Rumsfeld Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Committee
Mr. Chairman, we will find out how and why this happened and ensure that those individuals determined to be responsible for these shameful and illegal acts of abuse are held accountable for their actions.
BROWNLEE: I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you today. I thank you and the members of this distinguished committee for your continuing support of the men and women in our Army, and I look forward to answering your questions.
WARNER: Secretary Brownlee, your statement is very helpful and a significant contribution to this hearing.
SCHOOMAKER: Chairman Warner, Senator Levin, distinguished members of the committee, I'll be brief. As the chief of staff of the Army, I am responsible for the training and equipping of our soldiers and growing our Army leaders.
I am also responsible for providing ready and relevant land power capabilities to the combatant commanders and the joint team.
Though not in the operational chain of command, I am responsible for our soldiers' training and readiness. Therefore I take it personally when any of them falls short of our standards.
To put it in perspective, what we are dealing with are actions of a few, as has been pointed out. These are conscious actions that are contrary to all that we stand for. This is not a training issue, but one of character and values.
Our Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are taught to our soldiers from the moment that they enter the training base.
There's no question that the potential consequences are serious. But we must not forget that these are a few among a great many others who are serving with great honor and sacrifice, as has been pointed out.
We must be careful how we proceed, as it will affect the morale and safety of the great majority of our soldiers who are meeting the standards and are daily placing themselves in harm's way. I promise you they, too, take this personally.
SCHOOMAKER: I am reminded that in the report by Major General Taguba, he spoke of several soldiers in units who were challenged by the same set of demanding circumstances at the same place, and they did what was right. The inexcusable behavior of a few is not representative of the courageous and compassionate performance of the overwhelming majority of our soldiers who served with pride and honor.
We are currently undergoing an extensive investigation of every allegation. The system works, and will result in fairness and justice. We will also learn and adapt.
Our Army has already taken corrective actions. Our soldiers are performing with distinction and I am proud of them all. We owe them our confidence.
Our Army is taking this very seriously and will meet the standards that our nation expects as we have for 229 years.
WARNER: Thank you, General.
That statement on leadership reflects your own strong record of leadership. And we're fortunate to have you at the helm of the United States Army today.
We'll proceed with questions now. And colleagues, recognizing that the full committee almost, less one, is present, today we'll have to cut the time to five minutes.
Mr. Secretary, I was particularly impressed by your phrase, "We're going to watch American democracy in action, as the president and all others address this problem swiftly in accordance with the rule of law and American values."
In the meantime, however, it's obvious to all of us that the impact of the facts of this case, as they're unfolding, are affecting our relationship with other nations, our foreign policy. So I ask you, what is that impact, as best you can assess it today?
WARNER: And secondly, will this impact of this situation affect in any way the transition that I and others support to take place on June 30th?
And will it have any impact on other nations in the coalition to consider their continued participation at this time and the chances of adding additional nations?
And lastly, does it have any impact on the force levels that you anticipate, together with your on-scene commanders of CENTCOM, in the near future?
RUMSFELD: Mr. Chairman, those are tough questions. I'm afraid no one has the ability to know precisely what will unfold.
We have seen no shift in coalition countries, in answer to your first question.
About future coalition countries, I think the key determinative there is whether or not we are successful in getting an additional U.N. resolution, in which case I think we will get additional countries to participate.
It certainly will not have any effect on the determination to have sovereign responsibility assumed by Iraqis by June 30.
And I would just say one other thing. We have been enormously disadvantaged by false allegations and lies for the better part of a year -- and indeed before that with respect to Afghanistan -- by terrorists and terrorist organizations alleging things that weren't true. So we have taken a beating in the world for things we were not doing that were alleged to be done, and now we're taking a beating, understandably, for things that did in fact happen.
WARNER: Thank you, sir.
MYERS: Mr. Chairman, if I could just add, I just returned from a NATO military committee meeting, and had the chance to talk to several of the countries that have major military units inside Iraq. They were very strong in every case about seeing this through and seemed undeterred by any of the recent events. They were looking forward, and we were talking about the future, and about their steadfastness in seeing this mission through.
WARNER: General, I direct my next question to you.
The Department of the Army has been in the forefront to come back and make the early response, as understandable, to this situation. But nevertheless, CENTCOM, as we all know, composed by officers -- men, women, of all branches of the services.
I would anticipate that you have consulted with your colleagues, not only on the Joint Chiefs but particularly in CENTCOM. And you are making, or have made and will continue to make, an assessment as to the possible increase to the men and women -- the personal increase to the men and women of the armed forces, most particularly in Iraq and perhaps elsewhere in the world, as this story continues to affect very deeply the thinking and actions of others.
MYERS: Mr. Chairman, absolutely, we will.
And we should not underestimate that impact. It was that impact of the pictures, given that the report was already reported -- given there was a report of pictures, but the actual pictures, possibly coming out on a news program that prompted my call to try to delay that, because I thought those pictures at that particular time would have a particularly bad affect on our troops, perhaps resulting in death to our forces.
MYERS: I think we have a lot of troops in Iraq right now, after talking to General Smith and others, that are probably walking with -- I mean, they're involved in combat, but they're walking with their head just a little bit lower right now, because they have to bear the brunt of what their colleagues up in Abu Ghraib did. And it's going to take, as General Schoomaker said, good leadership and everything else we can do to get them back up on the step, because they are engaged in some very, very important work.
I continue to think that the way we will -- as I said in my statement -- the way we'll win their trust will be soldier by soldier, patrol by patrol, like we're winning the war over there. And we're just going to have to stay at it.
WARNER: My time has expired.
LEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Rumsfeld, I was struck upon seeing one of the photographs from the prison, depicting three naked prisoners in a lump on the floor being overseen by a number of soldiers, while other soldiers in the cell block were assisting, or were going about their business without any apparent interest in or concern about the obvious abusive treatment, that the conduct that we were witnessing and watching was not aberrant conduct of a few individuals, but was part of an organized and conscious process to extract information.
This picture reinforces the Taguba report, which quotes Sergeant Davis as saying that he witnessed prisoners in the military intelligence hold section, Wing 1-A, being made to do various things that I would question morally.
LEVIN: And he quoted the military intelligence folks as saying that "Loosen a guy up for us," "Make sure he has a bad night," "Make sure he gets the treatment," and that the wing belonged to the military intelligence and it appeared that military intelligence personnel approved of the abuses.
Now, in the Taguba report itself, General Taguba says the following, and this is his finding: "that military intelligence interrogators and other U.S. government agency interrogators" -- which I assume includes CIA -- "actively requested that M.P. guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses," and that personnel assigned to the M.P. company and brigade were, quote, "directed to change facility procedures to set the conditions for military intelligence interrogations."
My question to you is: What were those changes that were made, and whether or not they were -- it was proper to make changes of the kind that General Taguba refers to?
RUMSFELD: The conclusions you seem to have drawn in your question, Senator Levin, are issues that I believe are probably all being addressed in an investigation that was initiated last month -- and I believe it's called the Fay.
Possibly you, General Smith, have been involved in this and would want to comment.
SMITH: Sir, there has been an investigation that was initiated in mid-April by Major General Fay. And it is to look into exactly those allegations as a result.
LEVIN: Secretary Rumsfeld, would you agree that people who authorized or suggested or prompted the conduct depicted in the pictures that we've seen as well, as those who carried out those abuses, must be held accountable? That anybody who authorized, knew about, prompted, suggested in the intelligence community or otherwise, that conduct must be held accountable? That's my very direct question to you.
RUMSFELD: The pictures I've seen depict conduct, behavior that is so brutal and so cruel and so inhumane that anyone engaged in it or involved in it would have to be brought to justice.
LEVIN: Would that include anybody who suggested it, prompted it, hinted at it, directly or indirectly? I just want to know how far up this chain you're going to go. Are you going to limit this to people who perpetrated it? Or are we going to get to the people who may have suggested it or...
RUMSFELD: That is exactly why the investigation was initiated, that is why it's being brought forward, and we'll find what their conclusions are. And I'm sure they will make recommendations with respect to prosecutions.
LEVIN: But in terms of the standard, does anybody who recommended or suggested, directly or indirectly, that conduct in order to extract information, are they also in your judgment, if that occurred, violative of our laws and standards?
RUMSFELD: Certainly anyone who recommended the kind of behavior that I have seen depicted in those photos needs to be brought to justice.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator.
LEVIN: My time is up. Thank you.
WARNER: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I come to this hearing with a deep sense of sorrow and grave concern. Sorrow for -- after the shock and anger of seeing these pictures for the first time, that so many brave young Americans who are fighting and dying are under this cloud.
I attended the memorial service of Pat Tillman, a brave American who sacrificed his life recently, and he and others, unfortunately, at least in some way are diminished by this scandal.
I'm gravely concerned that many Americans will have the same impulse as I did when I saw this picture, and that's to turn away from them. And we risk losing public support for this conflict. As Americans turned away from the Vietnam War, they may turn away from this one unless this issue is quickly resolved with full disclosure immediately.
With all due respect to investigations ongoing and panels being appointed, the American people deserve immediate and full disclosure of all relevant information so that we can be assured and comforted that something that we never believed could happen will never happen again.
Now, Mr. Secretary, I'd like to know -- I'd like you to give the committee the chain of command from the guards to you, all the way up the chain of command. I'd like to know...
RUMSFELD: I think General Myers brought an indication of it, and we'll show it.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
I'd like to know who was in charge of the -- what agencies or private contractors were in charge of interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were their instructions to the guards?
RUMSFELD: First, with respect to the...
SMITH: We did not bring it.
RUMSFELD: Oh, my.
SMITH: Yes, oh, my is right.
RUMSFELD: It was all prepared.
SMITH: Yes, it was, indeed.
RUMSFELD: Do you want to walk through it?
MCCAIN: Anyway, who was in charge? What agency or private contractor was in charge of the interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions that they gave to the guards?
SMITH: I'll walk through the chain of command and...
MCCAIN: No. Let's just -- you can submit the chain of command, please.
WARNER: General Smith, do you want to respond?
MCCAIN: No. Secretary Rumsfeld, in all due respect, you've got to answer this question. And it could be satisfied with a phone call. This is a pretty simple, straightforward question: Who was in charge of the interrogations? What agencies or private contractors were in charge of the interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions to the guards?
This goes to the heart of this matter.
RUMSFELD: It does indeed.
As I understand it, there were two contractor organizations. They supplied interrogators and linguists. And I was advised by General Smith that there were maybe a total of 40.
MCCAIN: Now, were they in charge of the interrogations?
SMITH: Thirty-seven interrogators, and...
WARNER: The witnesses voice are not being recorded. You'll have to speak into your microphone.
Would you repeat the conversation in response to the senator's question?
SMITH: Yes, sir. There were 37 interrogators that were...
MCCAIN: I'm asking who was in charge of the interrogations.
SMITH: They were not in charge. They were interrogators.
MCCAIN: My question is who was in charge of the interrogations?
SMITH: The brigade commander for the military intelligence brigade.
MCCAIN: And were they -- did he also have authority over the guards?
SMITH: Sir, he was -- he had tactical control over the guards, so he was...
MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary, you can't answer these questions?
RUMSFELD: I can. I'd be -- I thought the purpose of the question was to make sure we got an accurate presentation, and we have the expert here who was in the chain of command.
MCCAIN: I think these are fundamental questions to this issue.
MCCAIN: Were the instructions to the guards...
RUMSFELD: There's two sets of responsibilities, as your question suggests. One set is the people who have the responsibility for managing the detention process; they are not interrogators. The military intelligence people, as General Smith has indicated, were the people who were in charge of the interrogation part of the process.
And the responsibility, as I have reviewed the matter, shifted over a period of time and the general is capable of telling you when that responsibility shifted.
MCCAIN: What were the instructions to the guards?
RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that I have indicated has been undertaken...
MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary...
RUMSFELD: ... is determining...
MCCAIN: ... that's a very simple, straight-forward question.
RUMSFELD: Well, the -- as the chief of staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people. They're not trained to interrogate, they're not -- and their instructions are to, in the case of Iraq, adhere to the Geneva Convention.
The Geneva Conventions apply to all of the individuals there in one way or another. They apply to the prisoners of war, and they are written out and they're instructed and the people in the Army train them to that and the people in the Central Command have the responsibility of seeing that, in fact, their conduct is consistent with the Geneva Conventions.
The criminals in the same detention facility are handled under a different provision of the Geneva Convention -- I believe it's the fourth and the prior one's the third.
MCCAIN: So the guards were instructed to treat the prisoners, under some kind of changing authority as I understand it, according to the Geneva Conventions?
MCCAIN: I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator.
KENNEDY: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To the people in the Middle East, and too often today, the symbol of America is not the Statue of Liberty, it's the prisoner standing on a box wearing a dark cape and a dark hood on his head, wires attached to his body, afraid that he's going to be electrocuted.
These incidents of torture and abuse resulted in a catastrophic crisis of credibility for our nation.
Now, since the beginning of the war, the International Committee of the Red Cross provided the Pentagon officials with reports of abuses at this prison, saying that some of them were tantamount to torture. They issued serious complaints during an inspection of the prison in October of 2003 and at several other times.
The State Department and the Coalition Provisional Authority appealed to you to stop the mistreatment of the military detainees. Secretary Powell raised this issue at Cabinet meeting and elsewhere, pleading with officials from your department, Mr. Secretary, to see that detainees were properly cared for and treated, and your department failed to act.
The military leadership put the troops in charge of the prison who weren't trained to do the job, and they assigned far too prisoners (sic) to the prison than were required to do the job right, and they relied on the civilian contractors to perform military duties, as I understand, including the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners.
And as Senator Levin pointed out, the top-level Defense officials directed guards at the prison to set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of the detainees, a decision that directly resulted in the abuses.
And the military leadership failed to respond in a systematic way even after it initiated the 35 criminal investigations into alleged mistreatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, 25 of these investigations involving a death.
KENNEDY: I know that Secretary Brownlee referred to this.
In particular, in December of 2002, military doctors at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan ruled that two Afghan men in U.S. custody died from blunt force injuries. No one in the military has been held accountable for those homicides.
You and your senior leadership have shown, I believe, a disregard for the protection of the Geneva Conventions in detainee operations. In January, 2002, you were asked why you believe the Geneva Conventions do not apply to detainees in Guantanamo. You replied that you did not have the slightest concern about their treatment, in light of what has occurred in 9/11.
According to the New York Times, you have known about the graphic photographs, evidence of abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison since mid- January. You told President Bush about these reports of abuse shortly thereafter. And yet, rather than work with Congress to deal with the problem together, you and other top Defense Department officials have apparently spent the last three weeks in preparing the public relations plan.
Can you tell us what exactly did you tell the president about these reports of abuse in late January, and what did he say, and what did you do about it, and why month after month after month had to pass before anything has happened and then we find out that the pictures came out and that the president is indeed angry?
RUMSFELD: First, Senator Kennedy, your statement that other agencies of government were concerned about detainees and the Department of Defense failed to act is simply not correct.
KENNEDY: This wasn't brought to your attention by the secretary of the State Department?
RUMSFELD: I'll respond. I did not say that. I said your statement that the Department of Defense...
KENNEDY: Well, it was brought to you then by the State Department. We don't want to parse words.
KENNEDY: Was this brought to you by the State Department? I mentioned Secretary Powell. Question is whether this was brought to you and when did you know. When did you know it?
You gave us a laundry list in your presentation about the timeline on it. I'm trying to find out, because it has been published, that you were notified about this a series of times and advised to do something about it and nothing was done.
RUMSFELD: It's not correct to say "Nothing was done." You're making a set of conclusions that are just simply not accurate.
We've had numerous discussions, interagency, on detainees. All in all, there have been some 43,000 people who were captured or detained in Iraq, of whom 31,850 have already been released. That is a big task for the Army to undertake. The...
KENNEDY: Can I...
RUMSFELD: ... the actions of the ICRC -- you said they came in and indicated concerns about the Abu Ghraib prison. That's correct. And the prison officials began the process of making corrections and the general's report -- Taguba -- found that a number of those things were already under way, in terms of corrections. And when he made his study, a number of additional things and corrections were made.
So it seems to me that the ICRC report was helpful, and that the military command, as I understand it, undertook a series of corrections.
Now, with respect to when were we knowledgeable of this, the situation was this: Specialist Darby told the CID that he had information about abuses in the prison. I believe it was on the 13th or 14th of January.
RUMSFELD: By the 15th or 16th, an investigation had been initiated. And the Central Command public affairs people went out and told the world -- they told everyone in the world that there were allegations of abuse and they were being investigated.
Again, by mid-March, when some criminal -- I don't know the legal term but -- some criminal actions were initiated, the Central Command's public affairs people went out again and announced that not only were there allegations of abuses but they listed the types of abuses. And then this is to the world. Everyone knew it. CNN was there asking questions.
And that is the time frame when General Myers and I were meeting with the president and discussed the reports that we had obviously heard because they weren't hiding anything. They disclosed it to the world.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator.
ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I mean in no way to diminish the seriousness of what has occurred here, but it seems very clear to me that the task before Congress is to determine whether or not these abuses are a result of flaws in the system or if this was a matter, as has been indicated, of individuals that simply broke the rules.
With that in mind, I'd like to know, Mr. Secretary, were any of the abuses that occurred in Iraq encouraged, condoned or committed by Department of Defense regulations or policy? Were any local or unit level policies in effect that would have encouraged or condoned or permitted these abuses?
RUMSFELD: Certainly not to my knowledge. And when one looks at the abuses and the cruelty, the idea that you would have regulations that would permit or condone or encourage that type of thing is just not comprehensible.
And General Smith is the deputy Central Command under General Abizaid, and he is responsible for the management of the guidance and instructions and can respond if you'd like.
ROBERTS: No, I think you've answered the question at least to the degree that I want it answered right now. I want to move on.
I do have the privilege of being the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Three days ago we had a hearing. We had the military intelligence representatives there. We had the CIA there. They indicated that at that particular time they did not know -- had no evidence of any direction on the part of intelligence personnel at this prison suggesting that they commit these abuses at the behest of the military interrogators who asked the military police to, quote, "soften up" the detainees to prepare them for the interrogation.
This, sort of, gets back to the opening statement by Senator Levin and the question by Senator McCain.
Let me remind everybody that as we speak, we have men and women in uniform engaged in combat in Najaf and basically when we interrogate people it is to find out from the prisoners, in terms of force protection and in terms of the mission in Iraq, precisely what's going on. It's a very, very important mission.
I said at the time, at that hearing -- it was a closed hearing -- but I said at the time I would be stunned -- and I've said it to the press -- that anybody in military intelligence that would condone these kind of activities. This criteria is ingrained in terms of their training. It's black and white.
And so my question to you, and I think it's going to result on the Fay report here: Is there any truth to the allegations made in the press and some of the accused military police that they did commit these abuses at the behest of the military interrogators?
RUMSFELD: I've read the same allegations, comments that you have. That is what the criminal investigations are looking at, among other things. And we will at an early date know what the answers are to those questions.
ROBERTS: Can you give me, sort of, a time frame when the Fay report will be completed?
SMITH: Sir, it should be completed in the next couple of weeks if he does not ask for an extension. Part of the problem is that unit has redeployed back to Germany and so there's traveling back and forth engaged.
ROBERTS: And that would help answer the question that was asked by Senator McCain as to actually who was in charge of that prison?
And I put the "in charge" in quotes. You had the intelligence and then you also had the M.P.s in terms of the maintenance of the unit. And then it seems to me that there's another command that you mentioned, oh, in terms of the contractors.
I think Senator McCain's question is right on: Who was really in charge? And I think you have a tri-part system here. Is that being fixed? Will that be recommended by the Fay report?
SMITH: Sir, that's already been fixed with the appointment of Major General Jeff Miller as the central...
ROBERTS: And he's the person that straightened out GITMO down in Cuba.
SMITH: Sir, and he is there doing that right now. He's been there since the middle of April.
ROBERTS: I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: Thank you very much.
BYRD: Thank you for calling this timely, very important hearing.
I apologize for my voice. I've been struggling with a bout of laryngitis.
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