(Also participating was Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The slides shown during the briefing are available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2002/g020722-D-6570C.html .)
Rumsfeld: Well, it's very nice to see everyone here, I must say.
Good -- good afternoon. I normally would not come down in my vest, but they just redid me, and it's wet, so -- (laughs) -- I can't put my coat on.
We are now about nine months into the global war on terror -- still closer to the beginning than the end. But while difficult work remains, it is I think useful to consider how much coalition forces have accomplished in reversing the tide of terrorism and in restoring freedom to the people of Afghanistan.
It's an unfortunate fact of war that inevitably, innocent civilians are killed. This has been true -- true throughout the history of warfare, and it remains true even in this age of advanced technology and precision-guided munitions. We can take some comfort in the knowledge that this war has seen fewer tragic losses of civilian life than perhaps any war in modern history. We can also take pride in the fact that coalition forces have gone to extraordinary lengths not to avoid -- not only to avoid civilian deaths but also to save civilian lives.
Today Afghanistan is a much better place to live than it was this time last year. Consider the transformation that's taken place: Nine months ago, it was a pariah state, a training ground for thousands of terrorists, where al Qaeda had free range to plan and organize attacks on innocent civilians across the globe. And Taliban brutally repressed the Afghan people, creating a humanitarian crisis of considerable proportions.
Today the Taliban are no longer in power, al Qaeda is on the run. The humanitarian crisis has been averted, and the Afghan people have been liberated. And Afghanistan is once again a free nation.
Through the recent loya jirga process, the Afghan people have exercised their right of self-determination. A new president has been chosen, a new cabinet has been sworn in, a transitional government representative of the Afghan people has been established to lead the nation for the next two years. We're working with that new Afghan government to lay the foundations for longer-term stability and to reverse the conditions that allowed terrorist regimes to take root in the first place.
The U.S. and others are helping to train a new Afghan national army, a force committed not to one group or faction but to the defense of the entire nation, which we hope will allow Afghans to take responsibility for their own security rather than relying on foreign forces. Already 28 countries have offered weapons, equipment, funds and support for this effort.
We've averted a humanitarian catastrophe. The U.S. and coalition partners have delivered some 500,000 metric tons of food since the start of the war, enough to feed almost 7 million needy Afghans. Thanks to those efforts, the grim predictions of starvation last winter never came to pass. De-mining teams from Norway, Denmark, Britain, Poland and Jordan have helped clear land mines from hundreds of thousands of square meters of terrain, although I must say there is still an enormous number of land mines in that country. U.S. civil affairs team have dug wells, built hospitals, repaired roads and rebuilt schools. Jordan built a hospital in Mazar-e Sharif that has now treated more than 86,000 patients, including 18,000 children. Russia's cleared out and rebuilt the Salang Tunnel, the main artery linking Kabul with the North, allowing transportation of thousands of tons of food, medicine and supplies.
Together with coalition partners, we rounded up some 600 terrorists in Afghanistan and many hundreds more worldwide. They're being interrogated. They are yielding information that is helping to prevent further violence and bloodshed.
But perhaps the most important measure of progress is the flow of people. Since January, many -- literally many hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons have returned to their home. When it comes to coalition efforts, the Afghan people are voting with their feet. They're coming back to their homes. And indeed, it is a vote of confidence in the progress that's being made in Afghanistan.
Our goal is that Afghanistan not become a base for global terrorist networks again. That work is, of course, by no means complete. Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives are still at large, some in Afghanistan, others fled across the borders waiting for the opportunity to return. They continue to pose a threat. In recent weeks, coalition forces have come under attack again in Kandahar and Oruzgan, and Pakistani forces have engaged al Qaeda in several firefights, reminders of the dangers that continue to exist.
Our operations today consist mainly of smaller operations, cave- by-cave searches, sweeps for arms, intelligence, small pockets of terrorists as they have dispersed. Understandably, forces are now rotating out of Afghanistan, including from the U.K. and Canada, even as they continue to play a critical role elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, Turkey has increased its Afghan presence, sending some 1,400 troops to Kabul to assume leadership of the International Security Assistance Force. Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands will soon deploy F-16 fighters to Kyrgyzstan for air operations over Afghanistan. Romania is deploying an infantry battalion to Afghanistan and has offered an infantry mountain company, a nuclear, biological and chemical response company and four MiG-21 fighters. And Slovakia will soon deploy an engineering unit.
Special Operation forces from Norway, Denmark, Germany, Australia and other nations continue to work with U.S. Special Forces teams on the ground, combing through the caves, searching for Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives, gathering critical intelligence information. (Danish Special Operations Forces left Afghanistan in June.) One of the interesting things that has been taking place -- we have almost on a two- or three-times-a-week basis been finding additional caches, not because we're clever or stumbled on them, but because local Afghans have come and told us where these caches of weapons are located and led U.S. Special Forces and military personnel to those caches, so that they could be gathered up and either destroyed or provided for the Afghan military.
The number of nations supporting the war has grown this month to a high of 70, and the number of nations that have sent representatives to CENTCOM's headquarters in Tampa has increased to 35.
I mention all this because it is so normal for us to be focusing on the U.S. portion of this effort. But I think it is terribly important to keep in mind the breadth of this coalition effort. It is extremely broad and deep.
A lot of work remains to be done, but even at this early stage in the war, the coalition can take a good deal of pride in the successes that they've achieved thus far as we renew our resolve to meet the challenges we face ahead.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
As the secretary mentioned, we've experienced some success in our operations so far. One of those successes in Afghanistan will be visible tomorrow, and that's when the first battalion from the new Afghan national army will graduate. They started their initial training in early May and will participate in the first graduation ceremony since this program began.
And earlier this morning, an AV-8B Marine Corps Harrier aircraft stationed at Cherry Point crashed into the Pamlico River approximately 30 miles northeast of Cherry Point. The aircraft was conducting routine training. The pilot was -- ejected and was recovered and is in good condition.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there have been reports -- various reports that the Pakistanis over the past two weeks have conducted some sweeps and arrested some senior al Qaeda officials, including possibly a financial expert, and that one of them might be -- might have been taken to a U.S. ship. Can you give us anything on that?
Rumsfeld: There have been Pakistani sweeps and activities at various time (sic). I believe it is correct that some additional detainees have been taken. I do personally not know of anyone going to a ship.
(To Gen. Myers.) Do you? Okay.
Q: Are these senior al Qaeda officials, apparently, or -- ?
Rumsfeld: You know, it's hard to know in near-real time after someone's picked up what they are. There's so much lying and disinformation and alias -- so many aliases that I think there is some hope that one of them has been roughly in the category you have described, but I haven't -- we've not confirmed it.
Q: (Off mike) -- in recent days?
Rumsfeld: I'm trying to think; certainly within the last two weeks.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about Chairman Karzai's decision to have U.S. forces provide for his own security. What does it say about the direction of internal security in Afghanistan if the president needs to have non-Afghan assistance? And are U.S. forces actually training his security people, as well? (And is this a ?) short-term operation?
Rumsfeld: We certainly look at it as a relatively short-term matter. What that means, whether it's weeks or months or several months, I don't know. But clearly, it is important for that country that the outcome of the loya jirga not be negated by violence. And these folks came from all over that country, and they were elected, and they acted, and they decided that Chairman Karzai was the individual to lead the transitional government for the two-year period, and his security is important. It's important to the people of Afghanistan. And needless to say, we want to be as helpful and cooperative as we can.
What decisions he'll make -- if these are all his decisions, what decisions he'll make as he goes forward is entirely up to him. And there's no question but that there is an interest, an active interest, in seeing that people are trained for that kind of a security role. It was clearly very regrettable that the vice president -- one of the vice presidents was killed not too many weeks ago.
Q: So that training will be done by U.S. forces, then?
Rumsfeld: I think the training -- some training has been done by other coalition forces already, but my recollection is, we are going to be doing some of that.
Myers: That's right. We will assist.
Q: Mr. Secretary, yesterday The New York Times had a front-page story about civilian casualties in Afghanistan from U.S. airstrikes saying that in a six-month review, they had the number at 400 civilians killed. One, do you think that number is accurate? And two, as this article suggests, do you believe American commanders have dealt with bad information from Afghans on the ground?
Rumsfeld: (Sighs.) I don't believe there's any way to know if that number's correct. We've seen a number of press reports that were talking about thousands earlier on in the war, when the Taliban were giving their reports. It is exceedingly difficult to get into an area immediately, find out exactly what the casualties were, and come up with something that one feels confidence in by way of an estimate. Almost consistently, the numbers that we have been able to find, or anyone else has been able to find, have been less than what the initial reports were. Kind of like the World Trade Center, where it was many, many, many thousands, and it dropped from, I guess, 10,000 or 12,000 down to 3,000 number -- still a terrible number, but a fraction of what was speculated.
I don't know any better way to do it. I'm reluctant to say something I don't know. And we are -- we would dearly love to know what the correct numbers are and who they were to see what can be done and how those things can be avoided.
But with respect to the second part of your question on information, I believe, in terms of the speculation in the press that information from some Afghan sources might be inaccurate -- consciously inaccurate is, I think, the implication of your question. Is that right?
Q: Yes, well, that's the implication of the article.
Rumsfeld: Right. And the idea being that some local faction in Afghanistan would tell either other Afghan forces or U.S. forces or coalition forces that an al Qaeda or Taliban were located someplace, and in fact, it wasn't, it was the enemy of those local Afghan forces that was located there, not necessarily Taliban or al Qaeda. I know of no instance where that's happened. I have seen the speculation in the press. The most recent instance, where it was widely circulated in the press that that had happened, I have every reason to believe it had not happened, and that was in the most recent incident where we had people on the ground for a prolonged period that were there with eyes on targets and saw anti-aircraft and targeted those, and it was not some rival warlord turning U.S. forces against one of their rival warlord enemies. So if a mistake was made, a mistake was made, but it was made with our people on the ground with eyes on the target.
Q: And just a brief follow up. You still believe this is an extremely accurate air campaign from the very beginning?
Rumsfeld: I think there's probably no question but that the air campaign has had greater precision and less collateral damage probably than any air campaign in history.
Myers: If I could add something to that. The BBC report, I guess there was one yesterday, where they were quoting a spokesman for Afghan President Karzai, and the lead was, "Afghanistan has rejected criticism that the American military strategy and poor intelligence have led to heavy civilian casualties in country," and went on to say that the Afghans and Americans are fighting the same war against terrorism. And so, I think the government there has it exactly right.
Rumsfeld: I don't want to have anything I said in any way leave the implication that the loss of a single civilian life is not a tragic thing. It is. And it is something that everybody involved is working to try to avoid, and given a realistic view of history, I guess it's not really avoid, but try to reduce and minimize.
Q: (Off mike) -- you've laid out for us here today, the one thing you're not reporting any progress on is finding Osama bin Laden. Is -- almost 10 months, 10-11 months later, is there any progress you can report in finding him, in locating him? And what is the current administration priority on trying to accomplish that goal?
Rumsfeld: Well, it would be nice to find him. The real task is to find as many al Qaeda and Taliban and other terrorists around the world and arrest them, interrogate them, and gather more information and prevent them from killing additional Americans and additional friends and deployed forces and allies. So, we've got an effort going on. There's no question about that. We have from the beginning -- it's a manhunt. It's not a war against a person. When you're against a person, it's a manhunt.
What is the circumstance with that individual? Well, I've not heard hide nor hair of him since December. He's either dead, which is fine from our standpoint, or he's alive and for some reason decides he does not want to live up to his reputation as enjoying going on videos and letting the world know that he's alive. And for some reason, he's decided not to do that if he's alive. And I suppose there are only two reasons for that. One might be he's not physically able because he's injured in some way. Another might be because he's afraid if he does it, he'll get caught. And he'd rather send other young people out to get killed than put himself at risk. So, that's about the only options there are. Unless you want to get into the chasing the chicken around the barnyard bit. (Laughter.)
Q: If I could just follow up? You know, again, almost a year later then, what's your assessment on how important, or is it important, to get closure, to get final resolution on the question? What if you never find him, dead or alive?
Rumsfeld: I think we'll all survive. If we're able to end the al Qaeda and end the Taliban, the world will go on and -- and -- now, is that likely? No, I think it's not likely that we'll never find him. I think we will at some point find information about where he is and what he's up to, if he exists at all.
Q: Do you think you'll have the answer to the question?
Rumsfeld: At some point, sure. Yeah. I can wait. (Laughter.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, you were talking earlier about Mr. Karzai's security. Are there credible and specific threats against him that you know of? Can you describe in some way how much jeopardy his life may be in?
Rumsfeld: No. I think that Afghanistan is a country that -- where people get killed. A vice president recently was shot and killed.
Myers: And the minister of civil aviation before that.
Rumsfeld: That's right. And -- now, but in terms of trying to quantify it or characterize the level of threat, I'm really not in a position to do it. I just -- I just think that the way to look at it is not that. The way to look at it is the way I characterized it, and that is that the loya jirga has spoken; it's important that he be able to fulfill the charge and responsibility that they've placed in his hands. That is a good thing for Afghanistan.
Q: You do not know of recent plots to do away with him?
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to get into anything like that. But I answered it the right way, that -- that -- (laughter) --
Q: You answered it your way! (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: I kind of liked it!
But even if there were specific things like that, I wouldn't get into them. I happen to not know of any. But the important reason why he decided to do this, and why we decided to be cooperative with it, is because we agree that it's important that the Afghan people not have an interruption in their leadership, having just completed that process. It's a very straightforward issue.
Q: Going to the posse comitatus issue, back in May you were saying at that time you didn't really think that the law should be changed. I'm wondering what your current view is about changing the law that would prevent the military from acting domestically, because the president has asked for a review.
Rumsfeld: Sure. I believe that my response was that I have not seen any reason why I would propose changes in posse comitatus and the role of the U.S. military in domestic law-enforcement type activities. I believe that the president's Homeland Security Strategy paper included a paragraph saying that they were reviewing a variety of statutes and regulations and rules. I don't think it specifically mentioned posse comitatus. Did it?
Q: Mm-hm. Yes.
Rumsfeld: It did? I'll have to go reread that little dickens.
In any event, everyone has answered this exactly the same. Tom Ridge has. General Ed Eberhart has, who's going to be the Northern Commander that we do not know of any specific changes. We have not proposed any changes. But clearly, if the president or National Security Council or the Homeland Security Council feel it's appropriate to review something, why, it would get reviewed, and then we'd all participate. But I wouldn't -- I don't think anyone should hold their breath waiting for changes in posse comitatus.
Q: But what is your position on --
Rumsfeld: Exactly where it was. I have made no recommendations for changes, and nor have you.
Myers: No, sir, I have not.
Q: Can you elaborate on that? Should it be reviewed or changed?
Myers: Well, I agree with the secretary. I think -- I mean, I think as General Eberhart has said and others, and as the president called for in the strategy, we ought to look at all the regulations and laws to govern the way we protect American citizens, but at the end of the day, I have not -- it's not clear to me that there's any need to change posse comitatus. It's not been pointed out what the advantages to doing that would be. So I think I completely agree with the secretary.
Q: General Myers, have you -- or actually, have either one of you seen this video from the AC-130 gunship in that incident you were talking about with the secretary? And does it support the account of the U.S. military that the plane was responding to anti-aircraft fire on the ground?
Myers: I have not seen the video. In fact -- and I don't know if the secretary -- I can't speak for the secretary, but we were scheduled to see it the other day and got overcome by events, actually. But I've been told by people that have seen it that it does, in fact, show that the aircraft's being fired upon. But I haven't seen it.
Rumsfeld: I know of only one video. There may be more. I don't know that there are, but I know of only one, and I believe it's four-plus hours long. I have not viewed it in its entirety. I have watched something like 15 or 20 minutes worth. I am not an expert analyst of what these videos show, and they're difficult to interpret. You have to have an expert with you, which I did, walking me through it.
Clearly, there was ground fire. There's no question about that. But I am not in a position to say that the muzzle flash was one type of weapon as opposed to another type of weapon, and therefore, I shan't do so. The review is taking place, the investigation, by people who understand all of this, and at some point they'll be able to come and tell us.
Q: At the appropriate time, would you consider releasing this video?
Rumsfeld: I'd certainly consider it, but whether it makes sense or not or whether it would be understandable or whether it would add anything or whether it would affect the investigation in some way -- clearly, not until any investigation is over would I consider it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, did the muzzle flashes you were talking about come from that area at Kakarak, which apparently had the largest number of civilian casualties?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. I'd have to -- you'd have to superimpose something over it, and have some person tell me that it did.
Q: Oh, and they didn't tell you that.
Rumsfeld: Well, if they did, I don't recall it.
Q: And over the past couple of weeks, there's been a lot of speculation, at home and abroad, and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz was travelling in that region and stopped in Turkey, in which apparently there were talks about a possible U.S. military attack of some kind on Iraq. Besides the U.S. government's position that there should be a regime change in Iraq, what would the justification be for a U.S. military attack or invasion of Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Well, let me take a minute or two and elevate the question. (Laughter.) At least by my standards.
Q: Is that a short joke, Mr. Secretary? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: No, it's not. Your question was particularized to a country. My answer is a concept or a generic answer, which I think is a useful way to look at it before anyone goes down to any particular country.
During the 20th century, we were dealing for the most part with conventional weapons, and they tended to kill hundreds or thousands of people. In the 21st century, we're dealing with weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, nuclear, radiation -- that can kill not just hundreds or thousands, but they can kill hundreds of thousands or millions of people in the case of, for example, contagious biological agent. In the 20th century, our margin for error had a penalty of X. In the 21st century, the margin for error or penalty has a penalty that is many, many multiples of X.
That means that the people of the country, the people in parliaments around the world, the press, academic institutions, have to look at our circumstance in the 21st century, and say, "Fair enough. We're living -- we lived in the old world with conventional capabilities and their proliferation. Now we're living in a world with weapons of mass destruction proliferating rather rapidly to a variety of nations, a variety of non-state entities potentially that have already indicated their appetite for the weapon. They've indicated their willingness to kill as many innocent men, women and children through terrorist acts as they can."
So the world -- the academic institutions, the parliaments, the press, the governments of the world -- democratic governments -- you know, dictatorial regimes, repressive regimes do violence to their neighbors frequently, and democratic regimes tend not to. But they have to ask question, what is the responsible course of action? If that's the circumstance, if I've accurately characterized it, it means that we have to say to ourselves, on the one hand, are we -- is it incumbent upon us to wait until there is a Pearl Harbor -- wait until there is an attack that has killed several thousand people or -- and risk not several thousand but several hundreds of thousands of people or millions? Is that -- is that the responsibility of free people today in the 21st century? Or conversely, is it the responsibility of free people to look at the world and take people at their word and watch the progress of the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and see the risk that poses to hundreds of thousands of people or potentially millions of people in your country and in your friends' and allies' countries and in deployed forces and take a step that would prevent that in your own self-defense?
And that, it seems to me, is an issue that ought to be discussed. It ought to be considered. It ought to be elevated -- not in a particularized situation of one country or another, but it is a serious, important concept that the -- our country ought to consider. And I think that you're increasingly seeing that happen. I think you're finding people starting to think about it, starting to talk about it, starting to recognize what the benefits and what the burdens are of different courses of action.
Now did I elevate it or not? (Soft laughter.) I tried.
Q: You mentioned specifically contagious biological agents. Is there evidence --
Rumsfeld: They worry me.
Q: Is there evidence that Iraq is, in fact, developing contagious biological agents and is willing to use them in conjunction with terrorists of any ilk?
Rumsfeld: Now you're asking me to, first of all, define what I would consider to be a proper cause of action -- a fact pattern that would be sufficient to cause one to have to have to face that dilemma that I elevated and constructed. And I'd prefer not to do that, so I'll take the next question.
Q: (Off mike) -- get back to civilian casualties, if we could, you said there's no evidence of any intelligence failures in these 11 raids that were taking place --
Rumsfeld: I don't think I said that.
Q: All. So you think it's uncertain whether --
Rumsfeld: No, I think if you're referring to the so-called wedding, I think what I said -- I hope what I said was that there have been speculation that the U.S. forces and the Afghan forces on the ground received false information from some warlord for the purpose of confusing us, so that we would kill some of his enemy warlord people. We have no evidence of that at all. That is what I said.
Q: All right. But -- well, I'm trying to get into -- do you see a common thread through these 11 raids? Do you believe there are intelligence failures here, you're getting the wrong information? Do you believe it's miscalculation?
Rumsfeld: I don't see a common thread through those 11. I don't think I said I did.
Q: No, I'm asking --
Rumsfeld: Yeah. I don't think I see a common thread. What -- the only common thread, I would say, is that every war in history, innocent people have been killed. And this Afghan situation is no different. There's no question but that there have been innocent people killed, and it is a tragedy when that happens.
Q: Now are you working more closely with the Karzai government on target selection? That was one of the things that they asked for, I believe, after the --
Rumsfeld: We have been working closely with Afghan forces and Karzai forces from the beginning, and we do everything we can to crosscheck and validate. You'll recall recently there was speculation that Mr. Shirzai had said that he thought everything ought to be cleared with him, and he, I believe today or yesterday, announced that he was misunderstood and that isn't what he meant. I don't know anything about the facts. But clearly we work with the Karzai government. There's no question.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there hasn't been any major contacts with al Qaeda forces, I believe, since Operation Anaconda. Yet you've said that there are still al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Can you elaborate on that, how you know there are, how many there are, and where are they?
Rumsfeld: Of course not. We'd go get them. (Scattered laughter.)
Q: So how do you know they're there?
Rumsfeld: Well, we -- almost every day goes by -- Taliban, al Qaeda blur --
Q: (Off mike) -- Taliban there, I don't think there's any question --
Q: -- but al Qaeda --
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, every once in a while, we pick up one, and he's not an Afghan. And we detain them, and we visit with them. So that's one way we know.
Second, the Pakistanis have picked up several handfuls in recent weeks, many of which came out of Afghanistan. We have reason to believe that there are concentrations of them elsewhere. But they are clever, they are not concentrating; they're dispersed, and they're hard to find.
Now, can I give you a rough number of how many? No. I've seen intelligence estimates, but my impression of those estimates is they don't know much more than I do, and I don't have a number.
Q: Does that mean that you believe that the bulk of al Qaeda who were in Afghanistan at the time the operation began, have in fact now diffused out of Afghanistan through Pakistan, around the world --
Rumsfeld: There's no question but that the bulk of al Qaeda that were in Afghanistan when we started are either dead or out of the country.
Q: In that case, has the war on terrorism become harder for the United States to fight, given this dispersal?
Rumsfeld: Well, on the one hand you could say because we attacked them, returned the government of Afghanistan away from the Taliban to the Karzai government, that we've made our task more difficult. In a sense, you're right. Once you no longer have large concentrations that you can go attack from the ground and the air, that means you have a different task -- I don't know more difficult -- it's a more pleasant task, if you will, because no longer is Afghanistan a training ground for terrorists. I mean, that's an accomplishment, it's not a penalty.
Q: Understood. But isn't it harder now to go at these guys who are in countries that are not under the circumstances that Afghanistan was --
Rumsfeld: It is.
Q: -Using American military force?
Rumsfeld: That's true.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there was some language that came out from the Senate Appropriations Committee Friday in which they appropriated $960 million for shipbuilding, but they noted with displeasure that a lot of that is going to go not for new ships, but, rather, for paying for cost overruns on prior shipbuilding programs. Do they have a legitimate gripe, and is this something that concerns you?
Rumsfeld: Well, fact number one, there has been cost growth in shipbuilding. As you may recall, we, when we came into office, said we were going to use as accurate cost estimates as we could find. And that means we have consistently opted for the higher cost estimates when budgeting rather than the lower budget cost estimates. It is true that any money that is owed by the government to contractors that -- under the contract that ends up by -- because of a variety of reasons, you can have a higher cost than you anticipated, several reasons, one is you underestimated because you wanted to buy more of those things, and that's been done in this department, and we're not doing that anymore. Another reason is that from time to time, additional technology arrives and you decide to add that in.
But there is no question but that it is correct that money being budgeted this year is going to have to pay for costs that were higher than were estimated in prior budgets. So as you look out from the -- two budgets ago, out through the five-year budget, they were too low. And therefore, new money has to be in there if you're going to complete those ships.
Now, you say, am I happy about that? No, I'm not happy about it. Are they right or wrong? They are accurately reporting it, just as I am.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Sir, in your opening statement, you mentioned that there's only some success in Afghanistan. Are you claiming today that we have a complete full victory? If not, why not? And also --
Rumsfeld: Why don't we do one at a time?
Q: Yes, sir. Thank you.
Rumsfeld: I will stick exactly with the words I used. Clearly, I did not say we have a complete victory. We don't. We're some --
Q: Some success.
Rumsfeld: No question. The Taliban's gone. The Karzai government's in. Not bad. Al Qaeda have dispersed. Taliban has dispersed. They're having trouble -- they're not training any terrorists in that country. They're having trouble recruiting. They're having trouble raising money. They're having trouble moving around. They're having trouble communicating. They're having trouble doing lots of things. That doesn't mean they can't kill a lot of people. They can. And they very likely will be trying to conduct terrorist attacks in the weeks and months ahead. But their life is more difficult. And that's a good thing for us.
Q: And just to follow, sir. Do you believe German intelligence reports that Osama bin Laden is still on the border of Afghanistan-Pakistan, maybe in Pakistan? I mean, so many reports are coming, but this is the latest one from the German intelligence.
Rumsfeld: I've already opined on Osama.
Q: Mr. Secretary, a couple of things. First off, and you may have addressed this in the past, but do you believe that the Bush administration has sufficient legal authority to launch an attack on Iraq at this time, or some other country that fits into that elevated description that you described before? And secondly, Senators Biden and Levin over the weekend suggested that in their view, if I understood them correctly, that there would have to be greater provocation by Iraq before the United States could justify an attack, greater provocation or a greater threat than they have seen so far. Can you tell me your view on the authority, and also whether you think that their analysis is correct?
Rumsfeld: Well, number one, I am not a lawyer. It would not fall to me to make those kinds of judgments. Number two, there's two kinds of information, that which is public and that which may not be public. And number three, it's not clear to me that you've accurately characterized Senator Biden's words. I found at least the soundbite -- I did not read a text. The soundbite I heard --
Q: There were several ways to read what he said.
Rumsfeld: There really were.
Q: But, he did -- well, I think we can say that Levin clearly said --
Rumsfeld: I think you're right.
Q: And let's -- can we get your response to that?
Rumsfeld: Not any more than I have. It's really not for me to say. I have said what I think the country ought to address. I think the concept, the construct that I've outlined is important for us and the world to think about. We're living in a different era. We're in a new security environment. And that is what ought to be talked about.
Q: Does the concept that you've outlined include at some point going to the public and going to Congress and getting them on board, signing them for an attack like this? Or is it something you would do --
Rumsfeld: Those are issues for the president, as I said.
Q: How do you characterize -- you said you want to see the nation engage in the sort of debate of that question that you put before us today in your answer to Mick's question. How would you characterize what the current state of debate is? What is the current way of viewing this that you think needs to be changed or looked at or readdressed?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't know that I want to be critical. I think what's happening --
Q: I just want to understand how --
Rumsfeld: Yes. I think what we're doing is we're migrating over in the direction that I've outlined. I think that to the extent one particularizes it to a specific country, the debate and discussion and national dialogue, indeed international dialogue, loses something important, because what's important is that the national security environment in the world has changed. We are dealing with a different margin for error.
We're dealing with different penalties that will result from our decisions. Whichever decision we make, the penalties will be notably different than they were in the last century. And it is that that has to get up on the table so that people will develop a comfort with the circumstance we're in, and that that issue has been talked about and thought about and rolled around in our heads to the point where people become satisfied that we have a good sense of where we are as a people and where other countries are.
Rumsfeld: Did I give you --
Q: On that point, Mr. Secretary, was President Bush premature when he named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an axis of evil?
Rumsfeld: No. I think indeed it was -- if one -- if one a year from now, two years from now, three years from now looks back and something good happens in any one of those three countries, I think you'll find that it was the axis-of-evil speech that started ferment in those countries and a dialogue and a focus on the tragedy that exists for the people in North Korea, the starvation, the enormous numbers, thousands and thousands of human beings who are political prisoners in camps that are the size of major cities, the repression that takes place.
If one thinks of what's happening in Iran, you can't help but be encouraged to see the fact that the young people and women and the people who understand. These are intelligent people. These are industrious people. These are people that understand the world, and they see what their lives are like and what's being imposed on them by the clerics. And anyone who knows anything about Iraq knows that it just ranks right up there as one of the most vicious regimes in the world.
And I think that that speech will be seen as having said to the world: Let's look at what's taking place. We've got these three countries -- call them the "axis of evil," call them what you want -- but they are doing perfectly terrible things to their people. They have weapons of mass destruction. Their appetite for additional weapons is enormous. They are bringing things in like a vacuum cleaner to enhance and develop and move beyond their current WMD capabilities. And they are countries that don't wish their neighbors well. Now that's a good thing for a leader to point at. So it's not only not a mistake; I think history will say it was a very, very useful thing to have done.
Q: Last week there was a lot of publicity about your latest concerns over news leaks. You ordered the Air Force investigations arm to look into that July 5th New York Times story on Iraq warplanes. Yet last week, to CNBC, you went out of your way to minimize that document, saying you never saw it, General Franks never saw it, the president never saw it; it was generated at a lower level, and no one in the U.S. government had endorsed it. Why are you wasting a lot of capital and a leak investigation on such a low-level document?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, I don't know that I went out of my way. I believe I was asked, and I answered, just to start at the beginning.
Second, I accurately reported when I was asked, and said I had never seen it. General Franks tells me he had never seen it. General Myers and General Pace tell me they have never seen it. And Paul Wolfowitz had never seen it.
Now that's a fact, that -- it clearly was a document, if there was such a document, which I've never seen, and it was not printed, it was characterized in the article, carefully characterized. And if I've not seen it and no one I know has seen it, I don't know that calling it a relatively low-level document is inaccurate. It strikes me that that's probably a reasonable characterization. That was not dismissive, it was factual.
Q: Why a leak investigation if the thing might be a vapor of somebody's imagination; it carries no weight?
Rumsfeld: Okay. It -- if the investigation proves that it was nothing, then there's no problem. Your concern about the loss of capital is impressive. (Laughter.) I think the amount of money being spent on this, to -- compared to what's spilled every 15 minutes around here, is a must --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: No, I'm not finished. But it merits an investigation, because it was -- according to the reporter, it was labeled "top secret," with other characterizations. It sounded -- although I've not seen it, it sounded as though it was a document that was a prepared as a staff document at some lower level. And it clearly was addressing a subject of warplanes. And I am old- fashioned. I think that anyone who has a position where they touch a war plan has an obligation to not leak it to the press or anybody else, because it kills people. People's lives will be lost. If people start treating war plans like they're paper airplanes and they can fly them around this building and throw them to anybody who wants them, I think it's outrageous! It's inexcusable, and they ought to be in jail.
Q: Does anything in that story compromise national security?
Q: (Inaudible) -- investigation --
Q: Go ahead.
Q: You didn't order an investigation when the Nuclear Posture Review was leaked to the LA Times
Rumsfeld: Right. I've never ordered an investigation before in my life.
Rumsfeld: I don't believe so.
Q: Well, why this time, then, when you don't really know if the thing exists --
Rumsfeld: Because it was a war plan document. It was a document prepared clearly at some level, not blessed by Dick Myers, not blessed by Don Rumsfeld, but a war plan document. And I think that the idea of anybody working in the Department of Defense, cleared for classified material, who is so outrageously irresponsible that they would take a document that could kill Americans and jeopardize the ability of people to accomplish something by giving information to other countries as to what some guy down below thinks might make sense or you know, speculation, even though it's not blessed, I think it is so egregious, so terrible, that I decided to have a leak investigation, notwithstanding the cost. And I am pleased I did.
Q: Two points of clarification. One, was there anything, in your opinion, in the New York Times story that compromised national security or put lives at risk, as you said?
Rumsfeld: I have answered this probably right up to the edge of where I shouldn't answer any more. And I do not want to comment on the New York Times story. If I were to say yes, then you'd say, "What?" and then I would -- ask -- if I were to say no, then you'd say, "Well, what are you worried about?" and I've already said what I'm worried about, I'm worried about people treating a war plan like it's a paper airplane!
Q: Just to clarify a second point, do you believe that the New York Times -- did you have any problem with what the New York Times did, or is your concern solely with the official in the government who shared that information?
Rumsfeld: Well, clearly, everything I have said here indicates that my interest is the latter.
(To General Myers) Do you want to say anything about this just to punctuate it? (Laughter.)
Q: Feel free to take an opposing view! (More laughter.)
Myers: I don't have an opposing view. And this is -- you know, as long as you've been around this business, this is very frustrating. And when we go out and look in the eyes of these folks that ask us to do -- that we'll ask to do some very, very hard tasks, when you look in their eyes and you look in the eyes of their families, and so forth, you want to do all you can to ensure they have everything -- all the resources necessary to do the job.
And so if anybody, especially on our team, gives away information that might make their job more difficult or might lead to injuries or death, I think that's inexcusable.
Rumsfeld: And I'll say one other thing. I hope that if there's anyone in the Department of Defense who knows who did that, that they will give someone in a position of responsibility that information because they have every bit as big an obligation to do that as they do not to release it in the first place.
Back to --
Q: At the risk of extending this debate, The New York Times, in its story, did identify in a certain way the source of the story. They said it was from an official who was unhappy with what they thought was an unimaginative conventional plan -- a criticism, by the way, I'm told that, Secretary Rumsfeld, you shared at times about some war plans -- and that one might argue that their motivation in making this public was to point out a flawed policy that could cost lives.
Rumsfeld: There is nothing you could say that would lead me to believe that the individual was well motivated and trying to serve his country by violating federal criminal law -- NOTHING you could say.
Myers: And on the other hand --
Q: Even if the plan was unwise and ill conceived?
Myers: And on the other hand, there are plenty of forms to vet that sort of thing. And that's -- I mean, we would hope we would not have an ill-conceived and unwise plan. But there are plenty of ways to do it without leaking something.
Rumsfeld: Last question!
Q: Yes, another subject, Mr. Secretary: The other day, your deputy secretary was in Ankara. Do you know if the DOD agenda was the Cyprus issue in connection to its admission to the European Union, since the deadline's approaching December 2002?
Rumsfeld: Did that subject come up? Is that --
Q: Yes, that's what I --
Rumsfeld: Yeah, I do not know. Do not know.
Q: One more?
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much, folks.
Q: So how are you feeling?
Q: I hope you get well soon. (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
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