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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Condoleezza Rice

Aired February 11, 2004 - 21:00   ET

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

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, where are Iraq's weapon of mass destruction. The question everyone's asking. We'll National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
And then David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, who just went back there to try and find the weapons that lead America to war.

Also, Senator John Warner, chairmen of the Arms Services Committee.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Terrorism Sub- Committee.

Representative Christopher Shays is chairman of the National Security Sub Committee.

Representative Jane Harman, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

And "Washington Post" diplomatic correspondent, Robin Wright who covered Saddam Hussein's regime for more than 20 years.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We begin tonight with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. We know her for quite some time so we're allowed to call her Condi. That is correct right?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That is absolutely right, Larry.

KING: The audience cannot take effect when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) familiar vein.

Can we honestly say, Condi, if we knew then what we knew now, we still would have invaded Iraq.

RICE: The president made the decision to finally deal with Iraq after 12 years of defiance of the international community because this was a dangerous man in the world's most dangerous region. People forget that we were flying -- our air pilots were flying missions practically every day and Saddam Hussein was shooting at them as they were trying to keep him from attacking his neighbors or attacking his home people. They forget we went to war against him in 1991, to war against him in 1998 when President Clinton bombed his installations because of fears of weapons of mass destruction. This was a man who was funding terrorists and who had terrorists operating in and around Baghdad, who was a threat to his neighbors, a threat to American interest, absolutely. It was time to take care of this problem.

KING: So, even though we haven't discovered or found WMDs yet, you would make that same decision knowing everything you know now?

RICE: Absolutely. And, Larry, let me take just a minute to talk about what we have found. The one thing that one can say about Saddam Hussein is he had the intent to build weapons of mass destructions, this is somebody who has used weapons of mass destruction in the past. It is true that certain stocks of weapons that we thought were there that frankly the intelligence services around the world thought were there, that the United Nations, the inspectors, as late as March of 2003 believed that they were there saying that it wasn't credibility, that Iraq couldn't account for its weapons of mass destruction.

Yes, we've not found those stocks, but what we have found is hundreds of weapons of mass destruction related activities hidden from United Nations inspectors. We found and interviewed people who've talked about how they were hiding these programs from the United Nations. We know now that this was somebody who had intent, who had capability and put that capability to use before. He was a dangerous man in the world's most dangerous part of the world. The world is better off without him and finally the word of the United States of the United Nations whose resolution we enforced, that word is finally good. And as a result of the fact that that result is now credible, we're getting movement on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in other parts of the world like Libya where Colonel Gadhafi has voluntarily decided to disarm.

KING: Does this concept make us kind of the world's policeman and are we saying, you better watch out or you're next?

RICE: The president laid out today at a speech at the National Defense University, a very good program, an international program of working with the United Nations to criminalize this kind of behavior by in individual states. To strength on the international Atomic Industry Agency and to take some steps to close loopholes in the treaties that are supposed to prevent the spread of these weapons. He talked about working with other nations in the Proliferation Security Initiative, which is a program to actually interdict on the high seas the dangerous cargoes where people might be trading weapons of mass destruction materials. He talked about the cooperation that we've had with the British and the Pakistanis in breaking up this aqcon (ph) network, which is just a really interesting story of a kind of shadowy, nuclear underworld, entrepreneurs selling this -- these dangerous materials on the black market. He talked about a real international effort. This won't be done by the United States alone.

KING: Nor would it act alone?

RICE: The United States is, of course, going to act when it is in the interest in the interest of the security of the United States. And after 9/11, this president has born a heavy burden to be certain that we are responding to threats and not simply allowing them to gather. When the president talked about not allowing threats to gather and not waiting until threats are imminent because it might be too late, he was reflecting the thinking of a president who sat in the Oval Office on the night of 9/11 and told the American people that we would do everything that we could to avoid an event like that again. And today, he talked about measures that would help us try to make certain that that event could not happen with weapons of mass destruction.

So, it is, in fact, a heavy burden. It's one in which we cannot afford inaction, fortunately, we haven't had to act alone. We're acting in coalition with many, many states. Over 37 states involved in Iraq. A much larger coalition in Afghanistan. We're not acting alone. We're acting with good friends.

KING: When intelligence is wrong or fails, does this give you as national security adviser pause when you get other intelligence in other areas?

RICE: I've always know, and I've been in the business a long time and intelligence is not perfect. It's -- you rarely know all the fact. It's also the case, particularly, when you're dealing with secretive society when they are attempting to deceive that you're not going to know all the facts. But what you have to do and what the president has done is to take the best intelligence, intelligence in this case, that was intelligence from not only the United States but from around the world. Assessments from the United Nations itself. And you have to say, is this a threat and if it is a threat, how long are we going to wait before we act given the specter of 9/11?

And the intelligence that we had, the very best intelligence we had told us very clearly, by the way, still tells us very clearly that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man who had had weapons of mass destruction who maintained the intent and the capability to build weapons of mass destruction and that that was a danger that could not be allowed to stand.

KING: Do you think it is a fair political issue?

RICE: The president said on Sunday that the American people will have an opportunity to look at the decisions that he's made and to judge those decisions. That is entirely fair. I think when they do, they will see a president who has led them through a time of great peril. The first attack on American soil, really, in more than 100 years, given that Pearl Harbor was, at the time, American soil. The -- it was an American base, but not on the American mainland.

And I think they will see a president who's had to make the tough decision, who has put together a fine coalition of states that now through law enforcement and intelligence and tough action are willing to face and deal with the threats of the 21st century. You cannot sweep these things under the rug. You cannot wait until we have another attack on American soil and I think the American people will see a president who's been resolute in defending them.

KING: It's an argument that you don't think critics are less patriotic, because they're critics.

RICE: It's entirely right that the president of the United States go to the American people and say, here's what I have done on your behalf. They have an opportunity to judge. That is what democracy is about. But I hope when people do discuss these issues that they discuss them based on the facts, that they discuss them based on, for instance, what the president knew when he made this decision. And those who want to say that we should not have taken out Saddam Hussein have to answer the question, is the world better with him or without him?

And I think after 12 years of his defiance of the United Nations, after 12 years of watching him sit in Iraq, shoot at our pilots, terrorize his neighbors, terrorize our people with capabilities and money to make weapons of mass destruction, I think people will have to say we're a lot safer with him gone than with him in power in Iraq. And those were the choices. The choice was leave him in power or take him out. The president decided to take him out of power and that was the right decision.

KING: When those who say based on that, why not take out North Korea?

RICE: In North Korea and Iran, for instance, of course, these are dangerous regimes, but different circumstances require different strategies. And we have not exhausted the diplomatic possibilities in dealing with North Korea or dealing with Iran. Iran, I think, responding to the fact that the world has gotten tougher about proliferation thanks to the leadership of this president and Prime Minister Tony Blair and others, The Iranians are now submitting to inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Now, they are not prepared, they say, to give up their enrichment and reprocessing capability, which they should, but at least they're finally responding and after having had to try to cover up that they had intentions toward a nuclear weapons program they're responding.

North Korea: we're in a process with North Korea's neighbors, including with China to make clear to the North Koreans that they're not going to be in a position to enjoy the benefits of the international system and continue to pursue their weapons of mass destruction. Their nuclear program.

So, in those cases, we have diplomatic activities that I think have a very good chance of working. With Iraq, 12 years of broken promises. 12 years of resolutions that Saddam Hussein just violated at will. 12 years of him essentially laughing in the face of the international community. The credibility of the international community was on the line. The United States, Great Britain and a coalition of states defended the credibility of the world and the world is better off for it.

KING: Will you cooperate with that commission investigating all of this and, part two, given that they don't have to report until next year, will you see any politics in that at all?

RICE: The president has put together a commission that is a serious commission to look at the problem that we face, an intelligence problem, of trying to understand the weapons of mass destruction programs of highly secretive regimes that have every reason to deceive.

This is a different kind of intelligence challenge than we faced during the cold war, when we were essentially following the Soviet Union. I was a specialist on Soviet military affairs. They exercised, they wrote about their programs. This was not a closed program.

Now we face a very different kind of intelligence challenge. And what the president has said is that we need the very best intelligence and, of course, this commission of very eminent people, will look back at the lessons of Iraq, they look at what has been found there and what has not and try to explain any differences there. But they'll also look at the challenges in places like North Korea.

KING: They need time?

RICE: They need time. This is a big, big challenge. We want it to be done right, and of course, we'll give full cooperation because this is important for the country, it's important for presidents to come that we have intelligence capabilities that can match the threats of the 21st Century.

KING: We have to wrap it up, we thank you. One other quick thing, if the president's re-elected, will you stay on, if asked?

RICE: I am enjoying my job. It's hard work, but good work. Larry, I don't think about what I am going to be doing next week, let alone next year. I think I'll just try to do my job one day at a time.

KING: Thank you Condi, always good seeing you.

RICE: Thank you, good to see you.

KING: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser. We'll come back, the rest of the program will devoted to this topic, with guests on both sides of the ledger.

And as we go to break, here's a portion of that speech by the president earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Former dictator of Iraq possessed and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. For 12 years he defied the will of the international community. He refused to disarm or account for his illegal weapons and programs. He doubted our resolve to enforce our word. And now he sits in a prison cell, while his country moves to a democratic future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're going to spend a few moments right now with Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a member of the Select Intelligence Committee -- Senator of Virginia, of course. And Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism Technology and Homeland Security.

Then we'll spend some moments with David Kay and then Senator Warner and Senator Feinstein will rejoin us for our panel for the remained of the show with Robin Wright, Chris Shays and Jane Harmon.

Senator Warner, what did you make, overall of what the national security adviser had to say?

SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R-VA) CHMN. ARMED SERVICES CMTE: I listened very carefully and I thought she stated the case very strongly with a clear sense of fairness and put it in language and thoughts that I believe everyone could understand. So, I compliment her.

I've had the privilege of working with her now these several years that she's been in office, as I have worked with many of our security advisers to presidents in the 25 years I've been in the Senate. I'd rank her at the top.

KING: Senator Feinstein, what are your thoughts?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D) CALIFORNIA: I have another point of view. I deeply respect Senator Warner. I think Condoleezza Rice is correct about the fact that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. The question really comes at what price? Did we go for the right reasons and do the right thing?

Now, in the Intelligence Committee tomorrow, we're going to be discussing the staff report on the look at the prewar intelligence. I've just spent six and a half hours reading it. I've read the biological section, the chemical is section, the nuclear section. And what I found was, first of all, it's a tough read. Secondly, it's very well done, it's very thoroughly done. And my observation after reading it is clearly that there were no biological weapons, no chemical weapons, no nuclear weapons nor were there the systems to develop large stockpiles.

KING: So are you saying she's saying if she knew what she knew now she would still do the same thing and you would not. That's the key, isn't it?

FEINSTEIN: I would not, because if you're going to practice preemptive attack on another sovereign nation, you better be right in your intelligence on why you're going. And in this case, the case was sold to the Congress on weapons of mass destruction, not on regime change. And on grave or growing or imminent threat. I've got a lot of quotes and a lot of people, policy makers, administration people banding around imminent threat and that we now find that the intelligence doesn't support that.

KING: Senator Warner, I've got to take a break in a moment. What you know now, you still would have gone to war? WARNER: Larry, let me make it clear, I serve on the same committee, I went through the same material, just left the chambers of the Intel Committee not long ago. I decline to comment on any conclusions I draw, because we're to share that with our colleagues tomorrow morning.

But I will say I respectfully disagree, colleague. An in that, I think you'll find a presentation that will be taken into consideration very carefully by a competent number of senators, very competent on that intelligence committee and we will issue a forthright and fair report. But in the meantime, I back the president's decision without any equivocation.

KING: Let's take a break. Warner and Feinstein will come back with us. I'll spend a few moments with David Kay the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq. We'll do that right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KAY, FMR. CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR IN IRAQ: Certainly the intelligence service believed that there were WMD. It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment. That is most disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Going to spend a few minutes with David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq who has been through the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), he's been there, he's been back. Where do you stand on the simple question, knowing what you know now, would you have still done what they did?

KAY: Larry, I think Condoleezza Rice is absolutely correct. The world is far safer without Saddam Hussein. If you spend any time in Iraq and look at what he did to Iraqi society, it would be hard to come to any conclusion and we all bear responsibility for letting him continue so long.

KING: Why were we or the collective we so wrong about information?

KAY: Well, I think we should give the Iraqis a lot of credit for that. Remember, when I first went into Iraq in 1991, Iraqis engaged in lying, cheating and deception of U.N. inspectors and that continued for a very long time. And, in fact, right up until the end as Hans Blitzer (ph) in December before the war, Iraq has not made a genuine commitment to disarm. Saddam played a bluff that was monumental in its stupidity. He thought he could get away with it because he didn't believe we would take decisive action. He lost his regime and his family because of that.

KING: Why would he do that knowing he didn't have the weapons of mass destruction. Why didn't he just let them look and let them go home? KAY: He would have been far wiser if he had taken your advice on that, but he didn't believe he had to worry about the U.S. taking the ultimate step of removing him. He thought he had protection because we didn't have an international consensus through the Security Council. He thought we would do is another air attack like Desert Fox, he badly misunderstood the U.S.

KING: Do you now question the confidence of more intelligence in more areas?

KAY: Look, I think Dr. Rice is correct. I think anyone who spent any time around intelligence realizes it's never pristine, never 100 percent. The ambiguities are quite large. I think there's ambiguities. I think if you read the president's speech carefully, better intelligence is required, that's why he is appointing the commission. I think that's a very good step. I think it needs to be followed through.

KING: When you testified you said you had not found a single intelligence analyst who was pressured to spin the intelligence a certain way. Some are charging they spun it because the president wanted to go to Iraq and now they made it fit what he wanted.

KAY: I think that's wrong in my experience, let me say, I can only testify about my interaction, but it must have been over 50 analysts who are deeply disturbed because the reality of what we were finding was not what they had estimated and written about before the war. None of them took the easy out and said, I had to do it, someone forced me to do it. That simply was not true in those cases.

KING: Was Iraq any imminent threat to the United States?

KAY: You know, Larry, I think we've all got to understand that imminent is a risk perception of how much risk you're willing to run. That's not something for me to estimate. Ultimately, that's why we like political leaders. In the shadow of 9/11, we must recognize that regardless of which political party had been in office, you're going to be willing to run fewer risks.

Look, Iraq had WMD prior to 1991, it had invaded two of its neighbors and used WMD both against its own population and its own neighbors. I think it's very understandable, given Iraqi behavior, to believe that it was a serious threat and certainly given the intelligence that was available, I'm not sure I know anyone who faced that same situation in the office of responsibility as President Bush would have done anything else.

KING: Did you want to serve on the commission?

KAY: No, I've done my public duty right now. I look forward -- it's a very distinguished commission. I am sure it will be well- staffed. I applaud the president in not taking the easy out and giving it a narrow mandate of just Iraq, but really telling it to look at how you pursue weapons of mass destruction in the hands of both states like Iraq as well as in the hands of terrorist groups. I think this is an important mission and it will take time and it certainly needs to be done.

KING: You don't think that time is politically motivated?

KAY: Look, I don't know anyone who could do that job. In fact, if I knew anyone who said they could do that job in three to four months or six months before the election, I would question how seriously they were going to do that job.

KING: What, David, does a former chief weapons inspector now do?

KAY: Larry, my wife keeps asking me that, I was hoping you had the answer. I am unemployed. She keeps reminding me. I should not make the mistake of being unemployable. I will take some time and think about it and not rush into it.

KING: How do you get to be a weapons inspector?

KAY: It's certainly not something you intended when you began your life. Being in the right place at the right time or maybe it's the wrong place at the wrong time. Having had a reputation for questioning, doing certain things in life, being lucky and being surrounded by a lot of good people, I must say.

KING: You will come back to the workforce in some area.

KAY: I certainly hope so.

KING: Well, you're in Washington, you could be a consultant.

KAY: Well, I guess so. I've got a BlackBerry, and a briefcase and a cell phone, so, that's probably the prerequisites.

KING: Thanks, David, for spending some time with us. David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq. When we come back, Senator Warner and Feinstein return along with Robin Wright and Congressman Christopher Shays and Congresswoman Jane Harman. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has consistently brought these threats to the attention of international organizations. We're using every means of diplomacy to answer them. As for my part, I will continue to speak clearly on these threats. I will continue to call upon the world to confront these dangers and to end them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back with us all in Washington. Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, naturally a supporter of the president, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism. She has endorsed John Kerry for president. Joining us now in Washington, Robin Wright, the "Washington Post" diplomatic correspondent, author of "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam." She's reported on Saddam Hussein for more than two decades.

Congressman Chris Shays, Chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. He's a Republican of Connecticut. And Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member on the Select Committee on Intelligence, member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, Democrat of California.

Let's get the thoughts of our three new panelists. And then we'll go round robin. Congressman Shays, what did you make of what Dr. Rice had to say?

REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I think she's on target, and I am perplexed by how if we use deductive reasoning, he had it before the Gulf War, he had it after the Gulf War, and there was no indication that the weapons had been destroyed. How that was wrong, and now we're using deductive reasoning suggesting he doesn't have it because we haven't found these weapons of mass destruction. It's logical we would do that now, but the logic is the same.

KING: So in other words, even with the hindsight, you would have still gone to war, knowing what you know now, you would have been?

SHAYS: It was up to Saddam to prove to us he didn't have these weapons.

KING: Simple as that. Jane Harman, what to you think?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I wanted to hear a few more words from Condi Rice, something like we were wrong or our intelligence products were poor, and we're going to fix them right now. That would have been very useful.

My view on the war, which I supported, or the war resolution, which I supported, is that if our intelligence products had been better and our policy makers had accurately stated precisely what was going on in Iraq, assuming we could have known more than we did know, we would have had more time to let diplomacy work before we made the final decision about military action. That would have meant building a bigger coalition, perhaps sharing more of the burdens in Iraq as we went in, while we were there and now, and I think that would have been a better outcome. It still would have achieving removing Saddam Hussein, which is a good thing, and dismantling any remaining weapons of mass destruction.

KING: And Robin Wright of "The Washington Post," your thoughts?

ROBIN WRIGHT, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think the bottom line on today is that the administration, both in the president's speech and Condoleezza Rice's appearance on lots of different media outlets today, is that it's trying to take the issue that played out in Iraq and put it on an international scale that resonates among a domestic audience that is concerned about weapons of mass destruction. And it plays to international community, which shared the concern the United States had over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and broadens it to not just Iraq, but to a lot of different countries. It's the issue of the next decade, perhaps even longer.

KING: How big an issue, Senator Warner, is it going to be in the campaign? Is it going to be paramount?

WARNER: It certainly will not be paramount, in my judgment. I really believe that the work that is now ongoing by the committee on which Dianne and I serve and the committee on which you serve -- there are some six different committees and organizations carefully looking at the intelligence, and as they I think make decisions and findings, that will be incorporated on a real-time basis to strengthen our intelligence, because it's protecting and helping men and women of the armed forces all over the world.

And by the time the election comes around, I think it's the issues of the economy and decisive, strong leadership, which no one can fault George Bush. He has shown it. And I think he did the right thing at the right time, and I want to add one other element, which has not been discussed. Yesterday I chaired a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. We had the four chiefs of services, chief of Naval operations, chief of Army, chief of Marines and the Air Force. I asked a question, did you have any reason to approach the president prior to the use of force and say, Mr. President, now is not the time? The answer, no, they all felt he acted consistent with the advice given to him by the military, and in a timely fashion after it was very clear, Congresswoman, that every effort diplomatically had been done by the coalition members. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) leadership.

KING: Senator Feinstein, is it a bona fide issue?

FEINSTEIN: I think it is a bona fide issue. I think the reasons we do something as grave as going to war, you know, wounding thousands of our men and women, losing over 500, killing who knows how many innocent Iraqis, really hurting America's prestige and credibility abroad, I think it's an issue.

I think how we act in this world of asymmetric threats is really the vision of national security for the future. And I think we have a real problem on our hands, that we have a very flawed intelligence structure. I've taken a lot of time, tried to study it very hard, and I think the reaction here is not going to -- is going to -- in Washington is to say, who do we blame? Who leaves? And I don't think that will solve the problem.

You have 15 different intelligence agencies. You have seven of them controlled by the secretary of defense. You have 60 to 70 percent of the money controlled by the secretary of defense. The CIA director cannot hire or fire any of those people. You have no one that's able to set priorities and strategies and move the deck chairs on the Titanic across agencies. It is -- we are not really suited up for an asymmetrical world, and we need to make the structural changes.

KING: Congressman Shays, why, if he didn't have the weapons, didn't he just let there be wholesale inspection? SHAYS: Well, he wanted us to think he had weapons, because he didn't think we would attack. I spoke with Hans Blix, he had told us that he believed that Saddam never thought we would attack. He misjudged us twice, in '91 and again last year, or this year. And we learned from Tariq Aziz, that -- the foreign minister -- that he never thought we would attack. He misread us, and that's one of the dangers that can take place.

You know, this country wasn't Belgium. This was a country that had defied the U.N. for 12 years. We had a U.N. fly zone from Turkey and from Saudi Arabia. We knew we needed to get out of Saudi Arabia, that was one of the contentions of Osama bin Laden. We knew we needed to bring help bring peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. We could not do that as long as Saddam Hussein existed.

KING: Congresswoman Harman, are you saying that you would now, knowing what you know, vote against the resolution?

HARMAN: No, I am not saying that, Larry. I do not regret my vote. The resolution required us, as Senator Warner just said, to make a maximum effort through the U.N. to solve this problem without the use of force, and only as a last resort to use force.

What I said earlier was we might have had more time to let diplomacy work. Senator Warner said correctly that some nations were obstructionist, but I remember in the last days a couple of them calling for a few more months, and I do think it would have been worth the effort, knowing what we now know, to try longer to build an international coalition to go in with us.

I don't agree with Condi Rice that the 37 nations she mentions are truly a coalition. We're paying most of the price in terms of lost lives and most of the price in terms of dollars.

I just want to say one other thing, which is, at this point, I think it's more productive to look forward. How do we fix our intelligence problems? How do we make certain that the analysis we're doing now on weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, Iran, Libya, which is going to dismantle its weapons, which is terrific, and else where is accurate. There is specific steps this president could direct the intelligence agencies to take today and I hope he will do that.

KING: We'll take a break and get Robin Wright's thoughts and include some of your phone calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Abandoning weapons could lead to better relations with the United States and other free nations. Continuing to seek those weapons will not bring security or international prestige, but only political isolation, economic hardship and other unwelcomed consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Robin Wright, is this an issue where as the panelists have said you look ahead, or is it still a bona fide issue to be debated in the campaign?

WRIGHT: I think it's very much an issue for the campaign. A lot will be determined, in fact, by how the political transition in Iraq plays out. If the United States can create and leave behind when the occupation ends on June 30 a stable government that is recognized by the majority of Iraqis as legitimate and is not then targeted by the insurgency that the Iraq, that the effort will look better in the eyes of Americans and in the outside world. Because the United States has made headway in dealing with Libya. It has won an agreement anyway from Iran. There has been progress in getting the North Koreans to talk. It will look like the United States had begun cracking that very difficult issue of weapons of mass destruction and how you deal with it.

If, however, Iraq turns out to be a messy transition and the United States leave business hind a government that continues to be targeted and there's instability, then there will be a lot of questions among Americans, as well as the outside world about whether the issue of weapons of mass destruction was significant to justify the kinds of cost of American lives and to the American economy.

KING: Let's take a call from Reading, Pennsylvania for Senator Warner, Senator Feinstein, Robin Wright, and Congressman Shays, and Congresswoman Harman. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: It seems to me despite the ambiguity of the intelligence at least on the paper trail that Hans Blix was on the ground in Iraq. And it seems the administration was intent on ignoring his findings. I would like to ask the panel, wouldn't war have been avoided by letting Hans Blix continue his inspections rather than ignoring the findings that he was reporting?

KING: A lot of people made fun of Hans Blix, Senator Warner, should we have listened?

WARNER: He did the best he could under extraordinary circumstances. They were following him, anticipating where he was going to go and cutting him off and infiltrated him. And I think if the world had thought there was a chance he could get to the bottom of it, I think David Kay indicated that Blix did his best he was, at every turn, stopped. I would like to return to the question in the campaign. I'd just say In the campaign anybody wants to challenge what we've done, then ask, would the world be better off if Saddam Hussein would be in power next November.

SHAYS: Larry, I'd love to answer the question. It's truly an outrage that we didn't have Hans Blix participate in looking for these weapons of mass destruction and the IAEA. They told me in August and December that David Kay was contacting them on information they could have told him in April and May. And for the life of me, I don't know why we didn't involve both.

FEINSTEIN: I think you're absolutely right.

KING: Senator Feinstein?

FEINSTEIN: I think it's a very important point. After 1998 when all the arms inspectors were out, we really knew very little about what was happening in Iraq. And that was one of the real down sides and that's why the intelligence became so overwhelmingly important. And, as Dr. David Kay also said, the United States became very independent dependent on the arms inspection team for information. Then, when they left, there was this huge void and I think we suffered because of it.

HARMAN: Thinking about the campaign, though, I see it a little differently. The problems with our intelligence, both collection and analysis, started with the end of the Cold War. We really underestimated what would come next, we declared a peace dividend, we reduced investments both in intelligence and defense under President Bush's father and that continued into the early parts of the Clinton administration and was then corrected. But I think this election ought to be about what we do now. There's an opportunity for President Bush now to acknowledge the problems and begin to fix them right now. Not just kick the can down the road until next March. I think his inquiry is fine, but we know a lot right now. Both the House and the Senate know a lot. His Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board knows a lot, recommendations have been made, and if he takes steps now, that's one way to measure them. If he does nothing now, I think that's another way to measure him.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I'll be right back with more. We'll pick right up in just a minute. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We cannot ignore gathering threats across the ocean. It used to be that we could pick or choose whether or not we would become involved. If we saw a threat it may be a threat to a friend and we may be involved, but never did we realize the threat could be directed at the American people, and that changed. And therefore when hear of stories of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a brutal dictator who hates America, we need to take that seriously and we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we take another call, Robin Wright, was it you who wanted to say something?

WRIGHT: No, I was just going to address the callers answer the question about Hans Blix. And the fact is, the United States, after allowing 12 years for weapons inspectors to look for -- or, sorry, eight years, to look for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, only allowed three month for the weapons inspectors who went back in, lead by Hans Blix, to find the missing components that hadn't been found in those eight years and, of course, the four years. We really didn't give that group of inspectors enough time to get deep into Iraqi society, have a chance to talk to the scientists.

KING: Youngstown, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Yes, my question is for Dianne Feinstein.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: Ms. Feinstein, how can you say your motives are not purely political when there was unanimous decision, and you were part of that, to support the president to go to Iraq to rid the world of a horrible human being? Thank you for...

KING: Go ahead, Dianne.

FEINSTEIN: I'd be happy to answer it. It wasn't a unanimous vote. It was a vote of 77 members who voted yes and the remaining members voted the other way. And one of the reasons I deeply believe that it was 77 members, and I can only tell you for myself, because I spent a lot of time looking at the intelligence.

And I read the classified version twice, I read the unclassified version several times. I looked at the aerial photographs, I looked at the daily briefs and so on. And I believed what I read and the reason that I cast a vote to authorize the president to use force was because I truly believed that Iraq could be a threat in the Middle East, as well as a potential threat to the United States.

KING: Are you saying that...

FEINSTEIN: I could fill that out more, but I don't truly believe -- now Saddam was an evil man. And the world is well rid of him. But the doctrine of preemption, which means we attack another sovereign nation, carries with it a lot of worldwide baggage in terms of America's credibility. We have to deal do it for the right reasons.

And the war was sold on the basis of weapons of mass destruction, possession of weapons of mass destruction, deployment of weapons of mass destruction and the immediacy of a threat to our friends and neighbors in the Middle East, as well as quite possibly to ourselves.

KING: Are you saying you were hoodwinked?

FEINSTEIN: I am saying I don't feel good about what was presented, as we now go back and look at the weak links. And to a great extent, I feel somewhat betrayed, if you will. I wouldn't have voted strictly on regime change alone, but I would vote to protect this nation at any time or to take steps if I believe it's a major threat.

KING: Senator Warner, we're so close on time with five panelists. Senator Warner, isn't there any part of it where you think you were misled?

WARNER: No, as this thing unfolds, I do not see any facts that would justify that senior administration officials and policy people tried to misrepresent the facts. They got a body of intelligence, and as acknowledged by all, some of it has turned out not to be accurate, but the majority of, I think, the facts are very convincing why we went in.

We'd seen him use these weapons on his own people, we'd seen him use the weapons on his own neighbors, we'd seen what he'd done to Kuwait. This was an evil man and he was clearly, as Condi Rice said, had the intent to use weapons and was working to acquire them and I believe history will show that the United States showed courage and certainly the men and women of the armed forces at a time when the world needed it.

Now, I've gone back over those 77 votes and read the speeches, Dianne, very carefully. Because you know, I was one of the authors of the resolution that was laid before the Senate and helped manage the debate on the floor and it was a good, strong debate. Yes, weapons of mass destruction were mentioned in the speeches by a number of our colleagues, but they did range over a whole series of issues, which I find very convincing in the composite to justify your vote, if I may say respectfully.

FEINSTEIN: I accept that.

WARNER: Time will tell -- we're not finished looking for the weapons yet, time will tell just how serious that intelligence misrepresentation, not misrepresentation, but it turned out not to be the case for large stockpiles.

KING: I've run out of time. We thank you all very much. We'll do a lot more programs on this. We'll bring back Warner and Feinstein and always great to have Chris Shays and Jane Harmon with us, as well as the expertise of Robin Wright of the "Washington Post."

We have a incredible guest tomorrow night and I will tell you all about it right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Sharon Osbourne is a very unusual lady in a very unusual family. Sharon Osbourne is our guest for tomorrow night. It's a program you don't want to miss. Speaking of not wanting to miss, you never want to miss "NEWSNIGHT," especially tonight. Aaron Brown has got some special pictures to show you tonight. See it's a teaser, Aaron. You don't need to build em up, you're laughing. Watch, Aaron will have some pictures you'll like.

AARON BROWN, HOST "NEWSNIGHT": That's all we need to say. We don't need to say any more than that. Thank you Mr. King.

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