Rice IV by Sonja Deaner of Tribune Broadcasting
Interview by Sonja Deaner of Tribune Broadcasting
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
September 8, 2006
QUESTION: Well, we're just days before the five-year anniversary of September 11th. This morning, we heard of a new al-Qaida videotape that was released. Your reaction to that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, my reaction to it was that the President's speech the other day about these people who plotted and planned 9/11 and the need now to bring them to justice, to see Ramzi Bin Al Shibh on that tape just underscored the message that the President was giving. We've been on the offense now for the entire period of this five years. We've used, at the President's direction, every legal tool to deal with the terrorists. And we're safer, but we're not yet safe and we have to recognize that there's much more work to do.
QUESTION: In that tape, though, does it get kind of -- it's no accident, I'm sure, that they released that --
SECRETARY RICE: No.
QUESTION: -- just days before the anniversary. Does it just tweak you, like -- I don't know, that --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it just -- of course, every American looks at that tape and you just want to make certain that these people are brought to justice. And you also want to make certain that, to the degree that you can, that it doesn't happen again. And the fact is that before September 11th, we really weren't, as a country or as an international community, very well organized to fight terror. This is a new kind of war that we didn't expect, a war -- there has been terrorism before, but the kind of terror attack that took place here on September 11th, where 3,000 innocent people were killed one September morning, it has taken time to have means by which to defend the country. It's taken time by which to have an international network.
But a lot has happened in these five years. We've liberated 50 million people from countries that were friends of the terrorists and are now alive in the war on terror. We have made great progress against al-Qaida as an organization, arresting or otherwise putting off the battlefield any number of their field generals, people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Bin Al Shibh. And we've made great strides in protecting our country; airport security, port security.
But the long-term struggle here is to deal with the ideology of hatred that produced the people who made those attacks and that's why the President is so insistent that we have to have a different kind of environment in the Middle East, one that breeds hope, not an ideology of hatred.
QUESTION: You said you have made strides in rounding up certain al-Qaida subjects, but still no Usama Bin Laden. Why hasn't he been caught?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, because he hides. It's very interesting. Usama Bin Laden, who of course, is very anxious to have people go out and martyr themselves, but he hides in caves. And he hides from -- and it's difficult to find a single person if they intend to hide. But from the very beginning, we've understood that the search for Usama Bin Laden was important, but breaking up al-Qaida was also critical to making this country safer.
And so the work that has been done so that al-Qaida cannot move freely, the work that has been done so that they do not have safe havens of the kind that they have in Afghanistan -- one of the remarkable things about that tape was you saw them consummately training and in camps that I think are now hard for them to have that kind of stable base, because they're being pursued and pursued all over the world.
QUESTION: We heard criticism from Democrats yesterday. Patrick Leahy was saying -- you know, Democrats would have been crucified if they had -- if a Democratic administration had disbanded the means to find Usama Bin Laden. Why was that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, there are people in our intelligence agency who spend every waking hour looking for Usama Bin Laden. And so the notion that somehow, we've stopped looking for Usama Bin Laden or there aren't people dedicated to that is simply not true. The President, I know, has asked that question and there are people who are dedicated to exactly that task.
We have to do it in a way that is smart. It is the case that a lot of the territory in which we believe that these people move is in that ungoverned territory between Pakistan and Afghanistan. That's why we've been such a strong ally of Pakistan and helping them in that region. It's why we're such a strong ally of Afghanistan and helping them in that region. So the efforts to capture Bin Laden are undiminished.
QUESTION: These 14 detainees the President announced have been transported to Guantanamo Bay for trial; what took so long?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, your first priority when you capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah is to get to know what they know. It is important that they be brought to justice, but the first, most important priority is to know what they know. And the President made a remarkable set of disclosures about how the questioning of Abu Zubaydah led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who told us about anthrax attacks headed by someone named Yasid and how the story unfolds from questioning these detainees and doing it within the law, doing it within our treaty obligations, but yes, in a very tough fashion, questioning them to know what they know.
I think the assessment now is that we know from them what they are likely to know. And it's been a while; their knowledge may not be so fresh. And so now, the priority has shifted to being able to bring them to justice and to bring closure to the families and to the American people for what happened to us on September 11th.
QUESTION: Still, there's criticism of the timing. We heard Senator Reid say yesterday, "Isn't it funny two months before the election that" --
SECRETARY RICE: The remarkable thing is that I assume anybody can always accuse people of politics, but the fact is that we've recently had a Supreme Court decision in which the justices said very clearly to the President, "You need to go to the Congress and get legislation in order to hold these military tribunals." That decision came just in July. And so what the President has done is to now go to the Congress to do precisely that.
And given the kinds of people who need to be tried, and they need to be tried in military commissions, it's the hope that that legislation will be done and done very quickly.
QUESTION: So just finally -- you know, Homeland Security, five years later after September 11th, we hear still that only 5 percent of cargoes are inspected and -- you know, the borders are still soft. What do you want the American people to know as we approach this anniversary?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would hope the American people would see how much progress has been made. Our processes for port security are completely different than they were before September 11th. Our processes for airport security -- anybody who's been through an airport knows that those processes are completely different. But those are the more visible sides of Homeland Security. I would also want the American people to know that many of the gaps that were there on September 11th, the ability of the FBI to talk to the CIA, that gap has been closed by the PATRIOT Act. The fact that a terrorist talking in Afghanistan to someone in the United States that we might not have been able to pick that up, we've closed -- that wall doesn't exist any longer, so that terrorists can be surveiled inside the United States.
That is something that was very important. It turns out it would have been important to know that before September 11th. I would like the American people to know that we have a broad intelligence network with allies around the world that permit us to get information from one place to another very quickly to break up, for instance, something like the British plot, where we worked very closely with a number of countries that had pieces of the story.
And I'd like the American people to know that the longer-term strategy of denying to the terrorists safe havens, by bringing down governments like the Taliban that supported terrorism, and ultimately, helping to create a new environment in places like the Middle East adds an antidote to the ideology of hatred that produced September 11th. We've liberated 50 million people. It's tough going in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and in the Middle East. But this is going to be a very different world than the one that has so closed off hope and to produce people who would fly airplanes into buildings.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Nice meeting you.
SECRETARY RICE: Nice meeting you. 2006/795
Released on September 8, 2006