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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Boxer, Armey Discuss Homeland Security; Lott Discusses Intelligence Leaks

Aired June 23, 2002 - 12:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The Congress of the United States and the president of the United States unite. No challenge is too great, no cause is out of reach. No dream is impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The White House delivers new homeland security legislation to the U.S. Congress. But will it make a real difference in the war on terror?

We'll ask the House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer about homeland security, war plans for Iraq and more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I strongly condemn these series of attacks. I fully recognize that Israel's got the right to defend herself and all parties who are interested in getting on the path to peace must do everything they can to reject this terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president struggles to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. How far will he go? We'll talk to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Perez and Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Shaath.

And in an exclusive Sunday interview, we'll question the new president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, about tensions in his country, the search for Osama bin Laden and the continuing war on terror.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: It's noon in Washington; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 8:30 p.m. Kabul. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.

We'll get to the House Majority Leader Dick Armey and the Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in just a few minutes, but first, a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: I want to go now to Kabul where we have an exclusive Sunday interview with the new President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai.

Mr. President, first of all, congratulations and welcome back to LATE EDITION. I want to begin with this latest report suggesting that Osama bin Laden is indeed alive and well, capable still of orchestrating terror against U.S. targets.

What can you tell us, from your perspective, Mr. President?

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Well, I heard that, too, but I have no information as to where he is. Osama bin Laden must know that, whatever acts of terror he think he can commit, will not remain unanswered, and that his days are anyway numbered.

He better not cause any more trouble. He better deliver himself to law. And he better see a trial and justice done.

BLITZER: Mr. President, why is it so hard for the U.S., your forces, Pakistani forces to find Osama bin Laden? We heard from the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, saying that the best information is, he's probably in western Pakistan, in an area controlled by various tribes.

What makes it so difficult to find him?

KARZAI: Well, he's an individual hiding in a house, not moving around, probably, or not communicating with anybody. It's easy to hide. Some criminals have hidden for 10, 12 years around the world. So, criminals can hide, and it's very difficult to find an individual.

But he will be found one day, sooner or later. That is for sure.

(CROSSTALK)

KARZAI: And as far as us and the government of Pakistan and the U.S. is concerned, my idea is that there has to be a three-way cooperation, a tripartite cooperation between us and the government of Pakistan and the U.S., and we must move together into an operation to find people like Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: So, in other words, what you're saying, it should be a U.S.Afghan, and Pakistani forces, jointly operating and going into that area, sort of the tribal area, looking for Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants?

KARZAI: Whether a joint operation of forces or exchange of information or an understanding on the methods applied, all sorts of practical cooperation that may lead to finding him and his associates. BLITZER: Mr. President, as you know better than anyone, the former leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is still on the loose as well. What can you tell us about his whereabouts?

KARZAI: We have been hearing that he's been sometimes in Afghanistan; sometimes we've heard that he's crossed over to Pakistan. I am sure Mullah Omar is much less known than -- facial-wise, his appearance is not known to people, but he, too, was tracked once or twice, and we almost got him. The search for him is going on as well.

BLITZER: But you believe he, like Osama bin Laden, is still alive?

KARZAI: Yes, I believe he is alive.

BLITZER: What kind of threat do the remaining al Qaeda and Taliban forces in your country, in Afghanistan, pose to you, to U.S. and other coalition forces there?

KARZAI: They are a defeated force. They are on the run. They are hiding. And we are after them.

So, in those terms, they are not a threat at all to the government. There may be individuals, or a group of a few people who may try to do terroristic activities, things like that. That's not the kind of challenge that we cannot face. We will definitely face them, and we are looking for them. It's a defeated force, after all. We should not consider them a force that can pose a threat.

Terrorism can occur anywhere. What matters for us is that we have defeated them, they are no longer a government, they are no longer a movement, they are hiding. They are not in public any more.

They are criminals in hiding.

BLITZER: With that in mind, how much longer do you believe U.S. troops, military forces will have to remain in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: For as long as it takes to completely finish terrorism from the face of the earth, for as long as it takes to completely finish them in this region, and we are willing to cooperate with the international community in that. This is very much in the interest of the Afghan people, in the interest of our security, and also in the interest of the international community, including the United States.

BLITZER: Is that a matter of a few more months, or several more years?

KARZAI: It's a matter of finishing the job. Whenever the job is done, then we will decide.

BLITZER: It is fair to say you and your troops, your forces are effectively in control of all of Afghanistan right now?

KARZAI: Yes, of course. BLITZER: There's no al Qaeda pockets to Taliban pockets out there that represent a potential autonomous area or a threat to your government?

KARZAI: Definitely not a potential autonomous area, definitely not. They may be in hiding in mountains, in groups of two or three or five or six or individuals hiding in homes around.

They're not a potential threat. They're not having any territory. They are in the run. They are hiding.

BLITZER: How much money, Mr. President, do you believe Afghanistan, your country, needs now after two decades of various bloodshed? How much money do you need from the United States and the international community to help rebuild Afghanistan?

KARZAI: Well, we were promised in Tokyo $4.5 billion for five years and $1.8 billion for this year. If those pledges could be made true, Afghanistan will do well.

In addition to that, it's extremely important for the United States and the rest of the friendly countries to us in Europe and the region to help build the national army of Afghanistan so that eventually we can be on our own, so that, eventually, we can continue to fight terrorism on our own and protect the country.

BLITZER: As you know very, very well, men in Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule, were severely oppressed. And women, of course, had a great deal of hope with your interim government, now with your presidency, that they will have total freedom, complete freedom in Afghanistan.

Yet a lot of women, especially here in the United States have noticed that the woman who has supposed to be the minister for women's affairs in your government, has not received that position, and indeed, there may not even be a position for women's affairs.

I wonder if you'd care to explain what's going on on that sensitive issue?

KARZAI: The ministry for women's affairs is there. I've been interviewing quite a few candidates today for that job. That kind of search is going on. I just had about two hours ago, I believe, with a few fine Afghan lady, who I consider for this ministry. I'm going to look around more. I will talk with some more women in Afghanistan and Afghan women in Europe before deciding on who should be the minister.

I have offered both jobs, the minister of women's affairs and the commissioner for human rights, to Dr. Sima Samar. She opted for the commission for human rights. And I'll be very glad if she takes the leadership of the commissioner for human rights.

The minister for women's affairs is very much there. The structure is there, and a minister will be appointed in a day or two, probably even tomorrow. BLITZER: President Karzai, the last time we met, it was here in Washington, when I interviewed you at Georgetown University. Thanks so much for giving us this exclusive interview on CNN now that you are the president of Afghanistan.

Congratulations, once again. Best of luck to you and to every one in Afghanistan. We appreciate it very much.

And when we come back, we will check in on with two key members of the United States Congress, the House Majority Leader, Dick Armey and Senator Barbara Boxer, a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Obviously, there is concern in our society about the possible terrorist attacks. I think most people in America know we're doing everything we can to deal with it, particularly tracing these people down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush talking about the continuing threat of terror attacks.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now, two key members of the United States Congress. In Dallas, the leader of -- the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, the majority leader, Dick Armey of Texas. Here in Washington, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, she's a member of the Senate foreign relations committee. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Congressman Armey, let me begin with you, and read to you this latest statement from Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who is a spokesman, if you will, for Osama bin Laden, that was reported on Al Jazeera television earlier. He says this: "Our martyrs are ready for operations against American and Jewish targets inside and outside America, should be prepared. It should be ready. We are coming to them where they never expected."

What do you make of this threat from someone high up in al Qaeda?

REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I wouldn't call it new news for sure. We are ready. We do anticipate. The evil is there. We understand that we and the Jewish community are the targets. We understand the hatred they have.

And our job is to anticipate them, discover them, interdict them, and stop them. This is basically what it has been since September 11, clear understanding in America, the evil forces are prepared to attack us in the most vicious ways, and we are prepared to stop it from happening. BLITZER: The -- Senator Boxer, the spokesman for al Qaeda, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, also reportedly says this: "The American operation was not able to destroy the organization," referring to al Qaeda, "The system is still there. Al Qaeda is not a fragile organization." And he then goes on and says, "I really want to assure the Muslims that Sheikh Osama bin Laden is in good health."

Is that the best information that you have as well?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, no.

I mean, we've seen Osama bin Laden on television. The last tape, he doesn't look very good. He's not well. So that's number one. Number two, you know, I would say there's a lot of bravado there, but Dick Armey is right. We must be prepared for them, and, if we listen to exclusive interview with Hamid Karzai -- and congratulations, I thought it was a wonderfully important interview -- I mean, he basically has it. They are on the run. Yes, there are some of them who can carry out some missions. And we need to be ready.

But I say we have to keep our eye on what happened in 9/11, and follow those dots. The Congress gave explicit authority to this president to follow those dots, to keep his eye on that, and I think, if we do that, we can thwart the next attack if there should be one.

BLITZER: Congressman Armey, as you well know, a lot of Americans out there believe this war on terror will never be won without either the capture or the death of Osama bin Laden. I asked this question to Hamid Karzai, but I'll ask the same question to you. Why is it so hard for the United States and its enormous resources to find this man?

ARMEY: Well, I understand that the Russians looked for a lot of people in Afghanistan for a lot of years, were unable to because of the nature of the terrain and so forth, the nature of the -- the way people move back and forth, especially in these tribal lands.

He will be found eventually. But we should understand, finding and prosecuting or killing bin Laden, that's just part of the process. That doesn't mean it's over. This snake can crawl without its head, and we need to be aware of that.

So, this war is more comprehensive than one man. One man's downfall will be important, it will not be an insignificant event when that fall comes, but it is not a terminal event, and we should not dare to think it will be.

BLITZER: Let me bring back Senator Boxer. You heard the interview with Hamid Karzai. Do you have confidence that he is doing everything he can, as the leader of Afghanistan, working with all the various ethnic groups in there, the Tajiks and everyone else, to help the United States win this war on terror, sort of not looking the other way when Osama bin Laden or perhaps Mullah Omar seem to be just within reach?

BOXER: I have a tremendous amount of confidence in President Karzai, am very impressed with him. Who loses the most if the Taliban come back? Obviously he does, his country does. And he is determined not to see that happen.

And I think when you look at this man and you listen to the way he answered your questions, he's going to keep these people on the run. He's going to give 100 percent cooperation with our forces.

The key thing is for us to -- to not be anxious to get out of there. He asked them the question, "How long?" We can't afford to let there be a void in Afghanistan or for that matter any where else in the world where these people can move in.

We've got to keep them on the run, keep them underground and make sure our intelligence sources can infiltrate, and I think, in the end, we will win this. But it is not going to be easy. But as far as Karzai is concerned, I don't think we could have a better, a better person as president of that country.

BLITZER: Congressman Armey, you heard the president of Afghanistan say basically the United States needs to have an open ended stay militarily in Afghanistan until the job is done. He didn't want to put any time table on that. Is the Congress ready to give the administration that kind of open ended commitment?

ARMEY: I think we do. If we see -- and I think Senator Boxer got it right. It's just like you brush it back here, but if you then walk away, it floods back in. We've got to be prepared to stay there until it is clear that there's no avenue to come back in.

This new Afghan government has got to have time to strengthen itself, establish itself, establish it's relationship with the people in the country, and eventually, they will be able to take care of their own self policing.

Until they're capable, though, it's in our interests and the interest of safety and security of American citizens to make sure that these folks never have a refuge from which to reorganize and regroup themselves into another vicious attack. Keep them scattered, keep them nervous and eventually, just nail them, but don't give them a new haven to return to.

BLITZER: Senator Boxer, there's a front page lead story in The New York Times today about the anthrax that was used. It killed five people in the United States. Two of your Senate colleagues, Senator Leahy, Senator Daschle, were targeted specifically by this individual or individuals who were involved in this anthrax. The report in the Times saying that it's a relatively new strain of anthrax, only two years old or so. What does this say to you about the source of this anthrax, domestic versus perhaps foreign?

BOXER: I can't tell you whether the source was domestic or foreign. What I can tell you is, it's a frightening thing. That anthrax killer is out there. We need to nab this person.

My sense of it is that maybe law enforcement has an idea who it is, but they can't yet prove it. But we need not to spend so much time talking about how we're going to reorganize ourselves, frankly, and keep our eye on these two things: Getting rid of al Qaeda, finding the anthrax killer. These are things we must do.

I mean I had members of my staff on Cipro, the antibiotic for 60 days because we shared the vent system with Senator Daschle. This hits home in my heart, and I have to say we just need a renewed effort to keep our eye on both of these things.

BLITZER: When you were asked, Congressman Armey, administration officials why it's taking so long to solve this crime, what do they say to you?

ARMEY: First of all, I don't ask why it's taking so long. I knew from the outset this is complex. It's difficult. There are all kinds of scattered things out there. We need to be prepared to be persistent and patient. Anybody that gets impatient and throws up their hands in despair is going to betray our hope for a safe and secure nation.

Anybody that fails to be persistent fails to understand the -- how insidious this threat is. We will get to the bottom of it. Eventually we will know these things, but we must be diligent, thorough, persistent and patient.

BLITZER: All right, we have to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about including potential threats involving the Fourth of July. We'll continue our conversation with the House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Senator Barbara Boxer. They'll be taking your phone calls as well when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with U.S. House majority leader, the Republican Congressman Dick Armey of Texas and the California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Congressman Armey, a new CNN-"TIME" Magazine poll that was released on Friday asked the American public how concerned they were about a potential terrorist threat on the 4th of July. A look at this -- very likely, 13 percent, somewhat likely, 44 percent, not likely, 38 percent.

How concerned are you, because as you know, we've been getting all of these warnings based on uncorroborated, sort of vague information out there?

ARMEY: No, I think we need to be alert particularly on such days as our Fourth of July. I think 9/11 was a -- that day was chosen for its symbolic purposes, basically the message, "9/11, whatever you think keeps you safe America, it doesn't keep you safe. Fourth of July, your day of freedom, safety, security and independence, isn't so safe as you think you are."

There's no doubt in mind they would love the symbolism of an attack that was successfully carried out on that day. That is the reason why it is obvious we must be doubly alert on that day, and for the time approaching the Fourth of July.

This is probably what we call in Texas, no thinking thing. It's fairly obvious, I think, to all of us.

BLITZER: In California, there have been some-- the state you represent, Senator Boxer, there's been supposed threats against bridges in the Bay area. LA-X, Los Angeles International Airport was a target a few years ago, as you remember, unsuccessful...

BOXER: Right.

BLITZER: ... target. Do you have information that the Fourth of July is a specific date that there could be some sort of terrorist strike?

BOXER: We are alerted, I would say on a weekly basis. And certainly we have to be alert on July 4th, but my view is, we've got to be alert every day. That's kind of where we are.

I mean, we may think that we're more ready on July 4th, so they strike on July 6th. I think their goal of a terrorist goal, is to make a point. But they can make it any day of the week. And I feel in California with our landmarks that have, we know because we've seen the al Qaeda documents, Wolf, that our landmarks are targeted. So it's West Coast, it's East Coast. It's the middle of the country.

It's a war really, and we need to be prepared. And we need to keep our focus. And it isn't a matter of being impatient. It's -- my concern is keeping our focus, getting the anthrax killer, getting Osama bin Laden and the network, getting Mullah Omar. These are the things that symbols to those people as well.

BLITZER: Congressman Armey, as you know, the president has been mulling over what's being billed as a very important speech on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, in which he is expected to call for an interim or provisional Palestinian state, pending final status issues like borders, Jerusalem and other very sensitive issues.

Is this a good idea for the president in the coming days, perhaps as early as tomorrow, to make this kind of speech proposing an interim Palestinian state?

ARMEY: Well, I think it is. The quite frank fact is there has been such a deterioration in the Middle East, that there is no ground on which the Palestinians and the Israelis can talk to one another.

The president is trying to say, "Let us make that ground that you now stand on separately,independently and aggressively. Let us make that ground to stand on while we try to find a way to talk about peace."

I think he's right now the only man with a plan. He's trying his best to find something that can just initiate the process, and he's basically saying to both sides, "What we've got to do is try to get some kind of a -- just a temporary," -- Lord have mercy, wouldn't we rejoice if we had a one week moratorium on the awful atrocity of these attacks and just try to get started.

Right now, it's the only thing -- the only person that I see that's even trying to find a way to get it started. It's a tough thing. I wish him all of the success in the world with it.

I hope it will work. But one of the things you have to understand about Israel today, Israel will have freedom and it will have peace in that order and on their own terms. And the Palestinians need to understand that. This is not going to come easy. They're going to have to make the first believable gesture.

BLITZER: Senator Boxer, what do you make this president's expected call for an interim Palestinian state?

BOXER: I haven't seen the details of that. I think the president has to be very careful so that we don't get a signal that violence and suicide bombings or homicide bombings as I call them, are going to be rewarded.

But I want to bring up what Senator Kerry said earlier in your show you showed a clip of. You know, when this president came in, he really not only walked away from the peace table, which Bill Clinton had really built, but in essence, that table is gone. It was broken up into tiny peaces.

Now that table itself has to be rebuilt. We have to get people sitting back around it. We need a process. So I hope what the president will do will construct that table and invite the people back. There needs to be confidence building measures there.

And I believe what Dwight Eisenhower said when I was a kid in the '50s, when he said the people of the world really do want peace, and the leaders should get out of their way.

We need to make sure we have a process in place and we can rebuild efforts to peace.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Boxer, Congressman Armey, thanks to both of you for joining us on this Sunday.

And up next, more on the crisis in the Middle East in the aftermath of a new round of Palestinian attacks against Israel. What are the expected next steps?

We will talk with Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Perez. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott talks about presidential fury over an intelligence leak on Capital Hill.

Stay with LATE EDITION for the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. In the coming days, President Bush is expected to unveil a new Middle East peace proposal that could come perhaps even as early as tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the region is reeling from another wave of deadly violence including a pair of suicide bombings in Jerusalem this past week that left 26 Israelis dead.

Joining us now from Jerusalem to talk about where the Israeli government may be going from here is the foreign minister, Shimon Peres.

Mr. Minister, thanks for joining us once again on LATE EDITION. Do you believe, as many as Israel's supporters here in Washington believe, that if the president were to call for an interim Palestinian state now that in effect would be rewarding Palestinian terrorism?

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: I'm convinced that there is a need for political horizon, not just military means.

I think we have to fight terrorism as much and with all the means we can, on one hand, and then open a door for a different future, suggest something that will really bring hope and peace to all the camps.

BLITZER: Does that mean you want the president to go ahead and make his statement this week calling for an interim Palestinian state?

PERES: I, for one, yes. I think the whole region is awaiting the speech of the president. As a matter of fact, things are being hold up because there is this expectation for the announcement by the president.

People attach, and I, too, great importance to the position of the United States and to the declaration of the president.

BLITZER: Will this affect what the Israeli military is now doing and what exactly is the policy of the Israeli military as far as reoccupying chunks of the West Bank in the aftermath of these most recent suicide bombing attacks?

PERES: What we are doing, by all means, is not reoccupying. We don't intend to occupy the cities or any other part of the West Bank and Gaza. We don't intend to stay there permanently and forever.

We don't intend to dismantle the Palestinian Authority or to replace the local municipalities from running the daily life at the places.

What the army is doing is being as close as one may to the nests of terror and to expect suicide bombers and prevent them from doing it.

It is merely and only a fight against terror and terrorism.

BLITZER: And so what about these reports that the Israeli military will stay in those areas as long as these terrorist strikes continue? PERES: As long as it will be necessary, yes. I hope it won't be necessary for a very long time because many of the centers of terror were already revealed and their leaders were old, and I do believe the Palestinians themselves realized that they have to take law and order in their own hands.

The sooner they will do it, the earlier we shall be able to leave the places.

BLITZER: Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Authority president, issued a statement this past week condemning these suicide bombing attacks. Do you believe he is still a potential peace partner with your government?

PERES: The problem is not the personality of Arafat, but the system that exists in the West Bank. If Arafat will become the sole address for peace or order or anti-terror activities, it's one thing.

But as long that in the area, in the West Bank, there were will be four and five different groups, different gangs, each of them shooting and throwing bombs on their own, there won't be a single address among the Palestinians with whom you can talk, negotiate and reach an agreement. It is for the Palestinians' sake, for their own future and seriousness that they have to build a center command and take charge of all the arms and people who are carrying arms.

BLITZER: President Arafat, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, suggested this past week that he's now ready to accept the Bill Clinton proposals that were on the table at the end of the Clinton administration as a starting point for resumed peace negotiations with your government. Is that acceptable to you?

PERES: It's late in the day, and then I'm afraid of Chairman Arafat has a different idea about what Clinton has suggested, different from the suggestions of Clinton.

He says also that he's ready to accept the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Paris proposals, which in my judgment is more down-to-earth, and can become a workable proposal.

BLITZER: So do you believe, at this late date, assuming the president of the United States delivers this speech tomorrow or within the next few days, that resumed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians can get off the ground?

PERES: I don't know what will be the president address, but I think a good way to do it is to have the original conference, and I think that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to continue the informal talks between us, in order to prepare the ground for a conference and for an agreement.

We cannot stop talking even when we continue to fight terror.

BLITZER: And finally, Mr. Foreign Minister, do you believe, as this effort gets under way, the Israeli government should build this fence, this wall, a security line between Israel and the West Bank, to try to stop terror strikes?

PERES: As long as there are different groups of terror and infiltration to Israel by suicide bombers, we are without a choice. We are talking about a fence on the western part of the West Bank, and the main purpose of it is really to stop infiltration inside the cities and towns of Israel, and cause untold damage by killing people and children and ladies.

BLITZER: Foreign Minister Peres, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thanks once again for joining us.

And when we return, is the establishment of an interim Palestinian state a realistic option now, and would that end Palestinian terror strikes against Israel? We'll hear from a key figure on the Palestinian side, Cabinet Member Nabil Shaath.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YASSER ARAFAT, CHAIRMAN, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: It is our permanent message especially to our people and to the whole world, that we are against any of this terrorist activities against citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat commenting on the latest wave of deadly violence in the Middle East.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're joined now here in Washington by the Palestinian Cabinet minister, Nabil Shaath.

Mr. Shaath, as usual, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thank you very much.

A lot of us are anticipating this presidential speech, President Bush, perhaps as early as tomorrow. If he calls for an interim or provisional Palestinian state, how will that be received by the Palestinian authority?

NABIL SHAATH, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER: Positively. We would just make an explanation that states cannot possibly provisional in the sense that cabinets or governments can. A state is a state. And you cannot be provisionally pregnant, and you cannot have a provisional state.

In that sense, we will clarify. But of course, we understand that state will start with a limited part of its territory, the occupied area of -- by 1967. So we will have to negotiate the evacuation by Israel of the rest of that territory until the borders of 1967.

BLITZER: Well, what does that mean, interim or provisional Palestinian State? Will you have control over currency, for example? Will there be anew Palestinian dinar or whatever that emerges? How specific will this proposal get?

SHAATH: Well, an independent Palestinian state before we get all of our land back, means that you will have growing aspects of sovereignty as the Israelis keep withdrawing. The question is not currency. Currency is easy. I mean, that was even provided by Oslo agreement.

The question is control over borders and continuance of territory. Well, Israel today divides the West Bank into eight areas, plus Jerusalem. And then every area is divided in like 262 small cantons. It's ending the siege and this total block to mobility, and ending the Israel occupation of our towns and cities is what will allow that state to start.

BLITZER: But as you know, the president will also that there can't be any Palestinian state until the Palestinian leadership cracks down on these suicide bombers, on terrorism, and begins to get tough with these -- not just uttering the words -- but committing the resources, the deeds, to end these terrorist strikes.

Can Yasser Arafat do that right now?

SHAATH: The speech of the president should really open the way action on the ground that will enable him to do so. The speech will open up the political angle that has really become very dismal with Mr. Sharon's statements about what he wants to do in the future.

This might provide an opening, a hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. The speech probably will open up aid from the United States and other international parties to rebuild our security forces that have been totally dismantled and destroyed by the Israeli occupation, particularly the last three or four months. And therefore, rebuilding the security apparatus, rebuilding hope, ending the immediate Israeli occupation, will provide President Arafat with the political and the security capability to control violence.

BLITZER: But as you know a lot of people have lost confidence in Yasser Arafat, especially here in Washington, even within the administration.

But listen to what the Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, said earlier today on Yasser Arafat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I think it's time for Yasser Arafat, in the interest of the Palestinian people, about whom,toward whom he has dedicated his life, to ask himself whether it's not time to step down, and to allow a new beginning and a new generation of Palestinian leadership. There is some extremely...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think about Yasser Arafat stepping down, or at least giving day to day control to others? SHAATH: Well, giving control to others is a delegation of authority that's already started with this new cabinet and with the law of the independent judiciary. And with so many acts, the first time he's appointing a justice minister and an interior minister. So he's already doing that.

The question of stepping down is a political question and should be left to the Palestinian people. He is going to have election for president next January. So he's once again going to the people. If they give him a mandate, he will stay on. If not, he probably will leave.

BLITZER: Will he have a challenger? Will he have an opponent in this election?

SHAATH: Between now and January, everything is open. And had a challenger the last time around. He, in fact, had a lady, who challenged him in 1996 and got some 25 percent of the vote.

BLITZER: So there will be new elections. What about this Clinton plan that Chairman Arafat days he's now ready to accept as a starting point for negotiations?

You heard the Foreign Minister of Israel Shimon Peres say "Well, it may be too late for that."

SHAATH: Well, Mr. Arafat really never said no to the Clinton proposal. He just said yes with questions and reservations. Exactly like Mr. Barak, he accepted it with questions and reservations.

BLITZER: What they were upset about though, the U.S., Bill Clinton, that there was never a counter proposal that was made by the Palestinian side.

SHAATH: Well, at the time -- this was December, remember and that was three or four months after Camp David. But yet we did have many counter proposals just about three weeks later when we went to Taba for -- I think had we had time to continue at Taba, we probably would have made an agreement.

The question today is really to move forward, and the speech of the president, I hope tomorrow, very soon will open the political road. I came to this country with a vision statement that was agreed by the Palestinian leadership. I handed to Mr. Colin Powell and Dr. Rice and others, and I think they all considered it a good beginning, a renewed process for political negotiations.

BLITZER: I'll get to that in just a moment, but I want to read to you what the Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon said on Friday. He said this: "We are in the middle of a war, a hard war, a cruel war, a war that the Palestinian terrorists are carrying out against women and children and old people. We are facing a coalition of terror lead by the Palestinian Authority and backed by an axis of evil. Teheran, Baghdad, Damascus and Osama bin Laden."

Are there these outside forces as he alleges that are undermining what you would say the Palestinian Authority's efforts to stop terrorism?

SHAATH: I don't know. We don't really have any hard evidence of any of that. It could be, but not this coalition that Mr. Sharon -- I think he's just trying to be on the band wagon on anti-terrorism and to get public support for the United States.

BLITZER: When I interviewed Yasser Arafat last month in Ramallah, he did say there were outside forces -- he didn't say who -- that were trying to undermine his efforts.

SHAATH: Well, every one of these Islamic organizations we have and others have rings outside Palestine which really works in whatever way to support what's inside and make decisions to the people inside. So the fact that they are outside and inside is something we know.

But it is really Damascus to Teheran and Baghdad or not, I think it's really a propaganda attempt by Mr. Sharon.

He also kills women and children. Just a few days ago, six kids were killed in Jenin, in the Jenin market going to their schools. We want to end killing of children and women both on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, and the best way to do that is a peace process.

BLITZER: But the Israeli's say that was mistake, there was an error, they apologized for -- it was an errant shell, but that's another issue. We'll have to get into that another time.

Nabil Shaath, thanks for joining us, especially here in Washington. Good luck to you as well.

And coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, the U.S. Senate's top Republican Trent Lott weighs in on the war against terrorism, the Middle East crisis and much more.

Then some insight into what an investigation into pre-September 11 intelligence is yielding from two key members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

Plus, experts weigh in on the state of U.S. homeland security.

Also more of your phone calls, Bruce Morton's essay, all ahead when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And we're joined now by the top Republican in the United States Senate, Senator Trent Lott, the minority leader, of Mississippi.

Senator Lott, always good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Glad to be back, Wolf.

BLITZER: This homeland-security department that's being proposed by the president, can it be approved by September 11?

LOTT: It can be. I'm not sure that it will be, or even that it should be. The important thing is to get it done, and to do it in the right way. The American people support the concept. Congress has shown bipartisan support for the concept. It's a worthy goal, and I was pleased when Congressman Gephardt suggested we try to make that a goal that we would pursue, of being through by September 11.

But this is a pretty heavy lift...

BLITZER: What's the major stumbling block?

LOTT: Well, it's just, it's a large undertaking. You're bringing in a large number of people, a large amount of money, you're bringing in agencies and programs from throughout the government. We've got to look at how that's going to work. There's going to be some resistance based on turf and jurisdiction.

But I believe that the House and Senate are committed to moving forward on it expeditiously, and maybe we can make it by September 11. But I want to make sure we do it in the right way in the process.

BLITZER: Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says that -- and a lot of people have said that perhaps not bringing the CIA and the FBI into this homeland-security department may be a problem, but he says there's a bigger problem right now, and I want you to listen to what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: The new agency isn't going to connect the dots. That would be done by an analysis inside the FBI. The trouble is, they don't connect the dots, as we've recently seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He doesn't seem to have a whole lot of confidence right now in the FBI and the CIA. Do you?

LOTT: Well, I think we're going to have to have some changes there, and I think that the fact that the head of the FBI, Mueller, is working internally to make changes, they are realizing they're going to have to be more involved in preventing terrorist acts. CIA needs to do a better job, in my opinion.

So, part of the process that we're involved in now, with the intelligence committees, the House and Senate, is to look at what we need to do to do a better job. I do think we're going to have to do a better job with gathering intelligence and analyzing it.

The homeland security department probably should not include those two. Intelligence, in and of itself, the work that the FBI and CIA do, probably do justify an independent organization, with the FBI under Justice.

Although, how they're going to analyze this material is a question. You look at the new department. It's going to have an information-analysis effort that includes a CIA and National Security Agency, FBI, INS, DEA, all of those, and I think we're going to have to ask more questions about how that's going to work, and is it really something that's justified.

BLITZER: So it sounds to me like the Congress, the Senate, at least, and, I assume, the House of Representatives, is going to want to weigh in pretty aggressively before this becomes the law of the land.

LOTT: Well, I think we should. And by the way, I think we're part of the problem. We've had a lot of information about, you know, terrorism acts, things that might happen from various commissions. Aviation security, we had a report done by Vice President Gore that was given to President Clinton in 1997, citing the problems in aviation security, the risks, and the solutions.

So, we are part of the problem. I think that the Congress has not dealt with the FBI in the right way, or aggressively enough. And I think that a lot of the problems with the CIA go back to the days of the Church Commission in the late 1970s.

BLITZER: The American public is being bombarded, almost every day, with a new warning, a new alert, get ready for July 4th, get ready for everything from scuba divers to apartment building to fuel trucks. It seems to have an almost numbing effect on a lot of people. How concerned should the American public be, first of all, as far as July 4th is concerned?

LOTT: Well, I think you can, you know, take it to the extreme. You can cry wolf, you know, no pun intended, too much, but I do think, also, the American people probably are a little bit more alert. I find myself, when I go to public places, I look around, and look at the people a little more intensely than I did.

It -- I think it affects law enforcement officials, in terms of how they look at boats and planes and trucks.

And by the way, a poll done by ABC-Washington Post shows the American people believe the United States intelligence agencies have improved since September 11.

So, while there may be some concerns, and we don't want to, you know, overalarm them, it's a part of a process that we're involved in now. Things are different, Wolf. People understand that outside of Washington, and hopefully we do in Washington also.

BLITZER: But Osama bin Laden, as far as you know, you're privy to all the good intelligence out there, he still is alive and well and represents a threat to the United States.

LOTT: I don't know if he is alive or dead, but, if he's alive, I'd like for him to stick his head up and let us get a good look at it.

BLITZER: And then what would you do? LOTT: Then I would take it off. This guy is still a huge problem if he's alive. If he's dead, the people that work for him are still causing the problems or threatening problems.

This is a war on terror. It's one that's going to take some time. These people and their tentacles are all over the world. They're in the Philippines. They're in South America. They're in Malaysia, in Indonesia.

These are things that we've got to be careful about.

BLITZER: Switching gears to the Middle East, the president is expected to make a major speech, perhaps as early tomorrow. Is it good timing right now? Is it a good idea for him to call for this interim Palestinian state?

LOTT: Wolf, I know the president wants to be an honest and helpful broker in trying to reduce the violence and the killing and lead toward, you know, secure peace in the Middle East.

I mean, your heart just goes out for what has happened there, these suicide terrorist bombers and the way people and children have to live now. And I don't know, over 2,000 have been killed in recent months. And there have been deaths on both sides. And how do you begin to bring that under control?

I, frankly, am very cautious about the idea of an interim state for Palestinians. You know, you've got to be careful not to give any impression that you're rewarding terrorism.

BLITZER: So on this issue, there may be some disagreement between you and the president?

LOTT: Well, I didn't say no. I said cautious. Timing matters. How you say it and what the other components are make a lot of difference. But again, I repeat if it's done in the wrong way and the timing is not right and you appear to be rewarding terrorism, that's certainly is a concern.

BLITZER: So can the president make this speech without appearing to be rewarding terrorism?

LOTT: Well, I know he's weighing that very carefully in his administration right now.

We can't continue the way we're going. Something has to change the dynamics. Who can do it? Not the Arabs. Arafat is incapable of doing it. The Israelis are under siege. Only the United States can try to change the dynamics.

So the answer is, you know, the president can and will, I believe and hope, will make a difference. But I hope that some time and -- obviously a lot of deliberation goes into the final decision of what to say and how to say it.

BLITZER: Have you weighed in personally with the president? Have you told the White House how you feel?

LOTT: Not directly, but indirectly. I've asked questions and expressed concerns.

BLITZER: I'm sure those concerns are being heard loud and clear over at the White House.

LOTT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The Senate Minority Leader, Trent Lott. As usual, thank you very much.

LOTT: Yes.

BLITZER: When we return, new information about pre-September 11 information leaking out to the public, where does the closed door congressional investigation stand?

We will talk with two lawmakers involved in the probe, Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Democratic Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: The White House is disappointed that this information was made public. So are we in the Congress. Before the vice president even called our chairman, we had decided that we would call for an investigation to see how the information was made public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: U.S. House Intelligence Committee member Nancy Pelosi commenting on the disclosure that the National Security Agency intercepted messages about September 11 on the eve of the attacks.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now are two members of the that House Intelligence Committee. In Atlanta, Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Here in Washington, Democratic Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana.

Congressmen, welcome to LATE EDITION, and Saxby Chambliss, let me begin with you. And we'll get to the whole uproar over the leaks to the news media about sensitive, classified information in just a moment or two, but I on this latest report that Osama bin Laden is still alive and well and preparing to engage in more terrorist strikes against the United States, claiming responsibility for that terrorist strike against the synagogue in Tunisia that killed more than a dozen German tourists. What do you make of this latest Al Jazeera message?

REP. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, I don't think it's surprising that news coming out of that part of the world that bin Laden is alive. I mean, I think there are a number of folks who think he may be dead. I just have a personal feeling of my own that he is still alive, that we do have him at least in hiding to the point to where he's not able to communicate like he used to with his comrades and that it's more difficult for him now.

But, he is still a very dangerous man but more, significantly, his organization is an extremely dangerous organization and that's who this war is about. It's not about bin Laden; it's about tearing up, disrupting and eliminating al Qaeda.

BLITZER: And you agree with Senator Lott as he just said on this program that if he pops up, if his head pops up, the U.S. should just simply cut it right off or shoot at it?

CHAMBLISS: In a heartbeat.

BLITZER: All right. Tim Roemer, what about you? What Senator Graham, who's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said earlier today, that the best U.S. intelligence is that Osama bin Laden is alive. Is that your working assumption?

REP. TIM ROEMER (D), INDIANA: I think that probably is everybody's working assumption at this point, Wolf.

But I think it is important for us to know how to go after his organization. If he's one of heads of the hydra, we need to go after all of them. Whether they're in Morocco, whether they're with another loosely state sponsored organization, whether they're in Philippines or Indonesia, this is a multi-faceted, multi-headed hydra that we have to be more flexible in getting after, and it doesn't just result to how we go after a bank accounts, how we fight a military war in Afghanistan.

It's getting better intelligence. It's making the FBI and the CIA reform and repair what they've done wrong and make it right. It's a more flexible military and CIA component to go after these individual organizations wherever they pop up.

Yes, we want to get Osama bin Laden, but we also want to get these organizations wherever they are around the world.

BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, a lot of people have said that a wounded animal sometimes is more dangerous than a healthy one. Is a wounded al Qaeda now more dangerous than it used to be?

CHAMBLISS: I think the fact that we have been able to take out some of their top lieutenants. The fact that we may have been able to arrest a number of members of the al Qaeda operation gives us a better opportunity to, number one, get intelligence and, secondly, to work towards disruption of future planned attacks.

I suspect there are a number of planned attacks that are -- have already been laid out there and just waiting to be executed, and we need to find out about those attacks, and we're doing so through our interrogation process, and we need to be in a position to disrupt any future attacks. And the more we have al Qaeda wounded, the more we have them scattered around the world, the better opportunity we're going to have to disrupt these future attacks.

BLITZER: Congressman Roemer, a lot of people noting that only in recent days this warning about fuel trucks coming supposedly from al Qaeda or other detainees held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, fuel trucks being used against American Jewish targets in the United States -- vague, uncorroborated. How specific are they -- is the information?

ROEMER: Well, I can't talk about specific information, Wolf. That's something that would get me into trouble on the intelligence committee and should, but I can say that, whether this is something that is happening in Saudi Arabia or Tunisia or Morocco or wherever, we need to be better prepared here. Our committee, our bipartisan, bicameral committee needs to get moving in our investigation, get to the facts, have some open hearings, restore public confidence and see where the snakes crawled in through the seams and the gaps and fix them.

We also need an independent commission over the long term to look at this and give us a longer, broader, more introspective look at how we put together intelligence agencies for the next 50 years.

And finally, we've got to do homeland security right. Not by a symbolic date on September 11, but get the merger right, make sure we get new technology in this organization, and figure out how these analysts work with the FBI and the CIA.

BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, should Americans rethink some of their plans for the July 4th celebrations?

CHAMBLISS: No, I don't think so at all, Wolf.

You know, one problem we have in gathering intelligence is that the enemy likes to throw us off guard. July 4th could be a significant date in their minds. They do like symbols, whether it be dates, or whether it be particular assets that they go after.

But I think, from the American public's standpoint, we need to be more observant than ever. Certainly, as we approach July 4th, people should be more cautious, should be more on the lookout for things. Our law enforcement personnel certainly will be. We're going to be providing them with all the information that we possibly can from the federal level down to the state and local level, but I think, from an overall public standpoint, people should do what they normally do on July 4th, and that's celebrate a great country that we all are fortunate to live in.

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break, but, before I do, I want to ask both of you very quickly to give me your best assessment right now, Congressman Roemer, you first, on the anthrax investigation. Domestic or foreign source for these attacks that occurred in the fall? ROEMER: Well, given the latest information that we read in the papers today, that somebody could have cultured, milled, and weaponized it, it was fairly new anthrax, meaning in the last couple of years, I think the FBI needs to continue to go after both a domestic source, which they've kind of honed in on, but also it could be foreign. Somebody reported in the news agencies today that one of the hijackers had some type of infection down in Florida that might have been some type of anthrax-related.

I'm not saying where the FBI should go on that. I think that they should continue to pursue all clues on this.

BLITZER: And very briefly, Congressman Chambliss, what's your assessment?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I think there's no way to tell at this point in time, based on the information that we've seen. I do know this, it's a very frustrating situation for the FBI. This plot obviously was very closely held, and it's probably confined to one or at least a very small number of individuals, and it's extremely frustrating to not be able to get to the bottom of it, and I just don't see any way we can tell at this point whether it's foreign or whether it's domestic.

BLITZER: All right. Gentlemen, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We'll continue our conversation with Saxby Chambliss and Tim Roemer. They'll also be looking for your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion with two key members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Democratic Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana.

Congressman Chambliss, you, like everybody else, saw the leaks to the news media about that National Security Agency intercept of some sort of communication that occurred on September 10, a day before, of course, the September 11 attacks. Two quotes from that intercept: "The match begins tomorrow," one quote. Another saying, "Tomorrow is zero hour."

Now the Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle noted that those translations did not come forward by the NSA until September 12. Obviously, so they couldn't have had any significance. But I want you to listen specifically to what Senator Daschle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: It is disconcerting that this information was made available and translated and not utilized. We've got a lot of work to do, and this is just the most recent reminder that we've got a problem here. It's got to be fixed, and it's got to be done this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, is the problem, has the problem been fixed? In other words, the fact that translations of sensitive information like this are occurring almost simultaneously as opposed to waiting 48 hours, in which time it might be too late?

CHAMBLISS: Well, a couple of things about that, Wolf. First of all, without going into the exact language that was used by General Hayden with respect to all of the translations that were made that were foreseeable but were not translated until after the fact, I think it's fair to say that would have given us any additional information with respect to the specifics of September 11.

The problem that Senator Daschle has alluded to though, I agree with. And that is a problem we've got to make a real commitment to put more resources in the right places within our intelligence committee. And one place that Tim Roemer and I agree very much so on is the fact that we've got to have additional linguists. We don't have enough Arabic linguists in place at the CIA, the NSA and our other intelligence gathering agencies in order to transcribe or translate and then ultimately transcribe and get it in the hands of the right people the intercepts that we are getting.

And we're moving in the right direction, but we're not there today. We've still got a ways to go.

BLITZER: Congressman Roemer, that's going to take a long time to get the linguists out there because there are just not enough people out there that will be able to require the security clearances, the background checks in order to get to work right away.

ROEMER: Well, let me just go back to what Saxby said about the leaks, too. The administration doesn't have the corner on condemning these leaks. These leaks....

BLITZER: I'm going to get to the leaks in a minute. I want to know how it affects...

(CROSSTALK)

ROEMER: ... anything, and in fact, if we try to repair the CIA or the NSA or the FBI through leaks, that hurts the credibility of our committee, even though we're not sure where these leaks came from. It could have been the executive branch. It could have been Congress.

And just one more point, Wolf. I think this is really important. This administration has a real proclivity to hold information tight to the vest. If they start holding information tight to the vest, and not sharing it with the oversight committee looking into this 9/11 investigation, that really hurts our credibility and our final product. And according to the National Security Act, they have to provide information to us.

BLITZER: But Congressman Roemer, I want you to listen to what the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said about this leak to the news media that he assumes came from congressional sources. But listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Everyone needs to remember the delicacy of this information and the sensitivity of the information and the fact that making specific information of this nature public does raise important concerns because it can harm our ability to continue to gather that information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Shouldn't the administration be concerned that if in fact there were congressional sources that provided this information to the news media, specific quotes of highly sensitive NSA intercepts, that that could undermine the crown jewels of the intelligence community, so-called sources and methods?

ROEMER: Absolutely. The administration's concerned about it. Congress is concerned about it. The committee has had meetings about these leaks. We are very concerned about it.

That doesn't help us repair anything when people are leaking things to the press. It doesn't help us with our final committee report. Talk about linguists that Saxby and I think need to be hired, not French and German linguists but Farsi and Filipino native speakers and Malaysia, all kinds of difficult languages that help us translate immediately, analysis a different culture, and get information back to the United States in timely fashion.

BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, I want you to listen to an exchange I had last week on this program with the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Shelby of Alabama. When I asked him if hie still had confidence in the CIA director, George Tenet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I've always said that was the president's, you know, decision. Would I keep him? Absolutely not.

BLITZER: You wouldn't keep him?

SHELBY: No.

BLITZER: Why?

SHELBY: Oh, I think we could do better. I've always thought that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you think George Tenet is the man to run the CIA right now?

CHAMBLISS: I think he is. I think Director Tenet is doing a good job. I think he's been handicapped in a number of ways. Congress has handicapped him from a resource standpoint. There have been some directives, I think, that have handicapped his agency.

But, by the same token, I think Director Tenet realizes himself that significant -- and I emphasize that -- changes have to take place within the CIA itself, he's got to take the initiative to make sure that he finds where the problems are and corrects those problems.

Has he done that yet? No, I don't think he's in any way completed that program yet, but I do think that Director Tenet understands the deficiencies in the CIA. I do think that he is headed in the right direction. But he's not there yet. And I don't think it'd be fair to remove him at this point in time.

BLITZER: Very briefly, do you agree?

ROEMER: I don't want George Tenet's head on a platter; I want his heart toward legitimate and genuine reform. I think we need new technologies, Wolf, at CIA and FBI, so people can communicate better.

I think we need cultural changes at the CIA and the FBI, to get it away from this risk-adverse nature. We need more linguists. And I think we need significant institutional changes. The director of the CIA controls about 15 cents on the dollar. That's not enough to be the head of that agency and our intelligence. We need a lot of changes.

BLITZER: Congressmen Tim Roemer, Saxby Chambliss, always good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

When we return, the United States prepares to celebrate its 225th birthday next week, while bracing for the possibility of an Independence Day attack. Is the country prepared? We'll get insight from the former CIA director Robert Gates and bioterrorism expert Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Now we're facing a new kind of enemy. These guys are killers. I mean, they're international killers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Bush on the dangers posed by the war against terrorism. Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now with some perspective on the security challenges still facing the United States are two guests. In Washington State, the former CIA director, Robert Gates, and in Atlanta, Dr. Julie Gerberding, she's with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's bioterrorism department, and a deputy director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases.

Good to have both of you on LATE EDITION.

Dr. Gerberding, let me begin with you, and read to you what the New York Times in an editorial wrote today, complaining about the recommendation from the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, against widespread smallpox immunization. Only 10 or 20 thousand first responders, if you will, hospital workers, law-enforcement types being eligible for that vaccine right now.

The New York Times this morning writes this: "Today, when even the intelligence agencies seem unable to estimate the risk of a smallpox attack, we should offer the vaccine and let individuals weigh the risks for themselves."

Why not let 280 million Americans make that decision, instead of the CDC, the U.S. government, in effect, making it for them?

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, CDC: Well, first of all, it's important to point out that the federal government hasn't developed its policy yet. But we have our set of recommendations from an expert body. So we have to take those recommendations, which really were public-health recommendations, and interpret them in the context of homeland security and our national defense.

Having said that, I think the central dilemma here is that it's not just a question of an individual's decision to take a risk. When you get the smallpox vaccine, the virus in the inoculant can be transmitted to people around you. So you're putting them at risk for the side-effects as well.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about those -- the smallpox, the side-effects, and I'll put some graphics up on the screen. Smallpox kills about one third of those who contract the virus. Routine vaccinations ended in 1972. The vaccine does work up to 5 days after exposure to smallpox. There are side-effects from the vaccine: swelling, possible encephalitis, some deaths, they say, one in a million.

Director Gates, you used to look at these kinds of threats very closely when you were the CIA director. How realistic, in your assessment right now, is the possibility of a smallpox attack?

ROBERT GATES, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Wolf, I don't know whether it would be smallpox or perhaps something else, but we've heard for years -- and national security experts have studied for years -- the likelihood of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction, including biological weapons, against us. The Hart-Rudman Commission, the National Commission on Terrorism, and so on.

So the notion of terrorists using these kinds of weapons against us isn't at all new. The problem is that, until September 11, no one seemed prepared to do anything about any of it.

BLITZER: And so you think that there is a new mood right now, a determination to get to the bottom of this and protect the American public much more robustly?

GATES: I have the impression, frankly, that some of the issues are all caught up in bureaucratic infighting, and people aren't quite sure what they want to do about these things, and you have, as on this issue you're discussing, debates on whether to inoculate people or whether not to.

We had some of these same debates before the Gulf War, in terms of whether to inoculate our troops, our frontline troops against anthrax and prepare them also for chemical -- the use of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein. And so we then encountered difficult choices, because there were limited numbers of doses available, about who should get those kinds of inoculations.

So I think these are public-policy issues, and frankly I'm not familiar enough with some of the specific issues involved to know why there is resistance to inoculating or making the choice of inoculation available. After all, almost everybody in America my age and older went through these inoculations the whole time we were growing up, and it didn't seem to hurt us much.

BLITZER: Well, Dr. Gerberding, do you want to answer that question for Bob Gates and the rest of our viewers out there?

GERBERDING: Sure. I think there are a couple of things that are different now, compared to when we were growing up.

First of all, when we were growing up, we had cases of smallpox. So we didn't have any choice. We just had to use the vaccine, regardless of how many side-effects we might experience.

And the other aspect of this is the vaccine product that we're dealing with right now, today, is actually an investigational product. It's not exactly the same as the one that we used in the past.

I think one of the things that Secretary Thompson will be looking at is, how do we phase in a program of immunization? We're already immunizing people working with the virus in the laboratory situation, and we're talking now about immunizing the people who are at highest risk of coming into the very first cases should we have an attack.

But it may be as we get experience with this new product or we have more licensed vaccines available that what we consider and take a look at who else in the population needs to be protected.

So it's kind of a process that will unfold over time, not just an event that needs to be decided in its entirety today.

BLITZER: One issue that has come to the floor, Bob Gates on the whole issue of bioterrorism is anthrax, and there already was as all of us know an anthrax attack against the United States, against five individuals were killed. Two U.S. senators were targeted. Major news media anchors were targeted. Why is -- in your assessment, is it taking so long to find out who was responsible. The government apparently hasn't been able to determine whether domestic or foreign sources were responsible. GATES: Well, sitting out here in Washington state, I'm not aware of some of the problems that the bureau and others may have encountered in trying to trace this anthrax. I just know what I've read in the news media and it sounds like whoever carried this out was very sophisticated not just in terms of their ability to prepare the anthrax, but also in terms of their ability to cover their tracks. I have no doubt whatsoever that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are and have been doing everything in their power to figure out where this thing came from and who is responsible. I think they've just encountered who is very sophisticated.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to pick up that point, the anthrax investigation with Bob Gates and Dr. Julie Gerberding, but we have to take a quick break. We'll be right back. They'll also be taking your phone calls. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're talking about security threats and U.S. preparedness with the former CIA director, Robert Gates and Dr. Julie Gerberding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Gerberding, this story in the New York Times today, which we've confirmed, about the source of this anthrax, that was sent to Senator Daschle, Senator Leahy, among others, being two years old.

What, if anything, does that mean as far as the culprit, the suspect is concerned?

GERBERDING: Well, you know, at CDC, we really look at this from the public health perspective, so I can't really comment on the aspects that have to do with the criminal investigation per se.

But I think we've been concerned all along that this product is something that someone could have created. And if, in fact, they did create it more recently than we had been thinking in the past, then that tells us that it could happen again, and it could happen soon. And we need to take that seriously.

BLITZER: So it's obviously much more disconcerting right now if it weren't the so-called Ames strain, which was what was created in the early 1980s, if this is new batch, somebody very sophisticated out there either an individual or a group has an incredible knowledge that could be very, very dangerous. Is that right?

GERBERDING: We have to take this very seriously. I think none of us should breath easy until the people who perpetrated those crimes in the fall are caught. And from now on, we need to look forward to being vigilant and being prepared to take action whenever a circumstance arises that suggests there's been another exposure.

But having said that, I think we were getting prepared before the fall. We certainly have put preparedness efforts on the fastest possible track now. We learned a lot in the fall. And I think we're in better shape to respond to an event, and to do everything we can to prevent the harmful consequences to the public health.

BLITZER: Bob Gates, a lot of people have concluded that this was some disgruntled U.S. person, a domestic source, for the anthrax.

But I want to put up on the screen the actual text of the letter that was sent out to the various senators. Among other things, it says, "You cannot stop us. We have this anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great." And then it has 9/11/01 up there.

Why do you believe so many experts in the government are pointing us toward a domestic source as opposed to a foreign source?

GATES: Wolf, I don't know the specifics that they've been able to turn up in their forensic analysis of the notes or of the anthrax itself. From my personal standpoint, there's a certain logic to that kind of a conclusion because of the nature of the targets.

If one were a foreign terrorist, one would think that some of the targets would have been the Defense Department or CIA or the White House or some of those associated with national defense and security. But what we have here, in effect, entirely Democratic senators and the news media.

So I think there's a certain logic that suggest that there's a disgruntled American out there, not just disgruntled but seriously disturbed, who is willing to go after these people because he sees them -- or the group seems them as enemies in some way.

But that's just a logical approach to it. I have no idea what the evidence is that they may be basing their conclusion on.

BLITZER: Well, one final point for you, Dr. Gerberding, is it time since there already has been an anthrax attack out there for that vaccine that's given to U.S. military personnel to be made available much more widely?

GERBERDING: I think that's premature at this point. That vaccine also has some issues in terms of safety and efficacy.

And right now, the threat to the average American is too small to warrant its implementation.

But, no, we have to be open to all possibilities. And as I said, we're learning as we go. And if we identify a threat that's greater than we thought, we have to look at that again too.

BLITZER: And we're learning a lot, thanks to you. And thanks to Bob Gates. I want to thank both of you for joining us on LATE EDITION. Thank you very much. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Coming up next, your letters to LATE EDITION, plus Bruce Morton's essay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The interesting thing is that the United States hasn't bothered much with trains for the last 50 years. And it probably should have. Over short distances, they're better than airplanes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are trains becoming American's transportation relic?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Amid news that a cash short fall could force the U.S. passenger rail system Amtrak to begin shutting down as early as this week, Bruce Morton laments America's neglect of trains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To your left and up the stairs, please.

MORTON (voice-over): The federal government has unveiled another plan for Amtrak, something it does every so often. Maybe it'll be partly private, maybe a role for the states. What will Congress do with it. Who knows?

The interesting thing is that the United States hasn't bothered much with trains for the last 50 years. And it probably should have. Over short distances, they're better than airplanes.

Go to France and ride the TGV trains, at very great speed. They go something like 175 miles an hour. Italy has similar fast trains, so does Japan.

So trips of 200 or 300 miles, Rome to Florence, Tokyo to Kyoto and so on are train trips.

Here we have air shuttles between Boston and New York and Washington, but if we had the road beds to allow really fast trains, we don't, no one would fly such short distances with cab rides to and from the airports, we'd take the train from (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Even with our relatively slow train, Amtrak from Washington to New York is only a little shorter than the shuttle, it pretty much comes down to how bad the traffic is to or from LaGuardia.

If the U.S. had good road beds, all sorts of trips -- Chicago to Milwaukee, or Detroit-Cleveland to Columbus or Cincinnati, whatever -- would be train trips. This would ease airport congestion, make air travel easier because they're be fewer bags and passengers to search and so on.

We don't have good road beds because the highway builders have always had a good lobby and so have the car makers. So have the oil companies, so have the airlines and airports, which of course are subsidized, so has the trucking industry. In a politics driven by money as American politics is, it's no wonder they've done well while passenger rail travel has done badly.

But with fear of terrorism making air travel more time consuming than it used to be it's a shame we have neglected the passenger trains. They're a good way to go short distances, and to confess a prejudice up front, I've always liked the way lonesome whistle blows.

Steam was better of course, but today's make a pretty good noise.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce. And now your letters to LATE EDITION.

Greg from Atlanta writes this: "I hear lots of debate about the wisdom of a potential strike on Iraq. It isn't the war I worry about, it is the prospect of spending several years on occupation duty that scares me."

About the news that the NSA, the National Security Agency intercepting September 11 messages before the attacks, Connie from Illinois says: "What better way to get the news off the story that we had information that 9/11 was going to happen than to make a new story by sending the president and the vice president out there to complain that this leak of information could harm us."

As always we welcome your comments. The e-mail address: lateedition@cnn.com

It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. We'll sort out the legal cases in the war against terrorism, plus your phone calls and our Final Round.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: The mystery surrounding the abduction of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart seems to get more intense.

CNN's Bob Franken is in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where a drifter wanted for questioning remains under tight guard at a local hospital.

Bob, give us the very latest.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Bob Franken, thank you very much for that update. We'll continue to monitor this heartwrenching story as well.

But now on to the war on terrorism. That war has caused conflict in America's judicial system.

Joining us now with some insight are two prominent attorneys. In Miami, the famed criminal-defense attorney Roy Black, and here in Washington in our studio the former United States Attorney Joe DiGenova. He's now in private practice here in Washington as well. I guess he's famed, Joe DiGenova, just like Roy Black is.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Roy Black, I'll begin with you. There seems to be -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- some inconsistencies in the way the U.S. government is dealing with various terrorist suspects. Some get access to attorneys, some don't get access to attorneys. Some go to the military brig, others go to the judicial procedure. It seems like they're -- at least a lot of critics are suggesting -- sort of creating the rules as they go along. What's your overall assessment?

ROY BLACK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, it's even more strange than that. We have two foreigners, Reid and Moussaoui, who are given lawyers and access to the courts, and all the rights that you could ever have under our Constitution. And then you have two Americans, Hamdi and Padilla, who are denied the right to a lawyer, denied access to the courts, and are put in military custody, indefinitely, for as long as the government wants. So, certainly those of us who are concerned about the Constitution are concerned about the way the government's doing this -- and I think what's really happening is, they have enough evidence to prosecute Reid and Moussaoui, so they send them to court. They don't have enough evidence against Padilla and Hamdi, I suppose, so they're just going to hold them in custody indefinitely, and that strikes right to the heart of our constitutional rights.

BLITZER: All right. Joe DiGenova, you can add Richard Reid, the alleged shoe bomber, who is a British citizen, he's in federal court in Boston with all the rights, attorneys, everything else that these American citizens who are being held indefinitely without any rights whatsoever. What's your response to that?

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, there are apparent inconsistencies, and the reason for that is, is that, when the Constitution was formulated, it was set up so that, when there is war, you're going to have two tracks: You're going to have a war-military track, and you're possibly going to have a civil-justice track. The president, President Bush, when he issued the military-commission order, has said that Americans would not be put into that process. I happen to believe that was a mistake. I don't think there should be any use of the civil-court system for anybody involved in these terrorist activities. I think they should all be handled in military tribunals.

And, by the way, I think that may be coming to a head, because of the various points that Roy was making and you're suggesting, and that is that there's an inconsistency about who gets a lawyer. If they are all put before military commissions, under the rules, they're all entitled to a lawyer, and they're all entitled to hearings.

It's also true, however, that the president, under Supreme Court precedent, has the right to hold belligerents, enemy combatants indefinitely, at least until the end of the war, and even if they're American citizens. And we've done that with American citizens, who never got a chance to go to court.

So, it is a conflicting area of the law. The Supreme Court is very clear that the president has this power. But Americans have always been uncomfortable about not having access to courts.

BLITZER: Roy, would you be more comfortable if these military tribunals or commissions, as the Pentagon calls them, just dealt with everyone, U.S. citizens included, as opposed to this inconsistency that seems to be the case right now?

BLACK: Absolutely not. And I have to disagree with Joe. The Supreme -- the Constitution does not have two tracks. The Bill of Rights doesn't have a war exception. It doesn't say that we have all these constitutional rights unless we have a conflict, and they all disappear like, you know, the wind blowing the leaves. There's no such thing.

And the irony of all this is that we are fighting to preserve the rule of law, yet we're circumventing the rule of law in order to do that. It makes no sense.

The president has war powers that he can make war. It doesn't say that he can disband the courts. It doesn't say that you can disband the bill of rights. I mean let's respect our constitutional rights.

DIGENOVA: I think we should, and that's exactly what I'm doing, Roy, because you're too good a lawyer not to know that in 1942 the Supreme Court ruled that the president has the right to put U.S. citizens into military tribunals or to hold them indefinitely.

The Constitution is not a suicide pact as Justice Goldberg and Justice Jackson have told us, that in fact the president of the United States is acting well within the confines that the Supreme Court has said a president might do in time of war and we are at war.

BLACK: Joe, I know that you like that slogan, but the real suicide pact would be if we disregard the Constitution and give some unnamed bureaucrats in Washington to power to hold us in jail, indefinitely without access to a lawyer, without access to courts and without access to the freedoms that we deserve, that would truly be a suicide pact and I hope we don't go down that road.

BLITZER: All right let me interrupt and read for Joe DiGenova what the Washington Post wrote in an editorial on Thursday: "The Constitution's checks and balances don't contemplate blind trust in the wisdom or good faith of the president. And the courts must not acquiesce in Mr. Bush's claim that they are powerless to ensure the lawfulness of presidential behavior."

DIGENOVA: Well, I, of course, am always chagrined when I have to disagree with the Washington Post editorial board. I have for many years on many issues.

That editorial simply ignores the fact that, in 1942, the Supreme Court said exactly what the Washington Post doesn't like. It said that the president had a right to hold American citizens indefinitely and that he could put them into military commissions rather than civilian trials.

So, the issue has already been settled.

Of course, it makes people feel uncomfortable. Of course, people like the "Washington Post" editorial board always want to have courts involved in things but the Supreme Court in that case in 1942 said, interestingly enough, that because the president had agreed to give these spies, these two American spies military tribunals, it said, "We don't have to decide the question whether or not he even had to do that."

BLITZER: But, Joe, the point I think that Roy Black is trying to make and let me try to restate the point. He's saying why should foreigners be given greater legal rights than American citizens?

DIGENOVA: I couldn't agree more. And I'll tell you I disagree with the treatment of all of these people. I don't think any of them should be in civilian courts. I think they should all be military tribunals.

I'll tell you why they're being treated differently. Mr. Reid and the other gentlemen who are on trial have no further intelligence value to the United States.

Mr. Hamdi and Mr. Al-Muhajir, also known as Jose Padilla, those two gentlemen are believed to have continuing intelligence value in the ongoing war. That's why they're not in the civilian system.

BLITZER: What about that point, Roy Black. There is a Supreme Court precedent, the 1942 case that Joe DiGenova refers to, that does appear to give the Justice Department this kind of authority.

BLACK: Well, he's talking about Ex Parte Quirin, which was decided truly in 1942. It doesn't go as far as Joe says it goes, but we have to look at the times. That same exact court said it was perfectly constitutional to put 110,000 American citizens who had Japanese ancestry in concentration camps throughout the western United States.

Fortunately, in the last 60 years, we have outgrown those ideas of 1942. We would no longer allow this to happen. And not only that, but those people were held in custody in 1942 for two months, so we're not talking about indefinite custody as is now happening with Padilla and Hamdi.

DIGENOVA: And then they were executed. BLACK: Well, they were found guilty. At least, they had a trial.

DIGENOVA: They were found guilty by military tribunals and you'll be interested to know, Wolf, that actually the Supreme Court opinion came down after they were executed.

BLACK: Not only that, but that's why the Supreme Court did that. They were so embarrassed because they didn't rule on the matter prior to the executions, and they had to issue an opinion after they had already -- the United States government had executed these people. That tells you how much we respected the rule of law.

DIGENOVA: Actually, the court had decided prior to their executions but not issued its opinion.

BLITZER: All right.

BLACK: A real detail like that.

DIGENOVA: Yes.

BLITZER: We're going to pick up that point. We have a lot more to talk about especially the specific cases. We'll continue our conversation with Roy Black, Joe DiGenova. They'll be taking your phone calls so get ready for that as well.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the week's big legal developments in the war on terror with the defense attorney Roy Black and the former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova.

We have a caller from New York State. Go ahead, New York.

CALLER: Hi. I'm wondering how we can have military tribunals when Congress hasn't even declared war yet.

BLITZER: All right. Joe DiGenova, what about that?

DIGENOVA: We had military tribunals with and without declarations of war. A declaration of war is not essential to military commissions.

As you know, President Lincoln used military commissions during the Civil War. He even suspended the writ of habeas corpus.

The Supreme Court precedent on this does not require a formal declaration of war. As you know, we had no declaration of war in Vietnam or Korea either.

BLITZER: You're not questioning, Roy Black, the right of the president, the legal basis that the president has for these military commissions or tribunals? BLACK: Oh, I certainly am. The caller almost had it right. The United States Constitution gives the power to create tribunals lesser than the Supreme Court only to Congress, not to the executive. The executive cannot create courts.

What the president is doing is taking his role as commander-in- chief, saying he's seizing people as part of the war, or exercising his war powers. The Constitution says nothing about his ability to create courts.

So what I'm...

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: What the Supreme Court has said is, Congress can create military commissions or tribunals. It does not say the president can do it.

DIGENOVA: Actually, the Supreme Court has never said that. They simply recognized that there had been a declaration of war, and that the Congress had created the military commissions. Actually, there is nothing in the Constitution that says the president can't do this, because he's not establishing a court, he's establishing a military commission under the military, which he runs singlehandedly under the Constitution.

These are not courts.

BLACK: Read Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

DIGENOVA: They're not courts. They are not courts, and they are not designed to be courts.

BLACK: Well, that's the problem. They're not courts, Joe.

Now, I'm glad that you recognize that. What we're doing...

DIGENOVA: I have never said they are courts. They are...

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: ... is having the Defense Department put military officers running some sort of a kangaroo court, and it's going to be an utter disaster. We have judges, we have courtrooms, we have rules in which we can try people, and that's where they ought to be tried.

DIGENOVA: I think the eight Nazi saboteurs who were convicted by military commissions in World War II thought that the military commissions were awful, but in fact, they functioned beautifully under our system, and were declared constitutional by the Supreme Court.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: Well, what about Henry Yamashita, in which we now recognize we executed a Japanese general pursuant to a military tribunal, and we got it wrong? BLITZER: Well, I'm not familiar with that case. I don't know if Joe DiGenova is familiar with that case either.

But let's move on and speak about some of the specific cases out there right now. Tonight on a special edition of Larry King Weekend, the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who's been dubbed the so-called "20th hijacker," is going to appear. That was earlier taped. I want you to listen to an excerpt of what Aicha El Wafi, the mother, has to say:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AICHA EL WAFI (through translator): He never hurt anybody. He never killed anybody. All he did, he didn't do any wrong in the United States or elsewhere.

And that's what he told me. And he promised me that he's telling me the truth. He said, "Mother, I tell you."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Aicha El Wafi, the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, understandably defending her son. She still loves her son. That's what she says.

Let's put up on the screen some of the details about Zacarias Moussaoui, and get our experts to talk a little bit about this case. He is of Moroccan ancestry, although he is a French citizen. His trial date comes up October 14. He's eligible for the death penalty on the various charges that he was given, and on June 13, the judge in the case here in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, ruled that he could represent himself.

But, Joe DiGenova, that's not smart legal strategy for him to be representing himself.

DIGENOVA: It certainly isn't, but Mr. Moussaoui is a martyr. He was going to be the 20th hijacker, according to all of the circumstantial evidence in the case, on September 11. He has chosen to attack in his public statements and his court statements Christians, Jews, the United States, and Israel.

All of those statements are a matter of record which can be shown to the jury. I think it's regrettable for our system that he is going to defend himself, but I don't think he ever should have been in a civilian court system. I think he should have been in a military commission.

But he's there. And if this is the way he wants to have his case tried, so be it.

BLITZER: It sounds, Roy Black, that there's a potential there -- at least the potential -- for a circus with Zacarias Moussaoui making political statements, having some sort of standby counsel.

Can he get a fair trial in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, only a few miles, if that, from the Pentagon?

BLACK: Well, it's two miles from the Pentagon. I think that the government should have agreed to a change of venue, because clearly, particularly with him representing himself, the trial is going to be a cake walk. They're going to convict him. Doesn't make any difference where. They ought to put it in a jurisdiction that is not quite so close to where the victims are.

Moussaoui's biggest problem, of course, is the irony of it, is this foreigner who we've given all of these protections to, doesn't even want them. He doesn't want a lawyer. And now he's defending himself. And it's going to be a disaster.

I don't think it's going to be the kind of circus people think because the judge is going to have a lot of control over that. But I think it's a big mistake because the evidence against him is not as strong as people think.

BLITZER: All right, let's...

DIGENOVA: I would have moved the case to New York at ground zero. I think that would have been a great place for it.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about someone who does want a lawyer, who has a lawyer, but it not allowed to see, meet with that lawyer, the U.S. citizen Jose Padilla also known as Abdullah Al-Muhajir. He's a U.S. citizen. His trial date -- there is no trial date because he's not been charged with anything. He's being held in the U.S. Navy brig in South Carolina as an enemy combatant. He's the so-called dirty bomb suspect out there.

How do you explain that? That he has this lawyer, Donna Newman, court-appointed in New York. She can't even talk to this U.S. citizen. Does that make any sense, Joe, to you?

DIGENOVA: Yes, it does, because he an enemy combatant who under the Constitution, the president has taken into custody during a war and is holding in a brig. He is of intelligence value and of military planning value. He's not entitled to a lawyer under the laws of war. And he is not being in the American judicial system. He doesn't belong there.

He has intelligence value. He's a prisoner of war, and that's exactly -- no lawyer should have a right to interfere with an enemy combatant in the custody of the United States military.

BLITZER: Roy Black, if holding this individual the way the U.S. government is holding him, can save American lives, what's wrong with that?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, let's take a look at this case. Here's some street kid from Chicago who belonged to a gang up there, moves down to Broward County, just north of Miami here, got in all kinds of trouble with various street crimes. All of a sudden, he has been moved way up the scale of creating some type of radiological or nuclear bomb, which I'm sure would be far beyond him minimal capabilities to do. He's arrested. He's put in civilian custody and given a lawyer for a month. But then when John Ashcroft needs to fight back about these accusations they're not finding enough about terrorism, they drag him out of the court there, call him an enemy combatant, have a wonderful press conference in Moscow. And now all of us feel a lot safer because this guy Padilla is in the brig somewhere in South Carolina.

Quite frankly, I don't think that he matches up to his star power the government is trying to give him.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. We could go on for much longer. Roy Black, Joe DiGenova, two of the best in the business, thanks as usual for joining us.

BLACK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, LATE EDITION's final round. Domestic mogul Martha Stewart is under some scrutiny. Our final round panel weighs in on her troubles and the other big stories of the day right after a news alert.

(NEWS ALERT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Arizona's Governor Jane Hull is speaking right now about the fires in her state.

GOV. JANE HULL (R), ARIZONA: I will never be able to thank them enough. Their lives and the lives of people are what are the most important things about this fire. We've got to make sure that lives are saved first. Public safety comes next and the sheriff, the police, the DPS, all of them together have been able to have a very orderly evacuation of Show Low, Pinetop, Lakeside, toward (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Valley, some in Holbrooke and now started in White River.

The health of the forests and I think many of you know I came to Arizona 40 years ago and I've had roots in Pinetop, Lakeside for at least 30 some years.

I know this country. I've never seen any thing like this fire. This fire is something that western governors are now meeting in Phoenix. We've talked about and talked about and talked about and the word does not seem to get back to the environmentalists, to the courts who keep us from cleaning up the fires.

Mother Nature right now is saying to Arizona, saying to the West, and hopefully that message is getting to Congress that we have got to clean up these forests. Nature did it. Nature did it on a very regular basis before people came out here. Now nature is telling us that we have got to get this in control. This is the most out of control fire we've ever seen.

This is not -- this is the time to get our act together and realize that the healthier the habitat is, the cleaner the forests are. And I think that hopefully when this is all over you could take that opportunity to go see what a healthy forest looks like because we have them in Arizona. We have them on the reservations. The White Mountain Apaches have been doing a great job of being able to clean their forests. That message has got to go out.

With that, again, my thoughts and my prayers are with my friends all over the White Mountains. Lives are the most important thing that we can have, that we can save and our homes. Again, I think I'm sicker for people who have a first home here, who don't have a roof over their heads. The state will do everything in our power to help. We will be up here as much as we can.

And let me just again tell you that our prayers are with everyone in Show Low, everyone in the White Mountains and everyone who is fighting this fire. It is devastating and I hope that the message gets across that clean forests are where we have got to go.

Thank you all.

BLITZER: Jane Hull, the Republican governor of Arizona speaking about the devastating fires in her state the worst ever we're told in Arizona.

I want to talk about that, I want to bring in our LATE EDITION "Final Round" panel. Joining me now, Donna Brazile, the Democratic political strategist. Peter Beinart of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review Online" and Robert George of the "New York Post."

Jonah, the governor seems to be blaming the government, the federal government, for part of the problem, the devastating fires in there, because the government presumably wasn't doing a good enough job, in her words, cleaning up these forests.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: It wasn't that it wasn't doing a good enough job, and she's absolutely right that the federal government has something to do with this. The federal government sent a policy which said, at the behest of environmentalists, under the Clinton administration, which said that you can't clear away dead wood from a lot of these places. They stopped the building of roads in certain places.

And the governor is absolutely right. Fires and Mother Nature used to clean out forests by burning them. And, unless we were perfectly happy -- the Sierra Club and these groups are saying, fires are good -- well, fires are good in the big, ecosystem sense, but not when you have tens of thousands of people living on the edges of forests.

(CROSSTALK)

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: We have another problem here, which is that the government should not be encouraging, in fact should be discouraging, just as we now do with floods, people who go and build homes, particularly homes that are not fire-coded the way they are in some other parts of the country, that are very closely sized, that's the other problem, and that's where libertarians and these Western politicians have been totally AWOL. You have to make it like it is for floods. If you build a home in a dangerous area and you don't fireproof it, you should not get money from the government to rebuild.

BLITZER: But the obvious issue, Robert, of these -- what they call "controlled burns", where the government goes in, the Forest Service goes in, they start these fires deliberately to clean up some of the dead wood. Apparently the environmentalists don't like that policy.

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: Well, yes, I mean, that's because, obviously, they feel, you know, it should be trees ueber alles, and the thing is, the failure -- or I should say, in a sense, the success of the environmentalists in pressuring the federal government not to permit that has created the situation we've got now.

BLITZER: Environmentalists are to blame for this?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely not. I think the environmentalists are just as concerned with the governors and others in preserving the forests, as well as finding ways to prevent these fires from spreading in the future, and the government should step in to try to help them right now.

BLITZER: All right. The fires in Arizona, the fires in Colorado, and let's hope those fires are out pretty quickly.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But let's move on now, and talk about the fallout from news that the National Security Agency, that super secret agency of the U.S. government, intercepted messages about September 11 on the day before the attacks but didn't translate those messages until the day after.

Earlier today, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, said disclosure of that information is a major setback for U.S. intelligence efforts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: I'm certain that this -- if he's still alive, there's a terrorist somewhere who communicated information, back in September of 2001, and now understands that we were listening to that communication, and he or she is not likely to use that same form of communication in the future, and so we've lost a valuable source.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Donna, some are suggesting, I don't know if you're one of them, that the White House may be more concerned about the leak than the original intelligence failure.

BRAZILE: Well, I think it's difficult to measure what the White House is most concerned about. But Members of Congress did rush to the Senate floor, to the House floor, to condemn the leak as well as sent an letter to an agency that is under investigation, the FBI, to say "investigate us to see if we could do a better job."

But the real information that the Intelligence Committee should be receiving on a daily basis from the White House and others, they need that information so that we can access what really happened, and we can move and prevent these type of attacks from happening.

BLITZER: Jonah, when CNN first reported the exact words that were intercepted, the source of our report was congressional sources.

GOLDBERG: Yes, and it sounds like it came from -- I take CNN at its word, that it came from someone in Congress.

And one of the things that I think is important to keep in mind here, you asked the question is the White House more concerned about the leak or the intelligence failure, well a leak is an intelligence failure. It's asking -- in some ways it's like saying, "Are you more concerned about the hole in the boat or the water coming up through it?"

They're basically the same thing. And whether or not the White House is concerned specifically about the content of this leak or not, you know, it's very hard to say. But my guess is what they're trying to do is try to set an example right now, shoot a shot across the bow to Congress and say, "No more."

BLITZER: You know, Peter, I've been a recipient of leaks now for some 30 years as a reporter here in Washington. And the executive branch of the government leaks as much as the legislative branch of government. Isn't this sort of a dead end...

BEINART: According to a senior administration official...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I get leaks from all sorts of places, but looking for the leaker in this particular case, what's that all about? Are they every going to find that person?

GEORGE: Well, probably not. I think, as Jonah said, the hope is to basically scare people a little bit so it doesn't happen again.

But the basic problem is leaks are very, very bad. And they cause a lot of problems, but on the other hand, we do need to have some way of out from the outside of pressing these agencies, which tend to be very resistant to change to change their behavior, to do a better job. And that tends not to happen unless you create public pressure. And that's the problem.

How do you create public pressure without these leaks?

GOLDBERG: Right. NSA shouldn't stand for not secret agency. However, I do think -- obviously leaks are a problem, and I think the administration was right to shut this down. That said, however, neither the administration nor any of the Democrats were exactly complaining when the FBI and the CIA were in this war of leaks as to who knew what when. So there's a -- it's getting a little bit silly in terms of who's being pure on this.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a quick break. We have a lot more coming up.

Up next, are you planning a trip this week? Be sure to check if the trains are running on time, if they're running indeed, at all. We will discuss Amtrak's money problems just ahead.

Plus, your phone calls and e-mail.

Our "Final Round" will continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round." There's much anticipation about the Middle East peace plan that President Bush is expected to outline this week perhaps -- perhaps, as early as tomorrow.

Today one of the Senate's leading Democrats, John Kerry of Massachusetts, offered a scathing assessment of the White House's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There's no continuity. There is no fundamental plan and they have restrained the State Department and Colin Powell from effectively being the State Department and being the secretary of state.

I think they've got to announce a vision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jonah, those are pretty strong words. What's your assessment?

GOLDBERG: First of all I want to applaud John Kerry for adopting what I've called the Peter Beinart doctrine which is that a Democrat should get out and try to make the war on terrorism a political issue, and that's definitely what Kerry did today.

In terms of what he said specifically about Israel and the Middle East it seems to me it's almost totally baseless. From the first hand, Bush did come out with a vision. He was actually the first person ever to mention the words Palestinian state in any seriousness.

And second of all the idea that somehow this continuity which Kerry emphasizes is so important, well we tried that with Clinton and we got something like 20 months of intifada and suicide bombings.

So at the time, Bush's hands-off approach seemed to make a lot of sense.

BLITZER: He seems to be blaming Clinton, your former boss, for the suicide bombings.

BRAZILE: Well, he wasn't my former boss, but he was my -- yes, he was I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: Depends what you mean by is.

BRAZILE: Jonah be careful.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: First of all, Kerry sounded quite presidential, looked presidential today. I am glad that he took on this administration on the Middle East. Why? Because we have not had a policy. We have not had any guidance from the White House.

They've been adrift for months on the Middle East, and now, you know, the president seemed like a Johnny Come Lately. This crisis is out of control and you know what, I don't think anyone will take his plan seriously tomorrow.

GEORGE: I'm actually going to surprise you and say I partly agree with John Kerry. I don't agree with his prescription, though. I think his description of the way the White House has been handling this over the last few months is pretty accurate, and I would criticize, I would criticize the president for just going ahead with the whole idea of the Palestinian state while the suicide bombings are still going on which seems like he's actually rewarding terror. So I think there is -- there's legitimate criticism for the administration.

BEINART: Let me actually switch places with Robert and defend the administration here. I think the truth is that with such pitiful, terrible leadership on both sides of this conflict right now, a Palestinian leader who is become totally irrelevant and who has no credibility with anyone any more and probably, in my opinion, the worst leader in Israeli history, a man who has no vision for peace, has never shown an interest in peace. Has never shown an interest in giving the Palestinian's a non-violent path to statehood. There's is nothing any administration can do until both these men are gone.

BLITZER: All right, strong words from Peter Beinart. You've got a new principle, you've got a new Peter Beinart principle.

Let's move on and talk about...

(LAUGHTER)

... Amtrak, which will begin shutting down train services by the middle of next week, unless -- this is big unless -- it receives a $200 million government back loan.

Robert, you take the train from New York every week to be on this program. What do you think?

GEORGE: I do indeed. I run the risk of having to surrender my vast right wing conspiracy card by saying actually, "Yes, Amtrak should be saved."

There needs to be a lot of improvement, but I think actually that 9/11 really underscored the importance to have a continued viable rail system in the country.

BLITZER So the marketplace is not enough to let the train survive on the eastern shore?

GOLDBERG: I'm tempted to criticize Robert for his big government for me but thee approach to...

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: No argument there.

GOLDBERG: But look,should Amtrak be saved? Probably not. Should America's rail system be saved? Sure.

Amtrak is an economic disaster, an embarrassment. We subsidize all sorts of economically inefficient and unnecessary rail travel in this country, but should be have a train system? Sure.

BLITZER: Donna?

BRAZILE: We subsidize more things in this country, and I don't want to start naming...

GEORGE: And we should stop...

GOLDBERG: And how about the housing subsidy that you just got there.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: First time home buyer subsidy, I'm sure in the District of Columbia.

I think Amtrak should be saved so that Robert can not only appear on this show, but also people like me can have alternative methods of transportation.

BLITZER: What about it, Peter? Button this Amtrak issue up for us.

BEINART: Yes, I think actually particularly if conservatives want to talk about reducing our reliance on Middle East oil, which they have been doing, you have to recognize that rail travel is very important for fuel efficiency amongst other things, particularly because the smaller rail systems within cities actually depend on Amtrak rail.

So maybe you can have some competition in another rail system, but it seems to me the notion that you don't need a rail system at all, which some conservatives, kind of pro-car conservatives will argue, is a really bad idea.

BLITZER: I like that Acela train. That's a pretty good train. Too bad it doesn't go faster, but they don't have the beds for that. We will get into that another time.

(LAUGHTER)

Let's take another quick break. Our lightening round is just ahead.

The Supreme Court will announce some decisions tomorrow that could affect you and your children.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round." Domestic goddess Martha Stewart, who knows a lot about good things, is at the center of a controversy. She sold her stock in a biotech firm just one day before the company's application for a cancer drug was rejected by the FDA.

Jonah, are Americans losing confidence in corporate America?

GOLDBERG: I think clearly so from the tanking stock market to everything else. What I would emphasis is that these sorts of things almost always happen at the end -- it sounds like Martha's in trouble and deserves to be and that's fine, I never liked her show.

But these kinds of things always happen after big economic booms where you have to -- where the excess has to wrenched from the system and my point -- the only point I would make is that the financial system is doing it itself and there's not that much role for government to be doing it.

BLITZER: Donna, are you going to defend Martha Stewart?

BRAZILE: Well, she's a domestic diva and I understand divas...

(LAUGHTER)

...but she's in hot water right now, and I'm waiting to hear what recipe she'll use to get out of this.

BLITZER: Oh, very good. Who writes your material?

BRAZILE: Robert.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Just as I suspected.

BLITZER: All right, Robert, what about the big picture, corporate America. I mean every other day some major company's got some creative accounting that's getting them in trouble and obviously this Martha Stewart issue is a huge, huge story.

GEORGE: It is and actually Bush added -- edited his speech in front of the -- in front of the Republican Congressional Committee, his big fund raiser earlier this week. That corporate accountability is something that they absolutely need to pay attention to because if it continues, if this continues and the stock market keeps spiraling down, it's going to have a ripple effect in the economy. Republicans would lose presumably at the polls in November and it could have a ripple effect through 2004. So Bush should focus on it.

BLITZER: Peter?

BEINART: Yes, and it's actually -- in some ways it's humbling because it shows how little presidential elections matter. We are returning to an era of big government on this. Prescription drugs, campaign finance reform, homeland security. It -- and it's not just as we were in an era of smaller government under Bill Clinton because of larger macro force particularly having to do with, as Jonah said, with the economy, doesn't matter as much who's in office.

BLITZER: Great headline in the U.S. News & World Report this new issue, Martha and the Vandals. For those of our older viewers who will remember Martha and the Vandella's.

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court decides if school vouchers violate the constitutional separation of church and state. Should government funding be used to send children to private schools.

BRAZILE: Absolutely not. Ninety-seven percent of our children attend public schools and our money should follow where the children are and improve public schools.

GEORGE: We already allow government funding in the form of Pell Grants to go to students who are going to college. The same principle should hold for elementary schools.

BLITZER: That's a good point. If the government can -- money can go for Catholic schools, let's say universities and Jewish universities in the United States, Protestant universities, why not for elementary and high school?

BEINART: I agree. The separation of church and state in American is strong. What's not strong is the state of urban education. Vouchers are a possible chance at improving that. We should give them -- let them work as experiment, see if they work.

GOLDBERG: I'm pretty much in agreement with Peter on this. The constitutional question is a joke. Of course, it's not an infringement on church/state issues. There's a public policy question where Donna and us will disagree, but anything that shakes up the bureaucracy is good.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk about President Bush. He's whipping his staff into shape. He organized a three mile run yesterday here in Washington, D.C. Should a boss be allowed to demand physical fitness from his employees? When was the last time that you exercised, Jonah?

GOLDBERG: Well, I'm getting so heavy that smaller pundits are starting to circle me in an orbit.

(LAUGHTER)

But I think it's flatly unconstitutional for bosses to require employees to be physically fit, which is going to help me somewhat in the job market one of these days.

You know the ADA, IRS, all of these groups say that obesity and physical handicaps make you a protected client.

BLITZER: Bill Clinton like to job, but he never forced anybody else to job with him.

BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely not, thank God.

(LAUGHTER)

I want to applaud the president for leading for it by example. And last night I exercised. I went out to the FDR Memorial and walked around the Tidal Basin and encouraged residents and Americans to come to the District of Columbia -- it's safe.

GOLDBERG: As a pundit, I get my exercise running off at the mouth and jumping to conclusions.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: Yeah, my girlfriend dragged me to exercise this morning, actually. But I think -- this is a good idea for Bush...

GOLDBERG: Is that information we really need?

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: It's what we call TMI.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. I just do want to pay all of our respects to Eppy Lederer, better known as Ann Landers. She was great columnist, the syndicated columnist. Ann Landers died yesterday at 83. I think all of us grew up reading her advice...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... and we appreciated it very much.

BRAZILE: And may she rest in peace.

BLITZER: Certainly. May she rest in peace. That's all of the time we have. That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, June 23. Tune again next Sunday and ever Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Please be sure to join me Monday through Friday 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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