CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Aired December 1, 2002 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8:00 p.m. in Mombasa, Kenya, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad as well. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
We'll get to our interview with the leaders of the new September 11th terror commission, the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, in just a few minutes, but first, a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, an independent commission authorized by Congress and President Bush is being created to investigate the September 11th terror attacks here in the United States.
Earlier today I spoke with the just-named chairman of the 9/11 commission, the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the vice chairman, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, Senator Mitchell, congratulations to both of you on this mission.
You now have, what, 18 months to come out with a report. Dr. Kissinger, is that realistic? Can you find out precisely what happened, what mistakes may have occurred, over the next 18 months?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We will make a major effort to do so. And Senator Mitchell and I have talked about it, and we are very hopeful, indeed confident, that we will be able to manage the deadline.
BLITZER: Is it possible, Dr. Kissinger, you could do it even more quickly than 18 months?
KISSINGER: We'll do it in the quickest way possible that is compatible with thoroughness and making sure that when the report is finished there can be no question about the fact that every aspect has been explored.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, can you can guarantee that after your commission is done with this work there won't be any additional need for further investigations? Because, as you know, in some of these kinds of issues going back to the Warren Commission, the assassination of President Kennedy, these commissions come out with results that only raise further questions.
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, as Dr. Kissinger said, we're going to explore every avenue. I think he said while in his meeting with the president, he said we're going to follow the facts wherever they lead. And this will be a complete, thorough, fair, non-partisan inquiry to the full extent that it's possible for us to humanly do so, along with the other members of the commission.
I emphasize, Wolf, this is not just a two-person commission. There are eight other members yet to be appointed, and I'm certain they will have the same view.
We're going to do the very best we can to make this complete and thorough and fair and non-partisan.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, in addition to the other members of the commission, you'll have a staff. How big of a staff and how much of a budget will you have?
KISSINGER: I also want to stress the non-partisan approach that both Senator Mitchell and I are determined to take.
We haven't decided yet on the size of the staff. We will need a staff director, of course. And we will probably work in different areas, each of which will have an appropriate staff. I say in different areas so that we can get the most benefit from the commissioners that have been appointed.
But this will have to wait until the commissioners are appointed. And within a very brief time after the appointments are made, we will hold a commission meeting and Senator Mitchell and I will then discuss the work program and achieve an agreement.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence, Senator Mitchell, that you'll have access to every piece of information, to every individual you may need to question in order to get the job done?
MITCHELL: I have confidence that we will make every effort to gain access to every piece of information and every individual that will be needed to get the job done. And I believe that all of those whom we will call upon for that type of information will comply. I think it's very much in the national interest to do so, and I think that all of those who are asked to cooperate will do so.
The law does impose that requirement certainly on all federal officials, and I think anyone else, a non-federal person who is asked, will do so as well. In addition, we will have the power of subpoena. So I think that this will be as thorough as is humanly possible.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, will you also seek to question foreign leaders, foreign individuals, foreign intelligence agencies about what they may or may not have known before 9/11?
KISSINGER: Let me go back to a previous question. The president, in appointing me, in the public statement and also in private conversations, said that all facts will be available and all cooperation by the administration will be extended.
At this point, I think it would be wrong for either the senator or me to indicate exactly whom we will call. But as I and as he has said, we will follow the facts where they lead. And if they lead in the direction of the need for looking into the actions of foreign countries or what foreign countries knew, my personal recommendation will be to explore that. But I would like to wait until we have the commission together.
BLITZER: I'd like both of you to weigh in on what Senator Joe Lieberman said the other day. I want you to listen to what he said, suggesting that, in the end, both of you and the commission will have to, among other things, interview President Bush himself. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I would be surprised if this commission, in pursuit of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God, did not want to speak with this president...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What about that? Are you ready to go ahead and question President Bush, Dr. Kissinger?
KISSINGER: I think it's premature at this point. And I think when the question arises and when there is felt to be the need that there's information that only the president might have, that's when that question will arise and that's when we will pursue the facts with the leaders.
BLITZER: But I don't understand, why would it be premature to even say whether or not you would want to question the president about this whole issue, what the United States knew before, if they knew anything, if the U.S. knew anything, about the terrorist plans leading up to 9/11? Why can't you simply say, "Yes, we'd like to question the president?"
KISSINGER: Because you begin with the people who collected the information, and then you see what other information you need.
But I really think this is a totally premature issue at this moment, and we will face it when it arises. I'd like to hear the senator on that subject.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Senator Mitchell.
Senator Mitchell, if the president was willing to sit down for several hours and talk to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post about all these issues, why wouldn't you want him to sit down before your commission and discuss all these issues?
MITCHELL: First, of course, Wolf, there is no commission at this point. There's a designated chairman and vice chairman. It would be insulting in the extreme to the other eight persons and presumptuous on our part for Dr. Kissinger and I now to announce who we're going to question and when and what we're going to do. We ought to, obviously, solicit the views of the other commissioners on any major substantive issue.
Secondly, we don't know what the facts are. In fact, the law specifically requires us to begin by reviewing the results of the joint congressional investigation, which has a voluminous record and which we must, by law, begin with.
And so therefore, I think it is premature and unwise for us to now, at this point, before the commission even exists, before the other eight members have been named, to indicate who we're going to question and when.
This will come up in the ordinary course of events, and we will deal with it at that time, as with foreign leaders, as with the president, as with anybody else involved. But we're not going to make decisions at this point on our own about how we're going to proceed until we follow the law, get the commission established and get into the process.
BLITZER: And, Dr. Kissinger, I assume that also holds for the previous administration, whether or not you'll call Bill Clinton, for example, to testify before your commission.
KISSINGER: I think the principles that Senator Mitchell has just put forward apply to President Clinton also.
BLITZER: When you spoke to the president, Dr. Kissinger, did he explain why he changed his mind about this commission? Because I want you to listen to what he said only in May about the notion of having a formal commission of inquiry of this sort. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, of course, want the Congress to take a look at what took place prior to September the 11th. But since it deals with such sensitive information, in my judgment it's best for the ongoing war against terror that the investigation be done in the Intelligence Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That investigation was done in the Intelligence Committee. They're about to come out with their joint report, the House-Senate Intelligence Committees.
Did he explain why he came around and changed his mind and now wants to go forward with this presidential commission?
KISSINGER: No, he didn't, and I, frankly, hadn't followed the debate up to that point. What he said to me is that he's committed to, as he also said in his public statement, that he's committed to getting the facts and circumstances, that we should make recommendations which he is then going to be very eager to look at and, my impression is, to implement within -- of course he has to make his own judgment.
But our mission, as far as he's concerned, is to get the facts. Whatever his opinion was earlier, I don't know. He did not discuss it with me.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, there was a sense early on in the administration that this would only take away from the ongoing effort, the ongoing war against terrorism, by reviving what happened, what didn't happen before 9/11. I assume the president and you and Dr. Kissinger are all in full agreement that this is not going to detract, take away from the war on terror, your commission.
MITCHELL: Well, I have not discussed it with the president, but I can say to you that the law has been passed, signed into law by the president, and we're going to discharge the mandate which it imposes upon us fully and thoroughly.
My personal belief is that this will be of immense assistance in the effort to combat terror. You can't fully deal effectively with the future unless you know the lessons of the past.
And so rather than detracting, I think it will be a significant form of assistance in that effort. And that's obviously what the Congress believed when it passed the law and the president signed it.
So the discussion of the last year or so, in a certain sense, Wolf, is not relevant to our mandate. We've been assigned a very important task. We think it's in the national interest that we discharge it thoroughly, fairly, in a non-partisan manner, and that's what we're going to do.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, as you know, you've been widely praised for this selection, but not unanimously praised, including the editorial writers of The New York Times, who, among other things, wrote this. And let me put it up on the screen and read it to you.
"His affinity for power and the commercial interests he has cultivated since leaving government may make him less than the staunchly independent figure that is needed for this critical post. Indeed, it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed."
I wonder if you'd like to respond to that New York Times editorial?
KISSINGER: I think The New York Times will apologize for this editorial when our report is submitted.
BLITZER: All right. Let me then move on to a Los Angeles Times editorial which came up with a different criticism of you, and I'll put that up on the screen as well.
It says, "His company, Kissinger Associates, is known for introducing U.S. firms looking for business overseas to leaders of foreign governments. The company has not disclosed all of its clients or detailed the work it does. There is the possibility of a conflict of interest in investigating foreign governments that can be beneficial to clients."
What about that point, that your company, Kissinger Associates, does not disclose its clients and there could be potentially a conflict of interest?
KISSINGER: No law firm discloses its clients. I will discuss my clients fully with the counsel of the White House and with the appropriate ethics groups.
And the possibility that the investigation of a commission that contains eight commissioners would be affected by any conceived commercial interests is outrageous. I have served six presidents, and I have never been accused of anything of this kind.
BLITZER: Well, let me move on, but let me also bring in Senator Mitchell.
You have some clients in the private sector, as well. Are you planning on divulging all of those clients, so that there won't be even an appearance of potentially a conflict of interest?
MITCHELL: Well, any clients that I represent that involve any activity before the federal government must, by law, be disclosed under federal lobbying acts, and have been, the really rather few over the past few years. And I don't do much of that now.
So any requirements of action involving the U.S. government, or any of its agencies, has been and will be disclosed as needed. And I don't think there is any conflict of any kind. So I don't think that's an issue at all.
BLITZER: Let me go back and give you an example, Dr. Kissinger, of where someone might think there could be a conflict.
For example, if you represented Saudi interests -- if your Kissinger Associates had some Saudi clients, given the uproar that has generated over the past several days over the so-called money trail and Saudi money perhaps inadvertently being funneled to al Qaeda, that could potentially raise a question. I assume you would agree on that.
KISSINGER: We have no Saudi clients. We represent nobody in the Middle East governments. And under no circumstances would we ever permit -- would I ever permit a foreign government to affect my judgment.
BLITZER: We have to take a short break. When we return, following the Saudi money trail. More of my conversation with 9/11 Commission Chairman Henry Kissinger and the Vice Chairman George Mitchell. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: My administration will continue to act on the lessons we've learned so far to better protect the people of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush pressing the themes of homeland security and fighting terrorism during the signing of a new intelligence appropriations bill.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Now more of my interview with the leaders of the new September 11th terror commission investigation, the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, on the whole issue of the Saudi so- called money trail, is it conceivable going into this inquiry on your part that the Saudis did in fact fund at least, perhaps inadvertently, some of the al Qaeda hijackers who committed that terror on 9/11?
MITCHELL: Well, I think it would be unwise and unhelpful for Dr. Kissinger and I to engage in speculation of that type. There has been a great deal of speculation in the press about that, quite a bit of reporting. We will obviously review that and everything else.
But when you ask, is something conceivable, well, of course, the answer is anything is conceivable in any circumstance.
I think our task is to sort out what happened, to follow every possible lead, to make every possible inquiry and to conduct the most thorough possible investigation, which is what we intend to do.
And believe me, there will be no influence brought to bear on any members of the commission, if I have my way -- and I believe we will be able to do this -- that affects our independent judgment in this regard.
BLITZER: And the same question to you, Dr. Kissinger, about the Saudis and the suspected role they may have had, at least inadvertently, in funding this terrorism.
KISSINGER: We will test (ph) the money trail. It's certainly one of the issues we have to look into. And I'm familiar with the published reports that some of it allegedly came from Saudi Arabia. This is an issue which we undoubtedly will bring before the commission, and I think it's inappropriate to discuss now how we will pursue it.
But I can only repeat what the senator and I have said now several times. It will be non-partisan, thorough, and something that will permit the American people, when it is finished, to say that a full accounting has been given of the facts and circumstances that led to this tragedy. BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, do you believe this most recent terror attack in Kenya against the Israelis, including the firing of a surface-to-air missile at an Israeli charter 757, opens up a new chapter in this whole war on terror?
MITCHELL: Well, I think it's a continuing broadening of the war, which, if you go back over the past quarter century, you can see a steady expansion of this type of activity, both in terms of participants and in terms of targets and in terms of geography as to where they occur. So I think it's part of a process of expansion that has been developing over a very long period of time.
Now, my understanding is that the -- the U.S. administration is not yet made the direct connection to al Qaeda. They have been allegations of that and there is an investigation underway. So I don't know who those who perpetrated these criminal acts were. But certainly that possibility does exist and will be the subject of continuing investigation, obviously, by U.S., Israeli and Kenyan officials.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, we only have a minute or two left before I let you go. The whole notion of these inspections going on, under way in Iraq right now, do you believe, given all your wealth of experience, that Saddam Hussein will in the end fully cooperate with these international inspectors and disarm?
KISSINGER: I find it difficult to believe, but I'm open-minded on the subject.
BLITZER: What about you, Senator Mitchell?
MITCHELL: I don't know what's going to happen. I think it is obviously the best thing for the Iraqi government to do, that is to comply with the United Nations resolution, which it has not done in the past, because I think the alternative will be much, much worse for them.
So my hope is that they will do so, but I have no way of knowing in advance what will occur.
BLITZER: And finally to both of you, because of your experience in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, Dr. Kissinger, to you first, do you see any movement whatsoever any time soon that the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians could get back off the ground?
KISSINGER: I actually believe that the issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis have narrowed during this period of conflict, and that once negotiations start that progress it's quite conceivable to me, and I think that Senator Mitchell's report has made a significant contribution to it.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Mitchell, you'll have the last word, go ahead.
MITCHELL: There is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. And I feel certain that at some point this conflict will be resolved and the parties will go back to the table. And I hope very much that it will be done soon before there is any further tragic loss of life.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell and Dr. Kissinger, you both have an enormous challenge ahead of you. Thanks so much for spending a few moments with us and our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
Thank you very much.
MITCHELL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the U.N. search for weapons in Iraq. What might inspectors find, and what special challenges do they face? We'll find out how it's going from the head of the international agency responsible for monitoring the world's nuclear weapons, Mohammed El- Baradei.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
According to the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, Iraq so far has been cooperative with the inspectors. But there are, of course, serious concerns, particularly in the Bush administration, that Iraq is hiding weapons beyond the inspectors' reach.
Earlier today I spoke with Mohammed El-Baradei. He's the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for monitoring the world's nuclear weapons and those concerns.
BLITZER: Dr. El-Baradei, thanks once again for joining us.
Let me get right to the issue at hand. How are these inspections going so far?
MOHAMMED EL-BARADEI, HEAD, IAEA: Wolf, I think we're off to a good start. Our people are systematically building capacity in Baghdad. They are already doing systematic visits to different sites. And I think the level of cooperation we are getting from the Iraqis are good. So, so far we are satisfied, and I hope that pattern will continue as we go along.
BLITZER: Have there been any problems whatsoever?
EL-BARADEI: No, we haven't encountered any problem, Wolf.
BLITZER: And at the actual nuclear inspections, the area that you are in charge of, have those nuclear inspections actually begun, as opposed to the biological and chemical inspections?
EL-BARADEI: Oh, very much so, Wolf. Yesterday, for example, we went to an industrial complex which used to be the site for producing centrifuge for enriching uranium. We went also to a large machine tool factory which, again, Wolf, contributing to the weapon program. So we are very much on the ground.
BLITZER: So when you went to that Al Farat industrial plant just outside Baghdad, a place you say that used to produce some sort of nuclear potential capabilities, what, if anything, did you find?
EL-BARADEI: No, I think we find that nothing there is being used for weapon or nuclear weapon purposes. I think what we have seen so far is that the facilities are not used for weapon program, Wolf.
BLITZER: So what's next? What about those sensitive presidential palaces, for example? Do you expect to be going to any of those sites any time soon?
EL-BARADEI: I think as I said, Wolf, we cannot, of course, talk about the game plan, but I think that, obviously, is going to be part of our plan.
BLITZER: And do you suspect that at some of those sites, those so-called presidential palaces, some of which are huge, huge areas, there potentially could be some nuclear capability unfolding?
EL-BARADEI: Well, we have to go and see. I think, as I said, I do not want to speculate, Wolf. But we are going to go and see, we are going to take environmental sampling there to make sure that there was no nuclear activities that has taken place there. But we are going to visit, inspect, and then come with results.
BLITZER: As you know, Qadir Hamsa, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist who defected to the West in the mid-1990s, has been critical of these inspections.
He wrote in the newspaper USA Today this week, he wrote this, for example. He wrote, "Saddam has taken over as atomic energy chairman. His words to us in a meeting were clear: Pretend that you are not as well-informed or as bright as you really are. That meant telling inspectors, `I don't understand the question, and I have no idea what this means.'"
In other words, he's saying that the Iraqis managed to trick the inspectors in the past and they presumably will succeed in doing that in the future. What do you say about that charge from Qadir Hamsa?
EL-BARADEI: I don't think so, Wolf. I think when we left Iraq in 1998, as I mentioned before, we believed that we neutralized Iraqi nuclear program. I think Mr. Hamsa left Iraq, I believe, in 1994, much before we completed our work there.
But it's, what I really caution against, Wolf, is this second- guessing. It's not a reality television show. There is a lot of work we need to do. There is a lot of components of that inspection that need to come together. And I hope that people will just stop second-guessing and shooting from the hip with very little regard to the facts.
We need the support, all the support we get. We need to have the time to do the work. We will come in time with the facts as we see them, but we would like also to get some privacy to be able to do our work.
There were some reports today, Wolf, that, for example, we were giving one-hour notice before an inspection. I checked that with our people in Iraq. There was nothing, you know, to that story. We, in fact, were telling the Iraqis we are coming in order to take some air sample from the roof and the Iraqis had to prepare a crane for us, so it was not an inspection. Yet, the report came that we are giving an hour notice.
So I would like the media to take care before they report. It's a serious situation, a situation of war and peace. And before some of the media reports, they really need to be careful about what they do and check with us before the accuracy of the report.
BLITZER: So you can assure our viewers right now around the world that these inspections are so-called no-notice inspections, the Iraqis get no advance warning where you're going and when you're going?
EL-BARADEI: Absolutely. And we intend to have it all the way in that fashion.
BLITZER: The timetable is very interesting, because, as you know, December 8th potentially could be a flashpoint. That's when the Iraqis are scheduled to declare precisely what they have, what kind of weapons. And they must do a full, accurate and complete declaration of all their programs in weapons of mass destruction. January 27th is the date the inspectors expect to provide their update, their report to the United Nations Security Council.
Is that December 8th deadline realistic? Do you believe the Iraqis have enough time to come forward with all of their programs by then?
EL-BARADEI: I think they intend to come with a full report on the weapon aspect of their program by December 8th. They might say that they need little bit of time with regard to the reporting on the civilian aspect of the chemical -- the civilian aspect of their work in the chemical/biological fields, not necessarily the nuclear because they have very little nuclear civilian activities.
So far they have not told us that they need extra time. I think, however, in the Security Council there is understanding that if Hans Blix, in the area of chemical and biological, were to be approached by the Iraqis that they need little extra time for the civilian activities, the Security Council might give them a little bit extra time. But I think for the weapon purpose, I think 30 days is sufficient. I don't think the Iraqis have said that this is not sufficient. They are, in fact, saying we do not have any longer weapon programs, so 30 days should be more than ample.
However, we stress to them, Wolf, that for them to be credible, they have to come with every piece of evidence they have -- when did the program start, how it was developed and how it came to an end -- and support that with as much documentation as possible. We need evidence to be able to provide credible assurances to the Security Council.
So December 8 is an important baseline for them.
BLITZER: And as you know, Resolution 1441, the U.N. Security Council resolution, also gives you the right, the authority to question Iraqi scientists even to take them out of the country for questioning with their family members if necessary.
A, has that happened? Have you made such a request? Do you believe it will be necessary?
EL-BARADEI: We haven't done it yet, Wolf. We have to do a lot of practical arrangement. For example, how we are going to define family. We have also to make sure that the Iraqi scientists are ready to leave the country. We have to arrange that they will get asylum when they go back.
But we clearly intend to make all the authority provided to us in the resolution. If there are cases when we believe we will get important evidence from Iraqi scientists outside of the country, we certainly will make use of that facility.
But we need to work the arrangement before we do that. And we need to make sure that there are Iraqi scientists who are willing to cooperate outside of Iraq.
BLITZER: We only have a minute left, Dr. Baradei, but I want to ask you about North Korea, another area where you obviously are working. What are you doing to make sure that North Korea doesn't develop a nuclear bomb, as they say they are doing right now? For example, do you want inspectors to actually go in there and take charge?
EL-BARADEI: Absolutely. Right now we are only looking at part of the program under the agreed framework between the U.S. and North Korea, Wolf.
But we have not yet had access to the new enrichment program that was reported to Assistant Secretary Kelly. We are trying to press as hard as possible to get in and take charge of that part of the program and make sure that no nuclear activities in North Korea is diverted to weapon programs.
And we need, of course, all the support of the international community to get the necessary access in North Korea. BLITZER: Which nuclear program is more advanced, North Korea or Iraq?
EL-BARADEI: It's really hard to tell. We do not know yet what is happening in Iraq for the last four years. We haven't yet seen where -- what are the stage of development of North Korea enrichment program. So it is difficult to make a judgment right now. They are both dangerous situations. They are both situations that we need to get control of.
BLITZER: OK, good luck to you Dr. El-Baredei. We will be talking, I'm sure, many more times in the coming weeks. Thanks very much.
EL-BARADEI: Thank you very much, Wolf, for having me.
BLITZER: Still to come on LATE EDITION, some insight into who might be responsible for this week's terrorist attacks in Kenya and what steps are being taken to prevent future destruction.
Plus, a conversation with a Saudi royal family adviser, Adel al- Jubeir, about questions concerning a possible link between a charitable contribution and the 9/11 terrorists.
But up next, is Baghdad deceiving U.N. inspectors? We'll get insight from two leading United States senators, Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The continuing threat of terrorism, the threat of mass murder on our own soil will be met with a unified effective response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush speaking Monday at the signing of the homeland security bill.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
We're joined now by two leading members of the United States Senate: in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, and here in Washington, the Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Senators, welcome to LATE EDITION.
Senator Specter, I'll begin with you. You heard Mohammed El- Baradei, the chief U.N. nuclear weapons inspector, say, so far so good, very cooperative. We heard the same thing from Hans Blix earlier in the week, the chief weapons inspector.
Do you believe the Iraqis are fully cooperating and will, indeed, disarm peacefully?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, they have so far, but the process is just beginning. A big date, as already noted, is December 8th when they have to make disclosures as to what they have. And bear this in mind, Wolf. Our intelligence enables us to know a great deal about them beyond the inspections, so we'll be able to see what they disclose. We have intelligence as to what they have.
The process is just beginning, but Saddam is a very smart guy. We all know that, and it's not unexpected that where he lets us come and observe that he would not have anything to hide where he does make it available.
But the process has a long way to go. But I think one thing is plain and that is, the United States has to play out the story. We're now in a process, the resolution authorizing force by the Congress was really tied to being sure that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction. We have to see what all of these inspections will bring.
BLITZER: Well, let me bring in Senator Bayh.
December 8th being this potential flashpoint, that's when the Iraqis have to declare what precisely they have in the area of chemical, biological, nuclear weapons and the missiles that potentially could deliver any of those weapons. If they don't come clean, would that be the point you would support the president in going to war?
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: That could be a real trigger, Wolf, but I suspect it won't be quite as easy as all of that. I suspect whatever they come forward with will be filled with semantic hairsplitting, legalisms that will make it difficult to look at and say, well, what exactly are they saying here. It's just another example of how they're going to try and play this out and hope that the world will lose attention.
BLITZER: December 8th, next Sunday, Senator Specter, if the Iraqis lie on that declaration, would you support the president if he ordered the U.S. troops to mobilize and go into battle?
SPECTER: Not at that stage. If they say something which we think is untrue, then we have to confront them and we have to make further inquiries to find out what it is they have. When you say they lie, that's a question of fact, and that has to be established.
So I think there has to be some give and take. But we're not going to put up with dilatory tactics, and we're not going to put up with evasion.
Bear this in mind, Wolf, this process has gone very fast. We passed the authorization for the use of force on October 10th. You already have the U.N. resolution. Took a little time, but not a whole lot. Now the inspections are going on. But I think when they make a reply, there will be some dialogue. There will be some back and forth. We want to be sure that they're being deceptive, that they're concealing before we move to the military confrontation.
BLITZER: Senator Bayh, the U.N. Security Council resolution which authorizes the return of the inspectors, Resolution 1441, says that if the Iraqis don't come clean or don't cooperate, then the members of the Security Council have to go back to the Security Council, have a meeting.
But the Bush administration says that doesn't necessarily give the Security Council a veto power over what any member of the Security Council, namely the United States and Britain, might actually do. So, this could play out though relatively quickly if the U.S. determines the Iraqis are not cooperating.
BAYH: Well, it could if we decided to take matters into our hands. And, again, these inspections weren't so much just to satisfy us whether he has these kind of weapons. We have very solid intelligence that he does have biological and chemical weapons and is feverishly working to develop nuclear weapons. This whole process was really to try and bring our allies along and convince the rest of the world of the justice of our cause.
So if we were to decide to exercise strong leadership and move in that direction, I suspect that we would find allies coming along with us fairly quickly.
BLITZER: Well, you say the U.S. right now has intelligence information that the Iraqis do have chemical and biological capabilities and working feverishly on the nuclear front.
If they say in that declaration they have nothing, which has been their position now all along, what happens?
BAYH: Well, clearly, our belief would be that it would be a flagrant untruth. But I suspect, as I said, it won't be quite that clear, Wolf. They'll use a lot of legalisms and a lot of semantic language so that it won't be quite so black and white.
But, as Arlen said, we shouldn't allow them to engage in hair- splitting and dilatory tactics. And so if kind of work through all of that and say, "Look, you're in violation, we're now going forward," I suspect that's something the Bush administration will look very seriously at.
BLITZER: Did the president, Senator Specter, give up too much by going through this U.N. Security Council route? As you know, at the end of August, the vice president, Dick Cheney, and other so-called hardliners in the administration were reluctant to even see the inspectors go back.
SPECTER: No, I believe the president has played it exactly right. If the Iraqis make a denial and we have facts to the contrary, then we have to prove our case. The president reserved the power of the United States to act with Great Britain and with our own coalition. But it is obvious that the United States' position would be much, much stronger if we have the U.N. with us, if we have Russia and China and France, if the president can put together the same coalition that President Bush did in 1991. So we have now the option if we really feel that Iraq is not being forthright, if we feel that the rest of the U.N. is not being appropriately diligent, we can act ourselves with Great Britain.
But I believe we're going to be patient here, and I think we should be. I think we ought to engage in a dialogue. If Iraq makes a denial, we'll prove our case, we'll prove our case to the U.N. And I believe that we will be able to establish a case which will bring Britain -- or, rather, France and Russia and China with us, as well as Great Britain.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Specter, Senator Bayh, please stand by.
We have much more to talk about coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION. We'll continue our conversation with these two senators.
Then U.S.- Saudi relations -- is a longtime alliance in danger of crumbling? We'll talk with Saudi Arabia's foreign policy adviser, Adel al-Jubeir.
Plus, this week's deadly attack in Kenya. We'll get three perspectives on who may have been responsible and what may be ahead in the U.S. war against terrorism.
All that, including your phone calls, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll continue our conversation with Senators Arlen Specter and Evan Bayh in just a moment, but first here's CNN's Carol Lin in Atlanta with a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: We're continuing our discussion with Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Senator Bayh, the latest terrorist attack against Israelis in Kenya in Mombasa, do you suspect this is the work of al Qaeda?
BAYH: Well, it certainly fits their modus operandi, Wolf. They've operated in Kenya before, with the attack on our embassy. They have a history of attacking soft targets, the Bali attack, for example.
And this was relatively sophisticated. You had the hotel bombing and the missiles being shot at the airline virtually simultaneously.
So -- and their objective is to cause mass casualties and to inflict economic damage, and this is another blow to our airline industry.
So if you add all that up together, it's a lot of smoke. We don't have proof yet, but certainly there are signs pointing in that direction.
BLITZER: Senator Specter, I want you to listen to what the Israeli foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said earlier today. He, too, is coming around to the conclusion that this may have indeed been the work of al Qaeda. Listen to Mr. Netanyahu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FOREIGN MINISTER OF ISRAEL: We're not absolutely sure, but there are increasing signs that it might have been.
Israel is not on the top of the list. We're the Little Satan. Remember, you are the Great Satan. We're just an extension of Western -- the corrupt Western civilization, that is democracy, in the heart of the Middle East. So we're merely a front position for you.
So it's true, they have cooperated with Hezbollah in Lebanon, but this is the first overt, certainly the first overt massive attack...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What does that say to you, Senator Specter? If in fact this is al Qaeda, they've issued, you know, warnings against Israeli targets, but this would seem the first time they would actually go ahead and launch such an attack. Does it open up a new chapter in this whole war on terrorism?
SPECTER: If it is al Qaeda, it is more reason for us to crack down on the financing of al Qaeda by Saudi Arabia.
We had hearings in the Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago which seeks to impose a liability on contributors to al Qaeda or Hamas or Hezbollah for murder. Where Americans are targeted, for example, at Hebrew University, five United States citizens were killed.
We have the Terrorist Prosecution Act, which then authorizes U.S. prosecution of those individuals. And where you have contributors which give to al Qaeda or Hamas or Hezbollah, purportedly for humanitarian reasons, but knowing that they're going to go to their military arms, those people are liable as accessories before the fact.
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt, Senator Specter, and just press you on this point. What are you saying? Are you suggesting that the Saudis deliberately fund terrorism?
SPECTER: I believe that it is a big question which the Saudis have not yet answered. Ranking Saudi officials said they were going to account for every cent when we had the business about Prince Bandar and his wife.
We have had an attitude on the Saudis, going way back, of refusing to cooperate with the United States. When I was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, went to Khobar Towers, talked to Crown Prince Abdullah, asked him to allow our investigators to question the people who were held in detention, and the crown prince refused.
There have been many instances where the al Qaeda funds have come from Saudis who were very, very high-ranking. And the issue with Prince Bandar and his wife is just another chapter. And ranking Saudi officials said they would account for every cent, and we ought to hold them to it.
I think our government, back to the Clinton administration, the current administration, has pampered the Saudis. And when we see al Qaeda working worldwide or we see Hamas or Hezbollah, we've got to cut off the source of funding. And I think it's time we get tough with murder prosecutions for accessory before the fact.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Specter, stand by.
Senator Bayh, the ambassador, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar, and his wife, Princess Haifa, they spoke out, gave an interview to the New York Times this past week.
The prince saying about these allegations that the Saudis are funding 9/11 terrorists or other terrorism, he says, "I have been in Washington for too long, and this is part of the game of politics." Princess Haifa Al-Faisal telling the New York Times, "I am outraged when people think I can be connected to terrorists, when all I wanted to do was give some help to someone in need."
Are the Saudis fully cooperating in this U.S. effort, this war on terrorism?
BAYH: There has been some good cooperation from the Saudis, Wolf, certainly with regard to anything outside of Saudi Arabia.
But where we need to have a heightened level of cooperation is with regard to things that touch internally within Saudi Arabia, and this would be one such example. There seems to be a level of, for lack of a better word, denial about how permeated some aspects of the society are with sympathizers for radical causes.
I agree with what Colin Powell said. I don't think this was an intentional act on the part of Saudi Arabian government. But there are charities there, there are individuals there from which money does flow to organizations and groups that we have a lot of concern about, and we need greater cooperation in terms of cracking down on those groups. There's been some, but there needs to be more.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is that if money did slip through the hands of Saudi government officials and wind up in the hands of terrorists, that certainly was not a deliberate policy, that just sort of happened? BAYH: I don't believe that was a deliberate policy on the part of the highest reaches of the Saudi government or the royal family. Could there be some at lower levels that are facilitating that? That's possible and needs to be investigated.
But you go from an element where it's an intentional act, Wolf, into the realm of is it carelessness, is it negligence. That's what we need to crack down on, to make sure these funds aren't flowing unintentionally to causes that harm not only us but the Saudis, as well.
BLITZER: Senator Specter, you seem, correct me if I'm wrong, to be much more concerned about this whole Saudi role than Senator Bayh is.
SPECTER: Wolf, I am not prepared to exonerate the Saudis, the governmental officials or Prince Bandar or anyone, on this state of the record. I think that there are many, many, too many questions for them to answer.
We have a record here where the Saudis have funneled some $4 billion to what they consider charities, but they also have military wings. They have cooperated with us on curtailing about $70 million. That's less than 2 percent.
On this state of the record and considering what the Saudis have done in the past, I think they need to give answers. And they were -- a ranking Saudi official was quoted in The Washington Post this week as saying they would account for every cent. Well, let's see them do it.
BLITZER: One of the points, though -- I know you want to weigh in, Senator Bayh, we only have a few seconds left -- but the whole issue of U.S. dependence on Saudi oil obviously plays a role in how gingerly the U.S. may want to investigate the Saudis.
BAYH: This is a difficult situation, Wolf. And the big picture issue here you've touched upon is, we need to reduce our dependence upon Saudi oil and Saudi Arabia. They've cooperated with us in some respects, but we shouldn't be dependent on any other nation for our own national security.
BLITZER: But we've been hearing that for 30, 40 years, that the United States shouldn't be dependent on foreign oil sources, but the U.S. is probably just as dependent today as ever.
BAYH: Or more than at the time of the Persian Gulf War. But we've been attacked now, we've lost 3,000 citizens on our own soil. It's time to get serious and reduce our dependence, because Saudi Arabia is a deeply conflicted society. There are elements there that are favorable to us, there are elements that are not favorable to us. We shouldn't allow United States national security to depend upon internal developments in Saudi Arabia or any other country.
BLITZER: I'm going to switch gears because we only have a minute left and ask Senator Kerry -- excuse me, Senator Bayh. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, your Democratic colleague, spoke out earlier today on "Meet the Press," and he said that he's going forward with his presidential ambitions. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm going to file this week an exploratory committee, a formal committee, and I'm going to begin the process of organizing a national campaign.
It's an enormous step, and it's not one I take lightly, but it's one that I'm excited about. It's a challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of Senator Kerry's prospects at this early point, two years effectively down the road, announcing he's setting up this exploratory committee?
BAYH: Well, the process for the Democratic nomination, Wolf, is wide open. There will be a number of very good candidates. John Kerry will be among them. He's a decorated war veteran, a former prosecutor. He's been a distinguished United States senator. I know he's thought carefully about this. There will be other candidates, and at this point it's just an open field.
BLITZER: You've taken yourself out of the presidential sweepstakes, is that right?
BAYH: I have.
BLITZER: What about the vice presidential sweepstakes?
BAYH: Well, that's another issue. That's completely up to whoever the party's nominee is, and only time will tell with regard to that.
BLITZER: Senator Specter, do you want to weigh in on what's happening among the Democrats as they look for a Democratic presidential candidate?
SPECTER: Sure. I think they have a lot of good prospective candidates. None measures up to President Bush, however.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Specter being the loyal Republican that he almost always is, but not always.
Senator Specter, thanks for joining us.
SPECTER: Wolf, I'm also concerned about the merits, and I think I spoke about the merits in that comment.
BLITZER: I think you did. Senator Specter, always good to have you on the show.
SPECTER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Senator Bayh, as well.
BAYH: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate both of you joining us here on LATE EDITION.
When we come back, tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Can the United States still count on its longtime Arab ally? We'll talk with the foreign policy adviser to the Saudi royal family, Adel al-Jubeir, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
As you know, there are fresh questions about whether or not at least one of the September 11th hijackers received any money from the Saudi Arabian government. That concern has caused some tension in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
Joining us now is the foreign policy adviser to the Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel al-Jubeir.
Mr. al-Jubeir, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER TO SAUDI CROWN PRINCE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You're going to have a news conference here in Washington on Tuesday. What are you going to tell -- what are you going to say then? I assume you're coming up with a new agenda to deal with the questions that have been raised.
AL-JUBEIR: Well, Wolf, a lot of what you hear bandied about about Saudi Arabia's lack of controls of its charities, about what happens in terms of Saudi finances, is just pure fiction.
We share some of the blame in not having gone out and been more transparent about the steps that we've taken, either before September 11 or after September 11. And that has opened the door for critics of Saudi Arabia to level charges at us that are baseless.
What we want to do is begin to educate the public, inform them about the steps that Saudi Arabia has taken with regards to charities, with regards to its financial system, with regards to contributions, so that they have a better context within which to assess the charges that are leveled against us.
BLITZER: The new issue of Newsweek coming up tomorrow says this, and I'll read it: "Newsweek has learned the Saudis are ready to acknowledge for the first time that there are indeed serious problems in the way their charities have conducted business and that tens of millions of dollars in Saudi funds may have been misspent." Is that true? AL-JUBEIR: Well, I wouldn't go as far as Newsweek did with this. But what we do know is that a lot of -- a number of our charities, especially those operating outside Saudi Arabia, did not have sufficient financial control mechanisms to ensure that the funds that were raised and that were spent actually went to where they were supposed to go. And that's the area that we've now fixed.
There were a number of offices that were affiliated with Saudi charities in Bosnia and in Somalia which were infiltrated by evil- doers. We've shut those off. We've forwarded the names of the individuals to the U.N., and now they're fugitives.
We want to make sure that nobody can take advantage of our charity or our generosity. We want to make sure that the people who give to Saudi charities, the donors, know that their money is being used for good and know that their money is not being abused.
BLITZER: Have you cut off money that goes to the family members of suicide bombers, for example, in Israel?
AL-JUBEIR: What we do in that case is we give money to the Palestinian Red Cross and to the International Red Cross and to the Red Crescent Society and to the United Nations organizations to provide money to Palestinian families in need. We do not designate who they should give the money to.
What we do not do is we do not encourage people to engage in suicide bombings. Our grand mufti, our chief religious theologian in Saudi Arabia, over a year ago condemned suicide bombings as immoral. We also don't believe that they achieve a political purpose.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, there was that famous telethon that was on television in Saudi Arabia that supposedly raised money for the family members of suicide bombers, which obviously could be seen as indirect support for terrorist attacks.
AL-JUBEIR: Yes, and I'm glad you raised this issue, Wolf, because there was a big misunderstanding surrounding that telethon. The telethon was to raise money for the Palestinians in need, to give them food where they had none, to put pharmaceuticals on their pharmacy shelves.
And when we used the term "martyr," in the Saudi context "martyr" means anyone who died innocently. So it wasn't -- but it was misconstrued or interpreted to mean martyr as in suicide bomber. That's not what it was for.
BLITZER: I don't know if you just saw Senator Specter on this program, but he's very angry at the Saudis. He says -- and he's a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- that the Saudis, you, are not fully cooperating with the U.S. investigation in the war on terror.
Let me replay an excerpt of what Senator Specter just said on this program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPECTER: We have had an attitude on the Saudis going way back. There have been many instances where the al Qaeda funds have come from Saudis who were very, very high-ranking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Those are serious charges that you're trying now to correct, obviously.
AL-JUBEIR: Yes. With all due respect to Senator Specter, I think in this case he's woefully misinformed. I doubt that there is any country on the planet that has cooperated as closely with the United States on the war on terrorism as Saudi Arabia has.
We have been with you from day one. al Qaeda struck Saudi Arabia before it struck America. It struck Saudi Arabia in 1995. It tried several times to infiltrate and engage in mischief in Saudi Arabia, and we were able to stop that.
We worked with you in terms of the war in Afghanistan. We worked with you in terms of tracking the finances of evildoers. We worked with you in terms of busting cells of al Qaeda. We have worked with our charities. We have detained people. We have frozen bank accounts. I doubt that there's anything that we can do that we haven't done.
The problem that we...
BLITZER: But let me ask you this question. Did you look into the money trail from Princess Haifa, the wife of the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, here in Washington, that went to a couple individuals in the San Diego area, in California, and some of that money may have wound up in the hands of two of those hijackers who took that plane and crashed it into the Pentagon on 9/11?
AL-JUBEIR: Well, we looked into it. Princess Haifa's office has looked into it. The money that she was giving went to a lady. It turned out that the lady was married to one of the Saudi students. This Saudi student is friends with another Saudi student who knew the hijackers.
One of the checks that was going to this lady had been endorsed over to the wife of Mr. Bayumi, who knew the hijackers. Your own government, the British government detained Mr. Bayumi. The FBI questioned him and let him go. With regards to Mr. Basnan, whose wife was receiving the checks, he was detained for three months and questioned and let go, I believe, two weeks ago.
So for anyone to think that if there was any charge related to these two individuals that the FBI would let them go, I think is beyond the realm of what's reasonable.
We are looking into it. We will find out what happened, why the checks were endorsed. And we want to ensure that nobody is able to take advantage of our generosity or our charity. BLITZER: But at this point, you don't know for sure, yes or no, whether the money actually wound up in the hands of one or two of those hijackers?
AL-JUBEIR: According to your own -- the investigation conducted by the FBI a year ago, they determined that Mr. Bayumi had given them two months' rent and that they paid him back. And this is when they first moved to San Diego. Beyond that, they don't have any evidence whatsoever.
Now, if any is uncovered, we would like to see it and we would like to deal with it. But as of this time, I don't believe that any of the funds made it to the hijackers.
BLITZER: You remember in last June, I think it was, when there was an attempted terrorist attack outside the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia with a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile, an SA-7, that may have been similar to what was used in Mombasa in Kenya this time.
Did your government ever find out who was responsible for that attempted terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia?
AL-JUBEIR: Oh, Wolf, not only did we find out, we apprehended them. We located the cell leader in Sudan. We worked with the Sudanese government to have them extradited to Saudi Arabia. And every step of the way, the U.S. government was aware of what we're doing.
It was an al Qaeda cell. Its purpose was to blow up an American airplane that would take off from Prince Sultan Air Base. And thank God we caught them, and thank God they failed.
BLITZER: Do you think it was a similar kind of operation that occurred in Kenya this past week?
AL-JUBEIR: If you say that it's similar in the sense of trying to use a shoulder-launched missile -- sorry, my English is rusty -- a shoulder-launched missile to knock down an airliner, then yes.
But if you're saying is it similar in the sense that it is part of al Qaeda's efforts, I really don't know. I don't know that the evidence is there yet.
BLITZER: And before I let you go, any update on how far the Saudis will go, if there is another war against Iraq, in letting the U.S. use that Prince Sultan Air Base?
AL-JUBEIR: That's the question of the day for the past year, Wolf. But we will make a decision based on the circumstances and after weighing all the options. We will abide by decisions of the U.N. Security Council.
The inspectors are currently in Iraq. They're doing their work. Let's see how that goes. And anything beyond that, I think, would be in the realm of the hypothetical. BLITZER: Because, as you know, the last time around, that effectively was the headquarters for General Schwarzkopf and the entire U.S. Central Command, the coalition working out of that air base. But at this point, it's still unclear whether you'll allow the U.S. to have access to that facility.
AL-JUBEIR: Because, Wolf, it's also unclear what the United Nations will decide, should Iraq not comply, because that becomes hypothetical. If the Iraqis don't comply, the Security Council will have to make decisions about what steps to take. We, as a member of the U.N., will abide by those decisions.
How we support those decisions is something that we'll have to decide when we weigh all the options. But keep in mind, Wolf, we have been friends and allies for 60 years. We have never let America down.
BLITZER: OK. Adel al-Jubeir, thanks for joining us.
AL-JUBEIR: Thank you. Always a pleasure.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And just ahead, terrorists take their fight against Israel to Kenya. What are the implications of this latest attack on the U.S. war on terrorism? We'll get some insight from the former U.S. top diplomat in Iraq, Ambassador Joe Wilson, the author and Los Angeles Times reporter Robin Wright, and the former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Analyst Pat Lang.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: America's enemies are still determined to inflict great harm. We have a duty, a solemn duty, to do everything we can to protect this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just one day after those remarks by President Bush, terrorists unleashed two attacks in Kenya. One, a suicide bombing at an Israeli-owned hotel in the city of Mombasa, killed 10 Kenyans and three Israelis. The second attack involved shoulder-launched missiles that were fired at an Israeli passenger jet, but the weapons missed their target. It's not yet clear who was responsible for the Kenyan assaults.
We get three perspectives now on what all of this may mean. Ambassador Joe Wilson formerly served as the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq just before the last Gulf war. Robin Wright is a national security correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. She's also the author of the important book, "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam." And Patrick Lang is a former Mideast analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. It's good to have all of you on the program.
Robin, let me begin with you. What do you think? Is this the work of al Qaeda?
ROBIN WRIGHT, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, we don't know yet, but obviously, it's the leading candidate, as it was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. All the telltale signals, in terms of the number of attacks planned at the same time, the site, al Qaeda having been operating there before, Osama bin Laden's long links with Sudan next door. So it's certainly the leading candidate.
BLITZER: Pat, what do you think?
PATRICK LANG, FORMER MIDEAST ANALYST, U.S. DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Yes, I think the complexity of this operation, you know -- and it was an effort to romp a really big score. If they'd managed to hit that chartered airliner with one of those SA-7s, of course, you'd be talking about a death toll in the hundreds and not just the number we do have.
So I think it's very probable that Robin's right about that.
BLITZER: We did see some videotape, CNN got exclusive videotape of al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan training with those Strela surface-to-air, those shoulder-fired missiles. That was a long, one- hour explanation. We're showing a little bit of it on the screen right now.
Ambassador Wilson, Joe, you know both of the areas, Africa, and you know the Middle East quite well. You spent your entire diplomatic career sort of shuttling between those two areas. What do you think?
JOE WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Oh, I think you've got 3-to-0 vote. If I had to guess, it would be al Qaeda. It has all the earmarks. They had a cell embedded there. They blew up our embassy there. There is the -- it's an easier region to operate in, at this point. Certainly it's a soft target relative to other targets that have been hardened since 9/11.
So yes, if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck, it probably is a duck.
BLITZER: But this would be really -- is it the first time that they're going after -- al Qaeda -- going after Israeli targets, as opposed to Hamas or Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad?
WRIGHT: I actually think that we may have seen -- may have crossed a threshold with this attack. The United States and its allies have been the primary targets of al Qaeda -- its allies in Europe.
And I think that this time we may see bin Laden trying to polarize the world in terms of this clash of civilizations, getting the Israelis and the Americans on one side, and therefore rallying more Arabs who haven't been drawn to his side. After all, he didn't come into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict until very late in the day, and only with a lot of language. He hasn't helped the martyrs' families and, you know, others in other extremist groups.
And so, it's quite possible that if you begin to see Israel retaliating that you can begin to see a polarization where Arabs may be a little more sympathetic because they were the ones who did go after the Israelis.
BLITZER: There seems to have been recently, Pat, a series of these al Qaeda-related attacks against so-called soft targets -- the Bali, Indonesia, nightclub, this hotel in Mombasa, the oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. Is there a new chapter unfolding right now?
LANG: Well, I think they're doing what they can do at the moment. You know, you can't always hit the targets you want. You have to hit the ones you are capable of hitting.
And I think we've damaged them severely in the last year in pushing them around, disrupting their networks, things like this.
And so that's one of the reasons why they're reaching out across the boundary to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, because they know that in the minds of Muslims and Arabs everywhere there are linkages among all of these causes. So if they can cross that boundary, they can start to utilize those assets, as well as countries allied with the Palestinians.
BLITZER: So if the Israelis now, the government of Prime Minister Sharon, retaliate against al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda targets, are they in effect playing into the hands precisely of what al Qaeda wants?
WILSON: Oh, I think that's absolutely right, yes. I mean, I think al Qaeda expanding into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is looking to have a broader conflict between the Arab world and the Judeo-Christian crusaders, as they would like to characterize them. So clearly if there's an Israeli response, it's going to escalate that considerably.
BLITZER: It's not that easy, though, to find these kinds of targets, though, if you're looking for those responsible for this kind of terrorist operation.
WRIGHT: Targets, you mean...
BLITZER: I mean, if the Israelis look to retaliate, when they retaliate in the West Bank or Gaza they can find targets, but to go outside, the United States has not had an easy time and presumably the Israelis wouldn't either.
WRIGHT: Absolutely. It becomes very difficult for the Israelis to figure out how to respond and, also, not to step on the toes of the United States, which it has to be very careful about right now. As important as it may be for Ariel Sharon in terms of his general policy or at this moment in the electoral campaign, it's going to be very difficult, because the United States is not going to want Israel to be a big partner in this war on terrorism.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller.
Go ahead, Florida with your question.
CALLER: Hi. Hi, Wolf, you're the best.
My question is, why don't we pool all the people -- all our men and stuff back into the United States, deal with the terrorism here in the United States first, and then go out and deal with the enemy, clean your own backyard before you clean someone else's? Why...
BLITZER: All right. What about that? Why not just bring all of the Americans back into the United States, forget about the rest of the world? Obviously, that's what the caller would suggest.
LANG: Well, I think she's put her hand on something important there, in that we have a profound internal security problem here in that we -- our borders in the past have been very porous, it's not too hard to move around in this country. It's only now getting to be difficult to do things that would provide the basis for operations in this country.
But at the same time, I don't think it's true that if you pull back from overseas that the enemy would not follow you home, because I think they certainly would. I mean, they see us as the enemy, and it's us that they really want to get to. We're the primary target.
WRIGHT: They're already here, I mean, as we saw in 9/11, dozens of them.
BLITZER: The cells are here.
BLITZER: And the FBI keeps warning of a spectacular potential terrorist attack that could follow.
WILSON: I didn't hear the question, but it's really unrealistic given the breadth and the length of our economic and political and diplomatic relations and our international leadership for us to pull all Americans back into the United States.
And we need to be engaged, and the solution to this is to really take the fight to the enemy, the right enemy. And that means using all the weapons that are at our disposal, including the military where necessary, but particularly proactive diplomacy and engagement where that can yield the desired result.
BLITZER: Pat Lang, walk us through what you believe is going to happen as far as Iraq is concerned over the next few weeks.
LANG: Well, I think what's going to happen is that all the people in the world who hope that what is going on with the U.N. and inspections, things like this, and the belief that this will somehow inhibit what the United States and President Bush intends to do are really mistaken. That this man has a lot of iron in his guts, and he's decided what he's going to do.
And he has, months ago, launched a big military build-up in the area, which is reaching its culmination in the next month or so. Once that happens, it is impossible, in fact, to keep the force at a high state of readiness in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It's going to be necessary to do something, either with Iraq or to start withdrawing the force.
I mean, think of the implications of withdrawing the force after having gone this far. So I find it very hard to believe that this inspection thing is really going to stop him.
BLITZER: Even though the inspectors themselves, Hans Blix, Mohammed El-Baradei, keep saying, "So far, so good, they're cooperating"?
LANG: Yes, well, of course they're cooperating. They have carefully prepared the ground. Everything we know about the Iraqis' behavior under pressure of this kind previously would indicate to you that, in fact, that they're going to prepare the ground and they're going to manage the process in such a way that you're going to get the result that they hope you'll get.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to pick up that point and walk forward, what might happen as far as Iraq is concerned.
We have unique insight from our panel. Please stand by. We'll continue our conversation with them. We'll also be taking more of your phone calls when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about a possible U.S. war against Iraq with the former U.S. charge d'affaires in Iraq, the last top U.S. diplomat to serve in Iraq before the first Gulf War, Joe Wilson; the Los Angeles Times reporter and author Robin Wright; and the former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Pat Lang.
What do you think Saddam Hussein is going to do over the next few weeks? Comply? Go ahead and disarm peacefully? Or set the stage potentially for another war?
WILSON: Well, I think he's going to basically try and slip the new cities in. He's now been cornered by the U.N. Security Council Resolution. The inspectors are in there. My guess is that he will give the inspectors what he suspects the rest of the world knows he has and nothing more. After which, they'll try and drag this thing out through adjudication, a discrepancy process, further inspections into the winter and the spring. And then again, as long as he can draw this out, he will.
BLITZER: But you just heard Pat Lang, former Pentagon official, U.S. Army officer, suggest that the U.S. can't keep a high readiness, military readiness level in the Persian Gulf for very long without seeing that readiness go down.
WILSON: Well, that's not the purpose of this. The purpose is to disarm Saddam. Whether the U.S. can or cannot keep this readiness, they can build back to readiness quickly enough to prosecute whatever military action they decide to do. So that's of lesser concern than really how you prosecute the war if Saddam makes it necessary that you do so.
BLITZER: Robin, if the Bush administration gave the U.N. Security Council this right to go forward with a resolution, they have to let the inspectors at least play it out.
WRIGHT: Oh, absolutely. And this is where it gets into a game of time in between the two scenarios. Can the United States, when it's ready to go in, do anything, or can Saddam stall until the end of March, after which he really begins to buy about eight months because of weather factors that make it very difficult to launch a major military, and what may be a prolonged, military campaign.
You don't think so?
WILSON: I disagree. I mean, you can sort of do any sort of air softening up anytime after March. The real problem is keeping troops in the desert during the summer and prosecuting from...
BLITZER: Pat Lang, by the way, just for our viewers who may not be familiar, one of only a handful of U.S. intelligence analysts who accurately predicted the Iraqis would invade Kuwait the last time around, in August of 1990.
LANG: Well, thank you.
I absolutely agree, you can do any kind of air operation you want anytime of the year.
But the problem is that the political effect of bringing the force over there, positioning it clearly in a way that establishes that we're very serious about Iraq, and then starting to bring it home because of the hot weather and something like this, and then bringing it back over there again with a disruption to everybody and the ability of the other party to claim that you're inept and useless in this, is a thing that will be not faced very easily.
And then there's a tremendous expense in money, as well, in bringing the force over there. I don't think it's quite as easy to dismiss the logistics of this as we might think.
BLITZER: Why are you shaking your head?
WILSON: Well, just because on the other hand, the political consequences of putting 250,000 troops into Baghdad to pacify, occupy and rebuild the nation of Iraq, in addition to the $200 billion that they're talking about today to prosecute that part of it, really exceeds by a factor of, you know, tens of whatever it might cost.
BLITZER: But you don't think the Iraqi military would crumble very quickly in the face of this massive U.S. assault?
WILSON: That's certainly one scenario. The other scenario, of course, is that Saddam going out will do everything he can to bring the walls tumbling down upon him.
BLITZER: Including using weapons of mass destruction?
LANG: Yes, that's true, if he could. But I don't think he has much of a capability, really. He might think about using VX gas or something like that against our troops, who'll be well protected.
But his commanding officers in the desert know that if they do something like that, they will be personally held responsible for war crimes after the war is over. And so, you know, they're not very likely to do that. They didn't do it last time.
They don't have nuclear weapons. Their biological warfare capability is probably more of a theoretical idea than anything else. So we're talking about the Iraqi army and air force, and they will go down like ten pins before an American assault.
BLITZER: Well, you just came back from northern Iraq. You spent some time with the opposition forces, especially the Kurds. Robin, what's your assessment right now as you look ahead? Give us your best analytic assessment. What's going to happen?
WRIGHT: Well, I still think there's a 10 or 15 percent chance that the war can be avoided. But I think that...
BLITZER: That's not a very high chance.
WRIGHT: That's not very high. And I think at the end of the day, the kind of history is moving in the right -- not in the right direction -- in an unavoidable, inevitable direction. I think that you'll probably see three different kinds of war. In the north, there won't be any kind of fighting. The U.S. will deploy around the oil fields in the north. There is nothing to fight for in the north because the north is basically liberated.
In the south, I think Pat's absolutely right, you see the crumbling of the Iraqi army. The question is, around Baghdad and some of Saddam's traditional...
BLITZER: And that's because the Shi'ite dominated in the south.
WRIGHT: In the south, that's right. And they were the ones who crumbled the last time around. That's the area that's most -- it's the largest single element in the population and one that would welcome the U.S. troops.
But then there is the big question of what happens in Baghdad. And this is where the Sunni Muslims dominate. This is where Saddam has the Republican Guard most deployed. And will -- how long will they fight?
I think at the end of the day, they may not fight as long as anyone expects. But it may be in the first -- in their early, early days, some difficult fighting in ways that we didn't see in Afghanistan or in the 1991 Gulf War.
BLITZER: Ambassador Wilson, you were the last U.S. diplomat to actually meet face to face with Saddam Hussein, look him in the eye, get an assessment of what he thinks, what he's believing. What do you think right now? When the battle goes to Baghdad, what's he going to do?
WILSON: Well, first of all, I don't want my tombstone to read "The last American that meets Saddam Hussein." But secondly, to your question...
BLITZER: But a lot of people remember that.
WILSON: I think that there's really going to be two battles. One is going to be the battle for Baghdad, and one is going to be the battle for Tikrit.
The problem really is going to be whether he can launch chemical and biological weapons against U.S. troops or, even more significantly, because as Pat said, we'll be well-armed, if they can drag Israel into a broader war, either through the use of weapons of mass destruction or through Scud attacks that Israel then feels it has to retaliate to.
But I think nonetheless, our armed forces are far superior. We will win the battle for Tikrit. We will win the battle for Baghdad. Whether we find Saddam Hussein is another question.
But then the bigger problem is, once having gotten in there, how do we get out? And what are the repercussions across the Islamic world of having the Americans occupy an Arab country? And the Islamic world goes from Indonesia to Mauritania.
BLITZER: We only have a couple seconds, but Pat Lang, I'll give you the last word. Can you envisage a scenario where the U.S. will be hunting for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein?
LANG: Well, I think that's quite possible, that he might bolt at the last moment to try to save himself and a few members of his entourage and we could end up hunting him around the world too.
But in a way, it doesn't really matter very much. Saddam Hussein without a government is not like Osama bin Laden, because Osama bin Laden is head of a movement, whereas the tyrant Saddam Hussein needs Iraq.
BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note.
Pat Lang, good of you to join us as usual.
LANG: Thank you.
BLITZER: Joe Wilson, Robin Wright, thanks once again.
And as the United States prepares for a possible war with Iraq, what lessons were learned from the last Gulf War, and what impact can they have this time around? We'll get some special insight from the distinguished journalist, Sir David Frost. He has a new documentary coming out tonight.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Tonight, the History Channel here in the United States debuts the program, "Lessons Learned from the Gulf War Leaders." It's hosted by the distinguished British journalist, Sir David Frost.
Frost conducted a series of interviews with key leaders from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, including the former President George Bush, the retired U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, and the then Joint Chiefs chairman, General Colin Powell.
Joining us now from our London bureau to discuss this important new documentary is Sir David Frost. He's also the host of the BBC's "Breakfast with Frost" program.
Sir David, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
What is the most important lesson that you learned from the first time around in the Gulf War?
SIR DAVID FROST, HOST, "LESSONS LEARNED FROM GULF WAR LEADERS": I think that of all the lessons that were to be learned, I think that one that's in fact the second lesson in tonight's program, there we phrase it "know how to end a war before you start one," but another version of it was Colin Powell's own words about, you know, having an exit strategy.
And to have that strategy going in that you know how you're going to come out, I mean, is vital I think. And probably we had to ad-lib at the end of the last war, and this time it's even more complicated this time. But, I mean, it's a key lesson to live up to, I think.
BLITZER: In your documentary tonight, you bring forward that interview you had with then General Powell, now the secretary of state of the United States. I want you and our viewers around the world to listen to what he said in defending the decision at that time, a dozen years ago, not to go to Baghdad. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We had made a fundamental political choice at the very beginning that we did not want Iraq broken up, we did not want Iraq so decimated, with respect to its military capability, that it would be incredibly vulnerable to an even more hostile Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Was that the right decision at that time?
FROST: I'm not sure. There are so many around the end -- that's why I picked that one out first -- around the end of that war there are so many question marks, I can personally see why we ended the war when we did.
But then we go on and discuss in this program whether we should have been tougher at Sefwan (ph), whether we should have insisted that Saddam Hussein surrender or be surrendered or whatever, whether we should do all that.
And then the point there that Colin Powell is addressing, as you say, so frankly really, is the next one, the next point, that did we have a vested interest, should we have a vested interest in keeping Iraq whole just so the bottom bit doesn't go off to Iran and the top bit go off to Turkey and the area become destabilized, whether we had a sort of bizarre vested interest in the end in him staying there, although we didn't want him to stay there.
And we predicted -- I think everybody was predicting, at the end of that war, that the humiliation of defeat would mean the end for Saddam. Almost everybody made that mistake, and it's understandable.
BLITZER: The widespread intelligence assessment at that time, as I vividly recall, having covered that war, was the Kurds would rise up in the north, the Shi'ites would rise up in the south, the military, having been so humiliated, would rise up against Saddam Hussein, and his days were numbered. The U.S. simply just had to let the process play out. Obviously that assessment didn't work.
FROST: No. He has absolutely, I mean, had incredible, incredible, and ironic in a way, considering his opponents at that time on our side, staying power. But I think it's a good example of how almost everybody got that wrong.
One of the other lessons that we say tonight is when you think you know your enemy's strength, think again. Because it can be very, very easy to take an assumption, you hear it from three sides and you believe it from then on.
I mean, as you'll remember from the Gulf War, the question of how many Scuds Saddam Hussein had, I mean, was a very vague issue. I remember it, General Schwarzkopf, when he talks about it just a few days after the war down in the war room there in Riyadh, you know, he is saying they may have had 225, we now realize, but we thought they only had 18 or 25. And when we knocked off those, we thought we'd done the job, and we hadn't done the job. So that these estimates just have to be checked and rechecked and checked again.
Fortunately, the intelligence that we had, that they didn't have the ability to put any of the chemical or biological weapons into a Scud and aim it at Israel, that proved out to be absolutely -- it was vital that be accurate, and it did prove to be accurate.
BLITZER: You also interviewed the first President Bush right after the Gulf War, and I want to play this excerpt from this exchange that you had with him, showing his mindset at the time. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FROST: Do you foresee any circumstances in which there will be further military action against Saddam Hussein?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, if I could -- if I could foresee such circumstances, I probably wouldn't announce it here.
But I can see circumstances. Somebody mishandling some U.N. observers that are there under resolutions by the Security Council, sure.
But again, we're keeping our options open. And he is going to comply with these resolutions. And we have some muscle out there. So do some other countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Was the first President Bush being overly optimistic in his assessment when you sat down with him, what, almost a dozen years ago?
FROST: Well, he may have been optimistic in some ways. It's interesting, when he reviews the situation, one or two of the quotes from the interview are from an interview we did five years later than the Gulf War when we showed something from a secret session we'd done at Camp David just after the war ended.
And, I mean, he was very right on a lot of things. He was very right on, for instance, his tactics. The fact that he brought that coalition together was a masterly performance.
And one of the difficult things, of course, he had, one of the most difficult things, was communicating with Saddam. But make sure Saddam gets the message, that's one of our lessons, because the situation is he told up there at Camp David, it was extraordinary, when you think about it, that we had really no direct way to communicate to Saddam, except through the official Swiss channels, which obviously wouldn't be that outspoken. Nobody would be outspoken with him. That's another problem. Probably the only way to get to talk to Saddam would be via CNN, I suppose, at that time.
BLITZER: I think one of the most fascinating...
FROST: I remember, do you remember the...
BLITZER: Go ahead.
FROST: After you. No, I was just going to say, do you remember when wasn't it, hello?
BLITZER: Go ahead, Sir David. Yes, go ahead.
Just for our viewers, that was not a moment's silence for CNN or a quiet prayer for CNN, but that was because with the delay we were both letting the other go next and neither of us went at all.
But in fact, no, I was going to say when Turgut Ozal, I think it was, of Turkey, that George Bush telephoned him and he said, "Well, I was expecting your call," and George Bush said, "Well, how's that? How's that?" And he said, "They just told me on CNN," which I thought was a great compliment.
BLITZER: Thank you. Thanks for that plug.
Sir David, one of the most fascinating parts of the documentary tonight involves Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, who really says they made a huge mistake after the first Gulf war by not taking Saddam Hussein and trying to try him for war crimes, given what she says were the war crimes, the blowing up of the oil fields, the environmental disaster that that caused.
Looking back, was that a mistake?
FROST: I think it probably would have been slightly impractical because it would run the same problem of we've got one of those other lessons, which is tracking down Saddam in downtown Baghdad, good luck.
And, I mean, I think we'd have to find him, again, to do what Margaret Thatcher -- now, she was passionate, wasn't she? She was passionate, we should have tried him as a war criminal, and she even said that before the actual war began, and she said it to me once, in fact, a month after he invaded Kuwait. She was passionate. She had a steel-tipped handbag at that particular point, and she really wanted us to go for Saddam all the way.
But the problem, again, would have been the problem of somehow having to find him. And when you found him ...
BLITZER: You're about to go out, I know, with Sir Elton John. That's why you're wearing the black tie tuxedo. We have to end it right there, unfortunately. We are all out of time.
FROST: Well, I'm really just dressing up for you. People told me, "Wolf's Sunday show, you've got to dress right for that."
And so it's all for you, really.
BLITZER: Well, you're dressed beautifully.
Sir David Frost, we'll continue this conversation. Good work on this documentary. Always a pleasure having you on our program. Thanks very much.
And it's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll get two very different perspectives on the impact of new U.S. security measures on civil liberties in just a moment. But first, here's CNN's Carol Lin with a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: In the aftermath of the September 11th terror attacks, the U.S. government has implemented a broad range of security measures, including the expansion of wire-tapping and surveillance.
But many civil libertarians have voiced concern about those moves, and it's not just many of those usual suspects, so-called liberal Democrats. Among the critics, some very conservative Republicans.
Joining us now from Atlanta is the outgoing Republican congressman from Georgia, Bob Barr. He's going to become a consultant for the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. And here in Washington, the former federal prosecutor Victoria Toensing.
It's good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.
Congressman, I'll begin with you. The words "Bob Barr" and "ACLU" in the same sentence. What's going on?
REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: Well, actually, for those that have followed, Wolf, as I know you have, many of these issues involving privacy and limitations on government surveillance power and electronic eavesdropping power, we have worked and conservative groups have done a lot of work over the last five years with the ACLU.
We disagree on probably eight out of 10 issues, but those areas where there is overlap between conservative and liberal views, such as privacy, we have pooled our resources and really been very successful over the last few years.
And I intend to continue those efforts, and so does the ACLU.
BLITZER: So, Congressman, specifically, what concerns you the most about some of these new federal measures involving your privacy, the privacy of our viewers out there?
BARR: Several things. One, the technology nowadays available to the government is very, very different by quantum leaps from that back in the 1960s when we had similar problems with the Defense Department and the FBI compiling dossiers on law-abiding citizens.
Secondly is the mixing of the line -- or the blurring of the line between the Defense Department and civilian law enforcement. That is something of great concern.
And thirdly, this dragnet approach to develop these massive databanks of information and profiling of law-abiding citizens will not work. These massive surveillance techniques have not worked in other countries, they're not going to work here. But in the meantime, millions upon millions of law-abiding citizens will have their privacy invaded in ways that they don't even know.
BLITZER: Victoria Toensing, as you well know, a lot of conservatives, a lot of liberals, but a lot of conservatives like Congressman Barr are outraged right now. They are worrying about Big Brother looking in on almost all of their activities.
VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Wolf, it's very interesting, this debate about national security versus privacy rights since 9/11 has been schizophrenic. And if you were somebody from Mars, you could come down and read English and look on the right side of the newspaper, you see all kinds of criticism of our government. "How come there were two of the 9/11 hijackers that were in this country? The FBI didn't know about it, the CIA knew about it. Why weren't they talking to each other?"
And then you read on the other side of the paper -- and sometimes by the same politicians and pundits doing the other criticism -- is a criticism of "Oh, my goodness, now we the FISA accord, and the intelligence operatives can talk to the law enforcement operatives."
BLITZER: The FISA accord being Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
TOENSING: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act decision that came down about 10 days ago. We broke down that wall so that people who knew about intelligence and people who knew about law enforcement...
BLITZER: So the bottom line, you're not concerned like Congressman Barr is about this invasion of the privacy rights of average Americans?
TOENSING: I'm not going to say that I'm not at all concerned. But I recognize this, Wolf, and I hope Bob does too, is that in the aftermath of 9/11 when prevention is our priority, not punishment for the last crime, we have to retool our legal system, as we are doing our national security.
Assassination used to be a no-no when I was chief counsel for the Senate Intelligence Committee. Now I think there are soldiers who would be allowed to assassinate Osama bin Laden if they were out there. So we're reevaluating different aspects of our national security.
BLITZER: Congressman Barr, I want you to listen to what the president said earlier this week on Monday when he signed into law the new Homeland Security Department, defending his decision to go forward with this -- what some would call this massive expansion of domestic intelligence, if you will, domestic efforts to protect the nation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today we're taking historic action to defend the United States and protect our citizens against the dangers of a new era. With my signature, this act of Congress will create a new Department of Homeland Security, ensuring that our efforts to defend this country are comprehensive and united.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: In this extraordinary time, Congressman, what's wrong with letting the government have these kinds of sweeping powers to protect the American public?
BARR: Well, we have to separate out several things that the president is talking about here and several things that the Defense Department is doing here.
First and foremost, with regard to the president revamping the mechanism of government so that he can operate as our chief executive officer more efficiently, is entirely appropriate. I voted for the homeland security bill because I think the president needs to reconfigure the government structure to better plan and better prevent these sorts of things that happened on September 11th. Certainly that is appropriate.
But when you have, for example, the Defense Department, without explicit congressional authorization, moving forward to develop a massive databank of information, commercial and other information, on American citizens on whom there is no cause whatsoever to suspect that they have done anything wrong, simply to start developing so-called profiles, then I think some very important lines have been crossed.
BLITZER: All right. Let me put up on the screen what this program that the Pentagon is working on is all about. It's called the Total Information Awareness Program. It's being run by the retired admiral John Poindexter, which a lot of our viewers will remember from the Iran-Contra affair. And it's purpose is to collect personal data, a lot of information about Americans suspected of being involved in terrorism. What's wrong with -- what's wrong with the concerns expressed by Bob Barr, Victoria?
TOENSING: Well, Bob is complaining about how the house looks before the architect has even put down the blueprint of how it's going to be built.
This program is not operational. It's a concept. People are talking about it. And most important here in Washington, it hasn't been funded. So you know that it's not going to go anywhere until that occurs, where the appropriate oversight will be.
But if we have to talk about, is there a need for better information, Wolf, there were just two articles in the papers this weekend. The New York Times: "Holes in System Hid Links in Sniper Attacks." And you know what the New York Times is criticizing? Incomplete computer system of the ATF so they couldn't match ballistics, talking about an incomplete criminal database. So there's a real problem out there.
BLITZER: Let me let Congressman Barr respond to the points.
She's saying that this is just a concept right now, that it's by no means under way.
BARR: It is under way. Otherwise, we wouldn't be hearing these bits of information come out. Admiral Poindexter has been talking about it. They are planning it. They do have money.
And this is something that we need to stop now. If we allow it to move forward so it is fully implemented, Wolf, it will be too late. You can't close the barn door after the horses are already out.
BLITZER: What about that?
TOENSING: Well, no, it isn't. There is research going on about it, but there is no such program in place. "Not operational" is the words of DOD.
So let's come together and let's recognize there is a need for information. We can't track the seven to 12 million illegal immigrants that we have in this country, illegal aliens that we have in this country. We need some kind of better database to be able to control now these open borders.
BLITZER: I want to take a quick break, but both of you, do you have a problem specifically with Admiral Poindexter being in charge of this program at the Pentagon? Victoria?
TOENSING: Was it the wisest choice? Maybe not, because of all these red flags. But on the other hand, he was convicted, and a court overturned his conviction because the court said tainted evidence was used to convict him. So maybe somebody who has had the full force of government against him, knows what it's like, is in a better position than someone who hasn't.
BLITZER: Congressman Barr, what do you think about Poindexter?
BARR: Well, that's an interesting spin, I haven't heard that one before.
I have a real problem with him, not because of what happened in the past, but because I don't like people who do things for which there is no explicit authorization and who think that simply because the technology is there it must be used to gather information on law- abiding citizens with no probably cause whatsoever.
BLITZER: All right, Bob Barr, Victoria Toensing, we're going to take a quick break.
We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls. This debate over your personal privacy at the expense presumably of the war on terrorism will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will this department ever make us 100 percent secure?
TOM RIDGE, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A blunt answer from Tom Ridge. He's the secretary- designate for the new Homeland Security Department, answering a blunt question from CNN's Jeanne Meserve, will this new department ever make the United States 100 percent secure, and he flatly says no.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr and Victoria Toensing, a former federal prosecutor.
Congressman Barr, if the United States is in this war against terrorism, it has to do extraordinary things. You voted for the Patriot Act last year, which we'll put up on the screen showing some of the new developments, the new opportunities for the U.S. to engage in all sorts of activities to deal with the threat of terrorism.
But now you seem to be having some what they used to call buyer's remorse. Are you?
BARR: Well, the problem is there's no comprehensive piece of legislation like this that I've ever seen that's 100 percent good or 100 percent bad. This was a mixed bag.
There are some provisions in the USA Patriot Act that were very important. There are some provisions that are in the Homeland Security Department Act that are very, very good.
There are others that give me great concern, such as, for example, the ability now of federal prosecutors to secure a warrant and then execute that warrant in so-called black-bag operations, without notifying the person, without providing an inventory. So we've basically taken away the ability of a citizen, a homeowner or business owner, to even contest the constitutionality of a search.
And these changes apply not just to terrorism cases, they apply across the board. So this expansion of general law enforcement power, not limited to terrorist cases, is of concern.
BLITZER: Victoria, go ahead.
TOENSING: Well, I don't know what kind of search warrants Bob's talking about. Because it sounds to me like he's talking about the FISA black-bag kinds of jobs, and that is for foreign intelligence information. And of course you're not going to tell the enemy, somebody who has waged war against you, that you've just been in and gotten certain information. But that's age-old. We've had that for...
BARR: But it applies across the board, Victoria.
TOENSING: No, not for a regular search warrant in a criminal case, Bob.
BARR: Yes, it does.
TOENSING: Not in a criminal case.
BARR: No, under the new FISA changes it does.
TOENSING: I'm out there practicing.
BARR: I mean, under the new Patriot Act changes it does. It's not limited to FISA.
TOENSING: Well, we could debate this forever.
BLITZER: Well, specifically, Congressman, what are you referring to if not the FISA, which is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which has always allowed the special court to approve surveillance, eavesdropping for suspected espionage agents?
BARR: Well, we don't know, and that's the problem. The terms of the Patriot Act, insofar as they authorized and expanded the ability of the government to conduct so-called sneak-and-peek searches without notifying people, is not limited by the terms of the Patriot Act to FISA or foreign intelligence or terrorist cases. So the government could use this in whatever case it chooses. And this expansion of federal power beyond simply that necessary to fight terrorism is what's of concern.
TOENSING: Bob, the Patriot Act did not undo the Fourth Amendment. You still have to either have a search warrant for a reasonable search and probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, or in the case of FISA, which is national security and brings in the president's foreign policy powers, you have probable cause to believe the person is an agent of a foreign power. That's the probable cause criteria.
BLITZER: The point, though, that I think the congressman may be concerned, and correct me if I'm wrong, Congressman -- I'd like to have Victoria respond, though -- is there used to be a sort of a wall between the intelligence gathering capabilities domestically in the United States and law enforcement. They weren't supposed to share that kind of information, but now they can.
TOENSING: And that's just what was the problem before 9/11, they were not sharing. As a matter of fact, when I was in the Justice Department, during a hijacking where Americans were held hostage, we had to take down a FISA wiretap because now it was a criminal prosecution. And if we got any information about the crime, we, of course, my goodness, couldn't listen. Well, that defied common sense.
BLITZER: What about that, Congressman?
BARR: The problem here is we're mixing apples and oranges. Let me try and clear up a little bit of the smoke here.
The fact is that under some provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the comprehensive anti-terrorism bill that was passed in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, there were changes made to the general criminal law procedures in this country that are not limited to terrorism or foreign intelligence surveillance cases.
They give law enforcement tools to conduct black-bag operations that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. And that expansion of federal power is one of our concerns. If it were limited explicitly to terrorism cases or foreign intelligence cases, that would be one thing, but these go far beyond that.
TOENSING: Well, as soon as the government uses one of those cases that way, I'm sure everybody's going to know about it, because that will be challenged on Fourth Amendment grounds, Wolf. That will never be able to stand.
BARR: The problem is, you won't know about them.
TOENSING: I'm sorry you voted for something like that. You should have gotten it out of there.
BARR: We tried.
BLITZER: But, Congressman Barr, you speak as a former federal prosecutor yourself, so you're obviously very concerned.
We're going to have to wrap up this discussion. What are your -- in addition to being a consultant for the ACLU, Congressman, what else are you planning on doing after you leave the Congress?
BARR: I'll be working with different organizations, including Southeastern Legal Foundation, probably do some work for the American Conservative Union, do some writing, speeches. I'll be hopefully pretty busy.
BLITZER: And I'm sure you'll be a frequent visitor on this program and other programs...
BARR: Thank you.
BLITZER: ... here on CNN, as well. Bob Barr, thanks for joining us. Good look luck to you.
Victoria Toensing, good luck to you, as well.
Two conservatives with very different points of view on an important issue in the war on terrorism.
Thanks to both of you for joining us.
It's now time for Bruce Morton's essay. Today, he shares some thoughts on what's starting out as a holiday season of violence.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Happy Hanukkah, or Ramadan, or Kwanzaa, or Christmas or the winter solstice festival of your choice. Can we all stop killing each other for the holidays? Probably not.
Terrorists attacked Israelis as they voted in Israel this past week, but also fired ground-to-air missiles at an Israeli jet in Kenya and attacked a resort there where Israelis vacation.
Palestinians in Israel, al Qaeda in Kenya, hard to know.
And does this signal some wider attack against Jews wherever they are? And, of course, Israel killed some Palestinians who may have been involved. How does this stop?
In Kaduna, Nigeria, it wasn't organized terrorists but average citizens who took to the streets and killed perhaps 200 of themselves. That started when the Miss World beauty contest came to Nigeria. Muslims protested. When newspapers suggested Mohammed might have taken a contestant as a wife, furious Muslims burned churches and killed people. And then, furious Christians burned mosques and killed more people.
This is not terror in the al Qaeda sense, but it must have been terrifying, and religion is at its heart.
The New York Times reports that Kaduna suffered 3,000 deaths in the year 2000 when Sharia, Islamic law, was imposed in that part of the country.
The two religions had signed a peace pact, but the pact couldn't survive the arrival of the beauty queens. Sharia is also controversial in Nigeria because two women have been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery -- though the death penalty, of course, is common in many countries, including the United States.
Some of the killing has political roots. The Palestinians, who are mostly Muslim, want a country of their own. The Israelis, under this government, keep reinforcing their settlements on the West Bank where the Palestinian state would have to be.
The Chechens, who are mostly Muslim, want a country of their own. Russians, who are mostly non-Muslim, don't want to give them independence.
But other killing like that in Nigeria seems to happen simply because two religions can't live side by side. There are moderate Muslims, but they often choose silence while their violent co- religionists take to the streets.
America has been lucky in many things, but one main one, clearly, is the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says that Congress cannot legislate to establish any one religion, but must allow all of them free play. We get into some funny arguments -- can you have a crash on the lawn at City Hall, for instance -- but we don't kill one another over them?
So, happy winter solstice festival, whichever yours may be.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me, Julianne Malveaux, the syndicated columnist, Peter Beinart of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review Online" and Robert George of the "New York Post."
We begin with a new independent commission ordered by President Bush to investigate government failures that may have led to the September 11th terror attacks. President Bush says the commission should follow all the facts wherever they lead.
Earlier on this program, the commission's new leaders, the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, stopped short of saying who the panel would question, including the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
KISSINGER: I think it's premature at this point. And I think when the question arises and when there is felt to be the need that there's information that only the president might have, that's when that question will arise.
MITCHELL: I think it is premature and unwise for us to now, at this point, before the commission even exists, before the other eight members have been named, to indicate who we're going to question and when.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: Robert, is it premature to think that these kinds of questions shouldn't be answered right now?
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: I guess premature is the word. When people start talking about '70s nostalgia, I don't know whether they're talking about the decade or the age of the people that they want to run...
... some of these commissions.
I think it is, actually, premature to say, because, I mean, you want to have the full commission to make a determination as to exactly what the priorities are going to be, which avenue they're going to go down first, and so on and so forth.
I think there's been a lot of skepticism about whether Kissinger actually has really the, you know, the energy and the focus to be running this commission, because, I mean, forget about all the conspiracy theories about Kissinger, the man is nearly 80 years old, and you really do want to have some aggressiveness to answer some of these questions.
BLITZER: Peter, can this commission get to the bottom of it over the next 18 months and find out what really happened?
PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Well, my concern is, even if it does get to the bottom of it, we've done this in exactly the backward way, it seems to me.
We've already made this massive reorganization of government, and then we have the commission afterwards. I don't understand it. It seems to me we should have had this commission right after September 11th. It would be over by now. Then we could talk about these massive reorganizations.
Say they do propose that we reorganize the way we fight terrorism. We've already done it. So I don't understand.
JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But, Peter, we won't have done it. The fact is that this homeland insecurity thing is going to take forever to reorganize.
You talk about the energy and the focus, I want to talk about the independence. Both Kissinger and Mitchell have international clients. There are implicit conflicts of interests here. Neither of them has agreed to sever their ties with their consulting companies, and I think that that's the issue here.
Both of them are partisan people. I mean, with all due respect to both, but they're partisans, and I don't think that they're going to push hard enough.
They should be able to say that no one is above questioning. It doesn't mean that they have to identify Bush or Clinton, but they should say they'll question anybody.
BLITZER: What about that?
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes, I generally think that's right.
And I'll reveal my own biases. Not being one who believes in many of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, I actually think this is a fairly low-stakes affair, especially for one of the reasons that Peter brought up, which is that we've already had the reorganization of the federal government. We're not going to have another one, no matter what this thing finds. Although maybe some heads should roll, and we'll find out.
I do think that Kissinger is probably the wrong guy for this. His reputation internationally is one of subterfuge and weird games and that kind of thing. His reputation in America is not quite right. He's a stellar intellect and all of those things, but it just doesn't seem to me to be the right guy at the right time.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about this. The terrorists, they've struck once again, this time in an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya on Thursday. Ten Kenyans, three Israelis were killed. It's not yet clear who was responsible.
Jonah, let me come back to you. Is it your sense that it's going to get worse before it gets better, this whole war on terrorism?
GOLDBERG: It might be in part -- and it's ironic sort of paradox -- it might be because we're actually winning the war on terrorism, but it will get a little worse before it gets better.
And this Kenya thing, if it's al Qaeda -- if it's Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad or somebody else, it changes the dynamics somewhat. But if it's al Qaeda, and there's reason to think it could well be, then this is a sign that, first of all, al Qaeda can't get us in our vital spots. It can't do a 9/11 again.
And al Qaeda very much wants to sort of Israelify this issue and make al Qaeda the sort of the champion for Palestinian rights. And the fact that they were doing this in Kenya shows that it may be actually a desperation ploy on al Qaeda's part because this is the best they can do, which means, if that's true, that they'll be going after other soft targets. They'll be going after tourists, they'll be going after things.
So in some ways, the war on terrorism will get uglier because we are winning it.
GEORGE: Well, I think Jonah is partly right. I think the issue is, first of all, when we say "the terrorists have struck again," there really are no "the terrorists," because they are these -- it's these different groups, and we don't know whether it's al Qaeda.
BLITZER: So you don't believe there is a loose umbrella hovering over all of them? GEORGE: I don't think so. I mean, I think there are overlapping interests from your Hamases and your Hezbollahs and so forth. But I don't think it's -- I don't think that necessarily they're all one group.
However, the thing is, you have to remember, they have struck in Kenya before. I mean, they struck our embassies in Kenya in 1998. And of course, we obviously -- there was also the other bombing in Bali. So I'm not necessarily sure if this is an indication that we are winning the war or that the terrorists, whoever they might be, are actually looking at different targets.
MALVEAUX: But, you know, we undermine our moral authority when we behave as if that which happens in Kenya is less significant than that which happened here in the United States.
The fact is that Kenya has been hit for a second time. Their economy took a major hit, a huge hit back in 1998. And so, I think that our response to this, in terms of how we talk about terrorism, has to be basically filtered through the notion that this is a country that's been hit twice. I just shudder at the implications for that country and at our own insensitivity about it.
BLITZER: President Moi will be meeting with President Bush in Washington this week.
What's your reading of what's going on right now?
BEINART: Well, I think that's right. And I think it's unfortunate that people underplay the fact that actually most of the people who died were Kenyans.
Although we should also mention that Kenya has a terrible government. One of the reasons it's so insecure is it has one of the governments in Africa. And the Bush and Clinton administrations were responsible for not doing more to get more out of there.
And this is one of the growing dangers, I think. Just as the Cold War moved to Africa, the war on terrorism is moving to Africa. And there are some countries in Africa which resemble the pre-Taliban Afghanistan -- very lawless, divided, with weak governments. We need to be very engaged there.
GEORGE: And Kenya, of course, is right next to Sudan.
BLITZER: And Somalia.
GEORGE: Sudan and Somalia, which are hotbeds of al Qaeda activity.
MALVEAUX: But we also have to look at our economic engagement issues. I mean, we talk about engagement. I mean, the fact is that we deliberately underdevelop some of these countries and some of the relationships in terms of economics have been...
BEINART: Moi has underdeveloped (ph) one of the most corrupt governments in Africa.
MALVEAUX: Well, that has not always been the case, and we have to look again at the European and the U.S. role here.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about this. It's been a busy week on the homefront for President Bush. At high-profile White House ceremonies, he signed the homeland security bill and the terrorism insurance bill, demonstrating his new political clout.
Today, the famed journalist, Bob Woodward, who has written a new book about Bush, said a new image of Bush is coming into focus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "BUSH AT WAR": I think he believes it very deeply, he manages by instinct. He is a gut player, not a textbook player, and I think people can see that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Julianne, has the president solidified himself as this new gut-instinct kind of leader?
MALVEAUX: I'm not sure about that. I mean, certainly he's been passing legislation in the lame-duck session. He was very successful in getting through what he wanted in terms of homeland, I call it insecurity, because I think it's a big mess, in terms of terrorism insurance and some other things.
But this gut-instinct thing isn't going to work unless you think that war is inevitable. He's been on auto pilot for war, and I don't think that the rest of the -- everyone in the country, certainly maybe the majority, everyone is not saying we need to go to war. So I think that there are brakes that I hope his Cabinet will put on it.
BLITZER: Well, let me let -- Jonah, go ahead.
GOLDBERG: Well, Julianne, do you still believe that Bush is going to war with Iraq to boost his poll ratings? I mean, the fact is, I think, outside of the Beltway and out of certain quarters of the left and the extreme right, Bush has solidified his role as a wartime leader. I think the average American out there has had his doubts calmed about Bush. And I think the last election certainly showed that, politically, he bucked all historical trends and actually has the confidence of most Americans.
MALVEAUX: It's because Democrats didn't put a message forward; it's not because he won anything.
BLITZER: We're not going to replay those elections.
BEINART: No, there's no question about it. The real question is, I think, not with Bush and Iraq -- and I think he's doing a good job -- the question will be Bush and post-war Iraq, whether he does a better job than he did in Afghanistan. That's where I think he could get in trouble.
GEORGE: Yes, I mean, this is sort of like, you know, Pope Woodward sort of like getting the official blessing of the Washington establishment, saying, "Now you're actually a real leader."
I mean, I think the average person felt that he had become a leader, especially after speeches on September 20th, the axis of evil speech, and then the U.N. speech, which, frankly, showed that he's not on auto-pilot.
There may have been a lot of people pushing for immediate engagement with Iraq, but there's been a lot of back-room negotiations and bargaining with it. And I think the Bush role has been evolving on that score as well.
BLITZER: And certainly if you read the Bob Woodward book, there's no doubt in anyone's mind who reads that book, assuming you believe what Bob Woodward is reporting, that President Bush is the leader and everybody who works around him knows that he makes the final decision.
MALVEAUX: Well, Wolf, isn't there considerable skepticism about Woodward's voracity?
GEORGE: Does the ghost of William Casey have anything to do with this?
BLITZER: We'll let the viewers read the book to make up their own minds.
We have to take a quick break. Just ahead, a prominent Senate Democrat moves closer to challenging President Bush in 2004. What are his chances? We'll talk about that much more.
The "Final Round" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round."
The 2004 race for the White House has gotten a bit clearer today. The Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts all but declared his bid for the presidency, saying he's forming a committee to explore a White House run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: It's an enormous step, and it's not one I take lightly, but it's one that I'm excited about. It's a challenge.
I think on almost issue, literally on almost every issue facing the country, I believe there is a better choice for this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is John Kerry, Peter, the best choice for the Democrats in challenging Bush in 2004?
BEINART: Well, the best thing I think you can say about Kerry is that he's been aggressive on taking on the Bush administration on foreign policy. And I think that's right, that's clearly what the Democrats didn't do in the 2002 election.
BLITZER: He voted for the authorization for the president to use force if necessary against Iraq.
BEINART: That's right. But he had some good criticisms, for instance, on the Tora Bora mission, saying the Bush administration should have sent American troops to go about after Osama bin Laden. Absolutely right.
His problem is that historically on foreign policy, he's been wrong on a lot of things, particularly on the Gulf War, which he still hasn't apologized for. He can't make up for that just by his Vietnam record. He's got to show that he recognizes that he was wrong by being too far to the left on foreign policy in the past.
BLITZER: Jonah, is John Kerry the best the Democrats have right now?
GOLDBERG: Maybe, although I don't think he'll get the nomination. I mean, I think it's Gore's to lose.
And I think Peter is basically right about Kerry. I mean, Kerry touts that he's got this Vietnam record and this somehow is supposed to trump all those bad decisions on foreign policy throughout the past.
The problem is, is that while he did go and serve in Vietnam with distinction and honor and all of those things, he learned all the wrong lessons, and he basically voted and acted and spoke exactly like a classic anti-war liberal.
BLITZER: Is he your candidate?
MALVEAUX: He's not my candidate, but I certainly feel closer to him than I do to Gore.
What I'd say, I don't think he has anything to apologize for about the Persian Gulf. Of course, you guys aren't surprised at that. But I don't think he has anything to apologize for.
BLITZER: But he voted against the first resolution in 1991.
MALVEAUX: He did, and what he said was that he felt that the president needed to take time to galvanize the country's opinion. I think that's right. You can't go into war and just expect the people to be over there and uncertain about it. So I think he was right about it. He didn't say that we shouldn't have been in conflict. But he did say we were unready, and that was wrong. I'll give you all that. But he didn't say we shouldn't be in conflict. What he said was that he thought that national opinion should have been galvanized.
He's progressive. He's good. I think that he does challenge Gore, but Jonah's right. It's Gore's to lose.
GEORGE: Yes, and actually, though, and I think Peter may agree with this, the debate between Gore and Kerry, actually, I think will ultimately do well for the Democrats. Because you've got an interesting situation. You've got Gore, who voted for the Gulf War but is opposed to the current Iraq resolution; Kerry, who voted against the Gulf War but is actually supporting it. And I think if the two of them engage foreign policy, you may actually get a Democrat Party that may give a good, alternative foreign policy vision to the country.
BLITZER: Peter, we have to move on. But Kerry is just the first of several Democrats who, within the next few weeks really, has to make this decision if they want to be viable.
BEINART: That's right. In a way there's a mini-race going on between Kerry and Edwards, I think, for the kind of strongest, fresh, new face, voice. And I think that's where you saw Kerry trying to get a jump.
BLITZER: And to a certain degree, that's why they like Al Gore, because he's the old, worn-out face.
MALVEAUX: Oh, come on.
BEINART: That's right. It will be Gore versus Gephardt for the kind of older-face vote. And then it'll be Kerry versus Edwards for the kind of new turf.
MALVEAUX: And I think that someone who's, you know, who's a senatorial freshman doesn't stand a chance, frankly.
GEORGE: He's an empty suit, basically.
MALVEAUX: You know, I mean, he doesn't stand for anything.
GOLDBERG: But at least Edwards can claim to win the South, or some of the South. I don't see how...
MALVEAUX: Well, that's not even clear. Let's look at what happened in North Carolina. I mean, Elizabeth Dole won...
GOLDBERG: I agree, but at least he'd make a credible claim for it. I don't think Kerry can claim to win any of the South.
(CROSSTALK) BEINART: Edwards is also a more credible -- he may be a more credible centrist than Gore -- than Kerry, sorry.
BLITZER: All right, but you remember the last two times there was a Democrat elected to the White House, what part of the country were they from?
MALVEAUX: You know, you got it, but at the same time I think that the liberal Massachusetts may well have sway.
BLITZER: All right, maybe he'll be able to carry Massachusetts. That would be...
MALVEAUX: Oh, you've been hanging around with Robert too long.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on. We're going to continue this. Our Final Round will be right back -- our Lightning Round, indeed, just ahead. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for our "Lightning Round."
Iraq has to declare its weapons arsenal by next Sunday, this time. Will Saddam Hussein stun the world and come clean, Peter?
BEINART: No, I wouldn't bet the farm on it. I think he'll announce what he thinks he needs to announce, and then the real question will be, does the Bush administration have the intelligence to show that he's lying?
BLITZER: Does it?
BEINART: I don't know, but my guess is they have more in reserve than we know.
BLITZER: All right. Robert?
GEORGE: Saddam has never come clean in the last 11 or 12 years. I see no reason for him to do so now. He's going to try and stall. And the question is, will the U.N. hold his feet to the fire, and then what happens with the Bush administration?
BLITZER: So what will the Bush administration do, assuming he doesn't come clean?
GEORGE: I think the president has been somewhat clear on what the ramifications are.
BLITZER: So you have no doubt about that?
GEORGE: I don't really have much of a doubt on that.
BLITZER: What about you, Julianne? MALVEAUX: Well, I don't think he's going to come clean because that's just not his record. I think he's -- this is an intellectual battle that he's -- you know, he's going to declare as little as he can, I think Peter's right, and then dibble through it. And I think the president will use any excuse to go to war.
The issue is the U.N., the issue is what the U.N. does and the intermediary does, what they say and how they push Saddam, as opposed to what the U.S. does. BLITZER: Bush is in a tough place, though. If he wants to go to war he's got to at least let the U.N. weapons inspectors do their job and come up with a report.
GOLDBERG: Yes, no, I think -- well, depends on what kind of violation they can actually find. But yes, this was part of the bargain when Bush decided to go to the U.N., is that you then have to use the U.N. to find your justifications.
And I think he'll probably either give as little as -- as Peter says, as little as possible, Saddam, or he'll give more than is conceivably imaginable and list every Bunsen Burner in every high school lab across the country and say, "You sort it out," and then we'll see what happens.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about this. From presidential politics to an issue that's caused some tension between the president and his conservative base.
Many conservatives are disagreeing with the president's assertion that Islam is a religion of peace. Earlier today, one of the president's avid supporters, the Christian conservative broadcaster, Pat Robertson, addressed the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ROBERTSON: The president does not want to be fighting all of Islam, and he didn't want to set this thing up as a holy war. And he was very wise. He's playing geopolitics.
That's his call, and my call was it's wrong. And I think he's caused a great deal of consternation, especially among his base who know better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, what about that, Jonah? You know the base of the conservative movement. You know the base of the president. Has he created a potential split between that base because he says Islam is a religion of peace, and many of these conservatives like Pat Robertson say Islam is not a religion of peace?
GOLDBERG: No, he simply hasn't.
And this basically comes from a Dana Milbank piece in The Washington Post where Milbank, true to form, is trying to stir up trouble among various factions of conservatives in the White House.
And the reality is, is that even this morning on ABC, Pat Robertson, when asked is this going to cause a problem between his base and Bush, said no, we love the guy. It's a sort of a non-story. It's an interesting intellectual and theological debate, but it has nothing to do with the base, and it's not going to be a big story.
BLITZER: But you can't lump all Muslims and say, "This is a religion that preaches war and hatred," when there are so many millions and millions of Muslims here in the United States, around the world, who aren't supporting terrorism and believe that they're engaged in real peaceful purposes.
MALVEAUX: Well, that's exactly right, Wolf. I mean, what I think is important here, let's look at Christianity. I mean, in the name of Christianity, we came here and decimated Indians, we so-called christianized Africans. So if we want to talk about peaceful or hateful religions, let's not go there.
The fact is that no religion, in its face, is either peaceful or hateful. I mean, it's what you do with the doctrine.
This is -- I try not to pay attention to what these conservatives are thinking until it affects me, and so it's kind of an amusing story. But you're right, the attempt to take Islam and to make it hateful is indeed hateful and non-Christian.
GEORGE: That's exactly right, which is what a lot of the militant Islamists, the bin Ladens and so forth, have been trying to do, basically utilize the religion for their own purposes.
But Jonah is right, there is a nice philosophical debate as to whether Islam is war or peace and so forth.
But in answer to the question if there is any kind of split between Bush and his conservative base, all we have to do is take a look at the midterm elections and that kind of answers that question.
BLITZER: How serious is this point of view within some of these conservatives, like Pat Robertson -- you heard Ken Adelman, a former Pentagon official in the Reagan administration, express the view that Islam may not be this religion of peace that the president says it is -- how serious of an issue is this?
BEINART: Look, conservatives don't like the fact that a lot of liberals and a lot of people in the media say in a kind of superficial way, "Islam is a religion of peace," because they think that's the kind of nice thing to say. And that's true, that's a stupid thing to say because most of those liberals and people in the press don't know anything about Islam.
But neither do the conservatives. It's just as stupid to say Islam is not a religion of peace. If you can't read the Koran in it's original form, if you don't know anything about the way -- about the methodology in which you would even understand the Koran were you to try to read it, it's nonsense. Everyone who knows anything about a religion knows that you can't, in a two-second day (ph) kind of way, try to encapsulate that religion. I wish we'd just get off this topic altogether.
GOLDBERG: Fair enough, Peter, and point taken. At the same time, I will have a lot more sympathy for the people who say Islam is a religion of peace if the people who believe it is a religion of peace, meaning moderate Arabs, moderate Muslims, come out and start denouncing the things that other Muslims are doing in their name.
MALVEAUX: Oh, Jonah.
GOLDBERG: It is...
MALVEAUX: Who is denouncing Christianity when it's warful? Come on, you cannot have...
GOLDBERG: No, I...
MALVEAUX: You cannot have a standard for people's religions. You cannot do that. That is just so absurd.
GEORGE: Julianne, how about the fatwah that was put against the woman who wrote about the beauty pageant in Nigeria? Where are the moderate Muslim leaders saying that it is wrong to basically put a death sentence on a writer because they write about a beauty pageant?
MALVEAUX: Oh, well, what about the utter starvation that conservatives impose on poor people?
GOLDBERG: No, I'm not talking about that.
MALVEAUX: Where are the people who are coming around denouncing that?
GOLDBERG: I'm talking about a specific issue here.
MALVEAUX: I'm just saying let's just stake religion out of this debate. None of here are theologians. Not a person around this roundtable is a theologian.
BLITZER: Isn't it fair to say then that in every religion there are extremists who use that religion for obscene purposes?
BEINART: Yes. And where Jonah is right is that in every religion, you have to stand up within that religion if you're a person of that faith and fight against the people who abuse that religion's name.
BEINART: He's right. Not enough people in Islam right now, Islamic leaders, are doing that.
MALVEAUX: Nor Christians. Nor Christians.
BEINART: Perhaps not Christians either.
BLITZER: This theological debate ends right now.
That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, December 1st.
Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'll be here Monday through Friday, noon Eastern, for "SHOWDOWN: IRAQ"; later in the day, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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