Tuesday, September 7, 2004 2:06 p.m. EDT
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. Last week, the people of Russia, and indeed, the people of the entire world once again saw vividly the extremes to which terrorists are prepared to go to achieve their ends. Those who choose violence and terror obviously think nothing of taking the lives of even the most innocent among us. The whole world watched as Russian children were taken hostage on their first day of school, and hundreds were killed, hundreds were wounded, and there are still open questions on a great many more.
Civilized people everywhere can only express sympathy and solidarity with the Russian people. Extremists seek to terrorize innocent men, women and children whoever they are and wherever they may live. There are really no free passes in this struggle, this war; there are no free passes for countries; there are really no free passes for individuals. And for that reason, the civilized world has to stay on the offensive, and that's exactly what the coalition is doing.
Taking the offense, however, of course has its cost, just as staying on defense has its cost. And soon the American forces are likely to suffer the one-thousandth casualty at the hands of terrorists and extremists in Iraq. When combined with U.S. losses in other theaters in the global war on terror, we have lost well more than a thousand already. And we certainly honor the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in uniform who has served in Iraq and who is currently serving there. And needless to say, we mourn with the families of those lost.
It should be noted that the civilized world passed the thousandth casualty mark a long time ago. Hundreds were killed in Russia last week to be sure. And this week, of course, on September 11th, 2004, we remember the 3,000 citizens of dozens of countries who were killed on September 11th in 2001. And September 11th, 2001 was not the beginning of terrorism, and the war in Iraq has not created terrorism. International terrorists declared war on the civilized nations of the world some time back, and over the decades, they have killed many thousands of Americans and citizens of other countries as well.
And as we commemorate the third anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, it's appropriate to honor the fallen and to reflect on how far we have come and to determine what more might be done.
Consider, three years ago Osama bin Laden was the co-conspirator of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Three years later, the Taliban regime is gone and UBL is clearly on the run. Three years ago, Saddam Hussein and his regime were making a mockery of the United Nations, ignoring numerous U.N. resolutions and calling on Iraq to report -- which was the resolutions calling on Iraq to report honestly on its weapons program. The international consensus for sanctions was weakening.
The president faced a choice between confronting Saddam then or facing an even graver threat in the future. Three years later, Saddam is in jail, soon to be on trial, I'm told, the sons are dead, and the people of Iraq are forming a representative government that will not threaten their people or their region or the world.
In the past three years, the United States and the U.K. have shut down the A.Q. Khan clandestine network that had provided nuclear technologies to Libya, Iran, North Korea and possibly other nations. Libya's Qadhafi has given up his nuclear weapons program. And Pakistan, which once supported the Taliban, is today our strong ally against terrorists.
The progress in Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted a backlash, in effect, from those who hope that at some point we might conclude that the pain and the cost of this fight isn't worth it. Well, our enemies have underestimated our country, our coalition. They have failed to understand the character of our people. And they certainly misread our commander in chief. General Myers.
GEN. MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon. I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the families of our forces who have lost their lives or been wounded in the past several days.
And I would also like to pass our condolences to these families who have been devastated by the recent horrible terrorist incident in Russia. This event emphasizes the importance of winning the global war on terror.
In Iraq, our forces are supporting the Iraq security forces who are working to create a safe and stable country. We continue to be pleased with the agreement reached between Prime Minister Allawi and Ayatollah al-Sistani. I think it demonstrates the growing strength of the Iraqi interim government. There has been a recent spike in the number of casualties in Iraq on the part of U.S. forces, Iraqi forces and insurgents. These have been primarily generated by both suicide attackers and indirect-fire attacks. The enemy is becoming more sophisticated in his efforts to destabilize the country, and recently we've seen an increase in the number of suicide attacks. We are aggressively seeking and capturing those insurgents who, while not willing to do so themselves, are encouraging people to commit suicide attacks. Make no mistake, we will continue to pursue those who seek to disrupt progress in Iraq.
Another example of the recent attacks is the weekend's attack in Tall Afar, out by the Syrian border. While conducting cordon-and- search operations, an OH-58 helicopter conducted an emergency landing as a result of small-arms fire. An insurgent attack ensued that was more sophisticated than usual. As a result, our forces attacked the enemy. Five of our soldiers were wounded, one Stryker was destroyed and six were damaged, but numerous enemy forces were killed. This is a pattern across Iraq. The more aggressive the tactics of the insurgency, the greater their loss of human life.
On another note, I recently visited the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I continue to be impressed with the enthusiasm and the pride and commitment of these soldiers, both those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and those that are getting ready to deploy. And in addition to their families, I had a chance to have dinner with some young soldiers and their spouses.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Charlie?
Q: Mr. Secretary, you say that the enemies have underestimated our country -- the enemy have underestimated our country. There are critics of the war in Iraq that might think -- you know, claim that the opposite is true in Iraq, that we in fact have underestimated the enemy in Iraq. As General Myers points out, the number of casualties -- not just the deaths, but the number of casualties -- are going up at a rapid rate. And U.S. forces, which are in fact the pillar and backbone of the Iraqi government, are even prevented from going to some major cities in Iraq. With that in mind, do you say that the United States is still winning the peace in Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Charlie, there have been critics in every war in the history of mankind, certainly all of those of the United States. And it's understandable because it's serious business, and any time there's a loss of life one has to recognize that there are going to be differences of views.
I think it's realistic to say that in probably Afghanistan and Iraq both, as we move closer to elections in those countries, the terrorists, the foreign regime elements -- in the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban and the al Qaeda; in the case of Iraq, the former regime elements and the terrorists -- are going to recognize how close they are to losing their opportunities and how close they are to having democratic countries in those two nations, and the likelihood is that they will increase the violence rather than decrease the violence. You can imagine what a blow will be dealt to the extremists that are determined to impose their view of the world on everybody if in fact Iraq is successful and Afghanistan is successful in having peaceful elections, electing people, and fashioning constitutions that make them distinctively different in that part of the world.
So I think that the fact that there's violence there is understandable. It's a tough, difficult business. On the other hand, the people of Iraq today and Afghanistan are so much better off today than they were a year ago, in every conceivable respect.
Q: So you would see that the U.S. military is winning the peace in Iraq despite the fact that the military can't even go into some cities there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think the phrase "winning," "the U.S. military winning" -- I think the question is ultimately, are the Afghan people going to win back their country from the extremists? Are the Iraqi people going to win back their country from the vicious dictatorship and from the terrorists that are trying to take over their country? And I think in both cases, they'll be successful.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you say conclusively that Iran is building nuclear weapons, and if so, are you sharing with Israel intelligence about the construction and location of those weapons?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's a question for the intelligence community to make judgments about. I don't make intel assessments.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the thousand death mark approaching. The number of U.S. troops killed per day is about two per day; it's been about the same for roughly the last year. What does that say about the resilience of the insurgency there? And was it underestimated?
SEC. RUMSFELD: There's no question but that the resistance is what it is. It is a combination of terrorists, former regime elements and criminals that are being paid by terrorists or former regime elements. And they are -- if you think about the fact that we have thousands of patrols every day, the coalition does, and the Iraqi security forces, which now number -- at the fully trained and fully equipped are close to 100,000, and there are another large tens of thousands beyond that that are not quite fully trained or fully equipped. If you take all of those patrols, and look at the number of incidents, they're relatively small. If you look at them from our standpoint, a single loss of life is large, and it's a life that's not going to be lived. I don't know how to calculate it or calibrate it for you any better than that.
Q: Mr. Secretary – 0
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.
Q: To go back to your opening, could you explain how the terrorist actions at the school in Russia are related to the United States, other than the fact of terrorism being used? Do you see any direct connection? Do you see any direct threat?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll leave that to the intelligence community. And maybe you want to comment on it. (Referring to General Myers.)
But what we've seen there -- we've seen the videos of Saddam Hussein's regime chopping off people's heads and hands and pushing them off buildings. We've seen recently beheadings in Iraq. We know what took place by the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to the removal of the Taliban and the al Qaeda from that country. And we're seeing -- we've seen the attacks in Turkey and Tunisia and Morocco and Spain and Indonesia, in country after country. What we saw in Russia was another instance in a long line of instances dating back, if you want to, at least in recent memory, to the Marine barracks in 1983, and then the embassy bombings in the '90s, and the USS Cole. This is not something that's new. UBL declared war on the Untied States back in the '90s, according to the U.S. intelligence community.
But what we saw last week was a very gripping, vivid example of the extremes to which terrorists will go, and are not only willing to go, but do in fact go and are going. They are doing these things today. This is a global struggle between extremists and people who want to be left alone to live free lives and free systems, and they're opposed to that. And it's important that the world understand that and that what's taking place in Iraq and what's taking place in Afghanistan and what's taking place in Russia are examples of the fact that there are people determined to alter the behavior of the rest of the world and how they live their lives and to terrorize them into doing that, and to terrorize them by doing the most extreme things they can think of. And that's what's taking place.
Q: Mr. Secretary, and also General Myers, it would be interesting to hear your view on this: In both the case of Najaf and back in April in Fallujah, the U.S. military, along with Iraqi forces, were inflicting significant casualties on the anti-American insurgents and then pulled back because of a strategy of having a negotiated settlement or trying another tactic. In both cases it looks like those forces have regrouped to fight another day and Fallujah has become pretty much a rebel stronghold.
My question is, is there any rethinking of that strategy? And will the U.S. military, along with the Iraqi government, attempt to reassert control over these so-called "no-go" zones, places where the U.S. is not patrolling and the Iraqi government is not in control?
GEN. MYERS: I think the question can very quickly get into operational tactics.
I'll try to keep it at a level that is not there, Jamie, but is a little higher than that.
First of all, when we looked at other -- if you recall, in Fallujah there was another solution proposed, and the so-called troop pullback was working with the -- then the Governing Council, trying to find a formula that would work in Fallujah. We never stopped engaging the enemy as they presented themselves, and there were many enemy killed in that intervening period where we were not actively going into the streets of Fallujah. But we were still, as you recall -- AC- 130s and fixed-wing aircraft dropping bombs on targets, and there were a lot of enemy that died there.
The overall strategy is one that General Casey has been working on very closely with the Iraqi interim government. They have a strategy for the cities. Part of that strategy is that Iraqi security forces must be properly equipped, trained and led to participate in these security operations, and then once it's over can sustain the peace in a given city. And while U.S. forces or coalition forces on their own can do just about anything we want to do, it makes a lot more sense that it be a sustained operation, one that can be sustained by Iraqi security forces. And as the secretary has said and I think we've said here before, we're -- that's what we're about is trying to improve the equipping and the training and the leadership in the Iraqi security forces so they're able to do these operations.
Q: Yeah, but General Metz -- Lieutenant General Metz has suggested that -- first of all, that they won't be able to hold successful elections in Iraq in January as long as you have these pockets of -- these so-called "no-go" zones, and that he suggested there may have to be a U.S. military offensive coordinated with the Iraqi government in order to take care of that problem before January.
GEN. MYERS: All I would say is the election business will be up to the interim government and the national council or assembly that's been put together. They'll determine what they need to have appropriate elections. And we'll support -- Multinational Forces Iraq, led by General Casey, they have a very good relationship with the interim Iraqi government, and they'll sort -- they'll sort through their priorities.
Q: Can I just follow up on that, please? You said –
Q: General? General, you mentioned the Iraqi –
Q: Thank you.
Q: Excuse me. Are you suggesting, General, that the U.S. military, in conjunction with the Iraqi forces, will not be able to go into these "no-go" zones to take on the insurgents until the Iraqis are prepared –
GEN. MYERS: That's part of the equation.
Q: -- to take over the security?
GEN. MYERS: That's part of the equation, obviously. You want to have a lasting -- a lasting solution, at least that's what the Iraqi government wants.
Q: But given the -- given the really slow pace at which the Iraqis are being adequately equipped and trained to take on the insurgents, what is the advantage, then, to leaving these insurgents in place in what are essentially safe havens now?
GEN. MYERS: Well, there's more to this strategy than what I said, and that starts to get into the operational issue in terms of how you try to isolate certain communities, and so forth, and set the conditions for successful use of force later on, if you have to go there.
With respect to equipping and training Iraqi security forces -- you said slow to equip and train -- it's relative. By December, we're going to have a substantial number of Iraqi security forces equipped, trained and led to conduct the kind of operations I was talking about.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes?
Q: Mr. Secretary, a separate question -- a separate issue. About a year ago, last fall, I know a lot of us wrote about a memo you wrote to your senior staff raising some issues about whether the U.S. has sufficient metrics to determine whether the war on terror, the global war on terror is being won in the sense of winning hearts and minds; measuring whether you're creating more terrorists for every one you kill.
Can you give us an update on your thinking? Has the U.S. government done a better job of getting its head around that issue?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think so. I think the –
Q: (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I think it's almost impossible to have metrics because you don't know what the intake is. But one ought to recognize there aren't metrics, and make sure that the effort is directed at the problems -- plural -- not a single problem. It is not a military problem alone, to be sure. It is clear that the political, the economic and the military have to proceed apace. And it is also clear that the world, particularly the Muslim world, has got to do a better job of seeing that the small faction within their religion doesn't hijack that religion and keep training more people to go out and kill innocent men, women and children.
And I know that that's being worked on in a number of countries. I know there's an effort to cut off funding to the more radical madrassa schools and to convert a number of those schools, for example, in Pakistan to schools that teach things that are useful to a life, such as languages and mathematics and science and that type of thing.
So it is -- I think that there's a better, deeper understanding of the fact that this is not a one-dimensional military-only conflict; this is something that is multi-dimensional; it is something that is going to take a long time; it is going to be a tough, tough road. But it -- imagine failing, and imagine turning over the world to the people who want to chop off people's heads. And so we have no choice.
And the idea that one -- you say training more terrorists. We haven't done anything to train terrorists –
Q: I said creating more.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's what I mean, creating more terrorists. The world hadn't done anything to create more terrorists when 9/11 -- when 3,000 people were killed. So we have a big task. It is not something that one country can do alone. And it is not something that can be done militarily, that's for sure.
Q: General Myers?
Q: I want to get back to the issue of underestimating the insurgency and criticism of the war plan. I want to tie this together. The Fay report and the Schlesinger report a couple weeks ago, both strongly worded critiques of your war plan in terms of setting the conditions that led to detainee abuse, they stated that the Pentagon did not adequately estimate the extent or the staying power of the insurgency or adequately revamp its plans and resources to accommodate the strategy -- the insurgency. Your war plan was criticized. Can you address whether those are fair, valid criticisms now in retrospect, sir?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Do you want to start?
GEN. MYERS: Well, I think the first thing you could say is that in retrospect you can be super-critical about anything you want to be critical about. And so with perfect hindsight, you'd say, well, gee, maybe we should have anticipated this, maybe we should have anticipated that.
The fact is, in my view, looking at what we've done in Afghanistan, what we've done in Iraq, what we've done in the Horn of Africa, what we've done in the Philippines, what we've done virtually around the world since 9/11 has shown U.S. forces, and the coalition, for the most part, being highly flexible and adaptable to the task at hand. Nobody can predict with certainty the kind of environment you're going to try to find when you go into these places. You just can't do it. You give it your best guess. And then you have to react to the situation as you find it on the ground. This is, after all, war. This is combat. There is no formula for combat. There is no formula for war. The best you can do is have a plan, execute your plan, see how the enemy confronts your plan, and then adjust.
The part I would highlight is we've been very good at adjusting. Could we have been faster, sharper, quicker? Sure, we could have been, in probably many areas it goes without saying, particularly if we have the benefit of looking backwards and not looking forward. And that's the way I would address that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you calibrated this war plan on several occasions during the –
SEC. RUMSFELD: The war plan we worked on was an excellent war plan. General Franks and his team did a superb job, in my view, the Joint Staff did, and all of us applied our best judgment. And we believe it was a highly successful war plan. If you think about it -- I was reading over the weekend, Winston Churchill speculated in '39 that World War II might last as many as three years. It went on, what, six years from then. Operation Overlord, if you think about it, was -- there were people landed in the wrong place and it was a bloodbath as a result. There was a gap of 25 miles left open and 17 German divisions escaped through that and prolonged the war some distance.
There -- you are -- in any activity, you're up against a thinking enemy, and no war plan survives the first contact with an enemy. And the idea that one could anticipate three chess games out is a misunderstanding of how the world works. What one does, as Dick Myers said, is you build into it the kinds of capabilities and flexibilities that you think you may need, knowing -- knowing -- of certain knowledge that once you hit the ground, something's going to be different than you thought. And in fact, that's what's happened. And it has always been so. There's never been something –
Q: (Off mike) -- not having it -- having a well-thought plan on the insurgency issue and on resourcing it quickly enough. You didn't adapt as you -- as Schlesinger was at the podium –
SEC. RUMSFELD: The resourcing of it -- anyone can come to any conclusion they want after the fact. The fact of the matter is that the -- there were no capabilities -- military capabilities that were requested that weren't provided. That's just a fact.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in your opening remarks on Russia, did you mean to suggest that al Qaeda was involved in that attack and hostage- taking?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no.
Q: So –
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know is the answer to the question. I didn't suggest it, or I did not suggest that they were not. I just did not address it. But –
Q: General Myers, you mentioned that the bombing runs have continued in Fallujah and a number of different air campaigns to go after terrorists there. But do you concede that Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra, in this interim time when Iraqi forces are not up to speed yet, have really become safe havens for terrorists and Sunni militants?
GEN. MYERS: They are areas that are -- again, they're part of the overall strategy how we deal with it. And they're all a little bit different in terms of the strategy we're using where some of the insurgents in some of the communities are not able to travel outside those communities, not able to effect major lines of communication, so forth. So we treat each of them differently. There are places where we do not conduct patrols, we don't conduct joint patrols. But they're all going to be dealt with on priorities that are developed by the Iraqi government and by coalition forces. And that's really all I want to get into.
Q: But General –
Q: General Myers –
SEC. RUMSFELD: Let me add one thought. The prime minister and his team fully understand that it is important that there not be areas in that country that are controlled by terrorists.
They understand that. It's their country, and they are proceeding -- they've been in office, what, how many months? Three? Two? July, August –
GEN. MYERS: Two months.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Two months; not a long time -- when one thinks about it. It seems to me that -- I have no doubt but that they understand it; that they -- for that -- for them, for their country to succeed, they simply cannot, over a sustained period of time, have areas that are under the control of people who are violently opposed to that government. They get it, and they will find a way over time to deal with it. In some cases I suspect they'll deal with it through negotiation and discussion. In other cases I think they'll deal with it by force.
Q: The Iraqi police –
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know what the numbers are, but for the sake of argument I think it's safe to say -- and correct me if you think I'm wrong -- but in the last month the Iraqi forces and the coalition forces have probably killed 1,500, 2,000, 2,500 former regime elements, criminals, terrorists. Now is that a lot? Yes. Does that hurt them? Yes. Is it a lot out of 25 million people in a country? No. Is it a lot when you've got borders that are porous and more can come in? No. But is the conflict, the offense being effectively waged? The answer is yes, it is. Is it everywhere at once? No.
As Dick says, there are some things that are better done by Iraqis than coalition forces. As a result, they are being used judiciously. They are being trained up and equipped up as fast as possible, and then they're being used in the areas -- for example, they would have been used in Najaf had it been necessary to go into the shrine area as opposed to using coalition forces. They're doing effective counterterrorism activities, and they're doing effective pinpoint interventions in locations. As they gain more confidence, as the chain of command gets stood up better, why, obviously they'll be doing more and more.
Q: So Abu Zarqawi is somehow in a command and control position and may be in or -- in and around Fallujah?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I've seen nothing to suggest to the contrary.
Q: General Myers, you said in response to one of the earlier questions, something about the Iraqi security forces will be enlarged or improved by December, the end of this year. I wanted to make sure I understood you more clearly on that. Because as you know, the number of the force had been touted at about 200,000, and then reduced to about 110,000.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Let me -- let me, before he answers, give you the gross numbers. The numbers were zero, and then they went up to -- the number being used was about 260,000 -- no, no -- 205,000 –
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- 206,000 -- you're right. And that number included people, as we said, that had uneven training and uneven equipment. We improved our analysis, and we've gotten much better visibility into the situation. We figure we may still have that many people on the rolls. But of the ones that are trained and equipped, the number now looks to be -- the latest number -- last week it was 105,000; now it looks to be 95,000; that is to say that are trained and equipped.
SEC. RUMSFELD: 95,000. And Dick was talking about the projection going out between now and the end of the year into mid-'05 when that number continues to soar as we're effective. And that number then will go up -- back up over 200,000.
Q: So you think by mid-'05 -- I don't want to be -- I want to make sure I understand -- it should be back to over 200,000? And these would be like the 95,000, fully trained –
GEN. MYERS: Trained, there will be different leadership quality, a much –
Q: -- (inaudible) -- and all that kind of stuff and ready to go?
GEN. MYERS: Yeah.
Q: And also, in Afghanistan, you know, you're shooting for 20,000 now, national army. And when you were there, sir, the number was given to you about 8,000 or 9,000. When do you think that that number might get up to 20,000 in Afghanistan?
GEN. MYERS: Actually, I think the number for the Afghan National Army, the goal is 70,000.
Q: Right. (inaudible) -- a little bit further.
GEN. MYERS: Right. And then there's the police and the border component of that and the highway patrol and the counternarcotics force. And what we're trying to do in Afghanistan, the same thing we've been doing now for a while in Iraq, and that is to take a holistic look at this. As you know, the Bonn process had individual countries responsible for various parts of this. And they're coming along in a -- as the secretary would say, in an uneven way. And what we're going to try to do with our coalition partners is make that less uneven and more of a holistic approach that the Afghan government approves and that is sustainable over the long term by the Afghan government. And it involves the same elements -- organize, train, equip. And the leadership element -- mentoring; once you train somebody, put them back in the field, you don't just drop them at the doorstep of the local police station and say, "Now you got it," because there's going to be some mentoring required as they go through.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
SEC. RUMSFELD: And -- and the soft stuff's much harder to do than the hard stuff. That is to say you can buy a truck or a weapon, but getting the chain of command right and getting the mentoring right and the leadership aspects of it right, that's tough stuff. We'll make this the last question.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. The withdrawal of 12,500 U.S. troops from South Korea, there will be a -- after the pullout of U.S. troops from South Korea there will be a security vacuum in the Korean peninsula. What –
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely not. There will be no vacuum.
Q: What is the –
SEC. RUMSFELD: We wouldn't think of allowing a vacuum to exist in the Korean peninsula.
Q: Okay. What is the United States –
SEC. RUMSFELD: It is an enormously important area. We have done careful analysis. This has been something that's been going on for over a year in discussion with the South Korean government. They have done tabletop studies and analysis. We have -- the important thing is, in the 21st century if one takes numbers and tries to equate them with old numbers from the 20th century, they make a mistake because the implication is if the number is lower, that you're weaker; and it's simply not true. We have capabilities that we can deploy there -- and air capabilities, land capabilities, sea capabilities. And the capabilities that we have there are vastly more capable than the exact same number of people were five, 10, 15 years ago because we've invested -- I forget what the number is, it's a large number of billions of dollars -- into capabilities that enable us to provide for a healthy deterrent on that peninsula. And let there be no doubt that that's the case.
We understand the nature of that regime in the north and have no intention at all of allowing any sort of a vacuum. And any suggestion to the contrary would be a fundamental mistake. And anyone who looks at it from a military standpoint and analyzes it, as current commanders have, prior commanders have and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have, have not one slight bit of worry about any weakening of the deterrent. Thank you very much.
Q: Will we see you next week?
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