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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Stakeout following ABC This Week

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 13, 2003

(Media Stakeout Outside ABC Studio)


Q.  (Inaudible)


RUMSFELD:  Well first of all, I think you phrased it not quite precisely, you said, “mistake in intelligence.”  It is not clear -- first of all the statement, I’m told -- that the statement in the President’s speech is correct, not inaccurate -- the way it was phrased.  The mistake was having it in there, not because it was known that it was wrong, but because it didn’t rise to the stature or status of a presidential speech, and Director Tenet is a terrific public servant, and a very talented person, put out a statement that answered the whole question and it seems to me, the President, and he (inaudible) clarified that.  The British say they believe that it is accurate, and that may very well be the case.  We will just have to wait and see.


Q:  Is there some confusion from people when they hear that the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction is reliable, and then they hear this other intelligence isn’t reliable, or wasn’t accurate?


RUMSFELD:  I suppose someone could make that case, I think most of the American people have a growing understanding of what intelligence is, it’s bits and scraps of information that comes from human beings, that comes other methods of collection that are then pulled together by decent honorable people in the intelligence community who sit down and analyze it and then the take a snap shot, and then at that moment they say this is what the situation is to the best of our knowledge, and they form what is called an assessment.  And in the assessment if there are disagreements between different intelligence communities they say so.  So they say five out of the six elements believe this is a fact and this one element thinks that there isn’t enough evidence to support that assessment.  A month later a new piece of information, and there isn’t a month that goes by that someone in an intelligence brief does not come into me and say you remember what the assessment was here, we have a new piece of information and were changing that.  It changes everyday, every week, every month, and now does that surprise you?  No.  And that is the way our lives are.  Everything – all the things we learn and know, constantly keep changing because the world is not static, and because we are dealing with closed communities, closed societies.  So intelligence is important, it’s a tough business; we got very fine people doing it.  George Tenet is a terrific public servant, and the President was correct, and that George Tenet correct those 12, 16, 18, 20 words, should not have been in that speech.  Not because it known that they are inaccurate, but because it didn’t rise to that level.  


Q:  (Inaudible) [Question was in reference to the Liberia]


RUMSFELD:  The situation is this, the President asked us to send two teams, assessment teams, one into Liberia to look at the humanitarian situation, so called HAST team, and then we sent some military assessment people around to the East African countries that are involved in an organization called ECOWAS and neither team has completed their work.  They will complete their work, they will then come back with an assessment.  And when those assessments are available to the President and the National Security Council, he then will take under advisement what he may or may not want to do.  Clearly the presence of Mr. Taylor is part of the equation, which is not something that the assessment teams are looking at.  That is being handled to diplomatic channels, and I guess – we won’t know when or what the President will decide until these teams complete their mission.


Q:  Does someone really have to take responsibility about the uranium comment (inaudible)?  George Tenet has, is that really necessary?


RUMSFELD:  Well they did, the President did, and George Tenet did. 


Q:  Is that really important?  Does it really make a difference?


RUMSFELD:  Does what make a difference?


Q:  Someone taking responsibility?


RUMSFELD:  Well, I mean if something ends up in a speech that the President and director of the Central Intelligence Agency thinks shouldn’t be in there, and then someone raises the question, then people have to look at it and say “well is that true, or not true?” and they both agreed, it probably shouldn’t have been in there.  And that’s fine, as far as I’m concerned the end of it.  I think the statement by Director Tenet says it all.


Thank you folks.

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