Donald Rumsfeld Reflects on 9/11, Warns of U.S. Growing Complacent

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 9, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: It has been 10 years since the tragic 9/11 terrorist attack on American soil. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will never that September morning, which he vividly describes in his book, "Known and Unknown, A Memoir." I sat down with Secretary Rumsfeld to discuss the attacks, the upcoming 10 year anniversary and much, much more.


HANNITY: Can you believe it has been 10 years?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I can't. It is amazing thought that we've managed to navigate through a decade almost and not have another successful attack here in the United States. There have been attacks elsewhere in the world, to be sure, but we've been very fortunate.

HANNITY: Walk us through your day on 9/11 as it is happening, what you're thinking, how you deal with it. Tell us about that day?

RUMSFELD: Well, you go to work like it was any other day, lovely, sunny day in Washington, D.C. I had breakfast with eight or 10 members of the United States House of Representatives. I was deeply concerned about the defense budget.

After every major conflict we've had in this country, we breathed a sigh of relief and then relaxed and we cut the defense budget, we cut the intelligence budget and then we pay a penalty later. We did it after World War II, after Korea, after Vietnam and after the cold war for a decade we did that.

So when President George W. Bush and I arrived back in office, we needed to increase it. I was sitting there talking to them and said literally something to the effect that something is going to happen in this country and you are going to want to be a supporter of the defense and intelligence budgets because we are going to need them to deter and defend the American people.

We were told that a plane hit the World Trade Center. I thought it was an accident. Then of course when the second one hit, it was not an accident.

HANNITY: You knew right away. We all knew right away.

RUMSFELD: Sure. We were under attack. I was in my office right next to the breakfast room. The building shook, literally. We had been hit, I didn't know if it was a bomb or an aircraft. But I raced down the hall to see if I could figure out what happened to the place, because no one was communicating anything at that stage, people were still trying to figure it out.

HANNITY: How close to that?

RUMSFELD: You know, it is a five-sided building, the Pentagon and it was not the next one, but the one over.

HANNITY: So you were pretty close.

RUMSFELD: Yes, I got down the hall and the smoke was so bad I couldn't go any further. The place was burning. We went down stairs and went outside. I ran into a lieutenant colonel who told me that he had seen the plane actually hit the building.

So that clarified that. I looked out and here were these small pieces of metal, parts of the aircraft all over the lawn, the apron around the building. There were not a lot of people there at that moment. The first responders hadn't arrived.

People were coming out of the building burned and hurt and wounded and being taken out. I stayed there for a few minutes and attempted to help. Then realized that first the people were coming and they didn't need me there.

And I went back to my office and began the process of thinking through and talking to the president and the vice president.

HANNITY: As you look at this administration, they had a hard time acknowledging war on terror --

RUMSFELD: -- still do.

HANNITY: -- apologizing for America. And we saw this most reason deal on the debt limit and automatic cuts, big portion of which will come out of defense.

RUMSFELD: It must not happen.

HANNITY: Well, it seems to me -- I don't have a lot of faith in this "Super Committee," that they are going to come to a consensus to cut Washington spending. I don't think they have the moral courage seemingly to do so.

So it seems the automatic cuts will come. What does that mean for our country's security in the long run? I think there is more coming, I pray I'm wrong. I pray that I'm wrong. But I think we are letting our guard down again.

RUMSFELD: We've done it, you know, four or five times in my adult lifetime. I'm 79-years-old. We did it after World War II.

HANNITY: You don't look a day over 60.

RUMSFELD: We did it after Korea and did it after Vietnam, at the end of the cold war. Just said, well, it is the end of history. We can live in this world and not worry about the dangers and the risks. And it is simply not true. The weapons today are so lethal, so dangerous, that we simply have to recognize that weakness is provocative. We can't provoke people into trying those things.

HANNITY: I know it doesn't bother you, but I have to ask question any way. You became, as this war on terror began, a different war than we've ever fought. You became a very controversial central figure in this.

You even offered to resign a couple of times you describe it in your book. The president wouldn't accept your resignation. It happened after the 2006 election. I guess the question is, we dealt with Guantanamo, enhanced interrogations, black sites, rendition, all of these issues that came up --

RUMSFELD: Patriot Act.

HANNITY: The Patriot Act is another one.

RUMSFELD: Military commissions.

HANNITY: You came under fire. As you look back on every decision, on every new thing that we put in place, any regrets or do you think even more strongly today that these are the right decisions?

RUMSFELD: I think they were tough decisions and I think the president made the right decisions and I think the fact that the same structures exist today in an administration that campaigned against every single one of them and yet they are still there.

Why? Not because it is anyone's first choice, but because we live in a world that is dangerous. And these structures have protected the American people. And the Bush administration, President George W. Bush deserves a lot of credit for it.

HANNITY: And so do you. Mr. Secretary, always good to see you. Thank you so much for being with us.

RUMSFELD: Thank you, Sean.

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