Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Bipartisan Report Concludes Saddam Hussein Had No Relationship With Former Head Of Al Qaeda in Iraq; Taliban Claiming Responsibility For Suicide Car Bombing in Kabul; Thomas Kean Interview; Controversy Surrounds ABC Docudrama About 9/11; Ground Zero Air Quality; Samuel Berger Interview

Aired September 8, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.
Happening now, Republicans say it's nothing new to report. But Democrats say otherwise. A just released report suggests Saddam Hussein had no ties to al Qaeda in Iraq, no matter what President Bush says.

Also, some democrats asking this. Why would one of the most disastrous and distressing events in American history need made-up stories to make it even more dramatic? ABC is defending its upcoming film concerning 9/11. I'll ask the former national security advisor to President Clinton, Samuel Berger and the 9/11 commission chairman, Governor Kean of New Jersey, the former governor, that is, if art is imitating or repudiating real life.

And after the World Trade Center attacks, experts say the air was filled with concrete pieces of glass and asbestos. But did officials ignore health risks to people breathing in that air? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Republicans say it's nothing new. Democrats say it's a devastating indictment of what they call the Bush administration's, quote, "misleading attempts to tie Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda.'

Two very different conclusions from one just released Senate report about pre-war intelligence in Iraq. Our reporters are tracking the story. Kathleen Koch has the Bush administration's reaction. But let's begin with our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this bipartisan report concludes the following, that Iraq's former President Saddam Hussein had absolutely no relationship with the former head of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

It also concludes that Saddam Hussein did not provide al Qaeda with biological or chemical weapons. And it also says there is no reliable evidence that Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers met with top Iraqi intelligence in Prague.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: A devastating indictment of the bush administration's unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein was linked with al Qaeda.


KOPPEL: The report also concludes that Iraqi exiles, including the former head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, deliberately misled the U.S. intelligence community about Saddam Hussein's intentions to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

In a written statement, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kansas Republican Pat Roberts fired back, accusing Democrats of playing politics, saying, "Unfortunately, my colleagues continue to use the committee to try and rewrite history, insisting that they were deliberately duped into supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. That is simply not true and I believe the American people are smart enough to recognize election year politicking when they see it."

But the Democratic leader Harry Reid fired back saying that the Republican-led Congress was too quick to approve what the White House wanted.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee continues to put the political interests of the Bush White House ahead of the security of the American people.


KOPPEL: Democrats on the Intelligence Committee also accuse Republicans of playing election year politics, Wolf, because there is another part potentially more damaging part of this investigation that Republicans are refusing to release and refusing to complete at this time. And it has to do with comments, statements that were made by members of the Bush administration, including the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, regarding that evidence of their being WMD in Iraq and of being a link between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Democrats say they don't expect that report to be released until after the November midterms, Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea, thank you. Andrea Koppel on the Hill.

The White House says Democrats are simply trying to use this report to score election year points. Our Kathleen Koch is traveling with the president. She's joining us now in Kansas City, Missouri, where the president is visiting today. Kathleen?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we did not get a chance to get the president's reaction to the Iraq report today. He was speaking at two closed fund raisers, one of them where he's speaking right now for Missouri Senator Jim Talent, who is in a real tough reelection battle this year.

But White House press secretary Tony Snow did have plenty to say. He said that, been there, done that, this is nothing new, this report, and pointed out back in 2002, 2003, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, that both parties saw the same intelligence that the White House did and reached the same conclusion, voting to authorize action against Saddam Hussein.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If people want to re- litigate that, that's fine. But the president's stated concern this week, as you've seen is to think, OK, we'll let people quibble over three years ago. The important thing to do is to figure out what you're doing tomorrow and the day after and the month after and year after to make sure that this war on terror is won.


KOCH: Now, Snow said that he was not troubled that this very critical report came out of a Republican-led committee, Snow pointing out that this committee is, quote, very collegial, as he put it. And so he says that Democrats are able to, quote, state their views more so than on other committees.


BLITZER: Kathleen Koch traveling with the president. Thank you.

And this note to our viewers. I'll be right here in THE SITUATION ROOM Monday night. We'll bring you live coverage of the president's address to the nation marking five years since the 9/11 attacks. Our coverage, Monday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific right here on CNN.

The Taliban are claiming responsibility for a suicide car bombing in Kabul. It's the deadliest such attack there since the Taliban were ousted by U.S. forces and other coalition forces after 9/11. CNN's Anderson Cooper is in the Afghan capital with the latest. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Wolf, the blast shattered the early morning calm of Kabul, a vehicle laden with explosives slammed into a U.S. military convoy. This is just the latest attack here in Kabul, the second suicide bombing this week. A sign, say intelligence sources, of the resurgence of the Taliban and their adoption of al Qaeda-style tactics.

As you know, Wolf, back in 2001, there was only one suicide attack in all of Afghanistan. Suicide attacks are generally very rare here. This year alone, however, there have been some 70 attacks.

Sources, intelligence sources I've talked to, blame the rise of the Taliban on several factors. One, dissatisfaction with the Afghan government, also the rise of the Afghan drug trade. The opium crop this year is up 49 percent over last year, it is the largest in Afghan history. Also, intelligence sources blame Pakistan. They say Pakistan happens not done enough to troy to try to curtail the Taliban. In fact, intelligence sources I spoke with say they're completely sure that the Taliban's leader, Mullah Omar, a man who has a bounty on his head, is wanted by the U.S., they say -- intelligence sources I talked to say he's living in Pakistan in the city of Quetta or surrounding areas.

Pakistan say they're doing everything they can to hunt down Taliban officials but intelligence sources I talked to say they doubt that very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson cooper reporting for us. Thanks. And Anderson is going to have a lot more on the situation in Afghanistan tonight on his program, AC 360 live from Kabul. That airs 10:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Large numbers of Taliban fighters are believed to be hiding in the mountains of neighboring Pakistan, possibly -- possibly along with Osama bin Laden himself. And Pakistani forces say they're doing all they can to keep them out of Afghanistan.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is along the border with this exclusive report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: About half a mile, about half a kilometer in that direction is a border with Afghanistan. We're at a Pakistani army frontier post. They have 28,000 soldiers in this area, North Waziristan. The Pakistani government has been very keen to show us how they can patrol and secure this border so that Taliban can't get from Pakistan, move across the border into Afghanistan to strike the coalition troops.

They've taken us on a helicopter tour of the border. They've shown us how mountainous it is. They've shown us there are many different border posts in the area. This is typical of the border posts. It's quite an old building. They have a number of troops here who go out on nighttime patrols.

The patrols here also go out during the day. On the hilltops either side, they have observation posts. They have tracks, roads -- they have built hundreds of miles of roads to help secure the border here in the past few years. The Pakistani army has taken a number of casualties, several hundred killed, in many cases by roadside bombs in the past year that have been planted by the Taliban and other insurgent elements in this particular area.

But the government here says the new deal has worked out with the tribes, can work, can hold, that puts -- takes the army off some checkpoints, puts them in their bases, that allows the army to focus its strength along the border. And they say that's the most critical area. They now have 97 of these border posts along the border, another 50 posts just behind those. The Pakistani military now say that Taliban cannot get across the border in vehicles. They say possibly, possibly one or two may be able to get across on foot. But they feel that they have this border now very well secured, stopping large numbers of Taliban leaving Pakistan, going across the border into Afghanistan and striking at U.S. troops there.

Nic Robertson, CNN, on the Pakistan-Afghan border, North Waziristan.


BLITZER: A very tense situation along that border right now. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty has the day off. Jack and the "Cafferty File" will return on Monday.

Up ahead, controversy swirling around ABC's upcoming 9/11 miniseries. The former co-chairman of the 9/11 commission, former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean was a consultant on the project. He's standing by to join us live.

And we'll also speak live with former Clinton national security advisor Sandy Berger. He's angry over his portrayal in the film. He's calling on Governor Kean and others to simply try to have it cancelled. We'll get both sides of this growing controversy.

Plus, did officials come clean about the air at Ground Zero after 9/11? There are disturbing details emerging of a memo that's raising lots of new questions.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. With the five year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, new questions are now being raised about the air quality at Ground Zero in the wake of the attacks and whether officials were telling us everything they knew. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York. She has the story. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just days after a study showed thousands getting sick following exposure to the toxic air at ground zero, questions are now being raised about whether officials ignored health concerns.


SNOW (voice-over): Less than a month after the city was blanketed with dust from the World Trade Center collapse, an internal city memo dated October 6, 2001, by Kelly McKinney, an associate commissioner for the health department said, "The mayor's office is under pressure from building owners and business owners in the red zone to open more of the city to occupancy. According to OEM," the Office of Emergency Management" some city blocks north and south of Ground Zero are suitable for reoccupancy. DEP believes air quality at these locations is not yet suitable for reoccupancy."

The city's law department says the memo is authentic. The mayor at the time of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, was not available for comment. But his former deputy mayor Joe Lhota denies there was pressure to reopen the area around ground zero. Current Mayor Mike Bloomberg shot down claims that city leaders lied about air quality following 9/11.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: The people that ran the city at the time, everyone that I know is a pretty honest person and was trying very hard under circumstances that were very difficult.

SNOW: Adding to the questions, former EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman suggests in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that the EPA was not responsible for making workers wear respirators saying that was the city's role.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We did everything we could to protect people in that environment and we did it in the best way that we could, which was to communicate with the people who had the responsibility for enforcing what we were telling -- saying should be done.

SNOW: Former Giuliani deputy mayor Joe Lhota said Whitman's statements in 2001 conflict with those in 2001 saying quote, "The EPA publicly reported that the general air quality was safe and the city repeatedly instructed workers on the pile to use their respirators."

But that's not stopping lawmakers such as Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer from asking what happens now to the thousands reporting illnesses.


SNOW: Now, there have been a growing number of complaints not just about people getting sick but from having the health coverage needed to get proper treatment.


BLITZER: Very disturbing story. Mary, thank you very much. Mary Snow reporting.

Monday marks the five year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Starting at 8:30 Eastern you can go online and see all of CNN's original coverage of those 9/11 attacks uncut, unedited, as it happened. Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is joining us with details.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that's right. Pipeline is going to stream the entire day's coverage from 8:30 until midnight. This is what Pipeline looks like. It has four different pipes or streams. And Pipe Four here is in the bottom corner. It's going to have a viewer discretion notice because CNN is sensitive to the fact that some people might not want to stumble on that footage by accident. The footage will look something like this, if I can pull up the video for you. This is from 8:30 Eastern Time on September 11th, 2001. Reaction to this decision by CNN Pipeline to air this coverage has been mixed online. Some are saying it's too much too soon, not seeing the need to relive the emotion of the day.

There are others who are saying it is a good idea, that some people need to be reminded of how they felt, how angry, how sad, how awful it all was.

BLITZER: It was awful indeed. Thank you very much for that, Jacki, and we'll be watching.

Coming up, top members of the Clinton administration now calling on ABC to cancel its controversial miniseries on 9/11. Sandy Berger is one of them. He'll be joining us as well as the chairman of the 9/11 commission, who also consulted on the movie, former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean.

Plus California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger caught on tape making remarks his opponent says are deeply offensive. We're going to play the tape for you. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're following the uproar over the upcoming film about 9/11 on ABC. Right now, former President Bill Clinton and others are asking this. Why would a film about one of the most terrible and tormenting events in American history need anything to make it more dramatic? Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's got details of this story. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, we've just received a copy of a letter from former national security advisor Samuel Berger and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright to Tom Kean, the 9/11 Commission chairman who was a consultant to ABC on this film.

Berger and Albright asked Kean to use his influence to get ABC to cancel the airing this Sunday and Monday. We were always seconds ago told of another letter from former Clinton aide Bruce Lindsay and Mr. Clinton's attorney Douglas Band (ph) to Robert Iger of the Disney Corporation also asking for the airing of this movie to be cancelled because of what they call historical inaccuracies.

Now we're getting no indications at the moment that the movie will be cancelled. But the fallout over this film is still at critical mass.


TODD (voice-over): Officials at ABC are not tipping their hand on any revisions being made in their controversial miniseries "The Path to 9/11."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not safe yet. TODD: But ABC is certainly not safe from fallout as a former president and his top aides launch a multi-pronged attack.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think they ought to tell the truth, particularly, if they're going to claim it's based on the 9/11 Commission Report. They shouldn't have scenes which are directly contradicted by the factual findings of the 9/11 commission. That's all. I just want people to tell the truth, you know. And not to pretend it's something it's not.

TODD: One proposed scene that's gotten Bill Clinton and his former aides upset is at the very least being reviewed, according to 9/11 commission chairman Tom Kean, a consultant on the film and CNN contributor Howard Kurtz, who spoke to his own sources.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: I'm told ABC is going to change, for example, a very explosive scene involving former national security adviser Sandy Berger. Supposedly putting a red light up when the CIA people in Afghanistan were about to capture Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready to load the package. Repeat, do we have clearance to load the package?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our officers are in place, sir. They're in danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that, Patricia. But I don't have that authority.

TODD: An incident that never happened, according to Berger and the 9/11 commission. ABC has given no indications that it's considering canceling the $40 million movie. But the network is also dealing with fallout among the film's cast.

HARVEY KEITEL, ACTOR: I had questions about certain events and the material I was given in the "Path to 9/11" that I did raise questions about, yes, I had some conflicts there. You can't put these together, compress them, and then distort the reality.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, an ABC official had no immediate response to Harvey Keitel's comments that "the film is a dramatization, the editing process is not yet complete and criticism of film specifics are premature and irresponsible."

On the political front, ABC is accused of a heavy slant against Democrats. Tom Kean, a republican, and the only 9/11 Commission member consulted for the film, got a letter from Clinton's office saying, your defense of the outright lies in this film is destroying the bipartisan aura of the 9/11 Commission.

Tom Kean's response to me, quote, "What possible political motivation could I have? Everybody who has seen it who is nonpartisan has praised it. The people in both administrations," Kean says, were inept to stop the plot." (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Media observers say all this criticism and buzz over the film will very likely generate huge ratings for ABC on Sunday and Monday night. But there is another snag. President Bush is scheduled to address the nation at 9:00 Eastern Time Monday night, likely right in the middle of part two of this series or at least when that part was scheduled to air. An ABC official tells me they're still figuring out how to deal with that.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much. And one of the claims about the ABC movie is that it does not mirror the factual findings of the report from the 9/11 Commission.

My next guest is the co-chairman of that commission, Thomas Kean, he is joining us from Philadelphia. He's the former governor of New Jersey.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in. I want to read to you from this latest letter to you. I don't even know if you've seen the actual letter from the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CO-CHAIR: I haven't gotten any letters, Wolf, from anybody.

BLITZER: I'll just read to you from what they say because we received a copy of the letter from ...

KEAN: They sent them to you but not to mean.

BLITZER: Right. Madeleine Albright and Samuel Berger. I assume you'll get it eventually. After going through their complaints, they say this. "And so we ask that you use your influence to persuade ABC to withdraw the broadcast altogether. Failing that, we urge you to sever your relationship with this grossly misleading production."

What do you say about that?

KEAN: Well, I think it's a very powerful production and one that's going to move the ball forward. I think when people see the whole thing - and a lot of people that are talking now haven't seen it. I haven't even seen the final cut -- they're going to find something where they learn more about the hijackers, more about the plot, more about the ways they tried to deceive the United States government, more about al Qaeda and hopefully in understanding that, they'll understand why it's so important that more of our recommendations get implemented by the United States Congress and the administration to make the people safer. That's the bottom line.

BLITZER: Have you spoken with ABC in recent hours or days? Are they actually planning on running the film Sunday and Monday night?

KEAN: Oh, yes, best of my knowledge. I don't think they'll ever change that decision.

BLITZER: What about the changes in these controversial scenes? What are you hearing about the controversial scenes involving Sandy Berger and Madeleine Albright, for example?

KEAN: Well, they've been very open to that kind of criticism from me and from others. I mean, they re-shot a whole scene that I had a question about. And they've taken this very seriously.

The 9/11 report isn't their only source. They've got former CIA people who are working on the film. They've got people who were in some of these meetings. They've got authors of books who wrote on the subjects. So they've got a number of sources. When a criticism is raised they've gone back to talk to the original sources. And in my experience, if they feel they're wrong, they've made a change.

BLITZER: And have they changed the -- because you're a public figure. You can obviously understand that Sandy Berger and Madeleine Albright, if an actor is putting words in his or her mouth that they didn't utter or portraying them as doing things they didn't do, they would understandably be pretty upset.

KEAN: Well, I understand and I have great respect for both people. I really do. And I would -- I think, for instance, on the thing that Mr. Berger is so upset about, our findings on the 9/11 Commission were that the person that pulled the plug on that operation was probably not Sandy Berger but George Tenet. I assume Mr. Berger knew about it. Because he should have known about it in his position. I think George Tenet was the one that made that decision. I've communicated that to ABC.

BLITZER: And have they told you that they are changing that particular scene?

KEAN: What they've done is they go back to their sources, back to their writer and everything else and they make a decision. I'm not part of that decision and probably shouldn't be.

BLITZER: What about the scene involving Madeleine Albright? You suspect they've changed that one as well so that she is not projected as someone who tipped off the Pakistanis about a missile attack on Osama bin Laden and there may have been a leak which allowed him to escape?

KEAN: Well, I don't know about that scene. I think that scene is a little different because I think there was a real conflict between two areas of government as to whether you don't tell people you're going to hit Osama bin Laden in case he gets away and other branches of government that say if you send a missile over Pakistan, they may think it's India, they could start another war. So that was a real conflict and a real problem.

And whether it was Madeleine Albright or somebody else, I suspect that probably took place.

BLITZER: What about -- It was definitely someone else because Secretary Cohen, William Cohen, the former defense secretary said he dispatched the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Ralston, to go to Pakistan to brief the Pakistanis once the missiles were on their way to the al Qaeda target and Madeleine Albright was not specifically involved in that.

But that was another apparent distortion in the film. I don't know if the film has been changed. But what about the bigger picture? Because you investigated the Clinton administration and the Bush administration in the events leading up to 9/11. Those who have seen the film -- and I have not seen it -- say that the Clinton administration over the eight years they were in power, in office, that they, -- at least you come away from the movie convinced that they were negligent, that they missed opportunities for a variety of reasons to destroy Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

KEAN: Well, two administrations missed opportunities. This starts on President Clinton's watch with the attack on the World Trade Center I. Then it covers eight years of the Clinton presidency. It covers six months of the Bush presidency. So obviously there's more about the Clinton administration.

But you've got to remember the area they were working on. I mean, to be very fair to the Clinton people, a lot of this was done before we knew how bad Osama bin Laden was. This was before the attacks on the embassies in many cases. It was before certainly the attack on the Cole. We knew he was bad and there were people in the Clinton administration pursuing him pretty hard.

But we didn't know he was bad as he was or certainly what he was planning on 9/11. So it's unfair to look back and put their motivations in light of the attack on the World Trade Center, because it just didn't -- it's just not that way. It was a different kind of a world and they made decisions with different facts than we have right now.

BLITZER: I'm going to read to you one more excerpt from this letter that Madeleine Albright and Samuel Berger have written to you, although you haven't received the letter we have. I'll read this section.

"Your continued defense of this deeply flawed production is especially hard to understand in light of your commendable leadership of the 9/11 Commission. Like much of the country, we were impressed by the care you and your fellow commissioners took to stick to the facts and to get it right for the American people and for history.

"Unfortunately, as co-executive producer of this miniseries, you and your new associates have chosen to go another way."

We're going to be speaking momentarily to Sandy Berger. I wonder, governor, what you would say to him. What would you like to say to him, knowing what you know about this film, knowing your role in helping ABC and knowing, obviously, your role with the other members of the 9/11 commission in putting together that final report.

Yeah. This is not a 9/11 Commission Report and this series is based on a lot of other things besides that report. It's a miniseries. It's not a product of ABC News. It's not a product of a documentary. It's very different. And it says right up front with a disclaimer exactly what it is. Nobody should have any doubt about that.

Having said that, I think it's a very powerful, very powerful series and I think we'll understand a lot more about al Qaeda when you watch it. But I would encourage people to look at it, make their own decision. We're having a tremendous debate on this and nobody has seen it. Let's look at it and I think perhaps we can have a constructive debate about it afterwards.

BLITZER: Does ABC, in your opinion, governor, owe Sandy Berger an apology?

KEAN: I don't believe anybody owes anybody an apology. We haven't even seen the film. I mean, let's look at the film and then we can talk about what's what. I don't know, Wolf, if you've seen the film. Even I haven't seen the final cut.

And I think to talk about this thing before people have seen it, my impression is it's going to be a real contribution. And I think it's very well done. But people will make their own mind up when they see it.

BLITZER: I have not seen it, but I will, governor. I suspect millions of other people will be seeing it as well. Governor Tom Kean, the 9/11 Commission co-chairman. Thanks very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

KEAN: Thank you, Wolf.

And coming up right after a short break, the ABC movie includes an actor playing former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. And one scene is said to mistakenly show him refusing to order the killing of Osama bin Laden. But did that really happen? Sandy Berger himself, he's standing by to join us live right after this break.

And later, he once called some Democrats girlie men. Now Arnold Schwarzenegger apologizing for suggesting that Cubans and Puerto Ricans have hot tempers. Stay with us.


BLITZER: More now on the fallout from the upcoming film about 9/11 on ABC. In the movie an actor plays former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. And one scene is said to show him refusing to order the killing of Osama bin Laden. But is that true?

Sandy Berger is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You're very upset about this. Have you been told that they've revised that one specific scene involving you?

SAMUEL BERGER, CHAIRMAN, STONEBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL: I haven't been told that at all, Wolf. And I've not seen the movie. I've not seen -- been provided with a copy of it. Those who have seen it describe it as misleading, inaccurate, and in some cases, a fabrication. The producers themselves say it's fictionalized. The events of 9/11 are very real and we don't need to play fiction with 9/11.

BLITZER: Is it a problem of those scenes? Because in this letter that you wrote, you together with Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, you want ABC to simply pull the entire film. What's wrong with simply making those last-minute edits, those changes so that the controversy perhaps would go away?

BERGER: I don't think this is just a question of fixing something around the edges, Wolf. My impression is that this is a misleading film to the core. And it seems to me the only appropriate thing at this point is for ABC to withdraw the series.

BLITZER: I know you've had friends, former Clinton officials, who have actually seen it who have said to you that -- what have they said to you about the film?

BERGER: They said that some parts of it are fabrications, other parts are misleading and inaccurate, and this is simply a work of fiction, as the producers have said. In some cases, they've said the actors improvised on the set. Well, you know, 9/11 is something very powerful to the American people and we shouldn't be playing fiction with 9/11.

BLITZER: Have you spoken to your former boss, former President Bill Clinton about this?

BERGER: I have.

BLITZER: And what did he say to you?

BERGER: He's very upset about it as well.

BLITZER: And did he -- can't one of you or both of you pick up the phone and call Bob Iger, the chairman of Disney and complain?

BERGER: I have written to Mr. Iger and said that we believe that the scenes that we're talking about are complete fabrications. They simply did not happen. They should be fixed. But quite honestly, at this point, I don't think this is something you can fix. I think you just have to yank it.

BLITZER: Do you have any sense they will do that?

BERGER: I would hope so. I think that's appropriate. The credibility of this show has been called into question.

BLITZER: Do you know if the former president has called Bob Iger himself and said, you know what, yank this film?

BERGER: I have no idea what the president and Mr. Iger did or did not say. But I can tell you my own view is this is not something that we should be showing to the American people.

BLITZER: What about the bigger picture? Forget about that one specific scene, because the 9/11 Commission, a lot of other people, say it wasn't you that pulled the trigger on going after Osama bin Laden, it was George Tenet, the CIA director. I wonder if you want to clarify that before we move on.

BERGER: On no situation, Wolf, did we ever refuse authorization to the CIA for an operation against bin Laden. The one time we had good information about bin Laden's whereabouts was in August of 1998. We fired 50 tomahawk missiles into the camp where we believed he was.

We apparently missed him by a few hours. There was no other occasion while we were in office that we had an opportunity to get bin Laden or eyes on bin Laden. And the fact is, Wolf, five years later, despite the fact that we have thousands of American troops in Afghanistan, we still have not gotten bin Laden.

BLITZER: Because there was one incident. There was some intelligence that he was in a place -- Osama bin Laden -- called Tarnak Farms. You remember that incident?

BERGER: That incident -- I believe in that situation the CIA itself called off the operation because they didn't believe it was reliable.

BLITZER: But that's -- in the film, at least in the earlier version ...

BERGER: That never came to the ...


BLITZER: was -- it depicted you as saying this.

Let me read, though, from the 9/11 Commission report, a reference to you specifically. "In the memo's margin, Berger wrote that before considering action, quote, 'I will want more than verified location. We will need at least data on pattern of movements to provide some assurance he will remain in place,'" the suggestion being that you were overly cautious in giving authority to the CIA or others to go out and kill bin Laden.

BERGER: I don't think we were cautious at all. I think we made it very clear to the CIA that we wanted to get bin Laden. The fact of the matter is, if you try to get bin Laden and you miss and you fail, that strengthens bin Laden. It doesn't strengthen us. It simply embarrasses the United States.

And so we wanted to make sure the information was reliable and the one time we had reliable information we went after bin Laden. And I assure you we were not serving subpoenas with those cruise missiles.

BLITZER: Here was another reference from the 9/11 Commission report specifically referring to you. "In his handwritten notes on the meeting paper, Berger jotted down the presence of seven to 11 families in the Tarnak Farms facility, which could mean 60-65 casualties." Were you, with hindsight, overly concerned about civilian casualties and that perhaps spared Osama bin Laden?

BERGER: Absolutely not, Wolf. We would have incurred the cost of casualties if we had reliable information of where bin Laden was. And the one time when we had good information, we took a shot at bin Laden. Unfortunately, we didn't get him. You know, I wish to God we had got him at that time. I wish we had gotten him over the last five years, but we haven't. It's a hard target.

BLITZER: Were there things now, with hindsight, that you could have done over those eight years you were in office, first as a deputy national security advisor, then as the president's national security advisor, that you wish you would have done with hindsight?

BERGER: You know, clearly, with hindsight, you wish you had done more. But I think we did with -- as Governor Kean just said, with the information that we had, we did the best that we could. And, you know, we've learned a lot more about al Qaeda and bin Laden since 9/11 than we knew before.

BLITZER: So if they go ahead and they air this miniseries Sunday night and Monday night is there -- you're a lawyer -- is there a legal action that you might take against ABC, against Robert Iger, against others who were involved in putting this film together?

BERGER: I'm not talking about legal action at this point. I'm talking about responsible action on the part of ABC. Their program has been called into question by historians, by members of the 9/11 Commission. They can't fix this along the edges by tinkering in the last-minute in some desperate effort to edit it. This thing is just rotten to the core.

BLITZER: George Mitchell, former U.S. senator, Democratic leader in the Senate, he's now involved in Disney. He's one of the top officials there. Have you called -- he's the chairman, I believe. Have you called him and asked that he get involved?

BERGER: No, I've not talked to Senator Mitchell. But I have written to Mr. Iger and told him what I thought of the show and suggested that it be fixed. But I think the more I learn about it, you can't fix it, you've got to yank it.

BLITZER: And you haven't received any response ...


BERGER: No response at all.

BLITZER: A lawsuit?

BERGER: We'll see.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see. Sandy Berger, thanks very much for coming in. Appreciate it.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. He's standing by to tell us what he's working on. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf thank you. Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll be reporting on scathing new criticism of pre-war U.S. intelligence on Iraq that contradicts White House assertions Saddam Hussein had ties with al Qaeda. We'll have complete coverage and three of the country's top political analysts join us.

Also tonight, an illegal alien trying to avoid deportation to Mexico again is still holed up inside a Chicago church after being there more than three weeks. Incredibly, that standoff could last weeks, perhaps even months more. We'll have the report.

And the U.S. Senate once again showing its loyalty to corporate America, creating legislation that would allow nearly 2 million foreign high tech workers into this country. We'll have a special report on what is at the very least a troubling new threat to working men and women and their families. We hope you'll be with us for that and a great deal more, 6:00 eastern here on CNN. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thank you very much.

And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, more reaction to the Senate report suggesting Saddam Hussein had no ties to al Qaeda in Iraq, despite Bush administration statements to the contrary in recent years.

And are the Democrats playing it to political advantage? Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart standing by, he'll join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story now, the new U.S. Senate report suggesting Saddam Hussein had absolutely no ties to al Qaeda in Iraq, no connection to 9/11. Joining us now is former Democratic Senator, and former presidential candidate Gary Hart. He has a brand new book entitled "The Courage of our Convictions, A Manifesto for Democrats." You're pretty harsh on your fellow Democrats right now. What's your major contention?

GARY HART (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: We've lost our way I think since Vietnam and an awful lot of people, particularly under the age of 40 don't know what the Democratic Party stands for. This book is a result of people stopping me on the street saying, when are the Democrats going to say something? And what do you stand for? So I try to go back to the 20th Century leaders and say here's what the Democratic Party believes in.

BLITZER: Is there a voice in the Democratic Party right now that you see as capable of leading this party to the White House in 2008?

HART: Oh, sure. I think there are a number. And we'll see their presentations during the primary season starting in '07. And we'll see which one meets those qualifications.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from "The Courage of our Convictions." Why the Democratic Party's leaders have failed to band together to propose a plan for Iraqi disengagement remains a great mystery, even to those of us who have been active in the party for decades. They have come up with various ideas on Iraq. But, you know, there's a lot of differences within the Democratic Party.

HART: Well, unlike the Republican Party, we are a coalition party and we will always have a lot of range of views that the Republicans do not have. They're much more a corporate party that says and believes the same things. And I think to a degree that's to be encouraged. But the party itself on an issue like Iraq must put together an alternative policy that the party itself stands for.

BLITZER: You know, it's -- this new Senate Intelligence Committee report says that there were no connections between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, no connections even to al Qaeda in Iraq and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader who was killed this summer by U.S. missiles in Iraq. Yet almost half of the American public right now in our latest CNN poll still believes that Saddam Hussein played a role in 9/11. How do you explain that?

HART: The president, the vice president, the former secretary of state, the secretary of defense repeatedly throughout the fall of 2002 and the spring of 2003 and beyond said we are attacking Iraq as part of the war on terrorism. And it had nothing to do with that. It was a side show. It had been planned years before 9/11. And the people responsible for it were out to get Saddam Hussein for other reasons.

BLITZER: The president now says, though, that even though Saddam did not have any role in 9/11, Iraq today has become the central front in the war on terror. That if the U.S. were simply to cut and run, it would be a disaster for the United States instead of fighting terrorists there, we'd be fighting them here.

HART: Well the president, as usual, is setting up a straw man. I don't know anybody who is, including John Murtha and John Kerry and others who are talking about cutting and running. So whatever that myth is ...

BLITZER: But is Iraq today -- forget about what happened in 2001 -- is Iraq today a central front or the central front in the war on terror?

HART: It's a central training ground for jihadists who will attack us here. The central front in the war on terror is still Afghanistan, and we're not winning it.

BLITZER: But if it is a training ground for jihadists in Iraq, shouldn't the U.S. be trying to make sure that those camps are destroyed?

HART: Well as I say in the book, once having kicked open a hornet's nest, which we have done, the theory is we can't leave until all the hornets are back in the nest. And that's going to be a tall order.

BLITZER: Gary Hart, former U.S. Senator, thanks very much for coming in. The book is entitled "The Courage of our Convictions, A Manifesto for Democrats." Thanks very much.

HART: Thank you very much. BLITZER: Up ahead, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger now apologizing for those controversial comments that were caught on tape. Stay with us.


BLITZER: We'll check back with Zain for a quick look at some other stories making news around the world. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, a cargo ship has docked at Beirut's port, the first commercial vessel to arrive since Israel blocked all Lebanese ports in July. Israel officially lifted the naval blockade today. Four Italian naval vessels will patrol the Lebanese coastline until a UN peacekeeping force arrives.

A hurricane watch is up for Bermuda as it prepares for the arrival of tropical storm Florence. Forecasters predict it will turn into a hurricane before it's expected to hit on Monday. Residents are stocking up on generators, bottled water, as well as other emergency supplies.

Private remarks lead to a public apology during a closed-door meeting. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called Republican Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, quote, "very hot," suggesting Latinos are naturally feisty and temperamental. "The Los Angeles Times" obtained a tape recording of the meeting and published the comments. Now Schwarzenegger says the remarks were out of line.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: Anyone out there that feels offended by those comments, I just want to say I'm sorry. I apologize. Because that was not the intention. And the fact is that if I would hear those kind of comments in my house by my kids, I would be upset.


VERJEE: While some politicians were offended by the remarks, Garcia wasn't. She appeared at Schwarzenegger's news conference today and said that he didn't really need to apologize. Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain, thank you. Zain Verjee reporting.

Up next, the ABC movie, the 9/11 movie, the controversy online and the classroom. We have some new details, what's going on on that front. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The last 48 hours, publishing giant Scholastic has ended its relationship with ABC and pulled down the educational materials it created to coincide with the 9/11 docudrama. Scholastic has just posted a revised guide for students online. Let's bring back our internet reporter, Jacki Schechner. Jacki? SCHECHNER: Wolf, big difference between the materials that Scholastic originally put online to go along with the "The Path to 9/11" and the ones that are online now. The originals that went up August 23rd and were pulled down on Wednesday referred to some events in the movie as fact. The ones now are encouraging students to be more critical viewers. For example, one lesson plan has students watching the movie, downloading the 9/11 Commission report and comparing the two.

Also noticeably absent from the new material is the ABC logo and the generously sponsored by phrase. The new materials are not sponsored by ABC. Again, Scholastic ended that contractual arrangement yesterday.

Scholastic is saying that the new materials will hopefully help students differentiate between fact and fiction. We reached out to ABC once again today to get their reaction to this decision and the changes and they did not have a comment for us Wolf. So, big difference between what was there then and what is there now.

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this controversy coming up in our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoon's 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern, back for another hour at 7:00 p.m., one hour from now. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's get ready to go to New York. Lou Dobbs standing by -- Lou.


© 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
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines