By CNBC Carl Quintanilla interview of Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Melissa. We are here with the Secretary of State. Madam Secretary, it’s been great to have you this morning. Just broadly your thoughts on being on this floor.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Carl, as you know, I was honored to be in the group that rang the bell when we reopened on September 17th. And as a senator from New York, I worked closely with the Exchange and with elected officials like Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki and others to make sure that the Exchange could open, because it was such a rebuke to the goals and the intentions of the terrorists. So being back 10 years later with a lot of the people that I worked with so closely then is a very sobering emotional experience.
On the one hand, we don’t ever want to forget. On the other hand, what was great about our response after 9/11 is the resilience that was shown and the leadership that America demonstrated and the extraordinary unity that we had. So we’re always reminding ourselves what we have to do to be vigilant, but we’re always looking forward, and we’re going to be as strong as we can.
QUESTION: Speaking of being vigilant, this credible threat that we’re all told about – tell me about the upside of making that public and whether or not you think a bin Ladin-less al-Qaida is even capable of something significant.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Carl, we obviously see a lot of threats. As both a senator and now as Secretary, that’s part of my job. This one was specific. It was credible, although unconfirmed, and we took it seriously. There’s also an advantage; by making it public you enlist literally millions of people to be your eyes and your ears. Remember, we were very fortunate to foil the Times Square bomber because a food vendor saw something suspicious.
So we want people to go on with their daily lives, get out, get around, but keep your eyes open, and be part of what has developed over the last 10 years, which is a kind of network of vigilance, where it’s not just our law enforcement who are on the tip of the spear. All the rest of us are supporting them.
QUESTION: Secretary Panetta today talking about the 9/11 anniversary said, “The message of 9/11 in a way is that to terrorists, if you come and get us we will come and get you.” Where is the trigger for the U.S. to retaliate, if in fact something were to happen in this country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we’ve made it very clear from the beginning that we will not tolerate an attack on our shores. Now, how we respond will depend upon the circumstances. If we have enough of what’s called actionable intelligence to act, we will act. Sometimes we can do so immediately. Sometimes it took longer. It took us 10 years to find bin Ladin, but we never, ever stopped. I mean, the professionals in our government, the intelligence professionals, defense, diplomatic – everybody was very much imbued with that mission.
So I think that Secretary Panetta is saying what we all believe.
And look, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. And we’re not going to sit around and only react. We’re going to send a message ahead of time, as we’re doing, that look, we’re always going to be ready to defend America and do whatever it takes. At the same time though, we want to make sure that we’re as strong here at home as possible. I mean, remember, part of bin Ladin’s whole theory was that he could bankrupt America, that he could cause us enough internal problems. He didn’t; he was unsuccessful. But we need to pull together in a unified way to make sure we remain as strong as possible, and the economy is part of that. So being here on the floor of the Exchange talking about this may seem a little farfetched to some, but to me it makes perfect sense.
QUESTION: Busy day for you Madam Secretary. Thanks for being with us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks, Carl.
QUESTION: Good seeing you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great to talk to you.