CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Calls for a Broader Investigation Grow; More Warnings About Future Terror Threats; Washington Leaks Help Players Make Points
Aired May 21, 2002 - 16:00 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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. More new warnings about future threats from terrorists. The latest alert points toward New York landmarks.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As calls for a broader investigation grow, FBI director Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft meet with some very upset lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider. Washington is leaking and that is how some players in the terror alert controversy are making their points.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley. Timing is all, maybe especially in politics. I will have the latest on the dating game and the 2004 party conventions.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. The blunt but general terror assessments by top government officials in recent days were replaced within the last hour by a specific terror alert. This warning applies to potential targets in New York City. In just a moment we will bring you up-to-date on that with our Maria Hinojosa.
But now, even before word of this latest terror alert, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today became the latest administration official to offer a sobering assessment of future terror threats. Rumsfeld told a Senate committee that terror groups will one day acquire weapons of mass destruction with potentially dire consequences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Realistically we have to face up to the fact that we live in a world where our margin for error has become quite small. In just facing the facts, we have to recognize that terrorist networks have relationship with terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction. And that they inevitably are going to get their hands on them and would not hesitate one minute in using them.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: For more on what Secretary Rumsfeld had to say, let's turn to senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, is this based on new information? What caused the secretary to say this today?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course he was asked about it by the chairman Inoue at this committee hearing. It has been the topic of discussion all week. But despite all the ominous new warnings of potential terrorist attacks, Pentagon sources say there really is no new specific information.
What Rumsfeld was talking about really is something, a theme that he has been echoing since September 11, particularly since the war on terrorism began in earnest, in October of last year. That is that terrorists who would take tens of thousands of lives or want to take tens of thousands of lives would certainly not stop, hesitate to take hundreds of thousands of lives if they could. That's why there has been such urgency to make sure that they don't have access to weapons of mass destruction and there has been a lot of speculation this week about the inevitability of something bad happening in the days to come, whether it is another terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction or involving more conventional means.
But they don't have any specific actionable intelligence and that's why the general national alert status remains at yellow. You know, this is the code that the homeland security director, Tom Ridge has come up with to sort of keep the nation advised on how much you have to worry about these terrorist attacks. And he said today essentially that they don't have enough actionable intelligence to really move that alert level up.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Thank you, Jamie.
And now we want to, as Jamie said, most of this information in recent days has been of a general nature. However, just within the hour, there is some specific information or warning about a threat in New York City. For the latest on that let's go to our correspondent, Maria Hinojosa. Hello, Maria.
MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. What we do know is this: High level NYPD sources have told CNN that they were informed by the FBI about possible terror attacks against the Brooklyn Bridge and against the Statue of Liberty.
They have said that that information was unspecified about the possible date or time of those possible attacks. This morning we have been told there was more scrutiny of cars coming through the Brooklyn Bridge and other bridges across New York City. Federal sources have said that they have gotten this information about possible terrorist attacks very sketchy, from detainees.
Now, I'm joined now here on the roof of CNN where before September 11, you would have seen the World Trade Center right behind me. Former FBI agent Mike Brooks was on the joint terrorist task force in Washington, D.C. Mike, do us a favor, put this into some kind of context. I can tell you, I have run into people who are extraordinarily concerned, agitated, even having panic attacks. Does this information merit that at this point?
MIKE BROOKS, SECURITY ANALYST: We have to be careful, Maria. The information is coming from the detainees. I think the people there, detainees, al Qaeda, they know how to press the buttons of U.S. citizens.
This information coming out, I think is a good vigilance alert. We have to -- again, we have to find out exactly how specific this information is. The method, how they are going this. How is it going to be carried out. If it will be carried out at all. We have to be a little skeptical, and remain vigilant.
HINOJOSA: There is a lot of concern though, about, at this precise moment in history, of course, what the government knew before 9/11, what information, how much information do we in fact have access to? I mean, are they able to -- besides what they are getting from detainees, are they able to get any other information, what would that information possibly be? Where would it be coming from?
BROOKS: The information comes from different sources. You have singles intelligence, from satellites, from wire taps, you also have human intelligence. That's right now, what the FBI and New York City police is doing in the city. They are out right now, querying their sources, asking their sources, what do you know about this information.
You have a large puzzle, trying to put all of the pieces together. The only way to do this is by humans, there has to be someone, if there is going to be an act, there is going to be someone probably here in New York that will carry out that act. They are out there in the -- asking their sources, what do you know about this information, trying to see if it is credible information coming from the detainees. Again, we have to be skeptical about the information.
HINOJOSA: It seems to me you are taking this skeptical pretty seriously while other people seem to be saying these are possible attacks and we should be jumping on this. How do you balance between the two?
BROOKS: You take the information of the known and the information of the unknown. And there is some middle ground in between. Through that middle ground in between, that's where they are trying to find out through different intelligence sources, through different wire taps.
I guarantee you now, the FBI and NYPD are working furiously, working together on trying to find out exactly what this is. Again, there is this common middle ground, whether the information is valid or not. What kind of veracity there is to the information. I think over the course of the next couple of days, we will find out whether or not this information is valid.
HINOJOSA: What if, for example, and we are really going out on a limb here, for example could they be saying these possible attacks again the bridge or Statue of Liberty, attention is focused on those particular landmarks and then something else happens somewhere else?
BROOKS: Absolutely. Could be a false flag. We have the holiday coming up, Memorial Day coming up. Terrorism sometimes is anniversary driven. No specific anniversary on Memorial Day, but a lot of people out and about. Are they trying to push the right buttons to get us, to withdraw, to close monuments and do those things and would we be succumbing their threats? So I think we have to be careful and really take a closer look at these threats. But with that, we can't discount them though. We have to remember that we can't discount them.
HINOJOSA: With information you have right now, what would you do?
BROOKS: I would keep the monuments open, query my assets, query my sources, find out what they know about it. Right now, I guarantee you, they're down with the detainees, the FBI, other intelligence officials in Guantanamo Bay that are asking them again and again. And they are taking other information they have gotten in the past and putting that together to see if there is any links to make a whole picture here.
HINOJOSA: So as you can see, Judy, the question of what people do now with the information, perhaps about what happened regarding the information that the president and the government did or did not know pre-September 11, now there is an attempt to connect the dots to see if there is any larger puzzle that this information, however sketchy that we are getting right now might help to fill in -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: CNN's Maria Hinojosa in New York City. As we keep an eye on these new terror alerts, we want to tell you there were new developments and more questions here in Washington today about what the government knew in the days an months before September 11. CNN's congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl has the latest on the growing calls for an investigation.
KARL (voice-over): Setting up a collision course with the White House, the top Democrats in Congress called for a national commission to investigate what went wrong on September 11.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: There is A troubling trend that is now under way regarding the administration unwillingness to share information within the bureau's and agencies of this White House and of the administration itself, as well as with Congress, regarding the attack of September 11. That trend is disturbing.
KARL: Daschle said a broad inquiry is needed in light of the reports that attorney general and FBI director have known for almost eight months about the so-called Phoenix FBI memo, that warned of Middle Eastern men training at U.S. flight schools.
DASCHLE: This is a very disconcerting new report. I think it is all the more reason why we have to get to the bottom of what it was we knew and when we knew it. KARL: House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt echoed Daschle's call for a commission, but the idea drew a cool reception from Republican leaders.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MINORITY LEADER: We have a bipartisan, bicameral arrangement right now, House and Senate, Republican and Democrat, chairman of the House Republican, chairman of the Senate is a Democrat, respected members that know how to get at the information needed. I don't think a commission would serve that good a purpose now and it would be weeks, months, before it would ever produce anything.
KARL: The national commission would be separate from the joint House and Senate intelligence committee investigation under way. That investigation which will be conducted largely in secret is examining the intelligence failure on 9/11. Although the White House has promised to cooperate with intelligence committees, the president is opposed to a broader inquiry, arguing that it would divert resources away from the war on terrorism.
Attorney General John Ashcroft just got an earful from the top Democrats and Republicans on the intelligence committees who called a meeting with him to express complaints about the level of cooperation they are getting from the Justice Department. That meeting just broke up.
Before going into it, the Senate intelligence chairman, Bob Graham told reporters quote, "we cannot conduct the kind of investigation the American people and our colleagues expect us to do unless we get a higher cooperation from the Department of Justice."
He also said that if that meeting was not to be successful, that he would go down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and have another discussion, presumably with the president. That meeting just broke up. The four top members of those committees came forward, Democrat and Republican, and called it a giant step forward in terms of the level of operation between White House and Congress on this investigation.
But he also said it remains to be seen what happens from here. Meanwhile, FBI special agents Kenneth Williams, the author of the famous Phoenix memo is also on Capitol Hill in another closed door meeting here with Robert Mueller,the FBI director in a secret meeting, a private meeting with Judiciary committee, again asking questions about the Phoenix FBI memo why it wasn't heeded and also why it wasn't shared with Congress until last week -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Jon Karl, a lot of questions being asked today on the hill.
All of the blunt talk about a future terror attack on U.S. soil has brought back old worries for a lot of people. We asked our Bruce Morton to see how Americans are reacting to these latest warnings.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are Americans more nervous these days? They have had enough warnings.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my opinion, the prospects of a future attack against the United States are almost certain.
MORTON: FBI director Robert Mueller on suicide bombings in the U.S.: "I think we will see that in the future. I think it is inevitable."
Homeland security chief Tom Ridge agrees.
TOM RIDGE, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY: This is the kind of terrorist attack that is almost impossible to stop, to guarantee absolute security against.
MORTON: Is anxiety growing? A CBS news poll taken Sunday and Monday shows that 33 percent of Americans now think another terrorist attack is very likely; up from 25 percent last week. More nervous?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only in the way that we worry about where your family is at, and what they are doing. You want to stay closer to your friends. You tell everybody you love them everyday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm a different person. I appreciate life more. I kiss my children more. And just, I have more fear.
MORTON: Terrorism doesn't worry everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell, no. No, no. Why should it? Why should I aggravate myself. Man, you got to be crazy!
MORTON: Most people in that CBS poll approved of issuing the alerts even if they are not specific.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try to exaggerate with it. But I take it serious enough to the point that, like I said, I'm more cautious with my family.
MORTON: Reports mention terrorists coming ashore from cargo ships, mention filling apartments in high rise buildings with explosives. The problem is sorting it all out.
MAYER MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: The problem is, there are so many threats around the world, and most of them, 99.99 percent are baseless. If you stopped everything for every threat, the world would shut down and terrorists would win.
MORTON: One report warned of a 4th of July attack on U.S. nuclear power plant, roughly half but only half, of those in a recent Fox News poll thought that was very or somewhat likely. The other half didn't.
BLOOMBERG: Let the professionals worry about security. Exercise some common sense.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just have to live my life as best I can and not worry about everything.
MORTON: Where do you stand? Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: After months of debate, a key decision today on airline security. The federal transportation security chief says pilots will not be allowed to keep guns in the cockpit. John Magaw told a Senate committee that pilots need to concentrate on flying the plane. The only armed people on board should be specially trained air marshals.
But the agency is still considering whether to allow pilots to use nonlethal weapons such as stun guns or tasers. Some lawmakers are vowing to keep pushing for guns in the cockpit. They call today's decision ill-advised.
We will go inside the intelligence community when INSIDE POLITICS returns. A former CIA deputy director joins me to talk about terrorist threats and agency limitations.
Is there a political price for so-called intelligence failures? Two views of the president's standing ahead in our "Taking Issue" segment.
Plus, on the road with U2's Bono and the unlikely partner sharing top billing on his tour of Africa.
WOODRUFF: For some insight on what U.S. intelligence agencies have known in recent years, how they operate and how they process sensitive information, I spoke on the record today with John Gannon. He served as CIA deputy director for intelligence during the Clinton Administration. He resigned in the middle of last year. I started by asking about the warnings contained in a 1999 CIA report on what al Qaeda was capable of.
JOHN GANNON, FMR. CIA DEP. DIR. INTELLIGENCE: Well, it did say quite explicitly that al Qaeda could hijack aircraft, load them with explosives and crash them into the Pentagon, the White House, and I think the third institution in there was CIA.
WOODRUFF: This was in 1999, and this was an unclassified...
GANNON: This was September of 1999.
WOODRUFF: The Bush White House says this information never reached them until just a few days ago. How could that be?
GANNON: Well, the report clearly never did go directly to the White House. It was a research project done again to inform a larger projects that the National Intelligence Council was working on. The issue of actually predicting, you know, the -- the aircraft might be used by terrorists was something I think generally known in the intelligence community, among terrorism experts.
WOODRUFF: So when President Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice says this is something no one had imagined, then what do you say to that -- using planes to go into buildings?
GANNON: Right. I would say, two things, I think that the national security adviser's defense of the president was right on. This particular talking point, that is, that no one thought of using aircraft to crash into a building was not correct. In fact, many, many had -- many of us had thought of this. It was just seen to be a live option for a terrorist.
What I would say is that national security adviser had a bad talking point and an otherwise worthy defense of the president.
WOODRUFF: The other question raised here is that the CIA had this information plus other information. Meanwhile, the FBI was gathering information about Arabs in flight schools out in the, you know, west midwestern United States. Why was this information never put together? You have have been part of the intelligence community.
GANNON: I think there was a lot of information that was put together. And again, on the FBI memo, I don't know the answer, and I think that's one of the things that the hopefully the Congress in this investigation and whatever other investigations emerge will tackle.
But, what I would say to you if you look at way a president is briefed on a daily basis or the Congress is briefed, as a matter of fact, we would have said at that time in 1999, when I left the government in just June of last year, we were still saying, that terrorists may choose conventional weapons. But terrorists may also, it would be memos talking about chemical weapons, a lot of memos talking about biological weapons, radiological weapons, the extent to which terrorists could get a hold of nuclear materials.
We were talking about the cyber threat, the...
WOODRUFF: You are saying it was out there, but that no one was putting it all together.
GANNON: I was saying it was out there along with a lot of other potential threats. The use of conventional weapons was another possibility, from the very rich menu that terrorists could choose from.
There was no predicted intelligence, that is to say that, we see an actual event coming and we have hard intelligence, Mr. President or anybody else, that that -- that the terrorists are in fact planning to do a conventional -- use conventional weapons or chemical weapons or anything else.
WOODRUFF: Finally, about this investigation, right now a lot of debate about whether it should a debate confined to the House and Senate intelligence committees or should it be broader than that. What's your view?
GANNON: My view is that the intelligence committees, the Congress I think may well conduct an investigation that will offer some criticism and be insightful. But my view in terms of bringing the intelligence community in the future, which I think should be the real agenda here, I think we need all of the help we can get from the best minds in our country.
That means the best people in information technology. The best people in diplomacy. The best people in science and technology, the world and also the best people I think in terms of state and local government.
WOODRUFF: So broader independent investigation, is that what you are saying?
GANNON: Going after the best minds and experience in our country help the intelligence community ask the question, how can we do better for the future.
WOODRUFF: But not enough to do it in the Congress?
GANNON: I think my own judgment s it will not be enough in Congress. We do need the outside help.
WOODRUFF: Why not?
GANNON: I'm not sure exactly what the Congress, the mission of the investigation of the Congress is. Is it to look back and assign blame? Or is it really to look ahead to the future, to the very complex threats we see and to get an intelligence committee in a position to deal with those threats in the best way possible. I don't think the capability to do that exists in the Congress.
WOODRUFF: That was John Gannon, former deputy CIA director for intelligence.
As we have been reporting, there are recent news media reports that have included bits and pieces from classified intelligence documents providing some new clues about what government agencies knew before September 11. Where is all this inside information coming from? Bill Schneider has some thoughts on that.
SCHNEIDER: What is causing all the turmoil here in Washington? Could it be leaks from an administration that is supposed to be leak proof?
(voice-over): Washington runs on leaks.
STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Leaks are a terribly important way that the press plays a role in sort of lubricating the whole institution. SCHNEIDER: Washington is very well lubricated right now with stories about what the FBI knew and what the CIA knew and what they did and did not tell the White House.
HESS: Remember, the biggest place that leaks occur is on Capitol Hill with Congress.
SCHNEIDER: But not the only place. The CIA and FBI had been in a grudge match for decades. Grudge leaks are a way to get even. And there are policy leaks made to advance a cause.
HESS: It is important to know what did happen before 9/11 and how unprepared or prepared we were in that situation.
SCHNEIDER: The Bush Administration has prided itself on running a leak-proof operation. When word got out about a congressional briefing last fall, the president was furious.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want Congress to hear loud and clear, it is unacceptable behavior to leak classified information when we have troops at risk.
SCHNEIDER: Want to hear a really devious theory? The information didn't come from leaks at all. It came from reporting.
HESS: A lot of things we think are leaks are not leaks. They are reporters who are good reporters who have put together the story.
SCHNEIDER: Experts say more damage has been done by information that has been kept secret than by information that's been leaked. That's why leaks may be essential in a democracy. As noted, presidential scholar Richard Newstadt put it, a leak is an appeal public opinion. Leaks don't occur in dictatorships -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Very good point. Or if they do, there is heck to pay.
WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks very much. Just ahead, our "Taking Issues" segment zeros in on the fall out of the pre-9/11 warnings. We will hear from Betsy Hart and Michelle Cottle.
WOODRUFF: Our INSIDE POLITICS newscycle: Citing an abundance of caution, the FBI has alerted authorities in New York City to be ready for possible terrorist attacks against landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. Sources tell us the information was gathered from detainees from the war on terrorism and has not been corroborated.
FBI director Robert Mueller and one of his agents are heading to Capitol Hill for a closed-door meeting on terror warnings. That meeting gets under way just about a half hour from now. The agent wrote the so-called Phoenix memo last summer, raising questions about Arab students taking flight lessons in the United States. That memo was forwarded to FBI headquarters, but no action was taken.
Protesters gathered today in Berlin ahead of President Bush's visit. Mr. Bush arrives in the German Capital tomorrow. It is the first stop on his six-day visit.
And with us now, Betsy Hart of Scripps Howard News Service and Michelle Cottle of "The New Republic."
Michelle, to you first.
These terror warnings today in New York. Yesterday, over the weekend, it was the vice president. Then it was Secretary Rumsfeld today. Should all this be being made public or not?
MICHELLE COTTLE, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, the problem seems to be that they're not putting it in much of a context.
They say they've heard something from a detainee, but it is uncorroborated. And then you start this mass panic. The Cheney warning was even vaguer. It's like, "We know there will be an attack again soon."
Well, yes, thank you. That's very helpful. But what does that mean for us? What are we supposed to do with this information? Unless there's some kind of corroborated specifics, I'm just not sure how helpful it is to put this out there.
BETSY HART, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE: Which kind of goes to the question, the whole sort of: What did Bush know and when did he know it?
What would he have done if he decided to go public with that information then? And how would the press have jumped on him with these supposedly very loosey-goosey warnings about possible hijackings?
WOODRUFF: You mean, before September the 11th.
HART: Right, before the actual attacks.
The one thing that could be done then and can be done now, it seems to me, is to start saying: You know what? We need to engage in some ethnic profiling or profiling by country of origin, whatever you want to call it, and to say every single terrorist atrocity so far has been caused by young Arab males.
Now, maybe that's not going to continue to be the case. But for right now -- and by that, I mean males from the Middle East -- we need to be keeping a special eye on these people. And we need to be saying: We're going to give you a harder time when you go to airports, when you go to monuments. We're sorry. We hope that doesn't have to continue forever, but right now we're under attack. It is people with your origin who are doing it. And we're going to face that, even if it is politically incorrect.
WOODRUFF: It this an argument to do that, Michelle?
COTTLE: Well, I think the American public at this point is not necessarily going to put up with that. But you have seen in it airports.
WOODRUFF: Put up with profiling?
COTTLE: Put up with the racial profiling. But you do see it at airports. It is, in certain areas where people are really, really nervous, becoming more acceptable. And I think, if there is another attack, I think it will suddenly become much more palpable to the vast majority of the public.
HART: Well, actually, polls do show that, particularly at airports, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of some sort of ethnic profiling.
I think we all think it is ridiculous to see the little old lady in a wheelchair being searched with a random search and not sort of the young Middle Eastern student. And until that stops and we face the facts of what really needs to be done here to make us more secure, I don't see how we get beyond sort of these vague warnings and into actually taking some action that might prevent something from happening.
WOODRUFF: All right, let's move on to this whole question what kind of investigation should be there be, if any. We know the two intelligence committees in the House and Senate are looking into what the administration knew, what more should have been done with intelligence information.
Michelle, there is obviously out there now the call for there to be an independent commission. A former CIA deputy director on this program just now said he thinks that's a better idea. What's the right course?
COTTLE: I appreciate the concern and the call for this, but the truth is, these commissions tend to take on a life of their own. And they just roll out of control and become this huge unstoppable juggernaut.
And we've already got the Congress looking into this. When you have people overlapping, then they start stepping on each other's toes. But this does need to be looked into. This should not be kind of brushed away or kind of half looked into.
HART: But it seems to me here's the problem.
We certainly had some real security lapses, between the FBI, the CIA and so forth. If Congress looks into this, it seems to me, Congress could be culpable for a lot of what's going on. They have the oversight committees. They are constantly holding oversight hearings. What was their role in all of this? They had a lot of this information and these documents before September 11. They didn't catch what was going on. Are they going to be able to say, "Hey, we're at fault, too"?
That's why, it seems to me, you do have to have an outside commission. You also have to look at what Congress may have done over the years to gut and limit the capacity of the CIA to operate. And only an outside commission is going to look at that. And, hopefully, it will be less political than what's going on in Congress. You saw what happened last week with all of this jumping on the bandwagon of, "What did Bush know?" how political Congress can be in these things.
WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to leave it there.
Betsy Hart, Michelle Cottle, good to see you both.
COTTLE: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it very much.
And I have just been handed a statement that has been issued by Raymond Kelly, who is the New York City police commissioner. And I'm going to read it to you now.
It says: "The New York City Police Department has received information from the FBI about general threats to New York City." And he goes on to say: "We are taking all necessary precautions and communicating with the appropriate law enforcement agencies on both the state and federal level."
So, not much more than we already knew, but we wanted to share this with you, since it did come directly from the New York City police commissioner, Raymond Kelly.
Coming up: It is just over two years until the Democrats and Republicans gather -- believe it or not -- for their national conventions. But already there is a controversy brewing over the timing of those events. We will get the "Inside Buzz" from Candy Crowley.
WOODRUFF: We're going to take you momentarily to Capitol Hill, where House Republican Whip Tom DeLay is talking with reporters about the proposal that there be an outside commission to look into any intelligence failures before September the 11th.
He's responding to a call by the House and Senate Democratic leaders for an independent commission. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: ... knew of an attack and did not tell the American people. At least two of the Democrats engaged in this argument, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, sit on the Intelligence Committee and should know better and should know to be more responsible.
Here are some of the arguments that come from Democrat leaders. Attacks by Dick Gephardt -- quote -- "We need to know what information was given to the White House and what they did with it. And we also need to know why it's taken until now to find that this information -- to find this information out." Gephardt then backtracks, and he says -- I quote -- "Sometimes people overreact to things and think we're in a political campaign. This is not about politics."
Then Gephardt attacks again, and he says -- and I quote -- "What we have to do now is to find out what the president and what the White House knew about the events leading up to 9/11, when they knew it, and, most importantly, what was done about it at that time." That was today.
And I also saw where he started backtracking, saying all he's talking about is, we need to do better. Well, we've been doing better since 9/11. We've been passing legislation that does better. And we are protecting lives almost every day as we learn how to do better. And we are doing better.
Hillary Clinton, Senator Clinton said: "We have learned something today that raises a number of serious questions. We have learned that President Bush has been informed last year, before September 11, of a possible plot by those associated with Osama bin Laden to hijack a U.S. airliner."
John Conyers said last August -- or, on August 14 in the year 2000: "I want to see America have better relationships through the world -- all this talk about terrorists just because we don't have the communists to fear anymore. Let's take all the money we put into anti-terrorism programs and put it into our schools. If we win just six new Democratic seats in the Congress, we'll take the anti- terrorism law off the books," the Michigan congressman vowed.
Another investigation into 9/11 would be duplicative and detrimental in our war on terrorism. The experts on the Intelligence Committee are months into an investigation and have already reviewed over 185,000 pages of documents. This investigation is going to instruct us about how we can better prevent terrorist attacks in the future. This commission that's called for would make waste out of months of work and resources.
And, frankly, I think it is an insult to both the Democrat and Republican chairmen and ranking members on the Senate's Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
WOODRUFF: Republican Whip Tom DeLay at a news conference on Capitol Hill, weighing in with his view that there should not be an independent commission to look into intelligence failures and difficulties before September the 11th.
He's clearly taking issue with his Democratic counterpart in the House and over in the Senate, leadership calling for that independent commission to supplement what the intelligence committees themselves are doing.
Well, now turning to some "Inside Buzz" on the 2004 political conventions: The Republicans today set a date for their convention, leaving the Democrats with a big decision to make.
Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, has more.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Get out your Palm Pilot and enter this: August 30, 2004, the day Republicans will open their presidential nominating convention, the latest date ever for a national party. Traditionally, the party out of the White House goes first. And Democrats initially picked July 19 for their convention. But now they threaten to hold it the same week as Republicans.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, clearly, we would let President Bush go Thursday night and then the nominee of our party could go Wednesday night. I think it would be exciting.
CROWLEY: Now, you know this is not about dates. It's about the two big mo's: money and momentum. A convention is pretty much two weeks of free advertising: the week of and the week following, when candidates ride their nomination bounce around the country in various modes of transportation.
It also marks the beginning of the general campaign, which means the candidate can get a new infusion of federal cash. Worried that a competitive and front-loaded primary season will leave them with a broke nominee by March, Democrats wanted an early convention to get ahold of that new money. But Republicans suspect Democrats picked July 19 to force the Republicans into an early August convention and put them in competition with the Summer Olympics.
MARC RACICOT, RNC CHAIRMAN: The bottom line is that, once the Democrats made their choice, and you have August blurred by the Olympics, there wasn't a lot of time left for us to be able to choose a moment where we could have a convention on the same terms and conditions under which the Democrats were going to be proceeding.
CROWLEY: Even conceding that, there is solid political advantage to a late August date. It means the Republican Convention bounce will go into the critical fall months and that Bush opens September with a big wad of cash, while the July-nominated Democratic candidate will have already spent a month-and-a-half worth of his.
CROWLEY: In this particular dating game, checkmate Republicans, who leave Democrats in the position of sticking with the July convention date, thus conceding the fall bounce and money edge to Republicans, or moving to an August convention, leaving the Democratic nominee pretty much flat broke through the dog days of summer -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: You're right. On this one, chalk it up for the Republicans.
OK, Candy Crowley, thanks very much. Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": New York Republican Governor George Pataki is kicking off his TV and radio ad campaign. The TV and radio ads were scheduled to start running statewide today. The spots promote Pataki as a tax-cutting crime fighter. Two ads aimed at Hispanic voters are in Spanish.
Mitt Romney is headed back to Utah to raise some campaign cash. Romney is scheduled to hold two fund-raisers tomorrow in Salt Lake City, where he served as chief executive of this year's Winter Olympics. Later tonight, Vice President Cheney attends a Romney fund- raiser in Boston.
Primaries are under way in three states today, including the big Democratic race for governor in Pennsylvania. As we reported yesterday from the state capital, Harrisburg, Bob Casey Jr. and Ed Rendell are in a tight battle for the gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania.
Voters are also casting ballots for the primaries for governor and senator in Oregon. And, in Arkansas, Republicans are considering party challengers to Senator Tim Hutchinson and Governor Mike Huckabee.
We will be right back.
WOODRUFF: Senior analyst Jeff Greenfield is with us now.
All right, Jeff for all the attempts to point fingers and assign blame coming off of 9/11, what is the history of gaining or losing political ground in the wake of attacks like we had on this country, or military setbacks?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, actually, there's very little evidence that an administration suffers politically because of a disaster like 9/11.
After Pearl Harbor, the Republicans spent years, decades, even, trying to argue either that Franklin Roosevelt knew this was coming, so he could get us involved in World War II, or should have known. The only suffering, the only consequences were paid by military brass who were in command at Pearl Harbor. Their careers were effectively ruined.
There's just no accountability history. In a place like Great Britain or Japan or Israel, you would probably have found Cabinet members, intelligence chiefs resigning in the wake of something like 9/11. But, traditionally, it just doesn't happen in the United States.
WOODRUFF: Why not?
GREENFIELD: I think we are a very impatient or forward-looking -- if you want to be nice about it -- people. We want to ask, "OK, what's next?" And what has happened, traditionally, is, once we get involved in a conflict, even if it was caused in part by a failure of intelligence or alertness, we want to know: "All right, what happens? Are we going to win this thing?" And as long as an administration is successfully prosecuting a conflict, the murky origins tend to fade away.
By contrast, when we get in trouble, that's when the questions start arising. You may remember -- I know you do -- the questions about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that opened the door to escalation in Vietnam. They didn't really start bothering the Johnson administration until that war turned into a stalemate. And I think that's pretty much the pattern of what happens.
When Bush the first got involved with the Kuwaiti invasion, there was a lot of talk that the administration had kilted too much toward Iraq, that we had given Saddam confusing signals. But once the United States committed massive military force and drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait, those questions just went away. I think that's how Americans have traditionally behaved in these situations.
WOODRUFF: So, what does that mean for right now?
GREENFIELD: Well, let me be very somber.
I think what it means is that, if these warnings that we're hearing actually bear horrible fruit, that is, if there is an attack on America, particularly on American soil, with a lot of casualties, that is when this Bush administration will begin to pay a political price, because then all these questions, which are now bound up in politics and what seems to be a kind of blame game or a cover your backside, if I may be polite, that's when those though questions will take on literally terrifying life-and-death dimensions. And that's where I think the questions then just take on a toxic quality for the president.
WOODRUFF: All right, stuff we all have to think about.
Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much. And we'll see you tomorrow. Thanks.
Well, just when you thought it was safe to balance the budget, the big spenders return.
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RUDY PENNER, URBAN INSTITUTE: We're back to a situation where every committee and subcommittee makes their spending plan. Nobody seems to be adding it up.
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WOODRUFF: A look at the reasons behind the return of red ink in Washington.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: It wasn't so long ago that big government spending and big deficits were thought to be a thing of the past -- well, not anymore.
CNN's Brooks Jackson checks the government balance sheet.
BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Suddenly it's back: red ink. The federal budget is suddenly deeply in deficit.
DAVID WYSS, CHIEF ECONOMIST, STANDARD & POOR'S: Well, we are looking for a little over $100 billion, $100-$110 billion, it looks like right now. But, of course, if Congress keeps spending, it could be worse than that.
JACKSON (on camera): The numbers show what happened. Just a couple of months ago, the Congressional Budget Office forecast a balanced federal budget this year, $5 billion in surplus, despite a tax cut, recession and terrorists.
(voice-over): Then Congress passed more tax cuts and more spending to stimulate the economy, $51 billion this year, and an election-year farm bill, just over $1.5 billion this year, but $8-$10 billion a year thereafter.
Then a rude surprise from the IRS, which collected $60 billion less than expected in April, blamed mostly on last year's falling stock market.
(on camera): Result: the likelihood of a triple-digit deficit this year for the first time since 1996. Now, economists say that's still relatively small, just white noise in a $2 trillion budget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we can keep it to an error of no more than $100 billion deficit or $100 billion surplus, then I don't think the economy will notice the difference.
JACKSON (voice-over): But Congress is not through yet. Supplemental funding for current military operations and homeland defense, such as federalized airport security, will add billions more.
Some in Congress already are pushing additional billions for drought relief, though the red ink on the farm bill is barely dry. And next year could be worse. The president wants $26 billion more for military spending next year, but Congress may approve even more than that. The energy bill contains billions more in tax breaks for buyers of high-mileage hybrid cars and energy-efficient homes. And who knows how many billions it will cost to add a promised prescription drug benefit to Medicare? Budget experts say Congress is losing self-control.
PENNER: We are back to a situation where every committee and subcommittee makes their spending plan. Nobody seems to be adding it up. There's no formal mechanism for relating expenditures to receipts. I think it's a very worrisome problem. JACKSON: At the rate they are going, some experts say next year's deficit could be pushing $200 billion.
(on camera): Modest deficits for only a year or two could actually help the economy as it recovers, but not if Congress lets deficits pile up, like the 28 years of consecutive deficits that started in 1970.
Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: Well, INSIDE POLITICS will be right back, but first, let's find out what's ahead on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at the top of the hour -- here's Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Thank you very much, Judy.
We're following a breaking news story: the new terror threats to landmarks in New York City, including the Statue of Liberty. We're live with details. Also, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell ratchet up the alarm bells. Will terrorists get their hands on weapons of mass destruction? We'll get inside analysis from a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, Nancy Pelosi.
All that and much more coming up at the top of the hour, right after INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.
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About Future Terror Threats; Washington Leaks Help Players Make Points>