Rumsfeld Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Committee
COLLINS: Mr. Secretary, the vast majority of American troops performed their duties with compassion, fairness and courage. This abuse makes the task which they've been assigned far more difficult and far more dangerous, and that troubles me greatly.
Worst of all, our nation, a nation that, to a degree unprecedented in human history, has sacrificed its blood and treasure to secure liberty and human rights around the world now must try to convince the world that the horrific images on their TV screens and front pages are not the real America, that what they see is not who we are.
That is why, Mr. Secretary, I'm so troubled by the Pentagon's failure to come forward, to fully disclose this appalling abuse, to express outrage and concern and to outline swift, tough, corrective actions.
COLLINS: I believe that had you done that, it would have mitigated somewhat how this abuse has been perceived around the world, particularly in the Muslim communities.
I'm not talking about issuing a press release from Baghdad. I'm talking about you personally coming forward and telling the world what you knew about this abuse.
In retrospect, do you believe that you erred in not coming forward, not just to the president and the Congress -- you've made very clear today that you regret not doing that -- but to the world community? Would it have made a difference if it had been the Pentagon itself that had disclosed the full extent of this abuse, whatever you knew, and what actions you were going to take?
RUMSFELD: I think in my statement I responded in full to your question. The -- I would characterize what was done in the Central Command by way of swift, corrective action as being just that -- swift, corrective action.
And second, the -- I don't know quite how to respond to your question. The Department of Defense announced that their abuse was being charged, there were criminal investigations under way. No one had seen the photographs.
RUMSFELD: They were part of a criminal investigation. And they were in that Central Command -- I say no one in the Pentagon had seen them. And they were part of that investigative process.
It is the photographs that gives one the vivid realization of what actually took place. Words don't do it. The words that there were abuses, that it was cruel, that it was inhumane -- all of which is true -- that it was blatant, you read that and it's one thing. You see the photographs and you get a sense of it and you cannot help but be outraged.
Now, there are -- at any given time in the Department of Defense as I said, there are these 3,000 courts-martial under way, general courts-martial some 1,200, criminal investigations 18,000 a year last year. And the importance of protecting the people charged, protecting their rights, and the importance of seeing that if in fact they're guilty that they don't get off because of command influence. So there's a pattern of not reaching down into those things, bringing them up and looking at all the evidence before it ever arrives. And in this case, it was released to the press.
Now, we announced the problem to the press. We did not release the Taguba report to the press. That was done by someone to release against the law a secret document.
That's how it surprised everyone. It shocked the Congress. It shocked me. It shocked the president. It shocked the country.
But to suggest that they had not taken tough, swift, corrective actions in the Central Command, it seems to me is inconsistent with what took place.
COLLINS: Well, Mr. Secretary, that's not what I said. What I said -- and I have no doubt that the military is committed to swift corrective action. It's the disclosure of the abuse and the promise to take those actions -- that's where I feel the Pentagon fell short.
And I think that rather than calling CBS and asking for a delay in the airing of the pictures, it would have been far better if you, Mr. Secretary, with all respect, had come forward and told the world about these pictures and of your personal determination -- a determination I know you have -- to set matters right and to hold those responsible accountable.
RUMSFELD: Well, Senator Collins, I wish I had done that. I said that in my remarks.
I wish I knew -- and we've got to find a better way to do it. But I wish I knew how you reach down into a criminal investigation when it is not just a criminal investigation, but it turns out to be something that is radioactive, something that has strategic impact in the world. And we don't have those procedures. They've never been designed.
We're functioning in a -- with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a war-time situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.
WARNER: We have to move on.
RUMSFELD: There isn't a person at this table, except General Smith, who'd even seen them.
WARNER: You're free to amplify that for the record if you wish, Mr. Secretary.
WARNER: Senator Akaka?
AKAKA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Rumsfeld, according to General Taguba's report, civilian contractors were found wandering around Abu Ghraib unsupervised and with free access to the detainee area. I have two questions on that.
What are the roles of the private contractors at this and other detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan? And who monitors and supervises these contracted employees?
RUMSFELD: The answer is that the civilian contractors, as I indicated, numbered something like 37 in this particular facility. They tend to be interrogators and linguists. And they're responsible to military intelligence who hire them, and have the responsibility for supervising them.
BROWNLEE: Sir, if I might...
WARNER: Secretary Brownlee?
BROWNLEE: ... in the theater, we have employed civilian contract interrogators and linguists. The Central Command has done this. And these people have no supervisory capabilities at all; they work under the supervision of officers in charge or non-commissioned officers in charge of whatever team or unit they are on.
And they, most of them, are retired military. And they are usually of the skill that they retired in and that's what they're employed for.
BROWNLEE: And they assist in these processes, but they are not in a supervisory role. In fact, they would be forbidden from doing that because it would be inherently governmental.
SMITH: Sir, I might add to that -- in this particular case there's a tiger team that interrogates and goes through that process. One is an interpreter, normally. One is an analyst. And one is an interrogator. And where we have shortages in the military of interrogators and translators, we go to contractors to do that.
And I said the numbers wrong. The numbers were 27 is how we -- are the number of contractors we have with CACI for interrogators. Then we have hundreds of translators that are under contract throughout the country under Titan Corporation.
AKAKA: Secretary Rumsfeld, the allegations of abuse at this detention facility has been characterized as sadistic, blatant, wanton criminal abuses.
So far, we have discussed allegations against military members. Are there allegations of abuse against contractors who are working with military members? If so, are any of these allegations being investigated?
RUMSFELD: There -- my recollection is, and I think it's OK to say this, is that the investigations are ongoing and that time will tell.
Go ahead, General.
SMITH: There are two contractors that are being investigated under the investigation for the military intelligence brigade and that is the -- from the recommendation from the Taguba report.
AKAKA: Mr. Chairman, I want to say I recently traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan, and I was so impressed with the professionalism of the men and women serving in our military who I had the opportunity to meet.
AKAKA: And I want to say that I'm really proud of what they are doing there.
General Myers, General Taguba's AR 15-6 report finds a general lack of knowledge, implementation and emphasis of basic legal regulatory, doctrinal and command requirements within the 800 M.P. Brigade and its subordinate units.
Understanding that there is an issue with authority between the military police and military intelligence units at Abu Ghraib, how is it that an entire brigade could be deployed to Iraq and not trained for their mission?
WARNER: Senator, I'll have to ask that the general provide his response for the record. I thank you for your cooperation.
AKAKA: Thank you very much. Thank you for your responses.
WARNER: Senator Graham was to have been -- you're up.
GRAHAM: Mr. Secretary, have you seen the video?
RUMSFELD: I have not. The disk that I saw that had photos on it did not have the videos on it. I checked with General Smith and he indicates he does have a disk with the videos on it. I don't know if that means there's two disks with all these photographs or if the photographs are the same and one just doesn't have the video.
GRAHAM: The only reason I mention that, I want to prepare the public. Apparently, the worst is yet to come, potentially, in terms of disturbing events. We don't need to leave here thinking that we've seen the worst. There's more to come, is that correct?
RUMSFELD: I indicated in my remarks that there are a lot more pictures and many investigations under way.
GRAHAM: And my colleagues rightly want it done quickly, but my concern is to do it right, and I don't want to rush to judgment here and let some people go that deserve to be prosecuted, and I would be very disappointed if the only people prosecuted are sergeants and privates.
GRAHAM: That would be very, very bad and sad. So I want it done right and the sooner the better, but I'll pick right over sooner.
I'm confused. General Smith, when did you first learn of these photos and see them yourself?
SMITH: Sir, we knew that there were photos on June 14th because that's how the investigation started -- I mean January 14th. When the soldier...
GRAHAM: When did you see the photos?
SMITH: I saw the photos toward the end of March.
GRAHAM: Who did you tell about the photos when you saw them?
SMITH: Sir, that was part of the investigation. And that went forward. I told my boss.
GRAHAM: Did it dawn on you that when you saw these photos, "We're in a world of hurt. This is going to look bad"?
SMITH: Certainly, sir, if those were released we certainly...
GRAHAM: General Myers, when you called CBS, had you seen the photos?
MYERS: No, I hadn't.
GRAHAM: What had you been told about what CBS was about to air and by who?
MYERS: They were going to air the photos. We didn't talk about that with CBS.
I, previously in our discussions back in January when they said there photos, they described them to me and the secretary up through the chain of command to the secretary. And I was happen to be there. And it was discussed several times. And the general nature of the photos, about nudity, some mock sexual acts and other abuse, was described.
GRAHAM: When you were informed that these photos, even though you hadn't seen them, were going to come out, who did you tell about that and when?
MYERS: There are a lot of people that knew inside our building.
MYERS: The people that have been working with the media knew that there were photos out there, and the media was trying to get their hands on them from January. So they've been working that for three months.
GRAHAM: At that time, is it fair to say you knew there was a story about to come out that was going to create a real problem for us?
MYERS: At that time, what my concern was was the impact it could have on our forces in Iraq. That was my focus at the time, was, "OK, if these photos are revealed right now, given the intensity of operations, what could be that impact on our troops?"
And my conclusion was this would be the worst of all possible times for these to come forward, realizing that eventually they're going to come forward; I understand that.
GRAHAM: Did you feel the need to inform the Congress or the president or the secretary of defense about the potential damage this could do?
MYERS: We had discussed the potential damage back in January, and in February and in March. And as we marched through those events on that chart, a lot of those events were based on our concern with where this might lead. In other words, is there a...
WARNER: We just need to -- could you use the microphone, General, we're missing some of your...
GRAHAM: Long story short, I do trust the people in uniform to get it right. And I want to take the time necessary to make sure the people responsible are brought to justice and anybody innocently accused has their day in court.
You're right, Secretary Rumsfeld.
Here's the problem: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the explosive nature of these photos apart from court-martial, apart from legal proceedings. And most of us here found out about it on television. And if we knew enough to say, "Don't air a show that's going to be bad," why did we not call the president, call senior members of Congress to prepare us for what we were eventually going to see? That's the essence of my concern about all this.
MYERS: Senator Graham, in my opinion we could have done a better job of informing Congress of this -- of these pictures and this situation. And...
GRAHAM: And that is an honest and fair answer.
And, Secretary Rumsfeld, people are calling for your resignation. Somebody is drafting an article of impeachment against you right now. I've got my own view about people who want to call for your resignation before you speak, but I'll leave that to myself.
Do you have the ability, in your opinion, to come to Capitol Hill and carry the message and carry the water for the Department of Defense? Do you believe, based on all things that have happened and that will happen, that you're able to carry out your duties in a bipartisan manner? And what do you say to those people who are calling for your resignation?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's a fair question. Certainly since this firestorm has been raging, it's a question that I've given a lot of thought to.
The key question for me is the one you pose, and that is whether or not I can be effective. We've got tough tasks ahead. The people in the department, military and civilian, are doing enormously important work here, in countries all over the world and the issue is: Can I be effective in assisting them in their important tasks?
Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.
WARNER: Thank the, gentleman.
Senator Bill Nelson?
BILL NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, when did you first see the photos?
RUMSFELD: Last night about 7:30.
BILL NELSON: Mr. Secretary...
RUMSFELD: I should say, I had seen the ones in the press. I had seen the ones that are doctored slightly to suit people's tastes. We've been trying to get one of the discs for days and days and days. And I'm told by General Smith that there were only a couple of these, that they were in the criminal investigation process. And we finally, Dick Myers and I, finally saw them last night.
BILL NELSON: Mr. Secretary, when did you first find out about the abuses?
RUMSFELD: With everybody else, when they were announced by the Central Command January 16th. They announced they had a series of criminal investigations under way, they told the world, the Congress, me, everyone else that they were under way. And then they came back March 20th and said not only are they under way, but now we've got specific charges. And then they detailed some abuses.
You read it, as I say, and it's one thing. You see these photographs and it's just unbelievable.
BILL NELSON: When did you first tell the president, Mr. Secretary?
RUMSFELD: I don't know. Dick Myers and I see the president every week, and he recalls that some time after we were apprised of it through the press, through CENTCOM's announcement, that it was brought up in one of our meetings.
Do you recall?
MYERS: I don't recall specifically because I think the day it was brought up it was General Pete Pace that was standing in for me, but he remembers exactly when it was -- well, roughly, with a week or so of when he was in that meeting and informed the president. They talked about it.
BILL NELSON: And was this back in January, Mr. Secretary?
MYERS: I think General Pace would say early February, is what I think he would say. It could have been late January.
RUMSFELD: I meet with the president once or twice a week, we cover eight, 10, 15 different points. General Myers or General Pace are generally there with me. And I don't keep notes about what I do. I just don't remember when it was.
BILL NELSON: And when you all had this discussion with the president, what did the president say that you should do about those abuses?
RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know that I'm going to get into private discussions with the president. If I don't remember when it was, my guess is it was more an information item from us to him where we were transmitting and saying, "here's the problem."
The problem at that stage was one-dimensional. It wasn't three- dimensional. It wasn't video. It wasn't color. It was quite a different thing, and as I indicated in my remarks, if there's a failure, it's me.
It's my failure for not understanding and knowing that were hundreds or however many there are of these things that could eventually end up in the public and do the damage they've done.
But I certainly never gave the president a briefing with the impact that one would have had you seen the photographs or the video. I mean, let there be no doubt about that. He was just as blind sided as the Congress and me and everyone else.
NELSON: Mr. Secretary, what are your instructions from the president to inform him of matters such as this?
RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know that I'm going to -- I mean, we have had so many discussions. And clearly, a secretary of defense has the responsibility to try to put himself in the shoes of the president and say, what ought a president to know about all the thousands, tens of thousands, of things that are happening in the Department of Defense at any given time?
And we sit down every week, and General Myers and I go through all the things that we've got going on, and pick and choose and say, "What are the things that are appropriate? What do we owe him so that he can provide the kind of leadership that this country deserves? And what is it the department's doing now that we can get in his head and apprise him of, so that he knows about that?"
RUMSFELD: And it may be a contingency plan. It may be a problem of personnel. It may be any -- it just runs the gamut.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator.
DOLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly want to echo the sentiments of my colleagues and the American people by saying that I'm extremely disappointed that any American, and especially one in uniform, would mistreat or humiliate another human being and commit such atrocious acts.
The acts depicted in those photographs shown around the world do not in any way represent the values of the United States of America or our armed forces. I know our military men and women serve their country with great honor.
The abuse of these Iraqi detainees is a serious issue, not just because it violated human rights. It also tarnished our nation's credibility.
Furthermore, the inflammatory actions of a few have provided our enemies with a lucrative venue to question American values and our true intentions in the war on terror.
Unfortunately, a breakdown of discipline combined with a handful of morally deficient individuals has resulted in serious implications for our national security and the security of over 130,000 servicemembers striving to accomplish our goals in Iraq.
Over the past year, through dedication and sacrifice, and, I must emphasize, strong military leadership, our soldiers have made incredible breakthroughs. The United States and its allies have freed 50 million people from oppressive regimes, removed credible threats to our nation's security, destroyed burgeoning terrorist incubators, and set two countries on the path to democratic and free market reform.
DOLE: In Iraq, 2,600 schools have been rehabilitated and now more than 5.5 million children are enriching their minds free from the corruption of a repressive regime and its teachings. Women now have a voice in their own government. All 240 hospitals in Iraq are open. More than 1,200 clinics have been established. And on the streets and in the countryside, each day our military medical professionals offer assistance to the citizens of Iraq in addition to caring for their own.
After 30 years of being denied the most fundamental freedoms, today more than 170 independent newspapers are currently operating throughout Iraq, providing each member of that country an opportunity to participate in free and robust debate and, yes, the opportunity to view those horrendous pictures.
Trust among the Iraqi people had slowly been established. Bonds have been made. And sadly for now many of those bonds have been broken.
This legislative body is absolutely correct in focusing on the root causes behind these instances of prisoner abuse and doing everything within its power to ensure that such abuse never, never happens again. And I would expect no less from the Department of Defense to do the same. Transparency is of the utmost importance to our nation's credibility and security.
Fundamental to our success in the global war on terror is winning the hearts and minds of freedom-loving people who were held captive by a violent few. We are not company to that violent element and we denounce anyone who is.
Secretary Rumsfeld, the damage already done cannot be swept away but it can be repaired.
DOLE: You touched briefly on your plans for a way ahead. Could you go into more detail on this plan? Will it require more or different troops, quicker processing of detainees, more Iraqi police involvement?
You mentioned reparations. Could you please provide more details?
RUMSFELD: I don't think I used the word "reparations." I think -- I hope -- I used the word "compensation" for the detainees who were cruelly treated. And I am told that we have -- the lawyers have looked into it and we believe there are authorities where we can do that and it is my intention to see that we do do it, because it is the right thing.
With respect to the processing of detainees, in Iraq a total of 43,671 were captured. We have released 27,796 and transferred 4,054, and we currently detain something in the neighborhood of 11,821 which includes 3,842 of the so-called MEK -- which are really not detainees; they're in a separate status. So it's really closer to 7,000 or 8,000 that are currently detained.
The key is to process them as rapidly as possible. And General Miller, who was out there and has been addressing all of these things -- they also believe a key element is to see that they are properly identified and that their families know they're there and why they're there and that there isn't a -- it isn't mysterious, and that we continue to process them.
The only people that need to be retained, obviously, are the ones that are either criminals -- and that's a different category, and a number of them are -- or they are individuals who are terrorists and need to be kept off the streets.
Or they have intelligence value and people have got to find out what it is they know so we can track down the remaining remnants of the Baathist regime and the Fedayeen Saddam people and the people that are out killing Iraqis -- not just Americans and coalition people, but are killing Iraqis every single day in that country.
WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.
DOLE: Thank you.
WARNER: Senator Ben Nelson?
BEN NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Mr. Secretary and gentlemen, for being here today.
First of all, I appreciate the apologies. Clearly, the president's apology, I think, is an important step in moving forward, as are the apologies of all of you today, and I think the apology of the American people, for these incidents.
And I agree with my colleague from Connecticut, that what this represents is so unfortunate that it would somehow would adversely impact on the lives and the deaths of those who have served with such distinction for freedom in Iraq.
Last night, I heard Secretary Armitage say that we're in a bit of a hole. I think those are exact words. And when you're in a hole, the first thing you have to do is stop digging. I hope that we have now gotten to the point where we've stopped digging, where we're not making matters worse.
And Mr. Secretary, you're right when you say there are times when words just simply don't do it. Pictures, and perhaps symbols, are more important for expressing or conveying thoughts or images.
In this case, I think tearing down the statue of Saddam, the statues all over Iraq, was a symbolic gesture to say that there was a new era.
I wonder if it wouldn't be just as important to join together, tear down Abu Ghraib as a statement that the torture chamber of Saddam that carried forth, past and present, is no longer, and create a memorial to freedom in the future and the absence of tyranny of any kind.
BEN NELSON: But what I want to do is I want to get to a question, I think that I'm concerned about, and that is dealing with what seems to be an operative word today: the few and armed services or armed forces.
I think perhaps there are sergeants and privates, as Senator Graham indicated, who have been involved in this activity, and, obviously, the chain of command would be under consideration here. Criminal action will be taken. I suspect responsible action will be taken in terms of the chain of command.
Is it aberrant behavior of a few or can we be expecting to have out of the investigation an indication that there was something more systemic?
I know that we have a two-star Reserve general who has been in some position removed from duty, but isn't there a pretty good indication to date, some expectation that there was a severing of the chain of command somewhere along the line, through military intelligence or other intelligence operations coming in?
It's my understanding that there are reports that General Karpinski was banned from sections of her own prison system. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get to the bottom of that with the reports. But in the interim, is there anything that you might be able to enlighten us with right now?
RUMSFELD: Well, let me answer a couple of pieces and let General Smith answer the last piece.
First, you say the first rule, if you're in a hole, is to stop digging. I've said today that there are a lot more photographs and videos that exist.
BEN NELSON: I didn't mean that. I mean is anything progressing on today, beyond what we already know and what we're going to find out from past performance?
RUMSFELD: If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact. I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe. And so beyond notice. That's just a fact.
And if they're sent to some news organization, and taken out of the criminal prosecution channels that they're in, that's where we'll be. And it's not a pretty picture.
Second, there are people who are talking about the Abu Ghraib prison and tearing it down. And certainly that's something that the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council and the Iraqi government, the transitional government, the interim government that will take over by June 30th, will be addressing and deciding.
I think it's -- frankly, from my standpoint, I think it's not a bad idea. But I think it's really up to the Iraqis. And I think much of what's going to happen.
BEN NELSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
WARNER: Senator Cornyn?
CORNYN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, listening to the questions and the answers that have been given so far leads me to at least tentatively conclude that there are two major problems here. One is, first, the shock to our collective conscience at what we have seen human beings do to degrade and abuse other human beings. But secondly, the shock to our sensibilities as members of Congress who have a collective responsibility to the American people, to see these pictures in the press.
But I believe that it was General Myers -- and you also -- who talked about what we have seen as being a violation of American values.
CORNYN: I agree with that, but I also want to talk about other American values -- and General Myers alluded to this when he talked about due process. And you mentioned the issue of command influence.
First, I'd like to direct your attention back to the news release that CENTCOM issued on January the 16th, 2004, announcing this investigation. The second and third sentences I want to direct your attention to specifically.
This news release says, "The release of specific information concerning the incidents could hinder the investigation, which is in its early stages. The investigation will be conducted in a thorough and professional manner."
I think what the American people expect of all of us here is not only that we have high standards of conduct, which I know that the military subscribes to, but we have the training, the oversight, the leadership, the accountability, but also the due process and desire to seek justice when it comes to holding people accountable for their crimes.
And I want to tell you that what you've described here, in terms of this chronology of investigation, gives me confidence that the Department of Defense has taken this matter as seriously as it should have and indeed, as you and others have said, not all the facts are in yet.
But I do see, on this chronology, that indeed after this investigation that there have been criminal charges proffered against some who are guilty of these crimes.
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