|DoD News Briefing: Tuesday, February 12, 2002|
DoD News Briefing: Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - 11:31 a.m. EST. Also participating was Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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 cleared.
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.
Question: 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 find them.
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 accomplishments?
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 communities.
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 better.
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.
Question: 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.
Question: -- and perhaps the weight is going in the other direction on bad publicity.
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 people.
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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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?
Question: 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 region.
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.
Question: Was there any additional intelligence that led to this site to begin with that may have contributed to the perception that these were al Qaeda?
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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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 lately?
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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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 large?
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.
Question: Was it six -- is that roughly, though, six, roughly, have been killed?
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 since.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: So General Stufflebeem was incorrect when he said there was no real-time coordination?
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, General!
Myers: (laughs) Thank you, sir!
Question: 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.
Question: 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 the equipment.
Question: Can you adapt this to the other --
Myers: Yes. Oh, absolutely. Yes. Have to be adaptable.
Question: 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 DOD's reacting?
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 discuss.
Question: Can you say anything generally about what you mean by that?
Rumsfeld: About what?
Question: The last thing you said. Can you generally -- what are you referring to?
Rumsfeld: No, because it's --
Question: (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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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 --
Question: 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 of discussions.
Question: 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 to do.
Question: 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.
Question: 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 CIA-operated.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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)
Question: Free associate. (laughs) It's a sort of touchy-feely '70s term. (laughter)
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 -- (laughter)
Question: The general subject matter is there is his 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.
Question: 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 responsibilities.
Question: 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 --
Question: 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 those judgments.
And it's not for me to express views on that. So I don't.
Question: 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.
Question: 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 true?
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 others.
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.
Question: 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 neighbors.
Question: 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 ones.
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?
Question: Free associate? (laughs)
Rumsfeld: Yeah. They can -- (chuckles) -- they can do things I can't do. (laughter)
Question: Excuse me. But is this an unknown unknown?
Rumsfeld: I'm not --
Question: 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.
Question: Mr. Secretary, if you believe something --
Rumsfeld: Right here. Right here. Right here.
Question: Mr. Secretary, point of clarification --
Rumsfeld: No, this is a promise.
Question: -- I think under Wright's rules, that a point of clarification -- (laughter)
Question: 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 reason.
Rumsfeld: This is to the three individuals. Correct.
Question: 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 you --
Rumsfeld: I don't know that.
Question: Are you investigating it? Is the CIA investigating it? Or -- you mentioned --
Rumsfeld: No, I'm not. This -- no. This is something that CENTCOM has decided and done, and properly so.
Question: 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.
Question: 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 their targeting?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that I said that CIA wasn't.
Question: Could you explain that a little more, and --
Rumsfeld: No. I just don't know what they're doing.
Question: But you do know that CENTCOM's looking into it.
Rumsfeld: I do.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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 authority.
We're going to make the last -- the last question here.
Question: 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.
Question: Right. He's done that and --
Rumsfeld: And was my response was to that, and I thought it was good response.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: 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.
Question: General Myers?
Myers: No, I sticking with the secretary. (laughter).
Question: Thank you.
Myers: Nice try!
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