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Department of Defense Briefing

Presenter: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Lawrence Di Rita
December 03, 2004 3:05 PM EDT

Friday, December 3, 2004 3:08 p.m. EST

Department of Defense Briefing

(Also participating was Deputy Director for Regional Operations, Joint Staff Operations Directorate, Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez)
 
 
 

            MR. DIRITA: We wanted to just get together and just go over a handful of items. We've obviously had a typically busy week here at the Pentagon. We made the announcement regarding the additional capability in Iraq that General Casey sought and will receive to sustain the momentum post-Fallujah and to prepare for the elections, get ready for the Iraqi elections, which are moving forward. So we thought it would be useful to kind of pull together some additional information and put out what we can and take your questions.  And with that, I'm going to ask General Rodriguez to give sort of a summary, and then we'll take your questions.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Mr. DiRita, and good afternoon.  Iraqi and multinational forces conducted a series of successful operations against anti-Iraqi forces in Najaf, Tall Afar, Samarra, Thawra and Fallujah. Specifically, Operation Al-Fajr struck a serious blow to the insurgency in Fallujah by denying them the use of the city as a safe haven; and Fallujah is no longer a terrorist center for command and control, supply, weapons storage, nor is it a base of operations.

 

            Today we would like to share with you some of the things the coalition found as they cleared Fallujah. We found evidence of an enemy who fully intended to fight the Iraqi and coalition forces and disrupt the process for a future free Iraq. They were heavily armed and dug in, and by that I mean there was food, water, ammunition, weapons stashed in the buildings they occupied, and they were prepared to fight.

 

            The insurgency used several hospitals, cemeteries, and about 25 of the mosques as fighting positions, clearly in violation of international law. Coalition forces also found more than 350 weapons and ammunition cache sites, a number of torture sites, improvised explosive device factories, and videos of beheadings.

 

            The coalition continues to analyze the vast amount of information that we collected in Fallujah. And here we're going to share with you some of the preliminary photographs that demonstrate what we found there.

 

            First slide.  To better visualize how the mosques in Fallujah were exploited by the insurgents, note the colored dots on this slide. Out of the 26 mosques that I discussed earlier, the blue dots are mosques from where Iraqi and coalition forces encountered small-arms fire and rocket- propelled grenade fire. The yellow represents a location that was determined to be a command and control center. Insurgent snipers engaged our forces from mosques identified by the red dots -- and you can see the number and the spread throughout the width and breadth of the city.

 

            Next slide.  Improvised explosive device materials were also found inside the mosque, to include a reel of detonation cord that was hidden inside a bag of rice that was disguised, of course, as humanitarian aid.

 

            Next slide.  This slide depicts the city of Fallujah with red dots that indicate where Iraqi and multinational forces found IED-making factories. And the green dot marks the location of the vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

 

            Next slide.  On the right side, a box containing an improved thermal battery for a surface-to-air, shoulder-fired missile, as well as two additional hand-held radios. And on the left you can see several different types of radios used as the remote triggering devices for IEDs.

 

            Next slide.  The red dots on this slide depict the atrocities discovered across Fallujah, and again, across the entire depth and breadth of the city. The combined forces found eight hostage locations and other atrocity sites; such atrocities including human corpses rigged as IEDs, hostages found chained to a wall, and a mutilated body, as well as executed Iraqi.

 

            Next slide.  And here, although it's hard to see, you can see bloodstains in the upper left, and the sandbags they used to try to soak up the blood in one of the hostage sites.

 

            Next slide.  This slide depicts the locations of the weapons and ammunition caches. Basically, the description was there were one of these every three city blocks.  And you can see the number there on the slide.

 

            Next slide.

 

            Q What's the definition of a cache? Obviously, they're allowed to keep a weapon, a personal weapon –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It's above and beyond that, ma'am.

 

            Q Anything beyond one?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Groups of them that were, you know, beyond the self-protection.  This slide, here's an example of weapons caches in central Fallujah, in which you can see a pile of mortars and rockets. And this is just an example. Like I said, some of them are smaller, some of them are larger, but this is the type of cache we're describing here.

 

            Next slide.  This location was a chemical lab, which is obviously in the southern part of the city there. Some of the chemicals found in the site included hydrochloric acid, also ammonium nitrate and hydrogen cyanide, which potentially can be used to produce a blood agent.

 

            Next slide.  Also found at the chemical lab was a Mujaheddin chemical and biological book outlining instructions and formulas for anthrax, chemical blood agents and other explosive materials.

 

            Now that we have driven the insurgents from Fallujah, we still have more work to do. Iraqi and coalition forces continue to take the fight to the enemy.  And with that, we'll take your questions.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Charlie? 

 

            Q Larry, just two quick things. I'd like you to tell us as much as you can, if you will, about the Jacoby report. There have been some reports about that.  And number two, to raise a housekeeping issue. You call this a get-together. The problem is we only have these get-togethers very occasionally, and I'd like to pressure the demand on behalf of the press corps that you start having regular briefings. You know, for years they've had two regular briefings every week on issues from everything from Boeing to a routine -- I'm not talking about just war briefings. I'd like to get some kind of promise from you that we'll start having regular briefings here so that we –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Yeah. No, it's a fair enough point.

 

            Q I mean, you've said before that you'll have a briefing when you have something to tell us. Well, it would seem to me that the way it should work is that we should be able to ask you things regularly and –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Sure. No, that's a fair point.

 

            Q I mean, it's a matter of accountability to the public.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Yeah. I would certainly not ascribe to any interpretation that we've been anything other than accountable to the public. I mean, we've put out an enormous amount of information. We have had god knows how many briefings down here. The secretary himself comes down fairly often. But I take the point. I take the point.

 

            Q (Off mike.)

 

            MR. DIRITA: And we'll -- we'll be as regular as we need to be.

 

            Q (Off mike) –

 

            MR. DIRITA: I mean, I think during the Fallujah operations -- hold on, Charlie. You've made your point. I appreciate it.  I think during the Fallujah operations we had a coalition commander out every single day. I mean, and that's important, and they were to talk to the Pentagon press. The technology doesn't always make it as good as you'd like it to be and as we think it can be. But I take the point.  We'll be –

 

            Q You've taken the point before. My point is that there are issues other than war here.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Sure.

 

            Q And while Christmas is a difficult time because traditionally you don't have many briefings, I'd like you to maybe promise us that sometime quickly after the new year starts we start having regularly scheduled, twice-a-week briefings here –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Is that right?

 

            Q -- so that the press can come and ask you questions on issues. I'd like you to consider that, if you would.

 

            MR. DIRITA: I'll take it under advisement.

 

            Q All right, thanks.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Thank you, Charlie.

 

            Q And anyway on the Jacoby –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Next question?

 

            Q -- on the Jacoby report.

 

            MR. DIRITA: The Jacoby report. Let me talk a little bit about these reports. We've gotten, I think, nine or so reports that have been completed having to do with the Abu Ghraib investigations. We've provided an awful lot of information on those briefs, perhaps not as much as you'd like, pertaining to your previous question, but we have provided an awful lot of information on all of the reports that have come out.

 

            The Jacoby report is nearing completion. It's being reviewed by -- I believe this accurate -- the commander of the Central Command. General Jacoby was asked to review prison conditions inside of Afghanistan. General Barno, the commander of the task force there asked him to do that. It consisted of a kind of snapshot of training, of conditions inside of prisons. It did not look back to incidents that may have occurred inside of Afghanistan. We will have more to talk about when the report is complete. It has leaked.  I would caution, though, against sort of episodic reporting on leaked reports, and I'll give you an example why.

 

            We've had another report that allegedly leaked this week that was reported in one of the papers known as the Herrington report. The Herrington report, by the way, was a component of the Kern/Fay/Jones report; it was an annex to that report. That Kern/Fay/Jones report was briefed extensively here, extensively on the Hill. In fact, General Kern has done extensive public briefings around the country on it. The Herrington report was a component of that investigation.

 

            The reporting on it this week in The Washington Post suggested as though it were some kind of a new and previously undisclosed report, when in fact it's part of -- it's certainly part of what we provided to the Congress. We provided all of the annexes to the Kern/Fay/Jones report.

 

            Of note in the Herrington report, Colonel Herrington -- he's a retired Army colonel -- made the specific comment that "We neither saw nor learned of any evidence that detainees are being illegal[ly] or improperly treated at Abu Ghraib."

 

            Now that's a finding in his report. He found a lot of other things in the report, but the story that was sort of episodically attracted to this Herrington report failed to mention that, what I would consider to be a fairly key finding in the Herrington report.

 

            And the only reason I make that comment is because we have been providing these reports when they're finished. Indeed, we provided the Herrington report as part of the Kern/Fay/Jones. We didn't release every annex. I'm told we didn't release every annex, but we provided all that to the Congress two months ago or something.

 

            Q Well, but it wasn't released to us.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Apparently not, and I'm not sure about that, but I've been told that. But the point I'm making is that it's -- the way it's being reported this week, it's being reported in a context that sounds rather different from the fact that -- the fact that it was -- generated a follow-on report by -- initiated by General Fast, to whom the Herrington Report was delivered. She initiated a follow-on report that was itself extensively documented and included in the previous reports.

 

            We're providing this stuff when we get it and we're putting it out, and when it's -- when things are episodically reported on through leaks or through somebody discovering an annex that's part of a broader report, I think that does a disservice to the public. So we're going to -- when the Jacoby report's complete and it's under review by the commander at Central Command, we'll put it out the way we have, consistent with classification and everything like that.

 

            Q Of course, it points to the fact that the quicker –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Sure.

 

            Q -- the quicker the better on getting these things out.

 

            MR. DIRITA: I will also note the Jacoby report does not take into account what we also know has occurred in Afghanistan. There have been reports of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan. There are investigations under way that predate the -- we have the two cases of the deaths of detainees at the Bagram facility. There are -- there's criminal proceedings that have begun on that.

 

            So the Jacoby report all by itself, without the context in the briefing, having been leaked to the press I'm not sure -- again, I caution about the episodic reporting off of reports of leaked reports because it's not serving the public particularly well.

 

            And I would again draw your attention to the key finding in -- and I'm not trying to disparage Colonel Herrington's report. I've read the report. It's a serious report. He took it seriously. It generated additional investigations. But he did happen to make a finding as of December of 2003 that they found no evidence of abuse at Abu Ghraib at the very time when this abuse was probably occurring. And I'm not -- again, I'm not disparaging the report; I'm simply saying that's a relatively key finding that somehow missed the reportage. So –

 

            Q Are you going to release it, then, as –

 

            MR. DIRITA: I'm not sure that's being considered. You know, again, it was provided to the Congress, and I'm not sure what the policy has been on all these annexes. Eventually we provided -- I think we ended up posting the Taguba report with all of its annexes, so we may do the same thing here.

 

            Bob?

 

            Q I would like to second Charlie's point about the usefulness of regular briefings. You know, the briefings you have given us -- the Fallujah ones, for example, and others related to the war -- have been useful and appreciated.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Good.

 

            Q But the point is about regular briefings that are about any subject we'd like to bring up, you know. So I'd just mention that.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Sure, absolutely.

 

            Q My question is for, I think, General Rodriguez, probably, on your discussion about what was found in Fallujah.

 

            MR. DIRITA: And by the way, you're free to bring up any subjects here today, too. We may not answer the question, but you're free to bring it –

 

            Q Like, that's what I'm talking about, is –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Oh, I see what you're saying.

 

            Q We could do this twice a week, and that would probably –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Gotcha.

 

            Go ahead. Go ahead.

 

            Q Fallujah, going forward from here -- is there indications, either based on what you saw in Fallujah, what you've learned since, that Zarqawi has moved to set up cells in Mosul and other particular locations outside of Fallujah?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Well, the insurgency and the -- without the base that they had in Fallujah, what, you know, is -- looks like is happening in watching very closely is that the people move to other places, obviously to try to set up the same type of support base as others, because that's how they adapt to losing their base. So there's several operations going on right now to prevent that from happening. And this is part of the pressure that we need to keep up on the insurgency.

 

            So for example, down there in Plymouth Rock, you know, just south of that, that has been going on since actually during the fighting and continuing. And it's like that throughout all the areas of Iraq because as these people lose this base of operation, they move to other places, which opens up intelligence opportunities for us, as well as to build up the things -- the capabilities that they lost in Fallujah. You know, you just can't do that without taking some risks and providing some intelligence opportunities. So those are ongoing, and we're continuing to –

 

            Q Zarqawi himself and –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, we don't know anything specifically about Zarqawi himself and the situation.

 

Q Mosul connection that you know of?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: There's some evidence of Mosul connection at this point, but we don't have any solid evidence that that's where Zarqawi is moving his main base or anything like that yet.

 

            Q Okay.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: All that's being determined as it goes through.

 

            Q Not to sound like a broken MP3 file -- (laughter) -- to use the vernacular of the day, but I'd like to just underscore the importance of –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Are you seconding or thirding –

 

            Q I think it's thirding.

 

            Q This is third –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Would this be thirding? Okay. Gotcha. (Cross talk, laughter.) Actually, Charlie seconded his own suggestion. So Bob was actually –

 

            Q (Off mike) -- all-subject briefings, as has been the tradition for years and years and years.  My question, General, is –

 

            MR. DIRITA: We're trying to be more transformational here and do things a little differently.

 

            Q But we'd like it transformed for the better, not –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Check. Go ahead.

 

            Q My question is about the additional forces in Iraq, both the deployments and the extensions –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

 

            Q -- and the force levels that that provides you. You said the other day that was for security for the elections and to keep the pressure on the insurgents. Can you tell us a little bit about what the troops -- the additional troops will be doing to achieve those goals? And can you tell us -- you showed us a lot of things that were found in Fallujah.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

 

            Q Did you find things in Fallujah that are going to help you keep the pressure on the insurgents? Can you talk at all about that?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Well, certainly any time you destroy a safe haven, a base and everything -- we showed you some of the things that we've begun the site exploitations on, but that's still in the infantile stage, because we have not fully looked at all the sites yet that we've secured.

 

            So yes, all that information that we gained out of there, we believe, will help us in the future and what is happening with the insurgency and how they operate.  On the second part, the forces, the additional force level that we discussed the other day is for both the security of the elections and keeping the pressure.

 

            But the operations type, which will be determined, obviously, by the tactical commanders on the ground there, are mainly to keep the pressure on the operational -- or the insurgency by offensive operations to continue to exploit the things that we're going to discover in the wake of Fallujah by them moving, trying to set up safe havens, and such. And that's the type of operations. And really, that's all I'm going to get into specifics at this point because that's really a decision that's made on the ground over there.

 

            Q I mean, is the idea to keep the insurgents essentially on the run –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It is, it's to keep them on the run, to pressure and prevent them from putting safe havens up in other places. So both the movement that they are doing and have to do, and the building up of safe havens and the support structure that they lost in Fallujah, to keep the pressure on that.

 

            MR. DIRITA: I think another consideration, Jamie, is that part of what was happening in Fallujah prior to this operation was a very aggressive campaign of intimidation by the sort of insurgents and foreign elements. And what this demonstrated was the will of the coalition and the will of the Iraqi forces. And it has -- a campaign of intimidation is essentially a campaign of wills, and what commanders have reported is additional -- is better and more refined intelligence coming forward because people feel less intimidated. In other words, they now have a better feel inside of Fallujah that this small number that was holding them hostage has been dealt with, and so they're more willing to come forward. Now, that hasn't led to any great findings, but it does over time; that's how you get more -- better.

 

            Q Could I just follow-up to that? Are you seeing a change in tactics, a shift toward -- as you get closer to the elections -- more attempt to intimidate, particularly the Iraqi security forces, such as today's attack?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Well, it's been going on for a while. I mean, intimidation of the Iraqi security forces is clearly one of the tactics that the other side is using, and we've seen that.

 

            Q But is that one of the reasons you had to send more U.S. troops, that the Iraqi –

 

            MR. DIRITA: I wouldn't tie it to one single thing. I mean, what General Casey wanted was what he described, which was what General Rodriguez described, was the ability to sustain offensive operations where necessary, and to provide a better security environment with troops that have been through an awful lot. And given that the rotation has been spread out the way it has, some of the troops that have got the best experience would be leaving, and he thought it was better not to do that.

 

            So I wouldn't tie it to any specific tactic by the enemy. But one of the principal objectives was to go after the intimidation campaign and to show the people of Fallujah, who largely did not want to be living under the circumstances they were living, that it's okay to come forward.

 

            Q General, The New York Times reported today that there were cell phones found, lists of foreign fighters' families to be paid -- specific intelligence. Is that leading to other operations to take these cells down?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: All that right now is being analyzed right now and will be used as best we possibly can to take those cells down. And any time you find things like that and do the analysis, it takes a little while to do that.

 

            But all that is being done. Like I said, we have done many site exploitations already. We still have more to do in that area, but yes, there's phone books, there's lists, there's -- all those things were found as part of the operation.

 

            Q Can you characterize the quality of the intelligence you've seen so far, even though you're not done sifting through everything? I mean –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: No, I can't. But the bottom line is we believe it will help us in the future, in the near future here.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Jim?

 

            Q Larry, has Secretary Rumsfeld talked to the president yet about what -- about his future, whether he's going to stay or whether he's going to go?

 

            MR. DIRITA: You know, Jim, I just have nothing for you on that. And what he has said is what's going to have to do, which is when he's got -- when he's ready to talk about it, he'll talk about it. It's just not something I'm going to be able to provide any insight into.

 

            Q It just seems kind of odd after all this time –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Does it? (Laughter.)

 

            Q -- for there to be no indication at all whether he's still going to be in office.

 

MR. DIRITA: I just have nothing for you. When he's ready to say something, he'll say something.

 

            Q Have you talked to him, or you just don't want to comment –

 

            MR. DIRITA: I'm saying I got nothing for you on it, Charlie.

 

            Q Larry?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Yeah?

 

            Q Could you -- General Rodriguez, describe for us the situation in Mosul, what your understanding is of what's going on there, and particular attention to these bodies that keep getting found. Are they innocent bystanders? Are they Iraqi security forces? Or are they maybe insurgents who have been killed and are just getting discovered? What's the –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Most of that is part of the intimidation campaign. Most of that has been focused on the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people who are trying to run the city. As you know, during the Fallujah operation there was a -- there was a lot of challenges at the police stations, and we have an operation going up there that is reestablishing the security in the city, turning over the Iraqi police stations back to the police, and building back the law of, you know, free countries or free cities up there. So that was part of the result of this Fallujah piece, and you know, so there were some links there. And we're -- they're working very hard to clean up that situation right now.

 

            Q And how many police stations have been turned back over, and how many police or security forces were killed –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I don't have the specific numbers of police that are back on the beat or those specific numbers, but we can get you -- get those. But the majority of the stations were taken back, and there's calm in the city at this point in time, relatively speaking.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Will?

 

            Q Larry –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Now wait a minute. Hold on. You're not going to second Charlie, are you? (Laughter.) Okay.

 

            Q Can you tell me, what was the U.S. military fatality count in Iraq in November?

 

            MR. DIRITA: I don't think we have the most refined -- I mean, what we know is our general -- is our -- is our updated tally, but I'm not sure by month we've got the data.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right. And of course, you know, it'll take us a couple days after the thing to get the final thing exactly because what happens is everybody wants to make sure they got the right number because some people, of course, leave the theater and are en route, you know, of course -- die en route or up in -- up in Germany, for example, where they take many of the injuries. So it'll take us a day or two to get that, but –

 

            Q But we're a few days into December already.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes. It –

 

            MR. DIRITA: We'll get it out as soon as we've got it, I suppose.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Right, but we don't have that right now.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Yeah?

 

            Q On the tanker issue, Secretary Wolfowitz signed a memo to the SASC on August 11th saying in roughly 30 days they should have these tier one, tier two, tier three e-mails sent over and supporting documents for the tanker issue.  Can you tell us why all of them haven't been sent over yet and when they will go over?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Yeah. No, I can't tell you when, that's for sure. I think the last number I saw is something on the order of 800,000 documents.

 

            Q My understanding is only six out of, like, 36 people –

 

            MR. DIRITA: Let me get into it. We've established -- it is the secretary's desire to provide as much information as is being sought that's appropriate to send. I mean, there are executive privilege issues, so therefore the White House properly has a role to evaluate these things. So we've developed a process by which that can be done. At some point along the way, we've determined that the inspector general is in the best position to kind of compile these documents and do the screening and the initial evaluation as to whether they're responsive to the request and to work with the general counsel -- general counsels in the administration to then address the executive privilege issues, et cetera.

 

            It is a time-consuming process. There are an enormous number of documents. It involves getting people at the White House that have responsibilities to evaluate them as well, and of course they're busy with a variety of tasks as well.   If it were simply the kind of thing where you could print them up and cart them across to the United States Congress, the task would have been accomplished, because the secretary's clear desire is to provide -- to be as responsive as appropriate given that there's a handful of considerations -- for example, it's not anybody's desire that e-mails, for example, that have members of Congress's name in it to be -- so there is redacting that goes on and then the Congress can decide how it wishes to treat those. It's not our -- so it's a very time-consuming process.

 

            Q I understand what you're saying. But why, then, knowing the process -- I mean, this whole process has taken over a year. Knowing the difficulties, why did Secretary Wolfowitz send a memo saying you'll get what you want in 30 days?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Well, you always hope for the best, and then you get into the document collection and it takes time. We've got -- we've devoted an enormous number of resources to being responsive to this request.

 

            As I said, we were developing a process to provide documents relating to a small number of officials. Somewhere along the way I think the number was 26 or 27 additional officials' documents were sought. So it hasn't exactly been -- and this is understandable, but it hasn't exactly been "Here's a list of things we'd like; go to work on it." The list itself has been evolving.

 

            And we're dealing with complicated issues of privacy. We're dealing with complicated issues of executive privilege and complicated issues of sort of propriety when it comes to the names of people who aren't -- you know, you may have an e-mail, and we've all seen e-mail strings, that could I have three responsive lines in an e-mail that has a string of 27 different back and forths. And so somebody's got to go through and analyze that and say, "Well, these three lines are responsive and the following 24 are not, so they have to be redacted." It is not simply push the "send" button and it goes over to the Senate.

 

            Q But Larry, there are also those who are saying you might be dealing with comprehensive issues of embarrassment, too; for instance, Secretary Roche's e-mails that were finally sent over to Congress and Senator McCain –

 

            MR. DIRITA: It's certainly nobody's interest -- look, those e- mails say what they say. And the secretary of Defense's position all along has been we're going to be responsive to the request.

 

            And it's not –

 

            Q That's not the reason that was reported –

 

            MR. DIRITA: -- and it's not a consideration. I mean, it is a fact that there will be e-mails that out of context will seem to be -- there was an article in one of the papers yesterday that obviously was a colorful exchange. We've all exchanged e-mails. So that's what you get when you look at e-mails. It's raw documentation.

 

            It's also important -- this is kind of a new thing. I mean, this is -- you know, the treatment of e-mails is a sort of new branch of privacy that we're all wanting to make sure we do proper and right. But it is not -- has nothing to do with whether anybody's going to be embarrassed. We're going to do the right thing, and the right thing is to be as responsive as possible to this request. And being responsive is just taking time.

 

            Q Why would you redact the names of members of Congress from e-mails or –

 

            MR. DIRITA: It's our view that if some -- it's third-hand, Charlie. So you've got an official here talking to an official at a company, and they mention some senator's name. Now is that fair? It's not our job to say this secondhand conversation in which the member had no idea he was even being discussed is going to -- we're going to dump those e-mails, because we know those e-mails are going to become public.

So it's up -- that's something we're deferring to the chairman of the committee on how he wants to handle it, but it's our druther that we're not going to do that. It's not -- it's just not right. It's thirdhand, secondhand stuff.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q General, that short stretch of road between central Baghdad and the airport comes under almost daily attack, as you know, and British and U.S. embassies have barred their employees from using it. Why can't the U.S. military do a better job of securing that route? Are there any plans, without getting into operational details, for the military to do more to protect that road? For many Iraqis, it's become a symbol of the lack of security.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes. As you know, we've had continuous operations along that road to do that, and we'll continue to do that. But I don't have any specifics on those operations or how we're going to do that.

 

            Q Yeah. I'm curious -- the campaign of intimidation you're talking about -- against the security forces in Iraq.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

 

            Q What effect is that having on the effort to recruit and train these people who are so critical to the long-term stability of the country?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. The -- we continue to have sufficient people signing up to be -- at the recruiting thing. We continue to get the people over there who are ready to fight for a future Iraq, and of course many of them have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of that. And we're happy that -- on the way the development of the Iraqi security force is coming along.

 

            Q Can I follow up on that?

 

            Q It has not cut into –

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: It has not cut into the recruiting problem (sic). That's correct.

 

            Q Can I follow up on –

 

            MR. DIRITA: And it's worth noting the fact -- and not -- we don't have the precise numbers, and we'll get right over to you, but the -- a large number of Iraqi security forces have been killed. They've been killed in action. They've been killed through the intimidation campaign. They've been -- there have been execution- style assassinations. And yet, thus far, Iraqis are coming forward to serve.

 

            It's -- as the president said, it's time for Iraqis to go to the polls because they are trying to take control of that country, and Iraqi security forces are really in the front of that effort.

 

            Q We were told repeatedly during the Fallujah assault that the Iraqi security forces were performing well, in tandem with coalition forces. But reports coming from Iraq increasingly seem to suggest that they're not, that they're not up to the job, they can't perform, there's not discipline, there's not leadership. Where does that exactly stand? Who's right?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: You know, you got a full range of effectiveness over time. And you understand a lot of the training that's going on, for example -- and you got to remember, we're building this army from scratch. So as they go through their initial training and work through those pieces, and then they go out for operations, there's a growth period between the time that they graduate from the training, the initial training in the school, until they can do a tough operation like a military operation in urban terrain in concert with coalition forces. So that higher-level coordination and everything is at the higher range of what we're talking about doing, in which some of the Iraqi units were able to participate in - in Fallujah, back to the ones that have just graduated from the school and are still working the leadership development, the mentoring that's so critical to them, moving from the training to the level of a proficient unit enough to move forward until they are really a unit that can do a tough operation in an urbanized -- urban terrain in concert with coalition forces. So there is a full range of that out there and that's part of the reason why it depends on what time and what units you're asking, based on where they are in that developmental process.

 

            Q Well, how many are at the more complete end of it than at the beginning? You know, you say it depends on the situation, but where does the bulk of it lie?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ: I don't have the exact figures on that and everything. But like I said, it has been a continual improvement from the last seven months. And as you know, last April we had some huge challenges with trying to push the people too far too fast, and we had some setbacks. So they have taken a -- they relooked that and they continue to grow that Iraqi security forces over time, and that's been moving forward, constantly improving. And the commanders on the ground are happy with their -- the ability of the units that are that good to interact with coalition forces.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Yeah?

 

            Q Yeah, Larry, the Herrington report, we're told, was passed to General Fast who passed it to General Sanchez, who launched an investigation into the activities of this Task Force 121. Can you tell us what the status of that investigation is?  I mean, was it rolled into the Formica investigation, or a separate one?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Well, I'm going to do my best on this one, but the Herrington report generated something that became what they call this 15-6 inquiry by, I think, a Captain Cox, and that generated itself a large number of sort of findings and recommended improvements. And that occurred about the time that the abuses were coming to light. I think it was in late January of '03 when that report was completed and provided, and at that point is when a host of other investigations began. And ultimately the General Formica investigation on special operations forces, which will undoubtedly find some of the same things -- I mean, we've got special operations forces that are already involved in courts-martial based on -- and that was, I think, reflected in The Washington Post story.

 

            Q Right.

 

            MR. DIRITA: So I'm not sure that I'm able to parse exactly the lineage of the Herrington to Cox to Formica, but I know that it all happened almost contemporaneously with the disclosure of the -- the first public disclosure of what we learned in mid-January, and at that point a number of investigations began.

 

            And I would also say, looking back, there had already been some reviews. General Miller had already gone over and found a lot of the same things, to some extent, that Colonel Herrington found; in other words, a prison system that needed attention in terms of resources, and their doctrine needed a review, and that sort of thing. And a lot of that's already, obviously, been provided. So –

 

            Q New subject?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Yes.

 

            Q By the way, that's how we used to do it. We used to say "new subject," and then all the reporters would get to ask about that subject, nobody got cut off, and went to the next subject.

 

            MR. DIRITA: Okay. I should do this more often. I could learn that. (Laughter.)

 

            Q But my subject is –

 

            Q You're getting it!

 

            Q I second that! (Laughter.)

 

            Q General Myers said yesterday that his –

 

            MR. DIRITA: You're not going to have me to kick around much longer! Go ahead. (Laughter.)

 

            Q New subject?

 

            MR. DIRITA: (Chuckles.) New subject?

 

            Yes, sir.

 

            Q General Myers said yesterday that his concerns with the intelligence reform bill appear to have been addressed in the conference committee on the Hill, but Congressman Hunter's staff suggests that there's still significant disagreement about the chain of command issue. Can you just tell us what your understanding is of whether the concerns about the chain of command and getting intelligence to troops on the field has been resolved in the conference report?

 

            Q New subject? (Laughter.)

 

            MR. DIRITA: I have absolutely nothing to add to what General Myers said yesterday. And you know, the negotiations on that legislation are being intensely engaged by -- with the White House and the committees, and we're just going to -- I just have nothing to add to what -- I have nothing to add to what the chairman said yesterday.

 

            Q Can you say whether General Myers was under any pressure from either the White House or Secretary Rumsfeld to change his position?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

 

            Q And the last subject is your nomination to be assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs has been withdrawn by the White House.

 

            MR. DIRITA: I asked that it be withdrawn. But let me correct something first, and then if anybody really cares about that last one I'll be happy to talk about it. I said Captain Cox. I've just been corrected. Lieutenant Colonel Natalie Lee (sp) did the 15-6 investigation.

 

            (As an aside.) Is that right?

 

            I don't know where I got Cox. There's a lot of these reports that I've –

 

            Q Natalie Lee (sp)?

 

            MR. DIRITA: Natalie Lee (sp) did an investigation as the result of the Herrington report. And I think my timing remains the same. It came out about the end of January and other things.

 

            Q Where is that report?

 

            MR. DIRITA: I don't know. And I'll see if we can learn. I don't know what became of it, if it just got rolled into Taguba at that point, or I'm not sure what. As I said, a lot of other investigations began around that exact same time.

 

            Q And why did you ask for your nomination be withdrawn?

 

            MR. DIRITA: It just seemed as though -- the 108th Congress was coming to a close. I thought there was a possibility that -- I had been nominated a year ago, more than a year ago now. The Senate had taken no action on my nomination, and it just seemed like during a period of transition, to be confirmed at that point, were I to be confirmed, when there's a transition going on, I just thought it would be better to have a clean slate, start over. There's a new Congress coming. You know, it gives everybody an opportunity to take another look at everything. So as a result, I'll just continue what I'm doing, inadequately but -- (laughter).

 

            (Cross-talk and laughter.)

 

            MR. DIRITA: Thank you folks.

 

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