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Media Availability with DoD Officials and Senator Warner

Presenters: Senator John Warner (R-Va), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Vice Admiral A.T. Church III, Inspector General of the Navy
July 15, 2004 12:05 PM EDT

Thursday, July 15, 2004 12:06 p.m. EDT

Media Availability with DoD Officials and Senator Warner

            SEN. WARNER:  I'd hoped to do this in the press gallery, but I thought it was important that I be accompanied by the following individuals here today.  Admiral?  Admiral Church.  Colonel -- (off mike) -- 


            STAFF (?):  (Off mike.)


            SEN. WARNER:  Well, we had upstairs Mr. Gearan, the special assistant to the secretary of Defense, who is not with us; Mr. Ryan Henry, the principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Vice Admiral Church, who's been tasked by the secretary to do an overall review of these matters in all the military departments; Colonel    Gordon (sp), Judge Advocate General's Office; and Major Zick (sp), who actually had one of the detention facilities for the 101st Airborne.


            And we had a very thorough briefing by these individuals, several hours.  And I would rank it as an excellent briefing to the members.


            Our mission was to do three things.  I've given you an opening statement, which covers my opening remarks.  We had prepared for you a list of all of the investigations that are going on.  So you can use this as a guide sheet for the things that are ongoing.  And it is, I think, very comprehensive.  The investigation's going on under the supervision of the secretary.  It clearly indicates that no stone is being left unturned as the Department of Defense and, to some extent, the Department of Justice are looking at this situation to determine what happened, how it happened, who is accountable and how, most importantly, it can never happen again.


            Now I think I've invested a great deal of time on this over the past few months.  And based on what I learned today, I can say with, I think, relative assurance that America and the world will not see a similar series of incidents that we have experienced in the past.  And I want to draw a clear line between the past and the future. 


            I'm addressing the future.  


            We're still uncovering, as late as this morning, other incidents, other cases that will be promptly investigated by the Department of Defense -- allegations relating to variances to the Geneva Convention, and indeed, the rules and regulations of the Department of Defense as it regards the detainees.  So each day new information, but I think, under the direction of the secretary, everything that can be done is being done to analyze what happened in the past and to prevent any recurrence in the future.  


            And I say, having worked with this department and this secretary for some several years now, the department is being cooperative -- I can speak to the Senate side -- and forthcoming with witnesses and documents.  It was made clear today, when we got to address the International Red Cross issues, that there's still some additional documentation which the department is obtaining and will provide the Senate.  


            So having said that, I'll open myself to any questions you might have.


            Q     Can you --


            SEN. WARNER:  Beg your pardon?


            Q     -- (off mike.)


            SEN. WARNER:  I have not personally detected any foot-dragging. To the contrary, I think that the full effort of the department has been addressed to these situations.  


            Q     Senator, can you perhaps elaborate --


            SEN. WARNER:  Beg your pardon?


            Q     Can you perhaps elaborate on these other cases?


            SEN. WARNER:  No, I can't elaborate on the other cases.  


            Q     Are any of the magnitude of --


            SEN. WARNER:  Oh, no.  Well, I'm not going to try and describe them in any way.  And I'm not trying to, you know, drop a little hint    here or there; I'm just saying factually, each day that comes along, new incidents that occurred in the past -- each day it comes along, new incidents -- revelation of new incidents that occurred in the past.  I think the -- well, if I could quantify it, I think about 90 percent of everything that happened in the past that could be challenged, under rules or regulations or treaties, is now being looked into.  But maybe there's a few here and there, as we now learn, that have come up. 


            Q     Senator -- (cross talk.)


            SEN. WARNER:  All right, I'm going to take one at a time.


            Q     When will you next hold hearings on --


            SEN. WARNER:  The question is --


            Q     -- and who do you plan to call?


            SEN. WARNER:  All right.  When do I next hold hearings?  Here's the situation.  


            As it relates to the International Red Cross, we've got to proceed extraordinarily carefully so that the Congress, in its oversight responsibility, primarily my committee, does not get into a situation that could result in the inability of the Red Cross to function in other nations of the world because it -- their success is dependent, in many ways, on the confidentiality of their investigations; where they go in, as they did in Iraq, find situations which, in their judgment, are contrary to the Geneva Conventions, report them to the appropriate authorities, as was done in these cases.


            And in most of these cases that we have been briefed on, the appropriate authorities took corrective measures.  Now in order for that situation to go on elsewhere in the world, you cannot have a revelation of all the facts that occurred in that situation.  It's as simple as that.


            (Cross talk.)


            SEN. WARNER:  I beg your pardon?


            Q     How about your hearings, though?


            SEN. WARNER:  All right.  The question is about the hearing.  The next issue that the Congress is confronted with particularly is that there are so many -- here they are -- investigations going on that we cannot in any way jeopardize the rights of individuals being investigated under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  And consequently, we cannot at this time bring them before the committee.


            So I assure you that as information becomes available, the committee will eventually look into the completion of all of these investigations, and quite possibly bring to the committee and perhaps an open hearing individuals who have knowledge about what happened and can provide the American public with a better understanding and most particularly how it will not happen again.  So we're -- I can't give you a schedule until -- take a look at all these investigations.


            Q     But by then we're going into the fall.  Do you think it's possible that you could hold hearings --


            SEN. WARNER:  Well, what can you do until they're finished?


            Q     Right.  Do you think it's possible you won't have any before the recess, then?


            SEN. WARNER:  Well, first place, we're recessing in a matter of days.  I'm hoping to have a hearing open next week with a particularly very important witness if we can arrange for him to appear.  He has some knowledge on this subject.


            Q     Ambassador Bremer?


            SEN. WARNER:  That's Ambassador Bremer.  But we haven't -- we're not announcing that yet or confirming it.  (Cross talk.)


            SEN. WARNER:  Beg your pardon?


            Q     What reports haven't you seen, and -- (off mike)?


            SEN. WARNER:  Of the 25 known ICRC reports, I think 24 in one way or another were shared with us today, and one is still hopefully in transit to us.


            Anybody else?


            Q     Will you call William Haynes?


            SEN. WARNER:  Beg your pardon?


            Q     Will you call William Haynes for a hearing?


            SEN. WARNER:  That may well be, but not in the coming -- between now and recess time.  I think Haynes, who's the general counsel of the Department of Defense, his testimony could be most helpful after the completion of a number of these investigations.


            Q     Why wait --


            Q     (Off mike.)


            SEN. WARNER:  That's the decision that I have to make.


            Q     Why wait until fall for Haynes or other --


            SEN. WARNER:  Because I think we need to know the facts.  And we're not in the position to try and have an independent investigation at this point in time.  I just had 16 days of hearings on the floor of the Senate with the bill.  I have a limited staff.  I think we're doing a very credible job in our oversight and trying to keep the public advised through you as to what we're learning.


            Q     Senator, just to clarify.


            SEN. WARNER:  Yes?


            Q     You'd like to see sort of all of these investigations wrapped up, finished, and then hold your public hearing?


            SEN. WARNER:  No.  I think as they're finished, we will address them in oversight and quite possibly be able to have a public hearing on the report.  No, we'll take them in sequence.


            Q     Senator, if I could just follow up on the earlier --


            SEN. WARNER:  Yes.  On what?


            Q     On Haynes coming or people who made policy, not necessarily a part of the investigation, so why wouldn't you be able to -- the investigation.  So why wouldn't you be able --


            SEN. WARNER:   Well, look, I had policy -- I had the secretary of Defense, I had Cambone, I had the generals.  They're all policymakers. So we're not in any way not looking at how the policy was made.  But in fairness to them, they've got to be given an opportunity to have the benefit of the completion of the investigations.




            Q     Are you satisfied that the administration --  SEN. WARNER:  Beg your pardon?


            Q     Are you satisfied the administration provided all its documents related to this?  The House Armed Services Committee –


            SEN. WARNER:  Well, I can't speak to the House.  All I can say is that in my judgment, in response to this senator as chairman's request, the secretary of Defense has been forthcoming.


            Q     How about the White House?


            SEN. WARNER:  Beg pardon?


            Q     How about the White House?


            SEN. WARNER:  As yet, we haven't specifically made a request to the White House of anything.  


            Q     Senator?


            SEN. WARNER:  Anybody back there?


            Q     Senator, can you commit that there will be hearings on Abu Ghraib any time this fall, or --


            SEN. WARNER:  The question is, will I commit, will there be hearings by the Armed Services Committee as it relates to the results of these investigations on Abu Ghraib?  The answer is yes.


            Q     (Off mike.)


            SEN. WARNER:  Beg your pardon?


            Q     (Off mike.)


            SEN. WARNER:  As soon as the reports are completed, I will address the reports, hopefully in open hearing.  And I can't predict when they'll be completed.


            Q     Are you at all concerned that this might not happen before the elections?


            SEN. WARNER:  Now wait a minute.  I'm not going to speculate. I've given you the best evidence that I have of the schedule of hearings and when they're going to be completed.


            And I've indicated when they've been completed, I will then assess the opportunity to have an open hearing on those reports.


            Q     Senator, how can you characterize the -- (off mike)?


            SEN. WARNER:  I'm not hearing that -- how would I --


            Q     How would you characterize the information -- the information -- (off mike)?


            SEN. WARNER:  Well, I think the witnesses here today are very forthcoming in the facts.  They didn't decline to answer a single question put by the committee, and a number of senators were present. So I think it was an excellent briefing this morning.




            Q     Do you agree with the earliest assessment that this was only seven or a few rogue individuals -- (off mike) -- 


            SEN. WARNER:  I'm not going to try and make any judgments until these reports are in.


            STAFF:  Go ahead.


            SEN. WARNER:  Yes?


            Q     Senator, did you get any more information in testimony this morning of preliminary findings and knowing when all of the inquiries will be completed?


            SEN. WARNER:  It's set forth here when the inquiries will be completed.  We addressed two things this morning.  One, procedure -- what's going on, when will they complete it, and the breadth of what's taking place.


            Q     Did you learn any more -- (off mike) --


            SEN. WARNER:  Well, just a minute.  Let me finish.


            Secondly, we got legal opinions to the effect -- and I'm going to get a written opinion from the general counsel of the Department of Defense -- on those people who are involved in administrative proceedings, criminal proceedings to date, and how they cannot be    brought at this time, in my judgment, to the committee without jeopardizing their rights under the Uniform Code.  So that's something that I'll make public as soon as I get it.


            Q     (Off mike.)


            SEN. WARNER:  That's -- I just -- I'll get it.




            Q     Senator, as you look at the Red Cross documents that the Defense Department received before this became public --


            SEN. WARNER:  Yes.


            Q     -- do you believe that they acted aggressively enough soon enough to address this matter?


            SEN. WARNER:  In most instances, they did.  But in several, I think there are some tough questions that's going to have to be answered.  I can say that without reservation.


            Anybody else?


            Q     Senator?


            SEN. WARNER:  Yes?


            Q     You're not keeping the documents here, are you?


            SEN. WARNER:  No, the reason being to give them security.  Any senator at any time can contact me, and I will see that the documents are brought back for their personal inspection.




            Q     Senator, is there any problem that would keep Ambassador Bremer from testifying next week?


            SEN. WARNER:  Yes -- not a problem.  I had a very fine conversation with him.  I think he's done a credible and a remarkable job, and he needs an opportunity to spend a little time with his family.  But I pointed out that I think it's important, since he was a principal witness to get some 20-plus billions of dollars authorized and appropriated by the Congress, that the Congress is owed his own personal summary of what he felt has gone on over there, what's left to be undone, and his own views as to the expenditure of the taxpayers' funds.


            And he fully understands that.  We're trying to work it out.  


            Q     (Off mike.)


            SEN. WARNER:  I can't answer that.  Let's let the trials finish.




            Q     Do you feel pressured by your Republican colleagues here or by the administration, particularly the White House, not to hold anymore hearings?


            SEN. WARNER:  Do I feel any pressure by my colleagues here in the Senate, either Democrat or Republican?  The answer is no.  They've all been very cooperative.  We had good attendance this morning.  Any pressure by the White House?  None whatsoever.


            Anybody else?  Yes.


            Q     Do you think that the White House -- 


            SEN. WARNER:  I'm not able to hear.


            Q     Do you think that the White House and DOD attitudes and guidelines on interrogations and interpretations of the Geneva Conventions that were outlined in this document that the White House released a couple of weeks ago, do you think that contributed to an atmosphere that led to what happened at Abu Ghraib?


            SEN. WARNER:  I'm afraid I just couldn't hear your question and can't answer it.  But I assure you that everybody is examining the future so that there cannot be a repetition of this problem.  I'm confident of that.


            Thank you very much.


            Q     Thank you, Senator. 


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