NAPOLITANO: Hey, welcome back to “Brian and the Judge” - Judge Napolitano, Brian Kilmeade. We are pleased to have as our guest the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, thank you. I’m delighted to do it.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary, earlier this week the President nominated General Michael Hayden to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and some people - it seems to be more Republicans than Democrats - have a concern about having a general in this position. Could you address this issue for us?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Sure. The CIA’s been around ever since the end of World War II and we’ve had a number of military personnel who have served as the Director and occasionally the Deputy Director. Some in uniform, some not. There’s certainly no rule against it. There even isn’t any particular theory that makes it a bad idea. In fact I think it’s helpful from time to time.
On the other hand, if one looks at General Hayden’s background, what he really is - is not an operational military officer, he is a superb intelligence professional. He’s had assignment after assignment after assignment in the intelligence world, done an outstanding job. He’s been extended in a number of his posts. From everything I can see he’s done an excellent job as John Negroponte’s Deputy at the DNI, and I think he’s an excellent choice. I just don’t understand the argument on military versus civilian. I would even go so far as to say it seems to me the central issue that people ought to be debating and discussing is how does our country get the best possible intelligence to protect the American people? And no one has yet come up with any even modestly persuasive argument that the answer to that depends on whether you have a uniform on or not.
KILMEADE: Mr. Secretary, what would you say the difference is of the quality of intelligence you get today as opposed to the quality of intelligence you were getting pre-9/11, when you first took over the job?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh my, Brian, I don’t think I could draw comparisons like that. When I was in my confirmation hearing in January of 2001, I was asked, ‘What’s the thing that will keep me up at night?’ I said the quality of intelligence. If you asked me the question today I would answer the question the same way.
Our country is moving from the 20th Century into the 21st Century. The period when we had a major super power enemy in the Soviet Union and our worry was big armies, big navies and big air forces, into a period where we’re worried about not big armies and navies and air forces - which are relatively easy to track - we’re worried about non-state actors getting their hands on powerful weapons, increasingly lethal weapons, taking sanctuary in countries that we’re not at war with, and it is a vastly more complex and more difficult task that the men and women in the intelligence community have facing them. So it’s a tough job they have. But it’s a different job than the earlier period.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary, some of the critics of the nomination of General Hayden have argued that because he is an active duty general, and presumably will be the Director of Central Intelligence, that he somehow still falls under your authority and that you might sort of co-opt him to say the things that you want to hear. Is there any credence to that argument?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, that’s utter nonsense. A person with four stars on their shoulder who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate and undertakes a responsibility as significant as that of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency is a grownup. He is a person who has knowledge, background and position - and he will use it, and he will use it effectively. I think it’s fortunate that in our country that we have people like Mike Hayden who are willing to subject themselves to a lot of the nonsense that attaches to these posts.
KILMEADE: We’ve talked enough about Hayden, let’s move on to Iraq. We understand that 3,500 Army soldiers will not be going to Iraq will be staying in Germany. Some say this is a good sign - that things are stabilizing. What does the Secretary of Defense say?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think it would be premature to come to that conclusion. What’s happened is that General Casey recommended and the President and I approved a delay in the movement of that particular unit into Iraq at the request of General Casey. Now, might it go in later? Sure. Might it not? That’s possible. But the important thing to remember is that we now have about 133,000 troops in Iraq. Our goal is to bring that number down. The fact that some unit may not be going in does not necessarily mean that that number of total troops will be going down. In addition to brigades we have these embeds with the Iraqi security forces, we have infrastructure protection forces, we have advisors in the ministries, we have combat support, combat service support people, and so I think that people are taking one tulip and deciding it’s spring.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary -- [Laughter]. Nicely put. One tulip and deciding it’s spring.
What changes do you anticipate in the near future as Prime Minister Maliki’s government puts forth a cabinet and begins to start the ball rolling on their path toward democracy? This will be the first democratic government they have ever had. How is that going to affect what the fighting men and women from the United States are doing?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It’s a little early to tell. As soon as they get the ministers appointed, and I was very encouraged this morning to read that Prime Minister Maliki has indicated that he hopes to get the ministers appointed in the very near future. He also said that he expects those people to be individuals who will be part of a unity government and will govern from the center, and that’s critically important for the security ministries.
I think at a point where those ministers are there, General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad will sit down and begin the discussions with the new government about how rapidly we can transfer responsibility to the Iraqi security forces, how the Iraqi government can fashion a budget that will assure that they’re going to be able to pick up the costs and expenditures for aspects of this, and then we’ll work out a comfortable arrangement between our two countries so that we can transfer responsibility over time as they’re capable and as conditions on the ground permit to the Iraqis.
KILMEADE: Did you underestimate overall the amount of angst between the Shia and the Sunnis? That’s seems to be what we’re witnessing right now - less foreign fighters, more Shia/Sunni.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It’s awfully hard to disaggregate what’s going on. I think it still is a combination of foreign fighters and Ba’athists who want to take back the government. I think it’s a mixture, as you point out, of sectarian violence and also criminals who are for hire by anybody almost. It’s a country that’s violent, the violence is there.
Was it underestimated by our intelligence people? I suppose if someone had said can you find a piece of paper that proves that what has taken place was predicted with reasonable precision, I think probably not. But I think that’s always been true throughout history.
The enemy has a brain. The enemy adapts and adjusts.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary, do we have troops on the ground in Iran?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You know; if we had troops on the ground in Iran - if you’re talking about official activities going on in there - my guess is they would have been publicized. But if you’re saying is it conceivable that some military person on leave or something is traveling in Iran, people go in and out of Iran all the time. Americans do. I have friends that go in and out of the country. It’s not like North Korea where you can’t get in or out.
But we do not have forces, as such, doing things. We are concerned about the fact that we’re finding Iranian equipment that’s being used to kill Americans and Iraqis in Iraq. And you can’t tie a string from the piece of equipment you find in Iraq that came from Iran and know with certain knowledge that it came because the government sent it to some of their friends and allies inside of Iraq, but it’s very clear that Iranian equipment is being found there.
KILMEADE: And it’s very clear that a lot more of our men and women would be alive today if the Iranians would keep their nose out of this, and that’s why you’re setting up over 200 forts around the border, we understand, to see if you can stem the tide of Iranian support for the insurgency. And it’s complicated because on the surface for people on the outside like me, I look at Iranians and I think okay, that’s Shia, why would they be fueling the Sunnis inside Iraq? That’s not logical. But logic seems to have taken a back seat quite often.
But one thing we can all agree on, Mr. Secretary is support for our troops and how in awe we are, with what they give. You have a web site for people to sound off and salute the men and women in uniform, AmericaSupportsYou.mil?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Exactly. And what it does is it lists a whole host of things that the wonderfully generous and compassionate American people are doing for the troops and for the troops’ family. You can go to the web site and find things that schools are doing, corporations, clubs, churches, all kinds of activities that people are doing to let the troops and their families know how much we appreciate their superb work for our country.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule today. We appreciate your thoughts and sharing your time with us.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Judge, good to be with you. Brian, thank you so much.