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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS
Hunt for bin Laden Intensifies; Kay: No WMDs in Iraq; Interview With Sam Donaldson
Aired January 28, 2004 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now. New information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. The hunt intensifies with word U.S. forces are about to launch a spring offensive. Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.
Al Qaeda hunt. Gearing up for a spring offensive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Osama bin Laden, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) represent a threat to the world and may need to be destroyed.
BLITZER: Will it take the troops to a new battleground?
The weapons hunt, a startling admission.
DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Turns out we were all wrong.
BLITZER: I'll get the inside story from former chief inspector, David Kay.
Just the beginning.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bring it on!
BLITZER: With seven more contests next week, Democratic hopefuls have their hands full. Is it all up for grabs? I'll ask veteran journalist Sam Donaldson.
ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Wednesday, January 28, 2004.
BLITZER: Could Osama bin Laden be back where he began his war on America? American forces are getting ready to find out. They're preparing for a big spring offensive in Afghanistan. We'll go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre at and to CNN's Martin Savidge on what it's like to face cornered al Qaeda fighters. But we begin with CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher who has some exclusive information on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts -- Mike.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Since the all-out hunt for bin Laden began after the 9/11 attacks, coalition intelligence agencies believe they're doing a lot better job on zeroing in on bin Laden's location, and in fact, CNN has learned of one location in particular in Afghanistan that analysts believe served as a temporary hiding place for bin Laden.
BOETTCHER (voice-over): You've seen the tape, Osama bin Laden visiting a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan to declare war on America. That was five years ago. CNN has learned from coalition intelligence sources that bin Laden may have returned at some point to the same area near the city of Khowst in eastern Afghanistan. bin Laden's biographer, Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir has been hearing similar reports from Arabs he met late last year in Afghanistan.
HAMID MIR, BIN LADEN BIOGRAPHER: Those Arabs, they told me that he's roamingg between southern Afghanistan and eastern Afghanistan.
BOETTCHER: The best intelligence still places bin Laden somewhere along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, probably in the Pakistani tribal area of southern (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Hamid Mir, for one, wonders just how good that information is.
MIR: I think that Afghanistan is still very suitable place for bin Laden, because 90 percent of the country is not under the control of Karzai.
BOETTCHER: Proof that neither Afghan president Karzai nor the U.S.- control the country says Mir is this tape of Osama bin Laden that was released last November. Mir believes it was shot in the spring of 2003 near the eastern Afghanistan city of Gardez a sign that bin Laden has, at the very least, been on the move.
BOETTCHER: Now bin Laden's No. 2 is shown in that tape, Ayman al-Zawahiri and coalition intelligence sources believe the two now often travel separately -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mike Boettcher with exclusive information for us. Thank you very much.
The spring offensive will take U.S. troops into the mountains of Afghanistan and just maybe beyond as they target remnants of the al Qaeda and the Taliban and their leaders. Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's still cold and snowy in the mountains in Afghanistan but soon those snows will be melting and the U.S. military says they will be turning up the heat on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Pentagon stresses that U.S. and Afghan offensive operations have never stopped even during the harsh Afghan winter when Taliban and al Qaeda remnants are believed to have hunkered down in the snowy mountains. The latest operations code named "Mountain Avalanche" and "Mountain Blizzard" have nabbed a number of suspected Taliban operatives in the recent weeks. But anticipating increased enemy activity as the snow melts, the U.S. is gearing up for a spring offensive to defeat the Afghan insurgents as well as intensify the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
LT. COL. BRYAN HILFERTY, U.S. ARMY: I can say that Osama bin Laden, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), represent a threat to the world, and they need to be destroyed, and we believe we'll catch them in the next year.
MCINTYRE: According to the best U.S. intelligence available bin Laden is believed to be hiding in a remote and largely ungoverned area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pentagon officials deny published reports the U.S. offensive will send troops across the border into Pakistan.
Pakistan's pro-American president Pervez Musharraf has publicly opposed such cross-border operations and for now U.S. officials say the 11,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will operate on their side of the border.
MCINTYRE: The recent assassination attempts against President Musharraf which U.S. officials believe were backed by al Qaeda has increased the urgency in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and U.S. commanders are increasingly expressing confidence, they'll get him sometime this year. Pentagon officials warn as Secretary Rumsfeld has himself, many times, until they have them, they don't have them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thank you very much.
If history is any guide, the upcoming offensive could be a long and violent operation. CNN's Martin Savidge was the first television reporter to travel with U.S. troops during Operation Anaconda in March 2002. Marty, take us into the future battleground. What will it be like?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be a vastly different campaign than, say, what you've been watching in Iraq. Primarily because Afghanistan is a country where the landscape is as much an enemy as the opposing force you're going up against meaning the al Qaeda and Taliban.
It's a very brutal, very difficult, very extreme sort of land and in many of the cases where they're operating is up in high altitudes about 12,000 feet. Imagine you're a soldier carrying a pack of 150 pounds. It's tough to breath, very difficult to maneuver. Even aircraft, combat helicopters have a hard time maneuvering in that thinner atmosphere. It's also a place where you're not using your M-1 Abrams (ph) tanks, it's not going to be where you have Bradley (ph) fighting vehicles or your APCs. A lot of this is on the ground, the foot soldier and it's going to be very difficult and hard work. On top of that, it's an area where the opposing force knows the terrain greatly. They've been fighting in it for year upon year and they use that to their advantage. It's very easy to fall upon the enemy and fall into a very vicious fire fight. Not big engagements but small violent battles that could take place -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Marty, our viewers remember you on the front lines, an embedded reporter in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They remember you the year before in Afghanistan as well. Which circumstance was more frightening personally for you?
SAVIDGE: I found that Afghanistan was much more frightening than being in Iraq for two primary reasons. Number one, it is the topography, the landscape, and the environment I just outlined, and the no. 2, it is the will of the fighting force that you are going up against. The Iraqis were pretty much a reluctant army. They did, in certain areas, put up heavy opposition, but for the most part faded away.
The Taliban and al Qaeda are motivated by a much different sort of means, many of them we consider to be almost fanatical. They'll charge at heavily fortified and dug-in U.S. positions in human waves often only armed with handguns and it is very frightening to watch that kind of commitment in action. So that is the primary difference you're going to see is indirect fire, which is what you saw in Iraq. Mainly shooting at an enemy you didn't necessarily see, where in Afghanistan, it is much more direct fire, toe to toe, very brutal, very frightening to witness -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A courageous journalist, CNN's Martin Savidge joining us live. Marty, thank you very much for that report.
Turning now to the hunt for weapons in Iraq. There was a stunning admission today from the man who until very recently was in charge of that effort. Let's go live to our congressional correspondent Joe Johns. He's on Capitol Hill -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, top critics of the war had hoped to make this a very bad day for the administration but David Kay kept the focus on intelligence, not politics.
David Kay's assessment was straightforward on the intelligence that led the U.S. to war.
KAY: I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.
JOHNS: Kay predicted that try as they might, inspectors who remain on the job searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq probably won't find much.
KAY: That it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarized chemical and biological weapons there. JOHNS: Still the hearing was frustrating for the Democrats who came prepared to rake the administration over the coals. Kay refused to play.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us any explanation why these agencies in retrospect appear to have had it right, and the information that the administration used appeared to have it wrong?
KAY: It's a lot easier after the fact and after you know the truth to be so lucky that you were right.
JOHN: Also helpful to the White House, Kay said there was no attempt to pressure intelligence analysts to reach certain policy conclusions.
KAY: Almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that. We get rid of the people who, in fact, were exercising that.
JOHNS: The committee's top Democrat, Carl Levin called for an outside investigation of the quality of the intelligence and the way it was used to make the case for war. Levin got an important ally in Republican Senator John McCain, who decided to support an outside probe after raising the issue with Kay.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Do you believe that we need an independent, outside investigation?
JOHNS: Kay suggested it's almost inevitable in order to ensure the quality of future intelligence.
KAY: You will finally determine, that it is going to take an outside inquiry, both to do it and to give yourself and the American people the competence that you have done it.
JOHNS: Kay made clear distinctions between policy and intelligence. While critical of the intelligence, in his view, the intelligence essentially led him to believe that Saddam Hussein did eventually need to be removed from power. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Joe Johns, on Capitol Hill. Thank you.
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair could have faced the end of his career over the same issue, but he was vindicated today of allegations he exaggerated pre-war intelligence on Iraq's weapons.
A British judge exonerated Blair and his administration in the suicide of David Kelly. He was an expert on Iraqi weapons who killed himself after being revealed as the source for a BBC report that accused Mr. Blair of, quote, "sexing up a dossier," making the case for war with Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The allegations that I or anyone else lied to this house or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on weapons of mass destruction is itself the real lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The judge did fault the BBC for airing the report which he called unfounded, leading the network's chairman to resign.
Here's your turn to weigh in on this important story. Our "Web Question of the Day" is this: do you believe coalition forces will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? You can vote right now, go to cnn.com/wolf. We'll have the results later in this broadcast.
What went wrong in the search for those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAY: I regret to say that I think at the end of the work of the ISG, there are still going to be an unresolvable ambiguity about what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: David Kay, the chief former weapons hunter, joins me straight from his testimony on Capitol Hill. He'll be here live.
Democrats the day after the New Hampshire, the winners and losers gearing up for the next big battle.
Plus, we knew about box cutters. Now details of the other weapons the 9/11 hijackers were carrying. Stay with us.
BLITZER: With the fight for New Hampshire over, the Democratic presidential contenders with Senator John Kerry at the head of the pack are gearing up for Tuesday's first national contest.
At stake, five states holding primaries, Arizona, Missouri, Delaware, Oklahoma and South Carolina. And New Mexico and North Dakota hold caucuses. Those seven states bring with them a total of 269 delegates.
Kerry left New Hampshire today after his big win over rivals Howard Dean, Wesley Clark and Senators John Edwards and Joe Lieberman. First stop, Missouri. With 74 delegates it's the biggest prize up for grabs Tuesday. From there he heads to the key primary state of South Carolina.
Next Tuesday's primary in South Carolina will be the first one in the south, and that's where native son, Senator John Edwards is today. And with him, our national correspondent Frank Buckley.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John Kerry will be arriving here in South Carolina tonight with momentum, something Democratic operatives say may be even more important than the face to face familiarity that voters in South Carolina here in South Carolina are used to.
That could be bad news for Senator John Edwards who today kicked off his run toward February 3 with a visit to South Carolina, the state in which he was born. He said that he must win here to continue.
He kicked off his campaign at South Carolina State University a predominantly African-American university. That underscores the importance of the African-American vote here. South Carolina is the first test of the candidates among a sizable group of black voters. Up to half of the voters will be black on primary day here.
It is also the first test in the South for the candidates. Front runner John Kerry says that in the general election that a Democrat doesn't need to win any states to win the general election.
Today, I asked John Edwards if he agrees with that assessment.
EDWARDS: I think that if the Democrats and Democratic voters want to put their chances on for the first time in American history, a Democrat getting elected without winning any Southern states, they can make that choice. It's a very risky choice.
BUCKLEY: Frank Buckley, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.
BLITZER: Back in his home state Vermont, the battle cry from Howard Dean today is full speed ahead, despite a second place finish in New Hampshire. Dean says he's going to try to get as many delegates as he can everywhere.
Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is standing by with the Dean campaign in Burlington. Candy, I understand there's been somewhat of a shake-up there?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A shake-up still ongoing. Last I checked with the Dean headquarters there was a staff meeting going on.
Here's what we know. Sources tell CNN's John King and myself that Roy Neel, who was former chief of staff for Al Gore in a variety of capacities, is going to come aboard the Dean campaign as the chief operating officer.
That is not the same title as Joe Trippi. Joe Trippi, of course, is the Internet guru, the man who took Howard Dean from an asterisk up to the head of the polls and the of course back again.
We have not been able to confirm -- there have been reports that Trippi is out. But we did ask the governor about that -- about specifically about staff change, when we saw him just a little bit him earlier today.
DEAN: There's not going to be any changes in my staff today.
QUESTION: Are there going to be any changes in coming days?
DEAN: I'm not asking anybody to leave. There may be some additions, but nobody's leaving. At least I hope they're not leaving...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So as you can see what we learned was no staff changes today which says little about tomorrow. And that the governor is not asking anyone to leave.
So the big question out there is whether Joe Trippi will stay, bringing in Roy Neel.
Again, it was a Gore operative, you remember, Wolf, that in fact Al Gore early on was the biggest headliner that endorsed Howard Dean. Since that endorsement it has been down hill for the Dean campaign both in Iowa and New Hampshire.
A restructuring going on even as the staff still tries to figure out how they'll approach next Tuesday in the seven state primaries -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Candy Crowley, with that information. Candy, thank you very much.
As for the rest of the Democratic candidates, it's back to the trail in the fierce hunt for vote next Tuesday, including one we haven't heard from much lately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER (voice-over): A third place finish in New Hampshire, his first-ever election campaign isn't slowing down Wesley Clark. With seven more contests now just six days away, he's wasting no time spreading his message.
WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want to bring a higher standard of leadership to America. That's why I'm running to be president.
BLITZER: Today, Clark is make stops in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Joementum (ph) might have stalled in New Hampshire but it's onward to Tuesday. Today Joe Lieberman rallied the voters before speaking at a National Health Policy forum at the University of Oklahoma. Also speaking at the forum, Congressman Dennis Kucinich who got only 1 percent of the New Hampshire vote. Later tonight he'll attend a fund-raising concert in Oklahoma city.
The reverend returns. After a recent absence from the campaign trail, Al Sharpton is back.
REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush did not win the popular vote. So as pundits talk about can George Bush defeat? He already was beaten.
BLITZER: Today, he rallies in Missouri, a political hotspot since favorite son Richard Gephardt withdrew. And getting a boost in South Carolina, Johnnie Cochran hits the airwaves today in support, with a new radio ad.
JOHNNIE COCHRAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There's one candidate for president who is fighting to keep Dr. King's dream alive. Reverend Al Sharpton.
BLITZER: And that's our look at the rest of the 2004 presidential candidates on the trail.
BLITZER: Marching on with big expectations. Several candidates hungry for a win. What will it take for them to get a "W"? I'll talk politics and more with the veteran journalist, Sam Donaldson.
The final minutes aboard American Airlines flight 11. New details revealed about the weapons used by the 9/11 hijackers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAY: It turns out we were all wrong at time of the Cuban missile crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The man in charge of looking for them tells all on Capitol Hill. And now he'll join me live. I'll speak with David Kay. That's straight ahead.
BLITZER: There are new questions about U.S. security precautions before 9/11. They come after a federal commission on terrorism, heard a tape description of one of the 9/11 hijackings from a flight attendant who was aboard one of the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center. CNN's Jennifer Coggiola is with me here. She's got details -- Jennifer.
JENNIFER COGGIOLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, yesterday we heard some testimony with updated evidence to help determine what exactly happened that morning and it was culminated with one traumatic phone call. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BETTY ONG: Ok, my name is Betty Ong.
COGGIOLA (voice-over): A dramatic voice brought back to life.
ONG: There's somebody stabbed in business class and we can't breathe in business class. Somebody's got mace or something.
COGGIOLA: But lost in the voice of flight attendant Betty Ong, details about weapons used by the terrorist. Among the items discussed at the hearing, mace and/or pepper spray, as well as the now well-known box cutters which airlines and the federal aviation administration had long maintained were not specifically prohibited. Although an airline industry guide presented to the commission did list them as banned items. Commissioners also examined four-inch knives which they say also could have been used in the hijackings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to the guidelines as we understand them that existed on 9/11, if such a knife were discovered in the possession of an individual who alarmed either the walk-through metal detector or the hand wand, the item would be returned to the owner.
COGGIOLA: Also Tuesday, Commissioner John Lehman questioned what he called negligence by the government for not checking the names of passengers against the FBI's terrorist watch list.
JOHN F. LEHMAN, COMMISSIONER: Of course, a young Arab should not be allowed on airplanes with four-inch blades, yet none of you applied common sense.
COGGIOLA: A security official replied that the intelligence committee provided them with information only that was relevant to aviation security, and that even today not all suspected terrorists are put on the watch list.
CLAUDIO MANNO, ASST. ADMIN. FOR INTELLIGENCE TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMIN.: It depends what group you're associated with, and what other information there is. As an example.
LEHMAN: I find that to be an incredible answer.
COGGIOLA: Of the 60 families of those who died on planes on September 11 that are currently involved in litigation, one we spoke with today said that these findings strengthen his case. The airlines have continued to argue that they are not liable -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot more shock details. I'm sure more are about to come out. Thank you very much for that report.
Empty-handed, David Kay returns from Iraq with no signs of weapons of mass destruction. Did they exist at all? Was the intelligence flawed, and are there weapons yet to be found? We'll explore all of these questions, much more, when David Kay joins me live. That's coming up next.
Presidential primaries two contests down, but many, many, many more to go. What can we expect in the coming weeks? I'll ask ABC radio news host, Sam Donaldson.
High hopes. A pair of Japanese balloonists attempts a record for their country. The pictures and their stories coming up later.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
"Unresolved ambiguity," words by the former top weapons hunter in describing the search for weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq. David Kay joins me live. That's coming up next.
First, though, a quick check of the latest headlines.
Fifteen years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, ExxonMobil faces a huge payout to victims of the spill. A federal judge in Anchorage today ordered ExxonMobil to pay almost $7 billion in damages. The money would go to thousands of fishermen, Alaska natives and others affected by the 11-million gallon spill in Prince William Sound. The company has 30 days to appeal.
Soul singer James Brown is in trouble with the law again. He was arrested today in his home state of South Carolina and charged with criminal domestic violence. The godfather of soul served a 2 1/2-year prison term after a 1988 arrest on drug and assault charges. And six years ago, he was convicted of a drug-related offense.
After bracing for the worst, much of New England is breathing a sigh of relief after a big snowstorm fizzled out before causing serious problems. But parts of the Northeast did get a major snowfall overnight, among them, New York City. We can see right here, up to eight inches fell on parts of the Big Apple and more than a foot on one area of Long Island.
"We were all wrong," those chilling words how the former chief U.S. weapons inspector put it to a Senate committee earlier today. David Kay conceded that the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction simply has come up empty. So what went wrong?
David Kay joining us now live.
David Kay, thanks very much for joining us.
What went wrong? How could the U.S. intelligence community have been so wrong on such a critical issue?
DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I think that's the question that we must have answers to now.
I suspect that it's not going to be an easy, simple answer. It's not going to be, someone applied pressure. It's going relate to how we collect intelligence and how we analyze it. And we ought to remember, this is the first in only the latest in a series of areas where we have proved wrong just in the proliferation area, in the case of Iran and Libya in the last three months far different than the estimates. And, in those cases, they had far more advanced programs than we estimated.
BLITZER: Among the experts, the so-called experts, going into the war, there was no doubt there were stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Forget about the nuclear, for the time being. There's a little bit more ambiguity about that. But as far as chemical and biological weapons, you had no doubt, did you?
KAY: I had no doubt.
And not only American experts. That was the general view of the intelligence communities around the world, including people who did not support us in the Security Council in terms of military action.
BLITZER: I was in Kuwait. And I remember tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops putting on gear to protect themselves from the chemical weapons.
KAY: It's quite clear the military believed they would be subjected to chemical attack. You don't wear those suits lightly.
BLITZER: So when the Iraqis said, in the months leading up to the war, they had no weapons of mass destruction, were they telling the truth?
KAY: I think the best evidence is now they were telling the truth.
They had weapons programs. And they had prohibited activities they had not declared or reported to the U.N. But with regard to large stockpiles of weapons, the best evidence is, they simply didn't exist at the time of OIF, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
BLITZER: And the point is that even the international inspectors who had gone in from all of the various agencies, they didn't believe the Iraqis at all?
KAY: That's right.
In fact, the Iraqis would tell me that, you know, we started an era when they dealt with -- they would say, with me personally in 1991, when they started lying and cheating. And they really continued it clearly up to 1995. And they said, we kept saying, if we do this, ultimately, no one will believe anything we said. Their answer is -- turned out to be true.
BLITZER: We know that, in the '80s, they did have chemical weapons. They killed thousands of Kurds and Shia throughout Iraq. There is no doubt about that.
KAY: And thousands of Iranians in the Iran/Iraq war, where they first used it. Yes, there's no doubt they had those weapons at one time. BLITZER: So, at this point -- and you're an expert on this -- at what point did they destroy or hide or conceal or remove or transfer or whatever they did their stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons?
KAY: I think the best evidence is, they actually started the reduction, not the complete elimination, of those stockpiles in '91 and '92, as the inspection program continued, to try to produce a smaller target that we wouldn't find, and keep it small.
I think, by 1995, you will recall the two son-in-laws -- Hussein Kamel, the leader who defected. Once they defected, they were afraid he was going to spill the location of everything. And I think they rushed the destruction at that period.
BLITZER: In 1998, when Bill Clinton was still in the White House -- I was covering the White House in those days -- they had no doubt whatsoever that there were stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq.
KAY: That's right. And I think that's the best evidence of a systemic problem, as opposed to pressure from one political party or the other to
BLITZER: Well, this is a very important issue, because a lot of Democrats, Democratic presidential candidates, members of the committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee -- you testified before them today -- they believe that the career professionals in the intelligence community, the military, the DIA, the CIA, they believe they were pressured by Vice President Dick Cheney, by Donald Rumsfeld, by the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, the president himself, to come up with evidence that simply didn't exist.
KAY: Wolf, no evidence of that. I had a team composed of career professionals who would have come to me. They came to me instead with the frustration at how they had been wrong. They had the opportunity to blame it on someone else. They didn't. They accepted the responsibility.
They had misinterpreted the evidence that was available to them. It's more serious than simply political slanting. That didn't take place.
BLITZER: And so you don't believe that there was political pressure on the intelligence community from the vice president or anyone else in the Bush administration to sort of tailor their bottom- line intelligence estimates?
KAY: I saw absolutely no evidence of that among the professionals that were working for me that they had ever been subjected to that.
BLITZER: So, if there was no pressure to tailor their bottom line, it sounds like an intelligence blunder that George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, an intelligence blunder of enormous magnitude.
KAY: I think it's a systemic problem that goes to -- underlies the whole basis of our collecting intelligence. I think, first of all, it's a lack of human intelligence resources in a country like Iraq. So, we depended on others. And we're paying the price for it.
BLITZER: You said in your testimony today -- and I listened to all those hours and hours and hours of your testimony -- that the U.S. intelligence community was trying to find information, and you used the words "on the cheap." I believe the intelligence community's budget is about $30 billion. On the cheap is not something that I would associate with $30 billion.
KAY: Well, Wolf, if either of us had access to that classified number and its breakdown, I think you would find that most of that is spent on technical intelligence gathering.
The only cheap part is related to investment in individuals. I can tell you, the number of people, case officers, clandestine officers, who speak Arabic is smaller than the audience in that room today while I was testifying for those six hours.
BLITZER: There were about 100 people in that room.
KAY: There were about 100 people.
BLITZER: And are you saying, in the entire U.S. government, there are less than 100 Arabic-speaking intelligence officers?
KAY: Of clandestine officers, as opposed to experts. There are probably more if you count the subject-matter experts that always remain at home. It's a very small number.
We have not invested in human intelligence gathering capability. And this really goes back, quite frankly, to the Carter administration, as we worked our way through the Church Committee and all the revelations about Vietnam, and we decided it was politically safer to rely on technology.
BLITZER: David Kay, I'm going to ask you to stand by. We have much more to discuss on this critically important issue, weapons of mass destruction.
Just ahead, more of our interview with David Kay on the weapons search in Iraq.
And later the Democratic presidential candidates are heading into the next round of primaries and caucuses, but who really has a chance to win? We'll ask the veteran journalist Sam Donaldson. He's standing by.
And hi-ho, rover. We'll learn what's behind this display of monkey business.
First, though, a quick look at some other news making headlines around the world. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER (voice-over): New bloodshed in Iraq. A car blew up this morning as it drove past a hotel in southern Baghdad, killing the driver and two bystanders. An investigation is under way.
Shattered peace. An explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed a British soldier and wounded four other soldiers. The victims are part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. The explosion happened outside a British base.
Deadly raid. Israeli forces shot and killed eight Palestinians in a raid in Gaza City, that word from Palestinian security and medical sources. They say at least three members of Islamic Jihad were among those killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The public needs to be told.
BLITZER: Battling bird flu. Officials and experts from more than a dozen countries held an emergency meeting in Thailand in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly disease. Bird flu has killed at least two people in Thailand and eight in Vietnam. Thailand's prime minister denies his government has tried to cover up the outbreak in a bid to protect the country's poultry industry.
Up, up and away. A Japanese balloonist and a companion are trying to become the first people from their country to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon. The pair took off from north of Tokyo this morning. They hope to cross the Pacific in about 60 hours and land in North America.
And that's our look around the world.
BLITZER: Let's turn once again to the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I'm joined once again by Dr. David Kay, the man who, until recently, led that hunt.
Unfortunately, I guess that hunt never materialized, from your perspective. You had access over these nine months, when you led the hunt, to everything in Iraq, Dr. al-Sadi, the chief scientist of the Iraqi regime, the so-called Dr. Germ. You spoke to all of them?
KAY: We did, although, I would say, Wolf, it dead lead to something. We were after the truth. I think we are much closer to understanding the truth today because of that hunt, because of that access than we were in March and April.
BLITZER: Is it possible the Iraqis transferred their chemical and biological weapons to a neighboring country to get rid of them?
KAY: Look, that's a possibility we examined, because we know a lot of things moved, although we don't know what moved. We try to answer that question by going back and saying, did they have the production capability that would have produced it? If they didn't have it, they didn't move it. My conclusion is, there's no sign that they had the production, ongoing capacity, and were producing large amounts of WMDs.
BLITZER: So you don't believe they're being hidden in Syria, let's say?
KAY: I don't believe large numbers. It's perfectly possible that technology documentation and even small amounts might well be hidden in Syria.
BLITZER: The man who is replacing you, Charles Duelfer, is a good man. He knows the subject quite well. Is it possible, when the dust settles, do you think, months from now, a year from now, he'll find weapons of mass destruction?
KAY: Actually, I hope so. And I have the highest regard for Charles Duelfer. The thing is, he is on the record essentially saying the same thing I said, that he doubts that there will be major discoveries.
BLITZER: When all is said and done, though, when you look at situation, was it still worth going to war and removing Saddam Hussein from power?
KAY: Absolutely, and I think not just for the Iraqis, which is clearest. I think the world is far safer.
I actually believe that Saddam and Iraq were becoming more dangerous to us, not less dangerous. It was a society that was breaking up. Yet, it was a stockpile of scientists and technology and actual equipment for producing WMD, while we're in a world where terrorists and others are seeking those weapons. They would have acquired it.
BLITZER: Did you come across evidence, a very controversial subject, of a link, an alleged link, between al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's organization, and Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime?
KAY: We collected evidence about WMD. Occasionally, in that collection, we would collect evidence of terrorism. But I passed that off to others who were leading that hunt.
We collected no evidence that would have tied al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden to WMD. But there clearly were terrorist groups passing through and operating in Iraq.
BLITZER: David Kay, you spent nine months in Iraq. You risked your life for the American people. Thanks very much for joining us.
KAY: Thank you, Wolf. Happy to have been here.
BLITZER: Appreciate it. It's raining candidates. The top Democratic hopefuls fan out across the nation in the seven states that could decide their political fate. A look at who's likely to finish on top. I'll speak live with the veteran journalist Sam Donaldson. He's my next guest.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is getting additional information on the shakeup in the Howard Dean campaign.
Candy, what are you hearing?
CROWLEY: A very rough 48 hours, we're told, inside the Dean campaign.
Joe Trippi, the campaign manager who took Howard Dean from an asterisk up to the top of the polls, has decided to leave. We are told that he is on his way back to Washington now, although we are told that the Dean campaign offered him a different sort of position in the media, moving over to ads and media, that Trippi instead is leaving. Roy Neel, a longtime friend and aide and campaign operative to Al Gore, will be taking over the day-to-day operations.
We are told that Trippi said goodbye to his staff in what was called a tearful meeting. We are also told that there may be some money problems here, that, in fact, the governor found out a couple of days ago that money was running short. We are told the staff has been told this week they'll either have a pay cut nor not get any pay at all. We are also told that there was the unspoken assumption that Trippi would stay, but, again, he will not, ceding the territory to Roy Neel.
As one put it, Joe Trippi could organize a movement, but he can't run a campaign. Again, this is, of course, Howard Dean having lost Iowa and New Hampshire. There is a shakeup here in the campaign, a Gore operative, Roy Neel, moving in to take over. Joe Trippi as campaign manager is out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Neel in, Trippi out.
Thanks very much, Candy Crowley, for that report.
Let's get some perspective on what's happening in politics in general, specifically this question as well. Sam Donaldson of ABC News is joining us.
Sam, you have lived through these experience before.
SAM DONALDSON, ABC NEWS: Well, John Kerry shook up his campaign a few weeks ago, fired a bunch of people, but he had some time then. I think Howard Dean may be running out of time to shake it up now.
BLITZER: Can he come back with a shakeup? You know Roy Neel. I know Roy Neel. He was Al Gore's chief of staff when he was vice president at the White House.
DONALDSON: He'll bring in some new ideas, do some new things.
But there's a second problem, Howard Dean. It wasn't Trippi that did the famous scream speech. Dean is perhaps his most worst enemy at this point. He's trying to right himself. And he did a little better in New Hampshire. But I just think there is inadequate time now to make himself over and say, I'm the new Nixon.
BLITZER: Can he win one of those seven states next Tuesday?
DONALDSON: Well, we'll see. I think it's very important.
And he himself said last night, I've got to win at some point. And I think he does. And now he goes into the South, goes into Missouri, which is not friendly territory for Howard Dean, and into New Mexico and Arizona.
BLITZER: And it may be later down the road. In Michigan and Wisconsin, he could better, in New York, California. But in these Southern states, he could be in trouble.
When was the last time you saw a candidate go up as quickly as Howard Dean seemingly did and then slide down as quickly, almost just as quickly?
DONALDSON: Well, John McCain. I don't need to remind you of that.
He won the New Hampshire primary in 2000 by 18 points over George W. Bush. In the next series of primaries, Bush had him. So it could still happen. But, if you look at the exit data, Kerry has momentum behind him that actually represents votes. Four out of 10 people who voted had a military connection. They voted mainly for Kerry. People who made up their minds in the last week, yes, that was the bounce for Iowa. They voted for Kerry.
But the people who want to beat George W. Bush the worst, they say, electability is why I voted. They voted for Kerry. He's got a lot going for him.
BLITZER: John Kerry has had a spectacular comeback. He was written off only a few weeks ago. How did he do it?
DONALDSON: Well, he changed somewhat. He's stopped making the long-winded speeches. I think he listened to some people.
But one of the reasons he did it was that Howard Dean, at the end of the game in Iowa, people looked at him and said, you know, I don't think so; it just doesn't wear well with me.
And Kerry was standing there. John Edwards was standing there. And if I'm going to vote against you, I'm got to vote for someone.
BLITZER: I got the impression, both in Iowa, especially in New Hampshire, electability the key issue, and a lot of people influenced by that "Newsweek" poll that came out this past week which showed, in a hypothetical contest right now, John Kerry 49 percent, George W. Bush 46 percent, within the statistical margin of error. But they think he could beat Bush.
DONALDSON: Well, meaningless at this point from the standpoint of the election next November.
But if Karl Rove is worrying tonight, he's worrying about this factor. Almost half the voters in New Hampshire said they were independents. But many of them said they voted for Kerry because they want him to beat Bush. Now, if independents are beginning to say, I'd like to find the man most able to beat George W. Bush, Rove says, we've got a problem.
BLITZER: His father, of course, was not reelected. They had looked at that experience. You and I covered that whole experience.
Right now, what do they have to do at the White House to make sure George Bush has a second term?
DONALDSON: Well, steady on the course.
David Kay, your last guest here, did him a great favor. I don't know that he did it for that reason. But of the two choices, that our intelligence was wrong, that's bad. But the worst choice would be that people got to believe that the president manipulated it and said something he knew not to be true.
So, if everyone decides that the president actually was taken in and Colin Powell, the man who doesn't sell out to anyone, was taken in, then that's not so bad. And that helps him out.
BLITZER: Which is going to be a bigger issue, in your opinion, Iraq, the war, the war on terrorism on the one hand, or the economy on the other?
DONALDSON: Well, I'm an economic guy.
Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman, has done a study of all the modern elections. And he can show on a chart that the way the economy appears to voters -- never mind that we learned later that actually we were on a recovery or not -- the way it appears at the time, that's what, in a reelection campaign for a president, is crucial. I still think it will be.
BLITZER: The economy. It's still the economy, stupid, as they used to say.
DONALDSON: Well, it's an old cliche that Carville came up with now. But, yes, that's right. If we've got two bucks in our pocket, maybe we like this guy. If we don't, throw the bum out. I don't care whether it was his fault or not.
BLITZER: Sam Donaldson, please come back early often, as they say.
DONALDSON: Delighted to, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sam Donaldson, one of our favorites from ABC News. He has got a very good radio show. I listen to it every morning.
Thanks very much, Sam.
A monkey who is doggone good at also being a cowboy. Coming up, we'll introduce to you this. It's called Whiplash.
Also, the results of our "Web Question of the Day," not called Whiplash, when we come back.
BLITZER: The best of the West compete in the world's toughest rodeo this weekend in Minneapolis.
But a very small wrangler is already stealing the show. This is Whiplash, the cowboy monkey. He throws on his cowboy hat and his chaps and holds on to a Border collie. Together, they help herd sheep. Whiplash has been riding dogs for 15 years, worthy enough -- get this -- for our picture of the day.
Here's how you're weighing in on our "Web Question of the Day": Do you believe coalition forces will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Twenty-eight percent of you say yes; 72 percent say no, remembering, of course, this is not -- repeat, not -- a scientific poll.
A reminder, you can always catch WOLF BLITZER REPORTS weekdays at this, 5:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm here as well every weekday, noon Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.
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Interview With Sam Donaldson>