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Media Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld at the House Armed Services Committee

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace
September 21, 2006
             SEC. RUMSFELD: (In progress) -- excellent meetings. 
 
            Q     (Off mike) --
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: (Inaudible) -- Karl Eikenberry; he's the senior general there. Pete Pace will be out in one minute, and he can give that to you.
 
            Q     (Off mike.)
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: General Casey is not here. General Abizaid is here. And what is he telling us? He is telling us precisely what he said to Jim Lehrer last night on television, that there is no way we can lose this situation militarily, but that prevailing over time requires more than military power. It requires political progress, a reconciliation process.
 
            And here comes the chairman, Duncan Hunter --
 
            REP. HUNTER: Hey! Good to see you, Mr. Secretary.
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: -- the winner --
 
            REP. HUNTER: (Off mike) -- a little arm-twisting lately? (Laughter.)
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: The winner of the Keeper of the Flame Award last evening.
 
            Come on over. They're asking about the combatant commanders' comments on the way forward in Iraq.
 
            GEN. PACE: We had two really good days of conversations between the combatant commanders, the joint chiefs and the secretary of a senior leadership team. We looked at the fact that we do not right now -- we're not comfortable right now with a reduction in the size of our force.
 
            So the question is, "Okay. Why not? What is it about what's happening in Iraq that are impediments to the Iraqi government being able to take advantage of the security environment?" Fourteen out of 18 provinces are secure. So with about 300,000 Iraqi troops and about 140,000 U.S. troops, what are the things that are preventing the things beyond security, the government things, the things that a government brings to their people that allows them to provide a better life?
 
            And so we had a long discussion about that, and we've taken away our homework assignments to do a lot of analysis and thinking about that and get back together again and discuss it.
 
            Q     (Off mike) -- there was an agreement from the White House -- (off mike) --
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know that. The White House has got the baton on that.
 
            Q     (Off mike.)
 
            REP. HUNTER: Yeah, I can tell you our position on this because they're working -- I know Senator McCain and Senator Warner and Senator Graham are working at the White House right now, and the word that I got is that they have a conceptual agreement on what they think would work well, particularly with respect to Geneva Convention Article 3.
 
            Let me give you our position that differs with the Senate and one on which we're fairly strong on. Our bill, which is very similar to the administration's proposal, provides for the use of classified evidence to bring about a conviction even though that classified evidence is not disclosed to the alleged terrorists. Now we provide a number of safeguards where an American JAG officer can be appointed by the court to go in and look at the evidence, cross-examine with respect to the evidence. If it's an American agent and you don't want to reveal his identity, the JAG officer could go in in a closed room with the judge present, and he could interrogate or cross examine the American agent without disclosing his identity. But you would not give that identity or that -- would not disclose that agent's identity to the alleged terrorist.
 
            The Senate bill says that classified information shall not be disclosed, but then it doesn't provide for the classified evidence to be used if it's not disclosed.
 
            So what that leaves you with is two bad choices. One is to say, "Okay. We're going to have to declassify this evidence so we can use it in trial." That may be bad for national security. The other is to say, "Okay. Do we have any other evidence? And if you don't, you have to dismiss the charges."
 
            We think on the House side that we should be able to bring about convictions with classified evidence which is not disclosed to the terrorist. The reason we want to have that position is because on two occasions Osama bin Laden has ended up with classified evidence from American court proceedings in his possession that presumably got to him through lawyers in the case.
 
            So we are very concerned on the House side about protecting classified evidence, not revealing it to the alleged terrorists, not revealing the names or the identity of the agents to the terrorists or allowing the terrorists to see those agents, but allowing their lawyers, if they have the appropriate security clearances, which we -- and we would provide lawyers with those security clearances from the JAG Corps, to be able to cross-examine American agents or to review classified evidence.
 
            So we have a very strong stake in the classified evidence portion of this tribunal bill, and we'll be working --
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: We're due over there.
 
            REP. HUNTER: Okay.
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