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Homeland Security: How Life Changes and Goes On

Aired November 8, 2001 - 19:30   ET



TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: I think this heightened sense of awareness, one of the challenges is to take the legitimate anxiety and fear that Americans still have and just -- we will be on alert indefinitely.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: How ready is America for a future terrorist attack? And how is the Office of Homeland Security preparing the nation? This is CROSSFIRE.

Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Just a half hour from now, amid signs of growing impatience over progress in the war against terrorism, President Bush will give the nation what some are calling an old-fashioned pep talk.

According to the White House, his message will be: we have got a long way to go but we are on track, both in the military war in Afghanistan and in efforts to protect Americans here against future terrorist attacks.

But even before he speaks, questions resound -- especially about homeland security. After all the mistakes with anthrax, how can anybody say we are really prepared for bioterrorist attack? How can homeland czar Tom Ridge do his job without statutory authority or a budget? And how can we all get on with our lives when the FBI keeps warning us another terrorist attack could happen any minute?

Well, helping us sort out it tonight, Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona and ranking member of the subcommittee on technology and terrorism, and Colonel Randy Larsen, director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security. Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Thank you, Bill. Colonel Larsen, isn't the real story here the dog that didn't bark, the events that didn't happen? According to a number of sources, al Qaeda and various terrorist networks planned dozens -- according to one -- hundreds of attacks after September 11.

And yet in that time, in those two months, four people so far have died at the hands of terrorists, by anthrax. So isn't the federal government doing its job? Hasn't it succeeding in keeping the homeland secure, so far anyway?

RETIRED COLONEL RANDY LARSEN, ANSER INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: I think the federal government has done an incredible job. And I should say state and local governments, because they are very important partners in homeland security in the 21st century.

The job we are doing in Afghanistan today, our Air Force people, Navy people, folks on the ground over there doing an incredible job. Makes it very difficult to put together a sophisticated attack like we saw on the 11th of September. What the role of the FBI are doing in the country is incredible. We've been rolling these folks up.

However, my concern is because we haven't seen an attack, we must not lower our guard. We still know there's a couple hundred of them out there in the United States, and the attack could come at any time.

We have seen from war -- I don't care if you talk about the Peloponnesian War or the war in the Persian Gulf -- war is about two percent terror and 98 percent boredom.

I saw that in Vietnam as a teenager, OK? And after a while you get bored and you sit around and you go, "I wish something would happen." All of a sudden something happens, you go, "Oh, I wish that didn't happen again." OK. So as a nation we need to stay alert. We need to understand they're out there -- the bad guys are still out there.

I agree with the vice president. He said more Americans will die inside the United States than will die in Afghanistan. That's a very sobering prospect. But this is long war and there will be long periods where nothing happens, and we are going to have be careful not to lower our guard.

CARLSON: But isn't the presence of Tom Ridge a sign of this administration's vigilance? And before you answer that I want you to take a look at Tom Ridge himself. This is his explanation for why he's going to be an effective head of homeland security. This is Tom Ridge.


RIDGE: From the first cabinet meeting which I attended to the first homeland security meeting, which the president and I attended together, both his public and private assurances that the office of homeland security would have the resources it needed in order to get the job done. The president said it. He means it. And I am absolutely confident that I will have the resources I need to accomplish the task.


CARLSON: Now this rings true. This is a personal friend of the president's, for one thing. But the point is everything rides on his success, from Bush's point of view. Why in the world would the president set him up to fail or give him anything less than authority and the money he needs to achieve the task set before him? LARSEN: I think he was the right guy, Tucker, to be selected for job. One reason, he's a governor, or a previous governor. He understands that it's not just the federal government. All answers are not going to come from Washington, D.C. for homeland security. It's going to take state government, county government, municipal governments and the private sector are going to have to be involved.

When you look at the toxic storage facilities we have in the cities around this nation, we need to protect those. Those are prime targets, because you can make -- you don't need DC or sarin gas to make a chemical attack. All you do is you put conventional explosives around those.

We are going to have to figure out a way to protect those. And so we need to get the city governments, the county governments and private industry. And maybe we need to give them tax credits to help them increase our security. I'm not sure what that's going to be. Folks up on the Hill are going to help them with that.

But having a governor involved is incredibly important, and I -- we have several governors involved here. Our attorney general and our president are governors. So they understand this important relationship we have.

PRESS: Senator Kyl, first of all, the last time I spoke with you, sir, you were watching the Diamondbacks game. I remember and I just want to congratulate you.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: It was a great World Series. It was one of the all-time greats.

PRESS: Some say perhaps the greatest World Series ever.

KYL: Yes, I agree.

PRESS: We don't want to offend our New Yorker friends, but since you're here...

KYL: You know, I have been a Yankee fan all my life until the D- Backs were created. The Yankees are still my American League team. And I said -- I said this on the media -- in the media, that I hoped that it was a seven-game series the D-Backs would win by one run in the bottom of the ninth. And that's what happened.

PRESS: Man, you've got your...

CARLSON: Playing both sides. No wonder you are a senator.

PRESS: No wonder you're a senator. And you can tell us -- and now you can really tell us what is going to happen in this war against terrorism.

But now I wish -- getting back to the topic of the evening -- that I shared the confidence around this table in Tom Ridge. I certainly think he is a good man. I just think he's been given an impossible -- an impossible job. Let's go back to the question: what agency or agencies in the federal government are responsible for homeland security? Here, thanks to the Sunday "New York Times," is the answer. I'm sure you saw it. That's the flow chart. Do you see -- you can't make out even, if it were up close. Look. All the boxes on that flow chart.

If I were a Republican, I would say this looks like Hillary Clinton's health care flow chart from about eight years ago.

Now, President Bush didn't take a box away from that chart, he added a box to that chart. The office of homeland security, with no statutory authority. Wouldn't you have to say Tom Ridge has an impossible job?

KYL: It's going to be a tough job. Nobody questions that. But you know, you could make that box even bigger. It's all of the American people. What he did was to put a close confidant in charge.

I met with Tom Ridge today. Tom said, you know, I meet with the president every day. And we were there to try to convince him to do something with regard to this immigration problem, the problem of all the people -- the 19 terrorists coming in here on visas and most of them shouldn't have been here. He said, you know, one of the first things I did was to get the president to sign an executive order already getting going on that exact problem.

So it's a tough job. You are absolutely right. He has got a lot of work to do in getting all of those agencies together. But I think that he has got the president's ear and everybody in those agencies knows who is the boss: namely, the president.

PRESS: But, you know, there's a difference between being able to walk into the Oval Office and say hello to your friend, and going over to the Justice Department and saying, "Damn it, I need 1,000 people here and I want them today," and getting a response.

KYL: Well, here...

PRESS: So let me suggest...

KYL: Yes, but -- if I could. What he did is he goes to the Justice Department and he says here, is the order I got the president to sign and here is what forces to you do -- or asks to you do.

PRESS: And if I were at the Justice Department, I would say, "What is your statutory authority?" And that's the point I'd like to -- no, that's -- the letter from the president is not statutory authority and you know it.

KYL: The executive order -- the executive order from the president tells the attorney general what to do.

PRESS: It is not statutory authority. I want to read to you, if I may...

KYL: Sure... PRESS: ...something one of your colleagues, Senator Lieberman, has said, who totally -- we were just talking to him a little while ago -- totally supports Tom Ridge. He is totally for this office. He just wants to give it the power it needs.

Senator Lieberman says, "The struggle against terrorism will last beyond a season or beyond a presidential term, and the absence of statutory sanction and Senate review cannot help but impair Governor Ridge's and his successors' effectiveness."

So, you are a senator. Why don't you pass some legislation and make that office and official with a budget and with power?

KYL: We may do that. In fact, Governor Ridge said today, early next year we are going to review where we are, what we have had to do, what the ideas are for organizing in a different way, providing statutory authority perhaps.

And he said, we will have some ideas. We'll talk to you and we'll figure out whether that's necessary. Right now, he said, we are focused on this war on terrorism, not on organizational charts. We will have a better idea then as to what we need, if anything, than we do right now.

Let the president and governor work this out. And in a couple of months if you have got some criticisms and we in the Senate have criticisms, we will figure out what kind of legislative authority they need.

CARLSON: Colonel Larsen, you are responsible for one of the most powerful and compelling and frankly terrifying briefings I think anybody has seen in a long time, "Dark Winter," which what envisions what would happen if the United States were hit by an attack with smallpox, and you've been showing this to members of this administration.

But you and people like you have been talking about a possibility such as this for a long time, certainly long before this president arrived. Now apparently we are getting 300 million smallpox vaccine doses sometime next year. My question to you is, why wasn't this done five years ago? Where was the Clinton administration in all this? Why didn't they respond?

LARSEN: Good question. Good question. But I also want to be very fair about this now. Five years ago, no one was doing anything about this. And there were folks of us going around town talking about it. Certainly not making -- they weren't making big efforts and taking care of this.

But about the last two years of the Clinton administration, they did take some efforts to get us better prepared, and we are better prepared as a nation today because of that.

People like Dr. Peggy Hamburg, who was Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, did a great job in getting some legislation through, working with people. And we are better prepared for a biological attack today.

We're not as well-prepared as we need to be as a nation. I'll tell you, we are better prepared than we were when we did the "Dark Winter" exercise back in June of this year. We are far better prepared than we were on the 11th of September. Because we are on high alert, and that's one of the most important things.

One of the most important elements of a biological attack is the element of surprise. And the terrorists have blown that and our public health, our emergency rooms are on high alert.

CARLSON: Well, of course, now that thousands of Americans have been killed by terrorists everyone recognizes there's a real problem. But I want to get back -- there's been a lot of talk about how we ought not to point fingers and nobody is really responsible for these apparent and obvious lapses in vigilance.

I want to know -- because I think you know the answer -- what was the Clinton's administration response when you and people like you went to them and said, "We need these smallpox vaccines," for instance, and they said, "Well, maybe in five years." Was the answer just this is not important enough, or...

LARSEN: No, it was not seen as a threat. And frankly, until this war began on the 11th of September, I was not pushing to go out and build a stockpile of 300 million doses of smallpox vaccines. I think it's smart right now because we've seen the extent that these people will go to.

I still think -- I don't want the American people to be scared with the "Dark Winter" exercise. OK? I think the possibility of a smallpox attack on this nation is remote.

However, we need those 300 million doses. I ask people, "How many people do you know had their house burn down last year?" I don't know anybody. I still pay my home owners insurance. I see those 300 million doses as insurance for America.

PRESS: Senator, part of the president's message, we're told tonight, is that we are on top of this. We're on top of what is going on in Afghanistan. We are on top of these threats against our security here, particularly a bioterrorist threat in the United States.

But we don't know who sent these anthrax letters. We don't know whether they were foreign sources or domestic sources. We don't know how many labs in this country are capable of making this stuff. We don't know beans.

How you can be confident that we are prepared against a bioterrorist attack? Do you share this confidence you just heard?

KYL: I -- I basically agree with everything that has been said here. It's not that we don't know beans. There are certain things we don't know. There's a lot that we do know. It is true that the FBI has not yet cracked the case of where the anthrax came from. That may take a long time. But I don't think that you should necessarily be critical unless you have a better idea, Bill, as to where it might have come from.

PRESS: But why...

KYL: Now, if I could just make my other point. One of the problems that we have had is that there was a big intelligence gap for about ten years. And we are having to run to catch up. And a lot of what we know is subsequent to September 11th. And that's one of the reasons why we haven't been able to resolve a lot of these things as quickly as we would have liked.

PRESS: You think that with -- with nothing happening, no sign of progress in that war against anthrax, that the American people should be confident that the federal agencies know what they are doing?

KYL: Well, yes. A lot of federal agencies know what they are doing. There are gaps in understanding. We don't know where the next attack is going to come or what it's going to be. You cannot establish a standard of an all-knowing government unless you are going to give it so much power that all of us would frankly object to. But I do think you have to give the -- the FBI a lot of credit for what they have found out so far. Have they cracked the case, yet? No.

CARLSON: That's one of the many things we will be talking about when we return in just a moment. The president speaks in a little over 15 minutes. What will he say? What should he say? We will address both of those when we return on CROSSFIRE. Be right back.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to look at all opportunities to spend money, but I urge Congress not to break the budget agreement that we signed on to in early October, and I remind them that the $40 billion of supplemental is enough to meet the nation's needs. We haven't hardly even begun to spend the $40 billion that they -- that they presented.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. In just a few minutes President Bush will speak to the nation about homeland security. He will tell us what is being done to fight terrorism at home and perhaps what to expect next.

But how about what has been done so far? Is the newly-created office of homeland security living up to its billing? Is the nation ready for another attack from the air, the mail or some unforeseen source? And how much will getting prepared cost? That's our CROSSFIRE tonight.

Joining us: Colonel Randy Larsen, Director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security, and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the ranking member on the subcommittee on technology, terrorism and government information. Bill.

PRESS: Senator, CNN's Kelly Wallace has been working this story all day, and she tells us the president tonight is going to tell the American people life will never be the same, but get on with your lives and get back to normal.

I -- the same old message, and I still have a problem with it. It seems to me it's got to be one or the other. Most of the people that I talked to want to take trips, they want to have parties, they want to go bowling, they want to go shopping. And every time they turn around the government tells them there is a terrorist under their bed. Now, you can't have it both ways, can you?

KYL: I would submit that that is a slight exaggeration, Bill.

PRESS: Oh, well...

KYL: But what do I know.

PRESS: All right. Around the corner.

KYL: I know. You are just trying to start a fight. But here is the proposition. You know, you calculate every day the odds that you are going to be hit by lightning or hit by a car or whatever. They are pretty small so you go about your business. But there are some risks that you worry about.

As was pointed out before, you still buy fire insurance although the risk of your house burning down is pretty low. What the president is simply saying is, the terrorists will win if they demoralize us. So don't let them demoralize us. Let's get on about our life as best we can.

There are a few things you might watch out for, however. And in Tucson, Arizona, the reason we were able to investigate some terrorists is because citizen tips to law enforcement went directly to where these guys had lived in their apartment building. They found some good stuff and that's how they started their investigation. That's all we are saying. Be aware, but don't let the terrorists destroy your life.

PRESS: All right. Let me mention one other thing the president is going to -- going to talk about. He is going to ask members of Congress to stop their partisan bickering over airline security.

Now Senator, you know in the Senate there wasn't any partisan bickering. You guys passed an airline security bill making airlines -- airport security guards federal employees, 100 to nothing. It got partisan in the House when the White House joined Tom DeLay and Dick Armey in trying to tear that apart.

KYL: partisanship is Bill.

PRESS: Don't you think -- let me ask my question. Let me ask my question.

KYL: Go ahead.

PRESS: Don't you think the president should stop his partisanship and take a lesson from your bipartisanship?

KYL: The president has been the most bipartisan person in this whole exercise. Naturally the politicians in the Congress are going to be partisan. But what happened in the Senate was not that 100 of the Senators agreed that all of these baggage inspectors should be public employees...

PRESS: You just voted that way.

KYL: In order to get the Bill to a conference committee and support the president's desire to quickly get legislation, about half of us said we are willing to vote to get the bill there, but we do not support having these people be federally employed. They should be in the private sector and supervised by federal employees with a federal supervision.

Now, the split in the House is just about 50/50, with a few more people favoring private employees. The split in the Senate is just about 50/50, with a few more favoring public. It's going to have go to a conference committee. And those of us who voted for it in the Senate were simply saying, "Let's do what the president wants, not bicker partisan, get it to conference committee so we can get something passed and in law."

CARLSON: Colonel Larsen, I want you to take a look at something I'd like to see the president address tonight. This is an exchange between Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Tim Caruso, who is the deputy assistant director of the FBI for counterterrorism. This took place recently. Watch this.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Have you nailed down the number of labs that are capable of producing this quality anthrax?


FEINSTEIN: So you don't know how many labs produce it, how many labs produce this quality. What do you know?


CARLSON: The FBI doesn't know how many labs in the United States produce anthrax? You have to be kidding. This is -- I mean, I'm a supporter of the FBI in some theoretical sense. This is outrageous. Isn't it?

LARSEN: I don't know. Have they visited your basement lately, Tucker?

CARLSON: No, they haven't. But these are labs -- these are not basement labs that -- I don't believe that Senator Feinstein was talking about basement labs. She was talking about labs -- actual labs. I mean, labs at colleges, independent labs, chemical company labs.

LARSEN: Now, you can't -- you can't take care of biological agents like you do nuclear materials, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) uranium or plutonium. It just exists too many places in nature. You go to conferences around the country where microbiologists go and they carry this stuff in their pockets around with them. This exists in nature.

We can't control it. And by the way, if we did control it in the United States, guess what? There's the rest the world out there there's no controls.

CARLSON: No, but wait. Wait a second. I mean, it's -- I understand that. That's the argument that you can't pass laws against everything. But it strikes me that there is a common sense threshold and this crosses that. If we are going to afraid as we -- as you know very well -- for years of a biological attack on this country, it strikes me as remarkable that nobody has made a systematic effort to keep track of places where these agents might be produced in this country.

LARSEN: No, I don't know of one, and it's going to be an extremely difficult task. And I'm not sure that's the best way to use our limited resources, I've got to tell you.

PRESS: I've got to ask -- quick question about spending. We're almost out of time, Senator. The postmaster general went to the Hill today. He said the post office needs five billion dollars to deal with anthrax. If they don't get it, they are going to raise the rate of postage. You gave the airlines $15 billion. Are you willing to give the post office a measly five?

KYL: We didn't give the airlines $15 billion. We give them $5 billion with an opportunity to have a guaranteed loan with the amount allocated for that up to $15 billion. I don't know what we're going to do. I don't know what the right thing to do is with regard to the postal service. They're going to have to come testify. We're going to have to understand it. I just simply don't know. I don't have an opinion on what we ought to do yet.

PRESS: Let me put it this way. If you have got a limited amount of money to spend -- which even in these days you do, it seems -- is it -- don't you think it would be a higher priority to give it the post office than to give a corporate tax break to IBM and General Electric and General Motors, the way the House did in its house stimulus package?

KYL: We're not -- we didn't include that particular tax break in our tax proposal. I do think it was wise to give the guarantees for the airlines, and we may have to do something to ensure that the postal service continues to be able to deliver the mail. It's important of course to consider all of these ramifications of what happened on September 11.

PRESS: The price of stamps an important issue. OK. Senator Kyl, thank you so much for joining us. Colonel Larsen, great to have you here. Gentlemen. And we will take a quick break, come back with some closing comments. Then we will be ready for the president's speech at 8:00. We will be right back.


PRESS: OK. For those of you intelligent people who can't get enough of us, Tucker and I are coming back this Sunday at 5:30 Eastern for a special edition of CROSSFIRE. We invite you to join us. Special time: 5:30 on Sunday. Don't forget, Tucker, it's part of the show.

CARLSON: I'll be there, actually.

PRESS: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you very much. You know, this administration has succeeded, generally, in keeping the homeland security. But I would say, as important, they have kept hysteria from breaking out. Fear is a caustic, corrodes society, and this administration I think has been notably and admirably restrained.

PRESS: If they don't want any more hysteria, they should stop giving these stupid, vague warnings.

CARLSON: Well, considering the number of threats they get...

PRESS: Quickly...

CARLSON:'s been pretty good.

PRESS: Quickly. One thing the president is going to say tonight. He wants to expand AmeriCorps. I think that's a great idea. Do you know who created AmeriCorps, Tucker?

CARLSON: I don't know.

PRESS: Bill Clinton!

CARLSON: Is that true?


CARLSON: He gives a sop to people like you.

PRESS: Bush joins Clinton.

CARLSON: I guess he has to give something.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. And stay tuned for CNN's coverage of President Bush's speech. We'll go to Aaron Brown.




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