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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interviews With Colin Soloway, Sebastian Junger, Bob Graham

Aired December 19, 2001 - 21:00   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.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, American Taliban, John Walker. Could his own words condemn him as a traitor? New excerpts from an exclusive CNN interview. We'll let you judge for yourself.

And what's the FBI going to do with al Qaeda detainees at the U.S. Marine base in Kandahar? We'll get Afghan updates, too, from "Newsweek" correspondent Colin Soloway in Jalalabad. He had a face- to-face with John Walker earlier this month.

In New York, the journalist and best-selling author, Sebastian Junger, recently back from Afghanistan, and on the ground in Tora Bora, CNN's Nic Robertson. In Washington, Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee; Senator Mitch McConnell, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. And then a debate with GOP congressman Lindsey Graham of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees, and Democratic congressman Marty Meehan, who serves on the same committees. He also lost more than 30 constituents on September 11.

In New York, Nancy Grace, former prosecutor, now anchor for Court TV. And in Los Angeles, defense attorney Mark Geragos. And later, Broadway star Linda Eder sings, "I'll be Home for Christmas." All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with our journalists. We'll start with Colin Soloway in Jalalabad, who interviewed Mr. Walker.

What did you make of the Pelton interview, Robert Pelton's interview which we've been playing late this afternoon and just before us on Greta's show?

COLIN SOLOWAY, "NEWSWEEK": Well, Larry, I spoke with Robert Pelton, and I've seen some of the readouts from the interview. I haven't seen the entire tape myself, but it's certainly -- he certainly went far beyond what he had -- what he had said to me when I spoke with him a few hours earlier. You know, he had given me the impression that he had some to Afghanistan. It wasn't quite clear, but he had mentioned humanitarian aid work. And he'd also given me the impression that he wasn't particularly well acquainted with bin Laden or his ideas. He had sort of mentioned briefly a couple of books that bin Laden had written.

So, in fact, when I heard about the CNN interview the next day, I was really surprised that he had gone -- certainly gone much farther in talking about his involvement with the Taliban and with al Qaeda.

KING: We'll be offering some experts -- some excerpts, rather, from that interview.

Sebastian Junger in New York, author of a great new book called, "Fire." He also wrote the historic "Perfect Storm."

Sebastian, what do you make of the latest from Mr. Walker?

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "FIRE": I've only seen parts of the interview. I was struck by it, at the depth of his involvement. Of course, that raised the question: Is he boasting of something that isn't true or was he, in fact, that deeply involved? The last part that I just saw before sitting down here he was asked: "Is this what you expected when you signed up for jihad?" And he said, you know, his face is blackened and he's wounded and in pain. He said, "This is exactly what I expected." I was really struck by that. It does give a glimpse into the psychology of people in that movement.

KING: And Nic Robertson, what are your thoughts on what you've heard?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, John Walker is clearly a survivor, seeing and hearing what he had to say after surviving not only the bombardment in Kunduz and the fight around there, but then when he was in prison and there was that bloody revolt in the prison that lasted a week that led to the death of a CIA agent in the area.

One realizes that he has a very, very strong instinct for survival, the fact that he could sustain himself through the gun battles, through the attacks, and through the eventual flooding if the cave that they were in or the prison compound, the prison dungeon that they were in below the buildings there. So really he comes across to me as a survivor.

KING: Let's hear an excerpt. This is Walker talking about how he came to be in Mazar-e Sharif as a fighter for the Taliban. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN WALKER: When we withdrew from Kandahar, we walked by foot maybe more than a hundred miles. Afterwards, I was very sick for the whole period until -- until we came to Mazar-e Sharif. I was still sick. I wasn't really in a condition to be able to research these other things.

QUESTION: Were you with the Taliban all the time or were you doing something else?

WALKER: The Taliban have suffered (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the army. They have Afghan and they have the non-Afghans. I was with the separate branch, non-Afghans.

QUESTION: What was the non-Afghani branch like?

WALKER: It's called Unsar (ph). It means the helpers. QUESTION: Is it the same as a Zoo 55 brigade (ph) and...

WALKER: I'm not familiar with.

QUESTION: It's a term -- I was with the Taliban in 1995.

WALKER: Really?

QUESTION: Yeah, and they were explaining the Zoo 55 brigade.

WALKER: It has -- they have a number name -- I don't remember the number.

QUESTION: You have a slight accent.

WALKER: I haven't spoken English with native speakers in several months. I've been speaking Arabic. So I've been living overseas for about two years or so.

QUESTION: How did you get to Afghanistan, because some friends of mine fought in Chechnya? Did you go through the Muj (ph) trail or you just come here and volunteer?

WALKER: I came -- I was a student in Pakistan studying Islam. And I came into contact with many people who were connected with Taliban. I lived in the region, the northwest frontier province. The people there in general have great love for the Taliban. So I started to read some of their literature of their scholars and history of the movement and -- my heart became attached to them. I wanted to help them one way or another. So I happened to...

QUESTION: Do you have any military schools or you just were sort of...

WALKER: No, I don't.

QUESTION: When you came into those camps, were they training?

WALKER: Well, some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) training camps.

QUESTION: A friend of mine was an American and they had to hide him from the Secret Service all the time, and he went to fight in Kashmir.

WALKER: In Pakistan, yeah, that's how it is. They always had them (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

QUESTION: After this is all done, how do you feel? You feel like you were sort of -- you did the right thing or...

Well do you feel now after -- there's been a number of losses on the Taliban side.

WALKER: With regard to this, this particular incident you mean?

QUESTION: Yeah. WALKER: This was all a mistake of a handful of people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: By the way, initially, Walker expressed reluctance to be taped. But with the camera rolling and the lights on, he did tell the story to CNN's Robert Pelton. And Mr. Pelton will be on "NEWSNIGHT" following this program.

And we've just learned from White House correspondent John King that American Taliban fighter John Walker may be charged under a federal law that prohibits assisting terrorists and terrorist organizations. George Bush, President Bush, still considering many options. We'll ask the Senators about that. We want to get caught up.

Colin what's the latest about that -- the al Qaeda detainees? What's going to happen to them?

SOLOWAY: Well, as far as we know, there are 15 detainees who have been taken to Rhino -- Camp Rhino, the Marine base near Kandahar. And then, apparently, there are other guys who have been sent out to the ship, the Peleliu, out offshore.

Again, you know, what we are being told here is very little on their future. It's not necessarily clear that the government has made a decision where these guys are going to go and when. One thing's for certain, that at the moment, they're of great interest to CIA, and now we have learned FBI interrogators who want to talk to them about their activities and al Qaeda operations, possible operations in the future, because obviously, they would like to try and avoid or cut off at the pass any sorts of terrorist activity which might be planned for the future. But, again, it's not clear when and where they're going to be tried if at all.

KING: Sebastian, wouldn't you think with all this questioning might give us better leads into the whereabouts of bin Laden?

JUNGER: Well, I assume we're going to be questioning the al Qaeda members about their organization in general, about the last few months of the war. Wherever bin Laden is, certainly, he's moving very quickly. There's very poor communication in Afghanistan. There's no phones. I'm sure he's not on the radio right now. Personally, I would imagine that he probably struck out -- struck off on his own, maybe shaved his beard. And with help from sympathizers, maybe in Pakistan. He may have slipped across the border. I mean, to me, that just sort of makes common sense. Maybe he's headed to Kashmir. That would be very problematic if he managed to get to Kashmir. I don't quite know what we'd do about it in that case.

KING: Nic Robertson, what are your thoughts as to how long he can elude capture?

ROBERTSON: Well, we talked with some al Qaeda prisoners here a couple of days ago, and they again said that they -- that Osama bin Laden was very, very mobile. And that does indicate that he may very well take off by himself and doesn't tie himself down to the greater al Qaeda forces.

Tracking him down is going to be exceptionally difficult. Kashmir would be a very, very difficult place to track him down. Probably one of the better places for him to continue to try and hide, however, is still inside Afghanistan. The forces of law here still don't reach out really beyond the cities here, and it would be very -- there are sympathies here for Osama bin Laden, and it will be very, very difficult still, despite an international peacekeeping force coming here in the next week or so, and despite perhaps the best intentions of some local commanders. He still has a lot of support, and that's going to be one of his things in his favor if he stays inside Afghanistan.

KING: Our correspondents, Colin Soloway, Sebastian Junger and Nic Robertson. They'll stay with us. And when we come back, we'll be joined in Washington by Senator Bob Graham of Florida and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, bring them in on latest on Mr. Walker and bin Laden and the like. And later, we'll have quite a debate going here about this whole question of John Walker and what should happen to him, and the subject of tribunals as well. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton tomorrow night. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining our panel of journalists, two distinguished representatives in the United States Senate: in Washington, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee; and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, and also a member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information.

Senator Graham, we're going to play another excerpt in a moment, but what is your read on this John Walker matter with this further information and the information we learned tonight that he may be charged under a federal law, prohibits assisting terrorists facing up to 10 years in jail? What are options the president is looking at?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I don't know what options the president is looking at, Larry but I imagine that they are going to be as strict and severe as is available to him. This is a man who's not a juvenile. He's 20 years old. He's been out of the country for three years. He made an adult decision to join with what he knew was an adversary of the United States and then a collaborator in the most horrific act of terrorism against our people. I think he will be dealt with severely.

KING: Senator McConnell, have you heard portions or all of the tape?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), FOREIGN OPERATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE: I've heard most of it, Larry, and it's hard to contain your anger. I can tell you this: This guy deserves a lot more than a shave and haircut. I mean, you have to try to overcome your desire to strap him on a cruise missile and fire him at Tora Bora. But I think the president probably figures that this guy is not eligible for a military tribunal because he's an American citizen. He certainly shouldn't be court-martialed because he's not a member of the American military. So it sounds from your earlier report as if the government, the administration leans toward an American court under the new terrorism law. So it sounds like that may be the way in which they're headed.

KING: Gentleman, let's all watch another excerpt as Walker talks about the prison uprising in Mazar-e Sharif in which CIA agent, Mike Spann, was killed just hours after he talked with Walker. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALKER: So some of them kept hand grenades with them. And when we arrived in the military complex in Mazar-e Sharif, I think some of -- I don't know what nationality or who they were exactly, but some of us -- some of the brothers were very tense, so...

QUESTION: It's going to feel a lot better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm giving you morphine now, OK? It's going to take away a lot of the pain.

QUESTION: It's going to be happy medicine.

WALKER: Happy (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So anyway, so as soon as we arrived, as soon as -- I remember as soon as I came down from the truck that we arrived in, a grenade exploded right next to the truck. Someone, I don't know what he was thinking or what he -- but they blew up a grenade. So the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) authorities became afraid of us, and they thought that maybe we had deceived them or something like this. So they immediately put us down in the basement for the night. And I don't know if they intended after that to let us free or to interrogate us and then let us go or what they intended. But what happened was we spent the night under the basement. Then they let us out one by one. They would search each one of us, then they tied us up and they put us out on the lawn.

So as they were taking us one by one, some of the last people to come out, again, they were -- I don't know. They were afraid or whatever. They did the same thing. They pulled out a grenade and...

QUESTION: Want something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to hurt.

WALKER: They -- anyway, somehow they started fighting with -- starting with the grenade. Then one of them grabbed a kalashnikov from one of the Army forces, and so the fighting began and they began...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We'll get back to our senators.

Colin Soloway, you interviewed him. Are you surprised at apparently how open he has become?

SOLOWAY: Well, I -- Larry, I think at the time when I spoke to him, he was already, I think, beginning to think about carefully about his future and the possibility of spending a long time in the future in a prison in northern Afghanistan or worse. And so he was he was -- you know, he spoke with me. But then -- then when he spoke with Robert Pelton, he had spent several hours in the back of an open-top cargo truck in the night in wintertime. And Robert Pelton had told me that he was virtually hypothermic when -- that he was almost freezing to death when they found him in the hospital. And apparently, Pelton had, you know, told him, you know, "Look, if you don't talk to us, you know, we may leave you and you could you die here." So I think, you know, I think this focused his attention on the idea of giving them some more information.

I think he realized that probably the more information he could give, the more likely it was that they were going to take him out of there and that he was going to be able -- that he was going to survive one way or the other. So, no, it's not particularly surprising.

What does surprise me in a sense is the degree of cooperation, which at least the government claims that he's giving in their discussions with him and their interrogations of him. It will be interesting to see when whatever case comes up for Walker, whether it be a federal case or a military tribunal, how much of these, what seem to be very lengthy interrogations, judging from government sources, how much of these interrogations can actually be used in court. Again, he doesn't have a lawyer present. So it's unclear, you know, how much damning evidence, in fact, they will have against him in an open court.

KING: Senator Graham, we'll touch some other bases here. Are you surprised that how well or not well, if you think not well, this war is going?

GRAHAM: I'm not surprised. I think it's going very much according to the plan. It's similar to the wars that we have fought in the Persian Gulf and in the Balkans where we first take out the command-and-control systems so that our aircraft can operate with impunity and then use that advantage. Here, we had the opportunity to use the Northern Alliance as the ground troops with U.S. support and assistance.

The one big thing that we have not yet accomplished is our most visible goal, which is getting bin Laden. Up until this week, our intelligence people had expressed a great deal of confidence that he was still in Afghanistan. Now there is some question about that, that he might have, in fact, slipped across into Pakistan. But I'm confident that whether he is in one country or the other, that we will finally track him down and bring him to justice.

KING: Senator Mitch McConnell, in congressional testimony yesterday, the FBI's assistant director for terrorism, J.T. Caruso, said, with operations in 60 countries, al Qaeda still retains 70 percent of its capability. Don Rumsfeld joked about the mathematical precision of Mr. Caruso but agreed that al Qaeda still has business across the globe, sells money and communications capability. What do you make of that?

MCCONNELL: Well, that's right. And it's too bad that we've been somewhat fixated on bin Laden. He does make a terrific villain, and he is villain. But even if we had him, the job goes on just to go after al Qaeda, not to mention some of the other terrorist gangs that may soon be in the sights of the president and the administration. But it has gone superbly. And once again our military has been able to achieve dramatic success with little or no loss of American life.

KING: We'll spend some more moments with our Senators and a couple of moments each with our correspondents as well on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. And then we'll have a debate on all of this. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we get back with our senators, Sebastian Junger, you expect this to expand into Iraq?

JUNGER: Boy, that's hard to tell. I think we would be on maybe some difficult ground there if we do that. It was very clear that we were terribly attacked by people based in Afghanistan on September 11. I think it might be harder to make a case to the rest of the world that we've been attacked by Iraq. And, of course, the coalition, the tremendous amount of support we had from the coalition and from Muslim nations around the world was because we could make such a good case about having to defend ourselves.

If we move into Iraq, of course, maybe not as good a case, and the coalition might start to slip. So we might have to determine that issue before we attack.

KING: What's the next stage, Nic Robertson, in Afghanistan?

ROBERTSON: Well, the next stage is very much like the one that's already been under way. We're still seeing B-52s patrolling in the sky. They come right up to the Tora Bora mountains literally right over my head here to the mountains and then back away. It appears as if they're waiting for information from the ground or elsewhere that maybe Osama bin Laden has been pinpointed and that they will make strikes against strikes that we've seen in the last few weeks here. So it still seems that the next phase is still Osama bin Laden. And it still seems that a lot of that attention is still being focused in Afghanistan. And probably, there's a reasonable likelihood that he may still be here. So it would seem that the next phase is very much a continuation of the other phase, and a lot of energy still yet, despite whatever other -- whatever other plans there may be for other countries or other initiatives elsewhere in the world. There still is a lot of attention focused looking for Osama bin Laden right here -- Larry.

KING: We thank -- we thank you all, Colin Soloway, Sebastian Junger and Nic Robertson. We'll be calling upon you again probably tomorrow night.

We go back to Senators Bob Graham and Mitch McConnell in Washington.

Senator Graham, what do you think about Iraq?

GRAHAM: I think we need to be very careful where we go after Afghanistan. We have got to not only hold the coalition of nations together, but also hold the American people together behind the war on terrorism. Let's do not lose sight of what it is we are trying to accomplish. And my own opinion, after Afghanistan -- and we're not through there yet -- we need to move against the other al Qaeda cells around the globe, which are estimated to be between 20 and 40. And then second, if there are any international terrorist groups which are found to have been complicit with bin Laden in the attacks of September 11, they should be our next target.

KING: Senator McConnell, what do you think about Hussein and the like?

MCCONNELL: I think Iraq has to be on the agenda. It's probably down the road. And the reason Iraq has to be on the agenda is they haven't had inspectors in there since 1998. We all know that they have weapons of mass destruction. And at some point, that will have to be dealt with. But I agree with Bob. I think we need to finish the job we're currently about, focus on terrorism. It may take us to other countries and all likelihood will take us to other countries. And I'm sure Saddam Hussein will be watching all of this. And hopefully at some point, he'll decide to let the inspectors back in. That would be in his own best interests.

KING: Let's take a call for our senators.

Butler of Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, I have a question for your people.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: If there is such a big question about the legality of bringing him back over to this country for trial, if it's legal or illegal, turn him over to the Northern Alliance and let them try him.

KING: You talking about Mr. Walker?

CALLER: Yes, sir, I certainly am.

KING: What do you make of that, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: I don't think there's any question about the legality of the United States bringing a U.S. citizen back to this country to be tried by our criminal justice system. And I think that is what's going to happen.

KING: Senator...

MCCONNELL: There's no question he'll be...

KING: Go ahead, I'm sorry. MCCONNELL: There's no question he'll be tried by us. The only question is which kind of forum will he be in?

KING: Couple of other areas. We'll start with Senator McConnell this time. Going to happen with the stimulus package? House gets a new proposal approved today by both sides, apparently. What's the Senate going to do?

MCCONNELL: Well, regretfully, it looks like the president's job creation package is going to die in the Daschle graveyard over in the Senate. I hope that doesn't happen tomorrow, but I hear that it may well not be able to go forward.

KING: What do you hear, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: It's not very optimistic that there's going to be an economic stimulus package. I think that it's unfortunate that we haven't been able to reach a bipartisan agreement around the principles that were originally established, which were that it should only be those things that were stimulative in the immediate future, that it should not put an undue burden on our long-term fiscal position or contribute to increasing long-term interest rates. I'm concerned that the package that's coming out of the House tonight fails to abide by those principles.

KING: Take another call. Arlington, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I'd like to ask the panel if anyone on the panel thinks it's of any significance that Walker was being interviewed under the influence of morphine during the time. And if so, that would prejudice his rights during any kind of procedure, trial procedure that he'll be undergoing, especially when he's making his statements against his interests.

KING: Probably if there were a trial, Senator Graham, this wouldn't be admitted, right?

GRAHAM: Yeah, I don't believe that a videotape under almost any circumstances of this nature would be admissible in a criminal trial. But there will be plenty of other evidence available about the fact that this man has been a traitor to this country, has given aid and comfort not only to our enemies but to sworn terrorists.

KING: Senator McConnell, you're on the Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information. You have a war on terrorism. Can that ever really end? Aren't there always going to be terrorists?

MCCONNELL: Well, maybe so. But you can go after gangs. And al Qaeda is the most prominent international gang. Probably be very difficult to prevent a Timothy McVeigh type solo operator from popping up from time to time, not only in this country but in other countries. But to the extent that you have organized crime, in effect, on an international basis, I think we can have success at going after those kinds of gangs, and I think we are having success in going after the most prominent ones.

KING: Senator Graham, where is the money coming from? How much is this costing?

GRAHAM: A lot. And it'll cost a lot more before we're through with this operations. We are going to pass a Defense Department appropriations bill probably tomorrow, and it will be the largest increase in -- well, since the Vietnam War, about a $35 billion to $45 billion increase over last year. And most of that is what is going to go to finance this war in Afghanistan. But I agree with Mitch that this is a war that is worth fighting and that we cannot back away from. And I think it does have a lot of similarity to the war that America fought for the better part of 70 years against organized crime.

You can say that we have not eliminated organized crime in the United States, but it is certainly a much less a pervasive influence than it was for the lives of our parents and grandparents, for which we are all the beneficiaries.

LARRY KING, HOST: Well said. We'll be calling on both of you again soon. Senator Bob Graham and Senator Mitch McConnell.

And when we come back, we'll go at it over John Walker, What to do or not to do, as the case may be. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our panel will now get into the John Walker matter. They are, in Washington, Congressman Lindsey Graham, Democrat -- Republican, rather, of South Carolina, member -- whoa. Member of the judiciary committee and member of the armed services committee.

The Democrat is Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts, member of armed services, also judiciary. More than 30 of his constituents were killed September 11 aboard two Boston-to-L.A. flights that hit the World Trade Center towers.

In New York is Nancy Grace, former prosecutor and anchor for "Trial Heat" on Court TV. And in Los Angeles, the famed defense attorney Mark Geragos.

Before we start, President Bush the first was a guest on "Good Morning America." Asked about John Walker. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm so offended by what he allegedly has done. I mean just -- how -- how he can do it. I had -- I thought of a unique penalty. Make him leave his hair the way it is and his face as dirty as it is and let him go on in this country. See what kind of sympathy he would get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right. Congressman Graham, what do you make of reports we are receiving that John Walker may be charged under a federal law prohibiting assisting terrorists and face up to 10 years? REPRESENTATIVE LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, given his conduct I think he is lucky to be alive, number one. And if he gets into federal court in America he should consider himself well blessed, given what he did.

I don't believe in trying people on television. We are a rule -- a nation of laws. And -- but however, Larry, the -- the evidence is overwhelming. You don't need any of these statements. You caught him with a gun in the middle of a group of people who tried to support terrorists that killed millions -- thousands of Americans. I think he's lucky if he gets out with a federal court trial.

KING: Congressman Meehan, is it as open and shut as that?

REPRESENTATIVE MARTY MEEHAN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I think the tape speaks for itself. It's clear that this -- this man is culpable. I think we need to continue to gather the evidence and the facts, and he should be held accountable for his actions.

The tape is stunning. The whole case is stunning. But we have a responsibility to the American people to hold people accountable for their actions and that is what we will do.

KING: Nancy Grace?

NANCY GRACE, COURT TV ANCHOR: Well, I'm shocked that someone would -- could even consider a 10-year sentence. I certainly agree with other supporters that think he should be tried for treason and face the death penalty.

Please, don't even try to tell me that he did not know those were U.S. airplanes flying overhead, that he did not know he was fighting against a U.S. ally, the Northern Alliance. That is treason.

KING: Mr. Geragos.

MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I hate to agree...

KING: Often called to defend people of unsavory character.

GERAGOS: Well, the -- I hate to agree with Nancy, but in some way she's correct. I mean, the idea that you would get the federal statute that you would be charged with would be up to 10 years in prison is not a very heavy penalty. I mean, there are a lot of statutes that you could be charged with in the -- under the Code 18- USC that carry 10-year penalties. That's not anything out of the ordinary.

Treason, obviously, is the most singular crime that we have. So in some ways, that is a gift.

The other kind of -- kind of perplexing thing about this is in some ways if you are his lawyer -- Mr. Brosnahan in San Francisco, who is an outstanding lawyer -- you almost don't want him brought back here. I mean, you almost would prefer that he has a military tribunal. It's one of those weird positions as defense lawyer where...

KING: If you were his lawyer you might...

GERAGOS: If you were his lawyer you might want -- this may be one of the few cases where you'd say, "look, don't bring him back to America. I don't want him tried here."

President Bush the first had a -- kind of a unique perspective. This is not a guy who's going to engender a whole lot of sympathy here in America.

KING: Let's listen to another sound bite. And watch him. Walker talking about the rightness of the cause for which he ended up fighting in Afghanistan. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT PELTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm just curious. Was this what you thought it would be? I mean, was this the right cause or the right place?

JOHN WALKER, AMERICAN TALIBAN FIGHTER: It's exactly what I thought it would be.

PELTON: Had you thought of fighting in jihad in places like Chechnya where (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WALKER: Because of -- any Muslim that's concerned for the affairs of Muslims, oppressed Muslims, considered this, I think.

PELTON: Did you choose Afghanistan? And one thing that I always wondered was you have Muslims fighting Muslims here.

WALKER: That is a question that's actually addressed in the Koran itself, that if there is an Islamic state, I mean, there are certain situations in which Muslims, by necessity fought -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if a group of Muslims, renegades against the Islamic state, they cause problems. There's another situation also, in which a Muslim can be killed for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) under the law. It's an issue which has gone on in Islamic law. It's something which is perfectly reasonable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Repeating again, initially Walker expressed some reluctance -- expected -- expressed reluctance to being taped, but with the camera rolling and lights on, he did tell his story to CNN's Robert Pelton, who'll be a guest at the top of the hour with Aaron Brown. What do you make about that statement, Congressman Graham, that he kind of knew this?

GRAHAM: If I was an American Muslim or a Muslim who really understood what the Koran was all about, I would be extremely offended that his view of the Islamic religion, I think, has been hijacked. He's hijacking a great religion and it's just another reason that if he gets a federal court trial with a 10-year sentence, he gets a lot better than he deserves.

KING: Congressman Meehan, can -- when you get this much attention -- can he get, in your opinion, a fair hearing?

MEEHAN: I think he can. Look. We don't even know what the facts and the evidence in this case are all about. We have to wait and see what the pentagon comes up with, what the Justice Department comes up with.

The president ultimately will make a decision. I think the decision the presidents have made -- the president has made in -- in this matter thus far have been prudent decisions. And we'll have to see what happens.

But I think he can. I think Americans are fully competent and qualified. They have time and time again made decisions based on the law, based on the facts and based on the evidence, and they will do so in this case.

And just -- just the fact that we have a tape which I believe would be admissible in almost any conceivable court, you have a tape that shows his guilt pretty clearly. That will be the basis upon which a decision will be made.

KING: Now, Nancy Grace, could you not serve on his jury because you have presumed his guilt, have you not?

GRACE: Well, I'm basing that on what I have heard so far, and what I have seen. And I have seen him making statements -- I have heard that he has admitted to being a member of al Qaeda, to supporting the Taliban, that his fight against the Northern Alliance was exactly what he thought it would be.

And just think about it, Larry, he was the crown jewel for the Taliban. They actually had in their clutches an American who hated the West, who hated America, who would raise his arms against an American alliance.

From what I have seen, yeah, I think he is guilty. Let them prove him innocent.

KING: Mr. Geragos, can he get a fair shot?

GERAGOS: No. That's one of the reasons why I said if I -- if I were defending him, or Brosnahan is I'm sure thinking the same thing. You don't want him brought back here. Let him -- let him be tried in a military tribunal. He's not going to...

GRACE: But hey, Mark.

GERAGOS: This is one of the few cases, Nancy, where I would say that a military tribunal makes more sense...

GRACE: But wait a minute. Wait a minute, Mark. What about all...

GERAGOS: ...than bringing him over to a federal, civil justice system.

GRACE: What about all those people out in America who that think he is a poor young fellow that was brainwashed?

GERAGOS: Yeah. I think that...

GRACE: All I can say is it didn't work for Patty Hearst. It's not going work for him either.

GERAGOS: I -- I don't think that you're going to find a whole lot of sympathy after this tape. I think most of the people who had a lot of sympathy for him, that was pre-tape.

I think this tape at this point and the playing of this tape and some of the clearly, kind of, prejudicial things that are being said and some of the inflammatory things that are being said, this just -- this is just not somebody who's -- if you are a lawyer you're going to want to parade this guy in front of a jury in America.

KING: Let me get a break, group. And we'll be right back with our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Congressman Graham, now let's move to Bin Laden a little here, although we will hear another excerpt from the Walker matter. Do you expect him to be caught? And how will he be tried if caught?

GRAHAM: I doubt if he'll ever be tried. I'm sure that the people engaged in pursuing him that he -- he'll be killed by his own people or die in battle somehow.

I expect him to be caught. Eventually there is no place to run and hide for these folks, because any country that aids him, they do so at their own peril. So yeah, he'll be caught.

KING: Congressman Meehan, what do you think?

MEEHAN: Well, I -- I hope that we don't have to try him. I would prefer it to -- to have him...

KING: Killed?

MEEHAN: ...to have him killed before we have to deal with him. If we are, it will probably be in a military tribunal, would be my guess.

Let me say John Walker will never be tried in military tribunal, because the president's order specifically exempts American citizens. So he won't have the luxury of being tried before a tribunal.

Now in the case of Bin Laden, if -- and I hope this doesn't happen -- but if there were to be a trial, it would be a tribunal, in all likelihood, because of the danger to security, the fact that it would compromise American intelligence. The only way to conduct a trial would be a military tribunal, in my view. KING: Before I ask Nancy a question, let's get in one more excerpt from the Walker interview as he talks about the ordeal in the prison. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: They had bombed us with airplanes. They had shot missiles. They had thrown grenades. They had shot at us with all types of guns and they poured gas on us and burned us. They had just done everything you can imagine.

So the last thing they did was they -- they poured water down into the basement and filled it up with water. So when they flooded that, most of us were injured that point anyway.

Actually, after maybe -- after the first day, maybe about half of us -- or more than half of us were injured. So the last day -- when -- when they poured the water into the basement, I think the vast majority of us were drowned -- so that morning -- and we were standing in the water -- freezing water -- in the basement for maybe 20 hours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Nancy Grace, maybe the wrong person to ask. Do you have sympathy for John -- John Walker?

GRACE: Well, you know I was just sitting here...

KING: It's a bad word, sympathy, with you. I know.

GRACE: ...looking at him on that nice clean cot that we Americans provided him. His hospital care, his morphine drip he wanted.

You know what? The families of 3,000 Americans didn't have that luxury. He does. He is alive today because he is an American. He supported al Qaeda. He is an admitted member of al Qaeda.

Remember al Qaeda? The guys that masterminded the attack on America? 10 years is too good for him.

KING: So you tie him directly to September 11?

GRACE: Well, I tie him by his own words. I'm not dreaming this up. He admitted to being a member of al Qaeda, to training in an al Qaeda terrorist camp, to meeting Bin Laden. Was he bragging? I don't know. These are his admissions. al Qaeda planned the attack on the World Trade Center. He supports al Qaeda. 10 years? Forget about it. Death penalty!

KING: Would you defend him, Mark?

GERAGOS: You know, it's a -- obviously, if you are called by a court, and the judge says, "I'm going appoint you," you -- that's the duty. That's your oath as a lawyer. I mean, you can't turn that down. I mean, as a practical matter, what a lawyer probably would want to do in this case is if somebody is looking at the federal code, there -- there are ways in which you can strip somebody of their citizenship. And this is probably the prototypical way.

If that happens, if you were to renounce the citizenship, you are then technically eligible to go under a military tribunal and that may be -- I'm telling you -- that may be the one -- the one thing that this gentleman may want to avail himself of because, certainly, based upon the statements that have been made, based upon the tape there, he is certainly susceptible to a conspiracy theory by any means.

By -- I mean, it's standard. All you have to do is have an overt act. He's clearly got the overt act. You don't have to know what everybody else is doing in terms of a conspiracy. He clearly could be liable for conspiracy on September 11.

KING: Congressman Graham, it appears no way out for him.

GRAHAM: Well, you just get on your knees beg for forgiveness and try to rehabilitate yourself as a person. But yeah, he is going to face justice. In his -- what he gets is -- like I say, again, he's just lucky to be alive. He's lucky to be a member of a country that's going to spend this much time talking about it.

I want to talk about the 20-year-olds that are on aircraft carriers that are in the Air Force and the Marine Corps. Those are the Americans that we need to be talking about.

And give this guy his day in court and forget about him and put him in jail and throw away the key, as far as I'm concerned. But he will get a fair trial. He is a lucky young man. And anybody that says otherwise doesn't really understand what this country is about.

KING: Congressman Meehan, why will the tape, do you think -- if there is a trial -- be admitted?

MEEHAN: Well, because, it's not as if he got duped into it or anything like that. He -- he's talking to a media person. He's volunteering information. That's all admissible.

And by the way, I don't think it matters whether -- even if it was military tribunal, he would -- he would be found guilty, in all likelihood.

The most important thing for the United States government to do right now, Larry, is to get all the evidence and facts against this young man and against the other people that we have, as we can. It's gathering evidence.

Both Lindsey and I are former prosecutors. It's all about getting ready to present your best and strongest case. This guy should be held accountable for the highest level of culpability.

What he can do is he can cooperate with the United States. I'm not saying it would necessarily mean a lower sentence, but that's what he can do. If -- if he wants to do anything for his country, to give back, help us find Bin Laden.

KING: I asked Mark if he'd defend him. Nancy, would you prosecute him?

GRACE: I would definitely prosecute him. And -- and remember, it's all about this. You're either with us or you're against us. We've got 3,000 dead Americans. He is against us.

KING: Mark?

MEEHAN: Larry, Lindsey and I...

GRAHAM: Yes. We'll volunteer.

MEEHAN: ...would be glad to volunteer to prosecute him.

GRAHAM: It would be a bipartisan prosecution.

MEEHAN: We would do it in a bipartisan way.

GRAHAM: Absolutely.

KING: You would be up against a nice one, Geragos.

GERAGOS: I'll tell you. I'll tell you. So I say, the smart thing for him to do is renounce citizenship and run to one of those military tribunals with your arms open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Renounce.

GERAGOS: Exactly. Renounce and get out.

KING: Thank you all very much. Congressman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts, Nancy Grace of Court TV, and here in Los Angeles, defense attorney Mark Geragos.

Tomorrow night on this program, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will be with us and we'll talk about the aftermath of 9/11 and the effect on New York.

As we go to break, we have some extraordinary short New York police department video of what happened September 11 -- this hasn't been generally shown before -- after the attack. Thanks to our guests. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's gone! The whole tower! It's gone! Holy crap! They knocked the whole freaking thing down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy goddamn. They did it. It's down. The second tower is down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: A musical note tonight will be provided by the terrifically talented Linda Eder. She's in New York. A recording artist, Broadway and concert star.

She'll be back on Broadway, by the way, at the end of the month in a one-woman concert show. Her new album comes out in February. It's called "Gold."

This is a return engagement. She was with us in late October. She's going to sing "I'll Be Home for Christmas." This is from a medley on her Christmas album "Christmas Stays the Same." And the arrangement is just for this show tonight. You like singing Christmas music, Linda?

LINDA EDER, RECORDING ARTIST: I love singing Christmas music. I always have.

KING: There's a special feeling to it. Most of the Christmas songs were penned during World War II, as was this one. And so we thank you very much for being with us. All of us salute you. The happiest of holidays to you.

EDER: You, too. I'm very happy to be here.

KING: Linda Eder. Just for us and our viewers. And "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

(MUSIC, LINDA EDER, "I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York -- you may have heard of her -- will be one of our guests.

Next is "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown. And "NEWSNIGHT" has quite a show tonight. Aaron's going to talk with Robert Pelton. He's the man who interviewed John Walker for CNN. You've been seeing it this afternoon, earlier tonight on "GRETA," portions on this show. You get the whole inside story with Aaron Brown in New York.

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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