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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on NBC-TV "Today" Show with Katie Couric
Washington, D.C., August 21, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MS. COURIC: Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Madame Secretary, good morning; thanks so much for joining us.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning, Katie.

MS. COURIC: How successful was this military operation in your view?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we still have to get all the detailed results. But I think it's very successful in having made clear that the United States will not be intimidated, and if our embassies are attacked and our people die and innocent civilians are killed and maimed, that the United States will act unilaterally to go to the base of those who have perpetrated these horrendous acts.

MS. COURIC: So the success of this operation is measured not so much in the damage done, but in the response it elicits, i.e., if Osama bin Laden got the message and what happens next; correct?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is true. I think that we know that this is not going to be something that is dealt with overnight. Katie, this is going to be a long-term battle against terrorists who have declared war on the United States. That is what Osama bin Laden did; he basically made clear that all Americans and American facilities were potential targets, and he used the word "war." So we are definitely going to make clear that this is done in our self-defense, it is legitimate. Our point here was that these camps in Afghanistan were basic training camps for huge groups of terrorists. That attack was designed in order to disrupt their infrastructure there and send a message. In Sudan, that factory was producing precursors for VX nerve gas.

MS. COURIC: Has the United States in essence, Madame Secretary, declared war against terrorism?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have said over and over again that this is the biggest threat to our country and the world as we enter the 21st Century. We have said that this is something where our reach is long and our memory is long on this; and we are going to determinedly take this up because we will not put up with this kind of threat.

MS. COURIC: Osama bin Laden is reportedly alive and well. He's got a very well-financed worldwide network of terrorism and terrorists. So other than sending a message, does this really make a dent in his organization or might it further antagonize him and make him an even more dangerous character?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, it's very hard to tell what has actually happened in terms of who is alive and who is dead. This was not specifically directed at Osama bin Laden himself, but at the infrastructure. I think we have made a significant dent in that. We also -- frankly, there's no way to tell whether there will be retaliation or not, but what we could tell was that there was going to be some other attack somewhere else. Therefore, this was really taken in a way to make sure that didn't happen.

MS. COURIC: What can you tell us about those other attacks you believed were in the works?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we had many warnings and we have closed down some of our embassies, have evacuated people. We had pretty good information about the fact that there could be another attack. So we are guarding against that.

MS. COURIC: What embassies, specifically?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to go into that, but we did close down some of our embassies.

MS. COURIC: You said, "What I think is very important for the American people to understand is that there may be, in fact, retaliatory actions. We are very concerned about that." How nervous should the average American be?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have made very clear that people should be taking precautions. The FBI is in touch with local authorities throughout the country. We are concerned; we have to be concerned.

But I can tell you this, Katie, that if we had not done this we would have even more reason to be concerned. I think that we are unfortunately in a very difficult situation. The United States, when it is under attack -- whether it's the First World War, the Second World War, the Cold War -- we need to show a sustained effort against what is the major threat at the end of this century and the beginning of the next one.

MS. COURIC: Meanwhile, these raids do come at an extremely interesting time, a very interesting week for President Clinton. There has been some skepticism, as you certainly have heard, about the timing of these attacks. What is your response to that skepticism?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You know what's so interesting, Katie? If the President and we had not undertaken this action, then we would have been criticized for not responding to what was an attack on two American embassies where Americans were killed and hundreds were injured. I consider this line of attack basically silly, and I think that it is very clear we had excellent information that this gathering was taking place in Afghanistan. And our timing was based purely on what was necessary in responding to these horrible attacks on Americans and in having very good intelligence information.

MS. COURIC: Madame Secretary, some people are questioning whether US policy -- if there's a double standard there, if you will. There are reports that the US also knows who was responsible on the attack of the Al Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in which 19 Americans were killed. So why not a military response in that situation?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, again, it's a different situation. In terms of trying to get all the evidence for that, that investigation is still going on. The evidence on the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania came together quickly. I think we should be very pleased with the work of the various intelligence agencies that have been working on that. We have better evidence, and the other investigation is still continuing.

MS. COURIC: But in a similar situation, we apparently know who's responsible for the explosion aboard Pan Am flight 103. Libya has refused to extradite those terrorists to either the United States or Great Britain. Why not have sent a military message to Libya?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That message had been sent already by President Reagan. We are now dealing with a very specifically intelligence-related attack. We know what was going on, and we think that this attack was legitimate in terms of what it did in response to attacks on Americans. I think we have taken a very strong response here unilaterally, and it's the right approach. As for the others, each particular situation is different, and we will continue to investigate the Khobar Towers.

MS. COURIC: The New York Times editorial this morning states, "Combating terrorism should not be an excuse for cloaking American military action in secrecy." Couldn't you stem any lingering doubts about the timing by providing more information as to the specific nature of these threats to the American people?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that in order to be effective, this particular attack was clearly very secret and it worked. There were no leaks. I think the fact that we were able to keep this in a way as not to give advanced warning, I think, was the reason for the success of this attack. I think that the American people want us to be successful.

The information as to what we have will become available in time. But I also, as an average American, want this to work. I think there is a certain time when information is useful and a certain time when widespread information undercuts the operational aspect of these particular sorties.

MS. COURIC: Finally in closing, Madame Secretary, do you think we have the international support to continue attacking chemical weapons plants and other terrorist camps around the world?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think so, Katie. We've been doing a lot of calling and discussing with other leaders throughout the world. Everybody is concerned about terrorism and wants to do something about it. There is a great deal of international support. There clearly will be those who do not agree with one aspect or another. But terrorism is not just an attack on the United States. I've just been to Kenya and Tanzania; there were more Kenyans and Tanzanians maimed and hurt and killed. This is an attack by people who do not believe in the international system that we have and are killing innocent people. Yes, there is international support to fight terrorism.

MS. COURIC: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Madame Secretary, again, thanks so much.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

[End of Document]

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