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Transcript for June 2 Guests: FBI Director Robert Mueller; Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla.; Vice Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., ranking member Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Copyright 2002, National Broadcasting Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. PLEASE CREDIT ANY QUOTES OR EXCERPTS FROM THIS NBC TELEVISION PROGRAM TO ?NBC NEWS? MEET THE PRESS.? NBC News MEET THE PRESS Sunday, June 2, 2002 GUESTS: ROBERT MUELLER Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Senator BOB GRAHAM, (D-Fla.) Chairman, Intelligence Committee
Senator RICHARD SHELBY, (R-Ala.) Vice Chairman, Intelligence Committee
Representative PORTER GOSS, (R-Fla.) Chairman, Intelligence Committee
Representative NANCY PELOSI, (D-Calif.) Ranking Member, Intelligence Committee
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS (202)805-4598 (Sundays: (202)885-4200)
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: For the first time, a top government official acknowledges the September 11 attacks might have been prevented if all the clues had been put together. What steps have, will, should the FBI take to ensure the same mistakes will not be made again? With us: In his first Sunday morning interview, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller.
Then: On Tuesday, congressional hearings begin. This morning: An exclusive interview with the chair and vice chair of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees: Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby, Representatives Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi.
But first: The man in the headlines, the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller.
Director Mueller, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.
MR. ROBERT MUELLER: Good morning, Tim. Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: The New York Times reported yesterday there was a director?s report on terrorism that was submitted months before September 11, which asked for more money, saying that the FBI lacked the resources to meet the threat of terrorism. And specifically, they asked for 149 new counterterrorism agents, 200 new analysts and 54 translators. On September 10, that request was denied. Can you confirm that there was a director?s report on terrorism and it contained these requests?
MR. MUELLER: Well, I can tell you that I have seen?I started on September 4, so what occurred prior to September 4 in terms of the budget review between the FBI and Justice Department I?m really not familiar with. But I have, since September 4, when I started seeing a report that relates to how we are addressing terrorism in each of our field offices?and since September 11, we have taken the substance of that report and changed the way we?re doing business so that, in each of our field offices and across the board for the FBI, terrorism, counterterrorism, is our number-one priority.
MR. RUSSERT: But did the report say that you lacked the resources to meet the threat of terrorism?
MR. MUELLER: I do not recall seeing that portion of the report. I recall seeing a portion of the report that evaluated each of the offices and their capability in their particular divisions to address terrorism.
MR. RUSSERT: In hindsight, to have refused those additional resources on September 10 is, indeed, chilling.
MR. MUELLER: Well, I?m not going to speculate on that. I mean, the approval of resources on September 10?as you know, in Washington, if it?s approved on September 10, we don?t see it until a year later. And the fact of the matter is, since September 11, Congress has been very generous in giving us the resources we need, both in terms of new agents, new analysts. And what is particularly important for the bureau is to upgrade its technology so that we can do a better job of taking the pieces and putting them in the puzzle and be more predictive in trying to address the threat of terrorism.
MR. RUSSERT: I?d like to go through a series of things we now know that we were not aware of before September 11; this is the public...
MR. MUELLER: Sure.
MR. RUSSERT: ...as an effort to look at a game film to find out what mistakes were made, as opposed to trying to judge people?s conduct or try to improve something in hindsight.
MR. MUELLER: Sure.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me start with now-famous memo of Coleen Rowley, the ?bombshell memo,? according to Time magazine. And she says: ?I have deep concerns that a delicate and subtle shading/skewing of facts by you??Robert Mueller??and others at the highest levels of FBI management has occurred and is occurring. ...I feel that certain facts...have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mis-characterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI...?
And she specifically refers to your comment on September 14, which I?ll show you and our viewers: ?The fact that there were a number of individuals that happened to have received training at flight schools here is news, quite obviously. If we had understood that to be the case, we would have?perhaps one could have averted this.?
And she says, Mr. Mueller?this was a memo the FBI received in July from Kenneth Williams: ?The purpose of this communication is to advise the bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universities and colleges.?
Her question is, her point is, you were not well served, that on September 14 you told the country it was news that something like this had happened or the FBI had been alerted when, in fact, the FBI had this memo in July saying there was a real possibility.
MR. MUELLER: The question is?
MR. RUSSERT: What did you learn from making a statement like that on September 14 and would you make it again?
MR. MUELLER: Oh, I learned a lot from making that statement on September 14. I had started the week before September 11. And September 11 happened and what we were focused on immediately on September 11 is trying to determine who the hijackers were, whether there was going to be a second wave of hijackers out there, and assuming that we could conclude that there was not a second wave and the planes could fly again, who was ultimately responsible, not just the hijackers, but who was responsible ultimately and then to try to prevent additional attacks. And consequently when we were trying to brief the press immediately after September 11, we gave out facts that were known to us at that point. I was no aware on September 14 of the memo that had been written previously in July and...
MR. RUSSERT: When did you find out about that Phoenix memo?
MR. MUELLER: Later in September.
MR. RUSSERT: And no one at the FBI heard you on the 14th and said, ?Oh, my God, he?s not aware of the Phoenix memo or he?s misleading the public??
MR. MUELLER: Oh, yes. I think there were. I had heard later in September that somebody in the field had called back and said, ?There is a memo out there,? but I recall getting the memo sometime and looking at the memo sometime later in September.
MR. RUSSERT: There was...
MR. MUELLER: Now, let me just answer your question again. Do I wish I had not made that statement? Surely. It?s one of those things?it was a mistake and I have to be more careful in the future, but I think also one has to concentrate on what the bureau was doing at that time and how involved we were in trying to determine how best to protect the country from additional terrorist attacks.
MR. RUSSERT: There have been suggestions that at headquarters of the FBI the memo was not treated seriously in July and August because there was a concern that to focus on Middle Eastern flight school applicants would be racial profiling. Was that a concern?
MR. MUELLER: Well, I think?what I?ve done is send the whole issue of how the July Phoenix memorandum was treated to the inspector general for a review of those facts. And that may well be one of the concerns, but I want the inspector general to look at the way it was handled. I know right now, for instance, that we could have done a better job in terms of the distribution of that memo to the CIA and to the agents up in Minneapolis, but I?m waiting a full report from the IG.
MR. RUSSERT: Also Ms. Rowley expressed grave concern about the way the information from the Minnesota field office was handled concerning Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker who was apprehended in August. On September 17, you were asked about warning signs, particularly in Minnesota in the weeks before the attack, and this is how you responded:
(Videotape, September 17, 2001):
MR. MUELLER: There were no warning signs that I?m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, Ms. Rowley watched that and said in her letter, ?That statement could come back to haunt you and the FBI.? So she said she repeatedly sent word to the FBI and to you, ?That?s not true. There were warning signs coming from Minnesota.? And she was frustrated because she never heard back. Do you remember hearing anything from Ms. Rowley in September which said what you said about Minnesota and warning signs was inaccurate?
MR. MUELLER: I don?t recall hearing anything from Ms. Rowley in November or December. I think it should remain clear that whether it be a Moussaoui or the Phoenix memorandum there was nothing specifically in either of those instances that gave a direct connection to what happened on September 11. And with regard to what was happening out in Minneapolis, the agents out there did a terrific job in following up on the lead that they got on this individual?Moussaoui?understanding that he was a threat to the country, assuring that he was detained and was no longer a threat to the country and consequently took him off the playing field in terms of his ability to participate in any such attack.
MR. RUSSERT: The concern from the people in Minnesota on the ground, FBI agents, however, was that a lot more could have been done. And she points specifically to the testimony of James Caruso, the deputy assistant director for FBI Counterterrorism, when he said: ?The FBI conducted vigorous investigation of Moussaoui upon learning of his detention in mid-August... In addition, information about Moussaoui was shared throughout the Intelligence Community prior to September 11th.?
And Ms. Rowley had this to say: ?We faced the sad realization that the remarks indicated someone, possibly with your approval, had decided to circle the wagons at FBI headquarters in an apparent effort to protect the FBI from embarrassment and the relevant FBI officials from scrutiny.?
She went on to say this: ?Nor did FBI headquarters? personnel do much to disseminate the information about Moussaoui to other appropriate intelligence/law enforcement authorities. When, in a desperate 11th hour measure to bypass the FBI headquarters? roadblock, the Minneapolis Division undertook to directly notify the CIA?s Counter Terrorist Center (CTC), FBI headquarters? personnel actually chastised the Minneapolis agents for making the director notification without their approval!?
So she watched one of your deputies testify, ?Oh, we put out this information,? when, in fact, headquarters resisted putting it out. And it was the Minnesota office that had to circumvent the headquarters.
MR. MUELLER: Well, the?all the events relating to Moussaoui are being looked at, not only by the inspector general to determine whether those assertions are accurate, but also by the joint intelligence committees, first of all. Secondly, I think it?s incredibly important that we do look at the weaknesses in the bureau, that way that we have not done things right. And that we correct those weaknesses and correct them in such a way that we don?t replicate that which had happened in the past. And what we are doing as a bureau is moving on to correct those weaknesses.
MR. RUSSERT: The concern the Minnesota agents had and the reason that Ms. Rowley wrote her memo was that she wasn?t sensing that. And twice?let me show you?first in October, these were your comments about the issue or probable cause. The agents in Minnesota wanted to look at Moussaoui?s laptop computer, and you said, ?When it (the Moussaoui warrant request) was looked at, there was insufficient probable cause?clear, insufficient probable cause.?
In December, you repeated: ?The agents in Minneapolis sought to do a FISA?? which is a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act??wire on a laptop...and the attorneys back at FBI determined that there was insufficient probable cause for a FISA, which is?appears to be an accurate decision.?
Now, let me show you what she says, and this is critical: ?The fact is that key FBI headquarters? personnel whose job it was to assist and coordinate with field division agents on terrorism investigations in obtaining and using the searches (and who theoretically were privy to many more sources of intelligence information than field division agents), continued to, almost inexplicably, throw up roadblocks and undermine Minneapolis? by now desperate efforts to obtain a FISA search warrant, long after the French intelligence service provided its information and probable cause became clear. Headquarters? personnel brought up almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts to undermine the probable cause. In all of their conversations and correspondence, headquarters never disclosed to the Minneapolis agents that the Phoenix division had, only three weeks earlier, warned of Al Qaeda operatives in flight schools seeking flight training for terrorist purposes!?
So why is this important? Because when you eventually got the search warrant, after September 11, and went into the laptop, there was the name of Ramzi Binalshibh, a man who was sending money to Moussaoui and to the other hijackers. In hindsight, in a very open way, have you determined that headquarters blocked the search warrant unfairly, that probable cause did, in fact, exist and if you had access to that computer in August, you might have been very far along the trail of apprehending hijackers and their source of funding by September 11?
MR. MUELLER: Now, let me just start by saying I don?t think you?re accurate in your assertion that Binalshibh?s name was on that laptop. But, secondly, there was an issue as to whether or not we could prove that Mr. Moussaoui was an agent of a foreign power, and that was the big legal discussion. And what I?ve asked to have done is have the IG look at the sequence of events to determine who did what when in the course of getting that search warrant, what the legal arguments were at what point in time, in terms of whether or not we had a basis to look forward to the FISA court and whether the FISA court didn?t approve that warrant based on the information we had. And to the extent that there was any? or any suggestions from the inspector general as to procedures that need to be changed for individuals whose conduct has to be looked at, I?m very willing to follow it.
MR. RUSSERT: But in October and December you already made a judgment that probable cause did not exist. You publicly stated that. In retrospect, should you have not made those comments?
MR. MUELLER: I made those comments based on what I knew at the time; the issue was as to agent of a foreign power. And what I?ve asked the?and should I have restrained myself and not made that judgment at that time? Perhaps. Because now I have the inspector general looking at it, and I want to see what he says.
MR. RUSSERT: This is how Time magazine summarized all this: ?In its most searching passage Rowley?s letter lays out the case that the FBI made fateful miscalculations by failing to see a possible connection between the Minneapolis investigation of flight student Moussaoui and the hunch of Phoenix agent Kenneth Williams ? posited in a report to HQ two months earlier ? that al-Qaeda operatives were attending U.S. flight schools. Law enforcement and congressional sources told ?Time? that both reports landed on the desk of Dave Frasca, the head of FBI?s radical-fundamentalist unit. The Phoenix memo was buried; the Moussaoui warrant request was denied.?
Have you asked Mr. Frasca for an explanation of that?
MR. MUELLER: As I said, the inspector general is looking at each of these instances. To the extent that there are procedures that need to be changed, we?re well on the way of changing those procedures. To the extent that there are individuals whose conduct need to be looked at, the inspector general is looking at that. And we are moving forward to try to prevent additional terrorist attacks.
My focus has been since September 11, first of all, to determine whether or not there were other terrorists out there who presented a second wave, and then, after that, to do the investigation on these hijackers. And then our effort has been since September 11 forward-looking to try to prevent additional terrorist attacks. And my belief is that the specifics of these investigations are important to look at, in terms of doing things better in the future, and the inspector general is looking at that and the Joint Intelligence Committee is looking at each of these issues. And I think?I would await to see their judgments based on these facts.
MR. RUSSERT: If you take everything that we now have in the public domain and look back in an objective way?and let me just run through the list now. The Oklahoma memo from an FBI agent in 1998 that Middle Eastern males were receiving flight training; the Library of Congress report saying that al-Qaeda was thinking about striking the Pentagon and the White House; Richard Clarke?s memo where he said something big?s going to happen here?a briefing at the White House with the FBI present in July of 2001; the Phoenix memo, which we talked about; presidential briefing, August 6, that the president got, and top officials in Congress got, that al-Qaeda?s thinking about hijacking; the Minnesota, as we talked about, the arrest of Moussaoui and an agent saying, in his note, that it seemed like he might fly something into the World Trade Center. It?s easy, in hindsight, but, in the future, will there will be someone at the FBI who will have all those clues on his or her desk so they can connect those dots?
MR. MUELLER: Yes. Yes. Since September 11, we?ve done a number of things to assure that this does not happen again. I brought in people from the field; Pat DeMoro, who was the head of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force for a period of time, who was an aggressive, knowledgeable supervisor on al-Qaeda for a number of years, to head up the counterterrorism division. We have two briefings a day, one a threat matrix that each of these tidbits of information would go into if they relate to a threat, and then I have a briefing book that is about two inches thick that I go through that has these pieces of information in there, anything that would lead to a possible scenario such as what happened on September 11.
And I think you?ve got to understand that we?ve got 56 offices around the country, and we have 44 offices overseas, all of them sending in electronic communications daily to our counterterrorism division. There is a torrent of information that comes in. And what we have to do better in the future is have the analytical capability, as well as the technological capability, to sort through that and pull up these tidbits of information and put them in the puzzle so that we can be more predictive on future attacks, and that?s what we?re doing. And that is what I am recommending to Congress this week that the Congress help us to do in the reorganization.
MR. RUSSERT: If someone had access to all those clues, could they have?could they have?prevented September 11?
MR. MUELLER: Could; I still don?t think it is all likely, but could, yes. I mean, I?ll tell you what I would?I mean, it would be nice if we had the computers in the FBI that were tied into the CIA that you could go in and do flight schools, and any report relating to flight schools that had been generated anyplace in the FBI field offices would spit out?over the last 10 years. What would be even better is if you had the artificial intelligence so that you don?t even have to make the query, but to look at patterns like that in reports. And that?s what we?re seeking to do in the bureau: to have that kind of predictive technological capacity.
MR. RUSSERT: You have made a lot of recommendations trying to transform the FBI, it was written, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Federal Bureau of Prevention, in effect allowing the FBI to do some things that had been traditionally, since the late ?70s, not allowed. James Sensenbrenner, who?s the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said this yesterday to the changes you?re proposing. He said: ?...FBI Director Robert Mueller to testify before his committee about why regulations on domestic spying that have worked so well for the last 25 or 26 years have to be changed. ...the Justice Department has gone too far... Why do we need to change them now? I get very, very queasy when federal law enforcement is effectively saying, going back to the bad old days when the FBI was spying on people like Martin Luther King,? [Sensenbrenner said.]
That?s the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
MR. MUELLER: I understand his concerns, but the two important changes in these guidelines are, first of all, they remove the restriction on the bureau from going into public places, including the Internet, without predication, without having some sort of lead. And we know?I mean, the bureau knows, that on the Internet there are chat rooms where there are individuals that chat about jihad, chat about what could be done to kill Americans. There is no reason in my mind why the FBI should be prevented from going into a chat room and learning about who is having these discussions. In fact, I would think the American public would be surprised that we are barred from doing that.
And it is, in my mind, an easily explainable change, particularly in light of the fact that we?re at war. I mean, we?re at war with al-Qaeda. And if you look at where we are now, we?ve got?I look at it in three ranges. Overseas we?ve got the military. That?s the first line of defense. Secondly, you?ve got the CIA, with the responsibility of gathering the intelligence. And here on the home front, you?ve got the FBI. And we have to work together with each of these other branches to assure that we prevent future terrorist attacks. And to do that we have to use the tools such as going into the Internet, such as going into places where the public, where you, where a police officer can attend, to determine and be preventive in terms of preventing additional attacks.
The other?let me just say, if I could?and I don?t mean to take your time, but the other...
MR. RUSSERT: Please, that?s why you?re here.
MR. MUELLER: ...but the other point is what the guidelines do is remove some of the impediments to the agents doing their job. In the past, it was a requirement that they would have to get approval from headquarters for opening what?s called a preliminary investigation. They can do that without that approval. It removes some of the bureaucratic impediments to the agents doing the job.
MR. RUSSERT: Under the new guidelines, could an FBI agent change his guard and go to a mosque and behave like a worshipper in order to hear what was going on in that particular mosque?
MR. MUELLER: I?m not going to go into the specifics of what can be done. We could go wherever the public can go given the new guidelines. On the other hand, I should say that I have read most of the books on the history of the FBI. It is critically important that we do not go back to what is called the bad old days. And in this war on terrorism, we have to be very careful to balance what we need to do to be more predictive in preventing terrorist attacks against incursion on the freedoms that we enjoy and that we?re trying to protect and...
MR. RUSSERT: Will we have to give up some of our civil liberties?
MR. MUELLER: I don?t believe so. I don?t believe so at all, but we do not have to give up our civil liberties, but in my mind in order for us to do our job, there are adjustments that need to be made to allow us to do our job in an area where we are trying to prevent an enemy in our country killing Americans.
MR. RUSSERT: On May 20, you were talking to some district attorneys about the threat against the United States. I should add that al-Qaeda put out a statement last night saying there?s another attack coming even worse than September 11, but this is what you told the district attorneys. ?It?s inevitable. ...There will be another attack. We will not be able to stop it. I wish I could be more optimistic.? Some have suggested that?s defeatist. Why did you say that?
MR. MUELLER: Well, it was a response to a question. It was not a warning in any way. We will stop attacks. We will stop attacks, and we have. I mean, initially after September 11, we had 6,000 agents working on the events of September 11. We now have 2,000 agents. We have state and locals on our Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country working to prevent attacks. We are working overseas with the CIA. We are working here with the CIA in ways that we never had been before and we have prevented attacks overseas. We prevented attacks in the United States. Do I think we will always be successful in preventing every attack? I cannot say that. I will tell you that I and just about every agent in the FBI lays awake at night wanting to make certain that we have done everything we can to assure that we prevent the next terrorist attack.
MR. RUSSERT: Because there is another one coming.
MR. MUELLER: I believe another one?s coming, yes. It can be tomorrow. It can be next year. It can be five years down the road, but there will be another terrorist attack. I mean, look, in my mind when I answered that question, you look at Richard Reid on the plane from Paris to Miami and a very alert vigilant flight attendant sees him trying to set off a bomb in his shoe. That was an attack on the United States. We were fortunate to prevent that one; we?ll prevent a bunch of others. We have in the past; we will in the future.
MR. RUSSERT: You will be testifying before the judiciary committees of Congress, the intelligence committees of Congress. Do you have any problem with Coleen Rowley who wrote a letter to you testifying before Congress?
MR. MUELLER: Not at all, no. As I have said, in order for the bureau to change, we need to open ourselves to both suggestions as well as criticisms as well as myself. I welcomed her letter and I welcome other letters that I may not agree with all that?s in that letter, particularly the suggestions, but I welcome the suggestions. When I go around the country and talk to agents of the bureau, what I say is the good news always comes to the top. That?s easy. What I need to know is the bad news. What I need to know is that which we need to fix and then move along and fix it in the ways that I?ve suggested to the Congress this week.
MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, The Wall Street Journal tried to offer you some advice. And let me show you and our viewers on the screen: ?It?s no surprise that President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft are standing by their man??Robert Mueller??Mr. Ashcroft this week praised him as a ?battle-tested leader? and the ?right man for the job.? The director could relieve their embarrassment by completing this week?s mea culpa with an honorable resignation. ...Without leadership and credibility at the top, no amount of bureaucratic reshuffling will make a difference.?
Do you have any intention of resigning?
MR. MUELLER: No. I?m just getting started on the job. And the beauty of the job is I have the opportunity to work with FBI special agents, the men and women in the FBI, who are remarkable and wonderful. And what gets lot in a lot of this dialogue is the job that they have done since September 11 in protecting this country. Within two weeks, they identified the 19 hijackers, within six weeks, they identified the fact that this was al-Qaeda, leading back to Osama bin Laden. Since September 11, they have been working day and night to protect the country from additional attacks. They are a wonderful group of individuals. It is the people that has made the bureau in the past, and I?m proud to be a part of it.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you feel embattled?
MR. MUELLER: No. I don?t feel embattled. I?m looking forward to working with Congress on these changes. I?m looking forward to making the FBI better, to put in place the intelligence part of the FBI that we need to build up, the technology, as well as the analytical capability. And it?ll be a much better FBI and a redirected FBI to this new mission.
MR. RUSSERT: Are we safer now than we were September 11?
MR. MUELLER: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. There?ll be other attacks, but we?whether it be the FBI, the CIA, NSA, Homeland Security?we are working together in ways that we hadn?t previously, and we are absolutely safer.
MR. RUSSERT: That has to be the last word. FBI Director Robert Mueller, thank you for joining us.
MR. MUELLER: Thank you very much for having me.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next: The chairmen and vice chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. They begin their hearings Tuesday on September 11. All four are with us this morning.
And: We?ll get their insights into the growing tensions between Pakistan and India. They are all coming up, right here, next on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Intelligence Committee hearings begin Tuesday. We?ll get a preview from the four important members at the helm, after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Welcome all. First, FBI Director Mueller?Senator Graham, do you have confidence in him?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM, (D-FL): I have confidence in the director. I think he?s got a very challenging task. One, he?s got to analyze what were the problems that led to the mistakes before September the 11, such as the failure to properly analyze and disseminate information. Number two, he?s got to make the case that the FBI is the right organization to take on this new responsibility. At the same time that in other countries they are making their security forces smaller and more entrepreneurial, we?re proposing to substantially enlarge the FBI. Question: Is that the right approach?
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Shelby?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R-AL): I believe he?s got a lot to learn. He?s an able man. He?s got to be determined to turn the bureaucracy around and make the FBI more agile, more analytical. I hope he can do it, but we?ll have to see.
MR. RUSSERT: Chairman Goss?
REP. PORTER GOSS, (R-FL): I think he?s doing well. I think he needs the support of Congress and the understanding of the American people about how tough this job is. We are going to have a national debate about privacy and your rights as an American citizen. And it?s important we have that. Congress is the right place and that debate is definitely under way now.
MR. RUSSERT: Representative Pelosi?
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA): I have confidence in the director. I think he commands a great deal of respect. He is new to the job. Was new to the job in September. What?I appreciate the fact that he was willing to criticize the FBI and make some suggestions. I am?I do believe that we need more analysts there. I think we all agree with that. But I am concerned that when the FBI misses a glaring dot, that they say we?re going to do more domestic spying on American citizens, and I think that that?s problematic, so I think we have to have some balance. He?s put a marker down. I think it?s fair game to appreciate it or criticize it.
MR. RUSSERT: Can Congress stop the FBI from implementing the new guidelines for ?domestic spying??
REP. PELOSI: Congress can pass a law to do whatever it wants to do. Yes, I think so.
MR. RUSSERT: Will that happen?
REP. PELOSI: Well, I think we?re going to have to see some balance, as I said. People talk a great deal about connecting the dots. Well, they didn?t even see the dots. They don?t understand the salience of the dots. The dots were there. It wasn?t a question of needing more collection on American citizens. Now, technology and the rest may demand?warrant that there be some expansion of how we collect in our own country but I think we have to proceed very, very carefully there, and those are the concerns that I have about the suggestions that he has made.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, let me clear something up for the country, if I can. There was a big uproar a few weeks ago that President Bush had received a briefing on August 6 about a potential hijacking by al-Qaeda, and a lot of charges and countercharges back and forth. Human Events reported that you said that we had all seen that information. Not in the same form as the president, but members of Congress had seen the same information. Is that accurate?
SEN. GRAHAM: First, I have not seen the briefing that the president received in early August. But I have read a summary of that briefing, and if that summary is correct, and I think it is, of what he received was essentially a historic presentation of the development of al-Qaeda, what they?d done in the past, and then some speculations about what they might do in the future. The specific reference that related to hijackers was based on a foreign intelligence source that was two or three years old. So I don?t think it is fair to expect the president of the United States to see that kind of information and immediately spring into operational mode. Had Congress seen most of that information, if not all of it? Yes, over time, not in a consolidated historic report that was presented to the president.
MR. RUSSERT: Does anyone here disagree with that, that they didn?t see that information?
REP. GOSS: No, I think it?s very clear.
SEN. SHELBY: No, we had it.
MR. RUSSERT: Everyone had it.
SEN. SHELBY: We had it.
REP. PELOSI: We had seen it over a period of time. We did not see it in aggregate as the president did that day. That is not to say that it was sufficient information, as the chairman has said, to warrant action on the part of the president, but I think the distinction has to be made that, for some reason, on that early day in August, someone in the intelligence community decided to put all of those events on one piece of paper. Interesting that what we saw in Congress in that same day, in that same 24-hour period, did not have the reporting that referenced hijacking. That was a distinction between what Congress saw and what the White House saw.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go to the hear?you want to say something, Congressman Goss?
REP. GOSS: I wanted to add a point to that. We?ve got a subcommittee that has been studying the problems of 9/11, and it?s been doing very fine work and its report is out in June; probably be in a week or two. And most of the material that we are talking about has been reviewed by that committee. Things that are beginning to leak out in dribs and drabs now are matters that the oversight committees have known about and have under control. And what I think we?re asking for is a little patience to get the report out so that we get it in context and don?t get led down the wrong path by isolated events. It?s very clear this is serious business, and we want to go on the basis of fact, not on opinion or spin.
MR. RUSSERT: Chairman Graham, you begin your hearings on Tuesday. What do you want to achieve?
SEN. GRAHAM: We want to achieve basically two things: First, we want to inform the American people as to what happened on September the 11 and the events that made September the 11 possible. Second, we want to learn from that experience and be able to recommend to the American people the reforms that we think are necessary to reduce the chances of another September 11 occurring in the future.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Shelby?
SEN. SHELBY: I think Senator Graham?s basically right here. I believe we have to have a thorough, credible investigation of all of our intelligence agencies: what they knew, what they didn?t know; what do they need? What are they going to need in the future? Because we?ve got to go back to do a postmortem to look to the future to make recommendations. The security of this country, I believe, will trump anything. It will with me. And that?s what we?re interested in, and we?re going to do a good job.
MR. RUSSERT: As part of this process of accountability, will heads roll if there, in fact, is a finding that people had not done their job?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I think there?s accountability everywhere, and it should be here. We should not look the other way. But right now we should do our job and let the accountability be carried out by the heads after all the facts are put together, as Congressman Goss intimated.
MR. RUSSERT: Representative Pelosi, what do you hope to find with these hearings?
REP. PELOSI: Well, I hope that the hearings will prevent another attempt or attack to occur in our country. That?s our main goal, is to protect the American people. In order to do that, we must find out what got us to where we are now. But as we do it, I think it?s important to understand how serious this joint inquiry is and what we owe the people who are affected by it: the families of those who are lost their lives. We are on sacred ground here. People died. They want some answers, and certainly, they want no other families to suffer what they have suffered. So I think that we are going to produce an excellent piece of work, and it?s going to be real. And again, it?s not only going to protect the American people, but it has to protect our Constitution and our civil liberties as well.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Goss, when you hear my discussion with FBI Director Mueller about the conflict between what was going on in Minnesota and at headquarters, ?Let?s get into his laptop. Let?s get that information out.? ?No, no, we can?t do that,? or someone at the FBI having access to the Phoenix memo, saying, ?Middle Eastern people are training and we arrested Moussaoui and this doesn?t all make sense,? what do you hope to find? Will people who had that information on their desk be called to testify? Will they be held accountable?
REP. GOSS: I think so. I think there are a lot of great questions out there that need to be answered. And one of the purposes in addition to what my colleagues have said already for our particular review is that we?ve got to have public awareness of what?s going on. We have to have public understanding of the situation, and very critically, we need the public?s cooperation. Coleen Rowley was a member of the public and she has come forward. We have whistle-blower protection for people. People all over this country are contacting law enforcement authorities about suspicious matter these days as they should be. We are on sort of a general alert as we know, and the president of the United States has asked us as an American people to be aware. Well, if you?re going to be aware, you have to know what?s going. So I think our hearings are going to fill a very critical niche.
Now, will we also be able to make a tapestry of what happened of all of these reports you referred to when you discussed with Director Mueller? The answer is yes we will make a tapestry. The problem we?re having now is that we?re looking and focusing on one little corner or one little part of the tapestry at a time as things leak out. And basically we are going down the wrong road as a result of that in the public opinion, and we?re not adding to public awareness. We?re adding to public confusion. And I think the media has to help us with that a little bit.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, someone who had both the Phoenix memo and the information about Moussaoui from Minnesota?will that person be called to testify before your committee?
SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, I anticipate that we?ll be calling a lot of the people who had the front-line responsibility of receiving the large volume of information which was collected, some of which you presented during your previous segment with the director. There is, I can tell you, more of that same type to come.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Shelby, Newsweek has an article today that two of the hijackers had met in Malaysia. The CIA had tracked them there and had monitored that meeting. They then came to the United States in January of 2000, but the FBI and the INS, according to Newsweek, were not notified. Is this the kind of situation you?ll be looking into?
SEN. SHELBY: If that?s true, we will be looking into it. And part of this goes right to the heart of communication between the various intelligent agencies, CIA, FBI, NSA, Immigration, you name it. It has not been a flow of information when people needed it between all the agencies. We?ve got to do better. And I believe coming out of these hearings, you?re going to see some specific recommendations.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Goss, you have the background of being a CIA agent. The cultures, the conflict between the FBI and the CIA?well chronicled?is that over? Is that a thing of the past? Are they now cooperating?
REP. GOSS: I wish it were a thing of the past. I think it?s much better than it was. And thank you for flattering me. I was a clandestine service officer about 40 years ago and I appreciate the reference. Things have changed. I?m not sure I?d be qualified today. But that cultural problem is there. Part of it is the esprit every agency has, every group has, every institution has, and you want to keep the esprit up and the moral up and the career path and so forth, but on the other hand, you?ve got to break down the stove pipes, these fire walls, that stop communications from happening. And, of course, that?s one of Governor Ridge?s jobs.
The question comes up: If there was awareness of hijacking in August of 2001, how come the air traffic controllers weren?t more alert to hijacking happening? I mean, if you see four airplanes off course and you?re an air traffic controller, why doesn?t that send alarms going all over the place. Those are the kinds of questions I think we?ll be able to bring some understanding to.
MR. RUSSERT: Representative Pelosi, are we prepared for another attack?
REP. PELOSI: We?re better prepared than we certainly were on September 11, thank God. In some ways, that would be easy because we were very unprepared at that time. And one of the things that our inquiry will do is to assess the performance of any of the agencies, not just the CIA and the FBI, but I hope that the inquiry will go beyond that?of any agencies that had a responsibility to prevent terrorism from happening. Again, I don?t want to see a situation where the INS didn?t do its job, so we have to have more domestic spying in the United States. The FAA was not appropriately alerted that hijacking? forget whether they were going into a building for a moment or not?that hijacking would have been enough of a tragedy. But a hijacking is happening. So we have to have more domestic spying.
The list goes on. The CIA did not tell the FBI, so we have to have more domestic spying. And we have to increase the communication. It?s really a tragedy of its own when the information existed that, if shared, could have prevented it. But what?s important, though, is that the FBI is now, according to the director, changing its mission. And if it is less geared to prosecution and conviction and more to prevention, than the opportunity to share is better because they won?t be hoarding information to?that they might think, if they gave it away, would jeopardize the conviction with the CIA, whose mission is, of course, prevention.
MR. RUSSERT: Before we take a break, Senator Shelby?
SEN. SHELBY: It?s baffling to me that the FBI had the information in the Phoenix memo, they had the information from their Minneapolis office and they don?t have any excuse, I believe, but?dealing with information because it was all in their lap and they did nothing with it.
MR. RUSSERT: We?re going to take a quick break and come back and ask all four of these representatives and senators about the situation in India and Pakistan. Are we on the verge of a nuclear war? We?ll talk to our Intelligence Committee leaders right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: And we?re back.
Chairman Graham, a scenario: al-Qaeda in Pakistan keeps fanning the flames, keeps sending terrorists into Kashmir, trying to provoke India into a war. They?re successful. India crosses over, invades Pakistan. Musharraf?s government collapses. Al-Qaeda gets control of a nuclear arsenal. Is that possible?
SEN. GRAHAM: That is maybe the ultimate nightmare, but it is possible. A more likely scenario is that there will be what?s been called a symmetrical conventional war between India and Pakistan, as they both try to show their strength and their resolve. The concern is whether that has the possibility of then escalating out of control. There are some lessons here, I think, for the United States. One is we should not have sat on the sidelines for over 50 years and let this Kashmir situation get to the point that it?s now exploding on us at a time of real crisis.
Number two, we?re going to have to be prepared to reassess our military operation in Afghanistan. Can we keep thousands of American troops in the theater when there is the threat of nuclear war? We know we?re just removing civilians from India.
Third, that is a critical issue because in my judgment, the answer to the question that you asked before the break?Can we defense ourselves better??the answer is not going to be found on the defense, but it?s going to be found on the offense. And it?s critically important that we are able to pursue the last stages in Afghanistan and move on to the next chapters of the war on terrorism.
MR. RUSSERT: Chairman Goss, could there be a nuclear war between India and Pakistan?
REP. GOSS: Yes, there could.
MR. RUSSERT: Could Pakistan?s nuclear arms arsenal fall in the hands of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?
REP. GOSS: I think that it could fall into hands of people who don?t realize the consequences of starting that nuclear war. I think that it is the hottest of the hot spots. It is a situation that has deteriorated. Senator Graham and I were over there about a year ago, and others have traveled, as well, to the same spot. We have watched this situation go downhill. It is being inflamed now, intentionally, obviously, so we have all the makings of a very serious matter. I cannot emphasize that enough.
Now, the question of who could start the exchange is, I think, anybody?if the balance shifts so dramatically that there?s a feeling of desperation. I think, then, the nukes could come out, and I do not think there is sufficient understanding of the people who have nuclear capability of the consequences of using that nuclear capability. That?s the danger.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Shelby, you just came back from that region.
SEN. SHELBY: I think it?s the most dangerous place in the world, potentially, and I expressed that when I was in New Delhi to the Indian prime minister, and also to the Pakistan president. I think they realize that. I hope it will not get to desperation, as Congressman Goss alluded. If it does, I?m afraid we?ll have a nuclear exchange, the worst of all scenarios. It?s an explosive, incendiary place, like we?ve never seen. I?d like to see them pull back, but Kashmir is the linchpin. I don?t know how we deal with it. Congressman Graham said we should have been dealing with it 50 years more ago. He?s right. We?ve got to do something. We?ve got to do better to diffuse it; otherwise, it will come again.
MR. RUSSERT: What do we do?
REP. PELOSI: I think it?s important for all of the leaders of the world to make it very clear to the leaders in Pakistan and India that the use of a nuclear weapon is outside the circle of civilized human behavior, that this is totally unacceptable. The entire Muslim world has to weigh in with Musharraf, and we have to weigh in with the Indians. I think both sides have played a game of brinksmanship where they have underestimated the extent to which the other side was willing to go.
And, of course, stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a pillar of the U.S. foreign policy. But, nonetheless, we watched while Pakistan developed its program without intervening as I think we should have. And India, of course, has been a nuclear state for a long time. But I think we have to remove all doubt in anyone?s mind that that would be again so totally unacceptable that if they thought that they would gain anything by using a weapon that it would be total isolation, not to mention the destruction that would happen. And we have American?we have our young people in harm?s way over there now. So we have even more of an interest.
MR. RUSSERT: That has to be the last word. Congressman Pelosi, Congressman Goss, Senator Graham, Senator Shelby, thank you very much...
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and your hearings start Tuesday. We?ll be watching.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.
SEN. SHELBY: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: And we?ll be right back with some final thoughts about the somber events last Thursday at ground zero.
MR. RUSSERT: This past Thursday, a brief respite from the debate in Washington. We as a nation witnessed the end of the recovery effort at ground zero: a ceremony of quiet eloquence, the ringing of the bells, an empty stretcher symbolically carried out, with dignity and respect for those remains unrecovered; the final steel beam of the once-tall World Trade Center, and the spontaneous applause for those who died, for those who rescued and recovered, for our country. Indeed, none of us will ever forget September 11, 2001.