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America's New War: Senate and House Vote on Defense Bill

Aired September 26, 2001 - 06:05   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: Now to Washington. Congress has just approved a $343 billion military spending bill, as we said, diverting some funds from the missile defense program. President Bush is calling this move a vital step to ensure the nation's security.

Let's get more now from CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett who checks in live from Washington this morning -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

Yes, the White House applauded that House action on the defense bill. The Senate has moved in a similar way. The two will have to, of course, reconcile their different bills. But overall, the big headline for the White House is both chambers in large part endorse the president's budget for missile defense and both asked him to consider devoting millions of dollars that he hadn't originally thought of to counter terrorism measures. The White House thinks that's a good idea, and in fact, the president intends to do just that.

On Tuesday here at the White House, there was continued efforts in building that international coalition against terrorism. But as that happens, arises the question for many what exactly is the goal -- the immediate goal of the campaign against terrorism? Is it, in fact, to uproot and topple the Taliban regime around (ph) Afghanistan? And for the first time Tuesday, while appearing with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, President Bush indicated that, in fact, only going after the terrorist Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist organization was, in fact, the goal, not toppling the Taliban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not into nation building. We're focused on justice and we're going to get justice. It's going to take a while, probably, but I'm a patient man. Nothing will diminish my will and my determination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: Now, Leon, you may remember at his -- in his speech to a joint session of Congress and to the nation, President Bush said the Taliban was a repressive regime and if it did not respond to U.S. demands, it would suffer the very same fate as the terrorists. Suggestion on Tuesday, in fact, that the president may not be willing to go just that far.

Also on Tuesday, the president traveled to the FBI headquarters to give a note of support and to sort of buck up the civilians over there who have been working very long, very exhausting hours on the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history. And while he was there, the president said that as he pushes a counter terrorism package of legislation through Congress, he is mindful that Americans, many in Congress are worried about any trampling of civil rights in the United States as the country pursues terrorists. He said those rights will be protected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Ours is a land that values the constitutional rights of every citizen and we will honor those rights of course. But we're at war, a war we're going to win. And in order to win the war, we must make sure that the law enforcement men and women have got the tools necessary within the constitution to defeat the enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: Now among the tools the administration is seeking is extended wiretapping authority, also the sharing of grand jury testimony with intelligence and law enforcement agencies and also tracing and following cell phone conversations. Some of those powers already exist within the United States to track and follow and prosecute organized crime figures and drug lords. The White House says if it's good enough for those types of criminal investigations, it ought to be good enough for terrorist investigations as well -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Major, something else we heard yesterday, this from Attorney General Ashcroft, indications that there is a clear and present threat of terrorism still out there on the horizon here in the States. Any -- what's the word on that from the White House this morning?

GARRETT: Well, the testimony from Attorney General Ashcroft was in the exact context of how fast the administration would like Congress to move this counter terrorism legislation. In a private meeting in the Senate on Tuesday, Vice President Cheney said the White House would like to see that counter terrorism package move no later than the end of next week. It's not clear from Congress if that package is going to move that fast. If it does, it will probably be smaller than the package the administration originally sent up. But the message form the attorney general was, yes, there is still continuing ongoing threats this United States faces and if you give law enforcement the tools that we're asking for, the administration says, maybe we'll have a chance to fend them off. If not, the liability and the vulnerability of the country still remains rather acute -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thank you very much. Major Garrett at the White House this morning. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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