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Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Press Conference with Portuguese Minister of Defense

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 18, 2002 12:50 PM EDT

(Joint Press Conference with Portuguese Minister of State and Defense Paulo Portas)

Rumsfeld: The minister of defense of Portugal and I have just had a good meeting and a good lunch. Portugal is an important friend and a very valued NATO ally from the beginning.

Needless to say, I thank the minister for the contributions that his country makes to the global war on terrorism. Portugal is supporting the ISAF in Afghanistan. They, which, of course, are doing, in my view, a good job of helping to provide a more secure environment in Kabul. Among other things, Portugal has provided medical support on the ground in Afghanistan and is providing a C-130 aircraft, as well. And this support is both helpful and appreciated by the United States.

We discussed our progress in the war on terrorism and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. We talked about the kinds of capabilities that NATO is going to need in this new national security environment. I told the minister that our alliance with Portugal is a strong one and we value it, and needless to say, we look forward to continuing our defense partnership in the period ahead.

I would just say one other thing, and that is that the -- the president of -- the president-elect of Colombia is arriving, I think in less than a half-hour, so we're going to have to keep this short.

Mr. Minister, would you like to say a few words? We welcome you.

Portas: Thank you very much.

In this visit to Secretary Rumsfeld I would like to say a few words on the Portuguese position about some global questions. First one, I visited the Arlington Cemetery, and this was proof of our homage to people -- to the veterans of war in general and to people who died in the September 11. And it's a very deep homage Portugal would like to do here in the United States.

The second point, Portugal is a firm, ancient and loyal ally of the United States.

The third point is, we believe in NATO. We think NATO gave Europe 50 years of peace. And our defense policy is based on loyalty to the Atlantic link and to a very special relationship with the United States of America. We are committed in the reform of the Atlantic alliance, because we have new dangers, new risks.

I -- we are committed in the war against terrorism. As Secretary Rumsfeld told once, we have two options:

They want to change our way of life. We must change their way of life. We must fight terrorism because it is an attempt against our way of life, our culture, our civilization, our freedom and our democracy.

And we are active on this reform. We have -- obviously, Portugal wants to sustain important levels of decision, and I reaffirm the position of the Portuguese government of loyalty and firm belief in the transatlantic link, in the Atlantic organization. I usually say this, which explains everything:

Sometimes some analysts talk about Portugal as a peripheric country, but if you see Portugal from the Atlantic, it's a central country. And that's our history, that's our destiny, and we want to reaffirm that location in our options of defense policy.

Rumsfeld: The minister and I were both elected to our respective legislative bodies in our early 30s.

Portas: (Chuckles.)

Rumsfeld: And the minister and I were both named secretary of Defense, minister of Defense in our early 40s. And so, for the younger people here, I'm alerting you, you could very well see this gentleman back here in 2030. (Laughter.)

Portas: (Laughs.) And I will meet you as third-time secretary of Defense! (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Not this -- (laughs) --

Portas: (Laughs.)

Rumsfeld: Charlie?

Q: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if you could shed any light on the Americans, two or more, who have been arrested by the Pakistanis along the Afghan border -- on their identities, who they might be, whether or not they are Taliban, and whether any are being turned over to the U.S. military.

Rumsfeld: I can't. I spoke to Colin about it this morning, and neither one of us had any current information. He was going to check, and I was going to check. And it's entirely possible that there is something like that, but I just am not at the moment knowledgeable about it. Possibly Torie will know later this afternoon.

Q: So you don't have any indication how the Pakistanis -- whether these people might have been crossing the --

Rumsfeld: I don't know that they exist yet. I have no information, other than the speculation I've seen in the press.

Q: Along the same lines, the Saudis have announced some arrests today of various people, which I guess happened some time ago. The Moroccans, as you know, have been talking about arrests. There is --

Rumsfeld: All of which pleases me greatly.

Q: Indeed. And there is a story on The Washington Post Web site that there has -one fairly high-ranking person has been sent off to Syria.

Can you give us a sense --

Rumsfeld: By whom? I have not heard that one.

Q: Well, it's unclear.

Rumsfeld: Is that kind of like Jamie's question from the other day on the e-mail? No? (Laughter.)

Q: Allow me to just get this off my chest here. (Laughter.) Perhaps you could give us some sense of -- in all of these people that are being wrapped up in the two cases we know about, anyway, are there larger fish here? Are there important members of al Qaeda that -- there or in other parts of the world, that are suddenly hitting your net?

Rumsfeld: In the recent sweeps?

Q: Yeah.

Rumsfeld: Not to my knowledge. There's no question but that on any given day, week or month there are going to be arrests somewhere in this great, large world of ours. With all the countries that are cooperating on sharing intelligence, with all the countries that are at a heightened state of alert and attentiveness to who's moving in and out of their countries, you're just referring to the things that happened to have been in the press. There are countries arresting people, I am sure, that aren't even being noted, and that are a continuing process. People are being interrogated, new information is being gathered, laptops are being looked at, and all of this is putting pressure on the terrorist organizations, and it's a good thing.

Q: Sir?

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: A question for both of you, if I may. And if you indulge, we would like the Portuguese minister to respond in Portuguese and English.

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: And the question is: Are you expecting Portugal to commit more resources to the war on terrorism, and if you are, which?

And to the Portuguese minister: Sir, is the Portuguese government planning on committing any further resources to the war on terrorism, and if you are, which?

Rumsfeld: Well, I can say we are very pleased with the cooperation that the government of Portugal has provided and the relationship that's been established. And I have -- there's constant discussions going on between our people in the Central Command and elsewhere around the country. And I don't have anything to announce by way of any changes.

Mr. Minister?

Q: Is it enough?

Rumsfeld: Oh, you bet. We very much appreciate it, as I indicated.

Portas: (In Portuguese.)

Q: But no more resources for now?

Portas: (In Portuguese.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you say whether you've made a decision or whether the president has made a decision to change -- or to change the mission of U.S. troops in the Philippines in such a way that will allow them to go on patrols and to train at the company level?

Rumsfeld: Just for clarity, it really isn't so much of a change of mission as it is a -- the -- what's been under discussion has been a continuation of the current mission, but an elaboration of it to a somewhat different level. Those discussions have moved forward. We're now in the process of beginning discussions with Congress and with the Philippines government about how we might refashion our assistance there and our training program after the phase one ends.

Q: But in principle, though, are you prepared to do that?

Rumsfeld: I guess -- you know, decisions, to be tidy, which of course they never are, requires that various things be considered and discussed, and then recommendations go forward. And then, at the right moments they're discussed with presidents and Congresses and other governments. And we're in that stage.

Now, I could tell you what I think. But I shan't. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, I note today that your financial disclosure statement has been released by the Pentagon. Do you happen to see that -- do you feel at all abused by that process?

Rumsfeld: You know, I can handle it. I've got thick skin. And it is a long, expensive, befuddling process. I haven't got time to go through and look at every one of those single things. I end up signing it with a prayer and a hope and explaining that I've hired people to help to this. I have not gone through every single thing.

I think about it kind of like I think about proxies in the business world. You know, the proxy form? The lawyers have gotten into it so far that they're so complex that no human being, college educated or not, can understand them. And everyone passes them out and spends money on them and pretends that they're communicating. And I don't think they are. I think that disclosure form that I've completed cost me a lot of money to do, took a lot of time for a lot of people, and I find it confusing and difficult. And I'll betcha anything that without explanation, if I took the five best -- there's no way to pick the five best. They're all great. (Laughter.) If I picked the -- if you all picked the five best reporters and stuck them in a room and gave them my disclosure form, and then sent them out to write stories, you'd have five totally different stories, and each one would be wrong. (Laughter.) It is so complicated --

Now, I have a lot of respect for you folks. But I'll betcha if we did that, it'd be a wonderful test, and I would enjoy the outcome. (Laughter.) As long as you didn't print the dadburned stories. (Laughter.)

Q: Do you think there's a need for reform, though, and does that -- does this complex -- this process serve as a bar to public service for some?

Rumsfeld: I don't know. I think -- I think it has to be a deterrent to some people, it dissuades people. But I don't know that that's what's important. I mean, public service, people don't go into this, obviously, for the money; you go into it because you care about the country. And so I'm not deterred or dissuaded from public service.

I do think that it is too bad that that is the process. I think it's unfortunate that the assumptions are that that's necessary, or appropriate, or that it's informative, because I just don't happen to think it is terribly informative. But there it is. Have you read it?

Q: I've just started. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Do you plan to spend the next month on it?

Q: It's like a lot of books I pick up. I start them; sometimes I don't make it all the way through. (Laughter.)

Q: But we're going to write identical stories about it.

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Not a chance.

Yes?

Q: Although you couldn't --

Rumsfeld: This is the last question. I'm sorry. Torie's shaking her head. The president's coming. We've got to get out of here.

Q: Although you couldn't address the Pakistani situation in particular, now that you have two people in custody -- in the Defense Department custody, do you have a standard of judgment in your mind under what circumstances or standards the Pentagon is now willing to take detainees referred to you by the Justice Department, or are you just going to -- with all due respect -- are you just going to take anybody they put in your direction, or do you now have a standard of judgment as to who you take?

Rumsfeld: You don't think we'd just take anybody, do you?

Q: I don't know.

Rumsfeld: No. We will, as we have in the past, take a good, careful look to see if we agree with where somebody ought to be assigned. And we certainly would not accept somebody that we didn't think was appropriate for the Department of Defense, unless the president of the United States asked us to; and then suddenly, it would be appropriate. (Laughter.)

Q: Well, what's the standard of judgment, your standard of judgment?

Rumsfeld: Well, at the moment, it's onesies and twosies, so you're kind of in the early stages. And what you do is look at a fact pattern for each individual. After we've done a number, one could begin to see a pattern and you could probably say, "Well, here are the kinds of situations that come up, and for these reasons we think these are appropriate, for those reasons we think the other group are not." But --

Q: You expect to move beyond the onesies and twosies, then.

Rumsfeld: You never know. It's possible. I just don't know. It's always -- this is a brand-new thing for our country. It is an important problem. We've got to figure out how to do it right and do it well. We've been trying to do it in a measured, careful, balanced way. And thus far, we've succeeded, I think. How many more will come, it's just not knowable. It depends, for example, how many arrests there will be in the United States, how many arrests there might be elsewhere, where the individual might fit in the military side as opposed to the Article III side. And those things are just not knowable. We don't know how long this is going to go on.

And we do know how long the press briefing's going to go on, and it's ended. Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you.

Portas: (Thank you ?), Secretary Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld: Glad you're here.

Portas: Glad I'm here.

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