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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Rumsfeld Discusses Military Campaign's Progress; McCain Talks About Anti-Terrorism Legislation; The Anthrax Outbreak and Government Response

Aired October 28, 2001 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington and New York, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan, and 10:00 p.m. in Islamabad, Pakistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two-hour LATE EDITION.

We'll get to my interview with the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in just a moment, but first, the latest developments in the war on terrorism.

Afghanistan's capital city Kabul has experienced the heaviest bombardment yet in the U.S.-led military campaign. The Arab television network, Al-Jazeera broadcast images of what it said it was another home hit by an American warplane. The Taliban claimed nine killed in the strike, but that can't be independently confirmed.

More than 2,000 people are expected to attend a memorial at the site of the World Trade Center later today for the victims of the September 11 attack. The service is limited to families who lost loved ones in the disaster. More than 4,000 victims remain missing in the rubble. CNN will carry the service live at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, in about two hours from now.

In a change of public health policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that doxycycline is now their drug of choice for anthrax treatment. Health officials say the drug is as effective as Cipro and there is more of it in stock.

Earlier today, the Bush administration spoke about the anthrax threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We have acted as quickly as we could and responsibly. But 20/20 vision is always better looking back than it is looking forward. And I tell you, we've had a challenge in this country. We're meeting the challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Officials estimate more than 10,000 Washington, D.C.- area residents are taking Cipro. Today marks the beginning of week four of the U.S.-led military strikes against targets in Afghanistan. But even before military action began, the Bush administration warned that the war against terrorism would be a long one.

Earlier today I spoke with the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about what the military campaign has accomplished so far and what may be ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

Let's get right to the issue at hand. Did the U.S. military underestimate the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda supporters?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Not at all. This is going roughly the way we have said publicly that it would go. We said it would be long. We said it would be difficult. We said it would be different, and indeed it is. There's no question but that part of what's going on is seen, part of it is not seen. It is not simply military. It is also economic and financial and law enforcement. And we feel it's going very much the way we predicted.

BLITZER: Some people are suggesting, as you know, that there was this underestimating of the enemy, of the U.S. enemy, in this particular case. And, in part, they base on it an October 16 Pentagon briefing.

I want you to listen to what the briefer, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, said on that. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GEN. GREGORY NEWBOLD, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: I think the campaign has aided (ph) materially, I really do. I think, as I say, the combat power of the Taliban has been eviscerated, and it will progressively over time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, when he says the combat power of the Taliban has been eviscerated, that sounds like it's all over.

RUMSFELD: Well, it isn't all over. Indeed, they still have some jet fighters. They still have some helicopters. They still have some SAMs. They still have some Stinger missiles from the ground. They still have a lot of very seasoned, tough people.

Anyone who has ever watched the history of that country or the effort that the Soviet Union made to conquer the country has to know that these are people who have spent many, many years fighting, and they live in caves, and they are perfectly capable of fighting a very tough fight.

BLITZER: How long is this going to go on, in your opinion?

RUMSFELD: Well, it could -- it certainly -- I think at the very first day I said, this isn't days or weeks or months. This is a very long process, and the task is to rout out terrorists. It's to stop the terrorist networks. And that is a difficult thing to do. It's not an easy thing to do. And it's going to take time and patience.

And I must say that I hear some impatience from the people who are, of course, have to produce news every 15 minutes, but not from the American people. I think the American people understand the fact that it's going to be long and hard.

BLITZER: The war against terrorism will be long and hard. But what about doing away with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: Well, they're there, and we are after them. And we have been doing it very systematically.

The first phase of the war was to take out their air defenses, which has been done. They still have some aircraft hidden and they still have some surface-to-air missiles of relatively short range that are there. But we have done a pretty good job of being able to now function over that country from the air.

The next phase is to assist the opposition forces, and we've been doing that in the north and the south. There's been a good deal of activity up around Mazar-e Sharif and north of Kabul, as well as down near Kandahar.

So I think that the phases -- I think it was General Franks, or I, at the very beginning said the task is to set conditions so we can conduct a sustained operation, recognizing that they have miles and miles and miles of tunnels and caves that they can hide in. And that makes it a very difficult task. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack to find some of the senior people in those organizations.

BLITZER: Can those 5,000-pound bunker-busting bombs, those precision-guided bombs, get in to those caves and destroy those caves?

RUMSFELD: There's no question but that we have been systematically working on the caves and on the tunnels and on their openings. And we have had some success. Now, the problem is there are a great many of them, so it's going to take some time to deal with them and make them less habitable.

BLITZER: I don't know if you saw the comments this week, I interviewed Congressman Steve Buyer of Indiana, who says if those 5,000-pound bombs can't do the job, he would want you to consider using tactical nuclear weapons, not the big strategic nuclear bombs, but the smaller tactical nuclear weapons to destroy those facilities. What do you think about that?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I think the 5,000-pound bombs are going to be able to do the job.

BLITZER: So you're ruling out any consideration? RUMSFELD: I don't rule out anything. But my answer very simply is, we are not having a problem in dealing with those tunnels in terms of the ordnance. The problem is that there are so many of them, and locating them just takes time. And we're systematically working on that problem, just as we are working on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda military, finding concentrations of those people. They are well burrowed in.

And the task is to get the opposition forces moving in a way and helping with targeting so that, as they force and put pressure on the Al Qaeda and on the Taliban, that we are able to then target them successfully. And that has increasingly been the case.

BLITZER: As you know, during the Gulf War, the U.S. deliberately refused to rule out a nuclear strike, if you will, if it were determined that Saddam Hussein were using weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical, biological or nuclear. What is the U.S. position right now?

RUMSFELD: The United States has historically refused to rule out the use of weapons like that.

BLITZER: Nuclear weapons?

RUMSFELD: Yes.

BLITZER: And that's the case right now?

RUMSFELD: Yes.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about what some critics are saying, you're playing into the hands of the Taliban by allowing this pounding, some of the errant weapons that go astray killing civilians, to coalesce support for the Taliban within Afghanistan.

RUMSFELD: Well, we get all kinds of scraps of information, intelligence. We get it from people down the ground, we get it from people who are leaving the country, we get it from various other sources. And our information is that that's not the case.

That there are all kinds of -- you can find information across the spectrum, intelligence information.

But one of the things that we're increasingly seeing and hearing is the fact that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda are systematically using mosques and schools and hospitals for command and control centers, for ammunition storage. They're placing artillery and tanks and armored vehicles in close proximity to hospitals and schools in residential areas.

And the people who live in those residential areas and the people who are in those hospitals and schools, don't like it. They are increasingly dissatisfied with Taliban for putting them at risk.

And as you know from your experience covering the Pentagon, the United States of America is very careful about collateral damage. We have weapons that are undoubtedly more accurate, more precise than probably any country on earth, and we are careful about what we do. Notwithstanding that, they are going to be people who are killed.

But the weapons, the ordnance that's being fired is not only being fired from the air by the United States and coalition forces, it is also being fired from the ground by the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. And that ordnance has to come down, and it hits people and it kills people. And so, to show a dead person and contend it is necessarily the United States is just plain false.

BLITZER: So this strategy that they have as you described it, to put their weapons, their military within civilian areas, will that deter the U.S. from going after those targets?

RUMSFELD: Well, it complicates our problem. We clearly are being sensitive about collateral damage and recognizing that it can cause a problem with the feeling about what's taking place.

We have to be more careful. And that means that you can use only limited types of ordnance or limited types of platforms, aircraft in the event that it is in close proximity to residential areas. And even then, of course, weapons are not perfect. Our weaponry, probably the best is 85, 90 percent reliable, which is a heck of a lot better than automobiles or bicycles, but nothing's perfect.

So there are going to be instances where -- and there was a case where we hit a warehouse that the Red Cross had some things stored in. Fortunately no one was killed. But I think this happened in the last day or two.

BLITZER: You probably saw the comments that President Musharraf of Pakistan said on Saturday, and I'll put it up on the screen. He said, "Military action must be brought to an end as soon as possible. Unable to achieve its military goals in certain time, we need to switch to a political strategy."

Sounds like he's getting impatient with the U.S. military strategy.

RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question but that he has a very difficult problem. And he's doing, in my view, an excellent job in dealing with a complicated situation.

He says it should end as soon as possible. Of course it could. Nobody wants to go on longer than is necessary. We would all like it to end as soon as possible.

The problem you're facing is that thousands of Americans, indeed people from another 50, 60 countries were killed in the United States on September 11. Many thousands more are at risk today from terrorists networks. It's our job to go out and rout out those terrorists networks.

The problem in the world is not the United States of America. The problem is terrorists. And the president, properly, has said we're going to go after them, and we are. And we're going to find them and rout them out and stop them from engaging in those terrorist acts.

The situation for Pakistan is something that we're respectful of and interested in and anxious to have him be successful in managing. He's been very, very helpful to us.

BLITZER: As you know he'd also like you to pause for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts November 17.

RUMSFELD: Of course the fact is that there have been -- the Northern Alliance and the Taliban fought through Ramadan year after year. There was a Middle East war during Ramadan. There is nothing in that religion that suggests that conflicts have to stop during Ramadan.

BLITZER: So, the U.S...

RUMSFELD: You can be certain that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda will continue right on with their repressive ways in attempting to take advantage, just as they do today, by putting ammunition storage in mosques.

BLITZER: And so the U.S. will not pause or stop or change in any way because of Ramadan?

RUMSFELD: The United States does not announce what we plan to do in advance.

BLITZER: OK. What about reports that you want to see the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban forces in the north, take Mazar-e Sharif in the northern part of the country but not move on Kabul, the capital, out of concern that the Pakistanis would not be happy about that?

RUMSFELD: That's not true. The effort, the military effort by the United States was designed in the first phase to go in and try to take out the air defense radars and to create an environment where we could provide humanitarian assistance and where we could provide effective air-ground support for the opposition forces, both in the north and the south including the Northern Alliance and including the forces who arrayed against Kabul. We are now doing that.

We're doing with it with respect to Mazar-e Sharif. We are doing it with respect Kabul. We are also doing it with respect to Kandahar.

And we have been very energetic in assisting the Northern Alliance forces that are arrayed against Kabul as well as Mazar-e Sharif and, indeed, down in the Kandahar area.

BLITZER: What's stopping you from letting those Northern Alliance forces go into Kabul right now?

RUMSFELD: I think there's a misunderstanding. The Northern Alliance forces are not stopped. They have been -- have not been stopped. They are not currently stopped, and they will not be stopped in the future.

BLITZER: But are you doing enough to help them?

RUMSFELD: Well, my goodness, I just explained what we're doing. We're dropping thousands of pieces of ordnance to assist them in addressing the Taliban forces that are arrayed against them, both there and over at Mazar-e Sharif and down at Kandahar.

The thing you're reading in the paper, that the United States, for some reason, is restraining these people is just factually not true. We're providing food. We're providing ammunition to the extent we can. We're encouraging them. We're providing air-ground support. We're taking targeting information from the ground to increasingly greater effect. And it is having the effect of damaging the Taliban and damaging the Al Qaeda military capabilities opposite those forces.

BLITZER: As you know, Abdul Haq, the Afghan guerrilla leader, was executed in Afghanistan this past week. Was he on a U.S. mission in Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge. He, of course, was an Afghan who had been involved previously, who had been living out of the country, had decided to come back to the country and get reengaged, which he was en route to do, and clearly, was killed -- and captured and killed by the Taliban.

BLITZER: Some reports suggesting he was working with CIA, trying to foment opposition to the Taliban.

RUMSFELD: Well, there's all kinds of people working with agencies of the United States government trying to create opposition to the Taliban, and that's happening all across the country. There's no question but that we're engaged in those kinds of activities.

BLITZER: Has the U.S. government now signed off on this new policy of targeted killings, as it's called, going after suspected terrorists and executing them, killing them, assassinating them, whatever words you want to use?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'm not a lawyer. But I can tell you this, that it is not possible to defend against terrorists at every single location in the world, against every conceivable type of technique and at any given moment of the day or night.

The only way to deal with a terrorist that has all the advantage of offense, is to take the battle to them and find them and rout them out. And that is self-defense. And there is no question but that any nation on earth has the right of self-defense. And we do.

And what we are doing is going after those people and those organizations and those capabilities, wherever we're going the find them in the world, and stop them from killing Americans.

BLITZER: Even if it means assassinating them on the spot?

RUMSFELD: I wouldn't even think the word was appropriate. I don't know, I would have to get a dictionary and know what the difference between what I'm saying and you're saying is. But if the question is, do we have a right to defend ourselves by going after people who murder thousands of Americans in a preemptive way to defend ourselves, you bet your life we do, and we're doing it.

BLITZER: What about Mohammed Atta's two meetings that he had with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Prague before the September 11 attack -- Mohammed Atta, the suspected ring leader of the September attacks? Does that suggest to you that Iraq was involved somehow in that September 11 attack?

RUMSFELD: I guess I'm kind of old-fashioned. I like to talk about things I know something about.

And what we do know about Iraq is that Iraq has been a nation that has been engaged in terrorist acts. We know they have been a nation that has harbored terrorists and facilitated and financed and fostered those kinds of activities. We know they have occupied their neighbor Kuwait, and we have thrown them out. We know they have imposed great damage on their Shia population in the south and on the Kurds in the north. We know they have used weapons of mass destruction against their own people as well as against some of their neighbors.

They are -- that regime is a bad regime. It is a regime that is a dangerous regime. What the meaning was in this particular instance is something that I think will have to unfold and learn more about.

BLITZER: So, you don't see that necessarily as a smoking gun linking Iraq to September 11?

RUMSFELD: As I say, I like to talk about things I know something about. And that's something that's in a state of evolution in terms of understanding what actually took place.

BLITZER: I know our time is running out, but a quick question on Saudi Arabia. The criticism is they're not sharing information. They're not freezing assets that the United States has frozen of groups associated with Al Qaeda. They're not allowing the U.S. to launch strikes from Saudi soil. The criticism of Saudi Arabia is that they're a fair-weather friend.

RUMSFELD: I don't know where this is coming from. I met with the Saudis when I was over there very recently. My impression is that they've been very cooperative. They have provided enormous assistance in a variety of different ways. They have over the years -- it has been a good relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. And of late, I have read a series of articles to that effect.

But my attitude is that they have been very helpful. They are being helpful today. They have a complicated problem; most of the countries in the region do. They have to measure what they say. Some countries are more helpful publicly than -- and others are more helpful privately. My attitude about it is we want help from all of them, and we want them to do it in a way that's comfortable for them.

To the extent we start saying that everyone has to help on this, or everyone has to help publicly but not privately, we hurt ourselves. We hurt our goal, our target of trying to end these terrorist networks.

So I'm very respectful of the situation that Saudi Arabia has. And I and, I know, others in our government are very appreciative for all they're doing to help.

BLITZER: The anthrax letters that have been mailed here in the United States, do you suspect that's the work of domestic American groups, terrorists here in the United States, or international terrorists?

RUMSFELD: I'm without a view at the moment. There are a lot of very fine people, law enforcement people who are pursuing that, as well as public health officials. And in my view, they're pursuing it as aggressively as is humanly possible. And speculation on my part or, frankly, on the part of others, it seems to me, is not terribly useful.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next, as the military campaign against terrorism continues abroad, what additional moves will Congress make to fight terrorism on U.S. soil? We'll talk with Arizona Republican Senator John McCain when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. And joining us now is one of the leading lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Senator McCain, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thank you very much for joining us.

You wrote a very tough piece in the Wall Street Journal on the editorial page on Friday. Among other things, you said this: "Shed a tear and then get on with the business of killing our enemies as quickly as we can and as ruthlessly as we must. War is a miserable business. Let's get on with it."

It suggests, at least it suggested to me, that you're getting a little impatient with the way the Bush administration is conducting the military campaign.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm not sure I'm impatient. I'm proud of the president and the job that he and his team have done and are doing.

I was and am concerned about what, to me, are important issues but secondary to the job at hand: whether we should fight in Ramadan or not, the problem of civilian casualties, whether the Taliban should be toppled sooner or later so that chaos wouldn't ensue, et cetera.

All of those are important issues, but all of them are secondary to the job at hand, which is to wipe out the nests of terrorism, including in other countries as well as Afghanistan, and get the job done, and do whatever is necessary to get it done.

BLITZER: So far, in the first three weeks at least, it's been mostly an air campaign, the U.S. dropping bombs; very little ground activity, at least as far as we can determine.

Is it time for the U.S. to get down on the ground with combat ground forces, perhaps with the British, and see if the job can be done that way?

MCCAIN: I can't determine the timing that needs to be employed here. That's up to the military and our strategists and tacticians.

But what we need to understand is that we may have to put large numbers of troops into Afghanistan for a period of time, not a long period of time, but for a period of time, in order to effectively wipe out these terrorists' nests and track down Mr. bin Laden.

In other words, it's going to take a very big effort, and probably casualties will be involved, and it won't be accomplished through air power alone.

BLITZER: I'm sure you've heard many already make the case that that could be a Vietnam-like quagmire. Given your personal experience in Vietnam, what do you say to those who are saying don't get into a guerrilla war against the Taliban on the ground in Afghanistan?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I don't think we will, because I don't think you will have permanent forces, such as the Soviet Union, the former Soviet Union, employed. I think you're going to see operations with specific objectives which may require some forces, but it won't be, again, a permanent situation.

I think another very important factor here is that the Vietnam war never had the wholehearted support of the American people. And in fact, as it went on, fewer and fewer Americans not only didn't support it but actively opposed it.

I think Americans have been impacted in a dramatic way, and I think the American people's patience and their support is very deep and very permanent.

BLITZER: You may have heard the interview with the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He pointedly refused to rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons, if necessary, to get the job done in Afghanistan. Is that a smart course?

MCCAIN: I think it's been United States policy never to, quote, "rule it out," but, in reality, the United States has made it clear that the only time we would use them is in response to an attack by a weapon of mass destruction. I think Secretary Rumsfeld -- I take him at his word, that a 5,000-pound bomb can do the job. So I really don't envision us crossing that threshold, particularly since it's not necessary to do so.

BLITZER: Did the U.S. underestimate the military capability of the Taliban?

MCCAIN: I don't think the president did, and I don't think Secretary Rumsfeld did or others.

But there were, as we all know -- let's have some straight talk here -- a few weeks ago, a lot of talk about, well, we don't want the Taliban to fall too fast. We weren't bombing as much as some people thought on the front lines between them and the Northern Alliance. This was going to be a fairly quick operation.

Now, that wasn't from the president. And the president and Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration clearly stated we're in this for the long haul and it was very difficult. But there was all kinds of leaks to the media from, quote, "administration sources," which, clearly, have been now contradicted by events on the ground.

BLITZER: Where do you stand, Senator McCain, in the debate that's raging here in Washington between those who say, leave the Iraqis alone for the time being; get the job done in Afghanistan, first and foremost, to those that are saying it's not too early to begin pounding at the Iraqis themselves, whether or not there's a smoking gun directly linking them to the September 11 terrorist attack?

MCCAIN: I have great confidence in the leadership of this country as to how to address it.

I think the important factor here is not so much the timing, the important factor here is that Saddam Hussein continues to acquire weapons of mass destruction. There are credible reports of involvement between Iraqi administration officials, Iraqi officials, and the terrorists. There's very little doubt about what Saddam Hussein is trying to do.

So unless something dramatic happens, the fact is that Iraq has to be held accountable. But the timing and how we exactly carry that out, I think, is something left better to our leadership.

BLITZER: You heard Defense Secretary Rumsfeld praised the Saudis for being helpful in this U.S. war on terrorism. Some don't think the Saudis are all that helpful. What do you think?

MCCAIN: I think the Saudis are not doing what the president asked all countries to do, and that is to take sides. I think they're trying to go down the middle of the road here.

At least 13 of the terrorists who hijacked the airplanes were Saudi citizens. I have no information about a single detention or arrest of a person within Saudi Arabia. Money from Saudi Arabia, it went to Al Qaeda networks, there's no doubt about that. State- sponsored newspapers and other media outlets have excoriated the United States of America and Israel.

So, I'm sorry, I have a disagreement there with the administration. I think the Saudis have not, at least from a layman's point of view, been helpful. And they'll continue to try to hold off the radical elements within their own society by feeding them, and I don't think that works.

BLITZER: As you know, the anthrax investigations are escalating on Capitol Hill, elsewhere around the country. Who do you suspect is behind those mailings of the anthrax-laced letters?

MCCAIN: You know, I don't know, Wolf. It would be foolish of me to speculate. We have gotten conflicted opinions from those who do know these things.

So I just hope we can track it down as quickly as possible. All of us in America find it very unsettling. But I think Americans are being very patient through this as well.

BLITZER: A lot of your colleagues, as you know, have been tested and are being treated with antibiotics. Are you?

MCCAIN: No. I've neither been tested nor am I taking any medication.

BLITZER: And you never received an anthrax vaccine in the past?

MCCAIN: No.

BLITZER: What about the whole issue of a double standard? There was one standard used in dealing with the anthrax threat on Capitol Hill, another for the postal workers. Two postal workers, as you know, died as a result of inhalation anthrax. Looking back on it, was that a huge mistake?

MCCAIN: I think it was a mistake because of the appearance -- and I emphasize "appearance," certainly not the intention -- the appearance of a double standard there.

I think that these people are dedicated, hard-working, wonderful people, and I think they're doing the very best job they can, and I have no doubt about the efforts they're making.

But you got to be very, very careful that there's not a double standard appearance and, second of all, that you don't give out any information that you're not absolutely sure is true. There's nothing wrong with a public official saying, "I don't know."

BLITZER: As you know, the Senate passed by 100 to nothing a legislation that would federalize the workers, the security workers, at U.S. airports. In the House of Representatives, the debate is quite intense. Many of your Republican counterparts in the House saying, this is a bad idea, let the private sector handle screeners, those people who check the baggage at airports.

You disagree with those Republicans, don't you?

MCCAIN: I disagree strongly, as do the overwhelming majority of the American people, the pilots, flight attendants and virtually every expert on airport security.

And more importantly, we have to restore confidence on the part of the American people in flying. And this is a -- on an airliner.

This is a law enforcement issue. If you use the critics' logic, then we should contract out the border patrol and the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. This is law enforcement.

And for the life of me, I do not understand why the issue of whether these employees would be unionized or not would have any relevance when we're talking about the safety and security in lives of American citizens.

BLITZER: Those who disagree with you make the point that in Europe, even in Israel, they are private contractors who do the screening, even though they report to government supervisors. Why not do what they're doing over there, do that here in the United States?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, in the case of El Al, everybody except perimeter personnel are government employees. Second of all, in Europe, there's varying schemes, but in Europe all those employees receive government health care also under their government health care systems. And they're smaller countries.

The American people want to have confidence that it is their government that is in charge of their security. And we continue to see major companies who are screeners, who have this responsibility now, continue to hire felons. So, I don't think there's the confidence there.

So you're talking about substance, which is making sure that everything's done right, as far as security is concerned. And you're also talking about perception. Americans want to feel safe, and I think if the government employees are doing that job, a law enforcement job, I think they would feel that confidence.

BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

When we return, the anthrax attacks: Was the U.S. government slow to act, and what should the game plan be right now? We'll get a report card from three prominent scientists. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now to talk about the anthrax outbreak and the government's response are three distinguished guests: In Minneapolis, Dr. Michael Osterholm. He is the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Dr. Osterholm is also the author of the book, "Living Terrors."

And here in Washington, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

And Dr. Ken Alibek. He is president of Hadron Advanced Biosystems and a former Soviet biological weapons scientist. Dr. Alibek is also the author of book entitled "Biohazard."

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Fauci, let me begin with you. It seems, and correct me if I'm wrong, for the two or three weeks that anthrax has been a real issue here in the United States, the more we've learned about this problem, the more we -- meaning you, the leading experts -- have learned that we don't know a lot about it.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Right, because the experience that was had is really very little -- textbook experience from a modest amount of cases and then the experience of the accidental release in Sverdlovsk in Russia in 1979. Apart from that, the experience has been very little.

So what we're learning right now is that the standard textbook characteristics of this -- namely a letter, opening a letter and it comes up into you and that you can get inhalation anthrax -- to finding that people are getting inhalation anthrax in a secondary and maybe even a tertiary way, site away from where the well-documented anthrax letter was -- that's something that was not suspected, as the CDC pointed out.

Obviously had they known that from the beginning, there would have been a different approach, but there was no precedent for that.

BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, David Satcher, the surgeon general, made a similar point earlier in the week. I want you to listen to what he had to say on Wednesday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID SATCHER, SURGEON GENERAL: Clearly we know now that the risk of exposure to an envelope passing through a post office is real. We didn't know that before. We thought that it was the open envelope. And we certainly didn't think that just by merely passing through a post office people would be exposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that the biggest surprise that you've learned over these past two or three weeks? MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: Well, I think it's really important to emphasize what Dr. Fauci just said, is that we're learning a lot as we go along here. As you know, I've been one of those calling for much better preparedness for some time, and I was actually very surprised.

I think it's important -- in your previous interview, Wolf, you mentioned this idea of double standard. There was no double standard. A week ago today you had prominent politicians on the Sunday morning talk shows saying that anthrax is a 100 percent treatable disease when caught as it was. We had no idea that in fact this kind of powder in its very, very small form could leak out of letters in these postal service areas.

So I think we have to move on and stop blaming here and say that, in fact, I think the government -- and as an outsider, I would tell you -- did everything they could and should have.

It was a tragic situation. Our hearts go out to the postal workers. But we've got to move on from this one and realize we've got more of these to come.

BLITZER: Dr. Alibek, you spent many years in the former Soviet Union, since coming to the United States, studying anthrax. What's been the biggest surprise that you've discovered over these past two weeks?

DR. KENNETH ALIBEK, AUTHOR, "BIOHAZARD": You know, to me, the biggest surprise was how, let me say limited our knowledge is here in the field of anthrax.

You know, of course, I have gained quite significant experience in this field. And, you know, what struck me was that our knowledge in anthrax stops somewhere in '50s and '60s. I am talking about real anthrax, anthrax infection.

Yes, we spent much resources to study anthrax toxin effects and so on and so forth, but unfortunately, there are not many scientists who understand anthrax as infection.

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci, a lot of people are now saying, why not use the anthrax vaccine, which is owned by the Pentagon, is used for all U.S. active duty military personnel -- why not simply manufacture, produce a lot more of it and make it much more readily available?

FAUCI: Well, certainly, there's not enough to do that now. There is very limited supplies, and the military has essential control over that. And they don't really even have enough yet to do what they want to do with it.

Certainly, there's major scale-up being planned for anthrax vaccine, such that we can, in the situation that might come in the future where you have a more widespread release, not only think in terms of vaccinating the first responders, the people that have to go in and handle the specimens, the people at the CDC who are going to be at risk in just examining this, but also the possibility that there may be select groups of people that you might want to do that.

So, the answer to your question, Wolf, is that that is happening right now, negotiating about how we can scale up this in the same way that we're scaling up smallpox.

BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, is that vaccine safe for the general public? As you know, some members of the U.S. military have had very negative side effects and some have refused to even accept that vaccine.

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, again, I think we have to be really -- stick with the facts. There have been questions raised by some military recipients of the vaccine that there was a cause-and- effect relationship between some side effect.

OSTERHOLM: Yes, all vaccines have potential for some minor side effects, but, as one of those who actually had reviewed the data on this particular vaccine use in the military, I'm not convinced that those serious side effects really exist.

There are people out there who clearly are sick after they've received the vaccine. Whether it's cause and effect isn't there.

I have to tell you, in the face of a potential anthrax situation, I would have no doubt in my own personal mind that I'd recommend it for myself and my family members.

BLITZER: What about you, Dr. Alibek? Would you agree?

ALIBEK: You know, for me, I would say it's a big problem just to say yes or no, because my personal attitude is a little different.

Because the problem is this: Some time ago, maybe in the '50s and '60s, or maybe later, the United States made a decision not to use live vaccines. The general idea was to use so-called "subunit vaccines," based on some antigens. For example, in this specific case, it was an idea to use protective antigen of a little toxin of this agent.

In my opinion, it was a mistake. In my opinion, we need to go back and to reevaluate the decision, and we need to go back and see whether or not we're having something for vaccination.

In my opinion, here in the United States, there was a perfect vaccine. The name of this vaccine is strain (ph) vaccine. And we need to see whether or not we would be able just to derive this vaccine, and just to do some volunteer study and see whether or not this vaccine is going to work.

The problem is this: This vaccine would require just one shot, and probably in about a month after vaccination, we will have enough titer of antibodies.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick...

OSTERHOLM: Wolf, Wolf? BLITZER: Yes, Dr. Osterholm?

OSTERHOLM: Can I just make a real important point here, that I don't want the public to be confused by what Dr. Alibek just said, which is correct.

We can make better vaccines; we need to look towards making better vaccines. But the current vaccine we have is effective. The data we have shows that this strain of anthrax, which has been used historically for many years, is effectively handled by this vaccine.

So, we can do better, but this vaccine still is important. And we shouldn't let anybody be confused by that fact.

BLITZER: And let me just let Dr. Fauci weigh in as well here.

FAUCI: Yes. No, there's no question. The point he's making is that you could have theoretically a vaccine that requires less shots, and that might be quite protective.

But Michael is correct, that what we have now, as imperfect as it might be in the minds of some, is a vaccine that has been proven to work.

BLITZER: OK, gentlemen, we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about when we return.

Are U.S. medical personnel properly prepared to deal with a biological attack? We'll talk about that and much more with our panel of scientists. We'll also be taking your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation about the anthrax outbreak and bioterrorism with Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Ken Alibek, president of Hadron Advanced Biosystems, the former Soviet biological weapons scientist.

Dr. Fauci, we're now being told by the CDC that, in addition to antibiotic Cipro, doxycycline and penicillin are just as good. A lot of people are skeptical.

FAUCI: Right. No, no, actually there really shouldn't be any skepticism. You have to understand why Cipro was decided upon originally. For two major reasons: One, animal studies that challenged animals with anthrax, as part of a number of regimens that were compared, used Cipro, together with a bunch of other things.

Number two, there was the concern that an anthrax threat would be with a microbe that was genetically engineered to be resistant to the standard penicillins and other drugs, therefore, Cipro.

Now that we know that this microbe is sensitive, you have a generic drug called doxycycline, as well as generic penicillin that is quite effective against this. It's more available. It's potentially less toxic, although it has some toxicities, and it's much more inexpensive to use. That's the reason why.

BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, would it still be necessary to take a full 60-day treatment of these other antibiotics?

OSTERHOLM: Yes. We actually handle this exactly the same way, just being able to substitute the antibiotic.

And I think that Dr. Fauci is right. We've got to get America to understand that they don't have to live in this Cipro world anymore. That as long as we're monitoring these strains and we have these antibiotics, they can be used effectively and used the same way that we use ciprofloxacin. And that is a very, very good piece of information to have as we continue to work with this issue.

BLITZER: But, Dr. Alibek, as you know, Americans are going to want to have the best. And they have heard so much about Cipro, the temptation will be to go with Cipro, right?

ALIBEK: You know, what we need to keep in mind, Cipro is so- called antibiotic of reserve or antibiotic of choice. And in my opinion, it would be not very smart just to use Cipro for prophylactic needs.

But you know what we need to keep in mind, there are generally four types of treatment regimens using antibiotics. One regimen includes penicillin. A second one includes penicillin and streptomycin. But streptomycin, as far as I know, is not manufactured in the United States now. Then one more regimen includes doxycycline or tetracycline. And the last one is ciprofloxacin.

In this case, of course, all of them, as far as we know, would work perfectly well just with this specific agent.

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci, the flu season is about to begin in the United States. A lot of Americans are going to be getting the flu shots. But as you know -- and it's already happening -- as soon as someone starts getting some symptoms, some flu-like symptoms, they're going to start thinking in the back of their head, anthrax.

FAUCI: Right. That's the truth, and that's going to happen. So I think we need, as best as we possibly can, to delineate for the physicians out there -- and they're pretty smart, they know what they're doing -- but just to confirm what the specific symptoms of one versus the other.

The problem is, there's not a lot of specificity early on. And there is a lot of overlap in the symptomotology. So they are going to have to use good clinical judgment so that you don't pull that trigger on antibiotics when somebody really has something that doesn't even look at all like it could possibly be anthrax.

But when you have that similarity, there are going to be people who are going to preemptively give antibiotics. You want to make sure you don't recklessly do that. But also, you want to make sure that people don't feel that if they do, they're doing something really bad.

BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, as you well know, with the inhalation anthrax, once the symptoms begin, it may be too late. A lot of people are just going to say, why even take the most remote chance? Begin the antibiotic right away.

OSTERHOLM: Well, again, I think we have to look at the fact that this is going to be a disease that is still very limited in scope and nature, meaning it's associated with some very defined areas. If that changed, clearly, we are going to have to re-look at the issue.

But I think the downside that we talked about for the last several weeks of using these widespread antibiotics out there and causing more antibiotic resistance among a number of infectious agents is also going to lead to deaths, unnecessary deaths where people will have these infections that we can't effectively treat.

So, while each individual can say, "Oh, yes, it doesn't matter with the whole population", those of us responsible for infectious diseases across the millions of Americans out there are very concerned it will actually lead to even greater problems in some areas.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen. We have to take another quick break.

Stay tuned for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's headlines. We'll be taking your phone calls for our panel of scientists. Then we'll get two assessments on the progress on the war on terrorism. Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's "Last Word." It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll return to our discussion of anthrax and our panel of distinguished scientists in just a moment, but first, let's go to CNN's Donna Kelley in Atlanta for a quick check of the latest developments.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We're continuing our conversation on bioterrorism with Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota; Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health; and Dr. Ken Alibek, a former Soviet biological weapons scientist.

And, Dr. Alibek, you've spent a lot of time studying anthrax. The fine anthrax powder -- that white powder that was in the letter sent to the Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, supposedly had some additives to make it go up in a puff, aerosolize it, make it more potent -- in your estimation, who could have been responsible for assembling that kind of anthrax?

ALIBEK: You know, we're talking about small amounts of this powder, this powder manufactured somewhere, and this knowledge, unfortunately, is readily available now. Some amounts could be manufactured even here in the United States. But you were talking about a bigger amount; we're talking about hundreds of grams, kilograms. It's highly unlikely that this powder has been manufactured here in the United States. It could be manufactured somewhere else and then sent to the United States.

BLITZER: But obviously, at this point you don't know. Nobody really knows right now except the people who sent that anthrax.

ALIBEK: Yes, we know it's a great deal of confusion. Every single day we get new information. Some people say it was done here in the United States; some people say it was done somewhere overseas. Unfortunately for now, we have no precise information.

BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, there was an editorial in the "Los Angeles Times" this week on Thursday, and I'll put it up on the screen. I want to read a little excerpt from it. It said this: "This year's delays in distributing a flu vaccine, a milder repeat of last year's, underscore a vexing problem: The U.S. health system is barely able to handle everyday ailments, much less protect people against bioweapons like smallpox and anthrax."

Is that a fair criticism?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think that we recognized for some time that our health care system has a number of serious problems in terms of capacity, in terms of how we produce vaccines and antibiotics. And we're not going to actually be able to approach this bioterrorism problem without also addressing some of those issues.

I think, having said that, and having been a critic of not having prepared as much as we could, I think the events of the last six weeks have been very telling.

Dr. Fauci, for example, is heading up a major new initiative on smallpox vaccine, which is really very important and quite exciting. I think some of the areas around what we're doing with anthrax vaccines and so forth are also critical.

Where I'm still concerned is the Congress has yet to act on any support for local and state public health agencies, which have been basically the backbone of the response so far in this country. Even though hazmat teams are the ones you see on TV, they really have done very little in terms of the overall response.

So we still have a long ways to go, I think, in terms of dealing with our health care system and, clearly, also addressing our public health needs.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Florida.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes. I'm a doctor in Pinellas County, Florida, getting our hospitals ready for bioterrorism. I've also submitted a resolution to the AMA House of Delegates calling for nationwide vaccination for smallpox vaccination. I've been told that the risk is 2,000 to 3,000 would die with such a program. My preliminary estimates are maybe 200 would die. What risk level are we willing to tolerate for nationwide vaccination?

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci, if everyone got a smallpox vaccination, which hasn't been the case since the '70s, what would be the risk?

FAUCI: Well, you know there's risk of serious complications and there's risk of death. If you look at different studies, the earliest studies, if you see on the package insert, it's up to about six people per million.

FAUCI: If you look at the more recent studies that come out from the late '60s, it's more like one or two per million. The side effects are uncommon, but when you have them, they are severe.

The critical issue is that we need to make sure we have the stores of vaccines so we can make that decision.

To preemptively vaccinate everyone would have to require a balance of discussing, openly and in a way that the American people could understand, the risks and the benefits.

If you have a situation where there is multi-focal outbreaks of smallpox and it is very clear that we're in a massive attack, there's no question that you're going to want to vaccinate everyone.

If there's a situation in which you have no real strong intelligence that there is going to be an attack, if you have the vaccination there, then you have to sit down and say, are we willing to eliminate the threat, but this is what we're going to have to pay in toxicity. And I think that's a debatable, open subject.

BLITZER: Dr. Alibek, how available would smallpox be to bioterrorists?

ALIBEK: You know, it's one of the more difficult questions. Everybody knows that we have got two official repositories of smallpox in the world. One is located here in the United States in the city of Atlanta; another is located in Siberia, in a scientific viral center, with the name of Vector (ph).

But the biggest problem with this: We have no idea how many so- called unofficial stocks of this virus in the world. At least in the late '80s, we knew that there was some information coming from North Korea. They were experimenting with smallpox virus. We knew about some work done in Iraq with camelpox virus, which is a good surrogate for a smallpox virus. Anywhere else, we don't know this.

And in this case, to say whether or not we've got a high likelihood of such smallpox attack, it's very difficult to answer now.

BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, tell our viewers here in the United States and around the world why smallpox is so much more deadly potentially than anthrax.

OLSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, let me just clarify one thing on anthrax, Wolf. I think that's an important question you're asking is, you know, we have seen this situation with letters to date that have occurred and we've these tragic few deaths. But there are many of us who do understand that anthrax could get much worse. We could be talking about thousands and thousands of cases if this powder is released. I think we've almost become accustomed now to saying, well, anthrax wasn't all that bad. And so, we're still working hard to prepare for anthrax.

But where smallpox raises a very real danger is the ability to transmit it beyond the first person. So, unlike with anthrax, if I become infected with it, I don't transmit it to others. Now with smallpox, and this is a population that's highly susceptible to it because all of our immunity has basically worn off for those who were vaccinated and we have not vaccinated for 30 years, we could now see ongoing transmission that would be very important. And that's where we are concerned that we could start this brushfire in to a wild forest fire.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Ohio.

Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Yes. My name is Cindy Milliken (ph). I'm calling from Akron, Ohio. And I was wondering, since they found anthrax on the mail bins and they found on it the machines in the mail rooms, do private citizens need to worry about it being on envelopes?

BLITZER: Let's ask Dr. Fauci.

FAUCI: Well, the answer is, obviously, we don't have a definitive answer to give you. But as we've heard clearly from the CDC, the risk of that is very, very low.

What you are concerned about right now is people who handle bulk mail. It was a surprise that you could have the transmission, as it were, from a primary mail site because of secondary contamination to a secondary mail site, as we saw here in Washington, D.C. That really wasn't something that was expected.

The next obvious extrapolation is, are the letters there going out to individuals in the community going to be a risk? We have not seen any of that type of transmission. And as each day goes by, it's less and less likely. That doesn't mean that we should not be totally vigilant for that. And if we start to even see a single case of that, to then reevaluate about whether or not you want to approach the recipients of that mail.

But to date, we've not seen that, so that we feel there's not justification to tell people who are in their homes getting letters that they should be receiving antibiotics. That definitely is not where we are right now.

BLITZER: All right. We have to, unfortunately, leave it right there.

Dr. Fauci, Dr. Alibek, Dr. Osterholm, thanks to all three of you for joining us. We always appreciate your expertise.

And just ahead, the Bush administration says progress is being made in the war on terrorism. But are moves being made that could backfire on the United States? We'll talk with the former CIA director James Woolsey and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I think these terrorists, who -- right now we're focused in on bin Laden, but -- and Al Qaeda, but they picked the wrong country and the wrong time and the wrong leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tough words from Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. His position created in response to the September 11 attacks.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now from New York, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, and here in Washington, the former CIA director, James Woolsey.

Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And let me begin with you, Ambassador Holbrooke. Give us a progress report on how the United States, the Bush administration, is doing so far in this war on terrorism.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: If you mean the war in Afghanistan itself, I think the honest answer, Wolf, is that we don't know. I just listened to Secretary Rumsfeld talk to you. He was very guarded. He refused to say anything other than they achieved their preliminary objectives.

I believe that bringing the Taliban down -- after all, they're a motley group of mullah and militia -- is not going to be beyond our capabilities.

I do think one thing -- and this is reminiscent of the first two weeks of the bombing in Kosovo two years ago. I think in the early phase, the bombing was not intensive enough. It didn't hit them hard enough. And I thought one lesson, which, by the way, General Powell had made clear in his own memoirs, was that if you are going to use air power and you're going to take the negative diplomatic consequences, you ought to use it really hard, really early.

As far as bin Laden goes, we haven't heard from him since that tape which was made before October 7 and then broadcast that day. So we really don't know what's happened. But the death of Mr. Haq two days ago obviously was a setback.

BLITZER: And picking up on that, Mr. Woolsey, the whole nature of the war right now -- the critics are saying that the administration, the U.S. is still reluctant to get in the trenches, if you will, trying to do it in almost a sanitized way via the air.

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, it may be that there is a great deal we can do from the air but that we have to do it somewhat more intensively than has been the case up to this point. It looks like harder bombing was begun a couple days ago on the front lines near Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif. And I think that's good news.

But, yes, we may certainly have to put troops in, special forces, beyond the observing and directing strikes and the like. But I think probably the first thing to do would be to really take the gloves off with the air campaign.

BLITZER: And the execution of...

HOLBROOKE: Wolf, Wolf, may I just...

BLITZER: Yes, go head, Mr. Ambassador.

HOLBROOKE: Wolf, I just want to underscore one thing that Jim and I both would agree on. We've sat on these meetings with military in comparable military campaigns. And I would bet anything that what they are counting down now is the number of days left before winter, cloud cover and hellishly difficult terrain reduce the chances of successful ground operations. We have about a month or less left until winter sets in. And I think that is a critical variable for the intensification of the air, to open the road to Kabul.

We all understand the political complexities with the Pashtun and the Pakistanis and the Northern Alliance and so on. But now we're launched on this thing. It is important to get the Taliban out of Kabul and put pressure on them so that we can go after bin Laden, who is, after all, the real reason we are doing this.

BLITZER: And the political difficulty, Mr. Woolsey, about letting the Northern Alliance come into Kabul, the capital, is that the Pakistani allies of the United States have no great love for the Northern Alliance.

WOOLSEY: Well, that's true. But there's a superb piece by Reuel Gerecht in the "Weekly Standard" this week that...

BLITZER: He's a former CIA operator.

WOOLSEY: Yes. It says, take the gloves off and don't worry about that now.

And with Mr. Musharraf, General Musharraf saying get this over quickly, get the bombing over quickly, the only way to do that and succeed is, I think, to bomb very heavily, and for the Northern Alliance, if that's all it is, to take at least several of these Northern Cities, including particularly Mazar-e Sharif and Kabul.

BLITZER: Why, Ambassador Holbrooke, do the Northern Alliance seem to be having so much trouble taking Mazar-e Sharif in the north, which supposedly was not as significantly held by the Taliban, of course, as Kabul?

HOLBROOKE: I have no idea. It's of greatest puzzlement to me as why Mazar-e Sharif, a town I've been in, by the way, has not fallen. The Russians are much closer to it and we are. And we just have to get that town taken.

Bombing has limited value, no matter how intense. Ground attack is necessary. And you have to ask Secretary Rumsfeld that.

BLITZER: Well, I did ask him that to a certain degree. And he said they're -- the U.S. is trying to do whatever it can to help the Northern Alliance make those moves.

But, Mr. Woolsey, did the U.S. underestimate the resistance, the ability of the Taliban and their military force to fight the United States?

WOOLSEY: I doubt the people who really knew and the people at the top underestimated. But some of the things that were said, particularly on background by some officials in various parts of the government, sort of sounded like, well, we'll have this over by Christmas. And I think that some of those statements were unfortunate. I doubt seriously if Don Rumsfeld and the president and Paul Wolfowitz and the others who are really running this war underestimated.

BLITZER: Is it too early...

HOLBROOKE: Yes. Well, we do face -- we do face a problem here, Jim. And that is that if these cities, Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif, are not taken before winter, the history of warfare in these situations is that front lines don't change very often, if at all, in winter.

And I don't think we'd be in a very strong position if we spent the winter bombing, with the political lines as they are, the opposition to us mounting, and Osama bin Laden, our real target here, still at large, with domestic terrorism always a threat and confusion over who caused the anthrax.

So, I think that, in practical terms, the administration and the government has got to make a militarily successful move before winter sets in. I don't know if you agree or not, but that's my sort of armchair assessment of where we are.

WOOLSEY: Well, I never got above captain in the Army, so I'm not real inclined to be extremely explicit with advice to the military.

But I think there's a good deal to what Dick said. And I think that we are going to have to be able to do a lot of this from the air, but perhaps some of it will involve some specialized U.S. ground forces. The air campaign against the troops around Mazar-e Sharif and Kabul is going to have to be very intense, I think, very soon.

BLITZER: Ambassador Holbrooke, should Ramadan, the start of the Muslim holy month, November 17, should that be a factor in U.S. military strategy?

HOLBROOKE: I agree completely with Secretary Rumsfeld. Muslims have been killing Muslims during Ramadan forever. They attacked during their own Ramadan against Israel in the '73 war. I don't think we can allow it to be a factor in this circumstance.

But I do think it will be increasingly incumbent on us to make our case through the public airwaves to the Muslim world as to why this kind of thing is necessary.

BLITZER: Is that case, Mr. Woolsey, being effectively made to the Muslim and Arab world right now, what the U.S. is trying to do?

WOOLSEY: No, it's not. We pulled back on a lot of our broadcasting to that part of the world and got out of that business, except for short wave, some several years ago. It was a bad mistake. We really need to get back into it very heavily, with television, with radio, with native speakers, with 24/7 coverage. We have been very, very bad about that.

BLITZER: You agree, Ambassador Holbrooke?

HOLBROOKE: I agree emphatically. The greatest shock to me, Jim -- and I are both members of the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force, which heard from three Muslim experts on this earlier in the week.

Now, we're not talking here -- it's important to stress for viewers -- about Afghanistan. We're talking about the 1 billion Muslims around the world in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. And the consensus of them and almost everyone else we've talked to is that, for reasons which are stupefying, a mass murderer operating from a cave in southern Afghanistan appears to be winning a public affairs, public diplomacy battle with the world's communication leader, the United States.

There are dozens of reasons for it. In the United States government, the senior official in charge of this is an undersecretary of state from an advertising background, very successful advertising background, but no previous experience in this. She's just begun her job.

Jim has just correctly pointed out that we use short wave, imagine that, which reaches almost nobody and very limited access. We also use Internet, which has no penetration at all in the Arab world. And the only way we're going to get our message out is with the full cooperation of the moderate Islamic states, from Morocco to Indonesia, whose survival is also threatened by these extremists.

And what is the message? That's the key. President Bush has correctly said repeatedly this is a war against terrorism, not a war against Islam. The other side, bin Laden and company, are in the process of defining it on their terms. If they succeed in that, Wolf, if they succeed in defining it as a war between the West and Islam, they're going to sustain the struggle long beyond Afghanistan, and we would be caught in a very ugly situation.

BLITZER: All right. Gentlemen, stand by, we have to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about including Iraq. Where does Iraq fit in the picture, as well as your phone calls for the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, and the former CIA director, James Woolsey. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You looking at a live picture of ground zero, the site of the World Trade Center in New York. This reminder, later this afternoon in about 35 minutes from now, CNN will have live coverage of a memorial service, a family memorial service, that begins at the top of the hour, 2:00 p.m. Eastern; 11:00 a.m. Pacific in New York City.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Now back to our conversation with Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and James Woolsey, the former CIA director.

Gentlemen, let's take a caller from Texas.

Go ahead please with your question.

QUESTION: Yes. How could we have allowed Mr. Haq to be captured by the Taliban? And what affect will that have on the confidence of our operations there?

BLITZER: All right, let me ask Ambassador Holbrooke. Does not send necessarily a powerful signal out there that someone aligned with the United States was captured and executed by the Taliban -- Abdul Haq, the Afghan guerrilla fighter.

HOLBROOKE: You know, Wolf, even in a situation of extreme emergency and national unity, we have to temper our resolve with reality. And the reality is that Haq's death is both a tragedy and a catastrophe. It sends a signal throughout the region that involving themselves with us, involving themselves against the Taliban, carries potentially fatal risks. The second such leader in two months to be killed, after Massoud.

Secondly, the question that the caller from Texas raises is one that requires some answers.

I don't know the operational details, and I wouldn't speculate on them. But why he went in there without an operational cover, that is to say, a continual online communications with people on the other side of the border who could help him, why he had to resort to a desperate last-minute telephone call to an American friend who then called Bud McFarlane who then called the Pentagon and by that time was too late, is really a stupefying and heartbreaking sequence of events.

BLITZER: He doesn't mince any words, Ambassador Holbrooke. You don't disagree with that, do you? WOOLSEY: No, I don't know the degree to which, if at all, the U.S. government was involved with him, whether it simply knew he was going, or whether there was some cooperation. And there's speculation in the press this morning, I think in the "New York Times," that this may have been the result of an intratribal feud inside his own extended family, so to speak. It's really that he was betrayed. It's just hard to know without a lot more facts.

BLITZER: I want to play a soundbite from what Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said earlier today on Fox News Sunday and get your reaction about Iraq and whether Iraq should be a target right now of this U.S. war on terrorism. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think that it would be a huge mistake to begin any kind of front on Iraq in the course of the Afghanistan operation. If you want to worsen the conditions that I was just referring to about managing the political and humanitarian side of this, that's the way to complicate it. In the long run, however, yes, we have to be focused on Iraq and on Saddam Hussein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that wise advice from Senator Kerry, Ambassador Holbrooke?

HOLBROOKE: I would agree with Senator Kerry, the way he phrased it. I think President Bush is correct to fight one war at a time. I think both Senator Kerry and Jim Woolsey are correct that, over the horizon, Iraq is a very real, major disruptive danger. It should have been dealt with a decade ago. We should have finished them off when we didn't in 1991.

But I do want to underscore one additional point. If at any point in the investigations, any of the leads -- Mr. Atta's meetings in Prague with the Iraqis, the anthrax, anything else -- leads back with a hard evidence to Baghdad...

BLITZER: I apologize, we just lost our picture of Ambassador Holbrooke. We'll try to fix that.

Let me pick up with you, Mr. Woolsey. The advice from John Kerry, the senator, hold off on Iraq right now, deal with Afghanistan, maybe later focus attention on Iraq.

WOOLSEY: I agree with it the way Senator Kerry said it. But by holding off on Iraq, I think that doesn't mean holding off on investigating vigorously whether they are involved in any of the recent terrorist acts against us, including some going back into the '90s.

There are some in the government who have taken the view that we don't even really want to look at that real hard, because it might disrupt the coalition. Well, the first thing, when you're at war, to do is to figure out whom you're at war with. And, just as in World War II we had strategic reasons for concentrating first on Germany and then on Japan, we may have very good strategic reasons for concentrating first on Afghanistan here, and, if we determine that we are going to take on Iraq, Iraq only later.

But that doesn't mean we blink at Iraq. That doesn't mean we say, "Oh, it can't be Iraq, and we hope it isn't Iraq, because people will get mad at us, and we'll have a smaller coalition if we do anything to Iraq." We have to really get very vigorously into the business of finding out what Iraq's involvement has been.

BLITZER: Ambassador Holbrooke, you may have seen the story in the "Washington Post" today, a big banner headline, "The U.S. Getting Ready for Targeted Killings of Suspected Terrorists," ending the taboo, if you will, on assassinations.

Is this wise at this time, in the middle of this war on terrorism, to start targeting for assassination suspected terrorists out there?

HOLBROOKE: There's been a long legal dispute about what this 1975 executive order reaffirmed by every president, including the current president, means.

As far as I understood -- and I agree here with what Vice President Cheney and others have said -- it never inhibited us from going after people of the sort we are now going after. These are our enemies in a war situation.

And as Rumsfeld said on your program this morning, preemptively striking at them, if it will save American and other lives, seems to me totally legitimate. And I don't see this as a big issue.

BLITZER: Is it a big issue for you?

WOOLSEY: Not at all. It's war time. You go after the enemy. And in World War II we had broken the Japanese codes, we found out where Yamamoto, the admiral who commanded at Pearl Harbor, was going to be and shot down his aircraft. That's the way you fight wars. And we really need now to take the gloves off in this one in more ways than one.

BLITZER: OK, Mr. Woolsey, Ambassador Holbrooke, thanks to both of you for joining you. I really appreciate on it this Sunday.

And just ahead, is the Bush administration giving mixed messages about the war on terrorism abroad as well as at home? We'll go 'round the table on that and much more with Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Christopher Caldwell.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report"; and Christopher Caldwell, senior writer "The Weekly Standard."

Steve, a lot of criticism for the supposed double standard, one standard for people on the Hill, another standard for postal workers. Two postal workers died because they didn't get the prophylactic treatment, the antibiotics early enough, potentially at least. Is that criticism fair?

STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT": To some extent, I think it is fair.

I do think the administration has been blind-sided by the anthrax scare. They were prepared to fight Afghanistan; they weren't really weren't prepared to fight anthrax. They didn't have a system in place for reporting information. They didn't have a coordinated information system. They didn't have Tom Ridge in place to speak for it.

And so, I do think there's been a whole series of missteps. But we had very little experience with anthrax. I think the last case had been in the 70s. So I think some missteps are understandable.

But yes, there was a double standard. People did run out to make sure that the people on the Hill were fine, and they didn't follow the trail well enough.

BLITZER: And the administration, correct me if I'm wrong on this, Christopher, on the military front when it comes to Afghanistan, they've got their message, they've got their spokesman. They seem to be getting it across quite well.

On the domestic homeland security front, there's confusion. One day, it's this; the next day, it's that. Is that a legitimate concern?

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Oh, absolutely. They're trying to streamline it into having Tom Ridge and selected doctors talk about anthrax. But, no, it has been a ball of confusion.

But I do think Steve is right. A lot of this is getting scientifically blind-sided. Anthrax works -- this anthrax turns out to be much easier to spread than army studies of it had shown. No one thought that it would seep out of an envelope and endanger people who carried it en route to an office. No one thought opening a letter would contaminate someone with anthrax.

BLITZER: And they have to get their message across on the homefront, on the homeland security front, don't they, Susan?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I do think it's important. For one thing, when they have a kind of message where it's not clear they know what they are talking about, it doesn't reassure people, it makes people more nervous. John Zogby did a poll that showed 40 percent of Americans think they or someone they know will get anthrax, be exposed to anthrax, which is a ridiculous number. That's surely not -- no signs of anything like that. But that's a sign of a failure of public communications.

And, you know, it is ironic. You know, the one thing that George W. Bush has been very focused on is the need to make sure you're tending your domestic homefront even when you're fighting a war, but that's a lesson of his father's failure to win reelection. And here we see a kind of confident surefootedness on the foreign front but a failure to show that same kind of competency on the domestic side.

BLITZER: Well, there's a new poll, Steve, a Newsweek poll, that's out this weekend. At time when President Bush is getting 85, 90 percent job approval rating for the way he is conducting himself, the question is asked: Do you think the Bush administration has a well-thought-out plan for fighting terrorism at home? Look at these numbers up on the screen: yes, 48 percent; no, 43 percent. Three- point margin of error. Country basically evenly divided whether or not the Bush administration has a well-thought-out plan.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, the country traditionally unifies around a president when there's a foreign enemy. When you talk about domestic issues, there's always going to be more divided numbers.

But Susan makes a good point that there is a real inherent contradiction in a lot of what they're trying to do, and this has been true for weeks now. On one hand, they want to say, things are normal. On the other hand, they want to say, wait, we're dealing with a threat we haven't seen in this country for many years.

I think they have to be careful not to overdramatize it. Yes, they have to be vigilant; yes, they have to be cautious; yes, they have to have the science in place. But as Susan says, you can't panic people. If 40 percent of Americans think they're going to getting sick, then they're doing a bad job of informing people of the actual situation, because that is not the case.

BLITZER: And, Chris, as you know, on the military front, they've got spokesmen like Donald Rumsfeld who was on this program earlier, General Colin Powell, the secretary of state, Dick Cheney.

Is Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, Tommy Thompson, the secretary of Health and Human Services, are they the ones who are going to be effective in reassuring the American public that the administration knows what it's doing?

CALDWELL: No, they're not. Thompson, in particular, has been an absolute catastrophe, day after day after day.

The American people understand that scientific expertise is what is need. I had also think that the 40 percent who think they're going to be infected, while I hope they're jumping to conclusions, are also seeing something that the administration doesn't seem to, is that there is anthrax out there in the possession of people who are willing to use it, and there's no guarantee that they are going to continue to be so polite as to confine their spread of it to the mails.

BLITZER: So what's the point you're making?

CALDWELL: So the point is, there are unknown fears out there, that it will take a scientifically versed person to address, like Anthony Fauci, whom you just had on this show.

BLITZER: So more of the scientists, less of the politicians. Is that good advice?

PAGE: Well, you know, there's one person who has kind of risen to this occasion, Bill Frist, the senator -- senator and also a medical doctor. He has been very reassuring, I think, and seems very informed. And some people have said that if Tommy Thompson bites the dust, that he might be the next secretary of HHS. I don't know if that's true or not.

BLITZER: You need someone who not only has the political skills and oratorical ability, who has the scientific know-how, and this is a complicated issue.

ROBERTS: It is very complicated issue. But I think John McCain also has been an important voice here. He was a little flip when he said more people have been struck by lightning than had gotten anthrax. But the truth is, we're talking about a minute number of people.

And I don't think there's evidence that people have the ability to infect large numbers with anthrax. What they do have is the ability to get the media and the politicians talking about it, and we become their megaphones and we spread the sense of fear. And that is what -- that was the design. That's why it was sent to news organizations, why it was sent to politicians. We ought to be very careful not to do the terrorists' work for them.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. Our roundtable, we'll come back. We'll take a look at the war on the ground in Afghanistan when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll continue our conversation with our roundtable in just a moment, but first, let's go to New York. There will be a pause in the around-the-clocks recovery efforts later today at the site of the World Trade Center to remember the victims of the September 11 attack. CNN's Gary Tuchman is in New York with details.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: That World Trade Center family memorial service coming up top of the hour. Chris, that family, the distraught family that Gary Tuchman just spoke to, multiply that by the thousands, the impact of all of that on the policy decisions being made here in Washington.

CALDWELL: Well, obviously, it's tough not to -- it's tough to watch that and not get emotional about it. But that is terrorism and that's what we're fighting a war against.

We need to guard against the idea that this is something that's retrospective and that we are nursing an old grudge. I hate to say it, this could happen again. And our war has got to be directed against assuring that it does not.

BLITZER: Do you get any senses that the American public is getting impatient with the way this war is being waged on the ground in Afghanistan?

PAGE: Well, I think some elite thinkers are getting impatient and feel that we need to be doing more, that war is not working exactly the way that they had hoped it would. The Taliban has been more resistant.

I'm not sure I think American people generally are feeling that way. And I do think services like this one today reinforce notion of why it is a war you are willing to fight for a long time, willing to expend a lot of resources, willing to have Americans die in combat for it. I mean, it's a reminder what happened six or seven weeks ago and why it matters and why it's, you know -- if the war goes on for months more, if the war against terrorism takes years more, it's a war that people need to be willing to stick with.

ROBERTS: You know, Wolf, we have talked so much over years, are Americans willing to take casualties in battle? And I thought Hillary Clinton, right after September 11, was asked that, are we willing to take casualties? She just said, "We've already taken 5,000 casualties." And I think that changes the whole landscape. I think the country is much more willing to put up with the reverses.

This was not a good week on the ground in Afghanistan. The assassination of potential ally in Abdul Haq. Clearly the Taliban is more tenacious than perhaps some people thought. Clearly our allies are starting to get shaky. Pakistan is nervous about bombing in Ramadan. The war is not going as well as people wanted. But I do think there is a very deep reservoir of support for the president, but it is not limitless.

BLITZER: How important is it, Chris, for the U.S. to capture or kill Osama bin Laden?

CALDWELL: I think it is very important over the long term. I think it is the perfect symbol of progress, and it means accountability for this.

But there are a lot more Osama bin Ladens out there. And even though leadership in this type of organization is crucially important, I don't think the task stops there. BLITZER: He took issue, the defense secretary, with your newspaper, USA Today, this week for that headline which was bannered across the top of page one. Give us the background.

PAGE: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld did a session with our editorial board. And in it, he said what is really obvious, which is that there is no guarantee that in the end the United States will capture Osama bin Laden. And I think that's -- I think there is truth to that.

I mean, remember Mr. Aideed, who we went after in Somalia? I don't believe we ever caught him either.

But I don't that think they can call this a victorious war, as Senator McCain was saying, unless we capture Osama bin Laden or kill him. It is not enough, it's not sufficient to do that. But without that, I think this will be an incomplete operation.

BLITZER: Are you at all concerned, Steve? Because you're old enough to remember the '70s and Frank Church hearings on assassinations, this policy now being put into effect, the targeted killings, whatever you want to call it, assassinations of suspected terrorists, just give the CIA the green light to go kill them.

ROBERTS: I'm not all that concerned about it. I do think that, as the defenders of policy have said, we're at war. Jim Woolsey said, you know, we deliberately shot down the plane containing a Japanese admiral during World War II.

The problem is, you know, when you give power to people, you have to trust them to use it wisely. It's like with the anti-terrorist legislation that passed Congress this week. On its face, these ideas are reasonable. But if people abuse them, then you have a problem. And in the past, unfortunately, these powers have been abused. We have targeted leaders in places who were politically unappealing to us, particularly leftists.

So I'm not worried in this case. But there is a history that has to give people some pause.

BLITZER: Steve Roberts, Christopher Caldwell, Susan Page, thanks to all three of you for joining us. See you next week.

And time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on America's other crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes the news media turn into Johnny One Nose, covering one story intensely, ignoring others. For weeks before September 11, that story was named Gary Condit. And we all looked pretty foolish.

Now we are concentrated on Afghanistan and anthrax, the war against terror. That's a big story worth a lot of coverage, but we are ignoring some other big stories while we concentrate on the war. The biggest probably is that the United States is in serious recession. We were headed there before the September attacks but those have of course made it worse. Airlines, other tourist-related businesses laying off people, bellowing for federal help.

The sagging stock market is part of it, sagging corporate investment is part of it.

But as the "Washington Post"'s Robert Samuelson pointed out this past week, the biggest part is decreased consumer spending. That spending is what drives the economy and consumers had been spending heavily to the point where they weren't saving and were running into debt. So they've cut back, and we're in a recession.

Congress is working on bailout plans, but, as Samuelson points out, the House-passed bill gives more than twice as much relief to businesses as it does to consumers. And businesses with plants not working at full capacity because of reduced demand are not likely to rush into a lot of new investments.

The House bill also repeals an obscure something called the alternative minimum tax, which, according to the liberal Citizens for Tax Justice, would give IBM $1.4 billion, General Motors $833 million and so on. You have to wonder if this has anything do with soft-money political contributions from this company or that. But campaign finance legislation is another thing we're not worrying about anymore.

So tax relief, but most of it for businesses, not for consumers whose spending drives the economy. And not much help for state and local governments, whose expenses, of course, have shot up because of the war.

And the federal government, of course, will run a deficit this fiscal year. Its spending more too. Which reminds me, the next time some expert announces we'll have X-trillion dollars in surpluses over the next 10 years, tell him to sit down and be quiet. "Liar, liar, pants on fire" is one chant you might use, but there are others.

So, we're covering the war, but the recession matters too. But who was that fellow Condit?

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Bruce.

Now time for some of your e-mails about the war against terrorism.

Sal from Alabama writes this: "Disappointed when you allowed Madeleine Albright to get away with criticizing the former Bush administration for not finishing the job with Saddam Hussein. Why didn't the Clinton administration finish the job when it bombed Afghanistan the first time?" And Lou from Sabina, Ohio, says: "Had the post office shut down at the first sign of anthrax like Congress did, perhaps the workers would be alive today. What's good for the leaders should be good for the common folk."

You can send your e-mail to LATEEDITION@CNN.com. And you can also register to receive my e-mail from you, from me to you, CNN.com/email.

When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.

"TIME" magazine declares the administration is on the spot: "Fighting elusive foes at home and abroad, President Bush and his team are feeling the heat," with the president in the Oval Office on the cover.

"Newsweek" examines, "Protecting America: What must be done," with a long list of tasks on the cover.

And on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report": "Death by mail: The terrifying anthrax maelstrom has America on edge and what you can do."

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, October 28. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern. And during the week, I'll see you twice, at both 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern, with two editions of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


 
 
 
 


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