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CROSSFIRE Holds 'Town Meeting' with Gephardt

Aired September 18, 2001 - 19:00   ET


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, CROSSFIRE: It's been a week since the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The death toll so far, close to 6,000 Americans, and parts of the American way of life. The country mourns and prepares to respond. What next?

To find out, we've come to the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C., for a CROSSFIRE Town Meeting.

BILL PRESS, HOST, CROSSFIRE: And to begin tonight, we're honored to have with us the top Democrat in the United States House of Representatives, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, from the state of Missouri.

Welcome, Congressman.


PRESS: We also want to say another welcome to our students and faculty of the George Washington University, right here in downtown Washington.


PRESS: Mr. Leader, let me ask you, President Bush says that he will do whatever it takes to retaliate for last week's terrorist bombing. Are Democrats in Congress prepared to give President Bush whatever it takes to get the job done?

GEPHARDT: Well, we passed an authorization by almost a unanimous vote last week to use force to respond to this attack. And let me tell you what I think the goal is, and what I think President Bush thinks the goal is. The goal is to make sure that this kind of event never ever happens again on American soil. or anywhere, for that matter. This was a blow against humanity, it was a blow against civilization. It was a blow against freedom, and we must unify this country. And I think the president and the Congress is trying to help do that. And we have got to have resolve to see this through, again, to make sure that it never happens again.

Part of that is finding who perpetrated this and bringing them to justice, isolating them, getting them away from any larger group that they may be part of. These are fanatical, probably, fanatical adherents to some antisocial beliefs, that we have to stamp out forever in this world. CARLSON: Congressman, let's talk about one fanatic, Osama bin Laden. The president implied yesterday that we ought to kill him. He said we want him "dead or alive." Do you think the United States government should assassinate Osama bin Laden?

GEPHARDT: Well, I think the better discussion is: How do we find him? If we believe the evidence points to him, and what we're seeing so far looks that way, then we have to find out how to get him and bring him to justice.

I don't think the issue should be what should we do with him. I think the issue should be finding him, bringing him to justice. It may be, as President Clinton did, that we've got to launch missiles. It may be that we've got to go in and try to get him. Obviously, first we would like to have him produced by the country of Afghanistan, or wherever he is. We're trying diplomatic means to get that done.

But I agree with the president, that we've got to do what it takes to make sure that the network, the group, the organization, the people that did this, that perpetrated this, need to be brought to justice.

PRESS: That phrase, "whatever it takes," I think what a lot of Americans are asking themselves tonight is, what could that mean? If the Taliban, for example, in Afghanistan, does not turn over Osama bin Laden, and we know where he is, does that mean an American ground war in Afghanistan? Or if, in fact, these people were in link with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, does that mean another ground war inside of Iraq?

Do your conversations with the White House, is that where we're heading?

GEPHARDT: They don't know, and I don't know. And I don't think anybody knows at this point. I think we -- first of all, we all have to be patient, we have to be resolved, we have to be unified. And we have to count on the administration and the president and his advisers and helpers to do the right things.

I said to him the other day in a White House meeting on Wednesday, the day after the attack, I said, "Mr. President, we've got to get people not to be fearful in the United States. The terrorists, No. 1, want to make us all afraid. They want us to, you know, to go home and not go to work, and not do anything, not ride on airplanes. Be afraid. We can't be afraid." What Franklin Roosevelt said many years ago about, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," is really applicable again today.

Secondly, we've got to be willing to look at the countervailing issues of freedom, or inconvenience, and security. We're going to have to do something. We're asking people to put up with things at the airports now that are going to delay some flights. We've got to put up with that. We have to be willing to go with that. And I think the American people are.

Third, I said to him, "We've got to trust you, and you have to trust us. We have to work together as Americans, not Democrats and Republicans. Not independents, liberals and conservatives. We have to work together on a minute-by-minute, day-to-day basis, to be unified to meet this challenge." Now, I don't know what it means, and I don't think he does or his people do.

Now, let me just add one other thing. I don't -- as we approach this, we've got to do it in a way that we don't add to the army of extremists who probably did this. We want to diminish that army. And so we've got to do it in a way that we don't look like we're having a war with a whole religion or a whole ethnic group. That would be the wrong thing to do, and I think the president well understands that and is trying to figure out means that will isolate this group and diminish this group, and that's why he's trying to get the world together to help do this.

CARLSON: Now, for the moment, he has Congress together, it appears that way. But at some point, there are going to political decisions to be made, and one of them that strikes me is about energy. The White House, at some point, I believe, will argue, look, part of preparing for war means being less dependent on foreign oil, Middle Eastern oil. And part of what that means is increasing domestic reserves.

Bottom line: Would you support drilling in ANWR, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, if the president supports that and makes that argument? It's a compelling argument, isn't it?

GEPHARDT: Tucker, first, we're going to have a lot of issues that...

CARLSON: Well, how about this one?


GEPHARDT: I'll get to it. We're going to have a lot of issues that we're still going to have disagreement on -- legitimate disagreement. You know, Congress is there to resolve conflict, to express disagreement that exists in the country among all the people. That's our job. That's what a democracy does. So we're going to get back to a lot of that.

Right now, what we're trying to do is, in a bipartisan, collaborative way, deal with what's in front of us. We've got an airline problem, we're going to try to solve that. We have an economic problem, potentially, we're going to try to solve that together. We've got some problems with the way the legal justice system works -- we're going to talk about doing something about that, although that will be harder and more controversial.

Now, let's talk about energy. That's always a contentious issue. We can easily get to that as soon as these other more immediate things are out of the way. And hopefully we can do them in a bipartisan way. But then we get to tougher things. There will be some disagreements. My own view, and I'm just speaking for myself, now, is that ANWR is not a very sound answer to this problem, and I think the environmental trade-offs outweigh what you get, in terms of energy. I think there are other...


GEPHARDT: There are other more promising things that we can do. We ought to have a near-Manhattan project, in my view, on fuel cells. I mean, I think fuel cells can solve a lot of our energy problem, do it in an environmentally sensitive way, and really be a hopeful, optimistic solution, that I think our country wants to these kinds of problems.

PRESS: Congressman, our questions are nothing compared to the tough questions that these students have.

GEPHARDT: Buckle your seat belt.

PRESS: We're going to take a break. This is a special CROSSFIRE Town Meeting from George Washington University in downtown Washington. When we come back, questions from the students and faculty at G.W. for Congressman Dick Gephardt.


PRESS: Welcome back to the special CROSSFIRE Town Meeting here at G.W., George Washington University, in downtown, Washington. Our guest is minority leader Dick Gephardt, the state of Missouri, top Democrat in the United States Congress -- Tucker.

CARLSON: We have a room seething with questions, but we take our first for Congressman Gephardt from Jen O'Brien (ph) from Philadelphia.

JEN O'BRIEN: Hi, I have a question. After the attacks, you suggested granting fewer visas and tracking the movements of foreigners in this country. However, America has always prided ourselves on being a free and open society. Are you now suggesting that this society is closed?

GEPHARDT: I'm not sure that I said what you thought I said. What I feel is that we've got to review the whole visa procedure. It could be that some of the folks who were involved in this were on expired visas, and we then couldn't find them. And part of the reason we couldn't find them, apparently, is they put very general addresses on their visa. So I think we've got to look at the whole visa procedure, how much do we know about folks that we're granting visas and what they've done, and then we've got to have a better way of trying to get the people who have expired visas.

Let me just say one other thing. One of the things we have to do in this thing is not have discrimination, prejudice against anybody in our country. We're the most diverse country in the world.


GEPHARDT: We didn't do too well in World War II. We put in prison almost every Japanese-American for no reason, in most cases, and we cannot do that again. And I'm proud of the president going to the American Muslim Center here in Washington today. That was the right thing to do.

We have lots of Arab-Americans, sikhs, south Asians, others, who are as good of patriots as anyone in this country, and abhor what happened the other day. And we've got to respect them and help them help us deal with this problem.


PRESS: Congressman, Matthew is from Maine.

MATTHEW: Mr. Gephardt, you said earlier that you would want to bring Osama bin Laden back to justice in America. Do you believe that if he is brought back to justice he could receive a fair trial in our justice system, given the current climate here?

GEPHARDT: America is the greatest democracy that's ever existed on earth. We all believe in and practice the rule of law. It's the greatest strength of our country. And we've had lots of instances -- Timothy McVeigh was brought to justice and had a trial and had peers judge his guilt or innocence. We had the same with the people who did the first World Trade Center problem in 1993.

I'm absolutely convinced that he or anyone else would get a fair trial in this country, and I hope we can bring him to justice, and the others who we find and believe did this.

CARLSON: Congressman, we have a question from Terrance, from Salisbury, Maryland.

TERRANCE: President Bush is currently experiencing broad public support. How should the public judge him? What sort of criteria should we use for his future actions?

GEPHARDT: Well, all of us in public service are to be judged on the results we get. I'm in the same boat, and all the other members of Congress and elected officials, with the president.

Right now, I think we need to unify our entire country behind the president and the leadership in the country to try to resolve this problem. That doesn't mean that we are not critical of things that we do and -- you know, we don't go on suspended disbelief. But I really believe this is a time to unify. This is the worst thing that's happened on our soil by a foreigner or outside influence or outside force in the history of our country. This is much worse than Pearl Harbor. Twenty-four-hundred people killed at Pearl Harbor. Now we're at 6,000, God forbid it goes higher.

We have to meet this problem. And it is a complicated, sophisticated, tough foe that we face, and we've got to stay together and we have to be patient and we have to be resolved in fighting this. And that means we have to stay with the president and with the leadership, and do our best to deal with this in the right way.


PRESS: This is Lisa, from Fredericksburg, Virginia. LISA: Hello, Mr. Gephardt. My question is, if there is a proportional increase in terrorism in one certain group, should there not be a proportional increase of scrutiny in that same group?

GEPHARDT: Well, I think that's the wrong way to look at it. I just think that if there's an increase in terrorism, and obviously there is, everywhere in the world and certainly here, we've got to heighten our response. We have to be more aggressive about what we do to deal with this.

But I think to just assume that we have to target one group is a mistake. It's a mistake of reality. We don't know who did all of this. We don't know what ethnic group they may be part of. We don't know what religious background they may have. You can't jump to conclusions. You can't assume things.

Let me go back to World War II. We put almost every Japanese- American in the West Coast in internment camps, because we leaped to the conclusion that because Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, that all the Japanese-Americans were sympathizers with that. We know that was a mistake. It was a horrible mistake. This is a democracy. We have to treat people with respect, and fairly. And at the same time, carry out a very aggressive investigation, try to get to the people who did this and bring them to justice.

PRESS: But, Mr. Gephardt, there were 40 hate crimes so far reported today. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there was a wire that the FBI is investigating, in the wake of this incident. A lot of Americans haven't gotten that message that you just gave.

GEPHARDT: I would never say we have, and I abhor those activities. But I think we've got to also look at the great things that are happening, the wonderful humanity that's pouring forth in this country, the 250 firefighters in New York that went into the building willingly. as everybody else was coming out, and they're all missing.

The fire chief of New York, who's dead. The chaplain of the fire department, who is ministering over someone who had died, and he dies? The people that are getting into blood bank lines, the people that are turning their rebate checks over to relief organizations.

I mean, this country is responding to this as every generation of Americans have responded to adversity. And I think -- I was asked by a high school student in my hometown, St. Louis, yesterday. She said, "Are we the slacker generation?" I said, no, that isn't true.

And it isn't true. Young people in this country haven't had this kind of adversity, perhaps. But that doesn't mean that you won't rise to the occasion, and you aren't rising to the occasion. You are, and you will. We're all going to do what it takes. This is a big deal. This is the most serious attack on our country that I've seen in my lifetime, and in your lifetime, and we're going to see this through. We're going to win this thing for democracy, without adopting the characteristics of our foes and the methods of our foes. We're going to do this the right way. (APPLAUSE)

PRESS: OK, Congressman, we have a tough but fair question from Heather Fink of Roxbury, New Jersey.

HEATHER FINK: Hi. I was wondering why congressmen and our president are talking about providing another tax refund, or another tax rebate, which would, I guess, provide indirect economic relief, when we could just provide direct economic relief with the existing or remaining surplus?

GEPHARDT: Well, right now what we're trying to figure out is what should, can we do to help the economy respond to this problem. And it's a far-reaching problem. I mean, people are afraid people aren't, maybe shopping as much as they should, going to work, blah blah blah.

So we need to find ways to respond properly. One set of ideas is to add to the rebate that's already out there, so that -- especially to people who didn't get the rebate, people at the lower end of the earnings ladder, so they can -- they'll spend their money and get out and do things.

We're also looking at helping local governments. One of the things we have to look at now are local governments. I met with our fire and police people in St. Louis yesterday, and I said, "Are we ready for further problems?" And they feel the need for more training of their officers, better equipment to deal with some of these problems. So those are the variety of things that we're rooking at, again, hoping we can do it in a bipartisan way in the next few days.

PRESS: Congressman, another question for you from Mark, who's from Plainfield, Connecticut. Hello, Mark.

MARK: Hi. Good evening, Mr. Gephardt. My question is, if something like this were to ever happen again, what's being done to ensure that the different departments of the government will be able to communicate with each other better?

GEPHARDT: Well, that's a good point. And I would never tell you that we've done everything right or there weren't mistakes made -- there were. These are human institutions.

I do think that it's wrong to be highly divisive and critical now of the CIA or the FBI or emergency services. Heck, we couldn't quite figure out how the evacuate the Capitol the other day when there was a bomb scare. We've got to look at our procedures in the Capitol. We've got to do better. We've got to train ourselves better. Members of our staff didn't quite know how to respond, what to do.

And we need to do that all across the country. There are suggestions being made that I think are good. We need to look at a new -- this may not be the right word, but homeland defense effort. We need to review and energize all off our potential efforts in responding to the specter of terrorism. We live in a new world today. We have to think anew and act anew. We have to open up all of our minds. We have to put back the old thinking that we've had, and we've got to come up with new ways and new ideas for dealing with this threat we face.

We didn't face this threat squarely when Timothy McVeigh, or whoever did Oklahoma City, or the U.S.S. Cole blew up. We didn't really go at this thing. We have to go at it now. We have to put our efforts together. We have to think anew, act anew, communicate better, plan better, train better to deal with something like this happening again.

CARLSON: Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri, House minority leader, thank you very much for joining us in the CROSSFIRE Town Meeting.

GEPHARDT: Thank you.


CARLSON: And when we come back, when we come back here, George Washington University in Washington, we'll have a panel of experts on terrorism and ....

and when we come back, here at George Washington University in Washington a panel of experts on terrorism and what to do with it. We'll be back in a moment.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Thank you very much for joining us in the CROSSFIRE town meeting. And when we come back, here at George Washington University in Washington, we will have a panel of experts on terrorism and what to do about it. We'll be back in just a moment.


CARLSON: I'm Tucker Carlson here with Bill Press at a special CROSSFIRE town meeting in downtown Washington, D.C. We'll be returning in just a moment with our panel on terrorism and what to do about it. But first a news update from Wolf Blitzer.


PRESS: Thanks, Wolf. Welcome back, everybody, to our special CROSSFIRE townmeeting, part of a national discussion about how America pulls back together and how America responds to the reality of terrorism. We are live at the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C. We are now joined by three people who know a lot about law enforcement, terrorism and government intelligence.

First, Congresswoman Jane Harman, Democrat from California, co- chair of the Congressional investigation into last Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Also, former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, in the Clinton administration. Welcome, Eric. Also joined by Larry Johnson, former director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism in both the bush and Clinton administrations. Tucker.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Harman, thanks for joining us. You are the ranking member on the new working group looking into how this happened last week. And I think the question -- the first question -- there's a lot of questions, but the first I think many will have is, how did two of these suspected hijackers, who were apparently on an FBI list of suspected terrorists, buy airline tickets in their own names and no bells go off? Nothing happens. The computer doesn't even send up a red flag saying "suspected terrorists." Why?

CONGRESSWOMAN JANE HARMAN, RANKING MEMBER OF CONGRESSIONAL WORKING GROUP ONTERRORISM: We need to change the legal authorities in this country. What happened is, so far as we know, at least three of these people were on a terrorism watch list. But the airlines have no access to that list. That is going to be my number one topic on legislation, to reform the way we do things. We are not just looking backwards on how this -- to how this happened.

We have to look forward right now to prevent it from happening again. There may be a second wave of attacks. Americans know this. These kids in the audience know this. My kids know this. It is critically important that Congress and the administration pay attention to that. And I am pleased to see that both Congress and the administration, on a bipartisan basis, are.

PRESS: Eric Holden, there were two disturbing reports today on the wires. One is that six years ago the FBI was warned that terrorists might use commercial airlines as suicide bombs directed toward major buildings in this country. That warning came from law enforcement in the Philippines. There was is a second report that the FBI just two weeks ago was down at a flight training school in Oklahoma, looking for information about one of the people who is supposedly connected to what happened last Tuesday. Six years ago, two weeks ago. Was the FBI asleep at switch again?

ERIC HOLDEN, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't know. I think we are going to have to look at -- do kind of almost an after- accident report and see exactly what agency had responsibility for what, how did those agencies perform, and then try to make changes based on our analysis their performance. I'm not familiar with the things that you have just talked about, but I know the FBI has given -- made this a priority. It is possible that information that should have been passed along and that the FBI did not perform in an adequate way. If that is the case, changes will obviously have to be made.

CARLSON: Larry Johnson, apparently there were other acts of terrorism planned for last Tuesday. Senator Graham of Florida was in a briefing -- an intelligence briefing the other day, and implied that. Do you have any knowledge of what those acts might have been?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER DIRECTOR, STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICE OF COUNTERTERRORISM: One situation that took place monday evening in texas, and I will keep the particular airline out of it. But one of the particular individuals who flew the plane into the Pentagon showed up on the plane with a pilot's uniform and the ID, and was going to sit in jump seat. But a more senior pilot showed up and took that jump seat. So that was one of those issues of serendipity kept them from doing something Monday night.

PRESS: Congresswoman Jane Harman, if we are at war, what does this mean for the average American? How is this going affect our daily lives? Any idea?

HARMAN: Well, my hope is as little as possible. We have to keep our standard of life going. I agree with Dick Gephardt and I liked his performance on this show just a few minutes ago, that if we give into this, if we waive our Constitution, we become like the terrorists. And they win. That -- it is imperative that we not do this.

So I hope that Americans go back to their routines, but it is mandatory that our government do more to protect them. We need marshals on airplanes, we need every form of security in place at our airports. These are asymmetrical threats, so we have to think about other ways these terrorists could attack us, and other parts of the country where they could attacks. And it is certainly my promise to my constituents that I am on this job 24-7 worrying about them. And I hope that they will go on with their normal lives.

PRESS: Isn't it true that we're going to be asked to sacrifice some of our privacy, some of our convenience. You can't get around it, I guess. How, and are all of those things necessary?

HARMAN: My answer to that is yes. We have to rebalance how we do things. Part of the balance is privacy, and our constitutional rights to association. The other part of the balance is security. And rebalancing those two goods for the 21st century is what we have to start right now. CARLSON: Eric Holder, I'm struck that of the 19 hijackers, the vast majority were here legally, and here on valid visas. That's a scenario that to me just screams immigration reform. How it it should be reformed? HOLDER: I think we have to ask ourselves some pretty tough questions and understand that it is not a right for people in other parts of the world to come to our country. I mean, we've got to be tough about who we are going to admit into this country, understanding that we are a nation of immigrants and that we want to keep ourselves open, a haven for people who have political problems in other parts of the world. But we need to ask ourselves some tough questions, and ask tough questions of people who want to come into this nation. I think that frankly we have not done that in the past. I think we need start doing exactly that.

CARLSON: If we do that, that means assessing the relative danger of other countries. So, you know obviously, if we are afraid of terrorism, we are going to be much harder on countries in the Middle East, scrutinize people from the Middle East who want to come here much more closely than those, say, from Western Europe. Are we prepared to do that?

HOLDER: I think you have to do that. That is the danger. You don't generalize on the basis of ethnicity or where somebody comes from. You ask tough questions about individuals. Is there a basis to believe that this person, wherever they're from, poses a danger to this nation. And focus the questoin on Eric Holder, Tucker Carlson, as opposed to this guy who is from the Middle East, this guy is from Africa, this guy is from Western Europe. Because the reality is, the person who you assume is not a threat to this country from Western Europe could be a sympathizer, and could be working for folks in the Middle East. So we have to ask tough questions of everybody, but focus on the individual.

PRESS: Larry Johnson, I know this a naive question, I'm going to ask it anyway, because I've been wondering about these flight schools. I mean, can anybody walk into a flight school and learn how to fly a commercial jet? Without being attached to any airline, without having any credential -- the way these guys did?

JOHNSON: Short answer is yes.

PRESS: Hello!

JOHNSON: Well... With -- unfortunately, and this has happened before. With the benefit of hindsight, we end up all being geniueses. I think some of the more important issues are whether or not somebody can have the liberty to take flight training -- we need to look at some very simple measures about how you keep people from getting control of a cockpit. How you control the cockpit.

Here before, we have had assumptions in this country, assumptions that someone is going to check a bag, get on the plane, and they won't have a bomb in it. It's called positive passenger bag match. We assume they won't have a bomb. We've got to get rid of that assumption. We have assumed that if they hijack a plane, they're not going to crash it. We know that is no longer viable. I have talked to pilots, I have advanced the notion that you have to put a door that can least give the pilots time to operate, and then have a gun in the cockpit that they can shoot somebody if necessary.

And the pilots said, "there are a couple of other aspects to that. If we know a hijacking is under way, we can decompress the back of the airplane. We can start flying in ways that if the person stands up, their head is going to be in the bulkhead. So there are sjome very positive things pilots can do that we have to get away from this notion that you are dealing with people who are not willing to kill themselves.

CARLSON: Mrs. Harman, Israel -- which from the point of view of the administration has not cooperated to the degree the administration would like it -- some hesitance to join this growing coalition. Israel of course a great ally of the United States and a great beneficiary of American aid. What is going on.

HARMAN: I think Israel is cooperating. By the way, this is the jewish new year. And to all those in audience, happy new year. I think Israel is cooperating. Our goal here is not just to launch military action -- although I think that may happen -- but our goal is to build a coalition of all of the peace-loving nations of world, including the moderate Arab nations, against terrorists.

They are just an extreme part of a few religions -- those are most of the terrorists in the world. But most of the Muslim faith are peace loving. So Israel is in this coalition, has been for years. They are our only Democratic ally in the Middle East.

But I hope that Saudi Arabia, Jordan and many other countries, which have been cooperating with us, will continue to cooperate and reach out to other Arab countries to join this coalition.

PRESS: Before we take a break here to go to our audience, a quick question to Eric Holder. Eric Holder, talking about airports, will National Airport ever reopen? Do you think it is necessary to close National Airport? We are counting on your answer.

CARLSON: Yes, we are. There is only one right answer, by the way. HOLDER: I hope National Airport is not closed. We have to make use of technology. We have to come with ways in which we render that place safe. There is -- there are huge economic consequences to the closing of National Airport. It's also my favorite airport.

PRESS: He gave the right answer. He will be invited back. So will the rest of our panel. They will take questions of the audience when we come back for CROSSFIRE's special town meeting from George Washington University. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We've taken it on the road to a special town meeting here at George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C. We are taking questions from our audience for our panel of experts on terrorism. PRESS: And indeed, we have a first question here. Please stand up. This is Lawrence from Olney, Maryland. Has a question for former Deputy Attorny General Eric Holder.

LAWRENCE: Hi. I would like to know if we do in fact go in assassinate or kill Bin Laden, and is being, as everybody said the greatest democracy on earth, does that support our definition of justice?

HOLDER: I think people look at the assassinations ban in the wrong way. The assassinations ban does not prohibit us from protect ourselves. If we have a person who in the has past demonstrated a capacity to harm this country, who has harmed this country, who has a stated intention of harming the country further, and has the capacity to do so, we can take defensive mechanisms -- take defensive steps, even under the assassinations ban to render that person harmless. If that means the death of Mr. Bin Laden, I think that is totally within the law. Totally within the law. PRESS: We invite our other panelist, any time you want to jump in just let us know.

HARMAN: I think on that point assassination may be the wrong word. HOLDER: Exactly.

HARMAN: Self-defense is justified when police officer is at risk, and so forth. That is what we are talking about. I think if we start having a big debate about assassinations, we are talking about the wrong thing. What we should be talking about is how to reform our intelligence capability so that we can respond to 21st century threats. We should be talking about how to track all the money that guess into these terrorist organizations.

Larry knows a lot about that. There should be full transparency. If an American bank is somehow supporting some Osama Bin Laden activity, even if that activity is lawful but then the money goes into unlawful purposes, we ought to know about that, and that bank ought to face consequences. If we do some of these things, if we isolate the terrorists, those are best ways to stop this. And talking about assassinations, I think, is really the wrong conversation.

CARLSON: We have on this topic a more specific question from Lauren from Westchester, New York.

LAUREN: How do we wage an effective war against a group of people who believe it is honorable to die for this cause? For their cause, whatever it is.

JOHNSON: We have to remember that ultimately, these people are living, breathing human beings. They have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they have to have money to operate. It may ultimately be necessary to go in and kill them. But ultimately, the immediate objective is to start taking apart the network. That requires the cooperation not just of Pakistan, Uzbekistan Turkmenistan, which is on the northern border. It is going to require the cooperation of other countries that can bring to bear diplomatic pressure. It may get to military strike, but there are ways that we can use some other groups. Remember, I think we draw the wrong lesson to say the russians went into afghanistan and couldn't win. That is because we were there fighting them through the guerrillas. We've got that down pretty well. There are other guerrillas we can enlist. There are some surrogates I think we will be getting into the ball game that relish the day they kill the taliban.

CARLSON: What about Europe? I notice that germany, particularly, has been place where a lot of terrorist activity -- certainly a lot of financial dealings on the part of terrorists have taken place. Do you think European countries, Mr. Holder, have been tough enough in fighting terrorism up to this point?

HOLDER: Well, I mean, I certainly think we have to have a unified front. There have been instances in the past where not only European countries but some of our allies in the Middle East have not been as much on our side we would have liked. In Khobar Towers, quite frankly, Saudi Arabia could have been more helpful.

I would hope that people would see this -- countries would see this event for what it is. It is a seminal event. Everything is different now. It is no longer what it was, and it's time to line up. Are you for us or are you against us? You cannot straddle a line here. And countries have to make that determination.

PRESS: Congressman Jane Harman represents a beautiful part of California, and jeff comes from that same part of California, Pacific Palisades. He has a question for his Congresswoman.

JEFF: Congresswoman Harman, my question is whether or not unconventional weapons is a real threat to the United States, whether it's a nuclear bomb in a briefcase or smallpox or anthrax. Besides the logistical problems of obtaining these devices of mass destruction, is there any deterrent? You know, now that mutual destruction can't kill all terrorist cells. What would we do?

HARMAN: You are a smart guy, Jeff. No wonder you are from California. My answer to that...

PRESS: He votes in your district. Is that what we're doing here?

HARMAN: You used to, too, Bill. My answer to that is yes. These are threats. They are not all imminent threats, but I would say that the dangers from all the things you list are much greater than the danger that intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from some country into the U.S.

Our money needs go into counterterrorism measures. And the good news is, first of all, that we are quite sophisticated at being able to detect threats like that. We have well-trained first responders all over the country. Los Angeles County is very well prepared to recognize a chemical or biological agent and to treat people against it. But what we need to do for the future, obviously, is get better intelligence of activities planned against us and prevent them. Prevention is much better than response.

PRESS: May I just jump in? Does your response mean no more money for missile defense?

HARMAN: No. My response means that this is a much higher threat. And that a proportionate amount of defense budget should go to this threat, which is much higher than the amount that should go to a lesser threat like missiles.

CARLSON: Was an attack by biological or chemical weapons a threat a week ago?

JOHNSON: Pardon?

CARLSON: Was an attack by biological or chemical weapons a threat a week ago, do you think?

JOHNSON: We need be very cautious about exaggerating those threats. I think we need to be prepared to confront them. But I have helped script for the U.S. military these exercises since 1994. Fortunately, if you read some of the publications about Department of Defense countries like Libya, North Korea, have worked aggressively with lots of money, lots of scientific power. Fortunately they are difficult to develop. What we do have, as eric noted, Tuesday was a sea change. We can no longer assume that these groups are not going to use those weapons. So therefore it requires a two-track strategy. Continue the preparations we have under way in this country to respond if an incident does take place. Beef up and take a completely different approach to intelligence. Because at the end of the day, when the postmortem is done, what we are going to find is we still have these balkanized districts where FBI, CIA, dea, U.S. Customs, immigration -- they are not sharing with each other. There does not exist a central database that everybody can tap into.

PRESS: We have a question here from Rich, from Chevy Chase, Maryland. RICH: Given the understandable and forgiveable intelligence failures we saw on the 11th, when we orchestrate our response to this tragedy, can we expect more intelligence failures?

PRESS: Want to take that, Eric Holder?

HOLDER: I certainly hope not. We have to obviously make sure that we do respond in a way -- I think as Congressman Gephardt said -- in a very measured way, so that we make sure that we get at those people who are responsible for those acts, but not unnecessarily inflame a situation and have people think that our action was too broad-based. And we will have to rely, obviously, on intelligence. We have the intelligence capability. We have problems with some of our procedures. Our intelligence agencies don't talk to each other as well as they should. But I would hope that given the new world in which we find ourselves, those problems will be things of the past.

PRESS: Congresswoman, I saw you wanted to add on.

HARMAN: Well, I think we need to respond decisively. Not just militarily. I think that will be part of our response, and that is obviously being carefully thought through. But we have to respond in terms of building this coalition of the world against terrorism, and we have to respond by reforming the way we gather and share intelligence. I like to say we have an analog intelligence capability to face a digital threat. You students understand the digital world much better than we do, and it is time to have a digital intelligence capability that is seamless from gathering the information to acting on it.

CARLSON: We have a question from Lindsey from North Carolina.

LINDSEY: Hi. I think it is too superficial to say that these terrorists are -- just don't like democracy and that is why they are doing this. So I want to know what you all think -- what foreign policies they are trying to get rid of. And specifically, are they looking for America go back to its more isolationist roots?

JOHNSON: It is important to understand what we are up against here. This is not like groups like the FARC or ELM of Colombia or the Kurdish Workers Party of Turkey, or even for that matter Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon fighting against Israel. They have a negotiating posture. This group are religious fanatics, zealots in the true sense of word.

They are very sincere in their belief, but they believe that ultimately the United States and the Western world is corrupt, and that our way of life, our values, our ideas must be destroyed because it is a threat to their religion.

And please understand, this represents -- this is as representative of Islam as a bunch of skinhead nazis are representative of Christianity. We must not make the mistake trying to lump all of Islam in with this. But these folks are true believers. And that is what makes the threat so dangerous.

PRESS: 30 seconds. Congresswoman?

HARMAN: And they are prepared to die for their beliefs. That is the tragedy. And ultimately, when we eradicate this threat, the next thing we have to do is provide economic opportunity for young people all over the world, so that the choice isn't between devastation and hopelessness and fanaticism. The choice has to be to have a reasonable life like all of you have and we have. And that is what we are fighting to protect in this country. And we will prevail.

PRESS: Congressman Harman, you have the final word.

CARLSON: Thank you very much, Congresswoman. Eric Holder, Larry Johnson. Thank all very much. Thank you all here in the room.

PRESS: We also want to thank everybody here at George Washington University. Thanks for joining us. We'll be back tomorrow night with another special CROSSFIRE town meeting from George Washington University, with Senator John McCain from Arizona. We'll see you tomorrow night. Now let's go back to Wolf Blitzer at CNN.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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