Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Is the CIA Too Secretive?; Should Britain Do Away With the Monarchy?; Should Some People Be Exempt From Airport Security Checks?

Aired June 3, 2002 - 19:00   ET



ANNOUNCER (voice-over): CROSSFIRE: on the left, James Carville and Paul Begala, on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE, getting the nation's secret keepers to open up to each other.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The FBI is changing and they're doing a better job of communicating with the CIA.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, is the CIA too secretive?

Throwing a bash for a golden monarch, but should royalty's swan song be just around the corner?

And you have to wait in line for security checks, why shouldn't they? In fighting terrorism, should we be just plain scared?

Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, sitting in on the left, Dee Dee Myers and on the right, Tucker Carlson.


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, is it time for the sun to set on the faded British monarchy? Also it is time to treat CEOs, rock stars and everyone else in a private plane like a potential terrorist?

But first time for "I've got a secret." President Bush today assured America that the FBI and the CIA aren't playing the game with each other. Unfortunately, that wasn't always the case. "Newsweek" magazine reports the CIA stumbled onto two of the eventual hijackers two months before September 11, but didn't wann the FBI or immigration officials until it was too late. But now that's in dispute.

Sources tell CNN national security correspondent David Ensor that in January of 2000 CIA officials warned the FBI that one of the men warranted closer attention, and apparently there was a paper trail. Let's have a show of hands. Is the CIA too secretive, or is the FBI too inept? Is everyone looking to make themselves look good and everyone else look bad?

In Memphis tonight is former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy, and here in Washington is Milt Bearden, a former senior official at the CIA. He's also a novelist, author of "The Black Tulip," a novel of the war in Afghanistan.

Joining me tonight here as co-host is former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers.

DEE DEE MYERS, GUEST CO-HOST: Thank you for joining us Mr. Bearden. It's a pleasure to have you.

As Tucker points out, "Newsweek's" caused quite a stir by reporting that CIA had a tremendous amount of information about two of the eventual hijackers that they failed to share with other federal agencies and potentially the FBI -- we don't know whether that's true or not at this point -- and not the INS.

First of all, do you know whether the CIA shared this information with the FBI?


MYERS: Would it have been standard operating procedure for them to do so?

MILT BEARDEN, FMR. CIA OFFICIAL: I don't know what they've done. And standard operating procedure, you would probably say that information of this kind would be shared. But your biggest problem is to say, in what context? We're all operating from a post-9/11 look back at four, five or six pieces of information that are being discussed this week. We all know exactly what happened and what we could have done. We said, well that's clearly the dot, the dot, the dot, we would have joined them.

MYERS: And everyone say it's a failure to connect the dots, but those were pretty big dots. You have two men who are connected, certainly one of them directly connected more than a year before the terrorist attacks, two terrorist cells -- to al Qaeda. The CIA knew this, and they also knew that these two men were operating in the United States and yet did not pound on the FBI's door and say, bring us more information.

BEARDEN: I think...

MYERS: How does that happen?

BEARDEN: ... they were in the United States...

MYERS: Right.

BEARDEN: I don't know about the operating in the United States. I'm not going to defend it. What I'm saying is...

MYERS: Not necessarily planning an attack, per se, but they knew that they were here and they knew they were directly connected to the terrorists who had bombed the USS Cole in October of 2000.

BEARDEN: We're establishing that probably more firmly than is the reality. But yes, I won't defend that thing. What I'm saying is, is we've got a needle in a needle stack. You've got people talking about the chatter. That's the new word today. What is the chatter? The chatter is really 50 million, probably 50 million telephone calls, faxes, pagers a day that have to be screened somehow electronically and by human beings.

So we're talking about throw four or five dots in there and we sit back and clap and say well the FBI and the CIA should have had it figured out, and they're a bunch of dunderheads -- well probably not. Did they tell them? I think the biggest story is the he said, I said game that's coming out in Washington right now. And I don't think that's going to be helpful.

CARLSON: Mr. Kennedy, it's not exactly clear, though, I imagine it will be the FBI was fully aware that these two, two of the hijackers, al-Hazmi and Almihdhar were in the United States, but we know that the FBI was aware at least by August of 2001 when Director Tenet sent essentially an all-points bulletin out.

And I guess my question to you is why wasn't the FBI able to locate these two? They were listed in the same Eagle (ph) phone book. One of them had gotten a speeding ticket. They used their own names on all their official documents up to the day they bought plane tickets on the flight that slammed into the pentagon. Why wasn't the FBI able to find them when a newspaper reporter it seems to me could have.

WELDON KENNEDY, FMR. FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: I don't know where they were on August the 23rd or whatever the date was that information was furnished, but I agree with Mr. Bearden. With our perfect 20/20 vision, looking back, we now know the significance of all these things. At the time and in the context of August the 23rd, it perhaps was not that significant.

CARLSON: Well give us, then give us some of that context, then. If you were an FBI agent and you receive the news that two suspected terrorists are in the United States, one of whom have had ties to -- a suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole, where do you go next? They -- apparently the FBI searched a number of hotel rooms. What else do you do and...

KENNEDY: The information they had should have -- it's my understanding the information they had that they were going to be or were occupying a Marriott Hotel and I understand that many, many, many Marriott Hotels were physically searched, the records and the information, without success. They did not find them in that short timeframe.

And by the way the fact that they were connected to a -- to a group like that is certainly of significance, but not necessarily enough to make an arrest or do anything to prevent what finally happened on September 11. CARLSON: With respect, Mr. Kennedy, I mean it's a good thing they searched hotel rooms, but there are all sorts of electronic data bases that even journalists have access to. Certainly the FBI has access to a very sophisticated electronically databases.

Is it your understanding that none of them were searched, that the search of the hotel rooms was the extent of...

KENNEDY: I don't know whether they were searched or not, but you heard Mr. Bearden allege earlier -- talk earlier about those records are what, in the billions, if not hundreds of millions of kind of phone records that would have to be searched and researched.

MYERS: Yes, Mr. Bearden...


MYERS: Excuse me, Mr. Bearden, I think Americans are sympathetic to the idea that the CIA and the FBI are out there gathering thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of bits of information. The question is how do you put it all together? But with respect to these two particular terrorists, who ended up being hijackers, they knew that they were at a meeting in January of 2000 in Kuala Lumpur with potential terrorists, other members of al Qaeda.

They knew in October of 2000 after the bombing of the Cole, they were directly connected to some of these people. How many pieces of information do you need? Those seem like pretty big pieces of information. They knew that they were in the United States. They knew that they had visas to come and go, yet they didn't, the CIA did not inform the INS.

How many pieces of information does it take to ring the bell and get people to pay attention? Is this a failure of analysis or is it a failure of information gathering, or is a failure of imagination? What's the problem?

BEARDEN: A failure of imagination is the whole thing. I think that is -- that -- just captures 9/11 and the intelligence failure. I think it's a waste of time to say there wasn't an intelligence failure. That's nonsense, sheer nonsense. Of course there was because 9/11 happened.

Pearl Harbor happened. The American way to do -- to respond to these things is to get on with it and say now what are we going to do?

MYERS: But what are we going to do? How do change the culture that lacks imagination when the world is changing all the time?

BEARDEN: Well that -- my opinion on that one would be that we probably have to recover our imaginations. Before Pearl Harbor we had horse cavalry and battle fleets. After Pearl Harbor, we had airborne and carrier fleets.

Nobody has come up yet with a concert that's going to deal with this issue. Whether it's FBI and CIA working better together or just say wait a minute, let's go across the river and start something new -- something new that has intelligence and of course, special operations in it.

Maybe somebody has to appoint a team goal in Washington and say you guys go over there in the room -- you guys and girls, and figure it out and come back and say...


BEARDEN: ... here's what we do.


MYERS: ... different kind of people?

BEARDEN: You're going to maybe have to just grab everybody you can to get this going, but to recruit people, I mean how many Arabic speakers do we have working for the United States government right now that can speak street Arabic from Algiers.

CARLSON: Mr. Kennedy, the FBI knew the names of at least two of the 19 hijackers. I want -- I want to read you a quote from the end of this now famous "Newsweek" piece, pretty damming quote and tell me whether you agree with this or not.

"Given how little the FBI understood al Qaeda's way of operating and how it managed to mishandle the key clues it did have, it's possible that agents could have identified all 19 hijackers and still not figured out what they were up to."

Do you think that's true?

KENNEDY: Of course it's true. The group that we understand even from the tape that bin Laden was laughing about the fact that not even all of the hijackers were aware of exactly what the plot was and exactly what was going to happen, which led us to believe that perhaps only the ones who were piloting those airplanes knew exactly what they were going to do.

That kind of a close-knit organization is extremely difficult to penetrate. So it's possible that you might have been able to know that this or that or the other person was here in the United States and up to no good, but still not know exactly what it was that they were going to do.

For example, even in the Moussaoui case, there's lot of uproar over the fact that the -- there was a failure to obtain a warrant to search his computer. Well, the facts now are that warrant was ultimately obtained. The computer was searched and guess what? There was nothing significant on there pertaining to 9/11.

MYERS: We need to take a break now. When we return, we'll ask our guests whether or not political correctness may have hampered the search for the hijackers. And we'll ask if it's time for CIA Director George Tenet to go. Later in our CROSSFIRE "News Alert": The Bush administration makes an astonishing discovery about the weather and then our "Quote of the Day," here's the first hint, this political hint would do well to remember that every microphone could be a live microphone.

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Still to come, is the British monarchy a royal anachronism? Also misguided do-gooders latest efforts to diminish the American dream.

Right now we're talking about the chances of the FBI and the CIA sharing secrets in the name of fighting terrorism. Joining us former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy. He's with us from Memphis. Here in Washington, former senior CIA official, Milt Bearden.

Mr. Kennedy, you said a minute ago that searching -- there are an endless number of databases to search. So if you're in search of just two terrorists in a sea of hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. it's difficult. But these guys were not named Jack Smith. I mean they had very, by American standards, unusual names and they had Arabic names.

And I wonder if the reluctance to focus on terrorism is a problem that's pretty specifically related to Middle Eastern men, is part of the reason the FBI didn't catch on sooner to what was going on.

KENNEDY: I don't believe that was a factor, really. You're right, their names were highly unusual in terms of what might be available in searching those databases, but nevertheless there are still literally thousands of Middle Eastern men in the United States going to schools, universities, not only -- including flight schools.

CARLSON: I wonder, though, if there are really thousands of Middle Eastern men in American in flight schools. But don't take my word for it that political correctness may have had something to do with the intelligence failures here. I want you to listen to Dianne Feinstein, Democrat -- or liberal Democrat from California. This is her on "LATE EDITION" here on CNN this Sunday. Here's her take.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And if you take a look at it, at this stage, at least, one isn't going to look for blond Norwegians. Now, that may change in the future. But I think the racial profiling debate has created a kind of disservice, if you will, in the terrorism area, particularly with respect to the FBI. I believe it has had a chilling impact.


CARLSON: So the FBI was not able to isolate the terrorists at flight schools in the U.S. You're telling me that political correctness or squeamishness about racial profiling had no -- nothing to do with that?

KENNEDY: No I'm not saying that. I don't know what it had to do with, but Ms. Feinstein, I believe, is absolutely correct. In the pre-9/11 days the undertaking of a -- of a isolation of a single group of people and examining them closely and opening cases about their activities was not acceptable. It would not have been accepted.

MYERS: Mr. Bearden, you mentioned before that the blame game has begun, and that we all sort of abhor, but nonetheless it's on -- the race is on. Already Senator Shelby has been after CIA director George Tenet. Do you think that George Tenet will be forced to resign: Do you think he should be in the aftermath of some of these astonishing revelations?

BEARDEN: We almost never handle these things well. We want to throw somebody to the wolves, and we might, and we probably will. And you know the test of time we'll look back and say, there we went again. We did Kimmel and Short after Pearl Harbor. We may do, you know, Ashcroft, Tenet and Mueller this time around and then somebody will look up in 10 years or 20 years and 30 years and say, there they went again. I think that Senator Shelby's been after George Tenet long before 9/11.

MYERS: No question, but he's no longer alone and at what point do you say, enough is enough? I mean...

BEARDEN: Well at what point? Americans want zero risk. We're never going to get it, but if we want accountability in the society that we have become, then we're probably going to demand that somebody be thrown to the wolves. And if that is the director of central intelligence, hey, that's a tough job.

It may happen and if it's also someone over at Justice and someone at the FBI, that will probably happen too. All I'm suggesting is that that may not be the answer to it, but people will feel better in this town.

MYERS: Mr. Mueller -- I mean Mr. Kennedy, let me ask you the same question about Mr. Mueller over at the FBI. Already "The Wall Street Journal" editorial pages, no bashing of liberalism of that has called for him to resign. Is that an appropriate response to the failures of the FBI?

KENNEDY: I don't believe so. After all, he was only onboard, what, seven days or something like that, as of 9/11. To hold him now responsible for that kind of a situation is ludicrous.

CARLSON: Yes, but Mr. Kennedy, I mean does it strike you as odd that nobody has -- let me just give you one example, OK. A man named Osama Reedy (ph) who was a pilot for Guitar Air (ph) and apparently a long-time federal informant and also a pilot for Osama bin Laden. In 1999 he goes to Sudan, flies a plane over for Osama bin Laden and they have a conversation about crop dusting. He writes a long report about crop dusting for Osama bin Laden, then he returns to the United States to the Dallas area. Next contact with the FBI, he says I have this report on crop dusting I prepared for Osama bin Laden. Would you like to take a look at it?

The FBI says to him no, not really, and they don't. Shouldn't someone be punished for that? KENNEDY: Be punished? Why would you punish...

CARLSON: Absolutely.



CARLSON: For incuriousness, for incompetence?




CARLSON: Well that's your position, and apparently you're sticking with it. Thank you very much for joining us Mr. Kennedy in Memphis, Mr. Bearden in Washington, thank you.

MYERS: Thank you.

CARLSON: Next, our CROSSFIRE "News Alert" including this, it's scarier than Godzilla. Stay with us for "Marion Barry" the movie.

Also relatives of the past, we'll go live to live to Buckingham Palace to talk about the British monarchy, not the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Later our "Quote of the Day," viewer advisory, it's rated PG for language. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back. Time now for the newsiest news segment in cable news. It's time for the CROSSFIRE "News Alert."

Comedian Chris Rock is going into the movie business. His first project, an HBO film about the life of former Washington, D.C. Marion Barry. The real Marion Barry has seen the script. He's not impressed. Through a spokesman Mr. Barry himself was indisposed. The former mayor called treatment of the film of his life -- quote -- "outrageous and disrespectful."

The script has not been made public, but sources tell CNN the film makes serious allegations against both Barry and the citizens of Washington, D.C. In the film version, federal agents videotape Marion Barry smoking crack cocaine in a hotel with a woman not his wife. He subsequently served six months behind bars, during which he's accused of having sex with a female visitor to the prison. Finally and perhaps the most improbable part of the film, Barry is re-elected mayor of Washington, D.C. -- only in the movies.

MYERS: Better Marion Barry than the rest of us.


CARLSON: ... Democrat.

MYERS: Yes, well, and don't we love that? Speaking of Democrats, let's talk about some Republicans. Could it be that the Bush's are finally feeling the heat? In a new report submitted to the United Nations the administration has made a startling concession. For the first time ever it blames human actions like burning fossil fuels for global warming. Although the rest of the world figured this out years ago, they seemed shocked over to discover a connection between the two.

But wait, there's more. The report also says that most of the damage is already done, so it suggest no major changes in the administration's policy on green house gases. Their solution, get over it. Learn to live it. You'll be fine.

CARLSON: So let me see if I understand this correctly, Dee Dee. The environmental industry spends all of its time whining about how the Bush administration's in bed with the energy business.

MYERS: As they are.

CARLSON: The Bush administration comes out with a report against the interest of the energy business, and what does the environmental industry do?

MYERS: They're not against...

CARLSON: Whine, whine, whine.

MYERS: ... the interest of the industry because they propose doing nothing, which is their solution...


MYERS: ... whenever the industry's interest are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) silly report.

CARLSON: No one raises for the Republican Party -- money for the Republican Party like Democrats. Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Bill Clinton, together they've done more for the GOP than any single Republican since Lincoln. The latest evidence, last month's much publicized photo flap. Republicans, you may remember, distributed pictures to their donors of President Bush speaking on the phone with Dick Cheney on September 11.

Democrats predictably went on the attack calling the fund-raising tactic grotesque and disgraceful. Well, thanks to the criticism, Republicans loved it. According to "Roll Call," thousands of the photographs, which are part of a set of three. have since been sent to Republican donors. The party has made $1.4 million, 10 times more than expected. Thank you Terry McAuliffe.

Republican Party Chairman Mark Racicot was said to be begging Hillary Clinton to assist the party in the upcoming midterm election by resurrecting her health care task force.

MYERS: You can't say we never did anything for you, Tucker.


CARLSON: I love the health care task force, fantastic.

MYERS: We'll be back with more. By now you'd think President Bush would know about the dangers of an open microphone. But alas, over the weekend he was trying by phone to make a few remarks at the start of a charity run when he ran into a few technical difficulties. It turns out the crowd in Washington couldn't hear him, but the mike was still hot, so reporters who were listening in could.

There were no cameras, but we've got audio. So take a listen to the "Quote of the Day."


BUSH: Again I want to thank you for running. Every step you take today is critical to finding a cure for breast cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry Mr. President, did you signal?

BUSH: Yes, what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, they dropped the call. We're going to...

BUSH: What are you talking about they dropped the call?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tried to connect you to the feed. The feed didn't go through.

BUSH: You mean I haven't -- they haven't heard a word yet?


BUSH: God dang it.


CARLSON: So if that's -- if that's the best you get, with Bush caught with the open mike, I must say I feel safe at night. God dang it.

MYERS: I -- you know what? I'm confident, Tucker, that's not the best we're going to get over the course of the Bush presidency. It's a step in a beautiful journey.


CARLSON: It's pretty innocuous, though, you've got to admit.

MYERS: It is innocuous. It doesn't have to be...

CARLSON: No, I think it's totally amusing. When foreign governments were listening in on the phone calls Bill Clinton was having with his girlfriend, I mean I bet there -- it was better than "God dang it," I have to admit.

MYERS: That's for sure -- were much more interesting.

Next in, a CNN "News Alert": why this may be a nervous night for a Kennedy relative. We'll have the latest from the courthouse.

Also, a story that was 50 years in the making and is perhaps 1,000 years out of date.

And if you are rich enough to charter a plane, does that entitle you to skip a security check? Believe it or not, plenty of people think so, including Tucker Carlson. And we'll debate that issue ahead in the CROSSFIRE.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you, as we always do, live from the George Washington University here in downtown, Washington, D.C. Thanks to Mr. Washington and his friends, these United States are not ruled by King George III, or for that matter, by Queen Elizabeth II. As you may have seen earlier on CNN, the Brits threw a huge bash for the queen today to celebrate her Golden Jubilee, 50 years on the throne. The monarchy was a bad idea back in 1776. Why should anybody, apart from "The National Enquirer" get excited about it now?

Joining us to answer those questions and more, live from Buckingham Palace, London is "The Evening Standard's" Robert Jobson.


MYERS: Robert Jobson, thank you for being with us. Are you there enjoying the festivities at the 50th anniversary? And you know, most Americans here on this side of the Atlantic view the monarchy as really little more than fodder for the tabloids. Our constitution institutionalizes the idea that all people are created equal. The British constitution institutionalizes the idea that some people are born better than others, imbued by God with some kind of special powers. Why do the British people put up with it? It's ridiculous.

ROBERT JOBSON, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think that's strictly true. They don't regard people as better. I think the queen and the royal family have got a job to do, which is to serve in the duty and the way they have to do it, which a million people...

MYERS: What is there job?

JOBSON: Well, a million people in the streets of London turned out to celebrate the queen, who had been on the throne for 50 years. Her job, actually, is to, I think, to act as a figurehead to the British people. And by the look of the way they celebrated tonight, they certainly doing a very good job.

CARLSON: Well, Mr. Jobson, I mean, it seems from the American spectrum that her job is really to be head of this giant wax museum known as England. And that without her, England would be indistinguishable from anyplace else in Europe, sort of like Belgium, but with worse food and mad cow disease. Is that true?

JOBSON: I think that at present, it looks more like the wax -- I think you've got more problems than we have. There were a million people out here. They really enjoyed it tonight. There's a great party in the palace. And I think we were right to celebrate.

I hope that -- I think that actually, having someone on the throne from the very beginning of this -- halfway through the last century, I think she's done a damned good job. And I think we should celebrate that fact. And no, I don't think she's just the head of a wax museum. I think that's guilty of things at Washington, rather than back in the palace.

MYERS: Yes, and that clearly, a lot of the British people feel like Queen Elizabeth has done a good job, that she's been a steady influence, a responsible figure presiding over the country through, you know, 50 years of very tumultuous times. The feelings are not necessarily the same about her son, who becomes king regardless of whether people think he's up to it. Do people think he's up it? He's had a very, very spotty public career so far.

JOBSON: Well, I think tonight he delivered a fantastic speech in honor of his mother, which was cheered on the streets of London. I think he did a very good job. I think Prince Charles does an awful lot of things behind the scenes that people don't recognize. He raises a lot of money for charities, a great environmentalists. And I think we should applaud him for the things he does.

Whether our system is obviously the things you're talking about here, I think the British constitutional monarchy works quite well, and so do the British people.

CARLSON: No, but I mean, speaking of the things that Prince Charles does, I mean, one of his most famous and public campaigns has been for toilets that use less water when they flush. His former wife went out and publicly discussed her bulimia.

I mean, if you're -- isn't there a contradiction here? If you're going to have a monarchy that imbues the rest of the country with dignity, shouldn't its members behave with dignity?

JOBSON: Well, I think on the whole, the queen has behaved with great dignity over the last 50 years. You may be able to criticize junior members of the royal family, but very few people can criticize the queen for 50 years of duty.

I mean, you've got to bear in mind that a president of the United States lasts maximum of eight years. And I think after the last president, the fiasco, I don't think anybody can criticize our monarchy for the way that they behave when you have...

CARLSON: Which wasn't even elected in the first place, I beg your pardon, please.

MYERS: It was elected. But so -- should the British people just pass over Charles and go right to the handsome and dashing Prince William? Would there be popular support for that?

JOBSON: If you start changing the system. The system works because it is a system that operates in the way that it does, which is...

MYERS: But previous princes have abdicated.

JOBSON: They have, only have Katie, but before they've actually been crowned. The fact was that Edward VIII was never crowned. And that's the only person that has abdicated actually. Previous to that, it hasn't happened.

CARLSON: OK, Mr. Jobson...

JOBSON: And that was simply because he ran up several American divorcee, I think was the problem there.

CARLSON: Well, there you go. And consider that before you criticize our president the next time. But thank you for joining us, Mr. Jobson. We sure appreciate it.


CARLSON: Still to come, a viewer "Fireback," a comment about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the Clinton administration. But next on our radar, chartered planes and unchecked paranoia. Are America's wealthiest travelers really a threat to your security? We'll find out. We'll be right back.


MYERS: Birds do it, bees do it, even wealthy business executives and pampered rock stars do it, but the rest of us can't take off without walking through metal detectors, opening our bags, and showing our IDs. Is the fact that you can just charter a plane and go, without first going through security a gaping hole in the nation's fight against terrorism? Now taxing into the CROSSFIRE, James K. Coyne of the National Air Transportation Association and former NTSB managing director, Peter Goelz.


CARLSON: Now Mr. Goelz, this does sound, if you're listening to Senator Cole or other alarmists, like this horrifying problem America now faces, all these unregulated flights flying around.

I want to read you a quote from a man named Jeff Baum, president of a charter company in Wisconsin Aviation. Here's what he says. "In the vast majority of cases," meaning the vast majority of flights, "we have the greatest security in the world. We know everybody on board."

So this is very different from not checking security on a commercial flight, isn't it?

PETER GOELZ, FMR. MANAGING DIR. NTSB: No, it's not really. And of course, the key phrase in that is the vast majority. What's that mean? 60 percent, 70 percent. Does that mean that 25 percent of their passengers are unknown? The issue tonight, the issue going forward is are we going to have one level of security like we have one level of safety in aviation? Or are we going to have the gates open?

CARLSON: But the gates aren't open. We're talking about a very small group of people. And they're mostly rich people.

GOELZ: No, we're not.

CARLSON: isn't that really what is going on here?

GOELZ: No, it's a broader issue.

CARLSON: You know, it's resentment for people who can afford to fly their own planes, isn't it?

GOELZ: No, it's a broader issue beyond simply air taxis, air charters. It goes beyond that. It goes to chartering transport category cargo planes. There is a gaping hole in the security system, that runs from smaller planes, all the way up to the large transport category aircraft.

And we have to do something about it. And we need to do it in a thoughtful way, but we can't do it by simply ignoring the fact that this gaping hole is there.

MYERS: Right, Mr. Coin, according to "Air Charter Guide," a magazine I'm sure you read now, 1,453 charter operators are operating in the United States. And 7,102 aircraft are available. Are we really to believe that every single one of those operators and every single one of those planes and every single person who steps onto one of those planes can be trusted just because they can afford to pay $3,000 an hour to get there? Is that really what the argument is here?

JAMES K. COYNE, NATIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION ASSN.: I don't think you can trust anything 100 percent. But what we have learned over the last 30 or 40 years, that this is the most secure form of transportation there is, with perhaps one exception. And that's Air Force One.

Air Force One does some things in their airplanes that even commercial airlines can't do. But for most of the people in this country who have their the resources and the ability, if they want to be absolutely sure that they're going to have a safe flight, they're going to charter an airplane. Just like you send out a limousine for people who are on this show each night. You do it because you want to make sure that those guests get to your show. It's the same thing in transportation. If you want to be absolutely sure, you use charter.

MYERS: Yes, in the vast majority people are known. But there are thousands of people every year who get on charter flights, who are not known by the charter operators. This is a huge gaping hole in airline security that's now been identified. You're allowing people to go fly, walk on to airplanes, big airplanes. I'm not talking about four seat Cessnas here. We're talking about things that are as big as 747s, that are available for charter, that require no identification, no background check, no screening of luggage, no screening of passengers. And charter business is up 28 percent in the last quarter, while commercial airline business is down 10 percent. People who don't want to hassle security restrictions or be caught are going to go charter airplanes.

COYNE: Peter's firm works for the airlines. And one of the things they're trying to do is to competitively put pressures on their most successful competitor, charter. More and more businesses now are moving to charter because they know it is safer. They know it's more secure. And it has, as you admit, a lot less hassle.

But the simple fact of the matter is that these are apples and oranges. Now you two talk about a gaping hole. And I've been looking for this gaping hole around here. The fact of the matter is air charter is the most heavily regulated private form of transportation in the history of the world.

Every pilot that we have has to have a federal license before he can fly the airplane, has to have a federal security plan if the plane's over 12,500 pounds. Every aircraft has to meet by far the most stringent form of security checks and safety checks of any part of the general aviation fleet. And of course, each individual operator of those thousands you just talked about has to have a federal certificate, including a security plan before he can operate.

CARLSON: But I'll tell you what you don't have to do when you fly a charter flight, and that's go through pointless security. Between November and May, there were at least 21 major U.S. airports shut down. Why? Not because there were terrorists in them, because for instance, a guard fell asleep at the magnetometer. Someone forgot to plug the machine in, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

That's why people are flying charter flights. And so the idea that you would bring that sort of inefficient, ridiculous bureaucratic DMV like security to Signature Air or other private charter airports is horrifying, isn't it?

GOELZ: Well, what I love about America is that we have the shortest memory of all the countries.

CARLSON: You don't need to attack America.

GOELZ: Here we are now starting to complain -- starting to complain about inconveniences. Let's take the president at his word. We're at war. We're in a different world than we were pre-9/11.

And let me give you an example. We would like to make sure that all aviation is safe. It's clear the terrorists have been fixated with aviation since the early 1970s, when they started hijacking planes. Their interest is not simply enlarge commercial aircraft. We heard in the previous segment they're talking about crop dusting. They want -- they view aircraft as delivery systems. A G-3 can deliver an awful lot of damage. CARLSON: Well, wait a second her. If they've been so interested in aviation since the '70s, how many charter aircraft do they hijack and use in terrorism attacks?

GOELZ: Well, they've gotten four commercial aircraft.

CARLSON: No, but...

GOELZ: Just in the last year...

CARLSON: In all those years, I don't think they've taken any charter aircraft. What does that tell you?

GOELZ: What it tells me is that they picked off the low-hanging fruit. A number of security people have pointed out that as you increase the security on the commercial side, their fixation will move to the less difficult types of aircraft to attack.

CARLSON: But if there's security, wouldn't charter be low- hanging fruit? I mean, this is actually making argument (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MYERS: Well, you know, Tucker's making the same argument that sort of the FBI and the CIA made before, which was, oh, we don't have to worry about terrorists hijacking airplanes because they have never flown an airplane into a building before. They've never done it, until they do it. And aren't we just giving them a big, ripe opportunity to do it? It only take one guy in a fully loaded G-5, full of fuel and explosives that nobody looked, to fly into a building and kill thousands of people?

COYNE: But why would a terrorist charter the plane to do it?

MYERS: Why not?

GOELZ: Because it's easy.

COYNE: No, no, terrorists don't -- criminals don't use taxi cabs to commit crimes. They use their own cars.

MYERS: No, but they use credit cards.

GOELZ: In the previous segment, we just heard about somebody who flew a charter jet back to the Sudan. Of course, he's already done it.

COYNE: No, no, no. That was a plane he purchased.

You're confusing charter with private planes. Granted, someone could go out and get a car and commit a crime, but you don't see people getting, you know, walking up to a limousine and saying, "Oh, excuse me, I want to use this limousine."

GOELZ: If they planned to kill themselves, they might very well.

COYNE: No, no. Think about -- think of it from the... GOELZ: Well, I seem to remember a Ryder truck being rented.

COYNE: Right. And that may be where we ought to devote our resources, looking at the other modes of transportation.

MYERS: I'm up for that, too.

COYNE: But look at -- from a terrorist's point of view, what has the terrorist been using aviation for so far? They've used it to hijack passengers for ransom. They've used them to kill the people on the airplane, like the Lockerbie accident. They've used to turn the airplane into a weapon, like World Trade Towers. And they've also used it to try to strike economic fear in a country, and make everyone afraid of something. And that's what I think...

GOELZ: Do you think they're just going to repeat the plane?

COYNE: I don't think...

GOELZ: Or are they going to go forward with the next thing?

COYNE: I don't charter works in any of those things. Charter doesn't make sense for trying to kill a lot of people, because there's nobody on the plane. It doesn't make sense for hostages. And it doesn't make sense for turning them into weapons, because it's a much smaller airplanes.

CARLSON: Very quickly...


GOELZ: ... delivery system?

CARLSON: By why not -- why regulate small, you know, King Air or Cessna, or even Lear jets? If you're going to regulate private air travel, why not just do big FedEx planes? I mean, why cast the net that wide?

GOELZ: We're already regulating FedEx planes. We're already regulating the larger transport category jets that are operated by the big operators, where the concern is, is in the smaller operations.

CARLSON: Well, unfortunately, this is a fascinating subject and I'm sorry we can't continue, but we have got take a commercial break. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

"Round Six" is next in the CROSSFIRE. When will security checks will be necessary? And later in "Fireback," a viewer explains why soccer thankfully will never catch on here in the United States. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time for "Round Six." The guests have gone home. Dee Dee Meyers and I remain.

Dee Dee Meyers, I actually...

MYERS: Two of us.

CARLSON: Just the two of us. If you can sing the next bar, I'll give you $20. Actually, please don't.

MYERS: Exactly.

CARLSON: I think I've come to the very heart, the beating heart of this charter aircraft controversy. Some federal bureaucrat, probably an NTSB guy is standing at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, in line, thinking to himself I hate this. And you know, what? Rich people don't have to do this. I want to make them. This is about envy and class warfare.

MYERS: It's funny about how you hate class warfare, except when you use it. It is not class warfare...

CARLSON: Who's using it? I'm defending America.

MYERS: You're using it to defend the indefensible, which is to leave a big gaping hole in airline and airport security. You know, most Americans don't care how people fly. They just want to know that there's not going to be a fully loaded charter jet with explosives and fuel heading toward the building where they happen to live or work.

CARLSON: I'm not using the charter jet lately. I suspect you have? They're quite small. And I must say...

MYERS: You know, Tucker, that's the fallacy. Many are small. And many are not small.

CARLSON: Well, maybe you and your friends fly in big ones, but most of them are little. And I must say, Dee Dee, this is what kills me about liberals. They're always finding gaping holes. Terrible problems you never heard of can be solved right now. This is not something that's broken. It doesn't need to be fixed. Millions of people enjoy it. Leave them alone.

MYERS: It's not broken until a loaded airplane flies into a building. We know the damage that that can do now.

CARLSON: So what we need are more...

MYERS: Just be careful. We're not saying stop your rich friends from flying charter, the ones that give big donations to the Republican party.


MYERS: We're saying let's just be cautious. Let's be careful.

CARLSON: We need more drug addicted federal bureaucrats (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at a private airport.

MYERS: Oh, I think the public's with me on this one, my friend. In a minute, it's your turn to fire back at us, although one of our viewers prefers to take aim at John Ashcroft's taste in art, as do I. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time for our "Fireback" segment. Every evening, perhaps foolishly, we invite you to e-mail your outrages, your questions, your comments. Every night, you do. Here are some.

First up, Sam Heart of Boston, Massachusetts writes, "Do you hold the Bush administration as culpable for what you see as the FBI failures in 9/11 as you once held the Clinton administration in Waco?" Well, Sam, here is the key difference. In Waco, American forces went in and set a bunch of buildings on fire with children in them. On 9/11, foreigners came to our country and killed Americans. Key difference, I would say.

MYERS: Except for you didn't see the Clinton administration blaming the previous administration for things that went wrong in Waco.

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) than incinerating all those. And I remember that.

MYERS: Well, there you go.

CARLSON: There you go. At least she's consistent.

MYERS: And unlike this administration, which tends to like to point the finger backwards every time there's a problem, Clinton made me do it. Which brings us to the next question. "Wasn't the Clinton administration the one who took inspectors out of Iraq, had an attempt on the World Trade Center and a suicide mission on the USS Cole? My question is, what did Clinton know and when?"

Which brings me back to my previous point. Every time there's a problem, the Bushies and their supporters point back to the Clinton administration. What would they do without Bill Clinton? The truth of the matter is, Clinton had to answer questions about those incidents. President Bush and the Bush administration have to answer questions about 9/11, and get over it.

CARLSON: I don't think they point fingers quite enough. But as if I need evidence, here's more. From Mario Lozano, Stockton, California. "Perhaps the reason Mr. Ashcroft missed the pre-9/11 clues is that he was too busy draping sheets over what he considers sexually explicit art. An ultra-conservative interior decorator as guardian of the constitution? I shudder at the thought." So do I, Mario Lozano.

That's not, in fact, true and deeply unfair, actually.

MYERS: It isn't unfair.

CARLSON: Calling the attorney general and ultra-conservative interior decorator? That's low.

MYERS: That's actually a compliment that he would be an interior decorator. But he did do as charged, drape a lovely piece of art with a drape, because I don't know why. It's a little hard to figure out. I mean, if he was in, God forbid he goes to Florence is all I can say.

CARLSON: I bet you...

MYERS: Leave the David alone, Mr. Ashcroft.

CARLSON: You know, it was complaints from feminists actually.

MYERS: Oh, I'm sure.

CARLSON: As you're fully aware.

MYERS: Oh, I'm sure.

CARLSON: It's true. Here we go.

MYERS: "America doesn't have the attention span to watch a soccer match. If no one is getting knocked out or down, it's considered boring." I don't have anything against soccer. I, you know, I like soccer, unlike Tucker who hates soccer.

CARLSON: I do. You know why? Because no one gets knocked down. It's boring.

MYERS: That's right.

CARLSON: We have a question from the audience. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is David Klineman (ph) from Edison, New Jersey. I used to co-pilot small aircraft with my brother and my father. And with all the thousands of private aircraft flying out of thousands of airports, some of which are no larger than just a dirt strip in some guy's backyard, how is it even conceivable that all of these airplanes get checked?

CARLSON: It's, of course, not conceivable. And I bet by the end, you will see attempts to put a little federal bureaucrat on every grass strip in rural America.

MYERS: No, what we were talking about was charter services in the previous segment. So no one's suggesting that every airplane can or will be checked, but big charter companies and big charter airplanes ought to be checked.

CARLSON: Next question. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name's Prido Kadafy (ph). I'm from Edison, New Jersey. The FBI and CIA are going to hire many more Arab Americans to work for them. How is that any different than profiling the Arab Americans as terrorist groups?

CARLSON: Well, it's no different in the sense that the FBI understands that the major threat from international terrorism comes from radical Islamist groups, and that part of the solution is to find people who speak literally the same language, Arabic. And so, I think it's profiling of the best kind, looking at a problem in a reasonable way and saying what do we do to solve it?

MYERS: Let's take one more very quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Allison Cutler (ph) from Edison, New Jersey. And I was wondering, do you think there is perhaps too much of a power struggle between different departments of the federal bureaucracy in order to prevent a crisis such as 9/11, which requires extensive political cooperation?

CARLSON: I have a few questions about Edison, New Jersey, but we have time to answer them. Yes, I would say yes. I think you're right. And we are out.

MYERS: From the left, I'm Dee Dee Meyers. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

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


Monarchy?; Should Some People Be Exempt From Airport Security Checks?>



Back to the top