12 February 2002
Transcript: Defense Department Briefing, February 12, 2002
(Afghanistan/humanitarian operations, Zhawar Kili attack/site
investigation/events, Hazar Qadam raid/treatment of detainees,
detainees/number and location, charges of mistaken
attacks/investigations, search for al Qaeda & Taliban/intelligence
gathering, al Qaeda leadership/list, CIA-CENTCOM Coordination/liaison,
military structure/joint task forces, terrorist alert/source of
intelligence, Taliban leadership/negotiations, CIA/Predator unmanned
aircraft, CIA/paramilitary role, Iraq/U.S. policy/weapons development)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force General Richard
Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed February 12 at the
Following is the Pentagon transcript:
U.S. Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002 - 11:31 a.m. EST
(Also participating was Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of
Rumsfeld: Greetings. Good morning. I have a brief comment, and then
General Myers has some remarks.
As a country, we've lost thousands of innocent civilians on September
11th, and certainly our country and the people of our country
understand what it means to lose fathers and mothers, and sons and
daughters, and brothers and sisters.
I think it's useful to remind ourselves that the Taliban and the al
Qaeda made a practice of doing harm and repressing the Afghan people.
The Afghan people were starved in some measure because the Taliban and
al Qaeda stole humanitarian food aid and kept it from them. There was
a refugee crisis in the country with internally dislocated people, as
well as large camps external to the country. They purposefully used
women and children in residential areas to shield their military
activities. They deliberately positioned military equipment next to
schools and mosques.
Even before September 11th, the United States had been the larger
donor of food aid to Afghan people, providing something in excess of
170 million dollars' worth prior to September 11th. In the first days
of the war, DOD alone dropped more than a half a million rations of
meals into Afghanistan to feed the starving. President Bush has
pledged $320 million more, in addition to the military program. And
every single day since the war begin, in the midst of the conflict,
coalition forces, including American service people, have risked their
lives to deliver humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of
the Afghan people.
Today, U.S. and coalition forces are on the ground, digging wells,
building schools, supporting other civilian missions to help the
Afghan people recover from years of Taliban oppression, and they're
doing a fine job at it. And those who perpetrated these crimes against
their own people are no longer in power. Hundreds are in detention,
and they will have to answer for their crimes.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good morning again.
I'd like to follow up with the status on the Zhawar Kili strike from
last week. The material we found around the site is being sent back to
the United States for analysis. The search team was able to locate
what we think was the exact impact point of the missile. And then the
team cleared snow around that site out to 200 yards. There was
anywhere from a foot to three to four feet of snow that had to be
And I think yesterday Admiral Stufflebeem gave you a list of the type
of material that they took from that site, and as I said before,
that's currently being sent back to the United States for analysis.
Our team has left that site, but we'll continue to surveil (sic) that
particular site and the region for some time to come.
The Hazar Qadam investigation is progressing. At this point in the
investigation, I don't believe that any of the detainees -- this was
the 27 that were detained -- were subject to beatings or rough
treatment after they were taken into custody. All 27 detainees were
medically screened upon arrival in Kandahar, and there were no issues
of beatings or kickings or anything of that sort. As we've told you
before, we continue the full investigation there, and General Franks
will make that available once it is complete.
As an addendum here, the total number of detainees now in U.S. control
is 474; 220 in Afghanistan, and 254 detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, speaking of Admiral Stufflebeem, he lamented
yesterday that this war has turned into what he called a "shadow war"
and that you're chasing al Qaeda and Taliban and it's difficult to
You're very reluctant to discuss now the secret things that are going
on, especially while they're going on -- Special Forces troops, what
they're doing. It seems the things that you are announcing, for
instance, the attack at Zhawar Kili and the attack north of Kandahar,
later to turn out to be mistakes. Are you worried that this is turning
into some kind of public relations disaster where the headlines in the
newspapers, the preponderance of them, are on mistakes rather than
Rumsfeld: Well, I mean, the first thing one has to say is that any
time there is a suggestion that U.S. forces have, as you characterized
it, made a mistake, it is something that we take very seriously as a
country, and certainly the armed forces and the Pentagon do. When that
occurs, we ask the appropriate people to undertake an investigation
and to look into the charges or the allegations that have been made.
We do that because we care that things be done as well as it's humanly
possible to do them.
You say that everything we do is being called a mistake. I don't know
that that's the case. Maybe I didn't quote you quite right.
But it seems to me there's a great deal we're doing in the country.
We're in the process of assisting them to develop their own national
military force. We're providing humanitarian assistance. We're
assisting the government with a host of specific things. The forces
everywhere they are located are helping the people in those
So there's a great deal of good being done. And the harm that the
Taliban was doing is no longer being done. The al Qaeda that had taken
-- pretty much taken over the country, in a major sense, are on the
run. And the Taliban have been thrown out. So the repression that
existed -- the circumstance of the Afghan people today is vastly
Now, does that mean that when there's an operation and someone
suggests that it was in one way or another inappropriate that we
shouldn't investigate it? No. We do investigate it. And we care about
it. And we'll in good time find out actually what took place.
Q: I didn't mean to suggest everything you do was a mistake. You're
very reluctant to discuss the positive things that you say you're
doing. For instance, details on what attacks you might have foiled,
what evidence --
Rumsfeld: I see your point.
Q: -- and perhaps the weight is going in the other direction on bad
Rumsfeld: Well, you're right. I mean, to some extent, when a -- the
forces in the country are doing a variety of things. And among them
are some things that are not public; that is to say, they are
observing things that are taking place, and trying to make judgments
about where people might be located or who might be moving things
around in a country in a way that's inappropriate. So we don't
announce those things. They're out doing that on a covert basis.
There are other things they do which are not announced until they
happen. And those are direct action against a compound, for example,
that is believed to be harboring al Qaeda or Taliban, senior Taliban
The other thing that's taking place is there's a good deal of
discussion going on, and people are, in fact, being discovered, being
taken into custody. A lot of intelligence information's being
gathered, and that intelligence information has been helpful in
preventing other terrorist attacks.
So no one ever likes to see an event where someone charges that it was
improper, as we saw with respect to the operation that General Myers
commented about. But it happens, and all you can do is go at it, find
out what took place, and tell the world what actually happened.
Q: Are you concerned over these two high-profile events and what they
might be doing to the campaign, in the eyes of the world?
Rumsfeld: I'm always concerned when there is an allegation made that
suggests that some innocent person was -- that an attack was
inappropriate or that some innocent person was killed or injured.
Obviously, anyone would be concerned about that.
Myers: Can I add a little something -- just something to that?
Myers: You know, I think the secretary and I would -- we are anxious
to share some of these successes with you. The problem is that once
you do that, then the tactics and the techniques and the procedures
that are being used in this very difficult mission of locating
leadership and other pockets of al Qaeda or Taliban, once we tell you
how successful we've been, then we reveal those tactics, techniques
and procedures, and sometimes they're easy to thwart. So that's why we
have to be very careful. This is an ongoing operation, if you will,
and we've just got to be very, very careful.
The second thing I'd say, that no matter how these investigations turn
out, as some of you know because you've been in the field with our
forces, they are the most professional and disciplined forces there
are. They make life and death decisions when they come upon this group
-- these two compounds, where we had the 27 detainees and the 15 that
were killed. Some of those detainees could have easily been killed.
They were armed. The rules of engagement permit you to shoot back. And
the fact that they were detained and not killed I think is an
indication of just how professional and disciplined and dedicated our
folks are. Now, if there were mistakes made, we're going to find that
out when General Franks finishes his investigation. But I think the
American people need to know that we have the best forces in the
world, the best-trained forces, who are making these decisions and
99.9 percent of the time make them exactly right.
Rumsfeld: Let me -- let me elaborate, Charlie, on your question,
because when you ask the question, "Are you concerned?", there's
always a risk, if one says they're not concerned, that the headline
will be that the Pentagon is not concerned. And it happened to me when
I was asked in a lengthy interview by BBC about the detainees and how
they were being treated. And I described how they were being treated;
they were being treated very, very well, and properly, and humanely,
and consistent with the Geneva Convention. And we went through all
this and I described it.
And then he said something to the effect, "Well, are you concerned
about how they're being treated?" And I said something to the effect
-- no -- meaning, as I said in the context, because I know how they're
being treated and they've been treated very, very properly and
humanely. And that has roared around Europe that the Secretary is not
concerned about how they're being treated, when the context was that I
was not concerned because I know how they're being treated, and
they're being treated and handled very, very well.
Now, when you say, "Are you concerned about these?" and if I say, no,
I am not concerned about what -- as you cast the question, which is,
are you concerned that they are going to be negative and take support
away from the campaign of the war against terrorism, if I had answered
and said no, I'm not, because I have confidence in the American people
and in the people of the world recognizing how much better off the
people in Afghanistan are today than they were, and yet I do have a
concern when someone makes an allegation, because obviously we don't
want people to be improperly handled, and we do not want operations
against targets that are not appropriate targets.
So I'm concerned about the specifics. But I did not want to simply
answer it in a way that the headline would become inflammatory. I've
become very cautious.
Q: Mr. Secretary, several people now from this podium have said that
this target at Zhawar Kili is believed to have been legitimate and
appropriate, yet stories persist out of the region that the missile
may have killed three innocent civilians who were out collecting scrap
metal. Can you provide for us today any additional information besides
what this Predator may have seen that led U.S. forces to attack that
site? And second of all, what is --
Rumsfeld: You mean the three individuals?
Q: The three. At Zhawar Kili.
Rumsfeld: Okay. Let's do that one.
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I can add anything to it. It's my
understanding that the people who operate the Predator were watching a
large number of people -- 15 or -- 10, 15, 20 people -- over a period
of time. And out of this group came three people. And they moved in
and among various outcroppings of rocks and trees. And the people who
have the responsibility for making those judgments made the judgments
that, in fact, they were al Qaeda and that they were a proper target.
And they make those judgments based on behavior, based on various
types of equipment in information that they have developed over a
sustained period now of weeks and weeks and weeks.
A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired. It
apparently hit three people -- one or more people. There is an
investigation underway. Special Forces could not get up there because
of the weather. They went up there. They cleared away a large diameter
area of snow, anywhere from a foot to two feet of snow, and picked up
a great deal of material from the site, and they are in the process of
checking into that, and they're also interviewing people in the
Now, someone has said that these people were not what the people
managing the Predator believed them to be. We'll just have to find
out. There's not much more anyone could add, except there's that one
version and there's the other version.
Q: Was there any additional intelligence that led to this site to
begin with that may have contributed to the perception that these were
Rumsfeld: These are people who have been doing this now for a good
many weeks. And they monitor sites, and they go back to sites where
they know al Qaeda have been. And they check things out. And they are
honorable, fine people doing the best that's possible to be done. I
was not in the control booth. I have not reviewed the -- I have not
compared the elements that went into their decisions. I am sure people
will do that.
Q: What is your personal confidence that this, in fact, was an
appropriate, legitimate target?
Rumsfeld: It's not for me to say. I have great confidence in the
people doing it. They're honorable people. They're talented people.
They're skillful. They've been doing it for weeks and weeks and weeks
now, and they've got a darned good record and I've got a lot of
respect for them.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said earlier there's a great deal of good being
done in Afghanistan, and you were nodding in particular at the
humanitarian effort that's being made daily. But in the hunt for al
Qaeda and Taliban leaders on the military front, what has gone right
We've heard nothing but problems lately. What's gone right?
Rumsfeld: Well, we have gathered some intelligence from them that has
been beneficial to the United States and other countries and to our
deployed forces -- and not just a little, but more than a little.
Second, we continue to gather in additional people, senior people, in
the Taliban and al Qaeda. It's a fairly steady flow; it's not large
numbers at any given time, but we are continuing to bring them in and
to interrogate them at Bagram or at Kandahar, and ultimately in
Guantanamo Bay. So I feel quite good about the progress.
Q: Senior people -- can you -- how senior? Any names or --
Rumsfeld: As you know, we've got what they say their names are, and we
have what we think them to be, and some of their aliases. And we've
decided that it's not useful to announce their names because then, for
one thing, it could be wrong because they don't always tell the truth,
and for a second thing, it can tell everyone else in those
organizations who we have and what types of information we conceivably
will be hearing from them, in which case it makes it much easier for
others to get away.
Q: I want to pick up on that point a second. About three weeks ago,
from the podium, you said you would think about releasing a list of
who was killed in the al Qaeda leadership. About two weeks ago,
President Bush told the Washington Post that he keeps a scorecard like
a baseball game, and 16 of 22 al Qaeda leaders remain at large. This
is about a couple of weeks ago. Can you shed any light on that? Is
that roughly the number at large -- six maybe killed and another 16 at
Rumsfeld: It changes every day. And there is such a list, and it does
indicate whether or not they have been killed for sure, or presumed
dead, or in captivity, or at large. And where people fit on that, an
individual's status may change from week to week, depending as more
information becomes available. And in many cases they're qualified,
that is to say it says "presumed" as opposed to certainty. And we have
thought about it, and we've decided not to release it.
Q: Was it six -- is that roughly, though, six, roughly, have been
Rumsfeld: I can't say. I haven't -- I have to go back and -- I'm sure
when he said it, it was correct. My guess is the numbers have changed
Q: General Myers, I have a quick one on the Predator. There's been a
lot of attention on this one strike. Roughly how many of these
Predator Hellfires have been fired in the campaign by the CIA? Are we
talking in the 40 or 50 range, and one or two have been controversial?
Myers: I don't have -- I don't have that at my fingertips. And
probably if I did, we wouldn't talk about how many.
But let me just add a little comment to the earlier question on
success here. You know, we said early on that one of the ideas -- and
the president has said this, and others, that we wanted to disrupt
these operations, and part of disruption is getting them to move. And,
you know, I think, at least I have said, if they leave Afghanistan,
that's not all bad because they're going to be in their
second-favorite place, and they're going to be in a place where
they're less comfortable, where they have to spend more resources to
buy their security, and so forth.
It has turned out that that is -- that's been true. Some of the folks
we've gotten our hands on have been actually through other countries,
and we've been fairly successful there. And when the time comes, that
will all be released. So it's having the kind of effect, I think, that
we want to have.
Q: Two questions about the Predator attack. First of all, yesterday it
was described as an appropriate target. Is it still the feeling in
this building that it was an appropriate target?
Rumsfeld: As I said, it is from the people I've talked to. The
building? I can't speak for the building. But there is no change in
opinion on the part of the people who were involved in the process,
except for the fact that because people have raised a question about
it, that there is an investigation going on, and people, as I say,
have gone up there to take a look at it.
Q: Second question. There was a little confusion yesterday. Admiral
Stufflebeem said that there was no real-time interaction between the
CIA and CENTCOM when this attack was going down, when the CIA was
pulling the trigger. And then we saw comments that seemed to
contradict that on the wires a little later. Can you bring some
clarification to that? How much interaction was there between the DOD
and the CIA about this target at the time it was going down?
Rumsfeld: I can't speak to that, except to say that there tends to be
a high degree of interaction between CENTCOM and CIA on a whole host
of things, and certainly on these matters.
Q: Okay, explain the contradictions we got yesterday --
Myers: I don't know why you got the contradictions because there was
close coordination, like there always is. And I don't know why you got
the contradiction. I can't explain that.
Q: So General Stufflebeem was incorrect when he said there was no
Myers: I didn't hear what he said, so I don't know -- I can't say
that. And I don't know what he was thinking or the context he said it
in. I would just reiterate --
Rumsfeld: He's getting careful too. I like that! (laughter) Way to go,
Myers: (laughs) Thank you, sir!
Q: Well, explain what were the facts, if you could.
Myers: Well, again, without divulging too much of how this all works,
there is close coordination between what the CIA is doing and what
Central Command is doing.
And it just -- it's virtually continuous. And so I don't know what
Admiral Stufflebeem said or told you, but -- and that was the case
here. I don't know what else there is to say.
Q: Mr. Secretary, General Myers, both of you talked last week before
Congress about developing a joint task force headquarters that would
deploy in the event of something like that. If we had had that in
place, how could this have helped this operation now? Could the joint
task headquarters that the Joint Forces Command is developing right --
Myers: I'll take a stab at it, if I can.
Central Command's a little different situation because, in a sense,
they are already a joint task force headquarters. So it's a little
different for them. A better one to take would be Pacific Command, in
doing something in their region, where the unified commander might
designate a joint task force.
But let's assume it's Central Command. What we're envisioning there is
not only the habitual relationships which CENTCOM does have with all
its components -- its Army and its Navy and its Marine and its air
components; they have that relationship that we're trying to establish
in other unified commands, and maybe more than one. In Central
Command, they essentially have this one big joint task force. And one
of the issues is what is the suite of equipment that you equip them
with when they go in to conduct an operation, whether it's
humanitarian or whether it's combat or whatever? And that's the part
we need to focus on. Then you take a suite of equipment that plugs
everybody in so they all have the relevant pictures of what's
happening and so forth. So I think it'd be very relevant in terms of
Q: Can you adapt this to the other --
Myers: Yes. Oh, absolutely. Yes. Have to be adaptable.
Q: This is apparently the most specific information in the last five
months about another terrorist attack today. Without divulging
anything you don't want to, can you say anything about whether and how
Rumsfeld: Well, first let me say that the -- as I understand it, the
information that the Department of Justice used to come to the
conclusion it came to, that an announcement was appropriate, was
information that has been gained in large measure from the
interrogations that have been taking place and the other information
that has been a result of the efforts of the multi- departmental
groups that do the interrogation.
The Department of Defense was pretty much at a level of alert that it
didn't require many additional things, although I understand some
elements have taken some additional steps which I'd prefer not to
Q: Can you say anything generally about what you mean by that?
Rumsfeld: About what?
Q: The last thing you said. Can you generally -- what are you
Rumsfeld: No, because it's --
Q: (off mike) -- at Guantanamo Bay, by the way, or in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. It could -- we interrogate at Bagram, Kandahar
and Guantanamo. So -- and where that particular information came from,
I think it was Guantanamo, but I don't know.
Myers: Yes, I think that's right.
Q: Getting back to the Taliban leadership, about three weeks ago,
prior to the Special Forces raid north of Kandahar, Afghan officials
said that they were in negotiations with three top Taliban officials,
including Omar's secretary, to try to bring them in from the cold, and
then the attack happened and they lost contact with these three folks.
Were you aware of those negotiations? And if so, do you know what the
status is of those today?
Rumsfeld: I can't run a thread back to that particular comment. I do
know that at any given time, including this moment, there are
discussions taking place about Taliban, and particularly Taliban more
than al Qaeda, people who are trying to understand what's going to
happen to them if they turn themselves in, or if they decide to give
us assistance in finding other people, and that type of thing. So it's
a continuous process.
Q: And you're in contact with the Afghan officials, parties to the
negotiations with these folks?
Rumsfeld: See, I don't know what you mean by "these folks." But
certainly the --
Q: Well, the three top Taliban officials.
Rumsfeld: I can't speak to that. As I said, I know that at any given
moment of the day or night, there are discussions going on, and we are
certainly in touch with Afghan people who are involved in those kinds
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said recently, or just actually a couple of
moments ago, that the folks firing Predators have a good record. What
did you mean when you said that?
Rumsfeld: I mean that they're serious people. They've been doing this
now since -- some months, and that I have observed how they handle
themselves, and they develop patterns of behavior which give them
information. They use human intelligence from the ground. They observe
a variety of things from the ground and the air and they connect those
things, and then they make judgments. And they have, on a number of
occasions, been successful in doing exactly that which they intended
Q: But "record" implies a scorecard. Do you have some sort of
scorecard in mind you can share with us?
Rumsfeld: I -- no. It is a series of events that I have observed, and
that others have observed, rather than keeping score on it.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, on the Predator strike question again, in late
November, when people were asking you about the relationship between
CIA operations and CENTCOM -- and then it was more about ground
operations -- but you said very specifically that General Franks was
the man at the steering wheel coordinating or in control of all
military operations. Now, with the Predator strikes, you're talking
more about an exchange of information, coordination.
So I was wondering if you could clarify the situation of how
CIA-military operations are coordinated or in control by CENTCOM.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. That's a good question, and it's hard to answer.
The overwhelming bulk of all activity in Afghanistan since the first
U.S. forces went in have been basically under the control of the
Central Command. And that's particularly true after the first month.
The one exception has been the armed Predators -- I shouldn't say "the
one exception." An exception has been the armed Predators, which are
Q: Why is that -- why is that an exception?
Rumsfeld: It is just a fact. They were operating them before the
United States military was involved, and -- the armed Predators -- and
doing a good job. And so rather than changing that, we just left it.
Q: Why not plug them into the command and control at CENTCOM? You have
three operators at a Predator.
Rumsfeld: It's just a historical fact that they were operating these
things over recent years, and they were in Afghanistan prior to the
involvement of CENTCOM. And they continued during this period. That's
just the way it is.
Q: Could I just get the two of you maybe to free associate a little
bit more on that subject? We're seeing a --
Rumsfeld: To do what? (laughter)
Q: Free associate. (laughs) It's a sort of touchy-feely '70s term.
Myers: I don't believe I can --
Rumsfeld: You got the -- you got the wrong guys! (laughter)
Myers: I don't think I can do that with you. It's illegal. I --
Q: The general subject matter is there is this growing sort of
military role for the CIA, and we have you guys up here every day and
can ask questions. But the CIA is obviously -- operates in a lot more
shadowy way. People are thinking back and remembering some of the
excesses of that agency in Latin America 20, 30 years ago, and I think
there's -- there tends to be a growing sense of, hmm, what are getting
into here? Could you all talk more philosophically about the dealings
between the Pentagon and the CIA, and what the parameters are that
you're developing or thinking about for how to manage this new world
where the CIA now has its own real military capabilities that are not
necessarily under the control of the U.S. military, which has
transparency with the American public?
Rumsfeld: I can give you a couple of paragraphs on the subject.
Q: All right. That would be the free association.
Rumsfeld: Is that right?
The relationship between the Defense Department and the CIA today is
as good as I've ever seen it: that is to say, in the relationships and
the interaction and the connectivity.
We have people involved with things they're doing, and in -- for
example, in counterterrorism or in intelligence cells, where we're
trying to bring all kinds of intelligence information into one place.
They have people involved in things that we're doing in a sense of
connecting their capabilities and their assets to what we do.
The concern you're expressing, from a decade or two or three ago, I
think is not apt simply because people are sensitive to those things
and there's all kinds of congressional consultation, there's all kinds
of procedures within the executive branch so that things that the
agency is planning to do are well vetted in the appropriate ways
before they do them.
I think the general relationship on the ground tends to be that if
we're not there, the CIA, obviously, has the reporting relationship
straight up through the CIA and we're not involved. To the extent they
are there, and we then get involved, there's an early period where
they're both there and they're doing somewhat different things,
needless to say. And then, at a certain point, the defense element is
large enough that it becomes -- things tend to chop over to it and the
chain of command goes up through the combatant commander, except for,
obviously, things that don't fit within our statutory
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, a number of administration officials have spoke
(sic) recently about the need for a regime change in Iraq -- probably
the highest-profile being Secretary of State Colin Powell. Do you
favor such a regime change sooner rather than later? And how concerned
should Saddam Hussein be that the U.S. military may be the force of
that regime change?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think that the Congress passed legislation relating
to regime change. I've forgotten the name of the statute.
(to General Myers) Do you know?
Myers: I don't remember either.
Rumsfeld: But I --
Q: Aid to the opposition.
Rumsfeld: Well, that was part of it. But I think it was also broader.
And I think that's -- I don't know many people who have developed a
great deal of admiration for that regime and the way it treats its
people and the way it treats its neighbor, and the fact that it's
engaging in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
The timing, and whether or not anything is done with respect to any
country is something that is for the president and the country to make
And it's not for me to express views on that. So I don't.
Q: Has something new come to the attention of the United States with
regard to Iraq that has kicked us into an apparently higher gear for
planning and the contemplation of dealing with Iraq? Or is this a
continuum that --
Rumsfeld: I think the United States since Desert Storm has always had
a various planning with respect to Iraq and what it might do to its
neighbors. It's threatened -- it's invaded Kuwait. It's threatened the
Shi'a in the south and harmed them. It's harmed the Kurds in the
north. It has expressed its view that the regimes of its neighboring
countries are illegitimate and ought not to be there. This is -- it is
a country that threw out the inspectors, that has an active weapons of
mass destruction program. I don't know if anything's changed.
Q: Maybe it is a misperception here. Previous administrations have
adopted the policy of trying to contain Saddam Hussein. And it appears
from what the president has said and what Colin Powell has said that
containment no longer works in the view of this administration, that
the threat has somehow changed, increased, that the dynamics are
different, and therefore regime change has become a more substantial
goal for this administration than previous ones. Is that a -- is that
Rumsfeld: Well, if you think about what the president and Secretary
Powell have said, what they have said, it seems to me, is pretty much
self-evident, that every year that goes by and the inspectors are not
there, the development of their weapons of mass destruction proceed
apace, bringing them closer to a time when they will have those
weapons developed in a form that is more threatening than it had been
the year before or the year before that.
The second thing that's occurred is the technologies have advanced.
And to the extent that the sanctions -- which historically is the
case: sanctions tend to weaken over time, they're relaxed in one way
or another. And as those sanctions are relaxed and as dual use
capabilities flow into that country, their capability is restored in
terms of their ability to impose harm on their neighbors or threaten
Third, the September 11th attack, if you think of the president's
words and Secretary Powell's position, it reminded the world and the
United States that terrorist networks exist, that, in fact, they -- we
now know from the intelligence we've gathered that they've had a very
active effort underway to get chemical, biological and radiation
capabilities -- terrorist networks.
And we know that Iraq has those and does not wish much of -- many of
its neighbors well, if any. I don't think it has a neighbor that it
wishes well -- maybe.
So it's that combination of things that I would suspect led to the
president's comments and to the secretary's comments.
Q: But would it be accurate to say that this building, that the
Pentagon is now spending more time considering Iraq than it had
previously, in terms of your planning process?
Rumsfeld: This building has always been attentive, for at least more
than a decade now, 10, 12 years, to Iraq. We've had Northern no-fly
zones and Southern no-fly zones; been flying flights there attempting
to contain that country and prevent them from jumping on one of their
Q: Could I follow up, Mr. Secretary, on what you just said, please? In
regard to Iraq weapons of mass destruction and terrorists, is there
any evidence to indicate that Iraq has attempted to or is willing to
supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction? Because there are
reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and
some of these terrorist organizations.
Rumsfeld: Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always
interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there
are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns;
that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there
are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know. And
if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free
countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult
And so people who have the omniscience that they can say with high
certainty that something has not happened or is not being tried, have
capabilities that are -- what was the word you used, Pam, earlier?
Q: Free associate? (laughs)
Rumsfeld: Yeah. They can -- (chuckles) -- they can do things I can't
Q: Excuse me. But is this an unknown unknown?
Rumsfeld: I'm not --
Q: Because you said several unknowns, and I'm just wondering if this
is an unknown unknown.
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to say which it is.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if you believe something --
Rumsfeld: Right here. Right here. Right here.
Q: Mr. Secretary, point of clarification --
Rumsfeld: No, this is a promise.
Q: -- I think under Wright's rules, that a point of clarification --
Q: I just wanted to ask a real bottom line question. And many
apologies for taking you back to Zhawar Kili one last time.
But you mentioned here a couple of times that that incident is now
under investigation and cited that the team went up there for that
Rumsfeld: This is to the three individuals. Correct.
Q: That's right. But, of course, the team went up there when people
from this podium were saying it was definitely what you believed to be
senior al Qaeda and you were simply going there to find out which al
Qaeda you killed. Not that there -- at that time there were, of
course, no at least public allegations that perhaps these people were
innocent. So this investigation clearly that you were referring to
perhaps has emerged since the team went up there. So what is -- are
Rumsfeld: I don't know that.
Q: Are you investigating it? Is the CIA investigating it? Or -- you
Rumsfeld: No, I'm not. This -- no. This is something that CENTCOM has
decided and done, and properly so.
Q: So what is it that CENTCOM is now investigating in regard to the
Zhawar Kili attack?
Rumsfeld: I don't know what the right word is. I know that when a -- I
know -- you're correct. There was an interest in getting some positive
identification, if that were possible. And second, every time an
allegation comes up that seems to have some -- that raises questions
that ought to be addressed, then CENTCOM on its own decides that
they're going to have people go look at that. And whatever that word
is -- some call it, an investigation, others call it something else.
But that's what's taking place, is they are going up there doing that.
Q: But that's -- they're -- so CENTCOM -- just to make sure I really
understand. CENTCOM is investigating these potential allegations that
perhaps these were innocent people. Is that what -- and why is CENTCOM
investigating that and not the CIA, since it was their missile and
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that I said that CIA wasn't.
Q: Could you explain that a little more, and --
Rumsfeld: No. I just don't know what they're doing.
Q: But you do know that CENTCOM's looking into it.
Rumsfeld: I do.
Q: And could you just one more time explain something to me? Does the
CIA have the ability, the approval to pull the trigger without coming
to the military? Does the CIA have that bottom line authority to pull
the trigger without coming to the military?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I am going to start responding to
questions for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Q: Well, have you given -- let me try it the reverse way, then. Has
the U.S. military -- I don't know what the right verb is -- given the
CIA the approval, the authority, the whatever to pull the trigger
without coming to Central Command first?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that it's for us to give that authority. If
they have capabilities, they do them, what they wish to do.
Q: So they have the legal -- the legal authority to do things without
coming to you?
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to answer what the CIA does. But it's not --
it is not the Pentagon that gives other agencies of government
We're going to make the last -- the last question here.
Q: I just want to -- because you so cleverly buried Jim Miklaszewski's
question by characterizing it as something that was unknowable. But he
didn't ask you something that was unknowable. He asked you if you knew
of evidence that Iraq was supplying -- or willing to supply weapons of
mass destruction to terrorists --
Rumsfeld: He cited reports where people said that was not the case.
Q: Right. He's done that and --
Rumsfeld: And was my response was to that, and I thought it was good
Q: But if we are to believe things --
Rumsfeld: I could have said that the absence of evidence is not
evidence of absence, or vice versa.
Q: But we just want to know, are you aware of any evidence? Because
that would increase our level of belief from faith to something that
would be based on evidence.
Rumsfeld: Yeah, I am aware of a lot of evidence involving Iraq on a
lot of subjects. And it is not for me to make public judgments about
my assessment or others' assessment of that evidence.
I'm going to make that the last question.
Q: I wanted to go back to the terrorist attack. Can you provide any
information that -- and would this be also another one of the
successes that you might cite about the interrogation in Cuba? Did you
learn that the man might have al Qaeda connections? Is there anything
you can elaborate on the terrorist attack?
Rumsfeld: Other than to say what I said; that interrogations have
produced information and, indeed, in this instance, produced some of
the evidence that led to the decision by the Department of Justice.
Q: General Myers?
Myers: No, I sticking with the secretary. (laughter).
Q: Thank you.
Myers: Nice try!
(end DoD transcript)
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