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Hillary Rodham Clinton Discusses Congressional Resolution to Wage War.

Aired September 13, 2001 - 19:12   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joining us now from the Capitol, the Senator from the state of New York, Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton, we have been listening to some heartbreaking stories from people looking for loved ones. Can you bring us any new information about recovery efforts there?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Judy, they continue. They continue, even as we speak. They will continue as long as it is humanly to hope that we can find any survivors. We had some good news today when we found some of our firefighters and another citizen. So we are far from giving up on this aspect of this search and rescue mission.

WOODRUFF: Senator, what price do you now believe New York will ultimately pay in terms of lives, its economy, its financial well- being and so forth?

CLINTON: Well, Judy it's devastating. And of course this was not only an attack on New York, but an attack on America, and because New York is the global city and, you know, an engine of American economic growth this is a loss that is going to be felt throughout the country and even the world.

But directly at home where we have suffered most grievous losses, there is not any inventory of any kind yet. We are going about the painstaking business, as I saw firsthand yesterday when I visited with the mayor and the governor, of trying to make sure we account for every person.

The necessity to really know who may be missing is bringing people down near the site to the Armory on Lexington avenue where they can register and give information about their loved ones. I think we are at the beginning of what will be a very emotional time for our country, because the horror of seeing planes crash into the towers, the unbelievable just moment of pure horror in watching buildings collapse is now going to be made even more painful because we are going to have faces to go with those people who were just going about their daily business, doing their jobs.

And we are also going to know more about the individual firefighters and police officers and Port Authority officers and emergency technicians, all of whom lost their lives. The economic costs are just beginning to be calculated. I was very grateful today when the president agreed with a request that Senator Schumer and I made for an additional $20 billion in the supplemental appropriation to deal with the overwhelming cost principally in New York, but also New Jersey has been effected, other places.

WOODRUFF: We are talking in the neighborhood of 40 billion now?

CLINTON: Yes and 20 of that will go for purposes such as beefing up our intelligence, repairing the Pentagon, the military assets we need making it clear that we are going to afford whatever security precautions are necessary at our airports and then $20 billion will go to the kind of rescue, reconstruction, rebuilding, counseling efforts that are going on right now in New York.

WOODRUFF: Senator, we are hearing from President Bush, Secretary Powell and others at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the administration that no effort will be spared, in effect, to go after the people that were responsible for this. Are you are prepared to give the president, in essence, a green light to do whatever he and the people around him think is necessary to find these people.

CLINTON: I am going to support the president's authority to wage war on these terrorists and wherever they are, root them out and make clear that anyone who provides comfort or financial aid is going to pay a price.

We are in the process of drafting the resolution. I have consulted some of my colleagues that have been here a lot longer than I, who went through the Gulf War and even before, to know exactly the best way to go about doing that. But we are going to come to agreement behind the president to give him the authority and the resources as Commander in Chief that he requires.

WOODRUFF: What about a threshold of evidence? Is that something that is a factor here?

CLINTON: Judy, you know, this is not a legal case. I use to practice law in another life, and we are not -- you know, we are not putting together the kind of case that we would take to a jury necessarily. Certainly we are painstakingly acquiring whatever evidence is available. But I'm not sure that it would be appropriate or prudent for the United States to just pursue this legally, to try to, as we did with the first incident at the World Trade Center, the bombing, spend years tracking down perpetrators, bringing them back to justice.

This is much more like the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. This is an act of war and I think we have to respond accordingly.

WOODRUFF: Senator, finally there was an Associate Press report today quoting senior officials as saying in the final days of President Clinton's administration, your husband's administration, that there was specific intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, that decisions -- that it was discussed whether to take action and ultimately a decision was made not to attack.

Do you have any information about that?

CLINTON: Well, Judy, I'm not privy to all the information. I know there was intelligence about his location. There was a plan that was put into place to try to pinpoint his location. It relied, as I recall, on human intelligence assets, namely people who were on the ground providing us with information.

And my memory is that at the last minute, those assets proved unreliable and were not able to form the basis for the kind of firm footing needed for launching the sort of attack that we are considering. That's how I remember it, but as I say, I wasn't in the thick of it. But I do remember very well, we acted similarly with respect to the cruise missiles that were launched at his camps in Afghanistan based on intelligence that he would be there at time.

It was very well thought out and planned and unfortunately, for whatever reason, he turned not to be there. And I want to just add that this is part of the challenge that our current president faces. We are engaged in a battle with an adversary who lives in the shadows.

When we were bombed at Pearl Harbor we knew where the enemy was. Not only does he have his own assets but because of his considerable wealth and connections with regimes around the world, he does have his own intelligence network, people within governments and military operations who frankly, keep him apprised of what we or anyone else are interested in.

So that's one of the reasons I really support the kind of painstaking patient approach that the president is pursuing. I know there are some who think we should be able to launch an attack, press a button tonight. But that's not way this can be done. I think all Americans have to be resolute. We have be to prepared for the action that will come and very supportive of those working with the president who are putting together the pieces, as difficult as that is, to give us the basis for action.

WOODRUFF: All right. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York talking to us from the U.S. Capitol just a little over an hour after the Capitol had to be evacuated because of a threat. Senator, thank you very much for being with us.

CLINTON: Thank you, Judy.



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