Rumsfeld Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Committee
CORNYN: But I would ask you please just to briefly talk about your obligation, in terms of seeing that the persons who are accused of these crimes get that due process and to make sure that the investigation -- that you maintain the integrity of the investigation by not dripping information out on this incident in a piecemeal basis over the course of the past few months.
RUMSFELD: You have your finger on the dilemma, on the tension that exists between assuring that you protect the rights of individuals that are in a serious, difficult, criminal prosecution circumstance and avoiding saying things that either would infringe on their rights or would enable them to escape punishment by virtue of being able to successfully allege that command influence was exercised in a way that prejudiced the decisions up the chain of command. So we have that problem.
And to the extent senior people in the Department of Defense dive down in and start looking in criminal prosecutions in early and mid stages, the hue and outcry would be horrendous.
And yet, on the other hand, if you've got a situation where something like this is buried in there along with 3,000 other courts- martial and buried in there is something of this significance, we've got to find a way to know that.
And our country doesn't need those kinds of shocks. And the troops don't need it.
CORNYN: Mr. Secretary, I would just conclude...
WARNER: Senator, I have to thank you. We must move on. The panel leaves here and goes over to the House Armed Services Committee.
RUMSFELD: We'll have to leave about 2:30, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: That is correct. And that was made clear. We will have sufficient time to include our next senator, Senator Bayh, followed by Senator Chambliss, Senator Clinton and Senator Pryor and Senator Dayton.
BAYH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today and, in addition to that, for serving our country. These are difficult times and your service is not without some personal cost.
I am going to assume some facts up here and then ask what I think may be two somewhat difficult questions.
I assume that you serve at the pleasure of the president. I assume that he sets a policy for our national security in general and for Iraq in particular. And I assume that he is engaged in overseeing the implementation of those policies and, like you, accepts responsibility for that implementation.
This is a long way of saying, as Senator Byrd mentioned, that in our system we have a tradition of the buck stopping at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And as we're all aware, we're now engaged in a debate about who the occupant of that residence will be come next January.
So in many respects I view this as a question of presidential leadership. How does he react? How aggressively? Does he try and minimize the situation or does he try and take dramatic steps to address the magnitude of the problem?
As has been noted, he has apologized for what took place, and as all of you have indicated, particularly you, Mr. Secretary, the criminal process will move forward. That is a hallmark of our system of justice.
One of the questions that's overhanging this procedure today and the situation in general is, is that enough?
And so the difficult question I'd like to ask is to follow up on the question from Senator Graham. Mr. Secretary, I could tell that you struggled in answering his question, that this is something that's been on your mind.
BAYH: Your resignation has been called for; that's a pretty serious thing for any of us. And you answered that if you ever concluded that you could not be effective in discharging your duties, you would step down. But that you would not do so as part of a political witch-hunt, so to speak.
There's another aspect of this, though, I'd like to ask your opinion about, and that is whether, in your opinion -- and I know it is ultimately a decision for the president to make. But in your opinion, even though you weren't personally involved in the underlying acts here, would it serve to demonstrate how seriously we take this situation, and therefore help to undo some of the damage to our reputation, if you were to step down?
RUMSFELD: That's possible.
BAYH: I appreciate your candor.
My second question has to do with some comments that Senator Lieberman made, and I would like to associate myself with what I thought were very appropriate and moving comments by Senator Lieberman.
I believe very strongly that our cause -- and these are not words I use frequently -- but that our cause is morally superior to our adversaries', both the terrorists we fight and those who now seek to undo the future of a free Iraq.
There is growing concern by the supporters of this cause that this situation that we're inquiring into today is part of a broader problem, that the effort may be bogging down, that we may be approaching a tipping point, that momentum needs to be regained if we're going to prevail.
I'd like to just read a couple of sentences from a column in yesterday's New York Times by Tom Friedman, who supported this endeavor in Iraq. He says, "We are in danger of losing something much more important than just this war in Iraq. We are in danger of losing America as an instrument of moral authority and inspiration in the world.
BAYH: "This administration needs to undertake a total overhaul of its Iraq policy. Otherwise it is courting a total disaster for us all." And he goes on to say how he hopes that such an overhaul can be undertaken because we need to prevail in Iraq.
So my question, Mr. Secretary, my final question is just very simply, do you believe we're on the right course presently? Or is dramatic action necessary to regain the momentum so that we can ultimately prevail in what is a very noble and idealistic undertaking?
RUMSFELD: I do believe we're on the right track. It's a tough road. It's a bumpy road. It's always been bumpy going from a vicious dictatorship to something approximating a representative government that's respectful of its different, varied religious and ethnic groups. It's not an easy path.
I am convinced that we are doing exactly what ought to be done, and that is to pass responsibility for that country to the Iraqis. I am convinced we're doing exactly what ought to be done in recognizing that they need to have the ability to provide for their own security, which is why so much effort's gone into developing police and civil defense corps and an army and border patrols and site protection people.
We do not want America -- they do not want Americans or coalition forces in their country over a prolonged period, and goodness knows we don't want to be there. The only proper way to pass it off is if they have their own security forces. Which is why we're spending the money and making the effort. It's why General Abizaid and General Sanchez and General Petraeus now are over there working that problem. And I think that we've got a crack at doing it.
I don't think it'll be smooth. I think it'll be rough. It'll be bumpy. But if you don't take your hand off the bicycle seat, you're not going to be able to ride the bike.
RUMSFELD: And we've got to do that. And we're doing it.
WARNER: You've got to do that.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, Senator Bayh.
CHAMBLISS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, it's interesting that Senator Roberts and I had previously been talking about the fact that one thing that probably should be done is exactly what Senator Ben Nelson just recommended, and that's tear down that wall -- and that wall is Abu Ghraib prison -- to show a sign of another destruction of Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Secretary, there are different kinds of leaders, and different leaders even provide different kinds of leadership. One easy thing for a leader to do is sometimes hide behind the lower echelon in the chain of command.
And I just want to say to you, I've been prepared to be very critical of you if I needed to be critical today. But by you coming in here and making an admission, as a strong leader, that a mistake was made and that you're going to be doing whatever is necessary to correct that mistake, shows just what kind of leader you are. And anybody who questions your effectiveness and your ability to lead the United States military has had that question answered today. So for that I commend you.
I commend you also for your selection of General Miller. I've been to Guantanamo twice. I was worried about what might happen down there with respect to those detainees. I had the privilege to observe several different interrogations. And I think I was there the day that General Miller first arrived, as a matter of fact. And I observed random interrogations down there.
And General Miller did correct a problem that existed. There were charges of abuse that were much slighter than these charges of abuse, that General Miller dealt with swiftly and directly.
I am concerned, though, about a couple of different things. First of all, General Ryder did make his report following his visit to Abu Ghraib. From the period of October 13 to November the 6th, we had a United States Army general doing an investigation of a prison and the activities that were ongoing in that prison during a point in time when these alleged atrocities took place.
CHAMBLISS: Now, my understanding from General Ryder is that he was never told about any of this while he was there. And I don't understand that. I don't understand how the chain of command could be so faulty within that system to allow that to happen.
The only answer I ever got was that these atrocities occurred on the night shift. Well, the Army doesn't operate 12 hours a day. We operate 24 hours a day. And there's a failure in the chain of command that I hope you're in the process of addressing very directly from that standpoint.
Also, in response to Senator McCain, you made two comments. First of all, that guards are trained to guard people, not interrogate; and that guards are trained in the requirements of the Geneva Convention.
I understand those are policies of the Department of Defense, as well they should be. But the fact of the matter is, when you look at page 10 of the Taguba report, you find out that was not done in this case, that these M.P.s simply were not trained in what they were supposed to be doing.
So, again, I hope your folks are moving in the direction of making that correction with respect, particularly, to reservists that are brought on board.
Now, one obvious judgment is that the 800th M.P. Brigade was totally dysfunctional, from Brigadier General Karpinski on down, with few exceptions. And on the surface, you could portray the 800th M.P. Brigade as a Reserve unit with poor leadership and poor training.
However, the abuse of prisoners is not merely a failure of an M.P. brigade. It's a failure of the chain of command, Mr. Secretary.
And what I want to leave here today is, is knowing and taking comfort in the fact that, as Senator Graham said, we're not going to just prosecute somebody with one stripe on their sleeve or four stripes on their sleeve; that you're going to carry this thing to whatever extent is necessary to ensure that there's no good old boy system within the United States Army.
And irrespective of whether they've got a stripe on their sleeve or four stars on their shoulder, that we're going to get to the bottom of this and we're going to make sure that corrective action is taken, and where necessary criminal action is taken against anybody involved in the particular acts or in the shielding of this and the failure or negligence on their part of keeping this information from you in a quick and swift manner.
RUMSFELD: I agree with everything you've said. And there's no question but that the investigations have to go forward. They have to be respectful of people's rights but they have to be handled in manner that reflects the gravity of the situation. And it does not matter one whit where the responsibility falls. It falls where it does.
SCHOOMAKER: Senator Chambliss, I'd like to -- if I might, Mr. Chairman just for a minute, since Senator Chambliss characterized our Army in a way that I don't agree with. It doesn't matter whether a soldier is on active duty in the active component, in the Guard or the Reserve. There's one standard and we expect that our leadership and our soldiers adhere to the same standards, and those are those Army values, the soldiers creed and the things that we all believe in.
So I disassociate with your remarks there that for some reason that because this was a Reserve unit that there isn't a standard that's equal to everybody else's.
CHAMBLISS: General, my remarks were not directed toward this unit being a Reserve unit. They just happen to be a Reserve unit.
But the fact of the matter is that the Taguba report says that this unit, which is a Reserve unit, did not receive training during the mobilization. And that was a fault in the system. And it's a fault because they are a Reserve unit.
SCHOOMAKER: Sir, and we're going to look into that. We are looking into it. And if that's true, we're going to correct it. Nevertheless they have one standard.
WARNER: Thank you, gentlemen.
CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CLINTON: I think, Mr. Secretary, that you can discern from the questions that there are still many issues that we need further clarification on. I particularly look forward to the answer that you will provide to Senator Reed's last question -- following up on his line of questioning concerning the enabling of interrogation by M.P.s, something which, based on Army regulations, was not to be either done or condoned.
But, Mr. Secretary, in January 2002, when you publicly declared that hundreds of people detained by U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention, that was taken as a signal.
And it is clear in looking through the number of investigations that are currently ongoing, that it wasn't just this particular battalion but others that did not receive appropriate training and information about their responsibilities with respect to detention or the Geneva Convention.
The atrocities that have been depicted in photographs were very graphically, verbally, described in the Taguba report. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to read those descriptions and have one's stomach just turn in disgust.
The focus on the pictures being released is, with all due respect, missing the point. The report was well known, and apparently discussed on numerous occasions. And obviously, the release of the pictures to the entire world was devastating.
But the underlying conduct, and the failure of the command, both at the site and further up the chain, to act with the appropriate quick response, is really at the heart of what the most serious problems we face here today are.
CLINTON: The information in the Taguba report links the atrocities at Abu Ghraib to Camp Buka. In fact, some of the same people, some of the same command, some of the same M.P.s were involved apparently.
And with respect to the recommendations at the end of General Taguba's report, they call for establishing the conditions with the resources and personnel required to prevent future occurrences of detainee abuse.
I would appreciate, since we don't have time in this round of questioning, to receive for the committee a report about exactly how that is being handled. What changes have been made? Are the Geneva Convention training going on now? Are the appropriate rules being posted in both English and Arabic?
And certainly an explanation as to the adequacy of the punishment that was meted out because, with respect to who was being punished for what, there is a clear distinction -- at least as reported by General Taguba -- between enlisted personnel and those up the command.
But I'm also concerned by a related matter. And let me just quickly reference the case of Chaplain Yee, the Muslim Army chaplain from Guantanamo Bay who was arrested and placed in solitary confinement. Ultimately all of the charges were dropped after his reputation was sullied.
CLINTON: It's obvious that the information about this particular case came from government sources. It was pushed out and it was widely disseminated.
So, Mr. Secretary, how is it that a case with no basis in fact gets such widespread publicity, based on information from government sources, while egregious conduct like that at the Abu Ghraib prison is cloaked in a classified report, and is only made available when the investigation is leaked to the press?
RUMSFELD: Well, Senator, first let me say, with respect to the question that Senator Reed raised, I can't conceive of anyone looking at the pictures and suggesting that anyone could have recommended, condoned, permitted, encouraged, subtly, directly, in any way, that those things take place.
Second, the decision that was made by the president of the United States that you referred to was announced. And in the announcement it was said that the Al Qaida in Guantanamo that are captured in the world, mostly in Afghanistan, would be treated consistent with the Geneva Convention. That is a fact.
You say the report was well known. I don't know how you know that. All I know is when it made the public, when somebody took a secret document out of prosecutorial channels and released it to the press, I do not believe it was yet anywhere in the Pentagon. Certainly, I had not been given it or seen it.
I quite agree with you. When you read the report, you do get an impression, as you suggested, that there is something much worse than what was in the press release, for example, in January or the discussion in March by the Central Command.
RUMSFELD: But that was not something that had been moved past the Central Command, to my knowledge. It may have been somewhere in the Department of Defense, but certainly I had not received a copy. It was still in those channels.
WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.
RUMSFELD: Mr. Chairman, I'm going have to remind you that we do have to leave at 2:30. I apologize for that. Normally I'd stay, but we're due in the House, and...
WARNER: That is my understanding, and we're within six minutes of finishing at the 2:30 deadline.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.
WARNER: Thank you very much.
PRYOR: Mr. Chairman, thank you.
I notice that the majority leader came in. Would he like to say a few words? I do not want to knock him out of sequence.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You know, in Arkansas, Mr. Secretary, we have an expression that says you cannot unring the bell. And at this point we know where we find ourselves, and that is these photos -- and as you indicated, there may be more to come, and even videos to come -- are now in the public domain. And we all know that they will be used to undermine U.S. credibility for years to come and that they put our soldiers at more jeopardy inside Iraq and other places today than they were just a few days ago.
In fact, this morning, I must tell you, I had trouble explaining the photographs and what's going on inside that prison with my 10- year-old son. They are very, very hard to explain.
Mr. Secretary, let me say this, that there's been a pattern that I have to bring to your attention from our perspective, and if I can just say this. In the last seven days some of things, some of the revelations that we've heard about Iraq, you know, first, for months and months we've asked, "Do you need more troops inside Iraq?"
PRYOR: And in the last few days, even though you've assured us many, many times and many people at the Pentagon and the White House have said "No"; we now have learned that you do.
Secondly, we've asked for weeks and weeks and weeks, maybe months -- Senator Byrd could probably tell you more than I could about that -- about whether you'll need a supplemental.
And originally, the answer was "No," at least not until very, very late in the year. And now it appears that you do.
We've been surprised on those two occasions, now we're surprised today.
And, Mr. Secretary, I must tell you that we do not like these type of surprises here in the Congress. And I don't want to sound glib in asking this question, but let me ask: We know the photographs are coming out, but do you anticipate anything else coming out in a relation to this story that we need to know about today?
RUMSFELD: Well, I'm certain there will be. You've got six investigations going on. You can be absolutely certain that these investigations will discover things, as investigations do, and that they'll elevate other individuals for prosecution and criminal matters. And you can be certain that there's going to be more coming out.
With respect to your other comments, I do need to answer this. I mean, the commanders on the ground, from the beginning, asked for and received all the troops they needed, all the troops they wanted, all the troops they asked for they got them.
You're right. General Abizaid called up and said, "Look, the situation in Iraq is difficult. I'd like to keep an extra 20,000 in this crossover period and go from 115,000 to 135,000."
RUMSFELD: And we said, "Yes." And I went to the president and the president said, "Yes." And the senior military adviser, General Myers, said he thought that was correct.
And you say you don't like surprises. My Lord, who likes surprises? Nobody in the world likes surprises.
But the world's not perfect. Facts change on the ground. And when facts change on the ground, commanders tell us. And when commanders tell us, they get the troops they need.
Now, on the budget, you don't like surprises. Well, I don't, either. It happens more troops are needed and more money's needed. And it happens that it's a difficult thing for the military commanders to cash flow, taking out of one account to sustain something that came up that was not anticipated. And so the president said, "Fine."
He didn't want to ask a supplemental. General Myers and I went into him and said, "We think we need one." We think that that's not a good way to manage the Department of Defense by jerking money out of one account and sticking it in another account, trying to get reprogramming authority by the Congress. And we said, "We believe that it's the appropriate thing to do."
He didn't want to do it. He knew what he'd said but he said he'd do it. Now, that's not a surprise, it's just a fact.
PRYOR: Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time.
WARNER: Thank you very much.
PRYOR: One last point of clarification, on your chart it says that the...
WARNER: Senator, I'm going to have to ask that you defer to your colleague, Senator Dayton.
PRYOR: Will do. Thank you.
WARNER: Thank you.
DAYTON: Mr. Secretary were you aware, did you authorize General Myers to call CBS to suppress their news report?
RUMSFELD: I don't have any idea if he discussed it with me. I don't think he did.
DAYTON: Over the last two weeks, calling CBS to suppress the news report?
RUMSFELD: "Suppress" is not the right word at all.
DAYTON: I'm sorry, sir, but I...
RUMSFELD: It's an inaccurate word.
DAYTON: General Myers, did you discuss it with the secretary?
MYERS: This had been worked at lower levels with the secretary's staff and my staff for some time.
DAYTON: That you would call CBS to suppress their news report?
MYERS: I called CBS to ask them to delay the pictures showing on CBS's "60 Minutes" because I thought it would result in direct harm...
DAYTON: Mr. Secretary, is that standard procedure for the military command of this country to try to suppress a news report at the highest level?
MYERS: It didn't -- let me just -- Senator Dayton, this is a serious allegation...
DAYTON: Sure is.
MYERS: ... and it's absolutely -- the context of your question, I believe, is wrong.
DAYTON: I understand the context, General, you...
MYERS: Let me just...
DAYTON: ... told us the context earlier. I have very limited time, sir.
MYERS: I want to take as much time as we need to straighten this out.
This report -- the report was already out there, the news was out there about the abuse...
DAYTON: General, if the news had been out there and we had all known about it...
WARNER: Senator, I ask that the witness be allowed to respond to your question. They're very important questions.
General, would you proceed?
MYERS: Thank you, sir.
Thank you, Senator Dayton.
This was not to suppress anything. What I asked CBS News to do was to delay the release of the pictures, given the current situation in Iraq, which was as bad as it had been since major combat ended, because I thought it bring direct harm to our troops; it would kill our troops.
We talked about it, and I said, "I know this report will eventually come out. But this -- if you can delay it for some period of time -- it would be helpful."
DAYTON: What period of time is that?
MYERS: I did it based on talking to General Abizaid and his worry was like mine, and he convinced me that this was the right thing to do. There was no -- this report has been around since January. What was new were the pictures. I asked for the pictures to be delayed.
DAYTON: Did you discuss delaying -- calling CBS to ask them to delay their report, with the secretary of defense, or the vice president or the president?
MYERS: Of course not.
DAYTON: None of those.
MYERS: Of course not.
DAYTON: I would just say, General -- and I agree with your assessment of the consequences of this on our troops, and that's the great tragedy of this, but attempts to suppress news reports, to withhold the truth from Congress and from the American people is antithetical to democracy.
MYERS: You bet it is. And that's not what we were doing.
DAYTON: And whatever the intentions may be, sir, the result is always the same. And it's, I think, terribly tragic that the president, who wants to expand democracy around the world, by actions of his own administration is undermining that democracy in the United States.
DAYTON: That's always the result when people try to control information, delay it, manage it and suppress it, it has that result. It's antithetical to a democracy.
RUMSFELD: May I speak a minute, Mr. Senator?
Throughout the history of this country, there have been instances where military situations have existed that have led government to talk to members of the media and make an editorial request of them that they delay for some period disclosing some piece of information. It is not against our history. It is not against our principles. It is not suppression of the news. And it's a misunderstanding of the situation to say it is.
DAYTON: It is against our principles. It's against our principles when you come before 40 to 45 members of the Senate three hours before that news report is going to occur and don't mention one word about it, sir.
That is antithetical to democracy and the Constitution, which has the Senate and the House as co-equal responsibility for this country.
I want to just ask about the escalation of American forces, sir. You're bringing in, in response to all of this -- and this is also important. This is the future of this nation and the people who are over there.
You're increasing the number of forces, the number of tanks over there. How can this have anything to do but to escalate the level of violence, the opposition of Iraqis, intensify the hatred across the Arab world to the United States, and more atrocities? How can this have any result other than to put us deeper into this situation and make the conditions there worse for our forces and for our nation and for the world?
WARNER: Senator, I'm going to ask that the witnesses respond to your important question for the record. And I thank your cooperation.
Mr. Secretary and witnesses, we've had a very thorough exchange of views.
WARNER: We've had a full and complete hearing. I wish to commend my colleagues. And I wonder if you might indulge the majority leader for one minute.
LEVIN: Mr. Chairman, could the answers for the record which the secretary has promised be expedited given the circumstances? Would that be all right?
WARNER: Yes, absolutely. It'll be done.
FRIST: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for appearing before the Armed Services Committee today. It has been important, is important for this body, the United States Senate, to hear from you about the reprehensible incidents at Abu Ghraib prison.
Needless to say, the individuals that committed these despicable acts must be held accountable, justice must and will be served in a swift and a fair and transparent matter.
We are all troubled by the fact that actions of a few have tainted the efforts of all Americans who are serving so nobly abroad.
Mr. Secretary, I commend you for taking responsibility for what occurred at Abu Ghraib prison. If we're ever going to repair the damage done to our efforts in Iraq and to the reputation of the armed forces, it's important that we get all the facts out in a quick and a thorough manner.
The committees of jurisdiction here in the Senate will be conducting their own inquiries into this matter. We do look forward to regular updates from you and others on the panel and the department as your investigations proceed, as well as updates as to any other actions you may take to ensure that justice is served and heinous acts never occur again.
WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Leader.
RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
WARNER: Hearing is concluded.
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