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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Hoshyar Zebari; Interview With Stephen Hadley

Aired May 15, 2005 - 12:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in London, and 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION." We'll have my interview with President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, in just a few minutes. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.
(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fredricka.

Just a little while ago, right here in Washington, I spoke with President Bush's national security adviser, Steven Hadley, about the overall political and security situation in Iraq and lots more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Stephen Hadley, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Nice to be here.

BLITZER: "The New York Times" suggests today, as you probably saw on the front page, there is a back channel dialogue under way between the Bush administration and Sunni Iraqis close to the insurgency. Is that true?

HADLEY: There are conversations going on between Iraqi officials and a wide variety of folks in the Sunni community. This is an effort to outreach, to bring Sunnis into the political process.

As you know, a lot of Sunnis stayed out of the political process, did not vote in the most recent election. There is a lot of indication now that many of them recognize that was a mistake. They want into the process. They're included in the Iraqi transitional government, and I know the Iraqi authorities are trying to encourage that process and bring more Sunnis into the political process.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. government trying to do the same thing, establishing a dialogue with these Sunnis, Iraqi Sunnis, who supposedly have close ties with the insurgents?

HADLEY: Well, we certainly through our embassy and elsewhere are in conversation with the members and representatives of the Sunni community. Now, there is a lot of members of the Sunni community that are kind of on the fence. Are the terrorists going to win, or is the Iraqi political process going to succeed? And we're trying to convince them that the Iraqi political process is going to succeed, that they have a role to play in that process, and thereby isolating the terrorists and making it easier for the Iraqi security forces, supported by the coalition, to deal with the terrorists.

BLITZER: As we speak right now, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is in Iraq, meeting with the Iraqi government, and there are some suggestions her main message to them was to reach out to the Sunnis, to bring them in, bring them into the government. As you know, only two of the 55 members of the Iraqi committee assigned to write a permanent constitution are Sunnis, even though some 20 percent of the population are Sunni Iraqis.

HADLEY: There is a reason for that. Dr. Rice is in the region, in Iraq. She's going to be meeting with our troops, thanking them for their commitment and sacrifice. She's going to meet with the new Iraqi government, which has been stood up here in the last week. She'll also be talking with our embassy officials.

She -- the outreach to the Sunnis is a very important piece of what we're doing. Obviously, she is going to continue that process, as I say, because that is the way -- that is really the way forward, in terms of over the long term, bringing a conclusion to this terrorist effort.

BLITZER: The terrorist effort seems to have intensified over the past two weeks. More than 400 Iraqi civilians have been killed. The level of the insurgency seems to be getting stronger. Is that right?

HADLEY: I think the level is, in some sense, fairly constant. What we're seeing is the lethality of what has been going on.

BLITZER: They're getting better at it.

HADLEY: Large numbers of people killed. Most of these people, of course, are Iraqis, but it has had an impact on our own forces as well. And it is obviously very troublesome to us. We mourn every death. And it's one of the reasons why we need to continue the process of training Iraqi security forces, in order to allow them to step forward and deal with the insurgency.

Wolf, let me answer this question too about the representation on the constitutional committee that was formed. It's about a 55-member body. It was drawn from the new legislative assembly. As you know, many Sunnis stayed away from the legislative assembly, did not vote, and therefore there are a relatively small number of Sunnis represented in that assembly.

BLITZER: Two out of 55...

HADLEY: And the 55 was taken proportionately out of the assembly. The Iraqis understand that problem, and there is a process right now to reach out to the Sunni community, and to expand the participation in the constitutional process, so that Sunnis will be represented in that process. And Dr. Rice, of course, will be encouraging the new transitional government to do exactly that. BLITZER: The secretary of state of the United States is in Iraq now. Within a few days, the foreign minister of Iran, Kamal Kharrazi, is going to be visiting Baghdad. Iran has very close ties with this new, at least many elements, the Shia elements of this new Iraqi government. How worried are you about this considerable influence, apparently at least, that Iran has over the new Iraqi government?

HADLEY: Well, we're worried about what Iran is doing in Iraq. We are worried that they are providing assistance to some of the elements that are close to the terrorists and that are in a position to undermine the political process that is going forward. So we've said both to Iran and to Syria that they need to stop any support for the terrorists, and to cooperate with the Iraqi government in bringing the terrorism down.

Certainly there are people in the Iraqi government, and in political organizations in Iraq that have had ties with Iran, that were sheltered in Iran during the period of Saddam Hussein.

I think the president's confidence, though, is that Iraqis have now an opportunity to build and run their own country. They're not going to turn it over to Iran, that in the end of the day, is what we're seeing is an authentic Iraqi political process of Iraqis for the first time now in decades having an opportunity to take responsibility for their own country, and we're confident they will do that.

BLITZER: One of those Iraqi leaders who was sheltered in Iran, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, has spent years in Iran. He's the new prime minister of Iraq. And you're saying that the Iranian government now is supporting which element of the insurgency, of the terrorists inside Iraq?

HADLEY: Well, we can't do it in terms of which element. What we've seen is activity with Iranian elements in Iraq, doing some things that give us some concern, having some contact with some of the terrorist groups, and that obviously troubles us.

But one of the things I think you need to look at is the kind of statements that are coming out about this new leadership, about their agenda going forward. And these are positive statements.

They're very firm about the need to fight the terrorists, to take control of the security situation. They're committed to moving forward with the constitution, in a timely way to get it done as the TAL calls for, in August. So we're encouraged by that.

And they've also made the point that there needs to be an inclusive government. They need to reach out to the Sunnis, and we're encouraging that.

BLITZER: The terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is either alive and well or not so alive and well. What is the status, based on what the U.S. government knows, about, A, his whereabouts, and B, his health?

HADLEY: We really don't know. There is a lot we don't know about Zarqawi. Our intelligence officials have it as a top priority.

We've heard these reports before, that he might be injured. We just don't know. We will run them down. We've heard them before. We just don't know at this point.

But he is obviously a key element in the terrorist network in Iraq, and the sooner he's out of commission, the better.

BLITZER: If you get a knowledge of where he is, will you order his assassination?

HADLEY: It's not a question of that. If we get knowledge of where he is, Iraqi forces and our forces will cooperate to bring him to justice.

BLITZER: Because as you know, the widespread reports over the past couple of days, that a Hellfire missile from a drone went ahead and killed a top Al Qaida operative in Pakistan, Haitham al-Yemeni. What can you tell us about this operation, what's being called his targeted assassination?

HADLEY: I can't really comment on those reports.

We're obviously working very closely with the Pakistani government. The Pakistani government has been very active in dealing with Al Qaida and Taliban elements, particularly in the northwest area of the country. They have -- they have wrapped up a number of Al Qaida operatives here recently. They're doing a great job. We will obviously want to cooperate with them. But remember...

BLITZER: Do you have authority from the Pakistani government to fly these drones over Pakistan and fire a Hellfire missile into a terrorist target?

HADLEY: Look, these are -- the relationships we have are very sensitive. They are a matter of domestic politics to these countries, and it would not help our effort against terror to be talking about them publicly, about these relationships.

But remember, we are in a war situation, and Zarqawi is an element declaring war, really, on the new Iraqi government, and on Americans and the members of the coalition. His organization's responsible for large numbers of deaths of innocent civilians in Iraq. This is a wartime situation, and obviously if we can take action to bring him into custody or take him out of commission, we will do that.

BLITZER: So the president has signed documents authorizing these kinds of killings of terrorist targets?

HADLEY: We are in a wartime situation, and our military forces are taking action against the enemy. Of course.

BLITZER: Has the Pakistani government given the U.S. access to the number three Al Qaida operative, Abu Faraj Al-Libbi, who was captured a few days ago? HADLEY: We are working very closely with the Pakistani officials in the interrogation of him, and I think I'll need to leave it at that at this point, but we think that he may have very useful information, and we are working very closely with the Pakistanis, who obviously have an interest in him. This is a man who tried to kill President Musharraf. And so we both have an interest in making sure that any information that he has available that can advance our cause against the terrorists is obtained and used.

BLITZER: So they are letting U.S. officials participate in the interrogation?

HADLEY: We have good cooperation, let me just leave it at that. We have good cooperation with them at this point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead I'll ask Stephen Hadley why President Bush wasn't notified immediately about this week's terror alert right here in Washington, D.C.

Then the battle over John Bolton. Will president Bush's controversial U.N. ambassador nominee win Senate confirmation? We'll assess his chances with the two top members of the Foreign Relations Committee. They're standing by.

And later, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari -- he'll talk about how his government is planning to stamp out the country's deadly insurgency.

"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our Web question of the week asks this: Should President Bush have been notified earlier of the wayward plane?

You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com\lateedition. We'll have the results at the end of the program.

Straight ahead, more of my conversation with President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HADLEY: ... other legal process against them. We do do that. We get assurances from countries that there will not be torture. As you know, the president has made clear, the United States does not engage in torture, and in these kind of arrangements we are talking about, there are assurances given that any person who's turned over will not be tortured.

BLITZER: So when this Canadian citizen was sent to Syria, the Syrian government gave you assurances he wouldn't be tortured and you believed them?

HADLEY: We have -- we take these assurances, we do what we can to monitor them, and obviously if we get evidence that countries are not abiding by these assurances, that we take into account in the next time we have a decision to make about a possible rendition.

BLITZER: Are you still sending -- or individuals rendition to Syria, for example?

HADLEY: I can't go, obviously, for obvious reasons, into the specifics of where we might be adopting this practice.

BLITZER: There has been an enormous amount of outrage in much of the Muslim world to this "Newsweek" magazine report from a week ago, that at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where detainees are being held, they took the Koran, U.S. military personnel or others, and flushed it down a toilet or desecrated it.

And this is causing widespread unrest in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Have you looked into that "Newsweek" story to see if it was true?

HADLEY: It is being looked at right now. An investigation is ongoing.

If it turns out to be true -- we've heard these reports before -- if it turns out to be true, obviously we will take action against those responsible.

Because the U.S. government's position is very clear: We are an advocate of freedom of religion. Any disrespect to the holy Koran or any other holy book is not our policy, hasn't in the past, isn't now, will not be in the future.

And in fact, people of Muslim faith in a place like Guantanamo are given a copy of the Koran. They're given prayer beads. They're given an opportunity to pray. There is a call to prayer.

We are doing everything we can actually to facilitate the exercise of religion, even for people who are in custody.

BLITZER: But this is a deep concern, given the anger -- even if it weren't true, the perception out there is that it is true, and it's causing enormous problems for the United States, perhaps even on a scale to the -- what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison, when the U.S. were abusing Iraqi detainees.

HADLEY: Well, we'll see. First of all, we don't know that it's true. We are looking into it vigorously. We don't know that it's true.

Secondly, it is unfortunate, but there is some evidence in places like Afghanistan that this is being exploited by anti-government elements. That's very unfortunate.

But because of the concerns you raised, this is why we've been very clear, this is not our policy. Our policy is to have nothing but the utmost respect for the holy Koran. And if this did occur, people will be held to account.

BLITZER: How close is Iran to building a nuclear bomb? How many years away, or months away, for that matter, does the U.S. government believe Iran is from actually having a bomb?

HADLEY: Obviously, we don't know for sure. There are estimates that are out there.

I think the main thing to focus on in Iran is that the path to Iran getting a nuclear weapon is getting nuclear material. And there are two ways to do that: Through what's called reprocessing and through enrichment.

And because of concerns that Iraq does have an intent to get a nuclear weapon....

BLITZER: Iran.

HADLEY: Iran. Because Iran does have an intent to get a nuclear weapon, we are working very closely with the EU three -- France, Germany and the U.K., who are in discussions with Iran, to try and get a negotiated arrangement whereby Iran will permanently give up reprocessing and enrichment. That is the best way to ensure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: At what point do you go to the U.N. Security Council and ask for sanctions against Iran?

HADLEY: It depends on how these negotiations go forward. Obviously, if they don't make progress, at some point we will have to look at other measures.

And if in fact, the Iranians do not abide by the temporary suspension, which has been negotiated, then it's pretty clear, and we've talked with our EU three partners in this process, that we would have to go to the U.N. Security Council.

BLITZER: Is it your assessment, the U.S. government's assessment that North Korea already has enough enriched uranium for five or six nuclear bombs?

HADLEY: Again, we don't know. There were statements made in the mid-'90s, as you know, that it was likely that North Korea had one or two nuclear weapons.

They have announced that they had done reprocessing of spent fuel roads, which would give them access to more nuclear material. Estimates range from two to six. We just really don't know.

But obviously, we are very concerned about any progress that North Korea makes towards a nuclear weapon, and that's why we've been working through, very actively, through what's called the six-party talks. BLITZER: Have you seen indications, satellite reconnaissance photography or other indications, that North Korea is on the verge of perhaps testing a nuclear bomb?

HADLEY: We don't know for sure. We've seen some activity that is consistent with possible preparations for a nuclear test. We don't know for sure.

As you know, North Korea is a very hard target. There is a lot we don't know about it.

We've shared that information with -- with our allies in the six- party talks. Obviously, it would be a very serious development. It would be something where the North Koreans would be defying not only us, but our partners in the six-party talks, and action would have to be -- have to be taken.

BLITZER: Does the president still have complete confidence that John Bolton is the best person to serve the United States at the United Nations, despite the enormous amount of criticism he's taken from Democrats and even some Republicans, like Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio?

HADLEY: Absolutely. A lot of charges have been made. John has had an opportunity to answer those charges.

The president continues to believe absolutely he is the right person to go to the United Nations.

Look, John has been around for 20 years. He has been confirmed four times by the Senate. He has wide support from people like former Secretary Baker, former U.N. Representative Kirkpatrick.

The president is pleased he's going to get a vote, and confident that at the end of the day, Republicans and some Democrats will confirm John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left, but there was a scare, a serious scare in Washington this past week. A small Cessna plane was heading towards the White House or Capitol Hill. Evacuation of thousands of staff members, from Congress, from the Supreme Court, from the White House.

Only three miles away, that plane got within three miles. In the end, the plane was intercepted by F-16 jet fighters.

There is no doubt, though, that there was a real fear.

But the president of the United States was in suburban Maryland bicycling, exercising at the time, and he wasn't told about this until it was well over.

Is there something wrong with the system, the communications, that the president was kept in the dark on what was going on at the White House? HADLEY: He wasn't kept in the dark. Look, it is unfortunate that after 9/11, we have these incidents from time to time, when a civil aviation aircraft will stray into restricted space. It happens. There are procedures in place as to how to handle that situation, and an evacuation is something we do as a matter of prevention.

BLITZER: But why wouldn't he be told -- why wasn't he told about it? As soon as it happened, as soon as officials in the White House, at 11:59, or at noon, started streaming out?

Communications is instantaneous. He always has aides with him. There are instant communications with the Situation Room, with the White House. Why wasn't the president told what was going on in Washington?

HADLEY: And that information did go to those people who were with him...

BLITZER: I know, but why didn't they tell the president?

HADLEY: The security detail -- this was all done and resolved in less than 10 minutes. And if it had been a serious situation that has gone on longer, I am quite confident they would have gone up and told him the -- how this was -- that this was going on.

But quite frankly, Wolf, when I was advised about it, within about two minutes, the word was that it had already been resolved.

So look, the people who are with him -- the people who were with him were advised about this situation, were in a position to let him know, but it resolved very quickly, in less than 10 minutes.

BLITZER: But at 11:59, that's when the alert started changing. And it wasn't until 12:14, when there was an all-clear given out. Fifteen -- 15 minutes, which is an enormous amount of time.

During that 15 minutes, don't you think the president should have been told, you know, what, we have a problem that is going on in Washington?

HADLEY: By about 12:08, it was pretty clear that this issue was going to be resolved. And indeed, when I was alerted, I was told, this is the situation, we think it will probably be resolved and probably resolved shortly.

So look, it's a serious thing. Everybody did exactly what they're supposed to do under the circumstance. It resolved very quickly. Procedures were followed. The first lady was taken and put in a secure location. And the people with the president were in real time.

If this issue had -- looked like it was going to be more serious, he would have been told.

BLITZER: I don't want to -- I don't want to beat it, but I just don't understand. Maybe I'm missing something. What would have been the big deal if one of his agents or one of his aides who was with him would have said, by the way, Mr. President, there is a big problem?

HADLEY: I think if it had gone another short time, they would have done exactly that. But what they knew was, it was being handled in the proper course, procedures were being followed and the situation was being managed well.

BLITZER: No recriminations?

HADLEY: None.

BLITZER: Stephen Hadley, thanks very much.

HADLEY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, security scare in the nation's capital. We'll get a firsthand account from two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar and the committee's ranking Democrat, Joe Biden -- what they were doing when there was that evacuation. Also, I'll get their latest on the John Bolton nomination.

But up next, we'll have a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the deadly political unrest in Uzbekistan. Hundreds of people have been killed.

Stay with "LATE EDITION."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Joining us now to talk about the battle over John Bolton as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the war in Iraq, and much more, two guests: the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar; and in Delaware, the committee's top Democrat, Joe Biden.

Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

And, Senator Lugar, I'll begin with you.

You had a lively hearing this week on the John Bolton nomination. In the end, 10-8, you decided to send it on to the full Senate floor, but without a recommendation, an unusual procedure, largely the result of what Senator George Voinovich of Ohio did and said, a Republican of your party. Let's listen to one excerpt from his remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): And to those who say a vote against John Bolton is against reform of the U.N., I say, nonsense, there are many other people who are qualified to go to the United Nations that can get the job done for our country.

Frankly, I'm concerned that Mr. Bolton would make it more difficult for us to achieve the badly needed reforms to this outdated institution. I believe that there could even be more obstacles to reform if Mr. Bolton is sent to the United Nations than if he were another candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: An unusual development, to put it mildly.

Do you believe that John Bolton will have enough votes on the Senate floor to get confirmed?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: I believe he'll be confirmed. I think whip checks indicate that a majority of senators are in favor of confirming John Bolton.

I think the scene-setter for this, however, is, we are having this debate because former Senator John Danforth, our colleague, resigned, and that was unexpected. He certainly had unanimous support.

So an opening has appeared, and in the meanwhile the oil-for-food scandal, situation has enveloped the U.N. This has brought a good bit of antipathy from many Americans, including many members of the House and Senate.

So it's a rough terrain there, in which reform is going to be required.

Now, I agree with my colleague George Voinovich, there were many who might serve, who might be good for reform.

The issue here is the president of the United States and the secretary of state have determined that John Bolton is the person that they want for the reform.

So, it comes down to...

BLITZER: So, basically, you're deferring to the president on this...

LUGAR: Yes, and I think that's not unusual. I think, in very strong foreign policy situations like this, there's as much a debate we had over Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, about four months ago. She was nominated, but there was quite a debate.

Now, this is in part because there hadn't been much debate perhaps since the campaign, the first opportunity to get into it.

The Bolton nomination's offered another big foreign policy debate.

BLITZER: Let's bring Senator Biden in.

Senator Biden, listen to what Condoleezza Rice said this past week on "Larry King Live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I can tell you that there are a lot of people who've worked for John Bolton who are inspired by him and who are intensely loyal to him. And John is hard- charging. There's no doubt about that. But he has been very successful in managing people. He's been very successful in his diplomacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You disagree with her, I know, because you were one of the leaders in his opposition. But shouldn't the president and the secretary of state have the prerogative to pick who they want to represent their administration, the American people at the U.N.?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, generally, yes.

As you know, the Constitution says no one can go to the U.N. or to the court or any other appointment without the advice and consent of the United States Senate.

So the president's entitled to suggest. In most cases, when it's about his larger political family, which are his Cabinet and the U.N., he is given deference. He should be given deference.

But this isn't about John Bolton's political views. This is about John Bolton at the very time when there's still a lot of unease about the misuse of intelligence information by policy-makers, to send a man up there that seven major figures in a Republican administration said, in one form or another, either attempts to misuse intelligence data, stretches the envelope, and tries to get intelligence officers fired who disagree with him.

The head of the National Intelligence Council said, and I quote, "His constantly badgering" -- and I quote -- "installs a climate of intimidation and a culture of conformity" -- the very thing we don't want. He shouldn't be the guy going.

BLITZER: Does that mean you would support what Barbara Boxer, your Democratic colleague from California, is now doing? She's put a hold on this nomination, in effect meaning that 60 votes are required to lift the hold, pending getting some documents, some conversations, some memoranda from the state department. Do you support Barbar Boxer on that hold?

BIDEN: Well, let me make it clear. Barbara Boxer, when she put that on, came back to me and told me the only reason she put the hold on was to make sure we weren't going to vote on Boxer by Monday. That's much as I know from Barbara Boxer.

BLITZER: On Bolton. On Bolton. BIDEN: I mean, I'm sorry, on Bolton by Monday, because there was a lot of talk not on the part of Dick. Dick wouldn't suggest this, but that once it was reported to the floor, that Frist might, the majority leader, might immediately put it on the docket.

And so I was told by Senator Boxer the reason she put a hold on was so there would be no vote as early as Monday.

It's premature to talk about extended debate on this. I think the president should listen to the Congress. The truth is there were not a majority of Republicans who supported Mr. Bolton.

And only nine people -- and you need 10 -- supported Mr. Bolton, and even two of those were very uneasy about it. And if you had a secret ballot on the floor of the Senate I would think you would have an overwhelming "no" vote. The president should listen.

BLITZER: If you feel that strongly, Senator Biden, and then I'm going to bring Senator Lugar back in, why not filibuster and demand 60 affirmative votes to get Bolton confirmed?

BIDEN: Because I'd rather the president listen to the United States Senate on this and listen to members of his own party, and I'd rather have an opportunity for the president to come forward on the information we're entitled to that hasn't been delivered yet. As I said, it's much too premature to talk about filibustering Mr. Bolton, in my view.

BLITZER: If the Democrats, Senator Lugar, were to go ahead and use that filibuster rule to try to set back the Bolton nomination, would that be unprecedented? Would that be acceptable? Would that be something Republicans would do if the shoe was on the other foot?

LUGAR: Well, it wouldn't be unprecedented. And clearly this is a microcosm, a part of a bigger debate that's occurring with regard to appellate court judges that we're likely to be visiting this coming week.

It depends really upon your perspective. My perspective, and I think that of Senator Biden's, has been that the presidents of the United States, whoever they are, ought to have their Cabinet, ought have have their official officers. It would take very dire circumstances, it seems to me, to lead, really, to another conclusion.

BLITZER: Have you seen the atmosphere as politically charged as it is right now? Have you seen that in recent years in Washington? You've been around a long time.

LUGAR: No, but it's been building ever since the election of 2000, and the 50-50 Senate, the difficulty of working out some modus vivendi, even in committees. We've had a flip of 51-49, Democrats, then the other way, Republicans. We're in that kind of a situation.

However, it doesn't mean that life fails to go on elsewhere, and I think the point that Senator Biden and I have been trying to make is we also have out there somewhere North Korea and Iran, quite apart from active hostilities this week in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ubzekistan.

In other words, there are Americans at risk. There are people being killed.

Now, procedural issues are interesting, and they are important, but I'm hopeful that somehow we can get our perspective back onto the main goal.

BLITZER: All right. Well, we're going to pick that up, but we'll take a quick break. When we come back much more of our interview with Senators Lugar and Biden.

We'll also get into the looming showdown over President Bush's judicial nominees. Can anything be done to avoid what's being called the nuclear option? And we're not talking about North Korea or Iran.

More "LATE EDITION" straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with two influential members of the United States Senate: Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana and Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware.

Senator Biden, listen to what Senator Kennedy, your Democratic colleague from Massachusetts, said on "Face the Nation" just a little while ago here in Washington when it comes to the issue of whether or not this debate over judicial nominees can be avoided if the filibuster is continued to be used by Democrats. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Basically what I'm saying is that we should not accept a compromise that's going to silence and muzzle and gag a member of the United States Senate to express their conscience on an issue of a lifetime judge when the issues at stake are basic constitutional issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was on CBS' "Face the Nation" just a little while ago.

Senator Biden, can a compromise be worked out over these judicial nominees to avoid what's being called the nuclear option: changing the rules of the Senate by eliminating the filibuster rule, meaning 60 votes would be required in order to get this situation resolved?

BIDEN: I think there could have been one. And I know that Senator Reid offered one.

I think the idea -- look, the president has nominated 208 judges, 10 of whom have not been approved, three of whom have withdrew after that. We're talking about seven judges. The idea that we can't agree on a compromise of taking several of those judges and confirming them and withdrawing several others, seems to me to be one that has everybody baffled in my view.

And it seems as though Mr. Frist's political ambitions are resting on having to go forward with this, which is unfortunate. Everyone from George Will to Ken Starr, who prosecuted President Clinton, thinks this is a disaster to go. It's not just liberals.

And, look, this is not merely about whether or not there's a conservative bench. There is a conservative bench: 58 percent of all the judges that serve now are appointed by a Republican. This is about radical additions to the bench. And that's what this is. We should be able to compromise it, though.

BLITZER: Senator Lugar, the new "Time" magazine poll out today asked whether or not Republicans should be able to eliminate the filibuster on these judges: 28 percent of the American public in this poll said yes; 59 percent don't want it eliminated. They want the Senate, apparently, to still retain this filibuster rule down the road.

You've been in the Senate for many, many years. Are you concerned if they change the rule right now that Senator Frist apparently wants, that this could backfire down the road for Republicans?

LUGAR: Well, Republicans have polls that indicate that 44 percent of the people believe that you have an up-or-down vote on a candidate as opposed to 43 percent who oppose. So it depends how you phrase the question.

But on the fundamental issue, I believe that we are skating over very thin ice here with regard to the continuity of life in the Senate as we've known it. I'm opposed to trying to eliminate filibusters simply because I think they protect minority rights, whether they're Republicans, Democrats or other people. Now, my hope is that...

BLITZER: So let me get this straight. So you'll vote against any change in the rules?

LUGAR: Not necessarily. I've indicated our leader, Mr. Frist, that I believe that he needs to try to work out a compromise. He needs to negotiate. And I believe he's been doing so.

And in fairness to Bill Frist, he's tried out several things for size. He will try out some more. It's essential that he and Senator Reid succeed.

In microsom, Senator Biden and I have the same sort of problem with regard to the John Bolton nomination we've been discussing. Senator Biden could have opted for a number of parliamentary strategies and strung the thing on indefinitely, or other Democrats could have objected in various ways that would have made that impossible. The fact is that we believe that we need to have some comity in the Foreign Relations Committee. And even more important, we need to have it in the United States Senate.

BLITZER: That doesn't seem to exist right now.

I'll give you the last word on this debate, Senator Biden. Is the nuclear option going to be used. And will the Democrats then retaliate by grinding the Senate to a halt?

BIDEN: I hope not and I hope not.

BLITZER: Well, that's a short answer. And I'll leave it right there.

Senator Biden, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

Senator Lugar, thanks to you, as well.

We'll watch this debate unfold in the Senate this week. It could be lively.

Don't forget our Web question of the week. "Should President Bush have been notified earlier of the wayward plane approaching the White House?" We'll get your results and let you know what they are later on

"LATE EDITION." We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll have my interview with the Iraqi foreign minister in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fredricka.

Insurgents in Iraq appear to be digging in for the long haul, keeping up daily and deadly attacks. And there are serious concerns the violence could be putting the country on a path toward civil war.

Just a short while ago I spoke with Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who joined me from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.

In the last two weeks or so, since the formation of your new government, more than 400 Iraqis have been killed by insurgents -- seems like an incredibly high number, to all of us watching from the outside. What's going on? HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, what's going on that these attacks have been escalated to undermine the new elected government to be able to perform and to provide services, and to undermine its credibility. I mean, it was expected, that the terrorists, after they were put on a black note (ph), after the election, have made use of the vacuum that was created by the delay in the formation of the government. And this is a desperate attempt by them to try to inflict as much damage as possible on innocent Iraqis and on the image of this new government. But we are confident we will be able to defeat them with more effective security policies.

BLITZER: It seems like the attacks, the assassinations, especially, are hitting very close to your home. A senior Foreign Ministry official was gunned down only yesterday. How worried are you personally about your security, the security of other cabinet members?

ZEBARI: Well, we've been through this over the last two years, and we are safe and sound, as you see. But we face those dangers every day, indeed. The official who was killed and assassinated yesterday by some unknown gunman, actually was not a very senior official of the ministry. He was an employee. And it was very sad. We lost a good friend.

But we are all actually targets for those terrorists and Saddamists who want to derail this process and to undermine what we are trying to build of a democratic, free Iraq.

BLITZER: Operation Matador was a week-long U.S. military effort to stop the infiltration along the border between Syria and Iraq. About 1,000 U.S. Marines were involved. It's now over. Is the Syrian government doing what you would like it to do to prevent foreign fighters from infiltrating into Iraq?

ZEBARI: In fact, this operation was necessary and it was very successful. A number of foreign fighters have been detained, and including some Saudi nationals, and with some very firm evidence of their terror network.

And as far as the location, this operation was taking place very, very close to the Syrian borders. We believe many of the infiltrators have come from Syria.

And as our investigation showed and revealed, Syria is not doing enough. Recently, we had two meetings with them, one in Istanbul with the foreign minister. And even I handed him information and list of names of wanted people by Iraqi justice, by security authorities, to have and turn them over to the Iraqi government. And also, we asked them to tighten border controls, to stop infiltrations, to stop the agitation in the media, in the mosque against this situation here in Iraq.

The same message we passed recently with President Talabani to King Abdullah of Jordan, and with the Jordanian officials.

In fact, many of these foreign fighters are coming from outside. They are non-Iraqis. And they are the one who are carrying out most of this terrorist and suicidal car bombs against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces.

BLITZER: You were quoted by the Associated Press this past Tuesday as saying, referring to your neighbors, "Generally, they don't like what we are doing to build democracy in that part of the world. There is some tolerance for these terror networks on the part of the neighboring countries." Specifically, where is that tolerance -- beyond Syria -- I assume you're referring to Syria, but are you also referring to Jordan and Saudi Arabia?

ZEBARI: In fact, I was referring to most of our neighbors, or all of our neighbors. They're not doing enough. Their inaction is helping, is assisting those foreign fighters to move at ease, to cross the borders without any checks, without any attempts to neutralize them, to stop them.

And this is what I was referring to. They're not doing enough. What they're doing is insufficient, and this is very dangerous. I mean, in the old days, we had a saying of the Afghan Arabs, who went to Afghanistan to fight. Now we are going to call them Iraqi Arabs, who will go back to their countries to inflict more harm and damage on their own.

So really here we have a shared interest and a common objective with them to fight terrorism and to cooperate and to deal with each other in good faith.

BLITZER: Is there a possibility that you can expand your government now to bring in more Sunnis, especially when it comes to writing a permanent constitution for Iraq? Because of the 55 members of this committee that you put together to write this constitution, only two are Iraqi Sunnis.

ZEBARI: Yes, Wolf, we are aware of this problem, in fact. The Iraqi government is aware. But this is a product of the National Assembly. The Sunnis were not well represented at the Assembly, because they didn't participate, or they were half-hearted about taking part in the election. So this commission in fact was a direct product of the National Assembly.

But we have plans, and we have been discussing, even from today, to try to engage them, to involve them in the writing of the constitution. There would be a number of subcommittees, to reach out to them and to make sure that their participation is not cosmetic, but it is real.

This constitution writing process is historical. It's not for this generation, it's for future generations, and they should be fully represented in the process.

BLITZER: The New York Times has a front page story today saying that some of the Sunnis, groups with ties to the insurgents, have been reaching out quietly to the U.S., to the Bush administration, with the hope of trying to come into the government themselves. Are you ready to get former Saddam loyalists, to let them come work in this government together with you? ZEBARI: Well, this government and the previous government, Wolf, really went out of their way to reach out to the Sunni, to credible Sunni leaders who would participate in the political process, and this process of building democracy in Iraq, to create a new Iraq, a tolerant Iraq that's for all. And the response recently we had was a positive one. I think one of the outcome of the January election was it's made the Sunni community to move to be more active, to organize themselves, to have some representation and to be prepared to participate in the next election.

We have now a good number of Sunni, of credible Sunni leaders in this new government. In fact, their representation is far more than their actual weight in the assembly.

Here actually now with the Sunnis, we've gone beyond representation to discuss policies, to make them partner in setting out, you know, even the government policies. So we are trying our best to make sure they participate, and they could use their influence on those disaffected people, disenfranchised groups in the society, to participate and to abandon violence and the language of arms and resort to the language of dialogue.

BLITZER: One final question, because we're almost out of time, Mr. Foreign Minister. The secretary of state of the United States, Condoleezza Rice, as we speak right now, is in Iraq, meeting with your government, getting a sense of what's going on.

There is deep concern, though, here in Washington among many observers that the new Iraqi government eventually could be closer to Iran, its neighbor, than it is to the United States, given the influence of the Iranian government on what's going on in Baghdad. What do you say to that deep concern?

ZEBARI: Well, I don't think that concern is well-placed. I think the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people are appreciative of the role of the United States government, of the U.S. forces, who are putting their lives on the line every day to support and to help the Iraqis.

But at the same time, as a fact of life, Iraq is a neighbor, a geographical neighbor, to Iran. And that is our destiny. We need also to have good, workable relations, based on noninterference in our internal affairs by Iran or any other country.

So as far as the policy of this government is concerned, we value highly our relationship with the United States, and we know its influence on the region, on our country, but at the same time, we are trying to build good relations with our neighbors, including Iran.

BLITZER: Will the visit by Dr. Rice, by Secretary Rice, be followed by a similar visit from Iran?

ZEBARI: I believe so. I believe so. Today I learned actually there is an interest by the Iranian foreign minister to pay a visit to Iraq, to congratulate the new Iraqi government, and that's why he's planning to come after Dr. Rice's visit. BLITZER: Foreign Minister, good to spend some time with you. Thanks very much for joining us on "LATE EDITION."

ZEBARI: Not at all. It's my pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead -- hunting for Osama bin Laden. A former CIA officer explains why the world's most wanted man is able to elude capture, at least so far.

And assessing the strength of Al Qaida -- two former CIA directors assess the war on terror.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Why can't the U.S. find Osama bin Laden?

GARY SCHROEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Primarily because he's hiding in one of the most inaccessible areas in the world on that border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I think he's in the northern areas above Peshawar. Rugged terrain, even if we put troops in there, it would be difficult to find him, just as we had trouble finding that fellow down in North Carolina for over five years.

But he's also being protected by the tribals there who hate the government and who admire him.

And so without Pakistani full cooperation, it's really, really like looking for a needle in a haystack.

BLITZER: Well, when you say with the Pakistani full cooperation, they've been very helpful, the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, in this war on terror since 9/11.

SCHROEN: Absolutely. They were kind of -- had to be forced kicking and screaming into it because they were the primary supporters of the Taliban.

But once they began to cooperate, in the cities around the country since September 11th, we've captured hundreds of Al Qaeda terrorists.

It's only in these tribal areas of Pakistan where their control is weak and where there's great resistance to the Pakistani government that they have been less than fully cooperative.

BLITZER: Now, I've heard you make an explosive charge, that the government of Pakistan, President Musharraf, that they will help the United States find all sorts of relatively low level Al Qaida types, but they really don't want to help the United States find Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. SCHROEN: That's my impression after almost four years of trips back to Afghanistan and looking at the situation on the ground.

There's a lot of things that they could be doing. It would be politically costly. And I just don't think the Musharraf government is willing yet to do that.

BLITZER: But do you have any hard evidence that the U.S. and others, perhaps, were on the verge of getting their hands around Osama bin Laden and that Pakistan did something to prevent that deal from being completed?

SCHROEN: No. The closest we have come in recent times was at Tora Bora in the end of 2001, beginning of 2002. Bin Laden and his guys were able to slip across the border.

BLITZER: In Afghanistan.

SCHROEN: In Afghanistan, going into Pakistan. It's true that...

BLITZER: Do you know for sure they slipped from Tora Bora into Pakistan?

SCHROEN: I'm absolutely convinced of it.

BLITZER: On the basis of what?

SCHROEN: Just my own knowledge of what was happening there and the intelligence that we were gathering as the battle evolved.

BLITZER: Because as you remember, during the presidential campaign John Kerry kept accusing President Bush of outsourcing the hunt for Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, that he was within the grasp of the U.S. but they decided to let the Afghans or the Pakistanis take over.

SCHROEN: It wasn't a callous decision. There was -- we did use Afghan tribals to try to block those escape routes out of Tora Bora, out of Afghanistan because we really didn't have enough troops to do the job ourselves totally to do both sides of that battle.

And the locals had intimate knowledge of the trails. Unfortunately, it turned out that most of the guys that we were hiring were supporters of the Taliban or sympathetic to them and very sympathetic to bin Laden.

BLITZER: In your book you write this -- the book "First In" -- "I knew that the only way to effectively get at bin Laden was to go after him in Afghanistan, and the only way to effectively chase him in that country was to eliminate the Taliban Forces protecting him."

That was done. The Taliban forces were effectively eliminated.

The whole question, though, over human intelligence, the U.S. has great electronic eavesdropping, satellite reconnaissance, photography, but there's been a lot of criticism that your profession, an agent -- an officer on the ground, a clandestine officer -- that there simply aren't enough human assets to get the job done.

SCHROEN: We chased bin Laden. I personally was involved in chasing him from Islamabad as chief of station there from 1997 to 1999 and then watched that effort evolve. We had a lot of human assets on the ground, Afghans that could operate there effectively.

But the man operates in total secrecy, even the Taliban leadership didn't know where he was going on a day-to-day basis, let alone our guys who were following him.

BLITZER: The other charge you make, which is very explosive, controversial as well, is that this war the U.S. has engaged in in Iraq really has undermined a much more important agenda.

You write this, "Given the total preoccupation with Iraq, I am not confident that the U.S. government will make the policy adjustments necessary to improve conditions for the success of the democratic experiment in Afghanistan or refocus diplomatic and military efforts back to the South Asian region in order to capture Osama bin Laden and defeat Al Qaeda."

In effect, what you're saying is that Iraq, the military occupation there, has undermined the search for Osama bin Laden?

SCHROEN: I think that's true, up to a point. Two points to that question: One was the supporting the Karzai government and our amount of aid is probably $3 billion a year, a lot of money, but not nearly enough to improve conditions.

The current rioting going on in Kabul city and other cities around the country in Afghanistan is demonstration that their conditions are still tenuous there.

BLITZER: That rioting in Jalalabad especially because of the "Newsweek" report that people at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba desecrated the Koran in front of these prisoners, these detainees, and Muslims are outraged by that.

SCHROEN: And rightly so. It's one of the most prohibited things that one can do in Islam, is to deface the Holy Koran. And to do that was inviting this kind of negative reaction in Afghanistan. And I'm surprised if it hasn't, doesn't resonate around the Muslim world.

BLITZER: Do you still think, though, when all is said and done, Osama bin Laden; Ayman al Zuwahari; Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaida terrorist in Iraq, all of those guys are going to be rounded up sooner rather than later?

SCHROEN: I honestly do. We're putting an incredible amount of effort that goes on behind the scenes, that the American people don't see, into trying to track him down.

The arrest, the successful arrest by the Pakistani authorities of al-Libbi, the number three guy who replaced Khalid Sheik Mohammed, just recently up in the northern area, I think is a significant step forward -- if we can convince the Pakistanis that they need to really take on the effort and continue that effort in that area to try to track down bin Laden.

BLITZER: Here's another quote from your book, "First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan." Because you were first in, literally first in.

You write this: "In northern Virginia, the morning of 11 September 2001 was beautiful, with clear blue skies and mild temperatures that gave just a hint of fall. That morning, I left my home in Alexandria, Virginia, an hour later than my past routine had called for, having entered into the CIA's 90-day retirement transition program just 11 days earlier."

You were planning on retiring, leaving the CIA. But within days you were first in in Afghanistan searching for Osama bin Laden. This is before the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began.

SCHROEN: Absolutely. And I left that afternoon from the CIA, dejected because I thought I'm in the retirement program. I'm going to have to play no part in this hunt for bin Laden and fighting the war against terrorism that just was declared.

Yet, three days later, actually, I was called before Cofer Black and told that I was going to -- offered me the leadership of the team to go into Afghanistan.

BLITZER: And he had a specific instruction to you, Cofer Black, who was in charge of counterterrorism at the CIA. He is now over at the state department. He said he wanted you to capture Osama bin Laden?

SCHROEN: Well, he actually said he wanted me to kill Osama bin Laden and put his head in a box with dry ice and ship it back to him.

BLITZER: And you said?

SCHROEN: I said, I'll do my best to follow the first part and kill him. I don't know what I'd do about dry ice in Afghanistan, but we'll improvise.

BLITZER: And were there smiles, snickers, was he half serious?

SCHROEN: He was half serious. I think what you had was, we were just days after the attacks. He was trying to -- he, more than just about anybody within the CIA stood up and was really pushing. This is a disaster, but we're going to take the gloves off, we're going to get bin Laden and his Al Qaida.

And this was the kind of bravado that would kind of buck you up before, especially our team, before we went off by ourselves to go into Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Was there or is there a U.S. law that would prohibit you from going out and killing Osama bin Laden? He's not necessarily a leader of a state or anything like that.

SCHROEN: Under normal circumstances, yes, there is a prohibition. But I think after 9/11 there was official sanction from the administration to go after this man and eliminate him.

BLITZER: The book is called "First In." Gary Schroen is the author. Congratulations on the book, Gary. Thanks for joining us.

SCHROEN: Thank you very much, Wolf. It's been a pleasure to be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And please stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security. Just ahead, we'll get a check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on the elusive terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Then, more insight from the CIA. Specifically, two former CIA directors, Stansfield Turner and John Mclaughlin, a former acting director, on where the war on terror stands right now.

Stay with "LATE EDITION."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The war on terror continues. I have an obligation as your president to remind people about the realities of the world we live in. There are still people out there who would like to inflict harm on our people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush this week saying despite some successes, very serious dangers remain in the war on terror.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Joining us now to talk about the lingering threats, two guests. The former CIA director Stansfield Turner who headed the agency during the Carter administration and John McLaughlin who was recently a deputy CIA director and acting CIA director. He is now a CNN national security adviser. He's also a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies here in Washington.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. Why is it so hard, Admiral Turner, to capture Osama Bin Laden?

STANSFIELD TURNER, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: He's in an area of the world where communications facilities, transportation facilities are pretty sparse. He's in an area of the world where there are lots of people who sympathize more with him than with us or with the government of Pakistan or the government of Afghanistan and are willing to shelter him. It's a very difficult proposition.

BLITZER: So you think he's going to be sheltered at least for the foreseeable future? In other words, is he ever going to be captured?

TURNER: Oh, I think he will eventually. But it will come out about probably because somebody spills the beans on him. And we haven't found that coincidence yet where we find a person who is willing to defect but has had a good contact with him, and knows his pattern and knows the kinds of places he's been.

BLITZER: John McLaughlin, you've spent many, many hours, days, months, years searching for Osama Bin Laden. The same question to you: why is it so hard to find him?

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, as Admiral Turner said, he is in one of the most difficult parts of the world to get at. Gary Schroen made this point as well. He's harbored by people who are friendly to his point of view and so forth. But I would say this...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a second. Because this is the United States of America, the greatest superpower out there. There are friendly governments in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States has enormous economic capabilities, financial capabilities and technical capabilities to get the job done.

So a lot of frustration out there that he's still a free man.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, of course, everyone is doing their utmost to capture him.

What I would say is I'm certain his life has become more difficult. The kind of captures of people who have been instrumental in his plans and his activities have stressed his communications, forced him deeper underground and made him someone who is no longer the push-button commander of this movement, who continues to inspire it. But he's under considerable pressure.

BLITZER: Did the capture, the arrest of the supposed number three of Al Qaida, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, by the Pakistanis, presumably with U.S. help, did that create a situation that could lead to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Anything that you do in the way of a capture like al-Libbi is important because you gain documents, you gain electronic media, you gain what the person is willing to tell you. You learn more.

Going after someone like Osama bin Laden is something that you do in increments over a long period of time.

There's an important point to make, though, about the war on terror. As important as it would be to capture Osama bin Laden -- and it is everyone's utmost desire -- in the war on terror, there's nothing like a decapitation strike. In other words, if the plotters in July of 1944 had succeeded in killing Hitler, it probably would have ended World War II.

So that is not the way the war on terror works. As important as it is to get him, it would not necessarily end the war on terror.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that assessment?

TURNER: Oh yes, I think so. There are so many fanatics involved in this.

BLITZER: So killing Osama bin Laden wouldn't end the terror threat to the United States?

TURNER: No, but it would certainly curtail it. I mean he's got a lot of charisma and he's got a lot of moxie. He knows how to do these things. He's organized it well.

So it's a big step forward but it isn't -- I agree with John -- going to terminate the whole terrorist problem.

MCLAUGHLIN: The important thing, Wolf, if I could interject here, is to continue attacking the networks that have now, to some degree, de-centralized.

I mean, Al Qaida has an Asian face, it has an African face, it has a face that is Middle Eastern. And a lot of these groups are operating with the inspiration of bin Laden but operating to some degree with independence.

So this is a movement that has to be attacked globally and consistently and relentlessly. And taking him out would be a big victory; don't misunderstand that.

BLITZER: Admiral Turner, do you agree with Gary Schroen, the CIA officer we just heard from, who has written this new book, who suggests that the Pakistani government of Pervez Musharraf, while friendly to the United States and helpful in the war on terror, there are limits as to how far he and his government might go, and they're not necessarily inclined to help find Osama bin Laden because that might be too much of a burden that would be created on his government -- the anger that that would generate within Pakistan?

TURNER: Oh, absolutely. The old saying is, "All politics is local." Musharraf has got to stay on our good side for his purposes of international relations, but he's got to maintain his own position in that country, which he's got lots of people who are more inclined to support Osama bin Laden than they are George Bush.

BLITZER: Do you think that Musharraf is holding back?

MCLAUGHLIN: No. No, I don't think he's holding back at all. I think he's a courageous leader who has been enormously helpful to us in circumstances that make it very difficult for him to do so.

He's got extremist elements in that society, including people who are represented in the parliament.

So he does this at great personal cost, but I don't think he's holding back on this. BLITZER: Do you think he's giving the U.S. access to Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the number three Al Qaida operative, who's being held in Pakistan? He also is accused of trying to kill, assassinate Musharraf at least on two occasions.

Is the U.S. getting the kind of access it would like?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't know that specifically, but, based on everything I do know, I would be very surprised if the Pakistanis were not making available to us the information that comes out of al-Libbi.

BLITZER: There's a difference, though, Admiral Turner, making information available, handing over a report, or briefing the U.S., and letting American interrogators go in there and question a suspect like this.

TURNER: Yes, I have no knowledge as to whether they're letting us in there.

I am a little more skeptical than John. I think Musharraf, with good intentions and with good feelings toward the United States, and knowing that his bread in many ways is buttered on our side, still has to protect his domestic side, and there are just a lot of Pakistanis who are more inclined to favor bin Laden than they are us.

BLITZER: Here's a sensitive subject that I don't know how much you can talk about, but we'll talk about it: this report over the past couple of days that a CIA-operated Predator drone with a Hellfire missile went after a top Al Qaida operative inside Pakistan, fired that missile, and killed him.

Now, the Pakistanis are disputing this, saying that they don't allow U.S. aircraft to fly over their airspace in these kinds of operations, although we've independently confirmed that it did happen.

Give us some perspective on what's going on.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, on this issue, Wolf, my former hat weighs heavily on my head. For the same reason that the military won't discuss operational details, because it gives too much information to the enemy and endangers our forces in the field.

There's not a lot I can say about the operational use of the Predator. It's well-known from the Afghan War and some other subsequent incidents that there is such a weapon, and it has been used.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And it's well-known that it's the CIA that has been using these weapons.

MCLAUGHLIN: CIA has had...

BLITZER: As opposed to the Pentagon.

MCLAUGHLIN: Correct.

Now, what I would say is, without confirming that this happened or didn't happen, that reports like this are typical. I mean, this burst into the public view for a few days. As someone who used to sit where I sat, what I can tell you is that the war on terror -- this is something that goes on, not necessarily using the Predator -- but the war on terror goes on every single day, 24/7; CIA officers, other people in the military, out there, fighting these terrorists and breaking up these networks on the front lines.

They occasionally burst into view with a report like this, but I want to tell you that it goes on all the time.

And without grinding down these networks the way we are, this movement would come roaring back at us.

This fellow that is named is someone who is -- I would characterize him as an important facilitator, that is, someone who would be important to moving messages, moving supplies, and at a time when, to refer back to my earlier comments about the fact that bin Laden is having difficulty doing all of those things, this would be an important person to take out of the equation.

BLITZER: All right. Admiral Turner, stand by.

We're going to take a quick break, but we're going to continue this conversation -- lots more to talk about with former CIA Director Stansfield Turner and John McLaughlin, when "LATE EDITION" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with former CIA Director Stansfield Turner and John McLaughlin.

Admiral Turner, we're talking about these targeted killings of terror suspects out there using these Hellfire missiles from these drones, these Predator aircraft. In your day at the CIA, that was a no-no, right?

TURNER: That's correct. President Ford issued a presidential directive that we would not conduct any assassinations. Every president since then has reaffirmed that executive order.

Presidents, I believe, have held it in abeyance to put out a secret order saying, OK, we're going to not observe that for this period of time.

And I'm not opposed to not observing it with respect to the war on terrorism, but we want to be pretty careful here that we don't get back into a situation where assassination is a normal tool of our country's foreign policy.

Among other things, if we go around assassinating leaders of foreign countries as opposed to just terrorists, the most vulnerable leader in the world, probably, is the president of the United States, and we don't want to start a cycle of assassination and counterassassination.

BLITZER: John McLaughlin, you served in the CIA much more recently, just left a little a while ago. Those concerns, I'm sure, are felt at the CIA.

MCLAUGHLIN: Oh absolutely. Whether it's the military or some other part of the U.S. government, lethal authority is never exercised lightly. It's taken very seriously. All sorts of checklists apply.

And essentially we are in a war with people who want to kill us, and in a war you kill the enemy.

BLITZER: What about this other policy -- and I want to get both of you to weigh in on this -- it's called extraordinary rendition, where the U.S. government picks up a suspect, either here or abroad, and hands then him over to Syria or Saudi Arabia or Morocco or Egypt or Jordan for questioning, and there's concern that that individual could be tortured. You're familiar with this policy.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the policy of rendition has been used sparingly all the way back into the Clinton administration.

Once it became apparent that we were in a global war with terrorists, assurances are always sought from the country to which a person is rendered that they will not engage in torture.

And in many cases, they are wanted by legal authorities in that country, so there's a legal basis for sending them there.

But many lawyers are involved in this and have different views, but nothing is done that is characterized as illegal by our government.

BLITZER: What do you make of this policy?

TURNER: I'm very nervous about it. Yes, we have to let down some rules in order to fight this war on terrorism.

But we also have to maintain our basic standards and our basic ethics. And I think the whole process of rendition is very fraught with danger.

BLITZER: All right, we'll continue this discussion down the road, but let me thank both of you for joining us here on "LATE EDITION."

Admiral Turner, thanks very much. John McLaughlin, thanks to you as well.

TURNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. Up next, the results of our Web question of the week, "Should President Bush have been notified earlier of that wayward plane?"

Plus, "LATE EDITION's" Sunday morning talk show roundup. If you missed the other shows, we'll give you some of the headlines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Egypt's prime minister assessed the impact of the Iraq war on the overall situation in the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AHMED NAZIF, PRIME MINISTER OF EGYPT: I believe that in all it has made some profound changes. We're seeing an Iraq today that is changing, that's moving towards democracy. But at the same time, we're still seeing unrest and instability in the area. So, it's still a wait and see situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS's "Face the Nation," Ted Kennedy took a dimmer view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: What I believe -- and believe very deeply -- is that we have become the occupiers, not the liberators. And the way that you become, again, the liberators, is when the people in Iraq feel that they have the political resolution, which they do as a result of the election; and secondly, when they are going to be willing to fight for their country like Americans are fighting and dying over there now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC's "This Week," Republican Senator John McCain sized up his chances if he decides to run for president in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Fiscal conservatives, which is a strong base of our party, are in great agreement with me. There's a lot of evangelicals and others who are concerned about the issue of climate change as well as I am. I think that there's a very large number of Americans who agree with me on practical approaches to immigration, stem cell research and others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And on "Fox News Sunday," the senate's majority and minority whips, Mitch McConnell and Dick Durbin, squared off over President Bush's judicial nominees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: There are only four that are truly contested, four judicial nominees who have been rejected by the Senate at this point, and have been resubmitted by the president. That's never been done before. It's being done by this administration to create this confrontation over the president's power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY WHIP: What we'd like to do is to get back to the way the Senate operated quite comfortably for 214 years prior to the last Congress where, admittedly, it was possible to filibuster for the purpose of defeating judicial appointments. It's just that it was never done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

Our "LATE EDITION" Web question asks this: Should President Bush been notified earlier of the wayward plane?

Take a look and see how you voted: 74 percent of you said yes; 26 percent said no. Remember, though, this is not a scientific poll.

Let's take a quick look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.

"Time" magazine goes inside Bill Gates' new Xbox. "Newsweek" magazine looks at the real George Washington. And "U.S. News and World Report" explores the secrets of the casinos.

And that's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday May 15th. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'm here Monday through Friday, twice a day, at both noon and 5 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer 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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