United States Department of Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability En Route to Chile[Excerpt on DARPA'S Total Information Awareness program]
November 18, 2002
Q: [Admiral Poindexter?]
Rumsfeld: Well, you know it recalls to memory the front-page stories across the nation about weapons in space last year. The next morning I was prepared to brief about the space commissions organizational recommendation. Cartoons followed, op-ed pieces followed.
Then of course when the military commissions came up, the immediate response was, I think it was something like "oh summary executions, torture!" I can't imagine who would say something like that. But that is what was said and "what has happened?" We've had a perfectly rational group of very distinguished legal experts, both political parties of all political persuasions, have come together to advise us and we've made our announcements of how we're going to plan on how to handle these things if and when somebody is heaved over the transit to us, and everyone's now relaxed.
And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And "oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall." I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.
That was intended to be done by that office is being done by that office, NOT by that office in other ways.
Rumsfeld: Now. We're now into a new one of these where people are, ready shoot, aim. I would recommend that people take a nice big deep breath and look at the pattern in the past and rather than assuming the worst, they get their sea legs, make some inquiries, learn something.
Now, the short answer to your question is no, I can't explain it. I don't know much about it. And what I do know, I'm not sure I understand completely which is not surprising. I spent a good chunk of my recent life, a couple of decades in defense development, in technologies, I'm sorry Bryan...in pharmaceuticals, in electronics.
What you do is take money and invest it in forward-looking things, in things that you don't know much about. Things that may not ever happen, but things if they do happen might very well be helpful. And as you go down that road, very often there are non-intuitive paths that you end up following that you didn't understand when you began.
Indeed in pharmaceutical research, if you go back, much of what we benefit from today was arrived at serendipitously. It was not something that someone set out to do. You take intelligent people, give them a focus and direction and provide them with some money.
Now what is going on in DARPA? DARPA was the beginnings of the Internet. When the network began the people doing it had no idea that what would evolve would be what we see today. It never crossed their minds.
Package switching and various things came as a result of various contracts with RAND. It's been an amazing thing in the world. What is going on in DARPA today is exactly that kind of activity. You've got a bunch of very talented people working internally, dealing a lot of talented people outside the institution, taking some small fraction of the taxpayers money, investing it and to see if we can't find ways to do things better.
One of the tasks that you'll find in DARPA, meaning the Defense Advanced Research and Development. What is the A?
Rumsfeld: Of course, that was a test to see if you are as sharp as Torie. And indeed you are. I lost one letter in another of a billion acronyms.
We gave that to them as an assignment of thinking through what can we do to help on the war on terrorism? What can we begin thinking through?
What happens is some of the things that evolve never reach fruition. Some of the things that evolve reach fruition, but they're not appropriate for anyone in government. Some of the things evolve, reach fruition and in fact may be more appropriate for the Department of Transportation dealing with the global war on terrorism or they may be more helpful to the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI or somebody else. Then that's where they go. In some cases they help the Department of Defense through its statutory responsibilities.
I do not believe there have been a number of editorials I have seen one editorial and one op-ed piece and on the other hand I don't read them but if there are more, Bryan, I would like to see them.
Q: Did you see the one in the Early Bird?
Rumsfeld: That's the only one that exists to my knowledge. Let me put a cap on this. In the event any sensitive issue were to evolve, one looking at the past 22 months, a reasonable person, might reasonably expect that the administration, that the Department of Defense would have discovered it and recognized it and handled it appropriately, by getting the kind of advice and counsel like I did with respect to commissions.
So, the hype and the alarm approach, it seems to me is a disservice to the public and the public need not be told "oh my goodness gracious this is terrible, we're doing some research and development, which hasn't gotten very far and which we don't know what it will produce and if it ever produces anything it could be just terrible." I mean that is not a very sophisticated message. It's kind of like summary executions.
Q: We are not making the Public comfortable here.
Rumsfeld: If I haven't answered that I don't have control of the English language. I mean the fact of the matter is, Charlie, DARPA doesn't do anything like that. DARPA does research and development, that's why they're there. If something comes up -- let's say they discovered something perfectly terrible. They really did, instead of just pretend, lets say they really come up with something that was just so fundamentally horrible -- Is your question what would we do with that?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. I began by admitting my ignorance. I am not knowledgeable about the dozens and dozens and dozens of things that are going on in DARPA.
I have met Poindexter. I don't remember him much though. I had known him years and years and years ago when he was [in] a junior position and he explained to me what he was doing at DARPA but it was a casual conversation. I haven't been briefed on it; I'm not knowledgeable about it. Anyone who is concerned ought not be. Anyone with any concern ought to be able to sleep well tonight. Nothing terrible is going to happen.