Rumsfeld: Terror Arrests Ongoing in 'Great, Large World of Ours'
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 18, 2002 So many countries have heightened their defenses that terrorism suspects are being arrested around the world, often without much fanfare, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
"On any given day, week or month, there are going to be arrests somewhere in this great, large world of ours," Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters. More arrests are inevitable "with all the countries that are cooperating on sharing intelligence (and) with all the countries that are at a heightened state of alert and attentiveness to who's moving in and out of their country."
He said he knew no details on two Americans allegedly arrested by Pakistani officials while they were trying to cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
"I don't know that they exist yet," Rumsfeld said of the American suspects. "I have no information other than the speculation I've seen in the press."
He said he also had nothing on reports about a number of al Qaeda suspects allegedly arrested by Saudi authorities for terrorist plots in that country.
Rumsfeld said the two instances are only the ones being reported in the media. "There are countries arresting people that are not even being noted. That is a continuing process," he explained. "People are being interrogated. New information is being gathered. Laptops are being looked at. All of this puts pressure on the terrorist organizations, and it's a good thing."
The secretary also briefly discussed Americans held by the Defense Department in this country. He said there is no set standard of who's given to DoD vs. the Justice Department.
"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," he said. "We certainly would not accept somebody that we didn't think was appropriate for the Department of Defense."
DoD currently is holding two U.S. citizens who are suspected terrorists. Jose Padilla, the alleged "dirty bomber" arrested in Chicago last month, is being held in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.
The other American citizen under DoD control is Yaser Esam Hamdi, who surrendered to U.S. forces after the Mazar-e Sharif prison riot in Afghanistan in November 2001. While held as a detainee, he claimed his Saudi parents were in the United States on business when he was born. After U.S. government agencies verified his claim, DoD transferred him in April to a Navy prison in Norfolk, Va.
Rumsfeld said June 17 that he's concerned about the constitutional rights of these citizens who are being held without charges, but that he's also concerned for the safety of the American people.
When people are captured and in every respect can be properly categorized as combatants against the United States, their citizenship status is interesting, but so's the fact they are enemy combatants, he said. Throughout history, he continued, it's a well-established practice that those people are detained, not released, and not given the chance to take up arms against the country again.
The secretary said today that this citizenship issue is a new, important problem for the United States. "We've got to figure out how to do it right and do it well," he said. "We've been trying to do it in a measured, careful, balanced way. Thus far we've succeeded, I think."