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28 October 2002

Defense Department Briefing Transcript

(F-16 collision/condolence, Guantanamo detainees/four released,
Guantanamo/new detainees, Russia/gas use/identification,
Guard/Reserve/contingency planning, Iraq/leafleting, Yugoslavian
aid/Iraqi missiles, Ukrainian radar/Iraq, proliferation concerns,
Iraq/coalition engagement, Jordan slaying/USAID diplomat,
U.S.-Jordan/military exercise, Iraqi targets/No Fly Zone, Iraqi
opposition/training) (4210)
Assistant Secretary of Defense Victoria Clarke and Navy Rear Admiral
David Gove, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, briefed the media October 28 at the Pentagon.
Following is the Pentagon transcript:
(begin transcript)
U.S. Department of Defense News Briefing
Victoria Clarke, ASD PA
Monday, Oct. 28, 2002 - 12:20 p.m. EST
(Also participating was Navy Rear Adm. David A. Gove, deputy director
for global operations, J-3, Joint Staff.)
Clarke: Good afternoon, everybody. We are -- we've got lots of things
going on this afternoon. Going to try to keep this pretty short.
Last Friday, two F-16 aircraft collided in a training incident at Hill
Air Force Base in Utah. One pilot ejected safely, while the other,
Lieutenant Jorma Huhtala, died in the crash. He was a graduate of the
United States Air Force Academy, and the son of the United States
ambassador to Malaysia, Marie Huhtala. Our condolences, of course, go
out to the ambassador and her family over the loss of their son in
service to the country.
Last Saturday, October 26th, four detainees were released from
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to their native countries. Their release
was based on may factors, including law enforcement, intel, medical
considerations, as well as whether the individual was perceived to be
a threat to the United States. Senior leadership of the Department of
Defense, in consultation with other U.S. government officials,
determined that these four detainees no longer posed a threat to U.S.
security. As part of the transfer process, the International Committee
of the Red Cross has conducted independent interviews with the
detainees prior to their departure from Guantanamo. And this morning,
a number of new detainees arrived, bringing the number to
approximately 625.
On another sad note, late last week, on Thursday, Thomas B. Ross,
former Pentagon spokesman, died of cancer at the age of 73. Tom Ross
was assistant secretary for Public Affairs from 1977 to 1981. He was a
best-selling author on military matters, a distinguished newspaper
reporter, and dedicated public servant. And over the years, Tom has
provided a lot of great counsel to the people who followed in his
shoes, including me, and we all benefited from his advice. And our
very sincere condolences go to his family and friends.
Admiral Gove, no statement?
Gove:  Thank you, Ms. Clarke.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I, too, wish to convey our
deepest condolence to the family of Lieutenant Jorma Huhtala, who died
in the plane crash last week.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Clarke:  Charlie?
Question: Torie, I understand that one of the four released was a
Pakistani, because they had TV pictures in -- (word inaudible) --
Pakistan. Could you tell us -- could you give us the nationalities of
the others? And are you preparing to release more?
Clarke: We are definitely planning to prepare more -- to release more.
I couldn't tell you exactly when because there are a lot of factors
that have to be considered.
And, Charlie, we're not talking about nationalities. I'm sure in --
other countries may choose to do so. But for operational security
reasons, we're not talking about where they're from or where they're
Q: Are these people simply being taken somewhere and released, or are
they all being turned over to their countries of origin, their home
Clarke: Again, for operational security reasons, we're not talking
about the transfer and how it comes about. Some of that is at the
request of the detainees themselves.
Q: So you're not saying whether or not you're simply setting these
people free, or turning them over to other countries, who may or may
not question them, prosecute them or whatever?
Clarke: It is being done in close coordination with their native
countries. And beyond that, we're not saying.
Q: You mentioned -- Torie, you mentioned some new arrivals. Could you
say how many, and when?
Clarke: It brings the number up to approximately 625. And again, we're
going to -- we're not saying from where. We're trying to stay with
approximate numbers. As we've said all along, we have no desire to
hold large numbers of these people for a long period of time. If we
can go through all those factors, determine someone doesn't have intel
value, doesn't have -- is not a real threat to the United States or
our friends or allies, we think there will be a proper handling on the
other end, then we'd like to get rid of some of these people. So we're
working a lot of those issues with countries, but it takes time.
Q:  They did come from Afghanistan?
Clarke:  I'm not saying.
Q: And it's been some months, hasn't it, since you've brought any new
people in? When was the last time you --
Clarke: I can't remember. We can find out. It's been -- it's been
several weeks, at least. And they go through screening processes. We
try to take this very deliberately. We try to weigh a lot of factors
and determine who's appropriate to send to Guantanamo and who's not.
Q: Are these individuals that have been held elsewhere for a period of
time, or are they recently captured, the new ones that --
Clarke:  I'm sorry?
Q: The new individuals that were sent to Guantanamo this morning, have
they been held elsewhere for a period of time or are they recently
Clarke:  Prior to coming to Guantanamo, you mean.  I don't know.
Q: Does the U.S. have any indication yet of what gas the Russians used
to break up the siege in Moscow, the Moscow theater?
Clarke: Not that I'm aware of. I know we, like a lot of other
governments, are trying to work with the Russians to determine what
happened, determine what the gas was. I guess it's -- would be needed,
obviously, for medical treatment. But we don't have that.
Q: There was a news report over the weekend that as many as 265,000
reservists could be called up if there were a major action against
Iraq. Is that accurate? And when would such call-ups begin, how much
before the fighting were kicked off?
Clarke: The "if" part is accurate. We were talking about this before
we came out. We can't say it often enough: The president hasn't made a
any decisions about military action in Iraq. So it's just not really
smart to be speculating about speculation. Reserve and Guard are an
incredibly important part of all military operations, in the past and
in the future. That is the total force concept. So if there is indeed
military action in Iraq, there will be a call-up of the appropriate
number of Guard and Reserve. But I just wouldn't speculate beyond
Q: Having said that, wouldn't you have to offer yourself some cushion?
I mean, these people just can't be called up and put where they're
needed overnight. I mean, this would have to be done in some fairly
substantial time period ahead of any action that might be ordered or
taken, wouldn't it?
Clarke: Well, things -- I'll actually let Admiral Gove speak to that
one, but I'd just say things take a lot of planning and a lot of
foresight, but, as you've heard Secretary Rumsfeld and Chairman Myers
say many, many times, the president has not decided yet what he may or
may not do in terms of military action in Iraq. If he decides military
action is the appropriate course of action, the U.S. military,
including the Guard and Reserve, will be prepared to move, and to move
But you might want to add to that, sir.
Gove: Depending on the nature of the specialties that are called up,
there is a timeline associated with bringing those folks into active
duty and getting them prepared and processed to properly support the
total force.
Q: Well, would you anticipate that a call-up would be made or at least
the beginning of the call-up would be made before a decision is made
by the president, in order to position themselves for any action that
might be taken?
Clarke: Contingency planning includes a lot of things, including what
you would do with the Guard and Reserve. I just won't go past that.
Q: What was your comment on the number? Are you saying you're
confirming that?
Clarke: We didn't talk about numbers. I mean, there's no reason --
it's all contingency planning at this time. And I think we've tried
very hard not to be too cute or too coy about this. If the president
decides military action is appropriate, the U.S. military will be
ready to move, and move quickly. And we'll use the numbers and the
resources that we think are appropriate. But we're not going to put
numbers on it now for sure.
Q: Given the nature of the war on terrorism, would people not be
called up to protect U.S. facilities and bases perhaps in this country
and elsewhere, as opposed to just for use in an Iraq situation?
Gove: There are about 53,000-plus [58,133] Reservists right now, down
from a high of about 77,000 [85,592 on 26 June 2002], that have been
called up over the last 12 or 15 months in support of the global war
on terrorism. And some of those folks are in the force protection
Clarke:  Yes, sir?
Q: Torie, you said that we are definitely planning to release more
from Guantanamo. Is the government also planning to bring more, now
that Camp Delta is operational, there's more room and there are more
facilities to handle more detainees being brought there from other
Clarke: We think it's likely there will be more detainees. I couldn't
tell you how many or exactly when. But people who pose a threat to the
security of this country, to our friends and allies -- it's very
important to have them in a place we can make sure they're not causing
trouble. People who are of intel value -- one of the best things that
has happened over the last year, for instance, is the information we
have been able to glean from detainees, including Guantanamo, to help
prevent future attacks.
Q: Do I understand correctly that there was a new leaflet drop in one
of the no-fly zones? And if so, can you say when and what the message
was and --
Clarke:  (To the admiral.)  Can you address that one?
Gove: I'm not aware of additional leaflet drops in the no- fly zones,
at least in the last several weeks [Leaflets were dropped 27 October
2002 near two Iraq towns].
Clarke:  Jim?
Q: There was a report over the weekend that the Yugoslavs -- or
Yugoslav scientists have been helping Iraq develop a cruise missile.
And there was a formal complaint or maybe an informal complaint made
by the United States to that effect. Is that report accurate? Are you
concerned that the Yugoslavs have been helping Iraq develop cruise
And I also wanted to ask about the -- the Ukrainian defense minister
was here last week. Did you discuss the case of the Kolchuga radar
with him? And have you determined whether that radar was transferred
to Iraq?
Clarke: On Yugoslavs, you should talk to the State Department about
any communications from the U.S. government to the government of
I think there's seldom a conversation with another country that a
senior official from this administration doesn't talk about the
problems and concerns we have with proliferation, about the spread and
the selling and the distribution of the means to do weapons of mass
destruction, other sorts of things. So it's an issue that is raised
often and raised very vigorously by the United States. Specific
conversations about the government of Yugoslavia, you need to talk to
the State Department.
Q: You can't say whether you have any evidence that Yugoslav
scientists are helping the Iraqis develop --
Clarke:  The State Department could.
Q:  And --
Clarke:  And, I'm sorry, your second one?
Q:  (Off mike.)
Clarke: I do not have a readout for you on the minister of defense. We
will try to get that. I just don't have it this morning.
Q: Well, I mean, you know, judging from the statements of spokesmen
here, that this has seemed to be treated as sort of a
business-as-usual kind of meeting, which seems kind of odd in light of
the fact that the U.S. government has accused the president of the
Ukraine of approving the sale of this radar to Iraq in violation of
the U.N. sanctions. So, I mean, how would you -- you know, what was
this meeting all about?
Clarke: Jim, we'll have to get back to you on that. I just don't have
a readout on the meeting. I don't know if it was business as usual, if
it was something different. But we will get what we can for you on
that one.
Q: Admiral, related to that, have you observed these Kolchuga radars
out in the field in Iraq? Have the Operation Northern Watch or
Southern Watch planes ever seen those?
Gove: I don't know if Central Command combatant commander has seen
those, as far as intelligence. We can find out if specifics --
specific radar installations and capabilities have been obvious from
the intelligence gathering. But I'm not aware of whether or not
they've been used.
Q: Torie, excuse me. Regarding the Yugoslavs again, aside from any
communication that might have gone on between the State Department and
Yugoslavia, is the Defense Department concerned over reports that the
Iraqis may be obtaining information to build cruise missiles?
Clarke:  I don't want --
Q:  And I mean --
Clarke: I don't want to speak particularly to the government of
Yugoslavia because that's something we've just decided we want the
State Department to talk about. What I've said before holds true for
this department, as it does for the State Department, the White House
and senior government officials. I think there was seldom a meeting of
U.S. senior government officials, from the national security
apparatus, if you will, with their counterparts around the world that
they don't raise concerns and issues about proliferation. It is one of
the greatest driving factors, if you will, of our concerns with the
spreading and growth of weapons of mass destruction around the world.
So that's the backdrop, that's the context for what may be going on
with the government of Yugoslavia.
Q: But I mean, given the fact that the military ability of Iraq
certainly is of concern to this department, why can't you discuss
that? (Off mike) -- leave it up --
Clarke: Because we think it's appropriate for -- I'm not saying we are
leaving it up to them. We decided that discussion -- public discussion
about conversations with the government of Yugoslavia should get
handle by the State Department.
And last detainee arrival at Gitmo before this morning was August 5th.
(To staff)  Does that say 34?
Q:  Thirty-four detainees?
Clarke:  Last time around, there were 34 brought in, on August 5th.
Q: Why won't you say how many there were this time, then, since you
said last time?
Clarke: As -- and I think -- I know I've talked about it, I think the
secretary has -- we are moving into a mode, if you will, where we are
going to try to return more of these detainees back to the native
countries. For operational security reasons -- and as I said, for some
of them this is a request of the detainees themselves -- we're going
to try to limit discussions of exactly who's moving when and where,
those sorts of things. I know it creates some confusion for you all,
and that's not our intent. But we are --
Q: Okay. But, I mean, to say -- you just told us there were 34 who
came in August, and now you're also saying that you won't say how many
came in today?
Clarke: You're right. And they shouldn't have written that down on the
piece of paper so I would read it out loud. (Laughter.)
For consistency sake, we're going to say approximately 625 is the
number we have at Guantanamo now.
Q: Well, why were you willing, a week ago, or four days ago, to say
598, and now you say "approximately" 625? I mean why?
Clarke: Because the circumstances are changing. As I said, we are
getting into an area we've got different detainees under consideration
that we are hopeful we can move out of Guantanamo and back to their
host countries. There are a lot of considerations, foremost among
them, security. So we are in an area in which we are going to try to
stick to approximate numbers.
Q: Well, will the Red Cross know confidentially how many people are at
the Guantanamo dungeon or --
Clarke: They have a very strong -- watch your language! They have a
very strong and consistent presence at Guantanamo, and I'm sure they
will have interviews with any and all detainees that may be leaving.
Q: I think a question probably for the admiral. Could you say if
you've noticed any change in the level of activity in the no-fly zones
over Iraq? There seemed to be a spike back in sort of August-
September. It seems to be slightly less in terms of engagements
recently. Have you spotted that, and if so, is there any --
Gove: The last few days have had a lower engagement rate, partially
because of no-fly days, but also no firings have been detected in
Operation Southern Watch.
A couple of months ago there was a bit of a spike. But on average,
over the last couple of years, about consistent with what we've seen
in the past.
Q: Do you think, Admiral, that maybe the last time you dropped
leaflets that -- telling them not to shoot at your force, that may
have had an effect?
Gove: I don't think it -- I don't know if it had an effect on how they
go after coalition aircraft in the Northern or Southern no-fly zones.
Q: Torie, you said that you don't want to be specific on where these
latest detainees came from. Having said that, most -- most of the
detainees there came from Afghanistan, from the war on terror, from
the war in Afghanistan.
Clarke:  But from many different countries prior to that.
Q: But could you at least tell us whether or not these most recent
detainees might include people who were captured in the war on
terrorism -- for instance, in Asia or Europe -- as opposed to --
Clarke:  Oh, you mean picked up in different locations?
Q: That's right. As opposed to Afghanistan, might they have been
brought from Asia or Europe?
Clarke:  Right.  I don't know.
Q:  Could you check --
Clarke: We'll look into it. I don't know if we'll be able to tell you
that, once we determine it, but we'll look into it.
Q: Admiral Gove, did you say a minute ago that there were no- fly days
that coalition forces -- there are no-fly days in Iraq?
Gove: There are some days -- yes, coalition forces -- there are some
days that weather prohibits, because of cloud cover -- prohibits
flying -- and arrangements with host nations.
Clarke:  Robert?
Q: On the attack on the U.S. diplomat in Jordan, can you tell us if
you guys are doing anything to increase security for U.S. personnel
around the world and more generally to what extent this speaks to
increased danger for U.S. personnel?
Gove: We won't speak to the force protection measures that are
happening in individual combatant commanders' areas of responsibility.
However, they take all incidents like this very seriously, and the
appropriate levels are applied throughout the Central Command and the
world, based on the specific threats.
The force protection is a key part of the mission accomplishment of
U.S. forces. And there -- appropriate measures are taken both for
forces in Jordan, as well as throughout the area of responsibility.
Q:  Has the threatcon -- I'm sorry.
Clarke: And speaking for the State Department, I know the U.S.
officials over there are actively engaged in the investigation.
Q: Has the threatcon level gone up in the CENTCOM area of
responsibility, at least temporarily, in light of what happened in
Gove: I won't speak to changes in force protection levels. That's
under the purview of the combatant commander, General Franks.
Q: Could I ask you just about the presence of U.S. personnel in
Jordan? I think there was an exercise going on with Jordan and perhaps
some other countries in Jordan recently -- a couple thousand U.S.
personnel, I think. Is that over?
Gove: The exercise is ongoing. There are U.S. personnel in Jordan, but
we won't speak to operational numbers or tactics, techniques or
procedures for those ongoing exercises.
Q: They're not going to be cancelled? They're going to continue going?
Gove:  Not that I'm aware of.
Clarke:  Uh-oh.
Q: Two weeks ago you released gun-camera footage from various
historical times in the southern and northern no-fly zone. Are you
going to start releasing on a regular basis gun-camera footage from
the southern and northern no-fly zones? And why or why not?
Clarke: If I had my druthers, we'd release a lot more footage. But my
druthers aren't the only ones. There are operational security issues.
There are all sorts of issues, as you all well know. So to the extent
possible, we will release footage when we think it's appropriate, when
we think it helps enlighten something that we're trying to say. I
think you'll see more of it going forward. I just couldn't give you a
blanket "yes, you'll see it eight times a month" or whatever, but
we're going to try hard. And I think it is a great demonstration of
what is pretty unbelievable to most Americans out there, that our
pilots and coalition pilots are out there almost every day risking
their necks, and Saddam Hussein has ordered people to shoot at them
and try to shoot them down. So I think it is a great way to
demonstrate just how outrageous that is. But we will try hard with all
the appropriate considerations being given to it.
Q:  What are the security issues that you are concerned about?
Clarke: Oh, there are a host of them. Sometimes you might be revealing
something in terms of capabilities, sometimes there may have been
other information picked up along the way. There are a host of them.
But, I think we're doing a pretty good job of working with Central
Command and others in an effort to release that that we can.
Let's make John the last one -- or Tammy the last one.
Q: Admiral, the recent targeting in the no-fly zones has been
different. It's affected a larger breadth of targets. Can you talk a
little about how the anti-aircraft ability of Saddam Hussein has been
degraded in recent months?
Gove: I won't talk to specific operational degradations. The intent of
our responses to attacks on our coalition aircraft in both the
northern and southern no-fly zones is to go after the integrated air
defense capability -- the infrastructure, not just specific launch
pads for anti-aircraft artillery or the missiles. And we think by
attacking the infrastructure, we have the potential of causing greater
degradation to the integrated air defense, and therefore pose less
risks to continuing operations for the U.N. sanctions in OSW -- in
Operation Northern Watch.
Q:  Have they been successful, in your view?
Gove: I think we have been successful, but again, I'm not going to
speak to specific degradations.
Clarke:  Tammy, last one.
Q: The training of the Iraqi opposition -- when do you anticipate that
training to kick off? Can you update us on progress of that planning?
Clarke: I don't have a date for you, because I don't think one has
been set. I think we are still approximately where the secretary and
the chairman were talking last week, is working through what kind of
people do we think would have -- would we have available; given the
kinds of people that we think available, what are appropriate roles
and missions for them. So I think it is still very much in the
planning and logistical phase. Sort of potential trainers figuring out
what exactly it is they'd be training. So we don't have a date
Q:  Just one quickie, Torie --
Clarke:  Sure.
Q: -- has the SECDEF talked to Minister Ivanov at all about the gas
used? Or is that being handled through other channels, queries about
it --
Clarke: I do not believe he has talked to him. I know there have been
quite a few conversations going on between the State Department,
obviously, and Ambassador Vershbow was actively involved for several
days. So I think that's where it's stayed at this time, but we can
check that one for you.
Thanks, everybody.
Q:  Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
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