Defense Department News Briefing
Secretary Rumsfeld and General PaceTuesday, January 22, 2002
Q: Mr. Secretary, since you want to clear the air about the detainees, one of the things that seems to have aroused public opinion and the parliamentarians from Britain was this photograph that was released that showed the detainees kneeling with their hands bound behind their backs.
Rumsfeld: That's right. Yeah.
Q: Could you just explain what that photograph --
Rumsfeld: I will, to the best of my ability. It's probably unfortunate that it was released. It's the tension between wanting to meet the desires of the press to know more and the public to know more.
And what that was, I am told, is not a detention area, that is a corridor or a walk-through area that came -- my understanding is -- goes something like this. When they're on the airplane, they wear earpieces because of the noise. You've ridden on these airplanes; they're combat aircraft, and we've all worn earpieces. That's no big deal. There were a number who had tested -- they were worried about tuberculosis, so in a number of instances they were given masks for the protection of other detainees and for the protection of the guards.
They come out of an airplane and the back lowers and they walk out. And then they loaded them into, I believe, buses and they took them down to a ferry. And they were still restrained, their hands and their feet restrained because of the dangers that occur during a period of movement. They put them on a ferry, if I'm not mistaken, and the ferry takes them across to the other side of the Guantanamo Bay. They get off of the ferry and they get into some -- something that then transports them to the detention area. They get out of that vehicle, and in relatively small numbers are moved into this corridor that is a fenced area.
And they are asked to get down on the ground. They get down on the ground. And they take off their ear pieces, they take off their masks, they do whatever they do with them before taking them in small numbers into the cells, where they then would be located, at which point the -- they are no longer in transit, and therefore, they are no longer restrained the way they were.
What happened was, someone took a picture -- and we released it, apparently -- of them in that corridor, kneeling down while their head pieces are being taken off, and people made a whole -- drew a whole lot of conclusions about how terrible that was that they're being held in that corridor. Now, you know, if you want to think the worst about things, you can. If people want to ask questions and find out what is reasonably happening, it seems to me not a -- an unreasonable thing, when you're moving them from the vehicle they're in, in towards their cells, to have them stop in some area prior to that and do what you do to get them in a circumstance that's more appropriate for being in a cell than how they were arranged in the buses, the ferries and the airplanes.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld --
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: And I think you're quite right; I think that a lot of people saw that and said, "My goodness. They're being forced to kneel," which is not true.
Q: But just a point --
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said it was unfortunate that that photograph was released. I would just argue that it was unfortunate that it wasn't released with more information.
Rumsfeld: Maybe. Yeah. That's fair.
Q: The lesson here ought not to be --
Rumsfeld: I mean, I'm not blaming anyone for releasing it, but --
Q: -- less information or withholding photographs, but simply releasing more information --
Rumsfeld: Fair enough.
Q: -- so we can make better judgments.
Q: And Mr. Secretary, would it be more beneficial to provide more open access to the media to allow the media to see for itself how these prisoners are being treated, to convey that information? You've spent now nearly an hour trying to explain what's going on there, when over the past couple of weeks, if the media would've had more open access, the stories that you're telling today would have been, perhaps, better told over the past couple of weeks.
Rumsfeld: You mean the facts that I'm presenting --
Rumsfeld: -- as opposed -- (laughter) --
Q: As facts that --
Rumsfeld: I thought that's what you meant.
Q: Actually, they could say it to you, because you, yourself, have not been there yourself.
Rumsfeld: That's right.
Q: So, do you think it would be more beneficial if there were more open access?
Rumsfeld: Aren't there a lot of people down there?
Q: Well, but they're not allowed any access or any -- any access to the detention facilities themselves --
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: Let me just try and do this, and then I'll come back, Andrea.
My recollection is that there's something in the Geneva Conventions about press people being around prisoners; that -- and not taking pictures and not saying who they are and not exposing them to ridicule, which is the genesis, as I understand it, of the convention requirement. So I don't know what the rules are, but my impression is there are an awful lot of people who have been -- press people who have been to Guantanamo, who have seen the facilities, and I don't know that a single one who's been there has seen a single thing that was inhumane.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you -
Q: If I can just --
Rumsfeld: All the reports about all of these problems are coming from people who have not been there, not from the press who were down there, that I've seen -- or at least the press that are inside the area.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Yes, Andrea.
Q: I just returned from there.
Rumsfeld: Did you? Good.
Q: Yes. But we couldn't get closer than about 150 yards away, and even with binoculars it was very hard to see from outside what was going on. And I understand the rules about photography, but --
Rumsfeld: Wasn't I roughly right? Not just photography --
Q: I mean, all we could see was -- if they weren't wearing orange, we would not have been able to see anything, pick out anything. And wouldn't it be -- I mean, if we could have gotten closer to them, we could actually see, not with pictures, but that the reporters could have actually seen close up what those -- what that compound looked like, because we were really too far away, and we only were there for a couple of hours, and the rest of the time, reporters are kept on the other side of the bay, you know, basically penned up ourselves, not able to see. So, I mean --
Rumsfeld: Oh, now that will be a news story! (Laughter.) Why don't you stand up, Andrea, and clean up what you just said! Let the record show she was loose with her language! (laughter)
Q: It could raise your approval rating!
Q: I mean, is it possible to get reporters closer, still being underneath, you know, the Geneva Conventions?
Rumsfeld: I don't -- I don't know. I just don't know the answer.
Q: Can you look into it?
Rumsfeld: Yeah, we will look into it.
(To staff) Dick.
(returning) My recollection is that getting reporters, with or without cameras, in close proximity with prisoners is considered not fair or right with respect to the prisoners -- from the prisoners' standpoint -- not from my standpoint, but from prisoner's standpoint, under the conventions.