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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Richard Clarke; Interview With Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton

Aired March 28, 2004 - 12:00   ET

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


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 p.m. in Jerusalem, and 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
I'm Judy Woodruff. Wolf is away today.

In a few minutes I'll talk with the man who sparked a firestorm in the investigation into the September 11th attacks, former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke.

But first the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

WOODRUFF: Now we turn to the fallout from this week's 9/11 hearings.

The Bush administration remains in full damage-control mode after criticism about its handling of the war on terrorism from former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke.

CNN's Dana Bash is at the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the administration continues to question Richard Clarke's motivation in writing this book and in making the charges that he has.

The vice president telling "Time" magazine, quote, "He has taken advantage of his circumstances this week to promote himself and his book. I don't know the guy that well. I've had some dealings with him over the years. But judging based on what I've seen, I don't hold him in high regard."

Now, this week, in an effort to prove that he is not credible and to prove that he is changing his story, congressional Republicans sought to declassify testimony he gave in 2002. They say it contradicts what he is saying now.

This morning Richard Clarke said he would agree not only to declassify that, but to declassify other things he said proves that he tried to make the case that they needed to be better prepared when he was working in the Bush White House. Secretary of State Colin Powell said this morning that he is willing to declassify as much as possible, but noted that it's not necessarily up to him.

Now, another big issue here is the whole question of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and her refusal to testify publicly before the 9/11 commission. Her colleagues were out today saying that she's getting a bum rap.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Condi Rice would be a superb witness. She is anxious to testify. The president would dearly love to have her testify.

But she -- the lawyers, I think, probably properly, have concluded that to do so would alter that balance, if we got into a practice of doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So administration officials are essentially blaming the lawyers. 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean said this morning that he thinks that it's not appropriate to subpoena her to come and testify in public. But he also thinks that, with this kind of issue, to stand on legal principle and worry about legal precedent is not appropriate, that she should still think about and she should come and testify in public -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, a lot to be following.

Dana Bash is at the Bush ranch in Texas.

Dana, thank you very much.

Well, while the 9/11 Commission this week heard from several top members of both the Bush and the Clinton administrations, the most dramatic moments came during the testimony of former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke. Claims made in his new book, "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," set off a fury at the White House.

Richard Clarke joins us now.

Welcome to "LATE EDITION."

RICHARD CLARKE, AUTHOR, "AGAINST ALL ENEMIES": Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate your being here.

CLARKE: Good to be here.

WOODRUFF: Condoleezza Rice has said that your book is 180 degrees different from what you said when you worked in the Bush White House. Is one of you lying?

CLARKE: No. And let's stop using words like "lying."

You know, if you look back at his last week, things have gotten very overheated in Washington and very personal and very vitriolic. And I'm told that the White House has decided to destroy me. Let's bring it back to what the issue is.

The issue is not about me. The issue is about the president's performance in the war on terrorism. And because I had the temerity to suggest he didn't do much of anything before 9/11, and by going into Iraq he's actually hurt the war on terrorism after 9/11, the White House has geared up this personal attack machine and is trying to undermine my credibility.

Let's get more civil. If I have been guilty of overheating the argument, as well, then I apologize. Let's see if we can retain some level of civility here in Washington and talk about the issues.

WOODRUFF: Well, let's listen, Mr. Clarke, to something that President Bush said this past Tuesday about what he did do before 9/11. This is just a brief excerpt of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Tenet briefed me on a regular basis about the terrorist threats to the United States of America. And had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September 11th, we would have acted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: He's saying he didn't have the information.

CLARKE: Well, let's contrast the performance of that administration when they had word from George Tenet that some attack was going to take place somewhere, with the performance of the Clinton administration in December of 1999 when they had similar information.

In December 1999, the president ordered daily meetings of the FBI director, the attorney general and the head of the CIA and the secretary of defense in the White House, with the national security team, to shake out any information and prevent the attacks. And they were successful in doing that.

Presented with even more frightening information, President Bush did not choose to do that, did not choose to get personally involved, except getting those morning intelligence briefings.

The principals committee, the top secretaries of the departments, met according to the Associated Press, over 100 times from the beginning of the administration to September 11th. One of those meetings, one of those meetings, was on terrorism.

All I'm saying is that this wasn't a priority for them.

WOODRUFF: If there was such a contrast between these two administrations, why does The Washington Post, in a front-page story yesterday, two reporters who have read all of the material, followed the 9/11 Commission, their conclusion is that the Bush and Clinton administrations -- Bush up until 9/11 -- their policies against terror were virtually the same.

CLARKE: The policy that the president was given in September was the same policy that I wrote in the Clinton administration. It took until after 9/11, however, to get that policy to him for him to make decisions.

Listen to what the president himself says, in his own words, to Bob Woodward in the book, "Bush at War": "He acknowledged that bin Laden was not his focus nor that of his national security team. 'I didn't feel a sense of urgency prior to 9/11.'"

Well, George Tenet was briefing him every morning, telling him that there was a coming attack. And it wasn't a focus, it wasn't a sense of urgency? I don't think that's appropriate.

WOODRUFF: Let me quickly turn you, though, back to President Clinton. You talk in your book, "Against All Enemies," about the fact that President Clinton, that there were steps that he took, that he could have done more.

Was the Monica Lewinsky scandal one of the reasons President Clinton couldn't pursue a war against terror on a more sustained basis?

CLARKE: I think it probably was. And here's why I think that. George Tenet, Sandy Berger and I went to the president and said, "We think bin Laden is going to be at a certain location in Afghanistan at a certain time." And Clinton said, "Fine, let's blow it up." And he fired a lot of cruise missiles at that location, apparently just missing bin Laden.

The reaction of the American people was not, "Great job, you're fighting terrorism with military force," something previous presidents had not done. It was, "Wag the dog," meaning, you're using this to divert attention from your own personal and political problems.

So, when we went back to him, he was prepared to authorize further attacks if we had better intelligence about where he would be. But you have to understand the environment in which all of that took place.

I still think Clinton made a mistake. I think Clinton should have bombed all of the camps, whether or not bin Laden was...

WOODRUFF: Politics got in the way, is what you're saying?

CLARKE: I think it was a factor, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Could President Clinton have done more to educate the American people about the al Qaeda threat to change the public?

CLARKE: If you look, beginning in 1996, in his last four years in office, President Clinton gave about 40 speeches where he mentioned terrorism, five speeches that were devoted just to terrorism. He did a lot, but, frankly, if you look at the media play on those speeches, the media didn't pick up those speeches. When he made a speech on terrorism, it wasn't on the front page, it wasn't on CNN.

Because only 35 -- I hate to say it this way, because every life we lost is one too many -- but 35 Americans died over the course of those eight years at the hands of al Qaeda. And based on that level of problem, Clinton authorized the unprecedented assassination of bin Laden and his top lieutenants, and he fired cruise missiles at him, and he launched a major covert action program.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying, given the...

CLARKE: He did a lot, and he was personally involved. He didn't just sit there in the morning and get intelligence briefings.

WOODRUFF: Well, let's move up to President Bush and your book, which came out the day before -- in essence, was made public the day before the 9/11 Commission did its work.

Here's what Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, said on the floor of the Senate this week about the timing of your book.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I personally find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, of trading on insider access to highly classified information, and capitalizing upon the tragedy that befell this nation on September the 11th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: And he went on to say, you should give up any profits you're going to make. And I understand you said earlier this morning you're prepared to give some of that money to the families, depending on how much money you make.

CLARKE: I'd intended to do that all along.

WOODRUFF: This is a very tough charge that the Senate majority leader's making.

CLARKE: It is. And also, you know, having ads, when you're running for reelection with pictures of the World Trade Center is also problematic, and I understand that.

I've talked to the families. I was very moved in discussions with the families. I asked for their forgiveness, and several of them came up to me and said, "I forgive you, I forgive you." And that meant a lot to me.

I intended all along to make substantial donations from the profits of this book. I'm now being told that there are people in the White House who are trying to destroy me personally, people who are saying, "Dick Clarke will never make another dime in this city." So I have to take that into account too, that there's this personal vendetta and destruction machine that's aimed at destroying the rest of my life.

WOODRUFF: It's not just Bill Frist. Lee Hamilton, who's the cochair of the commission, said your releasing that book right before the commission hearings hurts the work of the commission.

CLARKE: Well, I'm sorry it was released then. I wanted it released in December. The White House tied it up.

I got out of the White House in February, began writing in March, completed it in October, and turned it in in October to the White House, hoping to have the book released in December. The White House approval process took all of that time. It wasn't me.

WOODRUFF: What about, you know -- when you talk about the families -- and here is what -- and you apologized to those families when you began your testimony before the commission. Here's what Senator Frist had to say about that apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRIST: In his appearance before the 9/11 Commission, Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, it was not his privilege, it was not his responsibility. In my view, it was not an act of humility, but it was an act of arrogance, of manipulation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: What do you say?

CLARKE: Well, I didn't apologize on behalf of the nation. Maybe Senator Frist didn't read what I said. I apologized personally.

I have felt an enormous sense of guilt since September 11th. Writing the book was about explaining what we did wrong, and hoping that it would never happen again because we've learned from those lessons. That's the motivation for writing the book, and I was wanting to find an opportunity to apologize.

There are 3,000 families around the world who lost loved ones, and they weren't all in the hearing room. There was no way to talk to them after the hearing. The only way to get to all of them was to talk to them during the hearing.

And I'm sorry if Senator Frist thinks I don't have a right to apologize, but I do.

WOODRUFF: All right. We are going to take a very short break, and when we come back, more of my conversation with former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke.

And then, Bush administration officials testified before the 9/11 Commission. I'll talk with former Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle about the potential fallout. And later, two family members of 9/11 victims talk about the search for answers and for peace of mind.

You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Just ahead, more of my interview with former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke about the 9/11 investigation and his new book.

And our Web question of the week: could the United States have done more to prevent the September 11th attacks? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your votes. We'll have the results later in the program.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The terrorist enemy holds no territory, defends no population and is unconstrained by rules of warfare and respects no law of morality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Vice President Dick Cheney speaking this week about the war on terrorism.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're talking with former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke.

Given what the vice president says about this enemy out there, is it ever going to be possible to get the kind of hold, the kind of control on al Qaeda and any other terrorist threat that is threatening the United States?

CLARKE: We had a window after 9/11 when we could have changed opinion in the Islamic world. Opinion could have been moved away from the radical agenda, because a lot of people in the Islamic world were horrified by what happened on 9/11. We had the window of opportunity. We blew that window of opportunity by invading Iraq.

This is about not just arresting and killing terrorists, because you can never catch them all. It's about winning the hearts and minds of the Islamic world. And that's how we defeat terrorism, in addition to the military steps and the law-enforcement steps.

Now that we're in Iraq, having invaded a country that was not threatening us in any way, 90 percent of the population in most of the Arab and Islamic countries hates the United States. So we now have a much higher hurdle to mount to win the war on terrorism.

WOODRUFF: So are you saying that even if -- and I gather you've said in the last day or two you think Osama bin Laden will be killed or captured, and Mr. al-Zawahiri, his number two. Are you saying that, even if they are killed or captured, that this al Qaeda has grown...

CLARKE: It will go on. If we catch him this summer, which I expect, it's two years too late, because during those two years when forces were diverted to Iraq and were not going after him -- many of the forces are going after him now were actually the forces in Iraq going after Saddam Hussein, the same special forces group.

If we catch him now, that's a good thing. But al Qaeda has metamorphosized into a hydra-headed organization with cells that are operating autonomously, like the cells that operated in Madrid recently. And so, we're going to face this threat for a long time.

And the fact that we are in Iraq, went into Iraq, has made it so much more difficult for us for a number of reasons. One, as I said, it inflamed Islamic opinion, drove recruitment for al Qaeda. Two, it diverted resources from the hunt for bin Laden at a time when we needed to do that. And three, it diverted resources from reducing our vulnerabilities here at home, like protecting our subways and trains and chemical plants. $180 billion going in Iraq, we didn't need to spend a penny of that in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: So you're putting all the blame for this on President Bush?

CLARKE: No, no, not at all. The blame for this goes back to President Reagan and President Bush the first and President Clinton.

You know, President Reagan allowed 276 United States Marines to be killed in Beirut, and he did not retaliate against the terrorists.

President Bush, George W. Bush, allowed Libya to blow up Pan Am 103 and kill 259...

WOODRUFF: George H.W., the father?

CLARKE: Right -- 259 Americans killed by terrorists on Pan Am 103. No military retaliation.

You know, I think the terrorists began thinking they could push the United States around a long time ago when there were major terrorist attacks like that and there was no military retaliation.

WOODRUFF: And yet you've said in an interview this week on CNN with Larry King that you think when it comes to national security, this president's father, President George H.W. Bush, was the best president you ever served with.

Compare the two presidents, their approaches, their styles.

CLARKE: Well, the first President Bush was a national security professional. He had been head of the CIA. He had been ambassador to the U.N. He had been ambassador to China. He knew people all over the world. He traveled all over the world. He knew how the national security system worked. He had had that experience.

And President Clinton did not. President Clinton had no national security experience. He learned on the job. And I think he did some things well and other things not well.

WOODRUFF: But what about father and son?

CLARKE: Well, they're vastly different, vastly different. This President Bush began to learn about foreign policy from a team of advisers that called themselves the vulcans a year before he was elected. The vulcans are Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and people who populate his administration. And he really has learned about national security from them. He still gets all of his national security information, policy advice from them.

I don't think he himself reaches out and reads a lot about foreign policy. We were told early in the administration he's not a big reader.

I think he has a set of core values, but I don't think he has -- well, he himself says he doesn't do nuance. And a lot of this requires you to do nuance.

WOODRUFF: Let's look forward, Richard Clarke. You probably -- you understand the thinking of al Qaeda as well as probably anyone on our side, if you will, on the U.S. side. Put yourself in their shoes right now. What do you think they would like to accomplish right now?

CLARKE: Well, I know what their long-term goals are and what their mid-term goals are.

Long-term, they want an Islamic world. Mid-term, they want to overthrow the government of Saudi Arabia, the government of Pakistan, and put in place in Egypt and these other countries in the region that are on the edge, put in place an al Qaeda-style government, a Taliban style of government.

Now, near-term, how do they get there from here, now that they're broken up into 60 or 70 cells around the world? I'm not sure I know what their strategy is, but it's clear it continues to involve attacking Western interests like the Madrid attack.

WOODRUFF: Which came just before an election. I mean, are we -- should the United States be on alert for them to do something here just before the election?

CLARKE: Well, the FBI director said this week that we should be. And I no longer read classified information. Bob Mueller still does. If Bob Mueller says we should be on alert before the election, then I think I would have to agree.

WOODRUFF: What about in terms of, you know, people think, well, the most spectacular, the most -- the thing that would get the most attention would be an attack on Washington or New York. Are they so sophisticated to think maybe attacking the middle of America somewhere would... CLARKE: They're always going to go after the high-visibility targets, the symbolic targets. They could be attacking things around the country now, but I think they want to attack in a spectacular way and at an opportune time.

So, I think we do have to worry about New York and Washington, but the good news is, our security is highest in New York and Washington.

WOODRUFF: And so how vulnerable are these cities? How vulnerable are the ports, the railroads? I mean, these are all pieces of the network that...

CLARKE: Well, they're very vulnerable.

WOODRUFF: ... homeland security.

CLARKE: They're very vulnerable. And the Department of Homeland Security is now beginning to start small programs in these areas.

But we should have, right after 9/11, spent billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars, reducing vulnerabilities of chemical plants, the ports, the containers that come into our country, the subways, the railroads. And we haven't done that, in part because we're spending $180 billion in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: And that, you're saying, is the fault of President Bush. So...

CLARKE: Well, it's the fault of President Bush and the Congress. The Congress voted for it, as well.

WOODRUFF: But that is a very heavy charge to lay at the feet of one man and, you say, Congress, but...

CLARKE: I think the president wanted to fight the war on terrorism as hard as he could. I just think, in my professional opinion, he made a mistake about how to fight the war on terrorism. And I think what he did, in fighting Iraq and thinking that that was part of the war on terrorism, was a mistake.

Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terrorism. And it's made the war on terrorism that much harder. I think he made a strategic mistake, not because he didn't want to fight the war on terrorism, but because he got bad advice and decided to do it in the wrong way, in a counterproductive way.

WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Richard Clarke, former adviser to four presidents on counterterrorism. His book, "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror." Thank you very much for coming by.

CLARKE: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

CLARKE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

And coming up next, a check of the hour's top stories, including the latest on this weekend's deadly attack in Iraq.

And then, countering Richard Clarke, I'll talk with former Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle.

More "LATE EDITION," straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE: I knew before I wrote this book that the White House would let loose the dogs to attack me, and that's what they're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, earlier this week, defending his assertions about the Bush administration and terrorism.

We are joined now by Richard Perle. He served as an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, and he is the co-author of the new book, "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror."

Richard Perle, good to see you. Thank you very much.

RICHARD PERLE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It's a pleasure to be here.

WOODRUFF: Richard Clarke was just with us. And it seems to me his line of criticism against President Bush is in two areas: both before 9/11, saying the president didn't do enough; and after, saying the war in Iraq diverted resources and attention away from the war on terror.

What about before, his point that this was something the administration could have paid far more attention to, that the terrorism task force headed by the vice president, for example, never met before 9/11?

PERLE: Look, Richard spent a lifetime in the bureaucracy, and I think he's still thinking in terms of bureaucratic approaches to problems.

It's far from clear what would have been done, what could have been done, what should have been done to deal with that threat, other than what ultimately was done, which was to destroy the base from which al Qaeda was operating.

And that was not done under the Clinton administration. It was not done prior to September 11th. And I rather doubt that any administration would have decided and gotten approval to launch a military strike, a significant military strike against the Taliban regime.

WOODRUFF: But the fact that the administration didn't change in any significant way the Clinton anti-terror policy before 9/11?

PERLE: Well, the Clinton anti-terror policy was hopelessly inadequate. It was fundamentally wrong-headed because it treated terrorism as a matter for law enforcement. The idea was, there's a terrorist act, you chase the terrorists to wherever they retreat, you try to catch them and bring them before a court.

WOODRUFF: But nothing was done to change that until after 9/11?

PERLE: Well, changing that -- and the president changed it on 9/11, when he said we will go after the states that sponsor and harbor these terrorists. Changing that was a huge act. It was a courageous act. It didn't come in the last administration, it came in this administration.

WOODRUFF: Clarke's point was that that should have been done before.

PERLE: Well, it's easy to say now that the incoming Bush administration should do something that no previous administration had done, and that is launch a war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Nothing else could have been very effective.

WOODRUFF: What about his other main point, that, after 9/11, all the resources that have gone into the war on Iraq have, in so many ways, in his view, diverted attention and energy from going into the war on al Qaeda?

PERLE: I just think he doesn't understand the war on terrorism, with all due respect. He served in a bureaucratic capacity dealing with that for many years.

The problem with his approach to the war on terrorism is that it treated it as a matter of law enforcement and defending the perimeter. He was never prepared to say that we should bring down regimes that were sponsoring terrorists.

That's the key to winning the war on terror. It was not his policy, it is this president's policy. And I think he simply didn't understand when he was responsible that we had to go to measures of that importance if we were going to deal effectively with terrorism.

WOODRUFF: Well, pre-9/11, President Bush himself said -- and this is in the Bob Woodward book, "Bush at War," the president said, "I was prepared to look at a thoughtful plan that would bring them to justice, would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn't feel that sense of urgency. My blood was not nearly as boiling."

PERLE: Of course, I understand that. And we all understand that the vague intelligence that was available was not an adequate basis for the kind of action that ultimately proved to be necessary.

What proved to be necessary is going after the states that sponsored terrorism, and that has now been done by this president. It was not done by any previous president.

WOODRUFF: Your initial reaction, Richard Perle, when you first heard about 9/11, did you assume that Saddam Hussein was somehow connected?

PERLE: No, I didn't, certainly not. I had no reason to think that, no evidence to support that. It wasn't immediately obvious, although it became obvious fairly quickly that it was probably al Qaeda.

But I think Richard is quite wrong in suggesting that the war against Saddam Hussein is not part of the war on terror. It's fundamental to the war on terror because, look, what happened...

WOODRUFF: Where is the link between al Qaeda and...

PERLE: Let me explain the link, because it's a geopolitical link -- although there were links between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda.

We know that al Qaeda were trained in Saddam's facilities at Salman Pak. But the link is a much more fundamental one than that.

When you looked up after September 11th and said, "What would this have been if there had been weapons of mass destruction, chemical or biological weapons or nuclear material," and then you said, "We've got to make sure that doesn't happen," and you looked around and said, "Who has the capacity to deliver that kind of horrific weapon to the terrorists," you got a short list, and Saddam Hussein was at the head of that list.

WOODRUFF: But you also had an historic, I've been told, animosity between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

PERLE: I know that's what you've been told, and that was the conventional wisdom. And I've heard Richard Clarke express that conventional wisdom.

The fact is that we now know that Saddam Hussein's intelligence and al Qaeda had worked together and would have continued to work together. We are talking about the terrorists from many countries with many different objectives. What they have in common is a desire to destroy this country.

WOODRUFF: You worked with Richard Clarke for, what, over 20 years. You've known him from your days you were at the Pentagon and in other places working together. What's your overall assessment of him? You've already said he -- go ahead, what were you...

PERLE: Well, I'm stunned that he would take a complicated matter and reduce it to the simple proposition that the president, who had been in office for a few months, was somehow responsible for a failure that was deep in the administration in which he served. And I'm disappointed.

WOODRUFF: Does that fit with the Richard Clarke you knew?

PERLE: No, it's not characteristic of the Richard Clarke I knew.

WOODRUFF: Who was what?

PERLE: Well, who was a lifetime and, I think, pretty effective civil servant. And what surprises me is the extremity of the view he now expresses.

But I think he simply has it wrong on the question -- on the fundamental question, which he would say is the fundamental question, and that is the relationship between Iraq and the war on terror. I think it's part and parcel of the war on terror; he thinks it isn't. And that's the issue that we ought to be debating, not who was irresponsible, who was lax.

He said something very interesting in his interview with you. He recounted the repeated acts of terror to which the United States failed to respond. And he's right about that.

WOODRUFF: Under previous presidents?

PERLE: That's right. He's right about that. And with each act of terror, the ambitions of the terrorists grew larger. That's what brought us to September 11th.

And the ambitions of the terrorists that concern us most are the destruction of the United States in order to establish an Islamic universe.

These are not the recruits out of the war against Saddam Hussein. These are people who may be going to Iraq now because they want to defeat us in Iraq. But Iraq is not a recruitment basis for those fanatics who want to establish an Islamic universe.

WOODRUFF: All right. We're going to take a short break.

I want to ask Richard Perle more about what Richard Clarke had to say today in our interview. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Back now with more of my interview with Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense.

Do you believe that, picking up on what you said a minute ago, removing Saddam Hussein has made the U.S. any safer, when you consider al Qaeda out there, in the words of many, metastasizing, becoming an even greater threat than it already has been?

PERLE: I think al Qaeda has indeed metastasized, and it is now to be found in many countries.

When al Qaeda had Afghanistan as a base of operations, where they could recruit and train and observe the capabilities of the recruits and the trainees, assign them to tasks, and do research and development, and organize operations, they were capable of attacks like September 11.

If they are not welcome anywhere, that is, if the states that have been opening their territory to terrorists now refuse to do so, they will be reduced to a level of ineffectiveness with which we can deal. Bin Laden in a cave somewhere, unable to communicate, unable to organize, is not the threat of bin Laden with the run of Afghanistan.

So, it is fundamental that we get states out of the business of offering safe harbor for terrorists. And to do that, we had to go after Saddam Hussein.

WOODRUFF: But what about Richard Clarke's other fundamental point? And that is, by going into Iraq and putting the United States squarely in the middle of that part of the world, the United States has helped to inflame the passions of these -- whether it's al Qaeda or any other potential terrorist groups.

And now we hear what's coming out of the West Bank and Gaza, from the new leader of Hamas, saying the U.S. is behind what's going on in the Middle East, as well.

PERLE: Well, the idea that the U.S. is behind -- everything that goes on in the Middle East is an old idea. The fact is, there is no evidence -- I didn't hear it from Richard -- there is no evidence that anybody has been recruited to al Qaeda because the United States has gone in and destroyed a secular regime, which earlier Richard was saying was opposed to al Qaeda, in Iraq.

So, the fact is, the al Qaeda believers are true believers. They're ideologically motivated. They want to remove us as an obstacle to their ambitions.

WOODRUFF: And you don't think the U.S. presence in Iraq has just made the U.S. more of an -- of just an enemy, more of a threat?

PERLE: No, I don't, because, if you believe that, you assume that, all over the Arab world, people were on the side of this brutal dictator Saddam Hussein. I don't believe that.

And increasingly we're seeing editorial comment in the Arab world now raising the question of whether the Arab world was silent for too long while Saddam murdered millions of fellow Arabs.

WOODRUFF: Let me read you something the New York Times ran an editorial on Thursday and said, "Ms. Rice" -- they were talking about Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser -- "was trained as a sovietologist. Many of Mr. Bush's other top advisers are also former Cold Warriors who remain loyal to the agenda of the Gulf War era of the early 1990s. Their mindset did not allow for the possibility of an extranational threat not orchestrated by any one particular government," in other words, the state-sponsored terrorism that you've referred to. PERLE: Right. You know, that's just wrong. If anyone has a mindset, it's the New York Times, it seems to me. And it's perfectly consistent, and it's mired in old perspectives.

No, this is a very forward-looking and imaginative group of people. Don Rumsfeld, the vice president, they're not mired in anything.

And in fact, it is this group that understood that we could not deal effectively with terrorism until we deprived the terrorism of the safe havens from which they operated. And that required some very new thinking, because no previous administration was prepared to do that.

WOODRUFF: Dr. Rice, should she testify before the 9/11 Commission, openly, in public?

PERLE: I think she would be wise to testify. I think she would acquit herself well. She has nothing to conceal, nothing to hide. And there's a procedural and legal and precedential and constitutional issue here. Sometimes you have to set those aside because the circumstances require it. And I think she should probably go forward to the commission.

WOODRUFF: A very quick last question, Richard Perle, about Iraq. Your, I guess, long-time friend, associate, Ahmed Chalabi, who's part of the interim ruling arrangement there, is he the best-suited person to run Iraq, do you think?

PERLE: I think the Iraqis have to decide that. I think he's a very capable person. He's extraordinarily intelligent. He's effective in bringing groups of Iraqis together, something he's done for many years.

WOODRUFF: He's gotten closer to the Islamic clerics and others in Iraq. Are you comfortable with that?

PERLE: I think he and others in Iraq are trying to forge a new democracy out of what was left from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. He believes in secularism. He believes in democracy.

I have complete confidence in him, and I hope the people of Iraq are wise enough to see his benefits.

WOODRUFF: Weapons of mass destruction, will they be found?

PERLE: I don't know whether they'll ever be found, but I certainly know that they existed because Saddam used them.

And any president with that knowledge had to assume -- and he got lots of intelligence to support it -- had to assume that what Saddam would not explain had been hidden away, because he refused to explain what had happened to things we knew had been created.

It would have been wildly irresponsible to assume that he didn't have those weapons and possibly to allow them to fall into the hands of al Qaeda or others. WOODRUFF: Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense, thank you very much. It's very good to see you.

PERLE: Nice to see you.

WOODRUFF: I appreciate your coming by.

PERLE: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Just ahead, the political impact of the 9/11 investigation, what new revelations could mean for President Bush's re-election campaign and Democrats hoping to win the White House.

"LATE EDITION" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: And now, Bruce Morton's essay on how we saw something rare in Washington a few days ago -- a public official accepting responsibility.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Harry Truman, as president, had a sign on his desk, "The buck stops here." Passing the buck back then meant trying to avoid responsibility. The sign was Truman's way of saying, "I'm in charge. If you want to blame someone, blame me."

That's not standard Washington practice. Every once in a while, sure. John Kennedy taking responsibility for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, "Victory has a thousand fathers," he noted. "Defeat is an orphan," but he acknowledged his. It's very rare.

Officials often retreat to the passive voice: "Mistakes were made," a handy phrase which avoids having to say who made them.

And at the hearings on 9/11 this past week, a common theme was, "We tried."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE TENET, DIRECTOR, CIA: I, as the director of central intelligence, must tell you, clearly, there was no lack of care or focus in the face of one of the greatest dangers our country has ever faced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: That's what made Richard Clarke's statement to the commission so remarkable. He was, you remember, in charge of counterterrorism in the Bush and Clinton White Houses.

The first thing he said to the crowded hearing room was this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE: To the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed.

And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORTON: I can't remember the last time I heard the buck stop like that in a hearing room. He'd have made Harry Truman proud.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: All right. Bruce Morton, thank you.

Just ahead we'll get a check of the hour's stop stories. And don't forget our Web question of the week: Could the United States have done more to prevent the 9/11 attacks? You can cast your vote at cnn.com/lateedition.

And later, what some of the families of 9/11 victims think about the commission's investigation. I'll talk with two people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks.

"LATE EDITION" continues at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Wolf is away today.

In a few minutes, I'll talk with two members of Congress and two political analysts about how the September 11th Commission hearings are playing on Capitol Hill. But first, the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

WOODRUFF: The White House is staying on the offensive and trying to gain the upper hand in the aftermath of this week's 9/11 Commission hearings and the potentially damaging testimony of former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke.

CNN's Dana Bash is at the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas -- Dana.

BASH: Judy, one of the ways the White House is trying to deal with this is to prove -- or try to prove that Richard Clarke is making contradictory statements; what he's saying now is quite different from what he said when he was in the administration.

Republicans on the Hill are trying to help that by trying to declassify some testimony he gave to Congress in August of 2002. They say it makes it clear that his stories don't match up.

Today Richard Clarke said that he is fine with declassifying that information, but he also said that more than that should be declassified. In addition, everything from within the administration, all documents, should be made public, including, he said, something that proves that he gave a strategy to Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, in January of 2001 that wasn't put into effect until September 4th, just a few days before the terror attacks.

Secretary of State Colin Powell today said, essentially, declassifying any information dealing with 9/11 is fine with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: My bias is and my recommendation will be put out everything we can, because the American people should be able to read it and see it, and not just those of us who have clearances or the commission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, Secretary Powell and also Secretary Rumsfeld and even the vice president also today came to the aid of the national security adviser, because, of course, she's under fire for not testifying publicly before the 9/11 Commission. They are essentially saying she is getting a bum rap, that she wants to go out and testify. Even the president would be happy if she testified, but the lawyers are saying that it would set a bad legal precedent, in terms of executive privilege. That is why she is not doing it.

Members of the 9/11 Commission say they should not be standing on legal ground in this particular issue, that September 11th was significant enough and she has a significant enough role that she should be coming out in public under oath -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Dana Bash reporting from the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Dana, thank you very much.

BASH: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: For some insight now into the political implications of the 9/11 investigation for this year's U.S. presidential election, we turn to two guests: In New York is John Fond of the Wall Street Journal, and here in Washington, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times. And also, he is a CNN political analyst.

Ron, I'm going to start with you. Is President Bush being hurt by Richard Clarke's charges?

RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, if you look at the polling and all the attention that he's received over the last week, it's hard to imagine this would not have some effect, and in fact in the "Newsweek" poll that has just come out, his approval on terrorism has declined somewhat. My sense is that President Bush's approval on terrorism will not crumble as a result of this, because, like everything else in presidential politics, it's rooted largely in realities. The support he gets is, I think, based on the fact there has not been another attack since 9/11. We have succeeded in ousting the Taliban. Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

But this is a crucial area for him, Judy, and he can ill afford any erosion of support, because it is the only area where he now has consistent support above 50 percent from the American people. The economy, health care, less than half the country consistently says they believe he's doing a good job. Even Iraq is a 50-50 proposition. Terrorism is the core strength, the sense that he has strong leadership.

So, any -- as we've seen over the last week, by their reaction -- any challenge to that has to be treated with the greatest urgency by the administration.

WOODRUFF: John Fund, should the administration, the Bush-Cheney campaign in any way now be less willing to use the president's leadership of the war on terror as a central theme of this campaign?

JOHN FUND, WALL STREET JOURNAL: No, I think the American people want to know what's going to happen in the future, not just what's going to happen in the past.

Look, there's been real short-term damage, and I think it is mystifying that no one was fired after the failure of 9/11. But I think the second week of stories are going to include a lot more skepticism about Richard Clarke, Judy, because, look, everyone loves whistle-blowers. I'm a journalist. I love whistle-blowers. But whistle-blowers who are selling books deserve some skepticism.

When Gary Aldrich came out with a book about the Clinton White House, there was a lot of skepticism, and even though he turned out largely to be right.

Richard Clarke -- now we know that Porter Goss, who's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a very respected analyst, a former CIA agent, says that what he told his committee is 180 degrees from what's in his book. And he says that either Richard Clarke is lying in his book, or he's lied to the committee. And I think that's going to be a very interesting second week of stories.

WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about that -- that testimony. There are calls now by Bill Frist and others to put that testimony out. But Richard Clarke says he has no problem with it.

BROWNSTEIN: Judy, I think this is the classic Washington mistake that we're entering into here, which is, we're personalizing this into a sort of cage match between Condoleezza Rice and Richard Clarke.

Perhaps if the book was coming out on its own, that would make sense, but we do have this parallel process going on of the commission investigation, the 9/11 Commission. And if you look at the reports that they put out last week, the four reports that came out from the staff, it's clear that Richard Clarke was not the only figure in the administration who felt concerned that the first months of the Bush administration did not treat this with the proper urgency.

They quote the deputy director of the CIA as saying he had concerns that, quote, "senior officials of the counterterrorism area in the Pentagon," and they also show that basically his portrayal of events, where he presented them with a plan in January, and they ultimately agreed on that plan about eight months later, was largely correct.

So, whatever happens to him, I think, over the next week, whatever questions, as John suggests, are raised, this issue is not going to go away, because it is larger than Richard Clarke at this point. He is not the only one raising these concerns.

WOODRUFF: John?

FUND: But, you know, The Washington Post yesterday had a story. It went through all of the commission reports, and it found that there was almost complete continuity between the approach the Clinton administration had and the early months of the Bush administration.

Now, I think there were clearly problems, and obviously there was an intelligence failure. But Richard Clarke is saying the Clinton administration had no higher priority than terrorism, and the Bush administration made it only important.

And now he's changing his story a little bit. On "Meet the Press" today, he said that Al Gore and George W. Bush said not one word about the Cole bombing in October of 2000. I just did a quick database search, and they both said there were very serious consequences about this.

So Clarke's story continues to change, and I don't want to personalize it either, but he's the main critic.

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about the way the White House is handling this. They are not only going after what Richard Clarke says, they're going after Richard Clarke, the man. He said this morning that he's heard the White House has said he'll never earn another dime in Washington.

Has this gotten too personal?

BROWNSTEIN: I think so. I mean, clearly, look, I mean, you know, look, he is tough in his portrayal in his book of President Bush and Condoleezza Rice. So he's not an innocent here. He is raising some serious charges.

But the way in which the response has evolved has been to just simply focus on his personal credibility, as if this was all about him. And, as I said, if you look at the evidence that the commission put forward last week, it's not all about him. Slade Gorton, a former Republican senator, who is not traditionally a critic of Republican administrations, said, "What made them think they had seven months to settle on a response?"

It's not only Richard Clarke. The speech by Bill Frist on Friday, in which he seems to suggest that it was Richard Clarke himself who failed to do enough over the last decade to get us ready for the al Qaeda challenge, is extraordinary. I mean, this is someone who's really spent the entire, you know, basically his entire career working on the defense of the country. And certainly, I think everybody would agree, John, was a major voice in urging more vigilance in the '90s. To have that kind of accusation leveled against him doesn't seem to me to track or make sense.

FUND: Well, one of the things that Bruce Morton said earlier is accountability in government has been lacking. Someone should have been fired after 9/11. It is a mystery that no one was, regardless of who it was, because there clearly was an intelligence failure.

The mistake that Richard Clarke has made is, he's tried to have a tale of two administrations: the Clinton administration, which he says did a fine job, and the Bush administration, which he said fell down on the job. That is way too simplistic. And I think that his credibility is going to crumble on that score, because it's far more complicated a story, as you have acknowledged.

WOODRUFF: What about the whole tone, though, here of what's coming out of the White House and elsewhere? You know, the president said back in 2001, right after he was inaugurated, this is what he said to Congress: "Together we're changing the tone in the nation's capital. The spirit of respect and cooperation is vital, because, in the end, we'll be judged, not only by what we say or how we say it, we'll be judged by what we're able to accomplish."

In other words, you heard George Bush saying, let's get away from the kind of tough rhetoric that has just permeated this town.

FUND: We have seen the three years of the Bush administration has essentially been as polarized in Washington and in the country as the Clinton administration was. We see it in the congressional voting. We see it in the public approval polls. Judy, the widest gap in the history of the Gallup poll between the way Democrats view the president and the way Republicans view the president.

Unfortunately, what's happened to Richard Clarke this week is sort of the pattern that we've been in, in American politics. It feels like total war. And anyone who is an enemy for either side, I think we have to say, is treated that way.

BROWNSTEIN: Judy, that's why it's going to be important what happens the next seven months. Is the administration going to make progress in the war on terror that's visible or not?

You know, we have Libya, which has now basically thrown up its arms and saying, "We're out of the terror game. We're now cooperating." We have North Korea, which is now going back to the negotiating table. We have Iran, which is now dealing finally with international inspectors and its nuclear program. Those are tangible improvements I think the Bush administration can cite. Now, if we're bogged down in Iraq as much as we are now in seven months, that might be a different story. But the real issue is not going to be Richard Clarke, it is what will the American people say about the war on terror in November.

WOODRUFF: Let's, very quickly, in the minute we have left, refer to what the polls show is the president's biggest problem with the American voters, and that is jobs, the economy and Medicare.

Ron, is this something the president can chip away at and make progress on between now and November? I want to get both of you to comment.

BROWNSTEIN: Very quickly, I think that is obviously key. I mean, look, presidential elections with an incumbent president are a referendum on the performance of the president. Right now, he's right on the bubble, Judy. He has about 50 percent in approval rating. What's holding him down is concern about the economy and other sort of bread-and-butter issues like health care.

Terrorism, as I said, has been a great strength, the one asset he's had. That may be under erosion a little bit. He clearly needs some improvement in the job numbers to avoid being the first president since the Depression to suffer a net loss over his term.

WOODRUFF: John Fund, what about that?

FUND: Ninety-four percent of the American people have jobs. Jobs are a problem, however. Look, remember, if you take the inflation rate and the unemployment rate under Bush, it is lower than it was under Bill Clinton's first term. The economy is not in recession. It's just a very slow recovery. And I think it will accelerate between now and November.

WOODRUFF: Including jobs?

FUND: Yes, but jobs are obviously not going to come back as much because we're in this globalization transition.

But the vast majority of the American people have a good-paying job, and they have good prospects for the future, and they're optimistic, if you look at the consumer surveys.

BROWNSTEIN: Jobs are really key in the states that will likely decide this election. That's why we're focusing more on the Midwest and the border South and even Florida in the early stages of both campaigns thinking about 2004.

WOODRUFF: We'll see if that continues.

All right, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, gentlemen, good to see you both. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, Congressmen Shays and Markey on winning the war on terror. And later, trying to sort through fact and fiction surrounding the 9/11 attacks. My interview with the chairman and vice chairman of the September 11th Commission.

"LATE EDITION" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: 9/11 Commission hearings and new information about missed warnings, lost opportunities, all raise new questions about what lessons have been learned.

Two members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security have some answers. Congressman Chris Shays is a Republican from Connecticut. He joins us now from New Haven. And Congressman Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, joins us from his home state.

Congressman Markey, to you first. Is Richard Clarke credible when he says this administration did not do enough to prevent 9/11 from happening?

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think you have to give great weight to someone who was the first President Bush's counterterrorism chief, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton and this administration's. I mean, this is someone with a high degree of credibility.

He is somebody who obviously now feels remorse about the lack of action that was taken, but I think that we are about to learn a lot about what happened. And these lessons are going to be critical for the future, in order to prevent any future disaster.

So, I think, like Ambassador Joe Wilson who has come forward, like the Department of Energy officials who have told us that the aluminum tubing in Iraq could not have been used to enrich uranium, that we're learning a lot about what the administration knew before the war in Iraq and before September 11th.

And all of this is going to create a picture which, in my opinion, is going to be a huge public service. This man publicly has apologized to the American public, and I can't remember the last public servant who has done that.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Shays, are we learning a lot, and is Richard Clarke credible?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, I mean, he is accurate to say that this administration didn't do enough. He is inaccurate when he suggests that the previous administration did.

He's really trying to rewrite history. He was the counterterrorist czar for nine years. He never had an assessment of the terrorist threat. He never had a strategy to deal with the terrorist threat. And we as a government never reorganized until after 9/11. I know this for a fact, because we had 20 hearings on the terrorist threat before 9/11 in my committee on national security, and when he came before our committee, he said it would be silly to have a threat -- we know who the bad guys are, and we just hunt them down.

That flies in the face of three commissions that came before us: Bremer, Hart-Rudman, Gaylmar (ph) commission. They all said we need to have an assessment of the threat, we need to have a strategy, and then we need to reorganize our government.

He was in charge.

WOODRUFF: Let me turn from that, or maybe add to that, and ask Congressman Markey about the new information now coming forward that perhaps Richard Clarke said something very different when he testified before the Joint Congressional Intelligence Committee, back in 2002. There's now been a call for that testimony to be made public. Mr. Clarke says he's willing for that to happen.

Is it possible that Richard Clarke could have perjured himself, Congressman Markey?

MARKEY: I heard Richard Clarke say that he wants all that information to be declassified, he wants it out in the public domain. But he also wants everything that Condoleezza Rice was writing at the time, and everyone else that was advising the president.

He's right. It's important for the American public to know what was going on back in that early part of this administration. And there's no national security danger now in letting the public know what happened.

It's important for Condoleezza Rice to testify in public. She's testified in private, so it's not a question of executive privilege. She's already agreed that she will testify. It's only that she doesn't want to testify in public, she doesn't want her documents declassified.

So let's take Richard Clarke's challenge: All of his stuff gets declassified if everything that Condoleezza Rice and all of the other national security advisers of President Bush is declassified as well.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Shays, Richard Clarke also said today that he's been told that the White House wants to make sure -- that someone at the White House said they want to make sure that he never earns another dime in Washington.

SHAYS: You know what?

WOODRUFF: Has this whole thing gotten carried away?

SHAYS: Well, I mean, with all due respect, Richard Clarke has put a knife in the back of the president. So, in terms of being personal, I think it's somewhat personal.

Is there someone in the White House who probably said something dumb like that? Absolutely.

Do I think Condoleezza Rice is going to testify in public? I'm absolutely convinced she will. It's been one of the stupidest things this White House has done, to resist the 9/11 Commission, and then to not let her...

WOODRUFF: You're convinced that she will testify?

SHAYS: Oh, absolutely. She has to testify. I mean, if she's going to go out in front of the press and testify, and then say she can't come before Congress, or can't go before this commission, that's just foolish.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Markey, I want to turn to one of the central points that Richard Clarke is making, and that is the effort, the energy, the money this administration has spent to fight the war in Iraq, money that he says should have gone to pay for homeland security, for fire and police personnel here at home.

You and Congressman Shays and members of that committee are in a position to know. Is there truth to what he says about that?

MARKEY: I think his central point is correct, that there was an immediate obsession with Iraq.

And that's why Condoleezza Rice's testimony will be so important. If she can go on "60 Minutes" and talk to a network, she should go before this independent commission in public for 60 minutes and give the public the answers, as well, under oath.

So since that time, however, while there has been a blank check which has been given to fight the war in Iraq, this administration has been nickel-and-diming homeland security. We still don't have the funding for our first responders in the cities and towns across our country. We still don't have the funding to screen all of the cargo which goes onto passenger planes. We still don't have all the security around chemical, rail, subway or nuclear facilities in our country, which we need.

Every recommendation from commissions has made it clear that we need much more funding. And yet, the administration has short-changed that security here at home while, again, allowing for an unlimited amount of money to be spent in Iraq.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Shays, do you agree that the administration has had its priorities all wrong here?

SHAYS: Oh, absolutely not. Saddam was the snake in the bedroom. The very reason why Osama bin Laden attacked was our presence in Saudi Arabia. We were there because of Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The bottom line is we had to deal with that, and that's what we did do. We dealt with that. At the same time, we are giving out billions of dollars in homeland security funds, and all of that is proceeding.

Now, do I think we're safer today than we were before 9/11? Absolutely. Do we feel safer? No, because we had a false sense of security before 9/11.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Markey, there has not been another terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, two and a half years ago. Doesn't the Bush administration deserve credit for that?

MARKEY: Without question, there has been a heightened sense of security here at home. I've pointed out some of the deficiencies that exist in protecting rail and chemical and nuclear and other facilities, and giving more help at the hometown level.

But let's not kid ourselves. We were warned, if we attacked Iraq and we found no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, that we would create a furor in the rest of the Arab world. And President Mubarak warned us that we would create 100 bin Ladens if we went in there and it turned out that we were wrong.

And that, I'm afraid, is the case -- that is, that we have created more terrorists. So we have more protection at home, but unfortunately, I'm afraid, because of the war in Iraq, we now have more terrorists to protect ourselves against.

SHAYS: We created more terrorists because our failure to respond during the Clinton administration to so many terrorist attacks, even, frankly, before, under the Reagan administration and so on. We left for 20 years these terrorists to do their thing. Finally, we're standing up to them.

I mean, 9/11 was an horrific attack. Did they love us then and all of a sudden they started hating us afterwards? That's absurd.

MARKEY: Well, let's give credit to President Clinton. When he attempted to assassinate Osama bin Laden, he was attacked by the entire Republican leadership for wagging the dog. And so, the Republicans attacked him when he attempted to assassinate Osama bin Laden six years ago, saying that it was just a political act by President Clinton.

So let's get the history straight here, in terms of actually where this war against Osama began.

SHAYS: No, I think the bombing of Iraq was wagging the dog. I don't think going after Osama bin Laden was.

WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to have to leave it there, gentlemen. We do appreciate your being with us. Congressman Chris Shays, Congressman Ed Markey, gentlemen, thank you both, both part of the committee on homeland security. We appreciate it.

Coming up next, a check on what's making headlines at this hour, including what Pakistan's president is saying about the hunt for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Then, national security, who failed? What failed? A conversation with the chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

"LATE EDITION" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: The 9/11 hearings opening here in Washington this week, and what we heard from present and former government officials may reshape how the U.S. tries to protect itself for many years to come.

A couple of hours ago, I spoke with the commission's chairman, Tom Kean, former governor of New Jersey, and commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, the former congressman, former chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

Governor Kean, I'm going to begin with you. Richard Clarke, did you find him a credible witness this week?

THOMAS KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: Richard Clarke is a very, very important witness, because he was there for two administrations. He was there 10 years. And he focused on this whole business of terrorism in a way that nobody else did. So he's a terribly important witness.

Now, we've got some testimony on the other side. We've got some people who were talking in other ways. We've got 15 hours of private testimony that Richard Clarke has given us we have to go through. So it'll be a while before we make judgments. You ask me to make a judgment, and I think that's a little early.

WOODRUFF: Is it too early, Congressman Hamilton?

LEE HAMILTON, VICE CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: I think so, but Richard Clarke is a strong witness. He's as knowledgeable as anybody I know on the subject of terrorism. He's been very close to it for many years. He's focused on it almost exclusively. Some people would say he's been obsessive about it. He's very aggressive. He's very smart. And the charges that he makes are very serious. And I think they have to be responded to on the merits.

WOODRUFF: Well, what about the charge, Governor Kean, from Senator Bill Frist, the Senate Republican leader this week, that Richard Clarke may have perjured himself? Because apparently, he says, he told two completely different stories from what he told a joint congressional intelligence committee back in 2002 and what he said in public this week.

You've had access to that intelligence testimony. May he have perjured himself?

KEAN: Well, frankly, I read that testimony almost a year ago, so I'd have to go back an re-read it, because we've got that testimony, we've got his public testimony, we've got 15 hours of private testimony that he's given to the commission -- classified, really. So we've got to go back over all that record, look at what he has to say, look at what other people have to say, and try and reconstruct the events.

Because, in general, there's been an enormous agreement between officials of the Clinton and Bush administration as to actually what happened. If there are some discrepancies here, we've got to read the whole record and try to sort them out.

WOODRUFF: One other question about Richard Clarke. Congressman Hamilton, do you feel manipulated in any way by him, because the publication of his book, just the day before your commission hearings got under way?

HAMILTON: Well, it was not a fortuitous event for us. We had scheduled Richard Clarke weeks ahead. I understand the publication date of the book was moved up to coincide with the hearing.

There isn't any doubt that it made our hearing much more difficult. It made the partisanship a lot sharper. And when you have a heated political environment, it's a lot tougher to do the job that the commission is asked to do.

But the commission lives in the environment we're in, in Washington, and we proceed the best we can.

WOODRUFF: So, Governor Kean, is the commission going to be able to come to a bipartisan agreement? This week we saw some very distinct, partisan divisions on that group.

KEAN: Well, you had some bitter partisanship this week, but I think Commissioner Hamilton is correct when he says that it was the atmosphere.

We just cannot allow that to proceed, however. The American people have asked us as 10 individuals, not as Republicans over here and as Democrats over there, to come up with a view for the American people as a whole as to what occurred, how those 3,000 or some people happened to die, and why it happened, and what recommendations we can make to make people safer in the future. That's not a political agenda.

And I believe that all 10 of us have got to come back around that and recognize the American people, in spite of this election atmosphere, in spite of what's going on in Washington, we've got to come up with a bipartisan report.

WOODRUFF: The president's national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, you've asked her to testify in public under oath. She's refused. The White House won't let her. She says we have to respect the separation of powers. Now she's out there doing a "60 Minutes" interview today.

Where does that stand? Do you think you might get the White House to change its mind?

HAMILTON: Well, we're going to keep trying. I think -- I think the governor feels the same way -- that it's to the advantage of the administration to have her testify in public, but they've refused to do that.

We've had very good hours with Condi Rice. She's been very helpful to us. She's told us she's happy to have us come back, so we're going to get the information that we want in the commission.

But there's another whole dimension here, and that dimension is the public dimension. And I think the American public would benefit from hearing Condi Rice testify under oath.

WOODRUFF: In fact, in a Newsweek poll that's just come out this weekend, 47 percent of the public says they think she should testify in public. In fact, 44 percent said they think the president should testify in public. But we know that -- we gather that's not going to happen.

Quickly to you, Governor Kean, it's been said that the staff report which was issued this week is even more important than what we heard in public testimony. Is that what's going to end up here, that what your staff is saying is really ultimately going to matter more?

KEAN: Well, what the staff is doing is fact-finding. I mean, they've said, as commissioners and the staff members, this is what we know up to this point. This hearing is what we know about the diplomatic efforts under two administrations, the military efforts under two administrations.

It's fact-finding. And ultimately, based on those facts, we will draw the conclusions and make our recommendations. So yes, our staff reports are very, very important and should be paid attention to.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Hamilton, based on what you know, was there any difference between the terrorism policy in the Clinton administration and the first eight months of the Bush administration?

HAMILTON: Well, Undersecretary Armitage put it pretty well. He said there was an astounding continuity, or words to that effect. And I am impressed that there's a lot more similarities than difference.

Some difference with regard to record, and it's not all that big a difference. The Clinton administration talked about rolling back al Qaeda. The Bush administration talks about eliminating it. That's a distinction. As it's carried out in practice, I don't know.

But, overall, our counterterrorism policy has been quite consistent and constant. Now, it may not have been the right one, but it's been fairly consistent and constant, I think, through both administrations up to September 11th. And then, of course, it all changes.

WOODRUFF: Governor Kean, you've said you believe that 9/11 could have been prevented. What do you think are the two or three things that should have been done to prevent it?

KEAN: Well, of course, if we had taken it very seriously from day one, that goes back seven or eight years, and really focused on al Qaeda when it was a small organization and when it was visible and when we had access to bin Laden, that would have been one thing.

The failure of our intelligence, the idea that there were people in the FBI and the CIA who knew things that didn't communicate with one another, or with the National Security Council, or didn't push up. That was very important.

Immigration policy -- we let people in with documents that were insufficient. We let them into the country. And they were in here, and they were operating. We had people who should have been on the watch list and were on the watch list, but that wasn't given to the airlines, so they didn't know to stop these people from getting on planes.

I mean, there's a whole series of these things. Had a number of these things gone differently, then perhaps we wouldn't have had this terrible tragedy.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask you, finally, Congressman Hamilton, you say you're not trying to be a political commission at all, but your report is going to come out on the opening day of the Democratic Party's national convention. Isn't it going to be either caught up in politics or just completely overshadowed by that convention?

HAMILTON: Well, the commission works in a political environment. But what has been impressive so far is that the commission has worked in a very bipartisan way, I think in large part due to Governor Kean's leadership.

Our job at this point is to take as much of this partisan heat out of it as we possibly can, to get focused on the facts, to get focused on the specifics, and then make a report. We'll call it like we see it.

I'm a former politician, but I'm not a politician now. And I'll make that report like I think it ought to be made. And I will let the politicians take it from there.

WOODRUFF: Governor Kean, I assume you concur with that. And just, finally, quickly, back to Dr. Rice, if the White House doesn't change its mind, would you consider subpoenaing Condoleezza Rice?

KEAN: I don't think a subpoena is a viable strategy, first of all because we don't think it would work. I mean, we've got a certain time period in which we've got to finish, and to go into a long legal battle over a subpoena doesn't make sense to us.

And secondly, we are getting the information we need from Dr. Rice. The argument is, shouldn't we get it in public? And that's what we're after. But we are getting -- we will have her full testimony, and the full facts that she can give us to inform our report.

WOODRUFF: In private?

KEAN: In private, yes.

WOODRUFF: And will it be under oath?

KEAN: We would like it under oath, because we ask witnesses to come -- to appear under oath.

WOODRUFF: Will it be under oath?

KEAN: I don't know that yet. That's up to her. We will ask her to take the oath.

WOODRUFF: All right. Governor Tom Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, who is the co- chairman of the commission. Gentlemen, it's very good to see both of you.

HAMILTON: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Thank you so much.

KEAN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Of course the audience with special interest in the 9/11 commission, the family members of those lost in the terror attacks. Up next, I'll talk with two members of that group about what they heard and didn't hear from their government.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today the public learned that politics is disgusting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Politics trumped the safety of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. And that national security is undoubtedly trumped by politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Kristen Breintweiser (ph), whose husband died in the 9/11 terror attacks talking about how many family members walked out of the 9/11 commission hearings to protest the refusal of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who refused to appear.

Joining us now, Stephen Push. His wife was on American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. And Carrie Lemack, who lost her mother at the World Trade Center.

Thank you, both. Carrie Lemack, the refusal by Condoleezza Rice -- the White House to permit Condoleezza Rice to testify, how big a difference does that really make?

CARRIE LEMACK, LOST MOTHER AT WTC: It makes a very big difference. The American people deserve to hear what she knew ahead of time, what she was doing to stop attacks from happening, and what's happened since. And they deserve to hear it in public and under oath. She is yet to testify under oath, so we don't know what she knew ahead of time. And how can we stop other attacks from happening until we know what happened in the past?

WOODRUFF: In fact, we have a letter that's just been issued by the Family Steering Committee. This is many of the families of the victims of 9/11 who organized and pushed for these commission hearings to take place in the first place.

Stephen Push, we just heard Chairman Tom Kean, he is the chairman of that commission, say, well, but we have her information. We have her testimony. We wish we had it in public, but we still have the information.

STEPHEN PUSH, 9/11 WIDOWER: Well, they have the information, and I'm glad that they do. But there's no reason for her not to testify in public. Obviously, there are some issues, some issues of national security that must be kept in a closed hearing, but there's much that she could talk about that can be said in public, and that's obvious because she's been speaking out in the press vociferously. So why not in public, why not in a public hearing and why not under oath?

WOODRUFF: Carrie Lemack, based on what you've heard so far, do you believe 9/11 could have been prevented?

LEMACK: Well, I think the thing I've learned the most this week is how frustrating it is to hear partisan issues be brought into the safety of the American people. Safety is not a partisan issue. I don't know if September 11 could have been prevented, because I don't have all the information. Dr. Rice won't testify publicly under oath. But I think that we deserve to find out, all of America does, because we don't want it to happen again.

WOODRUFF: Do you think, Stephen Push, that this commission is going to get to the bottom of what did or did not happen before 9/11?

PUSH: Yes, I am very optimistic. The commission has been doing an excellent job. They've gotten an unprecedented access to sensitive White House documents. They've interviewed something like 1,000 different people. And I think -- I think they're been doing an excellent job, and I'm very confident that in July we'll get a very comprehensive and useful report.

WOODRUFF: Carrie Lemack, is the commission doing the job you wanted them to do?

LEMACK: Well, I'm very hopeful. And I look forward to seeing in July the report. I hope that it's not redacted and that we actually get to see all of the information the comission is collecting right now.

WOODRUFF: You mean portions removed...

LEMACK: Correct.

WOODRUFF: ... or marked out, blacked out?

LEMACK: We want to know what they know so that we can make sure it doesn't happen again.

WOODRUFF: What are you looking for in the final report? What is the question or questions you want answered?

PUSH: We want to understand how we were left so vulnerable on September 11, why we missed so many clues and so many opportunities for agencies to share information and connect the dots. And hopefully, that will lead to some recommendations on how the government can be reorganized to make us less vulnerable in the future and try to prevent future devastating attacks on our country.

WOODRUFF: Carrie Lemack, we heard -- all of us heard Richard Clarke apologize. He started his testimony before the commission by apologizing to the families, but then a couple of days later, the Republican leader in the Senate, Bill Frist, said that was a theatrical move, he said it was a supreme act of arrogance, and even manipulation on his part. How did you see it?

LEMACK: Well, I think, when we heard Mr. Clarke ask for forgiveness and understanding, I had a few reactions, one being I can't have understanding until we have all the information, and until Dr. Rice will testify under oath in public we can't have that. Forgiveness? I don't know. That's going to be for each individual to come up with.

But I think what he did do is he earned our respect and gratitude for having the courage to come forth, admit to mistakes, and apologize. And we haven't seen that. I'm not sure what Senator Frist is talking about as arrogance, but in my mind what's arrogant is to have information that can protect people and be too scared to come forward with it.

WOODRUFF: Stephen Push, the same question. You know, was it the right thing to do, or was it arrogant and manipulative on his part?

PUSH: It was absolutely the right thing to do. I've been waiting for an apology from the government for two and a half years. Clearly our guard was let down. Clearly, our intelligence and security agencies failed. Whose fault it is precisely, I don't know, but an apology would be very much in order, and an apology would go a long way to making the families feel that the government really cares about making the changes needed to prevent it again.

WOODRUFF: An apology from whom?

PUSH: An apology from the Bush and the Clinton administrations would be in order. WOODRUFF: From Presidents Bush and Clinton?

PUSH: Yes. That would be in order.

WOODRUFF: Carrie Lemack, what about that?

LEMACK: I actually agree with what Mr. Clarke said on "Meet the Press" earlier today. If they feel it, if they feel that they have a need for an apology, I would like to hear it. I don't want politics to be playing a part in it. I want to know from their hearts if they believe that they could have prevented my mother and 3,000 other people's murders.

WOODRUFF: What do you both say to the other families who are out there supporting President Bush? Some of them have written an open letter that appears in The New York Times today, saying they're critical of Richard Clarke. They're saying he apparently profited by putting his book out there just before this commission. There are some family members who are out there on the campaign trail with President Bush.

PUSH: I voted for President Bush in 2000. I don't agree with everything that Mr. Clarke wrote in his book, but I think he had the courage to come forward and give his particular first person view. I wish more people would come forward and give their first person views.

And I do think, even though I think he was too hard on President Bush in his after-9/11 performance, I think it's a fair criticism that before 9/11, the Bush administration didn't give counterterrorism a high enough priority.

WOODRUFF: How do you see all that, Carrie?

LEMACK: I think that it's very important for all the information to come out and to make sure that, if some families feel like the timing was off, well, I think we heard that it was more of the publisher's decision than Mr. Clarke's. But I think that those families in that open letter say specifically they think that this is not a partisan issue, and I couldn't agree more with them.

WOODRUFF: Let me finally ask both of you. Is all this making it harder for you to achieve any sort of closure? And we all hate that word, because you can never have closure on something so horrible. But is it making it harder for you to get on with your life?

PUSH: Well, the hearings did bring back painful memories, but this is something that needs to be done. The only way that I can feel good about all of this is if something positive comes out of it. If those deaths were not in vain. If we learn from what happened and try to prevent other deaths in the future.

WOODRUFF: Is it making it harder for you to get on with your life?

LEMACK: I think that September 11 is a part of my life and every other victim's family members' lives forever. There's nothing we can do about that. But I agree with Steve, in that if we can make sure that their deaths weren't in vain, if we can say that we prevented other attacks and other family members from going through this pain, that's the only thing that will make our lives a little bit easier.

WOODRUFF: Carrie Lemack, Stephen Push, we appreciate you being with us.

PUSH: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Both of you lost a loved one...

LEMACK: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: ... on 9/11, and forever a part of our nation's history. Thank you, both.

LEMACK: Thank you.

PUSH: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the results of our Web poll question: Could the United States have done more to prevent the 9/11 attacks?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: "LATE EDITION's" Web question of the week. Could the United States have done more to prevent the September 11 attacks? Here's how you voted: 93 percent, a huge majority of you, said yes. Only 7 percent said no. And please remember, this is not a scientific poll.

That is your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, March the 28th. Wolf will be back here next Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And be sure to join me Monday through Friday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern for "Inside Politics."

Until then, thank you for watching. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

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


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