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CNN Live Today
Political Showdown in the Senate; Seaplane Probe; Day Two in NYC Transit Strike; Saddam Hussein Trial; Patriot Act Hangs in the Balance; President Bush Speaks
Aired December 21, 2005 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Take a look at what's happening "Now in the News."
First to Miami. Crews are pulling up the wreckage of that seaplane that crashed off of Miami. Federal investigators have found a crack in the right wing of the plane which fell off as it plummeted into the sea on Monday. Investigators say the crack extended through most of the wing's main structure. All 20 people on board the 58- year-old plane died in that crash.
A Southern California freeway is shut down while police burn some of the 50 pounds of dynamite. The explosives were found last night in a warehouse along the 405 in Vani (ph). Authorities believe the warehouse was used for stolen goods. They don't think the dynamite is related to terrorism.
Crews are at the scene of a school bus accident on the Capital Beltway in Maryland's Prince George's County. None of the 22 children aboard the bus was hurt. The bus was headed to a Montessori school in Oxon Hill when it was rear-ended by a car. Authorities say the accident caused a chain reaction wreck involving at least three other vehicles.
Lawyers for New York City and it's striking transit union headed to court today as commuters found their way to work for a second straight day. Millions of New Yorkers piled into cabs and walked the streets in frigid temperatures. Talks remain stalled and a judge is charging the union $1 million a day for what he calls an illegal strike.
Saddam Hussein is back in court today in Baghdad. The former Iraqi leader appeared somewhat subdued as defense attorneys accused a witness of being coached on his testimony. Hussein and seven co- defendants are on trial in the 1982 massacre in Dujail.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld makes a surprise visit to Afghanistan. He met today with President Hamid Karzai, a day after Rumsfeld announced plans to pull 3,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Rumsfeld says that he went there to thank U.S. troops for their work.
A federal judge reportedly has resigned from the court that oversees government spying and intelligence cases. "The Washington Post" says U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson quit in protest of President Bush's secret spying program. Robertson was appointed to the little known federal court by President Clinton. Good morning to you on this Wednesday morning. I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta.
We're going to start this hour in Washington where a political showdown is brewing over The Patriot Act, a no longer secret domestic spying program and a bill to cut billions of dollars in domestic spending. We have live reports from the White House and Capitol Hill.
We're going to go first to the Senate where a crucial vote is pending on a bill to cut $40 billion in domestic spending. Expecting a close vote, Vice President Dick Cheney is on hand to cast a tie- breaking vote if need after cutting short his Middle East trip just to be back in Washington. CNN's Brian Todd is there with the latest.
Brian, good morning.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.
This is indeed expected to a very close vote on the budget reduction spending bill. There's some parliamentary maneuvering going on right now on the Senate floor. We can show you some live pictures of that. And as Daryn just mentioned, the Senate and some members of the administration did ask Vice President Cheney to rush home from the Middle East to be on hand to break the tie in case the vote was 50/50, which is a distinct possibility.
Now just to bring everyone up to speed here, this budget would cut about $40 billion over five years from the U.S. deficit. Some of that would come from home health care payments under Medicare. They would be frozen at their current levels. Lender subsidies would be reduced. That's about $12 billion or so from student loan programs. Medicare and Medicaid would also be cut. There will also be some voting later on the defensive budget bill.
But back to the spending bill, there were some very impassioned speeches on the Senate floor recently from the Senate Budget Committee chairman who basically expressed the importance that he and his fellow Republicans attach to passing the spending reduction bill right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JUDD GREGG, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: This is it, folks. This is the only chance you're going to have. This year is the only chance that Congress is going to go forward in the last eight years. The only opportunity in the last eight years to actually step forward and do something about deficit spending on the entitlement side.
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: This budget is un- American. In fact, as the leading clergy of the Protestants in this country have said, it's immoral.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That was the Senate minority leader, Senator Harry Reid, who has also characterized this bill as an attack on the middle class. The vote, as we said, expected to be very, very close later today. Vice President Cheney on hand to break the tie if need be. Some very severe budget cuts on the chopping block here. The House passed very deep cuts earlier this week. The Senate passed lesser cuts. This $40 billion here is the compromise between the two. It's a compromised bill, but again, the vote expected to be very, very close.
KAGAN: Brian Todd in Washington, D.C., thank you for that.
We want to head south now to Miami. That's where aviation investigators now have some pretty hard evidence in their probe of that deadly seaplane crash off of Miami Beach. The lead investigator talked to reporters earlier this morning and our Dan Lothian was there.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Daryn.
We'll get to that in just a moment. But within the past 30 minutes or so, crews behind me, if you can see that crane, have been slowly lifting large sections of that plane to the surface. We don't know if the actual fuselage was brought up, because there's a lot of mangled metal. What we did see were two wheels. We saw the left wing, as well, and then part of the tail section. And again, it's possible that the fuselage is part of that, but there's a lot of mangled metal in between that wheel section and the tail section.
Now it has been placed onto a barge and will be taken to a warehouse where the right wing, which broke off and investigators believe caused the plane to go down, is being analyzed. Investigators were able to get some new information after taking some pictures of that right wing and then analyzed them overnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ROSENKER, ACTING CHAIRMAN, NTSB: The examination of the wing root (ph) has found indications of a fatigue crack in the wing spar. This crack appears to extend through a majority of the spar at the location of the separation. This portion of the wing will be removed from the wreckage this morning and will be sent to the NTSB materials laboratory in Washington for a detailed examination and analysis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Now that wing spar, it's kind of like a beam. It's a support that runs through the wing. Obviously that is something that investigators will be focusing on. Other clues also they could get from additional videotapes. They will be analyzing frame by frame those videotapes taken by tourists. They will also want to listen to the voice recorder that they hope to recover from the tail of the aircraft.
KAGAN: Dan Lothian, Miami Beach, thank you. Back to you as more information becomes available on that investigation.
Meanwhile, sparks were flying at Boston's Logan Airport. Take a look at these pictures. This Midwest Airlines jet made an immediate return after air traffic controllers saw sparks on takeoff. The aircraft landed safely after burning off fuel over the ocean. Nobody on board was hurt. A landing gear problem is being investigated.
By foot, by bike, by cab and by car, millions of New Yorkers made their way to work. This is the second blustery day of the city's public transit strike. Our Allan Chernoff is check out the scene on the Brooklyn Bridge.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Daryn.
And as you can see behind me, people are still on their way to school or work or whatever. Being late, well there's an exception today, no doubt about that. Normally at this time, you wouldn't see hardly anyone walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe a couple of people.
But right now, still thousands of people coming off of the bridge. Most of them that we've spoken with, they're pretty much taking it in stride, very happy, saying that it's a beautiful walk. And, indeed, it is a gorgeous walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Anyone who comes to visit New York, I would highly recommend it. But it's something that you want to do at your option.
But instead, all these people, they have to do it because the subways, the buses, they are all shut down. The mayor himself, Mayor Bloomberg, he walked across a few hours ago and he said the strike must end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Can't break the law. You've got to go back to work and then back to the bargaining table and negotiate the way every other union has negotiated in this city without a strike. Strikes are illegal and the city is not going to tolerate it, the state's not going to tolerate it. The law and the courts are not going to tolerate it. You saw that yesterday and the judge fined the union $1 million a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHERNOFF: There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the transit workers union right now. Not only did a judge yesterday fine the union $1 million a day, but the parent of the local transit union here, the international, they have actually come out against the strike. Very rare to see a parent union actually opposing a local on strike.
The lawyers for both sides expect to be back in court today. The union is appealing that fine. Also, a mediator has been meeting separately with each side. But thus far, no progress. There are no talk between the transit workers and the Metropolitan Transit Authority scheduled for today.
KAGAN: And, Allen, this $1 million a day fine can really have an impact. I understand this union does not have deep pockets.
CHERNOFF: Not at all. Only about $3 million. So they'll be bankrupt before long.
In addition to that fine, the workers themselves are being fined two days' pay for every day that they are on strike. This, because the strike is illegal, according to a New York state law.
KAGAN: Allan Chernoff live in New York City. Try to stay warm there.
And we go to Baghdad now to tell you about more tales of torture emerging from a courtroom there today. The trial for Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein was back in session after a two-week break. Let's welcome in Michael Scharf. He was a legal adviser to the Hussein tribunal and a professor at Case Western Reserve University.
Professor, good morning. Thanks for being here with us.
MICHAEL SCHARF, LEGAL ADVISER TO HUSSEIN TRIBUNAL: Hi, Daryn. It's good to be on.
KAGAN: Today having another witness on the stand talking about terrible things that happened to his family back in Dujail.
KAGAN: But his, like many other witnesses, their credibility being questions by the defendants.
SCHARF: Well, the trajectory of this trial has been to start out with the first witness that talked about the chain of command. And then they had the witnesses that talk about what happened in the town of Dujail when Saddam Hussein retaliated against this city. Now we're seeing the witnesses who are talking about the torture that occurred to them and their family members in Abu Ghraib and all the executions.
But one of the things that has come to light with this witness, is that he did admit to involvement in the assassination attempt. And what the defense are trying to do is say, look, what Saddam Hussein did in your town and to you is what any president would do anywhere around the world if there was terrorism and insurgency. They've got to go in and root out the terrorists, and that was you.
KAGAN: Who ultimately will decide Saddam Hussein and the other defendant's fate? Will it be this judge or is there a jury?
SCHARF: There is a panel of five judges. The world only see one of them, Judge Amin (ph). But the defense lawyers and the defendants in the courtroom get to see the other four judges whose identities are being protected for their security. They will make the decision by a majority vote.
KAGAN: Michael Scharf, thanks for your insights today. Thank you.
SCHARF: Always a pleasure.
KAGAN: We will get the latest on the trial as it develops in Baghdad.
And as we mentioned, we are waiting on several live events around Washington this morning. President Bush visits wounded sailors and marines. He may also have a message for Congress. We'll have that for you live.
Plus, the Justice Department and Senate Democrats hold news conferences on The Patriot Act. We will bring those to you as well.
And on a lighter note, we'll check in with the U.S. Postal Service on this, what they say is the busiest day of the year for mail carriers. So if you see your mail carrier, say thank you. All right. We're back in a moment.
KAGAN: You might find your mailbox bursting with good wishes today. The post office is delivering more cards, letters and packages than any other day of the year. So does all that good cheer extend to the mailmen and women as well? Let's ask Pat Donahoe, the deputy postmaster general. He is at the postal service's national operation center in Washington, D.C.
PAT DONAHOE, DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL: Good morning, Daryn.
KAGAN: I bet that's quite a buzzing place today.
DONAHOE: Well, we've got a lot of things going on here in the national operations center.
KAGAN: How do you measure what's the busiest day and how do you compare it to other years?
DONAHOE: This is our busiest day. Today we'll deliver over 900 million pieces of mail. On a normal day, we deliver about 650 million. It's our busiest day and our employers are out there doing a great job providing that service to the American public.
KAGAN: Pat, if you could just stand by with me right here, because President Bush actually just spoke from the White House and we're going to get some comments from that. We'll try to get back to Pat Donahoe in just a moment.
First, though, here are some comments from President Bush. Or is this tape that we're getting in. All right. And here's President Bush. He's coming up to the microphones and making comments and we will listen in, speaking about The Patriot Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all. The Senate is debating two very important measures and I urge the United States Senate to pass the Defense Appropriations Bill. It is an important piece of legislation that provides necessary funding for our troops who are fighting in Afghanistan and in Iraq and who are serving our country around the world. It's an obligation of every member of the United States Senate to provide necessary funding for our troops on the front lines so that we can fight and win the war on terror.
And the second important piece of legislation is The Patriot Act. In order to protect America, the United States Senate must re- authorize The Patriot Act. The terrorists still want to hit us again. There's an enemy that lurks, a dangerous group of people that want to do harm to the American people, and we must have the tools necessary to protect the American people.
The Patriot Act passed overwhelmingly shortly after the September 11th attack. It has been an effective tool. It has worked. At the same as we protected the American people using The Patriot Act, we've also protected their civil liberties.
There's extensive oversight on this very important program. The Patriot Act tore down the wall between law enforcement and intelligence communities, which makes it easier to connect the dots before an attack. The Patriot Act also gave law enforcement tools to investigate terrorism that they have already got to investigate other types of crimes.
The Patriot Act is scheduled to expire at the end of this year. The terrorist threat is not going to expire at the end of this year. The House has voted to re-authorize The Patriot Act. And they left town because they thought their -- because their business is finished. The Senate is still debating this issue.
A majority of the United States Senate supports re-authorization. A minority of senators is filibustering and preventing the Senate from voting to renew The Patriot Act. The Senate democratic leader recently boasted about killing The Patriot Act. This obstruction is inexcusable. The senators obstructing The Patriot Act need to understand that the expiration of this vital law will endanger America and will leave us in a weaker position in the fight against brutal killers. It's important that the Senate act quickly on these two bills.
Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAGAN: Quick comments from President Bush. Answering no questions, just coming out and making a push for some action on Capitol Hill. He would like to see two pieces of business completed before the end of the year and before the Christmas holiday, encouraging the Senate to pass a defense spending bill and also to pass parts of The Patriot Act which are due to -- provisions of it are due to expire on December 31st.
Want to welcome in Elaine Quijano and Ed Henry to talk about this political battle that's taking place in Washington, D.C. right now.
Elaine, first to you and why the president felt the need to make this push at this time?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly, Daryn, the clock is ticking, as we all know. And President Bush, interestingly, one of the questions that he ignored as he walked away was about whether or not he would veto a three month extension as has been proposed by some. Now the president not answering that question. But earlier, his spokesman, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, not answering that question either, interestingly. Saying that essentially, this has been fully debated in the Congress.
And again, sticking to what President Bush said just a moment ago, that they believe The Patriot Act needs to be fully renewed because it's a vital tool, they say, for law enforcement. The president not answering that question.
Also, we heard him talk about the Defense Appropriations Bill. The president appealing to members of the Senate, talking about the need to make sure that the armed forces, of course, are supported with what they need. This is a critical moment, of course, in the war on terrorism. And the president appealing, as we know, the end of the year fast approaching.
KAGAN: All right, Elaine, thank you.
Let's bring in Ed Henry and talk about the other thing that the president was pointing out, and that's this defense spending bill. Not a lot of senators on Capitol Hill want a vote against that part of the bill. The complication is there are things attached to it have nothing to do with the military. ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Republican Senator Ted Stevens, very powerful, he's from Alaska. He's wanted for a quarter of century to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration. Of course, environmentalists have opposed that vehemently.
He has finally found the vehicle he thinks to get that through. It is this defense spending bill that you mentioned. But it's raised concerns mostly from Democrats, but some Republicans, about the idea of adding such a provision to a defense spending bill in a time of war. That this money should be going directly to the troops and should not be complicated by this side battle over oil and gas, over the environment.
It's nip and tuck right now. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid thinks he may be inching close to having the 41 votes he would need to sustain a filibuster over the overall Defense Appropriations Bill. Of course, that's going to lead to allegations that the Democrats are blocking money from going to the troops. Democrats will insist they're just blocking it procedurally, not blocking the actual money, and saying they just want to strip out ANWR, that's what they're going to try to do, and move forward on the actual money for the troops.
Senator Stevens pointing out, though, that there's a complication here. If you don't move forward on ANWR, the potential oil revenue coming in will help pay for relief to Katrina victims. And so he's saying, you strip out ANWR, you're not going to have the money for Katrina. Well then the Louisiana delegation is going to be upset. So this thing -- you start pulling pieces and strings and it starts unraveling.
Congress is very rarely here this close to Christmas. I can tell you, people up here are getting very grumpy. Lawmakers desperately trying to get home for the holidays. This thing is a mess.
One other quick thing on the budget. Overall you were talking about earlier with Brian Todd, the Democrats have won on their point of order. They're going to be able to send those spending cuts back to the House for some retooling. The Republicans, the White House, did not want to do it. The Democrats had 52 votes. No need to bring Vice President Cheney in for a tie-breaking vote there. But as we speak right now, on the Senate floor they're voting on the overall budget. They could need Vice President Cheney to break a tie on that one.
KAGAN: You're right, there is a lot to unravel on Capitol Hill. That's why we have the big brains like you and Elaine along. We're going to bring you back either in the hour or in the next hour, so we'll hear more from you. Ed Henry on Capitol Hill, thank you for that.
Much more ahead on that. Plus, we're going to check the weather across the country. That's coming up. Stay with us.
KAGAN: Let's go ahead and check out the markets. They've been open almost an hour. How about this little Christmas rally? The Dow doing well. It is up 75 points. The Nasdaq also in positive territory. It is up 18.
All right, you procrastinators, we are in crunch time. You have just four more days -- four -- to get out there and finish your holiday shopping. And that's true this year whether you're celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah. But the last minute dash to the store does not have to be traumatic. It can be zen. At least that's what Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis is going to try to convince us. Her "Top Five Tips" for procrastinators.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if I can promise zen. But, Daryn, let's be honest here. We're talking to fellas. Because fellas are always the late ones, right? KAGAN: This is true. This is true.
WILLIS: Am I right?
KAGAN: I do not think can you be called sexist by making this statement of fact. We know who still is out there.
WILLIS: That's right. So, guys, listen up. We've got some help for you here. You're still not too late. You can still send those gifts off even though today is the busiest mailing day of the year for the U.S. Postal Service. If do you it today, if you do it tomorrow, you can still get your gifts to your loved ones in time for the holidays.
Now if you're an inveterate online shopper, a great place to go for information on deadlines for shipping, because that's what you need to know now, is shopping.yahoo.com, or shopping.msn.com. And I have to tell you, the web page on MSN is called Procrastination Central.
KAGAN: Love that. All right. Fellas, you need some help, right, so get an objective opinion.
WILLIS: Right. Well, you know, when you're out shopping, sometimes you see something for someone but you don't know. Maybe it's a great price on an electronic gift that you think you might give somebody but you don't know if it's exactly the right thing or a good version of whatever it is you're buying. What if consumer reports could be right there with you to tell you if you're buying something that's really quality?
Well now they can. They're sending their product reviews to your cell phone. It costs you $3.99 a month. It's a service you have to pay for, granted, you know, maybe you don't want to do that. But if you do need help on the scene, it's a great way to go. It's called Shop Smart and they just started with a handful of categories, electronics, appliances, home and garden. But they're going to spread that out to more categories. And I think that's really helpful.
KAGAN: Let's talk gift cards because a lot of people are going that route this year.
WILLIS: Well, 75 percent of Americans are giving gift cards. And guess what, that's the number three thing on most people's list. People want to get them. Now the good news here is that you can actually send your gift card by e-mail, Daryn, how about that?
KAGAN: I like that. Although I tried to buy a gift card -- it was one big chain, and they said that you couldn't buy it online.
WILLIS: Really now?
WILLIS: Well I suggest Wal-Mart, Apple iTunes are two vendors who are e-mails gift cards for people. And if you're real world and you're really last minute, your driving to moms, right, stop at the drugstore on the way because more and more of these big chains are carrying kiosks full of gift cards from different vendors, different stores, different restaurants, so there are lots of choice. I know that's a cheesy thing to do, but if you're really desperate, there you go.
KAGAN: OK, "Top Five Tips" is about to get very controversial because I completely disagree with tip number four but I love tip number five.
WILLIS: Oh, my gosh.
KAGAN: But let's hear tip number four, be practical.
WILLIS: Well, you know, it's a really cold winter this year, and I think people really need help with their energy bills, saving energy, being warm. One great gift, and you know I love everything about housing, Daryn.
KAGAN: That's true.
WILLIS: A programmable thermostat. The gift that keeps on giving. Saves you lots of money. And, you know, compact florescent light bulbs. More savings. Heck, maybe even just, you know, a muffler. You might want to think about that this year. It's supposed to be pretty cold.
KAGAN: Nothing says I love you like a programmable thermostat. OK number five I love. You can't go wrong. The best tip you've ever give -- give the bling.
WILLIS: Oh, yeah, baby. Since it's you guys out there, it's the fellas who are late. You got to get some diamonds. You got to make up for it, you got to go for the good stuff. One great thing to know, men's nights at some jewelry stores out there to help you along the way if you're having trouble picking out the right thing.
Bluenile.com is an online store that still can get gifts to loved ones, whoever they might be. But, you know, there's a big scandal right now in the diamond industry. You should get a diamond independently appraised...
KAGAN: That's true.
WILLIS: ... just to be safe, because it's kind of scary out there. But, you know, bling is always very, very popular with many people we know, right, Daryn?
KAGAN: I'm telling you, can't go wrong. Cannot go wrong. Gerri, thank you.
WILLIS: You're welcome.
KAGAN: Good to see you.
It is do or die time for the Senate on the Patriot Act. And lots of people are eager to weigh in. We are -- well, we heard from President Bush, he spoke once. We also expect him to speak at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He is expected to have a message for Congress, even an additional one that we just heard.
We're also waiting for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to address the Patriot Act from the Justice Department. Top Democrats will have their say as well. We'll bring all of these events to you live as soon as they begin, so stay with us.
KAGAN: We expected a lot of action on Capitol Hill this morning. It's already getting underway. Vice President Cheney came back from an overseas trip early just in case he had to cast a tie-breaking vote, and that has already happened today. Let's go to Capitol Hill and our Ed Henry -- Ed.
HENRY: Daryn, that's right, just a moment ago, the vice president did cast a tie-breaking vote to push the Republican budget forward. But the Republicans lost the previous procedural vote. That means they will now have to send this budget deal back to the House of Representatives, which has already gone home but is technically still open for business, at least for minor business.
So the $40 billion in spending cuts being pared back, that's what basically got shot down. They're going to pull out some of the spending cuts, send it back to the House. They'll have to go through some procedural stuff. But the bottom line , the budget will move forward for the Republicans, but they're not going to get quite get all the spending cuts they wanted.
The Senate now moving forward. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announcing they're moving forward on the debate over the defense spending bill. The key there -- as we spoke a few moments ago -- they will start debating this provision over ANWR, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration, as Republican Senator Ted Stevens wants to do. It's basically nip and tuck. It's unclear whether or not Majority Leader Frist will get the 60 votes he needs to break this filibuster -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Ed, fascinating stuff on Capitol Hill. We'll get back to you. Other things now right around there, Bethesda Naval Medical Center. President Bush is speaking. Let's listen to him.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: ... do a really important job, and that is to be able to say to our country that any time anybody gets hurt anywhere, they're going to get the best medical care possible. And that's done right here at Bethesda, as well as Walter Reed.
And so we're here to thank the nurses and the docs and the healers and the volunteers who help put the smile on the faces of those who have been hurt, as well as their families.
One of the great blessings of our country is the fact that there are millions of compassionate souls who are willing to try to make somebody's life better.
I want to thank Admiral Robinson and Dr. Winkenwerder, Admiral Arthur. I want to thank General Kiley and Lieutenant General Peach Taylor, as well as Major General Farmer, and thank Tom Travis, as well.
It happens to be his birthday, by the way.
BUSH: His wife said, "Your birthday gift is to say hello to the president."
That's not a really good gift, but...
We're serving in an amazing time -- I say "we're serving" because we're serving together. It is a time when this nation of ours is facing unbelievable challenges.
There is an enemy that still lurks that wants to bring harm to the American people, and we've got to do everything in our power to protect the American people. That is our solemn duty.
There is a fantastic opportunity, as we defeat this enemy, to lay the foundation for peace for generations to come. We have a great opportunity as a generation called to act, called to protect America, to seize the moment and defeat this ideology with freedom.
You know, I like to tell people about how -- amazed isn't the right word, but how stark this story I'm about to tell you is to me, what an amazing contrast it is. And this is about Japan.
You know, my dad, as an 18-year-older signed up -- in the United States Navy, by the way. There you go.
And there were a lot of 18-year-old and 19-year-old and 20-year- old kids and some older people too...
... to fight against the sworn enemy which had attacked us.
BUSH: Laura and I just got back from the Far East, and I sat down at the table with the prime minister of Japan, talking about how to keep the peace, talking about how to deal with North Korea, talking about how -- and thanking him, by the way, for sending troops to Iraq to help this young democracy develop.
And it was that contrast between what 41 did and what 43 is doing -- that would be my dad and me...
... to sit down with a dad, which we're going to do here over Christmas, who fought the Japanese and his son is helping to keep the peace with the Japanese, says something had to have happened.
And one of my predecessors, Harry Truman, recognized the power of freedom to transform an enemy into an ally. That's what happened. And so Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy. And in that democracies don't fight each other, in that democracy is the best way to encourage a peaceful world, it's working.
And what we're seeing today is brave troops and committed citizens who are not only determined to chase down the killers and bring them to justice before they hurt us again, but understand that by spreading freedom and democracy we're battling an ideology of darkness with an ideology of hope, and we're laying that foundation for peace for generations to come.
The task at hand is one that requires determination and discipline and great faith in the ideals of human freedom and human liberty. And so coming here today is a chance to not only thank you for being a part of this incredible team of healers, but also being a part of this historic moment.
BUSH: Some day, an American president will be sitting down with a duly elected leader of Iraq working hard to keep the peace, and a future generation of Americans will be saying, "Thank God this generation of Americans stood strong for what we believe."
So on behalf of a grateful nation, thanks for doing your duty. Thanks for serving. Thanks for being an important part of this march for freedom. And thanks, most of all, for bringing comfort and aid and solace to those who have been hurt on the battlefield and their families.
We wish you a merry Christmas and a blessed 2006. May God bless your work. And may God continue to bless the United States.
KAGAN: President Bush speaking at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, thanking those who are giving service, also making a plug to try to get the Patriot Act passed to Congress, and he was making comments about that earlier as well.
Now while that was happening in Bethesda, Maryland. also watching another event taking place in Washington D.C. The Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff speaking. They are concerned about the provisions of these of the Patriot Act that will expire, if they are not extend before December 31st, if they're not reapproved. Just a few minutes ago, the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made these comment. Let's listen in.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In 10 days, 16 of the provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to expire. That would be bad for this country. It would have serious operational consequences for the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Generally, if we were to lose these tools, it would mean that certain authorities could no longer be used beginning January 1. It would mean that authorities that we use to allow us to be more efficient in responding to threats would no longer be available.
And finally, it would mean that we would not be able to communicate the way that we need to communicate. Certain types of information, for example, obtained from grand jury testimony or from criminal wiretaps could not be shared with the intelligence community.
It would re-erect the wall. It would create uncertainty. Bob Mueller tells me that his agents would be hesitant in sharing of information, wanting first to consult with the U.S. attorney or perhaps a federal judge when unsure whether or not the information could be properly shared. So it would severely hamper the operations of the Department of Justice.
There are critics, some critics of the Patriot Act, who say this is about civil liberties. They present a false choice to the American people. This is not a choice between civil liberties and the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act includes many protections for liberties. And that's why the rec for the Department of Justice has been outstanding these past four years.
The conference bill includes 30 additional safeguards of civil liberties. If you look at what some people consider the most controversial provisions, Section 215, the business records provision, and national security letters, under the conference bill it is now clear that you can consult an attorney when you receive one of these orders or letters.
GONZALES: It is now clear that you can challenge these in court. It is now clear that the Department of Justice has to make a public disclosure of the use of these authorities. It is now clear that the inspector general of the Department of Justice is going to be auditing the way that these authorities are used.
But this is not enough for some of the critics. Their fear of abuse is so great that they want to impose additional burdens on these authorities, burdens that are so great that it will in essence make them meaningless, useless to the law enforcement community, even though these tools have been effective and even though these tools have been used in a way that is protective of civil liberties.
If the impasse continues, when Americans wake up on January 1, we will not be as safe.
This may not be evident those first few weeks, or even the first few months, but we will not be as safe because we are facing an enemy, as the president reminded us this morning, that's very patient and very diabolical.
And so, that is what is at stake in connection with this debate about reauthorization of the Patriot Act. And that is why the Senate needs to act to reauthorize the Patriot Act and vote on the conference bill.
As the president says, the House has left town. We do not have the opportunity for an extension. The options are to either let the Patriot Act expire or to vote to allow the reauthorization of these provisions.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I'm happy to come over and join the attorney general in part of our effort to make sure that the Patriot Act does, in fact, continue in force into the next year.
I know that, as do I, the attorney general begins every morning looking at what the threats are and what's going on in the world.
CHERTOFF: And I know I spent a timeline awake at night worrying about what might come next.
The number-one tool we have in defending this country is intelligence -- gathering it, investigating it and sharing it. If we don't have the full ability to use the tools of gathering, sharing and using intelligence, we are putting very important weapons in the war on terror down on the ground and walking away from them.
And I don't think that's anything we can afford to do.
You know, we are lucky in this past year we have been spared a terrorist attack. And a lot of that luck is luck that we made because we were very aggressive in using these tools appropriately, but wisely and effectively.
Other parts of the world have not been so lucky. We've seen the damage that can be done in bombs in Jordan and in London. And the takeaway message from this is that the threat is still very much alive. Those who want to carry on the war against us are still committed to doing so, and they will continue to keep trying.
Our line of defense is a line drawn with intelligence and investigation. And the Patriot Act gives us the ability to do that in a way that respects the Constitution, respects civil liberties, but gets the job done.
Let me make one other observation. I spent a lot of years as a line prosecutor at the Department of Justice and as the head of the Criminal Division in this building. Many of the tools which we are talking about using in the Patriot Act against terrorists are tools that have been used for years, indeed decades, against drug dealers or people involved in white collar crime. And they've been used effectively, and they've been used without there being a significant impact on civil liberties.
The question I ask myself when I hear people criticize roving wiretaps, for example, is: Why is this something that we use successfully and prudently in the area of dealing with marijuana importers, but yet a tool that people want to deny us in the war against people who want to import chemical weapons or explosives? That makes no sense to me.
Why is it, for example, that delayed-notification search warrants -- which again, we use in all kinds of garden-variety criminal cases, with the supervision of a judge -- why should that tool be denied to our investigators when they're seeking to go into a house with a search warrant to see if there are explosives there or other kinds of weapons that can be used against Americans?
Common sense says the tools that have been used without any significant impact on civil liberties in a wide variety of cases over the last 10 or 20 years ought to continue to be available here against perhaps the greatest threat we face in this country, which is the threat of terror.
CHERTOFF: So I'm here to join the attorney general in urging the members of the Senate to finish the job that was accomplished by the House, that was accomplished by the conference.
We've been working toward this for four years. We've known this was coming. It's not a surprise. There's been a lot of debate. There have been, I think, two dozen hearings on this. There have been dozens of witnesses who have testified. There's really nothing more to be done but to complete the work that's been in process, really, for the last several years.
If we don't get that work done -- I agree with the attorney general -- we're going to wake up on January 1 and we will have left some of the most important weapons against terror in the cupboard, unavailable to be used by our front line defenders.
GONZALES: OK. We'll happy to take a few questions.
QUESTION: Attorney General, yesterday, Senator Specter wondered why you had said that it was difficult, if not impossible, to get Congress to reauthorize the FISA warrants for eavesdropping. (OFF- MIKE) How is it that you or the administration can enforce resolutions (OFF-MIKE)
GONZALES: Well, I'm here primarily to talk about the Patriot Act, but I will answer the one question, because I think I read the quote. Someone showed me the quote in The Washington Post.
What I said, or what I certainly intended to say if I didn't say, is that we consulted with leaders in the Congress about the feasibility of legislation to allow this type of surveillance.
We were advised that it would be virtually impossible to obtain legislation of this type without compromising the program. And I want to emphasize the addition of "without compromising the program." That was the concern.
GONZALES: This is the last question I will answer with respect to the matter relating to the NSA.
I have no reason -- I don't know the reason. I'm not going to speculate why a judge would step down from the FISA court.
GONZALES: But if you're asking about the legality of the program, I came out on Monday and explained the administration's position, the legal rationale for the legality of the program. We believe the president has both the statutory authority and the constitutional authority to engage in signals intelligence during a time of war of our enemy.
Any questions regarding the Patriot Act?
QUESTION: This is a combination question. There are reports that there were some domestic calls tapped into by the new NSA provision. What assurances can you give that that didn't happen? And is that becoming part of the debate about the Patriot Act?
GONZALES: Well, I don't know if it's becoming a part of the debate about the Patriot Act. I'm not going to answer the first part because I said I wouldn't answer any more questions about the NSA.
But as I said in my remarks, the way the Department of Justice and other government agencies have administered or used the authorities of the Patriot Act during the past four years, they have been analyzed and scrubbed and reanalyzed and rescrubbed. And the record is an exceptional one. We take very seriously what our responsibilities are in exercising these tools.
As Secretary Chertoff says, these are not extraordinary tools. They have been used for -- many of these tools have been used for decades in dealing with a wide variety of crimes.
Nonetheless, we understand that there are extraordinary responsibilities upon those of us in government in exercising these tools in a way to ensure that we exercise them consistent with the authorization and consistent with the protection of civil liberties.
QUESTION: Just to follow up very quickly. The people on the Hill, they're patriots as well. Why are they so adamant about fighting the provisions you want?
GONZALES: Well, that is a good question.
Secretary Chertoff is right. We've known this day for four years, December 31, we knew this day was coming. There have been 23 hearings just this year, over 60 witnesses. I, myself, testified three times. There's been a great deal of debate and discussion.
There is a process in our Congress about how legislation is passed. The House passes a bill. The Senate passes a bill. They each did that. It then goes in a conference to work out the differences. There is a conference bill that is produced. That occurred here. And now the House and the Senate should be voting on the conference bill.
If one body decides they don't like what's in the conference bill, if they decided to filibuster every time because they don't like what comes out of the conference bill, we would have very few laws be passed here in Washington.
GONZALES: We've had ample time and opportunity to review the authorities of the Patriot Act, how those authorities have been exercised.
There's no guarantee that in three months or six months or nine months that we will be able to reach a compromise or that the compromise reached would be one that would ensure the protection of Americans in this country. And therefore, we strongly believe the time to act is now.
CHERTOFF: Let me just add one thing, because I've got to confess, this makes me scratch my head sometimes.
I was involved, as was the attorney general, both in different capacities, in the original framing of the Patriot Act. There's been a lot of time to identify potential flaws.
Some of the potential flaws -- I think all of the potential flaws were actually acknowledged in the run-up to this reauthorization. The attorney general endorsed some changes. So I looked to see what's left. And it, frankly, puzzles me.
I see people expressing concern, for example, about roving wiretaps. And I say, well, why has that never been a concern with respect to all the years we used it against drug dealers or marijuana importers? Or for that matter, in the four years since we've had the Patriot Act, we haven't heard a problem with that.
I've heard concern about, you know, the standard for obtaining information with respect to business records. Well, that standard is higher under the Patriot Act than it is in garden-variety business fraud cases.
So, you kind of present the American people with a little bit of a schizophrenic situation here. On the one hand, in all kinds of garden-variety crimes, we have tools that we routinely use, are always upheld by the courts, day in and day out, and they continue on.
And when we deal with terrorists, which I think certainly are at the top of anybody's list of things we have to be concerned about, not only have we raised the protections higher, but now we're hearing complaints that they're not high enough. I don't question anybody's patriotism, but I do think you've got to stand back and use some common sense and recognize that what we're asking for here is adapting proven tools that have been used responsibly for decades in perhaps the struggle that is the most significant struggle we face in this country.
QUESTION: Attorney General Gonzales, if the Senate does not reauthorize this provision for the Patriot Act, does the president have the authority under Article 2 and the authorization of use of force to give the go-ahead for these procedures on his own?
GONZALES: What I will say is we continue to have hope that these provisions will be reauthorized.
To the extent that they're not reauthorized, we will look at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies throughout the government to see what authorities do exist. And we will do what we can do under existing authorities to continue to protect America.
QUESTION: Attorney General, members of the Hill have posed this open question, indicating that now that the president has used this authority, to use this NSA program, why is the Patriot Act needed at this point and what gaps does the Patriot Act fill when there is this program that you have already in existence that very few people know about?
GONZALES: Well, again, I'm not going to talk about the NSA program.
QUESTION: But that's part of the debate (OFF-MIKE)
GONZALES: These authorities have been effective. We can cite you example after example where these authorities have been effective. The authorities have not been abused.
The law enforcement community has been very adamant about the need, the continued need for this program. And for this reason, this program, the Patriot Act, should be reauthorized -- the tools under the Patriot Act should be reauthorized.
QUESTION: Mr. Attorney General, the president on numerous occasions has cited the example of the Iyman Faris case as to why we need to renew the Patriot Act. Yet, in an article in the New York Times about the whole disclosure of the NSA program, they also cited the same case, the Iyman Faris case.
(OFF-MIKE) Patriot Act essentially give you the authority to do that (OFF-MIKE) take place?
GONZALES: I don't know how to answer -- I don't know the answer to that question. I haven't read the New York Times story, so I don't know the answer to that question.
Mike, do you know?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Iyman Faris case as an example of why we need the Patriot Act?
GONZALES: I don't know that I have used that. No, I don't recall doing that. But we can certainly give you an answer. We'll go back and look at that and give you an answer.
Thank you very much.
KAGAN: We've been listening into Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as they answer questions. They were pushing for approval of the Patriot Act. Many provisions in the Patriot Act due to expire on December 31st, if the Senate does not approve them or come up with some kind of extension. But while they were trying to push the Patriot Act, reporters asking a lot of questions about the domestic spying scandal, a story that continues to dog the Bush administration.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent Kelli Arena, who was listening in as well -- Kelli?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, you know, this is really down to the wire. As you know, the House is gone, so any chance of talk of a 30-day extension out window. If the Senate doesn't move before it leaves -- and many of the senators have said that they wanted to leave by the end of business today -- 16 provisions of the Patriot Act will expire at the end of the year.
You heard both Michael Chertoff and Alberto Gonzales say that they believe that if that happened that the United States would be less safe on January 1st than it is today. I think one of the biggest issues -- I've been talking with law enforcement officials all morning -- and so that's where I'm coming from on this in terms of making these comments.
They have said, look, you know, the biggest thing for us is the wall. We've heard a lot about the wall. And on September 11, there was a lot of criticism about the lack of information sharing and being able to connect the dots. And they said, look, you know, when the Patriot Act was enacted, it tore down the wall between criminal investigations and intelligence investigations and so agents that were working side-by-side are now able to share information that they believe is relevant to each other's investigations and very helpful.
They said going forward, if that wall is re-erected, there's going to a lot of second-guessing, even on investigations that are currently underway about what they're allowed to talk about and what they're not allowed to talk about. That's just one example. So a lot of frustration.
But as you saw, Daryn, every time the administration tries to talk about the Patriot Act, these other issues come up. In recent days, of course, it's the National Security Agency, you know, eavesdropping ability that the president has allowed that has changed the discussion. So a lot of frustration on the part of law enforcement and the administration, obviously. But civil libertarians say, look, our concerns are legitimate. Do it right or don't do it at all. So it really is -- we'll see. If it doesn't happen today, Daryn, it doesn't look good for the act at all.
KAGAN: All right, Kelli Arena, Washington, D.C. Thank you for your take what we were just listening to live. We'll have a lot more on the Patriot Act, on the budget showdown in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. Also, national weather. Haven't heard from Chad yet this morning. We will get to that. Right now, a break. I'm back after this.
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