Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With The National Journalists Roundtable
(Interview with the National Journalists Roundtable)
Rumsfeld: They say this has to be above your heart for six, five and a half weeks. I sleep in a silo where I've got a big foam rubber thing that's like this and this and this and this, only it's twice this size and you stick your arm in it and you have to leave it up all night like that. Can you imagine sleeping like that?
Q: What's the rationale for it?
Rumsfeld: Because they had three or four hours of surgery, and if you let your hand go below your heart it pools and it ruins all that work that three surgeons spent three hours -- you don't want to do that. [Laughter] At those prices.
Q: So you've been good, I take it.
Rumsfeld: I've been very very good. I've impressed myself.
We are apparently all with recording machines here so I should behave myself.
Q: No, just be yourself. [Laughter]
Q: This is all on the record.
Rumsfeld: I did not realize that. Usually these meetings aren't, but well, let me just say a couple of words and then we'll have a free-for-all here.
September 10th I had made a speech on the subject of transforming this institution and it is something that needs to be done, that urgently needs to be done. The next day the plane flew into the building and of course the immediate question was you really can't fight a war on terrorism simultaneously with trying to transform a large institution. There were those who suggested we should focus simply on the global war on terrorism.
It didn't take but a day or two to figure out that you just can't do that. We simply have to transform this place. It is every bit as important to the success of the global war on terrorism as the other things we're doing. We have an institution that is important to the country and the world in the sense that the Defense Department does contribute significantly to the peace and stability in the world, and without a stable world the world economy tanks and when that happens obviously none of the hopes and aspirations of people in our country and in the nations with whom we have such extensive economic interaction can be fulfilled. Things just don't work out well. People are poor, people are less confident. So you need a reasonably stable world, a world that people can develop confidence and have a reasonable degree that when they, satisfaction and assurance that when their kids go to school they'll be coming home and when they invest money why they'll get a decent return and that they can travel and go to work in buildings and not fear that they're going to be attacked whether in this country or in other parts of the world.
So how this place functions makes an enormous difference not just to our country, but because of our interdependence with so many other countries, to their countries as well.
So we have managed to push ahead with the transformation. What we've done is we've tried to elevate a series of risks and balance them off against each other. Risks, for example, of not properly tracking and retaining the people you need, whether it's because of pay or housing or health care or their work environment. That tension that exists there, people are a big part of the cost of this whole department. And of course we need a workforce that is adapted to the future, not the past. We need people who are capable of operating highly technical activities and providing the kind of leadership that is distinctive in our country and some other democracies.
Second, we've tried to elevate the risks of not modernizing our force. That is to say once your airplane fleet, for example, gets old, you can keep it in the air but you have to spend a lot more money on spare parts and there's a lot more down time, so therefore you have to have more airplanes to get the same number of sorties. You do simply have to keep replenishing -- whether it's ships or planes or tanks or whatever it is.
Then there's the transformational items that you need to address. What do you invest in now so that you'll have a capability in five, ten, fifteen, twenty years that aren't going to benefit any of the people today? Certainly not this President or this Secretary of Defense or the men and women in uniform today, but will in fact be the things that will give us the capability five, ten, fifteen, twenty years out. So what you have to do is balance the desire to spend the money on the people side against the desire to modernize and keep what you've got, your legacy systems going, and then also transform the force in a way that makes sense.
So that is what we're doing and trying to do and it creates tensions in any institution when you do that. People get attracted and attached to what is and they know about it and they're comfortable with it and they don't want to give it up and they'd like a few more of them, as opposed to being willing to take some of the funds for that and stick it into investments for something that will not really benefit this country until after their careers are over and certainly long after I'm gone at my age.
But if you think about it, the F-16 airplane, I was at the roll-out for that and we're still flying it. And when I say I was at the roll-out, it was in 1975 when I was Secretary of Defense the last time. The B-1 bomber is still flying. I was around for that decision. I was the one who approved the M-1 tank which was so successful in Desert Storm in the 1990s and is the basic piece of equipment for the Army today.
These things last a long time, therefore you've got to be right in those decisions. And so we're putting a lot of attention on that and I'm convinced that it will enable us to do a much better job in the global war on terrorism because the nature of the threats today, we do not really face highly competent armies, navies and air forces that are threatening our country today. What we do face are a set of capabilities and technologies and weapons of mass destruction that can cause enormous carnage in our country and deployed forces and friends and allies around the world. But to deal with that you really have to organize, train and equip to address those kinds of capabilities as opposed to just continuing what we were doing in the 20th Century.
The only other comment I'd make is that everyone who reads the papers today knows that one of the issues that the world is really thinking about and talking about and wondering about is this issue of preemption, the issue of preventive action. I would use the phrase anticipatory self defense. Because if a terrorist can attack at any time at any place using any technique, and you know it's physically impossible to defend at every place at every time against every conceivable technique, then you know the only way you can have to defend yourself is to anticipate that attack and preemptively do something about it.
For example, Afghanistan did not attack the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. The Taliban in Afghanistan created an environment where the al Qaeda could train terrorists. What we had to do was to give the Taliban notice that that wasn't acceptable, and when they refused to cooperate, go and replace the government. That was a preemptive act. That was a preventive act. It was saying to the world that we've made a conscious judgment that a terrorist organization like al Qaeda which has trained thousands of people and sent them all across the globe, and Afghanistan and Taliban creating a haven for them to train those terrorists is unacceptable. The damage, the risk to us is too great and the risk to other democracies is too great, and therefore, we feel compelled to go do something about it, which we did.
That is a very different thing from waiting for a Pearl Harbor or from waiting for another terrorist attack to do something to you. We decided, and I'm personally persuaded that it was certainly the right decision by President Bush, that the responsible thing to do today, is to recognize that there are states that are terrorist states, there are states that harbor terrorists, and that given the pervasiveness of the technologies relating to chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, one has to know that the relationship between terrorist states that have those weapons and terrorist networks that are acquiring those weapons and want those weapons is a dangerous thing for the world. Therefore the United States has to, and that's what you see being debated today.
If we lost 3,000 by having people take our aircraft and fly them into buildings and if we're looking down the road at chemical or biological or nuclear weapons in the hands of these people where you're talking about losing not 3,000 but 300,000 or a million, then the issue as to what you do about that is certainly something that people have to talk about, think about, that's why the Senate's holding hearings, that's why people in the Congress are considering it, that's why people are writing about it in the press. It seems to me it's a useful discussion point.
With that I'll stop and answer questions.
Q: If I can follow up on that particular point.
When the Soviet Union was around they had the capability of, a destructive capability far greater than even what you're talking about with these terrorist networks. You talk about 300,000 possibly being killed. But when terrorists attack using chemical and nuclear, biological weapons, the Soviet Union had the capability of killing millions. And yet the strategy at that time was essentially deterrence, that our nuclear capability was such that no one dared attack us because of what we would do in retaliation.
Given that, what's wrong with deterrence now? What's different about this particular threat than the old threat?
Rumsfeld: Well, it is an important question and I think the way to think about it is to go back throughout the history since the advent of nuclear weapons. We have had them now for 55, 57 years. They've not been fired in anger since 1945. That's an impressive thing. When you were dealing with the Soviet Union and the United States you did have the concept of mutual assured destruction. Were they to use them we could use them and the penalty that we could impose on them was so great that it was not in their interest to think that they could either use them or threaten to use them. And it created a relatively stable world environment because the power of the United States was posed against the power of the Soviet Union.
Notwithstanding that fact, we ended up with the Korean War, the Vietnam War, we had terrorist attacks, there were a whole lot of things that nuclear weapons never deterred throughout this entire period. Lots of things, bad things have been going on in this world. It didn't deter what was going on in Rwanda or Burundi. It didn't deter any number of things that have taken place that have been terribly tragic for lots of people.
So it was never a perfect deterrent. It was only a deterrent against likes, for all practical purposes.
Well, people say today, my goodness, no country with any sense would use a weapon of mass destruction against a country with nuclear power. And they know that the result would just be immediate, instantaneous, massive retaliation.
Well, think about it. It is not that clear in this sense.
Let's say that the al Qaeda had used a biological weapon and recently Johns Hopkins had an exercise where they looked at smallpox, I think it was called Dark Winter, it's unclassified. They looked at smallpox in four or five places in the United States. Within a relatively short period of weeks you were upto a million people dead.
Let's say the al Qaeda had done that and the al Qaeda are in Afghanistan, and the Afghanistan people didn't do that. Can you imagine going in and saying to the President, I think it would be a terrific idea if we used a nuclear response to the fact in Afghanistan because the al Qaeda used a biological weapon or a chemical weapon against the United States. And you'd end up punishing people who in many respects were victims, they were hostages of the al Qaeda. The al Qaeda came in and because the Taliban took over Afghanistan and cooperated with al Qaeda, you had a situation where foreigners, al Qaeda were non-Afghans imposing their will on the Afghan people, and the punishment would be against people who were really not the cause of the biological attack -- the hypothetical biological attack. I'm using this totally illustratively, so if anyone is writing anything or reading anything or listening to your tapes make sure we don't misunderstand anything I've said.
So it does not deter necessarily all -- nuclear weapons do not necessarily deter all those things, and it seems to me when you say what's changed, well really not much because in fact nuclear weapons never deterred a whole host of things -- wars and conflicts and unfortunate things that have taken place in the last 50 years.
Q: What about invading Iraq? Is that going to happen?
Rumsfeld: You know that you're in the Pentagon and not the White House, don't you Clarence?
Q: Absolutely. But [inaudible] -- [Laughter]
Rumsfeld: What will happen there I am not in a position to know, nor have decisions been made. But the reality is the Congress some years ago decided that the world would be a better place if that regime were changed, and this President agreed with that congressional action and has said so. We're currently engaged in diplomatic activity, economic sanctions, and military activity with Operation Northern and Southern Watch. It has not -- none of those three seem to have done an awful lot of good in terms of improving Iraq's behavior, but what may or may not get decided on -- I have no idea what caused this recent frenzy of discussion about Iraq in the last three or four or five days.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if Iraq is such a threat why is it that the countries that are so close to it geographically speaking do not seem to share the desire for an immediate, at least, regime change. And to go beyond the notion of taking out the specific threat of whatever weapons they might have, what kind of commitment do you think it would take for American troops to actually see, to follow through with a regime change?
Rumsfeld: I would really prefer not to spend the entire time we have on Iraq. The reason I say that is it simply feeds the frenzy that seems to be seizing the media today in the United States and I don't think that's a particularly useful thing to do. I'll answer this question on Iraq and then I'd much prefer to discuss a host of other subjects, all of which are interesting.
The premise of your question is probably wrong. If the behavior of Iraq is as characterized, why wouldn't other countries be concerned about it. I think if you sat down with the leadership of any country over there that you'd find they have a very low regard for that fellow. You'd also find they're much smaller countries and they're much weaker. When you have a neighbor that is that big and has that big an army and has chemical weapons and has used them on its neighbors, the Iranians; they have used them on its own people; an active biological weapons program; an aggressive nuclear weapons program, then it's like the little guy in the neighborhood's fairly careful about what he says publicly.
But I think that if you think that regime would win a popularity contest in the region, you're just wrong.
Q: No, I just wonder if they would support an attempt to overthrow that regime.
Rumsfeld: Well, they did the last time, and we'll see if the decision's made to do something at some point down the road or if the sanctions issues come up again or if there's a major diplomatic effort that's embarked on, why I think you'd find that countries would find a way publicly or privately to be supportive.
I don't know of anyone I've talked to out in the region who would walk across the street to shake Saddam Hussein's hand.
Q: The other part had to do with this business of a regime change. Clearly it's a lot more far-reaching than taking out some weapons. Do you have any idea what kind of commitment of troops over what period of time that would take?
Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness, I'm not going to get into that. No such decision has been made.
Q: If we can go back to counter terrorism for a minute, are you satisfied with the pace of the pursuit of al Qaeda operatives? Would you like to see it moved along or do you have a plan to move this pursuit along?
Rumsfeld: That's an interesting question because in the last week or so there have been several articles saying that I'm impatient or unhappy with the pace of things, and the truth is the men and women in the military are doing a terrific job. Our combatant commanders are doing an excellent job. Our department was not organized, trained and equipped to do manhunts. We were organized, trained and equipped to deal with armies, navies and air forces. So what we're doing is we're migrating our capabilities over to the kinds of things that will better enable us to do the tasks at hand, and that is to help track down terrorists and terrorist networks, disrupting those networks, and dealing with countries that harbor terrorists.
On the other hand, I can understand why the stories come out because I am, I suppose, genetically impatient. When I think of this building being hit by an airplane and I think of the World Trade Center and the thousands of people who died, and I transport myself mentally a year out into another terrorist attack, whether it's chemical or biological or conventional or nuclear, and I say to myself, what would I want to have done in this year, starting today, between now and the time that event occurs to help prevent that attack, to try to save those lives, to try to delay it or reduce its effect or mitigate it once it occurs because it's not possible to defend against everything. So I do come out every morning with a good deal of sense of urgency, and I impart that into this institution. I try to. And I suspect that's why some of the articles appear that I'm impatient with things.
I am impatient. I probably will remain impatient. And if everything were being done absolutely perfectly, I probably would still be impatient. I am anxious to see that we can stop any conceivable terrorist attack that it's possible to stop. I'm anxious to capture or kill any terrorist we can find. I'm anxious to see that countries who are harboring them stop doing that. I'd like to keep working to arrest them and interrogate them and freeze their bank accounts and make it hard to recruit and hard to retain people.
Q: If I can just follow up, is the sense of urgency that's employed with this pursuit as it's underway now, in synch with your definition of urgency?
Q: Or are they out of synch?
Rumsfeld: Oh, no. I think people have got that sense of urgency. But you have to -- I mean, that's what leadership is supposed to do is to keep helping to set directions and helping to encourage people to do better and do more, and to be wiser in how we do things and to improve the effectiveness of what we're doing. That is a big job. Fortunately, we've got a lot of wonderful people here in this department who are dedicated and determined to do just that. They're patriotic and they're courageous and they're intelligent.
Q: On the capture, an Osama bin Laden question. I watch your briefing every day and usually the question of his whereabouts or his --
Q: -- state of affairs comes up, and your answer has been you don't know or you can't presuppose.
Rumsfeld: The benefit of being true.
Q: But if you did know, would you necessarily tell us?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I see. That's a fair question.
First of all let me answer it. I don't know. I have not seen any real evidence that he's alive since last December. So I don't know if he's alive or not. And if he is alive, if he's healthy or ill, or where.
Everyone about once every three or four days, someone speculates on it. Someone from Pakistan or someone from here or some place else, or you see a snippet of information that may be disinformation or it may be accurate or someone may believe it's accurate but it's actually not accurate.
The short answer to your other question is, if I knew and had coordinates and had any reason to believe we knew where he was, you can be sure I would not be sitting around talking to you, we would be going and finding him. So I don't have to worry about answering that question.
Q: But if indeed you discovered he was dead or if he was captured --
Rumsfeld: Oh, in that period. After it was nailed down? Oh no, certainly we'd tell the truth. If he'd been captured we'd say so, if he'd been injured we'd say so, if he were dead, we'd say so.
Q: Is there any concern that if there isn't a bin Laden outcome that public support for the war on terrorism might, that Americans might figure well, he's captured or he's dead, this is done? And that you might lose some --
Rumsfeld: Oh, I see what you're getting at.
First of all, no, I don't believe so. But even if it were true, we'd still tell the truth. We'd tell whatever we knew. But no, the American people have got a good center of gravity. They know that he's just one person. There are six, eight, ten, twelve people who could pick up that apparatus today, may even have done so today already. They know where the bank accounts are, they know who they trained, they know what the training manual says and what these guys are capable of doing. They know where their sources of information are and how to communicate.
No. The effect of losing a leader can be bad if he's a particularly charismatic person. It also can be good. Somebody better can come along. Worse from our standpoint.
So I don't think it's self-evident whether it would be good or bad if he were dead. Except symbolically. In other words, because that's what we're trying to do is to find him.
Q: How long do you think U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan? Are you concerned at all about mission creep? And what kind of force do you think will replace U.S. troops once they leave?
Rumsfeld: There are probably as many non-U.S. forces as there are U.S. forces today. If you combine the coalition forces with the International Security Assistance Force it's probably more non-U.S. than U.S.
How long will they be there? It's just not knowable. It would be foolish to have gone in there and done all we've done and kick out the Taliban and the al Qaeda and put them on the run and then to pull out precipitously and have the interim Afghan, transitional Afghan government fall and Taliban come back in and take over and turn it back into a terrorist training camp. So we have an obligation to see that that doesn't happen.
How long it will take the new government to find its sea legs and get institutions -- I mean the country was just so badly abused with the war with the Soviet Union and the civil wars among the war lords and the Taliban, the harshness of that regime was so repressive. Drought for several years. They've had a tough go, so it's not going to flip around fast. The narcotics trade was -- one of the biggest narcotics traffickers in the world under the Taliban.
Q: There was an article in Saturday's Post talking about the implementation of more aggressive acts in Afghanistan. My question is --
Rumsfeld: More aggressive acts. What's that mean? By who?
Q: By the United States.
Rumsfeld: By the United States government?
Q: Well, by the troops on the ground.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. Okay.
Q: My question is how more aggressive can the troops be in the future than they are now?
Rumsfeld: First of all your premise presupposes that the article was correct, which it wasn't. I don't know what more aggressive would mean. Certainly the people on the ground are doing sweeps. We had, I can't remember if it was 70 or 170 local tips by Afghans that there's a cache of weapons over here and you ought to go get it, in the last 60 days. In other words there's more than one a day we're getting which tells you something about how friendly the locals are.
Second, I looked at one number, something like 327,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition, mortars, you name it. It's just stacks and stacks and stacks of weapons that local people are coming and giving us a tip saying you ought to go look over here. We'd like to show you where something is. So there's a friendly there.
The other thing that's good is that refugees are returning, which tells you they're voting with their feet; it's better in Afghanistan than not.
Then you say what more aggressive can you do? Well in Afghanistan the answer is not much. Most of those folks are in hiding -- the Taliban -- or gone or dead; the al Qaeda are for the most part out of the country. There are still some in there but they're across the borders in Iran and in Pakistan and in other neighboring countries. They can come right back in the minute you turn your head. So you have to be aggressive in seeing that they don't feel that there's an opportunity for them to reestablish themselves.
We can probably try to find better ways of finding the al Qaeda who have left Afghanistan and we're getting good cooperation in Pakistan, from their army to more aggressively go after pockets of al Qaeda. We're getting no cooperation from Iran with respect to the al Qaeda there. There are al Qaeda in Iraq, and you can be certain we're not getting a lot of cooperation there. There are al Qaeda in Yemen. We are getting cooperation there, we're working with their government. I regret to say I'm afraid that al Qaeda are going to end up in Indonesia which is a worrisome place. So I don't know if the word aggressive is the right word, but certainly -- we're doing maritime interceptions now where we're stopping ships that we have reason to believe have passengers who ought not to be getting away or contraband that ought not to be moving into places where it can kill people.
Q: Can I follow up on that? Because one of the things that was mentioned in that Post article was maritime interceptions, and said that they would be, there was consideration of expanding the interceptions from an area close to Pakistan to making it worldwide. Is that being considered?
Rumsfeld: No. We're currently doing them in a large area even away from Pakistan. We're doing it all the way through the Gulf, down around the Horn of Africa and in large areas. We're also doing some in the Mediterranean. But at the moment we don't have any plans -- worldwide. Do we expect to go to the Arctic Ocean? I don't know. But we are trying to find information. If we had information that there was someone moving from the Philippines, for example, to Indonesia we might very well try to intervene, but it's a big bunch of oceans out there.
Q: Is there any plan for expanding, whether or not it's worldwide, but expanding the current level of maritime interceptions beyond what it is now?
Rumsfeld: Not that I know of. The number of ships varies between 50 and 100 in the Persian Gulf, for example. That's a lot of ships doing interception activities. But no, we would have a maritime interception effort anywhere we believed that the cost-benefit ratio made sense.
Q: You were talking about your vision for transforming DoD September 10th. After September 11th how have your calculations and your broader view of what needs to be done here changed?
Rumsfeld: For one thing the sense of urgency. That clearly has changed. You don't take an attack like this country did and not have it focus your attention.
Second, interestingly, we have put it as one of our very top priorities in the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Defense Planning Guidance which preceded September 11th and were reflected in my transformation remarks on September 10th. We had included homeland security and elevated the whole question of this so-called asymmetrical attacks that can affect you -- terrorism, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, cyber attacks, those things that are distinctively different from armies, navies, and air forces, which is what has been our traditional business.
Q: There are reports that you're consolidating intelligence. I believe one headline in Steve's paper was something to the effect of Rumsfeld would strengthen his hand over intelligence. Is that in your agenda?
Rumsfeld: I'm always amused by the "strengthen your hand".
Q: It might be your other hand. I don't know. [Laughter]
Rumsfeld: It has nothing to do with strengthening my hand with that.
I was asked in my confirmation hearing what I worried about when I went to bed at night for our country and my answer was intelligence. That with the end of the Cold War and the step-up in openness of all of the societies of the world except for the dictatorships, I wouldn't say that North Korea or Iraq or Iran or Libya have opened up, but for the most part everyone is trading with everybody and traveling and communicating and internetting and doing what they do. That has resulted in the fact that the world is such a big place and there's so much dual-use technology moving around that today all of those countries do a great deal of what they do underground so it's very hard to know what they're doing.
Second, when the Soviet Union ended, a lot of the knowledge they had about how we do things was communicated to a bunch of other countries and therefore a lot of the techniques we use have become less useful. In this business denial and deception is engaged in and the ability of other countries to engage in denial and deception has been improved because of the proliferation of knowledge about how we do our business, and that's been unhelpful.
So it is a big world, there's a lot we don't know, there's a lot we can't know, and that means there's a lot of potential dangers that we have to face. What I've done is I've had some folks, put some folks to work on the task at seeing how we can improve the intelligence elements of the Department of Defense and work more effectively with George Tenet and the CIA to try to improve the security of the American people. That's what's underway.
Q: Another strengthening your hand question, would you like to see the military have greater authority when it comes to domestic law enforcement in the fight against terrorism?
Rumsfeld: No. The President has asked that those laws be reviewed. The reviews haven't started. Apparently there was some reference to that in the Homeland Security report. But I suppose, who knows what the President would decide, but I had been asked that question before the Homeland Security book came out and I don't know of any reason why the so-called posse comitatus law would need to be changed.
What happens is for a great many decades now the United States has preferred to not have the uniformed military personnel function in the United States as a first responder. That is to say a police force or a law enforcement mechanism. There are times as we all know when the governors will call up the National Guard and use it to restore order if there's a riot or something. There are times like the Olympics where we had probably more people than we had in Afghanistan out there in the State of Utah. But they were always functioning, not in charge of security but as a supporting role to the law enforcement agencies. So we can do pretty much what the society needs without changing those laws or without altering the role of the uniformed military, insofar as I know. I find I'm learning new things every day, so it's entirely possible that six or eight months from now someone will show me something that needs to be changed, but I haven't seen anything that needs to be changed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what did you think of this offer today by Iraq to let the United States and members of the U.S. Congress come over and inspect possible weapon sites, or they think are suspected weapon sites. Are they serious do you think, or are they just jerking America's chain?
Rumsfeld: The latter. [Laughter] The regime in Iraq has been very skillful at manipulating the press and putting out disinformation and making themselves look good at the expense of the United States. Anything they say or do is printed as though it's true and carried repeatedly throughout the world as though it were true until someone knocks it down. Of course you try to knock it down but you're not on the ground, you can't. We still have Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch and every once in awhile they'll shoot at our airplanes and we'll fire back and hit a radar or a fiber optic relay station or something on the ground. And of course the first thing they do is put out a press release saying we killed 16 civilians, men, women and children, it was a hospital or it was a mosque, or something like this. Just flat lies. And how in the world do you run around and undo all of that?
So what have they done historically?
First of all we had inspectors crawling all over that country, the UN did, and they couldn't find much of anything until there was a defector, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, who had been involved with some of these programs and cued the UN inspectors and said here's where you have to go look an they go look and they got in and they found things. They have lied about, under the rules they were supposed to end their weapons of mass destruction programs, they didn't. They continued with them, and they still have chemical and biological weapons and they're still working on nuclear weapons. Even though the UN Resolutions said that they would do that, and they agreed to do it in 1991, and they haven't done it.
So they allow inspectors in at times of their convenience and their choosing and have hidden things. They have things that are mobile, they have things that are underground. It is next to impossible with a group of people like that who have spent years digging underground for a handful of -- I can't think of anything funnier than a handful of congressmen wandering around thinking -- you've seen the size of the country? They'd have to be there for the next 50 years trying to find something. [Laughter] I mean, it's a joke.
What they'll do is every time they get worried about whether or not the international community is unhappy with them then they'll offer to have inspectors come in, or they'll invite somebody to come in and do something. And it will all be a sham.
Q: A quick one about leaks. You expressed a great deal of concern about leaks. There's now controversy on Capitol Hill about polygraph tests for members of Congress. Do you approve of polygraph tests for Pentagon officials in order to track down leaks?
Rumsfeld: I don't know what the FBI will do. I've asked the FBI to come in and track down a leak on a leaked war plan, and whether they'll do that or not --
Q: Are you referring to the New York Times story, that war plan --
Rumsfeld: Yes. I've never chased a leak in my life until this one. But the unprofessionalism of people leaking things that are classified, that are under federal law subject to criminal penalties, that without question make it more difficult for the United States to achieve its goal of trying to protect the American people from terrorist attacks, and without question put American lives at risk I think is just inexcusable. I don't know what you heard me say about it but whatever it was, it was modulated and calibrated far below what I really feel.
Q: Do you think the New York Times story put American lives at risk?
Rumsfeld: There is no question but that when a person cleared for classified information releases a war plan or a draft of a war plan or papers -- I haven't seen it. It had never been briefed to me, never been briefed to the President, never been briefed to General Franks. It was obviously some papers that somebody down below had been involved with, so I don't even know the document. But there's no question but that when someone releases papers that relate to war plans it's a violation of federal criminal law, they ought to be in jail, and I'm told that I shouldn't say that because they ought to be addressed by the criminal justice system, let me put it that way, rather than predicting an outcome. [Laughter]
Q: Would you mind individuals in this building being subjected to a polygraph --
Rumsfeld: I want the FBI to do that which it decides it should do. That's not my business. I want a thorough investigation and I hope those people are caught and I hope that anyone who's got any ounce of civic duty and knows anything about who did it will tell us.
Q: Have you also called in the Air Force's security office, investigative --
Rumsfeld: That's the way one does it. There's an executive agent for certain things and if you want an investigation I'm told you ask that executive agent -- it happened to be the Air Force -- and they then prepare information that can then be given to the FBI so that the FBI can make a judgment as to what it will or will not think is appropriate by way of an investigation.
Thank you for coming in. Nice to see you all.
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