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Courthouse Shooting Leaves Officer Dead; Discovery Lands Safely; Widow of Christopher Reeve Diagnosed with Lung Cancer
Aired August 09, 2005 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, HOST: Courthouse shooting. An officer hit, the search for suspects under way right now. We're following this developing story.
Cancer shocker. The widow of actor Christopher Reeve makes a stunning announcement about her own health.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EILEEN COLLINS, DISCOVERY COMMANDER: We've had a fantastic mission. We are so glad to be able to come back and say it was successful.
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HARRIS: Anxiety ended. Discovery makes it back to Earth. But the shuttle still has one more trip to make.
From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Tony Harris, in for Kyra Phillips. CNN's LIVE FROM starts right now.
Chaos at the courthouse. Two inmates on the loose, along with a woman who, authorities say, opened fire on some guards who were loading the inmates into a van after a court appearance. It's happening in Kingston, Tennessee, just west of Knoxville. And we get the latest from reporter Dan Farkas of CNN affiliate WBIR in Knoxville.
DAN FARKAS, WBIR CORRESPONDENT: Let's very first of all start off with the search effort. They are currently searching for three people, two of whom were actually inside of the Roane County Courthouse behind me earlier this morning for a court hearing.
They are also searching for a third woman who apparently, by all accounts, was the shooter in this situation.
As for the one officer that was hit, the officer shot once in the stomach, currently in critical condition, life-starred away to a medical facility, though the public information officer wasn't sure what medical facility that was.
Now, let's give you a chronological perspective of exactly what happened. And it really starts with that van, which is behind me. Two members of the Morgan correctional -- regional correctional facility were taking two inmates to the Roane County Courthouse for as court hearing.
As they were living at 10 a.m., that's when the shots were fired. There were several shots fired. We saw four or five indications of shell casings in the area. Again, one of the two individuals hit in the stomach. That person is in critical condition.
They ended up leaving in a dark blue SUV. That SUV was found probably about a mile and a half away, in the parking lot of a Subway restaurant, where we are now. As a result, there is an absolutely massive search effort, several different departments from several different counties and the TBI searching on the ground. We've also seen several helicopters fly by.
Also, schools here in the Roane County area are currently on lockdown. That means nobody in. It also means nobody out. The public information officer saying that if you live in this area, it probably is best to just go ahead and stay inside for awhile, because several roads are currently blocked off.
So, again, to recap, three people currently on the loose. Two of them were inside of this courthouse for a court hearing. The third person, a woman, who apparently was involved in the shooting. One officer hit, shot in the stomach, currently in critical condition.
They are planning to hold a press conference in the next hour or so where we hope to get pictures of at least two of the suspects that they're working for. Obviously, a developing situation.
HARRIS: OK. Once again, that was reporter Dan Farkas of our CNN affiliate, WBIR, in Knoxville, Tennessee, reporting from Kingston, Tennessee. And CNN can now report that the wounded officer has died.
What's more, the alleged shooter reportedly is the wife of one of the inmates, who was serving 35 years for aggravated robbery and assault. We will keep you posted on the search.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The landing gear is down and locked. Main gear touchdown.
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HARRIS: That low key delivery notwithstanding, mission control is over the moon with the safe and sound return of Space Shuttle Discovery. It's a day late and more than 2,000 miles from Kennedy Space Center. But after 14 days, 219 orbits, 5.8 million miles, who's counting?
Actually, our Sean Callebs is. But that's his job. He's at KSC, where it looks like a pretty beautiful day behind you, Sean.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, beautiful day here. But of course, what caused the two wave offs earlier this morning, potential landings here at Kennedy Space Center, the fact that a line of thunderstorms moved in here just before dawn.
But the seven-person crew didn't miss a beat. NASA simply moved them on to Edwards Air Force Base. And a collective sigh of relief, just after 8:11 Eastern Time, I'll show you exactly what happened. Commander Eileen Collins just bringing in a picture-perfect landing of Discovery. A mission that stretched nearly 14 days in space.
And also, stretched some of NASA's best scientists and engineers to the very limit. This testing, a billion dollars worth of repair -- or worth of improvements to the shuttle over the past two and a half years.
And after they were able to touch down at Edwards Air Force Base, the seven astronauts eventually emerged from the shuttle, after about two hours. They had a chance to walk around the orbiter and look at all the 20,000 or so tiles.
And this is, of course, an orbiter, as you mentioned, Tony, had gone through some 290 orbits, including one historic spacewalk, where Steve Robinson walked on the underside of the shuttle, was able to pick a piece of fiber that was in between two of the tiles that were sticking out and caused some concern. Indeed, Commander Eileen Collins says this was a great mission for both the crew and NASA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: We have had a fantastic mission. We are so glad to be able to come back and say it was successful. And we have resupplied the International Space Station. And we've met the test objectives of the space shuttle program, brought Discovery back in great shape, as you can see behind us. Its crew was really anxious to walk around and see what the outside looks like. And it looks fantastic.
We've got a great group of folks that are taking care of Discovery and taking care of us. Just want to say thanks to all of those who have worked this mission. For us, it's been -- for many of us, it's been four years since we've trained for STS-114, and this is a wonderful moment for all of us to experience. And thank you for sharing that with us, and we'll be talking to you again in a couple of hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CALLEBS: And NASA's calling the mission wildly successful. Now the challenge, to get the orbiter from California back here to the Kennedy Space Center. That is going to take somewhere between nine or 10 days.
Tomorrow a charter flight is leaving from Florida with 170 KSC employees who are going out to California. They will spend about seven days preparing the shuttle to be put on the back of a big 747 and piggybacked across country. And that flight should take a couple of days.
So all in all, should be here in about 10 days at a cost of close to $5 million. No one here is complaining, Tony. HARRIS: No. Of course not.
CALLEBS: They're calling this an incredibly successful mission.
HARRIS: CNN's Sean Callebs. Sean, thank you.
President Bush followed all of Discovery's ups and downs. And he, too, is relieved at the almost routine landing. Here's an audio clip from his working vacation in Texas.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to congratulation the Discovery crew. Commander Collins and the pilot of that crew, James Kelly did a fantastic job of bringing the craft, most importantly, the folks aboard the craft, home safely to California this morning. It's a great achievement. It's an important step for NASA to, as it regains the confidence of the American people and begins to transition to the new mission we've set out for NASA. So congratulations, Commander Collins. It's quite an achievement.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS: Strength, courage, and hope. Ideals Dana Reeve says bond her closer than ever to her late husband Christopher as she begins her fight against lung cancer.
Reeve's stunning announcement comes in light of what she calls the imminent release of a tabloid article about her condition. On the Christopher Reeve Foundation web site, Dana Reeve says, "I have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer and am currently undergoing treatment. I have an excellent team of physicians, and we are optimistic about my prognosis. My family and I deeply appreciate the care and concern of our friends and supporters and trust that everyone understands our need and desire for privacy during this time."
She goes on, "I hope before too long to be sharing news of my good health and recovery. Now, more than ever, I feel Chris with me as I face this challenge. As always, I look to him as the ultimate example of defying the odds with strength, courage and hope in the face of life's adversities."
You may remember yesterday, with attention focused on the lung cancer death of Peter Jennings, I was able to get some insights from Dr. Daniel Miller of Emory University here in Atlanta.
DR. DANIEL MILLER, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Three out of four patients, when they're diagnosed with lung cancer, already have advanced disease. And that's why now, in the medical community, that we're trying to improve ways to diagnosis earlier disease.
HARRIS: Give us that statistic again.
MILLER: Three out of four patients, when they're diagnosed, usually have metastas (ph) disease either to the lymph nodes within the chest or to other organs, and most of the time they will not beat their disease.
HARRIS: Tell us about the symptoms then. How do you know when you have something other than just a cough due to cold?
MILLER: Well, and that's the thing. A lot of the symptoms can be nonspecific at first. Coughing, which is normally caused from bronchitis. But when symptoms do not go away, then you should see your physician for that.
Things you can have, pain in your chest. You can cough up blood and so forth. And when those occur, then you need to see your physician for further workup.
HARRIS: And by the time you've coughed up blood, that's a pretty serious sign, isn't it?
MILLER: Yes, it is. And see, the lung has no nerve endings. So something can grow in your lung for a period of time when you start having the associated symptoms, such as coughing up blood, pneumonia, pleuritic (ph) chest pain, then a lot of the time, it's already spread locally.
HARRIS: Now, depending on when you're diagnosed, what are some of the treatment options?
MILLER: Well, the No. 1 option, the best chance to beat it is to have some type of surgical recession. And unfortunately, only about one out of four or one out of three patients can undergo that at the time. If they are -- cannot undergo surgical treatment, then the options are chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
HARRIS: What's the promise out there for new treatments, new drugs?
MILLER: Well, that's the excitement right now. There's a lot of different institutions in the United States, a lot of different drug companies that are really working to do this. There's a lot of new medications coming out, but the problem is, is that there's not a lot of patients who are around to undergo that treatment. But there is a lot of excitement for that, but there needs to be more emphasis on earlier detection is the main thing, and to stop smoking.
HARRIS: Do I hear you say that by the time you're diagnosed with lung cancer, you are in for a very, very difficult, very much an uphill battle to survive?
MILLER: Yes, it is. If it's diagnosed at an advanced stage. If it's diagnosed at an early stage where surgery can be done, 65, 75 percent of patients can be cured. But if their disease has already gone outside of the chest into other organs, then it is an uphill battle.
HARRIS: And as the disease is sort of closing in on you and the last days, the last months, what's life like? Are you on a ventilator to assist you in breathing?
MILLER: Well, you can be. That's one of the main things if you develop a lot of disease in your chest, you can have symptom of shortness of breath, such fashion, but also, the lung cancer can spread to four main organs, the brain, the liver, the adrenal glands and bone, which it can be very painful.
HARRIS: Sounds like a horrible disease. Sounds like something horrible to have.
MILLER: It is very horrible. And you know, we are making some inroads. There are -- a lot of excitement now about CT scans screening for lung cancer. The jury's still out on that. Hopefully, that will make a difference one day. But the bottom line is, not to smoke to begin with.
HARRIS: If you do smoke and want to quit, congratulations, that's the first step. Learn about the other steps, including some you may not have thought of, from CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, right here in the next hour of LIVE FROM.
Without a doubt, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Many people would think secondhand smoke would be the second leading cause of lung cancer. But that is not the case.
We looked to the experts, the American Lung Association, for a look at the causes of lung cancer. And here's what we found.
You have never seen, nor smelled radon gas. It is colorless and it is odorless. But here's what else we can tell you. You may not even have heard of it either, but it can be a killer. The American Lung Association says at 12 percent it is the second leading cause of lung cancer, resulting in between 15,000 and 22,000 deaths from the disease per year.
Frightening for homeowners is that radon gas seeps up from the soil and in through a home or building through cracks in the foundation. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly one in every 15 homes in America has indoor radon levels above the acceptable safe range.
How do you know if your home has a problem? Well, the only way to measure the invisible killer is by using a radon detector. They are available for purchase at most major hardware stores.
Next on LIVE FROM: nuclear ambition. Is Iran trying to build a bomb? The world watches and wonders.
Later on LIVE FROM, oil prices at a record high, gas prices going up and the Fed about to announce a rate change. What it all means for your bottom line.
Tomorrow on LIVE FROM, deadline for democracy. Iraqis carving out a new constitution. What rights will women have in the new government?
HARRIS: And let's take you now to the Pentagon for the daily briefing. Today, from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as you can see. Let's take you there live.
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DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... security forces and in the constitutional drafting process.
Even Sunnis, many of whom boycotted the January elections have now joined the political process and decided to be part of the Iraq of tomorrow.
In less than a week, Iraqis representing all of the various ethnic factions in the country are expected to have completed drafting the new constitution. It's important that they stay with their timetable. This will be a critical step in persuading the majority of the Iraqis that the new Iraq is worth fighting for, that they have a stake in it.
Indeed, their new constitution, a piece of paper, could well turn out to be one of the most powerful weapons to be deployed against the terrorists. The enemy, understandably, senses this, and is determined to stop the constitutional process through terror and intimidation.
As the October 15th referendum date on the Iraqi constitution comes, and the December elections approach, I think it's reasonable to expect that violence could, again, increase for a time, as it did during the last elections. But given the political progress, that should not necessarily be considered an accurate gauge of the enemy's future.
As allied forces push forward in both the European and Pacific theaters in World War II, the enemy's tactics, such as the cult of death among S.S. forces and the kamikazes in the Pacific, led to some of these bloodiest fighting of that war.
RUMSFELD: But those deadly acts, and they were deadly, proved not to be harbingers of victory.
So if such tactics are used in Iraq in the months ahead, one should be careful not to draw the wrong conclusion. As long as the Iraqi people persevere, the terrorists cannot win.
One additional note, every year since September 11th attacks, Americans have commemorated that anniversary. This year, the Department of Defense will initiate an "America Supports You" Freedom Walk. The walk will begin at the Pentagon and end at the national mall. It will include many of the major monuments in Washington, D.C., reminding participants of the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation that have so successfully defended our freedoms. Freedom Walk participants will be invited to a special performance by country singer Clint Black. And more information about this event will be on the Department of Defense Web site, www.Americasupportsyou.mil.
MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
And good afternoon. It's been a while since I've been up here with all of you. And over the last couple of weeks, as we all know, there have been several notable attacks on our forces in Iraq.
American men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice or have been wounded in our effort to help bring Iraqis their freedom.
MYERS: First and foremost, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family members and the friends and the relatives of those who have been wounded or killed. All those that have been personally affected, again, I offer my heartfelt condolences.
And I also want to assure them that their loss is not in vain.
Some would argue that these attacks are a sign of a strong insurgency. What I'd like to do now is to give you my perspective on this.
First, the political progress in Iraq continues and has met every single planned milestone -- every single planned milestone. Since the Iraqi people took control of their own country in June of 2004, more than 8 million Iraqis voted in free elections last January.
The secretary said a constitutional assembly is drafting a constitution. That constitution will be voted on in October, and national elections will held in December.
Secondly, the Iraqi security forces are growing in capacity and capability. There are more than 178,000 trained and equipped forces and that number continues to grow.
In the last 24 hours, 29 of the 35 operations -- these are the major operations -- conducted in Iraq were combined U.S. and Iraqi operations.
More and more coalition forces are turning over responsibilities to the Iraqis. One of the first steps in the process of transitioning areas to Iraqi security force control involves them providing for their own fuel and food.
MYERS: Iraqis are now contracting for their own service support to five major training bases in Kirkuk, Luminia (ph), Umm Qasr, Mustamia (ph), and Tallil.
In February, the 6th Iraqi Brigade was assigned an area of responsibility in Baghdad and continues to have that area of Baghdad as their responsibility. And in July, the Iraqi army assumed control of a sector in the Diala (ph) province.
And lastly, on reconstruction: It continues, and ongoing projects are make a difference, and they include more than 140 new primary health care facilities that are being built. More than 3,200 schools have been renovated. One hundred thousand teachers are being trained.
I think these facts demonstrate that Iraq is making progress through their own efforts and the continued support of the United States of America, our coalition partners and the international community.
We are committed to continue this battle, this help, until the Iraqis can take responsibility for the security their own country and the political process has been developed.
Defeating the insurgency takes willpower. Coalition forces continue to have the willpower to take the fight to the enemy, as we have for two years now. And the only way the insurgents can win is to convince the Iraqis, to convince the American people, our coalition partners and the rest of the world that the fight in Iraq is not worth it.
What I can tell you is that soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines in Iraq overwhelmingly see the benefits of this fight. And they believe, as I believe, it is worth the fight.
MYERS: And with that, we'll take your questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you tell us the nature of the personal misconduct that caused the head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command to be relieved of his duties? And are you satisfied that sufficient action has been taken against him?
RUMSFELD: It's a matter that just came up today, to my knowledge. And it's something that's being handled in the proper channels, and it's not something that it would be appropriate for me to get involved with.
QUESTION: General Myers, could I ask you to expand on your opening remarks about the strength of the insurgency? I wonder where the IED attack last week that killed the 14 Marines fits into that scheme.
Are the IED attacks increasing or declining in number? Are they growing more powerful, these bombs? And, finally, how is it that the insurgents are able to transport and hide bombs that powerful?
MYERS: First of all, I think you're referring to the incident where 14 Marines, Marine reservists, matter of fact, out of Ohio were killed. They were not killed by a bomb, per se. They were killed by a land mine. In fact, in this case, I haven't seen the final report on that, but three land mines that were put together.
If you look at the size the land mines, it doesn't require a big hole, doesn't require a lot of people to transport. This is not a -- in your mind, if you have the vision of a big, big bomb that upset a fairly large vehicle, that's not the vision you should have. It was a small device placed in the road -- relatively small device -- placed in the road that overturned the vehicle. And when it did so, of course, there was no way out of the vehicle once it overturned.
That's going to continue to happen. We've talked about that up here before. There is no perfect defense -- in this country, in Iraq, anywhere in the world -- against people that are bent on doing those kind of acts.
MYERS: We've just been witness to that in London and reminded one more time.
We do, every time this happens, talk to our commanders in Iraq just to ensure that they're doing what they are doing anyway. Because their interest is the same as all of our interests, and that is that nobody -- that we keep this as safe as we can.
They review their tactics, techniques and procedures. They change them as the enemy changes. Clearly, improvised explosive devices, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, some with newer technologies we face or are going to change our tactics, techniques, procedures and some of the technology that we'll bring to the fight.
Obviously, we're going to try to do that.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question of General Myers, please?
Thank you, sir.
General Myers, can I expand on these sophisticated IEDs? There are reports that some of these sophisticated weapons, including shape charges, are entering Iraq from Iran.
Is this true? Are they coming in in abundance? Is it part of the Iranian government, do you think, or terrorist organizations in Iran?
MYERS: It is true that weapons -- clearly, unambiguously from Iran -- have been found in Iraq. I'm not going to comment on the other aspects of your question...
QUESTION: Do you know how many, sir?
MYERS: Oh, no. Goodness. How can you know? You only know what you know. It's a big border and it's notably unhelpful for the Iranians to be allowing weapons of those types to be crossing the border.
QUESTION: Secretary, take you back to your opening statement when you -- actually, General Myers made similar references to the failings of the insurgency, including the failure to garner public support.
QUESTION: And yet, this far into the operation, the insurgency has managed to sustain itself. Does this suggest a lack of understanding on your part of what the insurgency is about, who they are, the durability of their effort?
RUMSFELD: The people who are involved in analyzing that think not. They believe with great conviction that the progress on the political, the economic and the security side moving forward together will, in fact, create an environment in that country that the Iraqis will be capable of putting down that insurgency over a period of time.
If one looks back historically at insurgencies, this insurgency does not have a vision that's compelling. It doesn't have a future except the beheadings of people and that type of thing. It is clear that the United States and the coalition forces are not occupying forces with any intention of staying there in perpetuity or to seize their land or something else.
There are various elements to the insurgency, as we've discussed here from this podium. There's not one motive. But I think that, as the political process goes forward and as the economic progress goes forward and as the Iraqi security forces increasingly -- as General Myers said -- take over more and more responsibility for the security of the country, we will find that the persuasiveness or the effect of the insurgency will diminish.
MYERS: Let me just tag onto that.
The polling data would certainly -- and we have some recent polling data that certainly indicate just the opposite. And I think we can release that at some point -- we can release the polling data.
The second point is on -- you know, I've talked about hotline tips. There's a national hotline. There's also the tips that units get by just being in the neighborhood. And we track those by month. And they've gone up consistently since elections. They've gone up consistently. And that's an important indicator, I think, that the insurgency doesn't have popular backing.
Now, to emplace three land mines in a road doesn't require a lot of support. I mean, if you add up the dollars and cents, I mean, the land mines are probably free, left over...
QUESTION: My point was just that, though, that despite the fact that they have apparently no public support, they continue to persist.
QUESTION: And I'm try to -- do you understand why?
MYERS: And understanding the insurgency is something that's a continuing process, as it morphs. I think there are two pieces to it. There's one that will not be deterred, and that's the Al Qaida piece, the Zarqawi piece. There's the Iraqi piece, which will be deterred by the progress in the ares that the secretary talked about.
Let me just give you a little more texture on that horrible incident when we had 14 Marines killed several days ago. When we went back into the area, U.S. and Iraqi troops went back into the area, and we immediately put people in detention that were accused of, by the local Iraqis, they said, "Go look at these folks. They're the ones that killed the six snipers from the same unit" -- if you remember that. They killed the six snipers.
MYERS: We're in there looking at both incidents, the land mine incident and killing the six snipers. And that was -- that was a joint U.S./Iraqi operation. Went into the town there near Hadithah Dam. And then the public came forward and said that these are the folks. And so they're in interrogation right now to determine if in fact they are the folks.
QUESTION: General Myers, you talked about Iraqi units working on their own combat support. Today, how many Iraqi battalions are completely independent, able to provide their own support and able to conduct their own operations?
MYERS: I'd have to get the number for you. I don't have it at the top of my head.
RUMSFELD: It's also not a useful construct, in this sense. If you take the 173,000 Iraqi security force forces, a large fraction of 173,000 are border guards. They're functioning in the borders. They're doing what they do. A large number are police. A number of -- very few are counterterrorism elements, or special police commandos that function and do their thing.
The army is the element that was originally designed to deal with external threats and has been obviously reoriented to deal with insurgency and normal security for the Iraqi people because the insurgency is what it is.
And we've got all that, numbers we presented to Congress. I don't happen to have it on the top of my head. But I think there's been a pattern where people have tried to diminish the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces by trying to pluck out a single number and saying out of only 173,000, only these "X" number, a small number of battalions, are capable of functioning independently.
The reality is that a large number of them are doing exactly what it is they were organized, trained and equipped to do. And increasingly, they are doing it with less and less external support from the coalition countries.
MYERS: All 178,000...
QUESTION: If you pull U.S. troops home, won't you need the Iraqis to operate completely independently? How are you defining victory in Iraq today?
RUMSFELD: Those are two different questions.
QUESTION: You said before that you tie being able to turn over cities and security control to Iraqi forces.
RUMSFELD: And that's happening, as he said.
QUESTION: Won't they have to operate...
MYERS: Just a couple of areas. There are more than that. And we'll try to get that to you as well.
QUESTION: Along those lines?
QUESTION: Thank you. Turning to Asia for a second, Japanese Defense Minister Ohno said today that the plans to release an interim accord on U.S. force realignment in September would now be delayed because of a political situation in Japan.
I'm wondering what you've heard about that from the Japanese side.
RUMSFELD: I have not heard that. Obviously, there have been some announcements involving the domestic political situation in Japan. But I have not heard any public official announcements as to how it might or might not affect any of the things we're currently working on with them.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we'll just turn to the force levels in Iraq a second. Now, over the last couple of weeks, there's been a steady drum beat of stories applying a new exit strategy either -- depending on who you believe -- up to 80,000 troops by next year or 30,000.
You've hinted at it. General Casey's repeated remarks that...
RUMSFELD: I don't hint.
QUESTION: Pardon me?
RUMSFELD: I don't hint.
QUESTION: You do.
Can you follow this a little bit? Is there a new exit strategy in the works that could go up to 30,000, as I think NBC had last night?
RUMSFELD: Nothing has changed. It's condition-based. The president said that from the beginning. I've said it from the beginning. General Myers has said it from the beginning. General Casey and General Abizaid have said it.
Sometimes they say it first and sometimes they say it second. When they say it second, then the glass is half empty. When they say it first, the glass is half full.
And the reporters have a lot of fun with it and try to find daylight between Casey and Abizaid, or Abizaid and General Myers, or General Myers and somebody else. But there's nothing changed.
The fact is that the effort -- major effort is under way to train and equip the Iraqi security forces, and to increasingly turn over responsibility for the security in that country to them.
It takes time. It's going along very well. And we're pleased with the progress. The level of the insurgency is going to be a function as to what the -- of a variety of things which will affect the condition. And the draw-downs that will occur eventually will obviously be based on those conditions.
Some of those variables that I've mentioned repeatedly are: What are the Iranians doing? Are they going to be helpful or unhelpful? And if they're increasingly unhelpful, then obviously the conditions on the ground are less advantageous. Same thing with the Syrians. To what extent are they being helpful or unhelpful?
How is the political and economic progress going forward, to the extent that it persuades more and more Iraqi people to be supportive of the constitution and to have that vote on October 15th, the good lord willing, on a constitution? To feel they have a stake in the future of that country, you'll get more tips, like Dick Myers said, of, "They're the bad guys. Go get 'em."
QUESTION: General Myers, can I ask you: How long can you sustain a force of up to 138,000 before you start butting into third tours for just about everybody there?
And equally important, the 24-month rule that National Guardsmen or Reservists operate under: I mean, at some point, what do your planners tell you about when you're going to start to be hitting up against that limit?
MYERS: Well, you hit on an important point. It's something that we do look at. We're good for several years. I mean to say that -- we're good for several years.
QUESTION: You're good for several years...
QUESTION: ... in terms of what? Meaning...
MYERS: Just what you said. You said combat forces. I mean, there's the possibility of people going back for a third tour, sure. That's always out there. We are at war.
RUMSFELD: Active duty.
MYERS: Active duty. Reservists are being held to 24 months of duty -- cumulative -- and 13 months, of course, on the ground in theater in whatever country we send them to.
RUMSFELD: It's important, on this numbers of tour thing, to disaggregate our forces. The Marines are doing a -- active -- are doing 7-month tours. The Air Force is sometimes doing a three-month tour. The Army's been doing up to 12 months.
And then you have volunteers, who actually come in, put their hand up, and say, "We want to go back in and do X, Y or Z."
So when you start hearing rumors about people on their third tours or fourth tours, you start checking into it and looking what you got, you're going to have people who, maybe in the Air Force, who've gone back in on three-month tours.
RUMSFELD: And you may have people who volunteered because that's what they want to do.
And I think there's always a risk when people grab into the middle of something, take the worst of what might be and then wave it around as though it's reality.
QUESTION: General Abizaid said earlier this year...
QUESTION: Sorry, going back to the insurgents, it's been said often from this podium that with each political milestone in Iraq, that the insurgents would, in effect, lose hope and see that the game was up...
RUMSFELD: I don't think anyone said that from this podium, that they'd lose hope and the game was up.
QUESTION: It's just been said often that the major political milestones...
RUMSFELD: Have to be discouraging. That doesn't mean you lose hope and give up.
QUESTION: Well, I'm wondering...
RUMSFELD: Dick Myers said Zarqawi's not going to give up. That's what he does. He gets up in the morning and wants to recruit people and arm them and finance them and kill people, preferably anybody he can get his hands on. It doesn't matter what their age is, what their sex is, what their nationality is. That's what he does. He isn't going to give up. I think you're misstating what you hear from this podium.
QUESTION: I'm wondering, though...
QUESTION: ... talked about the constitution being an important weapon against the insurgents...
RUMSFELD: I think so.
QUESTION: I'm wondering why will this be...
RUMSFELD: I could be wrong. QUESTION: ... more important than previous major political milestones that have been cited such as the election in January, the handover last June of sovereignty to the Iraqis?
RUMSFELD: Well, first of all I don't know. I think. I didn't state an unqualified that it will be. I said it might well prove to be, I think, or something equally elegant.
QUESTION: General Myers...
RUMSFELD: Just a minute. Just a minute.
Why do I think so?
Well, if you get a country, like Iraq, for the first time voting in a referendum on a piece of paper that was crafted by all the diverse elements in that country, and they then risk going to vote, because people will threaten them if they vote, and a constitution passes, and it's something that they decide is in everybody's interest -- not perfect for anybody, mind you, but can be amended later, as ours has been, any number of times -- they very well, I think, will be demonstrating a confidence in that new system that ought to make more of them increasingly willing to do the things necessary to provide the security in that country.
And that is doing what General Myers said: going to the Iraqi security forces, going to the coalition forces, saying, "There are the people you want. There's an IED manufacturing facility. These are the people who killed those snipers."
And that's important. And that's why I believe that. I could be wrong...
MYERS: All indications are...
MYERS: Hold it. Let me just finish up.
All indications are that the Sunni leadership in Iraq has made a fundamental decision that they want to be part of the process, and that's been happening now for some time. Every report that we get says that.
Eighty-five percent of the Iraqis that are polled say they want to vote, and that's of all ethnic groups. And I think that just supports what the secretary says. I think when that happens, when they have a constitution and they have elections under that constitution, that that gives those that are against the constitution no authority at all.
MYERS: I think the polling numbers are all very good with Iraqi citizens. They understand who the bad guys are, who the good guys are, I think, in this case. But it will just reinforce that. And I think it will spur more cooperation from other folks around the world.
QUESTION: Sir, can you shed any light on the story in the New York Times today that in the year 2000 there was a U.S. military team known as Able Danger that identified four of the 9/11 hijackers a year before, went to the Special Operations Command and asked that be shared with the FBI, and that that did not happen? Can you clarify any details about that story?
RUMSFELD: I can't. I have no idea. I'd never heard of it until this morning. I understand our folks are try to look into it and see what they can find out for you.
QUESTION: May I ask then, General Myers, to clarify one thing about your statements about the insurgency, sir. You said some weeks ago that you believed the insurgency in Iraq had the same capacity, was your word, to carry out its operations that it had a year ago. Given everything you see now, does that assessment still stand? And why or why not?
MYERS: Well, that was a way to try to characterize it, when people -- the context of the question several weeks ago or month ago or a month and a half was how many insurgents are out there?
And in insurgencies that is not probably the best way to measure their capability. So I took a stab, saying, let's look at their capacity. And their capacity has stayed about the same in terms of numbers of incidents, particularly the number of incidents that have any effect, wounding people, killing people, be they coalition or be they the Iraqis or whatever.
MYERS: Their tactics, techniques will change a little bit, as we've seen with more emphasis on vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, more suicide bombers.
So some of the attacks are more effective than they were in the past. Nevertheless, the overall capacity of what they're able to do on any given day is about the same as we've also seen here as we get into August. And power production is at a premium. We understand they've gone after the infrastructure as well.
Because remember what Zarqawi said he was going to do. He said, "What I'm going to do is foment civil war. We can't beat the coalition. We can't beat these soldiers and Marines and Airmen and sailors over there. So we've got to do something else. And the other thing we're going to do is we're going to try to start a civil war inside Iraq. So me and my Jihadists will do whatever we can do in a very uncivilized way to cause that to happen."
QUESTION: But if you say from the podium today, unambiguously, that weapons are coming in from Iran, what do you do about that, other than -- with all due respect -- other than to say it's unhelpful? What do you do to stop weapons from coming in from Iran and Syria? What are you going to do about it?
RUMSFELD: It's a problem for the Iraqi government. It's a problem for the coalition forces. It's a problem for the international community. And, ultimately, it's a problem for Iran.
QUESTION: General Myers or Secretary Rumsfeld, a story in USA Today yesterday had an operations officer from the Marine Corps saying he had asked for 1,000 more troops.
I know we've talked about this a lot. You've talked about it a lot from the podium. Larry Di Rita said yesterday, "I don't doubt every colonel wishes he had more in his area, but the decision about how troops are deployed are made by the commanders above them."
First of all, did those Marines ask for 1,000 more troops? And can you explain to people who see the security situation as still serious in Iraq, who know that the Iraqi forces aren't ready to take over, why there aren't more troops needed?
RUMSFELD: Well, I'll start.
I think Larry could well have said, "I don't doubt for a minute that there are people in the country at the colonel level, lieutenant colonel level, who might not want more at one moment, who might not want less in another moment."
And there's 137,500 U.S. forces and a good slug of coalition forces, and how they are parceled out and allocated within the country of Iraq is a matter for General Casey and General J.R. Vines to determine. They do it every day. And at any given moment they're moving people from one place to another. That's their job.
So the idea that someone in Washington -- that because somebody wishes they had more at a certain moment suggests that the total number is wrong, I think is a non sequitur -- obviously a non sequitur.
QUESTION: But explain to people why more troops aren't needed. People look at the security situation. General Myers said...
MYERS: More troops are needed, and they're being provided by the Iraqis. And if you just think back, if you trace the number of Iraqi security forces that have come on line, and to answer partly Bret's (ph) question, there's 178,000-plus of them, and every day when they wake up they go out to defend their country.
Whether on the border or whether they're a brand new unit that's guarding a fixed site somewhere, they're at risk, they know they're at risk, they've lost a lot of their own members.
MYERS: I don't know -- the current numbers are well over 2,000 that they've lost since we've started keeping -- 2,335.
QUESTION: But if you say we need more troops, and they are not ready to go, and they can't...
MYERS: What I'm saying is they are ready to go, and that's...
QUESTION: But they can't provide security for the Iraqis yet? MYERS: They are in many areas. In one area of Baghdad, they are providing security for Iraqis. In other areas in the country, and I forget the number, but there's eight or 10 areas in the country where Iraqi forces are providing security for Iraqis. Indeed, they are. So it's not a correct statement.
RUMSFELD: The total number of security forces in Iraq is going up every week. If you add up the Iraqi security forces, the U.S. forces and the coalition forces, that number has gone up week after week after week after week.
QUESTION: But the question is: When are they going to take the lead in fighting the insurgency?
General Abizaid told Congress in the spring he expected them to take the lead in 2005. Is that still a working assumption, or are you pushing that until next year?
MYERS: There are some units today in Iraq that take the lead in fighting the insurgency.
QUESTION: When are they going to take the lead in fighting?
MYERS: It's going to be progressive. I've already said there are certain areas that have been turned over to Iraqis. It continues to happen. It's not over, so it continues to happen. It's going to take time. Let's just...
QUESTION: How much time? A year, two years, three years?
MYERS: Nobody knows. It's event-driven. It's going to have to be driven by a lot of events. And we've tried to explain the complexity of this before. I don't...
RUMSFELD: I just answered that question earlier, that it's based on the conditions... QUESTION: Are you saying nobody knows when they're going to be able to...
MYERS: It's going to be event-driven. And we can't predict all events because of all the issues.
The secretary just went over that. He said you have threats, internal and external. You have economic progress that has to be made. You have political progress that has to be made. So you can't predict your troop strength based on what you think is going to happen. You're going to have to wait until events on the ground prove it.
We also think Iraqi security forces are going to come on at a certain rate with a certain capability. We're not going to bet on that until we have the capability in hand.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, can we just go back to that 1,000...
RUMSFELD: Last question. Do you want it or should we call on someone who hasn't asked one yet? QUESTION: You should call on me since she's already had several.
RUMSFELD: We'll call on you.
QUESTION: In a follow-up to the question about the arms coming into Iraq from Iran, you just said that ultimately that would be a problem for Iran. Well, how so...
RUMSFELD: Well, sure. They live in the neighborhood.
QUESTION: How so, Mr. Secretary?
RUMSFELD: They live in the neighborhood. The people in that region want this situation stabilized, with the exception of Iran and Syria.
QUESTION: So that was not an implied threat of possible retaliation?
RUMSFELD: I don't imply threats. You know that.
QUESTION: And, also, why can't you tell us whether it's believed the weapons were actually coming from the government of Iran, as opposed to some kind of offshoot terrorist...
RUMSFELD: Well, how could one? If one sees it there on the ground, you've identified it's from Iran and you don't know who brought in or who tolerated it being brought in, who facilitated it to be brought in, who sold it to someone to bring in. What you do know of certain knowledge is the Iranians did not stop it from coming in.
MYERS: In an area in the country where the border is -- people go back and forth.
RUMSFELD: Hundreds of miles. Forests.
MYERS: Thank you, folks.
HARRIS: Well, that was a bill contentious. Wrapping up that press conference there, the Pentagon briefing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers. A couple of points, a quick recap here. The defense secretary stressing the importance of staying with the political process in Iraq and the timetables that have been laid out for the writing of this new constitution and then moving forward with elections in December.
And then perhaps one of the most contentious moments in the whole briefing was this question over reporting today that weapons from Iran are coming in to Iraq. Well, you heard the secretary say that, in fact, weapons from Iran, identifiably Iranian weapons are, in fact, coming into Iraq, and the inference from the secretary was that Iran is allowing those weapons to cross the border.
And then you heard our own Barbara Starr press the secretary as to what is going to be done about this. The secretary responded that it is a problem for Iraq, for the coalition, coalition forces, and then -- and what felt like to a threat to a lot of the reporters in the room. And then, he said, it is a problem for Iran.
We will continue to follow this story throughout the day. We're going to take a break and come back with more of LIVE FROM right after this.
HARRIS: A quick tape turn for you right now. Let's take you to Crawford, Texas, where the president is meeting with his economic team. But just a short time ago, he took a question about Iran and the new round of talks over Iran's nuclear program.
Let's listen in.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:... which is important to economic growth and vitality. But more importantly, it'll mean workers from all walks of life will be able to own an asset that they call their own and that the government cannot take away.
And so we've got a wide-ranging discussion on these important problems and opportunities. We're confident about the future of the American economy because we're confident that the entrepreneurial spirit is strong here.
With that, I'll be glad to take a couple of questions from you.
Yes, ma'am? That would be you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, on Iran, Iran is thumbing its nose at the United States and Europe by resuming their uranium conversion activities. So if Iran doesn't blink, does the United States want to see immediate referral to the Security Council for punitive sanctions?
And if so, what should those sanctions look like?
BUSH: Yes, I appreciate that question. First of all, as you know, we have made strong steps -- we've condemned strongly the Iranians' attempt to develop any kind of program that would allow them to enrich uranium to develop a weapon.
In other words, the Iranians said they were in compliance with certain international rules, and yet we found out they weren't in compliance with those rules. And so we're very deeply suspicious of their desires and call upon our friends in Europe, what's called the E.U.-3 -- Germany, France and Great Britain -- to lead the diplomatic effort to convince the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions.
And, first of all, I want to applaud the E.U.-3 for being strong in presenting a unified voice.
Secondly, in terms of consequences, if the Iranians continue to balk, we'll work with the E.U.-3. In other words, they're the lead negotiators on behalf of the free world. And we will work with them in terms of what consequences there may be. And certainly the United Nations is a potential consequence.
And, just as I was walking in here, I received word that the new Iranian president said he was willing to get back to the table. Now, I don't want to put words in his mouth. And you're going to have to check that out before you print that in your story.
But if he did say that, I think that's a positive sign that the Iranians are getting a message, that it's not just the United States that's worried about their nuclear programs, but the Europeans are serious in calling the Iranians to account and negotiating.
I don't know if you got that word or not. That's a positive development. But we'll work with our friends on steps forward, on ways to deal with the Iranians if they so choose to ignore the demands of the world.
It is important for the Iranians to understand that American stands squarely with the E.U.-3, that we feel strongly the Iranians need to adhere to the agreements made in the Paris accord, and that we will be willing to work with our partners in dealing with appropriate consequences should they ignore the demands.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) more time to let this...
BUSH: Well, the man said he wanted to negotiate. And, of course, again, we're working with the E.U.-3. They're the lead negotiators. In other words, our strategy has been all along to work with Germany, France and Great Britain in terms of sending a strong signal and message to Iran. And today it looked like that the new Iranian leader has heard that message.
We'll have to watch very carefully, however, because as I repeat, they have, in the past, said they would adhere to international norm and then were caught enriching uranium. And that's dangerous. We don't want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon.
The positive news is that the world -- at least, the people we deal with, the Europeans, for example -- are very -- we're knitted up in terms of the goal, and that is to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You just said you were deeply suspicious of Iran's desires. Then my question is: Why does the United States support a civilian nuclear program for Iran but not for North Korea?
BUSH: The Iranians have expressed the desire to have a civilian nuclear program, and we said that it makes sense only so long as the plan is under strong international inspection regimes and the uranium used to run the power plant is provided by a country with whom we're comfortable, with which we're comfortable, and the spent fuel is collected.
In other words, there would be a strong regime. I talked about this at the National Defense University speech, about how we can enhance the spread of nuclear power, but in a peaceful way that will assure countries that spent fuel will not be enriched for bomb-making capacities.
Secondly, the Iranians have been, we hope, straightforward in their willingness to accept this kind of international cooperation. North Korea is in a different situation. The North Koreans have -- didn't tell the truth when it came to their enrichment programs.
But what's different about it is the South Koreans have offered power. It was the South Koreans who said, "We'll build and share power with you," which seems to me to make good sense, so long as the North Koreans give up their nuclear weapons; and so long as there's full transparency; so long as there's the ability for the international communities to know exactly what's going on in a potential weapons program.
The strategy is the same, by the way, in terms of dealing diplomatically with both countries. As I mentioned, the E.U.-3 is taking the lead.
A little different strategy, obviously different players, for North Korea. But nevertheless, it's the same concept: a group of nations are negotiating on behalf of the free world to let, in this case, Kim Jong Il, understand that we're united in our desire for you to give up any ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon and united in our desire, by the way, to prevent you from proliferating.
This will be the last question.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Americans have grown accustomed to historically low interest rates over the last few years. How concerned are you and your economic advisers that, as interest rates rise now, that could slow the momentum in the U.S. economy?
BUSH: I think that -- first of all, as you know, that the Federal Reserve is completely independent from the White House. They make decisions independent of politics, so that's important.
Ben used to serve on the Federal Reserve Board, so he's had some insight into the workings of the Federal Reserve.
But our job is to deal with fiscal policy, and the Federal Reserve deals with monetary policy. And, as I've said all along, I trust the judgment of Chairman Alan Greenspan. He makes decisions based upon facts, not based upon politics.
And I think it's important for the American people to understand that.
In terms of whether interest rates will -- the effect interest rates will have on our economy, I think we're more concerned about energy prices and health care prices.
Those are the two areas that we see as having a greater effect on potential economic -- you know, on the growth, on the future of economic growth.
And that's why the energy bill is an important start. And that's why we've laid out initiatives that we think will help American families deal with the -- and small businesses deal with the rising cost of health care.
Listen, thank you all. Great to see you.
Mark, good to see you, sir. Thank you.
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