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Defense Department Operational Update Briefing

Presenters: Lawrence Di Rita, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Brigadier General David Rodriguez, Deputy Director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff
July 14, 2004 2:35 PM EDT

Wednesday, July 14, 2004 2:38 p.m. EDT

Defense Department Operational Update Briefing

           MR. DIRITA:  Good afternoon.  I just have a couple of things to mention and then General Rodriguez has one or two things, then I'll be happy to -- we'll be happy to take your questions.

 

            First of all, we've had some briefings down here with respect to the procedures involving detainees at Guantanamo.  I understand Secretary England, who's administering those procedures, will be back down here to brief you on Friday at 11:00.  And that's subject to change without notice, of course, but that's what we're shooting for. There's been some follow-up activities.  If I'm not mistaken, he's even been in Guantanamo.  So he'll have some more insights to offer into the policy development.

 

            One thing I'd like to clarify, indeed maybe even correct.  I think last week when I was here I said that we'd been to the Senate  Armed Services Committee to brief the ICRC.  We had been there to talk to the Senate -- the Armed Services Committee staff to lay out here's the reports, this is what we're going to be -- this is what we have at the moment.  I think the decision at that point was to leave some of the reports, let the staff read them.

 

            We will actually be briefing members, as I understand it, tomorrow, and we're before the House today, House Armed Services Committee.  So that's a slight clarification.  I said that we had done the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, we were doing the House this week.  It's sort of true, but some clarification.

 

            Q     And it's still all behind closed doors.  It's not a hearing.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  It's a briefing, it's not a hearing.  And it's closed, that's correct, at the mutual understanding of the Senate, the Congress, the administration and the ICRC.

 

            Q     (Off mike.)

 

            MR. DIRITA:  No, I just -- I like to stay on message here.

 

            Q     Were the members actually given copies of the reports?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Apparently we left copies with the staff so they could read them and review them and get up to speed on them and better understand them so that there could be a better exchange once the members could focus on it.  That was apparently one of the things that, you know, these reports can be lengthy and they need time to --

 

            Q     Did you ask them actually whether that was considered appropriate or not?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I think we've satisfied the obligations that we think we have with the ICRC.  We've tried to be very careful.  There were agreements with respect to handling and what-not that I think everybody's agreed to.  And whether that means they stayed up there at night and had to be brought back, I just don't know.  But I think we satisfied all the handling instructions that people were anxious about, rightly so.

 

            Finally, and we'll put a release out with some additional detail, but we're announcing today that charges have been referred to a military commission with respect to one enemy combatant detained at Guantanamo.  The appointing authority, General Altenburg, has approved and referred charges on Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen.  And he -- his charges include, among other things, conspiracy to commit attack on civilians, and terrorism.  And there'll be some more detail on that later today that we'll put out in a release.  This is one of the original individuals identified by the president for referral to military commissions last year.

 

            Q     One of the original six?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  That's correct.

 

            Q     So he's already been referred, so we know about him, and now the charges are just referred?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  The charges are being referred, that is correct. You do know -- I think you know about him.

 

            Q     About the fourth one?  Is that -- would that be --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  That is correct -- as I recall and understand it.

 

            General Rodriguez.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Thank you, Mr. DiRita.

 

            I'd like to provide some details on a few operational issues.

 

            In Iraq today several Iraqi civilians and national guard personnel were killed and over a dozen Iraqis wounded when a vehicle- borne explosive device exploded at a checkpoint outside the international zone.  Initial reports indicate the blast was caused by a thousand-pound explosive device. Also, the governor of the province of Nehneva, of which Mosul is the capital city, was traveling in a motorcade en route to Baghdad when his convoy was attacked.  He was transported to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

 

            In Afghanistan, coalition forces kicked off Operation Lightning Resolve.  Similar to Operation Mountain Storm, the objective of this mission is to interdict al Qaeda and Taliban forces, who are trying to prevent the Afghani national elections from taking place in the coming months.

 

            And with that, we'll take your questions.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And before we do, let me acknowledge -- and I apologize for not doing this at the beginning.  I am told that we have  some of your colleagues from Afghanistan with us, being hosted by the State Department.  And we welcome you to the briefing room, and I think you're -- they're being shown some other facilities around Washington.  They're here for a few days, and we welcome you.  Welcome to the United States.

  

            Q     Yeah, Larry, a 25-year-old Swedish citizen named Ghezali has said that he was exposed to freezing cold temperatures, deprived of sleep, chained in painful positions for long periods of time, exposed to bright flashes of light in darkened rooms, and exposed to loud noise as part of his two-year detention at Guantanamo Bay.  Did these happen -- did these things happen to him?  And also, just referring back to last Friday's briefing, could you clear up the issue of whether there are any detainees held at Guantanamo who are not in the control of the Defense Department?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  With respect to your last question, I don't know the answer, I don't believe there are.  And if there's any further detail on that, we'll provide it.

 

            Regarding the Swede, this is the fellow whom we've returned back to the government of Sweden for further disposition.  The people on Guantanamo were treated -- we've by now released publicly the interrogation procedures that were authorized by the secretary of Defense for use in Guantanamo.  The interrogation procedures that were used there were within international standards.  They were reviewed every step of the way for policy implications, intelligence implications, and legal implications.  The International Committee of the Red Cross had excessive and extensive and regular access to detainees at Guantanamo.

 

            I think we're going to hear from people being released all manner of things, and people will have to form their own judgments.

 

            But we're proceeding carefully in Guantanamo in accordance with procedures that are by now well understood to the entire world, including the terrorists that we're trying to gather additional information from.  And that's unfortunate, but it happens to be the world we're in.

 

            So, I would -- I can't speak to specific things he may have raised about his treatment, other than to say that his treatment was consistent with the treatment -- the procedures that we've announced and declared and briefed extensively, and they're procedures that are well within international standards.

 

            Q     Just to follow up, though, are you saying that what he has said is untrue?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I've not seen what he said.  I'm saying what I'm saying, and I know that's true.  So -- yeah?

 

            Q     General Schwartz was on the Hill last week, and he told the House Armed Services Committee that there would be some adjustments in force levels in Afghanistan in the next couple of months.  Could you tell us, are those adjustments going up in advance of the election, or is the plan to bring the numbers down by withdrawing the MEU that's there?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  (To the General)  Have you got anything on that?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, the one MEU is coming home, so there's a slight adjustment there.  But all those adjustments, you know, they go up and down over time, and this current one at this point in time is just the one MEU coming home.

 

            Q     That's the one he was referring to?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  That's correct.

 

            Q      So you guys don't have plans to increase force levels there?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, we do not.  No.  There's no specific plans to increase or decrease.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Which is not to say they won't be increased --

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Right.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  -- but at the moment, there's nobody planning to do that.

 

            Q     Any plan to do anything to boost security in Afghanistan around the time of the elections, which are September, I guess?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, what we talked about was the Operation Lightning -- it just began -- which is offensive operations focused on protecting that election process that has just begun.  But that's all at this point in time, ma'am.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah?

 

            Q     A couple of points.  It's pretty rare for the Pentagon to ask for a formal apology from a sitting senator.  Why do that in this letter to Senator Rockefeller?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I didn't see the letter.  If it --

 

            Q     It's right here.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  If it seeks an apology, I'd be happy to take a look at it.  I saw various versions of it.

 

            Let me explain what this is about.

 

            The Senate Intelligence Committee issued its report last week, as I think most people in here now understand.  It is a fairly exhaustive analysis by the Senate Intelligence Committee, unanimously reported out, of really every aspect of the issue regarding intelligence prior to the war in Iraq that one could imagine.  It was more or less silent on the question of the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.  To the extent that that office was mentioned, it was mentioned in one finding with respect to a particular analysis in which it was acknowledged that people from that office contributed.  And, in fact, the analysts involved in that acknowledged the contribution of the people from that office.

 

            The Office of the Undersecretary for Policy has provided a significant amount of information to the committee at the committee's request.  Has made himself -- the undersecretary for policy has made himself available to the committee, has actually, to the best of my recollection, even testified before the committee and provided a great deal of information and insight into the work that his office did during the analysis of prewar intelligence.  And it was just that: analysis.

 

            The findings in the report that was issued made two particular conclusions.

 

            One, that the committee did not find any evidence that administrative officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or capabilities.  That was in Conclusion No. 83.

 

            In Conclusion No. 102 there was a reference to a particular intelligence product that was developed in August and September of 2002.  The product was called "Iraq's Support for Terrorism."  And the committee concluded that while some changes were made to that particular product as the result of the participation of two Office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy staffers, their presence did not result in changes to their analytical judgments.  That's the extent to which the report appears to conclude anything having to do with that office.

 

            During his press conference, Senator Rockefeller made a comment that I accept could have been an offhand comment, but he suggested, and in fact his comment was something along the lines of whether or not Undersecretary for Policy for Feith might be, quote, "running a private intelligence failure" -- and I think he may just have misspoken there -- comma, "which is not lawful."  To the best of our understanding, there was never any assertions about unlawful or illegal activity.  It was simply a question of the role that that office played.

 

            That comment seemed offbeat.  It seemed in particular very inconsistent with the report that was being issued that day, which if anything seemed to clarify the role that the office played and suggested that it played a helpful role.  So we thought it was important to get on the record quickly with our understanding of the situation, remind Senator Rockefeller -- and, I believe, Senator Roberts -- the extensive degree to which the department has cooperated with the committee to try and help them understand the role that the department played, and to ask that if in fact he had misspoken, that he simply retract his comments.  And that's everything that I know about it.

 

            Q     Senator Rockefeller suggested the committee's not done with that element of their investigation.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Fair enough.

 

            Q     Does Secretary Feith feel exonerated by this report?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I don't -- I will let Secretary Feith speak for himself. The report speaks for itself.  He's up testifying today -- Senator -- Secretary Feith is, along with, as I understand it, Secretary Cambone, to the House Intelligence Committee, which has also evinced an interest in the role the department played in analyzing the prewar intelligence.

 

            So again, it seemed a comment that was inconsistent with the findings of the report itself.  The extent to which this -- that particular office was considered in the report was -- seemed quite modest.  And in fact, to the extent that it did seem to have a role, the report implied that it was a helpful role.  That -- so we just thought it was important that that be clarified, and that's what the intent of the letter was.

 

            Q     But Larry, the -- as you acknowledge, though, the report is largely silent on the activities of the office.  And can you just respond, without getting into the question of the report itself, but just the assertion that Undersecretary Feith was running some sort of private intelligence operation, described variously as a rogue intelligence operation, that might not have complied with the law, particularly in providing information to Congress in an oversight role?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Right.

 

            Q     I think that's the specific -- can you just tell us whether that is the case or not the case?  Can you respond to that allegation that he might have been running such a private intelligence --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I'm not aware that anybody's made that allegation. And in fact I'm not sure that was what the intent of --

 

            Q     Senator Rockefeller is raising that question.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah.  No, no --

 

            Q     In fact, in response to a letter from the Pentagon --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Right.

 

            Q     -- he specifically said that, you know, he's not apologizing --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah.  No, no.  And I -- whether he --

 

            Q     And he's questioning whether or not that was the case.  And you're saying that a further investigation may --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And we'll await -- I mean, it would seem to me -- it would be unfortunate if anybody were trying to prejudge continuing investigations by the committee.  I doubt that's what Secretary -- Senator Rockefeller was trying to do, although it kind of sounds -- one could misinterpret his comments as though he were prejudging the outcome of any continued investigations.  I'm only -- I'm making the point that we have provided exhaustive amount of information to that committee about the role of that office.  And in the -- in a -- and in an otherwise very thorough analysis of prewar intelligence, the committee found very little to comment on with respect to the volumes of information we've provided.

 

            Q     But are you willing to say from the podium today that Undersecretary Feith was not running a private intelligence operation that was unlawful?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I am willing to say that there was certainly no intent for anything like that to be done.  What was being done was described, and what was being done -- and we have described it extensively and he's testified to it -- was a handful of analysts were reviewing existing intelligence products and providing their own interpretation of it, which we then briefed to members of the -- I believe ultimately to the director of Central Intelligence, as well as senior officials at the National Security Council.  So --

 

            Q     Is it your contention that that didn't violate any law?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah, it is.  That's our -- that's certainly -- that was -- that's certainly our belief at the time, and it's certainly our continued understanding now, that --

 

            One of the interesting things about the report that was concluded by the Senate Intel Committee, which I've not read fully but I've reviewed the findings, is that -- and this is their word, not mine -- the degree to which groupthink contributed to intelligence conclusions.  And if there were -- if -- to the extent I understand what policy analysts do is they challenge assessments of the intelligence community, and they do it in a way that is meant to prevent groupthink from occurring.  In other words, from their own perspective defense analysts may have one view and say, well, have you thought about that, have you thought about this.  State Department analysts -- indeed, the State Department has an entire operation known as INR that does intelligence work for a very good reason, because you do want that kind of competitive analysis.

 

            So I don't think anybody has made assertions of unlawful activity, although that's certainly what somebody could interpret Senator Rockefeller's comments to be.  I think it's just a question of what was that office doing, and we've tried our very best to explain it in some significant detail.

 

            Q     General Rodriguez, we've heard over the months and months that the Iraq conflict's been going on conflicting reports and estimates from this podium, over in Baghdad also, of just how large a presence foreign fighters are over in Iraq.  What's your sense right now of what the composition of the enemy forces that you and the Iraqis are facing there is?  And are you getting any indication that foreign fighters are leaving Iraq, going into Saudi Arabia, Syria, any other neighboring countries?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  The composition is obviously a complex composition to include foreign fighters, former regime elements, internal and external Islamic extremists, criminals and such.  So the exact number and how you put them in each category is very, very difficult to determine, which is why we've always had a challenge of that over the past 15 months.

 

            And -- but -- and to your other part there about where do you think they're going, obviously we believe that some of them are going in and out.  Don't know the exact numbers of how that gets accomplished or how often that happens, but we do believe they're able to move in and out at certain times.

 

            Q     Do you have a sense, though, that there's a trend, that the foreign elements in Iraq are on the upswing, that they're becoming an increasing or decreasing --

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, there's no trends that's clearly evident at this point in time.

 

            Q     Larry?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Tom?

 

            Q     Yeah, last week, end of last week, NATO officials on the record said they were concerned about security at the upcoming Olympics; in particular that one of their members was not able to test out any of the security procedures because they're behind schedule. We're talking about the Greeks.  (Obviously ?) the United States is a member of NATO.  But what can you shed light for us on -- kind of emergency procedures that the United States military will have in place during the Olympics in case it needs to go in and solve a problem?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  (To General Rodriguez.)  Do you have anything that we're prepared to offer at this point?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, I don't think we're prepared to offer that at this point.

 

            Q     Could you say that -- could you offer up something to the effect that it is a concern -- or is it a concern?  And if so, have steps been taken that you can share with us?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I mean, let's be very clear.  You know, terrorists have indicated that they wish to disrupt any number of activities around the world.  I'm not prepared to speak to specific intelligence regarding the Greek Olympics, but I know that the Greek government takes seriously its responsibilities in an international environment such as they're facing.  We saw the same thing at the Olympics here in Salt Lake City in 2002.  I mean, we took that seriously, and everybody believes that the Greek government understands its obligations, too.

 

            But with respect to specific security assistance that NATO is seeking and that we may be assisting with, I don't -- we'll take that, and we'll try to get back to you.

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- does the United States -- do we -- the United States have plans now to have the military ready to go in case something happens during the Olympics?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Right now, NATO is coordinating with the government of Greece on how they're going to do that, and the U.S. is supporting NATO as the coordinations go on.  But there have not been a lot of specific agreements and specific force contributions at this point in time because the negotiations are still going on between NATO and the government of Greece.

 

            Q     Of course, United States policy remains that if it has to act unilaterally, it will.   

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, we'll always act to defend our national interests and to defend U.S. citizens around the world.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- from Al Hurrah TV.  Mr. DiRita, it was reported that some Arab countries, like Syria, played a role in the release of the Marine Ali Hassoun.  Do you have any information that would confirm this?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I don't think we have much specific information, and there's a lot of inquiry in progress with respect to Corporal Hassoun's status from the point at which he disappeared to the point at which he reappeared in Beirut -- or in Lebanon.  So we'll have more to say as we understand that, but he's -- people are talking with him and that's ongoing, and we just -- we're not in a position, really, to make any detailed comments.

 

            Q     General, some specifics about Lightning Resolve, if you have them.  I mean, is the area of operations for this similar to Mountain Storm in the eastern and southern part of Afghanistan?  And can you talk about rough estimates of U.S. troops levels involved in the operation?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  It's the same level -- troop levels that are there.  There has been no addition, or just the decrease that we talked about with the MEU going home.

 

            And the area of operations --

 

            Q     Excuse me.  Is this operation -- all U.S. forces are involved in it?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Right.  Correct.

 

            Q     Okay.

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  And the area of operations is expanded just a little bit from what it was during Mountain Storm.  And it's still in the same eastern part, but it expands a little bit to the north and west of where they actually were focused on during Mountain Storm.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Okay?

 

            Q     General Rodriguez, on Iraq, I think from this podium and elsewhere we've heard that since the handover --  or there was some prediction that after the handover the violence would increase, or could potentially increase.  Now that it's been, you know, three weeks or so, can you talk a little bit, at least in general terms, about whether you've seen any change in the nature of the insurgency?  Is it more organized today?  Do they appear to be stepping operations up?

 

            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Since the transition of sovereignty, a couple of things have occurred that have been a positive sign.  Mostly that has been the Iraqi security forces; they've increased their capability and have reached out more and more and are taking on more and more responsibility.

 

            As far as the insurgency and the enemy at this point in time, they have continued their same kind of trends about attacking the Iraqi leadership, the Iraqi infrastructure, and the Iraqi security forces.  And to date, there's really not a -- it's too short a time, really, to make predictions on trends on how it's going totally.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  But one thing we have seen -- and it's not a trend, but it's interesting to watch -- is Iraqis are stepping up publicly to condemn some of this violence.  We've seen public announcements by, obviously, government officials.  We've seen to some extent there have been press reports about religious leaders speaking out.  There's -- you know, it's now Iraqis who understand that they have their own stake in it.  And that's not something that should surprise anybody. It's their country and it's their government.  But we have indeed noticed that as well.

 

            Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     A question about the tanker lease issue.  It's my understanding that there was a meeting in Frist's office to make some sort of agreement on the exchange of documents.  Can you kind of get us up to date on that, have the -- (inaudible) -- documents gone over and --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I will do my best.  The secretary has been prepared for quite some time to provide no small number of documents that the committee, the Armed Services Committee, and Senator McCain and others have sought.  And we've reviewed several hundred documents that probably equate to several thousand pages of documents that the secretary is quite prepared to transmit.

 

            There's been -- obviously, it's an issue that goes beyond just this department because the executive branch has an interest in its own prerogatives.  So the White House Counsel's Office has been involved in reviewing those for that very purpose.

 

            But the upshot is that over the last day or so, a couple of thousand documents have either been transmitted or are in the process of being transmitted to the committee.  We've made certain -- there are certain understandings with respect to how those documents will be handled because --

 

            Q     What's the understanding there on how they'll be handled?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, it's the committee that's seeking them, so it's our understanding we're providing them to the committee.  There are documents that offer secondhand references to other individuals, and it's our general belief that since it's secondhand information, you want to try and be as -- you want to try and limit the distribution of those kinds of documents as much as possible because it's not really fair to individuals who are sort of mentioned in somebody else's e-mail, if you will.  So it's been an ongoing discussion with the committee and with the interested members.

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- contain e-mails as such?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  There are e-mails, yeah.

 

            Q     Okay.  And is this the first batch or is this sort of the --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I expect there will be more.  The committee has expressed an interest in an additional sequence of documents.  And as I said, it's the secretary's strong inclination to be as responsive as we're capable of being, again with the proviso that the White House has a view on these things, or at least on behalf of the executive branch the White House general legal counsel has a view.  So we're  --     

 

Q     Have they given you assurance that they'll move on your nominees now?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  It's not that kind of thing.  We're trying to be responsive, and the Senate will decide what the Senate's going to decide with respect to individuals.

 

            Q     Is there a quid pro quo?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Quid pro quo?  I didn't even know such things exist.

 

            Q     A follow-up on the Feith matter, if I may.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Is there anything left to be said about that?

 

            Q     By all accounts, of their own testimony, of people who've worked in that office, including Doug Feith himself, there was a belief prior to the war that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and that there was very serious concern about a link between Saddam Hussein, or the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda.  And you say that this was an analysis shop, and that was certainly their public testimony.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And private testimony.

 

            Q     And private testimony.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Behind closed doors, we've given the same testimony.

 

            Q     That makes my question more specific.  Thank you.

 

            The question, then, is, given the fact that the Congress, that the 9/11 commission and even the president has now questioned the intelligence they received, how good an analysis shop was it?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, we'll leave that for others to decide.  I mean, the intelligence -- what they were -- what that shop was doing, to the best of everybody's recollection and understanding, is taking products from the intelligence community and analyzing them.

 

            Q     Right, absolutely.  And I accept that you say that's what they did.  And they were doing that for the secretary of Defense, who had a critical need for competitive intelligence.  But by all accounts, the president himself now says that all of this was problematic and he's very concerned.  Has the secretary of Defense yet expressed any concern about the intelligence he got from his own top- flight analytical shop, Mr. Feith, which by now --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  He didn't get intelligence from them.  He got policy analysis, which is what that shop does.  So --

 

            Q     Fine.  Clearly the policy analysis somehow is problematic.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  It contributed to an administration-wide understanding of the problem with Iraq.  It was a component of that administration-wide thinking.  We shared that thinking with the Congress.  The Congress had its own set of analysis that it had done, looking at the exact same intelligence.  And in fact the Congress, as early as 1998 --

 

            Q     (It was from ?) -- your definition --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Let me just finish the answer.  You asked the question.

 

            The Congress, on its own behalf with respect to the same intelligence, drew its own conclusions, which included a conclusion that the regime in Iraq should be changed, and they did that in 1998. The other intelligence communities around the world made the same conclusions or similar, very similar conclusions.  The United Nations made assertions to that effect; not regime change, but with Iraq's believed involvement with weapons of mass destruction in various U.N. resolutions.  So that was the sort of environment that existed, and to which a number of policy and intelligence offices shared views.  And I'm, just not prepared to say out of that whole mosaic, let's pull on one thread and see how good that thread was.  It's just -- I'm not capable of doing that.

 

            The Senate committee has issued its report, and I just think that the amount of work that went into issuing that report is such that it would be so much better to just focus on what the Senate committee said.  The president has indeed named his own commission.  Judge Silberman and Senator Robb will be looking at many of these same issues.  This is going to get an awful lot -- the 9/11 commission to some extent will look at some of the intelligence-related aspects.  So there will be an awful lot for people to chew on.

 

            Q     Larry?

 

            Q     What concerns has the secretary of Defense -- you see him every day.  What concerns has he expressed about the prewar intelligence he got?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I'm not aware that I've ever heard him express concerns about it.  He has a very sophisticated understanding of the uses and the limitations of intelligence.  And he is an aggressive user of intelligence, to the extent that he likes to ask questions, he likes to get additional information, insights.  And that's what policymakers do.

 

            I think we've provided to this Congress and maybe we've provided publicly -- I'm not sure it's unclassified -- but when he was the chairman, I believe, of the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, there was an -- the commission also published a side letter on intelligence and the role of policymakers in intelligence.  And it makes for some interesting reading.  We've provided it to the committee.  I don't know if it's a public document.

 

            Q     I've got a question --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And then we're going to have unfortunately wrap it up.

 

            Q     The -- (inaudible) -- issue, looking back, you were in a --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  It's not my word, by the way.  Somebody else's word.

 

            Q     Some you were in.  That's one of the values of having you up there.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Thank you.

 

            Q     Well, did Secretary Rumsfeld --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I knew there had to be one.

 

            Q     Did Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Feith -- did they question the intelligence analysts --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Every day.

 

            Q     Every day?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  That's what they do.  That's what policymakers do. They question, and they say, "Have you thought about that?  And could you get me more information on this?  And jeez, I heard that.  Can you go check on that?"  That's what the iterative process is all about. They don't say, "I've got my own intelligence I'd like to share with you."  They say, "Jeez, I'm a policymaker.  This is what I know. Could you go back and check on something for me?"  That's what -- that's the way the process works.

 

            Q     The report talks about a groupthink where hundreds of analysts never questioned that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They went on to find -- did -- at your level, was that ever questioned?  When they got the intelligence, did Rumsfeld say, "Are you sure they actually have these stockpiles?"

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I don't know.  I don't know.  He -- I -- he gets a daily brief from a -- the intelligence community that I'm not part of. So I don't know what he --

 

            Q     Can I ask a domestic-related terrorism question?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah, and then we will have to, unfortunately, move along.

 

            Q     All right.  This may sound a little off, but parents last week at the Pentagon day care center were told that the thing is going to close.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah.

 

            Q     It's because unspecific threats to the building -- this is one of those indications how terrorism affects the military, in a way, the Washington area.  Can you walk through a little bit why it's being closed and what's being done for the --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Well, it's a tough problem.  Right after the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, as I understand it, a lot of parents withdrew -- the families withdrew their children from that facility.  And in fact, I -- if I'm -- I don't want to be held on this one, but I think it was actually closed for a while.

 

            STAFF :  It was.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  The Pentagon is a clearly a target in a general sense.  This decision to find a better location for day care for Pentagon employees, which is really what this is about, is not based on specific intelligence.  It's based on the general understanding -- if you look, for example, what we just did with Highway 110 -- we just bent that thing out, because we're doing our very best to take account of the fact that we know -- we've been attacked once, at -- in this building that we are now sitting in -- and in fact, in this very location.

 

            So it seems prudent to say:  What other things might we consider? And the Congress has provided for some military construction, as I understand it, some military construction assistance for another facility elsewhere, downstream.

 

            And so we're just doing our best to manage a problem that every -- I think there's general understanding is an important question.  I think questions of timing are ones I'm not prepared to discuss.  I think the people who are responsible for this in the department are trying to stay in very close communication with the members, with affected congressional delegations -- when I say the members, the family members who are involved there.

 

            It's -- again, it's non-specific, but it's sort of in the category of prudent planning as you look at the Pentagon reservation, what might you do differently in the wake of what we know has already happened once, and that is that we were attacked.

 

            Q     What are you going to do between now and 2007, though, when this new facility is open?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I'm not sure.  I know that there's been a lot of discussion with families about alternative sites.  I don't know that there have been any decisions.  I think it's an ongoing sort of exchange to make sure that everybody knows that we're concerned, but we also know that there's -- you know, there's real implications for these kinds of decisions and families.  And we're doing our best to kind of keep the families involved in this and make them sort of part of a process.

 

            Q     Can you respond quickly --

 

            Q     Larry, one clarification --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  And I've got a clarification of my own, so if yours is too long, I'll take mine.

 

            Q     No, it will be short.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  (Chuckles.)

 

            Q     The ICRC's spokeswoman told the AP yesterday that the organization suspects the United States is hiding detainees in lock- ups across the globe.  Can you say that --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  That's not a clarification, that's a big darn question.  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     Well, it's a clarification because it's out there and there's no answer.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  (Laughing)  Okay.  I think Mr. Whitman was quoted in a press account.  And I doubt I have anything more to say than him.

 

            Q     Can you say that there are not those detainees, as mentioned in --

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I can say that the ICRC has access to all detainee operations under our control.  And beyond that, I'm just not prepared to discuss it.

 

            Q     Are there detainees at Diego Garcia?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I don't know.  I simply don't know.

 

            Let me make a quick -- this is an actual clarification, not that.

 

            Today's Senate Armed Services Committee -- people here have asked about it; I have been a little imprecise and I want to be very precise.  The members are going to read their reports today.  They've got them; they will have them.  We did not leave them behind.  So the staff have read them, the members are going to read them today.  And it's in keeping with whoever asked the question about handling instructions.  We are trying to be very careful with the handling of these documents.  And in fact, what's interesting, if you look at some of the documents, right on the bottom there's an ICRC proviso that this is meant the people --

 

            (Cross talk.)

 

            MR. DIRITA:  -- it's meant for the people that are supposed to get it, and only those people.

 

            Q     You're not briefing the staffs tomorrow, you're briefing them today?

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Today, and House tomorrow.

 

            Q     Can you respond for just a minute to the GAO report yesterday on telephone credit card abuses?  Hundreds of thousands of dollars said to be wasted in the department, particularly in the Navy, on telephone credit cards.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  I'm afraid I just don't know enough about it, Jim. We'll get some information.  I mean, if you want a reaction from me, it's unfortunate, but there's -- you know -- these kinds of things that are under scrutiny all the time.

 

            Q     The department agreed to take a whole series of steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.  But there's no indication that anybody is being looked at, or any kind of department-wide inquiry as to how widespread this is.  This report focused on the Navy, but GAO suggested that they think these problems are everywhere.

 

            MR. DIRITA:  Okay, I'll take that for you and get back to you, because I just simply don't know enough about it.

 

            Thanks a lot, folks.

 

            Q     Thank you.

 

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