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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Analysis of 9/11 Commission
Aired April 8, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice finally on the hot seat in public under oath before the 9/11 Commission and now a heated debate over her long-awaited testimony with Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Terrorism Subcommittee, Judith Miller covering the terrorism beat for the "New York Times", Congressman Chris Shays of the House Homeland Security Committee and Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, House Armed Services Committee. Plus 9/11 Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste and his fellow Commission member former Illinois governor James R. Thompson all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Good evening, our guests are in Washington, Connecticut and New York. I'm in New York. Let's not beat around the bush. Senator Warner, how did she do?
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: She stood her ground and I repeat, she stood her ground under tough questioning, very professional and I think provided a lot of clarity to questions raised by previous witnesses. But what concerns me is the future, Larry. I think this commission is now lapsing into looking back too much, perhaps a little partisanship is creeping in and that's troublesome because I want to read to you and the audience a statute which Congress passed and I voted for and what this commission is to do.
Investigate and report to the president and the Congress on its findings, conclusions, and recommendations for corrective measures that can be taken to prevent acts of terrorism. I think we've got to get on to it, they're heading into some very important witnesses. Let's hope that this ends up in the minds of the public as a bipartisan review, honest and fair report of the facts are being looked at the future and stop terrorism.
KING: Senator Feinstein, how did you read her testimony today?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I read it this way. Condoleezza Rice is bright, articulate, knowledgeable, I mean, she's really a super person. Having said that, the atmosphere in 2001 was palpable with electricity. The intelligence chatter was very high. Many of us feared something was going to happen. Many members, I think, contacted the White House. I was one of them, for example. I think I went on the "WOLF BLITZER SHOW" in July and even indicated a prediction that something was going to happen major in the next three months and, yet, what's coming out today, is that there really was no principals, the cabinet never sat down.
The principal members of the administration never sat down and decided on a high-profile strategy to offset, to defend against, to prevent 9/11. I think it's pretty clearly established that everybody believed something was going to happen. We learned the president had 40 specific briefings. We learned that Dr. Rice didn't recollect whether she ever told the president that there were al Qaeda sleeper cells in this country. We learned about an August 6, what's called a PDB, a president's daily brief, which said that al Qaeda prepares to hijack planes in this country. We -- and I think...
KING: Did it say that? Did that briefing say that?
FEINSTEIN: That was the title, as I understand it.
KING: No, it didn't say hijack planes.
FEINSTEIN: I stand corrected. Prepared to attack the United States. It would seem to me that with all the electricity and the high chatter and the concern that so many people in the intelligence community had with 40 briefings of the president by the CIA, you would think that the cabinet would be called and everybody would be put on notice for really extraordinary activity to prevent -- and then to learn that the secretary of transportation and the FAA actually didn't know. So, I think, it was a very illuminating day in that sense.
KING: Let me call on other members. Judith Miller of the "New York Times", who writes about national security, wrote the book, "Germs, Biological Weapons, and America's Secret War" which is now on paperback. How did you read it today?
JUDITH MILLER, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think that she is unflappable. She's unsinkable, but she was clearly nervous today and had reason it be because the White House dealt her a very tough hand and, that is, she came there kicking and screaming. They didn't want her to testify. They said she wouldn't testify and she finally testifies, they say they are going to declassify finally a very important PDB...
KING: Are they going to declassify it?
MILLER: They still haven't done it tonight. They say they were going to do it tonight and they still haven't. Everything with this White House is a little bit too late and I think she had a very tough road on this one. Very tough.
KING: Before I ask, Congressman Tauscher, her reading then we'll bring in Chris Shays. Here's a key piece of testimony today, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: There was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. In hindsight, if anything might have helped stop 9/11, it would have been better information about threats inside the United States. Something made very difficult by structural and legal impediments that prevented the collection and sharing of information by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California, Democrat, how did you read what she said?
REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Larry, I think that Dr. Rice served the president very well today, but I'm not sure she served the country or the families of those who passed away on September 11 very well because we're still really waiting to hear a lot of information and I think the senator is right, she stood her ground, but around her is a stone wall and that stone wall is hiding information that we really need to have the commission have so they can make good judgments and inform us, the American people and the families and the Congress so that we can prevent future attacks.
The White House needs to declassify the January 25 Clarke memo. They need to declassify the PDB memo from August 6 and frankly they should release Dr. Rice's speech from September 11 so we can actually see what she was thinking about in that time frame. We know, for example, the president was in Crawford, Texas for most of August when many of us certainly heard that there was a lot of chatter out there talking about the threats to the United States interests both here at home and internationally. So, I think there is still a lot of mystery as to what this administration was thinking and what they were doing and still a lot of questions vis-a-vis what Dr. Rice is saying, what Mr. Clarke is saying.
KING: We're having a little satellite situation, we should bring in Chris Shays momentarily. Did you agree there was a lot of buzz around that time, Judith?
MILLER: I think there was a lot of buzz.
KING: Not to the public, though, was it?
MILLER: Was the public paying attention? Was the press paying attention? There were no congressional hearings. You know what struck me today, Larry, even though there was a huge difference of interpretation on many facts, there was agreement, much of what Condi Rice said today really substantiated what Dick Clarke had said and I think that how you see her performance really depends on what you think at this point of this administration.
KING: So perception.
KING: Do you have any knowledge, Senator Warner, you're usually right in the know, of when they will release that PDB, if at all?
WARNER: No, I think it was just several hours ago they made the decision.
KING: Do you know when it will be released?
WARNER: No, but I would anticipate very shortly. I don't think it would take a lot of time to make that decision and do it in a way that would protect the clarity between the executive and legislative branches and presidential privacy. That's essential. We've got to remember what we're doing here with this commission is going to set precedence, I don't care what you say, for the next president and the next one. So we got to be careful.
I would like to say a word to my good friend Judith Miller. I wish you were here in the room, Judith, because I regard you as a top professional. I thought you came down a little hard on another top lady professional. I think she did a good job today and as well as anyone could have done under the circumstances.
I ask you to think of one thing, Judith. Was there a sufficient bodies of what we call actionable intelligence out there whether in classified form or other form that Congress would have backed the president had he taken some action at that time prior to 9/11? I remember so well in 1991 when we went to the floor of the United States Senate to get a resolution to use force, we had to debate it three days, when the oil wells were burning, when Kuwait was laid waste, when these armies were still in there and we took three days of debates and then by only five votes did Congress step up and support President Bush, first President Bush.
KING: Let me get a break, Senator Warner and we'll come right back. As we go to break, here is one of the key moments this morning. Certainly one of the exciting moments. Mr. Ben-Veniste, who will be with us in a little while and Dr. Rice. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: I remember very well that the president was aware that there were issues inside the United States, he talked to people about this, but I don't remember the al Qaeda cells as being something that we were told we needed to do something about.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6 PDB warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB.
RICE: I believe the title was bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States. Now the PDB...
BEN-VENISTE: Thank you.
RICE: No, Mr. Ben-Veniste, you...
BEN-VENISTE: I will get into the...
RICE: I would like to finish my point here.
BEN-VENISTE: I didn't know there was a point. RICE: You asked me whether or not it warned of attacks...
BEN-VENISTE: I asked you what the title was.
RICE: You said did it not warn of attacks. It did not warn of attacks inside the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB KERREY (D), 9/11 COMMISSIONER MEMBER: Please don't filibuster me, it's not fair. It's not fair. I have been polite, I've been courteous. It's not fair to me. I understand we have a disagreement.
RICE: Commissioner, I'm here to answer questions and you've asked me a question and I'd like to have an opportunity to answer it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Senator Feinstein, do you expect as Senator Warner worries that this will be a partisan commission?
FEINSTEIN: Well, it shouldn't be a partisan commission. If it does become partisan much of the good that can be done by it is going to be lost. You know, I think a couple of points I want to make, one of the problems was that no one knew who, what, when and where. No one in the administration, no one in the Congress and I don't believe anyone in the intelligence community. I was on the intelligence committee at that time.
There were certain dots and I think the general conclusion of many of us has been, what if we had broken down the walls between the FBI and the CIA, between foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement. What if Almedha Alhazmi (ph) had been picked up when they were in San Diego? What if the Phoenix memo got transmitted up to the top instead of getting lost somewhere in the FBI? What if the fiza (ph) process were carried out with respect to Moussaoui? Could those dots have been put together enough so that we could have figured it out. That's what I think we need -- where we need to reform our intelligence community and where I am critical is that that reform hasn't taken place...
KING: I got you.
FEINSTEIN: I know others have had bills and we can't move them.
MILLER: But I think that that's exactly what Dick Clarke and Condi Rice agreed on. I'm sorry, Senator Warner, I really don't think I was being tough on her. I may have been tough on the White House for not releasing information in a proactive way, not getting its case out, but, Dick Clarke and Condi Rice both felt that you have these structural issues. What they disagree on is that the amount of attention that was paid to terrorism, was it enough? Dick Clarke says, no. Condi Rice says, yes. They pointed out that there were 33 deputies meetings today on issues other than terrorism. Well, what were the 33 issues that were more important than terrorism? I think we're really dealing here in the world of interpretation.
KING: Congresswoman Tauscher, if the effort of the committee is to prevent this in the future, did some people goof? Clinton and Bush administrations. Were mistakes made?
TAUSCHER: Larry, it's obvious that there's a lot of blame to go around and a lot of people around to blame and all of us on duty on September 11 are responsible for what happened. The question is, were we culpable or not? And I think the truth of the matter is certainly the next time we are culpable and that's why it's vitally important that the administration start to play ball and do everything they can to provide the commission with the information they asked for over and over again.
So that they can come up with real forward thinking policy changes so that we can take down the walls between the intelligence community both domestically and internationally so we can get first responders, good information and we have the kind of clutter that we know is keeping us away from dealing with what we hear in the chatter that we can actually protect ourselves and have the right kind of laws written to do that. Right now we don't have that.
FEINSTEIN: One exception. The wall has been knocked down considerably between FBI and CIA.
WARNER: It's the Patriot Act. You and I worked on that together. You supported it and I supported it.
FEINSTEIN: There have been a lot of advances. The problem is in my view our intelligence community still works in a cold war mode as opposed to an assymetric non-state kind of effort.
KING: Senator Warner, Scottie Reston, the famed journalist of the "New York Times" said once, "no elected official has ever said I was wrong." Was somebody wrong? Elected.
WARNER: I happen to have had the privilege of knowing him and I have been in the Senate now -- this is my fifth term. I have acknowledged to my constituents, I've been wrong on occasion. I think Ellen said it right, we could have all done better including the Congress. You said it correctly. There was no connection of a lot of information out there, but I come back again. I think the president acted very promptly after 9/11. I mean he moved in on al Qaeda and he moved in on bin Laden and by December, that operation in Afghanistan was such that there was no longer a haven for terrorist activities coming out of there. So, I think to the credit of the president, when the time came and with the backing of the Congress, which he needs when he uses force, he moved and moved out properly.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll come back with more and include some phone calls tonight. We hope we connect with Congressman Shays in Connecticut. They tell me they're working feverishly and in television when we work feverishly, that is something to behold. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: Dick Clarke, let me just step back for a second -- we had a very good relationship. All that he needed to do was to say, I need time to brief the president on something.
TIM ROEMER, MEMBER, 9/11 COMMISSION: I think he did say that. Dr. Rice, in a private interview to us he said he asked to brief the president.
RICE: I have to say, Mr. Roemer, to my recollection, Dick Clarke never asked me to brief the president on counterterrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN-VENISTE: Did you tell the president at any time prior to August 6 of the existence of al Qaeda cells in the United States?
RICE: First let me just make certain...
BEN-VENISTE: If you could just answer that question because I only have a very limited...
RICE: I understand commissioner, but it's important that I also address -- it's also important, commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised. So, I will do it quickly.
BEN-VENISTE: Well, my only question to you is whether you told the president.
RICE: I understand, commissioner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Richard Ben-Veniste, he's going to join us for a few moments, the Democratic member of the commissions, former Watergate prosecutor. Were you satisfied or unsatisfied with her testimony?
BEN-VENISTE: I think we got the questions answered. Tom Kean, our chair, made the point, as we began, we would have some tough questions to ask. And I would like to emphasize something that came up earlier in the program, and that is the bipartisan nature of this commission.
We never had a partisan vote. We voted unanimously to ask Dr. Rice to come and testify in open session. We voted unanimously to ask the president and the vice president to appear before the entire commission, not just two members. We voted unanimously with respect to getting access to the PDBs.
So, we have not had a single partisan vote. And we are very well aware of the fact that the importance of this issue of getting a report to the American public that is credible is the most important factor. It's overarching beyond any politics of the moment.
KING : Do you expect that report to be unanimous?
BEN-VENISTE: I very much hope it will be. We'll be working very hard during the early part of the summer to get it into the shape that we can all agree on.
KING: Have you seen the PDB, which supposedly will be released of August 6. Have you read it?
BEN-VENISTE: I have seen the contents of it. We had a very tortured way that the White House finally agreed to allow us to get access to this material. But I believe I have seen in pieces all of what was in that PDB.
KING: Will the public get it like tomorrow?
BEN-VENISTE: I hope so, because Dr. Rice and others have talked about it selectively. They talked bout certain pieces of it, but I think a fair interpretation of the document must await its release in its entirety because, frankly, I don't agree that it was simply an historical review. I think it took things right up to the moment.
KING: How did President Clinton do? He did three hours today?
BEN-VENISTE: I think the unanimous view of the commission was that President Clinton was very helpful, he was candid, he was engaging and he stayed and answered every question and offered to help us in any way possible.
KING: One other thing, Rich, would you call her a good witness?
BEN-VENISTE: I think it was important to get her testimony. I think she was very well prepared. She was aware of the clock and the fact that we had very limited time.
KING: You're answering me like she answered you.
BEN-VENISTE: Touche, Larry. You got me there.
KING: Was she a good witness?
BEN-VENISTE: I think she answered many of the questions we put. It's going to be up to others to make that determination, frankly. We needed to get her testimony.
KING: Thank you, Richard Ben-Veniste, good seeing him. Senator Warner, are you satisfied that this is bipartisan?
WARNER: I am encouraged by what this distinguished commissioner just said and I'm glad I brought it up. I would only mention to him, and he and I have been on different sides of the Senate, but you know the Senate and you know the process, it may be that you've been unanimous on the votes, but the manner in which you individually and collectively some time perform the questioning also addresses the issue of the credibility.
But I think he's assured us and I agree with him, this report is very much needed. It's consistent with what the Congress wanted so far and it's only going to be a value to the extent it is perceived, not by John Warner or my colleagues here, but perceived by the public as having been bipartisan and fair.
KING: Senator Feinstein, are you expecting to learn a lot so that some things that happened are preventable, as Senator Warner pointed out, that's the key to this, not to let it happen again.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that's right, that is key. I've been amazed at how bipartisan the commission has been. I've listened to virtually all of the statements of the chairman and the vice chairman, they've been extraordinarily balanced.
I think what you had today was some very tough questions by people who were very skilled at asking the questions. They had clearly prepared. They had ten minutes each. They really wanted back short questions so that they could ask more. And that sets up a kind of point, counterpoint. I think we saw that.
Mr. Ben-Veniste is an excellent attorney and very strong in his questioning. Senator Kerrey certainly was, as well. I thought many other members were also.
And I think between them all, you really had a very good understanding by the end of it of how Dr. Rice thought and of the way in which she tailored her national security job. Now, that's not the same way everyone would. But I thought she gave a very fulsome answer, as best she could.
KING: I got to get a break, come back. We will include phone calls. We hope to connect with Chris Shays. We'll hear from the former governor of Illinois, John Thompson a member of the commission -- James Thompson, rather. A member of the commission, as well. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE, we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: Let me read you some of the actual chatter that was picked up in that Spring and Summer.
"Unbelievable news coming in weeks," said one. "Big event: there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar." "There will be a tax in the near future." Troubling, yes. But they don't tell us when, they don't tell us where, they don't tell us who and they don't tell us how.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: I don't think it was shaking the trees that produced the break through in the millennium plot. Dick Clarke would say you got a lucky break, I would say you have an alert custom's agent who got it right. And the interesting thing is I checked with customs and according to their records, they weren't on alert at that point. So, I just don't buy the argument that we weren't shaking the trees enough and that something was going to fall out that gave us somehow that little piece of information that would have led to connecting all of those dots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Let me reintroduce the panel. We'll be going to calls shortly. In Washington, Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Also in Washington, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a ranking member on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security. Here in New York Judith Miller, the Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent for the "New York Times." And in Washington Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, Member of the Armed Services Committee, Democrat of California.
On back of all of this happening today was happening in Iraq and they had to coincide. They had to lock in. Two major things going on at once, connected, as well.
MILLER: Well, it was an amazing backdrop for Condi Rice's extraordinary testimony. The pictures of the American soldiers fighting the Shia and Sunnis in the street, and Condi Rice raising the issue of Iraq in her own testimony.
KING: She brought it up.
MILLER: She brought it up. She was on the war path. She said this president defined the war broadly, including Iraq. The war against terrorism included Iraq. It was her point and I wonder what their calculation is about how the next few days will go in Iraq because everyone I know is very, very worried about that, Larry.
KING: Congresswomen Tauscher, Is Iraq going to be part of this report?
TAUSCHER: Well, I think it has to be because if the administration, as Richard Clarke says, wasn't that concerned about terrorism, then -- and was overconcerned about missile defense in Iraq, then we didn't have everyone on watch actually doing what they needed to do to protect us against what was a growing threat certainly in the summer of 2001. I am deeply concerned about this June 30 date. I believe that you have to hold people accountable and responsible and have metrics out there. But what we have known since this date has been announced, we have an increasing, escalating violence and we have 130,000 troops on the ground. And we have to be very cautious about making sure we haven't gotten an arbitrary hard and fast date that puts us in a position where we're looking more to save face than we are about saving lives.
KING: Lets get a call, Marina del Rey, California, hello.
CALLER: Yes. Good afternoon. Larry, if we're spending billions of dollars and we can't connect the dots with all our intelligence, how come we connected the dots with bin Laden's relatives out of country a couple days after 9/11?
How come those dots were connected so very quickly.
KING: Senator Warner, I hear that question a lot.
Do we know the answer?
WARNER: No, we really don't. Diane, you were on the Intelligence Committee at that time. I don't think a clear answer was given by the administration. I have no recollection in the Intelligence...
KING: Dianne, do you?
FEINSTEIN: I have a recollection. I think it's probably classified at this stage, and -- but I have a distinct recollection.
KING: But it's classified. Palm Beach, Florida, hello.
FEINSTEIN: It happened.
CALLER: Hello, Commissioner Lehman asked Condolezza Rice, why the U.S. Administration didn't respond after the "U.S.S. Cole" to was bombed, to which Miss Rice responded, "We didn't want to embolden the terrorists by attacking them." What did the Bush administration think they would do after we attacked Iraq and lied in order to do it.
KING: The "Cole" thing occurred during the Clinton administration.
TAUSCHER: They did not respond militarily and neither did President Bush, but I want to go to the issue of Iraq. Was Iraq a preoccupation, pre-9/11? I have read all the staff reports from this commission, Larry. And what's interesting is a lot of topics come up that they were preoccupied with, missile defense and Russia and China. The one word, the one country that doesn't seem to come up pre-9/11, is Iraq. I wonder whether or not Dick Clarke is right when he talk about a pre-9/11 occupation with Iraq.
KING: Senator Warner, wasn't Dick Clarke when in office kind of a hawk?
WARNER: Larry, I had one or two occasions to work with him. I found him tough, but knowledgeable. If you're going to be in this terrorism business and security business, nice guys finish last. So I don't fault him for his toughness and perhaps his arrogance. What concerns me is that he was a reservoir of knowledge and experience and, regrettably, I think most of that is lost now as a consequence of how this whole series of testimony and appearances have been handled before the commission. So, we got to just close that chapter and move on. Learn from it and move on, Larry.
KING: Senator Feinstein, is this going to linger?
FEINSTEIN: Yes, I think it is going to linger. I think it's a seminole chapter in American history. I think it will be written in the history books. I think we'll see what stands the test of time. Let me make a comment about Dick Clarke because I have had occasion to meet with him, particularly on the issue of cyberterrorism. He may be brickly, but he's an absolute straight shooter and he tells it exactly like he thinks it is. And it doesn't really bother him if people differ with him. I think he's of tremendous value in any place because you know you're going to get a straight story.
And I think one of the problems in Washington today is that people sense what others want to hear and often tell them that so they don't get an unvarnished version. And I think that's a real problem in the intelligence community and in the putting together of intelligence and its analysis long term. So, I think, on the Intelligence Committee and both Senator Warner and I are on this committee, our staffs are doing an analysis of the source information that went in to the national intelligence on Iraq. And I think we're learning a great deal and I think the committee's report will really be a very important report.
KING: Do you want to say something, Judith?
MILLER: Just on the issue of Dick Clarke. He was not the only one that had the impression that the administration was not sufficiently focused on terrorism pre-9/11. This commission has heard testimony from Mclaughlin, the number two man at the CIA and from Shelton of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from Armitage of the State Department. They all said, more or less, the same thing. So, on the issue of sufficient detention to terrorism pre-9/11, I think the record so far of the commission seems to support Mr. Clarke.
KING: What grade would you give our intelligence?
MILLER: That's such a tough question. They have been terribly wrong and have been terribly wrong on a great many things. But are we talking about foreign intelligence, domestic intelligence, the FBI? I think most of the people I know that I have talked to said that as bad as the CIA was with respect to 9/11, the FBI was a lot more problematic.
KING: We'll take a break and come back with more phone calls. As we go to break, talking about Dick Clarke today. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY J. ROEMER (D), 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Here is one of the experts that never has the opportunity to brief the president of the United States on one of the most lethal, dynamic and agile threats to the United States of America.
Why don't you use this asset?
Why doesn't the president ask to meet with Dick Clarke?
RICE: Well, the president was meeting with the director of Central Intelligence. And Dick Clarke is a very, very fine counterterrorism expert and that's why I kept him on. And what I wanted, Dick Clarke to do was manage the crisis for us and help us develop a new strategy. And I can guarantee you that when had that new strategy in place, the president was asking for and wondering what was happening to it, was engaged in a position to engage it fully. The fact is what Dick Clarke recommended to us, as he has said, would not have prevented 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERREY: I'm terribly worried that the military tactics in Iraq are going to do a number of things and they're all bad. One is -- no, please, please do not do that. Do not applaud. I think we're going to end up with civil war if we continue down the military operation strategy that we have in place. I say that sincerely as someone that supported the war in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's go to another call. Kimberley, Canada. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, this is for all the people on the panel. Are you not concerned that being so public and disclosing to the rest of the world the difficulties within the American government, do you not think that that's showing the rest of the world some weakness within the government?
KING: Senator Warner?
WARNER: Yes. Good question. I answer as follows as a pretty senior fella who has been around in public service for several decades. That's the very strength of this nation. We're an open nation. Open borders in many respects. And we stand by the freedom of speech and while we have to protect certain things in government, the more the people understand how we go about doing things, whether we do them right or not so right, the better and stronger this country is.
KING: Well said. Coalchester, Connecticut. Hello. CALLER: Hello.
CALLER: I was wondering whether or not the 9/11 commission has interviewed retired General Wesley Clark.
KING: Do we know, Senator Feinstein?
FEINSTEIN: I don't know.
KING: Does anyone know? No one knows if they have. I guess we'll ask James Thompson when he finally makes it over. Since he's a member of the commission. Everybody hasn't attended every commissions meeting, we don't know... FEINSTEIN: Larry? Can I make one comment on the caller that said, are we talking too much about what's happening.
FEINSTEIN: And I really agree with what Senator Warner had to say. Having said that, we're very careful what we say and maybe you might notice some pauses as we think. I think, particularly, those of us on the intelligence committees are very careful not really to say anything that betrays a classified item. And that's very difficult to do because, as you spend -- we spend three afternoons a week just in intelligence.
And you read the daily intelligence briefs, you read the reports. You hear the reports from the field and it's a whole total other world. So, I would reassure her and say we're really very cautious in what we say to try not to do that. But, at the same time, to understand, for example, the question of Iraq and what may happen and what may happen on June 30 and what's happening right now. We think it's really appropriate to discuss and, you know, hopefully, someone at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue may even be listening.
KING: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, hello.
CALLER: How's it going, Larry. I just have a quick question about bipartisanship. Everyone keeps talking about bipartisanship in the sense that, are we being fair and going after the facts? If that's the case, why does it seem from different sides of the aisle the questions are being so pointed and the questions seem to be attacking each other. Are these election year antics or a matter of we're truly trying to get the facts necessarily to be able to solve the problem and learn from our mistakes and learn from our weaknesses?
KING: Congresswoman Tausher?
TAUSCHER: Well, I do think the Congress has worked in a bipartisan way. When you try to get information from the administration and you try and try and try and they reject you and deflect you and then finally, reluctantly, get dragged kicking and screaming to tell you that there is a sense of regret in that and there's a sense of trying to push even harder.
And I think that, to a certain extent, the administration has brought this on themselves by, first of all, not wanting the 9/11 commission and being so hesitant about many of these documents that clearly could be declassified. And certainly about Dr. Rice's testimony which, frankly, they had to be convinced by the families of 9/11, who desperately wanted to hear from her, especially in light of Mr. Clarke's testimony.
KING: Frankly, Senator Warner, would you agree with that, that the administration has been slow on this?
WARNER: No. I recall this legislation, when it was introduced, it was a question in the mind of many of us, whether or not all of the hearings and the investigations we got going on in the Congress, whether we need to superimpose another one.
And I thought we went through a very constructive debate. And in the end I voted for this. And I'm pleased that I did, because I think this commission is trying and I think we saw to put them on notice tonight. All of us, let's keep our eye on the end result of a constructive bipartisan report and pull back on some of the tactics that, I think, give legitimate rise for concern in the eyes of the public. They're not familiar as the three of us are. No, we're making progress as a country.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll be back with our remaining moments. We hope to hear from James Thompson on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: The threat reporting that we received in the spring and summer of 2001 was not specific as to time nor place nor manner of attack. Almost all of the reports focused on al Qaeda activities outside of the United States, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa. In fact, the information that was specific enough to be actionable referred to terrorist operations overseas. Most often, though, the threat reporting was frustratingly vague.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Want to spend a few moments before we wind it up with the panel with the former governor of Illinois, another old friend, Republican James Thompson, another member of the commission. How did you assess Dr. Rice's performance today?
JAMES THOMPSON, (R) 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: I thought Dr. Rice was a strong and effective witness, an advocate for the position of the Bush administration, just like I thought that two weeks ago Dick Clarke was a strong and effective witness.
KING: Governor, has this PDB of August 6, has it been released by the White House or is it going to be? What do you know?
THOMPSON: I don't know the August 6 PDB has been the subject of much commentary, not only today, but in week's past. The commission, and I agree with the commission, has urged the White House to declassify the August 6 PDB. That won't come easily because it's never been done before, but there are a lot of things about this controversy and this commission that have never been done before.
I think the proper course of action, just as it was allowing Dr. Rice to testify today would be to declassify the August 6 PDB and let the American public judge for itself, what it said, what it warned of, what it didn't warn of.
KING: Mr. Ben-Veniste seemed to think it was imminent, do you hear that? The release.
THOMPSON: We understand the White House is considering it. I talked to them late this afternoon and they said they would consider it.
There are some problems to cope with, since it's never been done before and they don't want to set a precedent. I don't blame them for not wanting to set a precedent. They shouldn't be declassifying PDBs. These are very tightly held within the government.
But they've given them to us and they've talked about them and about 95 percent of it is out there, so let's declassify it and let the American people judge.
KING: From what you know of it, would there be harm in declassifying?
THOMPSON: I don't think the PDB will show that anybody knew where, when and how an attack would take place. And in fact, no witness has testified before our commission in public or in private, on where when and how an attack would take place.
And, in my view, based on what we heard so far, and I'm not making a final judgment, I won't do that until we heard all the thousand witnesses and looked at the 2.5 million pages documents, but, so far, I agree with the notion that September 11, as tragic and horrible as it was, could not have been prevented.
KING: Someone called and asked if Wesley Clark had appeared before the commission, has he?
THOMPSON: He has not.
KING: Governor Thompson, Senator Warner brought this up earlier before he you were here. And he was a little concerned about the partisan aspect. Is this a bipartisan commission? Will this be a bipartisan report?
THOMPSON: It is a bipartisan commission and it will be a bipartisan report and I'll give you three reasons why. All ten members are people experienced in politics, the government, academia, the law, we know our place in history. We know what the American people expect of us. And we're not going to be found wanting next year or ten years from now, because we foundered on partisanship. We have been in business for over a year, we've taken a lot of votes. There's never been a partisan vote. We had majority and minority votes on a couple of issues, but never a partisan vote with Democrats and Republicans split party by party. That's never happened to us.
And I believe, and the commission has talked about this this afternoon and there was no descent, that we will have a unanimous report. If we have a unanimous report from ten commissioners, five Republican, five Democrat, it can't be partisan.
KING: Governor, how did President Clinton -- I know you can't reveal what he said. But overall, how did he do?
THOMPSON: Well, I can't tell you what President Clinton always does. He's one of the most marvelously effective politicians I've met in my life. He might be the best politician that America has ever produced.
He was terrific. And we all told him that. We're very pleased that he shared four hours with us. We'd probably still be talking, if you know President Clinton. We told him we had to go. We had other things to do. It was good to see him again. And he was very, very helpful to the commission. And I think he was of great strategic value to us.
KING: But he was helpful?
THOMPSON: He was helpful.
KING: Thank you very much, Governor Thompson.
THOMPSON: My pleasure, Larry.
KING: We only have a couple minutes left. Has he allayed your fears, Senator Warner.
WARNER: I've known this fine man for some many years and I think he has spoken and very effectively about what he believes to be the case. I still think raising this issue from time to time as a reminder is a good idea. With all due respect to you, John.
An there was some things which, in my judgment, we went to the waters edge. Now maybe you pulled back. But just votes alone won't do it. It's the overall conduct and stick to the statute, which says be forward-looking.
THOMPSON: Two things. I think the questioning was a little sharp today, but that's all it was. It was sharp, but fair. Secondly, we understand that equally important for finding out what happened on September 11 may be even more important is to learn from this tragedy and make recommendations of the future of the nation both in law enforcement and intelligence so we can lessen the odds, can't prevent it, but lessen the odds that this will happen again.
KING: We have less than a minute, Senator Feinstein, are you happy with this commission?
FEINSTEIN: Yes. And I think Governor Thompson epitomizes it. I think what he just said, how he said it, I think, is deference. I think, it's doing a good job and I think it will produce a good report.
KING: Do you agree, Congresswoman Tauscher?
TAUSCHER: Yes, I do. I think that they understand their place in history, as Governor Thompson said. And I think that they know that, not only the families are watching, but obviously, the generations of Americans we need to protect going forward are going to be appreciative of all the work they're doing.
KING: Judith, finally, was this a momentous day in American history? MILLER: I think it was an amazing day. And I think that the hearings themselves have been amazing and I've learned a great deal about how our government and the executive branch works from these hearings. And I hope that they are broadcast and paid attention to.
KING: Thanks to all the members of our panel. I'll be back in a couple minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: The scheduled guest tomorrow night are Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi. If the PDB is released tomorrow, that's the memo of August 6, then we'll be back with a show dealing with that.
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