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Interview with Jim Greenwood

Aired February 12, 2002 - 19:30   ET



KENNETH LAY, FORMER CEO, ENRON: (AUDIO GAP) I have been instructed by my counsel not to testify based on my Fifth Amendment constitutional rights.


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Is Congress taking advantage of those taking the Fifth?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington CROSSFIRE. On the left; Bill Press. On the right: Tucker Carlson. In the crossfire, Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, chairman of the terrorism subcommittee; and former CIA officer Robert Baer, author of "See No Evil." And then Republican congressman Jim Greenwood from Pennsylvania, chairman of energy oversight subcommittee, and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean.

CARLSON: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. It could happen today. That's the FBI's latest message to the country: that terrorists may be planning to kill Americans on or about right now, February 12. It's the fourth terror warning since September 11 and like the others the warning doesn't say where the attack might occur, but for the first time it does suggest who might commit it.

The FBI has released the names and photographs of 13 suspected terrorists, mostly from Yemen. The government says the men were fingered by former comrades in Afghanistan as well as by detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It's nighttime on the East Coast and so far nothing has happened. The government once again cried wolf, some say, protecting no one, but terrifying the nation, or will the warning itself prevent another terror attack? That's our debate tonight.

We begin with Bob Baer, former CIA officer, author of "SEE NO EVIL." Mr. Baer, this was not a non-specific warning: be afraid, be very afraid. It sas fairly specific. The FBI released the names the photographs the countries of origin of 13 suspected terrorists. This is a lot of information and it strikes me it will be useful for people working security at airports at bus stations in malls all over the country, the public can use this information. What's wrong with giving it?

ROBERT BAER, AUTHOR, "SEE NO EVIL": They're scaring us. That's why. They're winning the battle if we take non-specific threats, put it out in the public, scare the people, and nothing happens. They're trying to undermine confidence in us, in our government, in our authorities, and it's a mistake to put it out unless we have something very definite that we can do something about. I want instructions with these threats.

CARLSON: Well they're definitely scaring us, the terrorists are definitely scaring us. On the other hand, terrorists are scary and the threat they pose is scary, just like infectious disease is scary, but you want to know how infectious disease is passed so you don't get it. Don't you want as a citizen, as much information as you can, say a photograph of a suspected terrorist in order to protect yourself?

BAER: Give it to the police. First, we don't know if these people are in the country. If we knew they were all here, in a major city maybe, but we don't even know they are here. It's apparently old information and I don't think they would keep their plans after these people were arrested, so they're winning the battle. They're scaring us.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Congressman Chambliss, thanks for joining us. I want to ask you, this is not the first time we've had one of these high alerts. In fact I believe it's the fourth. The other three came from the attorney general, from Tom Ridge. Now this one from the FBI. Like the others, it's not very specific at all. It doesn't tell us what kind of terrorist attack to expect. It doesn't say when, it could be today, could be six months from now and it doesn't say where. Could be in the USA somewhere or could be in Yemen for God sakes.

All right, and nothing happened the first three times. Congressman, why should we believe these guys this time?

REP. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), CHAIRMAN, TERRORISM COMMITTEE: Well, I think the fact that nothing happened the first three times is the reason that we must keep doing this when we receive information to indicate that terrorist activity is pretty broad scale out there, there's a lot of communication about something may happen.

This time it was a little more specific than any other incident that we've had. There were some messages intercepted that indicated something might happen today. Sure they were talking about maybe here, maybe Yemen, but if it had been here, folks in America would sure have been glad to know about it in advance.

PRESS: Let me tell you what's actually happening, congressman. I think the American people are just brushing these things off because they don't mean anything anymore, but so is law enforcement. I want to quote you from one of the deputy sheriffs out in Los Angeles County and remind you and all of our viewers that we are on high alert. We've been on the highest alert, according to Tom Ridge, through March 11. So we are already on the highest alarm on top of a highest alert. Here is what Deputy Ron Bottomly (ph) said out in L.A. today, quote " We haven't done anything because there is nothing the FBI is giving us that is specific enough to tell us where this if going to occur. Our officers are always on alert since 9/11." You can't be any higher than highest possible alert. This is just nonsense, isn't it, congressman?

CHAMBLISS: If you're already on high alert then that's what we want them to be. I can assure you in Fulton County, Georgia and in Glenn County Georgia and Concord County, Georgia our folks are on the look-out more so today than they were yesterday, and that's why these alerts are necessary when there is activity to indicate something may be going on out there.

I think our method of dissemination if this information has still got to be cleared up. We've got to have a little more concerted effort and a little more clearer definition of how it's going to be given out and who is going to get the information. But I think when there is a threat that peers to be imminent that there's an obligation on the administration to disseminate that kind of information.

CARLSON: Now, Mr. Bayer, you said just a minute ago that when this information comes in it ought to go to the authorities. But as far as I understand it, one of the themes of your book is there are not enough authorities fighting terrorism, that there aren't for instance, enough CIA officers in the field. The government doesn't have the resources to fight terrorism, at least the resources it ought to have. Isn't this a way of increasing government resources by disseminating this information and in a sense making eyes out of everyone in the country?

BAER: But it's what I object to is the public, it's getting the public when we cry wolf, over and over again...

CARLSON: Wait, why can't the public help? I don't understand.

BAER: How are they going to help?

CARLSON: Well if we have photographs of these guys, then why is it not conceivable? The FBI sends out most-wanted posters. That's how a lot of domestic criminals are caught, because ordinary people see their pictures in the post office, finger them on the street. Why is this different?

BAER: The people are going to change their modus operandi. They don't need 17 people, they are going to shave their beards off, they are going to move around and they are going to hit us at will when we don't have a warning out, and they are going to set off a car bomb in New York City with no warning at all and it's not going to do any good. I just don't thing these things add up to anything unless you have a specific warnings. In Israel, if they have a specific bomb threat in Jerusalem or elsewhere, they will tell the public to stay off the streets or watch for suicide bombers. But this is so general that we are wearing people down.

PRESS: Well, congressman -- go ahead, Congressman.

CHAMBLISS: That's where we have kind of a fundamental disagreement I guess. If there is a specific threat at a specific place on a specific day then we are going disrupt that incident, and if there's not a specific threat or -- not a threat as to a specific time, place and manner then that's why the general public needs to be aware of the fact that something may happen, and you better be on more alert than ever, and if you see anything suspicious report it to law enforcement right away.

I think there's a critical difference in getting specific information where we can disrupt it and knowing general information where we need the public's help to disrupt it.

BAER: But, congressman, what it seems to me they're doing is putting out disinformation. They've done this since September 11, and if they put it out they're going to win this battle, wear us down.

PRESS: Congressman, I want to ask you about the sources here because we are told that these tips came from prisoners down in Guantanamo Bay. They've been in cages for the last two weeks or more, and some detainees over in Afghanistan. Remember back to 9/11, 15 of the hijackers didn't even know these were suicide missions until they got on board these planes.

Are we really supposed to believe these prisoners in Guantanamo -- these prisoners in Afghanistan -- and I want to tell you what one of the generals down there in Guantanamo Bay told CNN tonight, he says every time they talk to these guys they get a different story, a different name, different information every time they talk to them. How credible can these people be?

CHAMBLISS: I think that's a perfectly valid point, and I don't know that there's a good answer to that right now. We've got to sift through the individuals to find out who really does have information that's credible and who doesn't.

But when you get information that is specific as to a certain date when something is about to happen, I think there is an obligation to do an investigation, and they did, and they got some corroboration of it, and that's why the threat was issued yesterday.

CARLSON: Mr. Baer, doesn't this point to the need to put screws to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay to get credible information and more of it?

BAER: Oh, we have to. We are at war. We have to put pressure on their families even, identify them and start running them, like in Pakistan. This is how they found Danny Pearl -- may find him -- is they brought the mother in, they brought the brothers and sisters in. We are at war. We have to bring in the whole family. But the detainees themselves are going to lie to us.

They are going to lie to us about current threats, they are going to lie about their friends, they are lying about their names. They are going to run circles around us.

CARLSON: Bring in the families. That sounds like a promising op/ed piece. I hope you read it.

PRESS: Congressman Chambliss, thanks so much for joining us. We are out of time, and we are going to move on. Bob Baer, good to have you here in the studio, and our last word is "Be alert" for what, we don't know. Just be alert.

Next, when we come back, if they knew Ken Lay was going to take the Fifth, why did senators drag him all the way to Washington? Could TV cameras have had something to do with it?



KEN LAY, CEO, ENRON: I am deeply troubled about asserting these rights, because it may be perceived by some that I have something to hide.


PRESS: And there it is, the moment everyone had been waiting for, Ken Lay taking the Fifth this morning. It was high noon and high theater but no surprise because everybody knew what he was going to anyway. So why trot him before the TV cameras? Was it just to embarrass him? Or did it serve some legitimate purpose?

John Dean who has had his own experience before congressional committees, says forcing witnesses to take the Fifth in public is unnecessary. Congressman James Greenwood, chairman of one of the subcommittees investigating Enron, says Congress is just doing its job -- Tucker.

CARLSON: Congressman, welcome. I'll tell you the headline today. The headline is "The Washington Post" editorial page intersected with common sense, I'd never seen it before, but today it did in an editorial entitled in defense of Kenneth Lay. Many great lines in this editorial, let me read you my favorite. Having Ken Lay up to the hill to testify will serve three very critical purposes. Getting senators on TV, getting senators on TV and getting senators on TV. It goes on to say yes, it will also humiliate a witness who remains, least we forget, innocent until proven guilty.

There's no reason to have a guy who says he is going to take the Fifth, he is not going to speak, he has already told you that. No other reason to have him on the Hill except to grandstand, is there?

REP. JIM GREENWOOD (R-PA), ENERGY OVERSIGHT CMTE.: Yes, there is. The reason is because we have an important job to do right now. Not only did the Enron debacle hurt the investors across the country and the employees of Enron. But it was an undermining influence on our whole free market system. And Congress has a responsibility to very quickly find out what happened there, what was legal and reform it. Now who is going to help us do that? The people who knew what happened, and we need to get these people up on the Hill and ask them what happened. Now, when someone wants to take the Fifth Amendment, that's their right. I don't think we should make it easy for them to just fax in their Fifth Amendment from across the country and say I'm busy.

CARLSON: But you knew he wasn't going to say word one. I mean, you absolutely knew it. His lawyers told you.

GREENWOOD: Well, you don't always know that somebody's going take the Fifth. There have been cases where people say they're going to take the Fifth, because their lawyers are all over them, saying I can't let you go up there, can't let you go up there, the witnesses say, but I want to go up there, I want to testify. You bring them in, you sit them in the room without all their lawyers hanging all over them, and there have been instances in which they've said I'm prepared to testify. Go ahead and ask me a question.

PRESS: John Dean, I want to get this straight, I read your op-ed piece. I just want to be sure I understand it. So there are thousands of employees lost jobs when Enron. Thousands more lost everything they had, every dime they had in their 401(k)s, thousand of investors lost their shirt. Ken Lay walked away with billions of dollars. He's still got 10 or 12 homes, I think. Maybe one of them is up for sale, and he's called to Washington today in front of this committee. And you expect us to feel sorry for him just because of that?

JOHN DEAN, FMR NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I don't at all. I will certainly stipulate that there's no reasons to feel sorry for any of these people. However, the real issue is not whether we feel sorry, it's the procedures the House and the Senate are employing by bringing witnesses in, forcing them to embarrass them self in front of the camera. That was not done during Watergate, just exactly the opposite. The same function can be accomplished in executive session, where the cameras are not rolling and the spectacle is not being performed. In fact -- go ahead excuse me.

PRESS: No, I didn't mean to interrupt. Finish your point, please.

DEAN: No, I was going say there's absolutely no legislative purpose that is served by having a witness come in, and declare the Fifth Amendment in front of a camera. Absolutely not.

PRESS: All right. How about the point that the chairman just made? You do not know, until the man takes the Fifth that in fact he's going to take the Fifth. He clearly seemed to me today, watching him, wanted to testify. I believe when he said he was troubled that he couldn't talk. He's a smart man, he's an independent man, he could get in there and say damn it, I'm going to protect my reputation. Why not give him the opportunity?

DEAN: Well he could have done that, indeed. But this can be resolved in executive session, as well. The issue of whether he's going to testify or not, and that's the way it was done during in the Senate during Watergate. That's the way it was done in the House during Watergate, as well. In fact, having said as a committee counsel in the House, at the House Judiciary Committee, it was certainly the policy of Manny Seller who was the chairman at the time I was there and Bill McCulloch (ph) the ranking minority member never to force a witness to take the Fifth Amendment in public.

GREENWOOD: There's a difference between bringing someone in and humiliating them. There's a difference between humiliating them and bringing them in, and saying this is a question that we have for you, are you going to answer it? They take the Fifth and you say to them are you going take the Fifth on all questions, they say yes. And you say you're dismissed. That's not humiliating and it would have been nice if one of these, whether it was Ken Lay or Skilling or anyone in their opening statements before they took the Fifth said, you know what, I'm sorry about what happened. I take some responsibility for what happened.

CARLSON: Mr. Greenwood, that's just not what happens though. And I want to give you a great example, you had Ken Lay up there. He is going to the Fifth, he says I take the Fifth. But to the senators questioning him say you're not going to testify, go home in disgrace. No, they take the opportunity to grandstand, in really kind of the most transparent way, I could give you a thousand examples. I'll give you one Senator Peter Fitzgerald, otherwise a very decent senator from Illinois. Watch him on display, really on parade. Here he is.


SEN. PETER FITZGERALD (R-IL), ILLINOIS: I'd say you were a carnival barker, except that wouldn't be fair to carnival barkers. A carnie will at least tell you up front that he is running a shell gag.


CARLSON: Now you couldn't see it in the tape right there. But the guy, the senator was reading his questions, prepared by his staff not designed to elicit or evoke any answer or useful information, but just to jump up and down say here's me.

GREENWOOD: I'm not going take responsibility for senator and their comments, but what I am saying is when these guys came before our committee, we did not humiliate them, we did not take the opportunity to say I'm going ask you a hundred questions and you take the Fifth on each question. We asked them one question, we were respectful, we were polite, we were professional and then we dismissed them. And I don't think it's too much to ask of these guys to come forward at a public hearing, and tell the country and tell the Congress at the same time, I'd love to answer your questions, but I'm going take the Fifth. And there's nothing humiliating about that. It's clear the power of the Congress to bring these folks before us to get the questions answered that we need answered.

PRESS: John Dean, I want to talk to you on another aspect of the hearings. There has been some suggestions that either whether it's Mr. Skilling or Mr. Fastow or Mr. Lay, that they should be granted immunity by one of these Congressional committees, perhaps all of them so they can testify freely, and not be held accountable for it. You were given immunity in Watergate. Do you think it's a good idea for Ken Lay?

DEAN: Well, there's a time and a place for it. And I think that what has to happen is that the facts have to shake out and they have to find out what might be proffered, by way of information, whether it's worth granting immunity or no. As we know, since my testimony, we had Oliver North, of course, was given immunity and that changed the ability of the government to prosecute, even though it was just use immunity. So there are some real problems when you start issuing immunity, but it's a real weighing factor as to whether somebody should be held responsible and take responsibility or just get the information. Here it's a little bit of both.

GREENWOOD: The attorneys have asked us to give immunity to some of these witnesses and I have refused. I think that's wrong. I think that's a Justice Department function. We are not the prosecutors here, we are the finders of fact.

CARLSON: That's exactly the point, though, isn't congressman? Is that your job is not to put these people on trial, but to elicit the information so you can make new laws to remedy the situation. So your aim is to get as much information as you can, you're not going to get any unless you offer immunity. If you really want the information, why not?

GREENWOOD: Because if we make it so easy for everyone of these potential witnesses to just say you know, I don't feel really like coming in, just have my lawyer fax your lawyer the Fifth Amendment. I'm busy. I've got to sort my socks today. The next 10 witnesses may say, well, that was easy. I'll do that.

But when we say if you want to evoke your constitutionally guaranteed Fifth Amendment, you come forward, you get sworn it and then you do it. It makes the 10 or 20 witnesses say, maybe I ought to think about coming in.

PRESS: John Dean, real quickly, I want to try again. There are so many areas where, clearly, Congress, you know, has to act, whether it's on the 401(k)s, on the offshore stuff, to fix up this Enron mess. Wouldn't they be not doing their job if they did not call these guys in front of them -- I'm sorry for so many negatives -- to do their job, don't they have to call them in front of them?

DEAN: Well, they have to at least find out what they're going to do. This business of having to bring a witness in to find out if he's going take the Fifth or not, I think that can be done in a closed session and you're either going to get the information or not going to get the information.

GREENWOOD: It certainly can, but it's certainly not humiliating to walk in and say...


CARLSON: Well, unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it there. We are going to have to leave it there. I'm sorry, Mr. Dean, Congressman Greenwood, I'm sorry. We are dead out of time. Thank you both very much for coming.

And next, the nominees are? Stay tuned to find out as we host the first annual, not quite star-studded, CROSSFIRE Oscar ceremony. There's even an award for best costume. We'll be right back.


PRESS: Yes, Oscar nominations were announced in Hollywood today, but Tucker and I have our own nominations for the big stars on the political screen. First, for best actor, the nominee is George W. Bush. He puts in a dazzling performance as star of a yet to be released documentary by former NBC producer Alexandra Pelosi. Here's a clip from her Web site.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think it should be called?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. Journeys With George.


CARLSON: And for best supporting actress in a science-fiction film, the winner is Janet Reno. The failed, ailing former attorney general faces off against a popular Florida governor in this, the season's most unlikely fantasy. Despite many hilarious scenes, it's not much of a thriller. You can guess the outcome by the opening credits, but rest assured, it will have a happy ending.

PRESS: And now for best supporting actors, the winners are Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Senator Robert Byrd who went mano a mano on which one came from more humble roots.


PAUL O'NEILL, TREASURY SECRETARY: Senator, I started my life in a house without water or electricity.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD, (D), WEST VIRGINIA: No running water, no telephone, a little wooden outhouse.

O'NEILL: I had the same.



CARLSON: And tonight, a new category for best original soundtrack in an Enron hearing. The winners are members of Congress, their chest thumping, moral preening and feigned outrage provided a vibrant oral backdrop to the political circus now underway on Capitol Hill. Note the vivid contrast between the terse no comments of the disgraced Enron executives and the voluble, flamboyant self righteousness of their congressional inquisitors. Brilliant! A career builder.

PRESS: And now, a special category for best costume. The nominee is White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. You may remember he showed up in Salt Lake City wearing what last night I called, look at it, a Monica-like beret. Ari called me today to inform me his was not a Monica beret. You look. You tell the difference. He said it was an official beret worn at Opening Ceremonies by the U.S. Olympic Team. I'm sorry, Ari. I still think it makes you look a lot like Monica. Take it off.

CARLSON: Oh, I disagree, Bill. I think that's unfair. I think it looks cute. It would look better with a thong. But as it is...


PRESS: You think it's a manly beret?

CARLSON: I didn't say it was manly, but I think, again, there's something very appealing about a man in a beret.

PRESS: I want to go back to the Bush documentary because we cut off there. He actually says, call it Journeys with George. He said, you can spell it with a G. I think he does spell journeys with a G.

CARLSON: No, I think -- I bet you 20 bucks you will like him more after watching it. I bet it makes him...

PRESS: Journeys with George. From the left, that's the end of the journey with Bill and Tucker for tonight. Good night. For CROSSFIRE, I'm Bill Press.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, Wednesday night, for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you there.




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