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Rumsfeld Stakeout Following CBS Face The Nation

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

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

(Media stakeout following Face the Nation, CBS-TV)

Q: Good morning.

Secretary Rumsfeld: You look familiar. (Laughter)

Q: With the U.S. war on terrorism basically expanded to the Philippines, can you explain what (inaudible)?

Secretary Rumsfeld: Sure. The government of the Philippines has invited some of our folks in to assist with training and advice. They have a very difficult terrorist problem in their country which they've been wrestling with. They currently have a large number, thousands, of military folks involved down in the Basilan Island area, and we have agreed to bring in some advisors who are now in the process of assisting them with various types of training and the like.

They have a constitutional issue which suggests that foreign, friendly foreign forces are not allowed to be engaged in a military way in their country, so our role is really quite limited in that regard. We are anxious to see them succeed. I guess one will know whether or not they've succeeded when people stop taking hostages in there. There are two Americans, as you know, who have been hostages for over a year now. And others have been taken and killed during that period. So it is that simple. That is what we're doing and that is what they've asked us to do and we're doing it in a manner that's consistent with the constitutional sensitivities that they have.

Q: (inaudible)

Secretary Rumsfeld: Well, we have of course a lot of forces in Northeast Asia, in the Korean, Okinawa and Japan areas. And I as Secretary of Defense have not been there in the last 13 months that I've been in this post which I regret, because it's important that we recognize the fine job that the men and women in uniform are doing there, and I would visit the forces, would be one thing. And certainly while I was in the region I would want to visit with the folks from the Ministries of Defense of the appropriate countries. And I'm hopeful that I will be able to get there at some point in the period ahead, although I've not fixed a schedule.

Q: Mr. Secretary, there are reports in the British press today saying you are willing to repatriate British citizens being held at Guantanamo Bay. Is that true?

Secretary Rumsfeld: I've not seen a report therefore I do not know if you've placed your question in proper context. I have become quite cautious about responding to things I have not read.

What I can say it this. Setting aside the United Kingdom, on a generic basis, the United States of America has a variety of interests. One is to keep people off the streets who want to run around and kill innocent Americans and fly airplanes into our buildings.

A second is to have as few prisoners as possible. We don't consider ourselves in the business of doing that. So to the extent another country is interested in receiving the nationals from their country and are willing to help keep them off the street if they ought to be off the street, prosecute them if they ought to be prosecuted, and treat them in a way that's appropriate and consistent with the Geneva Convention, we are open to hearing about that. We have not heard much from people thus far. We are interested also in having access to these individuals if they were to leave our custody and go to the custody of a coalition partner like the UK or any other country. We'd like to have access to them in the future in the event that additional information comes up which suggests that there are linkages between the people that we've turned custody over to another country and people that are committing terrorist acts.

So we're quite open to a variety of different alternatives.

Q: Has the UK or any other country that has got prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, have they actually (inaudible) of the Administration to repatriate them (inaudible)?

Secretary Rumsfeld: I'd have to go back and find out that. The request comes through the Department of State and it's not clear to me that I've reviewed it recently so that I could respond.

Q: If Congress has a will to (inaudible) and limit what we can do in Colombia, what capabilities do we have to help us (inaudible)?

Secretary Rumsfeld: I think there's a second question. First is the Congress' interest in adjusting the role in Colombia; and also is the President of the United States' interest and the decisions that he would have to take.

We have the capabilities that we have. They are what they are. It is a very difficult problem that the government of Colombia is facing.

There have been terrorists and criminal and guerilla or revolutionary elements in Colombia for a great many years, and the government of Colombia has done its best to try to do them and eliminate them, and has had uneven success at best.

So they are well entrenched, they are well-financed, a lot of it with narcotics money, a lot of it with hostage-taking money, and so I wouldn't want to suggest for a minute that it's an easy problem.

I have been interested in the degree of cohesion among the various political elements in the country in this instance. There seems to be very broad support for the President, and of course he only has a few more months, six months or so in his presidency, and so it is notable that all or most of the political elements in the country have been very supportive of his decision to recognize that there has not been success in trying to negotiate.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have any (inaudible) the timeframe (inaudible) possible terrorist (inaudible)?

Secretary Rumsfeld: I see intelligence reports of possible terrorist attacks at all kinds of U.S.-related and coalition-related targets in the world. They are numerous, frequent. The daily threat report at any given moment may have 15, 20, 30 different instances of people phoning in, people e-mailing in, people being arrested and alerting us to possible threats which then our folks go about the business of trying to deter.

Q: Mr. Secretary, two weeks ago Admiral Dennis Blair visited Vietnam for the very first time. (inaudible) the U.S. try to build up a relation with Vietnam? If true, then how long you think that will become reality?

Secretary Rumsfeld: I don't know that Admiral Blair's visit is any more notable than the visit by many others to Vietnam. I happened to be in Vietnam when Secretary of State Christopher visited and opened an embassy or a consulate in the country during the prior Administration. And to my knowledge we have a relationship with Vietnam that is developing and growing and is quite cordial.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have any new clues as to the whereabouts of bin Laden?

Secretary Rumsfeld: There's always new clues. The question is, are they credible and will they prove out? The answer to that is time will tell. We're looking hard.

Q: Adding to that, (inaudible) last week you said that bin Laden is probably dead and Daniel Pearl was probably alive. A week later things don't quite seem that way. Is that a sign of our information coming from that region?

Secretary Rumsfeld: No, I think that what happens is there are hundreds of pieces of information, varying degrees of seeming credibility. What one does is they read them and then they come to adjustment. They get asked questions by people like you. What do you think? They say I think probably this or probably that. I've given up doing that.

I know I don't know. And until he is located, we simply won't know. I have not seen any evidence that he's alive in the last period of weeks. I don't know that anyone else has. Nor have I seen any evidence that he's not alive. So we just have to live with that uncertainty.

The important thing is, is his network functioning effectively today? Our goal is to stop terrorism and to stop countries from providing a haven for terrorists. We've got them on the run. We're pursuing them. We're making life difficult. We're arresting a lot of them. We are making it more difficult for them to transfer money. I have no doubt in my mind but that we've reduced the number of contributions they receive. I have no doubt in my mind but that we've made it more difficult for them to recruit people. We know of certain knowledge, we've found instances where they planned a terrorist attack and we stopped it. Does that mean there will not be one tomorrow? No. There may very well be. There are lots of trained terrorists that are floating around the world in cells in countries, 40, 50, 60 countries. So we've got a lot of work to do and we're hard at it, and this is not a conflict where we're going to achieve instant gratification.

It's good to see you all.

Q: Thank you.

© Scoop Media

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