White House Daily Briefing, May 10


Monday May 10, 2004

Office of the Press Secretary
May 10, 2004


-- President's call to Panamanian President
-- President's upcoming schedule
-- Iraq
- Prisoner abuse
- Secretary Rumsfeld
-- Syria

Office of the Press Secretary
May 10, 2004


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:02 P.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I want to begin with a readout of a world leader call, and then I've got a few announcements and we'll get to questions.

This morning, the President called Panamanian President-elect Martin Torrijos to congratulate him on his election. The President underscored the importance of our relationship with Panama, and said that he looked forward to working with President Torrijos once he is inaugurated on September 1st. They promised to stay in touch on important initiatives as they move forward, including such issues as expanding free trade in our hemisphere.

Now for a few announcements to the President's schedule. The President will welcome President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of the Republic of Angola to the White House on Wednesday, May 12th. President Bush looks forward to discussing issues affecting the common interest of the United States and the Republic of Angola, particularly Angola's postwar reconstruction and transition to democracy, trade and development, regional stability, HIV/AIDS and the global war on terrorism.

The second announcement here: The President will arrive in Rome, Italy, on June 4, 2004, for meetings with President Ciampi and Prime Minister Berlusconi. June 4th marks the 60th anniversary of the World War II liberation of Rome by American and Allied forces. Today, Italy stands as a NATO ally and as a major contributor to international efforts to strengthen security and democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkins.

The President will also go to the Vatican to meet with Pope John Paul II. His Holiness has been a symbol of moral courage, and of human freedom and dignity. This will be President Bush's third meeting with the Pope during his term of office. The President will depart Rome on June 5, 2004, en route to Paris and Normandy.

And, finally, the President will travel to County Clare, Ireland on June 25th. He will participate in the U.S.-EU Summit on June 26th, and then travel to Ankora, Turkey, for bilateral meetings on June 27th, before departing for the NATO Summit in Istanbul, June 27th through 29th. The trip will underscore the importance of the relationship with all of our European partners in an undivided transatlantic community.

And that's all the announcements I have. I'll be glad to take your questions. Terry.

QUESTION: Scott, can you tell us about any pictures that the President saw while he was at the Pentagon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, yes. You heard from the President about his briefing. The President did receive a briefing -- or participate in a briefing to receive an update on our efforts in Iraq and the global war on terrorism.

Following that meeting, he participated in an interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television. And then after that, he went to the Secretary's office, where the President looked at more than a dozen photos and images. The President's reaction was one of deep disgust and disbelief that anyone who wears our uniform would engage in such shameful and appalling acts. It does not represent our United States military, and it does not represent the United States of America.

Q: Can you describe what was in the photographs?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not going to get into that, John. There are ongoing investigations. We need to let those investigations move forward and I don't want to get into doing anything that could compromise those investigations.

Q: He also saw videos, right?

Q: I was going to say, did he see the video?

MR. McCLELLAN: It included some still images from video. So it was still photos, and then some still images of videotape.

Q: So there's no actual moving video? He didn't see any videotape?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he saw some still images from video.

Q: What about further releasing of these, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we remain in close contact with the Pentagon on those issues. The Pentagon is looking at those issues. The Pentagon recognizes the importance of congressional oversight, so they're continuing to talk with members of Congress so that they will be able to take a look at some of these appalling images. In terms of releasing them publicly, the Pentagon has to take into account other considerations. They have to take into account privacy concerns, and they have to take into account concerns related to ongoing criminal investigations. I don't think they want to do anything that would compromise ongoing criminal investigations.

And I think the President has made his views very clear, in terms of the overall investigations. There are several investigations going on. The President believes that that process should be open and transparent. And it's important for the world to see, by our actions, that the United States takes these matters very seriously, and that we work to hold people responsible, and that we work to make sure that this doesn't happen ever again.

Q: So the President has left the decision about whether these photographs should be released to the Pentagon entirely? He's not going to weigh-in on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I said we remain in close contact. In fact, they talked about some of these issues during the briefing. We remain in close contact with the Pentagon on these matters. But the Pentagon is looking at these issues, taking into account the concerns that I mentioned. They have to take into account privacy issues. They have to take into account issues relating to ongoing criminal investigations. They also -- believes it's very important to keep Congress informed about these matters. Congress has an important oversight role to play. And so they'll be talking with members of Congress today -- I should say, continuing to talk with members of Congress today.

Q: Is it easier then for -- for them to be released through the oversight process, rather than through the command structure, as it were?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what I'm saying, in terms of releasing these images publicly, they don't want to do anything that would compromise ongoing criminal investigations because we want to make sure that the people who committed these despicable acts are held accountable. We don't want to do anything that would interfere with bringing them to justice, as you can appreciate.

Q: One more, I have one more. The Red Cross says, in its report of February, 2004, now public, "Since the beginning of the conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross has regularly brought its concerns about the abuse of prisoners to the attention of coalition forces." The observations in this report are consistent with those made out earlier, several occasions orally and in writing to coalition forces. When did the President, or anyone in the White House, first learn that the Red Cross, for more than a year, was documenting abuse of prisoners in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're aware of these issues, because the coalition and our military works very closely with the International Red Cross on these issues. And I would point out that you might want to talk to the Pentagon about some of these matters, because we believe in cooperating closely with the Red Cross. And the military has worked to address some of the issues that they raised. And they can probably brief you on some of those issues that they have worked to address.

Q: They raised this from March through November of 2003, they said, regularly.

MR. McCLELLAN: Understood.

Q: Did their warnings, did their documentation of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners reach this building, reach the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's important that we work to address concerns like that. And I think the Pentagon can brief you about specifics about how we've worked to address some of those issues. We believe in working closely with the Red Cross on these matters. Detainee treatment is something that we always are looking at and talking about. It's important that we make sure we adhere to high standards of conduct; that we are the United States of America and we stand for rule of law and we stand for justice and we stand for treating everyone with dignity and respect. And we believe in treating prisoners humanely. And so those issues are things that are constantly discussed, Terry.

Q: So the White House was aware that Iraqi prisoners were being abused before January of 2004?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, now, I didn't use those terms. I said we're aware of some of the issues that the Red Cross raised, and we've been working to address those issues. You can talk to the Pentagon about some of the ways they've worked to address those issues.

Go ahead, Dana.

Q: Just based on what you said this morning, it sounds like, aside from what has been in the media, this is the first time the President has seen the photographs that Don Rumsfeld was talking about on Friday, correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. I mean, he's seen the ones that have been in the media.

Q: Secondly, after he saw them --

MR. McCLELLAN: And he's been briefed on them previously, obviously.

Q: Right. After he saw them, in talking to him, does he seem more or less likely to want to get them out, get out ahead of it, and release them to the public?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, again, Dana, those are issues that the Pentagon is working to address. And we're going to stay in close contact with them.

Q: But he's the President. He has to have an opinion on this, particularly since you've described them as disturbing and disgusting.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he appreciates the issues that the Pentagon has to address, and the Pentagon is working to address those issues.

Q: You said, quite clear, that there are issues of compromising criminal investigation. If those issues can be addressed, is the President's position that he wants these photographs released?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to try to speculate on that. You also --

Q: It's not speculation.

MR. McCLELLAN: You also --

Q: Is his basic --

MR. McCLELLAN: You also --

Q: Is his basic position that they should be released if these other concerns can be addressed?

MR. McCLELLAN: You have privacy issues. You have ongoing criminal investigations. And they have to look to address those issues. They are working to look at those issues. And working with Congress to make sure that Congress can play their proper oversight role in these matters. And we will continue to stay in close contact with the Pentagon on these matters.

Q: But he hasn't yet decided whether in principle he thinks that they ought to be recessed?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes that the process on the investigation is moving forward, as they have been, should be an open and transparent process. He's made his views very clear on that. But he recognizes the importance of making sure that those individuals who committed these shameful and appalling acts are held accountable. And we don't want to do anything that would interfere with that.

Q: But what concerns us, though, is as a general principle, should pictures like this be released to the public so that people have a right to make up their own mind about it? Understanding that there are side issues that need to be resolved, if those issues are resolved, is it the White House's opinion --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to play --

Q: -- is it the President's opinion, that in principle, these ought to be released?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to play the "what if." We have to look at the reality of this, and look at these issues in the context of ongoing criminal investigations. That's what the Pentagon is working to do, and they're working to address those matters.

Q: You seem to indicate that you want the pictures to go to Congress first because of the oversight responsibility. And if there is some decision later on to share them, it would be after Congress has seen them?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the Pentagon is working with members to try to address this in a way that would provide them with the information they need to carry out their oversight responsibility.

Q: The other thing is you mentioned the privacy concerns. What are the privacy concerns?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think there are always privacy issues involved here. I'm not a legal expert, but they would be looking at issues that could involve lawsuits and things of that nature if they got into releasing these pictures. I think you can address those questions to some of the legal authorities over at the Pentagon.

Q: One other thing. You mentioned the Red Cross, and a Red Cross representative had said a few days ago that the administration actually was somewhat responsive to their concerns and had taken some actions. Can you shed any light on what actions were taken, and in what ways the administration might have been responsive?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the military and the Pentagon would be glad to share some of that information with you.

Q: Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Mike.

Q: I have two questions. And I start with Terry's question, which was, when did the White House become aware of these Red Cross reports?

MR. McCLELLAN: Mike, I'd have to go back and check the exact time period. But as Terry pointed out, these issues have been -- they go back a while, so I'd have to check that.

Q: But did you know about them before the "60 Minutes" story?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we were aware of them, because we work very closely with the International Red Cross. We believe it's important to cooperate closely with the Red Cross on these issues. These are important matters and, as I said, the actions that a few individuals committed do not represent the United States military.

There have been more than 200,000 people in our military who have served in Iraq. They have done so in an honorable way, and they have done so in a way that upholds the high standards our military is committed to adhering to. As the President has pointed out, there are thousands of acts of kindness and decency and compassion carried out by our soldiers on a daily basis. Our soldiers work to help orphans in Iraq; they work to help build schools in Iraq; they work to help provide medical care for the Iraqi people; and they work to help the Iraqi people reconstruct their country and move forward to a free and prosperous future. And we should always remember that the acts committed by a small number of individuals do not represent the United States military.

Q: Scott, you said, before the "60 Minutes II" story. Did you know about them -- did the White House know about these reports before this investigation began in mid-January?

MR. McCLELLAN: Mike, I haven't gone and, like, done a time line on this, but as Terry pointed out, these concerns have been brought to our attention previously. And like I said, we are always in close contact with the principals on these issues of detainees.

Q: And my last question is, you just made a reference to a few individuals, a small number of individuals. What is your basis for thinking that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are criminal charges being pursued against, I believe, seven individuals already. There are additional criminal charges that the military is looking at. And if you look at the images, there are a small number of individuals in those images who are carrying out these appalling acts. And I would also point out that the reason I say that is because I know that those individuals do not represent our United States military. Our men and women in uniform are serving and sacrificing with dignity and honor, and representing the best of the United States.

Q: What does the President view today -- the information you have -- you don't have any information that would indicate to you that there's any other individuals, any other prisons that are involved in --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, Mike, there are several investigations ongoing right now. It's important that we let those investigations proceed, including an investigation looking at whether or not there was a systemic problem. So it's important to take a comprehensive look at the entire prison system in Iraq.

I would also point out that Secretary Rumsfeld announced on Friday the appointment of former senior officials to an independent review team to go in and look at these matters, as well, and make sure that it's being pursued to the fullest. The President believes there must be a full accounting for what occurred.

Q: Scott, can I pick up on the second-to-last thing you said?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come back to you later.

Q: At the Pentagon this morning, the President said that Secretary Rumsfeld is courageously leading the nation in the war on terror, that he's doing a superb job, that he's a strong Secretary of Defense, that the nation owes him a debt of gratitude. Beyond the signal that this sends as far as whether or not he wants Secretary Rumsfeld to resign, does this indicate that the President thinks he has no -- should share none of the blame for whatever breakdown of leadership or command there was on all of this? And does the President believe --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think Secretary Rumsfeld addressed that issue on Friday, before members of Congress.

Q: Well, I'm asking what the President thinks, and if Rumsfeld --

MR. McCLELLAN: The President thinks it's important to get to the bottom of this. He also thinks that it's important to make sure we stay focused on the mission at hand. We have a difficult and important task that we are working to accomplish, and it's important that we stay focused on that mission, because a free and peaceful Iraq is vital to our nation's interest.

Q: Does the President believe that anybody other than the individuals who were directly involved in these acts is culpable, not just in a direct sense for the acts, but for whatever breakdown of leadership --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to prejudge investigations that are ongoing at this point. There are investigations that are ongoing to look into all these matters.

Q: The President seems to have prejudged Secretary Rumsfeld's role by giving him a very fulsome endorsement.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made his views very clear about Secretary Rumsfeld, and he stands firmly behind him.

Q: May I follow that, please?

Q: Scott, what was the President's reaction to WorldNet Daily's report that photographs circulating all over the Middle East that depict American soldiers raping Iraqi women are false and originated on porn sites, so that our embassy in Cairo issued this statement: "We have done a thorough investigation of the origin of these photos and have conclusive evidence that they originated on a pornographic website. They are clearly staged photos done by actors, as the site itself states"? And I have a follow-up.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I don't know what's being sent around the Internet in terms of pictures that may be real or may not be real. The President has made it very clear that there are people who are opposed to freedom who will seek to take advantage of this situation. And what we've got to do is show the world that we take this matter very seriously, that we act on it, and that we bring people to justice, and we work to make sure that nothing like this happens again.

Q: The Federal Bureau of Prisons public relations office this morning was unable to say how many of our 104 federal prisons have male wardens of female prisons, or female wardens of male prisons. But presuming the number of female wardens of male prisons is small, my question: Why, in a Muslim country, was a female general assigned to head all 12 of our military prisons and detention camps with such disastrous results?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Les, that may be one you want to address to the military.

Go ahead, Sarah.

Q: Thank you. Scott, does the President consider the abuse of Iraqi prisoners damaging to his reelection bid, or does he feel the scandal will be a non-issue by November?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's not looking at it in that context. He's looking in the context of making sure that we're getting to the bottom of this, and making sure that we remain focused on the important mission at hand. And that is to help the Iraqi people build a free and prosperous and democratic future, and peaceful future. And that's where our focus remains.

We will hold people accountable who committed these acts, and we will work to make sure that we put in procedures and policies to make sure that this kind of activity does not happen again. But we must not lose sight of the mission at hand. This mission at hand is vital to our nation's interest. A free and peaceful Iraq will transform the Middle East for the better.

Q: Scott, Senator Hagel, yesterday, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that he's aware of as many as 30 different investigations going on into allegations of abuse against detainees or prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that some of these involve deaths -- not all of them, but some of them. In light of that number, how can you say that this involves only a handful of soldiers? That sounds like -- that sounds like more than a handful.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Ken, there are more than 200,000 men and women in our military who have served in Iraq. And our military adheres to high standards of conduct. The President has great confidence in the work of our troops. They are serving and sacrificing for a very important cause, and they're doing so in a way that upholds what America stands for. And we stand for compassion and freedom and justice and rule of law.

And, you know, the images that we have seen, we have seen that there are a small number of individuals who are committing these acts. But it's also important that we take a comprehensive look; we look to see whether or not there are systemic problems. And that's what the military is doing, as part of their multiple investigations. And that's what the independent -- the independent review board is also looking at these matters.

Q: In view of the fact that the investigation is looking at the possibility of systemic abuses, how can you say with such confidence that it only involves a handful of --

MR. McCLELLAN: For the reasons I stated earlier, and for the reasons I stated just a second ago.

Richard, go ahead.

Q: Can I follow on that, please?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll get to you in a second. Unless -- do you want to yield? Okay, you won't get your question today -- go ahead.

Q: -- the Red Cross report did say that -- the allegations of systemic abuses. So the question is, if you're saying it's a small, isolated group of individuals, is it only at the one prison we know about it? Was the Red Cross wrong? Did you -- has the government reached that conclusion?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, the military can talk to you about how they've worked to address some of those issues, and I think they would be glad to share that information with you. In terms of investigations that are ongoing, I'm not going to try to prejudge those investigations at this point. It's important that we take a thorough look at the entire prison system in Iraq. The President has been very clear, and it's important that there be a full accounting for those who are responsible.

Q: Your talking point on this is that it's an isolated group of individuals -- it seems that you guys have come to a conclusion on this.

MR. McCLELLAN: They don't represent the vast majority of our men and women in the military who are serving with honor and distinction, Dick. Our United States military adheres to high standards of conduct. And they are serving courageously and bravely, and they are also showing the compassion of America.

Q: Well, can you --

MR. McCLELLAN: And we must -- and we must show America's commitment to the rule of law, and to following through on holding those responsible who committed these shameful acts.

Q: You mean to say for certain that we won't learn about other abuses in other prisons?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I mean to say what I've said previously. There are several investigations going on, and they're looking at all these issues.

Go ahead, Richard.

Q: Has the White House -- has the White House developed --

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have something more? I'll come to you next?

Q: -- or is it in the process of developing any kind of a public relations plan to try to get the President to repair some of the damage that's been done by this?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the way we do that is through our actions -- and the President has talked about that -- through our actions, to help the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future, and through our actions to get to the bottom of this, hold people accountable, and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. So we will show the world through our actions what America really stands for. And our men and women in the military who are serving and sacrificing in Iraq right now will show the world, through their actions, what we represent.

Q: Scott, two quick questions. One, we have spoken to some of the people -- civilians and the military people who served in Iraq, and what they are saying, one, they are supporting the Secretary of Defense to stay on the job. And, two, what they are saying is that these egregious acts have taken place, as you said, that few individuals were involved, because what they had seen before that how the Iraqis treated American soldiers, burned alive, killed and murdered and -- on the streets. You think that had maybe contributed to this?

MR. McCLELLAN: That what may have contributed to it?

Q: How Americans were killed and abused and burned alive in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are certainly terrorists and thugs and Saddam loyalists who do not want a free and peaceful Iraq to emerge, and they're going to use any excuse to try to take advantage of the current situation. But we will show the world, through our actions, that the actions of a few do not represent the good work of the many, of our men and women in the military.

And I would point out that the United States is committed to treating people humanely and treating people -- and meeting all our international obligations, including those under the Geneva Conventions.

Q: Can you address some of the concerns that were being addressed between the White House and the Pentagon, about releasing additional photos, including privacy and the ongoing criminal investigations? Is one of the concerns about our troops' security and safety in the region if there were more photos released? And was that one of the things that was discussed with the commanders on the ground today in this meeting?

MR. McCLELLAN: The safety and security of our troops is always a high priority. You heard the President talk about that in his remarks. You heard the President talk about how that is one of our foremost commitments when it comes to Iraq, and that he is committed to making sure that our troops have all the resources they need to protect themselves and carry out their mission -- that includes the best equipment, the most modern technology and the best training.

Q: Do you know, is that something that's been discussed? Is that something that the President is --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I would characterize it the way I did, in terms of focusing on issues like privacy and ongoing criminal investigations. But the safety and security of our troops is always at the top of our list.

Q: Along the lines of fixing some of the damage, will the President give the order for Abu Ghraib prison to be destroyed?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that that's a matter that was addressed by Secretary Rumsfeld the other day. And I think that the Coalition Provisional Authority addressed it -- it was either earlier today or yesterday -- and talked about how moving forward --I mean, obviously, that's issues to be discussed with Iraqi leaders.

Q: But this is something that -- I mean, we are currently in control of the country. This is something, we could take the step and say, let's do it.

MR. McCLELLAN: And we're about to transfer sovereignty. I think that those issues will be discussed with Iraqi leaders going forward.

Q: Scott, the President is known to be very loyal when it comes to his staff, especially his Cabinet and those working in the White House.

MR. McCLELLAN: Hopefully his press secretary, too. (Laughter.)

Q: He draws the line. (Laughter.)

Q: Scott, you know, as he's standing by Secretary Rumsfeld, there are calls still for Secretary Rumsfeld to step down or to be fired. And there are questions of his effectiveness, still. Where is the line drawn with the President between loyalty and effectiveness in doing a job, in the midst of this controversy?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President has made it very clear that he's serving very effectively during times of war.

Q: Wait a minute, is this about loyalty, or is it about his job?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is about someone who is doing an outstanding job serving the American people and serving during a time of war.

Q: Scott, despite all the good things that have been said about Secretary Rumsfeld, it's never been answered: Would President Bush accept his resignation if he offered it? And does President Bush --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's something being contemplated.

Q: Well, would he accept it though, if it happened?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's something being contemplated.

Q: And what about any other senior leaders or any other senior officials? Does the President think somebody has to lose his job --

MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn't even try to speculate on those matters.

Q: In your denunciations of the Abu Ghraib photos, you've used

words like "sickening," "disgusting" and "reprehensible." Will you have any adjectives left to adequately describe the pictures from Saddam's rape rooms and torture chambers? And will Americans ever see those images?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm glad you brought that up, Jeff, because the President talks about that often. We did remove a brutal regime from power that was responsible for mass graves and torture chambers and rape rooms. And this was a regime that encouraged and tolerated that kind of activity. It stands in stark contrast to the way we're addressing this issue of prisoner abuse. When something like this comes to light, the United States acts quickly and swiftly to bring people to justice and to take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Q: This is a matter of degree. Those prisoners will survive being photographed naked, but many of Saddam's victims will never be seen again, and did not survive the torture chambers. Will Americans ever see the photographic evidence of that? I think if you contrast the two, you're going to get a much different perspective on this.

MR. McCLELLAN: We should never forget the atrocities carried out by the former regime. You are having the head of that regime come to trial before long, and he will be held accountable for those atrocities.

Q: Will the pictures emerge at that time?

MR. McCLELLAN: He will be accountable for those atrocities.

Q: You referred to multiple investigations of the unfortunate incidents that have been going on, and how the perpetrators would be investigated, one by a review panel and the others, as I understand it, under the uniform code of military justice -- that people who are in uniform are subject only to prosecution under court martial, for example. And will the investigation be in the hands of military personnel, rather than civilian?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the individuals, the military is pursuing criminal charges. In terms of contractors and other people like that, there are laws that they have to adhere to, as well, and other people -- and there are other people who look into matters like that.

Q: Scott, did the President and Secretary Rumsfeld today agree in principle that these photos should be shared with Congress? Is that what happened?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I'll leave it to the Pentagon to describe some of their conversations with members of Congress. But I believe they're working to make sure that Congress has the information they need to carry out their oversight role. They recognize the importance of congressional oversight and keeping Congress informed. The President believes Congress ought to be kept informed of these matters.

Q: And you're envisioning the oversight panels, themselves, Armed Services --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think they're continuing to talk with members of Congress today. So you might want to direct some of those questions to the Pentagon.

Wayne, did you have something?

Q: Yes, I did. Secretary Rumsfeld, during his testimony last week, seemed open to the idea that him stepping aside might well be the big statement that the country needs to make to convince the Muslim world that these abuses really aren't what we're all about. Has Secretary Rumsfeld offered to resign at this point? Has he said --

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard anything like that, Wayne. I haven't heard anything like that.

Q: But he said to the Senate on Friday that he had given it a lot of thought himself.

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard any discussion of that here.

Q: Just to come back to this idea about a few individuals versus a more systemic problem. In the ICRC report, investigators found that these incidences of humiliation, of physical and mental coercion -- some of which they said were tantamount to torture -- were standard procedure that were employed by military intelligence to try to extract information from some of these prisoners, particularly high-value prisoners. And that's something that sounds to me like it goes up the command chain, and that would be known about by more than just a few people.

Q: First, I would repeat to you what I said, that we work closely with the Red Cross on these matters, and that the Pentagon has worked to address some of those issues. So you ought to talk to the Pentagon about some of those specific issues.

Secondly, the United States is committed to treating prisoners humanely and to treating these individuals in accordance with the Geneva Convention. And we've made that very clear.

Q: One other question. The President has talked with President Mubarak, King Abdullah in the last few days. Has he done any other outreach to other world leaders to let them know, with personal phone calls, that he plans to get to the bottom of this, or has he just spoken publicly?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's spoken very clearly publicly, and in a number of interviews as well, I would remind you. We keep you posted on his phone calls, and I'll continue to do that.

Q: Do you have anything on the United States imposing sanctions on Syria, or about to?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are moving forward with implementing the Syria Accountability Act. We do have serious concerns when it comes to Syria's behavior. We want to see Syria change their behavior. We have talked previously about our concerns when it comes to Syria's continued development of weapons of mass destruction, when it comes to their support for terrorism, and when it comes to their failure to adequately police its border with Iraq. We've also expressed our concerns when it comes to Lebanon. And these are serious matters. We want to see Syria make more progress on these areas. And I don't have anything to announce at this time, but we are moving forward on implementing the Syria Accountability Act.

Q: Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.

END 2:33 P.M. EDT


Copyright 2003  Q Madp  PO Box 86888   Portland OR 97286-0888   www.OurWarHeroes.net