STEPHANOPOULOS: Our first guest, the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld -- welcome.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Overnight, the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq has launched a new operation -- Operation Ivy Serpent, I think it's called. What can you tell us about the mission?
RUMSFELD: Well, it is part of a continuing effort in the country to try to find and stamp out and capture or kill the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime. These are Baathists and Fedayeen Saddam and special Republican Guard types that didn't -- were never engaged in war. They were up North, probably, and they just drifted into the countryside. So while major combat activities ended, the war continues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think these groups, these remnants, you call them, are following some kind of organized plan?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. It appears -- there's discussion about that taking place inside the government. It's pretty clear that in a city or an area, there is coordination. We don't have any good evidence that it's nationwide or even a large region, but it's possible. But I just don't know the answer --
STEPHANOPOULOS: The commanding general on the ground has said he sees some sort of commanders intent there, and that these people are fighting like soldiers.
RUMSFELD: And it may very well be that they're doing it just through intent without coordination.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that mean?
RUMSFELD: It means that instead of getting specific instructions on a given day, someone said, "Look, go out and do this -- attack successful targets. They're targeting success, if you think about it. They killed someone near the university -- which -- the university is open; it's functioning; it's teaching; students are there. So they went in and killed someone near there. They did the same thing near the police school, where we're recruiting police and putting them -- Iraqi police -- putting then out on the street, and they literally are trying to target success. They don't --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- isn't that -- excuse me -- isn't that guerrilla war?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. Call it what you want, what we've got, really, on the ground in Iraq is a mixture of things. We have the remnants of the regime that had a wonderful deal when Saddam Hussein was there. They could go around killing people and creating mass graves and arresting people and doing all those things that we don't believe in and that the repressive regime did believe in and have all the financial advantages -- cars and nice houses and so forth -- and they're unhappy. They would rather have Saddam Hussein back. It's not going to happen, but it's not surprising they're still continuing the war.
Then there are a group of people who came in from the outside, and they came probably in through Syria, for the most part, and these are typical people who are anti-coalition -- anti-U.S., anti-UK, and then there's maybe 50 to 100,000 people that were in prisons. These are just bad people -- criminals -- and they are there. They have -- prisons were empty during the war. And so it's a mixture of things taking place in there. Terrorism -- these are terrorist type attacks. They are not armies against armies or navies against navies. They -- but it's tough, and people are being killed and more people are going to be killed. We expect that the summer is not going to be a peaceful summer. There are a number of anniversaries coming up for the Baathists and so forth, so I think it's going to be some more attacks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if someone were to call it guerrilla war, they wouldn't necessarily be wrong?
RUMSFELD: I guess it's up to them. People can call it what they want. I characterize it the way I just did, which is what's actually going on. I don't know that that's necessarily the correct definition of organized resistance or guerrilla war, but it doesn't make a lot of difference to me. People are being killed, and we've got to go find them and stop them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's turn now --
RUMSFELD: -- it's clearly not conventional, classic war.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, let's turn now to the controversy over the State of the Union, and this bad intelligence, which made it into the State of the Union. George Tenet, the CIA director, has taken responsibility, but what more do you know about how this intelligence made it into the State of the Union, even though there had been doubts about it in the administration for many months?
RUMSFELD: I don't know much more than has been said. George Tenet's statement says it all -- that there were 12 or 16 words that were in there. They were technically correct -- that the -- reporting that the British had said that. The British today still believe they are accurate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the CIA had great doubts about the British intelligence.
RUMSFELD: Some people did in the CIA and some people in the INR did at the Department of State and obviously if there's that kind of a debate, you wouldn't want it in there, and it didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech, but it's not known, for example, that it was inaccurate. In fact, people think it was technically accurate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you seen the British intelligence?
RUMSFELD: No, not that I recall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe that George Tenet had seen it?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I let George speak for himself. The idea that there was some major problem here is just not so. George Tenet is an enormously talented public servant, and the intelligence community does a darn good job, and as the president said, those words should probably not have been in his speech, and that's fine. There it is, end of story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Help us understand how this happens, because for a lot of people it's not going to be the end of the story. There is still going to be an investigation in the Senate. Back in October, George Tenet goes to the deputy national security advisor and says don't put this information in a major presidential address --
RUMSFELD: Look, you're going to have to ask George Tenet or the people involved in that. I was not involved. I do not know. All I know is what the president said and what George Tenet said, and it seems to me that George Tenet's statement explains the whole thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seems like, from his statement, there was some intent by people in the White House -- they wanted this to be in the speech, and it kept coming back, even though the CIA kept raising doubts.
RUMSFELD: That I don't know. I have no knowledge of that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you know if anyone in the Pentagon was pressing for this kind of information to go in presidential public statements?
RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all?
STEPHANOPOULOS: When you were before the Senate the other day, you said that you learned that this information -- and I think the question was bogus -- only days ago. And how could that be?
RUMSFELD: I think I said in recent days when it all became public. I should have said, probably, in recent weeks, because I went back and checked with the intelligence person who briefs me and, apparently, it went like this. The president's speech was in January. The next day I said the president had said this, and then in March, ElBaradei, the U.N. IAEA person, said he thought that statement was based on a forged document.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and actually prior to that --
RUMSFELD: -- this is in March 12th or 8th or something --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- March 8th, I think it was --
RUMSFELD: -- yeah, and my intelligence briefer tells me that when that hit the newspapers, I asked them -- what are the facts? And they came back and said that the agency thinks that ElBaradei may very well be right, and so it was then that I became aware of it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it wasn't only in recent days. You've actually known that for several months --
RUMSFELD: -- no, it was in recent weeks or --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- well, a few months, March 8th.
RUMSFELD: March, April, May, June -- right -- July -- so it's been four months, right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you haven't repeated the charge, the allegation, since then -- the evidence?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And as far as you're concerned, the president said the case is closed. You seem to be saying the same thing.
RUMSFELD: I mean -- I don't know what else one can say. The president said that, in retrospect, those words wouldn't -- should not have been in the speech -- not that they're known to be inaccurate, the British still think they are accurate. The way he phrased it was accurate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don't vouch for the British intelligence here?
RUMSFELD: No, we can't, and we shouldn't. I mean -- we think they do a wonderful job. We have a very close relationship with the UK. Of all the intelligence services in the world, I think that one has to say they've done -- over the years, they do a very, very good job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: On the broader subject of weapons of mass destruction, the last time you appeared on the show -- I think it was March 30th -- we talked about why no weapons had been found. It was about three weeks into the war, and here is what you said. I want you to take a look at it.
(previously taped segment)
RUMSFELD: The area in the South and the West and the North that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and East, West, South, and North somewhat.
(end of taped segment)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said, "We know where they are." Have those sites where you thought the weapons of mass destruction were -- have those been inspected now?
RUMSFELD: I probably should have said we know where they were instead of we know where they are. At that moment, the intelligence community said these are "x" number of suspect sites, meaning we have reason to believe that they might be in these various locations -- numbers of hundreds --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but at that time, on March 30th, you believed the weapons were there?
RUMSFELD: Exactly. We did believe that, and they may have been there. We've been out looking at those sites, and -- some of those sites -- and have gone through some fraction of them. It takes a long time. It's an enormously big country and, as you'll recall, the one individual came in and took the investigators into his backyard near a rosebush, dug down, and found things that had been buried there for years with respect to the Iraqi nuclear program, and you can imagine -- how would anyone have known that except for the person who buried them coming in and saying, "Here they are." So what the Iraqi survey group is now doing is they are, instead of running around to all these suspect sites that we had, where we believed they were, they are instead going through the interrogation process with these people and trying to find people who can tell us where they are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So just on that they haven't looked at every one of those sites yet?
RUMSFELD: No, they have not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, so far, they have found no weapons?
RUMSFELD: I wouldn't say that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You wouldn't say that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: They've found weapons?
RUMSFELD: They have found things -- they have not found things that when one aggregates them and looks at them that they would say, "Aha, there it is," but they are finding things, and then what they do is, they take the materials, and they send them to several different laboratories to be tested. Then it comes back, and it's not what you thought it might be. They send some more out, and it comes back, and it's a dual use. It could be this or it could be that -- something civilian or something military, and that process just -- we just have to be patient. It's been 10 weeks now. We've got a wonderful team of people working on the problems. They are intelligent, they are serious, they are purposeful, and they are going to keep looking, and there isn't anyone who has looked at all the intelligence, that I know of, who doesn't believe that the intelligence community was correct.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you say that they may have been there on March 30th.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They can be moved.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think they could have been moved?
RUMSFELD: Of course, they can be moved.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, if that's true --
RUMSFELD: -- we know they had mobile capabilities, and think of the lethality of biological or chemical weapons and what a relatively small amount can be easily moved and buried -- or transported somewhere.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that's true, couldn't the war then, the military operation, have invoked your worst fear -- that these weapons would be moved and get in the hands of terrorists?
RUMSFELD: They could have, and they still could, which is the reason you need to find them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you believe that weapons could have been, say, taken out of the country and sold to Al Qaeda?
RUMSFELD: I'm not going to say that. I think they could have been moved. They could have been moved within the country or somewhere else but, basically, we don't know, and we intend to find out, and I believe we will find out.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that show a failure, then, of the Defense Department, and it was your responsibility to secure the sites or failure to secure those sites?
RUMSFELD: No, I mean, how can you secure a site that's -- sites in a country the size of California that has open borders, porous borders, people moving in and out? Even today, people move in and out. It's not possible to secure every single site, and what one has to do is go in and win the war, throw out the regime, and then as rapidly as possible, shift that fighting force into a presence force and try to provide security in the country. Think of all the things that -- the bad things that didn't happen. There was not a big humanitarian crisis; there was not enormous -- tens of thousands -- of refugees fleeing the country; there was not enormous destruction to the infrastructure; the dams were not broken and flooding the people; the weapons of mass destruction were not used, even though they had chemical weapons suits we found in Southern Iraq ready to be used.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But can you be certain that they had these weapons ready to be used. You're not certain of that.
RUMSFELD: I didn't say that. I said we found the suits that an Iraqi would wear, were they going to use those weapons or deal in that kind of a conflict. We had ours, as well. Our people were all equipped with those kinds of protected devices. They had to be, because we were convinced and remain convinced, that they had that capability. We know this from 12 years -- the U.N. has said so; the defectors have said so; all the intelligence community; the debate in the U.N. wasn't whether they had chemical/biological or a nuclear -- we never said they had a nuclear weapon -- we said they had a nuclear program. That was never any debate. The debate was -- how long should you wait after they violate 17 U.N. resolutions before you enforce those resolutions?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mention now that the teams are talking to scientists. Journalists have talked to some of these scientists as well, and I want to show you something from the "New Republic." A journalist named Bob Drogin has interviewed a number of the Iraqi scientists, and here is what he wrote. He said, "The Iraqi scientists I met insist that the combination of U.S. bombing, U.N. inspections, disarmament efforts, unilateral destruction by Iraqi officials, and stiff U.N. sanctions had, indeed, eliminated Saddam's illicit weapons in the mid-90s. Ultimately, the scientists and others say Saddam may have feared that admitting his WMD were gone would have shown a weakness that could have threatened his hold on power." Is that what the scientists are telling the U.S. teams?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. I'm sure there are a lot of scientists, a lot of interrogations. I don't doubt for a minute that some people are saying that. Others have done what I said -- taken you to a backyard under a rosebush and said, "I was told not to destroy it, I was told to bury it and keep it and not let anyone know about it." Now, where is the truth? Maybe they're both true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How would that be?
RUMSFELD: Well, there would be some people who believe that they were told that they were going to destroy them and others that were told -- bury this, hide it, spread it around, take it into private residences, get the documentation dispersed so they can't know where it is. You could have one person told one thing and another --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but the theory he is talking about there -- is it plausible that perhaps Saddam Hussein, by the time the war began, really didn't have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction?
RUMSFELD: I think it's unlikely, and I'll tell you why. It seems to me that he could have had billions and billions of dollars, of revenues from his oil lifting. If he had wanted to do what other countries did, what Kazakhstan did, and say, "Come in here, inspect." Instead, what he did was they hid, they deceived, they lied, they filed a fraudulent report that everyone knew was not true. There wasn't any debate up in the U.N. about whether his report was fraudulent. Why would he do that? Why would he give away billions and billions and billions of dollars instead of doing what other countries have done and say, "Come on in."
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it could be for the reason those scientists said -- because he didn't want to show weakness. But you say, in the end, it's unlikely that he didn't have an arsenal but not impossible?
RUMSFELD: You know, until we have done this job -- we've been there 10 weeks, less than 10 weeks, I guess -- until we've done this job and talked to enough people and been through it, we won't know precisely what we'll find. I believe that the intelligence community was correct; that he had these capabilities, and that -- we know he's used them in the past. It's not like this is some innocent. He is a person who has used chemical weapons on his own people as well as his neighbors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about links to Al Qaeda. Do you still believe the intelligence that showed Iraq's links to Al Qaeda is bulletproof?
RUMSFELD: I think that the information we had, over a period of time, that I cited, that the intelligence community gave to me, and I read as opposed to ad-libbing, was correct. It was carefully stated. One argument was that Iraq was secular and Al Qaeda was religiously motivated and therefore they wouldn't link. I mean, the facts are we've seen accommodations take place in the world where people who don't agree end up cooperating because they have a common enemy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But several Al Qaeda operatives who were in custody have said that Osama bin Laden rejected any alliance with Saddam Hussein.
RUMSFELD: And there is intelligence information that suggested there were interactions between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and those are the ones that I cited that the intelligence community provided to me to be cited publicly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There are two former intelligence officials quoted in the Associated Press today saying there was no significant pattern of cooperation that were working in the intelligence community at the time of this administration, and a U.N. committee has also said they have found no evidence. Do you dismiss their doubts?
RUMSFELD: I don't dismiss them. How did you phrase that they said there was no what? No significant --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- there was no significant pattern of cooperation.
RUMSFELD: Well, that may be, but there were pieces of indications of cooperation. I don't know what significant pattern -- I'm not going to say that they are incorrect nor can anyone say what I said is incorrect, which was provided by the Central Intelligence Agency.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's turn now -- in March, before U.S. forces were committed, you put out some guidelines that you look to when you're considering sending U.S. forces into combat. I want to put up one on the screen and let our viewers take a look. It's called "Honesty -- U.S. leadership must be brutally honest with itself, the Congress, the public and coalition partners. Do not make the effort to sound even marginally easier or less costly than it could become."
RUMSFELD: I believe that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think, though, the administration has been scrupulous about adhering to it?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I do, absolutely. We have said we don't know what it will cost. We have said it's not knowable how long it will last -- the war. We never said it would be fast or slow. We didn't know. We also indicated that we could not know about whether a lot of very harmful things could happen; that some of the neighboring countries could be destabilized if there were a long war; that the dams could be broken and people flooded out; that the oil fields could be set aflame; that there could be a humanitarian crisis. Now, none of those bad things happened. We warned about them, we were concerned about them, we planned for them, we were ready to deal with them in the event they occurred. As to cost, we never said that we knew what it would cost, and we said that because it's the truth, it wasn't knowable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Except there were early estimates that it would cost about $2 billion a month, and this week you came out and doubled --
RUMSFELD: -- wrong, wrong, wrong. Let me tell you what the estimates were. If I'm not mistaken, the estimates were that it would cost $1.9 billion to $2 billion as a burn rate right then -- not that that burn rate would be projected over the next one, two, three, four years. I was asked before the Senate what it is costing. I said it's currently about $3.9 billion to $4 billion, I believe. That's the current burn rate. Now, if someone wants to take that and multiple it by one, two, three, four years, you can come up with a number that's 100 billion as the "Washington Post" did, or 200 billion or 300 billion --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- but you don't believe this?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. I have said I don't know. The burn rate is what it is today. It's a snapshot -- at that moment -- what's it costing? Answer -- 3.9 billion a month average.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But we know that it's going to take 150,000 or so troops. General Frank said this week for the foreseeable future. How long does that mean?
RUMSFELD: Well, if we knew, we would say. We have avoided saying "x" number of years or "x" billions of dollars, because it would be deceptive. I went back and checked and said, "What did people say in the administration on Kosovo? What did they say on Bosnia? What did they say about Panama?" And they were all wrong -- they were all wrong -- they were wrong by a factor of one, two, three times, and I looked at that, and I said if it's not knowable, isn't it a bigger disservice to the American people to guess than it is to say the truth -- you don't know?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it does seem like you're starting trouble with the American people and the Congress on this question. We did a new ABC poll just this week that showed that half of the public believes that the administration intentionally exaggerated the intelligence on Iraq. Secondly --
RUMSFELD: -- this is factually not true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, it may not be true, but then how do you convince the 50 percent of the American people who believe it's true?
RUMSFELD: Well, if the press keeps saying that it was exaggerated, and if people want to argue that, then a long enough debate over that issue will persuade a number of people that maybe it was.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, wait -- it was the director of the CIA who said it was a mistake to put the intelligence you put into the State of the Union in there.
RUMSFELD: And he was correct, and he is a fine public servant. Are you going to suggest that that is an intention exaggeration? It's not. It's a mistake.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What I'm saying is this is not something that's created by the press. The American believe --
RUMSFELD: -- it's a mistake --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- for them to believe this?
RUMSFELD: No, it was a mistake to have those words in there -- not that they were inaccurate and not that they even may not be true, but they didn't rise to the level of a presidential speech, given -- in retrospect, given what was known.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There are also questions being raised in Congress. I want to show you something from Ken Conrad, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, and he was talking about these cost estimates, and he said, "It's been 'hide the ball' every step of the way. They consistently understated the cost by a factor of severalfold, and they've done everything they can, not to share information." He doesn't think you've been brutally honest.
RUMSFELD: Well, fair enough. Let me say what the facts are -- "They consistently understate it" -- not true. We have not stated, we have not said, "This is what it is going to cost." When we have been asked, "What's it going to cost?" If we knew, we would dearly love to tell people. In fact, I would overstate, not understate, because I would much rather deliver more than is promised than deliver less than is promised. So instead of stating anything, we have said, "We don't know." And then when we have said something, they said, "Well, what's it costing now?" And we said, "1.9 million [billion]." Then somebody says, "Well, that turns out not to be what it's going to cost a year from now or six months from now," and that's true, but we didn't say that's what it would cost every month. We said that's what the burn rate was for that month and in the Senate hearing recently, I said 3.9 [billion].
STEPHANOPOULOS: But before the end of the war --
RUMSFELD: -- so it's just not correct to say that we've done that. What I will say is the people who have tried to estimate have been wrong severalfold.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, except they've --
RUMSFELD: -- on Bosnia and on Kosovo.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But some have been closer. Before the war, General Shinseki, the outgoing army chief of staff said that he thought it would take several hundred thousands troops in Iraq for a long time. Both you and your deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were very dismissive of this and said it would take only 50 or 60,000.
RUMSFELD: Never said 50 or 60 -- neither Wolfowitz or Rumsfeld ever said 50 or 60.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz did say 50 to 60.
RUMSFELD: Well, I can say never Rumsfeld. I can assure you of that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he did --
RUMSFELD: -- I don't think he did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And General Shinseki was closer.
RUMSFELD: I think not. Shinseki is a fine officer and had a distinguished career, and a very able man. He was pressed in a hearing, and he said -- over and over, they pressed him, questioned this, questioned that. Finally, he said maybe several hundred thousand U.S. troops. Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld said we think that's wide of the mark. What have we got in there -- 148,000. Is that several hundred thousand?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's three times 50 to 60.
RUMSFELD: We didn't say 50 t0 60.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was not the plan going in?
RUMSFELD: Absolutely not, the plan going in. I never, ever made a conclusion as to how many forces it would take, because I didn't know what Iraq was going to look like at the end of the war. Why would I think I was wise enough to look into the future and know an answer like that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So looking at it now --
RUMSFELD: --I never did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Looking at it now, 80 percent of the American people fear, in this ABC poll, that we're getting bogged down in a long and costly war. What can you say --
RUMSFELD: -- you keep saying that -- "bogged down in a long and costly war."
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what the poll says.
RUMSFELD: Yeah, but, you know, leaders don't run around chasing polls. Leaders lead, and the president looked at that part of the world, and he said this is a regime that has violated 17 U.N. resolutions; this is a regime that is developing and has weapons of mass destruction. That is a danger, and the world will be a vastly better place and the region will be a vastly better place if that regime is gone, and he led a coalition and did that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Leaders also persuade. What do you say to those people who are worried about this? What can you say --
RUMSFELD: -- the truth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what is it?
RUMSFELD: You tell them the truth. Well, you say "bogged down," and I would say "bogged down?" We've been there less than 10 weeks. Is that bogged down? How long were we in Germany? How long were we in Japan?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you expect American troops will have to stay that long in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: I have no idea. You don't listen. I said I don't know the answers to those questions. The president has said we're going to use as many forces as are necessary for as long as it takes because it is an important thing for this country and the coalition. We've got 19 countries working with us. People are running around and saying, "Why don't you ask this country?" or "Why don't you ask that country?" They've asked 70 or 80 or 90 countries. They've asked the -- the NATO countries were asked last year to participate and assist. There is some large faction of them currently assisting in the country. Is it an important thing to be doing? Yes. Is it tough? You bet. Are more people going to be killed? You bet. Does it cost some money? You bet. Can we tell the world or anybody else precisely what it's going to cost or how long it's going to last? No. Would we love to be able to do so? You bet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you very much.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.
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