CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview with Condoleeza Rice; Dick Armey; Dianne Feinstein; What Should America Do to Shore up its Intelligence?
Aired May 19, 2002 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington; 9 a.m. in Los Angeles; 7 p.m. in Jerusalem; and 8:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for Late Edition.
And we'll get to our interview with the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in just a few minutes, but first a news alert.
BLITZER: And just a short while ago, I spoke with President Bush's top national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, about these latest terrorist incidents in Israel, the pre-September 11 warnings to the United States about terror attacks, the Bush administration's response, and calls for an investigation.
BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice, thanks so much for joining us once again.
It's been eight months now since September 11. What kind of investigation or inquiry does the White House believe should be conducted to see where, if any, mistakes were made?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, we fully believe that a thorough review of the events leading to 9/11 is warranted, and we believe that it's important precisely to try and look forward and to see what we can do to make it better the next time and to do things differently the next time. We believe that the intelligence committees are the proper venue for that.
You have to remember that we are still in a war against terrorists. We have forces in the field in Afghanistan. We have intelligence operatives in many places around the world now who are trying to help us with shared intelligence with liaison services around the world. A lot of people are putting their lives at risk on behalf of the United States and the world in the fight on terrorism.
In the context of this ongoing war, it is extremely important to protect the sources and the methods and the information so that we can try and disrupt further attacks, so that we can do what we really must do, take the fight to the terrorists and defeat them on their home turf.
So we believe that a thorough review within the intelligence committees, a review that is already under way -- 100,000 documents have already been turned over to the committees -- we believe that that's the proper venue, and that we will get the story in context.
BLITZER: The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication here in Washington, writes in the new issue just out: "Isn't it possible that some people should be reprimanded or even lose their jobs when 3,000 Americans are killed in a terrorist attack? For the past eight months, the Bush administration has essentially been saying that everything and everyone worked just fine. That is absurd and unsustainable."
RICE: Well, clearly everything did not work just fine, and no one is saying that. And indeed a number of organizational changes have already been made to try to respond to some of the lessons of that period, some of what we've learned.
For instance, the creation of an Office of Homeland Security comes directly out of 9/11. Some of the intelligence-fusion efforts between the FBI and the CIA come right out of the sense that intelligence fusion is an important aspect of this.
Every day, the FBI director, the CIA director sit with the president and with me, with Tom Ridge, the vice president and the president, to achieve intelligence fusion at the top. And of course Director Mueller has talked about important organizational changes that he would like to make in the FBI.
So it is not as if anyone has been sitting on their hands in this period of time. We do want the review to give us other ideas.
BLITZER: Why not...
RICE: But the idea that somehow everybody has said, well, gee, everything is fine is simply not true. We are looking for improvements.
BLITZER: Some have suggested a Warren Commission, like a commission of inquiry, to go ahead, take it outside and bring in some independent experts beyond the intelligence committees. What's wrong with that idea?
RICE: The problem is that this is an act that is not finished, it is ongoing. We are still fighting a war on terrorism. We are still fighting every day, the FBI is fighting in the field to investigate the multiple leads that they're getting to try and disrupt. The CIA is working with intelligence liaison organizations abroad to try to cull and get further information. We have men and women in uniform in Afghanistan who are risking their lives every day in trying to destroy Al Qaeda's home base. So, this is an ongoing operation. This is not a single event, like the assassination of President Kennedy, and then it's over and you investigate it. This is something that is continuing, and that is the most important aspect of this. And I'm sure the American people would agree that the most important thing is to go forward in a way that might help us to prevent this happening again, even though no one can give assurances that we will not have another incident.
BLITZER: Some Democrats are angry that some Republicans, including perhaps even the vice president, raised the notion that, if you question what happened and you look back, you're being unpatriotic to a certain degree.
Listen, for example, to what Senator Joe Lieberman said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT): I think that the vice president, the president, Condoleezza Rice, even Mrs. Bush, overreacted to the stories last week. I think it's wrong for any Democrat -- and I don't believe any Democrat did suggest that the president had specific information that led to September 11 that he didn't act on. But it's just as wrong for the administration to say that any one of us who's raising questions about whether something could have been done to prevent September 11 is somehow unpatriotic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: Well, the idea that was in the newspapers last week, that somehow the president knew something and withheld it, is what people were reacting strongly to, because this president has the best interests of America at heart.
This president is doing all that he can to make America more secure. Even before 9/11, he was concerned about Al Qaeda and what they might do. He asked for that report that was...
RICE: ... because he was concerned. He asked that we have a strategy to, as he put it, bring Al Qaeda down, because he couldn't keep swatting at flies. He understood that the best offense -- the best defense is a good offense.
So if people are reacting to anything, it was the sense that somehow this president was not sufficiently concerned about the threats that we foresaw to act on them. That is what was being reacted to.
BLITZER: But you're not raising questions about the patriotism of Dick Gephardt or Tom Daschle?
RICE: No one is. No one believes that anyone in the leadership, in either the Congress or the administration, wants anything but the best for America. But we do have to pull together and not point fingers.
This has been a longstanding fight against Al Qaeda. There is obviously a lot of work still to be done. And what we all need to be focused now on is how to win the war against terrorism. We are a more mobilized society. The world is more mobilized against Al Qaeda than before.
Prior to this -- prior to 9/11, we were in a covert war against terrorism. We are now in an overt war against terrorism. And we all need to stay focused -- Capitol Hill, the White House, the agencies, the American people -- on what we can do to defeat this terrible scourge.
BLITZER: And there are some suggesting that, in this overt war, that there is intelligence information available to you right now that there's in the works potentially even a worse terrorist attack against the United States.
The vice president hinted at this Thursday night, when he spoke in New York, that there's all this chatter that you're picking up right now in the intelligence community.
How serious is this potential threat?
RICE: Well, we take everything quite -- very seriously. And in fact, Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft and Bob Mueller and George Tenet and I myself constantly talk about the information that is flowing. It flows constantly. Sometimes there are spikes in sheer volume, and we have to assess if it is specific enough to do anything more than we are currently doing.
We are on a higher state of alert than we were prior to 9/11. The state of alert that Homeland Security -- the states of alert that they've developed have given us a way to contextualize this information and to say, "All right, how specific is it? Is there more that we should be doing?"
When this president, as he said very early on, when he gets specific information, he's going to tell the American people. For instance, we had a specific mention of financial institutions in some of the intelligence. It wasn't any specific financial institutions, but it was financial institutions in general. There was, then, an alert to law enforcement to be particularly vigilant concerning financial institutions.
This is a difficult business. It's not an exact science. It comes down to, is there a time, a place, a target, and can you do something then in response to that?
BLITZER: That alert involving the financial institutions was in part based on information you received from Abu Zubaydah, the captured Al Qaeda operative, the number-three man in Al Qaeda.
But is the information, as far as you can tell, that he's providing the United States reliable?
RICE: Well, I don't want to get into commenting on any specific sources of information that we're getting. We do have more sources of information, obviously, than we had before 9/11. We do have detainees. We do have people that we're interrogating. And of course we have a mobilization of the worldwide intelligence system in a way that we did not have prior.
The hard fact is that we are still vulnerable. The American people still need to be vigilant in the way that they were on that American Airlines flight where the shoe-bomber was caught simply by the vigilance of the people on that flight.
We do need to constantly assess what we're doing. But we have moved on airport security and on port security, on border security, in important ways.
The fact is, the best defense here is going to be a good offense, because we have got to try and get terrorism at its source.
BLITZER: The Sunday Times in London today says it hasn't received access to a new videotape shot after Tora Bora, involving Osama bin Laden, seeming to suggest he survived the Tora Bora assault. I don't know if you've had access to that video, have you?
RICE: No, I've not seen it. The first I've heard of it was just this morning. And these videos appear from time to time. We clearly want to analyze it and understand it better, but we don't know its source, we don't know its character. These do appear from time to time.
BLITZER: Do you believe he's still alive?
RICE: We have no reason to believe that he's not. And we continue to act against the Al Qaeda leadership, to try and to disrupt their activities, and to try to destroy their home base.
BLITZER: More of my interview with Condoleezza Rice just ahead. Among other things, I'll get a reaction to the latest suicide bombing in Israel earlier today.
Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.
We return now to my earlier interview with president Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
BLITZER: Getting back to the alerts that occurred before September 11th, Richard Shelby, the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, a Republican, he's been outspoken saying that perhaps the dots weren't connected as thoroughly, as appropriately as possible. Let me run this excerpt of what he said on CNN earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL): The fact that they've waited this long to get it out is troubling. It was troubling to us a week or two ago when the story broke regarding the FBI memo of July the 10th, a very involved memo as to the involvement in the flight schools of the Al Qaeda organization. And you tie it all together, as I said, including the Zacarias Moussaoui situation in Minneapolis, and you have some information that should have been acted upon, but it wasn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go through some of the specifics. The Phoenix memo, the FBI memo, July 2001, suggesting that there were a lot of middle eastern men learning at flight schools in the United States how to fly planes. That memo was sent to FBI headquarters but disappeared, wasn't shared with anyone, wasn't shared with the CIA, wasn't shared with you. Obviously there was a big mistake.
RICE: Well, the director has said that he believes that should have been shared more widely. But let's remember that everything looks different after 9/11 than it looked before 9/11, and the context here is extremely important.
One reason that we're having this review is that we want to be able to look at the whole picture. The idea that a memo here or a memo there leaks out and now everyone says, well that was the one, we need to put together a whole picture here. That's the purpose of the review. One other point, Wolf, about the FBI. We also have to remember that the FBI is a law enforcement and intelligence organization that operates mostly within the United States and mostly within the constraints of what we think appropriate for a democratic society in accordance with our own legal principles.
It is now the case that the FBI has certain tools at its disposal, thanks to the Patriot Act, that it did not have prior to 9/11. One example is that the director of Central Intelligence can now suggest to the FBI director where surveillance might be useful. That wasn't available before. The FBI now has greater access in terms of business records, educational records and the like.
But let's remember who we are as a society. In one of the memos that's witnessed -- that's been talked about, the August 6 memo, there's a reference to Muslim youths being recruited in the United States. You're going to go and hunt down every Muslim youth that might have been recruited? There are constraints as to what a democratic society can do.
What we're trying to do is strike the right balance, post- September 11, with prevention of attacks and continuing to operate within a legal system that is appropriate to a democratic society.
BLITZER: I guess what critics are saying is that if you go back and do a post mortem, you try to take a look at all the various elements that weren't connected to learn for the future to make sure that this could never happen again. There was the FBI memo in Phoenix, the Zacarias Moussaoui arrest in August of 2001 that Senator Shelby referred to. He is the so-called 20th hijacker. He's still in jail here in the United States.
A 1999 interagency U.S. government study said this, and it's pretty chilling, and I'll put it up on the screen and read it to you: "Al Qaeda's expected retaliation for the U.S. cruise-missile attack against Al Qaeda's training facilities in Afghanistan on August 20, 1998, could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation's capital.
"Al Qaeda could detonate a Chechen-type building-buster bomb at a federal building. Suicide bombers belong to Al Qaeda's martyrdom battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives, C- 4 and semtex (ph) into the Pentagon, the headquarters in the Central Intelligence Agency or the White House. Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against the CIA headquarters."
The point being, though, obviously people weren't paying enough attention to these -- all these disparate reports that were coming in and, supposedly, connecting the dots. That's what the critics are saying.
RICE: Well, I understand that. But the fact of the matter is that reporting -- this was not reporting what the president, President Clinton, had said of this 1999 report, it wasn't an intelligence report. It asked some smart people, on behalf of the CIA, to look at open-source material and put together a psychological and sociological profile of what Al Qaeda might be capable of doing or trying to do.
RICE: There is still no way to act on information of that kind in the way that people would have liked to have react for September 11. When you're dealing with this kind of information, where, against whom, at what time becomes critical.
In Genoa, when we did have information in June and July that -- intelligence information -- that there might be an attack against the G-8 leadership, we knew several things: The target would be the G-8 leadership. The place would be Genoa. The timing would be the timing of the G-8 meeting. And it was therefore possible to do something like close Italian airspace over the Genoa meeting.
BLITZER: And you moved the meeting between the president and the pope.
RICE: That's right. Things were done, but it was because you had some, even though it was still pretty general, some broad outlines as to where, whom against, and where -- and when.
But when you have analysis that they might be interested in several different methods, it is very difficult to imagine shutting down civil aviation on vague, general analysis of that kind.
It is the case, by the way, that that particular report talks about explosives. It doesn't talk about what happened on September 11, it talks about explosives. And of course, people have been trying for several years now to have technologies to deal with detection of various kinds of high-yield explosives.
BLITZER: It didn't mention, for example, box-cutters. Is that what you're suggesting?
RICE: Well, I'm just saying that it's general and it is an effort to think about broadly what Al Qaeda might do.
When we thought in July that there were -- that there was a lot of activity, what the president did was to ask the domestic agencies to take a hard look at their operations. That's why the FAA put out the information circulars that they did.
But the fact is, it is always going to be hard to prevent an attack if the information is as general as what we get. What we can do is try to disrupt. What we can do is what the FBI is doing now, which has dozens of full-fledged (ph) investigations under way. What we can do is alert the American people to be vigilant. And most importantly, what we can do is try to go after the terrorists where they live.
And keeping that in mind is extremely important. It says we're still vulnerable and we must preserve the methods and the activities that we're undertaking to deal with those vulnerabilities.
BLITZER: On July 1 of last year, Senator Dianne Feinstein was on this program. She was sitting where you are right now, and she said this. I want you to listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): One of the things that has begun to concern me very much as to whether we really have our house in order, intelligence staff have told me that there is a major probability of a terrorist incident within the next three months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She's going to be on this program after you, shortly. She was obviously concerned about something that was in the works. And the White House pointed to her comments on Late Edition, Ari Fleischer did, earlier this week.
She responded, though, negatively. I want you to listen what she said in a written statement. She said: "I was so concerned last summer that I contacted Vice President Cheney's office that same month to urge that he restructure our counterterrorism and homeland defense programs to ensure better accountability and prevent important intelligence information from slipping through the cracks.
"Despite repeated efforts by myself and staff, the White House did not address my request. I followed this up in September 2001 and was told by Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material. I told him I did not believe we had six months to wait."
RICE: Well, I believe this was in conjunction with review of legislation, not review of material having to do with organizing the government. And in fact the vice president was looking at ways that the government might be reorganized. There have been, by the way, such reports in various -- from various quarters, some private, some government, on reorganization efforts for years. And this administration, in its eight-month period, was taking a serious look at how to reorganize in order to do this.
RICE: But this is something that had been going on for a number of years. And the reorganization of the government, frankly, was not going to take place between August and September. It simply wasn't going to happen. It's unrealistic to expect that.
What I think we were talking about in Senator Feinstein's comments, though, was that there was concern, and it was shared apparently with the Hill in the summer months that there was a heightened activity and that we needed to do something. That is why, on July 5, the domestic agencies were called together. It is why the FAA issued several information circulars in that period of time saying we have general information about potentials for hijacking. But again, general information. And it is difficult if you have no clue as to when, where, or how, or against what -- that can be taken care of.
It should also be noted that the FBI was issuing alerts to local law enforcement. Unfortunately, most of the specific information was pointing abroad. And there, we were able to do specific things. Certain embassies were put on extremely high states of alert. The military forces were put on higher levels of alert. But those were pointing abroad, not, unfortunately, to the United States.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, but there's been another explosion in Netanya, an Israeli coastal town; believed to be a suicide bombing.
First of all, do you have any inside information, what's going on there?
RICE: No. We've just learned of this attack, and we'll obviously go back and try to find out.
It simply underscores the importance of doing something about terror as a weapon in the Middle East. People who do these sorts of things clearly do not want the Palestinian people to achieve their dream of a Palestinian state, because Israel is not going to be able to live with a Palestinian state in an atmosphere of terror.
It underscores the importance of the reform of the Palestinian Authority that has been talked about, of getting a unified security apparatus that can be accountable and can deal with issues of terrorism and breaking up terrorist networks.
It underscores what the president said on April 4, that the incitement to terrorism has got to stop, that suicide bombers are not martyrs, they are murderers, and that that has to be said. Because no one should sanction children going out and blowing themselves up and blowing up the future not only of Israeli children but of Palestinian children. We want to get back to a place where the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians to live together in two states, securely, can be realized. And the president has been spending a great deal of time. We think there is some positive steps. The Arabs are more involved, particularly the Saudis, then they've ever been. There is a lot of talk of reform of the Palestinian Authority. And we believe that we've laid out clearly what Israel's responsibilities would need to be.
So, there's work under way, but when something like this happens, it should underscore why we need to get the process moving forward.
BLITZER: When I interviewed Yasser Arafat a week ago today, he suggested that there were outside sources beyond his control that were creating some of these terrorist actions against the Israelis. Listen briefly to this exchange I had with the Palestinian leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you prepared now to promise the United States, the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, everybody, that you, Yasser Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority, will do everything you possibly can to prevent terrorism?
YASSER ARAFAT, LEADER OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: No doubt, this is my policy from the beginning. Although there are some -- I don't want to say their names -- some international power are supporting this...
ARAFAT: I'm not speaking names. I will not mention any names -- had supported them.
ARAFAT: I'm not telling names. I'm saying that -- and their leader, their main leader is not here. Their main leader are outside. And in spite of that, I am following (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The vice president earlier today seemed to add Syria to that list as well, supporting Hezbollah and other groups.
Is Arafat right, that he can't control all these sources of terrorism?
RICE: Well, let's be clear. No one ever asked Yasser Arafat to get 100 percent results. What has been asked of him is 100 percent effort. And there is a lot that he does control, and there are some that he controls simply by his authority with the Palestinian people. And we're asking him to do what he can on those scores.
RICE: It is true that there are external forces supporting terrorism in the Middle East -- Iran, Syria -- and there needs to be maximum effort with those states, as well. And the Iraqis paying $25,000 to suicide bombers' families and, therefore, inciting is really one of the grossest elements of this that one can imagine. I mean, it's amazing that this is not a source of more scorn in the Arab world.
So yes, there are external forces, but the Palestinian Authority has had a long time to deal with the terrorist organizations that operate in and around its midst. We had the Karine A, the ship that came from Iran into -- to bring weapons to the Palestinian Authority. They need to deal with the terrorist elements in and around the Palestinian Authority, as well.
We, as an international community, need to put maximum pressure on state sponsors of terrorism like Iran and Syria.
BLITZER: Is the CIA director, George Tenet, heading back to the region any time soon?
RICE: Well, George has made clear that he is prepared to go back when the time is right. Obviously the reorganization of the security forces is a high priority. And the timing of that will depend on when it makes sense for him to do that.
BLITZER: So no plans right now?
RICE: Not plans right now, but that is being actively discussed and worked, not just inside the government, but also with those who would need to participate in the region.
BLITZER: When I was in the region last week, I heard some speculation that Tenet might want to invite representatives of the Palestinians, the Israelis, Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, to come first to Washington before he heads back. Is that still on the table?
RICE: We're looking at several possibilities. But the key here is going to be to reorganize the Palestinian security operation around some general principles: accountability -- accountability comes from a more unified command; getting the organizations that seem -- or the Palestinian Authority says, operate outside, to get them pushed aside.
There's a lot of work to do, and we'll see where and when that activity needs to start. But the United States is very committed to helping with that work.
BLITZER: And an international conference, presumably in Turkey or someplace, where does that stand?
RICE: The place has not been chosen, but there will be an international meeting at the ministerial level, and it will take place some time this summer. The key there will be to get parties to the table to share ideas, not just to throw ideas on the table.
We know the general outlines of a peace in the Middle East. The president laid out the responsibilities of the parties in his April 4th Rose Garden speech. So we're starting with a platform in place. But we do think there's some new positive elements. The Arabs have been more active and engaged in recent months than they have been in the past. And if we can work regionally, as well as just on the Palestinian-Israeli piece, we think that we have a chance to move the ball forward.
BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice, always good to have you on Late Edition. Thanks for joining us.
RICE: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: You've got a full plate of issues on your agenda. You doing all right?
RICE: I'm doing great. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: A lot of pressure on you.
RICE: No, I think that we all understand that this is why we came. We came to serve the American people. We came to help this American president serve the American people. And I think all of us feel privileged and honored to be here. They're hard jobs, we're human beings, but we're doing our very best and with a great team and a terrific president.
BLITZER: Good luck to you.
RICE: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, is a congressional investigation the answer to clearing up exactly what was known before the 9/11 attacks, or will it be a platform simply for partisan finger-pointing? We'll ask the House majority leader, Dick Armey of Texas, and the Senate Intelligence Committee member Dianne Feinstein of California.
Late Edition will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My most important job is to protect America and to protect our homeland. I do whatever it takes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush commenting on the news that he received warnings of possible terrorist attacks in the months before September 11.
Welcome back to Late Edition. Joining us now to talk about how this is playing out in the U.S. Congress are two leading members from both sides of Capitol Hill. In Dallas, Texas, the House majority leader, Dick Armey. And here in Washington, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. She's a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.
Senator Feinstein and Congressman Armey, welcome back to Late Edition. Always good to have both of you on the program.
And, Senator Feinstein, you just heard Condoleezza Rice make the case that the administration did what they could do, that even looking backwards, knowing what they knew at the time, there wasn't a whole lot more specific information that could have resulted in a different outcome.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that she's right. As a matter of fact, I have no question about that. Was there information out there? Yes, perhaps. Was that information ever really analyzed and presented? The answer is no.
We have a very active inquiry going. It's between both houses, both intelligence committees. Yesterday we had a status report in the Senate Intelligence Committee. The team leaders are all professionals. They have collected thousands of documents, they're doing dozens of interviews. And this is all of intelligence-related data. So I think we're going to be able to get to the heart of where the system needs changing.
BLITZER: And she says there should be the investigation in the intelligence committees, the House and the Senate. FEINSTEIN: I feel very strongly about that.
BLITZER: No Warren Commission-like investigation that happened after the John F. Kennedy.
FEINSTEIN: I don't think so, because it's not going to work. We're in the middle of a war on terror. We need to be together. We don't need to get into some kind of open fire fight either between parties or between individuals.
What we do need to do is see what happened between the various agencies that have data and whether that data reaches a centralized point, whether it's analyzed fast enough and whether relevant specifics get to people who control the policy.
BLITZER: Congressman Armey, you know a lot of Americans out there are skeptical of anything the government does. Should there be an outside, independent commission of inquiry to go back, to review what happened, with the purpose being to learn from any mistakes that might have occurred?
REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R), TEXAS: No, there should not. I think the senator's absolutely right. This is a professional matter of national security, utmost national security importance. It should be handled professionally, it should be handled carefully, and it should be handled quietly. The fact of the matter is, there's no less second-guessing of the Warren Commission than of anything else I've heard in the patter around this country in the last 20 years. So what would that be, just another round of (inaudible).
We need real professionals to bend over this business together professionally. We've got good people on these two committees. The senator's just one very good example of who we have. Let them do their work and take confidence in the professional -- watch what I say very clearly, Senator -- patriotic, serious commitment by the people on these committees.
BLITZER: Is it, Congressman Armey, unpatriotic to raise these questions at this time in the middle of this war on terror?
ARMEY: No, it's not unpatriotic, and there is a way to seriously raise the questions which is being done by a lot of people.
There is a little politics afoot. You know that. Clearly people like Cynthia White (sic) being way out of control on the House floor. The sort of the -- the recycling of old Watergate cliches as one ponders these matters. It's political, it's subtle, and it achieves results.
But the serious people in this business, people like the senator and people like Porter Goss from our body, we're working hard on this thing and we're doing it in a serious manner. What you need to do is always put your blinders on to the politics and stay focused on what's important to this great nation.
BLITZER: You were referring to Cynthia McKinney, the congresswoman from Georgia, right? Is that who you were referring to?
ARMEY: That's right. I mean, quite frankly, the good news with Cynthia is that nobody takes her seriously when she makes these outrageous allegations, as she's made on the floor of the House of Representatives.
These more subtle politics is this business of, as I said, recycling old Watergate cliches as one feigns serious concern while one, of course, disclaims any political motive. That's cute and it does play in some quarters, but it is not the serious work of a serious legislative body.
ARMEY: That's just politics running amok, as it tends to do in this country.
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, you heard what Condoleezza Rice said when I referred to the comments you made last July on this program and the subsequent comments you made after Ari Fleischer spoke of your comments this week.
The vice president was on Meet the Press earlier today. He also responded to the written statement that you issued this week. I want you to listen to what Dick Cheney said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think I disagree with her interpretation of events. My recollection is that Senator Feinstein was pushing a particular piece of legislation that called for a particular way to address the homeland security issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was referring to the point you made that six months is too long, you can't wait six months to deal with these issues, in a conversation you had with Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that's right. Now, much to his credit, Scooter Libby did call me yesterday afternoon, Saturday, and we had an opportunity to discuss it. I think there was a miscommunication. I hope we've put this issue to bed, so to speak, and can go on to other things.
I still have that same deep sense of foreboding about what may happen in the future. And what I'm interested in, Wolf, is working with the administration, Republicans and Democrats working together.
And let me give you an example. We know, for example, that in Mexico, a truck loaded with 10 tons of sodium cyanide was found by the side of the road. Eighty percent of the sodium cyanide is still missing. Now, what has to happen is everybody's got to move rapidly on that, find out what happened to that cyanide. Where did it go? I mean, who's looking for sodium cyanide?
BLITZER: Are they looking for it?
FEINSTEIN: I hope so. BLITZER: Do you have any...
FEINSTEIN: We're trying to find out.
BLITZER: Do you have any idea where it is?
FEINSTEIN: There were mixed reports. Yesterday, I heard that they had found it. I just had corroborated through your newsroom that they have not found it. I've got someone on the phone right now trying to see what is, in fact, being done about it.
BLITZER: All right.
FEINSTEIN: But I think these are the kinds of things, as they come up, that we need to learn how to move very aggressively, very rapidly on, how the bits and pieces of information get put together, so that the puzzle is figured out ahead of time.
BLITZER: All right.
FEINSTEIN: That should be our priority.
ARMEY: Let me just say...
BLITZER: Congressman Armey, go ahead. We only have a minute before the next commercial, but why don't you follow up on that?
ARMEY: Well, let me just make this point. The protocols that we now have in place, after the Patriot Act, that allows a meshing of information between the agencies is something we must learn to do. And the senator is right to emphasize, we've got to develop these skills.
But I should also point out, and I think the senator would agree with me, before September 11, the Patriot Act could never have been passed through the Congress, probably not through either house of Congress, before September 11.
So we do have new abilities, new protocols, new responsibilities and new authorities in these agencies, and we must learn how to use them properly.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more ground to cover with Congressman Armey and Senator Feinstein. They'll also be taking your phone calls. Late Edition will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): This was a failure for all of us. We failed the American people in a very important respect. We did not protect them properly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The House minority leader, Dick Gephardt, insisting the Democrats are not trying to blame President Bush for the September 11 attacks.
Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with the House majority leader, Dick Armey, and the Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.
We have a caller from Pennsylvania with a question. Go ahead, caller.
CALLER: Yes, if the men on the mission did not know, how could the administration have known, when days later bin Laden gave out that piece of information?
BLITZER: What about that, Congressman Armey?
I think the caller's referring to the fact that some of those 19 hijackers themselves might not have known what the exact mission was, that they were simply brought along and only found out about it as the hijacking was unfolding. It obviously underscores how closely held this kind of information is.
ARMEY: Yes, that's true. And of course, again, the problem is, how do you intercede without very specific information about date, time and place? This talk we now have -- for example, there could be in Al Qaeda's heart and plans another major strike against the American people in the United States. You could pick up that piece of information in a coffee shop, a barber shop or the House cloakroom. How do you pin it down as to when, where and how?
That's the tough stuff that can now better be done, after the legislation that followed September 11, by integrating information beyond the civil libertarian restrictions that were there before 9/11 that we've put back in place at the president's request.
So we have new abilities now, the senator's point. We must learn how to use them, use them responsibly, and we will do a much better job of stopping this stuff.
BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, how credible is this latest report, the chatter they're supposedly picking up, the intelligence community, about another terrorist strike in the works that may even be more destructive than September 11?
FEINSTEIN: Hard to tell, is the answer. Is there chatter? Yes. Is it specific? To the best of my knowledge, no.
I think the only way you're going to get it is to get the terrorists from the beginning. And this is the hard part in our society. And this is why the Patriot Act was passed. This is why what we're trying to do is unify intelligence-gathering, both foreign and domestic, so that the pieces can fit together.
One of my concerns is whether this new squad that the FBI director is forming will continue the kind of territorial imperatives that the FBI has had and the CIA has had, and further restrict data. What I want to see happen is that data goes into a centralized place, ao that you can compare foreign intelligence and domestic intelligence, put them both together, and better fit the pieces of the puzzle.
BLITZER: So you don't like Director Mueller's proposal?
FEINSTEIN: I can't say that yet, because I don't know. I have to learn more about it. But my concern has been that these two agencies have worked very separately, and I don't think that's the way we need to continue in the future.
BLITZER: Congressman Armey, Director Mueller just took off as a week or so before September 11, so no one can blame him for any mistakes...
BLITZER: ... that may have occurred then.
But what do you think of this proposal he's put out there, to have this super division of the FBI really take a much closer look at all of the various information coming in?
ARMEY: Well, one of the things I would be willing to bet -- I'd like to make two points. One, this division would not have been possible before September 11, under the laws we operated at the time.
Secondly, Wolf, notice what a responsible member of the Intelligence Committee the senator is. She doesn't tell you and me things she knows in particular that, in fact, she learns as a member of that committee. That's one of the reasons why, six months from now, we will be frustrated that we were on this show with her and she didn't tell us the things she knew. But the fact is, that's her job, and she's doing it correctly.
BLITZER: She can't tell us certain information because it's obviously classified.
ARMEY: That's exactly right. That's exactly right.
And in fact, we need to be able to understand the importance of this word, "classified." So when the appropriate, properly cleared, responsibly charged members of the Intelligence Committee, House and Senate, talk things over with the FBI director, the CIA director, there are things that not only you, Wolf, but I probably, many times, should not be told about.
BLITZER: All right, stand by once again. We're going to take another quick break, but we have a lot more coming up.
The next hour of Late Edition will also include more phone calls for Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Dick Armey.
Also, how are the September 11 families reacting to news of possible warnings? We'll talk with two people who lost spouses in the attacks.
And presidential decision-making in a time of crisis. We'll get insight from two former White House chiefs of staff and a presidential historian.
All that, much more, coming up in the second hour of Late Edition.
BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. Let's continue our conversation with the House Republican leader Dick Armey and the California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.
We have another caller from California. Go ahead with your question, please.
CALLER: My question is, suppose somebody has very specific indications that the FBI has not followed up on a post-9/11 lead, exactly what would you recommend that person do?
BLITZER: All right, let's ask Senator Feinstein. FEINSTEIN: I'd recommend that that person let some of us know this. Call Congressman Armey. Call me, tell me. Call somebody in administration, tell them. But it is important that if you have specific information, you let us know.
BLITZER: There is a couple polls, Congress Armey, I want to go over and give you the numbers and get your reaction about this. There's a Newsweek poll that ask this question: Did the president's national security advisers do enough with the information that had before September 11th? 38 percent said they did enough, but 46 percent said they didn't do enough.
And then on CNN-USA Today Gallup poll, a similar question: Did the Bush administration act on 9/11 warnings in a proper way? 41 percent said yes, 52 percent no.
Does the administration have a perception problem, that the American public doesn't think that they necessarily did everything that they could have done to prevent September 11?
ARMEY: Well, that, of course, is the political objective of this whole exercise we've had this week. The administration has a fine standing with the American people. Up until just this past week, that wasn't called into question. It has been called into question with a lot of people raising these sort of innuendo-type concerns that they do, this sort of hand-wringing that we have. But I...
BLITZER: You want to name any names?
ARMEY: Again, I've already told you, obviously, the congresswoman from Georgia, Cynthia McKinney. She's so far out of line that I don't think anybody would believe that kind of wild, partisan attack.
But for Dick Gephardt to stand there and say, you know, "Of course, I'm not blaming anybody but we need to know what the president knew and when did he know it," you know that's a political strategy that's well devised, and it probably has some impact.
But the important thing is -- and this is what really makes me feel confident about our future -- the president isn't shaken in his resolve here. He's committed to the safety and security of the American people. He'll do what is right, and he's perfectly willing to let the politics take care of itself or be the entertainment of people other than himself. And I applaud him so much, for this man is so focused and so dedicated and will, in the end, be the first best chance for any safety and security we have in this country.
BLITZER: You know, Senator Feinstein, it's a double-edged sword, the blame game, if you will, because Democrats are raising questions about the White House. The White House, Republicans could raise many questions about Democrats, what did the Clinton administration do? And so it goes down the road.
BLITZER: For example, after that 1999 report, raising the possibility of these kinds of suicide bombings into the CIA headquarters or the White House. The other day, former President Clinton was asked, why didn't he do anything about that when he was in office. He said this, he said, "That has nothing to do with intelligence. All that it says is that they used public sources to speculate on what bin Laden might do. Let me remind you, that's why I attacked his training camp, and why I asked the Pakistanis to go get him, and why we contracted with some people in Afghanistan to go get him, because we thought he was dangerous."
The question, obviously, is did he, Bill Clinton, under his eight years in office, do enough to prevent these kinds of attacks?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, I'm not going to get into that, because the answer is, who knows?
But I think this: I think, once we struck bin Laden in '98, the training camps, the open-source information, in other words, the people writing books, and one of them being Yosef Bodansky, points out in his book that that was a turning point for bin Laden. That's when he decided he was going to go after the United States.
Now, I happen to believe that's correct. Having said that, we really still need to move much more aggressively in our intelligence communities to get at the bin Laden people, to get at these cells. And that's where, based on my concerns, I don't think we have done enough in this direction.
I don't think it makes a lot of sense to sit here and say, well, this individual or that individual. It's not the individuals. It's the system that needs to come together and work in a concerted way.
We spend a lot of money on intelligence. We have a lot of people doing intelligence gathering. The thing is, how do we get it to work better? And that's what we need to concentrate on.
BLITZER: Congressman Armey, I just came back to Washington from two weeks in the Middle East, spent a lot of time in Israel, where you know that there are these almost daily terrorist attacks in recent weeks. There was another one in Netanya earlier today.
There is concern, I know, in the U.S. government that the kind of soft targets that terrorists have gone after in Israel -- whether a restaurant or a supermarket, coffee shop, a mall -- that that kind of terrorism could spread here to the United States. How concerned are you about that possibility?
ARMEY: Oh, I worry about it every day. You know, nobody can be more on alert than the Israelis are. Nobody can have a better experience for trying to deal with this. But the fact of the matter is, this person that just sort of shows up -- in this case today, in an Israeli army uniform -- is going to look so innocent until the moment that explosion takes place.
And in a world that respects people's freedoms and civil liberties, you just don't clamp down and declare martial law.
Let me just remind you within the last six months, the attorney general tried to issue warnings out here, where they had, they thought, more specific information, warning and advising law enforcement agencies. And do you recall, Wolf, there was a big flap in America that he was unnecessarily alarming the American people? So you really have a tough time.
The senator's point is still well taken. Since we can now share information between these agencies, stay focused on the hard, diligent worth of gathering this information, then deal with it professionally, that's where our first best hope lies. And let all the rumors and all the politics stand aside, for the professional, obsessive concern with the safety and security of the American people. That focus is our best chance for being safe in America.
BLITZER: Mr. Leader, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there.
Senator Feinstein, thanks...
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: ... to you so much for joining us.
Dick Armey, as usual, thanks to you, as well.
ARMEY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to obviously have both of you back on many occasions on Late Edition. Appreciate it very much.
And just ahead, we'll go to Netanya. We'll see the devastation, what happened in that latest suicide bombing. Also, how are the families of the terror-attack victims here in the United States responding to news of the pre-9/11 warnings? We'll talk with two people who lost loved ones.
Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: There's been another suicide bombing in Netanya, the Israeli coastal town along the Mediterranean Sea. CNN's Annan Nidu (ph) is in Netanya. He joins us now via videophone with details.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll speak with two Americans who lost their spouses on September 11, get their reaction to all of these reports that there were some alerts that the government may not have necessarily paid enough attention to.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.
Perhaps no one is more affected by revelations of the pre- September 11 warnings than those who lost loved ones on that day.
We're joined now by a guest here in Washington, his name is Stephen Push. Stephen Push lost his wife Lisa on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. We hope to be speaking with Elizabeth Kovalcin shortly, she lost her husband David on American Airlines Flight 11.
But, Stephen, first to you. How do you feel when you see and hear these reports that there may have been some dots out there that weren't necessarily appropriately connected in advance of September 11?
STEPHEN PUSH, LOST WIFE IN 9/11 ATTACKS: It's very disturbing. September 11 was a colossal failure of government to protect its citizens, but I'm also concerned that too much time has been spent over the last week on the blame game. And what we really need, in fact what the families want, is a thorough evaluation of all of the problems that led to the attack -- not just intelligence problems, immigration policy, the funding of the terrorists, aviation security.
And that's why we're having a rally on June 11 on Capitol Hill, to call for passage of the Lieberman-McCain bill for an independent commission to study the problems.
BLITZER: When you say an "independent commission," what do you mean, like the Warren Commission?
BLITZER: ... that was created after John F. Kennedy's assassation.
PUSH: Yes, it would be very similar. Under the bill, there would be 14 people altogether. Four would be chosen by the president, five by the House and five by the Senate. And they would be charged with looking at, broadly, all of the problems that led up to the September 11 attacks, analyzing what those problems were, and suggesting remedies, so that we can protect people from having to suffer this fate again. BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice on this program, in the first hour, said that would be a bad idea right now, in the middle of a war, going to an outside commission like this, let the existing House and Senate intelligence committees go ahead and do their work.
PUSH: We had a similar commission study the Pearl Harbor attack while we were fighting a world war on two fronts. I think we can do it again.
BLITZER: The vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, was on Meet the Press earlier today. And Tim Russert, the host, had asked him about some of the criticisms you had expressed earlier in the week. I want you to listen to what the vice president said, specifically referring to some of the comments you made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've gone back and looked at that memo of August 6 -- this was one of several items included that morning -- and there's nothing in there that's actionable intelligence.
You know, you could -- the first time you hear somebody might hijack an aircraft, well, terrorists started hijacking aircraft 30 years ago. Are you going to shut down the nation's aviation system based on that report? You wouldn't. The terrorist succeeds, in a sense, if you shut down the entire country based on a report as nebulous as that was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PUSH: No one's asking them to shut down the whole aviation system for a report like that, but I wish they had made a warning similar to the way they did last month, about the possibility of attacks on banks, when they had that information.
If it was important enough to bring it to the attention of the president, it was a credible enough threat that there should have been a generalized warning saying, you know, "We don't know if this is accurate intelligence, but there have been indications that Al Qaeda may be thinking about hijacking airplanes."
My wife was on an optional trip. It was not an essential part of her business. And I think that she probably would have foregone that trip if she knew the risk that she was taking, and she would still be here today.
BLITZER: Apparently they did alert the FAA in the middle of the summer that there could be some hijacking.
PUSH: But not the public. They alerted the FAA, but there was no general warning to the public. And I hope they will continue the types of warnings they did last month about the banks. When they have some intelligence, let -- the American people are adults, they're not going to panic, it's not going shut down the economy, but let people make informed decisions about the risks they're taking. BLITZER: But there is a delicate line they have to walk. On the one hand, you may have an unsubstantiated, unconfirmed, very general intelligence report that may come from a totally unreliable source. Do you then panic the public as a whole and say "There is this information out there, just be careful"?
PUSH: No. If it's from an unreliable source, they can disregard that. But, obviously, that's what we have intelligence agencies to do, to try to sift the reliable sources from the unreliable sources and the accurate intelligence from the inaccurate intelligence.
BLITZER: So, if there had been a generalized warning out there in the summer of 2001, before September 11, saying, "You know what, there may be some hijackings, and Al Qaeda may be involved," you say your wife wouldn't have gotten on that plane?
PUSH: I think that my wife and probably other people who were taking pleasure trips or travelling on non-essential business, might have decided not to travel that day.
Another thing that might have happened, if there was some indication that Al Qaeda was planning to hijack aircraft, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the rescue workers might have realized sooner that they were under a terrorist attack and been able to evacuate the South Tower instead of telling people to go back to their offices, and hundreds of lives would have been saved.
BLITZER: We're looking at a live picture now of President Bush. He's just returned to the South Lawn of the White House from Camp David.
As we watch this picture as he walks in, to the White House, what do you think of the job that he's doing?
PUSH: By and large, I think he has done a good job. I'm really pleased that he was very forceful in his response to this attack. I think he's done a wonderful job in Afghanistan.
But I wish he would be less hypersensitive about some of the criticism. This criticism is aimed at him in particular. These problems were years in making.
And I've talked to hundreds of families about this. And the whole government has a very low credibility with the families right now -- the Congress and the administration, the Republicans and the Democrats.
And the only thing that's going restore that confidence is an independent commission that looks at all the problems and issues a public report that satisfies people that everything has been done to try to prevent other people from suffering the way we are suffering now.
BLITZER: Dick Armey, the House majority leader, just said that Warren Commission never satisfied all the conspiracy-minded people who look back at the assassination of John F. Kennedy. What makes you think a new Warren-like commission would satisfy everyone?
PUSH: Nothing is going to satisfy the conspiracy nuts, but the 3,000-plus families that are grieving are not conspiracy nuts. And we're not satisfied with the level of scrutiny that's going on so far.
BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about Lisa, your wife. As you look back and think, it's obviously painful, but share some thoughts with us about her.
PUSH: She was a wonderful person. She was best thing that ever happened to me, my best friend. And she was the best lobbyist that the biotechnology industry ever had. There are, literally, thousands of people who have gotten access to life-saving drugs because of bills that she helped to pass in Congress. And it has been great loss not only to me and to her family and friends but to the nation as well.
BLITZER: Lisa Raines, a wonderful woman. Unfortunately, she died on American Airlines Flight 77. She was on company business. She worked for what company?
PUSH: Genzyme Corporation, it's a biotechnology company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
BLITZER: And of course, our deepest condolences to you, Stephen Push.
PUSH: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.
We continuing to look at this live picture of President Bush. He's shaking hands with well-wishers at the White House, as he's just returned from Camp David. If he stops and speaks with reporters, of course we'll bring that to our viewers.
We want to also apologize. Elizabeth Kovalcin, we had hoped to bring her to you, as well. Her husband was killed on one of those flights on September 11. Unfortunately, we had technical problems. We'll try to bring her back on another occasion.
We have a lot more to talk about. Just ahead, it may be the hardest part of being a president -- making a crucial decision, especially in a time of crisis. We'll get the inside story on pivotal executive decision-making from former Bush chief of staff John Sununu, former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta, and the presidential historian Allan Lichtman.
Late Edition will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation, this generation, will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush addressing Congress and the nation last September after the terrorist attacks.
For some insight into the decisions presidents make at crucial times, we turn to three guests: Joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire, John Sununu. He was the White House chief of staff during the first Bush administration. In San Francisco, the former Clinton chief of staff at the White House, Leon Panetta. And here in Washington, the presidential historian and American University professor Allan Lichtman.
Gentlemen, good to have all of you on the program.
Leon Panetta, let me begin with you. When you were the White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, you were no stranger to controversy, scandals, other kinds of press inquiries, congressional inquiries. How is President Bush handling this current issue?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: I think the president is trying to do the best he can in responding, obviously, to the revelations that he was briefed on the issue of a possible terrorist attack.
I think, frankly, that I get a sense that they're being very defensive when, in fact, I don't think they have a lot to be defensive about. I mean, I think the issue is not what the president did; I think the president did the right thing based on the quality of information he had.
The real issue, again, as has been said time and time again, is whether or not the information that was out there was properly analyzed and properly presented to the president. That's the issue, and that's what we ought to focus on.
BLITZER: All right. John Sununu, as far as you're concerned, what is the issue right now?
JOHN SUNUNU, FORMER BUSH CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think the fundamental issue is actually the issue that's been there for a long, long time. And that is the issue that we gutted our intelligence structure a long time ago under the Church commissions, Democratic Senator Church. And we have never really made the commitment to rebuild it with the kind of on-the- ground support that would corroborate and give the details to fill in the kind of abstract information that was available before September 11.
I think the big issue right now is for the government, the legislative side and the executive side to commit the resources and to change the political-correctness attitude that has made covert action almost impossible in many cases.
BLITZER: So, are you saying Governor Sununu that it's time for a sort of full-scale, outside, independent commission to go backwards, look what the mistakes were and come up with specific recommendations to make the system work better?
SUNUNU: I don't think you need an outside commission. I think everybody involved, both from the legislative intelligence committees to the people at the CIA and the National Security Agency and the White House, all understand that what we have done is gutted our physical component to intelligence. We have no people on the ground in any of the critical places to provide the specific details that allow us to deal effectively with the kind of abstract information that came in before September 11.
BLITZER: All right, let me bring in Allan Lichtman, who's a historian.
Senator Frank Church -- he can't defend himself obviously -- it's all his fault that that Church committee hearing gutted the intelligence community? ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Not at all. Look, we've had this discussion about problems with the intelligence community time and again, long before the Church commission. We had it after Pearl Harbor. There was a whole commission headed by Justice Roberts to ask how that could possibly happen. We had it time and again during the Vietnam War.
What I'd like to focus on, though, is not so much what happened before September 11, but the way the Bush administration is handling the situation now. And unfortunately, I think this administration is falling into the same trap that time and again presidential administrations have fallen into. And that is, not coming clean with the American people. Even after all this came out, they still withheld information. They didn't tell us exactly what was in those memos.
This has been the biggest mistake that administrations have made after the fact of a controversy. They seem to believe that they should control the information and keep it from the American people. It's a tragedy.
BLITZER: Governor Sununu, go ahead.
SUNUNU: You know, it's really wonderful to find these folks that live in a pedestal trying to talk about how to deal with the reality inside.
What you have is information inside that might have an impact on our capacity to get the same kind of information in the future. There might be people who provided information whose lives are at risk. And I don't need, and this administration doesn't need, and the American public doesn't need, an academic who never had to make a tough decision on which lives depended, to sit there...
LICHTMAN: How do you know that?
SUNUNU: ... and say, all you got to do is put everything out on the table.
The fact is, is that you have to be responsible and you have to filter what goes on the table because there are other lives at risk in the process.
LICHTMAN: I'd like to respond to that.
SUNUNU: I certainly hope you do.
LICHTMAN: Indeed I will. I think by withholding information, by not coming clean with the American people, they have delayed by at least eight months the needed inquiries that indeed Mr. Sununu thinks is necessary.
Look, after Pearl Harbor, who was it that was calling for a complete investigation? It was Mr. Conservative in the Congress, Senator Robert Taft. There's no politics on this. This isn't a matter of left or right, Republicans and Democrats.
SUNUNU: But there are intelligence committees reviewing right now, there are bipartisan intelligence committees reviewing from right after September 11 that whole process. But they are doing it the right way; they're doing it in secret.
BLITZER: Let me bring on Leon Panetta.
Mr. Panetta, you well know that one of the first rules of an administration, when there is a mistake that was made, the best way to get that information out is to release it yourself and not allow your enemies or political opponents to release it.
Is this administration following that damage-control rule?
PANETTA: No, I think my friend John Sununu is being equally defensive, about what took place here.
I mean, look, the first lesson that is never learned in Washington is that when something like this happens, the better course is to basically indicate what took place. I don't think the administration, frankly, has anything, as I said, to be defensive about.
The quality of information that was presented to the president at the time -- in my view, the president did the right thing, based on that information. I think the same thing is true for President Clinton, based on information that was presented to him.
SUNUNU (?): I agree with that.
PANETTA: The issue has to be, what is that information that was out there? We're just now finding out the dribbles and drabs from Phoenix memo, to what happened with Moussaoui, to what happened with briefing to president.
I think that's information that, very frankly, the White House can be very aggressive in presenting that information to the committees in the Congress. They've already indicated what happened to the public. I think they have done pretty good job in presenting that case to the public.
There is nothing really to hide here. And the public has every right to know how an administration is approaching this kind of crisis, because if we are going avoid future September 11's, we've got to find out what went wrong before this September 11.
SUNUNU: But, Leon, that information has been made available to the intelligence committees, and I hope they keep looking for whatever else they can find.
But all I'm suggesting, is that to feel that the only way to examine every piece of intelligence information that might apply to this is to do it in public, in my opinion, is part of the problem of exposing your assets on the intelligence side, in a foolish way. And the distinction I'm trying to make is that we have felt for too long that everything that we do on the intelligence side should be made public. And that's exactly how you lose the capacity to get the kind of quality information from people who are on the inside, as to -- in a way that helps you deal specifically with issues. That's the point I'm trying to make.
LICHTMAN: This is chilling. This is truly chilling.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
LICHTMAN: This is what we heard all those years during the Vietam War: "We know what is best, we should operate in secret, we should withhold and keep things from the American people." Well, it turned out, all those years, both Republicans and Democrats from the Kennedy administration to the Johnson administration, were wrong. It was the American people who were right about Vietnam.
SUNUNU: You know, you guys run to the Vietnam War every time want you to make a dumb point.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Governor.
SUNUNU: Every time we start talking about exposing problems on intelligence, everybody runs to the Vietnam War to try and cast some pall on the discussion.
The important question is, how do you get people on the inside of the other side to give us the specific information that deals with needs? And you will never, never get it if, every time there is a problem, you put on the table every piece of information that you had and put their lives at risk. That is exactly what we are talking about.
LICHTMAN: And you will continue to make bad decisions and great mistakes when you withhold things from the American people.
BLITZER: We have to take a quick break.
But, Allan Lichtman, isn't there some information that's sensitive, so important...
LICHTMAN: Of course.
BLITZER: ... that could jeopardize sources and methods, how the U.S. government...
LICHTMAN: Of course.
BLITZER: ... could collect that information that could prevent future terrorist operations, that you want to keep secret? LICHTMAN: Of course. We're not talking about exposing assets on the ground or top military secrets at all. That's not what's at stake here.
What was really concealed was these kinds of things that have come out now and, in no way, are exposing us to any great dangers. You make terrible decisions when you do it in an insular, secret way that. That's what history teaches us, and I'm afraid we're about to repeat that again.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue this.
We have to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about with John Sununu, Leon Panetta and Allan Lichtman. We'll also be taking your phone calls. Get ready.
Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: We're continuing our discussion with the former Bush White House chief of staff John Sununu, the first Bush administration; the former Clinton White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta; and presidential historian Allan Lichtman of American University here in Washington.
Leon Panetta, Dick Cheney was very forceful Thursday night in his speech, in New York, in complaining about some of the criticism that's been leveled at the White House. Listen to this little excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Basically, what I want to say to my Democratic friends in the Congress is that it need to be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions, as were made by some today, that the White House had advance information that would have prevented the tragic attacks of 9/11. Such commentary is thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in a time of war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Seems to be mentioning, without any specific mention by name, Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, a few other Democratic leaders.
Were his comments appropriate, as far as you're concerned?
PANETTA: You know, again, I think that the administration was reacting very defensively. And, you know, when you're in a corner, sometimes you lash out and claim politics on the other side.
I mean, I listened to what Tom Daschle said and Dick Gephardt and other Democrats and Dick Shelby, a Republican, all of whom pretty much agreed that the information that we saw was not well-analyzed, that we need to look into it. We need to see what was there. We need to see where the mistakes were made. And I think that's patriotic. It's patriotic by Democrats. It's patriotic by Republicans.
And I think when you start using the political whiplash to try to somehow accuse the other side of just being political, you know -- I think Bill Clinton has been accused the last year and half of being responsible for Osama bin Laden. I didn't hear the president or the vice president say that somehow that was unpatriotic. So, you know, yes, there's going to be political questions raised on both sides. But in the end, this is a bipartisan issue and a bipartisan responsibility to find out exactly what went wrong and how do we fix it.
BLITZER: You know, Governor Sununu, the polls are not necessarily all that encouraging to the White House. Right now, even though President Bush's job approval rating remains sky-high in the '70s, this latest CNN-USA Today Gallup poll asks, could the government have been able to predict the 9/11 attacks? Thirty eight percent say yes; 58 percent say no.
But 38 percent, that's a significant number, isn't it?
SUNUNU: Well, you're not going base policy on the basis of polls. If you do, you're making the biggest political mistake in the world.
By the way, I agree with Leon Panetta that the Clinton administration did not have any information that would have helped, in any way at all, deal with the specifics of what Al Qaeda has done in the last 18 months. And I don't want it to sound as if I'm just taking my position for this administration alone.
I think it is an important position to be taken by, frankly, all administrations, that our intelligence information has a point beyond which you don't go.
But I will say this about what's happening politically. I think the proof of the pudding that maybe Dick Cheney's comments were not off base is the retreating that's taken place in the last of couple days by the Democrats, who recognized, perhaps, that they did cross over a line.
There's no problem in asking questions. There's no problem in insisting that the standing committees that have -- by the way, who also received the same information as the executive branch over the last year and a half or so, who always receive that information. There's no question asking whether or not we can't improve coordination between the FBI and the CIA. Those issues are appropriate.
What I try to suggest was not appropriate is giving information that has, related to it, source and methods, which is really an absolute serious mistake to do.
BLITZER: All right. Allan Lichtman, I'll let you wrap it up.
BLITZER: You're the historian. Give us the historical perspective.
Dick Cheney's comments, were they appropriate?
LICHTMAN: I think they were not appropriate, but they're predictable. Administrations in crisis usually do tend to wrap themselves in patriotism and call into question, sometimes, the motives of their critics.
Unfortunately, I think that has been a bit of a pattern in this administration to try to control the debate and control information. We've seen it not only on this issue, we've seen it on contacts with Enron. We've seen it on their energy task force. No administration before has ever been sued by the General Accounting Office.
We can have a healthy public debate on this that brings in the American people, without exposing sources, without risking our intelligence.
LICHTMAN: I think that's all that's being asked for.
And let me go on record, I do not believe that prior to September 11 this administration had information that would enable them to protect, predict or anticipate that attack. But I think they have fallen into unfortunate trap since then.
BLITZER: Allan Lichtman, thanks for joining us. Leon Panetta and Governor Sununu, thank you as well. We'll continue this conversation on another occasion. Appreciate it very much.
When we return, what went wrong with the U.S. intelligence, if anything, prior to 9/11, and what improvements can be made? We'll hear from three intelligence and security experts when Late Edition returns.
BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.
Despite the partisan sniping over the pre-9/11 warning, there's virtually unanimous agreement that the terrorist attacks were due in part to cracks in the U.S. intelligence pipelines. Mistakes were made, obviously, someone could have done a better job.
Joining us now to talk about what needs to done to bolster U.S. intelligence: Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert with the Rand Corporation; former CIA Director James Woolsey; and the former U.S. ambassador for counterterrorism, Paul Bremer. He's now the CEO of the Marsh Crisis Consulting Group.
Thanks to all of you for joining us.
And, Director Woolsey, let me begin with you. With hindsight, obviously, all of us are a lot smarter. But what, if anything, looking back, knowing that we know stuff now we didn't know then, could have been done that should have been done? JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think, in a way, part of the problem, Wolf, was that there was too much concentration on foreign intelligence and too much looking for a tip of something specific that might happen.
There were a number of people who were insightful about the possibility of suicide pilots. Rick Riscorlo (ph), the remarkable head of security for one of the companies in the World Trade Center who saved 3,500 people on the 11th, Morgan Stanley, I think it was.
BLITZER: How did he do that?
WOOLSEY: He had seen that -- he foresaw both the truck bombing and the airplane bombing and took precautions to have a lot of drills, to have the lighting in the stairwells changed, countermanded the order for everybody to stay in place and got 3,500 people out. Went back with two of his security colleagues to save three people who didn't get out, and the six of them died.
But if we all had the foresight of Rick Riscorlo (ph), we'd be a lot better off.
He just had publicly available information, and the same was true of a University of Pennsylvania researchers, of a Library of Congress researcher. What was the problem, I think, in part, was that people were waiting for a foreign intelligence breakthrough of some sort. And it's very difficult to penetrate a group like Al Qaeda.
BLITZER: You know, Ambassador Bremer, he's a former -- Jim Woolsey's a former head of the CIA. He's had access to the most sensitive kind of information, but I've heard so many people like Director Woolsey say that, you know what, sometimes all that information is available to public sources. You don't really need all that classified information to understand what's going on.
PAUL BREMER, FORMER AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: Well, you do. I mean, you can't do without the classified information. I think, as my friend Jim was saying, it's very hard to get, that's the problem. Particularly when you're getting it from foreign intelligence sources.
And the National Commission on Terrorism, which Jim and I both served on, in our report two years ago pointed out that, over time, both the FBI and the CIA have become more and more risk-averse.
Now, I think what we've seen in the last couple of weeks...
BLITZER: When you say risk-averse, what do you mean by that?
BREMER: Basically not taking the kind of chances that you need to take.
For example, if you're going to go and prevent terrorist attacks, you've got to, in effect, have some terrorist tell you about the attack ahead of time. That means recruiting a spy in a terrorist group. During the 1990s, the CIA basically got away from doing that as aggressively as they need to. One of the things our commission recommended.
In the case of the FBI, the problem was cultural. The FBI is an organization whose job is to catch criminals and put them in jail.
I think what we've seen over the last few weeks, much more important than this briefing the president got on August 6, was what happened both in Phoenix and in Minneapolis.
BLITZER: All right. Let me bring in Brian Jenkins. We only have a few minutes seconds for Brian before we go to a commercial.
But if you're taking a look at the situation right now, too much hand-wringing going on?
BRIAN JENKINS, TERRORISM EXPERT, RAND CORPORATION: I think we have to be very, very careful about looking at what the president knew or should have known prior to September 11 through the lens of what did in fact occur. You know, that's like reading the last page of a mystery novel first and then going back and reading the book. All of the clues are obvious.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Brian Jenkins. That was a good tease because we have a lot more to talk about with Jim Woolsey and Paul Bremer.
It's time to say goodbye, though, to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of Late Edition. We'll get some analysis on the newly surfaced Osama bin Laden videotape, and our security experts will continue this discussion. They'll be taking your phone calls, as well.
Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conservation on the intelligence alerts that existed prior to September 11.
Once again joining us, James Woolsey, the former CIA director, in Los Angeles, Brian Jenkins, the counterterrorism specialist, and here in Washington, Paul Bremer, the former U.S. ambassador at large for counterterrorism.
Brian Jenkins, I'd like you to listen to what Senator Dianne Feinstein told me on July 1 of last year, before September 11, in assessing some of intelligence problems and the alerts that were already available then. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D-CA): Our counterterrorism efforts are spread over 41 to 45 departments. Now, I think we need to strengthen the administration in the coordination of counterterrorism effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Was she right then, and is that still the case right now?
JENKINS: I think perhaps the only issue one might differ with her on is that I think it's more than 41 departments and agencies involved at the federal level, plus those that are involved at state and local levels. It's a very complicated issue, as we're learning, as we try to put together in increasing our homeland security.
No question about it, the kinds of threats that we began to face in the 1990s, especially terrorism, are not threats that match the way our government was organized. We spent a half century organizing our government to deal with one set of national security threats. In the 1990s, we began to deal with another set.
And all of these commissions that were created in the 1990s, the calls for the creation of new czars, the development of new agencies, are efforts by the government to scaffold new arrangements to meet these new kinds of threats.
BLITZER: But, Brian, I thought that Governor Tom Ridge, the homeland security director, was now in place and taking charge and making sure the job was getting done to protect the nation's homeland security?
JENKINS: He is certainly making a valiant effort to do so, but it's extremely difficult. You know, sometimes -- speaking as a Californian, it sometimes seems to me that in Washington, the terrorists are enemy number two, that enemy number one are the guys across street or across the river or across the hall.
It's very, very difficult to get all of these agencies and departments to work together.
BLITZER: I think that's a good point.
And, Director Woolsey, you know this better than all of us. How is it possible that an FBI agent in Phoenix, Arizona, writes a memo saying, "You know, there's a problem, a lot of Middle Eastern men are learning how to fly these planes, and some of them may even have associations with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden" -- he writes that memo, comes to the FBI headquarter in Washington, and it disappears. It's not given to the CIA, it's not given to the White House national security adviser. It's not given to anyone.
WOOLSEY: Well, meanwhile, up in Minneapolis, there's another very bright and perceptive FBI agent who's worried about Moussaoui and even talks amongst some of his colleagues about maybe he was going to fly a plane into the World Trade Center. These never got together. Part of the problem there was that the FBI that was left to the new director, Mueller...
WOOLSEY: ... by his predecessor is a very decentralized operation. Field offices were at the heart of things, 50-plus of them in the United States. And a lot of them are focused on, you know, car thefts and a lot of traditional things the FBI dealt with.
I think, to Mr. Mueller's credit, he has pulled things together within the last week or so and centralized the counterterrorism work. I think the sort of thing that happened before that you just described, probably wouldn't happen again.
But it's been his leadership in reversing some of the structural inadequacies in the FBI that were left to him. And after all, he only took over two weeks before 9/11.
BLITZER: Are you that confident that that couldn't happen right now?
BREMER: Well, I think you can't be 100 percent confident. There are always going to be slips.
But it is true that, as Jim just said, the FBI's culture basically, certainly up to September 11, was to make cases. And we pointed out in the National Commission on Terrorism basically two problems.
BREMER: First of all, that the FBI field offices often didn't even send the intelligence they had back to the headquarters. Secondly, that the FBI has had no capacity to analyze that intelligence. And thirdly, that very rarely did the FBI share whatever it had with other parts of the intelligence community.
All of these things, it seems to me, were shown rather dramatically between the period of July and August or -- July, August, September last year.
WOOLSEY: Wolf, one point, just to be fair to the bureau, some of that lack of sharing was legally required.
BREMER: That's right.
WOOLSEY: Until this past fall, and the USA Patriot Act was passed, it was illegal for the FBI, if they obtained material in a domestic terrorist investigation, pursuant to grand-jury subpoena, it was illegal for them to give it to the CIA, for that matter, to the National Security Council.
That got changed this past fall. But part of this was culture, part of it was bureaucratic, but part of it was really a reflection of the fact that the CIA was set up to look abroad and fight the Cold War. The FBI was focused on doing law enforcement at home. And Harry Truman, when he set this all up, didn't want a single, unified operation such as you have for, you know, intelligence in totalitarian states.
So, civil liberties were an important part of the reason for some of these restrictions. Others were just bureaucratic.
BLITZER: And, Brian Jenkins, that's a good point that the director makes, that there have been changes since September 11. One important change, for example, since September 11, President Bush receives a daily intelligence briefing from the CIA, but now a representative of the FBI is there as well, perhaps even the director, Robert Mueller, to make sure that both of these agencies know what the president is learning.
That's a significant step forward, isn't it?
JENKINS: Yes, it is. There's no question that, since September 11, we have made great strides in getting our act together to deal with this. One of the problems, however, we continue to face is that there is, right at the edges, lapping at the edges, still a dangerous complacency in this country about we confront here.
I mean, the fact that today's breathless news is that terrorists are planning further attacks against us and may strike soon is treated as a headline is almost unimaginable. Can you think of a headline eight months after Pearl Harbor reminding people that we are still at war?
BLITZER: But, Brian, the point of the stories today that we've been reporting, the New York Times' lead headline today suggesting, that, yes, there could be another terrorist attack in the United States, even worse than September 11, isn't that a legitimate story?
JENKINS: It's a legitimate story, to be sure. The fact is, we are going to be combating this terrorism, at war with this terrorism, and it's going to take years. This is not a conflict which makes any distinctions between what takes place abroad and what takes place in this country, nor any -- does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.
You know, what's interesting here -- and we have to keep this in mind too, when we look at the so-called intelligence failures here. Even countries that have dealt with terrorist threats for many years, far more serious than the one we faced until September 11 of last year, countries like the United Kingdom, countries like Israel, no one accuses their intelligence services of incompetence. No one says that the Israelis, for example, do not pay sufficient attention to security. And yet, despite that fact, terrorist attacks have occurred in both of these countries over the years, despite all of their efforts at intelligence and security. That's the reality.
BLITZER: Director Woolsey, take us behind the scenes. We hear that there is chatter out there, that the U.S. intelligence community is picking up tidbits, hints, conversations that could suggest maybe -- it's unconfirmed -- that there's a big terrorist operation in the works out there.
What do they mean when they say that? JENKINS: Well, it sounds similar to what they were picking up last summer, and I think the CIA believes that some of the actions they took last summer did thwart some terrorist acts by disrupting things.
But often intelligence is like this. It's very vague, it's not precise, it's not something that you can take useful action based on. It's the nature of the beast.
JENKINS: And I think part of the problem is, we need to look to what we need to do to protect these networks that we live with -- the oil and gas pipelines and electricity grid, the Internet, et cetera -- and fix their weak points regardless of whether we pick up anything in foreign intelligent collection.
Foreign intelligence is very important. If you hit something, you have a wonderful opportunity to know something that the other side doesn't know you know. But it's very rare that you're come up with a break through. You have to defend yourself effectively even without it.
BLITZER: But as -- and I want to bring Paul Bremer -- as Brian Jenkins has just pointed out, even if you protect all of those hard assets like nuclear reactors or pipelines or water supplies or military installations, there's the soft targets. The targets in Netanya and Israel today, a marketplace or a supermarket or coffee shop. These terrorists are pretty cunning, and they'll go after soft targets, especially if they're willing to kill themselves.
BREMER: Well, there is basically a huge asymmetry at the heart of this war. And the asymmetry is this: We have essentially infinite vunerabilities in this country. 283 million people spread across a continent and halfway across an ocean. You can't defend everything. Whereas the terrorist merely has to find weakest defendent point and attack.
So we will have more attacks. Even the best intelligence and law enforcement in world, even with the best security, we have to understand -- and it's a hard thing to understand -- that we will have more attacks.
I have quite a lot of sympathy for intelligent community trying to put together all these bits and pieces. I used to say when I was in government, it's like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the picture look like at the end. It's a very, very difficult thing. You've got lots of little pieces that you have to somehow figure out what the picture is, and it's rare that you get it. When you do get, you go in and disrupt it. Because our objective has got to be to get these guys before they get us.
BLITZER: Well, let me then come back to Brian Jenkins and ask the fundamental question. If the Iraelis, who are working around the clock to prevent terrorism, still get hit on a regular basis and Britain, of course, that used to be case more so than it is right now, how vunerable is the United States? JENKINS: Of course we are vulnerable, as Ambassador Bremer has pointed out. The vulnerabities in our society are infinite. Terrorists can attack anything, anywhere, anytime. We can not possibly protect everything, everywhere, all the time.
So on the basis of intelligence, on the basis of our own analysis of terrorist tactics and trends, on the basis of simply the consequences of certain events will propel us to take security measures.
That will not prevent terrorism. Physical security by itself merely displaces the risk. It doesn't stop terrorists from carrying out an attack. I don't know of a terrorist attack that has gone uncommitted for lack of a target. If they have the capability, they will find a target to strike.
BLITZER: All right, gentelemen, stand by.
We're going to take a quick break. When we return, we'll get some more input from our security panel with Brian Jenkins, James Woolsey and Paul Bremer. We'll also be taking your phone calls.
Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. As we reported earlier on this program, a previously unseen videotape of Osama bin Laden was released today. The Sunday Times of London says the video came from a 40-minute film it received from an Islamic news agency in Britain.
Joining us now from London is Dipesh Gadher; he's a reporter for the Sunday Times. He's been covering terrorism. Broke this story earlier today. And from Islamabad in Pakistan, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen. He's the author of the best seller on Osama bin Laden. He joins us, of course, from Islamabad.
We're going to get back to our panel, but Dipesh, I want to bring in you first. Tell us what you know about this videotape that we reported about earlier.
DIPESH GADHER, SUNDAY TIMES REPORTER: Sure. It's, as you've stated, the entire tape is about 40 minutes long. It seems to be a sort of promotional, propaganda video for Al Qaeda. Now it's divided into various segments.
The one segment that we're probably the most interested in is this sort of less-then-two-minute clip of bin Laden sort of speaking outside, which we were told was shot about eight weeks ago, according to the person who handed over the tape in Pakistan.
BLITZER: And do you believe that's accurate, that as recently as eight weeks ago there was a videotape shot of Osama bin Laden?
GADHER: Well, that's what we've been told. I mean, the tape was picked up by a reporter from an Islamic news agency in Birmingham, England, and he was handed it by a Pakistani intelligence official who's managed to get sort of access to this kind of thing in the past. And it was him who said that it was shot in March. So, obviously we've got to go on his word.
But having looked at the footage, I mean, if you look at the actual scenery in the background, it does fit in with a possible image of spring. So, you know, we think it's worth putting out in the public domain.
BLITZER: The Reuters News Agency, Dipesh, is quoting the Al- Jazeera network -- Reuters from London saying that the Al-Jazeera network says it had seen the tape three or four months ago and believed it was recorded in October. That's what Al-Jazeera is saying right now. You have different information.
GADHER: Well, I don't know if it's a bit of confusion between what type of footage we're talking about. Basically on the same videotape that we've got, there is a interview which was conducted by an Al-Jazeera reporter with bin Laden which was taken last October which they subsequently decided not to broadcast because they felt they didn't have enough sort of editorial control over it.
What I'm talking about is this sort of -- literally it's a one- minute-30, two-minute clip of him speaking outside in a sort of undisclosed location about the Jihad, the ongoing Jihad and martyrdom which we were told was shot in springtime, March, this year.
BLITZER: All right, let me bring Peter Bergen in from Islamabad. He joins us on the phone. He's our CNN terrorism expert and authority on Osama bin Laden.
First of all, Peter, what's your take, if you have one, on this latest clip of Osama bin Laden?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, to me, Wolf, the puzzling thing is that there's no reference on the tape to either the World Trade Center events or any events such as the fall of the Taliban, these kinds of things that would actually give us a timeframe.
You know, we've seen a lot of these tapes, and in those tapes bin Laden has actually mentioned Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, by name on occasion. If indeed this was shot in March of this year, it is puzzling that he would make absolutely no reference to the myriad events that have happened since 9/11, including the deaths of his military commando or any of the kinds of events that would give it some sort of timeframe.
So, I think the jury is entirely out about when this was shot. It could have easily have been shot in March of a year ago rather than March of this year, in my opinion, just because what he says on the tape is so generic.
BLITZER: I know you've been doing some extensive reporting out in the region, Peter. A lot of interest here in the United States on intelligence reports, alerts that may have been made available before September 11 that weren't necessarily made available. What have you uncovered? BERGEN: Well, one thing that is sort of interesting is that I talked to somebody, a quite reliable source in Kabul, who said that an Afghan who was quite intimately involved in Al Qaeda communications met with FBI officials in May 2001 and told them that there was a plan by bin Laden to hijack an American aircraft.
BERGEN: That hijacking plan was in relation to the jailed blind sheik, the Egyptian sheik, Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, who's been serving a prison sentence for his role in New York terror plots. He's now in a prison in Minnesota.
I think this is interesting because here we have apparently a reliable source telling the FBI in interviews in Southeast Asia in May 2001 that there was a plan to hijack a plane by the bin Laden group.
Of course, the information did not include using that plane as a missile. However, the fact is, when the most effective terrorist organization in the world is apparently trying to seek to hijack American planes, I think that information obviously had to be taken very seriously.
What happened with that information after the FBI officials were told this in May of 2001, I'm not exactly certain. But this Afghan source was quite reliable. He was an Afghan in his mid-20s who, because of his facility in Arabic, Urdu and English, was used by Al Qaeda as a translator, and was privy to meetings between Al Qaeda officials and Taliban officials. And therefore he was in a position, not necessarily an Al Qaeda official himself, but in the position to really know what was going inside the organization.
Parenthetically, he was also quite friendly with two sons of Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, who play quite an important role in Al Qaeda itself, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Peter, stand by. And, Dipesh, please stand by as well. I want to bring in our panel and get some discussion going on these two developments, the videotape as well as the information that Peter Bergen just provided us.
First of all, on the videotape, you've had a chance briefly to look at it, as all of us, Director Woolsey. Does it say anything that we don't really know yet?
WOOLSEY: I think Peter Bergen's right. It's a toss-up when it was done. If it was done in the spring, it would seem it was either last spring or this spring, that minute and a half to two minutes.
And if it was done this spring, of course that's important. But I don't think, from the context of what we've heard about what he says on it, what bin Laden says on it, there's any way to tell.
BLITZER: And on this point, Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, was on this program earlier. I asked her about this videotape. I want you to listen to the exchange that we had, Ambassador Bremer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: These videos appear from time to time. We'll clearly want to analyze it and understand it, but we don't know what its source, we don't its character. These do appear from time to time.
BLITZER: You believe he's still alive?
RICE: We have no reason to believe that he's not. And we continue to act against the Al Qaeda leadership, to try and to disrupt their activities and to try to destroy their home base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think about this videotape?
BREMER: I think, first, the content of what he says, I think, gives nothing away.
Obviously, our experts in the intelligence community will be examining particularly his physical appearance. I noticed he didn't move either of his hands, he didn't gesture with either of his hands. One of the things that was noticed in the video that was released in early December was that he was no longer gesturing with his left hand. He is left-handed. And one can look and see whether he's lost weight. And maybe they can make some assessment as to when this was taken.
But, in terms of the content of what he said, I think it's inconclusive.
BLITZER: I know that you've studied these things over the years, Brian Jenkins. Nobody knows terrorism issues and counterterrorism better than you do. Originally, when you were cautioned by the White House not to air these videotapes, there was a suggestion he, Osama bin Laden, might be giving signals, codewords, to his operatives out there to undertake certain action.
Is that a legitimate concern that we should still be worried about?
JENKINS: I tend to doubt that. I mean, I suspect that they had better ways of communicating to their operatives that are still at large around the world than the very imperfect process of issuing these videotapes, over which they have very little control about their broadcast or whether they will be broadcast in their entirety.
But what it does tell us is that, whether or not this is a montage of clips that were done last fall or this spring or some old pieces and some new pieces, is that there is an organization there that is still putting together these films and putting these films out in order to remind us, and, more importantly, their followers that the organization still exists, it is still at war with the United States.
JENKINS: It is that communication, more inspirational than instructional, that I think is what these tapes tells us.
BLITZER: Director Woolsey, let's speak about the second issue briefly, the Peter Bergen report about this contact, some information that was provided to the FBI in advance of September 11. How does that impress you?
WOOLSEY: Well, conceivably, that could have been one of elements that went into the warning in August that the CIA delivered, which sounds...
BLITZER: August 6, the briefing of the president...
BLITZER: ... at Crawford, Texas.
WOOLSEY: ... which sounds rather similar. This may have been one of the sources. But again, it's not very specific.
BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice this week did say, Ambassador Bremer, that the indications they were getting that they might hijack a plane in order to try to obtain the release of this sheik imprisoned in Minnesota.
BREMER: Well, I think that the original report to that effect that was cited in the briefing of president was actually from another country, a third-country intelligence source going back all of the three years to 1998.
And I must say, if you are trying to get somebody free, the traditional way of doing a hijacking is you take the plane, you put it on the ground somewhere with a lot of people, effectively, held hostage and you say, we're not going to let them go until you let our guy go. And therefore, all of these warnings would have taken you in the opposite direction than the direction that Al Qaeda eventually attacked us, and they wouldn't just fly into a building.
BLITZER: We have to leave there it. Paul Bremer, Jim Woolsey, Brian Jenkins.
I also want to thank our guests in London, Dipesh Gadher of the London Sunday Times for joining us, and Peter Bergen, kind of you to stay up late in Islamabad. Actually, it's not that late right now, but it's always good to have you on the program. Come home safe from Pakistan.
Appreciate all of you joining us.
Just ahead, the hour's top stories, then Late Edition's Final Round. Our panel weighs in on the hottest soundbites and debates from all the Sunday shows. But first, here's Bruce Morton on the lure of partisan politics and big campaign money.
BRUCE MORTON: Ever since September 11, the administration has talked about bipartisan leadership. Outsiders have wondered how political, how partisan this administration really is. The answer seems to be very. The GOP raised $33 million at a fundraiser this past week -- a record. One prize for those who gave more than $150 was 3 photographs: President Bush taking the oath of office; Mr. Bush delivering first speech to Congress; and aboard Air Force One on September 11, telephoning Vice President Cheney.
That's the one, of course, that caused a flap.
Former Vice President Al Gore: "While most pictures are worth a thousand words, a photo that seeks to capitalize on one of the most tragic moments in our nation's history is worth only one: disgraceful."
Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the White House knew the picture would be used for fundraising and, quote, "no objections were raised," unquote. Well, no.
Whether you think using the September 11 photo to raise money was tackier than putting up big givers in the Lincoln Bedroom of White House probably depends on who you voted for last time. Neither tactic is likely to win a whole lot of good-taste awards.
But this administration's attention to politics shows in other places too. Subsidizing U.S. steelmakers is not something a pro-free- trade president, which Mr. Bush is, would normally do. It's likely to make some products more expensive. It's likely took anger the Europeans. We keep yelling at them to cut their subsidies. But it also might help the GOP win House and Senate seats in several key Midwestern states.
The new farm bill isn't something a pro-free-market president would normally sign. Again, it's full of subsidies which will anger the Europeans again. But again, it may help the party in some key states this fall. The Iowa Senate race, for instance, where Democrat Tom Harkin faces a tough challenge with Congressman Greg Ganske. Missouri, where Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan faces former Republican Representative Jim Talent and so on.
The Democrats have just a one-vote margin in the Senate; the Republicans, just a 6-vote edge in the House. So is politics affecting policy? That's a case you can make. Anyway, after the $33 million bash, one Republican veteran noted that most of it was soft money, which will be illegal after this fall's election under the terms of the campaign finance bill passed earlier this year.
The end of an era, he called it. Anybody who'll miss it, raise your hands.
I'm Bruce Morton.
(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: Time now for the Final Round. Now joining me, Julianne Malveaux, the syndicated columnist; Peter Beinart of The New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Deroy Murdock, syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.
Deroy, thanks for joining us.
DEROY MURDOCK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's begin with our quote of the week. It comes from President Bush, who issued a very stern response to questions about his handling of the pre-September 11 warnings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jonah, but even if the president didn't have specific information, with hindsight -- and all of us are smarter with hindsight -- isn't there more he could have done, perhaps should have done?
JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think there's plenty that he could have, should have, and would have done, had all information been perfect.
It's worth pointing out that getting a warning that Islamic terrorist groups are interesting in hijacking American planes is like getting a warning that says bears are interested in using the woods as a bathroom. I mean, it's a normal state of affairs that Islamic terrorist groups want to hijack American plans.
That said, I have a lot of sympathy for Bush in this regard. In that, look, the two things -- the Phoenix memo, which everyone keeps talking about...
BLITZER: The FBI agent who warned of Middle Eastern men studying to become pilots.
GOLDBERG: ... recommending, among other things, singling out Arab-Americans in flight schools and various other forms of profiling. Those things are controversial today after September 11. They were politically impossible back then.
The other thing is, yes, the FBI could have been reformed, should be reformed. A lot of those reforms of the 1970s that came out of the Church era, they should go out the window. But those things also would have been politically impossible.
JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You know, there are half a dozen or more intelligence agencies. Before 9/11 they had a budget of $30 billion dollars. They did not coordinate with each other at all. And it seems to me that one of the things that the president should have done -- and I have less sympathy than you do, although some -- but should have been to talk about this coordination.
Now, of course, hindsight is 20/20, but duh. I mean, the FBI says let's look at the computer, and they decide not to. This is someone who is in a flight school, who had an illegal visa.
You can't blame this on civil libertarians. I know you're tempted to, Jonah. I just want to stop you there. I can just see the temptation sizzling out of your chair.
The fact is that we didn't do enough. And we spent enough money on it. Our intelligence has been unintelligent.
BLITZER: Deroy, what do you think?
MURDOCK: Well, I think, in addition to coordination, that we also have the whole question of resources. And I wonder how many agents who could have gone out to flight schools and asked, "Have you seen anything unusual, has anything strange been happening here in the last couple of months," instead were involved in running the war on drugs, trying to find people who are growing marijuana in their basements.
And I'd like to think that as all of these -- this chatter that we're hearing about and the sense of threat seems to be going up, that all of this effort to round up people for smoking grass, that some of those agents who are doing that instead will try to keep more of us Americans from being blown up.
Let's try to get our priorities straight.
PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": I think that's a good point. But I also think you can criticize Bush more for what he hasn't done after September 11.
And what's striking is the way in which they have fought tooth and nail for the kind of tough investigation that might have led to the kind of overhaul of the FBI and other intelligence agencies that now everyone thinks is necessary.
BEINART: I mean, they, all during the fall, they opposed any investigation at all. Then they worked to emasculate the Intelligence Committee investigation, which is probably going to be very weak now. And now a lot of conservatives are coming forward and saying, we need a blue-ribbon commission.
The question is, after September 11, why was the Bush administration so against that?
BLITZER: Let's take a phone-caller from New York who's got a question.
Go ahead, New York.
CALLER: Hi there. I'd like to ask you and the hippest political panel on Sunday television...
... why, after the September 11 attacks, President Bush didn't move to replace his entire national-security leadership?
BLITZER: Well, you know, that's a good question. It's a fair question.
I have to tell you, I was just in Israel, and I spoke with several Israelis who said, "If this had happened in Israel, a September-11-like attack, within a day or two there would be firings, the head of the Mossad would be fired, there would be recriminations, commissions of inquiry, people would be outraged." He says that's happening now in the United States, but it's taken eight months.
GOLDBERG: Well, there were priorities, and the first priority was making sure that people were going to be safe.
I'm all in favor -- if someone truly screwed up out there, fire him or hold him accountable or whatever. I mean, that's fine with me.
The FBI is a mess and has been a mess. And a lot of conservatives I know who would like to -- who do think Bush is pretty much in the clear on this are very nervous about defending the administration, because every day you learn something new that's embarrassing about the FBI.
Let's fix the FBI, but the idea that somehow, in those first days after September 11, the first thing Dick Cheney and George Bush should have been doing was going out there firing everyone that works for Colin Powell and Condi Rice...
BLITZER: Let's let Peter.
Peter, go ahead.
BEINART: Here's the problem. The problem is, I think, in order to really understand how it's messed up, you need to let up a little bit on the secrecy. This is the problem. You need to let some of this stuff come to light, and therefore you can have the kind of debate.
The problem is, I think the Bush administration is so paranoid and has been so phobic about secrecy that they're not allowing the kind of investigation that would be necessary to make those reforms.
MALVEAUX: In fact, the other thing is that, while I don't think wholesale firings would have served a purpose in the shortest of runs, a couple of symbolic head-rollings might have. Because, otherwise, you're basically stuck in a status quo. And that's where we are.
BLITZER: All right. MURDOCK: Yes. And those people that screwed up were maybe, I'm sure, decent, patriotic people. Maybe they lacked the energy or the intellectual stamina, what have you, to do their jobs. They remain there. Those people who didn't do what they needed to do in September are still there, still on the job. So let's cross our fingers.
GOLDBERG: The system also -- it didn't work perfectly, but let's remember, systems can work perfectly and still not do the job. I mean, Al Qaeda had a specific advantage. They knew they wanted to kill a lot of people.
MALVEAUX: But we're talking July, we're talking some information in July.
BLITZER: Let's move on. While President Bush chided Democrats for second-guessing his actions, the Connecticut Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman today said the White House needs to be more forthcoming with Congress about key information.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT): This administration, as I found in some of my other work in Congress, has a real penchant for secrecy. I found that in the investigation my committee is doing of Enron, where I think we're asking for some very reasonable information, and the White House has so far stonewalled us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It sounds, Julianne, like we're getting back into the bad old days of politics, as opposed to policy and national security. MALVEAUX: Well, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton asked a question that Vice President Cheney completely politicized. I think that Democrats and concerned Republicans have to ask questions now. They should be asked in a context that's not political.
In other words, I think it's perfectly reasonable to wonder, what did the president know and when? It's perfectly reasonable...
BLITZER: But that question, in and by itself, raises questions of Nixon and Watergate. Isn't that a pejorative question to ask?
MALVEAUX: I don't think -- Wolf, when you're saying that there is a report that there was a briefing on August 6, when Senator Clinton represents New York where thousands of people died, when legitimately (ph) constituencies, people lost people are saying, "Could this have been prevented?" We can't answer the question, but the president can.
And I think that the issue here is that they should -- the Republicans, the administration has a tendency (ph) to politicize dissent. This has to be a conversation that goes to security with as little politics as possible, but a pointed conversation.
BLITZER: Senator Clinton was referring to a headline in the New York Post, which is not exactly an enemy of the Bush administration. Was that a fair point on her part?
MURDOCK: Well, I think the headline said "He Knew," and that was -- I think a lot of people had quite a hot reaction to that.
But I think it's absolutely appropriate to have hearings on this. And of course, some of this has to be done secretly so that classified information doesn't get out, but we need to get to the bottom of this and find out what people may not have performed as they should have, what systems may have failed. Does the fact that the FBI apparently has a lot of 386 and 486 computers, rather than the most modern technology, is that part of the problem? And we need to get all of this out there.
And I think the administration also has to be more forthcoming in all of this stuff. It's taken eight months for this to come out. Who knows what else may dribble out over the next few months?
And if it had come out in October or November after we had been able to launch the war in Afghanistan, it would have been embarrassing, but eight months later it looks like they've been hiding something.
BLITZER: And a lot of people complaining about Louis Freeh, the former director of the FBI, who's not exactly very forthcoming right now coming out on television or going out and explaining himself in the midst of all of the criticism. In fact, for example, the computer system at the FBI was, what, 1958 vintage, or e-mail only arrived last week as opposed to some of the other -- we'll get to that in a second.
But we have a lot more to talk about. We're going to take a quick break. More of your phone calls, e-mail when our Final Round continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our Late Edition Final Round.
The Republican Party is using a September 11 photograph of President Bush speaking by phone with Vice President Dick Cheney as a fundraising tool. Democrats claim the GOP is exploiting the tragedy.
Earlier today the vice president Dick Cheney responded to criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: It is an election year. That a picture of the president talking on the telephone is hardly a unique kind of picture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Deroy, what do you think? Is this another case of the White House selling the Lincoln Bedroom for partisan political purposes?
MURDOCK: I don't think it's as bad as the selling of the Lincoln Bedroom. I think that was incredibly tacky. It was pimping out to a part of the White House, as the Clinton administration did. And I think there was probably some illegality in the sense of the quid pro quo between giving money and having access to federal facilities.
At the same time, I think this is what we call in baseball an unforced error. President Bush is photographed probably a thousand times a day, and why they couldn't have picked a photo from September 12 or, perhaps, from his wonderful speech to Congress right after the attack, which would have been another very warm, patriotic celebration to celebrate -- or occasion to celebrate. But actually, to have a picture of him on September 11 when the attack happened, America's darkest day since probably JFK was shot, I think was just unnecessary. It creates additional problems they don't need.
BEINART: Yes, I actually think this is much ado about nothing. I mean, all this piety about not bringing in politics into September 11 always strikes me as a nonsensical.
The truth is, Bush's major selling point is that the Republicans think he did a really good job in responding to September 11. Democrats are arguing -- and more vociferously now, which I think is fine -- that he hasn't done as a good job as they think he did. The Bush administration has been spinning September 11 since the hours after it started, when they tried to spin his delay in returning back to the White House, if you remember that, Karl Rove spinning that frantically.
So this notion that somehow this is a territory wholly separate from politics is wrong. I think we entirely should go to the voting booth in November, I think, with September 11 on the brain.
MALVEAUX: But you know what, it seems to me the word "pimp" should only be used with the reproduction of this picture in getting it out there.
The fact is that they've asked Democrats to support this president on 9/11 and the war on terrorism, they've asked people to be non-partisan. And then you take that moment and you use it for partisan purposes, I mean, it's not the worst thing that ever happened in the world, but it just strikes me as being extraordinarily hypocritical. You can't ask for a Democratic silence and then use our silence against us.
BLITZER: You get the photo for a $350 contribution?
GOLDBERG: I thought it was a little less than that.
BLITZER: $250, $150?
GOLDBERG: Yes. But, first of all, the idea that somehow every Democrat in the country isn't going to be running on what they did and how good they are on September 11 in the war on terrorism seems to me sort of fanciful.
I think this was a -- I agree with Deroy entirely. I think it was an unforced error. It was probably a little tacky. They probably shouldn't have done it.
But the idea that this thing was the scandal that they try to make it out to be, the fool that Al Gore made of himself in getting to apopletic about it was, to me, a sign of -- Peter is exactly right. We should have had politics involved in this a lot longer.
GOLDBERG: And what happened was it built up because no one was allowed to say what they think. And all of a sudden, the Democrats just went a little nuts, and they went crazy about that photo.
And the flap over that photo sets up the climate for how this whole thing about Bush knew got overplayed too. If we had politics in all along -- all of our war leaders have always been politicized. We've always talking about politics. You can do it in a tasteful way. The idea of keeping it all out creates these sort of overreactions.
MALVEAUX: But your side asked for the response to 9/11 to be non-political. There was a plea for national unity. Democrats went along with it. Democrats stepped way back, I think too far back, but stepped way back and didn't criticize the president even on domestic policy because they were so concerned about the international climate.
BEINART: That was their mistake. They shouldn't have done that.
GOLDBERG: And that was then and this is now.
MALVEAUX: But they were also attempting to cooperate. So you cooperate with someone who has shown himself unworthy of cooperation, and that's why you get into flaps.
GOLDBERG: But, Julianne, if you think at this point we need to have more criticism and we need to ask tougher questions, I totally agree with you. But what comes with that is -- if you're going to say that the Democrats are right to ask good political questions right now, you also have to allow room for the Republicans to have a little politics on their side of this too.
MALVEAUX: A little politics? A $33 million photo? Give me a break.
GOLDBERG: It wasn't $33 million.
MALVEAUX: That's what they raised.
BLITZER: I want to switch gears, talk about Yasser Arafat right now. Another suicide bombing in Netanya, supposedly the Hamas militant Islamic group claiming responsibility.
Can Yasser Arafat, at this late moment, do you believe, Peter, still lead the Palestinians to a peace settlement with the Israelis?
BEINART: I think it's unlikely. And I do think the United States needs a long-term strategy -- and Israel, too -- a long-term strategy to replace him with a better, more moderate leader.
The problem is that you have to convince the Palestinians to do that. You can't -- if you get rid of Arafat yourself, you make him incredibly popular, and you almost ensure that his successor will be more radical.
The longer-term strategy, which is focusing on democracy and corruption in the Palestinian Authority, which America and Israel traditionally have not done, has to involve a non-violent path quickly to a Palestinian state and a real one. And it's exactly what Likud tried to close the door on last week.
MURDOCK: I think there are a lot of people there who would just simply rather fight than switch. And the entire peace process rests not just on Arafat or a moderate replacement for Arafat but hoping that there won't be one person with a backpack full of dynamite who'll go into a grocery or an open square in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and blow it up. And everytime that happens, the peace process falls right back on the floor.
BLITZER: Very briefly.
MALVEAUX: At the end of the day, if Arafat can't produce results, he can't lead. But neither can anyone else, if they can't produce results. And that's why last week's vote was so disappointing.
GOLDBERG: I think there's a difference between leading and controlling. I think he could do more to control, but lead has a certain moral tenor to it, and I don't think he is a leader.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue this conversation.
When we come back, our Lightning Round. It's just ahead. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for our Lightning Round.
Nancy Reagan accepted the Congressional Medal of Honor for herself and her husband Ronald Reagan, quote, "in recognition of their contributions to America and to the cause of freedom."
This question, Jonah, did both of them deserve the award? I say yes, but go ahead.
GOLDBERG: Well, I think Reagan obviously deserved it. And in terms of Nancy, I don't see what harm is. These sorts of things happen. She was going to accept the award for Ron anyway. Sure.
BLITZER: She a lovely lady, you have to admit.
MALVEAUX: She's a lovely lady, but just say no. She was one of the least activist first lady's we had. I do -- Reagan wasn't one of my favorite presidents. I support him getting the medal. I'm just not sure what's she's done to earn it except for to take care of him. BEINART: Yes, I mean, there is a little bit of an irony in the fact that the Bush administration is trying to actually recast the first lady job in this kind of Laura Bush, anti-Hillary Clinton, kind of less political role, and you give it to Nancy Reagan.
But the truth is, she was going to have accept it. So if given that she going to have accept it, I don't think there is a problem.
BLITZER: You can't give it to one without the other, right?
MURDOCK: I'm not a fan on the war on drugs, but she was very active and energetic in pushing the whole "just say no" thing. I have problems with that, but you know, that is public service of a sort.
BLITZER: We heard you criticizing the war against marijuana before, but we'll not going to get into that.
BLITZER: We'll talk about that.
President Bush meanwhile plans to sign a bill in Moscow this week reducing nuclear warms with Russia to a third of the current levels. Is this a solid pact between the president and Vladimir Putin or just a timely photo op, Peter?
BEINART: No, it's a good idea. The problem is that -- the big problem is, what happens once they dismantle these and, particularly, security around these nuclear warheads.
The Bush administration is so concerned about allowing Russian inspectors here that I think the agreement doesn't do enough to make sure that we will be actually inspect and make sure these things are secure in Russia. That's my concern.
BLITZER: Is there a big deal difference, 6,000 warheads, 2,000 warheads?
GOLDBERG: Oh, well, the momentum is going the right way.
BLITZER: 2,000 can still do a lot of damage.
GOLDBERG: Yes, but it's better than 6,000. Fewer chances of accidents, all that kind of thing.
And look, it was something both sides want to do. It was a good handshake. If diplomacy is built on success, then this is a good deal. Everyone wins.
BLITZER: You've got to applaud the president on this one, right?
MALVEAUX: I do applaud the president. I think it's a step in the right direction. But Putin may be on thin ice at home. I mean, people in Russia aren't that supportive of this. They think its an unbalanced agreement. And so, if he ends up eroding some of his domestic support to do this, this ends up being a photo op.
MURDOCK: This is all very positive, not just in terms of arms control, but the cooperation we've had from Russia on the war on terror; the fact that we have troops in Georgia, for example, which I'm sure Putin could have beat out. So it's one more forward step -- positive step in our ever-warming relationship.
BLITZER: And the Lightning Round continues.
During the week, this past week, a Catholic priest was shot and wounded by a young man he allegedly molested sexually, while another priest committed suicide following allegations of his sexual misconduct.
BLITZER: Is the controversy undermining the Catholic Church's moral authority on other issues?
MURDOCK: I think the Catholic Church has a problem that's just going to get worse if they don't get to the bottom of this and turn over the names of pedophile priests and people who've been accused of this.
And that is, if they are going to talk about abortion or euthanasia, infanticide, what have you, people are just going to say, "Well, why should we listen to you? You condone grown men sleeping with little boys."
And if they don't get over that very soon, I think their credibility across the board will be very, very much weakened.
MALVEAUX: Even more than that, I saw on CNN earlier this week, they were interviewing a cardinal who said something along the lines of "Priests were independent contractors." And this was the kind of reasoning that undermines the Church's moral authority on anything.
Not only their moral authority, also their humanism. They've got to accept responsibility, even though this may be a tenth of a percent of all priests, they've got to accept responsibility in order to be able to step up to the plate on other issues.
BLITZER: Releasing the names, though, of so-called pedophile priests, do you think that's going to happen?
GOLDBERG: Well, at least releasing the names to the cops. I mean, pedophilia -- what we're talking about are crimes -- I mean, serious crimes. And, you know, these people have to be punished and held accountable for it.
I do think -- I think Julianne has it pretty much exactly right, is that, if the Church can't speak forcefully, with moral clarity, also they can't get their microphone time to talk about other things, then this is a serious problem for the Church.
BEINART: Yes, and I think it's really unfortunate, because there are a lot of -- I mean, the cloning debate, which is coming up, is a very important one. The Catholic Church has an important position on that. On the death penalty, where the Democratic Party has completely lost its voice, the Catholic Church is one of the most powerful forces now for a moratorium. And so I think that it's doing a lot of damage to the society.
BLITZER: Tomorrow the treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, teams up with the U2 lead singer, Bono, on a trip to Ghana, Uganda, South Africa and Ethiopia.
Is this the odd couple of economic development, Julianne?
MALVEAUX: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the treasury secretary does not support debt reduction, and Bono does.
But what I think is interesting is, there's a wide spectrum of opinion about involvement in Africa, and this certainly represents it. So I'm looking forward to their report.
BLITZER: Bono is everywhere.
MURDOCK: I'm looking forward to Colin Powell and Mick Jagger perhaps going to Latin America or something like that.
BLITZER: That's good.
BEINART: You know, Republicans are moving on this, which is terrific. You might say "About time," but if Bono is one of the reasons that Republicans have overcome their traditional opposition to foreign aid, terrific.
BLITZER: Bono and Paul O'Neill.
GOLDBERG: I was going to say, Don Rumsfeld and Elvis Costello.
But, look, apparently Bono has some sort of Jedi mind powers...
... and he can win over people like Jesse Helms and Paul O'Neill. And so, more power to him. It's a good issue.
BLITZER: We love you, Bono.
MURDOCK: The good thing is...
BLITZER: We're out of time.
MURDOCK: Out of time? Free trade.
BLITZER: You'll be back. MURDOCK: Free trade with Africa. That's...
BLITZER: Free trade, a very important issue.
That's your Late Edition for Sunday, May 19. Tune in again next Sunday, every Sunday, at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
Please be sure to join me Monday through Friday, my day job, Wolf Blitzer Reports, 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
Feinstein; What Should America Do to Shore up its Intelligence?>