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America's New War: Defense Spending Bill

Aired September 26, 2001 - 05:02   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's check in now with the White House -- Major Garrett checking in there. He's got the word on the White House and defense spending bill that made folks there very happy -- good morning, Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

Yes, the White House very pleased with House action on Tuesday to pass a $343 billion defense authorization bill. The Senate has moved similarly. It's not the end of the road. The House and Senate still have to work out a few remaining differences.

The big headline in both of the bills is both the House and the Senate have endorsed most of the president's requests for missile defense, but also urged him to allocate part of the money he wanted to spend on missile defense to counterterrorism measures, a move the White House also endorses.

There's a lot of activity between the White House and Congress, of course, not only on defense spending, but on an economic stimulus plan and airport security and airline security legislation. All of that is going on.

In addition, considerable efforts on the diplomatic front, and on Tuesday, the president met at the White House with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who said that Japan is willing and eager to participate militarily in the global war against terrorism. That would mark the first time in Japan's history, or since World War II, that it has participated in any coalition effort against any military foe.

And at that meeting, the president also praised Saudi Arabia and Russia for taking new steps to join the international coalition against terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am most pleased that the Saudi Arabians yesterday cut off relations with the Taliban, and that President Putin, in a strong statement to the world, talked about the cooperation that Russia and the United States will have in combating global terrorism as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GARRETT: Specifically, Leon, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said that he said that he would allow, and would be in favor of, U.S. air force personnel using bases in Dushanbe, Tajikistan if, in fact, any air strikes were contemplated or, in fact, carried out against Afghanistan. That's a key strategic and geographic position that U.S. air forces may, in fact, be allowed now to use -- a key move -- one beneficial to the United States and the coalition against terrorism.

Also on Tuesday, the president traveled over to the FBI headquarters to sort of buck up the troops there who have been putting in long, long hours in the largest, most comprehensive criminal investigation in U.S. history. And while at the FBI, the president put in a good word for his counterterrorism package, which has encountered some resistance on Capitol Hill. The president said the FBI and other intelligence organizations in the United States need new tools to combat terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We must give the FBI the ability to track calls, when they make calls from different phones, for example. Now, this is what we do for drug dealers and members of organized crime, and it seems like it would make sense to me if it's good enough for the FBI to use these techniques for facing down those threats to America, that now that we're at war, we ought to give the FBI the tools necessary to track down terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: And one other note, Leon: The president and the White House announced on Tuesday that a planned and extensive trip to Asia for mid-October has been scaled back dramatically. The president will now no longer stop in Japan or South Korea or Beijing, China -- only go to Shanghai for an economic meeting there only two days on that trip significantly scaled back so the president can spend more time in the United States monitoring all of the developments in the campaign against terrorism -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, and so making such a decision also limits the risk to the president while traveling overseas.

Well, let me ask you about something else, because we saw -- I'm sorry -- Attorney General Ashcroft there in the video there from the FBI press conference yesterday. And he made some comments yesterday about there still being a threat against the U.S.

What do you know about that, Major?

GARRETT: Well, the attorney general basically said he could not guarantee lawmakers that there were not continuous threats to the United States posed by other terrorist cells, and he said the United States must remain vigilant. There is concern about biological or chemical attacks via crop dusting planes. There has been testimony given in the court of law in the United States about training that other terrorists have gotten in other types of biological or chemical warfare.

The attorney general did not specifically lay out those immediate concerns, but he did say that law enforcement and intelligence sources have developed information that should make everyone, if not panicked, certainly vigilant about the possibility of another terrorist strike.

He was saying this in the context of the need, that he said, law enforcement community and intelligence gathering officials in the United States need these new tools that are wire-tapping authority, the authority and the ability to stop people at the borders who may fall into a terrorist category, hold them indefinitely -- all in the means and all in the pursuit of securing the United States against another terrorist attack -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Thank you very much --Major Garrett, reporting live for us this morning from Washington. We'll see plenty of you throughout the day.

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