CNN Late Edition - Transcript

Date: June 12, 2005
Issues: Defense

CNN Late Edition - Transcript
Sunday, June 12, 2005


KING: Brent Sadler for us in Beirut on a dramatic day tracking the Lebanese elections. Thank you very much, Brent.

And President Bush is urging Congress to renew the U.S. Patriot Act. The anti-terrorism law was approved shortly after the September 11th attacks. The president's push comes as a newly released Justice Department report details significant intelligence failures by the FBI in the months leading up to 9/11.

Joining us now, two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

Welcome, both senators, to "LATE EDITION."

We will get to the Patriot Act debate in just a moment, but I want to begin with a debate that's been going on in this country for some time that seems to be reaching its boiling point. And that is whether to keep open or close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Let me just simply start with a rare event here in Washington, a yes-or-no question.

To you first, Senator Hagel, should it be kept open?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I don't know. I know that's not yes or no, but I don't think it's that simple, John. Just give me ten seconds.

KING: Sure.

HAGEL: First, we've got a lot of people running around the world who want to do great damage to this country and other nations. We do need some kind of a facility to hold these people.

But this can't be indefinite. This can't be a situation where we hold them forever and ever and ever until they die of old age. What are our plans here?

Second, we need to make sure that whatever we do is in some confluence with and association with the other nations of the world. Obviously, the accords that we are party to, in agreements and how we treat prisoners, obviously our laws, there's an image, there's a diplomatic dynamic to this, too. It may well be to close Guantanamo Bay if we have an alternative would be the best thing for all of us.

KING: Senator?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, I wish it were just as simple as that. I think if you ask the question, I would say I would lean toward closing it, but I don't know all the answers at this stage.

Guantanamo is not the only place we have people. The key is to find out exactly where we do have people and how many. I believe there are about 520 at Guantanamo. I know several scores have been released.

There is some evidence, I think, that the Geneva Conventions have not always been followed. I think what Guantanamo does to us abroad negatively is enormous, and that has to be taken into the equation.

So we will begin hearings on Wednesday in the Judiciary Committee on the subject.

My own view is that we need to take a very good look at it, and we need to come up with some recommendation to the administration, not that they listen, but for our consciences and I think for the purposes of justice, we need to do that.

KING: I want to move on to some of the specific questions in just a second. But you mentioned not that they listen when it comes to the administration. If you listened this past week to the administration it's not quite clear what they are thinking.

The president in one interview said that all options were on the table. He seemed to be saying they were considering closing it at least.

His press secretary backed that up. But I want you to listen quickly to the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who of course is in charge of Guantanamo Bay, and he was asked while on a trip overseas, is the administration thinking about shutting it down? Listen.


DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I know of no one in the U.S. government, in the executive branch that's considering closing Guantanamo. Unfortunately, something that's necessary in the world we're living in, but it's something that the folks who are in charge of it are doing it in a very professional and humane way.


KING: As you try to answer the question-and I'll start with you, Senator Feinstein-is it somewhat hard to answer the question when the defense secretary says he knows of no one in the United States government considering closing it down, and the president of the United States says he's looking at other options.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can't speak to that, but I know people are looking at that. I know that's the reason for the judiciary hearing on Wednesday. I suspect there are rumbles in the House as well.

I think, as story after story appears and goes all over the world, it certainly has a life of its own in terms of determining the credibility of the United States.

You know, one of the things is, we cannot be hypocritical in our values. We have to practice our values universally. And the question always comes: How many of these people held are really terrorists, and how many of them are just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

There needs to be a defined process that sorts that out, and has some public part of it, so that people gain confidence that what the United States is doing with people they pick up in communities, on a battlefield, wherever, are treated with the values that we say we treat people with.

KING: Your Democratic colleague makes clear that Congress is looking at this issue, but are you aware, Senator, of any formal administration review, consideration of shutting it down, or do you just have what some would attribute to political calculations, what the president and others at the White House said this past week?

HAGEL: I'm not aware of any administration review under way, but the president did say what he said, as you have just noted, and I think that's correct, to look at alternatives.

The fact is that we are losing the diplomatic war around the world. We're losing the image war around the world.

And I think it's important to look at the wider lens angle assessment of this. We've got a world now that is represented by a global generational shift from a post-World War II generation to a post-Cold War generation, and that has presented new challenges to America, to our purpose, to our image, who we are, what we believe. And I'm not sure we're factoring all those dynamics into our broader policy.

And certainly Guantanamo is one that's hurt us. It's identifiable with, for right or wrong, a part of America that people in the world believe is a power, an empire that pushes people around, we do it our way, we don't live up to our commitments to multilateral institutions. That's not I'm saying what I believe, but that's the other end of the optics.

KING: I want to spend a little time on this, because there's new evidence, if you will, for this debate, new fodder for this debate today, in "Time" magazine.

They have an exclusive report on-they call "The Treatment," but interrogation logs of Detainee 063, who's a gentleman by the name of Mohammed Al-Qahtani, and he's not just any prisoner. They believe he could have been the 20th hijacker on 9/11. So obviously he is someone you want to get information from, if he has such information.

Among the material in these interrogation logs is this sound bite.

I want to read you this sound-this little piece of this, and ask you if this is what the United States government should be doing. You mentioned the diplomatic fallout. You mentioned it as well.

This is part of the interrogation.

"The log notes, he is given 3 ½ bags of IV fluid. He starts to moan, and asks again to be allowed to relieve himself. Yes, he is told, but first he must answer questions. When Al-Qahtani again requests his promised bathroom break, he is told to go in his pants. Humiliatingly, he does."


HAGEL: Well, no, it's not appropriate. It is not at all within the standards of who we are as a civilized people, what our laws are, who we represent. Senator Feinstein talked about hypocrisy. Now, if that in fact went on-I don't have any details on this, John. I'm reacting to what you just said-But if in fact we are treating prisoners this way, it's not only wrong, but dangerous, and very dumb, and very short-sighted.

At a time that we need to reach out to the world, we need to enlist the world, we need to form alliances to battle these insidious forces against us and other nations, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, this is not how you win the people of the world over to our side, especially the Muslim world.

So if this is going on, it needs to stop, and I'm very glad that we're going to be having hearings in the Judiciary Committee, we'll have more hearings in the Intelligence Committee, Foreign Relations Committee. Dick Lugar's got some of these hearings scheduled.

We need to get into this, because, if this in fact is going on, in the end it will do great damage in credibility to the United States.

KING: Let me give you another example before I bring you in, Senator, one more example from this specific detainee.

"Over the next month, the interrogators' experiment with other tactics: They strip-search him and briefly make him stand nude. They tell him to bark like a dog and growl at pictures of terrorists. They hang pictures of scantily-clad women around his neck."

Now, some of this, senator, came at a period in which Secretary Rumsfeld had authorized additional tactics, tougher tactics, in the interrogation to try to get information. Are those tactics appropriate, and who should be held accountable if your answer's no?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I was reading the story. And it presents a kind of ludicrous view of the United States, I must say.

Here's a detainee that they think may have been the 20th hijacker. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no information that suggests any of the 19 hijackers knew what they were going to do when they came to the United States. So there has to be a plausible view that this man didn't know what he was going to do if he was sent to the United States to do that.

Therefore, to carry out this kind of behavior, when he is being checked three times a day by medics, which indicates that they must fear for his condition. And obviously, he has a strength of will that is extraordinarily strong, enough to bite an IV tube in half when they tried to give him intravenous solutions, I just think it's a terrible mistake. I don't know what tree we're barking up or why we're doing this.

KING: ((OFF-MIKE) says-the administration says-it is operating in the spirit of the Geneva Convention, which says there should be no outrages on personal dignity. To ask a Muslim man to stand nude, bark like a dog, and have pictures of scantily-clad women around his neck, does that cross your threshold of outrage of personal dignity?

HAGEL: Well, of course it does. Any straight-thinking American, any straight-thinking citizen of the world, it does. And again, my point is...

KING: Who's responsible?

HAGEL: Well, I don't have all the facts, John. And we'll get the facts. But there is a culture that develops in any institution. And a lot of what I've heard the last couple of years, the top officials of the Pentagon saying, "Well, we didn't order any of this. We didn't know about this."

Come on guys. I was in Vietnam in 1968. I carried a rifle. I saw a culture develop that was a very bad culture that ended in disaster for this country.

And this is all adding up to a very dangerous drift in this country toward somebody not paying to all the pieces here-the bigger pieces. Not only is it going to end in disaster for us and humility for this country, but we're going to present to the world a very dangerous world if we don't wake up and smell the coffee here.

And to say that the secretary of defense and anyone else, "Well, I don't know about it or that's not what we intended," there's a culture in anything that develops. It's a culture of leadership or there's not a culture of leadership. Then there's a vacuum of leadership.

If there's a vacuum, something will fill that vacuum. This kind of stuff fills a vacuum. It needs to be stopped. We have been reassured over the last two years it's not happening when in fact it is happening.

FEINSTEIN: I think, too, if you put people in very isolated circumstances, you certainly have mixed messages coming from the command structure both in the Pentagon as well as in the field. I think this has been pretty clearly established.

So you have people in isolated circumstances.

The Red Cross can't come in at will. Nobody goes in at will.

I've been to Guantanamo. I went in the early days with Secretary Rumsfeld. I know the physical surrounding and it is completely isolated. I think that's a healthy place for this kind of activity to go on.

And I think this kind of activity is, in the main, counterproductive. And so I don't understand why we don't learn from it.

So there'll be a lot of questions to asked particularly about this "Time" story on Wednesday in the Judiciary Committee. And I don't know why we don't learn. I don't know why we didn't learn from Begram (ph). I don't know why we didn't learn from Abu Ghraib. But here we are in Guantanamo now with many of the same things surfacing.

KING: A lot more ground to cover with our two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senators Feinstein and Hagel. "LATE EDITION" needs to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


KING: Our Web question of the week asks this: Has U.S. intelligence against terrorist threats improved since 9/11?

Cast your vote at cnn.comlateedition. We'll have the results later in the program.

But straight ahead, more with Senators Chuck Hagel and Dianne Feinstein.

You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.


KING: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're talking with Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel and California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Before we continue, before the break, we were discussing the controversy over Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This response from the Department of Defense to the new "Time" magazine story detailing the tactics used to interrogate one key suspect at Guantanamo Bay.

The Defense Department says in part, "Qahtani's interrogation during this period was guided by a very detailed plan and conducted by trained professionals motivated by a desire to gain actionable intelligence to include information that might prevent additional attacks on America."

So the Defense Department defending its conduct at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That story will continue to ripple in the days ahead, including in the hearings Senator Feinstein just spoke about.

I want to move our conversation now onto a request of the president for Congress to renew, and in fact, expand the so-called Patriot Act, the powers given to the government after 9/11.

In making his case several times this week, on one point, the president invoked the name of one of our guests, trying to make the case that what he wants to do is not so controversial. It couldn't be, he said, because this Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, supported him. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has worked with civil rights group to monitor my administration's use of the Patriot Act, here's what she said. "We've scrubbed the area. And I have no reported abuses." Remember that. The next time you hear someone make an unfair criticism of this important, good law.


KING: Is the president fairly invoking your comments?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, that's true at the time, in a Judiciary hearing, we had received 21,000 complaints. And we took a good look at them; they're all computerized. And we found that the great bulk of them were related to something that was proposed, called Patriot 2, which never came to the Hill. And all the rest involved another immigration bill.

And then we called the ACLU and we asked, "Are there any specific abuses?" At that time, they said, "No."

KING: And what about this time?

FEINSTEIN: And then we had the hearing. Now, since then, the ACLU wrote me a letter with 11 specific points.

We did look at that letter very carefully. As the president said, we did scrub it. We were not able to come up with anything that really indicated an abuse of the Patriot Act, particularly in those 16 sections that are set to be sunset at the end of this year.

My own view, as one who sat in both Intelligence and Judiciary for many years now on this, is that we should reauthorize the Patriot Act.

But what happened in the Intelligence Committee this past week was that powers were added to the Patriot Act which the FBI has not asked for and which I do not believe serve the nation well by granting, nor do I believe they're necessary, specifically an administrative subpoena power with no check by anybody.

And I had an amendment which said that-if an FBI field agent wanted to use an administrative subpoena, they'd check with the U.S. attorney, who would say yes or no, and then go ahead in an emergency circumstance.

KING: Does the FBI need that power, Senator Hagel?

HAGEL: Well, I think it does. I think it is important that they have some immediacy here to deal with these threats that come up quickly. The pace of terrorism and threats are so dramatically different than what we've ever seen.

At the same time, to Dianne's point, there needs to be a clear definition and line here drawn as to what this means. Now, one of the things that we did is we put a sunset provision in some of these new additional powers, which I think we do need. I was for that. Let's see how it works here. Let's see, in fact, if it is being or will be abused. And if it is, then we're going to review it.

Congress is not going to get very far away from this issue no matter what passes. I can guarantee you that Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Relations, Armed Services will all have very specific oversight responsibilities.

KING: Well, the Patriot Act is one response of the federal government to 9/11. One of the 9/11 Commission recommendations is that you all get your act better together, if you will.

And one of the Commissioners, Jamie Gorelick, was out this past week saying one of her greatest disappointments is that she does not believe that Congress is heeding the lesson in reforming and streamlining how you deal with intelligence, how you deal with threat information. Let's listen to Commissioner Gorelick.


JAMIE GORELICK, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: I would say it is the unanimous view of the former commissioners that the most glaring failure of our recommendations has been in the adoption of Congressional reforms.


KING: Fair criticism?

HAGEL: Well, I think it's fair criticism. But I think the Congress has moved to address a number of these very specific recommendations.

I think they were good recommendations. Do we need to do more, will we do more? Of course. But I think we need to find a center of gravity here in equilibrium, balancing always the rights of individuals with the protection of the security of this country.

FEINSTEIN: Well, if I were chairman of Intelligence, I'd do it differently. I'd carry out our oversight in a different way.

Having said that, obviously I'm not.

Let me go back for just a moment to the administrative subpoena. This is really important.

Under the administrative subpoena, this gives an FBI field agent real fishing power, to go out and to collect information on people, really with no relationship to anything else, and that's what concerns me.

That's why picking up the phone and saying just as they might to a judge, "Look, I have some information that so and so may be doing this, I need to go in, I need to get these hotel records right now." Bingo! He'd get the subpoena, no question.

But, without that, an individual agent can go in and say any time-let's use the hotel again as an example-I need a record of all your guests, and I need to see with specificity what they're charging in their phone records, and this kind of thing.

Now, this is what differentiates us from Soviet-style intelligence-gathering, is the check and the balance. And that's what really upset me, Chuck, when the committee voted-well, I can't say, I can't talk about how the Intelligence Committee voted.


FEINSTEIN: And so we'll have another crack at it in Judiciary.

KING: We have short time, but I want to ask you both about something else the Intelligence Committee might be able to help us with.

We are of course watching this very troubling insurgency in Iraq. We had Jane Arraf on at the top of the program. After the elections, there was some optimism. Now there's, at a minimum, stagnation, if not more trouble.

One of your colleagues from the House, Curt Weldon, was on the "Meet the Press" program earlier today, and he's talking about how the United States needs to do more to deal with the insurgency. He says we talk a lot about where the threat is coming from, but perhaps not in the right way. I want you to listen to Congressman Weldon, quickly.


REP. CURT WELDON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Syria may have the largest number from outside of Iraq in country, but Iran overwhelmingly has the quality behind the insurgency. And we've got to come to grips with that.


KING: You have access to the intelligence. Is Iran the bigger problem than Syria, when it comes to supporting and encouraging an insurgency that is not only killing Iraqis, but still killing Americans as well?

HAGEL: Well, I would answer it this way. And Dianne and I need to be careful, as she has noted, on answering some of these questions.

I have always believed that you will never resolve any issue in the Middle East unless it is a regional concept, a regional dynamic. You can't think, believe that you are going to democratize Iraq without having Iran in some way be part of this larger concept. The Palestinian-Israeli dynamic, all of these pieces are in the regional arc of interests.

Now, each must be dealt with individually, of course, but this is a good example of what Weldon's talking about, the Syrians, the Iranians, you've got all these different pieces floating around. We don't have good intelligence on who's driving the insurgency.

It's complicated. It's deep. Many of us warned this administration before we ever put a boot on the ground there that we were going to be dealing with this kind of thing. We didn't have plans for it. And we are now where we are.

KING: "We didn't have plans for it," he says, and "We don't have good intelligence" on the insurgency-not terribly reassuring to the parent of-who has a son or daughter sitting in Iraq still for God knows, a year, two, three more.

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me respond to it this way. There's no question but there are connections between Shias in Iraq and Iran. There's no question, the head of the winning Shia party spent 22 years in Iran. His father was an imam in Iran. So there are these connections.

Now, the Iraqis have said, "Well, the Shia are very independent here." Nonetheless, there are these connections.

The driving force in the insurgency is Sunni. Let there be no doubt about it. This is why it is so important that politically there be an accommodation to the Sunni minority.

There's an argument over how many votes they should have in the parliament. That argument has to get settled fast. And the Sunnis have to be brought into the decision-making power, if only for a very practical reason. This is the party that has run Iraq and has the background and the institutional knowledge on many of the things that has to be done.

So, you're never going to get a constitution passed unless you have significant Sunni input.

I think this is the biggest thing. I think the success of Iraq to a great extent is driven by the stability that this new government can bring about. If this new government can't, with our help, stabilize Iraq, provide sanitation and sewage for the people, stop the crime that's going on, provide basic safety, then we're in for a deep, dark time.

KING: I need to end it on that point.

We need to move on, but Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, thank you very much.

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, thank you as well.