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In the Crossfire

9/11 warnings: Who should take the heat?

(CNN) -- Sen. Richard Shelby, ranking member of the Select Intelligence Committee, joined "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Robert Novak to answer questions about warnings received before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

BEGALA: With respect to ... none other than George W. Bush, who gave an interview to The Washington Post in December and told them ... he was talking about bin Laden. He (Bush) said, "I knew he was a menace and I knew he was a problem. I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring him to justice and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him but I didn't feel that sense of urgency."

Isn't that the problem here -- more than the failures of this or that bureau in Phoenix or Minnesota, that our president himself says he didn't feel any sense of urgency?

SHELBY: If he said that at that time I think you have to put it in context. But the president has to be served by people who provide intelligence information, law enforcement information to him. And ... at the end of the day you will see loss of opportunities here. And a lot of it's going to be with the FBI. Some of it's going to be with the CIA and where else we don't know at this point.

NOVAK: Senator, I hate to say this -- I really do -- but I want you to entertain the possibility that there are certain people -- and one of them may be sitting at this table at this very moment -- who are really interested in nailing President Bush on this issue and with perhaps some political ulterior motives and that is what's behind this lack of interest in the analytical problems in the FBI and saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah -- we know about the FBI but we want to see if the president was just not on the ball and he didn't do the wonderful job that Bill Clinton did."

Do you think there might be a little politics . . .

SHELBY: Well . . .

NOVAK: . . . being played there?

SHELBY: . . . I have a lot of respect for Paul and I'm not going to get into partisan politics -- not in partisan politics on this show. But I can tell you I really believe that George W. Bush -- our president -- is up to the task. He's shown that -- he's shown a lot of leadership. But I also believe -- and I'm going to reiterate this -- that the president has been failed -- has -- what's failed us and failed him is the FBI, the CIA and others that have not furnished the requisite intelligence.

Now is it a structural problem? It could be, Paul.




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