Did the FBI Drop the Ball?; Who Should be Blamed for the Intelligence Snafu?
Aired May 20, 2002 - 19:00 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.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE -- on the left James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE -- counterattacks, strategic retreats and vague new warnings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: ... because I've been worried about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: In the CROSSFIRE, handling the hints. Did the FBI drop the ball? Is the CIA out to lunch?
We'll ask national security expert Kenneth Adelman who should be getting to the bottom of it.
And, a summer that could bring the wrong kind of fireworks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As their determination and their ingenuity increases, so must ours.
ANNOUNCER: What, if anything should you do now?
Ahead on CROSSFIRE.
From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Tonight, reducing your chances of becoming a terrorist's next target.
Later we'll also ask Kenneth Adelman who should place the blame for the intelligence snafus that led to September 11th.
But first, the politics of terrorism. The level of partisan barking is noticeably lower today after the Bush administration sent out its big guns over the weekend. Appearances by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice seem to have quieted the Democratic drone of what did the President know and when did he know it?
That doesn't mean the debate is over. Here on CROSSFIRE, it has just begun.
With us from Capitol Hill are Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings, who is a member of the Select Intelligence Committee, and New York Republican Congressman Vito Fossella.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: Congressmen, both thank you for joining us. Let me start with Congressman Fossella.
One of the points that Vice President Cheney and Dr. Rice made repeatedly on those Sunday shows that Tucker just referred to is that an investigation should be limited just to the intelligence committees.
Now, my concern about that is, I think the failures here were more than simply failures of intelligence, and in fact we're learning more and more that the CIA in fact did its job, and briefed the President on potential threats on August 6th.
But don't -- this is not just me as a partisan. Let me read you a comment from a three-star general who served in the National Security Council, both under President Clinton and President Bush, and this is what he had to say.
He noticed -- he quotes from the "Washington Post" -- he noticed a difference on terrorism between the two administrations. Clinton's cabinet advisors, burning with the urgency of their losses to bin Laden in the African embassy bombings in 1998, and the Cole attack in 2000, had met nearly weekly to direct the fight, General Kerrick said to the "Post."
"Among Bush's frontline advisers, candidly speaking, I didn't detect that kind of focus," he said.
Now that's a three-star general saying that this current White House didn't have the same focus on terrorism. Shouldn't we look into that?
REP. VITO FOSSELLA (R), NEW YORK: Probably, I don't think it mentions, I think it was President Clinton who granted clemency to avowed FALN terrorists without them even seeking their own clemency.
I don't think you can point to this at all. I think the issue is very a strong one.
The question is, how do we prevent another terrorist attack from occurring? You've heard, I think across the board, both Democrats and Republicans acknowledging that it's not a question of if but when.
And I think we should be giving the tools and resources to our intelligence communities, many of whom will give up their lives, and are willing to give up their lives across the world, and detect and track down the terrorists before they have an opportunity to do what they did on September 11th.
Again, I think it's ridiculous to assume for one moment -- I think any American of good conscience must feel the same way, that the President or his cabinet or anybody in the upper echelon of his administration knew for one moment, or they would have moved heaven and earth to prevent what happened on September 11th.
I think the emphasis right now should be us working together to prevent something like this from happening.
BEGALA: Well, with all due respect, I don't think you answered my question. We had a three-star general who suggests, at least, that they didn't know, because they lacked the proper focus on terrorism.
Shouldn't that be a subject of a Congressional inquiry? Shouldn't we hear from both sides -- I'm perfectly open to the notion that the White House did everything right.
But when someone who is in that White House says that they lacked the proper focus on terrorism, shouldn't the American people have a right to know about that?
FOSSELLA: Well, I think the American people are entitled to the truth, and knowing how the government works. And I think that there's adequate and legitimate Congressional oversight, both before September 11th and afterwards.
Just because some one individual has an opinion doesn't mean anything and is right. I have full faith in this administration, full faith in our President.
BEGALA: Even without an investigation.
FOSSELLA: ... and on (INAUDIBLE) ...
BEGALA: Before the investigation you've already decided, right?
FOSSELLA: ... I beg your pardon?
BEGALA: Before the investigation, you've already decided, right?
FOSSELLA: I have full faith in this President, yes. I don't need an investigation to have faith in President Bush.
I think he's done a wonderful job, and in particular, I would commend the men and women who wear our uniform who are serving not just here but overseas, and tracking down these terrorists and engage -- we just lost a service member over the weekend.
And let's remember them and give them the tools and the resources they need.
REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D), FLORIDA: Tucker, I know you're going to dive in here, ...
CARLSON: Now, wait, wait here.
HASTINGS: ... but I am now. This is not criticism of President Bush. it's legitimate to question whether or not he is being served in a proper manner.
And I think that the criticism is the way he chooses to do business.
This administration has conducted itself in a manner that allows for a cult of secrecy, not just as it pertains to this particular very important matter.
And I agree with my good friend Vito Fossella, with reference to the fact that we should be on about our business.
But we need an independent commission to look at this. The Kerner Report was independent. It was done publicly. Watergate was independent, and a co-authored Ervin and Rodino Report -- it was followed adequately by the public and lessons were learned.
The fact ...
CARLSON: Mr. Hastings, ...
HASTINGS: ... of the matter is that the Kennedy Commission was secret, and it still spawns conspiracy theories, and that's ...
CARLSON: Well, speaking ...
HASTINGS: ... what's going to happen ...
CARLSON: ... I'm so glad ...
HASTINGS: ... if we kick this one under the rug.
CARLSON: Mr. Hastings, I'm so glad you used the phrase conspiracy theories. I was about to use in reference to something you said yesterday on Black Entertainment Television.
Let me read it to you. The conversation was about the memo prepared by an FBI agent in Phoenix, now famous memo. This is how you responded.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding information that is in their hands" -- that being the Bush administration's hands -- "that is being held close to the vest."
You seem to be suggesting that the Bush administration knew about September 11th before it happened. Is that what you're suggesting?
HASTINGS: Absolutely not. And I resent you saying that, Tucker. I didn't say that at all.
I don't think President Bush knew. I want to make it very clear to you -- I don't think he knew.
But I think the FBI did, and I think the fact that the CIA briefed him without consulting the FBI is the President's responsibility. He's not being served well by his minions, if they are not coordinating their (INAUDIBLE) ...
CARLSON: But wait a ...
HASTINGS: If I was president, ...
CARLSON: ... I'm ...
HASTINGS: ... the FBI and the CIA would get along or get out. It's just that simple.
CARLSON: Well, and you may get that chance, Mr. Hastings, but for now, let me explain one of the reasons -- and I'm sorry that you were offended -- but that I thought that maybe you believe this.
And this is because one of your colleagues, a Democrat in the House, last month made very similar charges and has yet to be disowned by most Democrats.
In case you don't know who I'm talking about, it's Cynthia McKinney of Georgia.
Here's what she said, "What did this administration know and when did it know it about the events of September 11th? Who else knew? And why did they did not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?"
"What do they have to hide?"
HASTINGS: Yeah, Tucker, ...
CARLSON: Now that's an outrageous suggestion. I'd like to hear you agree with that, that it's outrageous.
HASTINGS: Tucker, I do not agree with the notion that the President knew about this matter. I do believe legitimate inquiry and criticism directed at the administration for operating in a secret fashion is important.
You need to ask Cynthia about what Cynthia said. I'm telling ...
CARLSON: Well, we try. Every night we try ...
HASTINGS: ... you, what I am saying ...
CARLSON: ... and get her on the show, Congressman.
HASTINGS: ... I served on the Intelligence Committee during that same period of time, and I want you to know that there is information that is out there that is the tip of the iceberg. I repeat that.
And I think this administration needs to be forthcoming and not try to (INAUDIBLE) ...
CARLSON: Well, wait, wait a second ...
HASTINGS: ... partisan ...
CARLSON: ... if you're -- hold on. If you're going to throw that out there, I think you have the obligation to be a lot more specific than that.
Tip of the iceberg -- what do you mean by that? What information or what conclusions does it lead you to, as someone who's privy to it?
HASTINGS: Well, firstly, I think if you were to ask the question of the Coast Guard today, they would tell you that there is information that folk have infiltrated our country.
I think if you would ask about the potential for bio-terrorism, you need ask no greater authority than the Vice President, who in veiled reference on yesterday indicated that it's not a question of if. It's a question of when.
He also said he favors a look at this matter for lessons to be learned. I take it to the next level and say that it should be done by an independent ...
BEGALA: Congressman Hastings, I'm sorry to cut you off, but you and Congressman Fossella, they're telling me you both need to go and vote. So we're going to go take a quick break while you gentlemen go and vote.
We're very grateful you're joining us from Capitol Hill. We'll let you go ahead and go vote.
And later in the program, a former aide to Ronald Reagan says that an independent commission looking into the 9/11 disaster would itself be a disaster.
And, what can we do to keep walk-up suicide bombers from walking the streets of the United States?
And then later, a bit of Beatles trivia your mother should know, but do you? Find out in our CROSSFIRE NEWS ALERT.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Our debate tonight, the politics of terrorism. What went wrong on September 11th, and who should bear the political consequences of it?
Joining us from Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida. He's on the Select Intelligence Committee. Also joined by New York Republican Congressman Vito Fossella.
BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you for the quick vote and then getting right back here. Congressman Fossella, we've been talking a lot about what the President knew. Let me play a piece of videotape of the President himself describing what he knew.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Never did in anybody's thought process about how it would affect America did we ever think that the evildoers would fly not one, but four commercial aircraft into precious U.S. targets -- never.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: Congressman Fossella, I don't doubt for a minute that the President was telling the truth so far as his own thought process. But the problem isn't he didn't say, I never thought of it. The problem is, this was published in at least five different places long before September 11th.
Let me give you a few of them. In 1994, the French foiled an Algerian terrorist attempt to crash an airplane into the Eiffel Tower.
In 1996, our government under President Clinton uncovered a terrorist plot to hijack 11 U.S. airliners and crash them into the CIA headquarters among other places.
In 1998 "Time" magazine wrote that bin Laden was planning to strike New York and Washington.
In 1999, an interagency report from our government, the Congressional Research Service, published widely, said that al Qaeda was going to crash a jet into the Pentagon, the CIA or the White House.
And in 2001, President Bush himself was the target of a reported plot to crash a plane into a summit of the G8 nations he was attending in Genoa, Italy.
So if he didn't know, was he not asking the right questions or receiving the right briefings, Congressman?
FOSSELLA: Well, in the first part, I think you have to give the President the opportunity to assemble a national security team and intelligence team. And if you recall, it was only I guess about nine months into his administration.
And I do not -- I do not believe for one moment that the President had any inkling that something like this would happen. And I think everybody ...
BEGALA: I agree. I agree, but ...
FOSSELLA: ... in your audience or any ...
BEGALA: ... what I'm asking is ...
FOSSELLA: ... of the viewers here, ...
BEGALA: I agree with that, Congressman. What I'm trying to get you to tease out here is ...
FOSSELLA: ... and if I could finish ... BEGALA: ... was he not asking the right questions? Was he not receiving the right briefings?
FOSSELLA: ... if you'll allow me to finish, I'll -- perhaps I'll try to answer.
And that is very clear, that I think that what the President has done is relied upon I think the best advice he could be given, that it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback right now.
But I think that does a disservice to the American people.
There are legitimate ways in which we can oversight. Alcee Hastings sits on the Intelligence Committee. He, both before and after September 11th, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, are doing that oversight as they should.
But the emphasis -- and I repeat -- the emphasis right now, all these resources and all this rhetoric should be really predicated upon preventing another attack from occurring, and relying upon good information.
And despite those who just want to criticize members of the FBI or the CIA, I happen to believe that a lot of them are willing to give their life in far corners of the world to try to protect the American people. And I would commend -- there was an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" today by an ex-CIA agent, Robert Bayer. And I would suggest respectfully that people take a look at that.
And I think it's an eye-opener, and it gives some insight as to how these individuals operate and what the President knew. So I think the ...
CARLSON: OK, this (ph) ...
FOSSELLA: ... focus should be prospectively instead of looking back.
CARLSON: OK, Mr. Hastings, as Mr. Fossella just pointed out, you are on the Senate Intelligence Committee and you have oversight responsibilities here.
Where did you go wrong? What specifically do you wish ...
HASTINGS: A very good point.
CARLSON: ... you had done before September 11th?
HASTINGS: Very, very good point Tucker. And this isn't a cop- out. It's just to correct the record. I'm sorry I didn't get an opportunity to speak with your producer to have you to know that in the last month, I took a leave of absence from the Intelligence Committee, and Bud Cramer from Alabama took my place.
I'm to return to the committee when the Democrats win the majority next year. Or if they do not, I ...
CARLSON: Or hell freezes over, ...
HASTINGS: ... shall be on the committee.
CARLSON: ... but I ...
CARLSON: ... you've done before?
HASTINGS: Yeah, I think you raise an interesting point. And that's why I believe William Safire in today's "New York Times," the "Miami Herald" yesterday, called for an independent commission, as does Congressman Tim Roemer, my colleague, who still is on the Intelligence Committee, who feels that we should take the politics out of this matter.
And thus, I feel that if it goes to oversight responsibilities having been a failure, including yours truly, then the American public can make that judgment. I think ...
CARLSON: But wait, ...
HASTINGS: ... if President Clinton made mistakes, I think that needs to be known. If the President ...
CARLSON: Wait, but Mr. Hastings, ...
HASTINGS: ... was not being served well by his FBI director and CIA director, then our folk need to know that.
CARLSON: But you've been very clear in your criticisms of this President. You said yesterday, for instance, that he should have told us more before September 11th. That's a very specific ...
HASTINGS: And I agree with that.
CARLSON: ... criticism. So why don't we begin the mea culpas right here.
You have been in the Congress for a long time, and you can't think of a single thing that you specifically should have done different to warn ...
HASTINGS: Oh, you didn't ask me that.
CARLSON: ... perhaps help to see ...
HASTINGS: I can think of a lot of things that I should have done ...
CARLSON: I mean ... HASTINGS: ... differently. I shouldn't have voted for Master (ph) ...
CARLSON: ... (INAUDIBLE) ...
HASTINGS: ... that would be one.
CARLSON: I mean to protect America before September 11th.
HASTINGS: Well, ...
CARLSON: As a member of the Select Intelligence Committee.
HASTINGS: ... let me say this. I think the questions that were being asked by my colleagues are deserving of oversight. And I think that when you sanitize investigations with sunshine, the American people stand to gain.
If you continue to operate in a manner of secrecy and gobbling up power for the presidency and ignoring other responsibilities of the legislative branch of this government, you do so at your peril, and that would be my advice to President Bush.
And so as how we can have the record straight, ideologically President Bush and I are opposites.
I do not feel that he did one single solitary thing wrong. I do believe that people that serve him did not serve him well.
BEGALA: Well, Congressman Fossella, let me actually take up for you and your colleagues in the Congress, because actually you have a pretty good record -- the Congress, generally that is.
In May of 2001, the Senate side was holding hearings on terrorism, and Pat Roberts, a Republican Senator from Kansas issued very specific -- let's say, very dire warnings about a terrorist attacks, that he was almost certain that one would happen on U.S. soil and very soon, and that it would be devastating.
That same week, not coincidentally, President Bush publicly charged Vice President Cheney with chairing a task force on terrorism.
Now, I have searched high and low. I have found no record of that task force meeting before September 11th.
Do you have any idea if it ever did?
FOSSELLA: No, I don't.
BEGALA: Don't you think that the fact that they had plenty of time for Vice President Cheney to chair a task force on energy or other important issues, but that they didn't run their task force on terrorism suggests perhaps they didn't have the right focus. FOSSELLA: No, see I'm -- maybe we come from different schools. But I happen to look at the substance and the results of what someone does, not necessarily the process.
I guess you're focusing on the process, which is fine. But I happen to ...
BEGALA: But a task force that doesn't even meet, isn't that what a task force should do? I mean they -- there was no product.
FOSSELLA: I ...
BEGALA: There was no report.
FOSSELLA: I ...
BEGALA: There was nothing.
FOSSELLA: I happen to believe that the President, upon his oath of office, upholding the Constitution and defending this great country, along with his Vice President and cabinet have done a superb job.
They have inherited -- they inherited -- and this is not to be critical of any prior administration, but they inherited a really changing world, a world in which terrorists were allowed to roam free.
And when there should have been or could have been efforts to stop these, decisions were made not to do that.
So this is what President Bush inherited. And if anybody ...
BEGALA: Just, just -- no ...
FOSSELLA: ... in a good conscience or a good mind, ...
BEGALA: ... if Congress -- what President Bush inherited ...
FOSSELLA: ... if anybody ...
BEGALA: ... was a system that was working, and what we have now is one that we all agree doesn't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I'm afraid that I ...
FOSSELLA: I would say I would disagree with you.
BEGALA: ... thank you both for joining us.
FOSSELLA: I would disagree with you that the decision ...
BEGALA: Next in our CROSSFIRE NEWS ALERT -- thank you again ...
CARLSON: (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Fossella and ...
BEGALA: ... want to thank you very much ... CARLSON: ... (INAUDIBLE) ...
BEGALA: ... Mr. Hastings ...
HASTINGS: ... guys, it'll instruct you better.
FOSSELLA: Thank you.
BEGALA: Thank you very much, gentlemen. And next in our CROSSFIRE NEWS ALERT, the millionaire governor of Texas pleads poverty. Is this a case for welfare reform?
And later, our quote of the day is from someone for her world view. It seems she has a pretty dim view of the Bush administration.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time for a look at those unusual and interesting stories you might not find anywhere but in our CROSSFIRE NEWS ALERT.
A Los Angeles radio station thought it had stumped even the most diehard Beatles fans recently with a remarkably obscure Beatles trivia question.
The question was, on which Beach Boys song does Paul McCartney appear eating a carrot?
Listeners across Southern California tried and failed to answer the question, and then win a bunch of prizes -- Beatles paraphernalia signed by McCartney.
Finally a winner. One frustrated Beatles expert driving around L.A. pulled his car over, phoned the station and gave the winning answer. The song was "Vegetables."
And the winner was Paul McCartney himself. The former Beatle asked the station to give the prizes to a fan, hung up and drove off.
Well now, apparently, a Houston radio station is hoping to lure Barbara Bush into calling onto its political trivia show with this question.
Name the only woman other than Abigail Adams to be both the wife and mother of failed one-term presidents.
CARLSON: Phone home, Barbara.
A 17-month undercover investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office ended last week with the indictment of seven people and five companies.
The charge -- selling fake Viagra over the Internet.
Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau says counterfeiters in India and China smuggled millions of the pills into the United States, hidden in stuffed animals and stereo speakers.
At a news conference, Morgenthau was asked if the phony Viagra worked for the people who took it. His reply -- we're not making this up -- was "It's hard to tell." Which, of course, is exactly right.
The "Austin-American Statesman" reports that the 15-year-old daughter of Texas Governor Rick Perry has been granted a special driver's license for underage drivers, because of what the governor's family swears is "unusual economic hardship."
Perry, a Republican, earns $115,345 in annual pay from the taxpayers, and has state troopers to drive him around. Perry has also made millions in the private sector while simultaneously serving in elected office.
Even though Perry is a Republican, I'm going to defend him on this, though.
Sure, you're rich, Rick. But don't let anyone tell you you're not a poor governor. You are a very poor governor.
CARLSON: And finally tonight, they say the energy business isn't sexy. Editors of "Playgirl" disagree. The magazine has just completed a photo shoot in Houston for an upcoming feature -- the men of Enron.
Close to 40 male Enron employees volunteered for the spread. "Playgirl" took five of them up on their offer.
"Enron made me bare it all," said one of the men, Mark Zebrowitz. "That's all they left me with."
Asked how much the men will be paid by "Playgirl," the magazine's editor replied, "More than they made on their stock options," which those of you in the magazine business know is industry shorthand for $15 in change and all the Krispy Kremes you can eat.
As if those of us who live along the eastern seaboard need anything else to worry about, hurricane season is almost here. The long-range forecast is coming up in our CNN NEWS ALERT.
And later, what specific things can we do when faced with non- specific threats of terrorism?
And then, our quote of the day, in which a former ambassador uses some rather undiplomatic language.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CARLSON: Now our quote of the day, one that is strikingly devoid of diplomatic niceties. That's odd, considering it was part of a commencement address at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright's speech was a roundhouse swing at the Bush administration's foreign policy. Among other things, Albright charged the current State Department suffers from a "split personality to those committed to internationalism," and others who says prefer to go it alone. And then she uncorked this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADELINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: "The Bush foreign policy team seems to be suffering from untreated bipolar disorder."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: So here you have Madeline Albrigt, calling for considerable -- well, here you have a woman who worked for an administration that was devoted to what human rights in Africa, and yet at the same time, allowed set back as hundreds of thousands of people were chopped up with machetes in Rwanda, literally. And you know that's true.
BEGALA: That's Madelinen Albright's fault, of course?
CARLSON: I'm not saying it is. I'm just saying...
BEGALA: She just selling machetes.
CARLSON: ...for her to get up there in this boorish way and break these poor university graduates, who don't want to listen to her cranky opinions on foreign policy with calls for consistency from the Bush administration is really a bit much. She ought to just go back to Georgetown. I mean, it's really boorish at best I would think.
BEGALA: Are you finished?
CARLSON: I'm quite finished.
BEGALA: Madeline Albright was a successful diplomat. General Powell is doing everything he can, I know, but he is serving an administration that has had an incoherent foreign policy. And it's about time somebody said it. Do you have to always have these diplomatic niceties? No. One of the things that made Madeline successful when she was Secretary of State, she was a straight shooter. I thought that's what the Bush people liked and appreciated.
CARLSON: She was a straight shooter?
BEGALA: This -- Bush on one day...
CARLSON: How soon they forget.
BEGALA: Bush both on the same day, both endorsed United Nations resolution condemning the Israeli incursion into the West Bank, and stood up and said that he endorsed it. That's incoherent.
CARLSON: Look me right in the eyes and tell me truthfully you're not embarrassed by what you just saw Madeline Albright, get up there and off the top of her head, rambling on about this administration isn't as great as hers was?
BEGALA: No, I'm embarrassed every time I see our president speaking. And I want to hide under the covers, because it's incoherent the way he tries to define how the world works. That's what embarrasses me.
Later on CROSSFIRE, what can you do to stop a terrorist or at least to avoid one?
But next, the missed signals and miscommunications that led up to September 11. We will ask a national security expert, Kenneth Adelman, who ought to be investigating the failures surrounding September 11.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Coming to you live from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C. It seems clear that in the months leading up to September 11, the U.S. intelligence communities right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. Everyone agrees that needs to be fixed, but who should figure out what went wrong? Congress or an independent commission? And should the dirty laundry be aired in public?
Please welcome to the crossfire, Kenneth Adelman. He's a former assistant defense secretary and former U.S. arms control director. He now serves as the host of defensecentralstation.com.
BEGALA: Thank you for coming back on CROSSFIRE. It's always good to have you. We are familiar with "The Weekly Standard." It's owned by Rupert Murdock, nobody's idea of a liberal, edited by William Crystal, former aide to Dan Quayle and to Bill Bennett, conservative pulibcation. It had this to say in its current issue in an editorial. "The administration is now in danger of looking as if it has engaged in a cover-up. The carefully worded and evasive statements by various administration spokesmen in response to the report of the president's August 6 CIA briefing have raised as many questions as they have answered." And they conclude by saying we need an outside investigation. Aren't they right?
KENNETH ADELMAN, FMR. DIR., U.S. ARMS CONTROL AGENCY: Well, I hink it's wonderful that you read "The Weekly Standard" on a regular basis.
BEGALA: I do. I have to tell you I love it. It's lively and smart. I don't agree with it often.
BEGALA: Now I do. ADELMAN: Because it's a right thinking instrument. I think that myself that Congress is fully equipped to do this. We don't need an outside investigation. And outside investigation, in fact, would do harm in two ways. In terms of security and in terms of speed.
CARLSON: But you say that a congressional investigation would work. But there's a lot of evidence that it's not working, the one currently underway. There's a "Washington Post" piece among many fascinating details I could read you. Let me just choose one. And it's talking about the lack of cooperation between investigators, Hill staff, and the CIA. "The CIA has forbidden its employees from exchanging business cards with the committee staff, and has declined to turn over documents that originated in other departments, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
If the CIA won't even turn over its business cards to congressional investigators, they're not getting anywhere.
ADELMAN: Listen Tucker, every time you look at what Congress does on a micro basis, you get an entire...
CARLSON: Well, shouldn't you look at it on a micro basis?
ADELMAN: No, no, no. You look at the outcome. Generally speaking, when it's a serious issue, and it's a serious committee, the outcome works out fine. They say that the policymaking is like sausage making. You should not watch the process itself. Just look at the product. And the product, generally speaking, is pretty good. And I think Congress, that's what we pay these people for, to go and investigate and look for how we can do it better in the future. And listen, the Army always does the after action report. What do we learn from this? Not to finger point. But what can we learn, how can we do it better? And I think we can do it a lot better.
BEGALA: Well, I do, too.
BEGALA: But one of my problems with Vice President Cheney's position, which I gather is yours.
ADELMAN: Yes, it's mine.
BEGALA: Is that it should be circumscribed to the intelligence committees. And he has a valid point. They have the knowledge, the expertise, the status, the security clearance. The problem is they also have a circumscribed agenda. They can't go beyond intelligence because it's beyond their ken. And my concerns are the failures were beyond intelligence. For example, as I asked the Congressman Ticella (ph) before, why didn't the Cheney task force on terrorism ever meet or produce anything that we know of? Why don't President Bush know about four or five published accounts, widely published, that suggested maybe we would have airplanes crashing into buildings? I think that limiting it only to intelligence does not really do justice to the failures here. ADELMAN: OK, well, depends on your definition of intelligence. To me, intelligence in the government is useable, actionable information. It's not a PH.D. dissertation, OK, even though we're here on the campus of George Washington University. What you want to give a policymaker is information that they can then use to head off a disaster or to do something about. And that's the best definition of intelligence. Not the academic kind.
So what I would want the committees to do, to look back and say were there better -- was there better coordination that could have happened to inform the right people about what to do? And I think the answer to that is going to be yes.
CARLSON: But even if -- no matter what the answer is, isn't there a deeper problem with Congress doing the investigating? I mean, no matter...
CARLSON: Well, but hold on. Don't you think people are going to look at A, first of all, whenever politicians investigate something, it has the potential to turn into a political circus. B, doesn't it delegitimatize, in the minds of many, the outcomes, the results, the findings, when Congress looked into many misdeeds of the former administration, people like Paul Begala were able to get up and say, "Oh, it's a witch hunt. It's all politically motivated."
ADELMAN: Listen, people like Paul Begala will go and say that if it's a Republican...
BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Nobody died because of Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton.
CARLSON: Yes, but why even open it up to the...
ADELMAN: Because you have a Senate that is Democratic. You have a House that is Republican. So the co-chairmans will be bipartisan. By and large, I have found the intelligence community being very responsible over the years that I dealt with them. And I think that having an outside commission would risk security, because you'd have to do a security clearance on all the outside members. And that takes a very long time.
And it's difficult because they're not used to -- or some members of it cannot be used to handling classified material. And number two is the speed. You cannot get an outside commission going in any realtime. And I think I would like to have this investigated sooner. So those are the two reasons I say keep it in Congress.
BEGALA: Well, in fact, the speed issue, the congressional committee had a very difficult time getting itself up and running. So I don't know that an independent group would be any slower. But my concern is focused.
ADELMAN: Just the clearances... BEGALA: My concern is the focus again. It's not simply did the president get enough information. I think we need to look at the policies we had in place. For example, President Bush threatened to veto the defense budget when Democrats tried to move $600 million more into counterterrorism, he threatened to veto that. I think that was a policy mistake, not an intelligence mistake. He told -- President Bush told the high alert submarines we had in the Indian Ocean to stand down, submarines that were on alert to go and shoot Tomahawks at Osama bin Laden. I think that was a policy mistake.
ADELMAN: Listen, there's going to be a lot of things you look at always.
BEGALA: There are a dozen policy decisions...
ADELMAN: Paul, there's going to be a lot of things that are going to be looked at. And it's going to go back before the Bush administration. "The London Telegraph," the most respected newspaper in London...
BEGALA: No, not hardly.
BEGALA: It's a right wing rag, I mean...
ADELMAN: No, I'm sorry, "The London Times," you're absolutely right, "The London Times" found that three times the Clinton White House was offered up Osama bin Laden.
BEGALA: That has been so discredited.
CARLSON: It's actually true, as you know.
ADELMAN: "The London Times," three times. And that each time, the Clinton White House turned it down. So this is going to go back and forth and back and forth, Paul.
BEGALA: So you're saying that President Clinton wanted bin Laden to just kill Americans?.
ADELMAN: No, I am not saying that. I am saying the kind of remarks that you make about what Bush, you know, didn't do...
BEGALA: He did threaten to veto the defense budget because the Democrats with $600 million more into terrorism.
ADELMAN: And the Clinton White House did turn down Osama bin Laden's apprehension three times. But I don't think that that should be the part of the investigation.
BEGALA: I do. I'm happy to investigate Clinton, if we investigate Bush as well,.
BEGALA: How about we do that?
ADELMAN: Yes, that would be fine with me, because I think the Clinton black mark is going to be severe on this in terms of his historic record.
BEGALA: Well, that's going to have to be the last word, Ken Adelman. I'm sorry I'm going to have to leave you on that.
ADELMAN: What I would like to do for the American people is look At the future.
BEGALA: That is going to have to be the last word.
BEGALA: Thank you very much, Ken Adelman. We appreciate that.
Coming up in fire back, a viewer who has detected some more Bush administration double speak in the war on terrorism. But next, how you can avoid being the target of a terrorist and still go about your daily life. We will ask CNN security analyst Kelly McCann.
BEGALA: They didn't allow cameras in, but the word got out in a district attorney's meeting in the Washington suburbs. And the word was pretty scary. FBI director Robert Mueller told the DAs it is in his words "inevitable that someday the United States will see walk up suicide bombers like the terrorists who have been causing so much death and destruction in Israel." Mueller also made a flat out prediction. "There will be another terrorist attack. We will not be able so stop it. It's something we all live with."
So what are we all supposed to live with? And what is our government supposed to do about it? Next in the crossfire, now in the crossfire, rather, CNN security analyst Kelly McCann. He's the president of Crucible Security.
CARLSON: So Kelly McCann, it's inevitable that we're going to see suicide bombings in the United States. There's nothing we can do about this is what the FBI director is telling us. A, is that true? B, if it's not, what can you do to protect yourself from getting blown up?
KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Everybody's going to model success, including bad guys. And if the bad guy community at large sees that that is a viable thing to alter circumstance in Israel, I think that it is inevitable that the attempts would be made. In order to stop them, consider the Gulf right now. Culturally between, for instance the policemen or military member in Tel Aviv, who they have seen run patterns of behavior, and actually been able to interdict before detonation of a bomb. Can you ever, in your wildest dreams, imagine a New York City police officer, a Boston police officer, a Washington, D.C. police officer being -- feeling empowered enough to do that? And if he did shoot somebody, even if the guy had 20 pounds of explosives wrapped on him, you'd have, you know, so many different organizations saying, but he hadn't blown it up yet.
CARLSON: You mean the ACLU?
MCCAN: Didn't have any names.
CARLSON: Well, of course you are.
BEGALA: That would be the NRA I think.
BEGALA: Let me ask about another threat that's in the papers today, also I believe came out of an FBI leak, the notion that real estate agents across the country were warned that terrorists might rent apartments, and thereby blow up their own apartment and the entire apartment building. What do we do, how do we prevent that, or what do we do with it to minimize the risk?
MCCANN: You know, Paul, the best example, CNN reported I believe first, which was an Easton, Connecticut. Remember the guy that saw the people up videotaping off a restricted area, a water tower? That guy should be heralded. Why? Because he drove past something that was just odd enough, that he said, you know, it may be nothing, but I should bring this to somebody's attention. That's what the grassroots community have to do. We're in this thing together. Everybody sitting out here is in this thing together.
BEGALA: Specifically, should look for people who are conducting surveillance? I mean, this is not just racial profiling. This is conduct we should looking at, right?
MCCANN: It is not -- it is specifically not racial profiling, because the network said but it turned out they weren't from the Middle East. Well, no kidding. We didn't have a white young male named Walker there involved? We didn't have another white male, Hicks? We don't have Filipinos involved? WE don't have people of all races. So it's the behavior that specifically must be profiled. Race is possibly a card, after the behavior is noticed.
CARLSON: Now the one thing that all the hijackers on September 11 did have in common, was they were all from other countries. And what steps do you think need so be taken from here on out to tighten up immigration law, to make the borders less porous?
MCCANN: I think certainly, I mean we've got to run leads to ground. And people who are not legally here in the country need to leave. I think that if you come to the United States, be you a student, be you a relative, whatever, you should do so legally. Just like we travel internationally when we go overseas. We travel legally. If you're not here legally, then steps have to be taken because that is a vulnerability. You know? And it's kind of hide in plain sight. We've got many people who are here under strange statuses. They have to be run to ground. This is -- we're talking about real grassroots police work.
BEGALA: And in fact, "The New York Times" today reports that tens of thousands of foreigners, not here with proper documentation, are now obtaining false but passable Social Security numbers and Social Security cards. So how does -- local law enforcement can't stop somebody who seems to have a valid Social Security card. Right? This has to be our immigration service or Department of Justice.
MCCANN: Absolutely. There is evidence, Paul, at the level of training the operative, the al Qaeda operative, was actually trained in how to confuse, confound, distract local law enforcement interdiction. In other words, for a variety of verbalizations, feigning -- you know, not understanding English, producing all kinds of documents that were not asked for, making the local law enforcement say, you know what? Why don't you just slow down a little bit and keep going.
People who are at that level of training are dangerous. Very dangerous. Because they've figured out vulnerabilities in our system that could be exploited. So the fact that they're producing documents, that's no surprise. The fact that they know how to use them and produce them to officials and then further confound and confuse is a serious problem. One that the administration is struggling with, any administration would struggle with. Take the politics out of it. Whether Democrat or Republican, this is a big problem.
CARLSON: Now in October, right at the height of the anthrax scare, we heard a lot about chemical and biological weapons that terrorists might use. We've heard a lot about the smallpox, for instance. We haven't heard much in the last six months about it. What's your sense of the threat assessment?
MCCANN: I think it's very real. Obviously, they let a huge contract to a British firm to develop the smallpox vaccine. They've taken steps to increase the, you know, the cures for radiation sickness, etcetera. So I think we're moving in the...
CARLSON: But the average cop, you were saying that it all starts with the average patrolman. Is he equipped to recognize the early symptoms of smallpox?
MCCANN: No. He is equipped to recognize either the actions that are consistent with evaluating a target, OK ? You go to the Washington monument. It's a visual thing. People are looking with their video cameras this way. What about the people that are video cameraing -- they're pointing the other way? What about people who are taking notes at a visual event? What about people who are talking into recorders? What about people who come on the same day, several different times, to see if the police patrols are the same, to see what the density of population -- when the most lucrative target is? That's the kind of information that they need to be looking at.
CARLSON: You're describing the behavior of most newspaper reporters. Kelly McCann, thanks so much for joining us.
MCCANN: Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
CARLSON: Coming up in our fire back segment, a viewer who wants to know why some in Washington seem more concerned with interns, heard that word, than internal security. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for our fire back segment. Every night, we invite you to send e-mail. Every night you do. Here are some.
First up, "The American people would have been better served if Congress and the press had been more concerned about the threat of terrorism and homeland security than Monica and Linda. It appears to many of us that the incompetence in office is much more of an impeachable offense than embarrassing personal discretions!" says Nancy Miller of Oxford, Mississippi. I still say it would have been better for America if Bill Clinton had been less concerned with Monica Lewinsky.
BEGALA: But Ken Starr at one point only had 78 FBI agents on Clinton. Wouldn't you rather have them looking at counter terrorism? Who here would rather him looking at counter terrorism?
CARLSON: I would rather Clinton had spent his time worrying about terrorism.
BEGALA: You don't need 78 FBI agents to find out Clinton likes girls, OK? That is not like a state secret.
Here's our next one. "When the tragedies of 9/11 struck, George W. Bush had been president for 8 months. For the preceding 8 years, Bill Clinton had occupied the Oval Office. You can bet that a lot more was overlooked during Clinton's years than in Bush's 8 months. Let's be fair when placing the blame!" from Jane, in Pawley's Island, South Carolina. Jane, all you need to know is I worked for Bill Clinton. And I'm happy to have it investigated. Dick Cheney works for George Bush. He doesn't want it investigated. That tells you everything you need to know.
CARLSON: It tells you nothing.
BEGALA: It tells you who did a good job.
CARLSON: It tells you Republicans are more polite, because they actually, all right. Because you know what? They pull back...
BEGALA: It's about manners?
CARLSON: It's true. And they're not...
BEGALA: They don't want an investigation because they're polite?
CARLSON: I'm sure -- well speaking -- this is a perfect example says Roy Johnson from Escobana, Michigan. "I am sure if we had been alerted before September 11 when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the order would have been to evacuate the buildings immediately, not to remain in your offices." In other words, President Bush is responsible for the death of thousands. I don't think that man's a Republican.
BEGALA: That's not what he's saying. Let's go to our questions in the audience. Yes, sir? Tell us your name and where you're from?
GREG MCNEIL: Greg McNeil from Washington, D.C. My question's for you, Mr. Begala. As we close one of the other segments, you said that President Bush inherited a system that was already working. And I was wondering how you can justify that comment, considering the bombing of two U.S. embassies, the U.S.S. Cole, and the subsequent security problems that President Bush inherited as evidenced through the attacks on September 11?
BEGALA: I mean, the bible says there will be no end to problems in this life. And nobody should expect perfection from any president, not Bush or Clinton. But you remember the big terrorist attacks on the millennium? No, because they didn't occur. Because law enforcement, not partisan, law enforcement and national security people stopped them from happening. The system was in good shape. And I do not like it when conservatives like Mr. Adelman, who work for President Reagan, come and try to blame President Clinton for this. I'm not blaming Bush. He shouldn't blame...
CARLSON: So the measure is all the things that didn't happen. Imagine what might have happened. Yes, sir, you have a question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is for you. Mr. Carlson, with regard to recent Democratic comments about what Bush knew, and when he knew it...
CARLSON: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you honestly think that Republican reactions would have been any different if the situation was reversed and there was a Democrat in office?
CARLSON: Well, I don't know for certain, but let me give you one example. You heard that Mr. Adelman here said something that's true. And that is that the Clinton administration, for whatever reason, turned down opportunities to get Osama bin Laden three different times. Now I think there are probably valid reasons for that, but you never hear Republicans make that point. You hear Democrats move in for the kill every single time.
BEGALA: What was Ken Adelman? He's a Republican. He made that point. From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, Tuesday night, for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com