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Pentagon Briefing

Aired August 13, 2002 - 12:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(AUDIO GAP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: Dick Meyers and I visited with them.

Dick Myers and I visited with them, I think it was Saturday morning. They had views to express and had questions to ask. They were, I thought, very useful and constructive meetings.

They of course been involved in various activities for a good many years now, and it was interesting for me for the first time to meet many of them. I'd met several, but not all.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about Iran. You from time to time have described the Iranian government as being unhelpful in terms of stabilizing Afghanistan after the demise of the Taliban. I'm wondering what you make of recent developments, including the fact that they've turned over apparently 16 Al Qaeda suspects to Saudi Arabia, and President Khatami said today in Kabul that they have turned over other suspected terrorists to other countries and are talking about ways in which they can help Afghanistan recover.

RUMSFELD: Well, obviously they're a big, important neighboring country to Afghanistan, and it's important that Afghanistan have a relationship with all its neighbors so that the government is able to go forward and strengthen itself and function as a government in the country. That's much easier to do if you have neighbors that are not unfriendly. And so I think their meeting is probably a useful thing.

With respect to the terrorists that they say they have turned in, they've turned none in to us. There is no question but that they have permitted Al Qaeda to enter their country. They are permitting Al Qaeda to be present in their country today. And it may very well be that they, for whatever reason, have turned over some people to other countries, but they've not turned any to us.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, according to Insight magazine, dated July 22, officials from Skopje, FYROM, provided to the National Security Council of the White House a 79-page report on the Al Qaeda activity in that area. The report, which was prepared by the minister of interior of that country, released the names of Al Qaeda fighters and outlines (inaudible) of two units, one numbering 120 and the other 250 individuals.

I'm wondering, Mr. Secretary, if you're aware about that, and if you could comment. RUMSFELD: I have not seen the actual document, if it exists. I am certainly aware that there have been and undoubtedly still are Al Qaeda in that part of the world.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, yesterday Iraq's information minister said that U.N. weapons inspectors' job inside that country is finished and they should not come back.

QUESTION: I'm wondering...

RUMSFELD: Who said that?

QUESTION: Iraq's information minister. Wondering what your perception is about...

RUMSFELD: I'm glad you didn't say, "reliable sources."

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: What is your perception of this back and forth about weapons inspectors and the statements coming out of Baghdad about them?

RUMSFELD: Well, what's my view of that?

I really don't have one. It seems to be -- it's like a broken record.

It's been -- they agreed to have inspectors. They threw the inspectors out. The inspectors are still out now for a period of years, and they are still not allowed back in.

What else can one say?

They're in violation of the U.N. resolutions.

QUESTION: Do you still believe that even a vigorous weapons inspection program would not be able to find the weapons Saddam Hussein has had four years to hide?

RUMSFELD: It seems to me -- and I'm no weapons inspector, so I'm not expert on the subject -- but the biggest successes that were achieved by inspectors when inspectors were permitted in were achieved as a result of information that came from defectors.

And they were then able to use that information, go into areas and find some things. And when they found some things, Iraq admitted that they were the things that they said they were -- chemical, biological weapons of various types.

It is a big country. They've had years to do what they want to do. They have done a great deal of underground tunnelling. They have things that are mobile. It makes it very difficult for inspectors under the best of circumstances to find things.

And I just think that a regime -- an inspection regime would have to be so intrusive -- it would have to be any time, any place. You'd have to be undoubtedly able to talk to anyone. You'd have to be able to, sometimes, talk to people outside of the country with their families with them, because, as you may recall, the defector who went out, when he returned to Iraq, was killed by Saddam Hussein. Two of them. I believe they were sons-in-laws of Saddam Hussein.

So if you can't get access to people to get information, and access on a basis that they feel safe and that their families feel safe, it would seem to me it would be very difficult. But we're not anywhere near close to that. I mean, they haven't agreed to any inspectors on any basis, let alone on a basis that would be sufficiently intrusive that reasonable people could expect to learn what they might need to learn.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to get back to the Iraqi opposition groups, if I could? Through the Clinton administration...

RUMSFELD: We are going to ask something other than Iraq here today, aren't we? Just for the fun of it.

There's one, there's one, there's one, there's one. Good.

QUESTION: The Iraqi opposition groups, during the Clinton administration, were denied so-called lethal training, paramilitary training, and also any sort of U.S. arms. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on that. Should they be given paramilitary training and U.S. arms? The Iraq Liberation Act calls for education and training and drawdown of defense stocks, but it's pretty vague as far as what that means. And some of the opposition groups have been pressing for this kind of aid for some time. What are your thoughts on that?

RUMSFELD: Well, I don't have well-developed thoughts on it and I don't know what the Department of State, who's been handling most of that, has done thus far. So I'm really not in a position to respond, other than, I guess, the act is what it is. And my impression is that there are Iraqi opposition groups in the form of Kurdish organizations that are quite heavily armed already.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, may I preface my question by saying that, I've long had the greatest respect for you. When you speak from that podium it's like speaking ex-catheda (ph), and here you led us down the primrose path over those numbers. And I'm terribly crushed, but anyway.

RUMSFELD: I wanted to come in. Confession is good for the soul. And I do believe it was six and not seven.

QUESTION: The question sir, there are repeated published reports, almost persistent published reports, that you are frustrated or impatient with the war in Afghanistan, that you have asked the commander in chief of our Special Forces Command to get more involved worldwide to do some clandestine operations in other countries. Can you tell me if that's true? And also would you be kind enough to name some of the countries where you're going in? RUMSFELD: Well, I don't really feel that I get frustrated. I don't. I'm certainly one that is -- as I look out and see the risk to our country of a potential attack by terrorist organizations using weapons more powerful than those that were used on September 11, it does focus my mind. And I do ask myself, "What is it that we ought to be doing now on an urgent basis to try to avoid such an attack, to try to delay such attack, to try to reduce the numbers of such attacks, to try to mitigate the effects of such attacks?"

And I get up in the morning and feel a responsibility as a secretary of defense of the United States to do everything humanly possible to see that this department and the people here do what can be done to protect the American people.

I don't take that as frustration. I don't take it as a disappointment. I take it as just purposefulness.

And there's no question but that I have met with every CINC, every combatant commander -- not just the one you mentioned, but all of them -- and do on the phone. In fact, they're going to be in town, and I'll talk to them again in a week or two about my sense of urgency, about their responsibilities, about thinking fresh about what might be done, what they might be able to do, how they can better contribute.

You have to appreciate that the people in this department grew up in the 20th century with a security environment that's notably different than that exists today. They have organized, trained and equipped to deal with armies and navies and air forces. And today, we're faced with a variety of asymmetrical threats that are serious, they're lethal, and we have to do everything we can to adjust our thinking, to focus on the 21st century security environment.

So, true, I talk to all of the combatant commanders. I talk to them frequently. I talked to two yesterday on a secure video for 45 minutes or an hour. I do it regularly. I spoke to Tom Franks again this morning, and I do it all the time.

But the implication that they're not doing a good job or that I'm frustrated with them is just utter nonsense. And I understand that it sells newspapers to personalize things, and people like to dramatize it -- that there's a division here or somebody's unhappy with this and, oh, my goodness, they should've done that -- it's nonsense.

This is an iterative process. We're working together on these things -- the military in this building, the military in the areas of responsibility and the civilian leadership -- and it is a healthy, constructive set of give and take that I find interesting and worthwhile and, I must say, productive.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, if I may, does that involve -- all of this -- does it involve or could it involve clandestine operations in other countries outside of Afghanistan, countries such as Pakistan, Iran, et cetera, et cetera?

RUMSFELD: Well, the articles that have been written about my meeting with General Holland are, to some extent, flights of fancy. I did speak with General Holland some weeks ago, and I talked to him about his responsibilities and how they might be expanded or altered or refined or focused.

And General Myers and General Pace and I met with him and asked him to come back and give some ideas as to what he thinks might be done to better focus and strengthen his efforts in the global war on terrorism. He came back in. We had a discussion. And we all commented. And he's gone back to think through some more questions that we asked and some aspects of it. And that is where it stands.

Nothing has happened, other than he is doing precisely what we requested, not through frustration, but through thoughtfulness, leadership. There are all kinds of words that are more appropriate. And he, at some point, will come back in a relatively short period of time and we'll have another discussion. And we may decide something, we may not. He may go back and do some work on it. And that's the way this place works.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, speaking of the way this place works, your Defense Policy Board recently achieved some unwanted notoriety.

RUMSFELD: That is true.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: For a briefing that they received. I'm wondering, for the public that doesn't pay a lot of attention to these internal organs of the Defense Department, if you can take a step back and assess for us the value of an entity, like the Defense Policy Board, what does a fellow like you get from their deliberations?

RUMSFELD: A lot. It is comprised of people who have served in this department and served in other national security departments of the government in dozens of administrations dating back into the, oh, goodness, probably all the way back to the Johnson administration is my guess. We have former secretaries of defense and state, national security advisers. We have people who are very thoughtful and knowledgeable, former speakers of the House of Representatives, a couple of them. We have academics, people who think about these things full-time.

And I have always benefited from a competition of ideas. I very much enjoy talking to them. I respect them. I've worked with many of them over the decades. So, too, of the Defense Science Board, where there are a whole lot of people who spend their lives doing things that I haven't and who have knowledge that I don't. And it is just a big help for me.

And I think what needs to be understood about them, that none of them serve in the government. They are free and they can have their own opinions, and they do. And they go off and give speeches and write articles and say things that differ from my views or the president's views or someone else's views. And that's fine. It doesn't bother me. We live in a society where we're used to that. The other thing I would say is that, sometimes they have briefings, as of the case in this instance. And the briefing was not the view of the Rand Corporation, it was the view of an individual. The individual gave a briefing. He had every right to do that. He was invited to do that. He did. And the press carried it as though, A, it was Rand analytical work, in some instances, which it was not.

It did not represent the views of Rand. It was not a Rand study. And second, they presented it as though it was the view of the -- some did -- of the -- I want to be fair, I want to be balanced, I want to be measured -- some carried it as though it was the view of the Defense Policy Board, which it was not. It was a briefing, person's views. And others made it sound as though it was the view of the Department of Defense, which, of course, it was not. And that's unfortunate.

It makes it hard to do things if everything anyone does, anyone says in earshot is immediately interpreted as being the view of the president or the secretary of defense or the Department of Defense. It would mean we could never listen to people who had different views. That would be terrible, just terrible. We have to be able to do that.

QUESTION: Could I ask you to go back and just expand a little bit on some of what you said about the opposition meeting on two points? The people who participated, the Iraqis who participated in the opposition meeting have come out and said that the United States, the Pentagon or the Bush administration promised them, the Kurds, military protection, if Saddam Hussein began to move against them as this opposition built. Is that accurate? Did the Bush administration make any promise of military protection? And conversely, did the Kurds agree to give the U.S. access to potential airfields in northern Iraq?

RUMSFELD: I can't speak for the numerous meetings that the opposition groups had while they were in town. I can only speak for mine. And those subjects didn't come up in that context.

QUESTION: So you have not been asked for any promise of military protection?

RUMSFELD: First of all, I don't want to get into details about what took place in a private meeting, but I think I answered that pretty well. I said, those subjects did not come up in the meeting I was in. The United States did not do either of the things you've mentioned.

QUESTION: Sir, Afghan question. I wanted to go back to your notion of talking to the military about thinking afresh about how to approach the war on terrorism. As we approach the September 11 anniversary, there are going to be a number of stories about what the Pentagon learned from Afghanistan. Can you give us some insight in terms of all the broad lessons you're picking up from these lessons- learned briefings that have applicability to other conflicts besides just the tactical situation in Afghanistan? Has it turned into a proving ground for transformation and for testing out fresh ideas that you didn't have on September 9? RUMSFELD: There is no question but that General Franks has been very receptive to the services' and the other CINCs' and the department's thoughts about things that might be tested or demonstrated or used that had not previously been a part of the normal quiver of arrows. That had not previously been a part of the normal quiver of arrows.

And in some instances it has informed us in a useful way.

I have received a first cut preliminary briefing on lessons learned. I've got, I believe, a more recent one and a more finished product, which I have not yet read. But I do think it's safe to say that if we're not learning, we're in trouble, and we have to be learning every day in all these experiences. And I have no doubt at all but that the folks in CENTCOM have been benefiting from the efforts that have been put into developing lessons learned during this first period, and I have no doubt but that those lessons learned are being moved throughout the department so that the other combatant commanders can also benefit from it.

QUESTION: Can you share a couple (INAUDIBLE) of the broad lessons that would apply to a conflict in any part of the world, even the moon, as General Myers said last week?

RUMSFELD: Well, I can give you one precise example. We have a funny thing that we call requirements in the military. And of course they aren't really requirements, generally they tend to be appetites or desires. And the word has a kind of bias contained right in it, just the very word sounds like it must be met. And there are those that must be and there are those that need not be.

But, for example, if you went back and looked at the, quote, "requirements," you would find that there was a requirement to -- if something's going to last so many days, there's a requirement to have so many of dumb bombs and so many smart bombs. And it turns out, if you finish an exercise, like Afghanistan, and you say, "Oh, my goodness, the requirement for dumb bombs was about 10 times more than we thought we needed and the requirement for smart bombs was some multiple of what we actually thought we would need more, we needed more than we thought," then what you learn from that is you learn to go back and change the quote, "requirement," and you drop one and increase one.

And it is those types of things that can be helpful. There are any number of other things that have been accomplished as well, obviously, the discussions on unmanned aerial vehicles, those types of things.

QUESTION: The proposal to create an undersecretary for intelligence, you talked about it last week a couple of times.

RUMSFELD: But imperfectly, apparently.

QUESTION: Well, I would say evocatively. And I wonder if you could make it a little more concrete. In the town hall meeting you said, "What's the advantage of having a more senior person here in the building? Focus a bit more laser-like and the interaction with the DCI, more effective, more responsive, more constructive."

I'm wondering, could you just make it a little more concrete?

RUMSFELD: Sure.

QUESTION: And have there been events in which the department's performance in the intelligence area has been less than it might have been and you look at it, you said, "Geez, we got to tighten this up," precipitating events that led to this proposal?

RUMSFELD: No, I wouldn't say there's a specific event. I came in, having been through the ballistic missile commission and the space commission, with a concern about intelligence sufficient that when I was asked in my confirmation hearing what was the single thing that worried me the most, my answer was a single word -- intelligence. And that was in January of '01, well before September 11.

I have not addressed with the effort and thought and concentration that I would have wished the subject of intelligence in the department.

But I think it's readily apparent to people that we have a number of intelligence-gathering entities. The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, we've got the DIA, we've got the NRO, we've got the NSA, we've got all kinds of pieces floating around.

There is not a single person that is over those except me. And I do not spend as much time working with them and coordinating with them and giving them positive feedback as to what they're doing and to what the senior-level combatant commanders feel they need and what the senior political-level leaders believe they need. And it is a misservice to them to not have that process continuously going on so that they are constantly calibrated as to what they ought to be focusing on, what those priorities ought to be.

And that's a default not on their part, but on our part. And it seems to me that what I feel the need for is, given the span of control in this department and the size of it, that I think the department will benefit enormously by having a senior-level person.

And I've talked about this at great length with George Tenet, as well, and he agrees. He has a similar issue. He has to deal with all of these entities as the director of central intelligence as opposed to being the director of Central Intelligence Agency. And he has to deal with them all.

And having that kind of senior-level leadership, he and I both believe, will enable us to do a better job in providing leadership to all of these entities on a continuing basis. And matter of fact, I'm going to be meeting with some of those folks -- all of those folks that I just described -- I think this week or next, and begin to talk through some of these things.

QUESTION: The concern that some raise is, you know, some of the stories (INAUDIBLE) were couched at least in terms of strengthening your hand and you sort of bristled at that. But the concern more generally is...

RUMSFELD: I was dismissive.

QUESTION: Well, a good word, good word.

RUMSFELD: Properly dismissive.

QUESTION: That's your word.

The published figure is that 85 percent of the intelligence community budget is within this building. And the argument is that if you sort of centralize at a senior level the oversight of that 85 percent, the sheer gravitational pull within the community means that the DCI, who has a broader ranger of concerns, there are intelligence concerns broader than the day-to-day concerns of this department, and if you pull all that...

RUMSFELD: And different. Not just broader, but different to some extent.

QUESTION: Right. But if you pull together that huge block of money and people, put it under a senior guy like an undersecretary, it's just going to skew the emphasis within the community, the investment strategy...

RUMSFELD: Not a chance. Not a chance. Look, the director of central intelligence has the responsibility to be the director of central intelligence over the entire community. That includes these pieces. He meets with the president regularly, frequently, daily almost, except when he's vacationing or in the Middle East or somewhere else. And he has enormous authority and responsibility, and properly so. And it is a misunderstanding -- the kind of comment that you're reflecting you've seen and heard are fairly typical of people who like to personalize things as opposed to understand them substantively. And it's nonsense.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, last week...

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: The secretary of defense meeting with reporters, as usual, on a regular basis, talking about all things from Afghanistan to Iraq to alleged cooperation by Iran to turn over Al Qaeda suspects, something that the secretary of defense is not so far impressed with, because the suspects not turned over to the United States.

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