghan people were being told that the food rations we were dropping were poison, and they weren't. And the Taliban and the al Qaeda were lying about it, and we needed to find ways to tell these people of Afghanistan that they could eat that food. Millions of these were dropped.

So we obviously engaged in an information program where we had an airplane fly over and broadcast down to the ground the truth. We dropped leaflets saying what the truth was. We also dropped leaflets offering rewards for information about UBL, Usama bin Laden, and Omar.

So there are lots of things that we have to do to direct people where they can get humanitarian assistance. So we need to be in the business of communicating that kind of information. But this department is not in the business of misinforming people.

Schieffer: Have you, in addition to your public statements, have you directly told the people in your department that, whatever they were thinking, that's not your way of doing business and they need to stop it?

Rumsfeld: I don't think I've told them to stop it because I don't think it ever was going on. In fact, I know it was never going on.

Schieffer: Well, somebody must have thought of it. I mean --

Rumsfeld: Somebody -- it may have -- it may very well be that someone had it in their head. Someone may have even said something. But in terms of actually doing anything like that, I'm not seeing a single shred of evidence from anybody in the press or anywhere else that suggests that anything like that was done.

And I am told -- and I have visited with the senior civilian authority over in that office and he agrees with me and he feels exactly the same way. He has talked with other people in the -- that have been involved in this process. And everyone I know in the department feels the way I've just expressed.

So it's a big department. We've got millions of people involved. And I'm sure that some people may think that would be a good idea, but that's not for the Department of Defense.

Borger: Mr. Secretary, in the president's trip last week, he did fail to get a commitment from the Chinese to halt the sale of missile technology to countries like Iran. Is that a setback?

Rumsfeld: I honestly don't know enough about what happened on that trip yet. I have not had a chance to meet with him or the people that were with him on that trip. And I'm simply not knowledgeable enough about it to answer the question.

Schieffer: Let's go back to Afghanistan. We talked about that in the beginning. How stable do you think that government is now? We seem to have these conflicting warlords. Is there a possibility or should U.S. forces become involved in that in some way, more so than they are now?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's a tough call. Afghanistan has been unstable in one way or another for a great many years. It's been in external wars with the Soviet Union.

Rumsfeld: It's been in internal wars among warlords. So stability has not been the hallmark of that piece of geography.

Is it unstable now? Well, you've got an interim government that seems to be reasonably well supported by the people. It has six months total life, at which point a council will meet and a successor government will be fashioned. What it will look like, nobody knows.

Any time that something has a deadline, that it ends in a certain number of months, which is now four or five, one has to know there's a degree of uncertainty as to what will follow. And that's just a fact.

In terms of the security situation in the country, it's mixed. The ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, is in Kabul. It is not in the other major cities or centers. The security that's provided elsewhere in the country, outside of Kabul, tends to be by these various military forces that were involved in assisting us in throwing the Taliban out.

Now, the people of Afghanistan are an awful lot better off today than they were prior to the Taliban being thrown out.

Schieffer: Well, could you envision U.S. advisers, military advisers, being sent in to help the government forces?

Rumsfeld: What we have agreed to do -- we already have units of special forces --

Schieffer: Yes.

Rumsfeld: -- with most of those military entities around the country.

They're helping us look for Taliban and al Qaeda leadership right now. So they're engaged with us in doing that in many parts of the country.

We have an assessment team currently in Kabul, working with the interim government and with the ministry of defense under Fahim Kahn, to try to figure out what a national military force would look like. Could they pull together elements from around the country, of these different ethnic groups, into a multi-ethnic, multi-regional force of some number? And the numbers vary between 25,000 and 60,000 or 70,000. Probably today there may be closer to 100,000 or 200,000 people who are in these other elements.

I think we will be assisting them in one way or another to fashion such a force.

Schieffer: I'm terribly sorry, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

Schieffer: We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.

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