DoD News Briefing 21/12 - Rear Adm. Craig Quigley

Published: Sat 29 Dec 2001 11:20 PM
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, DASD PA Friday, Dec. 21, 2001
(Interview with Mike Rosen, KOA 850 AM, Denver, Colorado)
Q: Our guest this hour, Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. We've talked to Admiral Quigley in the past, glad to have him back with us today.
Admiral, good to talk to you again.
Quigley: Hi, good morning. The pleasure is all mine, Mike.
Q: Good morning to you as well.
Any hot breaking news you can update us on?
Quigley: Well, I would say the determination of the your military to carry out at least its portion of the war on terrorism remains just as strong as it was on October 7th when all this began.
Today in Afghanistan we have many hundreds of men and women who are working very hard to make that objective come true.
Q: The deployment of U.S. troops in that part of the world right now requires, since you're representing the Navy at least in uniform, although you are with the Office of Secretary Defense right now in this capacity, requires that people be away from home on station for long periods of time. Our force levels are much lower than they were during the Gulf War which means if you do the math people are going to have be on station and deployed for longer periods of time before they get relief than was the case in the past.
What kind of strains is that placing on the Navy?
Quigley: Well Mike, and I will speak for all of the services here. While I am a naval officer I have first-hand experience working with men and women of all branches of the service in that part of the world and elsewhere. So I will tell you that it's never easy, but it's something that the men and women who serve our nation in uniform do willingly, and it is all due to their desire to serve their nation and to do work that really matters in the course of events of our nation's place in history.
So today you have men and women that are afloat, on Navy and Coast Guard vessels for that matter, off the coasts in that region that are trying to interdict perhaps leadership members of al Qaeda and Taliban who would try to flee Afghanistan by sea. You've got Air Force men and women who fly and maintain a variety of aircraft that are contributing to the mission. You've got Special Forces soldiers ashore in Afghanistan. You've got Navy Seabees that are working at Bagram airfield. You've got Air Force engineers called Red Horse that are working at Mazar-e Sharif up in the northern part of the country. We've got a variety of folks from a variety of services. Marine Corps in large numbers around Kandahar that are all serving proudly because they know they are doing work that makes a difference.
Q: If this is going to be a protracted effort, if we're going to be in the Middle East with a major naval presence over a period of years, it implies that unless we're going to have people on station for increasingly longer periods of time before they get some rotation, it implies that we're going to need more personnel. Anything in the wind on those lines?
Q: What the services have done, and already have done in a couple of different instances since the war started is to rotate their personnel. It makes life more bearable for the men and women who serve as well as for the machinery that they operate -- the aircraft, the ships, and what have you. So you've already seen the Navy swap out carrier battle groups, you've seen Navy and Marine Corps swap out amphibious ready groups and marine expeditionary units, you've seen the Air Force swap out some of the aircraft units and the squadrons from which they come. So this is, we all understand that this is a long-term commitment on the part of our nation, and I think that our service leaders are making intelligent choices to even out the workload over an extended period of time for both the personal and professional lives of the men and women who serve as well as the machinery they operate.
Q: How about the numbers?
Quigley: Of?
Q: Right now we've got about 370,000 active duty Navy. During the Gulf War we had about 580,000. Are we going to need to pick those numbers up?
Quigley: I think if you take a look at the long-term needs and if you use Afghanistan for a model, I would say the answer is probably not. But who knows what form the war against terrorism will take in the months and years ahead. Afghanistan is just the first place on the globe of what the president has committed to be a global effort to reach out and take apart the organizations that have the capability to commit global terrorist acts and the individuals and organizations that support them.
So all eyes are focused certainly on Afghanistan today, but who knows where that effort will lead us in the months and years ahead.
So I think the answer to your question is a tough one, Mike, because I don't think we have a very good visibility on that.
Right now, today, I think the level of effort is very manageable with the force structure that we have. I'm sure the president will not hesitate to seek higher force levels if that is what we need to do in the time ahead.
Q: When we come back I'd like to ask you a question about Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's recent comments on the now-famous Osama bin Laden tape. He held a joint briefing with General Myers on December 13th and talked about the tape itself and whether or not when he was asked the question he stands behind the authenticity of the tape.
I've got a transcript: of that and I'm confused as to what Secretary Rumsfeld meant when he said something in particular. Perhaps you can help us clarify that.
Quigley: Sure, I'll try.
Q: 10:11 the time. Right back with Admiral Craig Quigley. This is Mike Rosen; you're on 850 KOA.
Q: 10:15 the time. We're talking to Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, United States Navy, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
The bin Laden tape, Admiral, I've got a couple of quotes here from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Quigley: Okay.
Q: One that's pretty unequivocal was from a story in the Washington Times on December 12th in which it says, "Mr. Rumsfeld said there was almost no chance the tape was a fake," quoting him as, "that is so remote, so unlikely from what I have seen, I think I would rule it out."
In the joint briefing on December 13th with General Myers the specific question was asked of Secretary Rumsfeld, "Mr. Secretary, how is it determined that the bin Laden is a credible tape, that it's what it appears to be?" Here's what the secretary said. "Very carefully. The tape was taken, received, and put through a process by various people in the government to make sure that it was authentic, that it was in fact who it appeared to be. It was then looked at to see if it had been tinkered with and it was then translated into English by one expert. Then it was taken to at least two other experts for translations and to determine consistency. It took some time and we believe it was done carefully." Here's the clause that confuses me. "But," he said, "we do not stand behind it. It is not our tape. It is not our translation. We did the best we could," and then he went on with further explanation.
Is the "we" in this case the Department of Defense?
Quigley: "We" I think in this particular instance would be the United States government. Since this was something -- the tape was not produced by any element of the United States government, we therefore cannot in any reasonable way guarantee its source of origin. From all of the tests, all the electronic checking and all the actual checks of that actual videocassette itself, we cannot determine that there have been any tinkering or modifications or alternations done to the videotape. But since we did not produce the thing from its original inception, we just, that whole origination piece is just unknown to us.
We cannot determine any modifications that have been made to the tape since it was apparently made. So we think, our best estimate is that it is not doctored in any way.
Q: I can understand all of that and that sounds perfectly reasonable. But when Secretary Rumsfeld said, "It is not our translation," I don't understand that. It seems to me that the White House or the State Department or the Department of Defense, somebody in our government selected the experts who did the translation.
Quigley: Also true. And there are vagaries in the language that there was some disagreement amongst the Arabic speakers that did the translation.
But we feel the essence of the meanings of the words have been as faithfully translated into English as we can do it.
Q: But it is our translation then, isn't it?
Quigley: Yes.
Q: That is it's a translation that was sponsored by the federal government.
Quigley: Yes, it was.
Q: He was asked a follow-up question later. "What do you mean, you do not stand behind the tape?" Here's what he said to that. "It is not for me, since I don't speak Arabic, therefore it's not for me to say that the words are what the translation says they are. All we can do is the proper due diligence. We have had the tape checked by experts. We have had the tape looked at to see if it had in any way been tampered with. We had people who are respected in their fields do the translation. I did not do it. I have every reason to believe they are honorable people and did their best. It's interesting that they all seem to have agreed, which suggests that maybe the words are fairly close, and I made one other comment that I hope that those words are in reasonably close proximity to the mouth saying them on tape, and there again, I can't know that."
So it seems to me that he's saying, and maybe he's using the imperial "we," he can't personally attest to the accuracy of the translation since he doesn't speak Arabic, but other members of the United States government can attest to the credentials of those people who translated it and our government is saying we believe this translation to be faithful. Is there any doubt about that?
Quigley: Mike, I don't think I could have put it any better if I'd have said it myself. No. And it is, Secretary Rumsfeld does not speak Arabic so it's not something that he can listen to and make a judgment on. But it is based on people who do speak the language with a couple of cross-checks to make sure that their interpretation of some of the language chosen is in agreement with each other, so to the best that we can do it with people who are familiar with the language and the syntax and all that, that we think is a faithful interpretation of translation of the words that were actually spoken on the original tape.
Q: And now that it's out there, now that the translation is public record, if some other people want to dispute some of the passages they're free to do that and we can have a public discussion of it.
Quigley: Oh, sure. Absolutely. If there is a shade of meaning that a person who is a native Arabic speaker might differ on, I mean we would certainly be amenable to that. And if it's a phrase here and a word there, I don't think we're going to have missed the mark by much if at all. But if somebody feels strongly enough about it and has a different view, we're all ears.
Q: 10:20 the time. Our guest, Rear Admiral Craig Quigley. We'll be right back on 850 KOA.
Q: 10:24 the time, we're talking to Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. I'll be happy to take your phone calls as well if you've got comments or questions. Our telephone number 713-8585.
Admiral Quigley, how's the hunt going for Osama bin Laden?
Quigley: We feel we're making good progress. It is going to take time but this is something that is very difficult to do. This is a person, and other senior leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban as well, who simply don't want to be found. And they have been quite successful at that for several years now. So I don't think any of us expect that this is going to be quick or easy. It will take patience, it will take time. The outcome is inevitable, Mike. I just can't give you a really good feel for the timeframe.
Q: I've always speculated that when we catch bin Laden it will be largely because of information given to us by a former bin Laden confederate, somebody's going to rat him out.
To what extent are we getting information from other people that we're capturing and taking into custody that might help us get a line on the whereabouts of bin Laden?
Quigley: We are working our way through those individuals now. The people that have been detained at various spots within Afghanistan, several thousand of them, most of which, I mean realistically we don't expect to have any first-hand knowledge of that. But you just never know where that one person will be that will provide that key bit of information that will allow us to proceed and be successful.
But I do need to say that while all of us want to capture of kill bin Laden, there are many senior members of the al Qaeda network not only in Afghanistan but in several places around the world that are also very, very substantial contributors to the effectiveness of this terrorist organization. We don't want them to remain in operation either. So our focus is much more than just on Osama bin Laden.
Q: Are there any extraordinary policies in place to deal with Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners once captured? Based on a couple of recent incidents where in custody those prisoners have attacked their guards and grabbed their weapons. These seem to be prisoners who are more difficult to handle than prisoners generally since they may be bent on suicide in any event.
Quigley: Well, I think you have, again, the actual discussions, the negotiations for surrender in most of the cases are not between U.S. or coalition soldiers and the al Qaeda or Taliban fighters. It is the opposition group leaders there in Afghanistan that are native Afghans, that are having these discussions with the fighters.
The reaction varies. If these are Afghan Taliban, then you have a very reasonable expectation I think if they surrender that they would not cause trouble and then would just return to their former lives there in Afghanistan. If they're al Qaeda, on the other hand, and particularly foreign fighters, members of al Qaeda that have come from many different countries in that region and other parts of the world, they tend to be far more hardcore and either fight until they are completely defeated, and those are the folks that when you take their surrender you want to make sure that you have removed their weapons to the best ability that you can to hopefully preclude that from happening again.
Q: When we come back from this break can you tell us anything about John Walker Lindh?
Quigley: Some, sure.
Q: We'll be right back with Admiral Craig Quigley. 713-8585 our number. We'll be happy to take your phone calls after this as well on 850 KOA.
Q: 10:32 the time. 713-8585 our telephone number. We just have a few minutes left with our guest, Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs talking to us from the Pentagon.
John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. I read a report yesterday indicating that the Justice Department is now thinking that it's unlikely he'll be charged with treason, but may be charged with some other offenses.
Can you add anything to this?
Quigley: Mike, I need to choose my words very carefully here so as not to prejudice any future legal action, so I will stick to what we know.
When the opposition group leaders questioned the many thousands of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters that they have captured over time and they find somebody that they think will be of interest to us, to the United States, an English speaker perhaps, or someone that appears to be American or really has some significant information to provide, they let us know. They've been very generous in allowing us to be a part of the questioning sessions with these individuals. Then eventually have allowed us to actually take custody of a small number of them over the past few weeks, with John Walker Lindh being the first among them.
What we have done initially is to question him about whatever sort of tactical intelligence that he would have in his head about locations of senior leaders of either al Qaeda or Taliban, of near-term tactical relevance that we could capitalize on today or tomorrow and in the very near future.
If there is any legal action that the United States would pursue against either him or others that have been detailed, we would start fresh with a different approach to ensure that these individuals receive the same rights as others that have been tried, or will be tried under America's legal system.
So whether it's a traditional Department of Justice effort or whether it would be one of the military tribunals that may be set up, we just don't know yet, so we're keeping all our options open.
Q: That would determine where he'd be held in custody, I imagine. A military facility as opposed to a standard criminal justice facility.
Quigley: Right. Again, we don't have that resolved either. Several options are available to us and we've got good legal minds here in the Defense Department, in the Justice Department and elsewhere in the government that are working their way through that.
Q: Admiral Quigley, thanks for being with us again. We appreciate it.
Quigley: My pleasure, Mike.
Q: Have a Merry Christmas.
Quigley: And you, sir.
Q: 10:35 the time, we'll be right back on 850 KOA.

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