United States Department of Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld at Camp Pendleton Town Hall Meeting[Excerpt on Leaks, Press]
August 27, 2002
Q: Second question, sir, is do you think that, like, intelligence in the Marine Corps, that we are at a disadvantage for letting the American public media know what gone on that is being just displayed all over the world on channels like MSN, CNN and MSNBC? Do you think that's a tactically sound thing to do? Though was in the planning stages, if we were going to do it, don't you feel that somebody would probably know what we're more or less going to do?
Rumsfeld: (Sighs.) Yes. (Laughter and applause.)
There are two kinds of surprise. One is tactical and one is strategic.
It's pretty clear that in a free country -- and we -- you know, in life, you get the benefit and you get the burden. And under our Constitution, we've got free speech, and we've got a free press, and we have benefited enormously from that, as a people. The competition of ideas, the fact that we're forced to be challenged, we're forced to defend ideas and to compete intellectually as to things that ought to be done or might ought to be done or shouldn't be done, and to have that all aired has been, net, a big plus for our society and our country.
The reality is that with 24-hour news seven days a week - I can't understand it, but for whatever reason, there are people who have access to classified information, who make a conscious decision that they're going to give it to members of the press or to people who are not qualified to have classified information. I think it's disgraceful. It's a violation of federal criminal law. They ought to be prosecuted and thrown in jail. (Cheers, applause.)
Q: Tell 'em!
Rumsfeld: And I have a feeling that if any of the people who compromise classified information had children who were on the front lines and in the lead elements going into battle -- that was compromised because of their release of classified information, that they'd think twice instead of doing something that's so fundamentally wrong, so outrageously wrong, and so illegal.
Now what does all that mean? If you separate out classified information, which is one thing -- and the press don't invent classified information; the press is given classified information by people who have been charged with handling it in a responsible way and don't handle it in a responsible way, and thereby put people's lives in jeopardy. And it is those people that we ought to be focused on, it seems to me.
Now what about the effect of all of it? In every war, in every battle, it takes a certain amount of arranging prior to the battle, prior to the war. And I guess that we live in this world we live in, where so much is known so fast. I looked the other day at one of our airfields that we use in the Middle East, and there was a commercial satellite photograph on one of the television channels, showing exactly where our fighter aircraft and where our refueling aircraft were located on that airport -- this is on a television station -- from a commercial aircraft -- a commercial satellite, showing where our planes were and how they'd move, how one was there yesterday and was not there today, and noting that.
We're currently engaged in Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch, as you folks know, in Iraq, and our planes are getting shot at almost every day or every other day, by Iraqi surface-to-air weapons. When they are operating, they leave bases in that part of the world and fly into Iraq, in the north and in the south. Before those planes -- coalition planes, U.S. aircraft, British aircraft -- before they cross the border into Iraq, the Iraqis know it, and they have taken steps to move their mobile radars and their mobile missiles, so that our planes can't find them, can't attack them and can't kill them.
How do they do that? Well, they undoubtedly have people sitting near the bases, or some distance from Iraq, with cell phones, using technology that they didn't invent -- we did -- and that they buy on the open market, phoning in and saying, "The planes have left and they're headed this way." Now, can we live with that? You bet, we'll live with it.
Next question. Back here.
I wish we didn't have to live with it.