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Interview with Colin Powell; Tensions Increase Between India and Pakistan; Interview with Carl Levin; Barge Rams Bridge in Oklahoma

Aired May 26, 2002 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6 p.m. in Paris and 8 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for Late Edition.

We'll get to our exclusive interview with the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in just a few minutes. But first, a news alert.


W. BLITZER: John King, traveling with the president in Paris. Will be in Normandy tomorrow, thanks very much, John.

And as John just reported, tensions are increasing between India and Pakistan, two nuclear armed nations on the brink of war.

Pakistan conducted another missile test today, it's second in two days. The short range missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. CNN's Tom Mintier is in Islamabad. He joins us now live via video phone with all the late breaking developments. Tom?


W. BLITZER: Tom Mintier, on the scene in Islamabad for us. Thank you very much.

I want to get back to that breaking news story here in the United States. In eastern Oklahoma where a barge has collapsed into a bridge, collapsing some 400 or 500 feet of that bridge. The mayor of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, Jewel Horne joins us now on the phone with an update.

First of all, Mayor, what can you tell us about injured or casualties as a result of this -- this collapse.

MAYOR OF WEBBERS FALLS, OKLAHOMA, JEWEL HORNE: Well, we're still trying to rescue the people. We have no idea -- still don't have any idea. We have divers coming out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, out of Pasadena, Texas.

I understand that the barge is holding the bridge up on I-40, and if that's moved, then probably the whole thing is going to collapse down there.


W. BLITZER: How many -- mayor, how many cars and trucks do you believe have gone into the river as a result of the collapse of the bridge?

HORNE: Eight to 10, but we're really not sure of the count there.

W. BLITZER: And how many people have been rescued so far who were thrust into the river?

HORNE: We've had three severe injuries. We're waiting on others to be brought in right now.

W. BLITZER: And there are people missing. Is that what you're saying, as well?

HORNE: We -- that is correct right now. Until we...

W. BLITZER: Do you have any idea how many people...

HORNE: No, no we don't.

W. BLITZER: ...are believed to be in the water?

HORNE: No, we have no idea.

W. BLITZER: What about this second bridge that's shaking that we've been reporting about. What's the status of that?

HORNE: Well, it has been -- one lane has been reopened on it. And, ...

W. BLITZER: The same barge collapsed into that second bridge?

HORNE: I don't know if it was the same one or a different one. That's all the information I have at this time.

W. BLITZER: All right, Jewel Horne, she's the mayor of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. We'll be back to you as more information does become available. We're following this story in eastern Oklahoma, here in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State Colin Powell says U.S. troops fighting the war on terror could be in danger because of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.

Earlier today, I spoke to with the secretary in an exclusive Sunday interview about that conflict. Iraq, the Middle East and much more.


W. BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us from beautiful St. Petersburg in Russia. I want to get to the whole U.S.- Russian agenda in a moment, but let's talk about what just occurred, only within the past few hours. The Pakistanis have launched a second missile test. That seems to be a provocative step, given the tensions with India right now. What's your read of that?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I would rather they hadn't done that, and we've expressed our disappointment that they're undertaking missile tests at this very, very tense time. But they notified appropriately all nations around Pakistan that they would be doing it, to include the Indians.

The Indians seem to be taking it in stride, but we were disappointed that the Pakistanis decided to conduct these tests during a time of high anxiety and tension.

W. BLITZER: Do you believe they're trying to intimidate the Indians?

POWELL: I don't know if that's their purpose or not. They seem not to have intimidated the Indians with this test, however.

The Indians, as I say, have taken it in stride, and it doesn't seem to have caused the crisis to get any worse, but we just didn't need this kind of -- this kind of activity at this time, in my judgment.

W. BLITZER: Are more missile tests in the works, as far you could tell?

POWELL: I don't know how many they're planning to do. They said they would be doing several, so I don't know if there will be more in the next couple of days, or not.

W. BLITZER: I interviewed the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld earlier this week. He was very, very gloomy in talking about the potential, God forbid, of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan. I also want you to listen to what Chris Patten, the European Union external affairs minister, had to say earlier in the week. Listen to this.


CHRIS PATTEN, EUROPEAN UNION EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER: The political situation is as hot as the temperature. I think, frankly, we're on the knife edge, and there has to be some movement, I think above all on the question of terrorism, in order for us to see people pulling back from the brink, and that has to come soon.


W. BLITZER: What, if anything, Mr. Secretary, can or should the United States be doing to get these two countries back from the brink?

POWELL: Well, the United States is doing a great deal. First and foremost, we're working with the European Union and we've been in touch with Chris Patten. We're also in touch with our friends in the United Kingdom, foreign secretary Jack Straw will be going in a few days time. And, as you heard, President Putin mentioned yesterday in his appearance at St. Petersburg University with President Bush, he hopes that at the upcoming meeting in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, where both President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee have been invited to attend, perhaps an opportunity may arise for President Putin and other leaders to talk to these two leaders directly about the level of tension that exists and see if we can get back from the brink.

I have been in constant contact with both nations. I've spoken with President Musharraf four times in the last several days, and with Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh of India. And so we are doing a lot, we also have Deputy Secretary Armitage heading out to the region.

So, the whole international community is seized with this problem. As Don Rumsfeld mentioned, and as Chris Patten alluded to, it's a very dangerous situation, we've got to get back from the edge, because these are nuclear-armed nations, and they also have huge conventional forces. So a great deal of damage could be done if a war broke out.

And it begins with stopping the infiltration across the Line of Control. President Musharraf again yesterday reaffirmed that he was taking action to match the words that he has been putting forth for the last several months, that that kind of action will stop. And now we have to watch and see whether or not that action is truly stopped in a manner that all of us can see and detect, and especially the Indians can see and detect.

And the Indians have given us reason to believe that if that Line of Control infiltration action stops, that it will be possible to take other steps of the de-escalatory nature, and we can start to get our hands around this crisis, not let it get any worse.

We really do have to find a political solution. The stakes are much to high to see a conflict break out in this part of the world, especially with nuclear-armed nations.

And I'm encouraged that both sides are looking for a political solution. At the same time, however, the rhetoric is rather high, and the mobilization is at a high level. So, anything could happen, and this is the time for all of us to be engaged, and we are engaged.

W. BLITZER: And you say anything could happen. Obviously, another terrorist incident in Kashmir or someplace else could spark a confrontation. Do you believe President Musharraf is doing everything he possibly can to prevent terrorist actions against India right now in Kashmir?

POWELL: He says he is, and we are looking for evidence that the infiltration across the Line of Control has stopped. And I -- not yet satisfied that that -- we have seen that, yet, but we are looking very closely.

He has given me direct assurances, and he has given the world direct assurances, again, in recent days. And, as I have said to him in our recent conversations, I appreciate these assurances, but the only thing that's really going to count is that the action across the Line of Control does stop.

And I hope he is doing everything in his power to make sure that that is the case.

W. BLITZER: How concerned are you that the Pakistani military may be moving troops away from the Afghan border toward Kashmir, a move that could undermine the effort, together with Pakistan, to look for Taliban-al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan?

POWELL: That is a concern we have. Obviously, if a nation is mobilizing again -- they had gone to a lower level of readiness -- but if they're mobilizing again, going to a higher level of readiness, and start to move troops or attention away from that western border with Afghanistan, that would be of concern to us and especially to our military commanders in Afghanistan.

We are encouraging President Musharraf to do all he can to work in those tribal areas and to continue to cooperate with the U.S. and coalition forces. But, the kind of tension we see now in the increased readiness for conflict and combat obviously starts to divert attention from that border.

It raises another issue, too, Wolf. We have U.S. forces, U.S. troops in Pakistan, in addition to American citizens and our diplomatic presence, and I hope both sides are taking this into account as they make their different calculations about what might happen in the future.

All the more reason that the entire international community must work with India and Pakistan to find a political solution to this crisis. The stakes are much too high.

W. BLITZER: When you speak about U.S. troops in the region, spell that out. I think I understand the point you're trying to make, but what is exactly the point you're making?

POWELL: The point I'm making is that they could be in danger, and I don't want either side to believe that they're going to get pulled into this one way or the other, either that they can be put at risk by one side, or because they could be put at risk by one side, the other side thinks that gives them greater freedom of movement.

That's the point I was trying to make, don't think that the U.S. troops can be used in either -- on either side in any contingency that's coming up.

W. BLITZER: As you know better than anyone, the U.S. and Russia signed this historic arms reduction agreement, reducing the number of nuclear warheads, but there seems to be some concern that the Russians, in particular, are going to be storing those warheads in areas that may not necessarily be all that secure. Possibly, terrorists could get their hands on them. How concerned are you about this warehousing, this storing of these warheads, as opposed to the destruction of those warheads?

POWELL: We would like to see all of the warheads that are needed destroyed. We're doing it, and the Russians are destroying warheads.

We are helping the Russians destroy warheads. We are contributing almost $1 billion a year to programs in Russia for the destruction of nuclear warheads, and the destruction of chemical weapons, and also trying to take down the biological infrastructure that had been built up in the days of the Soviet Union. And so that, in no way, though, should take away from the importance and value of this treaty.

The beginning of the destruction of warheads is to get them off their launchers, and that is what this treaty does. It takes us down from 6,000 deployed warheads, roughly on either side -- 6,000 for us, 5,000 for them -- down to 1,700-2,200.

But as those warheads come off and go into storage, they have to be secured as each side determines how many you'd need to keep for spares, and how many you're going to destroy, and how many you keep for modernizing systems as the systems become older. And so obviously we are concerned to make sure that both sides -- we know we secure ours well, and we want to make sure the Russians do the same thing.

Senator Lugar is in Russia today, and he and members of his party will be exploring these issues with the Russians. And, as you know, we have supported Senator Lugar and Senator Nunn's initiative to provide money for the Russians for this purpose.

We don't want to see any of these weapons get out, and so far, in the 10 years since the Soviet Union ended, roughly, there's no evidence that they have been irresponsible with respect to keeping these weapons under control.

But there's a problem with the weapons and fissile material that we still have to be concerned about, and that's why we are making such an investment in protection of these systems, helping the Russians, and we're looking at new ways to help the Russians.

There's a program that will be discussing with our NATO and European Union colleagues about how we can provide more resources to the Russians to take care of this issue.

W. BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, the Russians have rejected your request to stop exporting nuclear technology to Iran, a founding member of the president's axis of evil. What else can you do about this?

POWELL: Well, we'll continue to discuss this issue with the Russians. There was agreement between the two presidents that we don't want to see Iran develop nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction.

That's destabilizing for the region, and it's more of a danger to the Russians who are in the region than it is to the United States. So, we have a common objective. We have a disagreement about what it is the Russians are providing them that would help them achieve that goal.

The Russians say that they are not providing that kind of technology or equipment to the Iranians, and we have some evidence that they are.

So, we talked about these issues candidly, and I look forward to continuing this discussion for Foreign Minister Ivanov and I know that Secretary Rumsfeld will have similar discussions with Defense Minister Ivanov.

So it's an area of disagreement with respect to what they are doing, but there's no disagreement with respect to our overall goal not to see this kind of capability in the hands of the Iranians.

W. BLITZER: And no immediate solution on the horizon, right?

POWELL: Well, there are a number of ideas we're exploring with the Russians that might lead to a solution, and that's why we created this committee consisting of the four ministers, the defense ministers and foreign ministers of the Russian Federation and the United States, and we'll be working together to find a way forward.

W. BLITZER: On the Iraq situation, I listened very carefully to what President Bush said the other day in Germany with the German Chancellor Schroeder. I want you to listen precisely to what the president said and then I'll have a question. Listen to this.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I told the chancellor that I have no war plans on my desk, which is the truth and that we've got to use all means at our disposal to deal with Saddam Hussein.


W. BLITZER: Does that mean you, the U.S. government is ratcheting back from the potential of another Desert Storm-like invasion involving hundreds of thousands of troops?

POWELL: I don't know that we had ratcheted up.

What the president said is what he has been saying repeatedly and what I have been saying regularly as has Don Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condi Rice. The president has no war plans on his desk. His advisors have not provided him a recommendation for military action against Iraq. And what the president specifically referred to is, we're looking at all options available to us.

We've been working within the United Nations to get the inspectors back in. We have gotten the goods review list finished now with the Security Council of the United Nations to control the technology and the equipment and the consumer goods that go into Iraq in a more effective way, and obviously, we're also exploring political options as well as military options.

But the president does not have the recommendation before him for the simple reason that his advisors, and I'm one of those advisors, has not provided -- has not provided him one.

W. BLITZER: The goal is still, though, what you call regime change in Baghdad, getting rid of Saddam Hussein one way or another. Is that right?

POWELL: Yes, that remains the United States goal, and there is an international goal of getting the inspectors in to make sure that he complies with the obligations he entered into 10 years ago to not have any weapons of mass destruction.

And that's what the inspectors are all about, and that's what the Oil-for-Food Program is all about and the goods review list that we just completed with the Security Council. But we believe, as a United States' position, that the region and the people of Iraq would be better off with another leader, another regime.


W. BLITZER: Much more of my exclusive interview with Secretary Powell right after this.


W. BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We return now to my exclusive interview with the Secretary of State Colin Powell.


W. BLITZER: There's a headline in The New York Times this morning, "Debate on Arafat stalls U.S. policy, Aides to Bush Say." The article suggests that the Bush administration can't decide what to do with Yasser Arafat, whether he should be the leader of the Palestinian Authority or someone else should be brought in to take his place. What is the position of the Bush administration as far as Yasser Arafat's leadership is concerned?

POWELL: I'm not sure which anonymous aides are being quoted, but this particular aide, as secretary of state, has received his instructions from the president. Chairman Arafat is the head of the Palestinian Authority, and he is the leader of the Palestinian people.

Now, we believe he could be a better leader and could lead the Palestinian Authority in a more effective way. So, we're going to be working with our Arab friends. We're going to be working with the Palestinians. We're going to be working with others to see if we can transform the Palestinian Authority into a more effective organization working with Chairman Arafat, but working with other Palestinian leaders as well.

Palestinian leaders are suggesting that there is a need for reform within the Authority in order for them to do a better job. We'll continue to press Chairman Arafat and other Palestinian leaders to end the violence, get it under control. And we think they can do more, although they probably can't end it all, it's not all totally within their authority. And then we are also going to pursue ways to help them with their security consultations with Israel and help them build a more effective security force, and we're also interested in pursuing a political track as well as helping them with their economy and with humanitarian needs that the Palestinian people have.

And so, Assistant Secretary of State Burns will be heading back to the region in the very near future, some time this week. And director of the CIA, George Tenet, will also be heading in. We had hoped George would be able to go earlier, but he's got a pretty broad portfolio, and he's had some other things he's had to deal with. But I expect him to be heading in before the week is out.

W. BLITZER: So both Burns and Tenet will be in the region by the end of this week?

POWELL: Well, that is my hope and expectation. There are lots of things that are going on in the world, and we talked about some of them here this morning.

And so George is a very busy director of the CIA, but I know that he has put together a plan of action to follow. And I hope that he will be able to clear his schedule and be in the region in the not- too-distant future, and my hope is by the end of the week.

W. BLITZER: We only have a little time left, Mr. Secretary. But is it your hope also that there will be this international conference, this regional conference on the Middle East sometime this summer involving the Israelis, the Palestinians, the U.S. and the others?

POWELL: Yes. As you know, the Madrid quartet, as we call it, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation, announced that they would want to put together a meeting sometime in the summer. And we're still looking toward such a meeting.

I think such a meeting is needed in order to pull the various threads together that are out there, the Arab League initiative, the various U.N. resolutions, not only 242 and 338 from the old days, but some recent U.N. resolutions that have been put forward.

And I hope that, as Assistant Secretary Burns and Mr. Tenet travel to the region and as we have more intense dialogue with the Arab leaders and with Israel and with our European Union and United Nations colleagues, that pieces will start to come together so that we can have this meeting during the course of the summer.

The meeting won't be some grand summit. It'll be done at a ministerial level, meaning at my level, where we'll start to see what are the opportunities to go forward with respect to a political process, with respect to humanitarian and economic aid, with respect to transformation of the Palestinian Authority, with respect to security.

Sooner or later, you have to bring these pieces together in some forum. And we still see that as a potential forum, if the parties are willing to come and participate in a positive way. And so I still have that as an objective for the summer.

It's really a continuation of what the President launched with his very significant speech on the 4th of April outlining a vision for the region, two states living side-by-side in peace and security, Palestine and of course, the state of Israel, a Jewish state.

And as we see the continuing problems in the region, the continuing suicide bombings and Israeli self defense actions in response to terrorist activity, it just makes it more clear to me that the only way forward is with a political dialogue.

POWELL: And if such a meeting can help foster that dialogue and also deal with security and humanitarian and economic issues, then it would be a useful meeting to hold.

W. BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, I'm going to let you go. But one quick follow up, when you say a Jewish state, this note, when I interviewed the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, some 15 minutes, he finally did say he would support living alongside a Jewish state called Israel. Do you believe that the Palestinian leadership is committed to that concept that you just enunciated?

POWELL: I don't know if all of them are committed to it. But as you noted -- and I saw your interview with Chairman Arafat -- he spoke for the Palestinian people in that moment.

And I think he realizes that the only way we will find a political solution is for everyone to come to the realization, as the Arab League did in their declaration in Beirut a few weeks ago -- all 22 Arab nations joining together to say that we have to find a political solution that will allow the 22 Arab nations and the Palestinians to live in peace alongside Israel.

And Israel is and will remain, and must remain, a Jewish state. So I hope that this new recognition on the part of all of the Arab and Palestinian leaders gives us something to work with and a basis to move forward.

W. BLITZER: All right. Let's hope you're right, Mr. Secretary. Thanks so much. Good luck to you on the rest of your mission. I know you still got a few more stops to go. We'll see you back here in Washington.

POWELL: Thank you, Wolf.


W. BLITZER: Just ahead, questions about what U.S. authorities new and did before September 11 are prompting calls for an outside blue-ribbon investigation. Is that a good idea? We'll ask two key United States senators, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, when Late Edition returns.


W. BLITZER: While President Bush is expressing support for the FBI and the CIA, both agencies are facing serious questions about potentially missed signals before September 11th.

Welcome back to Late Edition. Members of the U.S. Congress are also demanding answers. Joining us now are two leading members of the United States Senate. In Detroit, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, and, in Philadelphia, Republican Arlen Specter, he serves on the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the FBI.

Senators, welcome back to Late Edition, both of you. Let me begin with you, Senator Levin, the president says he has confidence in the FBI, do you?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI) CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I'm extremely dissatisfied with the FBI, both before September 11th, given the number of missed signals, but also after September 11th.

I'm dissatisfied with the failure to look into their own failures, and I think both of them have to be seriously looked into. And -- but in many, many ways they had a number of opportunities before the 11th. It's absurd to suggest that there weren't many signals that there could be an attack by an airplane on buildings in this country.

Those signals occurred in the early '90s, when there was an attack on the Eiffel Tower, it occurred when someone testified, a terrorist, in 1996, that there was an Al Qaeda plan to attack buildings in the United States. It occurred in 1999, when there was a report by a CIA entity that there was an al Qaeda plan to attack buildings.

The Italian prime minister alerted us in July of '01, a couple of months before September, that there be a terrorist -- or could be a terrorist in Genoa when President Bush was there. There were just lots and lots of missed signals. That's even before we get to that Phoenix memo and the Minneapolis conversations.

BLITZER: And we're going to get to that Phoenix memo in a second, but that same question that I asked Senator Levin, to you Senator Specter. Do you have confidence in the FBI right now?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): Wolf, as of this moment, I think that the FBI has a lot of questions to answer. We had FBI Director Mueller in last week before the Judiciary Committee, closed session, and it was my suggestion at that time that we have prompt, public hearings.

We can do that without getting into any of the classified information, but right now, we've had a couple of different stories. One is that the Phoenix memo wasn't focused on at all by the FBI. Another response has been that the FBI knew about it but decided they didn't want to take any action.

Then you have the Moussaoui investigation coming out of Minneapolis with Agent Colleen Rowley's accusation, and a very strong one, that FBI Director Mueller had misrepresented the facts on that case. We have these questions to be answered, and my experience tells me that if you do it in closed session, then there's no real focus, and no real emphasis, that it loses something. But if you bring it into the public, and the public sees what is going on, I think there may well be a public sense of outrage, especially in light of what the top administration officials are telling us, that another attack, even with weapons of mass destruction, may be imminent.

We need to find these problems and to correct them, and now.

W. BLITZER: Let's go to those specific issues. Senator Levin, let me bring you back in. First of all, about the so-called Phoenix memo. That was a memo written by an FBI field agent in Phoenix, Ken Williams, to headquarters, FBI headquarters, in July 2001, two months before September 11th.

He was concerned about Middle Eastern men at flight schools learning how to fly planes in the Arizona area. In that memo, he writes this, "Phoenix believes that the FBI should accumulate a listing of civil aviation universities, colleges around the country. FBI field offices with these types of schools in their area should establish appropriate liaison. FBI headquarters," meaning in Washington, "should discuss this matter with other elements of the U.S. intelligence community and task the community for any information that supports Phoenix's suspicions."

Apparently, Senator Levin, none of those recommendations were heeded. The memo sort of just disappeared, was never shared with other FBI field offices, including in Minnesota, or with the CIA, for that matter, let alone with the president of the United States. What does that say to you?

LEVIN: That the FBI was not on the ball. I find it incredible that the recommendation that that memo be shared with other intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, was not followed. There is utterly no excuse for not sharing that memo with the CIA. And I -- that memo was directed to a number of places, about 10 different places in the FBI. One of them was the bin Laden unit, another one was the radical fundamentalist unit.

What happened when that e-mail memo, very specific, very connected to bin Laden by name, right in the heading, what happened when that memo was sent to the bin Laden unit of the FBI? Well, as of a few days ago when I asked Mueller that question, he didn't know.

LEVIN: I find that totally unsatisfactory. So, that's why I am critical of the FBI, not just for what they didn't do, such as share a memo with the CIA prior to September 11th, I'm also critical because I don't find a very strong response after September 11th. It's a totally inadequate response.

Even when the White House, after September 11th, asked the FBI for any documents in their files which might show some hints of terrorist activity, such as the attack by planes on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon, the FBI did not forward even to the White House for months after the memos that came from Phoenix and Minneapolis.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, Senator Levin obviously makes some very good points, but, in fairness to the FBI director Robert Mueller, he took office, he assumed the leadership of the FBI only a week or so before September 11th. So he was not involved in July.

But he was involved afterwards, when there was this sort of -- I guess some critics are suggesting effort to put the FBI, to institutionally try to put the best foot put forward.

With hindsight, obviously, was that a mistake?

SPECTER: Well, FBI Director Mueller, Wolf, had an obligation to turn over the Phoenix memo to the Judiciary Committee as soon as he found out about it, in September. But I don't think it is really useful to focus on any individual. I think what we have to do is focus on the whole process, and find the errors and correct them.

Look here, we've been warned almost on a daily basis that there could be another attack. We have seen major failures. We have the Phoenix FBI memo. We have the investigation of Moussaoui out of Minneapolis, and we knew from experience, way back in 1995 and 1996, when Pakistani terrorist (inaudible) talked about crashing into buildings in Washington, at the CIA. We have the Congressional Research report in 1999 talking about explosively carrying airplanes going into the White House, the CIA, and the department of defense.

So this is not a matter of putting together the dots. And when President Bush was briefed on August 6th, in a very cursory, summary briefing, which didn't give him any indication of any further action on his part, the question is, what was the CIA doing? The CIA had been notified about the Moussaoui investigation. They knew of the plans of bin Laden in the past to crash into tall buildings. So I wouldn't look at Director Mueller in isolation. I would look at the whole picture and say, "We are in trouble today, we've got to find out what went wrong, so that we know how to correct it."


LEVIN: I would agree...

BLITZER: Senator Levin, hold your thought for a minute. We have to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about with Senators Levin and Specter. They'll also be taking your phone calls. We'll talk about what's next in this investigation. Late Edition will be right back.


W. BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition, we're continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Senator Levin, this memo that -- this letter that was written by Colleen Rowley, the FBI agent in Minneapolis, the so-called whistle blower, complaining about the fact that they had arrested, they had picked up Zacharias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker in August, a month before September 11th. And they asked for permission to go through his computers, to do all sorts of searches, and they were stonewalled, effectively, by FBI headquarters in Washington.

In the actual 13-page letter, a copy of which our sister publication, news organization Time Magazine has just received and has made available, among other things, Colleen Rowley writes this, "Although, I agree that it's very doubtful that the full scope of the tragedy could have been prevented," referring to September 11th, "it's at least possible we could have gotten lucky and uncovered one or two more of the terrorists in flight training prior to September 11th, just as Moussaoui was discovered after making contact with his flight instructors."

This seems to be shocking as well, that nobody was paying attention in Washington to her requests and the other field agents in Minnesota, their request to do a more thorough investigation of who Zacharias Moussaoui was, where he was getting his money, who he was talking to.

LEVIN: It is, it's shocking, indeed, and in it, she also points out that she was chastised because when she was frustrated when going to FBI headquarters by getting nowhere, that she then informed the CIA. She was looking for information, and she was chastised for doing that without getting permission from higher-ups.

That's the kind of culture at the FBI which has got to change, the unwillingness to share, even with our own law enforcement agencies, information and to cooperate with them.

And the only way, I believe, that we're going to get the bottom of this thing is if we have a broad investigation with a blue-ribbon panel, but also if we release the documents now and hold people accountable. I'm glad the Minnesota document was released. I think it's very important that the Phoenix document be released as well. The only reason not to release those documents with proper redactions, if there's any intelligence sources in them, the only reason to do that is so that the FBI will not be embarrassed. That is not a good enough reason.

W. BLITZER: And the point is further made in her letter to director Mueller, Senator Spector, that she did receive, the FBI field office in Minnesota did receive information from French Intelligence raising all sorts of suspicions, alarm bells, about Zacharias Moussaoui. Despite that information from French intelligence, other foreign intelligence services, they were repeatedly stonewalled in their request to do a more thorough investigation.

Is there any possible explanation you can see for that?

SPECTER: Wolf, that's why I think we need a public hearing. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires, to get a warrant, that there be a showing that the individual is an agent of a foreign power. And that's something the Judiciary Committee has a lot of experience in from our investigation of Wen Ho Lee. When you bring these things out publicly -- and I think it can be done in an open session -- perhaps some of it would have to be closed, but most of it could be done open. These events have gotten a fair amount of coverage, both on television and the front pages of the newspapers. But basically, Americans do not understand the gravity of the oversights on what appears to be the case with both the FBI and the CIA.

SPECTER: And that's why I believe, and I have seen in my experience in the Senate, the value of public hearings. When FBI Director Mueller has to answer these questions, when CIA Director Tenet has to answer why the president wasn't warned on the August 6th briefing about the tall buildings being in jeopardy.

The White House and the CIA headquarters and then you get into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and it starts to register, and that will put the intelligence agencies much more on their toes. It will have the benefit of having the institutional expertise of the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee try to find answers to prevent a recurrence.

BLITZER: Senator Specter, do you agree with Senator Levin that in addition to these open hearings that you're calling for, that there should be a separate blue-ribbon commission of inquiry, if you will, beyond what the House and Senate intelligence committees are doing right now to see what if anything went wrong leading up to September 11?

SPECTER: No, not at this time. I think that we have the institutional knowledge of expertise in the intelligence committees and in the Judiciary Committee.

The suggestion has been made, citing the investigation on Pearl Harbor and the investigation of the Warren Commission. Wolf, as you know, I was one of the young lawyers working on the Warren Commission staff, and I can tell you from personal experience it took weeks to hire a staff and get offices, took months to get the hearings underway, and on the Judiciary Committee we have a lot of knowledge about the FBI culture of concealment.

I chaired the Intelligence Committee a few years back, and these committees are now moving forward, and I don't think there's any time to waste, and I would not want to see a new commission formed with on- the-job training.

Now, when we move ahead and try to solve the immediate problems, then I think it would be well to consider a long-term commission to go into great depth and great detail, but not right now when we have to get some immediate answers to these very pressing problems.

BLITZER: All right, we'll pick up that thought, Senator Levin, when we come back. We have a lot more to talk about including phone calls for both Senators Levin and Specter. Late Edition, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) W. BLITZER: Arlington National Cemetery here in Washington on this Memorial Day weekend here in the United States.

Welcome back to Late Edition.

We're continuing our discussion with Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Senators, we have a caller from New York.

New York, go ahead with your question, please.

QUESTION: Good morning, gentlemen. My question is, don't you think it would be more productive if we directed every available resource available in Washington toward preventing another terrorist attack, rather than waste time in hearings finger pointing and looking at past mistakes? Thank you.

W. BLITZER: Senator Levin, what about that?

LEVIN: Yes, we can learn from the past. And the reason that we do look backward is so that we can learn from the past and also hold people accountable, by the way.

I think the two things we are going to need to do to change this culture in the FBI of non-sharing, non-cooperation with law enforcement, either CIA or local law enforcement is if two things happen.

One is that blue ribbon independent commission. But secondly, if people are held accountable -- when the new director of the FBI, Mr. Mueller, said that he is dissatisfied also with the response of the FBI. And when I asked him, "Has anybody been held accountable for those failures," the answer was not yet. And I think it's important.

W. BLITZER: Senator Levin, the vice president, Dick Cheney was on Larry King Live earlier this week. And in opposing that kind of blue ribbon external commission, he cited this reason, among other things. Listen to what Dick Cheney said.


VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Our concern is that if we now lay another investigation on top of that, we're just multiplying potential sources of leaks and disclosures of information we can't disclose.

If there are leaks from that document, if it's disclosed to people that it shouldn't be disclosed to, we will lose the capacity to defend ourselves against future attacks.


W. BLITZER: What about the point he makes that if there is just another commission, there is another potential for leaks and that would be damaging to U.S. national security? LEVIN: Well, there's a lot of leaks already, obviously, without any commission whatsoever. I mean, that's sort of the culture of Washington, I'm afraid.

But if a document such as the Phoenix document and the Minneapolis document, plus the phone conversations are properly redacted and then released, it seems to me, that's what is required if we're going to have real change.

And that is the way of also maintaining our security. You redact. You black out any sources of information which should not be disclosed.

W. BLITZER: You know, Senator Specter, your Republican colleague, Senator John McCain of Arizona, wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post this week in supporting this outside commission.

Among other things, he wrote this, "It is not responsible or right to shrink from offering thoughtful criticism when and to whom it is due and when the consequences of incompletely understanding failures of governance are potentially catastrophic. On the contrary, such timidity is indefensibly irresponsible, especially in times of war. So irresponsible that it verges on the unpatriotic." Those are pretty strong words from Senator McCain.

SPECTER: Well, I believe that Senator McCain is right in what he wants to accomplish. I just believe that when you have the intelligence committees and the Judiciary Committee moving on it now that it would be an impediment to have a commission.

Wolf, I'd like to get back to the caller's question, which I think is the critical point, and that is when he said, shouldn't we be spending all our time right now trying to prevent another terrorist attack. And I think that's correct. But to do that, we have to know where the intelligence failures were in the past.

And on the Judiciary Committee and the intelligence committees, we have a lot of people with institutional knowledge and experience who are deeply involved in these issues. And I believe that if the errors are publicly exposed, not in a closed session, but publicly exposed, the public will demand immediate answers and immediate corrections because of the gravity of the threat.

And once we work on the immediate problems, in the long run, perhaps, a commission would be fine. W. BLITZER: All right. We're going to, unfortunately, have to leave it there. Two United States senators, Senators Carl Levin, Arlen Specter, always good to have you on Late Edition, especially this weekend.

SPECTER: Thank you, Wolf.

LEVIN: Good being with you.

W. BLITZER: Thanks for your insight. Thank you very much.

And coming up in the next hour of Late Edition, we'll get some additional perspective on what happened on September 11 and what it reveals about the FBI and the CIA. What can be done to prevent future attacks?

Also, a special interview with Lynne Cheney about life as the vice -- life as the vice president's wife and the aftermath of 9/11.

More of your phone calls, letters, Bruce Morton's essay. Late Edition will be right back.



W. BLITZER: Joining us now to help sort out the FBI and the CIA's actions before and after September 11th are three guests: Robert Blitzer, he's a former FBI chief of counterterrorism; Ron Kessler, he's the author of the new book "The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI"; and Robert Baer, he's a former CIA agent, and he's the author of the book "See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism."

Gentlemen, it's good to have all of you on Late Edition.

And Bob Blitzer, let me begin with you. First of all, alert our viewers out there. As far as we know, we're not related in any way, even though we have the same last name.


W. BLITZER: But you spent a career in the FBI, until you retired a couple of years ago.

R. BLITZER: Right.

W. BLITZER: Did the FBI, based on the public information that's out there, drop the ball?

R. BLITZER: Well, it's really hard to say at this point, and I'm very hopeful that, as we get through the hearings and the investigations that are clearly in the works, that we're going to know the facts, and I'm really concerned, personally, that the facts really aren't on the table.

W. BLITZER: Only there are two facts that we know about, this Phoenix memo...

R. BLITZER: Right.

W. BLITZER: the memo in July,...

R. BLITZER: Right.

W. BLITZER: ... a couple of months before September 11th, in which agents in the field in Phoenix said the FBI should take a close look at some of these Middle Eastern men learning how to fly planes,... R. BLITZER: Right.

W. BLITZER: ... and now we know about what happened after Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, was arrested in Minnesota a month before September 11th. Agents out there saying, "Hey, this has got to be shared."

In both cases, headquarters, FBI headquarters in Washington, poohpoohed it and neglected it, didn't share it, and sort of dismissed it.

R. BLITZER: Well, I clearly agree that that information should have been brought together. To my mind, that's absolutely right.

However, when I look at the efforts that were being made, particularly to get the technical surveillance on Moussaoui, I'm just, being involved in those many, many times, there is often a difference, in terms of satisfying the needs of the court and getting the information from the field that will satisfy those needs.

W. BLITZER: Even after French intelligence informed the U.S. and the agents in Minnesota that yes, this man is, quote, "a bad guy"?

R. BLITZER: But they've got to link him directly with clear information, Wolf, to Al Qaeda. They've got to show that he is clearly an agent of a foreign power, and that foreign power has to be a terrorist organization in this case.

And at this point, I don't know that that happened.

W. BLITZER: There's a lot of people, Ron Kessler, and you have a new book that's out on the subject, an important new book, that say that the FBI had become, before September 11th, too timid, too weak, that the culture within the bureau had simply changed to the point that they were afraid to take risks.

RON KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE BUREAU: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE FBI": I think that's absolutely true, and I trace it to Louis Freeh's management style. He would chop off the heads of bureau officials over minor issues, often without knowing the facts, and so the easiest thing was for everybody to do nothing, and...

W. BLITZER: It's easy to blame Louis Freeh, though. He's no longer around. He's not giving interviews. He's not talking.

But was it just Louis Freeh that could have done this kind of damage to the FBI?


KESSLER: You know, when Lucent goes down, and Enron goes down, you understand that the CEO is responsible. In this case, Louis Freeh was not only the CEO, but he actually took actions that led to these problems.

There was a political correctness as well that was part of this risk-aversion, to the point where they wouldn't follow a suspect into a mosque.

And this all happened under Louis Freeh's watch.

The other big problem is, Royce Lamberth, the judge who has been ruling on FISA applications for intercepts and searches, such as in the Moussaoui case, has taken a very hard-line attitude and ratcheted up the standards, because he got mad over some case, and that's caused a lot of concern within the FBI.

Even after September 11th, they were finding that they were not able to get approvals that they previously could, and this was discussed at a meeting of the special agents in charge, with Mueller, and in fact, I understand they're appealing one of these cases.

So that's a big problem.

But in my book I quoted Michael Chertoff, the head of the Criminal Division in the Justice Department, as saying...

W. BLITZER: The current head?


... that, if there had been more cooperation all around, that very possibly they could have gotten approval for those FISA intercepts.

W. BLITZER: And one of the shocking things, Bob Baer, and you worked in the CIA, you were in the front lines of the war on terrorism, literally, overseas for many, many years, one of the shocking things is that FBI agent in Minnesota did get in touch with the CIA, your former agency, and asked for assistance, and she was reprimanded by headquarters for directly trying to pass along this information about Zacarias Moussaoui to the CIA.

Explain to our viewers what was the rivalry, the battle, if you will, between the FBI and the CIA over so many years.

ROBERT BAER, AUTHOR, "SEE NO EVIL: THE TRUE STORY OF A GROUND SOLDIER IN THE CIA'S WAR ON TERRORISM": I think -- you know, a little bit of history first. And that's the Church and Pike Committees in Congress...

W. BLITZER: In the '70s?

BAER: ... in the '70s, that forbade the CIA from collecting information internally, storing it, or in any way analyzing it.

So the FBI reports since that time traditionally have not gone over to the CIA.

And the fact that this agent in Minneapolis had to do it independently tells you how broke the system is. The CIA, in order to do proper analysis, should have known about Zacarias Moussaoui, they should have known about what was going on on the ground in Minneapolis, and could have factored this into its analysis when it got its early warnings about a hijacking. The system is broken.

W. BLITZER: When you were in charge of counter-terrorism at the FBI, did you have regular dealings with the CIA?

R. BLITZER: Extensive dealings with CIA. When I -- I was ten years in international terrorism, and we had a lot of dealings with the CIA, particularly post-Pan Am 103. We just did a lot of work with the CIA ...

W. BLITZER: So why was she reprimanded for passing along the information to the CIA about Zacharias Moussaoui, reprimanded by headquarters in Washington.

R. BLITZER: Well, I can't understand it, I don't know why she was reprimanded, other than she went out of the traditional channels, which were -- we work headquarters to headquarters, FBI headquarters with CIA headquarters ...

W. BLITZER: So it was more of a bureaucratic thing?

BAER: Probably was a bureaucratic ...

BAER: That's the whole problem, it's bureaucratic. She should have been able to send a message directly to CIA and say, what do you guys know about this? Given all the names associated with Moussaoui ...

W. BLITZER: Especially after she got information from French intelligence and other foreign intelligence services about Zacharias Moussaoui, it sounds ridiculous to assume that the U.S. intelligence services not sharing that kind of information.

BAER: Exactly, we should be melding and pooling the data resources. The CIA itself is broken up into several computer systems where people inside the organization can't share. It's an old system, it's broken, it's got to be changed.

W. BLITZER: How much of a rivalry was there, and is there, between the CIA and the FBI?

KESSLER: There wasn't so much a rivalry in recent years. After George Tenet came in, they became much more -- there was much more of a working relationship, but it was not this seamless kind of real-time situation that you would want, where they constantly share information.

And that's what Bob Mueller, the new director, is working towards. Even before 9/11, he had already started plans to increase analysis in the FBI, to improve computers, and to increase cooperation with the CIA.

W. BLITZER: One thing they are doing now is when the CIA gives the daily brief to the president on overnight developments and the intelligence assessment, there is a representative of the FBI who attends those briefings as well. So at least they get to hear exactly what both agencies are providing to the president. BAER: Yes, yes. Things are on the mend, but it's got to go -- it's got to go a lot faster. And I'll go back to the computer databases.

Today, the joint terrorism task force, you need a person there from the FBI to take information individually from an immigration's guy. That's wrong, it should be done electronically.

W. BLITZER: Now there's a story -- you saw the story in the Washington Post today that the CIA's sending over, dispatching some intelligence analysts to help the FBI better understand a lot of these intricate matters of intelligence gathering. Is this a case of too little, too late?

R. BLITZER: I don't think so, I think it's a good thing. But I wanted to pick up on something Bob said. When we talk about this prevention of information flowing back and forth, a lot of that did come out of the Church Committee. But the Patriot Act, which was enacted here, I think within the last year, I think has gone a long way to fix some of those things.

It is allowing a freer flow of information. Even grand jury information, proceed ...

W. BLITZER: And I think the whole panel will agree that that recently enacted legislation, the so-called Patriot Act, has changed a lot of the earlier restrictions that were imposed after the Church Committee, the Pike Committee, had their hearings.

KESSLER: And, you know, behind the scenes, these people in the FBI and the CIA are working incredible hours trying to fix things, trying to prevent the next attack. And, you know, we outside sort of thing, well, they must be spending their time watching TV and worrying about what happened before. They're not. Their main focus is, let's stop the next attack.

W. BLITZER: All right, let's take a quick break, we have a lot more to talk about, including phone calls. We'll talk about breakdowns, if there were breakdowns, in U.S. intelligence, continuing our conversation with Robert Blitzer, Ron Kessler, and Robert Baer.

Also, your questions, start thinking about them.

Late Edition will be right back.


W. BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with the former FBI counterterrorism chief Robert Blitzer. Ron Kessler has written a book about the FBI, a couple books, about the FBI in fact. And former CIA agent Robert Baer. He's authored a book about his experiences fighting terrorism as a CIA agent.

Bob Blitzer, the Colleen Rowley, the FBI field agent, the lawyer in Minneapolis wrote the letter that's now been released -- Time Magazine, our sister news organization made it available -- to the FBI director copies to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Among other things she writes this. "Numerous high-ranking FBI officials who have made decisions or have taken actions which in hindsight turned out to be mistaken or just turned out badly, that is, Ruby Ridge, Waco, et cetera, have seen their careers plummet and end. This has, in turn, resulted in a climate of fear which has chilled aggressive FBI law enforcement action decisions."

Those are pretty strong words that she writes, and that's her interpretation of why no one paid attention to her please about Zacharias Moussaoui.

B. BLITZER: Well, it's certainly true that in those particular cases that she eludes to, guys careers were ruined. But there had been so many other cases -- that some of have been in the media, some have not -- that we worked extremely hard on.

There have been some, some very tense renditions, for example, are extraditions of fugitive terrorists that were literally, you know, very, very tough and your heart was beating fast when you were involved in them.

So, you know, to say that we were risk-averse, I can tell you that in the 10 years I was there, we were involved in a lot of just terribly sensitive work that was high risk.

But these things happen. People make mistakes and certainly when you talk about Ruby Ridge and Waco, those were difficult cases for the FBI, and overall among the agents, I think, there was a chilling effect.

W. BLITZER: And that, based on your reporting, Ron, that's your conclusion as well?

KESSLER: Yes. And I think the important thing is that a lot of times decisions were made to remove people that were not very consistent and not very fair and as I say, Louis Freeh was director for eight years, and he absolutely was in charge of this whole problem.

The other side is that even if they had approved these intercepts on Moussaoui, it's still unlikely that they would have uncovered the plot.

What really was needed was a much more concerted effort on the part of both the CIA and the FBI to penetrate the Al Qaeda organization. They did penetrate to some extent, but they didn't do enough. And that's really what has to change.

W. BLITZER: And that brings us back to the CIA and the timidity and the lack of penetration that occurred in those years, a subject you know quite well, Bob Baer.

I want you to listen, though, to something that the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Senate earlier this week on Tuesday. All the information that's now being obtained from the Al Qaeda, Taliban detainees. Abu Zubaydah, the so-called number three in the Al Qaeda organization is now in U.S. custody. He raises some doubts about some of this information. Listen to this.


DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: They want to learn how we respond to that kind of a warning, and they jerk us around, try to jerk us around and test us, stress our force in a way.


W. BLITZER: You've dealt with sources, foreign sources, terrorists others over the years. Is that, is that something that the U.S. -- what the defense secretary says is a major concern, people like Abu Zubaydah is just jerking the U.S. around and making us crazy as a result of some of the information they're providing?

BAER: He couldn't be more right. About 90 percent of the people the CIA run into in this business -- terrorism, the agents, the sources -- turn out to be fabricators. They're either doing it for money to mislead us or to put us on alert to hit us when we go off alert.

W. BLITZER: So, but on the basis of this information, every other day there's a new alert against apartment buildings, against banks, against nuclear reactors. It's uncorroborated. It's unsubstantiated, but it makes the people out there pretty nervous.

BAER: Well, I can't, I can't speak to the politics of this but it looks like the terrorists are winning to me. When we're all on alert, when people in New York are scared to go in their apartment buildings, they are winning without doing anything. When they hit us, it's going to be a surprise.

W. BLITZER: But how good is the FBI's ability to differentiate between baloney, jerking the U.S. around if you will, as opposed to corroborating, confirming, backing up some of these pieces of information?

R. BLITZER: Well, you know, it really depends what the source is worth. I mean, is it coming in from a foreign source? And of course, the agency would have to vet a foreign source.

Or is it coming in from a domestic source? If it's coming in from a domestic source, you have a much better chance of vetting that source, checking him out to find out if what he's saying is true.

And as Bob indicated, source handling is very difficult. And I'll tell you, when you're evaluating, you know, an awful lot of intelligence on your plate, it's difficult.

W. BLITZER: I just want to alert our viewers, what you're seeing in this videotape on the screen, this is a bridge that has collapsed in eastern Oklahoma, over the Arkansas river in a place called Webbers Falls. A barge -- and you can see the barge, that has gone into this bridge, collapsing the bridge. Several cars and trucks went into the river.

There is a search and rescue operation under way. We spoke earlier with the mayor of Webbers Falls. She said that divers have been brought in from Tulsa, elsewhere in Oklahoma, to help in the search. But pretty dramatic pictures, as you can see, of this bridge that has simply collapsed. This is an interstate highway, Interstate Highway 40 over the Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma. A major highway here in the United States.

And you can see that bridge simply went into that -- that barge simply went into that bridge, collapsing the bridge and obviously bringing some serious destruction. We don't have specific numbers about injured. And we're going to be, obviously, covering this story as well.

We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about with the FBI and the CIA panel that we're talking about as we do take a look at these dramatic pictures from eastern Oklahoma.


W. BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our discussion about U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, what the U.S. knew before and after September 11th, with the former FBI counterterrorism chief, Robert Blitzer, the FBI author, Ron Kessler, and the former CIA agent, and author, Robert Baer. We have a caller from Ohio, please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, my question is, I truly believe the public perceives an intense rivalry between the CIA and FBI. So why doesn't Congress put them both under one person or leadership?

W. BLITZER: Well, that's a fair question. What about that, Bob Blitzer?

R. BLITZER: Well, I think it would be a daunting thing to put all of that under one particular leader, and I -- even though the public may perceive that there is tremendous rivalry, in reality, I really don't think it's there. I mean, there's some, there's always going to be some.

There's rivalry between law enforcement organizations. But, in counterterrorism, at least for the years I was there, I felt that the relationship had improved significantly, and I think today, it's probably better than it ever was. Can it be improved? Sure. But it's coming together.

W. BLITZER: Ron Kessler, to a certain degree, they both are under one leader, namely, the president of the United States. But is that good enough as far as you're concerned?

KESSLER: I do think it's good enough, and it's important to keep them separate, because the CIA does have a different role. It has to collect intelligence overseas, which has nothing to do with law enforcement. Law enforcement has certain standards it has to adhere to.

But the important thing is, there are these counterterrorism centers where they're supposed to get together, and they do get together.

There can be more of a working relationship, and, you know, the important thing is to improve communications. The FBI's computers, until a few months ago, were so poor -- they were 386 and 486 machines, they didn't have e-mail outside of the bureau. I mean, it was unbelievable. And that's something that Mueller is improving. He's ordered thousands of new Dell computers. That's at least one step in having a seamless relationship.

W. BLITZER: And that seems so ridiculous, that the FBI wouldn't have state of the art computers. When you were there, was that true?

R. BLITZER: It's true. I mean, I -- we were technologically so far behind the curve that it was -- it was embarrassing, to be honest with you.

KESSLER: I know you don't like to hear about Louis Freeh, but Louis Freeh did not use e-mail and that's why -- that tells you a lot about why the FBI's computers were machines that nobody would even take as donations to churches.

R. BLITZER: But I think it was deeper than that. It really went to our whole records management system. You know, the Bureau lives and dies, as does CIA, on your records, and when your records system doesn't have the automation that it really needs, it's problematic.

W. BLITZER: It's pretty shocking. I'm sure the CIA has better computers than that, and they've had better computers than that for ...

BAER: We never had a problem with computers.

W. BLITZER: When we hear all these suggestions in the press, the media, about -- there's an increased level of chatter that the intelligence community is picking up that suggests certain potentially ominous developments, explain to our viewers what that means, more chatter.

BAER: Well, it's just like in a battlefield when you -- if the enemy's starting move, you can see their communications coming up places where you wouldn't expect it. You see more frequency of communications, you see people moving around.

And before an attack, even a terrorist attack, you see people starting to move around. They get on the Internet, wherever they're getting these communications from, I don't know right now. But it is a good indication that they're planning something, and I think it's something we should be worried about.

KESSLER: Actually, before Pearl Harbor, the same thing happened, and the agencies were not brought together, there was no CIA, and so they didn't put all of this together. But there was an increase in communications, they were trying to garble communications, and that's why you need a CIA to unify all of this intelligence

W. BLITZER: Doesn't the FBI have enough language specialists who can listen to all of this so-called chatter in various languages out there and translate it and get it to the people who supposedly should have the information?

R. BLITZER: Been a major problem for the last 10 years. We did not have the linguists available to us to, you know, to get through everything that needed to get through. So you did things the best you could with what you had, and you set priorities, and you got things translated with the resources you had at hand.

But it's been a critical problem, and it's been an extremely difficult problem to overcome, not only at the Bureau, but throughout the intelligence community.

W. BLITZER: Let's take another caller. Go ahead with your question, caller.



W. BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: What will happen to Special Agent Rowley now that she has blown the whistle?

W. BLITZER: She has officially asked for so-called whistle blower status, Colleen Rowley, the FBI agent in Minnesota who's written this letter to the FBI director, basically complaining about the lack of action on Zacharias Moussaoui.

R. BLITZER: Well, she will be afforded all of the protections of the whistle blower statute, and that will protect her from retaliation from superiors, and I think that that we've had other whistle blowers in the past and the same things -- they've used the statute successfully.

W. BLITZER: Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as the FBI is concerned? Because there is a lot of confidence that's been lost in the FBI in recent weeks.

KESSLER: I do. You know, the agents are very good to begin with. They are very dedicated, very talented. And you saw in the Phoenix memo, this agent was on top of things. You saw in Minneapolis, the agents were on top of things. So the organization is very good. The problem has been leadership.

And now I think, under Bob Mueller, they are getting the leadership that they absolutely need. He is very focused. He is very -- he has created a sense of urgency. He is increasing analysis. He is centralizing the investigation. All of these things are going to help. And also, most importantly, he has created a sense of honesty about the way deliberations occur.

W. BLITZER: And Bob Baer, your bottom-line assessment on the CIA. How good is it right now?

BAER: I think it's getting a lot better. I've seen evidence all over. And I think just the coordination with the FBI is going to produce results, maybe even stop the next attack.

W. BLITZER: Bob Baer, Ron Kessler, Bob Blitzer -- no relation as far as we know.

R. BLITZER: As far as we know.

W. BLITZER: But we'll talk about it later. Maybe we'll find out that there are some ancestors back there, the Blitzer clan going way back.

Thanks for joining us.

R. BLITZER: Great. Thank you.

W. BLITZER: When we return, a conversation with Lynne Cheney.


BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition.

Lynne Cheney, the wife of the U.S. vice president, Dick Cheney, is the author of a new children's book about the people and principles of America. I spoke with her earlier this week. We also discussed the controversy over the pre-September 11th warnings, and life inside the Bush administration]


BLITZER: Mrs. Cheney, thanks again for joining us on Late Edition. This book, it's a very important book, "America: A Patriotic Primer" -- or is it primer?

LYNNE CHENEY: Well, I say "primer," but you say "primer." No, I think "primer" is probably preferred, but "primer" is proper too.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about why you wrote this book. Why did you write it?

L. CHENEY: I started it -- or I got the idea for it, really, during the campaign. I mean, you travel all across the country in this compressed period of time. It's an amazing experience. You really get such a feeling for what an amazing place we live in and how diverse it is and how diverse the people and the landscape and the accomplishments are.

We also had our grandchildren on the plane with us many times during the time when Dick was running for vice president. You know, it just seemed natural. Let's tell little kids the story of this country. And I didn't think it had really been done. And I started jotted down ideas. Along about March or so, I got serious and talked to my book agent. And Robin -- I chose the illustrator not long after that. Haven't I just been so lucky? She's so talented, and the illustrations are beautiful.

BLITZER: And the illustrations are beautiful. Let's give her credit. Robin Preiss Glasser, she's done a spectacular job. And the little photographs we're going to show are little drawings that she does, we'll show our viewers some of that.

So this is an idea that's not post-September 11? L. CHENEY: No, it isn't. It came before. But I will have to say that after September 11 it took on more importance for me and for Robin and for the editors involved in the book. We really had some great editorial help, both in art and word editing, at Simon and Schuster.

BLITZER: And you say it took on great importance, but it changed the nature of the book to a certain degree, didn't it?

L. CHENEY: Well, it did. I think it has a more emotional component now than it did before. We even had a debate about the opening two pages: "A is for America, the land that we love, and B is for the birthday of this country of ours." And those two pages encompass a scene in New York Harbor that's a celebration of the Fourth of July.

And this book has so many layers. If you look closely, you'll see there's a banner across the bottom of the page that has part of a stanza from "America the Beautiful": "Oh, beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears."

And after September 11, I was saying that maybe we should take it off, that, you know, there had been something so awful happen and maybe it wasn't right to say our cities were undimmed by human tears. The New Yorkers involved in this project said, "No, leave it in. We stand proud. Our spirits are not in any way diminished by what's happened."

So that kind of interplay became part of the book after that awful event.

BLITZER: And I want to get back to the book in a moment, but all this talk right now that's going on, the postmortem, the second guessing, was everything done that should've been done, could a September 11 have been avoided -- you're outspoken. What goes through your mind right now?

L. CHENEY: Well, I thought that the suggestion was outrageous, that somehow this president -- or any president -- would have known, would have knowledge, would have some specific information that he didn't act on in order to prevent a tragedy like this. It was an outrageous charge.

I think that the people who were making it sort of embarrassed themselves. I noticed that there was kind of a quick backing away, you know, once they sort of maybe looked in the mirror and realized that it was not the kind of thing we should be saying.

BLITZER: But the public does have a right to know what happened -- what the warning signs might have been. And this is a book, after all, a book about history. If you don't learn from our mistakes, we're doomed to repeat those mistakes.

So you don't have a problem with reviewing and analyzing, investigating what we might learn from that period? L. CHENEY: No. And I've watched Dick say on television and in many other forums that the congressional inquiry that's going ahead under the aegis of the House and Senate intelligence committees is one that the White House really is interested in cooperating with fully.

BLITZER: The joint House-Senate intelligence committees. It's bipartisan, bicameral.

But what about this independent...

L. CHENEY: But you know what's -- Wolf, and what's so important, and I think why Dick places special trust in that particular inquiry, is that there's a kind of culture about the intelligence committees that understands the importance of classified information, the importance of not putting out information that can destroy your ability to gather further intelligence. They have a history of dealing well with that kind of information. So I think that he's argued, for that reason, that this is the right venue.

BLITZER: Others have suggested, though, that just after Pearl Harbor, within days after Pearl Harbor, an independent commission of inquiry was established to see what happened, what may have -- missed signals that occurred. What's wrong with having that kind of inquiry as well?

L. CHENEY: Well, my response would be the same. But I think that when you're dealing with information that might possibly inhibit, if it were made public, your ability to gather further information, that there's an area here in which you want to conduct an investigation in the most responsible way possible. And I have heard Dick say many times that the intelligence-committee route is the way to go.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see if that's the way it eventually winds up going. At least we know that route is going for now.


W. BLITZER: We'll have more of my interview with Lynne Cheney coming up. Late Edition will be right back. I'll ask Lynne Cheney how her husband, the vice president, is coping physically during this war against terror. Stand by.


W. BLITZER: A live picture of people who have come to Washington for so-called Rolling Thunder. Two-hundred thousand motorcycles and their drivers here in the nation's capital. They're honoring the nation's dead during the Vietnam War. We'll have more pictures coming up from Rolling Thunder. Wecome back to Late Edition. We continue now with my interview with Lynne Cheney.


BLITZER: Let's go through some of the specific elements of this book about America.

"F is for freedom and the flag that we fly."

L. CHENEY: Isn't that nice?

BLITZER: The criticism, though, some of the concern, though, from some who love freedom -- all of us love freedom, of course -- is that some of our freedoms, though, may be taken away as a result of the enormous security precautions and the concerns of not allowing another September 11 to go forward.

How do we balance our freedom with the need for law enforcement and security?

L. CHENEY: Well, you know, I don't have an answer for you that will prevail in every circumstance. I think it's just something that we have to be constantly aware of, that what makes this country unique, what makes us especially blessed is the freedom that we have.

And in order to preserve that freedom against those who would destroy the nation, we have to be very careful in always pursuing that proper balance, so that in order to defend our freedom we don't rob ourselves of it. And that is a very important thing to keep constantly in mind.

BLITZER: Now, you're from Wyoming, where they love freedom, where they love individuals' rights and having privacy. Are you concerned at all that some of the measures that the attorney general and the Congress have passed are eroding Americans' freedom?

L. CHENEY: I haven't been alarmed as yet. But I do think it's an important issue and it's a good question to raise and a question constantly to be asking ourselves: Do we have the balance right? BLITZER: "G is for God in whom we trust." It's on...

L. CHENEY: Now, this is so interesting...

BLITZER: ... U.S. dollar bills, of course.

L. CHENEY: Well -- but before September 11, it was the same, "G is for God in who we trust," and it was still a double-page spread. It's a very important place in the book.

But before September 11, I was saying to myself, "You know, I think that's going to be a little controversial. God would be a controversial thing to put...

BLITZER: Because Americans love to separate church and state. L. CHENEY: Exactly. But, you know, after September 11, it isn't. I just had full conviction that it wouldn't be after that. People sort of want to talk about more serious issues. They want to talk about religious concerns.

And the "G is for God" page, of course, makes the point that the Pilgrims came here seeking religious freedom and that religious freedom sustains are country today.

BLITZER: And that religious freedom is the right not to be religious, as well.

L. CHENEY: Exactly.

BLITZER: For those Americans who don't believe in God, they should have that privilege, they should have that right.

L. CHENEY: Robin did a wonderful job on that "G for God" page. There's a little mainstreet shown, and if you look closely at it, you'll see every conceivable kind of house of worship on the street. There's a church that might be a Baptist church next to a synagogue next to a mosque next to a Buddhist temple. It's a wonderful way of pointing out the range of belief in this country.

BLITZER: "H is for heroes, and I is for ideals."

We all have a new set of heroes after September 11, but is that going to last? The first defenders, the firefighters, the military personnel, you include teachers in those, the first responders, you include teachers as well.

L. CHENEY: Parents.

BLITZER: Is that going to last, or is it, with time, going to erode?

L. CHENEY: Well, I hope that with a book like this we'll be able to point out to little kids, and parents will be able to point out to them, that heroes aren't just people you admire from far away, that they can be part of your life every day. And it's the sacrifices that parents make are very great. You should honor your parents because they are heroes in life.

I just hope we're doing our part to keep it from eroding.

BLITZER: The book is geared for what age kids?

L. CHENEY: Simon and Schuster say all ages. We started out 8 and under, but it exists on so many levels. I think you have to read it three or four times before you even begin to notice that the Declaration of Independence, those words are in there, that the Gettysburg Address outlines the Lincoln page. It's a wonderfully detailed book.

BLITZER: I noticed that "J is for Jefferson" of course.

L. CHENEY: That's right.

BLITZER: "K is for Martin Luther King, Jr."


BLITZER: But there are people that you probably wanted to have letters for that you couldn't include.

L. CHENEY: That's so smart.

BLITZER: Who were some of the people that were not included that you would've liked, assuming there were a thousand letters?

L. CHENEY: My big regret is John Adams. And John Adams is listed among the heroes, under H, as is his wife Abigail. But Adams was such a remarkable engine driving us toward independence in the early days of this country, even before we took that step. And he was such an interesting character and an admiral character, one you'd want to hold up for children, a man who was always trying to be better. So in many ways, he is a role model that I wish had a little bit more important place.

BLITZER: Anybody else?

L. CHENEY: Well, John Adams is the one that's been nagging at me. And I've never confessed that before, so you've got that admission from me.

BLITZER: Well, maybe we're -- I'm hearing a nugget for a new book.

L. CHENEY: That could be.

BLITZER: A new follow-up to this book.

L. CHENEY: I would love to keep writing for children. As I said, this is the most gratifying project I've ever worked on.

BLITZER: You've got "P for Patriotism." I see a spectacular little American flag over there.

Is the country more patriotic now?

L. CHENEY: Oh, for sure. I think that's clearly the result of the awful and tragic events of September 11. You know, what it did, I think, is remind of something that we tend to forget, which is that freedom and liberty aren't inevitable, that we are so fortunate to live as we do, that it's not inevitable. It required a great deal of thought; we need to keep those issues in mind that you mentioned earlier. And it requires our most ardent defense.

BLITZER: How is the vice president doing?

L. CHENEY: Oh, he's very well. Thank you.

BLITZER: He always tells us that you're watching his weight... (LAUGHTER)

... you're watching his food.

L. CHENEY: Oh, no.

BLITZER: His heart seems to be OK?

L. CHENEY: I'm the health nag, that's true. And he exercises regularly. We get up very early so we can do that. But that's an important part of his regimen too.

BLITZER: I just came back from Jerusalem. They told me at the hotel they brought a treadmill up to his suite to make sure that he would work out, as he's supposed to do when he was in that part of the world.

L. CHENEY: Exactly.

BLITZER: Giving you good news, aren't I?


L. CHENEY: That's an important -- well, I was with him, so not only was the treadmill there, I knew if it were used.


BLITZER: All right. That's important.

Any concerns at all that the pressure on him might be too much right now? Because he is under enormous pressure.

L. CHENEY: It is an immensely challenging job. But, you know, there's some kind of satisfaction to be taken from having a job that has such scope to it that you call on everything you've ever learned and everything you know and the judgment you've developed over the years, and you're able to use all of that, bring it to bear. I think that's, even under the challenging circumstances he works, I think that's gratifying.

BLITZER: If the president wants him to be on the ticket in 2004, you want him to be on the ticket in 2004?

L. CHENEY: If the president wants him, if he wants to, sure.

BLITZER: Spoken like a wonderful wife, as you are.

L. CHENEY: A dutiful wife, definitely, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations with the new book, "America: A Patriotic Primer."

L. CHENEY: I love it.

BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us. L. CHENEY: Thank you. Good to be with you again.

BLITZER: Great to have you.


W. BLITZER: In this note, Mrs. Cheney told me all the financial proceeds from the book will go to charity. When we return, Bruce Morton's essay.


CNN'S BRUCE MORTON: The bomb went off and killed four children. Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, all 14. They became martyrs. They didn't want to, of course.


W. BLITZER: A case from a turbulent era of long ago, finally closed.



BLITZER: And now Bruce Morton on four young girls and a 39-year wait for justice.


MORTON: The bomb went off at 10:19 Sunday morning. One of the little girls was tying her friend's sash, dressed for services in black churches back in 1963.

The bomb went off and killed four children. Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, all 14. They became martyrs. They didn't want to, of course.

They wanted, probably, boyfriends and pretty clothes, and one day weddings and kids of their own. They lost all that, killed by cowards in hoods.

They are worth remembering this Memorial Day weekend for two reasons. One is that the last of their known killers, Bobby Frank Cherry, was convicted of murder this past week, and will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Another of the murderers, Robert Chambliss, was convicted back in 1977 and died in prison in 1985.

Another, convicted in 2001.

And the fourth, Herman Frank Cash, died in 1994, without ever going to trial. FBI agents sent then FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover a memo which contained those names, but Hoover told the agents not to share the information with local officials and not to meet with them.

Was justice done this past week? No, the murderers got to live most of their lives free and out of prison. The little girls didn't, of course.

Was this closure? Alpha Robertson, Carol's mother, told the New York Times, "That's just a word," and it's hard to argue with her.

But the trials were important. Free people are supposed to be accountable for what they do. And the murderers were, finally, called to account. And bringing them to account, however tardily, is a way of measuring how different America and the South are now. The 1964 Civil Rights Act passed the year after the bombing, the Voting Rights Act the year after that, and everything changed.

The laws didn't end racism, of course, but they did end legal segregation, did allow blacks to come to power as mayors, legislators, business owners.

And memorials the civil rights movement has won in Montgomery, Alabama.

It is inscribed with the names of 40 who died in the struggle, and Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addy Mae Collins are among them.

Most of the 40 didn't want to die, of course, they were martyrs, not soldiers trained for war. But they made America better that Sunday.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

It's time to say goodbye now to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience, we'll turn to the Chandra Levy case, plus the Final Round. Late Edition will be right back.



W. BLITZER: On Tuesday, a memorial service will be held in California for Chandra Levy. The former intern's remains were found just a few days ago here in Washington, D.C., just over a year after she was reported missing.

The California Congressman Gary Condit has been a key figure in the investigation into Levy's disappearance. The Congressman's attorney, Mark Geragos, joins us now live from Los Angeles.

Mr. Geragos, welcome to Late Edition. Thanks so much for joining us.


W. BLITZER: I know the congressman did put out a brief statement. Has he been asked to come back for some more questioning now that the remains have been found?

GERAGOS: Not yet. I've said, in response to questions, we'll fully cooperate in any way, shape or form. So if they call, we'd be happy to do that.

Obviously, I think at this point, at least until Tuesday and the memorial service, the story should really be about Chandra and finding out what happened to her. And I hate to step on that, if you will, in between now and Tuesday.

W. BLITZER: Immediately after the remains were confirmed to be those of Chandra, Billy Martin, an attorney representing Chandra's parent's, the Levy family, was on Larry King Live. I want you to listen to what he said about your client.


BILLY MARTIN, LEVY FAMILY ATTORNEY: I've said all along that we do not have evidence to accuse Gary Condit -- Congressman Gary Condit -- of Chandra's disappearance, and now her death. But we do have reason to believe that he knew a lot more about Chandra. Is he a suspect in our mind? He is a suspect, as is everybody else who may have had contact with Chandra. Nobody is now eliminated.


W. BLITZER: Is that fair, Mark Geragos, that the attorney for the family is suggesting that Gary Condit is in fact a suspect, as are so many others presumably?

GERAGOS: I don't think it's fair. I think Billy is doing his job. I think people who know Billy know that he is also -- or is mostly a criminal defense lawyer. And he represents clients who are accused, and oft times falsely accused.

And so from that standpoint, no, it's not fair. He's doing what he feels is his job. I'm not going to second guess him for that.

But if you ask me if that's fair, I don't think that it is. I think that what's going to show now, and what has already, I think, just by the discovery and where the remains were found, tends to, I think, suggest, or exonerate Gary.

A lot of these wild kinds of theories that we heard about and the speculation we heard about, about what happened or what didn't happen, it's now clear, I think the police have come out and said publicly that they're comfortable with the time line involving Gary. That it did not -- and given where the remains were found and everything else, I don't think that in any way, shape or form that Gary is a suspect in this case.

But at the same time, we are still waiting. Although I guess preliminary indications are that they are going to elevate this from a death to a homicide. They, as of yet, have not done that.

W. BLITZER: But with hindsight, Congressman Condit, when he was first -- when he first learned about Chandra Levy's disappearance, he should have come completely clean with the police, not during the second or third interview, but in the first interview, and told them everything he knows about her, information presumably that could have helped in the investigation.

GERAGOS: Well, you know, I didn't represent him at the time. So it's -- when I have to go back and kind of recreate what happened, I'm doing that based upon notes and interviews and recollections that I've got in the file.

I will tell you this that, based upon the notes that are in the file, it's apparent to me that he did answer the questions, that he did not lie, as has become kind of the assumption here in the first statement.

He balked at one question, one question only and asked -- and when I say balked, all he did was ask, why is it relevant? And it was never pursued. He didn't refuse to answer anything else, at least based upon the file that I've got and what I've seen.

That interview took place a number of weeks after the disappearance. It now looks like, or at least it's being suggested -- once again, you don't know until we see what the pathology and what the anthropology and what the medical examiner is able to come up with. But it now looks like it's entirely possible that what happened is ,is unfortunately that Chandra met her demise that same day that she disappeared after she turned off the computer and went over to the park.

If that's the case, nothing in that first interview, which was a number of weeks later, was going to do anything, unfortunately as it is, to help solve what happened.

And what -- and take a look what happened. Two weeks later on May 14, there was another attack in that same park. And July 1, there was another attack in that same park. And there is another incident that apparently has not been reported on that also happened in that same park, roughly within five to six weeks, in which another young lady was assaulted as well.

GERAGOS: So there were all kinds of things that were out there, and yes, with hindsight, I guess, you know -- I wish I had been there at the time to advise him to do this or that, but he did go in without a lawyer, and he did talk to them initially in that initial interview, and thought he was being as cooperative as he could be.

Obviously, he's been slammed repeatedly, and vilified, and demonized repeatedly, I think unfairly, since that time.

W. BLITZER: I guess the family -- the Levy family, they've been so angry at him because they suggested, when they did speak with him shortly after the disappearance of Chandra Levy, he didn't come clean to them and confess to them what he later reportedly confessed to police, that he did have a romantic relationship with their daughter.

GERAGOS: Well, look, I understand that. I'm a parent, I think anybody -- I have friends who've lost their children. There's nothing that you can say to somebody who's going through what obviously is the most horrible experience that somebody can go through, let alone a parent can go through, that you can do to try to solve that anger, or to try to mitigate that emotion.

I mean, it's something that is understandable, completely understandable. I'm not going to get into trying to re-create what happened. I wasn't there. There's only two people who were on that phone conversation. They know what was said. Certainly, at this point, I'm not going to step onto their grief.

I've said before, I'm Armenian. At least in the Armenian Church, we wait 40 days and let people grieve and mourn, and if they want to lash out and blame him, I understand that. And I've told him, just sit and take it.

W. BLITZER: The next step for Gary Condit, he obviously lost in his bid to regain the democratic nomination to run -- to seek reelection. What does he do now? I'm sure you've been speaking to him in the past few days.

GERAGOS: I have. We've talked about it. Really, in the last couple of days since Chandra has been found, there -- he hasn't talked at all about him. All it has been is about her. Even when I've tried to push him towards discussions about him, he doesn't want to go there.

I've talked to him previously, months back, about what he was going to do and he said there's a whole host or range of jobs, whether blue collar or white collar.

I've kind of pushed him towards the white collar jobs that will help pay my fees, but the -- nevertheless, I don't think he's made up his mind in any way. I think he's got roughly six more in his term. He's working hard, my understanding is, trying to serve his constituents, and I think that's what he ought to do.

At some point, some opportunity will arise, he'll take it. But I think it -- at this point, it's probably premature.

W. BLITZER: And his general reaction to the confirmation that remains were in fact those of Chandra Levy was what?

GERAGOS: I think he was extremely upset. I talked to him on the phone a number of times that day. He was upset.

I think he had clung to -- or had been clinging to -- some of these kinds of wild speculation or theories that were out there, that maybe she was still alive and she still was going to come back. And I think you do that, in a lot of ways, when these kinds of tragedies occur.

And I think that once it became apparent that it was her, that that was shocking to him, as it was to those members of his family and others who knew her.

W. BLITZER: Just listening to you, Mark Geragos, now, and having heard you on many earlier occasions, I'm sure Congressman Gary Condit regrets not having retained you immediately once the disappearance of Chandra Levy came about. Thanks so much for joining us on Late Edition.

GERAGOS: Thanks, Wolf. It's a pleasure to be here.

W. BLITZER: When we return, the next phase in the Chandra Levy investigation. We'll discuss some of the unanswered questions and what the former intern's final movements could yield about her death with a former D.C. homicide commander and two journalists who have been following this case. Late Edition, we'll be right back.



CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: This case is not going to be easy, it's not going to be quick, but we will not stop until we find out what happened to Chandra Levy.


BLITZER: The D.C. police chief, Charles Ramsey, commenting on the Chandra Levy investigation.

Welcome back. Joining us now, Time magazine senior correspondent Michael Weiskopf, former D.C. Police Homicide Commander Lou Hennessy, and CNN national correspondent Bob Franken, who's been covering the story from day one.

LOU HENNESSY, FMR. D.C. HOMICIDE CMDR.: Lou Hennessy, do police seriously suspect that Gary Condit is a suspect, could have done this kind of deed?

HENNESSY: I don't think anybody has been ruled out as a suspect, but I doubt he's real high on their list of suspects.


HENNESSY: I just don't think, from the very beginning, that he was a real strong suspect.

I mean, I think that the fact that he was not totally forthcoming with the police, it wasn't about knowing her or having last seen her, it was about the intimate relationship that they had, and a lot of people aren't totally forthcoming with the police, particularly about those type of things.

So, I'm not as troubled by that as a lot of people seem to be, and...

BLITZER: Michael Weiskopf, is that your assessment as well?

MICHAEL WEISKOPF, "TIME" CORRESPONDENT: I think it is, and it's possibly more so because there have been some forensics in this case. They went through his apartment a couple of times. They've talked to many, many people around him, including his staff. He's been before a grand jury.

My sense is, if they had something to move on, they already would have.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the police make the point -- and it's at least worth chewing over, Lou -- is the fact that he had a unique perspective on show she operated, the unique perspective you have when you have an intimate relationship.

And by not acknowledging that, frustrated police have said that he withheld for an extended period of time certain knowledge that they might have explored with him as a result of that relationship.

W. BLITZER: Do you find that plausible?

HENNESSY: Well, I don't know that he did. I mean, obviously, I wasn't there for the interviewing. My understanding of it was that he admitted that he knew her, he just didn't admit the extent of their relationship, and I'm sure that they probably asked him, you know, if there was any information he may have that would assist them in locating her, her habits, or anything to that effect, but I don't see it as problematic as a lot of people do.

BLITZER: There's some suspicion that, in that first interview, they -- he's a United States congressman, they sort of used kid gloves, in effect, to question him. They didn't ask him the kind of homicide-related questions that presumably you would have asked some average person who had a romantic relationship with a missing woman.

HENNESSY: Let me just say this. I've supervised over 1,000 murder investigations, and even the ones that were concluded most successfully, if there were things I could have gone back and changed in every one of those cases, I probably would have taken advantage of that.

It's always easier to sit back and look, maybe we should have done this differently.

You know, they have to learn from their mistakes, and what they just have to do here is, take full advantage of any evidence that they gather on the scene to help point to a potential suspect.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the evidence now. There -- and you heard Mark Geragos, the attorney for Gary Condit, raise the specter -- and John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" has been saying this for a year -- a serial killer, a predator out there in Rock Creek Park, this huge park right through Northwest Washington, and there were other arrests. There were two individuals who were arrested for -- and convicted for raping and killing women out there.


WEISKOPF: On both sides, yes.

BLITZER: Not killing, but raping.

WEISKOPF: On both sides of Chandra's disappearance, too, in the same area. For some reason, police right away ruled out the possibility of a serial killer. There is a man now in jail, serving time or awaiting trial...

BLITZER: His name is Ingmar Guandique.

WEISKOPF: ... who they, no doubt, will question about this. They seemed to lean in favor of his possibility early on.

But there are more -- now there are new clues, in a melodrama that keeps on turning over new questions, of course, and that is when she was killed, was it more recently than she disappeared? How she was killed. All these things will be turned up by autopsy.

And the fashion in which she was killed, was she bound? Or was she just killed somewhere else and dumped there?

She was found, let's remember, in a very remote part of Rock Creek Park.

BLITZER: And the medical examiner Tuesday is expected to issue the death -- the cause of death. Is that right, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, yes, and everybody think's it will be homicide.

I should point it out here that police make it clear they have not fully eliminated Gary Condit as somebody that they want to check.

Gary Condit, according to sources close to him, hopes that this will exonerate him but worries that the trail will be too cold to do that, number one.

And number two, Condit's attorney Mark Geragos is an extremely effective advocate, but just to complete the picture he talked about, there is nothing that says that in fact she died at that spot nor actually died in the vicinity where some of the suspects might have operated.

BLITZER: In other words, her body could have been brought there.

FRANKEN: It could have been brought there. The police have not eliminated that possibility.

So while Gary Condit has said to be hoping he can be exonerated, police have not yet wiped him off as a possibility. BLITZER: Let me read to you what Dr. Cyril Wecht -- he's a forensic pathologist -- said in Newsweek in the new issue that's just coming out. He says this, "After 13 months, I just have great doubts about whether the crime scene will yield anything of a definitive nature. If there's no evidence of bone injury from a beating, a skull fracture or a gunshot or stab wound, then you have nothing to work with. You've just got bones."

HENNESSY: Well it's true. I mean the longer the body is there the more contaminated the scene becomes. The integrity of any potential evidence is eroded and that's entirely -- entirely possible.

BLITZER: So if the body was there for a year, let's say, because the police have acknowledged they did not -- the dogs and the people, when they went through the Rock Creek Park a year ago didn't go to this specific area where the body was found.

HENNESSY: It's entirely -- I would operate under the assumption that she's probably been there the entire time and that the search that they attempted to conduct -- to conduct in that area just didn't.

BLITZER: Or the body was not brought there subsequent, later.

HENNESSY: I find that difficult to believe. It's obviously possible, but I think she was probably there the whole time.

BLITZER: Bob, do they have -- the police have suspicions that some of the evidence that they've gathered there now in the last few days could lead to the murderer?

FRANKEN: Well, there's a whole specialty, and Lou knows more about this than I do. Forensic pathology which is becoming much more sophisticated where such things as DNA are put in, such things as the condition of the dirt become a factor, such things that are obvious like whether the skeleton was niched or if it was somebody who stabbed somebody. That would possibly mitigate more in favor of Guandique who did use a knife, et cetera.

So, they're not without possibility of finding some clues, but obviously if you come upon a body just moments after that person has been killed, the trail is not going to be as cold as it is now.

BLITZER: Michael, I can't tell you how many people have said to me, just casual friends and acquaintances, they don't really believe it's possible given the publicity a year ago. They went through the search in Rock Creek Park and they didn't go to that one specific area where the body was eventually found. How credible is the police explanation, they just missed that area?

WEISKOPF: Their explanation is based on a limit of perimeter around which they searched, I think it's a 100 yards off the jogging trail, and I guess they have to draw that perimeter based on their own experience.

What's curious is that the dogs wouldn't have picked up the scent, that they wouldn't have made the extra hundred yards. This was in a very remote section off of the beaten tracks. One of even Levy's spokesmen, said that you'd have to be an Olympian to get down there, particularly to jog down there.

The man who actually found the body was looking for turtles. It's that type of remote place in the middle of the city to be looking for turtles.

BLITZER: And the police have said they didn't have enough dogs or volunteers or people to really do that kind of inch by inch inspection of 1,700 acres.

HENNESSY: Right. And unfortunately I don't think that -- these are urban police officers, and I don't think they're trained properly to undertake a search of a wooded area where there's a lot of vegetation as maybe forest rangers may have been better trained to do something like that.

You know, most of the murders in this town occur on the street or inside buildings and it's very unusual for bodies to be recovered.

BLITZER: But in Rock Creek Park, correct me if I'm wrong, in the past two decades 30 bodies have been found in Rock Creek Park.

HENNESSY: OK, thirty out of what 1,500, 3,000. I mean it's still a very small percentage of the murders in the city occur there, and then generally they're found relatively -- the body's still relatively fresh when it's found.

BLITZER: What is this notion that they saw some leggings that were tied up presumably that she may have been tied up? You've been talking to investigators, police, what are they -- see from this potentially?

FRANKEN: Well, it could be a variety of different, different things they could see that she was tied up and taken from somewhere else, or, she was tied up in the process of killing her. Something like that. It doesn't really draw in the conclusions that they need to draw.

It's just one of those sad details and as a matter of fact the police complained that it was really gratuitous to even talk about that, that there was no real purpose that was served with putting out that information. It doesn't go anywhere. It doesn't draw any conclusions.

BLITZER: Police are very, very nervous right now that all this information that's coming out could compromise the whole investigation.

WEISKOPF: Yes, but we only know probably a small fraction of what they've compiled themselves. And that's a line police often put out, that the more information, the more it compromises their cases.

Lou knows best. But my sense is that they've got a whole secret world of evidence that we don't know about.

W. BLITZER: Do you think this case is going to be solved?

HENNESSY: Well, I mean, it's obviously a difficult case. I mean, there are some likely suspects out there.

I mean, you know, I don't mean to agree with Mr. Condit's lawyer, but obviously, the individual who was arrested for similar crimes in the same area would certainly attract a lot of attention and it would be someone you'd certainly be interested in talking with about this.

W. BLITZER: But the police are poohpoohing that, aren't they?

FRANKEN: Well, no, they're not. They're just saying this isn't the only guy. The police will tell you, as a matter of fact, that they are extremely interested in this guy.

W. BLITZER: The one that's serving a 10-year sentence right now?

FRANKEN: The one who's serving a 10-year sentence. They are going to question him again. They have new information. Specifically, the coincidence of the location and the time frame.

But they're not about to go on television, and say, "Absolutely, this is our main man." They are going to, in fact, try and lower expectations. They can always exceed expectations later and be very happy about it.

W. BLITZER: If you're -- you cover politics as well, Michael, as all of us do. If in fact Gary Condit is totally vindicated, they arrest somebody else, convict him, and he had nothing whatsoever to do with her disappearance and her murder, assuming she was murdered, what does that say about all -- everything that's gone on and what we do and what the public interest is in this whole case?

WEISKOPF: We certainly have gone far to question his character and even question his role in her disappearance.

But the congressman has himself to blame initially for not coming clean, for not telling even the police about his romantic encounter with the deceased. Even in a town where, over and over, politicians learn that lesson, that the cover up is almost as important as the crime.

W. BLITZER: You've got the last word, Bob.

FRANKEN: The last word is, I think that we in the media, however, are going to have to look at our performance, all of us. Not just about whether we should have covered the story so much, but whether it was always covered as accurately as it should have been.

W. BLITZER: And then the whole point -- you won't have the last word, I'm going to let you have the last word. The point is that the focus on Gary Condit, that that -- did that undermine, hurt the overall investigation because of so much attention being focused on this one congressman.

HENNESSY: Well, I think what happened here is the media focused heavily on Gary Condit. I don't know that the law enforcement investigators focused as heavily on him during this case.

W. BLITZER: All right. Lou Hennessy, Bob Franken, Michael Weiskopf, as usual, thank you very much. This case is going to be a case we'll all follow.

Coming up next, the Final Round. Our panel will weigh in on the day's top stories. The Final Round right after a news alert.




W. BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our final round. Joining me, Donna Brazile, Democratic political strategist, Peter Beinart of the New Republic, Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online, and Robert George of the New York Post.

We begin with our quote of the week, which comes from the FBI whistle blower, Colleen Rowley. In a powerful letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, published in this week's Time magazine, the Minnesota agent writes this, "Although, I agree that it's very doubtful that the full scope of the tragedy could have been prevented, it's at least possible we could have gotten lucky and uncovered one or two more of the terrorists in flight training prior to September 11th, just as Moussaoui was discovered."

In addition, today's Washington Post is reporting that the CIA will now help the FBI analyze information in an effort to prevent further terror attacks.

Robert, can the culture in the FBI change, and can the CIA help that culture change.

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": I think we're all in a lot of trouble. I think it's going to be very tough. I mean, we've -- this has been building for years, now. I mean, there was the bungled Wen Ho Lee investigation, there was the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, Robert Hansen, the mole has been in their midst and hadn't been discovered.

So I don't think the FBI, under its current organization, can change. I think Robert Mueller has proven himself completely and totally incapable, practically saying it's impossible to stop the next attack..

W. BLITZER: Are you that pessimistic?

BEINHART: Close to that pessimistic. I really that there have been some small changes in the right direction, but the problem is the FBI doesn't have a tradition of analysis. It has a tradition of doing these investigations to look -- looking forward to prosecution, not looking for the kind of patterns that you need to be able to predict where terrorist attacks will come. And that Mueller, although he may be trying, can't probably think big enough in terms of how he needs to restructure the organization.

And that's why I think we really need pressure from the outside, which I think is the best argument, ultimately, for there to be one of these big, blue-ribbon commissions.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think it's a welcome sign that finally these two massive agencies are talking to one another, and apparently, Director Mueller this week is going to lay out some new reorganization plans, and who knows, they may be able to start communicating with one another and perhaps sharing the data that they all had.

JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I'm pretty pessimistic, too, although I give Mueller some leeway. This is a guy who was head of the FBI for, like, five days before September 11th. That's pretty rough on the job training. But look, last week, I had said how difficult it is to defend the FBI because you always get these new revelations.

This week just proves that that's exactly the case. It's very difficult. I think maybe the best way to clean up the place is have someone do it from the inside, because that way, whoever the reformer was would know where the body's are buried.

W. BLITZER: All right. Some Democrats -- some Senate Democrats are calling for an independent commission to investigate the government's response to the pre-September 11th warnings. But today, the Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott, vetoed the idea.


U.S. SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R-MS): We've got six commission reports in six years, out there with some very good information. The problem is quite often good people do good work on commissions, they file a report, nobody reads it, nobody acts on it.


W. BLITZER: Donna, is Senator Lott right?

BRAZILE: Oh, well, he is right -- far right, as far as I am concerned.


But he is wrong on this issue. I think Senator Hagel, Senator McCain and Senator Daschle, you know, are right on this to go ahead and try to push for in an independent commission, a top-notch, blue- notch, whatever you want to call it, non-partisan commission that can look into what happened before 9/11, what happened leading up to 9/11 and, of course, what has happened over the last eight months to change the culture of our intelligence leaders.

W. BLITZER: But you know, Jonah, a lot of people have pointed out, these blue-ribbon commissions, presidential commissions of inquiry after Pearl Harbor or after the John F. Kennedy assassination didn't exactly end the questioning.

GOLDBERG: No, I think that's absolutely right. And I think Lott is absolutely right that people don't read there reports. I mean, has anyone here read the Iran Contra report cover-to-cover?

I mean people don't read these things. But I do think Lott misses the point in that these commissions are very useful to sort of leach out the bad humors from the bloodstream of American politics and to put fresh air on the things, and it's for the public to feel trust in their government that we do these things. I think a commission is inevitable. They should figure out a way to do it right.

W. BLITZER: But why can't the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, honorable men, Senator Shelby, Senator Graham, Congressman Porter Goss, Nancy Pelosi, why can't they do it? They've already started. They've got the clearances. They've got the staff. Why do you need another investigation?

PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": A couple of reasons. First of all, there is a tradition of them being very close to the agencies that they oversee, particularly, I must say, Congressman Goss is a former CIA agent himself.

Second of all, the CIA is really stonewalling that. I mean, we've seen the reports. They're not even willing to allow their agents to give business cards to this commission. So what you need, I think, is a committee with the political heft to say to the CIA, "Look, you better start cooperating with us." I'm not sure the Intelligence Committee has it.

W. BLITZER: But as much as Porter Goss may be inclined to go out of his way to help the CIA, Senator Shelby has been quite outspoken and critical. Senator Graham has as well.

GEORGE: Well, I think so. But I think it's going to be a little bit -- you're going to be -- it's a little unusual here because I think we're all in agreement. I actually do think an independent commission is warranted. Primarily just to get information -- just to get the information -- just to get the information out.

GEORGE: Trent Lott is right when he said that people don't always read these reports, but that's the fault of -- it's not the fault of the people who work...




BEINART: I mean, Trent Lott's one of those who could have acted on these things.

GOLDBERG: Yes, right.

GEORGE: I mean, you even had the terrorism analysis -- commission run by Gary Hart and...

BLITZER: Senator Hart.


BLITZER: Warren Rudman.

GEORGE: Warren Rudman.

In fact, those two would be two people very well qualified to be part of a commission to investigate 9/11.


BLITZER: And nobody really read that report that Rudman and Hart put out at the time.

BRAZILE: I think people read it after 9/11, which is a sad commentary on our country. We should also add someone like Sam Nunn, who is seen as a sort of nonpartisan type of gentleman.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on.

Serious concerns, of course, about two U.S. allies in the war against terror, India and Pakistan. Tensions between the two countries heightened this week after Pakistan conducted missile tests, and earlier today, Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed concern about U.S. troops in the region.


POWELL: They could be in danger, and I don't want either side to believe that they're going to get pulled into this one way or the other, either that they can be put at risk by one side, or, because they could be put at risk by one side, the other side thinks that gives them greater freedom of movement.


BLITZER: Peter, how worried should we be about nuclear war between India and Pakistan?

BEINART: It's hard to know exactly, but I think that the nightmare scenario is this: India has much more stronger conventional forces than Pakistan does. It's very likely that, if they attack across the so-called Line of Control, as they've been threatening to do now...

BLITZER: In Kashmir, in disputed territory?

BEINART: ... in disputed Kashmir -- they will very quickly move into Pakistani territory, very quickly get to the outskirts of a city called Lahore, which is one of the biggest Pakistani cities.

Then, the Pakistani government, Musharraf will have a terrible decision to make: how to stop this Indian offensive. If he doesn't respond with nuclear weapons, it's possible his government could fall.

The real problem, the bigger problem is that the Bush administration has not put enough pressure on Musharraf, who's been reneging on his promises to stop the terrorists crossing across the line into India. He needs to start fast.

BLITZER: And that's why the Pakistani government, given the conventional-weaponry discrepancy between much more populous India, richer India, as opposed to Pakistan, has never accepted a non-first use of nuclear weapons, they've never ruled out a first strike.

GOLDBERG: Well, that's one of the points of having nuclear weapons, is as a deterrent.

Look, it's a terrible situation to be in. If you listen to the statements from the Pakistani government, it shows how politically immature this country is. It's talking about how their weapons are indigenous, and they're all patting themselves on the back that they made their weapons themselves, as if somehow this makes them better.

And meanwhile, India is whining that, "Oh, no, they really cheated, they used Chinese technology," as if these are the salient issues.

I think the problem is -- the bottom line is that Pakistan, I have much sympathy for Musharraf, and he's our SOB, but ultimately, India is a democratic ally, it's a democratic country, and it shows that, you know, the issues involved here are huge.

GEORGE: Well, I mean, exactly.

And the thing is, though, it is in a sense -- it's of course an extension of the entire war on terror, and I think, in a sense, it's kind of incumbent on us to try and get Musharraf to, you know, ratchet down the heat, while at the same time, you know, tracking down the terrorists which are also making the incursions into India.

BRAZILE: Well, Musharraf has a major speech that he must give tomorrow. I mean, he postponed it today, and I think, in this speech, he's going to have to send a message, not just to India and of course his own people, but to the world that he has no intentions of keeping this conflict going, and that he will once again follow up on his pledge of earlier this year that he's going to back down on some of those Islamic extremists.

W. BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. Your phone calls, e-mails, round two of our final round when we come back. Stay with us.


W. BLITZER: More pictures over the Lincoln Memorial of Rolling Thunder. People getting ready to Roll Thunder, those motorcycle riders coming into Washington, D.C., to honor those were killed during the Vietnam War. After being pushed from the headlines September 11, the Chandra Levy case is back in the news. The former intern's remains were discovered this past week here in Washington. And now police are focusing on what caused here death.

Jonah, did the media attention on Congressman Gary Condit push the investigation in the wrong direction?

GOLDBERG: I don't think so, unless Gary Condit used his Jedi mind control powers to keep the police from searching the slope of Rock Creek that they should have searched a year ago.

You know, as you had the police officer here before say that the media may have been pushed in the wrong direction because of the sex and the murder angle by a congressman and all that kind of stuff. But it's not clear that the police were pushed in the wrong direction.

And regardless, if Gary Condit didn't commit it and had nothing to do with the murder, he still behaved reprehensibly across a whole panoply of issues and he got everything he deserved.

W. BLITZER: You don't disagree with a word he said, do you?

BRAZILE: No. I don't. I'm biting my tongue.


This is his Memorial Day gift.


I have to agree with John on this. I mean, Gary Condit had an opportunity when the police first went to him to, you know, basically come clean. He didn't.

It took two or three conversations and finally he admitted to having a relationship or some intimate encounter. That may have hampered the investigation in the beginning. But I do believe the D.C. police, which is burdened with over 100 missing cases, really tried to keep this case on its track.

W. BLITZER: Peter?

BEINART: Yes, I think that's right. I mean, one would hope that, even after this is solved, what will stay in people's mind is that we have a real problem with the police in D.C.

They have a very bad record of closing murder cases. And that has victimized a great number of people whose names we don't know, who are more likely to be poor and black in other parts of the city. And I hope that remains in the public eye.

GEORGE: Yes, exactly. I mean, once you start lawyering up, the way Condit did, I mean, you end up, you know, rightly or wrongly, you end up looking guilty. He has nobody else but himself to blame for blowing up his career. GOLDBERG: More Memorial Day bipartisanship.


BEINART: It's kind of weird.

W. BLITZER: It's about to end right now.


Senator Tom Daschle is approaching his one year anniversary as majority leader.

Donna, let me guess, you like his performance, don't you?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. In fact, I was surprised, because he has a reputation of being very mild-mannered and sort of an insular type of politician.

He's been a great equalizer. He's performed quite well under the pressure of trying to manage a divided Senate. And I believe that when history looks at Tom Daschle's performance, they will also give him an 'A'.

W. BLITZER: All right.


GOLDBERG: That eager to ruin the spirit of bipartisanship?


GEORGE: I do believe he is also the first Senate majority leader in about what, 20 or 30 years to fail to produce a budget. I mean, he has become Mr. Obstructionism on a host of issues.

GEORGE: In a sense, he's being a good democrat in terms of blocking...


BRAZILE: Well, he broke the logjam on a patients' bill of rights, on campaign finance reform, on election reform.

The Democrats have passed 57 judges, more judges than in any other time in the last 20 years, and I think that's just a partisan, cheap, petty shot at Tom Daschle.

GOLDBERG: Look, first of all, I would like to say a word or two in praise of obstructionism. I come from a long tradition of conservatism which says, "Don't just do something, stand there." So I have no problem with the senate not doing anything and blocking new laws.

But, Robert's right. Daschle hasn't passed a budget. He's the first guy not to do it in a really long period of time. He has set this new bar, which says that you need 60 votes to do anything on Congress.

BEINART: Excuse me, Republicans did that under Bill Clinton for a long period of time. This is not a new thing.

GOLDBERG: He set it as a Daschle standard, which is a little different than trying to play politics. I mean, I agree.

Look, again, I don't have problems with senators trying to stop stuff, but Daschle has actually said it as if the founding fathers intended it. And that is a different standard.

BLITZER: On controversial issues, though, isn't that a fact of life, that given the filibuster rule in the senate, you do need 60 votes to get something controversial through?

GOLDBERG: But it's also -- it is also a rule of democratic life that you're supposed debates ...


GOLDBERG: You're supposed to have debates and arguments about things. And I don't understand why Daschle and the Democrats are so afraid to have debates. BEINART: This is actually why I think that there is some room to criticize Daschle, not on what I think is the silly obstructionism change.

He has not been a good public spokesman for the Democratic party on their own agenda, I think. On taxes, he went out a little ways, then retreated. On the war, again, he went out a little ways, and then retreated.

I think he has not been good at kind of setting out a Democratic counter-agenda, saying, this is what we believe in, and I think that has hurt them.


BRAZILE: But it's tough to have one messenger in a party that's out of power when you have at least half the Senate -- at least more than half of the Senate Democrats thinking about -- considering running for president.

W. BLITZER: Will Daschle run for president?

BRAZILE: I don't know, he hasn't indicated.

W. BLITZER: What do you think?

BRAZILE: He would make a great president.

BEINART: You shouldn't overlook him, even though it's easy to.

W. BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. Our lightning round, just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our Lightening Round where there are, for example, too many terror alerts this past week. I could count at least a dozen, but it's a no win situation for the administration. If they're uncorroborated, unconfirmed, they either release them or don't release them, but they're going to be complaints no matter what they do.

GEORGE: At least get the story straight. If it's a real credible threat that they feel that the public needs to be warned, in that case then Tom Ridge's yellow -- yellow system, his color system should move from yellow to a heightened, a heightened level.

I think it's, I think it's, I think it's a farce and we were saying before, the FBI director's was perhaps the most ridiculous one of all.

BEINART: Yes, and I don't think it was no-win situation. I hate to be a conspiracy theorist about this, but I think it was big win situation because by doing this, person after person after person, they changed the subject at least temporarily, cooled down the talk about what Bush didn't know before September 11, and I have to say it looks mighty suspicious to me. This administration has spun the war on terrorism...


BLITZER: So you're saying that Dick Cheney, Bob Mueller, the FBI director, Don Rumsfeld, all of them got involved and said, you know let's change the subject?

GEORGE: Peter, I think even some conservatives were making that observation.

BEINART: Look, I can't prove this but I do think it is suspicious that the person they didn't put out there was Tom Ridge who wouldn't have gotten as much media attention. They put out Cheney. First they leaked the story in The New York Times. Then they put out Cheney on Meet The Press. That is guaranteed to maximize -- and then they made these extraordinary statements. Rumsfeld said weapons of mass destructions are inevitable. I think it looks pretty orchestrated to me.

BLITZER: Rumsfeld's been saying that for a long time. BEINART: But, you know, the way they did it. First with the leak, then with the Sunday shows. Seems to me it was an orchestrated strategy to get public attention.

GOLDBERG: Since this is the Lightening Round, I won't get into the grassy knoll stuff, but I do think that you can say that Americans were too alerted, and they're under alert and one of the reasons is that Americans.

Look, the government of the United States told America to follow a metric system 30 years ago. We're still doing things in inches. We don't listen to our government, and generally that's a good thing. BRAZILE: Well, we know that we're at war. The American people know that but we expect our leaders to defend us and not scare the living hell out of us, and that's what they did this week, and it's unfortunate.

BLITZER: But you see a conspiracy, a deliberate political effort to change the subjects from the questions involving what the U.S. government may have known before September 11?

BRAZILE: I have not seen the strategic memo or the talking points, and therefore, I will not comment on that.

GOLDBERT: I think it's silly and I think, Peter, you should be.

BLITZER: All right. We've got a subject Donna will comment on and that's this. The 2004 national conventions are already grabbing headlines. Republicans have scheduled a late August meeting. The Democrats are considering moving their July convention to go head to head with the GOP.

Donna, why?

BRAZILE: Well, it's a good idea if it will help whatever candidate emerge from the Democratic primary to take on a very tough but I believe vulnerable George W. Bush. So I think it's important that Chairman McAuliffe looks at all of the options and come up with the best option to help us.

BLITZER: You mean, the exact same days as the Republican convention? You mean, you want the Democrats to be exactly the same time?

BRAZILE: You know what? I believe that we can compete -- the Democrats can compete with the Republicans head to head on prime time, and win that race.

BLITZER: Really? That's going to be exciting, if there are going to be two conventions simultaneous...

GOLDBERG: I think it's a win-win-win across the board. The American people get exposed to less buffoonery, the networks save four days of very expensive television coverage, and it'll lead to a sort of, you know, "Survivor versus Friends" style competition between the Democratic and the Republican Party.

I mean, we may even have, you know, topless speakers by the end of this thing, because it's going to be a whole ratings game.

So I think it's great news.

BLITZER: Robert, you know, the reason for this is that the Democrats, if they have theirs in July, the Republicans have theirs at the end of August, they're afraid the Republicans get a post- convention bounce going into November. So they don't want to be without that bounce. GEORGE: Yes, exactly, and just the way that Jonah described it, you know, CNN will have the Democrat convention; Fox will have the Republican convention, and everybody's going to -- I know I'm going to get in trouble for saying this.


BLITZER: You're in deep trouble.

GEORGE: I'm seriously in deep trouble.

But no, I think there are so many options that people have, in terms of media, it's easy for them to look at -- check in at what the Democrats are doing, check in at what the Republicans are doing, and then, you know, make their choice.

BLITZER: I may be the only person out there, but I like these conventions. I like to see what's going on. It would be depressing to have to cover both simultaneously.

BEINART: Yes, I'm not...


GEORGE: ... difficult to be in New York at the same time.


BEINART: I'm afraid that actually I think the Democrats are in bad shape either way. I think, if they do it at the same time, I think they'll get overshadowed by the president.

If they do it earlier -- and I think the second problem with doing it later is, the nominee will have no money over the summer, after they effectively win the nomination, because there won't be soft money to fund them until they get convention money.

So I actually think they're probably better off doing it early, even though they'll lose the bounce.

GOLDBERG: Especially because, according to Peter, the Republicans will issue one terror alert after another, every night during their conventions, and the Democrats won't have anything to say.


BEINART: ... the way they spun that return to Washington...


BLITZER: Already, I'm predicting security will be very, very tight.

All right. Thanks to our Final Round for that excellent discussion. That's your Late Edition for Sunday May 26th. Please join me again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Be sure to join me Monday through Friday as well, my day job, 5 PM Eastern, Wolf Blitzer Reports.

For now, thanks very much for watching, enjoy the rest of your Memorial holiday weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We leave you now with live pictures of Rolling Thunder, here in Washington. Where are those pictures? They're there.


India and Pakistan; Interview with Carl Levin; Barge Rams Bridge in Oklahoma>



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