U.S. Department of Defense[...]
September 25, 2001
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Q: Sir, is it correct that yesterday, you terminated efforts by the administration to start an information operations campaign related to this? And can you assure that there is no information operations campaign targeted at the news media?
Rumsfeld: Well, you can be certain there is no campaign targeted at the news media. If that's --
Q: Did you terminate an effort? Did you do that yesterday?
Rumsfeld: I had a meeting on the subject. And I was my normal self. I offered a few opinions about things. But no, I think that would be a misunderstanding of what took place. And there is no question but that the United States is, as you know, giving a great deal of thought to handling public affairs with respect to this. It has to be handled not just here but across the government. I have a proposal from Torie Clarke that I've looked over this morning for the first time, that I know is a result of a series of discussions she's had with you and with other people from outside the government who are in the media and who think about these things, and I suspect we'll have that available soon.
But what we do have to do as a government, needless to say, is make conscious decisions about what we say and what we don't say. And one of the things that it strikes me has always been a hallmark of the United States is the effort to achieve a reasonable degree of care in fashioning declaratory policy. And that means, what it is you say publicly that is designed to best characterize what it is you're about and what it is you'll accept and what it is you won't accept, and what it is you might do and what it is you might not do. And so thinking that through clearly is something that I am engaged in, as is the rest of the government.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could just follow up, will there be any circumstances, as you prosecute this campaign, in which anyone in the Department of Defense will be authorized to lie to the news media in order to increase the chances of success of a military operation or gain some other advantage over your adversaries?
Rumsfeld: Of course, this conjures up Winston Churchill's famous phrase when he said -- don't quote me on this, okay? I don't want to be quoted on this, so don't quote me. He said sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies -- talking about the invasion date and the invasion location. And indeed, they engaged not just in not talking about the date of the Normandy invasion or the location, whether it was to be Normandy Beach or just north off of Belgium, they actually engaged in a plan to confuse the Germans as to where it would happen. And they had a fake army under General Patton and one thing and another thing. That is a piece of history, and I bring it up just for the sake of background.
The answer to your question is, no, I cannot imagine a situation. I don't recall that I've ever lied to the press, I don't intend to, and it seems to me that there will not be reason for it. There are dozens of ways to avoid having to put yourself in a position where you're lying. And I don't do it. And Torie won't do it. And Admiral Quigley won't do it.
Q: That goes for everybody in the Department of Defense?
Rumsfeld: You've got to be kidding. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, no, I'm just asking.
Rumsfeld: Everybody in the Department of Defense. My golly. I don't even know everybody in the Department of Defense! (Laughter.)
Q: I'm just asking what the policy is. I'm not asking whether everybody's going to follow the policy.
Rumsfeld: The policy is that we will not say a word about anything that will compromise sources or methods. We will not say a word that will in any way endanger anyone's life by discussing operations. And anyone that does talk to any of you about that is breaking federal criminal law and should be in jail. And we won't do it.
Q: But when they do talk --
Rumsfeld: Responsible people won't do it. People who know anything won't do it. But that's a very different thing from coming out and actively telling a lie. That is not going to happen by this individual or by people who are representing me at this podium.
Q: Even if it would help you in the psychological operations?
Rumsfeld: I have already said that there are plenty of ways of avoiding being in that position. And I -- all I can say is -- I suppose you never say never, but all I can say is I cannot imagine a situation where we would be so unskillful that we would be in a position that we would have to do that to protect lives. And my fervent hope is that we will be able to manage our affairs in a way that that will never happen. And I am 69 years old, and I don't believe it's ever happened that I've lied to the press, and I don't intend to start now.