- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A
visibly angry Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday called on Pentagon
workers to help catch and jail a defense official who leaked an alleged
U.S. plan to invade Iraq to The New York Times.
- "It's inexcusable. And they ought to be in jail,"
Rumsfeld told reporters at a news briefing when asked about a recent report
in the newspaper detailing a contingency proposal for a possible major
American ground and air invasion of Iraq.
- Rumsfeld said he and his top advisers had never seen
the plan in question, but confirmed that he had ordered a formal investigation
-- which will be handled by an Air Force team -- into who provided any
top secret information to the newspaper.
- "I am pleased I did. And I will say one more thing:
I hope that if there is anyone in the Department of Defense who knows who
did that, that they will give someone in a position of responsibility that
information. Because they have every bit as big an obligation to do that
as they do not to release it in the first place," he said.
- Pressed on continuing reports that the United States
was drawing up military plans for a possible attempt to overthrow Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein, whom Washington accuses of developing nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons, Rumsfeld refused to provide any details.
- But the secretary, raising his voice in anger, stressed
that leaks of any war plans any time could put U.S. troops in danger and
were a violation of federal law.
- "I think that anyone who has a position where they
touch a war plan has an obligation to not leak it to the press or anybody
else," said the secretary, who has repeatedly lashed out at national
security leaks since he took the top Pentagon job last year for the second
time in 25 years.
- "Because it (the leak) kills people. People's lives
will be lost. If people start treating war plans like they are paper airplanes
and they can fly them around this building and throw them at anybody who
wants them, I think it is outrageous.
- Rumsfeld, 70, warned the Pentagon's top brass in a memorandum
released last week that media leaks were helping al Qaeda operatives learn
more about the U.S. war on terrorism and putting American lives at risk.
- Rumsfeld's note was addressed to a long roster of top
officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Joint Chiefs
of Staff Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers and the secretaries of the
various military departments.
- "Your leadership is needed to help stop leaks,"
he wrote. "Please meet with your staff to discuss the seriousness
of the damaging lack of professionalism we continue to see on a daily basis."
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