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America's New War: Hastert Holds News Conference

Aired September 20, 2001 - 14:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The subject of fighting terrorism also very much on the minds of House Speaker Dennis Hastert and others.

Let's listen in to a news conference at the Capitol.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: We decided to put it under the auspices of the Intelligence Committee, because obviously a lot of these problems and a lot of the solutions needs to be held quite tightly. We don't want that information out there in the public.

And we had agreed, then, to put that under -- that joint task force or working group under the leadership of Saxby Chambliss and Jane Harman on a bipartisan -- chairman and ranking member. We have decided to move that as a full working subcommittee on the House Intelligence Committee. We think that's the right thing to do. We think in that way that they can do the appropriate outreach to other committees of jurisdiction and yet keep the protection and safety of this information within a area that protects American citizens and certainly American security.

The working group will be the lead congressional entity on this issue, and will examine all aspects of these terrorist attacks, including the vulnerability of American infrastructure and our counterterrorism efforts, our preparedness and response capabilities, and as a subcommittee it will be able to hold the hearings and issue subpoenas as other subcommittees in this area.

This is an issue that you have to take a very, very broad approach on. The Intelligence Committee has done a lot of work on anti-drug issues as well, a lot of these fit in, how these people get their financing, what their networks are. And I think that there's a lot of overlap in that area, and this work on these committees will be complementary and with a lot of the work that they've already done.

I'm pleased that we can make this announcement on a bipartisan basis, and I'm already very, very pleased with the work that the leadership of this subcommittee, along with the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Goss, and the ranking member, Ms. Pelosi, has been able to do so far.

Leader?

REP RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Thank you, Speaker.

I want to thank the speaker for working with us, together, to try to bring about this effort. We are here today, as he said, to announce a coordinated, effective, important effort to make sure that what happened last week is stamped out once and for all.

For many years terrorism has been a major concern of the country and the Congress, but since the disaster it has become and it will remain even more central and a central part of the work that we do here.

I thank the speaker for his leadership and his cooperation at this time of national tragedy on this and all of the other issues that we're trying to deal with.

I want to thank Saxby Chambliss for his support and leadership on issues of counterterrorism. And I want to thank my friend and colleague Jane Harman, who has served as our appointee to the National Commission on Terrorism. Jane has done a fabulous job to lead the Congress in doing its part to fight terrorism.

At the beginning of this session the speaker had the foresight to set up, within the Intelligence Committee, the working group on terrorism and homeland security. Given the awful, horrific attack, the largest act of terror in American history, it is more than appropriate to upgrade this working group to a full subcommittee of the House Committee on Intelligence. It will have power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas, as the speaker said, if they are deemed necessary.

And as a key entity in Congress in the efforts to examine every aspect of last week's attack, the subcommittee will assume a leadership role and help coordinate efforts in Congress to address the widespread problem and challenge facing America and the American people.

Again and again we have seen this problem rear its ugly head, and I think again and again we have not mounted an adequate response. This is the time for us to respond. We live in a new world today in America.

It's a more dangerous world than the one we lived in.

We must prepare and lead the American people to deal with this challenge in every respect and every aspect. We're going to have a different country, but it will be a successful country. It will be a free country. It will be an open country. But it will be a safe country.

We must not allow terrorists to rule our country. We will take our country back. And the work of these great members who have worked on this and their leadership will help us prepare and execute the proper responses to this problem.

REP. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Well, I want to thank the speaker and Mr. Gephardt for showing confidence in Jane and me in this particular area. We've had the privilege of working on this as a working group for the last several months, and we've made some great strides. But now we're going to have a unique opportunity to expand...

WOODRUFF: Congress very much getting in the act to fight against terrorism, upgrading what was a working group on terrorism and homeland security, being upgraded to a permanent sub committee of the House intelligence committee, being given the powers of subpoena, the power to hold hearings.

Again, very bipartisan. We say the speaker of the House, a Republican, and the Democratic leader Dick Gephardt.

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