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CNN CROSSFIRE

Bush Makes Homeland Security Part of Cabinet; Interview With FBI Whistle-Blower Robert Wright

Aired June 6, 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 tonight, President Bush's latest prescription to cure what ails U.S. intelligence gathering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is a great success for the American people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Tom Ridge movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To have the Office of Homeland Security only be a figurehead makes no sense. To give that office cabinet status is a first step, but it's not enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: As we wait for the president's prime-time address, Senators Robert Torricelli and Kit Bond step into the CROSSFIRE.

This FBI agent's so upset with this because he's taken the bureau to court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are removed from the FBI, I will not feel safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a CROSSFIRE exclusive. FBI agent and whistle-blower Robert Wright takes questions from the left and right.

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, we'll speak with an FBI agent who's doing more than blowing his whistle. He's suing his bosses. But the big news is President Bush's decision to create a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. The new agency will consolidate the work of more than 100 government organizations. It creates a clearinghouse of intelligence information and will broaden the government's policy to improve border and airport security.

Congress has to approve the whole shebang. White House aides are feeling this is the most dramatic change in the U.S. government structure since World War II, and that is way too much drama for Wisconsin Congressman David Obey, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and is the first Democrat to spell out in detail his concerns with President Bush's ideas. Congressman Obey joins us from Capitol Hill.

(APPLAUSE)

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Congressman Obey, in less than an hour, President Bush is going to spell out the details of this new cabinet- level Department of Homeland Security. Democrats for the last eight months have been nagging him to do this. Now that he's done it, you're critical of his doing it. Is this a problem of not invented here? Are you just angry that it wasn't your idea and your plan?

REP. DAVID OBEY (D), WISCONSIN: Bob, you're saying I'm critical before I've ever uttered a word. Let me simply say I'm a little bit confused because just 48 hours ago, the White House was saying they would veto the appropriation supplemental because it contained a provision that would have elevated the Homeland Security Office to a cabinet level.

Now they're -- now they're raising it, and I'm pleased to see that they're doing that, but I would -- I am interested to note that the way they have done this seems to be very slapdash. As far as I know, they have not talked about this with the FBI, the CIA or some of the other major agencies. And I note that the press for the last 10 days has been talking about the major problem before September 11 being the lack of communication between the CIA and the FBI.

As far as I can determine, neither of those agencies are affected by this. So I would like to know what this is going to do. So far you -- it seems that instead of cooperation between the agencies you've had dueling leaks.

NOVAK: Well, congressman, I said you were critical not because I deigned to read your mind. I would never pretend to do that, but your office sent us a very thick report of you criticizing in advance the president's plan before it's even released. I assume you have some knowledge of it and specifically, you seem -- what your objection, as you wrote it out in some detail, is precisely what was proposed by Democrats. They've taken all these law ...

OBEY: No.

NOVAK: ... enforcement agencies ...

OBEY: No.

NOVAK: ... and put them in one bag. OBEY: No, I mean -- let me ask you this. I understand why we would want to have coordination between the FBI and the CIA. I don't see that in this package. I would ask why should the Homeland Security Agency be in charge, for instance, of pest control? What does that have to do with homeland security?

I want to see a reorganization, and I believe that there ought to be a cabinet level position, but that cabinet level ought to be meaningful. It shouldn't just be pro forma. And beyond that, the issue is not just what the organizational table shows, but whether or not you can have the resources to actually enable these agencies to do their jobs.

We're dealing now with the supplemental where the administration has refused to support 93 percent of the requests that was made by the Department of Energy in order to strengthen our security in terms of protecting weapons of mass destruction. You're seeing -- you're seeing a White House that has consistently resisted efforts to provide more funding for the FBI so that we would end the disgraceful situation of having 50 percent of the FBI computers that couldn't even send a picture of a terrorist to another FBI computer.

CARVILLE: Congressman Obey, did I hear you right? You said that this proposal, that what you know about it, doesn't affect the FBI and the CIA?

OBEY: I don't see anything in what we've been sent that indicates that the FBI and the CIA are going to be in this -- in this operation.

CARVILLE: So we're going to have a Department of Homeland Security, but we're not going to have the FBI and the CIA in the operation?

OBEY: That is what my understanding is. Now, maybe this will change again, just as the administration's transportation security arrangements changed after they came to light, but I don't see anything in this proposal that deals with the major problem that everybody in the press, regardless of philosophy, has been talking about for the last 10 days.

NOVAK: Congressman Obey, thank you very much for being with us.

Despite Congressman Obey's reservations, congressional leaders in both parties spent the day applauding President Bush's plan to create a Department of Homeland Security and they vowed quick legislative action to make it happen. The president's televised address to the nation comes right after CROSSFIRE.

While we continue waiting, we're joined from Capitol Hill by Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey and Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri.

CARVILLE: Senator Bond, for some period of time, for a long period of time the administration has said that we didn't need this particular thing, we didn't need cabinet level status. What do you think changed the administration's mind, the president's mind to go along with the proposal of Senator Lieberman to acquiesce in his desire to have this kind of thing?

SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: Well, Jim, you've kind of jumped to a few conclusions here. Number one, when the president appointed Tom Ridge to be the director of homeland security, I understood him to have the charge to determine how we needed to change government to make it work better. And what appears to be the recommendation today is a very bold move to bring together the various functions that could deal with preventing a terrorist attack on our people.

And unlike my good friend Dave Obey, it seems to me from the proposal I hear that they're going to combine the intelligence gathering information from both the CIA and the FBI, which is precisely one of the major problems we had in the -- we had seen in the past.

CARVILLE: Senator, I agree, I think it's a good idea. I'm not opposed to this. Senator Lieberman as early as October was calling for this and many Democrats have been calling for it. What I'm trying to ascertain is what do you think changed the president's mind to have this reversal of policy to say we now need a cabinet level proposal to do this?

BOND: I would expect you to claim credit for the Democrats on this one, Jim. I know -- I know that's your job. But they said -- the White House said we took the best ideas from Congress. They said they looked at congressional proposals and they also spent a good bit of time, I am told, examining the operations of the agencies of government. So this is not a slapdash proposal. This wasn't the first person who could race out with a press release. They said they wanted to work with Congress and they took Congress' ideas.

They're trying to put together something that'd work, and I think the people of America want to know something is going to be changed after 47 years -- since 1947, we haven't had a change, 55 years in the intelligence gathering. It's time that we got the best kind of system in place.

NOVAK: Senator Torricelli, there was -- some of the answers that Congressman Obey gave did raise some questions that I don't know the answers to, maybe you do. Do you have or Department of Homeland Security where the FBI, which is obviously one of the most important agencies and under heavy criticism, is still part of the Justice Department?

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, this goes back to the original decision to appoint Tom Ridge, who I think is a very capable man, and I think the president's motivation was sound. But for some of us who have been in the federal government for a while, we learned a lesson a long time ago. Giving somebody responsibility without authority, and that is without personnel, without line item responsibility and budgets, is to destine them to failure.

And I think that's part of what George Bush has probably learned by now, creating this department. It isn't enough to have someone there with the responsibility. He's got to get this authority.

Now, the next question is, you've given him a cabinet office, you've given him a budget, but now the people who have the real power, the FBI and the CIA doesn't have any jurisdiction over them? Can he control them? If the answer to that is no, I'm afraid we're just taking Tom Ridge to another level of frustration. But I don't know the answer. I don't think anybody does. Maybe the president will spell it out tonight.

NOVAK: Do you have any problems with the fact that the Coast Guard, which has a lot of duties to pick up stranded people who have been out drinking on their boats or something, and the agencies that do pest control really don't have much to do with terrorists, are going to be in the Department of Homeland Security or in fact, is that -- is that -- should all that be in this very big cabinet level department?

TORRICELLI: Well, I think -- I think, in fact, Robert, you're going to find out with most of the people who'll be working with this -- with this office, the FBI has functions in dealing with terrorism. It also has some mundane functions that it undertakes.

That's true with almost every government agency. That is why -- well -- my impression is that this makes sense, my concern would be that it almost appears this is written on the back of an envelope. And the suspicious among us might suggest this was done in reaction to the revelations of recent days, the president's obvious anger to the FBI and the CIA fighting with each other in dueling links.

It did does not appear to be the result of a thoughtful process. Nevertheless, I think it's the right judgment, but it does have to be and I think through congressional hearings has to be fleshed out to find better, to ensure that this succeeds. One thing we cannot afford is to give Tom Ridge or anyone this responsibility and then a year from now find out that it didn't work or the FBI or the CIA or others are still engaged in intramural warfare here.

CARVILLE: Senator Bond, Senator Torricelli makes, I think a pretty serious charge here that this thing has not been very thought out by the administration. Do you think Congress should look into, as they -- as they consider this how much thought the administration has given to this and who they consulted and who was behind this and wrote this up?

BOND: Well, I tell you what, it's -- this is -- this is a real rope-a-dope kind of attack on it. I hear on one hand, they didn't move soon enough. Then I hear on the other hand, they moved too quickly. It seems to me that they have gone through and taken those agencies, which have the potential to respond to terrorist attacks and brought them together. Now somebody's making fun of the fact ...

CARVILLE: So, senator, you ...

BOND: Let me finish. They were making fun of the fact that the Animal, Plant Health and Safety from USDA was moved in. Well if you -- if you think about it for a minute, one of the dangers we have is to our food supply, and those who have looked at terrorist activities know that we need to protect the safety of our food supply as well. So that does fit in. And frankly, I think the criticisms of that were a little bit slapdash and on the back of an envelope.

CARVILLE: So, you're saying Senator Torricelli's criticism is slapdash and on the back of the envelope, senator?

BOND: Yes, I think -- I think that was -- he's jumped -- he's jumped to conclusions when he hasn't even seen the full proposal. I know we're all -- we're all awaiting the full proposal. And it may -- it may surprise you to find out that Tom Ridge and the administration have looked at bipartisan suggestions, looked at the way the two agencies work and come up with a good proposal. I think they have, and you know, I'm not surprised but I'm a little disappointed that we're having the critic in chief leading the charge against it on a political basis before we even get the details.

NOVAK: Senator Torricelli, I'd like to go to a different area, if I could slightly.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: But from the time of the September 11 ...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You want to -- do you want to respond to that?

CARVILLE: Will the slapdash, back of the envelope senator from New Jersey please respond, sir?

TORRICELLI: We were cut off, so you're going to have to repeat the question.

NOVAK: All right, well, let's move on. Did you want to respond to what Senator Bond said? You heard him?

TORRICELLI: Well, you know, I don't want this to become a partisan discussion on this. The fact is that the administration, they who've hastily, it may not be completely well thought through. On the other hand, the president's response will be to do something.

The American people, I think all of us in the last few weeks have been losing confidence. Watching the CIA and the FBI leak against each other, these terrible revelations that leave all of us with the sense that what happened on September 11 potentially might have been averted.

So I give the president credit. The moment required leadership. I think he's giving leadership. This may not be the perfect answer, but there'll be congressional hearings. We can redefine much of what he's proposing ...

NOVAK: OK.

TORRICELLI: ... and come up with what is a better answer. NOVAK: Senator Torricelli, from the moment of the September 11 attacks, you have been calling for a out -- an outside commission to look into the entire catastrophe. You made the parallel with the Pearl Harbor commission in 1941, and I'd like you to listen to something that our vice president said in response to your proposal and the proposal by others.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our concern is that if we now lay another investigation on top of that, we'll just multiply the potential sources of leaks and disclosures. If there are leaks from that document, if it's disclosed to people that it shouldn't be disclosed to, we will lose the capacity to defend ourselves against future attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: That's a very -- that's a very serious attack -- a very serious criticism by a serious person, isn't it, senator?

TORRICELLI: It is, but also I think entirely unwarranted. From the Civil War to Pearl Harbor to the Kennedy assassination to the "Challenger" accident, this government has always felt a sense of accountability to the American people. What happened on September 11 didn't happen to the federal government.

It happened to thousands of American families. The government let our country down. I don't know how. I don't know why, but the government didn't function in its law enforcement and intelligence functions. I don't think it was George Bush's fault. I don't think it was Bill Clinton's fault, but clearly things did not work properly. And there is some need of accountability here.

What we've proposed is, is that much as -- was done after Pearl Harbor. We have a distinguished group of Americans with a background in intelligence and law enforcement, look at the problem, were there personnel problems? Were there division of responsibility problems? Resource problems? And make recommendations to the Congress and to the president.

Under our legislation part of it would be classified and part of it would be open. There would be subpoena power. But how do we go on? How do you go on and ask the American people to fight a war, make changes in their lives? How do we make multibillion-dollar decisions? How do we reorganize the government for the future unless we know what happened? What went wrong?

That is why Presidents Johnson and Reagan and Roosevelt, faced with similar decisions, made a different judgment. That is to have a national commission. Senators McCain, Lieberman, Grassley and I are going to offer this legislation some point in the next few weeks. I hope on a bipartisan basis we can do this because I thing to do so is critical to restoring the confidence in the American people that on a bipartisan basis we've learned from September 11 and whatever judgments we make going forward are informed. CARVILLE: Senator, let me get Senator Bond. Senator Torricelli and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman, a lot of people have called for this bipartisan national commission, the same thing President Roosevelt called for. Why doesn't President Bush do what President Roosevelt did and said let's get all the facts out, let the American people see it, and how we can assure people that this won't happen again?

BOND: Well, I guess the first thing I'd ask that people who are pushing for a new independent commission is why don't they have confidence in Chairman Bob Graham and Rick Shelby, the Senate Intelligence Committee? Chairman Porter Goss and Democrat Nancy Pelosi of the House Intelligence Committee?

We have intelligence committees who are looking at this whole affair at the -- at the minute and the time that we speak. They're looking at it, and they're looking at it in an intelligence committee because there's a less chance of leaks. This Congress leaks like a sieve, and in the past congressional leaks have thwarted and interfered with CIA investigations and when you take it beyond the intelligence committees, which have been much better at keeping secrets, you have a chance that a bipartisan group of distinguished intelligence legislative officials ...

(CROSSTALK)

BOND: ... will come up with those (ph) recommendation.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: He got him. Thank you very much, Senator Torricelli. Thank you very much, Senator Bond.

(CROSSTALK)

TORRICELLI: Thank you.

BOND: Thanks for having us.

NOVAK: OK, remember, remember the president's speech on homeland security is coming up. CNN will bring it to you live.

Next in our CROSSFIRE news alert, they're juicing up the name of a Houston landmark. And later an exclusive CROSSFIRE interview, why didn't the Senate call on this FBI whistle-blower today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Now it's time for a look at those unusual and interesting stories that you might not find anywhere but in our CROSSFIRE news alert.

Now we know what the FBI was really paying attention to last summer: A six-month investigation that wrapped up in September uncovered, get this, prostitution in New Orleans. Imagine that. They indicted (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a mother, daughter and a dozen other people and even some guilty pleas out of it. But when the madam offered to name a whole bunch of her blue blood clients, including bankers, lawyers and even a former pro football player, there were no takers.

What's the use of all these FBI man-hours if all they can find out is that Bill Clinton had a relationship with Monica Lewinsky and there are hookers in New Orleans? My God, man, I used to go to Lucky Pierre's (ph) in my youth. I knew about that.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Did any of you basketball fans out there ever want to make a rotten referee answer for his sins? Well then Ralph Nader is your man. Like millions of his fellow Americans, including me, the Green Party presidential candidate was appalled by the officiating in game six of the NBA Western Finals between the Lakers and Kings. Was it biased in favor of the Lakers in order to force a lucrative game seven final?

Nader says it -- quote -- "prompted many fans to start wondering about what was motivating these officials." He went on to say "unless the NBA orders a review of the game's officiating, perception and suspicions, however presently absent any evidence, will abound" -- end quote. Good going, Ralph, but what about the lousy plate umpires calling the Yankee stadium Wednesday night that led to a Yankee win and an Oriole loss? And I've got a lot more lousy officiating for you to take care of, Ralph.

CARVILLE: He screwed up the presidential election, now he wants to mess up pro basketball, you know.

In other sports news, Enron is out as the home of the Houston Astros. Enron, of course, had a much worse season than the Astros did last year. And who wants to play baseball in a stadium named after a bankrupt company? Not the Astros.

So yesterday they shot off the fireworks and renamed the ballpark after another Houston business. Welcome to Minute Maid Field. That should leave the fans feeling juiced up. Unfortunately, the baseball team is still a pulp. They lost to Arizona yesterday (UNINTELLIGIBLE) eight games under 500.

NOVAK: OK, stars have been twinkling over Capitol Hill -- Hollywood stars, and they got to be too much for Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio. These are expert celebrity witnesses testifying before Congress on issues that have nothing to do with show business.

Listen to them -- Julia Roberts, Christie Brinkley, Michael J. Fox, Kevin Richardson of The Back Street Boys, -- The Back Street Boys? That, said the Senator Voinovich, was turning the Senate Environment Committee into a sideshow. Kevin Richardson was called to testify about mountaintop removal mining.

Said the senator -- quote -- "it's just a joke to think that this witness can provide members of the United States Senate with information and important geological and water quality issues" -- end quote. So why would Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut invite the pop star who makes young girls go crazy? Because Joe Lieberman is running for president and George Voinovich isn't. Isn't that right?

CARVILLE: No, I think the guy had something to say. He grew up -- he grew up in eastern Kentucky, and if you've been there and seen that, and you saw pictures of what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and all the president's contributors are doing to these mountains -- it's a damn outrage and I congratulate him.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Still to come, Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn join us with a preview of the president's upcoming prime-time address.

Also coming up, an FBI agent who says he won't feel safe while his agency has the job of investigating terrorists.

And later, in our quote of the day, an astonishing bit of truth telling at the White House (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Paula Zahn.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're just about 30 minutes away from a major address from the president of the United States.

ZAHN: The president is expected to propose massive changes in the way the government's organized to better secure the nation from terrorists.

BLITZER: And we'll of course have live coverage of the speech, analysis from all of our reporters and reaction from the White House chief of staff, as well as senators from both sides of the aisle.

ZAHN: That is all coming at the top of the hour on LIVE FROM WASHINGTON.

Now back to Bob Novak and James Carville. How are you guys doing tonight?

NOVAK: Paula and Wolf, either one of you, what is the -- do you got any advance word on specifically what the president is going to say in this speech?

BLITZER: Well, we do have a couple of quotes from the president. The White House did release a couple -- let's see if we can find them here. Among other things, Bob, he's going to say this: "America is leading the civilized world in a titanic struggle against terror. Freedom and fear are at war. And freedom is winning." He also says this, maybe Paula you want to tell our viewers.

ZAHN: Well, you know, actually is my favorite thing of the night, the road map of what this new agency's going to look like. Check this out. This is supposed to simplify the work of eight existing agencies, which of course will be headed up by this new agency, which will be considered the clearinghouse for all this information collected and synthesized by all these different groups.

NOVAK: That looks like a map of the Clinton campaign of 1992.

BLITZER: Bob, it's the health care plan. It's the health care plan. You remember that.

CARVILLE: Wolf, if this just works as well as the Clinton campaign in 1992, we'll be fortunate as a nation. Thank you all. And glad to see we've got our A team, the Wolfman and Miss Paula covering this speech tonight.

Now time for our quote of the day. All of you political junkies will know the name of Karen Hughes. Her official title is counsel to the president. But insiders agree she's the most powerful woman in the executive branch. Karen Hughes is spending her last month at the White House. She and her family are going home to Texas. And according to Bush chief of staff, Andy Card, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will never be the same. Andy has spilled his guts to "Esquire" magazine.

And something he said about Karen Hughes is our quote of the day. "The president's in a state of denial. The whole balance of the place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush is gone, simply gone."

NOVAK: James, whether you like President Bush, as I do, or you don't like him, as you don't...

CARVILLE: I do like him. I think he's doing a bad job, but I like him personally.

NOVAK: If I could speak while you're interrupting. Whether you like him or not, it is absolutely silly to think that Karen Hughes' departure is going to absolutely destroy the White House. The question everybody is asking in Washington today is why in the world did Andy Card say that? And you know who else is wondering? George W. Bush.

CARVILLE: I guess Andy Card's probably wondering. You know, one of the things that -- Charles de Gaulle said one of the smartest things ever said, it'd be a good thing to everybody to remember, the graveyards are full of indispensable people.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We agree on that one.

CARVILLE: Absolutely, it's a...

NOVAK: Particularly indispensable co-hosts.

CARVILLE: Very, very.

(APPLAUSE) NOVAK: All right. OK, don't forget, you know what you're not supposed to forget? In case you've forgotten, President Bush's address to the nation is at the top of the hour. Coming up, James and I will duke it out over the new homeland security cabinet seat. But next, you'll meet an FBI whistle-blower, who's having a hard time getting media attention for his story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. On Capitol Hill today, FBI agent Coleen Rowley complained her agency's bureaucracy is full of risk aversion road blocks to investigations and endless and needless paper work. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee praised her as a patriot. FBI special agent Robert Wright was not on Capitol Hill today, even though he says the bureau repeatedly and intentionally blocked his attempts to identify and neutralize terrorists.

In our crossfire exclusive, he joins us from Chicago. And here in Washington is his attorney, Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Mr. Wright, your charges against the FBI are really more disturbing, more serious than Ms. Rowley's. Why is it do you think that the -- you have been ignored by the media, ignored by the congressional committees, and no attention's been paid to your allegations?

ROBERT WRIGHT, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: I don't know the true reasons for that. But other people I've talked to since we did the press conference last week have indicated that there may be a perception out there that because I put this manuscript together, I may be trying to profit off of all of this. And that's just not the case.

NOVAK: Tell me which -- why is it, if you can explain to the people, because your story has not been heard -- what is the basis for your allegation that they intentionally disrupted your efforts to go after the terrorists? What was the reason for that, do you believe?

WRIGHT: It's hard to explain, but basically, it just comes down to job security is what it was. And a lot of people won't understand that. But as the details do come out in the future, they will understand.

NOVAK: Do you think it's the old story, and I've seen this by some of your colleagues in the FBI -- that it's just a problem between people in the agency having long range investigations, and those who want to arrest and bring people to justice? And they felt that if you were to actually apprehend these terrorists, and bring them to justice, it would spoil the long-range investigation? Is that what the basis of the problem is?

WRIGHT: Pretty well, that's it. That's it. It's -- you know, if you identify and locate criminals, and lock up the suspected known terrorists for criminal violations that they are doing to further their terrorism activity, if there's a long-term investigation open, that investigation would get closed down on the intelligence side.

NOVAK: Do they have a point there or do you think not?

WRIGHT: Do they have a valid point there?

NOVAK: Yes.

WRIGHT: Based on my own experience, no way.

NOVAK: Why is that?

WRIGHT: I just think that if there's a means to take down a known and suspected terrorist in this country, you do it. It doesn't matter if you do it on the intel or the criminal side. To constantly and continually to ignore the criminal activity that's taking place in this country by many of these terrorist groups and the financial empires that they had built, is just not right. And if you can find the criminal means, if they're using criminal means to further the terrorism activity, go after them for the criminal activity they're conducting, money laundering, bank fraud, anything.

CARVILLE: You said that earlier that you suspect one of the reasons that you're not being called before the Hill, and not being taken seriously, is that people think if you're profiting from this. And you say that you're really not. Is that correct?

WRIGHT: That's correct. After I was taken off of the terrorism investigation in August of 1999, I realized that the incompetency, basically, international terrorism unit back at FBI headquarters, was going to allow the terrorism units to continue to expand their enterprises within this country to help finance terrorism in here and abroad.

CARVILLE: Now you're writing a book about this (UNINTELLIGIBLE), is that correct?

WRIGHT: Well -- but I actually did. That's the thing. I started in August of 1999. And on September the 10, all but the last three pages were finished. Go ahead.

CARVILLE: But I just want to get to the charge that you said that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as profiteering. Are you going to accept any money for this book?

WRIGHT: That's the difficulty I'm having right now, to be honest with you. I...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... I do it all the time.

WRIGHT: James is a multimillionaire, but let's get to the point here is that Bob, I know as his counsel, followed all the FBI rules and regulations.

CARVILLE: We're just asking is he going to keep -- is he going to take the money for the book.

LARRY KLAYMAN, JUDICIAL WATCH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rather than coming forward, he asked the FBI for clearance. And they don't want him to reveal what went on. And they're very close to people on the Hill.

NOVAK: Mr. Wright, there's was one incident you talk about that upset you very much about a fellow FBI's agent's refusal to put a wire on a suspect. Can you tell us about that?

WRIGHT: I'm sorry, can you repeat that?

NOVAK: There's an incident that you talk about, about a fellow FBI agent's refusal to put a wire on a suspect. Can you tell us about that?

WRIGHT: Only that what was in my statement. And I fully stand by that statement. The bottom line...

NOVAK: Tell us about that.

WRIGHT: What it came down to was that a subject of a terrorism investigation contacted an FBI agent in another division, who happened to be a Muslim, to ask if he could talk to him regarding my investigation, because he had been subpoenaed to appear in Chicago to answer some questions. And the Muslim agent initially agreed to do it. But within an hour changed his mind and said he would not wear a wire against another Muslim.

He said, and the quote was "a Muslim doesn't record another Muslim." And what concerns me is that this individual was working international terrorism investigations, and refusing to do the sworn duty that he swore he would do.

CARVILLE: Agent Wright, you said that one of the reasons, I'll go back and ask you again, that people are not taking you seriously is the issue of profiteering. Will you accept money for this book that you wrote?

(CROSSTALK)

WRIGHT: That's not the issue.

CARVILLE: Well, no, let me just ask the question. He brought it up. I didn't bring it up. He brought -- no, he raised the issue.

KLAYMAN: Well, people are taking him seriously. We've been in contact with several senators on Capitol Hill. Senator Arlen Specter, Senator Leahy. We've been in contact...

CARVILLE: Well, then Larry, why is Rowley up there with 100 cameras and you're here on CROSSFIRE?

KLAYMAN: And that was the point I was making was that Ms. Rowley decided that she was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) FBI regulations. She did the right thing. She's a whistle-blower. Bob is waiting to get clearance from the FBI to talk fully. He can't talk about the investigation.

NOVAK: We're out of time. But I just got to ask one question. And I want a brief answer. Did you feel the letter you got from the FBI about a week ago, talking about criminal action, was a threatening letter?

WRIGHT: It was an attempt to keep me from talking publicly about what's in this manuscript. And the important thing to know is September 11 was a horrible event. And that's what is being focused on now. But this manuscript covers much more than September 11. It is the catalyst for why September 11 was allowed to happen, and why it's going to happen again. And it's not only the FBI's problem. You also have the Internal Revenue Service that's at fault in this, the Department of Agriculture, and the INS.

KLAYMAN: Let's thank the line agents for doing their job. They were pure to the American people. The supervisors were not.

NOVAK: Thank you, Mr. Klayman. Thank you, Agent Wright.

(APPLAUSE)

President Bush's address to the nation is coming up. But first, in round six, James Carville and I take off the gloves and take on each other. And in fireback, a viewer who thought Republicans were for shrinking government.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for round six. With the president's speech coming up, James, I thought Senator Kit Bond had a real point. He called it a rope-a-dope. You people have been saying that the president has wasted all this time, eight months. He hasn't put together a cabinet level department, putting all these agencies together. Finally, after all this time, he puts it together. They said it's too fast. He was too hurried. He didn't think it all carefully. That's just politics, isn't it?

CARVILLE: First of all, as early as October, Senator Lieberman was calling for this. Now we're told that the president started doing this in April. We don't know -- I think it's a good idea. I congratulate him for following the leads of Democrats who have said that he had to have this. And I think the president's shown that he can follow the leadership of people like Senator Lieberman, Senator McCain, people that have been calling for this kind of thing.

And (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but before they act on it, they've got to be sure that this thing is completely thought out.

NOVAK: You think he's going to name Tom Ridge as the secretary?

CARVILLE: Presumably so, but I don't know. He's never told me...

NOVAK: I think it's up the in the air then.

CARVILLE: Do you think it's a good idea?

NOVAK: I hate to see all that power in one group, because I'm a real conservative, who is worried about an aggregation of government power.

CARVILLE: So you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fought it?

NOVAK: I haven't decided yet.

CARVILLE: You haven't decided, but...

NOVAK: But unlike you, I can't make up my mind on something I haven't seen.

CARVILLE: Oh, so -- but you may be against it?

NOVAK: I might.

CARVILLE: All right.

NOVAK: All right.

Don't leave. President Bush's speech is just minutes away. And one of our viewers has fired back a thought about something she thinks is more important than balancing the budget. What could that be?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Time now for fireback. The first e-mail from Donald Raab of Oakland, New Jersey who writes, "Another layer of bureaucracy doing nothing. More agents and more money and CYA." You know what that stands for. "The answer is simple -- Mr. Bush should be appointing Coleen Rowley as the head of the FBI. Everyone else can be fired." Well, Donald, you almost got it right. What you need is a new agency to replace the FBI.

CARVILLE: All right. And what have we got next here? Crossfire -- "For a Republican, President Bush sure is expanding the government. My question to you is why is a new agency behind added at all? Do we not already have the Department of Defense, NSA, National Security Agency, CIA, and FBI? Can't the agencies be reformed, modernized to handle the task of protecting us from terrorism?" Well, Eamon Daly from Concord, California, Eamon, I'm sure we'll find that out during the hearings when we create this. So they'll be a lot of questions.

NOVAK: OK, question from the studio audience.

PAUL RASHAMI: Yes, my name is Paul Rashami (ph) and I'm from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. And my question is that don't you think it would be wiser to redefine the scope or the missions, the objectives of the FBI and the CIA to replace them? Or else it seems kind of pointless what division they really are in?

NOVAK: I think you got a real good point there. I think -- what I do think is that the FBI needs basic reform, no matter what department they're under. CARVILLE: One of -- I think what happened is when Governor Ridge, from your home state of Pennsylvania there, from Luzerne (ph) County, Wilkes-Barre, when he came, people said that he's not going to be able to do the job that he set out to do, unless he has cabinet status. And the people that said that turned out to be right. And I think it's a recognition of this.

NOVAK: Next question, please?

NATHAN CROSIER: My name is Nathan Crosier (ph). I'm from Washington, D.C. I find it interesting that Democratic members of Congress will only support the creation of a cabinet level homeland security post. Are they more interested in making the administration look bad through intense questioning of a top ranking Bush appointee?

NOVAK: What they want to do is just bring them up one committee after another and question them. FBI director Mueller in three days last week spent 11 hours being questioned. How the hell can you do this job when these Democrats are harassing you on Capitol Hill? That's my question.

CARVILLE: When we had a real president, Franklin Roosevelt, 11 days after Pearl Harbor, he put a national commission in to find out what happened. So you can correct it.

From the left, I'm James Carville. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. CNN's coverage of the president's address begins right now.

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With FBI Whistle-Blower Robert Wright>


 
 
 
 


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