Rumsfeld says CIA is best-equipped to handle interrogation of Saddam
December 17, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he’s asked the CIA to oversee the interrogation of Saddam Hussein, saying the agency has the experience and people to best carry out the job.
“It was a three-minute decision, and the first two were for coffee,” Rumsfeld said Tuesday at a Pentagon briefing when asked of his reasons for relinquishing to the CIA.
Turning more serious, he explained the CIA “has the competency and the professionals” to interrogate Hussein, captured Saturday by 4th Infantry Division and Special Forces soldiers. The U.S. military will maintain custody of Hussein, who is being held in an undisclosed location.
Rumsfeld also defended decisions to display and circulate photographs of a disheveled Hussein, which could be considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions that guard against the public humiliation of prisoners.
While Hussein has not been legally classified as a prisoner of war under the Conventions, he is being treated humanely, Rumsfeld said.
“He is being handled in a professional manner and has not been held up publicly,” Rumfeld said. Photos or video have not been circulated since those following Hussein’s capture Saturday night, local time.
Rumsfeld said Hussein’s photos and video of a medical examination by a U.S. military physician were “not for the sake of curiosity,” and that he weighed the importance of displaying the deposed dictator as “off the street” and thwarting future attacks on troops.
“It was terribly important he be seen by the public for what he is — a captive,” Rumsfeld said, adding leaders hoped the message would deflate insurgents’ attacks on U.S. and coalition forces.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, visiting troops in Baghdad, said he expected that the guerrilla resistance in Iraq might dwindle, but that he isn’t expecting an immediate drop in guerrilla attacks in Iraq.
He said the U.S. military would see some intelligence gains from the capture, and acknowledged recent pro-Saddam demonstrations in Iraq, which showed that many Iraqis still don’t support the occupation.
“We expect it will take some time before we see any possible effects from what we’ve accomplished,” Myers said of the Saddam capture. “We have the same rules of engagement we had three days ago.”
Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said troops have maintained their normal tempo of carrying out roughly 1,000 patrols a day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.