United States Department of Defense
Department of Defense News Briefing[Excerpts on Leaks]
Presenters: Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers
July 22, 2002
Q: Last week there was a lot of publicity about your latest concerns over news leaks. You ordered the Air Force investigations arm to look into that July 5th New York Times story on Iraq warplanes. Yet last week, to CNBC, you went out of your way to minimize that document, saying you never saw it, General Franks never saw it, the president never saw it; it was generated at a lower level, and no one in the U.S. government had endorsed it. Why are you wasting a lot of capital and a leak investigation on such a low-level document?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, I don't know that I went out of my way. I believe I was asked, and I answered, just to start at the beginning.
Second, I accurately reported when I was asked, and said I had never seen it. General Franks tells me he had never seen it. General Myers and General Pace tell me they have never seen it. And Paul Wolfowitz had never seen it.
Now that's a fact, that -- it clearly was a document, if there was such a document, which I've never seen, and it was not printed, it was characterized in the article, carefully characterized. And if I've not seen it and no one I know has seen it, I don't know that calling it a relatively low-level document is inaccurate. It strikes me that that's probably a reasonable characterization. That was not dismissive, it was factual.
Q: Why a leak investigation if the thing might be a vapor of somebody's imagination; it carries no weight?
Rumsfeld: Okay. It -- if the investigation proves that it was nothing, then there's no problem. Your concern about the loss of capital is impressive. (Laughter.) I think the amount of money being spent on this, to -- compared to what's spilled every 15 minutes around here, is a must --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: No, I'm not finished. But it merits an investigation, because it was -- according to the reporter, it was labeled "top secret," with other characterizations. It sounded -- although I've not seen it, it sounded as though it was a document that was a prepared as a staff document at some lower level. And it clearly was addressing a subject of warplanes. And I am old-fashioned. I think that anyone who has a position where they touch a war plan has an obligation to not leak it to the press or anybody else, because it kills people. People's lives will be lost. If people start treating war plans like they're paper airplanes and they can fly them around this building and throw them to anybody who wants them, I think it's outrageous! It's inexcusable, and they ought to be in jail.
Q: Does anything in that story compromise national security?
Q: (Inaudible) -- investigation --
Q: Go ahead.
Q: You didn't order an investigation when the Nuclear Posture Review was leaked to the LA Times
Rumsfeld: Right. I've never ordered an investigation before in my life.
Rumsfeld: I don't believe so.
Q: Well, why this time, then, when you don't really know if the thing exists --
Rumsfeld: Because it was a war plan document. It was a document prepared clearly at some level, not blessed by Dick Myers, not blessed by Don Rumsfeld, but a war plan document. And I think that the idea of anybody working in the Department of Defense, cleared for classified material, who is so outrageously irresponsible that they would take a document that could kill Americans and jeopardize the ability of people to accomplish something by giving information to other countries as to what some guy down below thinks might make sense or you know, speculation, even though it's not blessed, I think it is so egregious, so terrible, that I decided to have a leak investigation, notwithstanding the cost. And I am pleased I did.
Q: Two points of clarification. One, was there anything, in your opinion, in the New York Times story that compromised national security or put lives at risk, as you said?
Rumsfeld: I have answered this probably right up to the edge of where I shouldn't answer any more. And I do not want to comment on the New York Times story. If I were to say yes, then you'd say, "What?" and then I would -- ask -- if I were to say no, then you'd say, "Well, what are you worried about?" and I've already said what I'm worried about, I'm worried about people treating a war plan like it's a paper airplane!
Q: Just to clarify a second point, do you believe that the New York Times -- did you have any problem with what the New York Times did, or is your concern solely with the official in the government who shared that information?
Rumsfeld: Well, clearly, everything I have said here indicates that my interest is the latter.
(To General Myers) Do you want to say anything about this just to punctuate it? (Laughter.)
Q: Feel free to take an opposing view! (More laughter.)
Myers: I don't have an opposing view. And this is -- you know, as long as you've been around this business, this is very frustrating. And when we go out and look in the eyes of these folks that ask us to do -- that we'll ask to do some very, very hard tasks, when you look in their eyes and you look in the eyes of their families, and so forth, you want to do all you can to ensure they have everything -- all the resources necessary to do the job.
And so if anybody, especially on our team, gives away information that might make their job more difficult or might lead to injuries or death, I think that's inexcusable.
Rumsfeld: And I'll say one other thing. I hope that if there's anyone in the Department of Defense who knows who did that, that they will give someone in a position of responsibility that information because they have every bit as big an obligation to do that as they do not to release it in the first place.
Back to --
Q: At the risk of extending this debate, The New York Times, in its story, did identify in a certain way the source of the story. They said it was from an official who was unhappy with what they thought was an unimaginative conventional plan -- a criticism, by the way, I'm told that, Secretary Rumsfeld, you shared at times about some war plans -- and that one might argue that their motivation in making this public was to point out a flawed policy that could cost lives.
Rumsfeld: There is nothing you could say that would lead me to believe that the individual was well motivated and trying to serve his country by violating federal criminal law -- NOTHING you could say.
Myers: And on the other hand --
Q: Even if the plan was unwise and ill conceived?
Myers: And on the other hand, there are plenty of forms to vet that sort of thing. And that's -- I mean, we would hope we would not have an ill-conceived and unwise plan. But there are plenty of ways to do it without leaking something.
Rumsfeld: Last question!