Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired February 10, 2004 - 13:38 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressing reporters. Let's listen in.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECY.: Good afternoon. I and some of the folks in this room returned Sunday from a meeting of defense ministers in Munich and also the annual Wehrkunde security conference. I also went to Croatia.
A central topic in Munich was how best to prepare the alliance for the 21st-century threats. As the recently released European Union security strategy paper said, "The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is potentially the greatest threat to our security" -- I'm quoting -- "and the most frightening scenario is one in which terrorist groups acquire weapons of mass destruction," unquote.
We face other emerging threats, as well. The spread of advances such as nanotechnology and cyberspace.
There's one capability that is essential to dealing with all of these threats and, needless to say, that's intelligence.
Last week, the president announced the formation of a commission to look at the U.S. intelligence capabilities so we can better ensure that our intelligence agencies are properly arranged to help defend the American people in this new century.
It's not an easy task.
RUMSFELD: They have to try to penetrate closed societies and organizations and learn things that our adversaries don't want us to know, often not knowing precisely what it is that we do need to know, while the adversaries know precisely what it is they're determined to keep from us.
As the defenders, free people have to be right all the time while terrorists, the attackers, need to be lucky only occasionally.
As the president indicated, the commission's efforts are part of an ongoing process of lessons learned. We studied lessons here in the department from military operations in Afghanistan which helped us inform our activities in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And today we're learning lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom that will improve the military's performance in the future.
The same is true with intelligence. The commission will be able to compare what the Iraqi Survey Group finds when it completes its work with the information that the coalition had prior to the war. It should be able to assess whether the intelligence community is best organized, equipped, trained and resourced to meet the challenges ahead.
There are also lessons being learned by the world's terrorist regimes. The last 12 months have provided them with two different models of behavior: the path of cooperation and the path of defiance.
Libya chose the path of cooperation when it announced its decision to disclose and eliminate its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its ballistic missiles.
Iraq, by contrast, chose the path of defiance when Saddam Hussein passed up his final opportunity that was given to him in U.N. Resolution 1441. The resolution suggested that he open his country to the world, as Kazakhstan, Ukraine, South Africa and Libya now, and to prove that his programs were ended and his weapons destroyed.
I suppose we may never know why Saddam Hussein made the choices he made. But we do know this: He chose war. If he had chosen differently, if the Iraqi regime had taken the steps Libya is now taking there would have been no war.
And the lessons are clear: Choices carry costs; leaders who abandon the pursuit of those weapons will find an open path to better relations with the free nations of the world.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I'd like to first extend my condolences to those who were killed in the suicide bombing earlier today in Iraq.
MYERS: While it's a sad day for those who were killed and their families and their friends, we continue to be optimistic about the situation on the ground in Iraq.
One hundred and fourteen thousand U.S. military personnel and the 24,000 coalition forces in Iraq are the reason that we're optimistic.
As we rotate our forces into and out of Iraq, that theater of operations, we continue to focus our efforts on the stability, security and reconstruction of the Iraqi infrastructure. We are seeing a lot of success in this area and as July 1st approaches, the 209,000 Iraqi security forces now on patrol will be better equipped with the knowledge, the skills and the experience required toward securing Iraq's future of self-governance.
The men and women in uniform who have died for our country have made the ultimate sacrifice and those who were injured will carry their scars forever. I think it's important to recognize that their service and their professionalism and integrity have been absolutely outstanding. And they are making a huge difference.
And with that, we'll take your questions. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the general says that he's optimistic about the situation in Iraq. And you've said repeatedly that it's up to the Iraqis to bring security and stability to that country.
What does this devastating bomb today say about their ability to do that when you've trained tens of thousands of policemen to stop such attacks?
RUMSFELD: Well, I believe I addressed that in my remarks. I point out that an attacker has all the advantage. All they have to do is be effective or lucky once in a while and they can make a dent, as they did, and can kill people, innocent people, Iraqis, in this case.
Defenders cannot conceivably, it's impossible -- any society on the face of the Earth, it's impossible to defend in every location against every conceivable kind of attack at every time of the day or night. It is not possible.
Therefore, the only way it can be done is to go after the people who are doing it and find them and to capture or kill them.
RUMSFELD: Now, we have somewhere between 150,000 and 210,000 Iraqis now performing one type of security activity or another. Many of them are recently trained and new to these assignments. They're getting better at it all the time.
I talked to General Abizaid this morning about it and he is encouraged by the progress they're making and by the effectiveness that they're having -- the results that they're having.
That does not mean that there will not be people that are killed. I mean, look at any city on the face of the Earth. Everyone's against homicide and yet in every city -- major city on the face of the Earth, homicides occur every week. Hundreds occur every year in every city.
Now, why if we have all those policemen, why if we have everyone against homicides, do they still occur? The answer is because human beings are human beings.
Now, what do we do about it? Well, we keep training the Iraqis and we keep working with them, and they will become more and more effective. And at that point where security responsibilities are increasingly transferred to the Iraqis, we'll find that they will have probably better situational awareness in the areas than coalition forces ever could. They'll know the language. They know the neighborhood. And they have reasons to want those areas to be secure.
Does that mean that terrorists or people who want the old regime back won't continue to try to kill them? No, they will probably do that.
It's a tough business being a policemen and it's tough business being a security person.
QUESTION: Excuse me. This bombing was outside a police station (INAUDIBLE) an obvious attempt to dissuade people from joining the police forces there.
RUMSFELD: We have said all along that it is reasonably clear that one of the tactics is to try to target coalition successes. That is to say, you'll recall, a member of the governing council was killed. You'll recall that some judges were killed, a mayor was killed.
RUMSFELD: You've seen attacks on police and civil defense corps and site protection people. I'm sure that when the army is larger and more visible in the country that there'll be attacks against the army.
Will that be successful eventually in dissuading people from trying to create a more stable and a more secure Iraq? I don't think so. We find people are still lining up, volunteering, interested in participating and serving.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, this attack today seems to line up with the plan outlined in that document recovered from Hassan Ghul the Al Qaeda operative who was captured in Iraq.
RUMSFELD: It does.
QUESTION: What do you think that document says about the current state of terrorist operations in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. I haven't read it. I don't know if it's authentic. People who've read it think it is. But I haven't read it. My friend Dick's read it. Why don't we ask Dick?
MYERS: You know, authenticity is still being evaluated, OK.
So with that caveat -- and this is initial analysis -- but I think the obvious points from it are, one is that the coalition and Iraqis themselves are being very successful, because one of the things they discussed in the letter is a desperate tactic of trying to get Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. In other words, incite the Shia to attack the Sunni as a way to ensure that extremism continues -- a different brand of extremism than the Baathist -- but extremism continues in Iraq. So I think that's one of the things you can draw for it.
The other thing I think, the other major point is that the Al Qaeda is thoroughly involved -- if that letter is authentic, that the Al Qaeda is involved in this and has been for some time.
QUESTION: Do you think that letter was heading out to top leaders in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
MYERS: I don't want to discuss it anymore.
RUMSFELD: Given all of the discussion about absolutely perfect precision in every single thing anyone might want to say, I would like to help General Myers and correct what I said.
He probably did not read the letter because it was in Arabic. I think he probably...
MYERS: Good point.
RUMSFELD: ... read a translation of that letter.
MYERS: Actually, I read a first translation and the warning on the first translation was, "You'd better wait for the second translation."
Because, you know, the first one was done fairly quickly and there are nuances there that somebody else is going to have to take a look at. So that's why I hit what I thought were the broad themes and not some of the specifics.
RUMSFELD: I don't want someone coming back and saying that he read the original letters.
QUESTION: You're going to be even more careful with your words now?
RUMSFELD: I've always been careful. I'm going to try to be more successful.
QUESTION: You say you're not sure whether it's authentic. You, understandably, if you haven't read it, can't say anything about that. But yesterday, General Kimmitt was in Baghdad talking as if it was and seemed quite confident commenting on this document. Are you walking this back a bit?
MYERS: No, I'm just trying to tell you what I know.
QUESTION: Why would you allow General Kimmitt to go out there and talk about this as if it was fact if you're still unsure?
MYERS: It wasn't a matter of allowing General Kimmitt to do that. People make their own judgments.
QUESTION: But certainly there's some say on who goes out and says what.
MYERS: Oh, no. Not over there.
RUMSFELD: No, seriously, we don't talk to him on a daily basis saying, "Do this, do that." We just can't. There's too many things going on in our lives.
He's a general officer. He's very competent. He makes his judgments. I'm sure he believes what he said. He's probably right. Time will tell.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when you were a Navy pilot, you obviously kept a log book. RUMSFELD: I have it upstairs but it's not subject to FOIA or anything like that.
QUESTION: But I'm saying it lists your flight time, lists what you do, list of dates. And my question was going to be is that a cherished possession and do you know where it is?
RUMSFELD: I do. I know exactly where it is. As a matter of fact, I was with Admiral Ellis one day, the STRATCOM commander, and we got talking about flying. And he said he grew up at Whiting Field where I was first stationed. And I said, "Why?" and he said his father was a flight instructor. I looked in the log book and his father gave me both of my key check flights, Jim Ellis' father.
MYERS: Now, let me give you another way to keep a log book as a pilot.
MYERS: I only kept the records for my civilian flight hours. My military flight hours, I count on the United States Air Force to do, and I didn't put any comments or anything.
So I think I have a log book. I think I could find it. But I didn't keep the detail of each and every flight.
QUESTION: Do you know if that's true, say, for the Air National Guard?
MYERS: I have no idea. I mean, I think it's all individual.
No, I know that the services keep -- or at least the Air Force keeps exquisite track of the flight records. I know that. At least as long as I've been around. But whether people keep their own log books is their business.
RUMSFELD: Of course, I was flying back before there were computers or television or cars almost.
MYERS: And they may have told you to keep that log book.
QUESTION: One follow up, if I may, and this is to General Myers, wearing your uniform, sir.
The president said in his recent press interview that he used to fly F-102s. We're not quite sure whether he meant TF-102. The F-102, as I understand, that's a very unforgiving airplane. You'd have to stay very, very current and very active if you'd want to stay in line, would you not?
MYERS: Well, any high performance jet, that's a true statement; not the 102 in particular over others.
QUESTION: I want to shift from the log books to budget books a second here.
Now, the administration has been pretty clear that they're not going to request a supplemental until December or January at the earliest. Yet today on the Hill, the joint chiefs were concerned that by the end of September 30th, they'd be running out of money and there'd be a gap between October 1st and whenever a supplemental would be filed. General Schoomaker was particularly concerned about that.
What are you going to do to make sure a gap doesn't occur and how will you bridge the gap between the end of the fiscal year and a potential supplemental in early January?
RUMSFELD: I guess the same way we did last year and the year before. What you do is, the Congress indicated to us that they preferred we not try to fund the war a year and a half in advance, because it's impossible to know precisely which account, and the subcommittees like to have a good understanding of that, understandably with their responsibility. So they requested that we submit supplementals to fund the war.
Each year, what's happened is to the extent there is too long a period from the end of the fiscal year, September 30th, until the funding is available from the supplemental they draw down in other accounts.
RUMSFELD: And the Congress understands that. That's been the pattern. But you don't want to do it too long because it can cause distortions and...
QUESTION: Do you think then there'll be drawdowns from procurement, R&D, O&M or personnel?
RUMSFELD: It undoubtedly will vary by service, won't it?
QUESTION: Is that a concern you've heard at the joint level?
MYERS: It's exactly as the secretary said. We have the situation we have and so we think we'll be fine through this fiscal year and then we're going to have to look forward to the next fiscal year and how we're going -- and we will have the funding to bridge the gap.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to actually ask about Haiti, but actually General Myers made a statement that I wanted him to clarify, if he could, about the attack.
You said that, "It shows the Al Qaeda is involved in this and has been for some time." I just wondered if you could clarify that.
MYERS: That was on the letter, not the attack. And what the letter, I think, shows -- one of the macro observations is that the Al Qaeda has been involved in the -- at least claims to be involved in the terrorist insurgency going on inside Iraq.
QUESTION: And has been for some time?
MYERS: Well, since we've been involved over there. Sure.
QUESTION: And what about Haiti? Is the U.S. military going to be doing anything in Haiti since it now seeming to get even worse?
RUMSFELD: I guess the way to respond to that is that, needless to say, everyone's hopeful that the situation, which tends to ebb and flow down there, will stay below a certain threshold and that there's -- we have no plans do anything.
By that, I don't mean we have no plans. Obviously we have plans to do everything in the world that we can think of. But there's no intention at the present time or no reason to believe that any of the thinking that goes into these things year in and year out would have to be utilized.
QUESTION: General Myers, I would like to take you back to the issue of being a pilot, because I believe you are a decorated pilot from combat years in Vietnam and can offer a unique historic perspective -- Vietnam -- for people of some certain age being barely a memory, I suppose.
QUESTION: As this debate about military service broadly emerges, how should Americans look back at military service in combat in Vietnam and military service in the National Guard from your unique historic perspective only? Can you help people understand what that service choice was military people back then? How it should be viewed now? How people should understand National Guard service in the Vietnam era? Because you are a pilot and you really have some perspective on that?
MYERS: And I can only do it from a narrow perspective of Air Force pilot.
When I graduated from pilot training, there were several choices. And one was to go fly for -- I think what we called in those days, Air Defense Command -- I believe it was still called ADC in those days -- and there were other options. And I took an option that I took an airplane and went to Europe. And other people took the Air Defense Command option.
What's interesting is, the National Guard, a large part of their mission then and today is the air defense of this country, which I think is a noble mission.
So I mean, people just, kind of, went with the airplane type and the mission type they thought they'd like and I think that was the extent of the thought of it.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if I could ask you a couple of quick questions.
First, there's a group of governors in Iraq today and there's a wire story that says that you invited them to go over there and look around. And I wondered if that's correct, and what you think that they may get out of it.
And then, on an entirely different...
RUMSFELD: I'm not debating there's six governors.
Is Larry still here?
I know there are governors there but I don't recall inviting them. I may very well have.
I've been inviting a lot of people to go. I've encouraged members of the Cabinet to go -- to go to Afghanistan and Iraq. I've encouraged a number of people to go over there and participate and assist the ministries. And I'm delighted that some of them are there.
I may very well have, but you'll have to check with my office to see precisely if and when I did it.
QUESTION: The second thing I wanted to ask you about, in Munich, on Sunday, Senator Lugar gave a speech to that conference in which he advocated creating something similar to Partnership for Peace. He said it could be called Cooperation for Peace, where NATO would get involved with the militaries of countries of the greater Middle East. Have you thought about that or been consulted on that? What do you think of the idea?
RUMSFELD: The president has given a speech on it. A good portion of my remarks, as I recall, at Wehrkunde Conference addressed that very question.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the phrase "cooperation for peace" with the specifics of the proposal that he got.
RUMSFELD: He may have used that phrase. I was having a meeting with, I believe, King Abdullah during the period that Senator Lugar was talking.
I didn't use that particular phrase, but a good chunk of my remarks were focused on the importance of the Middle East and the southern Mediterranean interaction with NATO. And as I recall, the foreign minister of Germany also talked about that. Both of which came out of the president's remarks some period before about wanting European nations to interact to a greater extent with the Middle Eastern countries.
QUESTION: Could something like that lead to Middle Eastern countries being invited to join NATO?
RUMSFELD: I don't think that there's anyone who's mentioned that or thought of it in that way. And I think most people have not equated the greater Middle East efforts or involvements or the southern Mediterranean involvements as a parallel with Partnership for Peace. People in NATO have not that I know of. So I think it's probably -- the other thing I would add, I have not heard any thinking in NATO that suggested that NATO wanted to interact with the Middle East as a group of countries. It was more that NATO would interact with specific countries individually and link them more into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization information and communication.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the European Union is considering lifting the ban on arms sales to China. I wondered if that came up in your talks at all and do you oppose lifting that ban from the E.U. or the United States.
RUMSFELD: It did not come up, to my recollection. I don't have an opinion on that. And it's something that the United States government would address as an entity and it would be the White House and the Department of Commerce and the Department of State and the Department of Defense. And I just am not knowledgeable if there's been interagency work on that, thus far.
QUESTION: You said in your opening remarks, sir, you described the two paths the nations could take. And you noted that Saddam Hussein, had he opened up his country to the U.N. resolutions, there would have been no war.
And it intrigues me, because about a year ago, you said the same thing, that he had the choice between war and peace and he chose war.
If I follow your thought correctly -- and I'm sure you'll tell me if I'm not -- in this case, if he would have opened up his country, let the U.N. come in, the United States come in, whoever, to search for the weapons of mass destruction, he would have still been in power today, correct? OK. And that would be an acceptable position or you chose the word of the position, vis-a-vis, no war, Saddam Hussein's still in power with a whole year of us hearing about all the other reasons why it was important to remove him.
RUMSFELD: In my view, the world is fortunate, the Iraqi people are fortunate and the region is fortunate that he's not there. And I think anyone who has looked at the mass graves and the torture rooms and heard the stories of what took place in that country has to feel the same way.
Was what I said today correct? Yes. There would not have been a war. I mean, that's just a fact, just like -- I mean, what will Libya look like, two, four, five years from now, having announced that it wants to open its country and allow inspectors in and disgorge any weapons it has of any type, programs that are powerful weapons?
RUMSFELD: And if you think of the other countries that have done it, South Africa did it, Kazakhstan did it, Ukraine did it. Ukraine now has said they'd like to join NATO.
So can countries change if they interact with the world and change their paths and decide they would rather choose wisely instead of choose poorly? I guess they can.
But would it be perfect? No. Is it perfect now? No.
But I think it's -- what I said was an absolute fact. He had 17 resolutions to cooperate with. He was given a final opportunity in 1441. And then he was given still another opportunity to leave the country when the ultimatum was given. And he chose poorly every time. QUESTION: On the supplemental, why would you allow there to be that four-month gap in funding at a time when the country is at war, especially given that the 2004 supplemental was proposed, I think, in August of last year? So why not propose a 2005 supp in August?
RUMSFELD: Obviously, we don't propose supps. The president and the White House and the OMB propose supps.
QUESTION: Well, can you shed some light on why they would allow that?
RUMSFELD: They have so many factors to consider. They have to look at all the departments and agencies. I don't know -- you'll certainly know a lot more.
QUESTION: But you know that you're going to have 105,000 Americans there for that period. That part's known.
RUMSFELD: I don't know that. What...
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) plan.
RUMSFELD: As you move into the fiscal year -- October 1st, November, December, January -- you're going to know an awful lot more than you know today in February. That's a year from now.
QUESTION: What you do know from today is that there's not going to be that money there. The chiefs have said so. They're going to run out of money for funding Iraq on September 30th. So I just -- can we (INAUDIBLE). This doesn't make any sense. RUMSFELD: Well, it must. If the United States government has made a pattern, practice, over decades of funding wars -- with a couple of one or two years of exceptions -- of funding wars with supplementals and that's the way it's been done.
RUMSFELD: That's the way we did it last year. It worked. We're here.
QUESTION: You did it in August last year, and now we're not talking about doing it until December or January, which leaves that gap that we already know is going to exist. The chiefs already know it's going to be there. So I just don't understand -- and I think a lot of people do. And then, of course...
RUMSFELD: Well, a lot of people (INAUDIBLE). This is a...
QUESTION: ... people's minds are turned toward politics and the election and you're, sort of, allowing that thought to...
RUMSFELD: I don't know how many days Congress is scheduled to be in session this year, but somebody told me it was something like 355. I mean, no, no, that's...
RUMSFELD: What was it? Sixty or 64, 65 days, something like that. So there are only so many days to get the work done. And...
RUMSFELD: Check it at the White House. They've made the decision and the OMB. And it's a pattern. I believe it's probably the correct pattern to use supplementals, although I tried to do it differently the year before.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the U.S. is currently negotiating a status of forces agreement for after the transition in Iraq on June 30th. Can you talk a little bit about the biggest issues in those negotiations and what this agreement has to contain for you to be happy with this agreement?
RUMSFELD: We've not really started negotiating the status of forces agreement that I know of. There've been some discussions along -- I think there's discussion relating to the traditional law or whatever it is -- what's the phrase? -- the interim law that they're working on that would bridge the period prior to the approval of a final constitution. And there's some discussion going on in that regard.
The U.N. resolution actually I think covers a portion of this and our circumstance at the present time works for us. And my guess is, what would happen, there would be something approximating that that would bridge one until you could actually negotiate a final agreement with a new government after it was selected.
So I think that you'll find that probably this is something that is going to be worked out probably in Baghdad, but my guess is you'll find something like the current circumstance until such time as you have a chance to begin negotiating with a final -- there'll be some bridging arrangement and then you would have to have a final arrangement with the government after it was elected.
QUESTION: So you wouldn't expect to have a status of forces agreement as such on June 30th when this transition begins?
RUMSFELD: I just don't know. It's going to be an interactive process with the governing to sort through that and then it'll be a function of what they decide in this bridging law that they're working on.
QUESTION: What are the latest prospects for the June 30 handover? In particular, what happens if the U.N. argues for pushing that back?
RUMSFELD: Yes. I've watched the interplay back and forth. And the governance pieces are pretty much being dealt with in the White House with Ambassador Bremer. And my impression is that everyone, I think, in the governing council, but certainly in the United States and the Coalition Provisional Authority, feel that having that date there is a good thing; that it moves the process along.
Kofi Annan has agreed to look into the election issue, which has been something that some representatives on the governing council and others in the county have been interested in and that's a good thing. And that process is taking place. And I don't know what they're conclusions will be about the feasibility of having elections in X period of time, but we'll just have to find out.
QUESTION: Did you believe before the war the British contention that Saddam Hussein could act within 45 minutes with weapons of mass destruction?
RUMSFELD: I don't know that I want to get into that kind of a subject.
First of all, who are you quoting on that?
QUESTION: You know, there was -- I believe it was a British statement I believe that may have been made in Parliament, although I'm not (OFF-MIKE).
QUESTION: Tony Blair's white paper.
RUMSFELD: I'd have to see the statement. And to have an opinion, I would have to go ask the intelligence community as to what they thought at that time.
RUMSFELD: Because what it is they thought very likely would be what it is I thought. And I'd have to go back and I don't know when the statement was made.
QUESTION: Do you recall having an opinion at the time the statement was made?
RUMSFELD: I don't remember the statement being made, to be perfectly honest.
MYERS: When do you think that statement was made?
QUESTION: I think it was Tony Blair's statement on the floor of the Commons just before the war began.
MYERS: In a broad context -- I don't remember the statement either, but in a broad context, of course, we were prepared for chemical or biological weapons.
And that's why, as we've said several times, we went -- ground forces went all the way to Baghdad in their protective gear. We had seen the movement and later discovered the movement of lots of protective gear. I think it was 3,000 protective suits that the Iraqis took to southern Iraq. And so we were absolutely convinced that those kind of attacks were possible.
That's not related to that statement because I don't remember seeing the statement.
QUESTION: Could I just follow up on something further? Mr. Secretary, you just raised a very interesting point. Basically, you know, you know what the information is that the intelligence community gives you. It's not like you go out and collect it yourself. RUMSFELD: Right.
QUESTION: You know what they tell you.
So we know now from the president that there certainly is some problem, question, dilemma here about what happened. You could be in a position of having at any moment to recommend military action to the president on any issue based on the intelligence you get from the intelligence community.
So given this, it strikes me that maybe you can't afford the luxury of waiting months until the commission does its work. Is there anything either of you could point to, any changes you've made in process or procedure or anything to make sure you are now satisfying yourselves you're getting really, truly accurate information without waiting for this commission to do its work?
RUMSFELD: The Department of Defense will not be in suspended animation until the completion of anything.
RUMSFELD: There are commissions and committees that are studying it on the Hill. There is a study to be made in England. There's a 9/11 commission here that looks at intelligence and that type of thing. The president's appointed a new commission. George Tenet had Mr. Kerr working on lessons learned from the intel in the Iraq situation. We've had the Joint Forces Command with a lessons learned on Afghanistan, a lessons learned on Iraq. And the Defense Intelligence Agency has been reviewing lessons learned. And all of those things inform us as we wrestle with new decisions.
I don't think there's a decision that Dick Myers or I have faced in the last three years where we have felt we had perfect information.
You end up -- policy-makers end up giving advice based on the best information available at that time. And you constantly want to get the best information, so that's why you do lessons learned, that's why you have reviews of things.
I've chaired a couple of commissions and participated probably in three or four others. And the advantage of a commission is that those of us in these jobs are drinking out of fire hose every day. We've got things going on that we have to address.
If you take senior people who are out of government at the present time or have the time to look at something across the board and the luxury -- I considered it a real luxury when I was chairing a commission -- to be able to just focus on a series of issues that were discreet. And at the end of that time, it is often the case that a valuable contribution is made, that insights are gleaned, that might not have been seeable by the individuals who are dealing with it every day up close, right next to your face.
QUESTION: But you work in real time right now...
RUMSFELD: We do. QUESTION: ... in the job you have. So -- I don't know. I guess people are curious how you personally feel about all this. Are you more worried nowadays that you're getting credible, accurate intelligence? Are you questioning more? Are you perfectly satisfied? How do you feel about it?
RUMSFELD: At my confirmation hearing, I was asked what kept me up at night in this job? What would keep me up? And I answered, "Intelligence." This was three years ago, in early January. Right after Congress came back.
Why did I say that? I said it because I've been around long enough to know that in a big complicated world with closed societies people determine not to have you know something, and with the growing lethality of weapons and the increasing availability of those increasingly lethal weapons, your margin for error is less.
We're living in a time of surprise where it is possible to be surprised. And we were surprised on September 11th and 3,000 people lost their lives.
The question was to the effect, am I satisfied? Do I feel good about it or something like that? No, I haven't felt good about what I know most of my life. I always want to know more and you're always hoping and praying that you're going to be able to do that enormously difficult task of connecting those dots before something happens.
Look at the trouble these commissions and committees are having trying to connect the dots after the fact. Think of how much harder it is before the fact when you don't have the leisure of doing it over a period of months; when you simply have to do it and establish priorities and weigh things continuously, not one thing, but a dozen things like that.
QUESTION: Of course, your other surprise is that you haven't found WMD in Iraq when you truly, genuinely thought it would be there. So I'm curious if there's anything either of you can specify or articulate as an example of things you might be doing now that we're not aware of to make sure there aren't any more surprises like...
RUMSFELD: I hope we are doing a lot of things you're not aware of.
Do you want to...
MYERS: The only thing I think I would say is, this is a personal viewpoint, but I have a lot of confidence in our intelligence professionals, both the military and the civilians that do this work.
MYERS: It is not a perfect art and it's certainly not a perfect science, but I am convinced they're trying to do the best work they can do for this country of ours.
They have had great successes and they sometimes miss the mark. That's the nature of their business.
If you're in the intelligence business, you know you've got to do -- you will never make the baseball all-star team in the intelligence business, because you're just not going to -- it's a tough thing to do.
I have confidence in them. There are things we should learn from both their successes and failures and we will do that.
QUESTION: But are they talking to each other? Do you still get the information that's shared that you would like to see or are there still turf fights going on?
RUMSFELD: My guess is the relationship among the intelligence agencies today is as good as it's ever been.
(UNKNOWN): Think that's a fact.
QUESTION: A related question: You suggested that you're waiting a accurate translation of an Arabic document. How is that you two don't have access to real-time, accurate Arabic translations?
MYERS: Well, what I said was that the document was translated very quickly.
RUMSFELD: We saw the first cut.
MYERS: Saw the first cut and they want to go back and make sure all the nuances in there that people agree on what they mean. And so...
RUMSFELD: The implication of your question is not correct. It's fairly typical when you get something and it's hot, you do a rough cut and then warn people. You say, "Look out, this is the first translation; we'll get you a more elegant one later."
But the other reason is, quite honestly, I don't read all that. You don't have to read it. That's not what we're here to do. We've got jobs, real jobs. You get up in the morning and you have things to do. It's a big department. And you've got thousands, hundreds and hundreds of people who do that, who get all those things. You have no idea the number of documents that are scooped up every day around the world and translated and looked at and analyzed. There isn't any reason in the world we should have those things in real time. That isn't what we do. There are people who are statutorily responsible for that.
QUESTION: After the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy said he was far less trusting of the intelligence that he got, both from his military and his intelligence advisers.
QUESTION: With the intelligence you're getting now, having seen the way the intelligence went for this war, do you look at it differently? Are you more cautious in the review that you would give it when you're looking at perhaps another conflict somewhere in the future? RUMSFELD: Gosh, I'm awful conservative and cautious normally, particularly if you're going to involve the lives of human beings. You just don't do that lightly.
And I began in this job cautious. I remain cautious and careful about it. And I also am realistic.
The fact of the matter is if you take that intelligence it was relatively uniform over a relatively long period of years over successive administrations in multiple countries. There were always footnotes or disagreements on items. There were also variances among people. But the bulk of it, as Director Tenet's remarks said, was relatively broadly agreed and not contested.
Is that possible again? Sure, it's possible again. And we're going to be better at it every day and we are better at it every day. And as we learn more going through this, I'm sure we'll be still better.
But is it ever going to be perfect? No. As Dick Myers says, it's just not the nature of this world. This is a tough place.
And the task is if that's so that you're going to be faced with imperfect knowledge, which you are, and you're faced with increasingly lethal threats, where is the threshold? How do you deal with that? And that's something that this country and other countries and societies are going to have to deal with.
The penalty for being wrong is, I believe I said -- I know I said -- several times before the Iraq war and before the Afghan war that there are clearly risks of acting but there are also risks of not acting. And one has to balance those. And that's the task of a president and a Congress and individual citizens to make those judgments. And they're tough ones.
Thanks a lot, folks.
PHILLIPS: What keeps him up at night? Military intelligence. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressing reporters there with chairman of joint chiefs of staff, Dick Myers. Our Barbara Starr asking that question, about is he concerned about the accuracy of military intelligence. Indeed, he is. And he's in support of the commission that has recently been formed to investigate how good intelligence, especially at this time as the war on terror continues.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com