Meet The Press Archive
August 19, 2003
Meet The Press Transcript - July 27, 2003 With Paul Wolfowitz, Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bob Graham and others...

I'll be putting up the video for this later -- hopefully this week. I'm still backed up through most of the summer on these -- but I am catching up and should have video and transcripts of every show on it's way to you. I'm trying to get a system in place so I can turn these around quicker.

Meet the Press - July 27, 2003

This is from NBC News - Meet the Press on July 27, 2003.

MR. RUSSERT: John Deutsche, former director of the CIA, testified before Congress on Thursday and said something that was quite striking, and I’ll put it on the board for you and our viewers: “If no weapons of mass destruction or only a residual capability is found, the principle justification enunciated by the U.S. government for launching this war will have proven not to be credible. It is an intelligence failure, in my judgment, of massive proportions. It means that our leaders of the American public based its support for the most serious foreign policy judgments—the decision to go to war—on an incorrect intelligence judgment.”

DR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, it’s interesting. He’s the former director of the C.I.A, and I’m sure if you go and read the intelligence judgments made when he was director, they would be equally emphatic about the existence of those weapons and those programs. President Clinton spoke in 1998 in words that are almost identical to President Bush that he has these weapons and if we don’t do something about it, I guarantee you someday he will use them. I think people should be a little careful about throwing around words like intelligence failure. It’s easy to to go around and play this blame game. I mean, let’s stop and realize that in a country like Iraq—and let me repeat—where children are tortured to make their parents talk, secrets are kept in a way we can’t even imagine. And let’s take some things that aren’t secret at all. We know that for 12 years Saddam Hussein did everything he could to frustrate U.N. inspectors. He sacrificed $100 billion in money that he could have spent on palaces and tanks and all those things that he loved so much in order to frustrate those inspectors. Isn’t that in itself an indicator there was something there? Let’s be patient and let’s figure out—wait until we can find things out.

MR. RUSSERT: But maybe the inspectors’ inspections worked, and if, in fact, we do not find significant amounts of weapons of mass destruction, should we be willing to say our intelligence community missed this and we have to go back and re-examine why?

DR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, we always ought to compare what we thought from our intelligence with what we discover later, and it’s a difficult job to do, especially if every time somebody discovers a discrepancy it is described as a “failure.”...

Here is the full text of the article in case the link goes bad:

NBC News
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Deputy Secretary of Defense
Senator BOB GRAHAM, (D-FL)
Co-Chmn., Joint Inquiry into 9/11 Terrorist
Attacks; Former Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee
Representative PORTER GOSS, (R-FL)
Co-Chmn., Joint Inquity into 9/11 Terrorist
Attacks; Chairman, House Intelligence Committee
Vice Chmn., Joint Inquity into 9/11 Terrorist
Attacks; Fmr. Vice Chmn., Senate Intelligence Committee
Representative NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA)
Ranking Democrat, Joint Inquity into 9/11
Terrorist Attacks; Minority Leader; Former
Ranking Democrat, House Intelligence Committee
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)885-4598 (Sundays: (202)885-4200)
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Uday and Qusai Hussein are dead. But where is their father? And where are the weapons of mass destruction? And how long will the guerrilla war against American troops continue? With us, a major architect of the war in Iraq, the deputy secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz. Then, we will never forget September 11, 2001. Could it have been prevented? Could it happen again? With us, the chairman and vice chairman of the congressional joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks of September 11 that produced this 850-page report, Bob Graham, Porter
Goss, Richard Shelby, and Nancy Pelosi, together, only on MEET THE PRESS.
But, first, he has just returned from a four-day trip to Iraq, the number-two man at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, welcome.
DR. PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Nice to be here, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Since Uday and Qusai have been killed, there seems to be an outbreak of more violence against our troops. Fifteen American soldiers killed over the last seven days. Has the killing of Saddam Hussein’s sons made Iraq more dangerous for our troops?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, first of all, let’s take just a moment to thank our troops for the sacrifices they’re making and the condolences to the families of those who’ve been lost. In fact, what—the battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the global war on terror, and those sacrifices are going to make not just the Middle East more stable, but our country safer for our children and grandchildren. This is very important work they’re doing. And the spirit of the troops out there is fantastic. When Uday and Qusai were killed, we acknowledged there would very likely be a spike in violence, but what we also said was this is going to build the confidence of the Iraqi people to give us
information. In fact, if you see the headline in yesterday’s New York Times, it says: Iraqi Informants’ Tips Grow After Brothers’ Deaths. In the last week alone, we’ve picked up 660 surface-to-air missiles.
That’s a product of the increased intelligence the Iraqi people are providing us.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back to May 1. And this was the scene on the USS Lincoln. President Bush arrived on it. And as he is walking to the podium, you see that banner, “Mission Accomplished.” Since that date, 400 U.S. soldiers have been wounded or injured, 107 killed, 48 from hostile fire. Was the president too premature in suggesting that the mission in Iraq has been accomplished?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Look, the mission for those Navy pilots, and it was a magnificent mission, was accomplished, because, as the president said, major combat operations were over. But you know what the president also said, Tim—Why don’t we quote it: “We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We’re being ordered to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We’re pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime who will be held to account for their crimes. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time. But it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. And then we will leave and we will leave behind a free Iraq.” This is a criminal regime that smothered that country in an unbelievable blanket of fear for 35 years. It’s difficult for Americans to imagine what it’s like to live in a country, not only where they can grab you at night and torture you, but they’ll grab your children and torture them in order to make you talk. It takes time to root out that kind of criminal gangs.
MR. RUSSERT: General Tommy Franks said the other day that he expected Saddam Hussein to be captured within 60 days. Do you concur?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Look, Tom is truly a brilliant general. He has the luxury now of being able to speculate freely. I hope he’s right, but we are going to go after him until we get him, and it’s a mistake to put timetables on these things.
MR. RUSSERT: Military men on the ground said we have his scent and there were reports they came within 24 hours of getting him yesterday. Do you believe we are close to getting Saddam Hussein?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: We’ll only know when we get him, but let me take another minute, Tim, to explain this link between the atrocities of that regime and our ability to get information. We met with the inspector of the police academy in Baghdad, a newly selected leader, training this new police force, and I’m always a little suspicious about whether these people, if they were in the old police, that we could trust them, and it turned out he had been in jail for a year. I said, “Why were you in jail?” He said, “Because I denounced Saddam Hussein.” Well, I was a little surprised at that. I said, “Are you crazy that you denounced Saddam Hussein?” “Well, I said it to my best friend.” You say it to your best friend and you spend a year in jail. That’s the kind of country people have lived in, and it takes time for them to trust us to give us the information but they’re giving us more and more, and I think what happened last week with the deaths of those two miserable creatures is encouraging more people to come forward.
MR. RUSSERT: If we kill or capture Saddam Hussein, are you confident the resistance will then come to an end?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: No, I don’t think you can be confident. Look, it’s a criminal gang of many thousands of rapists, murderers and torturers. There’s no question, though, that getting rid of Saddam Hussein will have more effect than any single thing we can do.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to our commitment to Iraq. Richard Lugar, Republican, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said this: “Senator Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the Bush administration’s reconstruction efforts in Iraq as haphazard and called on the president to request supplemental spending legislation committing American taxpayers totens of billions of dollars in aid over the next four years. ... Lugar’s remarks were striking because he
is a respected figure on foreign affairs who staunchly supported the war and generally avoids publicly challenging fellow Republicans in the White House. The Indiana senator said war supporters who originally predicted U.S. troops would be embraced by Iraqi civilians were guilty of ‘naivete.’... The gap between the cash needed to rebuild the country’s economy and revenues from oil, estimated at $14 billion in 2004, could be as high as $16 billion year, Lugar said.”
Is the president prepared to go to the American people and say, “Senator Lugar’s right. We’re going to be there at least four years at a cost of $16 billion. This is a long, difficult, expensive undertaking.”
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Let me quote the president again. He said, “The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort,” and I think that’s a fundamental point to bear in mind is that this is—it’s a big task, it may be an expensive task but it is a very, very important task. And something else to keep in mind, ultimately the resources of Iraq will pay for its own reconstruction. It’s some period of transition—we don’t know how long—before they can really get on their feet. I remember in the hearing before the senator’s committee one senator said to me, “It’s going to cost $5 billion just to get oil production back up to the million-barrel-a-day level.” We reached a million barrels a day a week ago with an investment of just a few hundred million.
MR. RUSSERT: But is Senator Lugar wrong in saying that we should appropriate $16 billion a year for the next four years now?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Tim, I don’t know the exact figure. Ambassador Bremer is trying to come up with a best estimate for the next 12 months. There’s a basic point here maybe about planning that people need to understand. You can’t write a plan for a military situation, and this is basically a military situation. It is like a railroad timetable. There are too many things that you learn as you go, and it may be exactly what Senator Lugar says. It could be more. It could be less. There should be no underestimating the task in front of us but there should also be no underestimating its importance.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Lugar said naivete for those who thought that we would be embraced by the Iraqis. This is what Paul Wolfowitz said in February, and I’ll show you and our viewers: “It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.” The fact is, we have just as many troops there now as we did during the war. When General Shinseki...
DR. WOLFOWITZ: I believe that’s what I said. It’s hard to imagine it would take more. Tim...
MR. RUSSERT: You said “hard to imagine.” And when General Shinseki said that it would take the number of troops who were currently in the region, about 200,000, you said it was...
DR. WOLFOWITZ: I’m sorry. He said several hundred thousand.
MR. RUSSERT: And there—and he said...
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Most people understand several hundred thousand, Tim, to mean twice the number we have there.
MR. RUSSERT: No, no, no, no. But this is very important.
MR. RUSSERT: Because there were 200,000 troops in the region at that time. General Shinseki said it would take the number of troops we had in the region, several hundred thousand, meaning 200,000 troops. And you said it was wildly off the mark. Based on what we have seen over the last several months, would you not acknowledge today that General Shinseki was right, that it does take just as many troops as it took to win the war as to secure the peace, and, as you acknowledged the other day, that some of your assumptions were wrong and you vastly underestimated the number of troops necessary to secure the peace?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Tim, you’re inserting words like “vastly,” which I never said. We can get into a—we can fill up air time...
MR. RUSSERT: No, that was my word.
DR. WOLFOWITZ: I know that. Let’s be clear. But you said it was my word. Look, I think it’s nonproductive to spend a lot of time arguing about what several hundred thousand means. I said very clearly it was hard to imagine that we would have a number which I thought of as twice what we were planning for winning the war. The difference between 200,000 and 150,000, obviously, is not wildly different. But the important point is, our troops, our commanders will get what they need. They have been asked repeatedly, “Do you need more?” They say, “Right now, at least, we don’t want more. What we want more of, and we’re working to get it, is foreign troops.”
I visited the Polish brigade that’s going to take over a whole province of Iraq. An Italian brigade’s going to take over another whole province. And here’s the most important thing, Tim, which we really need to focus on. It’s time, and I probably should have started sooner, to enlist Iraqis to fight for their country. They are part of the coalition. Many of them are willing to die for their country. It is much more appropriate to have Iraqis out guarding banks and guarding power lines than to have Americans or even Poles or Spaniards, and that’s where we need to go.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the rationale for the war. You gave an interview in Vanity Fair magazine, and the Pentagon released a full transcript of your remarks, which we’re going to use because they are your words. And let me share them with our viewers: “The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason” for the war in Iraq, if you will. “But... there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is
support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it’s not a reason to put American kids’ lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there’s the most disagreement within the bureaucracy.”
If you just analyze your comments—one, weapons of mass destruction. Thus far, we have not found weapons of mass destruction. Two, in terms of support of terrorism, as you acknowledge, there’s broad disagreement within our intelligence community about that and whether there’s any direct link of Saddam to al-Qaeda. And the third, as you said, Saddam’s treatment of his people is not a reason to go to war.
MR. RUSSERT: So if you don’t have weapons of mass destruction and you don’t have a direct link to terrorism, and you do have the third, which the administration has been emphasizing, but you yourself said it’s not a rationale to go to war, what now is the rationale for having gone to war?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: OK. Let me have as much time to answer as you took to ask the question.
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
DR. WOLFOWITZ: It’s important. I appreciate it. And, by the way, you know, you go to war based on your best assessment before the war. You will. Especially in a country like Iraq, you will learn things afterwards that may be different. But, first of all, the fundamental thing I was saying, and I wish people would pay attention to it, is there was no disagreement before the fact whatsoever on weapons of mass destruction. It was unanimous, and, frankly, the Senate and House Armed Services Committee, the
Senate and House Intelligence committees, had access to all the intelligence that people are now debating about.
MR. RUSSERT: But not on nuclear. It was not unanimous on nuclear.
DR. WOLFOWITZ: It was unanimous that there was a program. There was disagreement about how far along it was or how long it would take him to get there. And—OK. That’s point number one.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, this is important because this is what the State Department said. And this is from the National Intelligence Estimate that the White House declassified and released. This is what they said: “The activities we have detected do not...add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR [State Department bureau of intelligence and research] would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons.”
DR. WOLFOWITZ: OK, I don’t have the text in front of me, Tim. But everyone, including the State Department—you know, look at those qualifiers, “comprehensive, integrated.” Everyone agreed there was a program of some stage and that it would become comprehensive, integrated, and real the minute he got rid of inspectors. There was no disagreement in the government about that. The nature of terrorism intelligence is intrinsically murky. And while I haven’t had a chance to read the 900-page report that was released last week, my understanding from what has been said about it, is that the basic conclusion there is that we should have connected the dots. We should have seen in this murky picture of terrorism intelligence what was coming to hit us.
Well, if you wait until the terrorism picture is clear, you are going to wait until after something terrible has happened. And we went to war, and I believe we are still fighting terrorists and terrorist supporters in Iraq in a battle that will make this country safer in the future from terrorism. It is—as I said, I think winning the peace in Iraq is now the crucial battle in the war on terrorism. And the sacrifices that our magnificent troops are making is for the children and their grandchildren, for our children and our grandchildren. And it is for our security.
MR. RUSSERT: Porter Goss, who be will our guest in the next segment, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, led a delegation to Iraq and wrote a report. This is what his conclusion came to. “The evidence does not point to the existence of large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons.” That’s the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Do you agree with that?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Look, I don’t know how he knows. I flew over Baghdad. It’s a city, I believe, as large as Los Angeles. You look at all those houses and realize that every basement might contain a huge lethal quantity of anthrax.
I don’t know how anyone can know yet. It’s a difficult job. And people are working hard at it. But since we’re quoting things, I mean, as the vice president said, the NIA, and this was a unanimous judgment, “We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction program in defiance of U.N. resolutions and restrictions. If left unchecked,” he quotes, “the NIA probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. It has currently chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of U.N. restrictions.” And, as the vice president said it would be irresponsible for an American leader to ignore that kind of judgment.
MR. RUSSERT: Many people are now asking why the urgency in going to war. If, in fact, we have not found the weapons of mass destruction, could not we have waited a few months with more coercive inspections and have resolved this without a war?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Let me say a couple of things, Tim. People act as though the cost of containing Iraq is trivial. The cost of containing Iraq was enormous. Fifty-five American lives lost, at least, in incidents like the Cole and Khobar Towers, which were part of the containment effort. Billions of dollars of American money spent so...
MR. RUSSERT: Was Iraq linked to those?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Absolutely. Oh, no, not to the—I don’t know who did the attacks. I now that we would not have had Air Force people in Khobar Towers if we weren’t conducting a containment policy.
I know we wouldn’t have had to have the Cole out there doing maritime intercept operations. And worst of all, if you go back and read Osama bin Laden’s notorious fatwah from 1998 where he calls for killing Americans, the two principal grievances were the presence of those forces in Saudi Arabia, and our continuing attacks on Iraq. Twelve years of containment was a terrible price for us. And for the Iraqi people, it was an unbelievable price, Tim.
I visited a village of Marsh Arabs, people have been driven nearly to extinction by 12 years of Saddam’s genocidal policies against them. They would not have survived another three years, much less another 12. We went to that mass grave in Hela. The people who are buried in those mass graves, the people who were executed in this industrial-style execution factory in Abu Ghraib Prison for them, every year was a terrible cost. Every year under sanctions was a terrible cost.
So the question is: What did you gain by waiting? And I think one of the things that would have come by waiting, frankly, is more instability for the key countries in our coalition, including Arab countries that, unfortunately, still prefer not to be named. But we had the coalition we needed when we went to war. There was no knowing if six months later some of those countries would still be with us.
MR. RUSSERT: John Deutsche, former director of the CIA, testified before Congress on Thursday and said something that was quite striking, and I’ll put it on the board for you and our viewers: “If no weapons of mass destruction or only a residual capability is found, the principle justification enunciated by the U.S. government for launching this war will have proven not to be credible. It is an intelligence failure, in my judgment, of massive proportions. It means that our leaders of the American public based its support for the most serious foreign policy judgments—the decision to go to war—on an incorrect intelligence judgment.”
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, it’s interesting. He’s the former director of the C.I.A, and I’m sure if you go and read the intelligence judgments made when he was director, they would be equally emphatic about the existence of those weapons and those programs. President Clinton spoke in 1998 in words that are almost identical to President Bush that he has these weapons and if we don’t do something about it, I guarantee you someday he will use them. I think people should be a little careful about throwing around words like intelligence failure. It’s easy to to go around and play this blame game. I mean, let’s stop
and realize that in a country like Iraq—and let me repeat—where children are tortured to make their parents talk, secrets are kept in a way we can’t even imagine. And let’s take some things that aren’t secret at all. We know that for 12 years Saddam Hussein did everything he could to frustrate U.N. inspectors. He sacrificed $100 billion in money that he could have spent on palaces and tanks and all those things that he loved so much in order to frustrate those inspectors. Isn’t that in itself an indicator there was something there? Let’s be patient and let’s figure out—wait until we can find things out.
MR. RUSSERT: But maybe the inspectors’ inspections worked, and if, in fact, we do not find significant amounts of weapons of mass destruction, should we be willing to say our intelligence community missed this and we have to go back and re-examine why?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, we always ought to compare what we thought from our intelligence with what we discover later, and it’s a difficult job to do, especially if every time somebody discovers a discrepancy it is described as a “failure.” But let me tell you a story which I think puts this in some perspective. I mentioned visiting the police academy. It’s an impressive operation there where they’re training a new police force, and Senator Lugar, whom you quoted earlier, Senator Biden visited it a couple of weeks ago, and I know they were impressed by this training of the civilian police force. Since their visit but before mine, a woman came forward and described how she had been tortured hideously in a small compound behind the police academy, and I visited that. I was taken there. When I went to the academy, they not only showed me the training, they also showed me this unbelievable torture chamber, the back gate of which leads into Uday’s compound. He used to come in at night to personally torture prisoners. Think about it, Tim. I mean, for weeks, we were using that police academy, we were training people there. Probably someone knew about it. We didn’t discover it until this woman came in and told us her story. There must be thousands of hidden, secret things in that country that we are only just starting to get a grip on.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back to Deutsche’s testimony and share this with you: “The next time military intervention is judged necessary to combat the spread weapons of mass destruction, for example, in North Korea, there will be skepticism about the quality of our intelligence.” Is that fair?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: If people keep treating every intelligence uncertainty as an example of failure, I guess we will have a problem. But I mean, stop and think. If in 2001 or in 2000 or in 1999, we had gone to war in Afghanistan to deal with Osama bin Laden and we had tried to say it’s because he’s planning to kill 3,000 people in New York, people would have said, well, you don’t have any proof of that. I think the lesson of September 11th is that you can’t wait until proof after the fact. I mean, it surprises me sometimes that people have forgotten so soon what September 11 I think should have taught us about terrorism, and that’s what this is all about.
MR. RUSSERT: Will we be sending another billion dollars to Afghanistan to shore up our commitment to that country?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: We’ll wait and see, but clearly, what’s going on in Afghanistan is another battlefield in this war on terrorism. It’s very important. Again, the best thing we can do in Iraq is help the Iraqi people help us. The best thing we can do in Afghanistan is help the Afghan people help themselves, which helps us.
MR. RUSSERT: But a tripling of the amount of money in Afghanistan is an indication that things aren’t going as well as we thought.
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Sometimes things go well. Sometimes things go better, Tim; sometimes things don’t go as well. Again, the nature of military planning is not to have a timetable. It is to be able to adjust your plan as circumstances change. I think that was what was so brilliant about Tom Franks’ military plan. He called about six or seven major changes in the course of things that produced major results. Ambassador Bremer and General Abizaid are doing the same thing right now, both in Iraq, and, in the case of General Abizaid, in Afghanistan.
MR. RUSSERT: Will our troops be going into Liberia?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: As the president said, we are prepared to assist the United Nations to establish a cease-fire, to evacuate Charles Taylor from Liberia, to bring in regional troops. And that’s the key to this, Tim, is to not have the United States taking on every task in the world but for us to help other people take on their role. And in this case, I think what they call the ECOWAS countries of West Africa are prepared to step up.
MR. RUSSERT: But we will join them on the ground in Liberia, if need be.
DR. WOLFOWITZ: We will help them to get there.
MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, we’re going to talk about the September 11th, 2001, report with our members of Congress. There’s another national commission looking into what happened on September 11, headed by former Republican Governor of New Jersey Tom Kean. And he has said this: “This is a critical time for the Commission. We have worked hard to stay on schedule to complete our work by the end of May 2004...but the coming weeks will determine whether we are able to do our job within the time allotted. ... Time is slipping by. ... Extensive and prompt cooperation from the U.S. government, the Congress, state and local agencies, and private firms is essential. This report offers an
initial evaluation of this cooperation. ... The problems that have arisen so far with the Department of Defense are becoming particularly serious.”
Governor Kean’s saying he can’t get information from NORAD, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from the Defense Department. Will you take steps so that you will cooperate fully with Governor Kean immediately so his commission can do their work?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: We’ve already taken steps to try to accelerate it. But we have no—we want to cooperate fully with the commission.
MR. RUSSERT: And you will?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, we thank you for your views.
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next: the chairman and vice chairman of the congressional joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks of September 11, Senator Graham, Congressman Goss, Senator Shelby, Congresswoman Pelosi. They are next, together, only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: Four leaders of Congress drew up this joint inquiry into September 11. They are all here next, on MEET THE PRESS, after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. This is the joint inquiry that Congress has written about what happened on September 11. We are joined by the chairman and co-chairman who helped organize this enormous effort. Let me read from the report, for you and our viewers, and start this way: “A former chief of the unit in the DCI’s Counterterrorist Center formed to focus on [Osama] bin Laden put it succinctly: ‘In my experience between 1996 and 1999, CIA’s Directorate of Operations was the only component of the intelligence community that could be said to have been waging the war that bin Laden declared against the United States in August of 1996. The rest of the CIA and the intelligence community looked on our efforts as eccentric and, at times, fanatic.’”
Senator Graham, one small group of intelligence officers took the threat against our country by Osama seriously?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM, (D-FL): That’s, Tim, why the number one recommendation in our report is to put somebody in charge of the intelligence community. Right now there are about a dozen agencies and they see each other more as competitors than as colleagues to achieve a common purpose. The head of the CIA issued a declaration of war which none of the other agencies in the intelligence community apparently paid any attention to. We paid a price on September the 11th.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Shelby, are we now better organized as a government in terms of intelligence gathering and analysis now than we were before September 11th?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R-AL): Maybe just a little bit. I think we’re going down the right road. We’ve got a long way to go. I’d say we were about a two then; we might be a three and a half or four.
We’re a long way from 10.
MR. RUSSERT: Chairman Goss, do you agree with that consensus?
REP. PORTER GOSS, (R-FL): I do. I think we’re on the right track. I think that if you read the recommendations of the report, you’ll find a very good road map. It would be my observation, and appropriately, the executive branch has done more on our 19 recommendations than the legislative branch. Our process is a little slower. But we are under way, and our authorization bills in the Senate and the House this year will be dealing with some of the legislative sides. So I would say that every day’s a better day, and I agree generally with Senator Shelby’s assessment.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Pelosi, are we better off now in terms of intelligence analysis and gathering than we were before September 11?
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA): Well, we certainly have seen the shortcomings as the report points out. Our very creative staff, whom I want to commend, they did an excellent job, not only in putting an idea together about how this might have come to be but they showed that information was in the files of the FBI that they were not even communicating among themselves on and certainly not reporting up to the director, and not, of course, not therefore to the CIA or other agencies of government. There’s a long way to go, really.
MR. RUSSERT: Two hijackers living with an FBI informant. That information stays within a small cell within the FBI, if you will. Are the CIA and the FBI now talking to one another?
REP. PELOSI: Well, they’ve improved their communication, but I don’t think it should be left to them. I think the oversight committees of the Congress, working with some of the recommendations that we have, have to weigh in on is. I know that the FBI under Director Mueller made some drastic changes in how they conduct their business. But that’s simply not good enough. Prior to 9/11, the committees were on their way to re-evaluating our entire structure and the community, making judgments about the
community. General Scowcroft did a report which, before it came to us, 9/11 occurred. There was always a recognition that there was a need for improved communication, more humit—many of the recommendations that were there, but before that got to the president’s desk and our desks, 9/11 occurred. The need to restructure the intelligence community was important then, it’s even more important now, and it cannot be internal to the organization. It has to be accountable.
MR. RUSSERT: In May, the director of the FBI—May of 2002—testified that the hijackers lived in social isolation. Your report finds something much different, Senator Graham.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, we point out some 14 instances in which hijackers had close contact with people who were or had been in the past under FBI surveillance. As Congresswoman Pelosi just said, a lot of the information that is in this report is information that was in the FBI files which they were unaware and which our staff determined surfaced and put the dots together.
MR. RUSSERT: Why didn’t we know that, and why is it that there are so many al-Qaidas who are able to penetrate our country, and as you told me several weeks ago, you’re convinced there are a large number of al-Qaida still living in this country.
SEN. GRAHAM: The reasons that it has happened, first, the FBI has had a practice of distributing decisions among its various field offices and they don’t talk very well to the central headquarters and they certainly don’t talk very well with each other. I hope that some new reforms of Director Mueller are moving to correct that situation. There is a significant presence of al-Qaida in the United States. There’s disagreement between the intelligence agencies as what the precise number is. But even on the low side, it’s a number capable of carrying out major actions against the people of the United States.
MR. RUSSERT: One of the more controversial parts of your report is a part that, in effect, doesn’t exist. If you turn to page 395 in it, and I’ll show you and our viewers on the screen, it talks about here: “The Joint Inquiry developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States...” And you turn the page, and for the next 28 pages, all you see are blank lines. Senator Shelby, shouldn’t the American people know who are the
foreign sources of support for the hijackers?
SEN. SHELBY: Absolutely. They should know and I figure the American people will figure out who’s supporting who and who’s our real ally and who has a transactional relationship with us. I’m not at liberty to get into who it is on this show, but I can tell you on the Banking Committee, which I now chair, we’re getting in and going to investigate who’s financing the terrorist operations, because the key to all of this is the money. Who’s financing? Who’s carrying them through? How are they living? How
are they traveling? How are they getting there? It’s money.
MR. RUSSERT: Based on your work in the Banking Committee, not your work on this joint inquiry, who is doing it?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I’m not at liberty to say that today. I’m going to let you figure that out. You see the blank pages. They’re classified. I think they’re classified for the wrong reason. I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly two, three days ago. My judgment is 95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored, so the American people would know.
MR. RUSSERT: Why are they classified for the wrong reason? What’s the wrong reason?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I think it might be embarrassing to some international relations.
MR. RUSSERT: The front page of The New York Times says: Classified section of September 11 report faults Saudi Arabia. And it seems to be confirmed by the ambassador to the United States from Saudi Arabia, who issued this statement: “In the 900-page report, 28 blanked-out pages are being used by some to malign our country and our people. It is my belief that the reason the classified section that allegedly deals with foreign governments is absent from the report is most likely because the information
contained in it could not be substantiated. Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages.”
Chairman Goss, can those 28 pages be substantiated?
REP. GOSS: I believe that the reason the 28 pages are blank—and not to give everybody an opportunity to write their own script, and a lot of that is going on. There are three reasons we classify information. One is protect sources and methods. Another is protect ongoing investigations. And another is to protect what I will call sensitive foreign liaisons. There’s no question that we are concerned about foreign government support. And it is not just one country. It is many countries. Now, these particular pages, I believe, are justified in being held back now, and if you read recommendation 19 of our
recommendations, it specifically says that we request an active investigation. That investigation is under way. We do not want to contaminate that investigation. I believe that these pages will be made available publicly at some point when that investigation is completed. In the meantime, if there’s concern that we are not following the necessary crumbs on the trail to protect ourselves from foreign government activities supporting terrorists, please dismiss those concerns, because we are aware of these things and pursuing them actively.
MR. RUSSERT: We know, Congresswoman Pelosi, that money from the Saudis went to some of the hijackers. It’s been widely reported. Why not share that in your report?
REP. PELOSI: Well, I have a bigger concern about the declassification than just those pages. It took us nine months to do our entire investigation, have our hearings, interview persons of concern. The whole thing took about nine months. It took six and a half months to get the declassified—to get this declassified version out. It was a struggle every step of the way. I think the administration has an obsession with secrecy, that they do not want to reveal information that should be available to the public.
I respectfully disagree with my distinguished chairman. It is true, sources, and method, ongoing investigations, certainly, our national security interests have to call for classification. But to protect that, we do not have to protect reputations. So there are many places in the book that I think more information should become forthcoming. We have to always remember our responsibility to the families of 9/11. They need answers. We need to protect the American people into the future. This secrecy does not serve that purpose.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you something that you wrote in your report on this very subject: “The White House determined, and the DCI and CIA agreed, that the Joint Inquiry could have no access to the [President’s Daily Briefing].”
This was the briefing President Bush was given in August of 2001.
“Ultimately, this bar was extended to the point where CIA personnel were not allowed to be interviewed regarding the simple process by which the PDB is prepared. Although the inquiry was inadvertently given access to fragments of some PDB items early on, this decision limited the inquiry’s ability to determine systematically what Presidents Clinton and Bush, and their senior advisers, were being told by the intelligence community agencies, and when, regarding the nature of the threat to the United States from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.”
And the very day I read that in the report, I read this in The Washington Post: “Cheney laid out a detailed rationale for the war Bush launched on March 20, quoting at length from declassified sections of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq issued in October. White House officials have cited the NIE as the basis for prewar pre-war speeches about Iraq. ... As part of an effort to rebut criticism that it had exaggerated the threat, the White House last Friday released eight pages of excerpts from the intelligence report,” which had been classified.
Senator Graham, why would we declassify the National Intelligence Report to buttress arguments about the war in Iraq but keep classified some information that could help us find out what our leaders knew was coming down before September 11?
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I think one of the fundamental reasons for that is to avoid accountability. We have another major recommendation that we should have a process by which it is determined if there’s been performance below standard, people are sanctioned, and if—their excellent performance is recognized.
None of that has happened since 9/11. Nobody’s lost their job. Nobody has been—had an adverse letter put in their files. All the kinds of things that flow from accountability. One of the ways you avoid accountability is by secrecy. If the people are not allowed to know what happened, if people are not allowed to know what the president knew, then it’s more difficult to hold him or anyone in his administration accountable.
MR. RUSSERT: Is this a selective declassification, Senator Shelby?
SEN. SHELBY: Oh, I think so. I think most declassifications are very, very selective, and done in a tortuous way.
MR. RUSSERT: But is this politically motivated?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, it’s hard to separate politics from declassification of anything at times.
REP. GOSS: I spent most of the last seven months trying to negotiate these items as sort of the remaining of the four of us still on the committee. And I think the biggest problem, frankly, is the culture. We indoctrinate our intelligence people on the need-to-know principle and on compartmentation. Don’t tell anybody unless there is a reason that you have to tell them. And consequently when you measure that up against the jointness and the cooperation and coordination that we all pointed out so properly in this report is missing in this, we’ve got a conflict between the culture of intelligence, and, basically, the efficient operation of fighting the war on terrorism. We have to change things.
MR. RUSSERT: Then why declassify the National Intelligence Estimate?
REP. GOSS: Because I think it helps public understanding. We are going through a big change right now in how we deal with information.
MR. RUSSERT: Wouldn’t declassifying what President Clinton and President Bush knew before September 11 help public understanding?
REP. GOSS: I think that most of the PDB has actually been declassified. If you go to some of the actions of the House committee, and Ms. Pelosi was then the ranking member, we actually had a press conference on that, because one of our task force had actually all the information on that PDB. The only thing we didn’t have was the binder that it came in or the conversation that took place between the president and the people briefing him. But we had the material. Now, the material wasn’t exactly the PDB. But it was the same material.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree with that?
MR. RUSSERT: I’m surprised.
REP. PELOSI: With all due respect to my distinguished chairman, when we say it wasn’t quite this and it wasn’t quite that, that’s the heart of the matter. Unless the National Security Council minutes of the counterterrorism working group and other communications between the National Security Council and the intelligence community are made known to the committees, we will never have the answers, and while we may say they had this information, we had information but the fact that it was reported to the
president was an issue that they would not allow us to go forward and talk about. So here’s the thing. As I testified at the 9/11 commission in May, if we’re going to have a real and complete and thorough investigation, if we are going to get the job done for the families and for the country, and protect the American people into the future, the National Security Council records must be available to the committees and to the public. The Congress is responsible. We have oversight responsibilities; we cannot have this gap. It goes—the whole declassification point is a very central one, and the public deserves better.
REP. GOSS: I don’t disagree with that point, that we should have access. But we don’t have access and we have not had access. Our oversight remit does not carry us, either the House or the Senate, into the National Security deliberations and that has been the practice.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iraq in our remaining moments here. Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said step forward, Mr. President, and tell the country we’re going to be in Iraq for several years, four years at least, $16 billion per year, and tell that to the American people. Chairman Goss, you came back and reported from the House Intelligence Committee that, “large numbers of U.S. troops are likely to remain in Iraq four years.”
REP. GOSS: I believe.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Shelby, should the president tell the American people this is a multiyear expensive commitment?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, that will be up to the president. I believe myself it’s going to be a multiyear commitment. I’ve always thought that. We couldn’t go in and stay a few months and leave. We’ve got to be committed. We’re losing a lot of troops over there day by day in guerrilla warfare. We’ve got to stabilize the place and we’re committed to stabilizing Iraq.
MR. RUSSERT: Should we send more troops in to stabilize?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, that would be a decision for the secretary of Defense, our deputy secretary of Defense Wolfowitz ultimately should make.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Goss, this is what else your report said, and I showed it to Mr. Wolfowitz; I’m going to show it again: “The evidence does not point to the existence of large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons.”
REP. GOSS: That’s absolutely true. The evidence does point to a lot of denial and deception to hide and disperse those weapons, and that is what we’ve run into. We underestimated quite seriously and quite badly the denial and deception capability of the Saddam regime. They did a brilliant job of taking things and hiding them. When you start finding weapons of mass destruction plans under rose bushes in scientists’ back yard, you begin to understand a little built the depth of the distances they went to.
MR. RUSSERT: But the president quoted the British as saying that Saddam could launch a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes. If, in fact, there are not large stockpiles of weapons, was that accurate?
REP. GOSS: I cannot speak for the British intelligence. The British maintain that it was accurate and the president quoted the British report.
MR. RUSSERT: In 1998 when President Clinton launched missiles into Iraq, Congresswoman Pelosi, you said then that there were weapons of mass destruction that existed in Iraq. Are you now questioning that intelligence?
REP. PELOSI: Well, the point is is that there is weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological, in the region. The imminence of the threat, though, to go to war is the question. If the intelligence community was so certain of the fact of this threat and of the existence of these weapons, why didn’t they know anything about the location of them? So it’s not a question of if this region has chemical or biological. It’s a question of the imminence of the threat, and that’s where I think we have—the American people deserve some answers. And certainly on the nuclear issue, the evidence, the intelligence did not
support the claim that the administration was making. I think that we have to take a step back and say
we must stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I commend the president for making that
an important issue. But we can do it with international cooperation, which is exactly what we have to do in Iraq. If we need more troops on the ground in Iraq, we have to have international cooperation to do it. We are not going to change or improve the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan or any of these places unless we have cooperation from countries not selling the kind of technology to those who would be irresponsible and cause terror.
MR. RUSSERT: If that means going to the United Nations for another resolution and asking for the support of the French and Germans, you would do it.
REP. PELOSI: I absolutely think we have to internationalize. Nothing is more important now than the Iraqi situation being settled and managed in a much better way. It’s clear while we had a military plan to go to war, our postwar Iraq planning was either a disaster or nonexistent, and we have to internationalize what is happening there.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, I want to ask you to talk about some comments you made on July 17 in a question-and-answer session. And I’ll read it back and forth so our viewers know exactly what we’re talking about.
Question for Senator Graham: “Question: Senator, if your party were in charge would you let them pursue impeachment?” This is about the intelligence problems confronting the Bush administration.
Answer from Senator Graham: “Well the Republicans set a standard for impeachment with what they did with Bill Clinton, who committed a serious, personal, consensual action. This is case in which someone has committed actions that took America to war, put American men and women’s lives at risk, and they continue to be at risk.”
“Question: So is this more serious?”
“Graham: I think this is clearly more serious. ...My opinion is if the standard that was set by the House of Representatives relative to Bill Clinton is the new standard for impeachment, then this clearly comes within that standard.”
You’re suggesting that, under the standards created by the House for the Clinton impeachment, that the president of the United States, George Bush, could be subject to impeachment for his comments in the State of the Union message about American intelligence, uranium in Africa?
SEN. GRAHAM: The answer is this president is not going to be impeached. The current leadership of the House of Representatives, regardless of what standard they set for Bill Clinton, are not going to apply the same standard to George W. Bush. The good news is that, in November of 2004, the American people will have an opportunity to both impeach and remove.
I would suggest, going back to your previous question, that this issue of secrecy is an endemic one within this administration, and it’s not just secrecy after the fact. It’s not just the secrecy of all these blank pages. It’s secrecy before the fact. This president failed to tell the American people what he knew about the consequences of military victory in Iraq. He understood what the cost was going to be. He understood the casualties. He understood the duration of time. None of that was shared with the American people, and so that we went to war not only on the basis of weapons of mass destruction that we may or may not find, but went to war without the knowledge of what the full consequences would
MR. RUSSERT: But was it a mistake for you to engage in a conversation about impeachment?
SEN. GRAHAM: No. I believe that that’s a legitimate question for the journalists to have asked. It is a legitimate exploration of what is the standard for impeachment now, and then apply that standard against the facts of this president and his administration.
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I totally disagree with Senator Graham. He’s my friend. We work together. But when you reach the threshold of impeachment for stuff like this, I think you’re off base. I think President Bush has shown leadership, courage, and I think he’s on the right road.
MR. RUSSERT: But you heard Mr. Wolfowitz talk about weapons of mass destruction—we haven’t found them—intelligence and direct link of Saddam with al-Qaeda or terrorism. That still is debatable within the intelligence community. And it’s not worth going to war, risking American lives, simply because of Saddam’s treatment of his people. Is the administration now obligated to come forward with a rationale for why they went to war? And do you believe they were properly prepared for winning the
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I know they were properly prepared for the war. There’s always surprises dealing with the peace. I believe they will stabilize Iraq and we will win the peace. But I believe the cause for war, the case for war, that it was sound policy then; it’s sound policy now.
MR. RUSSERT: We have to leave it there. A lot more to discuss. I hope you’ll all come back in a future program. This is the real issue confronting all of us. Senator Graham, Senator Shelby, Congressman Goss, Congresswoman Pelosi, thank you very much.
We’ll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Star your day tomorrow on “Today” with Katie and Matt, then the “NBC Nightly News” with Tom Brokaw. That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.

Posted by Lisa at August 19, 2003 10:32 AM | TrackBack
Me A to Z (A Work In Progress)