Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the New York Stock Exchange *updated*
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Speaking with CNBC:
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.
Speaking with CNN:
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton joins me now. Secretary, I want to talk about this threat that came in yesterday. CNN’s reporting that the threat information came from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. Had the Pakistanis been helping in regards to the threat, either in terms of finding out about it or helping the U.S. track it down?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say there is a specific, credible, but unconfirmed threat report. We take it seriously, as we always do, and particularly because we learned from the raid on bin Ladin’s headquarters and going through all the material that al-Qaida was still determined to attack around anniversaries, and particularly New York and Washington. So we are obviously working with everybody to try to find as much information as possible.
QUESTION: What specifically about this threat, through? Really – you sensed it last night. Officials really took notice.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t go into any of the details of the intelligence. Obviously, I and other top officials were briefed on it yesterday. But it was sufficient to have us have a public statement, obviously, to alert local and state law enforcement. You saw Mayor Bloomberg, Ray Kelly, and others out talking about additional steps to be taken here in New York. We evaluate lots of threats all the time. I mean, one of the great advances since 9/11 is the way our intelligence community is much better integrated.
QUESTION: Secretary, should people here feel safe?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I mean, look, we have lived with this. The reason I’m here on the floor today is because I was senator from New York on 9/11 and I worked with a lot of the people here to help get the city back going and rebuild. You have to go on with your life. I mean, the goal of terrorism is to terrorize. It is to sow intimidation and fear. And the reason that America and this great city have shown such resilience is because we refuse to be intimidated. But that doesn’t mean we’re stupid. We’re going to keep our eyes open. We’re going to be vigilant. Part of the reason to go public with this particular threat information was to tell people, “Go on with your lives. Keep your eyes open. And let us know if you see anything suspicious.” Remember, the Times Square bomber was stopped by a food vendor who saw something suspicious, reported it, and thank goodness.
QUESTION: All right. Switching gears, does the U.S. know where Muammar Qadhafi is right now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but we are closing in on his remaining forces. We have a very concerted effort going on with support for the TNC and the rebels, and it’s a matter of time. And the cities that are still held by loyalists will eventually either peacefully transition or be taken over.
QUESTION: All right. Let’s switch to politics for a moment. What’s the likelihood that you’re going to challenge President Obama in the primary? You got Dick Cheney in your court.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yeah. It’s below zero. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What do you think about what Dick Cheney said, that you would have made a better president than President Obama?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know what? One of the great things about being Secretary of State – and I am out of politics – I am not interested in being drawn back into it by anybody. I have a big job to do and I’m honored to do it every day representing our country.
QUESTION: Would you ever get back into, as you say, politics again, then, if you leave this position?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think so. I think I’m going to stay focused on doing what I can to make sure that we continue to lead the world. And there’s a lot of tough decisions we have to make at home in order for us to be positioned to demonstrate the kind of leadership that I think is in our best interests.
QUESTION: All right. And a final question: How important is it to come back here, as you did on September 17th and ring this opening bell? Why is it important for you to do this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, on a personal level, it’s deeply important to me because it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life to be a senator when we were attacked and then to devote as much time and effort as I could to working with all the people you see here to try to make sure we came back stronger than ever.
But also, it’s a good signal. I mean, it is – let’s not – let’s remember the past because we have to be smart and we have to be vigilant, but let’s look toward the future. Let’s show some confidence and some optimism. Let’s get the bells ringing. Let’s get some activity going. We’re the greatest nation in the world and we need to get up and start acting like it. And so let’s remember this moment and let’s demonstrate, once again, why our resilience and our fortitude is going to keep us moving forward on top.
QUESTION: And what do you think of the energy on the floor?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s always energetic. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All right. Thanks very much.