The interview made him the first senior active-duty officer to publicly urge a larger Army - and the first to publicly take on Rumsfeld and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who had repeatedly told lawmakers that such increases were not necessary.
After the interview appeared, Pentagon sources said, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stormed into the office of the Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and demanded an explanation for Riggs' views. Riggs said Casey called him that day and ordered him not to talk about troop increases but to "stay in your lane."
Casey, Riggs said, then asked him when he was planning to retire.
"I did become sort of a persona non grata," said Riggs.
Several days after Riggs' remarks on troop strength, Rumsfeld and other officials asked for a temporary increase of 30,000 soldiers for the Army, although they continue to argue that a permanent increase was not needed.
What's striking about the Riggs case is the comparison with how the Army and the other services have handled even more serious cases.
Seven years ago, Maj. Gen. David Hale, the Army's inspector general, was allowed to hastily retire after allegations that he pressured the wife of a subordinate into a sexual relationship. An Army investigation uncovered other affairs with subordinates' wives, and Hale was later put back on active duty and court-martialed. But it took an Army review panel another six months after his conviction to determine that Hale should be reduced by one star to a brigadier general.
Two Navy rear admirals were given letters of censure for not stopping lewd behavior at the 1991 Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas, where dozens of women were groped and fondled by Navy and Marine Corps aviators. Both admirals retired at their two-star ranks.
More recently, the Air Force removed the four top officers at the U.S. Air Force Academy as part of a housecleaning after a sex scandal in 2003. While the superintendent was demoted from a three-star to a two-star rank, the other officers went on to jobs with similar responsibilities.
In March 2004, with his mentor Shinseki gone and his own future clouded, Riggs said, he saw the "handwriting on the wall" and put in his retirement papers.
Under Army rules, a general officer must complete the retirement process within 60 days or risk reverting to previous rank. By April 3, Riggs still had heard nothing so he sent an e-mail to Casey to remind him that time was running out.
"We are very conscious of time," Casey responded, according to a copy of the e-mail kept by Riggs. "Discussed with [the assistant secretary of the Army] yesterday. I expect some movement next week."
Eleven days later, Riggs got a terse letter from Casey, saying that the acting secretary of the Army, Brownlee, was embarking on a "grade determination" of Riggs.
He had just five days to respond because Brownlee was leaving on a trip.
A couple of weeks later, on April 29, Riggs said, Casey told him in a phone conversation that Brownlee had determined that his time as lieutenant general "had not been satisfactory" and that he would retire at a two-star rank. Riggs was told to sign his retirement papers the next day so he could leave the Army by the weekend.
Brownlee still has never talked to Riggs about the decision; Brownlee said Casey would do that in his role handling disciplinary matters for general officers.
Casey, who now is the top U.S. commander in Iraq, declined through a spokesman to comment or answer e-mailed questions.
Brownlee did send the decision to reduce Riggs' rank to Rumsfeld, who could have reversed it. But he chose not to. "The only thing I heard back [from Rumsfeld's office] was that it was noted," Brownlee said.
The decision cost Riggs $10,000 to $15,000 a year in pension benefits. But, he added, "what I've lost is a lot of my personal self-respect."
In a series of interviews, Riggs said he still wrestles with why he was demoted but believes his outspokenness was part of the equation.
"Do I think it is?" he said. "I thought it must have something to do with it. You've got to do it the Rumsfeld way, or you're not going to go forward.
"When you ask a general officer, `What do you think?' you should be able to answer candidly. I think he's politicized the general officer corps by making the personal selections of everyone."
Brownlee dismissed the contention that his actions amounted to a political vendetta. "I know that's what some of them will assert," said Brownlee, an Army combat veteran in Vietnam who was the top staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It was not political."
During his 18 months as acting Army secretary, Brownlee could not recall any other general that he reduced in rank.
Praise for Riggs