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Bill Clinton on Bill Clinton

Aired June 22, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, Bill Clinton on the scandal.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was trying to protect my family and myself for my selfish stupidity.

I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

ZAHN: On terrorism.

CLINTON: I said my biggest disappointment was not getting bin Laden.

ZAHN: On the Republicans.

CLINTON: They were always right. We were always wrong.

ZAHN: Tonight, Bill Clinton in his own words.


ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

It is 957 pages long, its first printing one and a half million copies. The former president received a $10 million advance for it. Well, today, "My Life" hit bookstores. And thousands here in New York lined up for a copy and an autograph at $35 a pop. Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton looked the happy family at an all-star book party here in Manhattan last night, quite a contrast to the dark days during the Lewinsky scandal, when Chelsea at times looked like a buffer between her parents.

So here, from C.D. version of his book, is Bill Clinton in his own words, first talking about the scandal that nearly destroyed his presidency.


CLINTON: I knew I had made a terrible mistake and I was determined not to compound it by allowing Starr to drive me from office. For now, the hysteria was overwhelming. I went on doing my job, and I stonewalled, denying what had happened to everyone. What I regret the most, other than my conduct, is having misled all of them." Of course Starr had no intention of stepping aside. His bias against me was the very reason he was chosen in the first place and why he took the job. We now had a bizarre definition of an independent counsel. He had to be independent of me, but it was fine to be closely tied to my political enemies and legal adversaries.

I woke up Hillary and told her the truth about what had happened between me and Monica Lewinsky. She looked at me as if I had punched her in the gut, almost as angry at me for lying to her in January as for what I had done. All I could do was tell her I was sorry and that I felt I couldn't tell anyone, especially her, what had happened.

The next day, we left for Martha's Vineyard on our annual vacation. Usually, I counted the days until we could get away for some family time. This year, though I knew we needed it, I wished that I was working around the clock instead. As we walked out to the South Lawn to get on the helicopter with Chelsea between Hillary and me and Buddy walking beside me, photographers took pictures that revealed the pain I had caused. When there were no cameras around, my wife and daughter were barely speaking to me.

I spent the first couple of days on Martha's Vineyard alternating between begging for forgiveness and planning the strikes on al Qaeda. At night, Hillary would go up to bed and I slept on the couch.


ZAHN: We are going to hear more of Bill Clinton in his own words tonight.

Here with us to talk about his book are Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of "USA Today," and Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Good to see both of you. Welcome.




So, Susan, what was the reaction, not only when reading these words, but hearing Bill Clinton express his remorse for his affair with Monica Lewinsky? Did you buy it?

PAGE: Well, it's like being transformed back to 1998, to hear him explain these incidents again.

The book is so interesting. His accounts of what happened are so interesting, but I do think it's important to remember that, with this memoir, as with most presidential memoirs, it's not necessarily the truth of history. It's the president's version of what happened. In some cases, it's version of how he hoped something had happened or his explanation behind what happened. And I think it's important to look at Clinton's book the same way we looked at Nixon's book, for instance, when his memoirs came out, or Carter's memoirs.

ZAHN: So, on an emotional level, having covered this president as closely as did you, Susan, what did you think?

PAGE: Well, I thought in some cases he provides some insight into his behavior, into his background, particularly in the Arkansas years. But I did think in the Monica Lewinsky affair, what we were hearing were an explanation that we have heard before about why he behaved the way he did, and especially on why he misled his wife and his White House staff and all of America about what had happened.

You know, if you'll remember, Dick Morris did a private poll the night this story broke and concluded that Bill Clinton would not survive in office if he came straight with the American people in the first days of this scandal. And I think that is the real reason he chose the path of deception for so long, until tempers cooled and he could fight back effectively.

ZAHN: I see you nodding, Ron. Is that simply because he never even wanted to think about the possibility of leaving the presidency?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think what you see -- and Susan's further ahead of me in reading it -- but I think that I agree with her point that, with any presidential memoir, you're going to have to look to history and historians to fill in the blanks.

What is clear to me, though, is, this seems emotionally honest, both in reflecting the pain and the anger. And the anger is largely the answer to your question, Paula. I think he very quickly differentiated in his mind between his personal failing and the sense that there was a political campaign against him utilizing that in what he viewed as an unfair way. And I think he divided that in his mind all the way through, as did, as the facts came out, most of the people who supported him certainly in the White House and so forth.

They made the distinction between Clinton's failure and whether that should result in his being removed from the presidency. And it actually made it easier for them to fight this than one might have expected at the time, given the sinking suspicion ultimately confirmed that the allegations were true.

ZAHN: That might be true, Ron.

But, Susan, you've got to admit for people who haven't been through the kind of therapy that Bill Clinton talks about openly in this book, this concept of leading parallel lives is a little foreign to a lot of people. It's a little weird, isn't it?

PAGE: Well, it is, although I do think it's something that children who are abused or who grow up in alcoholic households often talk about keeping a secret that you can talk to no one about.

And so, to a certain number of Americans, it may sound quite familiar. I thought it was interesting that he's forgiven himself, he's forgiven Newt Gingrich. Boy, he sure hasn't forgiven Ken Starr. There's just -- the angry and resentment of Ken Starr is throughout this book and is a grudge he is not ready to give up.

ZAHN: He's fixated on it, isn't it, Ron?

BROWN: Yes, absolutely.

Look, and I think the point I was making, Paula, it was just about his sort of vision of the parallel lives which was really about his own behavior and sort of explaining his own behavior to himself than it was about distinguishing between the personal behavior and the political consequences of it. And that, the angry at Starr that comes through in everything that he has said is very clear, because he believed that in effect that people, that he was persecuted.

Now, in the long run, you know, history is going to accord plenty of blame to Bill Clinton because he provided his enemies, whatever their motivation, with the weapon to use against him.


ZAHN: Susan and Ron, please stick around.

When we come back, more of President Clinton in his own words tonight. A face-off, the president vs. Newt Gingrich.

We'll be right back.


ZAHN: The Lewinsky scandal and impeachment penned Bill Clinton in politically during his second term, but in his first term, he also suffered a political disaster when in 1994, the midterm elections, the Democrats lost 52 seats in the House and eight seats in the Senate. The driving force behind that Republican triumph was Newt Gingrich with his Contract With America.

President Clinton again in his own words.


CLINTON: I was profoundly with the election, far more than I ever let on in public. Gingrich had proved to be a better politician than I was. He understood that he could nationalize a midterm election with the contract." When he was on a roll, Newt was hard to stop."


ZAHN: Joining us once again, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of "The USA Today," and Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Susan, what odes this grudging respect for Newt Gingrich say about Bill Clinton and how he assesses his political opponents?

PAGE: Well, you know, Bill Clinton is really a master politician, the best politician I've ever covered.

And I think he saw a lot of himself in Newt Gingrich. You know, they are both kind of big thinkers with huge plans and schemes that they had envisioned, visionary leaders, I guess, although also flawed ones and two men who had difficult childhoods. I always felt like they had a lot in common even when they were competitors.

ZAHN: Ron, the president also talks quite openly about Al Gore's run for the presidency and what he thinks went wrong. Let's listen to the president in his own words when he talked about what he thought he had done during his presidency to try to protect Al Gore and shore him up.


CLINTON: I had done everything I could to help Al avoid those problems by giving him many high-profile assignments and making sure he received public recognition for his invaluable contributions to our successes.

Yet, even though he was indisputably the most active and influential vice president in history, there was still a gap between perception and reality.


ZAHN: How big of a blow was Al Gore's loss ultimately to President Clinton, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Enormously.

I think he very much wanted to follow Ronald Reagan in helping his vice president win and in effect move on to a third term. The Gore-Clinton relationship was very complicated. There's not only the gap between perception and reality. There's a gap between the vice president and the president.

I often felt that Al Gore's belief in 2000 was, he was not going to win on Bill Clinton's accomplishments, even if it meant losing. His fear was that, if he was too close to Clinton, he would bear the brunt of backlash over Lewinsky. I think the consensus among many Democrats is that he got all of the negatives in 2000 and by not talking about the economy, very few of the positives.

Paula, very few candidates in American history, very few parties have ever lost the White House with as many indicators going in the right direction as the Democrats did in 2000. It was extraordinary. And one factor had to be Al Gore's reluctance to highlight and run on that record.


ZAHN: How much do you think, Susan, the president blames Al Gore for detaching himself from the president?

(CROSSTALK) PAGE: Absolutely.


ZAHN: Really making a concerted effort not to campaign with him.

PAGE: No question.

I think Gore -- that Clinton thinks Gore was to blame for an election that Clinton had set the table for Gore to have a successful election with the state of the economy as it was, and Gore blew it. I sat next to Clinton at a dinner in the spring of 2000 where he expressed resentment and bewilderment about why Gore wasn't asking him to do more.

If Gore had simply sent Clinton into his home state of Arkansas, Clinton likely would have won that state for him and Gore would be president today.

BROWNSTEIN: Although, in fairness to Gore, it wasn't entirely -- it wasn't a simple calculus.

If you look at the election in 2000, the country divided almost entirely along cultural lines. And Gore suffered and Democrats suffered precisely in the places where the backlash against Clinton on personal grounds was the sharpest, rural areas, married voters, people who attended church regularly. There were reasons for Gore to be hesitant. Probably in retrospect he overdid it, but certainly it was not all simple.


PAGE: There were places where you didn't want to send Bill Clinton, but there were places where you should have, and Gore didn't.

ZAHN: Let's move on to a point the two of you were making earlier, that, as you read this book, the one thought that I guess he keeps rephrasing over and over again is this idea that Ken Starr and the right wing had this conspiracy against him. Actually, he said conspiracy is the wrong word, because he felt the efforts weren't hidden at all. They were right out there in the open.

And here is how President Clinton responded to a very specific question Ken Starr's investigation with a reporter from the BBC.

Let's watch together.


CLINTON: One of the reasons he got away with it is because people like you only asked people like me the questions. You gave him a complete free ride, any abuse they want to do. They indicted all these little people from Arkansas. What did you care about them? They're not famous. Who cares if their lives are trampled? Who cares that their children are humiliated? Who cares if Starr sends FBI agents to their school and rip them out of their school to humiliate them, try to force their parents to lie about me?


ZAHN: Well, his anger is quite obvious there, Susan. Does he have a point there? Did the media let Ken Starr off the hook during the initial stages of the investigation?


PAGE: It's easy to criticize the media. And we're almost always -- we almost always don't do enough, but I think that Starr also got critical coverage.

It was such a divisive period. We talk about polarized politics now. I think that the divisions were even more bitter then. I think Starr got -- Starr's reputation was not enhanced by this independent counsel investigation any more than Clinton's was.

ZAHN: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: I agree. Starr got tough coverage, but history will be tougher on him yet. I think that that episode, no one comes out well, including the special prosecutor, the way the House dealt with releasing some of the information.

The whole thing, it was on the one hand clearly personal mistakes by Clinton and legal vulnerabilities, but also a sense I think that the other side was playing, you know, a very, very tough game as well, and I think history is going to be pretty tough on all the participants.

ZAHN: Ron, Susan, we're going to take a short break here.

When we come back, the fight against terrorism, just how high a priority was it? More of Bill Clinton in his own words.

We'll be back in a moment.


ZAHN: In "My Life," Bill Clinton recalls his attempts to counter the threat that eventually hit home for Americans painfully on September 11.

In August 1998, terrorists linked to al Qaeda launched simultaneous truck bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; 234 people died, including 12 Americans. The president struck back by targeting Osama bin Laden, aiming U.S. cruise missiles at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and the suspected chemical weapons plant in Sudan. That decision had to be made just days before President Clinton testified to a grand jury about Monica Lewinsky.

Here again, the former president in his own words. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CLINTON: We had to pick targets, move the necessary military assets into place and figure out how to handle Pakistan. My team was worried about one other thing, my testimony before the grand jury in three days, on August the 17th. They were afraid that it would make me reluctant to strike or that if I did order the attack, I would be accused of doing it to divert public attention from my problems, especially if the attack didn't get bin Laden.

I told them in no uncertain terms that their job was to give me advice on national security. I said I would handle my personal problems. We came close to launching another missile strike at him in October, but the CIA recommended that we call it off at the last minute, believing that the evidence of his presence was insufficiently reliable.

The Pentagon recommended against putting special forces into Afghanistan, with all the attendant logistical difficulties, unless we had more reliable intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts.

In mid-December, president-elect Bush came to the White House. We talked about the campaign, White House operations and national security. I knew that he was putting together an experienced team from past Republican administrations who believed that the biggest security problems America faced were Iraq and the lack of national missile defense. I told him that, based on the last eight years, I thought the biggest security problems in order were Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the absence of peace in the Middle East, the standoff between the nuclear powers in India and Pakistan, and the ties of the Pakistanis to the Taliban and al Qaeda, North Korea, and then Iraq.


ZAHN: We are again joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of "USA Today," and Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times."

Welcome back. I saw both of you smiling.

There has been a great deal of confusion about the footprints that Mr. Clinton left in the Oval Office when he met with George Bush, the president-elect. Why was it so important, do you think, Ron, for him to list in that order what he perceived as the next priorities in office?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, this may be one of the few examples, really, where we're seeing Clinton directly or perhaps indirectly criticize President Bush. He's been pretty supportive in his comments in these interviews about the decision to invade Iraq.

But here I think he is subtly adding his voice to those who argue that Bush's priorities were misplaced at the beginning of his presidency, like Dick Clarke. If you look at how Clinton dealt with terror, clearly, there was an upward trajectory of focus over his presidency. The overall effort on many fronts was far advanced by the end of his presidency than it was at the beginning. Where he faces the criticism -- and you see this in the 9/11 Commission report -- is, did he blink at the furthest end, at the most risky options, whether it was directly arming the Northern Alliance before 9/11 to try to overturn the Taliban, or going after bin Laden in some of the instances where they did not have completely actionable, to use a big word from earlier this year, intelligence? Those are the kind of things he's going to have to defend himself against.

But here, I think he is lending his voice to the critics of Bush.

ZAHN: Let's, Susan, come back to that idea of actionable intelligence, with a president, and we heard him in his own words just moments ago, talking about the concern on the part of his staff that if he did launch an attack on Osama bin Laden it might be considered a diversionary tactic to get America's minds off of Monica Lewinsky.

PAGE: Well, you know, it wasn't just Republicans who thought that. Reporters thought that, too. I remember when he came back from Martha's Vineyard and the press pool on Air Force One saw "Wag the Dog" in the press compartment, and that movie seemed all too appropriate. There was a lot of suspicion that this was a diversionary, but I think that charge turns out to be untrue.

But it was certainly in the air, certainly in the air at the time. You know, this meeting with President Bush I think is one of the most important moments in Clinton's memoirs, because it goes to the heart of a charge that critics make of President Bush, that he was basically blinded by his focus on Iraq to much more serious threats to the country. I think that's one of the -- you know, the first thing everybody looks for was Monica Lewinsky, her references in the index, to read those sections.

But I actually think this moment in the Oval Office may be the thing that turns out to be most important from these memoirs.

ZAHN: And, Ron, hasn't some of what we have been told by the administration been a little bit misleading about what happened at that first meeting?

BROWNSTEIN: I'm sorry, by the Bush administration?

ZAHN: Either the reporting hasn't been clear or we weren't led to believe that President Clinton had left those very firm list of priorities.

BROWNSTEIN: And, you know, look, it's a similar argument. It's very similar in my mind to the argument between Condi Rice and Dick Clarke over, you know, what their lessons were coming in or what their advice was coming in.

Clearly, the Bush administration wants to rebut any assumption that they were not vigilant enough before 9/11. I think the verdict of the country and probably the verdict of history is that no one was vigilant enough before 9/11. By definition, if a plot of that magnitude could succeed, no one did enough, no one imagined broadly enough to conceive that we would have to fight and repel something like this.

So, in a sense, Clinton and Bush both are going to have a tough time winning the argument with history that they did enough. On the other hand, I'm not sure that the country will really hold it against either of them, because they don't feel that any institution, including the press through what now looks like a surrealistic focus on the wag-the-dog argument, did enough.

ZAHN: Susan, I want to come back full circle to something we talked about at the very top of this tonight, the theme running through this book, the president being very angry about Ken Starr's assault as he alleges on him and his administration, and the idea that Bill Clinton thinks that his impeachment in fact was the great triumph of his presidency. Is he telling us that's what he wants his legacy to be?

PAGE: Well, he says it's not a stain; it's a badge of honor.

But I'm sure it's one that he's unhappy that he earned. You know, Bill Clinton came to office with big plans to reform health care for Americans and then later to save Social Security and change Medicare, and those things, while he has definitely achievements during his presidency, those big dreams were left undone.

And one reason they were left undone is because of the terrible cost the impeachment scandal, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and then impeachment caused for his administration, the diversion that it was for him and for those close to him and for the way it seeped away his political power, limited his negotiation ability with Congress, really a terrible cost.

ZAHN: You get the last word, Ron.


BROWNSTEIN: Two quick thoughts.

First, even before Monica, his ability to negotiate with Congress had really ended after the 1997 budget deal inspired such a backlash among conservatives. Republicans were not going to deal with him. And with all the flaws and all the personal problems which were real and will stain his mark on history, Clinton I think will show as a transitional figure in the history of the Democratic Party.

He moved it toward the center in ways that are lasting, on issues from the budget to personal responsibility, to welfare and crime. And that's not going away. I think he does have a place in American history.

ZAHN: It depends on what happens this year. We don't know if he was a transitional figure until we know what kind of campaign Kerry runs and whether he wins.


BROWNSTEIN: Win or lose, his mark is there, I think. ZAHN: Well, we thank you for the interesting conversation tonight.

Susan Page, Ron Brownstein, thank you.

On Thursday, the former president's first prime-time interview on his new book on "LARRY KING LIVE," and the former president will take your phone calls. Please join Larry starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Coming up, we turn from politics past to the terror of the present, a kidnapping, a video, demands, and then murder, as another hostage is beheaded, the growing fear in Iraq -- when we come back.


ZAHN: Turning now to the latest act of terror in Iraq, a South Korean civilian held hostage there has been beheaded.

Kim Sun-Il worked for a company that is supplying the U.S. military in Iraq. Well, today American troops found his body near Baghdad. The Pentagon says it had been booby-trapped with explosives.

The Arab television network Al Jazeera broadcast a videotape of Kim Sun-Il apparently made shortly before his murder. He was seized last Thursday, and his abductors had threatened to kill him at sundown on Monday unless South Korea canceled their plans to send 3,000 more troops to Iraq.

Of course, the South Korean government refused. Thousands of South Koreans held vigils on Monday in Seoul and other cities, asking the government to reconsider and meet the kidnappers' demand.

Well, today, President Bush insisted the murder would not change the coalition's goals in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The free world cannot be intimidated by the brutal action of these barbaric people.


ZAHN: And a little bit earlier I talked with chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad and asked her about the circumstances surrounding Kim Sun-Il's murder.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it came just days after that harrowing videotape was released by al-Jazeera showing Kim pleading for his life, crying and just desperate to get out of there, as he said, in English.

He was begging, he had obviously been forced to beg for the removal of the 600 or so South Korean troops already here. They are mostly medics and humanitarian troops and reconstruction experts who are based in the northern part of Iraq, the Kurdish region of Erbil.

In any event he was begging for his life, and it appeared for a while that that deadline may have been pushed towards today, because the South Korean delegation did leave Amman, neighboring Amman, Jordan, to come here today to try to seek Kim's release.

It was clearly too late. A U.S. military team did find the body, took pictures of a body they said appeared to be of an Asian male, sent those images to the South Korean embassy here, and the South Korean embassy positively identified those images.

And so that is the logistic or rather the train of events in terms of leading up to confirming his death. Of course, it was first broadcast on Al Jazeera Television, which always broadcasts these things first.

ZAHN: Christiane, you mentioned there that a South Korean team was on its way into Iraq, but was there ever any indication the South Koreans would have caved into the kidnappers' demands?

AMANPOUR: No. The South Korean government had said that they were going to go ahead. They said that that is the position of the South Korean government, and like many governments they basically refused to negotiate on those demands, negotiate with terrorists.

And they -- they -- even though there was a huge uproar in South Korea about this and great sympathy and grief and a demand to pull back the troops, because it's not popular, the deployment of South Korean troops in South Korea itself, the government was not going to back down.

Now, the killers did issue a statement that was also alongside the tape of Kim kneeling and being dressed in that orange jumpsuit. And the killers addressed themselves to the South Korean people, saying, "Enough of the lies, enough of the games. You guys claim that you're here on behalf of the Iraqi people, but in fact you're here for the Americans."

So there is a campaign to target anything that is connected with the American presence here or with the new Iraqi government.

ZAHN: Of course, it's been widely predicted that this kind of violence would probably spike in and around the turnover date of June 30. What else might be expected to happen?

AMANPOUR: Well, this really is the kind of really barbaric violence towards individuals that sends terror and shivers down people, not just in the expatriate community but also amongst Iraqis themselves.

Let's not forget that the Iraqis have, in fact, born the brunt of the violence. They have been killed in much, much higher numbers than any of the foreigners, including U.S. troops, and they are also being kidnapped and abducted.

There are many instances of businessmen and others being kidnapped, held for ransom, taken away and basically the target of violence. Just today, an academic, a woman, the dean of the law school at the University of Mosul in northern Iraq, was killed alongside her husband, who was also assassinated.

This is a relentless campaign, an effort to derail this entire project.

ZAHN: More troubling times in Iraq. Christiane Amanpour, thank you.


ZAHN: Kim Sun-Il is the third hostage to be kidnapped and beheaded in less than two months. Americans Paul Johnson Jr. in Saudi Arabia and Nicholas Berg in Iraq were also victims of the same terror tactic.

It has always been the policy of the U.S. and its allies not to negotiate with terrorists, but with the kidnapping and execution of foreigners on the rise, is it time to reconsider that policy?

Here to talk about that is Wallace Zeins, the former supervisor of the New York City Police Department hostage negotiating team.



ZAHN: So we mentioned the U.S. has a strict policy of not negotiating with hostage takers. Do you think it's time to review that?

ZEINS: It's always time to take a step back and look at our policies and programs, and see if we need to have change.

ZAHN: What would you do?

ZEINS: Well, I'd look at what's going on. You have to understand the hostage negotiation program in the United States, in law enforcement, is very different than that in the international arena.

You know, it's very important for our country and all the nations to consider dignity and sovereignty. We've got to take care of our country. We can't let the hostage takers dictate political and policy for our country.

For an example, look what happened in Madrid, with the bombing in Spain. The election came up, and it changed. The whole election was changed.

We have things in the United States coming up here. In July we have the Democratic convention in Boston. In August we have the Republican convention in New York City, and in November we have an election. So we have to be very cognizant. And, yes, it's very important to take a step back, look at that whole picture, and if we can fix it, why not?

ZAHN: But how do you fix it? Because there is this view that no matter what you do, the terrorists win. They win by the attention they get.

The South Koreans, as Christiane just mentioned, had their team basically on its away from Amman, Jordan into Iraq to negotiate, although they maintain they wouldn't have backed down, they wouldn't have caved in to the terrorists.

ZEINS: Well, terrorists found a niche. We call this the magic triangle. Money, manpower and media. If you look at that triangle and you look back in, say, 1970, this is when this had started with Jordan, when the Palestinians, they took four airliners hostage and they hijacked them and they landed in Dorsan (ph) field in Jordan.

And King Hussein was very upset with them because he wasn't notified about this hostage taking, this hijacking, and they blew the four planes up, and this was in Jordan. So he got so angry that he went after them and killed over 2,400 of them and injured maybe over 10,000. And they became Black September, that group.

And to make a long story short, they wanted to -- they lost all their power, so what did they do? They went in 1972, a year, two years later, and hit the Munich Olympics, and they had the media there, 3,000, maybe more, covering it, and they had...

ZAHN: Got their attention.

ZEINS: Got their attention. And they ended up having sympathizers come to them, and then they would get money, manpower and the media.

ZAHN: But these hostage takers we're being told about are apparently more of part of a freelance operation, and their affiliation with al Qaeda may be a little more diffuse than the kinds of bombs you were talking about here. Can you really get to these people?

ZEINS: You know, it's important to try to develop a rapport. In our program in the United States in law enforcement, as a professional, and I speak for most of the hostage negotiators, we always try to develop a rapport. We always try to negotiate. That's the important thing.

The policy for the United States is different, as I just mentioned. But if we have an opportunity to negotiate, to develop that rapport between hostage takers, then we'll do it. Time is on your side.

And this also gives us an opportunity to gather intelligence, set up -- try and find out where these particular people are. Right now we don't know where they are; we don't know who they are. In an actual hostage situation, eventually we would find out who they are. ZAHN: Certainly sends chills down all our spines when you think about this tactic, which is reaching new popularity.

Wallace, thanks from your time.

ZEINS: You're quite welcome.

ZAHN: Coming up next, using torture to fight the war on terror. Did the commander-in-chief or secretary of defense approve the use of torture in U.S. military prisons? We'll be right back.


ZAHN: The Justice Department is disavowing a memo that appeared to justify the use of torture in the fight against terrorism. The document had touched off accusations that the Bush administration appeared to be condoning torture in the questioning of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

Well, the White House today released some documents in an attempt to answer questions about interrogation techniques.

For instance, in a 2002 memo President Bush said he accepted the conclusion of the Justice Department but declined to suspend the Geneva Conventions at that time.

Questions of just what methods were approved have also focused on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins us now from the Pentagon to clear up some of this confusion tonight.

Hi, Jamie.


Well, the Pentagon also released a sheaf of documents today, and they show how commanders at the Guantanamo naval base back in October of 2002 were frustrated by what they called advanced resistance given by the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

They asked for permission to use more aggressive tactics to break down some of those detainees, a request that eventually went to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The tactics included convincing the detainee that death or severe pain could be imminent; exposure to cold weather or water; the use of water to induce the perception of suffocating, also known as water boarding.

But Rumsfeld approved only one technique, mild, non-injurious physical contact defined as grabbing or poking in the chest or light pushing.

Now, Rumsfeld insisted nothing he authorized was torture or inhumane, although he did authorize subjecting detainees at Guantanamo to yelling, to isolation, to 20-hour marathon interrogations, forced shaving, and standing for four hours straight.

However, he also approved other, more controversial techniques that the Pentagon insists were not used. That included hooding, stress positions, removal of clothing, and the use of dogs to induce stress.

Now, the Pentagon also inaccurately told CNN yesterday that Rumsfeld had approved this controversial technique known as water boarding. But even though the documents show he did not approve that, it does show that there's a legal opinion from the general counsel that that could be approved in the future, saying that those techniques and other ones that Rumsfeld rejected are, quote, "would be legally available."

They just said, however, as a policy matter they shouldn't be given blanket approval at this time.

ZAHN: What is water boarding, Jamie?

MCINTYRE: That's a technique in which a detainee is made to feel as if he's drowning by putting a wet towel over his face or pouring water over him to give him the impression that he's going to drown.

That's a technique that human rights advocates say clearly crosses the line into torture, but the Pentagon documents suggest it's something that could be available in the future.

ZAHN: All right, Jamie. Thank you for the update tonight.

Joining us now from Washington to look at this issue in greater detail, former Defense Department spokeswoman and frequent contributor Victoria Clarke -- we call her Torie -- and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley, who teaches at George Washington University. We call him Jonathan.

Welcome to both of you.

Jonathan, bottom line here, when you look at this document dump, can you come to the conclusion that the Bush administration either directly or indirectly authorized the use of torture?

JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT: It's certainly good news that, despite reports, Rumsfeld did not approve techniques like water boarding.

But what is disturbing is the legal conclusion that they could use what is a clear torture technique, water boarding, in the future if they chose to do so as a matter of policy.

There's a federal law that prohibits torturing. There are international agreements that forbid torture. And this really ties into an earlier memo in which attorneys in the White House said that executive branch officials or military officials could violate federal law and that the president trumped even those laws.

So there's a broader context here, and at its base is an assertion of what is almost absolute authority, and the only thing that's restraining this administration is the inclination not to torture or to torture.

ZAHN: Well, let's talk about that for a moment, because, Torie, it's not clear to me from reading these documents what that does mean down the road.

I know the Justice Department has disavowed a memo that appeared to justify the use of torture, and they basically called that memo overboard and irrelevant. If that's the case, why wasn't it replaced a long time ago?

VICTORIA CLARKE, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, I think there are probably thousands of memos and more of them will surface.

What I think is important was they put out this huge volume of information to demonstrate, once again, with facts, that the clear direction given by the president of the United States and senior officials in the government, including Secretary Rumsfeld, was that all detainees of all kinds will be treated humanely.

And they have been. The overwhelming majority of the time, they have been. And it's demonstrated with the facts again and again and again.

ZAHN: But what about that loophole that Jamie McIntyre just mentioned, that it is his belief that Donald Rumsfeld approved, although it hasn't been used yet, hooding, stress positions, and the use of dogs?

CLARKE: Well, two things. One, I don't know if I would call it a loophole. I think there are lawyers who would make, you know, convincing cases on the other side of Jonathan, that these things could be acceptable.

But I think what is important is the pattern of practice, and the pattern of practice is that these people are treated very humanely.


ZAHN: Humanely, Jonathan? Have the prisoners been treated humanely? Not only Guantanamo but Abu Ghraib?

CLARKE: The overwhelming majority of the time. And first of all, Paula, let's make a distinction. The horrible photographs that everyone has seen had nothing to do with interrogations that were going on at the time.

TURLEY: So that's...

CLARKE: It was horrible people doing horrible things, and they and others will be held accountable for that.

ZAHN: But isn't there an allegation...

CLARKE: But the overwhelming...

TURLEY: Well, I hesitate...


ZAHN: ... to soften up people in advance of an interrogation?

TURLEY: Right. I hesitate to disagree with Tori on anything, but I just think that she's wrong on this.

To suggest that prisoners have been treated humanely ignores that there are 10 homicides under investigation. It ignores that two of those homicides were committed under the supervision of the 519th Military Intelligence unit in Afghanistan. That same unit, after those two homicides, was sent to Iraq, and that same unit committed many of the same abuses.

And what is clearly a concern of many of us is that this administration seems to have tolerated an environment that allowed this type of conduct to flourish.

And it's true that there's no smoking gun document, but the concern is that we have sort of a Thomas Becket moment where someone says, "Please rid me of this meddlesome priest," and people know what to read into that.

ZAHN: OK. Torie Clarke, you get 20 seconds for the final word tonight.

CLARKE: Sure. Let's talk about the environment that was created. This is about three dozen, just a selection of statements from Secretary Rumsfeld going back to January of '02, in which he said whatever the lawyers decide is fine, but what is important is we will treat these detainees humanely.

And where there have been problems and there are problems they'll be dealt with very harshly. But the majority of the people under our control are dealt with very well.

ZAHN: All right you two, got to leave it there. I think we need to have you come back, interesting discussion. Victoria Clarke, Jonathan Turley. Thanks.

CLARKE: Thanks, Paula.

TURLEY: Thanks.

ZAHN: Coming up next, food for thought. What do pickles and the presidency have in common? Stay tuned.


ZAHN: We have spent much of this hour focusing on Bill Clinton's big new book, over 900 pages long.

And even though "My Life" has been in stores less than a day now, some readers out there are treating it a bit like "The Da Vinci Code." They are searching for clues, clues to a strange comment the former president made a few days ago.

At the center of this mystery is a pickle.

Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a guy who often finds himself in a pickle, he picked a dilly of a metaphor.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Made me feel like I was a pickle stepping into history.

MOOS: The audience on hand for his portrait unveiling chuckled, but at what?

CLINTON: Made me feel like I was a pickle stepping into history.

MOOS: Was it a joke?

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": I don't get that at all.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not sure he knew what he meant.

MOOS: What is a pickle, stepping into history? A real head scratcher. I don't get it, either. The mystery continued, from Web sites to a column in "The New York Times."

Some theorized it's a baseball term.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pickle is when you're caught between two bases.

MOOS: Clinton's the pickle in the middle between the two Bush presidencies.

With a giant pickle as a prop...

(on camera) Get its good side.

MOOS (voice-over): ... we looked for answers.

(on camera) Depends on what the definition of a pickle is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A pickle -- is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sour. A sour part of history, it's Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe it was a folksy Arkansas...

MOOS (voice-over): Sorry, folks in Arkansas never heard of it, even the industry group Pickle Packers International didn't have a clue: "With all the innuendo about what a pickle might refer to, we won't go there."

But others did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He meant his (expletive deleted).


This guy figured Bill Clinton was speaking the mind of his audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as they see him, that's what they think about.

MOOS (on camera): Pickle?


MOOS: Maybe it's his subconscious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any reference to that in his book? To pickles in general?

MOOS: No. Check the index.

(voice-over) Nothing under "P," but a Clinton spokesperson suggests that when you pickle something, it's a means of preservation. Hence the former president felt like he was being pickled with his portrait.

STEWART: As a matter of fact, if I remember correctly, your pickle's already stepped into history.

MOOS: We wouldn't touch that one with a ten-foot fork.


ZAHN: And I'm not going there, either. Jeanne Moos reporting. We'll take a short break. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: And that wraps it up for us tonight. Thanks so much for being with us.

Tomorrow, Private Lynndie England is facing court martial for prison abuse. Hear excerpts from a rare interview.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Thanks so much for joining us. Good night.


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