Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Interview With Thomas Pickering, George Mitchell

Aired June 19, 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, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to my interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 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.

More details now on our top story: today's deadly blast in Baghdad. At least 23 people killed in a suicide bombing at a city cafe. CNN's Jennifer Eccleston is in Baghdad. She is joining us now with more information -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Well, Iraqi security forces continue to bear the brunt of the violence in this country. The Baghdad police tell CNN that 23 people were killed including 7 policemen after a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt struck inside a popular restaurant during the busy lunchtime period.

The explosion took place, Wolf, some 400 yards from the heavily fortified Green Zone, the home of the U.S. military and the interim Iraqi government.

Thirty six Iraqis were wounded; sixteen of them were police.

Now hours earlier, a parked car bomb exploded as Iraqi police convoy passed in Northwest Baghdad; two women were killed, 20 other people were injured.

Also in Northwest Baghdad, two Iraqi police officers were shot to death as they were driving to their station house early this morning. And again this morning a suicide car bomb exploded near the main gate of an Iraqi army base in the center of Tikrit. That's the ancestral home of Saddam Hussein, north of Baghdad. At least two Iraqi soldiers were killed. Eleven others, Wolf, were wounded.

BLITZER: Jennifer, what do we know about this latest videotape we're getting in of the man called Chemical Ali, Ali Hassan al-Majid, and other former high-ranking officials of the Saddam Hussein regime? What is happening in Baghdad on that front today?

ECCLESTON: Well, the Iraqi tribunal preparing the trials of the leaders of the old regime released names. Eight people it questioned last week including, as you mentioned, Chemical Ali or Ali Hassan al- Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, who is alleged to have ordered those deadly chemical weapon attacks against the Kurds in 1988, rather.

Of course, Al-Majid is number five on the U.S. military's Most Wanted List. Also questioned Thursday was Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former vice president and, again, number 20 on the military's 55 Most Wanted List.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Presumably they're getting closer to actual court proceedings against these individuals and Saddam Hussein himself. Jennifer Eccleston with the latest. We'll be checking back with you.

Thanks very much.

Jennifer is in Baghdad.

Let's head elsewhere to the Middle East right now, specifically Jerusalem. The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Our Guy Raz is on the scene in Jerusalem. He is joining us with details of what happened today -- Guy.

GUY RAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the secretary's two-day mission here had one main objective. And by all accounts, she was very successful.

Now, Secretary Rice coming to the region essentially to offer U.S. political and economic support for Israel's planned pull-out from the occupied Gaza strip and four smaller settlements in the Northern West Bank, what Israel refers to as its disengagement plan.

That plan is expected to begin in mid-August and it will take about six weeks to evacuate about 9,000 settlers and thousands more soldiers from those areas.

Now, Secretary Rice calling it the best hope to energize the U.S.-backed road map for peace. Now, in a brief statement before she left the country, the secretary outlined three main points of principle on which both Palestinians and Israelis have agreed.

The first point is that both parties will fully cooperate on the evacuation plan in terms of security and logistics.

The second point is that Israel's -- the homes that Israel leaves behind in the Gaza strip will be jointly demolished. And finally: a mutual resolution to figure out what to do about freedom of movement of goods and people between Gaza and the West Bank.

No small achievements, Wolf, considering that in the past several weeks, Israeli and Palestinian officials have been at loggerheads over negotiations on this pull-out.

Now, Secretary Rice came to the region essentially underlining one main theme: that both parties need to focus on the future rather than harp on outstanding differences. That is likely to be a major theme on Tuesday when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; the second time these two leaders meet this year. And they're largely expected to focus on the Gaza plan and hopefully make sure that it's carried out seamlessly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's interesting that the secretary of state of the United States announces these three points of agreement from the Palestinians and the Israelis as opposed to the Palestinians and the Israelis making the announcement themselves.

Guy Raz in Jerusalem, we'll get back to you here on "LATE EDITION."

Just a little while ago I spoke with the secretary of state about the prospects for Middle East peace and much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Secretary Rice, thanks very much for joining us. I heard this morning your announcement that the Israelis and the Palestinians have agreed to bulldoze the settlers' homes in Gaza.

That was quite a surprise to a lot of people who thought that, maybe as a goodwill gesture, the Israelis should leave those homes in tact for the Palestinians to take control of. What happened?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, the important point here is that they've decided together that they believe this removal of homes is in the best interests of the Palestinian people.

And I should say, Wolf, that there is a lot of work to do. Jim Wolfensohn's very involved in it, our quartet envoy, in all of the details of how they do this.

But essentially, the Palestinians have a master plan for how they would like to plan Gaza, particularly some of the housing issues. And these particular houses don't particularly fit into that plan.

It's simply a math matter. You know, you have some 1,200-plus houses and some 1.3 million people, and they need a different kind of housing.

And one of the things that I'll do when I go to visit some of their Arab neighbors and also when I go to the G-8 is to talk about how the international community might support some of those efforts in the master plan.

BLITZER: Do you believe that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, scheduled for August, will go forward smoothly?

RICE: I have every reason to believe that the parties are doing everything that they can to make it go forward smoothly. I was quite impressed with the level of activity here and the planning on both sides. The coordination between them is now starting to take place.

General Ward, who is the U.S. security coordinator, and Mr. Wolfensohn have been meeting with the parties. They're going to start some more in the way of trilateral meetings to keep this process moving forward, because there's a lot of planning to do. It's a very complex operation that will take place from the Gaza.

And the good news is the parties seem completely devoted to the principles of a peaceful and orderly withdrawal, but they have a lot of work to do.

BLITZER: In April of 2004, President Bush wrote to Prime Minister Sharon these words: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."

Is that still the Bush administration's policy?

RICE: It is still the Bush administration policy. But you'd have to read a little further as well, Wolf, which goes on to say that adjustments have to be mutually agreed in negotiations at the time of final status. And so both of those are commitments, the commitment that the United States understands certain realities but also the commitment that these are issues that should be mutually agreed by the parties.

And I think that when President Abbas was in Washington, we had discussions of that and that the Palestinians were satisfied that the United States does not believe that the facts on the ground should be -- new facts on the ground should be created. This has to be done at final status negotiations.

BLITZER: In that same letter of April 2004, the president suggested that Palestinian refugees should not expect to be allowed to return to what were their homes in Israel proper as a result of any settlement.

Is that still the U.S. policy?

RICE: Again, Wolf, I think that all of these are final status issues that will have to be mutually agreed, but the president was simply stating a fact, which is a reality, which is that given that there will be a Palestinian state, that creates a different reality for Palestinians worldwide.

BLITZER: Did the Israelis, in your talks in Jerusalem, promise to stop selling sophisticated weapons to China, as you've been demanding?

RICE: We have had very good discussions with the Israelis. These have taken place principally between the Defense Department and the Ministry of Defense here. I think the Israelis now understand fully our concerns about the transfer of sophisticated technology to China. This is a concern that we have registered with a number of countries, particularly those with which we have close defense- cooperation relationships.

And the Israelis here have told me that they understand those concerns. They are working together on a way forward with our Defense Department. I believe we'll be able to get there.

BLITZER: But you're not there yet?

RICE: I think there's still some work to be done, but a lot of work has gone into this, and Defense Minister Mofaz again today -- or yesterday, when I met with him, wanted me to be -- to be clear that the Israeli government takes our concerns very -- very seriously and wants to try and resolve them.

BLITZER: There's a Gallup poll on Iraq -- let's switch gears and talk a little bit about Iraq -- suggesting that increasingly Americans would like to see the U.S. start withdrawing troops from Iraq. In February 49 percent said yes. Now it's up to 59 percent. And there are some members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, calling for an exit strategy, an end date, when are you going to start pulling troops out.

Do you support having a timetable for the start of a U.S. military withdrawal?

RICE: What we need, Wolf, is recognition that we are moving toward a day when coalition forces are, indeed, going to be not needed for a lot of these tasks and where they can certainly start to come home. We really look forward to that day.

But that has to be a day when the Iraqis are capable of carrying out the important security functions themselves. And we're not talking about the Iraqis having to be capable of meeting a massive army. We're talking about counter-terrorism operations.

They're being trained for those now. They're carrying those out jointly with us up on the Syrian border as we speak. They have carried out protection operations as their elections took place, just in January.

So they're making progress. And as they make progress, then you will see fewer and fewer coalition forces engaged and fewer and fewer coalition forces needed. And that is absolutely our desire as well as, I think, the desire of the American people.

But insurgencies are defeated not just militarily. They're defeated politically, as well. And so you have to look also at the tremendous progress that the Iraqis are making on the political front, having held one election, writing a constitution now and getting ready for elections again in December.

The insurgency cannot continue to exist if it loses the Iraqi people. And with every day, the Iraqi people see their future in their political process, not in some alternative. And since the only alternative that the so-called insurgents and the terrorists are actually offering is to continue carnage, to continue blowing up innocent Iraqis, including a few days ago, school children. That's not an alternative that the Iraqi people desire.

So the most important blow to the insurgency is that they're losing the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, however, tells "U.S. News & World Report" in the new issue -- I'll read to you what he says -- he said, "Things aren't getting better. They're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

That's from a Republican senator.

RICE: Well, I know Senator Hagel quite well, and I know that he has been a supporter of the United States' decision to finally try to create -- to help create a different kind of Iraq which can be an anchor for a different kind of Middle East.

The fact is that if you're looking at what is happening politically in Iraq, these people are moving toward a different kind of future than Saddam Hussein could ever have given them. They are working on a constitution, Iraqi Shias, Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Sunnis -- finally, really, bringing the Sunni in in a way that they have not been before.

And, yes, the insurgency can get onto television screens every day, because it is not hard for them to pull off a suicide bombing or to use an improvised explosive device to cause mayhem and to cause carnage. But the insurgency is losing the Iraqi people, because the Iraqi people have a different kind of future in mind. That's why we're getting more intelligence. That's why people continue to volunteer for the Iraqi security services.

We are not going to have to carry this, shoulder this burden until the day that the last moment of violence is over in Iraq. The Iraqis will have to do that. But we can leave them a firm foundation for a better future, and I think we can do that in a relatively quick period of time, because they're getting more and more involved in their own future, both on the security and the political side, every day.

BLITZER: I know we're almost out of time, but a quick question on the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where the detainees, the suspected terrorists, are being held. As the top U.S. diplomat, does it make any sense to consider shutting Guantanamo Bay down?

RICE: Well, what makes sense is to have people understand that the president has an obligation to protect the American people. And after September 11, when we suffered a terrorist attack, we've had to take these people off the battlefield. We've had to get intelligence about whether there was a coming attack.

A lot of changes have taken place in the entire detention system, and most especially Guantanamo, since it was first opened shortly after September 11. A lot of people have been released back to their homes. A lot of people have been released outright. We've made changes in the way that cases are reviewed.

And in fact, Wolf, unfortunately, some of them who've been released have come back and we've met them on the battlefield again. So there is an important balance to be struck here.

But what I'd like people to know most is Guantanamo and other places where we detain, the president has made very clear that it is the responsibility of American personnel to live up to our international obligations. We are a country that believes in international law.

And while these people at Guantanamo are unlawful combatants -- that is, they're not prisoners of war -- we have treated them in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and taken into account security considerations. And we intend to continue to treat people in a way that is consistent with our obligations.

BLITZER: I know you have to run, Secretary. Thanks for spending a few moments with us on "LATE EDITION."

RICE: Thank you very much, Wolf.

And just ahead: mounting pressure for a so-called exit strategy for U.S. troops in Iraq. We'll talk with two key members of the United States Congress.

And later, prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay: We'll debate whether it's time to close the prison. Two top lawyers will join us.

"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our "Web Question of the Week" asks this: "Should the United States close the Guantanamo Bay prison?"

You can cast your vote at cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results at the end of our program.

Straight ahead, Congressman Curt Weldon and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman on al Qaeda's number two man, still at large and speaking out against the United States.

That and much more. You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: I think this is the proposal that will be the basis for the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Democratic representative Dennis Kucinich, one of the bipartisan group of congressmen that's been calling on President Bush this week to lay out a timetable for the start of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Joining us now: two key members of the House of Representatives. In Wilmington, Delaware, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania; he's the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also a member of the Homeland Security Committee. And here in Washington, Congresswoman Jane Harman of California; she's the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also a key member of the Homeland Security Committee.

Good to have both of you here on "LATE EDITION."

I'll start with you, Congressman Weldon. Porter Goss, the CIA director, gives an interview to "Time" magazine that's just coming out today.

Among other things, as far as the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, he says this: "I have an excellent idea of where he is," though he refuses to provide details.

Do you have an excellent idea of where Osama Bin Laden is?

REP. CURT WELDON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Wolf, not right now I don't. But I have given three specific instances to the CIA, two to Porter Goss and one to George Tenet over the past two years. I'm confident that I know for sure he's been in and out of Iran, where Ayatollah Khomenei has been protecting him with his Revolutionary Guard.

Two years ago, he was in the southern town of Ladis (ph), ten kilometers inside the Pakistan border. I also know that earlier this year, he had a meeting with al-Zarqawi in Tehran. His whereabouts right now, no, I do not know.

BLITZER: How can you be so confident of that when the CIA says they're not confident of that? They dismiss it.

WELDON: Two years ago, the CIA was totally dismissing that bin Laden would be in Iran. But if you look at the recent comments coming out of both the CIA and some of our military generals in theater, they're now acknowledging the same thing that I've been saying -- that in fact, he's been in and out of Iran. No one can prove it exactly until we capture him.

But you asked my opinion. My opinion is he's been in and out of Iran several times over the past several years.

Jane Harman is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. You're shaking your head. Why?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I've seen no evidence -- and I follow this very closely -- that he's been in Iran at all. And our working assumption is that he's somewhere in Pakistan along the Pakistani-Afghan border. It's very austere terrain. I've actually been there in the Waziristan region. It's very hard to find him. All the local clans know when an outsider is in their midst.

But we're working hard at it and we've rounded up many of the top al Qaeda leadership. I would say al Qaeda is a lot weaker than it was on 9/11. But the problem is that the threat has changed. And now instead of just one top-down hierarchy -- think IBM -- we now have McDonald's. We have loosely affiliated terrorist franchises all over the world.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, have you seen any evidence that the number-two al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been to Iran or is in Iran?

HARMAN: Haven't seen any evidence. He just released a video. I think al Qaeda's panicking a little bit. Democracy may be, in a very preliminary way, taking hold in the region. And I think they're very worry about it, which is a good thing.

BLITZER: Here's another quote from the Time magazine interview, Congressman Weldon.

When Porter Goss, the CIA director, is asked, "Could al Qaeda hit the United States again?" he says, "Yes, it could. Certainly, the intent is very high. And we are trying to stay ahead of their capability. And so far, I think we have done pretty well carrying the war to them, as it were. I think that's mattered."

Do you agree with that assessment from Porter Goss?

WELDON: Yes, I do. And I think Porter is doing a good job. I think the key thing for us in the Congress is to rally the American people for the continued recommendations for reform of the intelligence community, both under Porter's leadership and John Negroponte's leadership. We need to fully implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, the recommendations coming out of the presidential task force, and I've even made recommendations in my book.

The key thing for us to do is to give Porter the complete support to make the total kinds of changes that are called for, everything from red-teaming, stopping the groupthink, providing more focus on human intelligence and, most importantly, continuing to consolidate on a national collaborative capability our 33 classified systems.

The NCTC is on the right track. It's not quite there yet. But I think Porter's doing a good job. And John Negroponte, who I met with a week ago also, I think, got his hands around what has to be done. We've got to make sure we support both of them.

BLITZER: We're going to get to your book, "Countdown to Terror" shortly. We'll have an extensive discussion on that, Congressman, but let me let Congresswoman Jane Harman weigh in on this specific point.

Are you satisfied the way it's all been worked out -- the relationship between John Negroponte and Porter Goss, the CIA now part of this broader intelligence operation -- are you satisfied that the 9/11 Commission recommendations have been implemented?

HARMAN: Some of them have. I'm satisfied with the intelligence community reorganization. Nine Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee -- I was one of them -- authored the legislation that became this proposal. In fact, it became the 9/11 Commission proposal.

And so we did the first half by passing a strong law, but the second half is to implement it well. And I think that John Negroponte has about six months to staff up his organization, make sure that it's lean and nimble and not another big bureaucracy and take charge of all of these intelligence functions in the government.

I just want to say one more thing. The 9/11 Commission recommended other things which have not been implemented. Curt and I are the sponsors of a bill on interoperable communications, creating a dedicated spectrum for emergency communications. That has not happened and Congress has not reorganized.

BLITZER: Are you among the Democrats who think it's a good time now to shut down Guantanamo Bay as far as a prison for suspected terrorists are concerned?

HARMAN: I think it is past time for Congress to set the policy for detainees and for interrogations.

My personal view is that no one should be detained without a status. And probably we should hold all these people on U.S. soil, which is not Guantanamo. But just to shut it down and turn off the lights would leave a large number of people with no place to go.

So we have to think through, by my light, a change in policy and be much clearer that we stand for American values and constitutional values.

BLITZER: You agree, Congressman Weldon?

WELDON: Well, I'm not for shutting down Guantanamo. And to be honest, I'd rather keep them at Guantanamo than here. These are bad people, bad actors.

Now, I agree that we have to abide by the principles of this nation, and that includes the fact that we must agree to the basic standards of keeping prisoners in a safe environment. But to close it down prematurely I think is wrong.

I think Senator Specter has it right. And if you followed the Senate this past week, he led some very aggressive hearings on the activities at Guantanamo.

We ought to be following through on that in the House, and then as Jane has perhaps suggested, we ought to be coming up with some overall policy guidelines for the way we should be treating these prisoners.

BLITZER: Listen to what Republican Senator John McCain said on Tuesday, as far as the detainees, more than 500 of them at Guantanamo, what the U.S. should do with these individuals. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Try them or release them. I think the key to this is to move the judicial process forward so that these individuals will be tried, brought to trial for any crime that they are accused of, rather than residing in Guantanamo facility in perpetuity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You agree with Senator McCain, Congressman?

WELDON: Well, again, I don't know all the details of each individual there. These are bad people...

BLITZER; Well, should they be charged? Should they be allowed...

WELDON: Yes...

BLITZER: ... to know what they're accused of? Or should they just be held indefinitely?

WELDON: No, they shouldn't be held indefinitely. But these are basically people that we've captured in the midst of war, people that have been trying to kill America's sons and daughters, people that were involved in planning and perhaps carrying out 9/11.

Yes, we should be treating them as human beings, and I think they're being treated that way. And I don't think they should be held there forever, but at the same time I think we need to make sure that we take every possible precaution that we don't release people who come back to harm us in some other setting.

BLITZER: All right, let's let Congresswoman Harman weigh in.

Go ahead.

HARMAN: The problem is: It's not clear which laws apply. So it's easy to say try them or release them, but the hard part is: Try them under what laws and where?

Congress needs to legislate here, to clarify what laws apply now in this new era of terror.

And I'm working on some legislation -- hopefully it will be bipartisan -- both with respect to detainee policy and interrogation policy. That's another black eye for America, and we can do a lot better.

And I agree with you, Wolf, and I agree with John McCain that these people deserve a status, the ability to challenge the status and indefinite detention should never be OK in the United States of America.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick break, but we have lots more to talk about.

Did the CIA move too far? Is the CIA doing a good job?

Congressman Weldon isn't so sure. We'll hear what Congresswoman Harman has to say.

Also up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on today's suicide bombing in Baghdad. "LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An attack against the U.S. intelligence community from an unlikely critic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WELDON: The CIA has not always been right. They didn't predict the fall of communism. They didn't get it right when North Korea launched a three-stage missile, and they didn't predict 9/11.

BLITZER (voice-over): Republican Congressman Curt Weldon accuses the CIA of gross incompetence, and is presenting his case to the public in his new book, "Countdown to Terror."

Weldon reveals correspondence with a secret source, an Iranian expatriate he calls "Ali," who claims to have information regarding the location of Osama bin Laden, future terrorist threats and Iran's nuclear weapons program.

But others say Ali is simply not credible. CIA Officer Bill Murray tells The New York Times he met with Ali when he was stationed in Paris. Quote, "He's never given us any information that was the slightest bit credible. This guy was a waste of my time and resources."

Still, Weldon's criticism comes at a difficult time for the U.S. intelligence community. A number of reports have found serious shortcomings.

JOHN LEHMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: We had a dysfunctional intelligence establishment. The parts didn't work together. They did not produce the kind of product that our leaders must have if a nation is to be protected.

BLITZER: Congressman Weldon recommends a mass purge of the intelligence community.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we're continuing our conversation with Republican Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.

What do you say to the CIA, which calls your source -- you dub him "Ali" -- a joke? WELDON: Well, that's one person who happened to be the station chief in Paris before he retired and who is still on the payroll, by the way, of the CIA as a consultant so I wouldn't exactly say he is an unbiased source. But let me say this to you, Wolf. This information came to me from a former Democrat colleague of ours, Ron Klink from Pittsburgh. I followed up because Ron asked me to. And I met with George Tenet and John McLaughlin two years ago. And they assigned their top operations chief, Steve Kappas, to work with me.

And the first conversation I had with Steve, he said: Congressman, we don't know much about this guy. Now this is Steve Kappas. This is not our person in Paris. He said: We don't know much about this guy, but we're going to have our people in Paris meet with him.

Two weeks went by, and I got a call from Ali. And he said: Well, I had the meeting, Congressman, but it wasn't with someone from your agency. It was from someone from French intelligence. I said: French intelligence? He said yes.

He said: They told me to be quiet if I want to live in safety in Paris and not to be talking to anyone, especially an American member of Congress.

I went back to Kappas. I said: Steve, why did you lie to me. He said: Well, Congressman, to be honest with you we trust French intelligence. I said: Well, you may trust them but I don't. I think France has a different agenda with Iran than we do. But, more importantly, you told me you were going to have one of our people meet with him.

The first meeting with Ali, according to Steve Kappas, who's since left the agency, was with a member of French intelligence. You know, I don't really care what a former station chief in Paris says. Jim Woolsey endorsed my premise, and so did Jack Caravelli, who was Al Gore's top NSC person who worked for the CIA for 20 years.

The book is not about trashing the entire CIA. In fact, I dedicate the book to the people who are doing the analysis, the people who are down in the trenches.

What I'm saying is: Porter Goss needs to shake up the agency, the mid- and upper-level bureaucrats who think they're more powerful than the president of the United States or the Congress. That's why I wrote the book to take the case to the American people.

BLITZER: Jane Harman, you've looked into this whole issue. What have you discovered?

HARMAN: Well, let me say that Curt gave me and other members of the Intelligence Committee a big, well-researched piece of information in November of 2003, and we did look into it. And Curt's heart is in the right place. We work together, as I said earlier, on interoperable communications and lots of defense and intelligence issues. And I commend him for his passion. However, on this point, I don't think, after looking into it carefully and checking it out throughout our intelligence community, that this source, Ali, who was an associate of the late shah and lives outside of Iran, has information that I would rely on. We've already seen this movie. A guy named "Curveball" brought us really bad intelligence products on Iraq, and I don't want to repeat the mistakes.

I agree with Curt that Iran is dangerous. I agree with Curt that we need accurate and actionable intelligence, and I agree with Curt that the organization of the CIA needs to be changed. That's why we just passed this intelligence reform law, and now we have a director of national intelligence. But I don't think that the claims of this particular source are ones we should rely on.

BLITZER: What do you mean, Congressman Weldon, when you say there should be a mass purge over at the CIA because of gross incompetence?

WELDON: Well, Wolf, that's one of the many recommendations in the final chapter, which by the way, the book was written with me with a former CIA agent for 10 years. What I'm saying is, 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. Not one person in the CIA was fired.

I mean, obviously there's something wrong.

I cited a number of cases where the CIA did not get it. They didn't get it right on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They didn't understand and be able to predict that North Korea had a three- stage missile that they launched over Japan in 1998.

They refused to accept the walk-in back in 1982 when Vasili Mitrokhin, the highest-ranking KGB defector ever, came to our embassy in London, and the CIA said, "No, we don't take walk-ins."

The British took him in. He lived there for 13 years until he died last year. He gave us a wealth of information about the KGB.

What I'm saying is the agency needs to work in changing itself. Porter Goss has laid out an agenda and so has the Congress. We need to make sure that we stay on track to accomplish those changes.

BLITZER: Jane Harman?

HARMAN: Well, I don't think we need a purge at the CIA or anywhere else in our intelligence community. There are very hard- working women and men around the world who take enormous risks on our behalf.

We do need to change the organization, and we do need to make certain that our sources are fully vetted, that our analysts -- the actual people who brought us the Iraq products -- are removed from the effort to bring us products on Iran and North Korea and that analysis is red-teamed, all the things that Curt is saying.

But they now are in this intelligence reform law that Congress just passed and the president signed, and it is important to let John Negroponte succeed in making some of these big changes.

BLITZER: Couple polls that were out...

WELDON: Wolf...

BLITZER: Congressman Weldon, let me just -- on Iraq that came out in the past few days.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?" There only 37 percent of the American people approve. That's the CBS News/New York Times poll.

"All in all do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq or not?" Only 42 percent of the American public now believe it was worth it going to war, according to a Gallup poll.

Are you among those members of Congress, Congressman Weldon, who thinks it's now time to set an exit date to start the withdrawal from Iraq?

WELDON: No, Wolf, I'm not. I just led a delegation of six of our colleagues from both parties, including Senator Joe Biden, who joined with me. And he and I both agreed, as we did publicly a week ago, that an artificial date is exactly the wrong thing to be doing.

But we do have to be more candid in terms of the challenge in Iraq, and that means we can't overstate the success we're having in training the Iraqi military. We made that point during the past week.

But let me say this to you, Wolf, in terms of the intelligence: Our senior military officer, the general in charge of our on-scene intelligence in theater, told us two weeks ago -- Joe Biden and my delegation -- that in terms of our intelligence on Iran, it's a black hole. That's the problem, Wolf.

This is not some walk-in. This is our general in charge of intelligence for our military describing our intelligence on Iran as a "black hole."

Yet every Iraqi we met with -- the speaker of the parliament, the prime minister, the defense minister, the military leaders of Iraq -- all said to us: The problem in Iraq is coming from outside. It's not just the insurgencies of the Iraqis; it's the Syrians, and it's the Iranians.

And that is beside -- I didn't even talk about my book.

And, in fact, they said Iran is the number one problem in terms of quality of people coming in causing the insurrections that we're seeing with our troops.

BLITZER: Congressman Weldon's book is entitled "Countdown to Terror: The Top Secret Information that Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America and How the CIA has Ignored it."

Congressman Weldon, we're out of time. Thanks very much for joining us.

WELDON: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, thanks to you, as well.

HARMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots to think about as a result of what we just heard.

Up next, the tables are turned on a hostage negotiator kidnapped by Islamic extremists. Four years in solitary confinement; it's a remarkable story of survival. We'll have it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Don't forget our "Web Question of the Week": "Should the United States close the Guantanamo Bay prison?" You can go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.

Still ahead, debating the rule of law, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and trial attorney David Boies square off over prisoner treatment at Gitmo.

Also, he was a celebrated hostage negotiator who became a hostage himself. It's part of CNN's anniversary series, "Then and Now." CNN's Aaron Brown takes a closer look at Terry Waite and where he is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER (voice-over): He was already famous for negotiating the release of hostages in Iran and in Libya and in Lebanon when the tables turned on Terry Waite.

On the 20th of January in 1987, the 6'7" negotiator vanished. Accused of being an American agent -- he says he was not -- Terry Waite was taken hostage in Beirut. For nearly five years, he endured beatings, interrogations, solitary confinement before he emerged a free man.

TERRY WAITE: After 1,763 days in chains, it's an overwhelming experience to come back.

ANNOUNCER: In seclusion, he wrote about his ordeal in the 1993 book "Taken on Trust."

WAITE: It's enabled me to come back to the world slowly and gently.

ANNOUNCER: Now Terry Waite splits his time between charity projects and paid work, lectures and writing, inspired by his hostage experience.

A grandfather of three who enjoys travel and music and books, he has no intention of retiring, though he now approaches 70.

WAITE: I'm immensely fortunate to be able to be involved in so many different projects. And I like to think that they're doing something to help heal our world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: I will (inaudible) to look into it and get to the bottom of the allegations. I don't want to be (inaudible) on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Cleaning up the United Nations: Can the scandal- plagued world body turn itself around? We'll ask two members of the bipartisan Congressional task force, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Thomas Pickering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The problem is that to a large extent we are in unexplored territory with this unconventional and complex struggle against extremists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Navigating uncharted legal territory: From detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay to extending the Patriot Act, we'll examine the complex issues with former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and top attorney David Boies.

Welcome back. We'll get to our interview with U.N. Task Force Members George Mitchell and Thomas Pickering in just a minute.

First though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Now to the Middle East where Condoleezza Rice is trying to help Israeli and Palestinian leaders work out a planned Israeli pullout from Gaza.

CNN's Guy Raz is in Jerusalem. He's joining us now live with details of what the secretary did today -- Guy.

RAZ: Wolf, Condoleezza Rice's two-day mission to the region had one main objection. And by most accounts, she was very successful.

Now, the U.S. secretary of state was here to offer U.S. political and economic support for Israel's upcoming planned pull-out from the Gaza strip and four small settlements in the northern West Bank, what Israel refers to as its disengagement plan. Now in about eighth weeks' time, Israel will begin pulling out about 9,000 settlers from those areas that Israel first occupied 38 years ago.

The secretary of state is calling it the best hope in years for reviving the U.S.-backed road map for peace.

Now shortly before she left she gave remarks to reporters. She discussed three main points of principle on which both Palestinians and Israelis have agreed.

Perhaps most interesting is that the homes that Israel leaves behind in Gaza, those 1,200 homes now occupied by settlers, will be jointly demolished and removed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: The important point here is that they've decided together that they believe that the removal of homes is in the best interest of the Palestinian people.

There's a lot of work to do. Jim Wolfensohn is very involved in it, our quartet envoy, in all of the details of how they do this.

But essentially the Palestinians have a master plan for how they would like to plan Gaza, particularly some of the housing issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAZ: Wolf, that master plan is likely to include more practical housing for Palestinians, rather than the existing suburban-style homes that are now in those Gaza settlements; perhaps high-rise buildings to house many thousands of Palestinians in those areas.

Now, on Tuesday, in two days' time, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. They'll hold bilateral talks. It's the second time this year these two leaders will be meeting and topping the agenda is expected to be this Gaza disengagement plan.

Hopefully, both sides are -- both sides are hoping, rather, that they can make the process as seamless as possible. Wolf?

BLITZER: Guy Raz in Jerusalem. Guy, thank you very much.

From Jerusalem to Iraq, where there was more carnage today on the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere, CNN's Jennifer Eccleston is joining us now live from Baghdad with the latest developments -- Jennifer.

ECCLESTON: That's right, Wolf.

Baghdad police tell CNN 23 people were killed, including seven policemen, after a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt struck inside a popular restaurant during the busy lunchtime period.

The explosion took place some 400 yards from the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. military and the transitional Iraqi government. We are told 36 Iraqis were wounded; 16 of them were also police.

Now, hours earlier, a parked car bomb exploded as an Iraqi police convoy passed by in Northwest Baghdad, killing two women. Twenty others were wounded. And again in northwest Baghdad, two Iraqi police officers were shot to death as they were driving to their station house early this morning.

And then in Tikrit, a suicide car bomb exploded at the main gate of the Iraqi army base in the center of Tikrit, which is the ancestral homeland, of course, of Saddam Hussein. Near, but just north of Baghdad, at least two Iraqi soldiers were killed and 11 others were wounded.

Also today, the Iraqi tribunal preparing the trials of the leaders of the regime released names. Eight people were questioned last week, including Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former vice president, the number 20 on the military's 55 Most Wanted List. And "Chemical Ali" or Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, he is alleged to have ordered those deadly chemical weapons attacks against the Kurds in 1988. Ali Majid was the number five on the U.S. military's most wanted list -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jennifer Eccleston in Baghdad for us. Jennifer, thank you very much.

This week, a congressionally mandated U.S. task force submitted its proposals for reforming the United Nations. The panel calls for significant changes, including more comprehensive monitoring of internal U.N. operations. It also wants the U.N. to do a much better job addressing sensitive global issues such as genocide and human rights.

Joining us now from New York is task force co-chairman, the former Senate Democratic leader, the former majority leader in the U.S. Senate, George Mitchell. And here in Washington, task force member Thomas Pickering; he served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations under the first President Bush.

Gentlemen, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

I want to get to all of those issues of U.N. reform in a moment. But I want to pick both of your brains on what's happening in the Middle East right now.

First of all, Senator Mitchell, what do you make of this Israeli- Palestinian proposal that both of them should jointly blow up the housing of the Israeli settlers in Gaza?

Because as you know, when the prime minister, Sharon, was here in Washington about a month or so ago, he said to us -- to the media -- that Israel was willing to let the housing stay intact in Gaza but apparently the Palestinians didn't want it.

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I don't know the details of it, of course, Wolf. But as Secretary Rice pointed out, the important thing is that they agreed. Parallel to this, as you know, an effort is being made to develop a substantial economic aid package for the Palestinians that would involve a substantial reconstruction that will be necessary.

Their physical infrastructure has been virtually destroyed and their economy is simply not functioning effectively. So I hope that this is part of a larger plan. And I assume that it will be, that it will help drive the process forward.

BLITZER: In addition to being the former ambassador to the U.N., you are also the former ambassador to Israel. What's your assessment of what Secretary Rice accomplished today, if she accomplished anything?

THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, what Majority Leader Mitchell said makes sense. The Palestinians don't seem to want the Israeli housing. It's not adequate for them.

Gaza is, as you know, Wolf, the most densely populated, overcrowded area in the world; more refugees than original inhabitants by far. The tremendous pressure on housing is real. The area that will be given up is significantly large in terms of Gaza. And so the Palestinians seemingly want to make maximum use of that to house the people that are there. That will help them, I think, very, very much increase their ability to provide services and support to their own people.

BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, I want you to listen to what the foreign minister of Iraq said on Friday as far as moving forward with the situation in Iraq. He suggests, if you listen to this, that the trial of Saddam Hussein could help. Listen to what he said, Hoshyar Zebari.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOSHYAR ZEBARI, FOREIGN MINISTER OF IRAQ: There is a feeling here within the Iraqi government that the sooner Saddam is put on trial, the better. And his trial, whatever the outcome would be, will definitely impact positively the security situation in the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And 1,700 Americans dead, 12,000 or 15,000 injured, $250 billion. Is this an optimistic assessment that you have right now as to what's happening in Iraq?

MITCHELL: Well, I think really the only people that are optimistic are the statements by the president who keep saying they're desperate and the vice president who says the insurgency is in its last throes. I think it's a very difficult situation but I believe we must see it through to establish a minimum degree of stability for the Iraqis to proceed on their own.

BLITZER: Will the Saddam trial, if it happens in the next couple months, will that ease the security situation? MITCHELL: It may well contribute to that, but certainly by itself it won't be a decisive factor. In the end, it has to be the Iraqi people able to deal with this insurgency themselves in an effective way. And our creating the stability, the reasonable degree of stability -- it can't be perfect -- that will enable them to do that.

BLITZER: Ambassador Pickering?

PICKERING: The Iraqi insurgents at the moment don't seem to have a political program, Wolf. They seem to be guided by fundamentalism and xenophobia. It seems to me that we're on the right track to push Iraqization as far as we can. And I agree that Saddam, finally fully isolated, perhaps gone, will be an important contribution but not the silver bullet.

The silver bullet really comes when the Iraqis can continue to undermine the insurgency by their own actions, and that seems like it's going to take quite a bit of time. They're making progress, but very slowly, in bringing the Iraqi police and armed forces up to standard.

I think that's an important measure. I'd like to see a little more international participation. It's tough. And obviously, the administration has to work very hard to get it. I'm not sure whether they're working hard enough on that.

BLITZER: On the issue of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay's facility, Senator Mitchell, I want you to listen to what your former colleague, Senator Durbin of Illinois said this week on the Senate floor. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: If I read this to you and didn't tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would, most certainly, believe this must have happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings.

Sadly, that's not the case. This was the action of Americans in treatment of their own prisoners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. What's your reaction to that, Senator Mitchell?

MITCHELL: Well, many politicians and others use historical allusions, and they almost always are inapt because no two situations are the same. I think they can be widely misunderstood. And I think that's clearly the case here. I think it was an unfortunate statement.

Senator Durbin has recognized that and released the statement after the one that you showed, expressing his regret for that. I think is unfortunate. I think he made a mistake in using that historical allusion, and I don't think others will try to do the same now.

BLITZER: We're told now, though, that it's being widely picked up by Al Jazeera, others in the Middle East, Ambassador Pickering. How much damage does that kind of statement do to the U.S. diplomatic -- public diplomacy as it's called -- around the world?

PICKERING: I think it does some damage. It continues to be a very, very serious issue along with Abu Ghraib. I belong to a small group, a non-partisan group, some strong conservatives, some strong liberals, that two weeks ago a constitution law project asked for a commission like the 9/11 commission to look at this particular problem.

I'm not sure it's going to get anywhere. But nevertheless, I think it's the right sort of move. We need to set clearly at rest what a non-partisan view ought to be of this set of activities, given the damage that I think it continues to cause us overseas.

BLITZER: Ambassador Pickering, should John Bolton be confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations?

PICKERING: Wolf, I very carefully as a predecessor and as someone who is now deep in the business field have not taken a public position on that. I will not take a public position on that.

BLITZER: What about you, Senator Mitchell?

MITCHELL: Well, our commission did not deal with that at all, so there's no relationship whatsoever.

BLITZER: Well, forget about the commission. What about you? How do you feel about John Bolton?

MITCHELL: I personally, if I were in the senate, I would not vote for his confirmation.

BLITZER: Because?

MITCHELL: Well, for all of the reasons that have been stated on so many occasions. There are plenty of very good people in the country who could serve this administration very well. Republicans, conservatives, consistent with the president's views. I think it's a critical time, and I think a much better choice could have been made.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a break. When we come back, the United Nations on the agenda. Is it time for the United Nations to take some major steps to reform itself? Should the U.S. cut its contributions, its dues in half, as the chairman of the house international relations committee, Henry Hyde, is recommending? We'll go into those issues when we come back.

Also, accusations of abuse at Guantanamo. Is the U.S. breaking international law? We'll debate that with the former attorney general Dick Thornburgh and the famed constitutional lawyer David Boies.

And in case you missed it, highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows. "LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We are talking with two members of the Task Force on United Nations Reform: Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and Former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering.

Senator Mitchell, do you think it's time, as Congressman Henry Hyde says, for the United States to cut its dues in half to the United Nations, to try to force the U.N. to taking the kinds of steps that the United States government would like it to take?

MITCHELL: No, I do not. That's a personal view. Our task force did not reach a conclusion on that.

What we said as a task force is that this is the time for a positive, constructive approach by the United States, which I think would be well-received at the U.N.

My own judgment -- and it's a personal view and there are others on our task force who may hold different views -- is that this withholding and threatening doesn't work, and it produces an opposite effect: a great deal of hostility to the United States.

BLITZER: But his argument is that money talks; that's the only thing, Senator Mitchell, that other members might really understand and appreciate is the money threat.

MITCHELL: Yes, I understand the argument. It's been made for a long time. This is not the first time. Of course, it's happened over a long period of time, but in my opinion it doesn't work in the way that we would like it.

The key here, Wolf, is that at the United Nations, there isn't any there is one who says, "There's no problem. Go away."

There's a widespread recognition throughout the U.N. that there has to be reform. They look forward to our report.

I think there is a strong desire to right some of the institutional and other problems that they have.

And so I think it would be best done by positive, constructive and sustained American leadership.

BLITZER: Ambassador Pickering, as you know, the U.S. did withhold funds, dues to the United Nations, in years past to try to get the U.N. to take different attitudes.

Did it work when it was done before?

PICKERING: Not really. It made things worse. And it was not, in my view, the kind of sovereign remedy that the proponents make it out to be.

I joined about six other ambassadors to the U.N. on all sides of this issue in a letter last week making it very clear that we objected very strongly to this particular step.

I think that Senator Mitchell is just right. The pressure, the drive, the leadership of the secretary general even, for reform is very large now in New York. They're looking for help. They're looking for leadership. They're not looking for what I would call bomb blasts.

BLITZER: Ambassador Pickering, should the Security Council, the five permanent members of the Security Council, be expanded in the near future?

PICKERING: We didn't take a view on that in the report...

BLITZER: But what do you think?

PICKERING: ... for a couple reasons.

My own view is that very lightly, if at all, expansion has always seemed to me as a personal view, a solution in search of a problem.

The problem might arise if the Security Council were a lot more efficient. And therefore, you wanted to let more people on it to represent the views of the world community to make sure when it took decisions people were going to follow. But that isn't there yet.

The U.S. government has taken a view this week of a couple of new permanent members -- no veto, very light expansion, probably up to 19 from 15. This seems, to me, to be a reasonable compromise.

I can certainly support that as a way to go if it produces the other things I'm talking about...

BLITZER: But keep the all-important veto ability only to the five permanent members?

PICKERING: The veto ability is very important to us. On the other hand, also, it's caused problems for us. So we need to look at that fairly carefully.

BLITZER: What do you think, Senator Mitchell?.

MITCHELL: I agree generally with the views that Tom has expressed.

First, it should be recognized that the four countries involved -- Germany, Japan, Brazil and India -- have now acknowledged they're not going to get the veto. So it's very clear there isn't going to be any additional veto power.

Secondly, I think that one of the options presented in the high level panel report that recently looked at this issue, which called for expansion -- moderate with not permanent additional seats but longer terms with the possibility for renewal -- in my judgment, makes the most sense -- similar, not identical to that, which Tom has expressed.

Wolf, I wonder if I could go back to the withholding. Just one point I neglected to make: The Bush administration itself has now come out against the withholding provisions of the House legislation. This would hamstring the administration.

I can't imagine any administration that would support something that would so limit its own ability to deal with the situation at the U.N.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from your report that you released this week on the issue of human rights: "The credibility of the Human Rights Commission over at the U.N. has eroded to the point that it has a blot on the reputation of the larger institution. In 2005, seven of the 53 countries sitting on the Human Rights Commission were listed by freedom House as the world's 'worst of the worst abusers of human rights'"

Ambassador Pickering, what do you want the Human Rights Commission to do, just collapse?

PICKERING: What I think we proposed very succinctly that it go away and that a new human rights council, much smaller, Democratic states, no abusers on the membership -- if we could get it -- as Secretary General Kofi Annan has recommended roughly the same kind thing. So we're not alone in this.

But we'd like to see the Human Rights Commission operate in favor of human rights not against the people who are in favor of human rights.

BLITZER: When countries like Libya or Zimbabwe are on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, that doesn't necessarily send a positive message out there, does it, Senator Mitchell?

PICKERING: It does not. And one of the problems has been that you've had regional voting. Democracies have tended to participate in regional voting blocks so they vote for people in their geographic area for nomination of these groups who have views that are contrary to theirs. We encourage a much greater effort to invigorate the caucus of democracies and to encourage democratic countries to vote for nominees for this and other groups based upon not just geography but upon their values and attitudes.

So this commission ought to be abolished. It hasn't worked. And what these countries do, Wolf, that have these terrible human rights records, they go on to protect themselves from being criticized, not to advance the cause of human rights. So you have an institution that is accomplishing the opposite of what's intended.

BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, we only have a few seconds left. Do you still have confidence in Kofi Annan as the U.N. secretary general?

MITCHELL: Our task force was mandated to look at the institution over the long term, not individuals on the short term. His term will expire in about 18 months. It will be a distraction, Wolf, if this whole effort now focuses on an individual.

We want to get institutional reform no matter who's in charge. And I think that's where the focus ought to be.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Ambassador Pickering?

PICKERING: I very much agree with that. I think it's not a trial of Kofi Annan. I think that the whole question of the future of the institution is at stake now. That's the critical question. We've made over 200 very salient recommendations, very serious ones for institutional reform all up and down the line: improved management, definition of terrorism, the Human Rights Council, you've talked to a peace-building commission, a whole lot of things that are out there that are extremely important and constructive.

BLITZER: One final question to both of you because it is so shocking. United Nations peacekeepers go out there on behalf of the world body and some of them engage in rape, sexual exploitation. What do you recommend about dealing with this outrageous behavior?

PICKERING: Much tougher conditions on the peacekeepers. Let's not recruit from countries that misbehave; let's bring these people to trial when they have misbehaved; let's make sure that this doesn't happen in the future; that there's a strong command and control structure; that the individual units are brought up to standards; that the people are well-trained and are committed to behave as peacekeepers.

BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, you recommend a zero-tolerance policy. What does that mean?

MITCHELL: It means that you don't tolerate this type of action in any individual or any entity. It also means a much greater effort, which the United States has already begun, to train effective discipline forces in several of the countries, particularly in Africa, so they would be readily available for a response to a situation like Rwanda or Darfur. And you would have trained, disciplined troops. You wouldn't have this kind of situation and you'd have a better, more rapid response.

BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, Ambassador Pickering, thanks to both of you for joining us.

We'll take another quick break. Up next, we'll get a quick check of what's in the news right now.

And later: Will the United States Supreme Court start its next term with a new chief justice? We'll ask the former attorney general, Dick Thornburgh, and constitutional attorney David Boies about possible changes on the high court.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: As long as there remains a need to keep terrorists from striking again, a facility will continue to be needed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying Guantanamo Bay will remain the holding ground for terrorist suspects and enemy combatants despite allegations of prisoner abuse.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

BLITZER: Joining us now to discuss the legal implications of alleged detainee abuse are two top attorneys. Dick Thornburgh served as the United States attorney general under the first President Bush; and in New York, the famed constitutional lawyer, former Gore campaign attorney David Boies.

Gentlemen, welcome to "LATE EDITION." And I'll start with you, Attorney General Thornburgh.

Listen to what Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said this past week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: If they pose a threat to us, there has to be evidence to support that or our administration would not tell the world that. If there's evidence, then let's prosecute them. Let's bring the evidence forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It seems like a simple concept, but it's been hard for the Bush administration to follow through. Some of the detainees have been there for three years, plus no charges have been filed against them.

RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it is a very gray area. I think when you approach the subject of shutting down Guantanamo Bay, you've got to decide: What are you going to do with these people? Are you going to let them go? I think that's unthinkable...

BLITZER: Well, you could move them to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or some place like that.

THORNBURGH: You could.

BLITZER: There's a prison there.

THORNBURGH: If there's anything productive about that. But the fact of the matter is, there's a process in place. Over 200 of these folks who were there originally have been either released or returned to their country of origin. There's a process in place to use military tribunals to try them. It's been stalled by the ruling of a federal judge, which is now on appeal. But the fact of the matter is, I don't see any particular reason to shut down this particular facility prior to completing its task.

BLITZER: But do you feel comfortable that individuals are being held indefinitely without charges being filed against them?

THORNBURGH: Well, indefinitely is a long time. Some have been held up to 2.5, three years. But the fact is, there's a process in place. Once the process is cleared in the courts it will go forward.

It's clear that these are not criminal defendants. They are not prisoners of war.

They are unlawful combatants who can lawfully and constitutionally be tried before a military tribunal. The problem is that they've raised some questions about the details of the tribunal, and that's on appeal in the federal court.

BLITZER: Some of them approaching almost four years since 9/11, having been detained.

What do you say about that, David? What's your basic point on the issue of charges being filed against these detainees?

DAVID BOIES, ATTORNEY: I think there's no doubt that charges need to be filed. I think Senator Leahy is exactly right, that we need to find out who belongs there, who needs to be incarcerated and who doesn't. The problem is, this is a very gray area.

There are two questions. One is: What are the rights that these people have? And two: Are those rights being abused, and are they guilty of something? And we don't know the answers to any of those questions.

This is not something that we've really done before. The area between a criminal defendant and prisoners of war and unlawful combatants is not something that is well-defined. And one of the things that we're trying to do as a society and as a justice system is work our way through that process.

And some of the delays have been due to the fact that the courts and the government are trying to work out exactly what are the right procedures to bring the evidence forward, to bring the charges forward and to make those determinations.

BLITZER: Listen to what the deputy attorney general said at the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. This is Michael Wiggins. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WIGGINS, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's our position, legally, they could be held in perpetuity. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's the position of the Justice Department right now: Enemy combatants could be held in perpetuity?

BOIES: I don't agree with that. I don't think the courts agree with that. I think the Supreme Court decision was inconsistent with that. I think that is simply unacceptable in a democratic society, that you can hold people in perpetuity without any kind of trial, without bringing forward any evidence, without any kind of adjudication as to whether it's appropriate to put them there.

Right now the government has put people in that incarceration. They've left them there. That's not necessarily inappropriate as you try to figure out what the right procedures are and try to implement those procedures. But it's unacceptable just to leave people there without any charges and without any trial.

BLITZER: Let me let Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh respond. Go ahead.

THORNBURGH: I think the perpetuity concept is moot, Wolf. There is a process in place. Over 200 of these folks have already been separated from Guantanamo Bay. And there will be trials before military tribunals, when, as David Boies points out, all of these unresolved questions are worked out.

But I think what David Boies and I would both agree upon, and I suspect everyone would agree upon, is the need to be very acidulous in investigating and prosecuting abuses that occur at these sites. There have been over 100 those cases investigated and resolved by courts- martial or separation or reprimand because that is a very important tenet of our having these folks in custody is to treat them according to commonly accepted standards.

BLITZER: David Boies, listen to what Congressman Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Monday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: If you take a standard of any prison around the world -- and there have been no deaths at Guantanamo -- you take a standard of any prison around the world, Guantanamo is head and shoulders above the average standard for prisons, whether in the United States or internationally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Time magazine, in last week's issue, said that some of the prisoners, some of the detainees were forced to stand for long periods, had no bathroom breaks, their facial hair shaved, pictures of women around their necks and they awaken with music from Christina Aguilera.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: Is this cruel and unusual behavior on the part of U.S. military personnel?

BOIES: I don't know about the music.

I think there has undoubtedly been some abuses. And as the attorney general indicated, those abuses have been prosecuted.

I think it's also clear that probably these -- not probably, certainly -- these people are treated a lot better in Gitmo than they would have been treated if our people had been incarcerated in Iraq or Afghanistan or many other places in the world.

We hold ourselves to a higher standard. And I think one of the hallmarks of our society is that we are prepared to give these people better treatment than they would have given us. And I think that we want to preserve that level of justice. We want to preserve that level of decency in our society. And I think we're making an effort to do that.

There have been, obviously, abuses. But I think those have been isolated from the evidence that I've seen.

BLITZER: We're going to take a break, but I just want you to respond to this one point. When the United States goes around the world now and condemns various governments for holding individuals indefinitely without charges, they're going to point right back to what the U.S. is doing at Guantanamo Bay.

BOIES: Well, they can try, but I think this discussion points out the absurdity of the charges made by Senator Durbin about making this the equivalent of Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet gulag and Pol Pot's killing fields. That was simply an outrageous statement, and it tends to undermine our standing in the world, when one of our own senators ignores the facts and makes these kinds charges.

So, you're absolutely right. This does make it difficult for us. We have to look at the record, recognize the fact that we are treating abuses in an appropriate way, and we are providing a level of concern about these prisoners far superior to what they might have in other countries around the world.

BLITZER: He did issue, Senator Durbin, a statement...

BOIES: Of sorts.

BLITZER: ... expressing regret for what his remarks -- if his remarks were interpreted the wrong way.

All right, we're going to take another quick break. When we come back, much more of our discussion with Dick Thornburgh and David Boies. We'll talk about the patriot act, is it time to renew it? Should there be changes? Much more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our discussion with Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and famed constitutional attorney David Boies.

David, listen to what the president said a couple of weeks -- actually on June 10th -- when it came to his request to reaffirm the Patriot Act. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Patriot Act has helped save American lives and has protected American liberty. For the sake of our national security, the United States Congress needs to renew all the provisions of the Patriot Act. And this time Congress needs to make those provisions permanent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: David, do you agree?

BOIES: I don't. I do agree that the Patriot Act has been important. And I do believe that the Patriot Act ought to be renewed. But I think to say that you renew all of the provisions of the Patriot Act simply ignores the many things that have been pointed out by, I think, people of both parties, in terms of problems that the Patriot Act created.

BLITZER: But what specifically, David, do you want to be removed, as part of a renewal process?

BOIES: Well, I think one of the things is already being addressed in the House of Representatives, and that is the ability of the government to use libraries, in effect to monitor what people are reading and to use those as an arm of investigation. I think you need to look at the standards by which the law enforcement agencies can begin to implement the provisions of the Patriot Act.

BLITZER: All right. Let me pick that up with Dick Thornburgh. Liberals and conservatives got together and thought that the Patriot Act goes too far in monitoring people's reading behavior at libraries. Do you agree with that?

THORNBURGH: Well, this is another example of a solution in search of a problem. The fact of the matter is that that provision of the Patriot Act has never been used. We do know that suspected terrorists have used library facilities to use the Internet for communication, including some who were involved in the 9/11 attacks.

BLITZER: If it's never been used, though, why have it if it's going to potentially create a problem for civil liberties?

THORNBURGH: Well, I don't know that it does create that kind of problem. It would be used only in those specific instances where a court found that there was probable cause to think that these were being used by terrorists. And obviously, that hasn't occurred to this point since the passage of the act. But as I said, we do know that before the passage of the act, terrorists, including the 9/11 terrorists, did use library computer facilities. So I think it's perhaps a way to take a piece out of the Patriot Act, but it may deprive our law enforcement officials.

They can get this material without a court order by using a subpoena. Day in, day out, they have that right. And all this does is provide an extra tool to use.

BLITZER: You want to respond to that, David?

BOIES: Well, of course, if you use a subpoena you can challenge a subpoena and the courts get to decide it. I think the issue is a balance. Obviously, the more power you do to fight terrorism, the better in the fight on terrorism.

On the other hand, you don't want to unnecessarily erode civil liberties. What you are trying to do is draw a balance. And I think both conservatives and liberals are trying to reform that balance and refine what the Patriot Act does.

BLITZER: David, besides the library issue, is there anything else you'd like to see removed from the Patriot Act?

BOIES: I think that there are standards that need to be tightened in terms of when you can go to court and who has to be given notice. But I think Congress is looking at those issues. And I think that you will see a refined and reformed Patriot Act, something that will give the government the strength it needs to have to fight terrorism but, on the other hand, preserve civil liberties, too.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, if William Rehnquist retires as chief justice of the Supreme Court, who's your candidate? Who would you like to see as the chief justice?

THORNBURGH: I don't think the president would be all that interested in who my candidate was.

BLITZER: But if he asked you, if he asked you for a recommendation, you're highly respected.

THORNBURGH: Well, I think that there's a short list already been prepared by the Department of Justice and by the White House Counsel's office that includes a number of sitting circuit court judges. It may include Attorney General Gonzalez. It may include some people that we haven't heard of.

The fact of the matter is that this is an important appointment, if it has to be made. And the president will do it with great care.

BLITZER: I suspect he's not going to ask David Boies for a recommendation, so we'll leave it at that.

David Boies, thanks very much for coming in, Richard Thornburgh. Thanks to both of you very much.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(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 "Fox News Sunday," Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich blasted Democratic Senator Dick Durbin for comparing Guantanamo Bay to Soviet gulags and Nazi prisons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER REPUBLICAN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is no parallel -- none -- between Nazi Germany and Guantanamo, between the gulag and Guantanamo, between Pol Pot and Cambodia. That's the very point. You cannot compare the United States and have a public official quoted throughout the world by our enemies. Describing the U.S. in these terms puts every young American in uniform at risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On NBC's "Meet the Press," Republican Senator John McCain said while progress is being made in Iraq, the Bush administration and the American public need to be patient.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Overall I think there are some hopeful signs. But what I think we should do, Tim, is wait until we achieve the successes, then celebrate them, rather than predict them because too often that prediction is not proven to be true and that kind of -- that's what affects, I think, American public opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS' "Face the Nation," Democratic Senator Joe Biden talked about a 2008 White House run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I know I'm supposed to be more coy with you. I know I'm supposed to tell you that I'm not sure. But if in fact I think that I have a clear shot at winning the nomination by this November or December, then I'm going to seek the nomination. If I conclude that I'm not likely to be able to win the nomination, then I'm going to figure out who to support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows here on "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

Our "LATE EDITION" Web question asks, "Should the United States close the Guantanamo Bay prison?" Here's how you voted: 74 percent said yes; 26 percent said no. Remember, though, this is not a scientific poll. That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Happy Fathers' Day.

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

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines