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U.S. Department of Defense
News Briefing
September 12, 2001

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld


SEC. RUMSFELD: Finally, I'd like to say a word or two to the men and women in the defense establishment, most of whom deal with classified information. Since the end of the Cold War, there's been a relaxation of tension, and the -- it's had a lot of effects. It's led to proliferation. It's led to the movement towards asymmetrical threats, as opposed to more conventional threats.

One of the other effects has been it has had an effect on how people handle classified information. And it seems to me that it's important to underline that when people deal with intelligence information and make it available to people who are not cleared for that classified information, the effect is to reduce the chances that the United States government has to track down and deal with the people who have perpetrated the attacks on the United States and killed so many Americans.

Second, when classified information dealing with operations is provided to people who are not cleared for that classified information, the inevitable effect is that the lives of men and women in uniform are put at risk because they are the ones who will be carrying out those prospective operations.

And I -- this is a message really for all the men and women in the United States government who have access to classified information. It seems to me that when they see or learn of someone who is handling classified information in a way that is going to put the lives of the men and women in uniform at risk, they ought to register exactly what kind of a person that is; it's a person who's willing to violate federal criminal statutes, and willing to frustrate our efforts to track down and deal with terrorists, and willing to reveal information that could cause the lives of men and women in uniform. I think it's time for all who deal with that information to treat it with the care and respect that it merits.

I'd be happy to respond to a few questions.


Q: Mr. Secretary, your comments on the handling of classified information, does that -- are you suggesting that it's time to move to a more secretive government in which there's less transparency about what it is you're doing? And how does that square with the goal of openness that reassures both our friends and foes around the world that the United States' intentions are good? We all know that there's a wealth of material that's classified unnecessarily and doesn't necessarily need to be.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well. I -- as I'm sure you've discovered, I do believe in openness, and I think it's enormously important in a free system with a free press and a democratic underpinning to our wonderful success as a country that we recognize that and respect it. I also know that you're quite right, there are things that get classified that ought not to be classified. But what I said is enormously important, and that is that when classified information is compromised by people who ought to know better because they're unprofessional or uncaring, and perfectly willing to violate federal criminal law, and seemingly willing to put people's lives at risk -- their colleagues and their neighbors and their friends -- I think it's something that should stop.


MS. CLARKE: Jim's question, folks -- he needs to leave. We need to get you across the river. So last question.

Q: Was sloppy handling of classified information -- did that play some role in the attack?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge.

MS. CLARKE: Okay, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It is an issue that I think, however, needs to be elevated and looked at and that people in all aspects of government --

Q: What's the catalyst, why are you raising that today?

Q: Yeah, has it happened in the aftermath?

SEC. RUMSFELD: It has been happening daily.

Q: Thank you, sir.

Q: Thank you.

Source: Defenselink

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