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Rumsfeld Talks Iraq, Smallpox, More in CNN Interview

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said public officials owe Americans "an investment of time" to keep them abreast of the government's activities.

The secretary told CNN's Larry King he agreed to be interviewed on King's show as part of that obligation to Americans.

"The people who serve the public have a responsibility to do the best they can to provide information to the American people and to the world," Rumsfeld said Dec. 18. "I need to communicate with the men and women in uniform. I need to communicate with civilians in the Department of Defense, with the Congress and with the executive branch."

The Bush administration has taken some flak from critics and the media for not revealing all the U.S. government knows about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Rumsfeld said he understands people's desire to know, but revealing too much information carries all- too-real risks.

He explained intelligence information comes from both human and technical sources and often poses a dilemma for leaders.

"To the extent you reveal something that you know through intelligence gathering, you run the risk of compromising the human beings who gave you that information, and people can get killed if (the information) is traceable back to them," he said.

Likewise, sources of information collected through technical means could dry up if the information was revealed publicly. Compromising sources would be particularly costly in the event of a conflict. "You would need those means of intelligence gathering," Rumsfeld said.

Regarding Iraq's recent weapons declaration, he said he hasn't seen the report Baghdad delivered to the United Nations. He noted U.S. officials are looking at the 12,000- page document and President Bush will announce the U.S. government's reaction.

The secretary once again asserted his oft-spoken conviction that it's not up to the U.N. inspectors to win at a game of "cat and mouse and hide and seek," but for Iraq to fully disclose its weapons programs.

Inspections "only work if there's a cooperative country," he said, "if Iraq is cooperative and decided, 'Yes, the game's up.'" Rumsfeld also suggested Hussein and his family could leave Iraq "if he doesn't care to give up his weapons of mass destruction."

On the smallpox vaccine, Rumsfeld said that despite the potential health risks associated with large-scale vaccinations against smallpox, he felt the risk of a potential attack justified the measure.

"A smallpox epidemic is so vicious and kills so many people so rapidly and spreads far and wide, that, after a great deal of thought, I concluded that the U.S. military people who have potential vulnerability ought to (be vaccinated)," he said.

The secretary also indicated he would receive the vaccine. "It's hard to ask people to do something you're not willing to do yourself," he said. In announcing the vaccination program Dec. 13, Bush said he'd receive the vaccine as well.

Rumsfeld commented on a number of other topics, among them:  

  • The ballistic missile defense program: "This is complicated business," he said. "Now, why (we) do it is there are a lot of people getting their hands on ballistic missiles in the world and we have no ability to defend ourselves against ballistic missiles at all." 


  • North Korea: "They're just shipping missiles around the world. They just announced they're going to continue on their nuclear program. Their leadership is not a leadership that I would characterize as perfectly predictable." 


  • Osama bin Laden: "I simply do not know if he's alive or dead." 


  • Reinstatement of the military draft: "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. No." 


  • The coalition fighting the war on terrorism: "It's just amazing, and the cooperation that we're getting around the world is superb." 


  • The government of Afghanistan: "I'm hopeful. I'm encouraged, and I wish them well."
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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Larry King, CNN, Dec. 18. 2002

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