MR. RUSSERT: First, joining us now on "Meet the Press" is the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Welcome back.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, sir.
MR. RUSSERT: The elections have been held, as we well know. The early counting seems to indicate the Shi'ites have done very, very well in the election. The headline in the Sunday New York Times, Mr. Secretary, "Top Iraq Shi'ites Pushing Religion in Constitution" -- that they want to use Islam as the guiding principle in drafting the constitution. How do you feel about that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, a lot of states that have a predominantly Muslim population have a way of including that without having it dominate. And certainly if you would look at Afghanistan, that's the case there. I think that of all the headlines I've seen, that's not the one I would have cited. I would have cited the ones that point out that all of the people who were involved in the election are reaching out to the Sunnis, are in fact engaged in political discussions and negotiations. Think of it -- in Iraq, after 35 years of a repressive dictatorship, what we're hearing is political debate and discussion and who should be prime minister and who should be president and deputy president, and how should this work and how should we sort that out and who's going to fashion the constitution. That's thrilling. That is absolutely thrilling.
I would say this: The Shi'ia in Iraq are Iraqis. They're not Iranians. And the idea that they're going to end up with a government like Iran, with a handful of mullahs controlling much of the country I think is unlikely.
MR. RUSSERT: But when they say that they would like to have a constitution which says that daughters would get half the inheritance of sons, do you find that troubling for all the bloodshed we have spilled for Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The first thing we have to begin with is that Iraq belongs to the Iraqis. And the Iraqis are going to have a solution for Iraq that's an Iraqi solution. They're not going to have an American solution or an Afghan solution. And the wonderful thing that's taking place is that the great sweep of human history is for freedom. And we're seeing it in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the Palestinian Liberation Authority, in the Ukraine, in Indonesia. And what's happening is healthy. It's good.
Look at our Constitution when it was first fashioned. Look what it did with respect to women not voting. Look what it did with respect to blacks and the way they were counted in the population. So you don't get from where they were to where they're going "on a feather bed," as Thomas Jefferson said. You get there through tough discussion, trials, error, mistakes, good things. And they're on that path, and I think people ought to step back and say, Isn't that amazing? Isn't that a wonderful thing for that region?
MR. RUSSERT: If they decide that they do not want Prime Minister Allawi to remain as prime minister, we would accept that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it isn't a matter of accepting it or not accepting it. The Iraqis had a vote. They're going to decide who the president and the deputy presidents are going to be. They're going to decide who the prime minister is going to be. They're going to decide who the ministers of these various ministries are going to be. That's what that's about.
MR. RUSSERT: One of the Iraqis said this -- he's the head of the Constitutional Monarchy Party: "Americans are in for a shock," adding that one day they would realize, quote, "We've got 150,000 troops here protecting a country that's extremely friendly to Iran."
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I could go to the press, and I could pull out a quote on almost any side of every issue. And your question is what do I think about that particular quote. First of all, I don't think it's representative. Second, I'm always amazed at the things that can happen in the world, and I don't doubt for a minute that there are going to be some surprises for everybody. Third, let's face it, Afghanistan has Iran as a neighbor, and they talk to each other. Most countries do talk to their neighbors. And that's a very different thing from suggesting that the model that Iran has is necessarily going to be the model for Iraq. I don't believe it is. I think the Shi'ia in Iraq are Iraqis first and Shi'ia second. And just as in Afghanistan, you don't see Mr. Karzai fashioning a government that's a replica of one of his neighbors. He's got an Afghan solution to his problems.
MR. RUSSERT: So you're confident that we will not have an Islamic fundamentalist state in Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think it would be just an enormous mistake for that country to think that it could succeed with all of its opportunity, with its oil, its water, its intelligent population -- to deny half of their population, women, the opportunity to participate fully, I think, just would be a terrible mistake.
MR. RUSSERT: Our next guest, Senator Kennedy, has said now that the elections are over, we should have a specific timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. The president said that would embolden the terrorists. Why?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, let's point out the truth. The president and I and anyone would dearly love to be smart enough and wise enough to know precisely when our troops could leave. It would be such a relief for people to know that. It's not knowable. The important thing to do is to see that we do not create a dependency, that we encourage them to take over that responsibility. And our forces are doing that. We're helping to train and equip the Iraqi security forces. And the president believes, and I agree with him, that we don't want to be there any longer than we have to, but we want to be there as long as we're needed. And it seems to me that the answer as to when our troops can come out is dependent upon the conditions on the ground and whether or not the Iraqis are capable of managing the security situation there. We're working very hard to see that they can.
MR. RUSSERT: RUSSERT: Why not give the Iraqis benchmarks that in six months, we're going to withdraw 50,000 troops -- you better have 50,000 troops ready to replace them?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Because we've been -- our country has invested a lot of lives, a lot of heartbreak. The courage of our troops and the sacrifice of those that have fallen and were wounded is important. And the idea that you should just arbitrarily say this is going to happen on that date -- think of it, the last administration did that in Bosnia. They said we'd be out by Christmas. Six, eight, 10 years later, not out. It is misleading people to think that you know something you don't know. And we know we don't know.
MR. RUSSERT: Did you believe two years ago that at this stage of the war we would have 135,000 Americans on the ground, 1,400 dead, 10,000 wounded or injured?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We were asked, and at that time we told the truth. And the truth was you can't know how long it'll last, you can't know how many troops it'll take, and you can't know how many dead and wounded there would be. No one in any war has ever been able to predict that. People who do predict it make a terrible mistake, because they set expectations based on nothing but hope.
MR. RUSSERT: One area that has created a lot of debate is the number of Iraqi forces that are now ready and trained and available. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only about a third of Iraq's 136,000 trained security forces have enough training to engage in combat with insurgents. As he says, quote, "40,000 who can go anywhere in the country and take on any threat. He used the figure 136,000 security forces, big umbrella. This is what Donald Rumsfeld said in February of last year, a year ago: "I would say there's not been a slowness in forming the Iraqi security forces. Indeed, if you think about it, last June or July there were no Iraqi security forces, and today, in February of 2004, there are over 210,000 Iraqis serving in the security forces. That's an amazing accomplishment." How did we get from 210,000 a year ago --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Very simply. There are people that are trying to make this more complex, for whatever reason, than it is. It's not complex. It's simple. We did start with zero, and we ended up over 200,000, and that included 74,000 site protection people. Those people did not report to the Ministry of Interior or to the Ministry of Defense. When we took that number out of the 200 (thousand), it went down, obviously, and we no longer include them. Every paper we put out has a footnote stating exactly why that's the case.
Now, let's go to Dick Myers' comment. We have 136,000 Iraqi security forces, excluding the 70,000-plus in the site protection, and they are in the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and there's a lot of different types. Some are policemen and they walk a beat. Some are border patrol and they sit on a border in a patrol place. Others are in commando units and they operate in a region and go in on special assignments. Still others are in the regular army, and they're being trained for that type of function. A small number of them -- as Dick Myers said, something like 40,000 -- are highly mobile, can move anywhere in the country and be sustained.
Now, would you -- he answered the question perfectly honestly. We have 136,000. The implication that the rest are not useful is silly. It's nonsense. The policeman on the beat outside your office doesn't need to be mobile and sustainable and go into Los Angeles.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Joe Biden says 40,000 is not an honest number, that it's more like 4,000 truly trained Iraqi forces that can take on the insurgents. Is he right?
SEC. RUMSFELD: He's wrong, obviously. I mean, General Petraeus put this out very clearly in a press briefing and laid it out. When I say Senator Biden is wrong, what I mean is this: When you train some people to be policemen, they're very good policemen, and that's part of the Iraqi security forces. If you train them to go after the -- do a counterterrorism job, then that's a very different function, and we have a certain number of those. And we announce and release the number of those. But that's true of our military. We have people who are -- whose job is military police. We have people whose job is to be part of a special operations team that can go in and do counterterrorism-type activities. We have people who do entirely different things. And that, to suggest that therefore the numbers are wrong is incorrect.
The other thing I should say is talking numbers is not terribly useful always, because if a person comes out of training the first day, they're not a battle-hardened veteran. They are trained and they are equipped. You compare them with somebody who's been out a year, who's been in Fallujah and had a success there, or been involved in the election, where the Iraqi security forces successfully secured 5,000 election sites. The inner perimeter and the outer perimeter were all Iraqis doing that at 5,000 sites. Now, that was a major accomplishment. And I think to belittle them or to question the numbers because some do police work and some do counterterrorism work is a misunderstanding of the situation.
MR. RUSSERT: How many Iraqi security forces do we need fully trained and capable of fighting insurgents?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the answer to that question is not complicated. We need as many as are needed. If you have an insurgency that's this level, you'll need X. If you have an insurgency that's that level, you'll need X-plus. And if you have an insurgency that's quite low, you'll need X-minus. And to think that you can sit here today and -- I mean, no one predicted the level of the insurgency as it is today. Partly it's a function of money. Partly it's a function of what the Syrians and the Iranians are doing. Partly it's a function of how many criminals they can hire to participate. Partly it's a function of how much money Zarqawi gets to hire suicide bombers. And that goes up and down.
MR. RUSSERT: But right now, knowing what you know about the insurgency, how many fully trained Iraqi troops do you think we need in order for the United States to withdraw?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay, what we've done is we made an initial assessment when the major combat operations ended. Six months later we sent in General Eichenberry and he made an assessment. General Casey then went in last June and made an assessment. We just sent in General Luck, and what we do is keep looking at the changing circumstance on the ground and reevaluating what that ought to be. You've got to remember the enemy has a brain. It isn't as though the enemy's an inanimate object and that you can then measure what you need to deal with that inanimate object. He watches what we do and adjusts to it, just as we watch what they do and adjust to it. And, therefore, it's a moving target. It's not static.
MR. RUSSERT: The Iraqi intelligence services director said that the insurgency is larger than the U.S. Army -- it is more than 200,000 people. Is he right?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Who said that?
MR. RUSSERT: Mohammad Abdul Sussami, the Iraqi Intelligence Service director, on January 3rd, 2005. He's a general.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I've never seen that number, and I don't know where it came from.
MR. RUSSERT: It's a lot larger than the dead-enders that you had talked about some time ago.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked about it?
MR. RUSSERT: Yes.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think I've always characterized it as a mix of people. There are some Ba'athists who are dead-enders, that's true. There are some jihadists who've come in from other countries, and Zarqawi and that team of people who are particularly lethal. There are criminals. There are always -- I've always included --
MR. RUSSERT: But in June of 2003, we were talking about small elements, 10 to 20 people, no large network.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's what they were functioning as during that period immediately after the major combat operations. That's right. And the insurgency has --
MR. RUSSERT: And it's changed?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. That's why we keep sending in assessment teams.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to what we need on the ground right now. About 40 to 45 percent of our troops are National Guard and Army Reserve. The head of the Army Reserve said that we are rapidly degenerating, quote, "into a broken force." He's worried about retention, recruitment. The National Guard has reached only half its goal in January in terms of retention and recruitment. The Marine Corps for the first time in a decade has not reached its recruiting goal. Will it be necessary to say to the National Guard, You may have to serve another 24 months -- not just the original 24 months that we sent you, but we may break you and have to send you back again?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We have no plans to do -- to change the rulings and the methods that we're operating on at the present time. For the first time we've begun to see some goals and targets not being fulfilled. And but generally recruiting and retention has been on track and is today generally on track.
One of the reasons that the National Guard and the Reserves are slightly down is because we're enlarging the size of the Army and in that process more people are staying in. And one of the pools that you draw on to build the Guard and Reserve is people coming off active duty, as you know. So there's fewer people coming off active duty. Therefore, we've increased the number of recruiters, we've increased the incentives, and we just simply have to recognize that the stress on the force is real, and take the kinds of steps that we've taken to anticipate that and see that we're able to attract and retain the people we need. We have still only used about 40 percent of the Guard and Reserve that's available in this country, since the beginning of the Afghan operation.
MR. RUSSERT: So you have no plans to change the rules in terms of extending tours?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, the rules -- there's been a debate in the press about whether you wanted to change 24 months to cumulative or consecutive, and it's being left at consecutive, not cumulative.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you some comments that some have made --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Or cumulative. I misspoke.
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah, I understand. Some things that members of Congress has said. This is Susan Collins, a Republican -- not a Democrat, a Republican: "I think there are increasing concerns about the secretary's leadership of the war, the repeated failures to predict the strengths of the insurgency, the lack of essential safety equipment for our troops, the reluctance to expand the number of troops." I want to talk -- we've talked about insurgency. I want to bring you back to the whole debate about the use of essential safety equipment for our troops, and take you back to December -- we haven't seen you since then -- when Thomas Wilson stood up and asked you a question. I want to show you that exchange and come back and talk about it.
Q Now, why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don't we have those resources readily available to us?
SEC. RUMSFELD: As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, Specialist Wilson did acknowledge he worked with a journalist in crafting that question.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, but wait a minute. Let me get into this a little bit.
MR. RUSSERT: Sure.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That was unfair and it was selectively taking out two sentences from a long exchange -- there it is -- that took place. And when you suggested that that's how I answered that question, that is factually wrong. That is not how I answered that question.
MR. RUSSERT: But, Mr. Secretary, it clearly represents the exchange between --
SEC. RUMSFELD: It does not.
MR. RUSSERT: All right,what is missing?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You want to hear the exchange? There is it. It's right here. I'll read it to you. If you're going to quote pieces of it, I'll give you the exchange. He asked that question, and I said, "I talked to the general coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they're not needed, to places where they are needed. I'm told they are being -- the Army is -- I think it's something like 400 a month are being done now. And it's essentially a matter of physics. It's not a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army's desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to the war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.
"Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce armor necessary at a rate that they believe -- it's a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously but a rate that they believe is the rate that can be accomplished. I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership of the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable to have, but that they're working at it at a good clip. It's interesting. I've talked a great deal about this with a team of people who've been working hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and the tank could still be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up. And you can go down and the vehicle -- the goal we have is to have many of those vehicles as is humanly possible with the appropriate level of armor available for the troops. And that's what the Army's been working on. And, General Whitcomb, is there anything you want to add?" And then he spoke.
Now, that answer is totally different from picking out two lines. And I think it's an unfair representative -- and it's exactly what some of the newspapers around the country did.
Now, let's go back to Susan Collins' comment, Senator Collins --
MR. RUSSERT: Well, let me just finish on the humvees because --
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet. I'll tell you right now where we are. By February 15th, nine days from now, there will not be a vehicle moving around in Iraq outside of a protected compound with American soldiers in it that does not have an appropriate level of armor.
MR. RUSSERT: Which is a pretty dramatic change, because Newsweek had said that of the 19,000 humvees in the Iraqi theater, according to the Army's latest numbers, only a quarter were fully armored. So the fact is that Specialist Wilson's question in front of his troops in which he was cheered was helpful in getting people to truly focus and respond to this. Fair?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I didn't criticize his question. I thanked him for his question.
MR. RUSSERT: No, but is that a fair statement?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you saw my answer. We'd already been focusing on it -- hard. I mean, I answered it by saying we had teams of people in Washington working on it, General Whitcomb was working on it.
Let's go back to Senator Collins. You said that she was critical because we couldn't predict the size of the insurgency. That is the job for the intelligence community. And it is unfortunate that we don't have perfect visibility into that. It is also unfortunate that it's changing and evolving, and therefore easy to say, Well, you don't know what the size is because the size is changing, but the fact of the matter is it's a difficult thing to do. And I suppose someone can sit back in an air-conditioned room and be critical of it, but the fact is the intelligence community is working as hard as they know how to try to manage those serious questions about what the size is.
Second, to say that I've resisted increasing the size of the Army is factually incorrect. We've increased the size of the Army. We've been doing it under the emergency authority. The Congress -- some of the people in the Congress have wanted to increase the end strength by statute. And we don't need that done because under the emergency authority we can increase it and we have already increased it by tens of thousands -- 20,000.
MR. RUSSERT: There was a large debate at the Pentagon. General Shinseki -- we've talked about this before -- others saying we needed 200,000 troops on the ground.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's a separate issue from the size of the Army -- quite different.
MR. RUSSERT: Exactly. But there were also comments made that you were going to transform the Army and have a light, more mobile force and not have as many additional members of the armed forces as some were suggesting.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Not true. Not true.
MR. RUSSERT: At all?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. We -- the size of the Army is quite a different thing from whether it's light and agile and mobile and able to go someplace fast. That's the nature of the Army, not the size of the Army.
MR. RUSSERT: In hindsight, do you wish we had sent more troops on the ground in Iraq initially?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I wish that we could have gotten the 4th Infantry Division in from the north, so that it would have been able to put more pressure on the Ba'athist regime and probably capture more of the Ba'athists that today are part of the insurgency. But in terms of the total numbers of troops that went in, we finally got the 4th ID in, but it had to come in from the south. So it was not as effective as had it come in through Turkey.
The answer to your other question is no. I think that General Franks and General Abizaid have been correct in calculating the number of troops that we need on the ground in Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: Bob Woodward said General Franks --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Just a minute. Just a minute.
MR. RUSSERT: Bob Woodward had said that General Franks had recommended 300,000 troops.
SEC. RUMSFELD: At any given moment, General Franks might have had some number in his mind. So what we did was I agreed with his recommendation, which was that we put in line up to 500,000 that could go in were they needed, and that at any moment where they were not needed he would pull the stopper and stop it, and he did. And that's where it stopped. And I think he was right because the balance he faced in both Afghanistan and Iraq is you do not want to become a heavy footprint, occupying force that causes more of an irritant to the population than a benefit. And who knows what's perfect? It's not for me to judge. But when General Myers, General Pace, General Franks, General Abizaid, General Sanchez and now General Casey tell me that they believe we have the right number on the ground, that's good enough for me.
MR. RUSSERT: You said to CNN on Thursday that you tendered your resignation twice to the president of the United States.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I was asked.
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Why? First of all, an unfortunate thing happened on my watch, and I was secretary.
MR. RUSSERT: Abu Ghraib?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Abu Ghraib. And people were not treated the way they should have been treated. And that's wrong. And it seemed to me that a president ought to have that choice. I had to make a decision if I thought I should leave. And I decided that I would leave if I thought I could not be effective. And I decided I thought I could be effective. But I also know that the president deserved a chance to make that decision himself. So I sat down with him and handed him a written resignation and urged him to think very carefully about it from his standpoint, from the country's standpoint. And that's why.
MR. RUSSERT: Why twice?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I did it first in the Oval Office. And about 10 days later, he was at the Pentagon. And I had migrated in my thinking that from his standpoint -- it might be wiser from his standpoint if he were able to step off fresh, and so I tried to persuade him that that was the case, and I failed.
MR. RUSSERT: Did you think you had done something wrong?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No. Obviously the country has to be deeply concerned that people were not treated right. And I was secretary of defense when that happened. And we've had eight or 10 investigations. We have had dozens of criminal trials, and people have pled guilty to doing things they shouldn't do. And obviously you just feel terrible about that. That is not the way our country behaves. And it was a most unfortunate thing that it happened. And I was secretary of Defense.
MR. RUSSERT: When John Kerry calls for your resignation and says he has 800,000 signatures on his Internet, John McCain says he has no confidence, Trent Lott says he's not a fan -- what does that do to your ability to be secretary of defense?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, we were in a political campaign, and there are people always running for president, and that goes with the territory. We've never had a war in this country where there haven't been critics. They were calling for George Washington's resignation. In the Civil War they were constantly calling for resignations. In World War I, in World War II, in Korea. There's never been a war or a war president or a war secretary of State who has not been criticized by critics, and particularly during a political campaign or by political people who are running for president. So that's life.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you have done anything differently?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, sure. I don't know, maybe there was a way to get the -- you mean the 4th Infantry Division, that type of thing?
MR. RUSSERT: Or Abu Ghraib?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I mean, in retrospect we've taken probably 15 or 20 administrative steps to require that people go in -- if it's the midnight shift half a world away, and we know in history people who guard people have done things wrong with respect to the people. It happens in prisons all over the United States and in other countries. So you don't want that to happen. So maybe you have to do senior officer checks at the midnight shift because apparently a lot of it happened during a relatively brief period of months -- weeks, months.
MR. RUSSERT: You're confident it cannot happen again?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Of course not. Human beings are human beings. People do things they shouldn't do. All I'm confident of is that the Army, which is the executive agent for detainees, is seized with this problem. They recognize it's their responsibility. They've worked hard to undertake a whole series of steps to try to see that it doesn't happen again. And I pray it doesn't happen again, because it's wrong.
MR. RUSSERT: And you will be secretary of defense and see this war through as long as --?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We serve at the pleasure of the president.
MR. RUSSERT: But you have every expectation of staying for how long?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I serve at the pleasure of the president.
MR. RUSSERT: You don't want to see Iraq all the way through until the American troops are home?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's not for me to tie his hands. I look at what's happened in Afghanistan, and I think of the people who've -- our soldiers who've died there and the wounded, that I -- your heart breaks when you see limbs off -- and how proud they are of what they've accomplished, of liberating 25 million people who, for the first time in 5,000 years, have a popularly elected president, a constitution, they're going to have parliamentary elections later this spring or summer. It's a thrilling thing. It shows how important their sacrifice has been, and you see what's happening in Iraq and that election. And people who've been -- decades they've been frightened to come out of their homes, to put their heads up, to do something that the regime might not like, because they filled tens of thousands of people in mass graves. And they came out. I'm told that they wandered around in front of the election polling place and finally some woman in her 60s or 70s said, "I've waited my whole life to do this," walked in, and everyone walked in.
Now, those folks who've been killed there, those folks who were wounded there, their families and their loved ones have to feel that their sacrifice was worth it, that the effect that can have on that region and the world can just be so important. It's an amazing thing that's happening in our world.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as always we thank you for your views.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
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