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Defense Department Operational Briefing

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, U.S. Air Force Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
March 25, 2004 2:05 PM EDT
Defense Department Operational Briefing

            SEC. RUMSFELD: 

 

            Good afternoon.  This week Secretary Powell, George Tenet, General Myers and Paul Wolfowitz and I and some others testified to the commission on the September 11th attacks.  That commission has an opportunity to craft recommendations that I believe could greatly aid in the war on terror, as well as help Americans better understand the long-term nature of the threats we face.

 

            Theirs is not an easy task.  September 11th changed our world dramatically, and we've entered a new security environment, perhaps more dangerous than any the world has known.

 

            The commission, I believe, can help raise people's eyes up to see what we will likely face in the period ahead.  Certainly another attack on our people somewhere, someplace, sometime will be attempted. We know that.  And we know that defenders have to be right everywhere, at every moment; while to kill thousands of innocent people, terrorists only need to be right once.

 

            That reality inspires and motivates those of us in positions of responsibility for the security of the American people to ask:  When that attack is attempted, what must we have done, what must have been done by us and others beforehand to prepare and, if possible, to prevent that attack?

 

            The commission members can ask themselves a similar question, I would suggest, when the next attack is attempted -- and it will be -- what will they wish they had recommended to help our country prepare?

 

            A number of the witnesses suggested some recommendations for consideration.  I raised some questions for the commission to consider.  For example, in the 21st century, can our nation afford the luxury of taking so long to clear and put in place the senior officials responsible for national security?  How might that process be accelerated so we don't have such long gaps in key positions in each new administration?

 

            Can we strengthen intelligence by considering expanding access to compartmentalized information and taking on some added risk, admittedly, that some information might be compromised, in exchange for reducing the risk that people who urgently need to know that information, to use it, and to integrate it with other facts, will be kept in the dark?

 

            Third, how can we better wage the battle of ideas to stop the next generation of terrorists from being recruited, trained, financed and deployed?

 

            Next, should we ask the various departments and agencies of the U.S. government to do what the military services did some years ago with the Goldwater-Nichols law, and adjust existing authorities to achieve a stronger, more agile, more efficient, indeed, a more government-wide joint effort?

 

            One final point.  I would urge commission members to strive for agreement on their findings and conclusions.  Sometimes agreement and consensus can dumb a decision down.  And it isn't a good thing.  On the other hand, sometimes agreement can be powerful and have impact. And that's particularly true when you're dealing with a subject matter where it is basically facts, not philosophy.  And that requires that people invest enough time themselves to find out where there are, maybe, differences with respect to facts and pursue it long enough until everyone is working off basically the same set of facts.  That can be done.  I know it can be done.  It has been done.  And a unanimous final report that is based on a common understanding of the facts and is based on the investment of the commissioner's time, sufficiently, and is endorsed by every member of the commission in my view would have a powerful impact.

 

            Understandably, our country still bears scars from September 11th.  We all saw the anguish of family members present at this week's hearing.  And we've seen the resolve of the men and women in uniform who are determined to prevent another September 11th.  For our parts, none of us can walk the corridors of this building without reflecting on the lives that were lost here, as well as in New York, and in  Pennsylvania.  And I certainly hope that this inquiry will help provide useful recommendations.

 

            General Myers.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good afternoon.

 

            Let me first extend my condolences to the families and friends of those men and women who have been killed and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent days.  U.S., coalition as well as Iraqi and Afghani security forces are together providing an invaluable service to the future of their country and we need to recognize their service and their sacrifices.

 

            Earlier today I met with my counterpart from Uzbekistan for a routine military-to-military visit.  As you know, Uzbekistan is a close ally and regional partner in the global war on terror.  General Major Irgashev is working to transform his military and strengthen his NCO corps, and we're trying to help with that endeavor.

 

            And with that, we'll take your questions.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Charlie, with your permission, I would like to deviate from the normal procedure and call on Thelma LeBrecht of AP Radio, who is here, I believe, for her last Pentagon press briefing. Thelma, do you have a question?

 

            Q     I hope you have a question now  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     I do --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We are going to miss you.  You have been a --

 

            Q     Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I will miss you and also people in the military that I've been very privileged to work with.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, we appreciate the professionalism you brought to the job.  (Applause.)

 

            Q     And now a news question.  There is a report out of Egypt that there is a tape reported to be from Zawahiri.  I wondered if you'd heard of that report or if you had any reaction to that or does that indicate some of your worries about future threats, as well, still on the horizon?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I have heard the report that there is such a letter.  I've not seen it and it is he, that individual -- if this is, in fact, authentic -- is clearly an individual who is very high ranking and is capable of and has in fact in the past kill innocent men, women and children.  And so one has to recognize that.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary and General Myers, military officials in this building are saying that members of the 22nd MEU, Marines from the 22nd MEU in the Gulf, will be sent to Afghanistan.  I wondered if  you can tell us how many might be sent and will -- is this to beef up the hunt for al Qaeda and bin Laden?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Charlie, as you know, force levels in Afghanistan -- in fact, in Iraq as well -- vary over time depending on the situation of the ground commanders, and General Abizaid and the Secretary deem appropriate -- that's what you see happening now.

 

            A couple of events happening in Afghanistan that we want to ensure there's appropriate security for -- as you know, they're going to elections sometime this summer, perhaps late summer.  The date I think is still being negotiated between the U.N. and the Afghan population, international community.  And we want to make sure that that event goes well.  There are still pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda that need to be dealt with.  And that's what you're seeing.  And I'll get you -- we'll get you the exact numbers.

 

            Q     But as far as the members of the 22nd MEU, this is not just a rotation.  They are being added to the force for security in the hunt and whatever.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Right.  And I said -- as I said earlier, in the first part of that statement, that numbers -- the numbers do go up and down.  If you check over time they have gone up and they have gone down, and they'll probably continue to do that as the situation on the ground dictates.

 

            Q     How is the hunt for al Qaeda and bin Laden going, Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I can't answer to the latter question, a specific individual, obviously, because until you have him you don't have him.

 

            With respect to the broader question, it's going well.  There's just no question that added pressure is being put on the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and elsewhere around the world, and that's a good thing.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, I have a very brief question which may elicit a one-word answer from you, so I'm going to take my indulgence -- or your indulgence.  I'm going to ask two questions.  And then there's a young lady sitting behind me from German television who would like to follow up my second question.  She's not as aggressive as we are, so perhaps you would recognize her.

 

            My first question is that a senior Pentagon official told --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, it's one of those.  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     Well, I know who he is and I wish I could share it with you, but it was -- the quote was given to me in relative confidence. He calls Richard Clarke a, quote, "liar," unquote.  Would you go that far?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Certainly not.  I don't know the gentleman very well and I would not describe it that way.

 

            Q     Okay.  Well, it was more than one word.  But anyway, the main part of my questions, if I may.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I would say one thing.  Someone handed me as I was coming down here a quote from a book that indicates that I was in a meeting I guess on a certain date and that I looked distracted, and it happens -- (chuckles) -- I wasn't in the meeting.  So people can be mistaken, and I even think I have been on occasion.  (Laughter.)  No, couldn't have been!  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     We would never accuse you of that, but --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)  Couldn't have been.

 

            Q     My question is, under the proposed realignment of forces that you advocate and the Pentagon is sending up to the White House, there is talk about moving troops out of Europe and moving them to Central Asia and taking down -- going down some forces in the Pacific. But there's nothing in there that we know about, about possibly withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea.  Would you like to withdraw U.S. forces?  If so, how many and when?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We started almost three years ago, at the president's request, to look at how our country was arranged around the world in terms of bases and force structure.  After the Cold War ended, troops were reduced but generally left where they were.  And where they had been and where they are today was basically in a status defense mode, arranged to fight a war where they were.  The chances of their fighting a war -- for example, a tank battle in Germany -- today are so modest that it calls for a review of how we're arranged.

 

            We are doing that.  We've got wonderful people doing an excellent job.  We've talked to our friends and allies around the world and we've established certain principles.

 

            One principle is that we clearly do not want to want to bring all of our forces home.  We want to have a presence in various parts of the world because it has a healthy deterrent effect.  It has the effect also of enabling us to train and work with our friends and allies around the world so that we can function in a combined and joint manner in the event we're called to take actions.

 

            A second principle has been that we really want our forces where they're wanted.  We don't want to be in places where it's not terribly hospitable.

 

            Third, we have to be arranged with understandings with the countries where they are such that we're able to use our forces for whatever the taxpayers of the United States may need them for.  We can't have one Defense Department for one country and another for another country and another for the American people.  We need to be able to be located in a way that, since we can't know where the next problem will be, we can't -- we're much better at assessing what the capabilities are that we'll have to deal with than where the precise threat might come from; therefore, we have to be arranged flexibly so we can move wherever we may need to go.

 

            The next principle was that we'd have to have those kinds of agreements with countries.  So any speculation in the press that you see thus far is speculation, because what we now have is a template where we feel we have options as to what we could do.

 

            One of the things will be to bring forces -- some forces home. There's no question about that.  We want to reduce the number of permanent changes of station, the costs that that imposes on our people.  We'd like, to the extent that's no longer necessary to have people posted overseas, to reduce stress on families so that, for example, the spouses that work won't be having to change jobs every five minutes, or kids that are in high school don't have to be jerked out as frequently and moved to some other place as often as has been the case in a typical military career.

 

            We're now at the point where we're going to begin talking to those countries directly.  And we won't know what we want to know until we have talked to them and gained a better understanding of what they're willing to do and how they're willing to arrange our agreements and understandings with them in a way that fits the needs of our country.  To the extent we talk to two or three about where we might be located, we obviously would arrange ourselves where the best arrangement was for the American people and for our friends and allies.  We have choices.

 

            And we feel that the process has been very professional.  It's excellent.  It's going to be tied eventually to -- for example, we could not have a BRAC in the United States, which we need -- that we must have, everyone estimates, maybe as much as 20 percent excess facilities for our force structure -- we could not do that unless we had a look worldwide and brought home those people who ultimately ought to be here.

 

            So we're in that process.  It's being undertaken, I think.  And I -- let me put it this way.  Let's say we go to the next step and we find out where our first choice is in each part of the world, and then whether or not that works, and then we go to our second or third choice and whether that works.  Then we'd have to look at the cost. And we'd probably want to phase it over a period of time, where we would take a certain amount of military construction expense over a period of years.  My guess is it would take, oh, a number of years to roll this out.

 

            So it's a big thing, it's an important thing, we're going to be much better off arranged -- much better arranged as a country.  And I think it'll be a good thing for the armed forces.  It'll reduce stress on the armed forces.  And I'm just very pleased with the professionalism of the work that's been done.

 

            Q     Can you give us a sneak preview on South Korea?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, no, no.  We want to talk to our friends and allies before we start drip --

 

            (Cross talk.)

 

            Q     Can you give us an idea when the initial -- when you might make an initial announcement, some -- some initial announcement --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You know me; I don't set arbitrary dates.

 

            Q     Might -- might it be this year, or -- ?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  My guess is there won't be an announcement.  What there will be is a -- it will be dealt with in pieces.  As we -- as we look at a set of needs we have and start talking to three or four countries about how we might arrange ourselves, coming to a conclusion on that, we might then announce that as opposed to waiting till you have a worldwide view.

 

            Q     When might an initial announcement --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The first piece?

 

            Q     Yes, sir.  An initial --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't know.

 

            Q     Do you think this -- do you think this year?

 

            Q     (Inaudible) -- Germany (first ?) when (you start the ?) withdrawal of troops, because, of course, it's important for our country as well, you know?  And the numbers --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And your country's going through the same thing.

 

            Q     Yeah.  But, I mean --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I mean, your Ministry of Defense is in this -- in the process of considering its downsizing as well.

 

            Q     There -- true.  And there has been a lot of talking.  I remember seeing the two ministers -- I understand.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Indeed.

 

            Q     So what is the time schedule, and what are the numbers?  Is it true that you will withdraw, like, half the number reported from Germany?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'll repeat what I said.  I gave you a very good answer.  (Light laughter.)

 

            Q     That's too long.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Too long for you.  (Laughter.)  I don't do bumper stickers.  (Laughter.)

 

            The fact is, you're reading speculation.  And the things that people are printing and opining on in the television and the radio are speculation.  They can't know.   They not only DON'T know, they CAN'T know.

 

            Q     But you do know.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't.  And I won't know until we start this process again and work with each of these countries, and then come to conclusions.  Take it for what it is.  You know the answers.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes?

 

            Q     Would you tell us, sir, how it will affect the security of South Korea against the military threat from North Korea?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure.  Let me take it in two pieces.  South Korea has a gross domestic product that possibly is 25 or 30 times that of the North.  It has a highly capable armed force.  It is a partner and an ally and a friend of the United States, and we have worked cooperatively with them under the U.N. umbrella for the better part of 50 years -- and that's a good thing.

 

            We are going to make no changes in the U.S. force posture that would be to the detriment of any of our friends or allies.  What we're going to have to do, however, is to begin to think in different terms, in a different context.

 

            There's a pattern in the world, our friends and allies -- and I will be so bold as to say here in the United States in the Department of Defense -- where we're used to counting things -- how many tanks, how many ships, how many planes, how many troops?  And what we know of certain knowledge today is that that's really not the relevant measurement.  If you've got five smart bombs, and it used to take 50 dumb bombs to achieve the same damage on the ground, and you go from 50 to 5, you have not reduced your capability at all.  Indeed, if you go from 50 to 10, you've increased, doubled your capability from the 50 dumb bombs.  Don't use those numbers as being precise.  It's more refined -- the correct answer is more refined.

 

            But we will not do anything with respect to South Korea that will not assure that the deterrent and the defensive capability will be healthy, strong and, I would add, stronger than it is today, even though the numbers are going to change -- in what way, I don't know because we haven't had those discussions.

 

            Q     Secretary, could I take you back to the 9/11 commission briefly?  You say you don't want to call Richard Clarke a liar, but you do say that he's mistaken in what he said --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, I didn't.  I said in one instance, I believe, he indicated I was in a meeting, looking distracted, and I don't believe I was in the meeting.

 

            Q     But the other day you also talked about how he was mistaken about a number of things he said --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't --

 

            Q     -- out on the steps at the River Entrance.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Did I?

 

            Q     At any rate, he testified yesterday that the number of specific proposals he put forth in the early days of the Bush administration to go after al Qaeda were ignored, namely --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I just can't speak to that.  He was working on the NSC staff, not at the department.

 

            Q     -- arming the Predator?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, listen, Dick Myers will give you an answer on arming the Predator.  That was done well by these -- by the Air Force and by the CIA, and any suggestion to the contrary is -- would be a misunderstanding.

 

            Dick?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  I think that covers it.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, that's just the bumper sticker.  (Laughter.)

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Okay.  The push for arming the Predator was -- actually came from the current chief of staff of the United States Air Force, John Jumper, when he was at Air Combat Command as the commander and looking at this UAV and saying, "Gee, I wonder if it can do more than just provide surveillance and reconnaissance."  And that was his initiative, pushed very hard.  There were other people that thought it was a good idea, once it got started, but that's where the genesis was.  And that was pushed very hard by the Air Force, and you know the rest of the story.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It was done in something like 10 or 11 months.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Right.  And it was --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And they had to overcome all kinds of problems.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  It was not a normal acquisition process to produce that capability.  It was done very quickly.  In fact, a lot of work had to be done afterwards to catch up to the normal process of -- to certify and do some things with the airframe that need to be done. But it was --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Plus it was deployed --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  It was effective --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- on an armed basis well before anyone had certified it for deployment.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary -- (off mike) -- discussions with the allies had reached the point of direct talks now.  On that point, in regards to Okinawa and the base at Futenma, in the event that that base is closed, what kind of alternative bases are you thinking about?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't want to get into speculation about closing bases.  I just won't do it.

 

            Q     Okay.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I will not do it.  I WILL NOT do it.

 

            Q     Regardless of closing that base, then, can you confirm reports that the U.S. -- and that there's talks going on yesterday and today with the Japanese delegation.  Has there been a proposal for another base to be opened on Shimoji Island?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm not going to get into the discussions.  I happen not to know the answer to that question, but even if I did know I would not get into it.  It seems to me we've got wonderful friends and allies around the world.  These things are complicated.  By discussing them prematurely, particularly inaccurately, and it has to be -- the odds are 90-to-1 that any speculation on this is inaccurate because we don't know where it's going to end up.  What it does is it raises people's hopes in some places and dashes people's hopes in the other place, and it just jerks everyone around and it's not helpful. Why not just report the news that's happening instead of the news that is never going to happen?  It's not hard.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, can you clarify a point I think you made on the bases?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  But then I wouldn't want to tell you your business.

 

            Q     Can you clarify the point that you made?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah.  Just a second.  I'm sorry.

 

            Q     Okay.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, I just want to follow up with another question related to Mr. Clarke.  He said this week he, meaning you, insisted that in the Presidential Decision Directive that followed 9/11 that he be given in writing from the president instructions to prepare for the invasion of Iraq right after 9/11, even though there was no connection with Iraq and everybody knew it, said Mr. Clarke.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I can't find anybody who knows me who thinks that I go around insisting to the president that he do something like that, nor can I find anyone who was around during that period in senior levels who thinks that I even might have done something like that.  I just can't imagine where that comes from.

 

            Q     Was there  --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)

 

            Q     -- anything in the directive immediately after 9/11 related to the invasion of Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'll tell you what was going on, and I think it's quite understandable.  I came into office and General Myers took over as chairman -- and was vice chairman previously -- and every day we were faced with the fact that the only place in the world where our planes and our air crews were being shot at was from Iraq, in Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch.  Every day, every other day, every third day someone was shot at.  And the risk was that we were going to lose a pilot, a crew and a plane.  And the risk was that one of three things could happen:  They could go down and be killed; they could go down and be not captured yet, and possibly capable of being rescued; or they could be downed alive, captured and taken away and held.  Now, those were the three things we were faced with every day from the first day I arrived here -- January 20th, 2001.

 

            We spent a lot of time asking ourselves what were we getting for what we were risking.  We spent a lot of time fashioning approaches that we would execute in the event one of those three options occurred, and packaging them -- I think I can go this far -- packaging them in ways that it would not take a lengthy discussion to decide what to do.  In other words, we packaged them, we pre-cleared them with the president, and we were cocked and ready to do a variety of different things in the event something occurred that fit one of those possible unfortunate possibilities.

 

            So there was a lot of talk of Iraq, I mean, there's just no question about it.  But the idea of -- the speculation about that there's some theory that -- the way to answer the question is look what we did.  What did we do?  We went into Afghanistan.  We didn't go to Iraq.  I mean, it doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     You and other administration officials have said many times that the United States is at war with terrorism.  Could you give us an idea of the size of the enemy?  How many terrorists internationally are there who are actively trying to damage the United States?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I've lost track of the number of lists -- countries that are on the terrorist list at the State Department. They've been announced.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Yes.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And it's in the five to 10 range, and it changes from time to time.  It's available.  And they vary in size and shape, and the total numbers of people that they may have recruited and trained and deployed at any given time varies.

 

            We're constantly killing or capturing.  I mean, just today we got off the phone with John Abizaid, and they picked up another 15 or 20 yesterday, I guess.  And of that, if you go with percentages, probably five of them will be thrown back and 10 of them will be validated as being people that should be kept off the streets.  But what the total numbers are, it isn't anything like facing a million-man army or a 500,000-person army.  It is quite a different thing.  And it doesn't take large numbers of terrorists to kill a lot of people.  Nineteen people killed 3,000 people in the United States.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     I wanted to go back for a minute, if I might -- for both of you -- to the question of the seriousness of Iraq.  And I want to stipulate two things.  We understand and we know at neither of you gentlemen were at the Radio-Television Correspondents dinner last night here in Washington where the president spoke.  I also want to say that I am specifically asking you this question -- it's difficult to ask, but with all respect to the Office of the President.

 

            And I brought the transcript with me.  And it goes to the point of whether Iraq is really a serious matter or not.  The president made some remarks in a humorous fashion, and he showed some pictures there which most of us there saw.  And he made some jokes about the hunt for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  And he said, quoting from the transcript, showing a picture, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere."  And then there was, in fact, laughter and applause from the audience.  And then he showed another picture: "No, no weapons over there."  Laughter and applause.  Another picture: "Maybe under here."  Laughter.

 

            So my question, really, truly in all seriousness, is -- both for the president, with respect, and for the news media -- is it appropriate to make a joke -- seriously, sirs -- about the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, when both of you, of course, were involved in the difficult issue of sending troops to war for that hunt?  And did the news media also blow it by sitting there and laughing?  Did we blow it last night?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I wasn't there, and I --

 

            Q     I understand.  (And that is why ?) I'm reading the transcript very accurately to you.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think you have to -- to know what I would think, I would have had to be there.  I think the context of those evenings -- I wasn't there, as you said, but I think I've attended in previous years on occasion, and I just am not in a position to be judgmental about that.

 

            (Pause.)  (Soft laughter.)

 

            Yes?  Seize the moment!

 

            Q     Okay.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Back to the military new footprint being considered.  What do we expect for Turkey?  Because there were military-to-military talks, high-level talks, last week --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure.  I can't answer that, just like I couldn't answer Germany or Japan or Korea or anywhere else.

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- can answer it?  When do we expect an action in northern Iraq for the PKK?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I can't answer that.  Even if I could answer it, I wouldn't.

 

            Q     (Chuckling.)  I wish I could ask you something which you can answer.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Let me offer this suggestion -- (laughter) -- the -- that's a issue that's been discussed, of course, with the various people in Iraq and with Turkey, and it's not something that I have any information I could impart here.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, several times you've cited the risk to U.S pilots patrolling the no-fly zone as a reason that Iraq was on the radar screen when you first took office.  But that was never cited as a justification for invasion of Iraq or a casus belli.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No.  No, but it was certainly a justification for spending a lot of time thinking about Iraq.

 

            Q     The question that we keep asking you, to which you keep answering with a reference to the pilots, is, when did you begin serious planning for an Iraqi invasion, not whether you invaded Afghanistan first, but when did you begin planning for --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That's a fair question.  I think it was probably -- Dick might know, but I'm going to guess it was probably 12 years   ago.  The Department of Defense is in the business of planning.  We have contingency plans, and various excursions that number in the dozens when one adds them all up, the counting of basic contingency plans and then excursions or various scenarios.

 

            I don't know -- I wasn't in government -- but -- just a minute -- I wasn't in government, but when I arrived, there had been an Iraq contingency plan on the shelf, and it had been there for years.

 

            (To the general.)  Do you know how long?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  No, sir, I don't.  I'd have to -- but it's been -- it's at least --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  -- at least -- yeah --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And what I did was I said, "Okay, I haven't been around this building for 25 years.  Come out and show me a war plan.  Let me see what they look like these days."  And I got briefed on it, and I was concerned.  I was concerned that it was old, it was stale, that the assumptions were assumptions that had been fashioned, in some cases, two, three, four, in one case I think five years previously. And I said, well, I think we'd better review them.

 

            So I saw another one.  And I felt the same way.

 

            And I then said, Okay, Saturday morning, get every one of the major war plan people in and brief me not on the war plans but on the assumptions.  I want to see just the assumptions:  when they were fashioned, and what they are.  And we had a roomful of 40 or 50 people.  And we sat there for hour after hour after hour and got briefed on every one.

 

            And we made a decision that there was something about the contingency planning process that did not fit the 21st century.  And we were uncomfortable.  And I felt we owed the American people a better job than that, and that things were now moving faster than they had in an earlier period, the one I was here before, or even 10 years before, and that we had to be more current, and we had to have a cycle that could look at these plans in a shorter period of time rather than every period of years, we needed to do it -- cut that down.

 

            And third, we needed to do it in an iterative process.  That is to say, a process, like we used with General Franks, where we each began and looked at a 10 percent solution, recalibrated, looked at a 20 percent solution, recalibrated, looked at a 30 percent solution and recalibrated, rather than doing all the work down through the TPFDD and all the logistics, based on a plan, and then walking in and handing it to us.  It had to be done differently.  And we -- Dick Myers and Pete Pace and I have changed the process and the speed with which they are done.  And the Iraq plan was one of them.  And needless to say, when I came in, we grabbed the Iraq plan, got briefed on it, along with a lot of other plans, and changed it.  And not just a downed pilot, and not just northern or southern no-fly zone, but we were doing that work, as we should.  That's our job.

 

            Q     So is it contention that the -- your orders to freshen up the stale, off-the-shelf Iraq invasion plan was simply routine and no different, for instance, than the plan -- freshening up the plan for the defense of South Korea and not the reflection of some new impetus to attack Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  When I did it, the answer is that is correct. There is also -- it would be also correct to add that at some point the president took General Myers and me aside and said, Where are you on that plan; I need to have you look at that because it's something that conceivably would happen.  And then he began this process with General Franks over a sustained period of time --

 

            Q     When did that take place, approximately?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It certainly was not September 11th.

 

            Q     Can you get us an answer for the record just so -- for the historical?  Because it's become a point of some contention.  So if you could -- I don't expect you to recall this off the top of your head, but if someone on your staff could provide us a time frame for when that -- when the president called you aside and said this might be something that would really happen.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I just don't know when it was.

 

            Q     I was just asking if you could get back to us on that.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I will determine whether I can.  (Laughter.)  I don't know if I'm able to.  I wouldn't even begin to guess when it was by -- even by a month.  But it was down the road.  And I don't know if the president does, and I don't know that if he does -- which I know I don't know -- if it's something he would want out.  But it's up to him.  It was his instruction.

 

            Q     Well, to the extent you can set the record straight, we'd appreciate it.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes?

 

            Q     A question about Guantanamo Bay.  In recent weeks, a group of --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Can I -- just a second.  Let me just -- Jamie, just to make sure everybody understands, there's a lot of difference between planning and a decision to execute a plan.  They're entirely separate events.  And different officials' interest in a plan seems to me is not of much interest.  I mean, you would expect, as the secretary said, that this department in fact plans for lots of various contingencies, and we have for a long time.  And the process was   changed exactly as the secretary said to make these more viable, fresher; assumptions that are closer to the time a plan is finished; an iterative process.

 

            We've worked, I would say, on other plans -- we work with General Franks very hard.  We've also worked with our combatant commanders very hard, many sessions with the secretary, to ensure we had fresh military plans on the shelf.  Planning is one thing; the decision to execute is an entirely different process, and I just want to make that clear.  The two are --

 

            Q     Yeah, but when the man who can make that decision says to you:  That plan that you're updating, where are you on it because I might need it sooner than you think, you can draw more of a conclusion from that.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  We'll, you're putting words -- you're putting -- I'll just go one step further.  The president is concerned about a lot of areas of the world, okay?  And that seems to me to be legitimate as well.  And he has given us other planning instruction as well.  That does not mean that we go to execution.  I just make the point.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That is very important advice because I have been asked -- we have been asked about other contingency plans than that one, as to where we stand on it, and when the -- how the timing is, and whether or not something can be accelerated.  So one ought --

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            GEN. MYERS:  (Off mike.)  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  So one ought not -- one ought not to walk away with the impression that this was totally distinctive.    It was not decided until the president, Dick Myers and I -- (to General Myers) I believe you were --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  (Off mike.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- in his office, and I took over a piece of paper and he signed it asking me to execute the war plan.  That's when the decision was made, and that was a matter of days prior to the time that the plan actually -- the activity in Iraq actually began.  That was after the full run with Congress, the full run with the U.N. and the full run with a group of allies.  That was when the final decision was made, and not until then.

 

            Q     So when you say it was down the road -- I should put it, the request was down the road --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I probably shouldn't have said that.  I just don't know.

 

            Q     Well --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'd have to go back and find out.

 

            Q     Are you --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't want to leave any impressions.

 

            Q      Are you trying to get across the notion that the request by the president for an update on this plan was not prompted by September 11th but events in Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm going to leave it where I left it with Jamie. I'm going to go back and see if I can get some clarity on this in my own mind and where we stand.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes.

 

            Q     Guantanamo Bay.  In recent weeks a group of detainees have been released, namely a group of citizens and one Danish citizen -- and released to their home countries and don't face prosecution in their countries.  And there's a good deal of concern in this building that they were released, even though they had al Qaeda and Taliban   ties and that pretty much they were un-reconstructed terrorists.  And in the case of the Danish citizen, the DIA objected to his release, as did SOLIC.  And I'm wondering whether you can say with confidence that those prisoners -- no longer prisoners -- no longer pose a threat to the United States, especially since they don't face prosecution.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We have also released some people that do face prosecution.  When I say released, transferred.  You know, there's a complex interagency process that has established this situation -- the detainees in Guantanamo and the situation in Iraq.  The lawyers have bent over backwards to make sure we did it in a legal and proper way. And we are working with the International Committee of the Red Cross and they review how these people are being treated.  And then there's a process that screens these people for possible release or transfer to another country.  And in the process they engage in discussion with the other countries.  Our first choice is to not have these people, needless to say, and to get them back to the countries where they came from if the countries where they came from will treat them -- manage them in a way that is in the best interests of people who care about the global war on terror.  From time to time somebody is deemed to be appropriate for transfer.  From time to time they're going to be deemed appropriate for transfer to a country that may decide they want to not prosecute them, but to monitor them in one way or another, and the countries take responsibility for them.

 

            Now, have we made a mistake?  Yeah.  I've mentioned earlier that I do believe we made a mistake in one case and that one of the people that was released earlier may very well have gone back to being a terrorist.  And no one likes to make mistakes, but this process made a judgment and it's not easy.  They review dozens and dozens and dozens, hundreds of these people, and my guess is -- just like the criminal justice system in the United States, my guess is we probably made a mistake on the other side as well; that is to say, somebody got reviewed and was kept who might very well have gone off and been a model citizen, soldier of the year.  But we're doing it honorably, we're doing it legally, and let's just hope and pray that we don't let people loose that do go back and become terrorists.

 

            Q     Just a follow-up quickly.  I mean, you've said many times this is a war on terrorism.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It is.

 

            Q     And if your own experts in DIA and SOLIC would object specifically to the case of the Dane from his release, I mean, how we can be confident or you can be confident that he doesn't pose a threat, even though he's not --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It may be.  I don't get involved in this process. There's too many people and I'm not a lawyer and they do their best. I would guess that there are very -- (chuckles) -- few people that get dealt with where there's unanimity that they definitely shouldn't go or they definitely should go -- be transferred.  And there's always going to be -- it's like a jury.  They sit there and they make judgments, and someone votes this way and someone votes that way, and they do their best.  And my impression is they're doing a pretty darn good job, and let's just hope and pray that folks just don't go back out there and kill more innocent men, women and children.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  I think it's fair to say that the countries that get these people -- that our view of them is not all that different from the country that's getting them, and I think we generally agree on the type of person they're getting.  And these countries have responsibilities as well to ensure that these people, whether they're put in court or put in jail or whatever happens to them, that they're watched in such a way that they can't perpetrate more horror.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The things we look for is not punishment, as you know.  This isn't law enforcement.  These people didn't rob a bank or steal a car.  What we look for is, first and foremost, ought they to be off the street so they aren't going to go kill more people?  And second, have we gotten all the information out of them through the interrogation process -- the interagency interrogation process -- that we can to learn as much as possible about their friends and associates who were involved in killing people and terrorizing?  And at some point they move from one tier into another tier, and at some point they move from that tier into a tier that looks like we might be able to pass them off on someone else or let them loose.  I mean, some people get ill and they get taken out, some people, everyone just says maybe these people could be released now because they don't seem to be a threat.

 

            All right.  Thank you very much.

 

            Q     Thank you.

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