Department of Defense Press Briefing
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, JCS
December 3, 2002
[excerpts on CIA, Yemen attack]
Q: There's a press report today that says that the CIA has turned over to the Pentagon some nearly 100 examples or documents indicating varying degrees of cooperation and support from Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda. First of all, is that true? And if it's true, what does that say about Iraq's support for al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: This has been an interesting subject for the press. Everyone's had a big time with it. And, the only time I've ever opined on the subject was when one day I said to the CIA, "Gee, folks, why don't you give me an -- I keep getting asked this question -- why don't you give me an unclassified piece of paper?" And I brought it down here and I read it. And for weeks afterward, I was accused of having a different opinion from the Central Intelligence Agency or for drawing connections, some sort of connection. And this was repeated in the Senate, and repeated in the House, and repeated in the press. And I really had a minimum of high regard for the way the whole thing was handled. So, I've decided that I'm not going to go asking for an unclassified piece of paper. I don't need it. You need it. (Laughter.) So, what I do is I read the classified. I know what's going on. And I'm perfectly happy, and I don't need to go through that again. (Laughter.) Pam. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, did the CIA present nearly a hundred examples of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: You didn't hear me. (Laughs.) I'm not going to get into it.
Q: I'm speechless. (Laughter.) Just, you know, by way of editorial comment, there is at least an ideal that we lean towards, which is giving the people what they need to know.
Q: So that's
Rumsfeld: I lean far in that direction.
Q: Yeah -- well, not so much right now. (Laughter.) My question is actually on a different subject. And we haven't had a chance to talk about it, and I'd appreciate it if we could just sort of go back and forth a little bit on what happened in Yemen when another agency used a weapons system to assassinate or to kill an al Qaeda -- (laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Charlie, she's right in your league. (Laughter.) Yeah, you're the guy. Summary executions?
Q: I think it's very important, and we need to talk about this. Could you explain -- it's sort of a two-pronged question -- why that was not a DOD operation; why it was decided that that's what -- was it because he was a target of opportunity and that something needed to be done right then; why he was not arrested and interrogated? And could you, given the presence -- the military presence that we now have off the coast of the Horn of Africa and renewed al Qaeda activity, it seems, in that area, explain what the DOD policy is with regard to taking lethal action in countries? Is it only at the request or permission of the government, or is it only in places -- and/or is it only in places where there is no sovereign government in existence?
Rumsfeld: Those are very good questions.
Q: Thank you.
Rumsfeld: And I happen also to agree with you that a discussion of them at some point would be -
Q: I take it that would be not now? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: The -- let me think how I can say this. Let's start with the beginning. I don't really like to talk about what other countries do or don't do. I really believe that it is in our country's interest to let them do that. Every country has different sensitivities. So about half of your questions -
Q: Well, I'm asking what the DOD policy is.
Rumsfeld: I'm working my way over to figuring out how I won't answer that. (Laughter.)
Q: Then this whole right-to-know thing is rearing its ugly head.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. You don't know that I was one of the authors of the Freedom of Information Act. Do you know that? Did you know that?
Q: (Off mike) -- know that. (Off mike) -- more about it.
Rumsfeld: Yeah, back in the 1960s -
Q: That's why it doesn't work.
Rumsfeld: Oh! (Laughs.) Oh! (Cross talk, laughter, groans.) I really was. I was one of the co-authors of that legislation. So DOD policy is -- and I'd like to say full stop on the question you asked and just go over and talk about generically DOD policy. DOD policy is what you all know it to be. There is really no mystery to it. We recruit, organize, train, equip and deploy young men and women, in uniform, to go out and serve as members of our military. They are not trained to do the word you used, which I won't even repeat. That is not what they're trained to do. They are trained to serve the country and to contribute to peace and stability in the world, and they do it in a whole host of different ways. But they -- but their task is, in almost every instance, something that is either public at the time, or public shortly thereafter. It's not mysterious. It -- I don't know how else I could answer it other than that. I mean, you all are professionals; you know what we do. You talk to people. You are embedded with them in deployments; you see how they behave. You know they're the people who come out of our high schools and our colleges. They're -
Q: The question on the policy actually dovetails very directly into the Yemen mission and might shed some light or two why that wasn't a DOD mission. That's why I related the two together. So maybe you could talk specifically about the Yemen mission and why it was not a DOD operation.
Rumsfeld: I don't even concede there was a Yemen mission.
Q: There are six dead people. I mean, something happened there and -
Rumsfeld: I -- I'm -- I've said what I've said, that is -- that is it is up for others to comment on anything they want to comment on, but I don't comment on things we're not involved in, and I don't comment about things that other countries -- happen to other countries.