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22 January 2002

Transcript: Defense Department Briefing, January 22, 2002

(Afghanistan/condolences to families of Marines killed & speedy
recovery to five injured in helicopter crash, Cuba/status & condition
of detainees at Guantanamo Bay naval base, status/treatment/movement
of American Taliban John Walker Lindh, United Kingdom/treatment of
British citizens among detainees in Cuba, Afghanistan/relief effort
from Oregon, Bosnia/rendition of six Algerians last week,
detainees/names & processing & countries of origin, U.S. forces/effect
of combat operations on readiness, Iran/activities on border with
Afghanistan, U.S. military operations/anti-terrorism priorities,
detainees/status of military tribunals, detainees/photograph of some
kneeling, detainees/limits on access by media, Afghanistan/possible
weapons of mass destruction, ICRC/access to detainees,
Afghanistan/rules of engagement for Canadian forces) (10790)
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Marine Corps Gen. Peter
Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed reporters January
22 at the Pentagon.
Following is the Pentagon transcript:
(begin transcript)
DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2002 - 10:59 p.m. EST
(Also participating was Gen. Peter Pace, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs
of Staff)
Rumsfeld:  Good morning.
First I want to express my condolences to the families of the two
Marines that were killed in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan over
the weekend, and certainly to their five injured comrades. The
sacrifices that these young men and women make defending freedom is
deeply appreciated by me and by all the folks in the Department of
Defense and the country. And certainly our hearts go out to their
families and their friends.
Next I'd like to take a few minutes, probably a little longer than
normal, and talk a bit about the detainee situation at Guantanamo Bay
and try to put some perspective on the subject -- the implication
being that it needs some.
First let me say that our troops are handling a tough assignment in a
very professional and truly outstanding way. They're doing a
first-rate job. The allegations, that have been made by many from
comfortable distance, that the men and women in the U.S. armed forces
are somehow not properly treating the detainees under their charge are
just plain false. These are fine, well-trained young men and women who
are serving our country well, and it is a disservice to them to
suggest anything to the contrary.
I think it bears reminding that these young men and women in uniform
volunteered to serve in the military and to defend our country. They
come from communities all across this nation. They're from all stratum
of society. They're all races and religions. They went to high schools
with your children and mine, and they're fine people.
They're doing a job that is difficult and dangerous.
They are very well led by their commanders.
And let there be no doubt, the treatment of the detainees in
Guantanamo Bay is proper, it's humane, it's appropriate, and it is
fully consistent with international conventions. No detainee has been
harmed, no detainee has been mistreated in any way. And the numerous
articles, statements, questions, allegations, and breathless reports
on television are undoubtedly by people who are either uninformed,
misinformed or poorly informed.
The detention center in Guantanamo Bay has gone from non-existent to a
temporary facility. The current facilities are just that, they're
temporary. They didn't exist a few weeks ago. They will be replaced in
the months ahead with a more permanent facility, as it becomes
possible to determine the size and the scope of the problem.
Today, which is, I think, just something like two short weeks after
the activity began, the more than 150 detainees have warm showers,
toiletries, water, clean clothes, blankets; regular, culturally
appropriate meals, prayer mats, and the right to practice their
religion; modern medical attention far beyond anything they could have
expected or received in Afghanistan; exercise; quarters that I believe
are something like eight by eight and seven-and-a-half feet high;
writing materials, and visits by the International Committee of the
Red Cross.
These men are extremely dangerous, particularly when being moved, such
as loading or unloading an aircraft, buses, ferries, movements between
facilities, movements to and from showers and the like. During such
periods, the troops, properly, take extra precautions. Lest we forget,
in Mazar-e Sharif, the al Qaeda prisoners broke loose in a bloody
uprising. They killed one American and they killed a number of Afghan
troops, and some prisoners were carrying grenades under their
In Pakistan, some Pakistani soldiers were killed when prisoners
revolted while they were being moved by bus some time after the
Mazar-e Sharif uprising.
At least one detainee now in Cuban -- has been threatening to kill
Americans. Another has bitten a guard. This is not wonderful duty.
It's difficult duty. To stop future terrorist attacks, we have
detained these people, and we have and will be questioning them to
gather additional intelligence information.
A word on the legal situation, about which there also seems to be
considerable interest.
Whatever the detainees' legal status may ultimately be determined to
be, the important fact, from the standpoint of the Department of
Defense, is that the detainees are being treated humanely. They have
been, they are being treated humanely today, and they will be in the
I'm advised that under the Geneva Convention, an unlawful combatant is
entitled to humane treatment. Therefore, whatever one may conclude as
to how the Geneva Convention may or may not apply, the United States
is treating them -- all detainees -- consistently with the principles
of the Geneva Convention. They are being treated humanely.
Lawyers must sort through the legal issues with respect to unlawful
combatants and whether or not the Taliban should be considered what
the documents apparently refer to as a, quote, "high contracting
party," unquote, or, in plain English, I think, a government. The
Department of Defense will leave those issues to them.
General Pace?
Pace:  Thank you, sir.
On behalf of General Myers and all of us in uniform, we'd just like to
join with the secretary in expressing our condolences to the families
of the two Marines who were killed in the CH-53 accident over the
weekend, and to wish a speedy recovery to the five Marines who were
injured in that accident.
And with that, we'll answer your questions.
Rumsfeld:  Yes, Charlie?
Question: Mr. Secretary, you intimated that people who criticize the
condition of these detainees are charging that military people, that
individual members of the U.S. military, are mistreating these people.
Aren't these charges that U.S. policy is unfair and inhumane, in that
these people are being kept in eight-by-eight outdoor cells for an
indeterminate time? Do you plan any -- any -- immediate changes to
address these charges?
Rumsfeld: The -- there are so many charges that it's hard to
categorize them, but I've seen in headlines and articles words like
"torture" and one thing and another, which is just utter nonsense. The
policies of the United States government are humane, and the way the
prisoners -- the detainees are being treated is humane. So regardless
of whether one wants to look at it from one perspective or another, in
any case, there are no instances of where detainees have been treated
in anything other than a humane way.
Q: Other than the ongoing construction of the new facility, do you
plan any immediate changes?
Rumsfeld: We're always -- we're always available for improvements, and
every day that that center has been -- since the order was given to
establish that detention center, it has improved every single day over
the past several weeks. And it will, I am sure, every day from now on,
as they move towards a more permanent facility, which probably would
take several months to construct. But there is nothing inhumane about
the cells that are being used at the present time. They have a roof.
They have the materials and items that I've mentioned, and they're
being treated properly.
Q: Mr. Secretary, two points. Why not call them prisoners of war? And
you're indicating that that's just some legal debate, which is up
there. Are you not concerned that this could come back and somehow
haunt the United States in potential future treatment of American
soldiers who are taken in whatever kind of conditions, so that some
future entity could say to the U.S., "You didn't abide by the Geneva
Convention on this. You didn't call them prisoners of war. Why should
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, as I've said, we are giving them the
treatment that is appropriate under the Geneva Convention. We are. I
mean, we simply are doing that. Now I don't -- I think that the legal
questions I'm going to leave to the lawyers, as to why they prefer one
characterization as opposed to another.
My understanding of the situation is that one of the higher purposes
of the Geneva Convention was to distinguish between legitimate
combatants and unlawful combatants -- lawful combatants, on the one
hand, and unlawful on the other. And the reason for doing that was
that they felt that a higher standard should be provided and given to
people who, in fact, wore uniforms; who, in fact, were fighting on
behalf of a legitimate government; who did carry their weapons openly
and who did do those things that men and women in the United States
armed forces do as a matter of course -- wear insignia indicating who
they are.
The importance of it, if you think about it, is to the extent you blur
the distinction between people who are lawful combatants -- that is to
say, men and women in uniform -- and innocents, who are civilians, and
you try to behave and conduct yourself by not wearing uniforms, by not
carrying your weapon openly, by not carrying insignia of that, you're
trying to suggest that you want the advantages that accrue to an
innocent, a civilian, a noncombatant. And it is -- that was a concept,
I'm told, in the Geneva Convention, which is very important.
So, in direct answer to your question, no, I don't think that anyone
will confuse U.S. men and women in the armed forces and treat them any
differently, because they merit standing.
The second issue, I'm told, that's complicated -- and again, I'm not a
lawyer and I don't really spend a lot of time engaging these issues.
There are terrific people in the Department of Justice and in the
White House and in the General Counsel's Office who worry through
these things. But the issue of what is a country and what isn't a
country is something that gets debated, and I think most people would
agree that the al Qaeda is a terrorist organization; it's not a
country. And to give standing under a Geneva Convention to a terrorist
organization that's not a country is something that I think some of
the lawyers who did not drop out of law school, as I did -- (laughter)
-- worry about as a precedent. And I think that's a -- not an
unreasonable concern on their part.
So I think the simple, quick, knee-jerk reaction to these things is a
dangerous one and one that we ought to be very careful about and think
through. And that's what the process is that's going on.
Q: Well, then there is, of course, the issue of when is the U.S. --
and you have said repeatedly that it's an open-ended question at this
point -- when the U.S. is going to accuse them of something, charge
them with something, specify something, which is the body of law that
rules American citizens and in most other situations. Thus far, that
has been kept a gray area and is part of the --
Rumsfeld:  Well, not really.
Q:  -- (inaudible word) -- criticism.
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't deny that the criticism runs the gamut across
the entire spectrum.
And the fact that people raise those things I think is fine, and it
elevates the discussion and people can talk about them.
But the reality is that they have been charged with something. They
have been found to be engaging in battle on behalf of the al Qaeda or
the Taliban, and have been captured. And we have decided, as a
country, that we prefer not to be attacked and lose thousands of lives
here in the United States, and that having those people back out on
the street to engage in further terrorist attacks is not our first
choice. They are being detained so they don't do that. That is what
they were about. That is why they were captured, and that is why
they're detained.
Go back to any conflict, when there is a conflict and people are
engaged in a battle, and some win and some lose, some are dead and
some are captured. The ones that are captured are detained; they are
kept away from the battle, they're kept away from killing more people.
Now, that is not an unreasonable position. I think anyone in uniform
would find it a perfectly reasonable conclusion.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I am going to stay here
and answer as many detainee questions as need to be answered, and --
so I'll try to work my way through the room. I don't know that I'll
know all the answers to all the questions, but if I don't, we'll find
them, because it seems to me it's time to tap down some of this
hyperbole that we're finding.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld:  Yes?
Q: Is John Walker being treated the same way as the other detainees --
Rumsfeld:  Yes.
Q:  -- shackled, hooded in the transfer --
Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness! Now look, is he being treated like the other
detainees, shackled, hooded, and what have you? Oh! Well, let me say
this about that; I will repeat what I said in my opening comments.
When people are moved, they are restrained. That is true in prisons
across the globe. It is not anything new. It is because in transit,
movement from one place to another, is the place where bad things
happen. That's what happened in Pakistan when the Pakistani soldiers
were killed when the -- the uprising in the bus.
And will any single prisoner be treated humanely? You bet. When they
are being moved from place to place, will they be restrained in a way
so that they are less likely to be able to kill an American soldier?
You bet. Is it inhumane to do that? No. Would it be stupid to do
anything else? Yes.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there was a debate yesterday in the British
Parliament, I happened to notice --
Rumsfeld:  Oh, I read some of that.  Just amazing --
Q: -- and it -- well, it was interesting. And one of the comments made
was that we -- handling of John Walker, a United States citizen, has
been different from the handling of the others, and that this
demonstrated that the United States would not treat one of its own
people the way that it has treated these others. And I would ask your
reaction to that.
Rumsfeld: Well, it's amazing the insight that parliamentarians can
gain from 5,000 miles away. I don't notice that he was handled any
differently or has been in the past or is now. He was wounded, so he
was treated. Other -- there are many other people who were wounded,
and they've been treated, they are being treated, in Guantanamo Bay --
very well -- excellent medical care. And to -- you know, I just can't
imagine why anyone would suggest that he's been treated any
differently from anyone else.
Q: Well, will he put in an eight-by-eight cell that has no walls but
only a roof?
Rumsfeld: The -- just for the sake of the listening world, Guantanamo
Bay's climate is different than Afghanistan. To be in an
eight-by-eight cell in beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not a
-- inhumane treatment. And it has a roof. They have all of the things
that I've described. And how each person is handled depends on where
they go.
And Mr. Walker has been turned over to the Department of Justice. He
will go where they want him. He will not go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
What kind of a cell he is put into is up to the prison that he is held
in during the period that he's being processed through the criminal
justice system of the United States. And any suggestion that the
United States is providing preferential treatment to people depending
on which country they came from, I think, would be false and --
Q: On a related question, there are three British -- apparently three
British citizens at Guantanamo Bay.
Rumsfeld:  Yeah.
Q: Can you clarify -- did the United States tell the British
government before moving these detainees from Afghanistan to
Guantanamo Bay that we were taking this step?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. My -- the United Kingdom is working very
closely with us. They have liaison in Tampa, Florida. They are a part
of the coalition. They're leading the international security
assistance force. People talk at multiple levels with the U.K. every
day of the week, every day of the -- just continuously. And do I know
whether someone called them up on the phone and said: Gee, we're
thinking of doing this, that, or the other thing?
I just don't know the answer to that.  You could ask them.
Q: Well, their claim is they weren't told, and they seem pretty upset
about it. And I'm just wondering --
Rumsfeld:  "They" -- who's "they"?
Q: Several members of the British parliament are claiming that the
British --
Rumsfeld: They are not the government. The "they" is the U.K.
government, and if I'm not mistaken, I read that Prime Minister Blair
and other representatives of the government said things quite the
contrary to what you're saying.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have a question, but since you're talking about
the detainees, you may want to get to this in a minute or so. You said
that the al Qaeda is a terrorist organization, not a government. And
yet, even though it's not elected, the Taliban was a de facto
government of Afghanistan. I know you understand that there are some
Taliban prisoners. But my question, although it may sound parochial,
has perhaps farther-reaching implications. There's a company called
Evergreen International Aviation -- General Pace, you may want to
check this, but if you know it, jump in, Mr. Secretary -- from
McMinnville, Oregon, that wants to send a 747 loaded with 175,000
pounds of relief supplies to Afghanistan, and according to the
company, it has been prevented from doing so by the Defense Department
and the FAA. Any comments on that?
Rumsfeld: Well, first, I know nothing about it. Second, the Defense
Department is not in a position to prevent anybody from flying into
Afghanistan. People are flying in there all the time.
Q:  Can I ask General Pace to maybe check it --
Rumsfeld: Country after country sends things in. Company after company
sends things in. NGO after NGO send things into Afghanistan. How
anyone can suggest that the Department of Defense is prohibiting them
from doing it, I can't quite imagine, but I simply don't know enough
about it.
Do you?
Pace:  I do not know about it.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, last week, Friday, the U.S. military took into
custody six Algerians in Bosnia not directly related to the combat
underway in Afghanistan. In previous renditions, usually the civilian
law enforcement agencies -- FBI and the like -- have done these
renditions. Under what authority did the U.S. military have to take
those six individuals into custody and then transport them to
Guantanamo after they were released by the Bosnian government for lack
of evidence against them?
Rumsfeld: I think we'll have to get you an answer on that. The -- I
don't know that it's correct that always they have been through civil
side. I think that, in fact, there have been renditions that the
military has been involved in previously, even during my time.
Q: Usually, however, there is an element of civilian authority
involved in those renditions, if I'm not mistaken.
Rumsfeld: Yeah, I'd have to check on that, but my recollection is that
it's been done both ways.
Q: And a follow-up. If, in fact, as you say, these prisoners are being
treated humanely, that's certainly not the perception in some
quarters. Is there a concern that the U.S. will somehow lose the high
moral authority in this war on terrorism by the treatment of the
detainees and any subsequent rendition, such as the one with the
Rumsfeld: Well, I guess I think the truth ultimately wins out, and the
truth of the matter is, they're being treated humanely. And the people
down there are fine young men and women and the commanders are
talented and responsible people. And the work that's being done to
create facilities that are appropriate is moving forward with
dispatch. And I think that the American people will see that, and
indeed, I think the people of the world will.
You know, it's perfectly possible for anyone to stand up and say,
"Henny Penny, the sky's falling, isn't this terrible what's
happening?" and say that; and have someone else say, "Gee, I view with
alarm the possibility that the sky's falling!" And then it gets
repeated. And then some breathless commentator repeats it again. And
then it goes on for three days. Now, does that make it so? No. At some
point does the air come out of that balloon? You bet.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: The fact of the matter -- the facts of the matter are there.
They're clear. And I think that there's no question but that if
someone looked down from Mars on the United States for the last three
days, they would conclude that America is what's wrong with the world.
America is not what's wrong with the world. And what's taking place
down there is responsible, it's humane, it's legal, it's proper, it's
consistent with the Geneva Conventions. And after a period, that will
sink in, let there be no doubt.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, you've mentioned a couple of times -- matter of
fact, it's been the first criteria you've mentioned in making the
distinction between lawful and unlawful -- combatants wearing uniforms
and insignia. Weren't there times when U.S. troops, Special Forces and
others, wore native garb in Afghanistan and did not display insignias
and uniforms?
Rumsfeld: You'd have to -- you'd have to talk to everyone who was ever
in there. People -- it's perfectly proper for someone in the military
to wear something that is appropriate to a climate or a circumstance.
That's why there are multiple criteria. It isn't just, do you happen
to have a hat that's different than the hat you normally wear, or do
you happen to have a scarf around you in a sand storm, or if you're
riding on a horse, do you happen to have something over your military
trousers -- the answer is sure you can. That's why there is a series
of things one looks to, and it's -- how they carry their weapon,
whether they've got insignia, whether they are reasonably clearly
combatants as opposed to civilians and non-combatants.
Is this roughly right?
Pace:  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.
Rumsfeld:  Terrific.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q:  Mr. Secretary, you mentioned --
Rumsfeld:  Thelma.
Q: You mentioned earlier that Cuba has a beautiful climate. But as you
know, in a few months it's going to be very, very hot down there and
there is going to be more complaints about them being held in open
conditions like that.
And also, again going back to some of the criticism, the criticism
being the open-ended nature, that they are going to be there for an
undetermined period, how would you, again, respond to that?
Rumsfeld: I don't know how many times I've been to Guantanamo Bay, but
it's a lot, and it frequently was in the summer when I was Navy pilot,
and that was back in the days before air-conditioning. And it's just
amazing, but people do fine. (laughter) I mean, there are a lot of
people in Cuba with no air-conditioning. (laughter) I know that will
come as a surprise! But I was in Washington before there was
air-conditioning and the windows used to open! It's amazing.
The worry for me is not that. I've been -- also been in Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba in a hurricane and that is not a nice thing. But that's hard
on anybody no matter where you're living, what you're in -- a
cinder-block house or whatever. So that is a bigger worry for me,
quite honestly, than the temperature.
Q:  Can I follow up --
Q: On the issue about being there for an undetermined period, I mean,
this goes also to the question of prisoners of war. If they were
prisoners of war and the operation ended in Afghanistan, you'd have to
release them.
Rumsfeld:  Or charge them.
Q:  Right.
Rumsfeld: Right. And I would think that one could reasonably assume
that that will be the case here; that at some point, they will either
be charged or released. At the moment, it's been two weeks since
they've been there. The war on terrorism is not over -- the effort.
These people are committed terrorists. We are keeping them off the
street and out of the airlines and out of nuclear power plants and out
of ports across this country and across other countries. And it seems
to me a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I want to go back over a couple of points because
you just said at some point these people will be charged, and
previously you were quite adamant that they already have been charged.
So the question is, you --
Rumsfeld: Well, not legally charged. They have been found to be people
shooting in Afghanistan, who have been captured. Now that is
something. That is why they're off the street.
Q: But this has all -- what I don't understand is, this has all been
going on, certainly, for much longer than two weeks. And you said
several times that you were basically leaving this to the lawyers,
that you weren't especially getting involved in this. But yet, with
all due respect, you seem really quite annoyed here today and quite
involved in the details. So how --
Rumsfeld:  Just trying to answer the questions.
Q: And we're just asking them. How do you move this forward? How --
what have you said to your lawyers or administration lawyers about
getting this resolved, either getting these people charged into the
criminal court system, into military tribunals? How do you avoid the
prospect of the U.S. military in fact being jailers for an
indeterminate period of time of people who have not been charged? What
are you going to do about it?
Rumsfeld: Mm-hmm. It is certainly the -- not the first choice of the
Department of Defense to be in the business of detaining people for
long periods of time. I think, as I've mentioned before, the -- and
I'll just do it very briefly -- a number of people have been
processed, identified, interrogated, and turned back to Afghanistan
forces. A number had been turned back to Pakistan forces. A number
have been received from Pakistan and given back. We now have people
from, you know -- I don't know -- probably two or three handfuls of
countries, different countries. And my first choice would be for many
of those to end up back in their countries, to be processed through
their systems, whatever they may be.
We undoubtedly will end up processing some through the criminal
justice system. I wouldn't be surprised if we did some through the
Uniform Code of Military Justice, and I suspect there will be some
military commissions.
The -- as -- I mean, I'm sorry to have to say it again, but the --
those are questions for lawyers, those are questions for people to
work through, and they are working through them. And it is not as
though it has been a long period of time. The process of gathering
intelligence information is still going on. The process of gathering
law enforcement information is still going on. And during that period,
it seems to me that the world -- and certainly the American people --
can fully understand that the task is to keep them from killing more
And that is why they are being detained during this period that we're
doing the interrogations. That seems to me to be quite reasonable.
Q: What techniques are you using to encourage these people to talk to
their interrogators? Why should they talk to the interrogators? Can
you offer them anything?
Rumsfeld: I have no idea what they do. I'm sure that what they do is
what they do in the civil -- in the criminal justice system. They get
good at it and they figure out ways they can ask them questions, and I
would assume that it's possible that they can offer them things. I
don't know what, but --
Q: Can you offer them deals? Can you offer them plea bargains? Can you
offer them --
Rumsfeld: I'm not a lawyer and I'm not into that end of the business.
The most important thing for us from our standpoint is gathering
Q: Mr. Secretary, to follow up on exactly that point, you say the most
important thing is to gather intelligence, but how far can you take
that? For example, Jim mentioned the Bosnia detainees. If you have
people that you believe have intelligence relating to possible al
Qaeda but have not been combatants, do you feel entitled to hold them
at Guantanamo purely for intelligence gathering even with no intent to
charge them?
Rumsfeld: A lawyer will end up deciding what is appropriate and what's
not appropriate by way of periods of time. But certainly we feel not
just entitled but an obligation to try to gather intelligence about
future terrorist attacks and how the network functions. And that is
what we're doing.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld:  Yes?
Q: One, if you have a list of countries that these people are being
held from? And two, if you have comment from General Musharraf that he
claims that Osama bin Laden and Omar Mullah -- or of bin Laden being
-- he may have been killed from kidney disease? But what I'm asking,
sir, why he is making claim now after one year that Pakistan sent
kidney treatment machines to Osama bin Laden? And where do you think
you stand today? And do you claim victory in Afghanistan, sir?
Rumsfeld: I don't claim victory. There's still a lot to do in
Afghanistan, as we all know. It's a dangerous place. And let there be
no doubt about that. There are still a lot of Taliban and a lot of al
Qaeda running around, and people are still getting killed.
I do have a list of countries. It changes every day as to how many are
from each country. And as people are given back and the process is
completed with respect to people, the numbers change by country as
well as in the aggregate.
With respect to the issue of Osama bin Laden's health, I just am --
don't have any knowledge. I read what you read in the paper and I
can't -- I'm sorry, I can't add any texture to those reports.
Q: Mr. Secretary, with regard to the helicopter accident over the
weekend, you've now lost, I believe, four helicopters in Afghanistan,
a B-1, a C-130. There was an accident aboard the Theodore Roosevelt
with a plane crash-landing. Here at home you've got the Carrier
Kennedy delayed in its departure because of material problems. Are we
seeing a breakdown in the material readiness of U.S. forces? Are you
taking any immediate steps in terms of shifting money in this budget
to try and address that?
Rumsfeld: (To General Pace) Pete, you've been underutilized today!
Pace: (laughs) First of all, with regard to the crashes of the
aircraft, we do not yet know for certain in each of those cases what
the problem was. We do know, as best we're able to tell by what we've
seen at the crash sites, that it did not involve any kind of enemy
Having said that, the conditions under which these pilots are
operating is really very, very difficult. Think about going into a
landing zone, flying a helicopter; you've never been there before in
your life; it's dark, you're wearing night vision goggles, and you
have a dust storm that's created by your own helicopter's prop wash.
It's unfortunate that we have crashes of that nature, but it is also
part of the very, very difficult business that we're about.
Do not misplace the reasons for these accidents and do not make it a
readiness issue. It is in fact very, very fine soldiers, sailors,
airmen and Marines doing their job to the best of their abilities in a
very difficult environment.
Q: With regard to the Kennedy in particular, there are allegations
that superiors in the chain of command were well aware for an extended
period of time of problems aboard that ship and that steps were not
taken to address it. Is there going to be any kind of inquiry as to
those allegations, or are you satisfied that -- with what the Navy has
done in terms of replacing the skipper?
Pace: I'm not sure exactly what the problems you're talking about with
the Kennedy. But I can tell you that the Kennedy is going to deploy
sooner than she was supposed to. So whatever time line she was on to
get prepared for normal deployment has been shortened, and therefore,
the kinds of things that normally happen during the pre-deployment
period are not happening with the amount of time they normally have.
Q: Taking off on your better balance of the four risks, just kind of
generalize this from Dale's question. Secretary Roche spoke last week
about how the -- whatever -- the Homeland Defense Air Force operation
is eating into training time, and so forth and so on.
That's the kind of thing that historically, you know, the services
have -- when they're deployed overseas things have just gone down --
readiness has gone down.
Has your new approach, embodied in the QDR, of trying to get a better
balance among the risks to the force, the risks to OPTEMPO and
operation maintenance, I mean, are you doing anything -- are we far
enough along in this operation that you or the Joint Staff feel it
necessary to do something to somehow shore up the effect of this -- of
the operation, the ongoing operation on readiness for other things
down the road?
Rumsfeld:  Well, let me respond, and then Pete can add a comment.
We began September 11th and the budget was being built during that
period of September, October, November, early December. A supplemental
will be going in at some point, one would think, depending on how
events play out.
I feel that the process has been taking into account the stresses and
strains on the force. And you're quite right, they are significant.
The fact that we have had to put in stop orders on people departing,
the fact that we have had to add large numbers of Guards and Reserve
to active duty -- and God bless them; they're just doing a wonderful
job -- you're right, training and exercises go by the board in large
measure, but not totally.
On the other hand, what these folks have been engaged in is also
important, and the experience that they're gaining in every aspect of
the armed services by the -- their role in this war on terrorism is
also -- can be also enormously beneficial to them, to their training,
to their competence, and to the readiness.
We are doing everything we can to mitigate the stress and strain on
the force. But you're quite right, it's not trivial.
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld:  Yes, Brian?
Q: Mr. Secretary, you've been reluctant to release the names of who --
as far as detainees, who we have in custody. Why is that? And in
general terms, can you provide the highest-ranking al Qaeda member we
have, the highest-ranking Taliban member we have?
Rumsfeld: Well, the reason for the reluctance has been that we haven't
had their names. We've had to start the process of interviewing each
one. And, you know, many of them have three and four aliases, and they
lie. And it is not an easy task, nor is it a task that the armed
forces of the United States is organized and trained to do. So we're
getting assistance from different agencies of the government with
translators and interpreters and interrogators.
The -- our focus has been -- and I think people will not find this
unreasonable -- our first focus has been to try to deal with the
immediate problems in Afghanistan, and that is to say, to go after the
al Qaeda and capture as many as we could, to go after the Taliban and
see that that government is thrown out of office, to implement a plan
across the globe to try to have engaged law enforcement and financial
instruments to find out how these networks work, so that we can stop
other attacks on the country. Doing these administrative,
ministerial-type functions that you're -- we're all talking about
today have not been the first priority of the Department, and I think
for good and fair reasons.
Q:  But out of the top 20, do we know how many we have?
Rumsfeld:  Sure.
Q:  Will you tell us?
Rumsfeld: Not today. We're giving thought to that and trying to figure
out what's the -- how to -- what's the right way to handle it. There
is an issue of -- if people know who is in custody, then they know
what kind of information conceivably might be available to us. And it
simplifies their problem in trying to evade us from capturing them.
And so, while it seems like a perfectly reasonable request that, "Gee,
why don't you just give us all the names," it may not be. And we're
trying to do it right, and that's taking some thought.
Q:  Can you read the names of countries, though?
Rumsfeld:  Go ahead.
Q: Can I take you back to Afghanistan and the current situation there?
To what extent is the U.S. concerned that tribal alliances may be
coming together now and civil war might happen in the next couple of
weeks, in terms of anti-Taliban fighting in the West against Ismail
Khan? There's a New York Times report today saying Iran was beefing up
its presence in the West there. How concerned are you that the nation
that we helped to free may be falling back into civil war? And how
strong is the evidence of Iran's involvement in the West?
Rumsfeld: Well, Iran has a long border with Afghanistan, and these
tribes have moved between the two countries for centuries.
And there's no question but that they have attempted to influence
Afghanistan and particularly the western portion in the past, in the
present, and, one would think, prospectively, in the future.
One would hope that they would do it in a way that is benign,
relatively benign, and defensive, as opposed to offensive and
intrusive. The reports about delivering lot of weapons there is not a
happy report. I think one has to realize that countries along a border
do have an interest in that country.
How worried am I? I think anyone who's reviewed Afghanistan's history
has to be concerned about its future. It has been a difficult and
untidy and hostile environment for a long time. There are a lot of
people there who'd -- who have differed with each other in -- from
different sections of the country and even in the same sections of the
country. We know there are still al Qaeda and Taliban loose. We know
there are criminals, and we know they were active in the drug trade in
that country.
So there are a lot of people there who have interests that they're
trying to further and advance, other than good government. And the new
government has that responsibility. And we're working with them.
They're -- the international security assistance force is working with
them. The process is going forward, and I think all we can do is
everyone in the world who cares and wants it to go well, to see if we
can't, by providing the kind of food and assistance that will be
helpful, and encouragement -- that we can help them launch a
government that will have some stability and be able to impose some
order in the country.
Q:  A follow-up, Mr. Secretary --
Q:  Pam?
Q: I grew up in South Florida, and my mom never turned on the air
conditioning, and I'm here to tell you it was torture. (laughter)
Rumsfeld: Would you please refrain from using that word? (laughter)
Look at you! You've survived admirably.
Q:  Yeah, I moved up north.
So you said earlier that accepting the construct that these are, say,
prisoners of war and therefore able to be detained for the length of
the war -- my question is, length of which war? Is this the battle in
Afghanistan? Is this the global war on terror? Because at the opening
days, you said that could last for five or 10 years.
And then also, could you tell us what benefit does the Defense
Department get out of not formally charging now -- charging them now?
Do they -- is there some kind of a constitutional protection that
would apply, that would prevent you from being able to get the kind of
intelligence that you need if you were to formally charge them and
start putting them through a legal process?
Rumsfeld: I don't know enough of the legal technicalities to answer
your question. I know that the process of gathering the intelligence
information has not been concluded. And it -- that seemed to us -- and
quite reasonably, to me -- to be sufficiently important, from the
standpoint of the American people and our forces deployed overseas, to
stop further terrorist attacks, that is what we have been doing. I'm
sure that the lawyers will figure out at what point it's appropriate
to bring charges to people. For the moment, I'm just pleased that
they're detained and off the streets and not killing people.
Q: And do you have an established end of global war on terrorism or
end of battle in Afghanistan --
Rumsfeld: No. No, those are issues that will get sorted out as we go
Q: Mr. Secretary -- actually, a question for the general, relating
back to the question about civil war. There're been reports of
fighting over the past few days in Konduz between factions of Dostam
and Rabanni. I was wondering if you could explain what's going on
there and whether that's -- whether a situation is developing that
could be dangerous for the interim government.
Pace: I don't have the specifics on that. I can tell you that we will
continue to work with each of the tribal leaders to get to the point
where the things that we are doing in Afghanistan alongside them are
good for both the United States and for Afghanistan. And the
battlefield will continue to be fluid. There will continue to be very
dangerous places on that battlefield. But I don't have the specifics
of your question.
Q:  You don't know whether -- whether there's --
Q: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Secretary, is it a fair summary of what you're
-- you've been saying today that prisoners are being treated well, but
that swift administration of justice is not a priority for you; that
your first priority is security and intelligence? And you keep saying,
you know, "Leave it to the lawyers," as if it wasn't really very
important -- the administration of justice --
Rumsfeld: No, I don't mean to suggest it's not important. It is
I think that is -- let me summarize, but -- I think that's a useful
thing to do. There is no question but that people that are being
detained by the United States are being treated humanely. They are
being treated in a manner that's consistent with the Geneva
Convention, whether or not they merit that kind of a treatment. That
is what the United States does. That's what -- the kind of people we
have in the armed forces do, is treat people decently. And suggestions
to the contrary are misinformed, at the minimum.
The -- second, you're right.
The concern that the Department of Defense has had, and from the
outset, has been to do everything humanly possible to stop terrorists
from killing people, and to gather as much intelligence information as
we can so that we learn more and more about these terrorist networks
and the people that are financing them and the people that are
harboring them and the people that are actually committing terrorist
acts. And that is pure, simple self-defense of the United States of
America. And so those two things are correct, if that's roughly what
you said, which is pretty roughly what you said. Probably not quite as
well as I did, but -- (laughs) -- (laughter) -- but close enough for
government work. (laughs)
Q: A swift follow-up. Are the facilities that you're designing to be
built at Guantanamo being designed with an eye to long-term
incarceration, not only for these detainees, but potentially for
future detainees in future chapters of the war on terrorism? I mean,
is this going to be the place where they go?
Rumsfeld: That kind of thought has not been given to it. What they are
is -- well, the contract is being considered right now in the
building, but what they would be is not something that would last a
hundred years, if that's what you're wondering. These are facilities
that would have walls and a back and a roof and open into a hall, with
a mesh -- very much like a prison cell. And they would be
semi-prefabricated that would be moved down there and then erected
relatively quickly.
Q: With air conditioning?  (laughter)
Rumsfeld: Mr. Secretary, are there detainees of Chinese origin? And do
you plan to send them back to the Chinese government?
Rumsfeld: I don't recall whether there are still any Chinese. There
certainly have been reports of Chinese al Qaeda- related people both
in Afghanistan and in Chechnya. Whether we have any in tow or not, I'm
not -- I don't recall.
Q:  How about from Pakistan?
Q:  Northern Alliance people said you have Chinese detainees.
Q: Can you provide us with a list of the countries that are included
in the detainees?
Rumsfeld: The -- I didn't bring it with me. We might be able to. The
problem is, it may be inaccurate. This is what they're saying; it
isn't what may be ground truth. And -- and there's an awful lot of
what they say that is not ground truth.
Q:  Number one, is Walker being transferred today?
Rumsfeld: Walker is at some point in the days ahead going to arrive in
the Northern District of Virginia.
And I don't really pay much attention to precisely when he leaves what
location, and it depends on weather, and he goes from here to there,
to here to there, and he ends up here.
Q: Can you give us any progress report on the whole issue of where the
tribunal structure is and when that might be a reality?
Rumsfeld: Well, certainly I can. The president has assigned no one to
be treated in a military commission. Therefore, its status is it's not
operative at the moment. We will -- we have come very close to working
through some preliminary judgments as to how they might operate. Those
are now being discussed with a variety of different people. I've had
several meetings on it. They'll come back to me with the views of
those folks, and then we may announce something; we may wait until
someone is assigned. I just don't know. It doesn't -- but at the
moment, there's nobody.
Q: Mr. Secretary, since you want to clear the air about the detainees,
one of the things that seems to have aroused public opinion and the
parliamentarians from Britain was this photograph that was released
that showed the detainees kneeling with their hands bound behind their
Rumsfeld:  That's right.  Yeah.
Q:  Could you just explain what that photograph --
Rumsfeld: I will, to the best of my ability. It's probably unfortunate
that it was released. It's the tension between wanting to meet the
desires of the press to know more and the public to know more.
And what that was, I am told, is not a detention area, that is a
corridor or a walk-through area that came -- my understanding is --
goes something like this. When they're on the airplane, they wear
earpieces because of the noise. You've ridden on these airplanes;
they're combat aircraft, and we've all worn earpieces. That's no big
deal. There were a number who had tested -- they were worried about
tuberculosis, so in a number of instances they were given masks for
the protection of other detainees and for the protection of the
They come out of an airplane and the back lowers and they walk out.
And then they loaded them into, I believe, buses and they took them
down to a ferry. And they were still restrained, their hands and their
feet restrained because of the dangers that occur during a period of
movement. They put them on a ferry, if I'm not mistaken, and the ferry
takes them across to the other side of the Guantanamo Bay. They get
off of the ferry and they get into some -- something that then
transports them to the detention area. They get out of that vehicle,
and in relatively small numbers are moved into this corridor that is a
fenced area.
And they are asked to get down on the ground. They get down on the
ground. And they take off their ear pieces, they take off their masks,
they do whatever they do with them before taking them in small numbers
into the cells, where they then would be located, at which point the
-- they are no longer in transit, and therefore, they are no longer
restrained the way they were.
What happened was, someone took a picture -- and we released it,
apparently -- of them in that corridor, kneeling down while their head
pieces are being taken off, and people made a whole -- drew a whole
lot of conclusions about how terrible that was that they're being held
in that corridor. Now, you know, if you want to think the worst about
things, you can. If people want to ask questions and find out what is
reasonably happening, it seems to me not a -- an unreasonable thing,
when you're moving them from the vehicle they're in, in towards their
cells, to have them stop in some area prior to that and do what you do
to get them in a circumstance that's more appropriate for being in a
cell than how they were arranged in the buses, the ferries and the
Q:  Secretary Rumsfeld --
Q:  Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: And I think you're quite right; I think that a lot of people
saw that and said, "My goodness. They're being forced to kneel," which
is not true.
Q:  But just a point --
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said it was unfortunate that that photograph was
released. I would just argue that it was unfortunate that it wasn't
released with more information.
Rumsfeld:  Maybe.  Yeah.  That's fair.
Q:  The lesson here ought not to be --
Rumsfeld:  I mean, I'm not blaming anyone for releasing it, but --
Q: -- less information or withholding photographs, but simply
releasing more information --
Rumsfeld:  Fair enough.
Q:  -- so we can make better judgments.
Q: And Mr. Secretary, would it be more beneficial to provide more open
access to the media to allow the media to see for itself how these
prisoners are being treated, to convey that information? You've spent
now nearly an hour trying to explain what's going on there, when over
the past couple of weeks, if the media would've had more open access,
the stories that you're telling today would have been, perhaps, better
told over the past couple of weeks.
Rumsfeld:  You mean the facts that I'm presenting --
Q:  Exactly.
Rumsfeld:  -- as opposed -- (laughter) --
Q:  As facts that --
Rumsfeld:  I thought that's what you meant.
Q: Actually, they could say it to you, because you, yourself, have not
been there yourself.
Rumsfeld:  That's right.
Q: So, do you think it would be more beneficial if there were more
open access?
Rumsfeld:  Aren't there a lot of people down there?
Q: Well, but they're not allowed any access or any -- any access to
the detention facilities themselves --
Q:  Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: Let me just try and do this, and then I'll come back,
My recollection is that there's something in the Geneva Conventions
about press people being around prisoners; that -- and not taking
pictures and not saying who they are and not exposing them to
ridicule, which is the genesis, as I understand it, of the convention
requirement. So I don't know what the rules are, but my impression is
there are an awful lot of people who have been -- press people who
have been to Guantanamo, who have seen the facilities, and I don't
know that a single one who's been there has seen a single thing that
was inhumane.
Q:  Mr. Secretary, can you -
Q:  If I can just --
Rumsfeld: All the reports about all of these problems are coming from
people who have not been there, not from the press who were down
there, that I've seen -- or at least the press that are inside the
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld:  Yes, Andrea.
Q:  I just returned from there.
Rumsfeld:  Did you?  Good.
Q: Yes. But we couldn't get closer than about 150 yards away, and even
with binoculars it was very hard to see from outside what was going
on. And I understand the rules about photography, but --
Rumsfeld:  Wasn't I roughly right?  Not just photography --
Q: I mean, all we could see was -- if they weren't wearing orange, we
would not have been able to see anything, pick out anything. And
wouldn't it be -- I mean, if we could have gotten closer to them, we
could actually see, not with pictures, but that the reporters could
have actually seen close up what those -- what that compound looked
like, because we were really too far away, and we only were there for
a couple of hours, and the rest of the time, reporters are kept on the
other side of the bay, you know, basically penned up ourselves, not
able to see. So, I mean --
Rumsfeld: Oh, now that will be a news story! (Laughter.) Why don't you
stand up, Andrea, and clean up what you just said! Let the record show
she was loose with her language! (laughter)
Q:  It could raise your approval rating!
Q: I mean, is it possible to get reporters closer, still being
underneath, you know, the Geneva Conventions?
Rumsfeld:  I don't -- I don't know.  I just don't know the answer.
Q:  Can you look into it?
Rumsfeld:  Yeah, we will look into it.
(To staff)  Dick.
(returning) My recollection is that getting reporters, with or without
cameras, in close proximity with prisoners is considered not fair or
right with respect to the prisoners -- from the prisoners' standpoint
-- not from my standpoint, but from prisoner's standpoint, under the
Q:  Mr. Secretary?
Q:  Mr. Secretary, the --
Rumsfeld: I tell you what. It's been a full hour in about two minutes.
Why don't we take you and then one other in the back, way in the back
Q:  I've been waiting a long time over here.
Rumsfeld:  You have?
Q:  Yes, I have -- very patiently.
Rumsfeld: You have? I'll tell you what. I'm going to take him first.
(laughter) And then I'm going to come back to you and then you.
Q: Let me ask you a weapons of mass destruction type of question.
Yesterday there was a report from the U.N. monitoring group in
Afghanistan that said Taliban and al Qaeda had been VX and sarin nerve
gas, short-range missiles -- or they may have them, they said --
short-range missiles to --
Rumsfeld:  Who said this?
Q: U.N. Monitoring Group in Afghanistan. They said they had
short-range missiles on which these warheads could go, and had
artillery that could be used for this type of weapon. I want to know
-- this was a bit contrary to what you've been saying up there from
the podium. What's your reaction to the report? And if it's not
accurate, what is the state of play on weapons of mass destruction?
Rumsfeld: Well, it -- first, a fact. It is factually correct that it
is possible to take both ballistic missiles and artillery pieces and
weaponize them for use with weapons of mass destruction.
Q:  Do they have that capability?
Rumsfeld:  Not to my knowledge.
Q:  No indication of radiological -- still no indication of --
Rumsfeld: That's the kind of question I just don't like to answer,
because we've located -- correction; we've identified something in the
neighborhood of 50 sites that we have been systematically tracking
down. And we're at varying stages in that process. We're up in the
40s, high 40s, as to the ones we've gotten into.
A number of the early ones are concluded, and in those instances there
has not been hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction capability.
There has been evidence of WMD interest in a variety of different
Second, with respect to the middle group that we've been in, but we
haven't brought closure on, there are a number of samples that are, in
a variety of locations around the world, being examined to try to
determine whether the first indications are right or wrong as to what
might or might not have been in those sites.
Q: How could they come to a conclusion that is virtually antithetical
to what you're saying? I mean, they're saying sarin and VX is there,
or likely there.
Rumsfeld:  First of all, you've got to remember who "they" are.
Q:  The U.N., which bases it on --
Rumsfeld:  Well, wait a second.  The U.N. -- the --
Q:  The monitoring group in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld: Well, maybe -- let's put it this way: I am very
conservative. I am very -- I try to be very careful. I try not to say
things that I don't know, that I can't prove, that I can't back up.
And I can't back up their claim.
Why don't we have people ask the U.N. about their claim and see if
they can back it up? I just don't -- I just can't. Do you know
anything I don't know?
Q:  (off mike)
Rumsfeld: A lot! (laughter) A lot, but -- I meant on that subject. Now
wait a second; I promised -- you --
Q: Mr. Secretary, another follow-on about the detainee treatment. Over
the last several days, the International Committee for the Red Cross
has been holding individual interviews with the detainees for --
Rumsfeld:  They still have people down there.
Q: -- a period of time, and they're still continuing that. Are they so
far, from what you're getting, in full agreement with your assessment
of the treatment of the detainees, and/or, are they making
recommendations or changes that they see are needed there?
Rumsfeld: Well, this is an unusual situation. I'm told by the people
in Guantanamo Bay that the arrangement they have with the
International Committee of the Red Cross is that the International
Committee of the Red Cross is happy to do what they're doing. They're
given free access. They had a larger team there initially. Some have
now left, and they are going to be reporting at some point -- I don't
know, a week, week and a half, whatever it takes -- to somebody. And
who it is, I don't know -- whether it's the Pentagon or whether it's
the forces in Tampa -- probably unlikely -- more like Miami, the
Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), that has the jurisdiction for it --
possibly the people in Guantanamo.
They have not done so yet. I have not talked to them. And it -- I
think it would not be wise for me to try to characterize these people;
they're professionals. They -- this is what they do. They go out and
look at prisoners and make judgments about their treatment, and I'm
sure they're perfectly capable of characterizing what they've found in
their own good time. I am telling you what I believe in every inch of
my body to be the truth, and I have spent a lot of time on secure
video with the people down there. I have talked to people who have
been down there and come back, and I haven't found a single scrap of
any kind of information that suggests that anyone has been treated
anything other than humanely -- notwithstanding everything we have
read and heard over the past three days. And --
Last question.
Q: Question for General Pace: As you know, a sizable number of
Canadian forces are going to be deploying to Kandahar to serve
alongside the 101st Airborne. Reportedly, the Canadian forces have
been issued little reference cards that give them the rules of
And I'm wondering what is the potential for there being Canadian rules
of engagement and U.S. rules of engagement and that posing problems.
And what is the command structure between the Canadians and the U.S.
in the Kandahar deployment?
Pace: The potential for confusion is always there when you have more
than one country on the ground. And for example, the international
force that's in Kabul has 10 countries. So any time you have military
forces together that come with different guidance from their
countries, the first thing the commanders on the ground do is make
sure that they in fact understand what each others' forces are allowed
to do and understand the rules. It's not so important that they all
have the exact same rules; it is very important that everyone
understand the rules under which each country is allowed to operate.
Rumsfeld: This is true in the air; it's true on the sea, as well as on
the ground. And it has been something that has been addressed
throughout Operation Enduring Freedom with respect to ships operating
in close proximity and aircraft flying together.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you release the name of the countries that are
being held there?
Q:  No more detainee questions?
Q:  He said he would.
Rumsfeld:  I said I would what?
Q:  Release names of countries being held.
Rumsfeld: Oh, I said I would look at it. My problem with it is, I
don't know if they're telling the truth. And it's --
Q:  Do you have any idea?
Q: (inaudible) -- accuracy a criteria for releasing information --
Q:  We'll accept your good-faith representation.
(cross talk and laughter)
Q:  Can you tell us more about this time with no air conditioning?
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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