Military

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell August 05, 2010

DOD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

MR. MORRELL: Hi, guys, good afternoon. I have a brief opening statement, and then we’ll get to questions.

On Monday -- pardon me -- Tuesday, it was reported that WikiLeaks has asked the Department of Defense for help in reviewing approximately 15,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks obtained in an unauthorized and inappropriate manner, before WikiLeaks releases those classified documents to the public.

WikiLeaks has made no such request directly to the Department of Defense. These documents are the property of the U.S. government and contain classified and sensitive information.

The Defense Department demands that WikiLeaks return immediately to the U.S. government all versions of documents obtained directly or indirectly from the Department of Defense databases or records.

WikiLeaks’s public disclosure last week of a large number of our documents has already threatened the safety of our troops, our allies and Afghan citizens who are working with us to help bring about peace and stability in that part of the world.

Public disclosure of additional Defense Department classified information can only make the damage worse. The only acceptable course is for WikiLeaks to take steps immediately to return all versions of all of these documents to the U.S. government and permanently delete them from its website, computers and records.

A final note. WikiLeaks’s webpage constitutes a brazen solicitation to U.S. government officials, including our military, to break the law. WikiLeaks’s public assertion that submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law is materially false and misleading.

The Department of Defense therefore also demands that WikiLeaks discontinue any solicitation of this type.

Anne.

Q Two things on that. Do you have any mechanism or authority to compel WikiLeaks to do as you say -- as you are demanding? And do you now consider Private Manning the prime suspect in your -- in the WikiLeaks leak?

MR. MORRELL: To the second part first, I think we have described Private Manning -- who is charged with leaking other classified information to this same organization -- as a person of interest. I know of no update to his status since our initial description of him as such.

With regards to the first part of your question, which gets to, beyond our demand, how do we intend to compel, what I would say there, Anne, is that at this point we are making a demand of them. We are asking them to do the right thing. This is the appropriate course of action, given the damage that has already been done, and we hope they will honor our demands and comply with our demands.

We will cross the next bridge when we come to it. If it requires them compelling to do anything -- if doing the right thing is not good enough for them, then we will figure out what other alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing. Let me leave it at that.

Daphne.

Q Well, as far as -- could it be -- could it involve legal action, as the next step?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I don’t want to speculate as to what it could involve. Obviously, this is a matter that has gotten the attention not just of this department, but of the entire United States government. As we’ve talked about before, the secretary of Defense brought the FBI into this investigation very early on. The Department of Justice is also involved in this matter.

So those are two entities which have the authority, the wherewithal, should they choose to approach this through the legal system.

That is not what we -- what I am announcing here. What I am announcing here is a request, a demand of WikiLeaks, the organization, to do the right thing and to not further exacerbate the damage that has been done by them to date and return to us all the information that was illegally passed to them and to expunge it from their website and all their records.

Yeah, Craig.

Q Has DOD analyzed these 15,000 outstanding records and come to any conclusion on -- of how harmful it might be for them to be released?

MR. MORRELL: Well, obviously these 15,000 documents, which they claim to be withholding as part of a harm-minimization exercise, are not in our possession. We don’t know for sure which 1,500 [sic; 15,000] documents they are referring to. We have some ideas and are doing some proactive work, some prophylactic work in the event that the documents we suspect they could be are indeed the documents that they are threatening to post. But that’s where I’ll leave it now.

Yeah, Tom.

Q Has there been any further discussion or even decisions on changing or tightening security rules in the field? The secretary has acknowledged it’s important to have access to this information at the unit level, but clearly there are challenges and risks as well.

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I mean, I think he addressed this last week, Tom, when he was asked about it when this first broke. I think fundamentally, as he said to you a few weeks ago, even before this most recent disclosure, he fundamentally still believes that one of the things that makes our military the envy of the world is that we instill an incredible degree of trust and responsibility in our most junior officers and our most junior enlisted, so that this organization is not top-heavy, it’s effective from top to bottom.

And I think as troubling as this episode is, and again we don’t know who is responsible for leaking this information -- as troubling as it is, I think he does not want to do anything to jeopardize the fundamental goodness of this trusting relationship that has existed for decades in the United States military.

That said, this is a problem. The fact that information like this gets out into the public domain is a serious breach. And we are taking measures internally to reinforce existing rules and guidelines and to make sure that people are aware of those rules and guidelines and are being even more vigilant about enforcing the existing rules and guidelines.

Yeah, Jeff.

Q You have called on WikiLeaks to do the right thing. By your standards, they haven’t done the right thing so far. What makes you think they’ll suddenly have a change of heart?

MR. MORRELL: I don’t know that we’re very confident they’ll have a change of heart. They’ve shown no indication thus far that they appreciate the gravity, the seriousness of the situation they have caused -- the lives they have endangered, the operations they have potentially undermined, the innocent people who have potentially been put in harm’s way as a result.

So I don’t know that we have a high degree of confidence that this -- that this request, this demand unto itself will prevail upon them.

We certainly are hopeful of that being the case. But you know, I don’t know what to expect of this organization. We’ve heard so many different things from so many different people purporting to represent them, I don’t know what’s the truth.

You know, they claimed initially to have, you know, reviewed these documents. Then we learn afterwards, they’ve only looked at 2,000 of them, so they don’t really know what’s in all of them. They claim to have reached out to -- you know, to the United States government to assist in -- you know, for assistance in harm minimization. Then we find out, no, it was through their partner, The New York Times. I don’t know The New York Times would describe themselves as their partner.

There is -- there have been a lot of contradictory and conflicting statements along the way, which certainly cause us to question their motivation, their intent, their credibility.

This is an opportunity, it seems to me, for them to turn a new page; to recognize the situation that they have created, and to try to rectify it. If, indeed, these claims that they have made through these third parties -- these spokesmen -- communicated to us through the news media, are serious, if they are serious about engaging with us, they should reach out to us directly. And, you know -- and we will consider how to proceed once something like that happens.

The easiest way, however, to solve this -- I mean, we’re not looking to have a conversation about harm minimization. We’re looking to have a conversation about how to get these perilous documents off the website as soon as possible, return them to their rightful owners, and expunge them from their records. That will help minimize harm that has already been created.

Barbara.

Q Can I just make sure about something you just said? And it’s a technical, cyber question, I guess. You said: return to their rightful owners.

So this --

MR. MORRELL: This is -- these documents belong to the United States government. They don’t belong to WikiLeaks. They don’t belong to anyone else.

Q Okay, my question --

MR. MORRELL: Please.

Q Right, I’m sorry, I just want to make sure I understood.

MR. MORRELL: Please.

Q I -- did they -- are they copies on the Internet? Or are these documents missing from U.S. military possession?

MR. MORRELL: Nothing is missing as far as we can tell. But they do not belong to anyone but us. We want whatever they have returned to us. And we want whatever copies they have expunged, erased, gone.

Q Some people --

MR. MORRELL: What? You’re -- Tony, you’re shaking your head.

Q Well, what about --

MR. MORRELL: I’ve caused some consternation to you.

Q What about asking The New York Times and the other papers to return them also?

MR. MORRELL: I don’t know that The New York Times or the other publications are in possession of the documents. I think --

Q They had them for a month, Geoff.

MR. MORRELL: I think they were allowed to review the documents, is my understanding, Tony. I do not believe that they are currently in possession of those documents.

David.

Q You said they should reach out to us directly. Your original statement sounded like an unqualified no.

MR. MORRELL: Well, we’re not looking to have a conversation, David, as I said before about, can we help you redact them? That’s not the conversation we are prepared to have. But if they want to have a conversation about how they return the documents to us, we’re happy to have that conversation.

Q If you have no confidence that they’re going to as you say do the right thing --

MR. MORRELL: I said I don’t know that I have a whole lot of confidence.

Q Why don’t you just go ahead with whatever legal remedies you have to compel, rather than make this appeal?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think that this is the appropriate first step. We’ll see if it requires further steps.

Q Is it a first step or a bluff? Do you really have legal remedies?

MR. MORRELL: Well, this is the Department of Defense. I mean, we’re not one who makes judgments about legal remedies and the appropriate recourse and all that kind of stuff.

But as I mentioned before, we’re not alone in this endeavor. The FBI, the DOJ are also investigating this, are also involved in this matter. And they will obviously have to make judgments about how to proceed.

But this is our first step to try to compel them, to prevail upon them to do the right thing and return the documents and erase them from their website so that no more additional harm is done, so that this potential database for all of our enemies that now hangs on the Internet and provides an opportunity for them to mine, looking for -- looking for weaknesses in force protection; tactics, techniques and procedures; who we do business with; how we -- how we cultivate sources -- all this stuff is potentially out there for people who wish to do us harm to take advantage of. And so we’re trying to prevail upon them to do the right thing here.

Barbara, yes.

Q Number one, a couple of questions. It’s been out there for some period of days if not weeks. Is it too late? Why didn’t -- no disrespect -- why didn’t the department do this before? What is this -- that’s number one.

Number two, what is the status of you knowing exactly what’s out there? Because we’ve heard that you’re still going through all of it and you don’t know.

And number three, are you now, for the first time, basically negotiating with cybercriminals?

MR. MORRELL: I don’t think we’re negotiating with anybody. I think we’ve made very clear an explicit demand. There wasn’t any offer of anything in exchange. We are asking them to do the right thing. We are asking them to return stolen property and to no longer publish stolen property. That’s what we’re asking.

The first question was "Why not sooner?"

Q What about, is it too late? I mean --

MR. MORRELL: Well, I don’t know if it’s too late. I mean, it’s never too late. I mean, the -- you know, there is always -- if we can get this off the Internet, if we can compel them to return it, that is a good thing.

The longer it hangs out there, the more potential damage it does, so that’s why we’re taking the step we’re taking.

Q Why didn’t you take this step days ago?

MR. MORRELL: I think there has been consideration being given internal to this building about how to proceed. They’re now come to some resolution about taking this next step. This is the decided-upon course of action.

Q And my third question, very quickly, is you --

MR. MORRELL: Is she entitled to a third, Anne? (Laughter.)

Q: It’s your call.

MR. MORRELL: Go ahead.

Q What is the status -- what do you now know about what they have? Do you know what they have? Because until now, you’ve said -- the department has said that the task force is looking at it and reviewing at it. As we sit here today, do you know what WikiLeaks has in totality?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think I’ve addressed this question.

We know what is on the website, and we have this -- the task force that we have set up to review the -- review this material has been working -- as I’ve described before, they have a 24-hour operation. They have roughly -- they’re up to about 80 personnel. And they are -- they are reviewing it.

They’ve gone through, I think, the 70-odd thousand documents that are online. They’ve done about 400 keyword searches through the -- through the 70-odd thousand documents that are online, looking for areas that are of particular concern to us. They then take whatever they find, and whatever hits they find, they then create batches of those documents for further, more extensive review.

And eventually, once we have done that sort of first triage kind of operation, there will be a painstaking, deliberate, page-by-page, word-by-word evaluation of every single document. But right now this team of 80, working around the clock, is going through them.

And as we find things that are of concern, we are notifying appropriate entities -- be they foreign governments, when they come up; be they -- if there are Afghan citizens who are named or Afghan -- and in this case, if there are -- if there are Afghan citizens who are named, we are informing the command in Kabul, who is then sharing the information with the appropriate subordinate commands and units so that they can take appropriate action to safeguard those people.

Q But you haven’t opened the 15,000 yet?

MR. MORRELL: What I’ve said is, the 15,000 -- the way I’ve described it is we have -- we believe we have some idea of what those 15,000 could be, and are reviewing what we believe to be, potentially, those 15,000. We do not know for sure if the 15,000 we believe they have and are waiting to post are indeed the same documents that they do indeed have and are waiting to post.

Q Can I -- can I --

MR. MORRELL: You seem -- Tony, I’m really concerned about you today.

Q I’m listening --

MR. MORRELL: You are laughing. You’re scowling. You seem to be confused.

Q Well, yeah, but your last comment was hard to follow because it had so many different --

MR. MORRELL: Well, follow up. I’m happy -- I’m happy to -- I’m happy to hold your hand through this process.

Q I don’t have -- (off mike) -- but her question is a good one. Why didn’t you move sooner? And what --

MR. MORRELL: I think I’ve -- I think I’ve answered it. We’ve been evaluating appropriate courses of action. This is the one that was deemed appropriate at this time. We’re moving out on it.

Q If Pandora’s Box has been open for a week. Realistically, what purpose would be served by you getting back documents that the world have had -- has had access to for a week?

MR. MORRELL: Well, as I said before, Tony, the longer they hang out there, the more opportunity there is for those to wish us harm -- do us harm, to use those documents to their advantage. So we’re trying to, as best we can, mitigate the damage caused by this and compel them to take those documents off the Internet and return them to their rightful owner, the United States government.

Al Pessin.

Q Can you say from these keyword searches how many Afghan citizens have been identified and what actions generally speaking have been taken to protect them?

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I’m not going to get into how many and what kinds of people. I mean, there clearly have been Afghan names, which have been found doing searches of these -- of these documents. And as such, they have -- that information has been shared with the command. And they will make judgments about how to proceed with it.

We have housed within this task force of 80-odd people, and it’s still growing by the way -- I think, you know, it could grow as -- there are -- we have personnel on hand, they’re flowing in, that could take it to about 120-125.

But they are going through this. The personnel they have are people steeped in -- largely they’re intelligence analysts who we’ve gotten from DIA and from the PAC and CENTCOM and USD(I). The FBI and Army CID are also represented.

And then also there are counterintelligence experts, you know, as part of this organization as well, who are there to make determinations about whether or not any TTPs have been exposed and whether or not any adjustments need to be made, in light of that exposure.

Yeah.

Q Thank you, Geoff. Two-part question.

One, today, State Department issued a terrorism report, global terrorism report. In this report, what they are saying is that as far as the war in Afghanistan is concerned, Pakistan is a major concern as far as protecting the U.S. security in Afghanistan is concerned and safe haven.

And second, President Zardari, as you may have seen his report, that he said that war in Afghanistan is not winnable -- is not winnable.

And finally, the public opinion of -- (inaudible) -- not very good -- Pakistan as far as the U.S. is concerned.

MR. MORRELL: Okay. There’s a question in there?

Q Do you have any comments?

MR. MORRELL: You made three provocative statements. Let me to go in reverse.

Public opinion is not high for the U.S. in Pakistan. That is -- there is clearly, as we’ve talked about many, many times before, a trust deficit that really emanated from the fact that we turned our backs on the Pakistanis and walked away after the collapse of the Soviet Union and their pullout from Afghanistan. It is something we’ve been working hard to overcome for quite some time. It is something that we believe we have made considerable strides on, at least in terms of government-to-government trust, over the past two years, 18 months, particularly, the last 12 to six months.

The population is a concern. There clearly is work to be done there. I think you saw in President -- sorry, Secretary of State Clinton’s trip to Pakistan a few months ago a real effort to engage with the Pakistani people and try to dispel some of the myths and some of the misinformation that contributes to this lack of trust.

I think part of this, frankly, is due to some elements within Pakistan, within the Pakistani media that sort of feeds on this; this is good copy. And it incites a degree of anger that may be good for their sales, but is clearly not helpful to their security or our overall relationship.

So that’s to your first point. Your -- the State Department report you cite, I’m not aware of. President Zardari questioning the “winnability” of the war in Afghanistan, I haven’t seen his statements on it.

I would tell you we obviously disagree. If the -- if the -- if he really did say that we -- that the war is not winnable -- we clearly would not be fighting a war we did not believe to be unwinnable -- or we would not be fighting a war that we believe to be unwinnable.

No wonder I confuse you, Tony. I confuse myself. (Laughter.)

Go ahead.

Q I want to try Tony’s question a slightly different way. Are you --

MR. MORRELL: Which was Barbara’s question.

Q Right.

MR. MORRELL: So he stole it from Barbara, you’re going to steal it from him. Okay. Let’s try it.

Q (Off mike) -- on the third try we can -- we can get somewhere.

Are you -- are you demanding of WikiLeaks something that is -- that is functionally impossible? Can they -- they cannot pull back everything that’s on the Internet, right? I mean, how could they do that? Every news organization, all kinds of other websites beyond theirs have taken the material, made their own databases and so forth out of it. It’s generated a bazillion news stories. There’s -- how, as a functional matter, is what you’re asking them, demanding them to do even remotely possible?

MR. MORRELL: Well, the demands we are making of them are entirely possible. They have the ability to erase it from their website and to return whatever is in their possession. So this is a very simple demand which can very easily be complied with.

The second question, or the other part of your question, which is, it has hung out there for a while, it has been accessed by many other people, some of whom who have downloaded said material and are exploiting it for journalistic or perhaps criminal purposes, sir? -- obviously that’s another problem that we have to deal with. What we are addressing is what we believe to be the culprit here in terms of soliciting people to share classified information illegally. And so our focus with this measure that I’ve announced here today is on them.

It is not the exclusive focus of all of our efforts, but that is what I am prepared to address here today.

Q Would it then extend to other --

MR. MORRELL: Well, again, this is a -- this is the step we are taking at this moment. We do not preclude taking other measures as well. But this is the step we are taking, in light particularly of this request that all of you have asked us so much about, that they want our help in trying to conduct harm minimization on the 15,000 documents they have yet to post.

Q So do you consider the news organizations that have taken these documents to be -- also to be in possession of stolen property?

MR. MORRELL: Well, the only rightful owner of this material is the United States government. No one else has any right, any legal reason -- any reason, period -- to have that material. So that is problematic, that others have it.

Our focus at this point, as you see here from this statement, is on WikiLeaks and what they have done and what they are doing to try to solicit people to break the law and share classified information. We are trying to put an end to the solicitation, and we are trying to get them to return other illegally obtained classified materials from the U.S. government.

Let’s go to somebody that -- Mike Emanuel.

Q Geoff, President Karzai’s visiting Iran. Does the United States believe that’s a productive use of time and something positive could come from such a visit?

MR. MORRELL: I’m not aware of President Karzai’s travel schedule. I mean, he is the leader of a sovereign state. He obviously lives in a neighborhood that includes Iran as a neighbor to the west, a country that they have had long historical, cultural and economic ties with.

I don’t think any of us have any issue with -- frankly -- I’m playing my counterpart at Foggy Bottom -- but I don’t think anybody in this building has an issue with him engaging with his neighbors, provided these are conversations about things which lead to greater stability in the region and don’t in any way undermine our efforts to try to bring that stability to the region.

Q Another quick one? Our friends at the Associated Press are writing about U.S. concerns about a Chinese carrier-killing missile, the Dongfeng-21D. Do you know anything about that? Is the U.S. military concerned about such a weapon?

MR. MORRELL: Well, Mike, if you or anybody else here had attended any -- probably any press conferences, any engagements, any speeches that the secretary of Defense gave over the past three years, when the issue of China or our future naval capabilities has ever come up, he has always addressed that the growing anti-ship capabilities, particularly ballistic missile capabilities, that are being developed, including by China, that certainly do cause us some concern.

We’ve spoken of them publicly for a long, long time. And they clearly have to factor into our calculus about how we build a force for the future and how we project force around the world effectively in the future to protect our interests. So we’re well aware of this program. We’ve acknowledged it for quite some time. It’s been in the China military report for at least the past few years.

And so I don’t think there’s anything new. It looks to me like another in a series of fine features that is -- that the Associated Press is known for. And I don’t think there’s anything particularly newsworthy in it, though.

Yeah, go ahead.

Q About the Air Force tanker bid, the U.S. Aerospace company, you’ve made clear their bid won’t be considered, because it was late. But the company is claiming that U.S. Air Force personnel purposely delayed the messenger, who was carrying the bid to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the proper building on that base.

Is the department at all concerned that their appeal of this non-consideration of their bid will further delay the whole tanker bid competition? And how do you address their claim that Air Force personnel purposely delayed this messenger, for political reasons, for whatever --

MR. MORRELL: I got the question. Okay, so to the first -- to I think the first part of the question, are we concerned about their protest, that it might lead to a delay in the awarding of this contract? I don’t believe so.

I would preface what I’m about to say by urging you all to speak to the United States Air Force about this. They are the entity within this department that will be procuring these tankers. They’re in charge of this competition. So they’re the ones who are best equipped to speak to it.

That said, you made some pretty strong -- repeated some pretty strong allegations by the company. I have not heard those from them. But I can tell you, the notion that any United States military personnel deliberately impeded their ability to deliver a bid, for this competition, is absolutely absurd.

Listen, the other two companies that bid on this went to great measures to ensure that their bid arrived at the prescribed time of 2 p.m. on July the 9th at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The first company to arrive I believe was EADS, E-A-D-S. They flew in their bid the day before.

But not wanting to take any chances, of course -- and I think this is par for the course on major bids -- they also drove it there in case there were weather problems or, God forbid, there had been a plane crash, to ensure that their bid arrived at the appointed time and therefore was considered by the United States Air Force. I think Boeing had their bid there at 9:00 in the morning -- so five hours before the time it was due.

I don’t know the precise chronology of the arrival of this other company’s attempted bid, but the bottom line is, they didn’t make it in time. And there are very strict contracting rules that the federal government has on the books that preclude us from even considering bids that do not arrive by the prescribed time. So our hands are tied here.

And, you know, I think any professional contractor understands how hard and fast these deadlines are and go to extraordinary measures in order to ensure that they are there well before those deadlines. As I said yesterday, this is a $30 to $40 billion contract. This is not a high school homework assignment, okay? These deadlines count, and any professional contractor understands that.

Yeah.

Q Just to be clear, the source selection process has not been stopped this week (inaudible).

MR. MORRELL: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. This is going on. We will -- we will award this contract in the fall, as we always said we would.

I mean, Tony, this contract -- we’ve been trying to -- trying to replace these tankers for, what, three, four, five years now, at least.

Q Ten years.

MR. MORRELL: Ten years. Before my time. Ten years.

We in May put out the solicitation offer, the request for proposals.

That was a 60-day window. In order to ensure competition, we took the extraordinary measure of extending that window by another 60 days. There were 120 days in which anyone could have submitted a bid for consideration. Two companies made it; a third evidently did not. But there was ample opportunity, ample warning, for people to get bids in if they were serious about competing for this contract.

Q Is there any question this is a credible company, this U.S. Aerospace-Antonov?

MR. MORRELL: We -- I can’t even tell you that, because we are not allowed by law to even review their proposal. It did not arrive in time, so we cannot consider it. We cannot review it.

Yeah, Gordon.

Q New subject?

MR. MORRELL: You on this?

Q No.

MR. MORRELL: Okay.

Q Just quick, on Pakistan flooding, can you just, quick, update us on whatever you’ve got there?

MR. MORRELL: Sure.

Q And can you also characterize the -- you know, how welcome is American assistance in Pakistan? Is it an issue at all politically on their end to accept -- to what degree they’ll accept aid?

MR. MORRELL: I don’t believe that is -- that that is in any way a hurdle to our contributions to this disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. In fact, I think there has been a request made of the United States government for assistance in the aftermath of this tragic flooding situation, in which I think the estimates are now of up to 1,500 dead, 1.5 million impacted by the floods.

I mean, this sort of gets to Gopal’s question, which goes to the public opinion of America in Pakistan. Public opinion of America in Pakistan was at an all-time high in the aftermath of our assistance in the wake of the -- of the tragic earthquake a few years ago. You know, we are -- and this is, you know, what we try to do. This military is about more than warfighting, as you well know.

We do a great deal of humanitarian work around the world, and we welcome any opportunity to showcase that and to try to be helpful.

I can tell you in this case that we have -- there are six helicopters right now, U.S. helicopters, that are supporting relief operations in Pakistan. There are four CH-47s and two UH-60s. These aircraft, on August the 5th -- which was what, yesterday, today? -- I think today while -- you know, today in Pakistan flew 18 sorties, transporting 66,000 pounds of relief supplies and evacuated 800 people from flood-affected areas. And we have, I think as of yesterday, delivered nearly 437,000 halal ready-to-eat meals.

I can tell you additionally that we are working with the government of Pakistan to try to assess if additional U.S. military support is required, and we are even beginning the process of potentially posturing forces to be able to provide that help if it is deemed necessary.

This is a little bit -- it’s a little bit difficult, because on one hand, we desire to be as helpful as possible and we will go to extraordinary measures to provide help if it is needed, but at the same time, these -- the assets that have been deployed thus far are being taken from operations in Afghanistan.

We can do that for some period of time, but ultimately they are required in the theater of combat. And so we are looking at how to -- if, indeed, we are needed over an extended period of time, how to meet the demand in Pakistan without adversely impacting operations in Afghanistan.

We will find a way, if we are needed, to balance both needs. But that’s what we’re working on right now.

Q But that means maybe going to other combatant commands and borrowing assets --

MR. MORRELL: I don’t know that it necessarily means going to other combatant commands. I mean, there are other assets within this combatant command. But we’re working on it. I don’t have anything more for you beyond that.

Yeah, Kevin.

Q Geoff, I wonder if you can tell -- what is your understanding of why Michael Hastings’ latest embed request -- or actually was already in the works -- was pulled back from him? And from where did that decision come? Was it -- there’s a little bit of confusion of whether that was a decision made by ISAF, by RC South or -- either -- in the 101st where this request originated from?

MR. MORRELL: This is of interest to you?

Q It is. (Laughter.)

MR. MORRELL: Really? Are you writing on this subject?

Q On the Pentagon’s treatment of embed requests?

MR. MORRELL: Yeah.

Q We -- and we have before because it’s affected our own reporters.

MORRELL: Okay. Well, listen, the best person or people to direct this question to would be -- would be the public affairs folks at ISAF. They’re the ones who are handling the situation.

I’m not in any way trying to distance myself or this building from their decision. We completely support their decision. But this was their decision.

And let’s just go back and remember what this embedding process is all about. As you’ve heard from my colleagues, this is by no means a right. It is a privilege. It is based upon an essential trusting relationship between a unit commander and the embedded reporter, and if there is not that trust, then that reporter has the potential to adversely impact operations, the well-being of that -- of the forces within that unit.

And so we empower unit commanders. So when you say you want to embed somewhere, you make a request of a particular unit, that commander has the wherewithal to say, "I want Kevin," or, "I don’t want Kevin." “I know Kevin. I trust Kevin. He’s a credible guy.”

“When he says he’s going to abide by ground rules, he does. He is a positive influence in my unit. He is not going to in any way undermine cohesion or morale or distract from the operations that we have to conduct."

And with your blessing, we would proceed, or the ISAF Public Affairs Office would proceed, with facilitating that embedding situation.

So that’s where this begins. In this case, he was -- I think the ISAF Public Affairs shop made a determination that in light of how he conducted himself, on a previous engagement with their command, they did not trust him to do as he says he would do.

They did not trust him to respect ground rules that have to be set in situations like this. And they told him that they were going to revoke the invitation that had been extended to him, to embed with the unit he had requested.

I don’t think anybody back here had any problem with their decision. I think we are completely understanding of the leeriness, the apprehension that they would have about authorizing this reporter to embed with one of their units, in light of the problems they had had with him on a recent engagement in which ground rules, according to the Public Affairs shop, were not respected.

And the results are obvious to all of us. But they have the authority to make those decisions. And they are completely supported by us back here.

Q Okay, that’s fine. (Laughs.) I just -- my problem with what your saying is that -- you keep mentioning, this was a previous engagement. It wasn’t a previous embed role.

And it’s my understanding that the military can decide to deny embed requests based on a lot of reasons, a lot of which are explicitly spelled out in the embed directive -- the rule -- and that, you know, his time with McChrystal was not an embed, was not related to any of previous embed work.

This is -- you know, he’s done years and years of embed work, including just this most recent one.

So, you know, is there an explicit reason? If it’s -- and if it’s trustworthiness, were any commanding units given an -- given the option to accept this reporter? Or was this -- this was done at a political level, at ISAF level?

MR. MORRELL: At what level?

Q At a political level or a higher level and --

MR. MORRELL: At a political -- I don’t know, are there any -- are there any politicians in ISAF? (Laughter.) Are there any political appointees in ISAF?

This is uniformed military personnel making judgments about what is in the best unit -- best interests of the mission that they are tasked with executing and the units with which he would be embedded and their well-being in life-and-death situations.

I don’t know what is so hard to understand here. If you don’t respect ground rules, how do you expect us to trust you? How do you expect us to extend to you privileges such as embedding with a unit?

This is not a game. There are lives on the line. A unit’s cohesion, its morale, its military effectiveness, depends on all the parts, all the people who are on -- who are part of this team -- including visitors such as embedded reporters -- playing by the rules, getting along, being trustworthy, not violating their word or the rules that govern these engagements. And based upon his previous engagement with this command, he showed himself not to be trustworthy, not to be credible. And therefore, they made a judgment that they were not going to partner with him again, they were not going to extend to him the privilege to embed with one of their units again.

At least, this request was denied. He has not been blackballed, I am told, by this command. He has the right to apply for another embedded opportunity. But I must tell you, if indeed we are to give our -- the unit commanders the ability to make judgments about who they want in their unit -- and we believe that’s important -- it should come as no surprise to anybody if unit commanders in Afghanistan are apprehensive about doing work with this reporter, in light of the previous experience that their commander had with this reporter.

I don’t know why that would be surprising to anybody, or unreasonable to anybody. You’re only as good as your word, and clearly, they don’t believe he is as good -- his word is worth much.

Yeah.

Q WikiLeaks has apparently posted a -- an encrypted file called "insurance," that’s 40 times as large as what they originally posted. Is the Defense Department making any efforts to try to find out what exactly is in this file?

MR. MORRELL: I’m not going to speak to those types of things.

One last question. There was another hand? No, no. Yaso has been patient. Yoso. God, I always do that to you. Yoso has been patient.

Q On Marines, the relocation to Guam, the final environmental impact statement was released. And it suggests the relocation to Guam by 2014 is not sustainable because of the deficiency of Guam infrastructure. What is the current standpoint of DOD on this issue? Has DOD given up on the target, the year 2014?

MR. MORRELL: I have no -- no developments in that respect to share with you. I don’t believe there has been a change to our fundamental position on this. If there is a change, we’ll certainly get to you, but I don’t believe there has been any.

Yeah. NHK. That’s you, right? You’re NHK.

Q TBS.

MR. MORRELL: What?

Q (Off mike) -- NHK. TBS.

MR. MORRELL: Confused the heck out of me. Okay, TBS.

Q A question on Hiroshima.

MR. MORRELL: Turner Broadcasting System.

Q Tokyo.

MR. MORRELL: Ah!

Q Yes. Same call letters. Sorry. Got to keep you on your toes.

MR. MORRELL: All right, go.

Q A question on the Hiroshima anniversary. Is there anybody from this building joining that delegation?

MR. MORRELL: I don’t know. We can certainly check on that.

Q (Off mike) -- out of this building?

It’s -- because this is the first time the delegation -- U.S. delegation is going.

MR. MORRELL: It’s the first time a U.S. delegation is going? We’ll check on that. That’s news to me. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. [Ambassador John Roos is the senior American representative at the ceremony and the first U.S. ambassador to attend the ceremony. No one from the Department of Defense will be in attendance.]

Q Geoff? Geoff?

MR. MORRELL: Yeah.

Q Regarding the ongoing military exercise with South Korea --

MR. MORRELL: Yes.

Q -- North Korea has announced that it will do the counterattack in response to the U.S. and South Korean military exercises. What is your comment?

MR. MORRELL: North Korea has claimed they will conduct a counterattack?

Q Yeah.

MR. MORRELL: I don’t see any reason why they would possibly have for conducting any such attack. These are exercises that, as we have said time and time again, are defensive in nature. They should not feel in any way threatened by these exercises, while at the same time it should be very, very clear that further military action will not be tolerated. This is a -- this is designed to not only make sure that we are operating at maximum capability together, but also to deter them from taking future military action against the -- against ROK forces or, God forbid, our forces.

I can tell you that, obviously, this first wave of exercises, this first sequence of exercises, Invincible Spirit, has come and gone. It was a success by every measure. And we are right now in the process of starting Ulchi Freedom Guardian, the annual exercise that takes place between our two militaries.

And we are also, obviously, planning other maritime and air exercises between our two militaries as part of the sequence we had talked about before. They will be taking place in both the East and West Sea, and both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.

They will once again involve the USS George Washington. And the USS George Washington will exercise in the Yellow Sea, in the West Sea. But I don’t have for you yet dates when that exercise involving that aircraft carrier will take place. But that will be -- part of the sequence of exercises that we conduct will be a return of the -- of the George Washington, including exercising in the Yellow Sea.

Q How often are you going to conducting these kind of exercises?

MR. MORRELL: I think this will take place over the -- over the next several months, over the next several months.

Okay?

Q Will that be an antisubmarine exercise, in the Yellow Sea?

MR. MORRELL: Will it be an anti -- I think we are conducting antisubmarine exercises. We’re conducting, you know, some bombing exercises. We’re conducting some SOF exercises. We’re conducting a slew of exercises. And then, also, this is -- you know, these are show-of-force exercises, as well.

So we’re in the -- we’re going to hit all the various kinds of exercises that can be conducted.

Okay, thanks so much, guys.


http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=53001



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