Rumsfeld Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Committee
I share your outrage over the atrocities that have emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison. I believe Congress has a responsibility to demand a public accounting and a public explanation from the leadership of the Defense Department.
I fear this is only the beginning of a long and painful process. And I am glad that you have taken the first steps to begin the necessary public examination of the massive policy failure that led to this catastrophe.
Among the many aspects of this situation that are so troubling to me is why the president and his advisers are only now publicly condemning the prisoner abuses in Iraq when apparently the Defense Department had known about them for months.
BYRD: I do not recall hearing a peep out of either of you, Secretary Rumsfeld or General Myers, about this before CBS broke the silence. Why did it take the televised broadcast of graphic photos of prisoner abuse, a broadcast General Myers has acknowledged he tried to suppress, to galvanize the leadership of the Defense Department to express its outrage over the situation?
Why was a report that described sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses by American soldiers left to languish on a shelf in the Pentagon unread by the top leadership until the media revealed it to the world?
Why wasn't Congress apprised of the findings of this report from the Defense Department instead of from CBS News?
Mr. Secretary, it was President Truman who was said to have displayed the famous sign on his desk: The buck stops here. I served with President Truman. He was an honorable man. He did not shirk his responsibility.
I see a very different pattern in this administration. I see arrogance and a disdain for Congress. I see misplaced bravado and an unwillingness to admit mistakes. I see finger-pointing and excuses.
Given the catastrophic impact that this scandal has had on the world community, how can the United States ever repair its credibility?
BYRD: How are we supposed to convince not only the Iraqi people, but also the rest of the world that America is indeed a liberator, and not a conqueror, not an arrogant power? Is the presidential apology to the king of Jordan sufficient?
I ask you that question.
RUMSFELD: Senator, the facts are somewhat different than that. The story was broken by the Central Command, by the United States Department of Defense, in Baghdad. General Kimmitt stood up in January and announced that there were allegations of abuses and that they were being investigated. He then briefed reporters. And I think it was March 20 -- there's a timeline up here. By March 20, he went back out again and said that these had been filed.
The idea that this is a story that was broken by the media is simply not the fact. This was presented by the Central Command to the world so that they would be aware of the fact that these have been filed.
What was not known is that a classified report with photographs would be given to the press before it arrived in the Pentagon.
BYRD: Mr. Secretary, we'll put my timeline in the record and compare it with yours. My question is: Is the presidential apology to the king of Jordan sufficient?
RUMSFELD: Senator, I guess that's for the president and the Congress and others to decide.
There have been many apologies. There have been apologies by every person at this table today. Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.
BYRD: Have you read the...
RUMSFELD: The report that we're talking about is sitting over -- right there on the floor. And it is, I don't know -- what? -- two feet high. There is a...
BYRD: Did you read it?
RUMSFELD: I read the executive summary, which is 50 to 75 pages, and I looked at some of the annexes and appendices and references. I had been briefed on it in full and as have the people at this table. And you can be certain of that.
BYRD: The Red Cross claims that it made reports of prison abuse in Iraq throughout 2003. I understand that those reports are confidential by mutual agreement. Secretary Rumsfeld, how do we know that there isn't a broader problem here?
We've heard reports of prisoner abuse from more than just the Abu Ghraib prison. Will you ask the Red Cross to waive its confidentiality agreement on those reports and make public all the pertinent reports on U.S. military-run prison facilities including those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere?
RUMSFELD: We would certainly be happy to provide the committee with all the reports that we have.
I think the issue of the International Committee of the Red Cross allowing one of their reports to be made public is an issue for them, because they worry that they will not be told the truth when they go into countries where there are dictatorships and where people are systematically punished and tortured. And people do not want to talk to them if the ICRC gets a reputation for making their reports public.
So we will be happy to give you our reports on a confidential basis that is respectful of the International Committee of the Red Cross's stipulation.
BYRD: I must conclude...
WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.
BYRD: ... with all due respect to you, the matter is far deeper than that.
BYRD: The American people need to know what's in those reports. And when the Red Cross surprises the Defense Department with those reports, Congress should have that material.
RUMSFELD: We'd be happy to give it to you.
BYRD: Very well. Thank you.
WARNER: Senator Allard?
ALLARD: Mr. Chairman, first of all I want to thank you for holding this committee hearing and I know there was some discussion about the format and everything, but I think it's the right thing to do to have this as an open hearing.
And I want to also thank the panel for agreeing to come here and testify before us in an open hearing. You know, that's the strength of America, is that we're willing to come out in a public manner and talk about our strengths and weaknesses and lay out, you know, how we're going to deal with those.
And so as somebody who has participated in this, I think that we are sending a good message to the world that we are open, that we are not a perfect people but we do our best. And I just want to make that in before I asked any questions.
The thing that I heard in your testimony, Mr. Secretary, and I think it needs to be elaborated on, is this issue of command influence. And I know that as the facts become evident that prosecutors of misconduct in the military have a real concern about command influence.
And I wish if you would elaborate more on that, or maybe some other panel members might elaborate on that and how that might affect the case or prosecution. You mentioned you had six courts-martial, I believe, and I wondered if you would share that with the committee.
RUMSFELD: We are continuously advised by lawyers, counsels, that there's two issues that create a tension. One is the importance of having integrity to the criminal prosecution process.
RUMSFELD: And that people in the chain of command that conceivably over time would be called upon to make a judgment about the decisions at the lower levels do not inject themselves into that process early or in a way that would lead people to believe that their comments were influencing the outcome of some of those criminal decisions or other decisions.
Therefore people in the chain are in a difficult position. To the extent we have a discussion like this, about what's taken place, we can be certain that the defense counsels for these people who are being accused, and are going to be criminally prosecuted, will say that these hearings and this discussion had an influence on the case.
And the other side of the coin that's equally important -- we don't want to have that be the case, and that's why we're being careful in what we say. The other side of the coin is that we don't someone's rights to be infringed upon, someone who is a defendant and may be innocent. And a process could lead to a situation where their rights could not be fully protected. So we do have to be careful.
ALLARD: Now, the six courts-martial now, do you anticipate there will be more courts-martial, and have any of those in command been indicted?
RUMSFELD: I checked, and last year, we had something like 18,000 criminal investigations opened, and we ended up with 3,000 courts- martial.
So at any given time, and with a large organization like the Department of Defense, there's always something happening.
There's no way in the world I could anticipate. But the investigations are open, the investigators are determined, and to the extent they find information that leads them to believe that a court- martial is indicated, or nonjudicial punishment of other types, they certainly will do so.
RUMSFELD: They understand the gravity of this.
ALLARD: Now, a number of months ago -- I want to just follow up on the Red Cross report. Now, were they given full access? And what main issues did that report raise?
RUMSFELD: I have the report somewhere here and I'd be happy to let you see it. I'm reluctant to start discussing it, but I can say what I said.
They found a number of things that they were concerned about, as they always do. And it's helpful, I must say. The people then began to read it and agree or disagree and make the changes, and they did.
And when General Taguba came in and made his report, he indicated that a number of the issues that had been raised last year by the ICRC had, in fact, been corrected by the command structure between the time that they were observed by the ICRC and the time that General Taguba's team arrived on the scene.
ALLARD: Mr. Chairman, my time's expired.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator. Thank you very much.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, the behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge, immoral, intolerable and un-American. It deserves the apology that you have given today and that have been given by others in high positions in our government and our military.
I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized.
LIEBERMAN: And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody.
So it's part of -- wrongs occurred here, by the people in those pictures and perhaps by people up the chain of command.
But Americans are different. That's why we're outraged by this. That's why the apologies were due.
And that's why I hope as we go about this investigation, we do it in a way that does not dishonor the hundreds of thousands of Americans in uniform who are a lot more like Pat Tillman and Americans that are not know, like Army National Guard Sergeant Felix Del Greco of Simsbury, Connecticut, who was killed in action a few weeks ago; that we not dishonor their service or discredit the cause that brought us to send them to Iraq, because it remains one that is just and necessary.
We've got to get to the whole truth here, and nothing but the truth. We can't be defensive. We've got to be aggressive about it. And as Senator McCain said, we've got to do it quickly so that we and you and most of all our soldiers can get back to fighting and winning the war on terrorism with determination.
As far as I'm concerned, we do have to know how this happened. And we have to know it so we can stop it from happening ever again.
You've said that the behavior of those soldiers was fundamentally un-American. I agree with you. And this goes way back to the first American declaration, the Declaration of Independence, where we said that every human being has those rights as an endowment of our creator.
That even goes to human beings who have been apprehended by our military as they have been in Iraq because they are suspected of being part of the terrorists, of the jihadists, of the foreign fighters, of the Saddam loyalists who are killing Americans and Iraqis every day.
LIEBERMAN: We know that people are flawed. And that's why we believe in the rule of law, to try to make this better and punish those who fall below appropriate humane standards.
In that regard, it seems to me when it comes to the treatment of prisoners and detainees and conditions of combat, the Geneva Convention adopted by the United States as the law of the land, and that has been implemented by U.S. Army Regulation 190-8.
You made some controversial statements early on, after Afghanistan, that said, "The Geneva Convention was not relevant here" -- that "By-in-large -- and I'm quoting -- "generally, American military interrogators of prison guards would try to carry out the rights of prisoners and detainees according to the Geneva Convention."
But I want to ask you today, as you look back to that, do you think you were right? Did anything replace the rules of the Geneva Convention or Army Regulation 190-8? And if not, why not?
RUMSFELD: Senator, the president of the United States made a determination in early 2002 that the Geneva Convention provisions did not apply to our conflict with Al Qaida although he concluded the Geneva Conventions did apply to the conflict with Taliban. That was a decision by the president.
He determined the Taliban detainees did not qualify as prisoners of war under the third Geneva Convention criteria for prisoners of war. He also made clear that it was and will continue to be the policy to treat detainees humanely, and in a manner that was consistent with the Geneva Conventions. So these people were treated consistent to the Geneva Conventions.
RUMSFELD: But he made a distinction with respect to Al Qaida and...
LIEBERMAN: Are these detainees, do you assume, members of Al Qaida -- that is, the thousands that have been held in Iraq? Or are they in another status?
RUMSFELD: Oh no, the president announced from the outset that everyone in Iraq who was a military person and was detained is a prisoner of war, and therefore the Geneva Conventions apply.
And second, the decision was made that the civilians or criminal elements that are detainees are also treated subject to the Geneva Convention, although it's a different element of it. I think it's the 4th instead of the 3rd.
LIEBERMAN: I appreciate the clarification, because I was not aware of that; that you would say that all those held in prison, including those who were abused here, had the rights of prisoners of war...
LIEBERMAN: ... under the Geneva Convention.
RUMSFELD: Absolutely. That's true...
LIEBERMAN: And therefore the fault clearly was that those we've seen, and hopefully not others, were not either properly trained, properly disciplined or in any case not observing the law of the United States of America with regard to the rights of prisoners of war.
MYERS: If I may, I think that's exactly right. It's abhorrent behavior.
The Taguba report, if you recall, looked at four installations where the 800th M.P. Brigade had operations. They found abuse in one, and that's Abu Ghraib. They found abuse in one.
LIEBERMAN: My time's up. Thank you.
RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
WARNER: Senator Sessions?
SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
These are indeed actions that go against the very core values of America. I want to say, however, that I believe the military responded properly immediately. And I want to join with Senator Lieberman's courageous comments and strong comments about how we do not need to dishonor the soldiers out there this very day, at risk of their lives, with holding firing weapons, being in hostile situations, taking chances with their own lives, to protect the people of Iraq.
SESSIONS: And yes, this is a serious problem, and we need to do something about it. And those who dishonored -- those soldiers need to be punished.
But I feel strongly that the military deserves a lot of credit here. And I want to go over this chart, General Myers, that you have there.
First, I want to say to Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you for your leadership, and all of you there.
And yes, you have some complainers in the Congress, but we voted to send our soldiers to this effort. Nobody else authorized you to go; we voted to support it.
And I would also note that terrorists aren't happy with you either. I saw they put a $15 million bounty on your head, along with General Kimmitt and General Sanchez. And I thank you for that service.
MYERS: Senator Sessions, do you want me to go through that...
SESSIONS: Yes, I'd just like to ask you a little bit about it because our time is short.
But as I see back in August of last year, you appointed an assessment team. Is that right? Long before this occurred.
MYERS: Right. As I said in my opening statement, I think we ought to have a lot of confidence in our military leadership, handling the detention situation in Iraq.
It was on 11 August that General Sanchez was worried about detention and interrogation ops, and that resulted in General Ryder going over there and submitting a report.
We, kind of, pushed General Miller on him in August of '03, to look -- because he was so successful in Guantanamo, look at our detention operations to make sure we're doing it right. And that we're also -- that it's well-connected, that the intel is getting to the analysts and so forth, so we can win this...
SESSIONS: Now, was this in response to any immediate complaints, or was it on your own initiative?
MYERS: That was our own initiative...
SESSIONS: Go ahead.
MYERS: ... and that was a discussion between the secretary and myself and our staff.
The abuse, you can see when it took place. When we were told of the abuse was 13 January '04.
MYERS: The next day, the Army, their police, the Criminal Investigative Division, went on that particular case. We talked about the press.
SESSIONS: No, let's slow down. On January 14th, you started a criminal investigation based on the complaint of one soldier. And on January 16th, Major General Kimmitt briefed the world about the investigation commencing. Is that correct?
MYERS: Right. And he talked about abuse. And as I remember, he said there may be pictures involved with this abuse as well.
And then it was three days later where General Sanchez, based on that criminal investigation that he had started, that he asked for an investigating officer -- turned out to be Taguba -- to look at this M.P. brigade that was responsible for detention operations in Abu Ghraib and those three other locations.
It's important to point out as we go through it, and I had it in my opening statement, and I know we need to do things quickly and full disclosure and everything, but this 15-6 report, is what's called in the Army, the Taguba report, can result in administrative action such relief from command and other administrative admonishments to military personnel. So it has to be very, very thorough.
And that's why you'll see it was started and requested in 16 January. It was not approved by General Sanchez until 1 May, and the reason it isn't is because, as you go through the various chains, the people that are implicated in wrongdoing have a chance to look at the report and rebuttal the report. And that's part of this process that I think we owe it to our troops to uphold.
SESSIONS: But, General Myers, on January 18th, according to that chart, the 320th M.P. Battalion had leadership suspended, is that correct?
MYERS: That's correct.
SESSIONS: In other words, that's a pretty dramatic action to take, is it not?
MYERS: It is. It is but the first look by the Army CID I think gave him the indications that things aren't right.
SESSIONS: Now, this wasn't by any pressure from the media or anyone else, this was the military's own decision that their high standards had been violated and that strong actions...
MYERS: General Abizaid, General Sanchez and his folks, absolutely.
SESSIONS: And I know some in this committee have complained when you took strong action against a brigade commander publicly that he fired a weapon as part of an interrogation effort; fine record. You took strong action on that case. And some of us in Congress complained you were too tough.
MYERS: The standards are the standards.
WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.
We thank you for your service, all of you.
REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me begin by stating the obvious. For the next 50 years in the Islamic world and many other parts of the world, the image of the United States will be that of an American dragging a prostrate naked Iraqi across the floor on a leash. This is unfair to the honor and the courage of our soldiers, but unfortunately I think it's become a fact. This is a disaster.
Mr. Secretary, let me follow up on your proposed commission. As I understand your comments, this commission or this group of people will not have the authority to call witnesses to obtain material independent of your investigation. They'll simply review what you're doing.
RUMSFELD: We will be happy to give you a copy of the draft charge to the individuals. They will have, I can assure you, the absolute, full cooperation of the Department of Defense.
REED: Will they have the opportunity to call individuals to testify?
REED: Thank you.
RUMSFELD: I wouldn't use the word testify. But certainly they can call individuals.
REED: Mr. Secretary, the Taguba report indicated the principal focus of Major General Miller's team was on the strategic interrogation of detainees, internees in Iraq. Among its conclusion and its executive summary where that CJTF-7 did not have authorities or procedures in place to affect the unified strategy to detain, interrogate and report information from the detainees-internees in Iraq.
REED: The executive summary also stated that detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation -- an enabler for interrogation.
When General Miller was involved with Guantanamo DOD operations in another theater, he was sent to Iraq -- I don't think major generals in the United States Army make up policies about strategic interrogation of detainees unless they've coordinated and communicated to higher headquarters.
Did you ever see, approve or encourage this policy of enabling for interrogation? Did Secretary Cambone ever see, approve or encourage this policy at either facility?
RUMSFELD: I don't recall that that policy came to me for approval. I think that what we knew from the beginning, since September 11th, is that we had three issues with respect to people that were detained.
One issue was to get them off the street, so they can't kill again more innocent men, women and children, and keep them off. A second was the question of criminal prosecution for wrongdoing. And the third was to interrogate and see if additional information could be found that could prevent future terrorist acts against our country or our forces or our friends and allies.
So all of those things have been part since the beginning. They're different functions, as you point out...
REED: Is that Secretary Cambone's view too? Did he either see, approve or encourage? He's behind you. Can he respond?
RUMSFELD: Sure he can respond.
CAMBONE: Sir, the...
WARNER: Would you identify yourself for the record. please?
CAMBONE: Yes, sir. My name is Steve Cambone. I'm the undersecretary for intelligence, Senator.
The original effort by the major general was done down with respect to Guantanamo and had to do with in fact whether or not we had the proper arrangement in the facilities in order to be able to gain the kind of intelligence we were looking from those prisoners in Guantanamo.
CAMBONE: We had then in Iraq a large body of people who had been captured on the battlefield that we had to gain intelligence from for force protection purposes, and he was asked to go over, at my encouragement, to take a look at the situation as it existed there. And he made his recommendations. His recommendations were that.
REED: Were the recommendations made to you, Mr. Secretary? Did you approve them?
CAMBONE: To me directly, no. They were made to the command.
REED: But you were aware of the recommendations about...
CAMBONE: I was aware of those recommendations.
REED: ... enabling interrogation?
CAMBONE: Excuse me, sir?
REED: You were you aware of those recommendations?
CAMBONE: I was aware that he went over, made the recommendation that we get a better coordination between those who are being held and those who are being interrogated.
REED: Mr. Secretary, were you aware that a specific recommendation was to use military police to enable in the interrogation process?
CAMBONE: In that precise language, no. But I knew that we were trying to get to the point where we were assuring that when they were in the general population, those that were under confinement were not undermining the interrogation process.
REED: So this was Major General Miller's own policy?
CAMBONE: No, sir, it was not a policy. It was a recommendation that he made to the command.
REED: And so General Sanchez adopted this policy, making it a policy of the United States Army and the Department of Defense without consultation with you...
CAMBONE: Sir, I don't think that's a proper rendering of it.
REED: Well, I don't know what the proper rendering is, but that seems to be at the core of this issue. Were you encouraging a policy that had military police officers enabling interrogations which created the situation where these...
CAMBONE: No, sir.
RUMSFELD: May I comment? I think that that is -- it is probably best put this way.
There are different responsibilities: detaining and interrogating. However, they do need to be looked at together.
They found in Guantanamo that how they are detained, in terms of the rhythm of their lives, can affect the interrogation process, and so the linkage between the two is desirable if in fact you're concerned about finding more information that can prevent additional terrorist acts or, in the case of Iraq, the killing of our forces in Iraq.
RUMSFELD: So it's important that there be a linkage, a relationship. That is not -- the way it can be put is that it has a bad connotation. And goodness knows that's not desirable or a policy that General Miller would have recommended. On the other hand, it could be...
REED: Well, the policy seems to be...
WARNER: Senator, I have to ask if you would require the witnesses to provide the further responses for the record.
REED: Mr. Chairman, I will certainly ask for his responses.
WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.
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