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Rumsfeld and General Pace On CBS, ABC and NBC

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, May 5, 2004 7:14 a.m. EDT

Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Matt Lauer NBC "Today"

MATT LAUER: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is at the Pentagon this morning.

Mr. Secretary, good morning to you. Thanks for joining us.

RUMSFELD: Good morning.

LAUER: I don’t know if you were able to hear Senator Biden as he was talking just now. I know you were just sitting down. But he basically says he wants to know what did you know and when did you know it. When did you find out about the abuses taking place at Abu Ghraib prison?

RUMSFELD: The first indication that the Department of Defense received was, I believe, on January 13th, when a soldier who saw some abuses taking place, apparently, reported them up his chain of command to his superior out there in Baghdad area. And the Central Command, the United States military command there, made an announcement to the world January 16th indicating that the charges of abuses had been made and that an investigation had been initiated by General Sanchez.

LAUER: And the investigation – the report by General Taguba was completed – the date I have is March 9th. And yet, when questions really started to be asked about this last week, General Myers, General Kimmitt, I asked, and you, as of yesterday, said you have not yet read the full report on this, and from what I understand from your comments, hadn’t seen the pictures of this abuse until they aired on CBS last week. Why did it take so long for a report of such gravity to make its way up the chain of command?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, the report, as I understand it, is a stack of a report coupled with a whole series of annexes. And so when I’m asked a question as to whether I’ve read the entire report, I answer honestly that I have not. It is a mountain of paper and investigative material. Second –

LAUER: But in general terms, were you aware –

RUMSFELD: Just a minute. Just a minute.

LAUER: -- of the abuses taking place prior to that?

RUMSFELD: Just a minute. I’m going to respond to your question.

Second, the report and the information was part of a criminal investigation. And when there’s a criminal investigation, as you know, whether it’s in the military or outside the military, those things are managed in a prosecution or prosecutorial mode, and the materials are pretty much kept within that chain.

Third, the information about the abuse led to the investigations from a management standpoint that were initiated almost immediately, and then sequentially thereafter to the point that there are six different aspects of it that have been looked into.

The system worked. And it was announced publicly. There was no secret about it. They went right before the world in Iraq and told the Iraqi people, the American people, everyone, “Be on notice. There have been these charges made.” So it worked.

LAUER: When you say the system worked, you’re talking about the system of investigation. Clearly there are parts of the system in place in the prisons in Iraq that are broken. The military report calls these incidents, quote, “horrific abuses.”


LAUER: It continues to say they were, quote, “wanton acts of soldiers in an unsupervised and dangerous setting.” So who, Mr. Secretary, is ultimately responsible for that unsupervised and dangerous setting?

RUMSFELD: Well, clearly it’s the United States Army and the Central Command have the responsibility for the management of the prisons in that part of the world. And they are determining responsibility at the present time. And there have already been some criminal actions undertaken.

LAUER: Reserve Brigadier General Janis Karpinski has said – and she’s the person who was in charge of the prisons in Iraqi – and she said that the cell block where these abuses took place at Abu Ghraib was off-limits to everyone, including her. Again, she’s in charge of the prisons there. She’s a general. How could that be?

RUMSFELD: There’s two aspects to the facility there at Abu Ghraib. One aspect, of course, is detention. It’s keeping people off the street so that they can’t go out and commit a criminal act.

A second aspect is interrogation, and it’s asking people questions to try to glean information that can save the lives of American soldiers in Iraq. And one aspect of it is handled by the people who handle detention and another aspect is handled by the people who handle the process of asking questions to try to save the lives of American soldiers.

LAUER: But can the people who handled the asking questions aspect of it really tell a brigadier general that she cannot have any access to that cell block?

RUMSFELD: Those are legal questions that are being studied in the investigation and determined to try to assess responsibility and culpability.

LAUER: Let me read you something from the Washington Post in their editorial this morning. It says, quote, “A pattern of arrogant disregard for the protections of the Geneva Conventions or any other legal procedure has been set from the top by Mr. Rumsfeld and senior U.S. commanders.” What’s your response to that?

RUMSFELD: Well, it’s not accurate. The fact of the matter is that from the very outset, the decision was made by the government of the United States that the people detained would not be treated in a manner that was – (correction?). The decision was made that the Geneva Convention did not apply precisely but that every individual would be treated as though the Geneva Convention did apply. And as a result, the provisions of the Geneva Convention were the basic rules under which all people were detained. So it would not be accurate to say what that editorial said.

LAUER: When you said, though, in February of 2002, and I’m quoting, “The set of facts that exist today with the al Qaeda and the Taliban were not necessarily the set of facts that were considered when the Geneva Convention was fashioned” – again, in February 2002 – by questioning the relevance of the Geneva Convention in certain circumstances, with al Qaeda and the Taliban, have you laid the foundation for the atmosphere in which these abuses may have occurred?

RUMSFELD: Certainly not, because in close proximity to what you quoted, I think you’ll find the statement I just made, that the United States government, the lawyers, made a conscious decision and announced it to the world and announced it to all the people engaged in the detention process that these people would, in fact, be treated as though the Geneva Convention did apply.

LAUER: When the president went to Iraq, he took the moral high ground. He said, “Look, Saddam Hussein is abusing and torturing the Iraqi people. We can provide a country where the Iraqis don’t have to live in fear.” You’ve talked about the war of ideas. How do these photos, how do these incidents, impact that war of ideas?

RUMSFELD: Harmful.

LAUER: Just one word?

RUMSFELD: Well, I’ve responded. I don’t know what else one can say. There’s no question that when any citizen, soldier or civilian, breaks the law, abuses people in a manner that’s inconsistent with the way people are trained and taught and with the way decent human beings behave, then that’s harmful to the United States.

LAUER: Real quickly, Mr. Secretary, if you will, would you support a congressional hearing into this? Would you testify before that hearing? And would you issue a formal apology to the Iraqi people for these abuses?

RUMSFELD: Well, anyone who sees the photographs does, in fact, apologize to the people who were abused. That is wrong. It shouldn’t have happened. It’s un-American. It’s unacceptable. And we all know that. And that apology is there to any individual who was abused. It seems to me that these things have occurred. The task for me, as the responsible person in the Department of Defense, is to see that if it’s an isolated instance that it’s punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If it’s systemic, if there’s something broader than that, obviously we have to undertake the kinds of investigations we’re taking to see if other individuals conceivably have behaved that way.

LAUER: And real quickly – I’ve only got 10 seconds left, Mr. Secretary – you say if it’s an isolated incident. There are some 20 other investigations ongoing now about possible cases of abuse. Are you convinced it’s an isolated incident?

RUMSFELD: Of course not. We wouldn’t be conducting these investigations if we thought we knew the answers. We don’t know the answers. And that’s why, starting last January, at the first indication of this, these investigations were initiated.

LAUER: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, I appreciate your time this morning.

RUMSFELD: You bet.

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld on ABC’s Today Show with Diane Sawyer

SAWYER: Let’s turn now to the headlines of the morning about the growing Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. Joining us, the top man at the Defense Department, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us this morning.

RUMSFELD: Good morning.

SAWYER: I want to start with some of the new photos we have received this morning and I want to let our viewers at home know that we’re being very careful in the way we use them. They are additional scenes from what happened inside that prison. And as we see them go by, I want to point out that some of the Iraqis that we have been seeing in the pictures have also begun speaking out and saying they were so excited when the Americans came in and now some of them are living with permanent shame. Yesterday you did not apologize to them. This morning, do you apologize?

RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness. Anyone, any American who sees the photographs that we’ve seen has to feel apologetic to the Iraqi people who were abused and recognize that that is something that is unacceptable and certainly un-American.

SAWYER: An additional question about that, the Uniform Code of Military Justice that does – I do believe accounts for the possibility of financial compensation. If this turns out to have been proven, should there be financial compensation to these prisoners?

RUMSFELD: Those are judgments that’ll have to be made, as you suggest, part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And I had no idea what would finally be decided on that case, although I would say that from time to time various types of compensation and assistance have been provided to people in Iraq whose circumstances were altered unfairly.

SAWYER: I want to get to the question, if I can now, of responsibility and accountability. There’s a photo we have of you at this very prison. It was last fall in September, I believe, of last fall and you’re standing there, indeed, with a woman, the general, who was in charge. First question to you: Did you see anything? Did you notice anything? Did you say how could I not know who was in charge and what the conditions were at the prison?

RUMSFELD: Well, the first we heard about any problem at that prison was, I believe, on January 13th when one of the soldiers involved was concerned about what he saw to be practices that he felt were inappropriate and he reported it to the chain of command. At the time I visited that prison, I didn’t go anywhere near any of the cellblocks that held prisoners. I was only in the area that was, in effect, condemned, because it had been part of Saddam Hussein’s torture area.

SAWYER: The wives of some of the men who have allegedly been charged in this have said that their husbands said they were ordered to do it. Do you believe these men – that they were ordered to do it?

RUMSFELD: You’re talking about American soldiers?


RUMSFELD: I think that one has to recognize that I’m in a position where I am in the chain of command and there is a rule against command influence because it’s possible that one of the individuals engaged in those abuses could allege that if I said something that I had created a situation where he could not get a fair trial, so the people in the chain of command in the Army and through Central Command have to be quite careful about coming to any conclusions as to what took place.

SAWYER: And yet, with 30 investigations under way and as we said earlier, at least two of the deaths being questioned as homicides. As you know, a number of people have come out – senators on the Hill – and said there is responsibility that has to be taken for this. And this is what Senator Joseph Biden, democratic Senator Joseph Biden said: “Accountability is essential. If the answers are unsatisfactory, resignations should be sought.” And he specifically cites you as one of those who has to be questioned about responsibility. Can you imagine any circumstance, any consequences of the investigation that would cause you to resign for this?

RUMSFELD: Well, it seems to me that the chain of command is the chain of command. And what we have to do is to – we’ve got now six investigations under way to determine what took place. There certainly is no excuse for anyone in the armed forces to behave the way these photographs indicate some individuals behaved. We also know that the 1.4 million men and women in uniform on active duty and the terrific guard and reserve forces are filled with fine, talented, honorable people who don’t do that type of thing. No human being, regardless of what their training or anything else, would engage in those kind of acts in a normal, acceptable way. It’s unacceptable.

SAWYER: But it was something out of control from a management level.

RUMSFELD: It appears that at that prison for a period of time until reported by the soldier who went into the chain of command and reported it – and I should add that this was announced by the Central Command on January 16th, a day or two after they – I believe January 16th – a day or two after they received notification from this soldier that something was going on there. The investigation was initiated immediately. And the system works. The system stopped those abuses months ago and properly so.

SAWYER: A quick final question. The president is going to on Arab television and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has been on Arab television. Do you really think anything can be done to change the impression this has left in the Arab world?

RUMSFELD: Well, it becomes a fact of life. It happened. It was a terrible thing that had happened and it should not have happened. On the other hand, the United States is a wonderful country and it’s filled with fine honorable people who don’t do things like that. And we have armed forces that are filled with honorable people who don’t do things like that. And what we have here, I believe – I hope and pray – is an exceptional case that should not have happened. It did happen and it’s regrettable that it happened. But people make their judgments about our country, I think, based on a whole range of things and not simply a terrible situation like this.

SAWYER: Secretary Rumsfeld, again, we thank you for joining us this morning. Thank you, sir.

Presenter: General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Wednesday, May 5, 2004 7:10 a.m. EDT

General Pace Interview with Hannah Storm, CBS "Early Show"

HANNAH STORM: As part of a growing probe of abuse by U.S. military prison guards, the Army is investigating the deaths of 10 prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and has already concluded that two others were homicides.

General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is at the Pentagon.

Good morning, General.

PACE: Good morning, Hannah.

STORM: General, this report which detailed these abuses was completed at the beginning of March. Why didn’t the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, see this report? And why wasn’t the president made aware of what was going on?

PACE: Well, two different parts need to be understood. One is the reporting up the chain of command, which was done immediately. On the 13th of January, the allegations by the soldier inside the unit were reported to his Army chain of command. On the 14th of January, the Criminal Investigative Division team was sent to do the investigation. The phone calls were made up the chain of command. I know I knew about it within hours of the 14th of January. And everyone was kept apprised orally of the ongoing investigation.

The major general completed the investigation. And what happens with the paperwork itself is that each commander in the chain looks at the work, reads it in detail, does his analysis of what he or she should be doing with it, makes their decisions, and then sends it up the chain. So the fact that the paperwork did not get to Washington DC did not mean that the information did not. In fact, it did.

STORM: So you’re saying that General Richard Myers was well aware of the situation and that the president was well aware of the situation as well?

PACE: Yes.

STORM: There are those who claim that the soldiers who were involved in these incidents were merely following orders. So what did you find in your investigation? Did you find that to be true?

PACE: Those soldiers were not following orders. That is not what we expect of ourselves. It is not what the American people expect of us. We are expected to perform our duties honorably. And the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of young men and women, active, Reserve and Guard who have served in Iraq have done so honorably.

These incidents are not acceptable. They are being thoroughly investigated. They were reported from within the chain of command. And there are five or six separate investigations ongoing as I speak that are, in fact, looking into every detail of every facet of this that we can find.

STORM: If General Myers was aware of what was going on and the president was aware of what was going on, there’s outrage right now on Capitol Hill that none of the members of Congress knew what was happening. Why wasn’t it made aware to Congress? Why did the American public have to see it in news reports and members of Congress have to see this in news reports before understanding what was happening?

PACE: Well, as I recall, it was around the 16th of January that General Kimmitt made his first public announcement at a press conference. And then when charges were preferred on the 20th of March, General Kimmitt made another general announcement of what was going on.

We did have phone calls inside the chain of command, as I said, about the status of the investigations and some of the details of what was being found out. But we also need to make sure that we do the justice part of this in a very precise, measured way so that, in the process of trying to get to facts quickly, that we don’t at the same time turn our justice system on its head.

The best I know, Congress was -– the leadership of the oversight committees, the House Armed Services Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee, House Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, were notified sometime last week that these investigations had found what they found.

STORM: Now the president is being forced to go on Arab television to defend the actions of the U.S. military. And our relationship in the Arab world is tenuous at best. How does the military feel about putting the president in this position?

PACE: This brings discredit and dishonor on all of us who serve in the military and brings discredit on our country. And we don’t like doing that to ourselves, to our country, certainly not to our president. We are going to go about finding out how this happened, why it happened, take action against those who are responsible, and correct our training systems and our procedures as best we can to prevent this in the future.

STORM: And who is to blame? Is it the officers? Is it their superiors? Where’s the breakdown in the chain of command?

PACE: Well, that’s all part of the review process right now. And it would be inappropriate for me to specifically point out an individual or individuals. That will come out in due course as we let the legal system do what it’s supposed to do in the proper time line.

STORM: As a proud member of the military, how does this make you feel to see these pictures and hear these horrific reports?

PACE: It makes me sad. It’s just not right. It is not who we are. It is not what we represent. There are thousands and thousands of wonderful Americans right now serving our country overseas. They’re the ones who deserve the credit. And things like this are not what we’re about and are not acceptable.

STORM: Do you expect more cases to come to light?

PACE: I expect that as these investigations track down all the possible leads, that there will be more things that will need to be looked at very, very carefully. Usually when an investigation like this takes place, as they chase the various elements, more people come forward with bits and pieces of information that they think they might have, and that leads you to look at other things. So there will be more investigation. Where that will lead, I don’t know.

STORM: General Peter Pace, thank you so much for your time this morning.

PACE: Hannah, thank you.

*** ENDS ****

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