KWAME HOLMAN: American troops at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba today prepared to receive twenty of some three hundred seventy al-Qaida and Taliban members now in U.S. custody. They were put aboard a military transport plane at Kandahar airport, for a 12-hour trip that includes a stop in Germany before arriving at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba's eastern tip. There were reports the captives might be chained to their seats and sedated. A Pentagon spokeswoman said their treatment would comply with rules of the Geneva Convention on handling prisoners of war. At a mid-day press availability with Australia's defense minister Robert Hill, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the prisoners may pose danger to themselves and those guarding them.
DONALD RUMSFELD: They have been authorized and instructed to use appropriate restraint, as you'll recall. I have no idea what, specifically, that means. What they have done is consult a variety of experts on prisons and prisoners. They have reviewed, at my instance, the uprising at Mazar- e-Sharif, where a great many people were killed because of the prison uprising. They have reviewed the difficulties that the Pakistani soldiers had, where some people were killed as the al-Qaida and Taliban forces that had been detained by the Pakistan army broke loose. And they're fully aware that these are dangerous individuals, that there are among these prisoners, people who are perfectly willing to kill themselves and kill other people. So I hope that they use the appropriate restraint, and that's what I suspect they will be doing.
KWAME HOLMAN: Rumsfeld also explained that the process of interrogating the prisoners could take a long time.
DONALD RUMSFELD: The truth is that, at some point, you get what you think you can get from a given individual. But you know in the back of your mind that you may discover some intelligence material, or a laptop, or an address book in a house in Kabul, or Kandahar, or Herat, wherever, that would connect this person. So you know that after you've gone through that first interrogation, it's best to wait a bit and see what other kinds of information comes up from other people, from computers, from various other types of intelligence gathering, including law enforcement actions all across the globe. You might arrest somebody with pocket litter that connects that person to one of the people you're interrogating. So you don't hurry through this. When you're talking about defending against terrorist actions against this country and our friends and allies around the world, you take your time and you try to do it right. And that's what we're doing.
KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon, Secretary Rumsfeld hosted President Bush for a bill- signing ceremony in the Pentagon's auditorium. The President teased Rumsfeld about his frequent media briefings.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: At ease. (Laughter) I always love being introduced by a matinee television idol. (Laughter and applause) Who would've thought it? ( Laughter )
DONALD RUMSFELD: Not my wife.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Only his mother. (Laughter and applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Before signing into law the bill releasing Defense Department spending for this year, the President noted it raises service members' pay, and increases their health and housing benefits.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm honored to sign this bill, because the nation owes the men and women of the military our full measure of respect and our full measure of support. We owe you decent pay and a decent quality of life. We owe you the best leadership and training. We owe you the best equipment and weaponry. We owe you, our servicemen and women, our best, because we owe you our freedom. And really in our quest to save civilization, there are enormous sacrifices and a no more greater sacrifice than loss of life. And like the Secretary, I extend my prayers and sympathies to the moms and dads and wives and sons and daughters of those who've lost their life. But as I told the young lady the other day when I called her, whose husband had died, I said, "Please tell your children that he died for a just cause." Sacrifices are made willingly by volunteers. And having traveled our nation a little bit, I can assure you you're in the midst of a grateful people. (Applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Bush then signed the bill appropriating $317 billion for the Pentagon and $20 billion to cover costs arising from the September terrorist attacks.