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Updated: 21 Nov 2002
Image of Pentagon oval, linked to DoD News page   United States Department of Defense
News Transcript
On the web: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Nov2002/t11212002_t1118sd2.html
Media contact: media@defenselink.mil or +1 (703) 697-5131
Public contact: public@defenselink.mil or +1 (703) 428-0711

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Monday, Nov. 18, 2002

Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability En Route to Chile

(En route to Chile; material in brackets was inaudible as taped and has been paraphrased by individuals who attended the event.)

Rumsfeld: I see. We are going to Chile for my first hemisphere defense ministerial meeting. They're held every couple of years and this is the fifth over the last decade. I'm going to be meeting with the president of Chile, and then having bilaterals with defense ministers from Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile. I think that's probably all I'm going to have time for. I'm -- needless to say, I would not be going all this distance if I didn't think this was extremely important. The -- we have the summit meeting in Prague that I was supposed to be leaving for today, and won't be able to, but instead will be leaving for, I guess at 2 in the morning or something, on Tuesday morning, and arriving a little late for some of the events there. But I'm doing it because I do think it's so important to be in attendance here. The -- when I leave, Peter Rodman, the Assistant Secretary of Defense, who I think is standing behind me somewhere here, is going to stay on and represent the United States with his team. We have a couple of initiatives we've been talking with some of the Latin American countries about, the hemispheric countries. One is with respect to naval -- further naval cooperation, and the other is with respect to peacekeeping activities. We, and a number of other countries, believe that there are opportunities for much closer cooperation in those two areas. With that, I'll be happy to respond to questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said -- did you say "naval operations"?

Rumsfeld: Maritime.

Q: And one --

Rumsfeld: No, they're two separate things. One is an initiative with respect to closer cooperation with maritime operations, and the other involves closer cooperation with respect to peacekeeping.

Q: The maritime operations, why are you offering that? Can you give us any more detail about it?

Rumsfeld: Well, I could, but I -- my inclination is to present it more to the ministers. We've done some of that bilaterally, but I'm going to be making some remarks about it in the meeting, in the plenary meeting, which is tomorrow morning, as I recall, and I'm kind of inclined to discuss it with them before I discuss it with the press. But if one thinks about the problems in the hemisphere of smuggling and narco-trafficking and hostage taking, and the like, the closer we are able to cooperate from the standpoint of our respective navies, the greater the security environment will be.

Q: [And has this been heightened by 9-11 as a threat of terrorism, the links between narco-trafficking, arms smuggling?]

Rumsfeld: I think there's no question but that all of our countries sense that, and the growing importance of closer cooperation, and that's a healthy thing. And certainly, September 11th and -- not just September 11th, but events that have occurred around the world, both before and after September 11th, suggest the advantages that accrue to all of us in closer cooperation.

Q: [Mr. Secretary, there have been (inaudible) the al Qaeda presence in South America (inaudible). How significant a presence is al Qaeda in South America?]

Rumsfeld: Well, just before Bryan came in to suggest I meet with you all, I was just beginning to read one of the latest assessments of al Qaeda in Latin America, and I was on Page 1. So, maybe on the way home, I'll be able to give you a little better idea of what the latest assessment is.

Q: (Inaudible).

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that al Qaeda -- there were thousands of al Qaeda trained. Many of them in Afghanistan training camps, and others in Sudan and other countries. They're spread across the globe. They're in 40 or 50 countries, and there's certainly some in countries in this hemisphere besides the United States and Canada.

Q: [Mr. Secretary, I have a general question about the (inaudible) intentions. Is it okay for Iraq to simply passively not do anything to interfere with the inspectors? Or does Iraq, in your opinion, have to actively help the inspectors show that the country has disarmed? In other words, is it just okay if Saddam Hussein says, "Well, yeah, you can find whatever you can find, and the rest I get to keep?" Or is it a situation really where the inspectors aren't so much having to hunt for weapons (inaudible) verify that Iraq is voluntarily disarming?]

Rumsfeld: Well, if you go back to the resolution, the resolution, as I recall, calls upon Iraq to state, to declare, what weapons of mass destruction and what capabilities that are in violation of the 16 or 17 -- now 17 UN resolutions -- they have. And they have an obligation under that to affirmatively state what they have. One would think that that would be a help to the inspectors if it were honestly and accurately answered, not just as to what they had, but where it's located. So, the answer to your question is, they do have an affirmative obligation.

Q: And they can't just stand back and say, "Okay. See if you can find whatever we've hidden."

Rumsfeld: The resolution suggests that that behavior pattern would not be acceptable, that that --

Q: One other question about --

Rumsfeld: -- concluding what is or is not in compliance with the resolutions, of course, is something for individual member states and the Security Council.

Q: Speaking of that, what about the MIG's firings on U.S. planes, now one in the south and in the north; one against the MIG (inaudible). Is that acceptable, or is that a material breach of the resolutions?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's certainly unacceptable. I have always found it unacceptable that any country shoots at our aircraft with impunity, to say nothing of the firings against other coalition aircraft. The resolution addresses the subject, and it's up to the Security Council and member states to make conclusions as to what is, or is not, a material breach. My impression is that they will be looking for a pattern of behavior, and given the fact that coalition aircraft are, in fact, enforcing UN resolutions; specifically, the activities of concern were the threats that Saddam Hussein's military posed to the Shi'a in the south and the Kurds in the north. And there were other aspects of those resolutions, which are being monitored in the northern and southern no-fly zones. It seems to me that what will happen is a pattern of behavior will evolve, and then people will make judgments with respect to it.

Q: Well, will the U.S. go to the UN and ask for a ruling of these kinds of actions? Or (inaudible) get away from the UN and decide for itself?

Rumsfeld: Those are the decisions the President will make as we go along, I would assume.

Q: (Inaudible).

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that in a repressive regime like Iraq, there tends to be a small ruling clique that runs the country, and there are people away from that who are part of the administration of the country. It may be the army; it may be the local police forces or border guards, or it may be people who keep the sewers working and the water system working that are technically part of the Iraqi government in one form or another, in one location or another, who in a very real sense may be like many citizens in the country, hostages to this small ruling clique. And certainly we are, have, are and will communicate directly with the Iraqi people and with elements of the Iraqi society the truth, namely that the problem is the Saddam Hussein regime. It is the people that are engaged in developing weapons of mass destruction, and let there be no doubt anyone that is involved in the use of weapons of mass destruction will be particularly held accountable in the event that it becomes necessary and the president or the U.N. make a decision to use force in Iraq.

Q: What about the Iraqi Army?

Rumsfeld: The Army, if you think about it in Desert Storm, surrendered in large, large mass, tens and tens and tens of thousands of them. A number of them surrendered to a journalist with no gun. These are people that are being forced to do what they are doing in many instances. Now there are very elite elements that are very close to personal guard to the family and their clique who are not hostages; who are benefiting from the regime and who are enablers if you will for Saddam Hussein and his family to rule that country. In answer to your question, Are we saying the truth? Yes. Do we recognize that a lot of people in that country are in effect hostages to a vicious repressive regime? Yes we do.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: It is certainly correct that people who stay in their barracks and people who do not engage in the use of weapons of mass destruction or attack coalition forces will not have problems.

Q: [Has Osama Bin Laden moved to another country?]

Rumsfeld: I can't answer the question is there any intelligence to back up those rumors because there's probably a scrap of information. I don't know what the definition of intelligence is. Intelligence tends not to be a scrap of information. Intelligence tends to be an assessment based on accumulation of lots of pieces of information so I don't know if there's a scrap that would support that and if there is I haven't seen it. And there in any given week, there are rumors about his location in several different places.

Q: [Can you tell us where a senior al Qaeda leader was captured?]

Rumsfeld: Yes I could but I won't.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: I could but I won't.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to discuss it.

Q: [U.S. ready to wait?]

Rumsfeld: The question of "is the U.S. ready to wait?" really means what might happen and what might the president decide with respect to it and what might he recommend to the UN and what might the UN or a coalition of other countries decide to do and those are all questions that are really out of my lane. They're questions that the president will be addressing. There are a lot of things in that resolution that advise the Iraqi government what the United Nations Security Council expects of them and they are reasonably explicit.

I don't doubt for a minute that one or more people involved in one or more of the two inspection elements might have views as to how long it may take them to do a, b or c, but I think that hanging our hat on that might not be too wise. Because I think there are a variety of things that need to be responded to or reacted to in a favorable way or somebody might conclude that they would like to discuss the possibility of a material breach with others.

Q: [what do you see for the future of Hussein's tactics?]

Rumsfeld: I can't predict the future but there's no question if one looks at the past Saddam Hussein's been very skillful at delaying tactics.

Q: [Admiral Poindexter?]

Rumsfeld: Well, you know it recalls to memory the front-page stories across the nation about weapons in space last year. The next morning I was prepared to brief about the space commissions organizational recommendation. Cartoons followed, op-ed pieces followed.

Then of course when the military commissions came up, the immediate response was, I think it was something like "oh summary executions, torture!" I can't imagine who would say something like that. But that is what was said and "what has happened?" We've had a perfectly rational group of very distinguished legal experts, both political parties of all political persuasions, have come together to advise us and we've made our announcements of how we're going to plan on how to handle these things if and when somebody is heaved over the transit to us, and everyone's now relaxed.

And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And "oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall." I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.

That was intended to be done by that office is being done by that office, NOT by that office in other ways.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: Now. We're now into a new one of these where people are, ready shoot, aim. I would recommend that people take a nice big deep breath and look at the pattern in the past and rather than assuming the worst, they get their sea legs, make some inquiries, learn something.

Now, the short answer to your question is no, I can't explain it. I don't know much about it. And what I do know, I'm not sure I understand completely which is not surprising. I spent a good chunk of my recent life, a couple of decades in defense development, in technologies, I'm sorry Bryan...in pharmaceuticals, in electronics.

What you do is take money and invest it in forward-looking things, in things that you don't know much about. Things that may not ever happen, but things if they do happen might very well be helpful. And as you go down that road, very often there are non-intuitive paths that you end up following that you didn't understand when you began.

Indeed in pharmaceutical research, if you go back, much of what we benefit from today was arrived at serendipitously. It was not something that someone set out to do. You take intelligent people, give them a focus and direction and provide them with some money.

Now what is going on in DARPA? DARPA was the beginnings of the Internet. When the network began the people doing it had no idea that what would evolve would be what we see today. It never crossed their minds.

Package switching and various things came as a result of various contracts with RAND. It's been an amazing thing in the world. What is going on in DARPA today is exactly that kind of activity. You've got a bunch of very talented people working internally, dealing a lot of talented people outside the institution, taking some small fraction of the taxpayers money, investing it and to see if we can't find ways to do things better.

One of the tasks that you'll find in DARPA, meaning the Defense Advanced Research and Development. What is the A?

Whitman: Agency.

Rumsfeld: Of course, that was a test to see if you are as sharp as Torie. And indeed you are. I lost one letter in another of a billion acronyms.

We gave that to them as an assignment of thinking through what can we do to help on the war on terrorism? What can we begin thinking through?

What happens is some of the things that evolve never reach fruition. Some of the things that evolve reach fruition, but they're not appropriate for anyone in government. Some of the things evolve, reach fruition and in fact may be more appropriate for the Department of Transportation dealing with the global war on terrorism or they may be more helpful to the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI or somebody else. Then that's where they go. In some cases they help the Department of Defense through its statutory responsibilities.

I do not believe there have been a number of editorials I have seen one editorial and one op-ed piece and on the other hand I don't read them but if there are more, Bryan, I would like to see them.

Q: Did you see the one in the Early Bird?

Rumsfeld: That's the only one that exists to my knowledge. Let me put a cap on this. In the event any sensitive issue were to evolve, one looking at the past 22 months, a reasonable person, might reasonably expect that the administration, that the Department of Defense would have discovered it and recognized it and handled it appropriately, by getting the kind of advice and counsel like I did with respect to commissions.

So, the hype and the alarm approach, it seems to me is a disservice to the public and the public need not be told "oh my goodness gracious this is terrible, we're doing some research and development, which hasn't gotten very far and which we don't know what it will produce and if it ever produces anything it could be just terrible." I mean that is not a very sophisticated message. It's kind of like summary executions.

Q: We are not making the Public comfortable here.

Rumsfeld: If I haven't answered that I don't have control of the English language. I mean the fact of the matter is, Charlie, DARPA doesn't do anything like that. DARPA does research and development, that's why they're there. If something comes up -- let's say they discovered something perfectly terrible. They really did, instead of just pretend, lets say they really come up with something that was just so fundamentally horrible -- Is your question what would we do with that?

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: I don't know. I began by admitting my ignorance. I am not knowledgeable about the dozens and dozens and dozens of things that are going on in DARPA.

I have met Poindexter. I don't remember him much though. I had known him years and years and years ago when he was [in] a junior position and he explained to me what he was doing at DARPA but it was a casual conversation. I haven't been briefed on it; I'm not knowledgeable about it. Anyone who is concerned ought not be. Anyone with any concern ought to be able to sleep well tonight. Nothing terrible is going to happen.

Q: [People have been worried about a memo about the U.S. resuming nuclear testing, what do you have to say about that?]

Rumsfeld: I'll try. The Soviet Union is continuing to make nuclear weapons, I mean the Russians. And the continuum from the Soviet Union to Russia has not been broken. They are continuing to develop nuclear weapons as a matter of course.

We do not have open production. I have seen no plans or no proposals to resume nuclear testing. My understanding, my recollection is that at least once a year there is a statutory, if not a presidential directive, that requires that if those people that have a responsibility for the safety and reliability for nuclear weapons have an obligation to tell the president, me and the president, if I'm not mistaken, and I'm going to be 90% on this, whether or not, in their professional judgment, the stockpile is sufficient, safe and reliable.

I have no idea what your rumor's about, but it would not surprise me one bit. There is some sort of piece of paper on that issue, namely that we do not at the present time see a need to resume nuclear testing.

Q: [Aldridge memo?]

Rumsfeld: Every day that goes by without testing the nuclear stockpile of the United States is one year longer, older, since there are not a lot of nuclear weapons, one year older away from timely testing.

The issue that comes up, can you get some water, Mark?

The issue that comes up is to what extent are we increasingly able every year to find technological ways of avoiding testing. With computers and a variety of other advanced technology just get better every year.

The way you'd make a judgment on that is you'd go around the world, with the Harold Agnews of the world I would guess that that's part of it.

There are other things that come along where people, especially in Pete's shop that look at problems. They look at problems and they find that a country, pick one, most from the terrorist list are buried deeply buried under ground. They have tunnels and tunnels and tunnels.

They look at a problem of how do you deal with it. So these people without worrying about all the frivolities and all the henny penny the sky is falling and do exactly what they're supposed to do. They screw their head into the problem and figure out more ways to do things. And one of them may be a deeply penetrating capability.

Another question might be, well if someone is storing chemical or biological weapons, how do you deal with that? Without creating a plume, without spreading it, how can you incinerate it? So people look at these things.

To the extent they do, that's good. Now the question is, what are you going to do about it and how do you acknowledge other ways of doing it?

The short answer is, everything is, in our country, everything's transparent. And the next thing comes up in the -- it goes to the president, it goes to congress, it's leaked in the press and everyone knows everything we're doing.

Q: The so-called --

Rumsfeld: Well, I think I answered and I don't want to create a headline here, if one thinks about what DARPA does, I hope they can figure out some things. If you take what we're doing in science and technology, in research and development, in the Navy and the Army and the Air Force, in AT&L;, in all these people, I hope they do consider lots of things. I hope they look across that spectrum. Just like I did when I was running a pharmaceutical company or running an electronics company. That's what they're there for, that's why you give them that money. The question then becomes what do you do about it?

And if you are asking me [if I am going] to go to the president and recommending re-initiate nuclear testing, the answer is no I'm not. Could I some day? Yes, I could. If they came to me and said, I'm worried about the reliability and safety of our weapons, then I would have to sit down with the president and say we have a problem here and here are some ways you can deal with it.

Going back to your -- one of the things I have looked at during the nuclear posturing last year was the issue of how long it would take us to be able to do that. And if it's 5 years it's one thing, if it's 6 months, it's another thing. If you can't start for 6 years.

Q: A follow-up on WMD on the ground in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I don't know what I stated. Let me state what I think is accurate. Weapons of mass destruction can be in various stages of evolution. They can be in the developmental, laboratory stage. They can be in the production stage. They can be in the transit stage. They can be in the weaponization stage and they can be in the deployed weaponization stage. artillery shells, unmanned aerial vehicles, SCUDS with chemical weapons, whatever. How one would deal with that from a military standpoint.

I think, I hope what I said was, given the fact that terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction have almost all (inaudible) but makes it very, very difficult to reach them from the air.

Now from the extent that they are in a production facility above the ground (inaudible). It lacked the dimension it should have had.

Q: Can I follow up on Chile?

Rumsfeld: That would be good.

Q: Peacekeeping?

Rumsfeld: Some countries would feel that nothing would be appropriate, because of their own circumstance, and still others would feel that the 20th century world would be better if there were more peacekeepers.

I believe that it's something that benefits the world.

Q: How can we use the U.S. military in these missions?

Rumsfeld: We're not talking about the U.S. military. It might very well be 2 or 3 countries come together and offer those in East Timor or somewhere in the hemisphere or somewhere in the Balkans.

It's in a very early stage, we're not proposing anything specific, but they feel it's appropriate under their circumstance. This is

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: We have no proposal in that regard. We are talking to a number of countries in that regard.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: The question has to do with military commissions. Refining the procedures and rules that we plan on using and we want this person transferred to the Department of Defense for the purpose of a military commission.

Q: There's talk about possibly putting Moussaoui.

Rumsfeld: I wouldn't be surprised if it was, but I don't know, that something that's a process that the lawyers put together but until the President makes some type of decision I'm not really into it.