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