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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Interview With John Kerry

Aired September 10, 2006 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past five years, we have waged an unprecedented campaign against terror at home and abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: 9/11, five years later. As President Bush prepares to address the nation on this solemn anniversary, we'll ask: Is the world a safer place? The U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is our guest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY, D-MASSACHUSETTS: We need national leadership capable of raising hopes and inspiring trust, not raising fears and demanding blind faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Democrats claim they can do a better job. The U.S. senator and former Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, joins us for an exclusive Sunday interview.

Has the war shifted the United States's focus from a more important enemy? Osama bin Laden is still at large. We'll talk with Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad, and get insight from our panel: John Miller of the FBI, terrorism expert Brian Jenkins and CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): We don't think Guantanamo Bay is a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Trials and tribulations at the U.S. Prison in Cuba. Will new interrogation rules help or hurt the war on terror? U.N. Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown speaks out about that and much more. "Late Edition's" lineup begins right now.

It's 11 a.m. in Washington, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 p.m. in Baghdad, 7:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition." We'll get to my interview with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, in just a moment. First, though, let's check in with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield -- She's at the CNN Center in Atlanta -- for a quick look at what's in the news right now. Hi, Fred.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred. President Bush scheduled to deliver a prime-time address to the American people tomorrow night from the Oval Office to mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Over the past several days, he has been trying to reassure an uneasy American public that the United States is winning the war on terror. Just a short while ago, I spoke with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Secretary Rice, thanks very much for coming in.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Pleasure to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: On this fifth anniversary of 9/11, there's a story on the front page of The Washington Post that says that the hunt for Osama bin Laden, quoting one U.S. source, "has gone stone cold. The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture of kill Osama bin Laden have not a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world -- no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image -- has led them anywhere near the Al Qaida leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials."

Is that true?

RICE: Well, I can't speak of the specifics of that, Wolf. I can tell you that the United States and its Pakistani allies, its Afghan allies are on the hunt for him and will continue to be on the hunt for him.

But in part, it is because he is in, apparently, very remote areas. He doesn't communicate, apparently, very much. And it is not easy to track someone who is determined to hide in very remote areas.

But Al Qaida is not just Osama bin Laden. And so, despite the fact that we will continue to press for his capture, to bring him to justice, the bringing down of Al Qaida's field generals, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi bin Al-Shibh -- this has been critical to the fact that we've been able to prevent attacks on the American homeland.

And of course, that's the most important issue here.

BLITZER: Do you have a sense, though -- is he in Afghanistan or Pakistan?

RICE: I think that there are multiple reports about where he might be. But there are fewer and fewer places for him to hide.

What we do know is that he does not have the kind of safe haven that he had in Afghanistan before the Taliban was overthrown.

What we do know is that the Pakistanis operate now in areas of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan that they did not before. And so his world his gotten smaller.

I don't know precisely where he is, but I do know that we'll continue on the hunt for him. But we're also going to continue to remember that this is not about one man. This is about disabling the Al Qaida organization and its capacity to hurt us.

BLITZER: This new videotape -- old video, actually, that was released the other day on Al Jazeera, showing Osama bin Laden with some of the Al Qaida hijackers, what do you make? What's your interpretation of this video?

RICE: It's a little hard to interpret. I do know that one of the people the president mentioned, Ramzi bin Al-Shibh, was there apparently either after the fact talking about 9/11 or prior to 9/11 filling Osama bin Laden in on the details. It just shows that these lieutenants who were very important to the plotting and planning of September 11 are being brought to justice.

But I can't speak to Al Qaida's motivation for releasing a five- year-old tape at this point in time.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from the Senate intelligence committee report that came out this week, which I'm sure you've looked through. Among other things, it says this: "Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted unsuccessfully to locate and capture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi."

The report goes on to say: "According to debriefs of multiple detainees, including Saddam Hussein and former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and captured documents, Saddam did not trust Al Qaida or any other radical Islamist group and did not want to cooperate with them."

This is in stark contrast to some of your statements and presidential statements in recent weeks, months and years.

RICE: You started out with a very important modifier, postwar intelligence says. Do we have better access now to understand what Saddam Hussein may have been doing so we can question Saddam Hussein, question Tariq Aziz, question his intelligence officers? Of course. But did we have the ability to get that kind of information before he was brought down?

The fact is, nonetheless, before he was brought down, Iraq had been designated a state sponsor of terror going back into the '90s. The Abu Nidal organization operated out of there. We know that Zarqawi ran a poisons network in Iraq. We know, too, that he ordered the killing of an American diplomat from Iraq. And we know that in testimony of the director of central intelligence at the time and as a matter of fact even in the 9-11 report that contacts between Al Qaida and Iraq had been going on, going back for more than a decade. So was Iraq involved with terror? Absolutely, Iraq was involved with terror. Were they a danger to make alliances with people who wanted to hurt us? Absolutely. We are learning more about the nature of those terrorist ties now that we have access to people who we couldn't have possibly had access to before the invasion of Iraq.

BLITZER: Because specifically on the connection between Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by U.S. forces earlier in the summer, the leader of Al Qaida in Iraq, I want to play what you told Larry King on February 5, 2003, and more recently what the president himself said only last month. Listen to these two clips.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: There is no question in my mind about the Al Qaida connection. It is a connection that has unfolded, that we're learning more about as we are able to take the testimony of detainees, people who were high up in the Al Qaida organization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to Al Qaida affiliates and Al Qaida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was what the president said in 2004. I want to play more recently what he said on August 21, only a couple of weeks ago, at his news conference. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I swear it (ph), because imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein, who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who had relations with Zarqawi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, now, that's the sensitive point. The Senate intelligence committee report says flatly, he had no relations with Zarqawi. In fact, he saw Zarqawi as an enemy of the Iraqi regime.

RICE: The information on which -- about what the president is talking about, of which the president is talking, is that Iraq was a state sponsor of terror. That we know. That Zarqawi operated a terrorist network in Iraq, that we know. That he ordered the killing of an American diplomat from Iraq, and indeed had money come to him in order to do that, that we know. Are we getting a more...

BLITZER: This is Zarqawi you're talking about. RICE: This is Zarqawi that we're talking about.

BLITZER: But Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein were in a battle?

RICE: I don't think -- well, first of all, let's take with a grain of salt the notion that somehow Zarqawi and Saddam were in some kind of pitched battle.

BLITZER: That's what the report concludes.

RICE: No, what the report concludes is that some have testified that Saddam Hussein did not trust Zarqawi and that he was trying to find him. As I said, we are learning more as we have access to these people.

But the fact is that Iraq was a state sponsor of terror.

And what the president is talking about and what we've all been concerned about -- were all concerned about -- was this nexus between one of the most dangerous figures in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein, who had taken that region to war twice in a very short period of time, causing more than a million lives in the Iran-Iraq war and putting 300,000 of his own people in mass graves.

That link, his love of weapons of mass destruction, someone who had actually used them against his own people -- the link between Saddam Hussein, a dangerous figure, terrorists who he clearly harbored like Abu Nidal and his animosity for the United States, and his ability to build weapons of mass destruction -- in a post-September 11th world, letting that nexus remain in the middle of the world's most volatile region was not in the U.S. interest. And the world is better off without him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next, more of my interview with the secretary of state. She addresses the criticism that the Bush administration hyped bad intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein's regime and weapons of mass destruction.

Plus, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown on the handling of terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

And later, Democrats are taking on President Bush over national security. And Senator John Kerry is among those leading the charge.

We'll talk with the former Democratic presidential nominee. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Let's get to part two of my interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who's strongly defending the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: There are several other countries on the State Department list of state sponsors of terror, including Syria and Cuba and Iran, North Korea. And the United States has not gone to war to depose their leaders.

RICE: Well, but Saddam Hussein was special in this case. This is somebody against whom we went to war in 1991.

BLITZER: But wasn't he contained -- with hindsight...

RICE: No, I simply don't buy that argument.

BLITZER: ... contained in that box?

RICE: No, absolutely not. This is somebody who was, with high prices of oil -- by the way, not as high as they are now -- was continuing to build his arsenal, somebody against whom the sanctions regime had clearly broken down -- you can't read the reports of the oil-for-food scandal and think that the oil-for-food sanctions were somehow constraining Saddam Hussein -- somebody who continued to shoot at our pilots as they tried to fly no-fly zones to keep him from attacking his own people or attacking his neighbors, someone who was paying money to suicide bombers to launch attacks on Israel.

BLITZER: So let me interrupt...

RICE: This was a dangerous man, and it was time to get rid of him.

BLITZER: So looking back, with hindsight, obviously -- all of us are smarter with hindsight -- no weapons of mass destruction, absolutely no connection to the 9/11 plot from Saddam Hussein -- is that right?

RICE: Well, it depends on how you think about 9/11. I think we've all said Saddam Hussein, as far as we know, had no knowledge of, no role in the 9/11 plot itself.

But if you think that 9/11 was just about Al Qaida and the hijackers, then there's no connection to Iraq.

But if you believe, as the president does and as I believe, that the problem is this ideology of hatred that has taken root, extremist ideology that has taken root in the Middle East, and that you have to go to the source and do something about the politics of that region, it is unimaginable that you could do something about the Middle East with Saddam Hussein sitting in the center of it, threatening his neighbors, threatening our allies, tying down American forces in Saudi Arabia.

We are in much better shape to build a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein gone.

BLITZER: So you have no regrets about going to war against Saddam Hussein? RICE: Oh, no, absolutely not. I think it is one of the most important historical decisions that an American president has taken in decades. And it is the right decision. Because when there are threats like that in a volatile region, you should take care of them and give yourself a chance for a better future.

BLITZER: This same Senate Intelligence Committee report says that the intelligence that you were getting -- your administration, the U.S. government -- from Ahmed Chalabi, one of the Iraqi exile leaders and his Iraqi National Congress, much of that was fabricated and phony.

RICE: Well, the same...

BLITZER: Involving the weapons of mass destruction.

RICE: Look, Wolf, the same intelligence reports that it seems to have had -- whatever fabricated evidence there was seems to have had relatively little effect on the Central Intelligence documents the president was relying on -- the National Intelligence Estimate, the work that he got from the director of Central Intelligence.

Let's remember -- and people have short memories -- there were very tough sanctions on Saddam Hussein. Why?

Because the entire world worried about his weapons of mass destruction, because he continued to lie to weapons inspectors, because he created conditions in which they had to leave in 1998.

President Clinton ordered, in 1998, strikes against Iraq, because of these...

BLITZER: But we now know -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that he was telling the truth when he said he didn't have weapons of mass destruction.

RICE: But what we do know, also, from other reports is that he was retaining certain kinds of capabilities, that he never lost his intention to build these weapons of mass destruction. And I think this will unfold over time.

But when you ask, given what we knew at the time, was it right to take him down? Absolutely.

Given what we know now, was it right to take him down? Absolutely.

BLITZER: So you're still saying that. I want you to listen to what Senator Jay Rockefeller, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat from West Virginia, said, in releasing the Senate report on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV): The administration, in its zeal to promote public opinion in the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein, pursued a deceptive strategy prior to the war of using intelligence reporting that the intelligence community warned was uncorroborated, unreliable, and in critical instances, fabricated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RICE: Simply untrue. I have a lot of respect for Senator Rockefeller, but let's just review where we were before this war. We had in 1998 a vote by the United States Senate -- I believe unanimously -- that Saddam Hussein's regime was so dangerous that we needed to change the regime. It was called the Iraq Liberation Act.

We had, at the time of the war, a vote in which speeches were given on the floor about how the intelligence was unequivocal that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The entire world thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And whatever information turns out to have been in error was simply in error.

The administration was going on the basis of intelligence reports from the entire intelligence community that for instance said that he had reconstituted his biological and chemical programs and, unchecked, would build a nuclear weapon again. When you have that kind of information, you have a dangerous dictator in the world's most volatile region who has gone to war twice and used weapons of mass destruction, it would indeed be shirking the responsibilities of the president not to take him out.

BLITZER: But that information about reconstituting biological, that was wrong.

RICE: Well, Wolf, again, prewar intelligence and postwar intelligence, once you're in Iraq, you can learn things that you could not possibly know before you were in Iraq. But the fact is, the intelligence committee itself, many of the people who had the same access that the administration had, believed that he had weapons of mass destruction. It was on that basis and his danger to the region and to American interests that in a post-September 11 world, it was time to take Saddam Hussein out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Still ahead, more of my interview with the secretary of state. We'll talk about additional concerns involving Iraq and the U.S. military mission there. Is the United States heading in the right or wrong direction? But up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the latest on very sensitive negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Stay with "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We return now to my interview with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, John Kerry, who is going to be on this program later, he made a very, very stark statement yesterday. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY, D-MASSACHUSETTS: Be forewarned: Don't be surprised if they hype the Iranian nuclear crisis come October, if all other appeals to fear are failing as the midterm election approaches.

RICE: Well, I'm not going to try to speak to politics. But I think it's really quite remarkable when you have a statement like that when you've had the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors register severe concerns about the Iranian nuclear activity, when you've had the U.N. Security Council vote just a little over a month and a half ago that Iran must mandatorily suspend its enrichment activities, when you have the IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, saying he's not getting full cooperation from Iran.

This isn't the United States hyping a threat. This is the United States trying to build a coalition of states, all of whom know that Iranian nuclear activities are unexplained and troubling.

BLITZER: Do you have the support from Russia and China and even France for tough sanctions against Iran right now?

RICE: I think we will see that the world knows that Iran has not lived up to the promise, the promising opportunity that was given to it when the six powers got together to put forward a package of incentives. It said clearly to Iran it was possible for Iran to have civil nuclear power and civil nuclear cooperation. Iran has not taken that opportunity, and I'm quite certain, having not taken that opportunity, that the world will respond as the Security Council resolution demands.

BLITZER: With tough sanctions?

RICE: There will be, I'm quite certain, sanctions that demonstrate to Iran that it can't continue on this course.

Now, Wolf, it is true that people want to leave open the path of negotiations, that talks are continuing. But Iran also needs to understand, and I think will understand, that the world is prepared to act on the resolution that it passed just six weeks ago.

BLITZER: Most of Iran's revenue comes from the export of oil. It's a major oil exporting country.

Should the United States propose sanctions on Iraqi oil exports?

RICE: On Iranian exports?

BLITZER: Excuse me -- on Iranian oil exports?

RICE: The issue here is not Iranian oil exports.

BLITZER: Why not get them where it would be the most painful?

RICE: Because we believe that the key here is perhaps on the financial side. There are things that you can do to cut off financing to Iran's programs, to make clear to Iran that it will not be able to take advantage of the international financial system in the way that it needs to to be able to use those proceeds from oil.

Everybody jumps to the notion that oil and gas sanctions are the next best thing. We have developed, with our partners, a list of potential sanctions.

I think we will want to match those to Iranian activities and to Iranian behavior at any point in time, but that there will be an international community, an international coalition that will make it clear to Iran that it can't continue on the course that it's on. I'm quite certain of that.

BLITZER: How concerned are you about Iranian influence in Iraq right now?

The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, scheduled to go to Iran this week. Your ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, saying, only a few weeks ago, that Iran is fomenting a lot of the insurgency against the Iraqi government right now, and urging attacks on U.S. military forces.

RICE: I don't think there is any doubt that Iran is a negative force, particularly in the South of the country, in encouraging some of these militia activities.

But I don't see a problem with Prime Minister Maliki going to Iran. It's a neighbor of Iraq. They do have diplomatic relations. I think the Iranians -- the Iraqis will carry very strong messages that they expect Iran to behave like a good neighbor, not a neighbor that is trying to destabilize the country.

BLITZER: You're not concerned that Iran, Iran right now is effectively winning in terms of influence, influencing the shape of a future Iraq?

RICE: I have no doubts that the Iraqis, having thrown off the yoke of Saddam Hussein, do not wish to replace it with the yoke of Ayatollah Khamenei. And they are fiercely independent people. They want good relations with their neighbors, but they also want the capacity and the ability to chart their own future.

BLITZER: Is there a civil war in Iraq right now?

I say it in this context, and I'll read to you what Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on August 6th. He said, "Are we going to put our troops in the middle of a civil war? Who are they going to fight? This will be slaughter of immense proportions. The American people will not put up with it. The leadership in Congress will not put up with it. We cannot put American troops and ask them to do the things that we're asking them to do in the middle of a civil war, and that's where it's headed."

RICE: Well, there is sectarian violence, a lot of it, by the way, set off because Al Qaida in Iraq, under Zarqawi, had a plan to try to set Shia against Sunni and vice versa. And to a certain extent, some of that has taken place.

But the idea that, somehow, they've fallen into civil war because there is sectarian violence, I think, is simply not right.

The Iraqis continue to try to build a government of national unity in which Kurds and Sunni and Shia are trying to work out the political bargains that will finally allow Iraqis to use political institutions, not violence and repression, to work out their differences. They are building a national army. They've done well in building their national army. It's respected across Iraq.

I think they've had more trouble building police that are non- sectarian. And there, the change in the Ministry of Interior is believed to be having an effect. It's the minister of interior who is indeed dedicated to police...

BLITZER: Because the violence in Iraq today is as bad if not worse than it's been in the past three and a half years.

RICE: And it will take some time for this young government to get its hands around this, to get security forces. The Baghdad security plan, we believe, is having some effect. But of course, violent people can always engage in kidnappings or killings or suicide bombings.

What's harder to show is the commitment of many, many Iraqis, most Iraqis, including most Iraqi leaders, to finding a political bargain that will allow them to exist as one country. That's what they want. That's what they're working toward. And we are expressing confidence in them as they seek that future.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time. A quick question on the Israeli-Lebanese issue: The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 called for the unconditional release of those two Israeli soldiers that sparked the most recent war between Israel and Hezbollah; also for the disarming of Hezbollah.

That's an old resolution as well, going back to the year 2004.

Is there any progress being made on either of those fronts, the unconditional release of the soldiers and the disarming of Hezbollah?

RICE: Well, certainly on the unconditional release of the soldiers, it has to happen. And I note that Secretary-General Annan has said that he will use his good offices to try to bring that about. What has happened in Lebanon?

You have Lebanese authority, for the first time, central Lebanese authority, spread throughout the country, including the Lebanese army, into the south.

You have an international arms embargo against the rearming of organizations like Hezbollah, at the expense of the Lebanese government. You have German help for the Lebanese at their airport and an international naval force helping with patrolling the shores.

And you have a political process in which the Lebanese understand that they have obligations not to have armed militias running in the country because they want central authority to be in the hands of the Lebanese government.

Now, Wolf, it's going to take some time. Lebanon didn't get into this mess overnight. And it's not going to become a stable, fully functioning democracy overnight, either.

But they have made very big strides forward. I know that there are those who want to say that Hezbollah somehow gained from this latest round, but you know, with Nasrallah saying that, maybe if he had known that the Israelis were going to do what they did, he might not have launched this attack.

It makes you wonder, what is he hearing about how people are seeing Hezbollah? As this settles down, the winners here will be a moderate, democratic Lebanese government with enormous international support, financially, in terms of reconstruction and in terms of security.

And that will mean that the region will win. Because the kind of extremism, outside of normal Lebanese political channels, which allowed Hezbollah to attack Israel, unbeknownst to the Lebanese government and to sink the country into destruction, I think that you are beginning to see the creation of conditions in the South which will not allow that to happen.

BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it. Madam Secretary, thanks very much.

RICE: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still to come, here on "Late Edition," we'll get a very different perspective from former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Also, is the world ready to impose sanctions against Iran because of its defiance over its nuclear program?

The U.N. deputy secretary-general, Mark Malloch Brown, weighs in on that, the war on terror, lots more. "Late Edition" will be back right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush acknowledging for the first time this past week that the United States has been holding 14 Al Qaida operatives in secret CIA prisons around the world. The men are now being held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cub.

Welcome back to "Late Edition." U.S. allies have been critical of the Bush administration's handling of terror suspects. I spoke about that and more with the United Nations deputy secretary general, Mark Malloch Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mark Malloch Brown, thanks very much for joining us from the United Nations. Lots of issues on your agenda right now. Let's go through some of the major issues. But first I want to get your quick reaction to President Bush's announcement this week, a dramatic announcement that he was shutting down those secret CIA prisons around the world, bringing those 14 Al Qaida suspects to the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

In the same announcement, though, he left open the possibility he could reopen those secret prisons if necessary down the road. What does the United Nations think about that? And you speak for the U.N.

MARK MALLOCH BROWN, DEPUTY U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Well, look, I think relief that this is a step towards regularizing the justice system -- U.S. justice system as it applies to terrorists. Obviously we've repeatedly said that we're not very comfortable with Guantanamo Bay, but we also respect it's a U.S. domestic matter.

Our point really is that the U.S. would do itself a power of good in the world if it can put terrorism as much under the same justice system which, after all, is the most admired in the world, as any other crime. The domestic system, in other words.

BLITZER: When you say you are not comfortable with Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. Naval Base, the prison camp there, what do you want the U.S. to do, shut it down?

BROWN: Well, we've repeatedly said that, you know, while that's a decision for the U.S., that the fact that it is viewed as being outside the law and indeed has now been the subject of a Supreme Court finding just means that it's a sort of public relations black eye for America around the world, and compromises the issue of this being a war for freedom around the world that America is waging. It just runs against that. And I just don't think it is good for Americans politically or in public relations terms. And it's certainly not good for those there in terms of prompt, fair justice.

BLITZER: So you want the U.S. to shut down the prison there and take those prisoners, what, and move them to within the continental United States? Is that what you are saying?

BROWN: Well, yeah, look, we -- it is our colleagues on the human rights side of the U.N. who do this. We don't want to kind of take too strong a political position on this, but we've just repeatedly made it clear that we don't think Guantanamo Bay is a good thing.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about what is happening in Iraq right now. The United Nations understandably got a little gun-shy in Iraq after the bombing of the U.N. compound there. Shortly after the liberation, the U.S.-led invasion, Sergio de Mello, the U.N. official on the scene, was killed in that terrorist attack.

A recent Pentagon study entitled "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq" included this: "Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shia extremists each portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups. Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq."

What is the United Nations doing, if anything now, to prevent a civil war from erupting in Iraq?

BROWN: Well, while we've lowered our public profile in Iraq after the attacks on us, we have remained the second-biggest international presence there after the coalition itself, and have been very actively engaged in both the election process and the political reconciliation after the elections, and in the constitution-writing process, as well as in economic reconstruction.

But I can't disguise from you that, you know, despite the real efforts we're making, we feel pretty alarmed at the moment at the direction of things. This new government, lots of talented people in it, trying very hard, but it's not yet been able to stabilize the security situation. And there's still a sense when one visits Baghdad, as I did quite recently, that, you know, large parts of the population have still not been brought in to the political process.

So, you know, this is not an easy one.

BLITZER: Is it a civil war already?

BROWN: I don't think it is a civil war already. And I think one can get very semantic about the definition of that. But it is clearly an Iraqi-on-Iraqi conflict now, where Iraqis, even more than foreign troops, have become the principal target of the violence. And that has the potential at any time to roil out of control in a way which pits whole communities against whole communities. So it is very much an Iraq on the edge at the moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, more of my interview with the deputy United Nations secretary general, Mark Malloch Brown. We'll speak about the fragile peace unfolding right now in Lebanon, and whether U.N. peacekeepers can prevent another breakout of violence between Israel and Hezbollah. "Late Edition" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We return now to my conversation with the United Nations deputy secretary general, Mark Malloch Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's talk about perhaps the number one issue facing the United Nations right now, especially the Security Council, which would be Iran and its nuclear enrichment program.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1696 said this: "Iran shall suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA." That would be the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA report on Iran came out August 31st. It concluded with these words: "Iran has not addressed the long outstanding verification issues or provided the necessary transparency to remove uncertainties associated with some activities. Iran has not suspended its enrichment. The agency remains unable to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."

Is it time, right now, for tough sanctions to be imposed against Iran to force it to stop this enrichment program?

BROWN: Well, we are clearly at a watershed moment here. Because while some elements of the Iranian response to the P-5-plus-Germany, the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, you know, did express a willingness to negotiate, and when Kofi Annan was, a few days ago, in Iran, that was repeated to him by the president and others.

Nevertheless, Iran has not complied with what has been a minimum condition of the Security Council resolution and of all the international negotiators, which is that its enrichment program be suspended while negotiations take place.

So clearly, we are now moving to a critical showdown moment when some kind of enforcement action has to get under way in the Security Council. And, you know, exactly where we start, I think it's a matter for the key member states. We are very much leaving this to them.

And there are, frankly, evident disagreements amongst them. Some want to start with a fairly low threshold of sanctions and build up steadily if Iran does not come into compliance.

Others, the U.S. particularly, appears to want to start with a kind of healthier, stronger dose of sanctions at the front end. And they are going to have to work that out between them.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on, talk about the recent Israeli war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Is there any progress on this issue of these Israeli soldiers that were abducted -- that Resolution 1701 calls for the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers -- any prospect that they are about to be released?

BROWN: Well, you will have seen that Kofi Annan, during his pretty successful trip to the region, which dealt not just with the prisoner issue but lifting the blockade of Lebanon and, most critically, getting an expanded UNIFIL force deployed, that within that, he was able to say that he has now put in place a facilitation effort to try and secure the release of those prisoners.

Now, that is under way as we talk. And we have decided that we are not going to talk about it in any detail, for fear of compromising what is a highly confidential, discreet effort that could only be weakened if it is, sort of, exposed and attracts a lot of press attention at this stage.

BLITZER: Let's talk about something that you can discuss, which is the efforts to disarm Hezbollah, as called for in 1701 as well, Kofi Annan's telling The New York Times, August 29: "It's a constant balancing act in Lebanon. When people say the Lebanese army should go and disarm Hezbollah, you are asking for civil war."

Well, what does that mean, then? How do you disarm Hezbollah?

How do you make sure that only the Lebanese army has weapons, as opposed to various militias?

BROWN: Well, look, the initial, primary intent of the resolution was to stop Hezbollah attacking Israel. And I think that goal is very much, now, in place, with this expanded, very robust UNIFIL now deploying along the border, including with a maritime element, to make sure there is not arms smuggling across the sea into Lebanon.

And that force will disarm anybody it catches trying to shoot at Israel or bring in new armaments. But the second stage, disarmament of the existing armament hidden in southern Lebanon, was always to be dealt with politically.

In other words, the Lebanese, with U.N. support, had to achieve a political agreement which included Hezbollah giving up its arms. Now, that disarmament would then be, if you like, policed and monitored by UNIFIL. But the disarmament itself would come out of a political process rather than a military one.

And that's going to require a general moving forward on the whole of 1701 to make sure that the broad conditions for a long-term political agreement between the two sides are in place.

BLITZER: A full agenda for the United Nations, indeed. Mark Malloch Brown, thanks very much for joining us. BROWN: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And coming up: Just two months before U.S. congressional elections, are both Republicans and Democrats here in the United States playing politics with national security, in the war on terror?

We'll speak with the Democratic senator, the former Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry.

Also, the world's most wanted man still at large. We'll get insight from a terror panel about why Osama bin Laden continues to elude capture. Much more "Late Edition" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Every week, we spotlight two people who have made news that you may have missed. Here are their stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Mohammed Khatami: What's his story?

The former Iranian president he has been touring the United States as part of an effort to promote greater dialogue between western and Islamic states.

During his visit, Khatami said the war in Iraq has damaged America's long-term interest and warned that military action against Iran would only cause more instability in the Middle East.

He also urged U.S. Muslims to play a key role in promoting peace and security. He served as Iran's president from 1997 until 2005. He is the most senior Iranian official to visit the United States since Islamic fundamentalists seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Marion Jones: What's her story?

The Olympic sprint champion was cleared this week of alleged anti-doping violations. Reports surfaced last month that Jones tested positive for the strength-enhancing drug, EPO.

But a second test failed to confirm the initial results. Jones, who denies ever using performance-enhancing drugs, says she's eager to resume competition.

A sprinter and long jumper, Jones won five medals at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 and hopes to capture her second gold medal in the 100-meter relay at the 2008 Beijing Games.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And let's take a close look now at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States.

Newsweek features "The Boss Who Spied on her Board."

Time Magazine asks, "Does God Want You to Be Rich?"

And U.S. News and World Report has what parents need to know about MySpace, that Web site.

And a reminder that CNN's prime time coverage of the 9/11 anniversary begins tomorrow, 8 p.m. Eastern, with Paula Zahn. I'll be anchoring our coverage of the president's address to the nation at 9 p.m. Eastern.

That's followed by "Larry King Live" from ground zero, and at 10 p.m. Eastern Anderson Cooper live on the ground in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: And this is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We must not and we will not give the enemy victory in Iraq by deserting the Iraqi people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A promise to stay the course in Iraq. But is the U.S. presence there hurting or helping the war on terror? As President Bush prepares to address the nation on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Democrats sharpen their calls for a change of directions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: The president pretends again and again that Iraq is the central front on the war on terror. It is not now and never has been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Democratic Senator and former presidential nominee John Kerry is our guest.

Five years later, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks remains at large. Why is Osama bin Laden so hard to find? And is Afghanistan falling back into the hands of the Taliban? We'll ask Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad. Plus, insight from our panel, the FBI's John Miller, terrorism expert Brian Jenkins and CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Welcome back. Just ahead, my interview with the former presidential nominee, John Kerry, but first to Fredricka Whitfield for a quick check of what's in the news now. Hi, Fred.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred. Five years after the terror attacks, five years since we saw U.S. political leaders casting partisanship aside, standing shoulder to shoulder in the terror fight. This week, more sharp criticism of the president and his terror policies coming from his former rival for the White House, the Democratic senator, John Kerry of Massachusetts. Senator Kerry is joining us now from Boston. Senator, thanks for coming in.

KERRY: Glad to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Here's how the president this past Thursday summed up how the state is in as far as the war on terror is concerned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We've learned the lessons of 9/11, and we've addressed the gaps in our defenses exposed by that attack. We've gone on the offense against our enemies and transformed former adversaries into allies. We have put in place the institutions needed to win this war. Five years after September the 11th, 2001, America is safer, and America is winning the war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Two points he makes, America is safer and America is winning the war on terror. Do you agree with him?

KERRY: We are safer in small ways. We are not as safe as we ought to be after 9/11. And the fact is, there are more terrorists in the world today who want to kill Americans and the terrorists at the highest level of incidence at any time since 9/11. The president sees a different world.

BLITZER: When you say that the U.S. is safer today, I want you to listen to what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said earlier this morning on "Meet the Press" regarding this specific point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know how you can explain five years of no attacks, five years of successful disruption of attacks, five years of defeating the efforts of Al Qaida to come back and kill more Americans. You've got to give some credence to the notion that maybe somebody did something right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You want to respond to the vice president?

KERRY: Well, of course, some people have done some things right, and I give them great credit. Law enforcement officials and intelligence officials, cooperating with other countries, have succeeded in interrupting some cells. We all accept that. That is the least that we should expect.

But the fact is the bottom line, they took eight years to prepare in between the first bombing of the World Trade Center, I think anybody in law enforcement would tell you that there's an element of luck involved and they're grateful we haven't been hit. But there's nobody in law enforcement who will tell you that we are as safe as we ought to be.

Law enforcement can't even talk to each other across channels in certain cities. There's a level of unpreparedness with respect to chemical plants, nuclear plants, our ports and facilities. We still can't screen cargo that goes onto airplanes. I mean, it's extraordinary how much money has been spent in Iraq versus homeland security.

So, yes, in smaller ways here and there, of course, you can get on a plane and we're safer. Are we as safe as we ought to be after 9/11? The answer is profoundly no and the 9-11 Commission has given failing grades to this administration in almost every sector.

BLITZER: But you acknowledge -- I think I heard you say the administration does deserve some credit for avoiding another major terror attack on U.S. soil over these past five years.

KERRY: Well, I think there are law enforcement officials, intelligence officials -- look, it's what I said in the very beginning. If you'll recall, Wolf, I said that the effort to fight terrorists around the world is going to be primarily law enforcement and intelligence gathering because you got to find out who they are and what they're planning in order to go get them.

And, yes, there will be military operations here and there in that effort. What the administration has mistakenly done is turned the whole thing into this military context with Iraq at the center of it.

And, unfortunately, Iraq has made the war on terror more difficult. It has made the search for terrorists more difficult. It has pushed allies away from us. It's overstretched our military. It's weakened countries in the middle east. It's lost America's moral authority.

I mean, there are a whole series of things that, in fact, Iraq has done that have reduced our ability to be able to effectively fight a war on terror, and the president and vice president keep setting up a phony straw man. They say, we can't abandon Iraq. We're not talking about abandoning Iraq. We're talking about how one is successful in Iraq, and many of us believe the only way to be successful is to reduce American forces there.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to get to Iraq in a few moments, but I want to continue on this war on terrorism. The vice president on "Meet the Press" earlier today also said something very alarming about the next potential Al Qaida or terror attack against the United States. It wouldn't just be potentially 3,000 Americans who were killed as was the case on 9/11 five years ago but could be hundreds of thousands of people. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: The real threat is the possibility of a cell of Al Qaida in the midst of one of our own cities with a nuclear weapon or biological agent. In that case you'd be dealing, for example, if on 9/11 they'd had a nuke instead of airplanes, you'd have been looking at a casualty toll that would rival all the deaths in all the wars fought by America in 230 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's a lot of dead people. Is he accurate with that assessment?

KERRY: It has always been a threat. It has always been what has driven -- way before 9/11, way before the attack on the Cole, we have always talked in the intelligence community and in our military scenarios, threat scenarios, about the possibility of a bomb being reassembled here in the United States.

But here's the bottom line, Wolf. What have they done to secure our borders? What have they done to guarantee that containers coming into America are actually inspected and secure? I mean, if that is indeed the threat, the president is damning the administration himself by talking about it, because they haven't done the things necessary to protect America, and that's exactly what I and others are talking about.

Iraq has been an extraordinary diversion from all of these efforts, $325 billion spent in Iraq that could have been spent to put that technology in place to help us be more secure. Moreover, they took their eye off of Afghanistan, failed to capture and kill Osama bin Laden when they had him in the mountains of Tora Bora. And that's why we are more threatened today with an Al Qaida that is reconstituted itself in some 65 countries.

BLITZER: How worried are you, if you are worried, Senator, that the administration's emphasis now on the war on terror, Republican candidates saying Democrats basically are weak in fighting terrorists, that this could -- as was the case in 2002 and 2004 -- play to their political advantage come the elections in November?

KERRY: Well, that's exactly why I'm speaking out, and I think others have to speak out. They don't have an advantage. They've been incompetent. We have a Katrina foreign policy, and we have a Katrina effort with respect to the war on terror. We can do better. There is a way to make America safer.

And what I'm talking about is how you actually are successful in Iraq. We're not being successful today in Iraq. The fact is that General Casey himself has said that the large number of American forces delays the willingness of Iraqis to stand up for themselves. I think you have to get Iraqis to want democracy for themselves as much as we want it for them.

And the only way to do that is to begin to be clear about their assumption of responsibility. But nobody has talked about abandoning Iraq. What we're talking about is redeploying forces for success rather than standing still and losing in the current context.

The Senate Republican leader, the majority leader, Bill Frist, says your policy that you support, that other Democrats support is a policy of defeatism. In fact, he's got a new word he's coined for it. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: The "defeatocrats" is a pretty good name for the Democrats, I think, at this juncture. And let's see how the month plays out.

If the Democrats stay on their line of surrendering as a solution to the war on terror or cutting and running -- and, again, we'll have to wait and see; that's the way they left the message in July -- then I think that that's probably a pretty good word for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It's not just Senator Frist. Most of the Republicans are echoing that same offensive.

KERRY: Because they want to debate slogans, not a real policy for success for America. And they really, I think -- I mean that's its own cut-and-run policy because it's a cut and run from the truth, just as they've cut and run from the realities on the ground in Afghanistan and from the real way in which you reduce the number of terrorists.

Look, there's a simple test here: Are there more terrorists in the world today, than before 9/11, who want to kill Americans? The answer is, yes.

Are terrorist acts happening at a greater level today than they were at 9/11? The answer is yes.

This is a failed policy. And what we're offering is not fear. What they want to do is scare Americans. What we're offering is a real way to make America safe and a real policy to be successful in Iraq. It's very simple.

BLITZER: We're going to talk more about Iraq, Senator. Stand by. We have to take a quick break. We're also going to speak to Senator Kerry about his own political ambitions this year, down the road. What's going on on the campaign front?

Also, what's behind new deadly violence in Afghanistan? I'll ask that country's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad. And we'll ask a panel of terrorism experts, where is Osama bin Laden?

And what are the new terrorism risks?

Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're continuing our conversation with Democratic senator and former Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry.

Senator Kerry, as you know, Republicans are hammering you, saying you're being hypocritical in condemning what the Bush administration is doing now in Iraq, given the fact that you supported the resolution that authorized the president to go to war, including words like this.

This is what you said on the Senate floor back in October of 2002.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I am pleased that the Bush administration has finally recognized the wisdom of shifting its approach on Iraq. And that shift has made it possible, in my judgment, for the United States Senate to move forward with greater unity, having asked and begun to answer the questions that best defend our troops and protect our national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You supported the war, going into the war, and now you don't.

KERRY: Well, I supported the president doing what he said he would do. And we gave him the big stick to be able to provide for the thorough inspections in Iraq. And the president promised three major things.

He said he would do adequate planning. They said that they would go to war as a last resort. And they said that they would build a legitimate coalition and they would complete the inspections.

They didn't do any of those things. And I began to be critical of that. And if you played the rest of that speech, Wolf, it laid out very clearly those standards that I expected the president to live by.

And I said, if he doesn't, I won't support him. He didn't. And so I have been completely consistent with the criticism that I think was appropriate for a president who broke his promises about how you take a nation to war.

BLITZER: Senator Jay Rockefeller, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that the situation in the Middle East today would be better if Saddam Hussein had remained in power, as opposed to being removed, given what's happened over these past three years. What do you say?

KERRY: Well, I know what Senator Rockefeller is saying by that. I mean, look, we're all delighted that Saddam Hussein is gone. But in the larger context of our foreign policy and interests in the region, the fact is that they have made a mess of the policy in Iraq.

They didn't do the planning. They didn't put in enough troops. They didn't keep the army intact. They didn't keep a civil structure. Every mistake possible has been made. And there's been no accountability for it.

Now, I believe that Iraq is one of the great foreign policy disasters of all of American foreign policy history. They have over- extended our country. They have lost us allies.

They've taken their eye off of Osama bin Laden. They've reduced our ability to forge a legitimate coalition and other efforts to chase terrorists. They have hurt the United States's moral authority in the world, with Abu Ghraib, with Guantanamo.

I mean, this is an enormous catastrophe for American legitimate interests in foreign policy.

And the fact is that what Senator Rockefeller is saying is that, when you measure that against the boxed-in, completely held down Saddam Hussein, you've got to ask a question.

Now, look, I don't think it's worthwhile going backwards, Wolf. I think what we have to do is say, what do we do now?

How do we get our troops out of there?

How do we protect American interests?

BLITZER: Is Iraq already in a civil war?

KERRY: Yes.

BLITZER: Because I interviewed the prime minister, two weeks ago exactly today, Nouri al-Maliki, and he said this. Listen to what he told me. I'll read it to you.

"We're not in a civil war. In Iraq we'll never be in a civil war... the violence is in decrease and our security ability is increasing, and I want to assure he who loves Iraq, that is will never be in a civil war."

Is he wrong?

KERRY: By most standards by which experts look at what is a civil war, the answer is yes, he is wrong. In most civil wars in history, the average number of people killed is around 18,000. And it is violence, internally, of one group against another for one reason or another.

All those reasons are there and all that violence is there. And more deaths are there. The fact is there is a low-grade civil war going on.

Has it broken out into a full-scale, entire country engulfed?

No, it hasn't. And it is possible that it won't.

BLITZER: Are you supporting a flat timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal?

KERRY: I support it, Wolf, because I believe it is the way to pressure the Iraqis to understand the needs to coming together to assume responsibility for themselves. And every time the president says we're there for as long as it takes or the next president is going to make the decision about this, what he's doing is saying to the Iraqis who are jockeying for position and power that they have an endless amount of time within which to do that. The United States is going to be there and be their crutch.

That delays the willingness of Iraqis to stand up. General Casey, our own leading general, has said that. Moreover, Secretary Rice and others have said you can't resolve the differences of Iraq militarily. These have to be resolved diplomatically and politically.

And I don't see the kind of major diplomatic engagement, a Dayton Accords-like summit that we ought to be having, which is the only way to resolve the stakeholder differences, the differences between Shia and Sunni. That is absent, so by setting a date, you accelerate the pressure to create the diplomacy. You accelerate the pressure to be able to assume responsibility.

Finally, if you get two months away from the date and it's falling apart or there aren't enough benchmarks of success, you obviously don't want chaos and you're not locked in, but unless you get tough on the notion that the United States has got to pull out, I believe that this is endless, bottomless, and I think it's an effort without a sufficient strategy for victory.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Senator. A little politics. You want to run for president again?

KERRY: I don't know. I haven't made up my mind yet. I think if you've run before and if you've come as close as I did, and you obviously ran for a reason in the first place, those reasons don't go away automatically. But I have to take a look at whether or not the support will be there and what I feel about it, what my family feels about it, and I'll make those judgments over the course of the next months.

BLITZER: You still have a lot of money left over from the last campaign if you want to run again, is that right?

KERRY: Well, we have some left over but it's going to take a lot more than that. You're going to have to go out and raise a lot of money if you're going to run.

BLITZER: And you would decide when?

KERRY: Well, I think somewhere after the elections. Look, my focus right now is on winning Congress, winning the House or winning the Senate, winning both. And I'm going to be campaigning very, very hard across the country for candidates in an effort to change the direction of our policy in Washington on health care, on education, on the budget deficit, on our foreign policy.

There isn't one issue where this administration, frankly, has simply either failed to do the job or avoided doing the job, and you can look to border security and immigration as the latest example.

BLITZER: And you'll be doing that in New Hampshire tomorrow, right? KERRY; I'm going up this afternoon to help some candidates there, and then I'll be traveling around the country over the course of the next weeks.

BLITZER: A key state as all of us know, looking down the road. Senator, thank...

KERRY: Yeah, but I'm going to states that have nothing to do with presidential politics also.

BLITZER: Good. Thanks, Senator. Thanks very much for coming in.

KERRY: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: All right. Up next, NATO wants more troops in Afghanistan. I'll speak with Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad, and ask him why the Taliban is still such a dangerous foe and is the Taliban making a major comeback.

Up next, though, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including an earthquake that's rattled parts of the southeastern United States of all places. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Many in and out of the administration believe that Osama bin Laden is hiding somewhere along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

BLITZER: But why can't he be found and captured? Joining us now here in Washington is Said Jawad. He's Afghanistan's Ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, thanks for coming in.

SAID JAWAD, AFGHANISTAN'S AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Thank you.

BLITZER: Well, what's the answer? Why can't Osama bin Laden be found?

JAWAD: I think the reason is political constraint in the region. I think there is enough military power, intelligence gathering in the region, but from the very beginning, from the days of Tora Bora, Pakistan have not allowed hot pursuit of terrorists into their territory.

BLITZER: You think he's in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden?

JAWAD: I think by having more than 30,000 international forces in Afghanistan and increasingly building the capability of Afghan intelligence forces, we are certain that he is spending most of his time in Pakistan, yes.

BLITZER: When you say most of his time, is there other places he might be spending other parts of his time?

JAWAD: He might be able to slip into Afghanistan here and there but he is mainly spending most of his time in Pakistan.

BLITZER: The Pakistanis, as you well know, from President Musharraf on down, they believe he's in Afghanistan someplace

JAWAD: If he were in Afghanistan, there's no constraint whatsoever, political, military or intelligence-wise, to go after him, to find him and to bring him to justice.

BLITZER: It's not just Osama bin Laden. It's his number two, Ayman al Zawahiri, it's Mullah Mohammed Omar, the former leader of the Taliban. Where do you think those other two guys are?

JAWAD: There's been very recent reports about the fact that Mullah Omar is in Queta, Pakistan. Zawahiri, I really don't know exactly, but he is spending a lot of time in close area with Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: Because he makes very frequent appearances on videotape.

JAWAD: Right. And a lot of these people require connectivity to the outside world, which is not available in a cave in Afghanistan. And we also should consider the fact that a lot of the friends and associates of Osama bin Laden were found in major metropolitan centers, not necessary in caves or in the tribal areas, so the search should be expanded.

BLITZER: Here, Mr. Ambassador, is what a lot are concerned about Afghanistan right now, that the Taliban and other insurgents, for that matter, seem to be making a major comeback, and it could endanger the democratically elected government of President Hamid Karzai.

JAWAD: They are making a serious comeback. They are a serious security challenge for us right now. But the political process, the reconstruction process in Afghanistan is way advanced by now, and there is a commitment of the Afghan people, the engagement of the international community, more than 60 countries, that will ensure that we, Afghanistan, will never go back to the days where, when it was a danger for itself, for the region, and for global security.

BLITZER: Here's what The Washington Post wrote on Wednesday: "More than 1,500 people have been killed in combat and terrorist attacks this year as violence in Afghanistan swelled to its highest level since 2001, when U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power. Suicide bombings, once unheard of, are now almost daily occurrences. Schools have been burned across the region, and dozens of community leaders have been assassinated," including a major political figure today killed in Afghanistan.

JAWAD: Right.

BLITZER: Anything you can dispute The Washington Post with that assessment on? JAWAD: No. This is true. And this is -- there are two reason for this increased terrorist activity in the south of Afghanistan. The first reason is that in the past five years in most of these area, there were never a strong permanent presence of either the international forces or the Afghan security forces. We lacked the resources to be present there. The international community conducted sweeping operations and then retreated back to their military installation. That's one reason. And then the other reason is that the basis of the support outside the border is still operating.

BLITZER: The U.S. NATO -- the U.S. general who is the NATO supreme allied commander, General James Jones, he said this on Thursday. He said, "Let me simply say that what's going on in Afghanistan is, while not a complete surprise, certainly the tenacity of the resistance is a bit of a surprise. A certain amount of it in the southern region has turned out to be more than we expected."

He wants reinforcements. He says NATO does not have enough troops inside Afghanistan right now.

JAWAD: He is right. I think it's a matter of increasing by small numbers. What he is asking is a limited reinforcement, but more importantly, build up capability for these forces to have mobility to move around, and to establish in small group permanent prisons in difficult areas of Afghanistan, because it's important to conduct the sweep operation but we have to be able to hold them after the terrorists are gone. Otherwise, they will just go to the next province, or they go to the neighboring country and come back.

BLITZER: They used to say of President Hamid Karzai that instead of being the president of Afghanistan, he is really the mayor of Kabul, which is the capital city, because his authority outside of Kabul is limited. Do you dispute that?

JAWAD: He has been elected by the vote of Afghanistan. Eighty- six percent of eligible voters participated, and he is the man who symbolized the future of Afghanistan. Yet the ability of the Afghan government, which is symbolized by President Karzai, to deliver services, to be present in every corner of Afghanistan, is limited due to lack of resources.

So if, for instance, if the capacity of the Afghan national police force is built further, there will be less need for foreign soldiers. And our prisons will be permanent in many districts and areas which is prone to terrorist activities.

BLITZER: I want to get to the other sense -- very sensitive issue in Afghanistan, because it's becoming the world's major exporter of opium and heroin. I'll read to you what the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said September 2nd: "The news is very bad. On the opium front today in some of the provinces of Afghanistan, we face a state of emergency. In the southern provinces, the situation is out of control. This year's harvest will be around 6,100 metric tons of opium, a staggering 92 percent of total world supply." When Americans hear that in Afghanistan, close ally of the United States, that more than 90 percent of the world's opium supply is coming from your country, what do you say?

JAWAD: Well, it is a global threat. It's a serious threat for Afghanistan security and for the regional stability. The proceeds of narcotics feed into terrorism, but yet as I mentioned, it's a global threat that requires international cooperation.

We have been successful in some areas in certain provinces of Afghanistan, but overall we have to look back and see if the approaches we have taken in cooperation with the international community has been successful or not and adopt the mullahs that have been successful to other areas. Specifically cultivating narcotics, as mentioned in the report, is mostly in the south, areas where they are facing security challenges. And where we face security challenges, there's no development, and people fear -- there's no alternative for a lot of these farmers and in the narco traffickers, the terrorists are actively pushing the farmers to grow more poppy.

BLITZER: And make a lot of money on it because --and it becomes a source of, that money becomes a source for weapons and other sorts of attacks, potential attacks against your government, NATO troops, U.S. troops. We have to leave it there, Mr. Ambassador. You got a full plate on your agenda. Good luck to you.

JAWAD: You thank you very much.

BLITZER: Ambassador from Afghanistan, Said Jawad, thanks very much.

And coming up, five years after the 9/11 terror attacks, are we safer? We'll get insight on where things stand in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and more from a panel of terrorism experts. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." Joining us now to talk about what we've learned since the 9/11 attacks five years ago and what worries these experts more over the past five years and looking down the road are three guests.

John Miller is the FBI assistant director for Public Affairs. Brian Jenkins is a terrorism expert with the Rand Corporation. He's the author of an important new book, entitled "Unconquerable Nation: Knowing our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves." And in Kabul, Afghanistan, our CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen. He's the author of "The Osama bin Laden I know."

Gentlemen, thanks to all of you for coming in. Two of you have actually met with Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergen in Kabul, John Miller when you worked with ABC News. You met with Osama bin Laden.

Why is he so hard, John, to find? JOHN MILLER, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: I think it's the terrain and the challenges over there. If you stack it up against Eric Robert Rudolph, here was an American who was the Olympic Park bomber, who ran away into the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.

Using military assets, police, all the technology we have, we searched for him for a couple of years and managed not to find him until a police officer came across him.

Now, you put that against the overlay of the Afghan-Pakistani border area, tribal areas, where even the governments on both sides of that border have struggled to have any influence for generations, and it's a real challenge.

And once you've been there -- and I've been on that border; I've been at the checkpoints -- and you look at the enormity of it, then it starts to make sense. It's easier said than done.

BLITZER: Peter, you have an important article in today's Washington Post, in which you suggest that one of the problems may be a half-hearted effort on the part of the Pakistani government to try to find Osama bin Laden.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there's no doubt, you know, in terms of the senior Taliban leadership, not a single one of them have been arrested since 2001.

And it is the universal view of the U.S. military that most of that senior leadership is in Pakistan.

And then, you know, in terms of Al Qaida, yes, there's been a very good effort by the Pakistanis to arrest senior leadership of Al Qaida, but I think, when you look at bin Laden's favorability ratings in Pakistan, scoring 65 percent in a poll taken in 2004, I can't think of a Pakistani political figure with higher favorability ratings.

And so, for any Pakistani government -- I'm not singling the Musharraf government out here -- I'm just saying it would be a tough one to go after bin Laden, who, after all is a very popular guy.

I think it would be political dynamite for the Pakistanis to be really involved in a snatch operation on bin Laden.

BLITZER: Brian Jenkins, I've known you for many years. You deal with the nuts and bolts of counterterrorism, fighting terrorists.

How much of a difference would it make, practically, if the U.S. captured or killed Osama bin Laden?

BRIAN JENKINS, RAND CORPORATION: I think, Wolf, it would make less of a difference now than it perhaps would have five years ago.

Certainly, he has helped formulate this jihadist ideology, which has, since 9/11, really transcended the original organization of Al Qaida and become a source of inspiration that persuades young men to turn themselves into terrorist weapons. And he has continued to communicate over this five-year period.

But this is a phenomenon, now, which has gone beyond bin Laden. They would lose one effective communicator. It would not end the radicalization process that is continuing worldwide.

BLITZER: You agree, John?

MILLER: I do. I think it would be a very important symbolic victory, but if you go over the six terrorist plots that have been designated against U.S. targets over, not the five years since 9/11, over the last 12 months, that the FBI has had a major hand in disrupting each one of them, there are only a couple of them out of that six that have any discernible involvement by main Al Qaida.

It has been much more, as Brian suggests, the Al Qaida acolytes out there who are hearing the call on those videos from Zawahiri, from bin Laden, from Azzam and others, and rising up to that call, that are following those sites on the Internet that not only tell them what Al Qaida would like or expect from them but then link them to the manuals and the training to do it.

In some ways, the Internet has become the new Afghanistan.

BLITZER: We did see, Peter Bergen, a new videotape that was released in recent days, showing Osama bin Laden five years ago, meeting with some of the hijackers, presumably in Afghanistan, in some of that rugged terrain, that video coming out.

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary. How nervous should Americans be, and others around the world, Peter, who might be watching this program, that there could be some terror plot that could unfold on this fifth anniversary?

BERGEN: Certainly, Al Qaida wants to mark the fifth anniversary. But in my view, and I'd be interested in John's view, the averted airliner plot in London, the attempt to bring down multiple American passenger jets with liquid explosives, which I believe has some Al Qaida component, may have been the one big shot deal they wanted to do.

And I don't think, if there is a Plan B, it may be a bit like Zacarias Moussaoui, the not very effective, so-called 20th hijacker or Richard Reid, the not very effective so-called shoe bomber.

Certainly, they will want to mark the date. As you pointed out they, released this historical videotape. And I think that rather begs the question, you know, where is the contemporaneous videotape or audiotape from Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Are they lost in the pipeline between the tribal areas in Pakistan and al-Jazeera? Are they on the way?

It would be very, very weird, in my view, Wolf, if we didn't hear from either or both of them in the next few days. Because this is something they want to remind Americans and their followers about the dreadful attacks on 9/11. BLITZER: We're going to pick that thought, up precisely. We'll take a quick break. We'll get the views of our other panelists about tomorrow.

Should the world be worried that Al Qaida could take action on this fifth anniversary?

Much more of our "Late Edition" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're continuing our conversation with our terrorism panel.

CNN analyst Peter Bergen is in Afghanistan. He's in Kabul. Here in Washington, the assistant director of the FBI for Public Affair, John Miller and Brian Jenkins, the terrorism expert with the Rand Corporation.

Brian, how worried should Americans be tomorrow?

JENKINS: You know, certainly there's a possibility of something taking place on the anniversary. Someone may try something.

But the fact is, our operative presumption has to always be, every day, that there could be a terrorist plot.

We've seen more than 30 large-scale terrorist attacks, across the planet, since 9/11. A lot more plots have been discovered and thwarted. They are continuing to come out of the chutes and try to launch some sort of an attack every few weeks.

So it's not just one day. It's a matter of the day before that day and the day after. Their operational code is lie in wait; attack when we are inattentive, keep operations going.

BLITZER: John, you work for the FBI. Is the FBI taking special precautions tomorrow?

MILLER: Well, I think as Brian said, we're almost on that level of alert all the time. In the past 12 months, not five years but in the past year alone, we've seen five active terrorist plots on U.S. soil that between the joint terrorism task forces that we tripled and the number of analysts that we've doubled since 9/11, we've been able to thwart.

That's a high level of operational tempo largely by homegrown entities here inspired by Al Qaida as opposed to run by Al Qaida. We have seen in a couple of plots some connectivity, or the appearance of connectivity to Al Qaida, we're still looking at.

But I would say based on that we will be looking out sharply tomorrow. There will be command posts operating. There will be people in joint terrorist task forces paying close attention to that, because as Peter pointed out, we have seen Al Qaida mark anniversaries largely through propaganda with a new message, a new video. I agree we can probably expect one more of those tomorrow. But as far as attacks, I think they had put a lot of their resources and their bets on that airplanes plot coming from London to the United States, but we'll be on alert anyway.

BLITZER: Would you be comfortable, John, getting on a plane tomorrow and flying to New York or Washington?

MILLER: Extremely. And the reason I say that is, that was a plot that uncovered that really ratcheted up security on a plane. And I think that air travel is -- has become an awful lot safer because of those enhancements, and on symbolic dates will probably be even safer.

BLITZER: You agree, Brian?

JENKINS: I do. We have...

BLITZER: Are you going to fly tomorrow?

JENKINS: Actually, I'm going to be here in Washington. I'm flying out very, very early on a dawn flight Tuesday morning.

BLITZER: But it's nothing to do because you're afraid to fly on 9/11.

JENKINS: Absolutely not. I get on airplanes all the time. And also, Americans have to make a distinction between those measures that we take in order to prevent a large-scale attack on the country because of the devastating consequences, casualties, economic impacts, psychological impact and the danger to the individual American. The individual American usually is at far greater danger driving his automobile or her automobile on a weekend or going to work than getting on an airplane and flying somewhere.

MILLER: Especially in L.A.

JENKINS: Especially in L.A.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time. Peter, I want to pick your brain on this very worrying comment the new Al Qaida leader in Iraq, Abu Ayyub Al-Masri made this statement on Thursday. He said to his followers: "I invite you not to drop your weapons, and don't let your souls or your enemies rest until each one of you kills at least one American within a period that does not exceed 15 days, with a sniper's gunshot or incendiary devices or Molotov cocktail or a suicide car bomb -- whatever the battle may require."

Quickly, how serious is this threat?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, I think this sort of may be in the area of hyperventilation. I mean, we've had a lot of statements from Al Qaida saying as a for instance, the United States is owed 4 million deaths in some kind of nuclear catastrophe. So, you know, I don't take that threat particularly seriously, particularly because in Iraq, the U.S. military is in a much more sort of withdrawn to the bases kind of mode than it was a couple of years back. And I mean even if they want to do these things it's a much tougher target. The U.S. military deaths have been falling over the last years, relatively speaking, because of this different posture. I mean, yes, military is not out there on the streets in the same way that it was and, therefore, presents a much harder target for Al Qaida in Iraq to attack.

BLITZER: Peter Bergen, thanks very much. John Miller and Brian Jenkins, thanks to both of you as well. Let's hope tomorrow passes quietly and that all the future days pass quietly.

Up next, in case you missed it, what was said about the war on terror on this fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. And coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week at War" takes you inside Iraq, Afghanistan, London, evaluates the war on terror five years after 9/11. John Roberts and "This Week at War" comes up right at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN Pipeline will be broadcasting all of CNN's coverage of 9/11 five years ago. It starts tomorrow morning 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Check it out. You want to know what happened exactly five years ago, CNN Pipeline.

And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States, all of them assessments on the war on terror five years after the 9/11 attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's changing and evolving to some extent. We've done enormous damage to Al Qaida, to the leadership of Al Qaida. We've captured and killed hundreds of their senior people. But by the same token, you've got one of the organizations, Al Qaida organizations out there now that have only a remote connection to the center. It is changing and evolving. On the other hand, I think we've also made to say I think we've made significant progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER, D-NEW YORK: The homeland security department has been a mess, and when you can say five years after ground zero we only inspect 5 percent of the containers that come on board, when we have no detection devices to guard against nuclear weapons being smuggled into the country or somebody bringing explosives into a railroad station or an athletic event, when our police and fire still can't talk to one another on their radios, something is wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9-11 COMMISSION: Where we are right now is in a very difficult place. There's no question the war in Iraq is radicalizing, even increasing people in that area. If it becomes as it seems to becoming a civil war, that civil war could spread outside the boundaries of Iraq to other areas. It's a very dangerous situation. In that kind of a situation, in that area, that's where terror likes to breed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We're not doing the job in Afghanistan. We don't have enough troops in Afghanistan. That's where the real war on terror is. That's where Osama bin Laden, five years after he killed 3,000 Americans, is till holed up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's your "Late Edition" for this Sunday, September 10th. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. We're on for two hours every Sunday 11 to 1 p.m. Eastern.

I'm also in "The Situation Room" Monday through Friday 4 to 6 p.m. and for another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget, tomorrow night our live coverage of President Bush's address to the nation from the Oval Office. I'll be anchoring our coverage starting at 9 p.m. Eastern. Tomorrow night, the president addresses the nation from the Oval Office on this, the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. For our North American viewers, "This Week at War" with John Roberts just ahead, right after a check of what's in the news right now.

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

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