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America Under Attack: Former President Bush Speaks Out Against Terrorism

Aired September 13, 2001 - 11:19   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to Boston. This is former President Bush. He is addressing the Lotus Corporation.

Let's go ahead and listen to former President Bush.

BUSH: We've got to be tolerant. If, as the preliminary evidence suggests, this was an act of bin Laden or some related group or perhaps an entirely different group of radicals, we should be mindful that these were not the acts of all Muslims who, like Christians and Jews, believe in a God of love and mercy. Rather, these were senseless murders, committed by religious extremists who kill out of hate. Just since I've been back, since yesterday afternoon, have received letters from high officials in Saudi Arabia and talked to a friend in Kuwait, messages from China, and this is just here. Certainly, the White House has been inundated with such messages of concern and support.

And finally, I've seen some of the commentary comparing this attack with Pearl Harbor. I'm probably the only guy in this room old enough to remember where I was when the first reports of Pearl Harbor came in. And in some respects, there are similarities.

For example, just as Pearl Harbor awakened this country from the notion that we could somehow avoid the call to duty and defend freedom in Europe and Asia in World War II, so too should this most recent surprise attack erase the concept in some quarters that America can somehow go it alone in the fight against terrorism or in anything else for that matter.

BUSH: In many respects, this is far more difficult. It is far more difficult to fight an enemy who refuses to show his face. And so earlier this week, we were confronted head on, once again, by one of the remaining great challenges or our post-world -- post-war world, the threat of terrorism.

I remember when President Reagan asked me, when I was vice president, to head up a task force on international terrorism. We made some good recommendations, but clearly those recommendations couldn't solve the problems that our president and our country face today.

I can tell you, I talk quite regularly to our son, I've been doing that since he was a little kid.


And will continue to do it. But it's not always about policy. It's not, "What do you think, dad, I should be doing," that kind of thing. It is more the relationship of a very close family staying in touch, one with the other.

As a matter of fact, all three of his brothers and his sister called me in our little hotel out there in Wisconsin yesterday, just staying in touch one with the other, as families all across this country are doing.

I think, I know that George is strong. I know that he has a fantastic national security team around him. I know that in reaching out to the Congress, as we're seeing now, and in reaching out to our friends and allies and others around the world, he is doing the right thing.

I've got to confess to being a little annoyed at the attacks on him for following security procedures, not rushing right back to Washington. But as you've seen in today's paper, there was some credible threats on the life of the president, indeed on the White House itself. And so several people have called to apologize for their premature judgments on that.

He does know what he's doing. He's blessed with this strong team. And I think he's lifted by the prayers of the American people and the prayers of people around the world.

And so, I ask you to keep our president and the victims in their prayers -- in your prayers.

BUSH: Pray for the families. Pray that we will prevail against this threat.

We've moved into a different era now. You saw what NATO did yesterday and I think that is very, very important, that the alliance is standing firmly with the United States. The president heard from Jiang Zemin in China and from Putin in Russia -- and I think this is very important -- all denouncing international terror. So a coalition is kind of in the process of coming together and then it will be the awesome responsibility of the president and his national security team to determine what to do.

The prospects of peace and prosperity in our country, this notwithstanding, have really never been higher and yet the world does remain a dangerous place with more instability and unpredictability.

People used to ask me when I was still president, as the Soviet Union imploded, "Who's the enemy? Why do we need a strong defense? Why do we need all this intelligence? Who's the enemy?" And I'd say way back then and have continued to say, "The enemy is unpredictability and, of course, instability." And I think we've seen the unpredictable nature of the threat just in the last few days. The Soviet Bear, the great superpower is gone, but new dangers have emerged to take it's place -- take the place of a kind of superpower confrontation. Regional tensions in Europe and the subcontinent remain. Narco-traffickers still threaten your kids and my grand kids. Rogue states such as Iraq and North Korea -- unpredictable, but I think still present a very clear threat to civilized countries in a lot of ways. And together with terrorism, all of them represent threats to the peaceful world that we seek to build.

And if I might add, all of this and more should reinforce the need for Americans to have the best possible intelligence in the world. You may remember, I went to CIA -- I was living peacefully in China as the equivalent of your ambassador. I was then head of the liaison office with the title of ambassador because I'd been ambassador at the United Nations.

And we were bicycling away happily there in China -- in those days China was isolated from the rest of the world, and so we couldn't seek going to anybody's home, we couldn't be received by many of their officials -- and I remember bicycling one Sunday back from our little church service in Beijing to the U.S. liaison office and a messenger came from our liaison office and said, "Mr. Ambassador, we have an important message for you."

BUSH: He said, "You better be sitting down." I said, "I am sitting down, right on my bicycle right here." He said, no, no, this isn't -- so any way, there was a request from President Ford that I come back to head the CIA. I had been a consumer of intelligence at the United Nations. I had known something about it as a Congressman. But I didn't know all the technicalities of intelligence.

But I went to CIA at a time when CIA had been criticized properly for some things, but unfairly attacked for many things that it shouldn't have been attacked for. And what happened out of that period was that many of our human intelligence sources dried up. If they see there is some muckraker going out to CIA and considering everybody out there as doing something bad or naughty, and if they see the names of our intelligence sources released, those sources dry up.

And so, human intelligence is kind of a dirty business. And in it, you have to deal with unsavory people. People tried to make a lot out of the fact that at one point the intelligence community dealt with Manuel Noriega. Well, they did, but it isn't a nice, clean business. And if you're going to infiltrate some cell somewhere or a terrorist cell, you have to deal with people that are willing to betray their country, people that are willing to betray their friends, people that want money or other things. And it's not pleasant.

But if we're going to provide the president with the best possible intelligence, we have to free up the intelligence system from some of its constraints. You have got to always respect the privacy and right of an American citizen. But I think they ought to take a hard look now at whether we've gone too far in denying the people that run the intelligence community access to human intelligence. You know, you can tell a lot from science. When I was president, during the Gulf War, they could tell me exactly how many troops were where on the front lines. They could say which direction they were moving. I remember getting a thing from Saddam Hussein via Gorbechev saying, "Well they're pulling out." Yes, they were pulling out of where they were, but they were going south toward Saudi Arabia. We could tell that from intelligence.

But what we couldn't tell is the intent. And the only way you can measure intent in intelligence is if you have human intelligence, if you have people that are really willing to risk their lives for a cause -- and sometimes they'll risk it for noble reasons, you believe in democracy and freedom -- and sometimes they risk it for more selfish reasons like money or women, you name it.

BUSH: And it's not pleasant, but I think we're going to find that we have to do more in the way of human intelligence and that means we're going to have to take a broad look at exactly what constraints the intelligence community, not just CIA, but the community itself, is operating under.

And I think it's important to recognize that all this new Internet technology that you guys know so much about has to be reviewed, in a sense, to see whether we're constraining our intelligence communities from getting after the culprits that may be American citizens. It's not pleasant.

But I believe strongly we need to strengthen our intelligence. We got the best intelligence system in the world. Our president gets better intelligence than, I think, than the prime minister of England, president of Israel, prime minister, whatever. But it's -- we still need to strengthen it, and I think you're going to see a little effort to do that.

The world we live in today is very different than what it was when this week began, very different, indeed. And we should make sure that these agencies responsible for protecting American citizens against terror are not forced to fight this critical battle with one armed tied behind them.

Having said all that, the topic at hand today is the energy business. And though it seems like a million years since I was out there in the business trenches, like you all are, following a dream, working to build something with my career, I always enjoy the opportunity to visit with executives who lead dynamic companies, who work with and for dynamic companies, particularly in the industry where I spent some 17 years.

BUSH: Lone Star (ph) provides a very valuable service to the energy industry. I know that and my friends in that business know that, too.

I left the oil business -- what? -- 36 years ago, but my interest has never diminished. In many ways, in fact, it intensified during my public service, because what so many companies, like the ones that some of you represent here today, do have a direct affect on our country's national security, as well as our vital strategic interest around the world.




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