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Interview With Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton; Analysis of 9/11 Commission Testimony

Aired March 30, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: A dramatic reversal by the White House. Condoleezza Rice will testify before the 9/11 Commission, in public and other oath.
We'll get insight in to this about face from the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Republican Thomas Kean, and Democrat Lee Hamilton.

And than, Bob Schieffer of CBS's "Face the Nation," joins us to debate anti-terrorism policy and presidential politics.

And with him in Washington, Republican Senator John Kyle, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security.

Also in D.C., the ranking Democrat on that Subcommittee, Senator Diane Feinstein. She's on select intelligence, too.

And on the House side, Republican Representative Christopher Chase, chairman on the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, and a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security.

Plus another member of that panel, and the ranking Democrat on the Select Intelligence Committee, Representative Jane Harmon.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: And Later we'll be taking your calls. We will have in the first segment in New York, Governor Tom Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, and president of Drew University.

And in Washington, Lee Hamilton, the former Congressman, Democrat from Indiana who served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Two distinguished American public servants.

Governor Kean, have we set a date for the Rice testimony?

THOMAS KEAN (R), 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: No, we haven't. We're still talking with the White House. We just made the agreement, really, this morning, so we still have some time to negotiate a date.

KING: Are we looking at like next week? KEAN: We're looking at as soon as we can practically do it. The commission members have schedules, we want to get all 100 commissioners there if we can, because Dr. Rice has a schedule. We just have to get the schedules together and get it done.

KING: Congressman Hamilton, what did the negotiations entail?

LEE HAMILTON (D), 9/11 COMMISSION VICE CHAIRMAN: Well, they entailed many, many weeks of discussion with the White House. Not just on the question of Dr. Rice's testimony, but a lot of other matters, too, including our conversations with the president and the vice president. Access to very secret documents, and access to a wide range of public officials. So Tom Kean and I have been visiting with Gonzalez, the counsel to the president, for many weeks in order to reach the conclusions we did today.

KING: And the agreement is, the president and vice president will appear together before the full commission. They will not be sworn in, but they will appear before the full commission. Miss Rice will appear publicly and be sworn in, and those are the last people to testify, is that correct, Governor Kean, from the White House?

KEAN: Yes, these are the last people to testify on the president's staff, in public. That doesn't mean that a lot of people we still need information from still that we will visit in private. Often that's the classified testimony.

KING: Do we know why, Congressman Hamilton, the president and vice president will appear together?

HAMILTON: I do not. The proposal was put to us today and we accepted it, because from our standpoint, it will enable us to fulfill our mandate, to get the information we need. We want to talk to both of them. It doesn't matter a huge difference to us if they appear together or separately. The important thing is that we have access to each of them, and we'll be able to ask whatever questions we want.

KING: Governor Kean, why do you think the White House changed its mind on Miss Rice?

KEAN: Well, I hope they saw the strength of our arguments. They were arguing strongly on a constitutional principle. They were saying the separation of powers didn't allow a White House official to testify before a committee like ours, but they acted like we were a congressional committee. We're not, for instance I'm a presidential appointee. This committee is designed to investigate probably one of the greatest tragedy the history of this country, it's unique, and this is a unique event. So that we believe that this doesn't set any precedent. I think the White House was finally convinced of the correctness of our position.

KING: Congressman Hamilton, notes will be taken occurring the Bush/Cheney appearance.

Do you fear a leak? HAMILTON: No, I don't think so. The arrangement will be that one member of the commission staff will be a note-taker. That's on our side. I don't know what the White House will do, so far as note- taking, or transcription maybe. But with a good experienced note- taker, we will be able, first of all, to ask the questions we want to ask. We will go in there ahead of time, of course, carefully prepared. Knowing what the key questions we want to ask are. And the note-taker will provide us with the information we need to do our job and writing the final report and making the recommendations, and understanding the events of 9/11 better.

KING: Governor Kean, with what you learned so far, is somebody in this, or some people not telling the truth?

KEAN: I don't think necessarily people aren't telling the truth. There are some differences of opinion. There's actually enormous agreement between officials in the Clinton and Bush administration as to what the actual facts were under transition, and what one said to each other. There are some differences. And we're going to investigate those differences and try to resolve them. And whatever conclusions we come to, of course, will be in our final report.

KING: Last may, Congressman Hamilton, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in "Vanity Fair" said, in deciding how to persuade Americans to go to war, he said, we settled on one issue that everybody would agree on, weapons of mass destruction as the core reason.

Does that tell you they were misleading or getting poor information?

HAMILTON: Oh, I don't make judgment about that. That's really -- I don't make judgment about it as a commissioner. It's really outside our mandate to look at the Iraqi War. Our responsibility it to look to the events leading up to 9/11, to see what policy changes have been made with respect to the security of the American people since 9/11, and then to make recommendations. The question of the war, whether it was the right war or the wrong war to fight, and for whatever reason, those are enormously important foreign policy questions. They need to be discussed, obviously. They will be discussed. But I don't think it's within the purview of the commission to get into that.

KING: But Governor Kean, it was the follow-up to 9/11, was it not?

It resulted because of 9/11?

KEAN: The real follow-up to 9/11 was Afghanistan.

KING: Yes, but then Iraq. It was domino-ish, right?

KEAN: There are some questions about whether or not some of the hijackers had links to Iraq. We haven't come to any conclusions on that. The investigation is ongoing. But that's really -- that's really our mandate. I mean, this is already the largest investigation in the country's history of the government of the United States. And we've got over 2 million documents, we've done over 1,000 interviews. That's just doing the 9/11 piece and trying to come up with recommendations to make the American people safer. If we went on to Iraq, we would probably need another year.

KING: Congressman, have you been surprised a lot?

HAMILTON: I think I've been surprised in some respects. The governor alluded to one. There's been an amazing agreement with regard to the facts leading up to 9/11 with regard to what our counter-terrorism policy was in the Clinton administration, what it was in the Bush administration. And the number of factual disputes are really quite few. And I think that's surprising. And especially in this environment where the partisanship is so high, we have a major task to do, and that's to take some of the partisan heat out of this investigation. We'll do that with the excellent leadership of Governor Kean. And one of the ways we'll do it is to focus on the facts and get agreement on the facts and move from there.

KING: Governor Kean, Miss Rice has already testified for a lengthy period of time before you.

What do you expect to learn more or is a lot dependent on what Mr. Clarke's testimony was?

KEAN: Well, there are some additional questions we had for her based on Mr. Clarke's testimony. But the point of the public hearing is not just to learn something new, it's really to let the public know what we already learned. Let them in on this investigation. The families of 9/11 have been very, very concerned that we've had to have so many hearings in private because of the secret nature of a lot of the things we're investigating. The public isn't really finding out what they expected the public would. Now, but having these public hearings we can let the public in. They can find out a lot of the things we already know. They can share with us and participate in our investigation.

KING: When does this wind up Congressman?

HAMILTON: We will issue a final report on July 26th, that's our target date. We'll do everything we possibly can to hit that date. We think we can hit it. And that's what I think the American people expect. I know that's what the political leadership in the Congress expects.

KING: And governor, when will we get the announcement on the appearance of Miss Rice?

KEAN: Well, as soon as we finish the negotiations. I mean, we just don't know. We have to get the schedules together. And I suspect we'll try to do that before this week is out. We'll do our best to do that, get a date.

KING: Have an announcement as to when?

KEAN: Yes, correct.

KING: Thank you both very much. Always good seeing. We'll be calling on you again. Good seeing you both.

HAMILTON: Thank you.

KING: Governor Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey in New York, and Congressman Lee Hamilton in Washington. When we come back, our distinguished panel will get into this. Later, your phone calls. Don't go away.


BUSH: More than 20 White House officials have met with the commission or soon will do so. Dr. Rice herself has already met privately with the commission for four hours. I've ordered this level of cooperation because I consider it necessary to gaining a complete picture of the months and years that preceded the murder of our fellow citizens on September the 11th, 2001.



KING: We now welcome our panel. In Washington, Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of CBS News' "Face the Nation," and the author of "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV." Now available in paperback. Terrific read, by the way. Senator Jon Kyl, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism. He's from Arizona, a Republican. In Washington, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, ranking minority member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security. Also in Washington, Congressman Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut, member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, and Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Democrat of California.

Bob Schieffer, why in your opinion did the White House capitulate and we now have Ms. Rice will testify under oath. The president and vice president appear together before the full commission. Why?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Well, I think this has just become such a political problem for them, Larry. I mean, this is one of the most boneheaded decisions that I can recall in all the years I've been in Washington to not have Condoleezza Rice do this. It is one thing to say that a president is entitled to confidential advice from his advisers. I'm a firm believer in the separation of powers here. But when you have that same person going out and being the chief spokesman, appearing on every television show in the country, and then sort of thumbing its nose at the Congress, that's an insult to the Congress.

I don't know why they thought this was a wise decision in the first place. I think they finally decided, well, we have no alternative but to go ahead and do this. I think it's a wise decision on their part.

KING: Senator Kyl, what's your read? SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I agree that it was wise. I wish they had come to this conclusion about a week ago. It could have avoided a lot of the speculation, and frankly, some of the criticism that maybe Dr. Rice didn't want to testify. Of course, she did. And I think the administration's case is well put forward when she makes her case. And now that she and Dr. Clarke have some -- or Mr. Clarke have some areas of disagreement, it will be important, I think, for her as his boss, in effect, to clear all of that up. So it's good that she's testifying. I wish this really could have been resolved about a week ago.

KING: Senator Feinstein, what do you make of the president and vice president appearing together before the full commission?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that's unusual. I think it was probably part of the package that was negotiated with the two co-chairs. I think also one of the things that the administration really didn't see is how the people of America began to think that if she didn't testify, there must be something she was hiding. And the fact that this event was so unprecedented in our history, killed more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor, and you have the national security adviser who won't sit down with a special committee and discuss under oath and in public is a real problem on an issue like this. I think it serves as really a great lesson as to why precedent has to really be thrown out the window at some times.

KING: Congressman Shays, I guess you were one of the first Republicans that was very outspoken saying this was a blunder. Why do you think they changed?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, for all the reasons Bob said, and Jon and the senator from California. It is -- it's such a right thing to do. I'm thrilled about it. I'll tell you, I would love to be the members of the commission and have this incredible dialogue with the president of the United States and the vice president, the exchange they're going to have. What an amazing opportunity this commission will have. And I hope they -- and I know they will, they'll be well prepared.

KING: And Congresswoman Harman, what's your read on all this?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, executive privilege is important. And it's a doctrine we should respect. But the White House essentially waived it when they put Condoleezza Rice at the front of all the talk shows. If she had stayed in the background and they'd claimed it from the beginning, they might have been able to negotiate a different deal. But I, too, think that this is a one of a kind event. 9/11 changed our world. And the American public and the public of the world deserves to here precisely who did what and when. And more important, how we're going to fix the problem.

And oh, by the way, Congress hasn't gotten a lot done lately, but it was difficult, and we succeeded in setting up the 9/11 commission, and it's going to prove to be very, very valuable.

KING: And also, as Governor Kean pointed out, Bob, this is not a congressional commission. This is a presidential commission.

SCHIEFFER: Well, we now have, you know, two -- two versions of what happened in those days of 9/11. Richard Clarke is giving one version. We've heard other versions. Frankly, I don't know which version is right. My guess is that if they're going to try to prove that the administration was simply asleep at the switch, that they saw all this coming and just didn't pay attention to it, no one in his right mind would take that point of view. Of course had they known it was coming. But you know, there was a lot going on in those days. And I think it deserves a full airing. And I think the American people want to know. And it will make us a stronger country and help us to plan a defense that can be safer in the future. We've got to know -- we've got to know what happened.

KING: Are you surprised, Senator Kyl, that many pundits, opinion makers, editorial pages, seem to know the answers before the commission makes the report? That's amazing to me.

KYL: Well, the journalists...

KING: So many people have opinions and we don't know yet.

KYL: Isn't that amazing, that the journalists know everything before the facts even unfold. I think all of us appreciate the opportunity that will be afforded for the facts to be developed. And I thought what both Lee Hamilton and Governor Kean said was very important. There's very little disagreement about the facts. There are interpretations of the facts that one can differ on. The things that they learned are I think very important lessons so far, obviously we're not at the end of the process, but the complexity of the decisions that had to be made, the sort of fog that surrounded all of this, the tug and pull of different decisions, and the difficulty of making very hard and fast decisions here.

It's easy in retrospect to say, oh, it's pretty clear what I would have done. But had you been there at the time, it might not have been quite so clear. So for both the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, my guess is that the committee is going to give them a little bit of slack and indicate where we can make improvements in the future, but not try to cast a lot of blame.

KING: And the spillover, Dianne, Senator Feinstein, also went to Iraq, did it not? That came up. Clarke brought it up. That all of this is kind of one led to the other led to the other.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think this is a little more than spillover. I think this is a worthy subject for debate. I think there is a mounting -- there's mounting evidence that the administration came into office with a plan to go into Iraq, one way or another. One cause or the other. I think Mr. O'Neill's book substantiates this. I think Mr. Clarke substantiates it. I think there are probably other events that will happen that will substantiate it as well.

Now, the question comes, did this make a difference. I think it did make a difference. I think it made a difference of how we behaved in Afghanistan. The fact that we really couldn't secure the country. The fact that the Taliban is still alive, still waiting to come back. The fact that al Qaeda are still lurking in the mountains. I think the fact that we took our eye off of al Qaeda afterwards to do Iraq, and nothing will ever convince me that it didn't really have a major impact in that sense.

So I think, Clarke, in what he's saying, has a point. And I think it's worthy of discussion. We have to keep our eye on the goal. And I think the war against terror is much bigger, much longer, much more pronounced than anybody really believed a few years ago.

KING: We'll pick right up with our panel. We'll be including your phone calls in a little while as well. Don't go away.


KING: Congressman Shays, I couldn't help overhearing. Were you going to read a letter or something?

SHAYS: No, I won't read a letter. I just -- I want to say, I have no ill will against Richard Clarke, but I am troubled that I feel he's rewriting history. He came before my committee, we had 20 hearings before September 11, 2001. And he came in in a closed-door meeting, we asked him what our strategy was to combat terrorism and he said it would be silly to have a strategy. We know who the bad guys are and we go after them. And we were so stunned by it. We wrote him a letter a few days later saying, what do you mean it's silly. And asking him to explain what our strategy was. What I would have liked to have asked him was, during the eight years he was there, what was the strategy -- first off, what was the assessment of the terrorist threat that all three commissions said that we needed to develop. What was our strategy. And I don't think there was one. The commission's asked for it. And the administrations of both parties should have produced it.

KING: Congresswoman Harman, do you want to comment?

HARMAN: Yes, I served on one of those commissions. I was one of ten members of the Bremer commission headed by Ambassador Paul Bremer who's now the civil administrator in Iraq. And we met in 1999 and 2000 and we interviewed Richard Clarke, among others, and he was extremely factual and extremely impressive. I believe there was a strategy. And we've certainly learned from Sandy Berger, the national security adviser in the Clinton administration and others, and George Tenet that they were obsessed with al Qaeda. And many of us in this room were predicting a major attack on U.S. soil in 1999 and 2000, and 2001, before 9/11.

SHAYS: I would just love to jump in. Saying we believe there's a strategy, though, is kind of amazing. What was it. Where is it. I hope this commission shows us the strategy that was developed both by the Clinton administration and by the Bush administration.

KING: Bob Schieffer, the sum and substance here, did somebody or some group or some individuals goof?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I'll tell you, Larry, I think that all of us were slow to recognize this threat of terrorism. When Bill Clinton first began firing those cruise missiles into the Sudan, and into Afghanistan, he was immediately challenged. People wondered, is he doing this to distract and to try to divert attention from Monica Lewinsky. Every one of his actions at that point, rightly or wrongly, were being questioned. I think that had Monica Lewinsky had not come along, I think all of us might have come to understand the threat of terrorism a lot quicker than we did. I think we were all slow to recognize this.

But again, I go back to this business, I'm not sure that anyone, you know, who knew that something like this was coming, everyone who would have known about it would have tried to stop it. But as my friend Tom Friedman (ph) says, what we had here was a failure of imagination not a failure of intelligence. Because this was so ghastly, it was so horrible, we simply could not imagine that something like this would happen. And that's one of the reasons I think that we were slow to pick up on it.


KING: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: I'd like to say something about that. Because I think Bob is right. I think, you know, the warning signals were palpable. I remember from intelligence, without going into it, I remember George Tenet's comments to us. But the bottom line is, no one knew how, what, when and where. And that was the definitive thing. You had to have narrowed it down to something to have a strategy to go after it. John, you were on the committee at that time. Jane was on it. And that's the difficulty. Right now, there's a feeling out there somebody has to be to blame. Well, this is a great Democratic nation. Easy borders. We know that. We've tried to toughen the borders. We've tried to improve our systems. We've made dramatic changes. But no one ever believed that any human beings would be capable of this kind of attack...

KING: I've got to get a break...

FEINSTEIN: Who could possibly think it.

KING: We'll come back and pick up with more talk and more of your calls as well. I'll go to your calls as well. Don't go away.


KING: Quickly reintroduce the panel all in Washington.

Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of CBS News, "Face the Nation."

Senator Jon Kyl, Republican from Arizona.

Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California.

Congressman Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, Democrat of California.

Senator Kyl, what did you make of Clarke's apology?

KYL: I really don't want to characterize that. It's been characterized by others as theatrical, but who knows what's in someone's heart. So, but I would like to characterize another charge that he made, if I could. And it's a charge that's been repeated by Senator Feinstein here this evening and others. And that is that the administration was improperly focused on Iraq. And that that had an effect on the war on terror. And I don't think that's true, for this reason. Remember, in 1998, Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, that said that our goal as a country was the elimination of Saddam Hussein's regime. That was a goal of the Clinton administration. And it was a goal of the Bush administration when it took office.

So Clarke's statement that it was improper for the Bush administration to be focused on removing Saddam Hussein is not correct, that's national policy. Congress passed the law. President Clinton signed it into law. President Bush is bound by the same law. Secondly, going into Iraq did not diminish our ability to institute the operation in Afghanistan, which occurred first. We had wiped out the Taliban. We had gotten al Qaeda on the run. Gotten about two- thirds of their people out of the way. It is true, we don't have Osama bin Laden yet. But I don't think we should characterize that operation as a failure or suggest when there's not one scintilla of evidence, of proof that somehow or other the operation in Iraq reduced the effectiveness of the operation of Afghanistan.

HARMAN: Larry, if I could say something about that. As one who supported the military action in Iraq, and who actually thinks the regime change has turned out to be very positive, what we did wrong there was two-fold. First of all, military action was great. But the post-war planning was poor. And we got bogged down in Iraq, which then diverted our resources from finishing other jobs. We had to surge in Iraq, taking people off of their posts all around the world. And the loser has been the war on terror, which as Senator Feinstein said is a much bigger deal than just eliminating Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

KING: Bob Schieffer, do you expect -- Bob Schieffer, do you expect, a lot of conclusive things to come out of this commission report in July?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I don't know, Larry, because I'm not privy to all of the classified, or the closed briefings that they've had. I think it's going to be a real service to the country, though. I think they have done a very good job. I think this has been done in a very bipartisan way, especially coming as it has in the middle of one of the most heated presidential campaigns that I can ever recall. I think we'll find out some things. I think we'll get a better overall picture of the threat that terrorism does pose, and it does pose the threat. This is the enemy. Our enemy is not some state someplace.

We're not -- you know, I think sometimes governments since the Soviet Union has come apart, we've been looking around for another enemy, some other state. It's not a state, it's this worldwide link of people who are sort of outside the global community, outside the groups of nations that are connected by trade and other ways. And I think it will help us in that sense. I look forward to it.

SHAYS: Larry.

KING: Congressman Shays

SHAYS: I think when the story of 9/11 is told, we will know that we should have known. And it won't be that someone was told, but there was information out there, and we didn't have systems in place to know what was relevant and what wasn't relevant. We didn't have the ability to -- or allow ourselves to share information from one unit to another, from criminal to intelligence and back and forth. So -- but my biggest prayer, frankly, is that the families of 9/11 feel that this was worth it and that they learned something. And when you ask the question about his apologizing, the families want our government, the Congress, the White House and everyone else to recognize that they lost their loved ones because their government failed them. All of us failed them. In the legislature, in the executive branch, we all failed them.

KING: How come, Chris, so few have used that word, failed?

SHAYS: Well, a lot of us have. We just don't get the attention.

KING: St. Louis, let's grab a call. Hello.



CALLER: Will the partisanship on the 9/11 Commission lead people to view the commission as part of a cover-up and fuel conspiracy theories that the U.S. Government is hiding something?

KING: Senator Feinstein.

FEINSTEIN: I think one of the amazing things about the commission has been the lack of partisanship. And I think we saw it in the two leaders today.

KING: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: I think there has been a collegiality. I think there has been a common purpose that both Democrats and Republicans on that commission have shared. I think it's really an exemplary commission in that regard. And I think they're well staffed. They're bright people. They know what they're doing. And so I really think that it's a very important thing. And I didn't think so initially. Initially I felt, well, this should be up to the intelligence committees. But it's much more difficult, because so much of what we learn is classified and can't be used. And I hope that much of their findings end up declassified. My own view is that we tend to classify too many things that don't necessarily affect sources and methods, and, therefore, deny vital information in the public place.

KING: Boston...

FEINSTEIN: So, I think the 9/11 Commission is really going to make a very constructive dent in the dialog on this subject.

KING: Boston

CALLER: Yes, hello, Larry.

How are you?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: Good. Question -- why are Bush and Cheney not going to be testifying under oath like everyone else is and has if they have nothing to hide?

They are the top dogs. Thank you.

KING: All right. Congresswoman Harman, we can kick that around.

Why no oath for the president and vice president?

HARMAN: Thank you, Larry. I appreciate that. I think the White House has decided against that. They certainly could do it. I'm trying to remember when Tony Blair recently testified before his commission, whether he was under oath. I think he was not. I certainly -- I hope they have nothing to hide. But Senator Feinstein was talking about declassification and how important it is. We may forget that 37 members of Congress, including three of us, were part of the Congressional Joint Inquiry which looked at 9/11 two years ago. And we have been trying ever since to declassify more of our report.

This big fight over Richard Clarke's briefing to Congress relates to his briefing to that commission. And that briefing was not under oath, but his testimony was classified. Just yesterday that testimony somehow ended up in the CIA and is being reviewed to be declassified without formal votes of the Congressional committees. This troubles me, because I think the White House is inserting itself and selectively declassifying material that serves their ends. And what I'm for, and I think Senator Feinstein is for, is declassifying as much as possible consistent with not revealing our sources and methods of operation.

KING: What Clark said, declassify everything.

Bob Schieffer, do you -- did Gerald Ford, was he sworn under oath when he testified when he was president?

SCHIEFFER: Yes, he was. I was just thinking of that. Yes, he was. So it would not be unprecedented for them to testify under oath. I have no idea. I assume this is part of the negotiation that was worked out between the committee and the White House.

KING: Why would someone not...

SCHIEFFER: I have no idea. KING: Why would you guess someone would not go under oath?

SCHIEFFER: I simply -- I simply don't have an answer. I don't know.

KING: Senator Kyl, would you know why not?

KYL: Sure. I think everyone around the table knows the answer to the question. It is a legal answer. And in this town, sometimes politics trumps legality. But it's the executive privilege. There's a difference in the constitution between the two branches. We can't issue a subpoena to the president and tell him to come down and appear before a congressional committee and testify under oath. He has the right under the constitution to tell us to stuff it. And that's well established and everybody knows that. And that's why you don't have the president come up and testify under oath. The one time that there was an exception made, it was purely voluntary, and it was in a most extraordinary time, right after the president of the United States had voluntarily left office, President Nixon, President Ford did come forward. I think that's the only time, I think in modern history, that that's occurred.

So there's nothing unordinary about this. In fact, I think President Clinton and Vice President Gore will be testifying under the same circumstances as Vice President Cheney and President Bush. That's the norm. That's not the exception.

KING: Will they testify together, too?


KING: Let me get a break in. We'll come back with more calls. As we go to break. Immediately -- almost immediately after he testified, he appeared on this program. Watch a clip from last week's appearance on LARRY KING LIVE by Mr. Clarke.


RICHARD CLARKE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We'll probably catch bin Laden here shortly. But it's two years too late. In those two years, al Qaeda has morphed into a hydra, a multi-headed organization. So by the time we catch him now, it won't matter very much because all of these al Qaeda-like organizations have grown up around the world like the group that attacked in Madrid. The point is the war in Iraq was not necessary, Iraq was not an imminent threat to the United States, and by going to war with Iraq, we have greatly reduced our ability to prosecute the war on terrorism.



KING: We're back. Before we take our next call I understand Senator Feinstein wanted to comment on what Mr. Clarke had to say.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think he raised a very good point. You know, the time to have gotten Osama bin Laden was early on. It was ridiculous to think that a $25 million reward was going to produce anything among die-hard fanatic believers. In fact, the rewards have not produced anything in that area. And I think we could have made a much greater attempt than we did. But we didn't.

KING: Detroit, hello...

KYL: With all due respect, let me say, Larry, there's no evidence to that fact. It's like saying we haven't found a cancer cure yet, and we're all to blame. It's not like people aren't trying very hard. If there's any evidence that somehow or other we sat back and decided not to take certain actions, then let's see it. I don't think you can blame our troops in Afghanistan for failure. There's been a lot of success there. And I see no evidence that we've pulled back any effort or we lacked anything except good intelligence. We're trying to improve on that.

FEINSTEIN: Jon, you're misinterpreting what I said.


KING: One at a time.

HARMAN: ...that al Qaeda might have become the hydra-headed monster if we rounded up Osama bin Laden. Because the organization is horizontal. And the whole concept of the base was to train folks to go back to their areas and build their own networks, which would be loosely affiliated. And it's worked absolutely brilliantly.

KING: Detroit, hello.

CALLER: Yes, comments made by Bush administration officials indicate that much of what was proposed by the Clinton administration in terms of terrorism initiatives was deemed insufficient. Is it possible that in dismissing the Clinton administration initiatives, perhaps to ideology, that signs of 9/11 were missed?

KING: Bob?

SCHIEFFER: I'm sorry, I didn't follow the question.

KING: In not paying to the Clinton concept, is it maybe due to ideology or whatever, were things missed because one administration didn't like the other?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think there were questions about President Clinton's credibility. As I was just saying a while ago. I think the whole Monica Lewinsky thing brought into question the president's judgment. He was questioned about everything he did. And I think perhaps because of that, perhaps some of the things that the Clinton people did pass on to the Bush people were not taken -- I don't want to say were not taken seriously, but perhaps they were questioned in the beginning.

FEINSTEIN: Well, in fact, there was very strong covert activity that was sanctioned. And yet there was an inability to deliver on those sanctions. And I think that's a problem. And I think we still have that problem. And that's our ability to really understand and be able to permeate the culture of the Muslim world sufficiently to gain the kind of intelligence perspective that is real, that they call actionable, but is true. And I think that's a failing that we still suffer from.

HARMAN: But this is why Condoleezza Rice's testimony will be important. Sandy Berger has testified under oath, I believe, that he briefed her, that this was the most urgent business as he left office as national security adviser under President Clinton. And whether she picked up the ball and ran with it in the first eight months before 9/11 or not is something that's still a question. And she will be answering that question under oath. And I'm very interested to hear what her answer is.

KING: Congressman Shays, does it appear to you there's a lot of blame to go around?

SHAYS: Absolutely. And when I'm thinking of this, I'm thinking, Condoleezza Rice took over basically in February. Her people weren't in place until April and May. They had five months. They didn't really have a transfer of strategy from one president to another. There was lots going on. And I think that the former administration had eight years. The president didn't meet with his CIA director but twice in two years. It's astounding to think of what could have happened during those eight years. So I can place blame on the Clinton administration, I can place blame on the Bush administration, I can place blame on Congress. But one fact still remains, three commissions said, we don't have an assessment of the terrorist threat. We don't have a strategy. And we need to reorganize our government to implement the strategy. All three commissions said, we don't have a strategy. And no one was listening to them.

KING: York, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry.


CALLER: A lot of the testimony last week talked about what they called the summer of threat and the state of alarm that certainly director Tenet thought the country was under. Why did the president -- why did President Bush take a month-long vacation in August of 2001 during the summer of threat. Shouldn't he have stayed in Washington and tried to mobilize the federal government to respond to the threat that seemed to be gathering?

KING: Senator Kyl?

KYL: Interesting question. Actually, I think we can go this far publicly and say that during the months of June and July, there was a huge amount of chatter about a foreign kind of attack. And our government was on a type of high alert during that period of time. Nothing materialized then. And that was the period when something was supposed to happen. Now, I don't know what the president did when he was on vacation. I'm sure he had daily briefings, and presidents' vacations are not exactly like yours and mine. But by then, the threat seemed to have abated. And in retrospect, we've gone back and asked, and it appeared that the high state of alert that we were on and the knowledge of the terrorists that were on to something might have caused them to back off for a little while. But we know that they came back, reconstituted, got into the United States in the beginning of September, and we know the rest is history.

So it could be that their attack was maybe a month or so after they had originally planned for it to be. I guess maybe we'll never know. But perhaps as the information comes out, we'll get a little bit more information about that.

SHAYS: Larry...

KING: We'll be back -- Congressman Shays?

SHAYS: I just want to say, I just want to say, presidents work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether they're Republicans or Democrats. And the only difference was the White House moved to Texas instead of Washington, D.C. And they're working in Texas.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments and more phone calls right after this.


KING: Bisbee, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I'm a moderate Democrat. I'm nervous, so help me collect my thoughts.

KING: It's OK.

CALLER: I live five miles from the Mexican border. I want every one of you, whether you're in publishing or media or government, to investigate why everybody talks about 50 percent of all illegals around the entire border of the United States come through Cochise County. And I appreciate what Shays said about that we all failed. I've got a little disability, I'm trying to collect my thoughts. But I'm really concerned because of what I've been seeing here for the last four years. We've got like four generations of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans helping smuggle, and if 50 percent are coming through the border, I am really concerned about why nobody is paying attention to that.

KING: OK, that's a fair question. Is it possible, Congresswoman Harman, if you let people through the border, you're going to let terrorists through the border?

HARMAN: Oh, it's possible. And most vulnerable, I would say, are our ports, and what comes in and out through the containers in our ports. I represent the communities around the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, near your house, Larry, and 43 percent of the container traffic in the country goes in and out of those ports, and we do not have an adequate way yet to make certain we know what's there. We now have container security initiatives and all kinds of gizmos and ways to check what's loaded into the containers. If we check every one coming out of a port, we'll stop commerce.

But the caller is right, that our borders are vulnerable. I just want to say, though, that an equally plausible theory is the terrorists are already here. They're embedded in America. And we need to find them here. And that's why I want to congratulate the FBI and our first responders for doing a much better job since 9/11.

KING: Bob Schieffer, you mentioned something earlier about this campaign. You've watched a lot of them. Is this going to be one of the dirtiest?

SCHIEFFER: Well, so far it is.

KING: Well, it's just starting.

SCHIEFFER: It's going to be a tough campaign. Yes, but look when it started. They used to say that politics doesn't begin until after the World Series, when people really get focused on a presidential campaign. Here we are in March, and we already have both sides running ads against each other.

This is going to be a very tough campaign. It's already a very tough campaign. And I think it's going to come down to two things, it's going to come down to the war in Iraq, and what we're talking about here tonight, and it's going to come down to the economy and jobs. And that's why I think you saw the White House react so strongly as they did when Mr. Clarke came out. This is one of the -- one of the issues. The president's running on making this country safer and saying he is a war president. So you're going to see more of the same, I think.

KING: Thank you all very much. Bob Schieffer, Senator Jon Kyl, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Chris Shays, Congresswoman Jane Harman, we're calling on all of you frequently and we thank you for forming a great panel. And I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: The Congress has passed the Laci bill, making it a crime to kill a child not yet born by virtue of murdering the parent. It's called the Laci bill, because of Laci Peterson. Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Laci Peterson's mother and stepfather will be our guests.

Right now, we turn attention to New York, and who better shines the bright light on Gotham than the host of "NEWSNIGHT," Mr. New York himself -- yes, he lived in Minneapolis and yes, he cavorted in Seattle and his home may be in Jersey or Connecticut, but New York, New York is the place for my man, Aaron Brown. Mr. B, the platform is yours.


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