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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge; Goss, Graham Discuss Intelligence Failures

Aired June 9, 2002 - 12:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington; 9 a.m. in Los Angeles; 7 p.m. in Jerusalem; 1 a.m. Monday in Seoul, South Korea. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our interview with the U.S. homeland security director, Tom Ridge, in just a few minutes. But first, a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And just a short while ago, I spoke with the U.S. homeland security director, Tom Ridge, about the administration's proposal for this new department, as well as the current terror threats facing the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Governor Ridge, thanks for joining us.

A lot of people are asking, what took so long?

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: Actually, the process to take a look at the current structure of the federal government to see if we could improve our ability to prevent, detect and prepare for a terrorist attack began back with the vice president in May of 2001.

There had to be a tremendous amount of outreach, dealing with the Congress of the United States, with mayors, with governors, with sheriff departments, police departments, the think tanks. We talked -- spent some time talking to Senators Hart and Rudman and Governor Gilmore and the Brookings Institute and ANSER (ph), a variety of agencies and people to come together with what we considered to be the best proposal to meet the president's goal. As he said, his most important mission is to protect America, Americans and our way of life. It took a while to get it done.

BLITZER: So was it always the president's intention to create this Cabinet-level department of homeland security?

RIDGE: I think it was always the president's intention that beginning with the vice president, and then after he created the advisory role of homeland security adviser that I presently hold, that those of us who were looking at the current structure of government kept that as an option. Look at all the options, make a determination, and then make a recommendation.

BLITZER: Because for months and months, people on the Hill, Senator Lieberman, others, were urging you, "Give Governor Ridge the authority, the budget, the Cabinet-level department that he needs to really get the job done." And for months and months and months, administration officials and their largely Republican supporters on the Hill were saying that's not necessary.

RIDGE: I can remember the first meeting the president had with the -- in the Cabinet Room with congressional leaders shortly after I was sworn in. And there were several members there who had been talking about and perhaps had even introduced legislation to create a department.

He asked them, and they agreed to defer. He said, basically, give Tom some time to take a look at the proposals that are out there. Your proposals -- there was a wide range of proposals.

And some of those members, I think, should look back with pride. One, they gave the president some time to let our office take a look at what was out there. But two, you'll see pieces of their proposals. But this is much broader in depth, I think, than any single proposal out there.

BLITZER: While some critics say it took too long for the president to come to this bottom line, others say that he seemed to rush the proposal out with a sinister motive.

For example, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal wrote this on Friday: "Earlier this week, a senior White House official said Mr. Ridge's plan wouldn't be ready for the president's review before next month, a further sign that Thursday's announcement was intended, in part, to eclipse congressional hearings and a river of stories detailing intelligence failures."

RIDGE: Well, the administration source that has said for months now that the national strategy would be available for the president's eyes on July 1, you're talking to that administration source. But there was never any notion that we would not keep the president informed and some of the key members of the staff informed of the direction the strategy was taking.

And we're still at war, we're still at risk. There was unanimity within the president's -- among the president's advisers that this was the bold and historic transformation that was needed, that incremental change wasn't going to get us where we needed to be.

And for that reason, we made the decision to go forward, and this was the first available date. Don't forget, the Congress was not in session the week before, and I think part of the week before, the president was in Europe. So this was the earliest possible day we could make the announcement.

BLITZER: But can you say flatly it had nothing to do with the hearings that were under way on Capitol Hill? The timing, the actual timing, the Thursday night speech. RIDGE: I can say absolutely, positively without hesitation.

The president has surrounded himself with some enormously talented people, but that the notion that we would be able to cobble together a very sophisticated plan based on four principles of threat analysis, border protection, dealing with countermeasures for weapons of mass destruction, and preparing and working -- preparing with state and local governments an agency of $37 billion and 170,000 employees, we could cobble that together in a couple of weeks in order to change a news cycle. The president's got a great team. They're good.

BLITZER: But you're saying they're not...

RIDGE: I mean they're not that good.

(LAUGHTER) But it's an evolutionary process. It began back in May.

BLITZER: But the notion that he accelerated the release of the proposal by a month, let's say, is that accurate?

RIDGE: No. The strategy will be announced -- we'll give the rest of the strategy to the president on July 1. But we need to get this done now. We're still at war, we're still at risk. There was consensus to move ahead, with the president's strong support, because it's very consistent with the president's message. We don't have time -- we don't have time to wait. They have X number of days remaining in the congressional calendar.

That was the first available time to make the speech, the first available time to lay it out before the nation. And fortunately, I think you're going to see the presidential leadership matched with great bipartisan leadership in the House and the Senate. And I believe we're going to get it done, as the president has asked, before the end of the year.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what you said on Larry King Live on January 9 of this year about your current job. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIDGE: I believe that future presidents will be well served by following President Bush's lead and have a homeland security adviser. And it's set up very similar to Dr. Rice's office in the National Security Council. You're going to have multiple agencies and literally hundreds of thousands of people dealing with homeland security issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, that adviser, the job that you're talking about, your current job, that job will remain inside the White House along the lines of what Dr. Rice, Condoleezza Rice does now on national security.

RIDGE: Correct.

BLITZER: Is that right?

RIDGE: Correct.

BLITZER: So in other words, there'll be a national -- there'll be a homeland security adviser as well as a secretary of homeland security.

RIDGE: That is the model that the president has always felt should be considered as an option.

The reason the president has been so strong in his support of the notion that they needed someone within the White House that was accountable to him and answerable to the Congress to serve as an adviser is because he's always kept the notion, the possibility, the option of transforming the federal government and consolidating a lot of these departments.

So I think that would be a good practice for future administrations to follow.

BLITZER: Now, generally, the Democrats -- the leadership in the Congress, Democrats and Republicans, they've welcomed the president's initiative. But some members are a little skeptical right now, some more than a little skeptical. I guess you're not surprised by that.

But Democratic Congressman David Obey, for example, is the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, a powerful committee that will have to make a lot of decisions. Was quoted in Saturday's Washington Post as saying this: "Do we need some change? Yes. But this seems to have been put together so secretly by such a small clique of people, that they don't seem to have consulted with people who know most about these things. We've got an obligation to see that this thing is wired together right."

Why did the president, in the most sweeping change in the federal government since President Truman created the Defense Department, why did it have to be done so secretly?

RIDGE: Well, first of all, I would say, first of all, to my former colleague David Obey that I've been up on the Hill on several occasions talking with him about different pieces of this proposal. I have talked to senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle.

But we've also talked to governors and mayors around the country, and those incredible group of heroic Americans, the first responders. We've also talked to a lot of people who have given this a great deal of thought in the academic community and the think-tank world.

The outreach to get information, to analyze the current situation, we now know a lot more about our enemy. So based on the analysis of the current configuration of departments and agencies, based on what we now know about the al Qaeda organization -- and let's be very direct about this. We've learned more and more because of the success of the military in Afghanistan, our ability to find out where they were training, what they were training them to do.

So you analyze that, you take a look at the current infrastructure, you get this input from around America. And the notion that this was cobbled together by a very few people is just totally wrong and inaccurate. It didn't happen that way.

BLITZER: But it was a total surprise to most people out there...

RIDGE: Well...

BLITZER: ... the timing, as well as the actual decision, which they say is sort of consistent with the way this president, President Bush, likes to handle these kinds of matters.

RIDGE: In fact, the outreach that the Office of Homeland Security has done has been national in scope. The direction that the outreach has taken us began not with our office on October 8, but began when the vice president was tasked with taking a look at the different government agencies back in May of the preceding year.

There's just absolutely no substance in the notion that it was cobbled together at the last minute.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. Much more of my interview with Tom Ridge coming up, including the most recent terror threats facing the United States.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. And we return now to my interview with the U.S. homeland security director, Tom Ridge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about two agencies that are not going to be part of this department of homeland security: the FBI, which will remain largely unaffected by this, and the CIA, which remains largely unaffected.

As everybody knows, there's been an historic rivalry, a tension between these two agencies. What makes you believe that the FBI and the CIA will be willing to share information with this new department of homeland security that they've traditionally been unwilling to share with each other?

RIDGE: Probably my personal experience with these agencies and with their directors. Just as our experience with the agencies and outrage around the country lead us to the conclusion that incremental change wouldn't get us where we needed to go. It had to be bold, historic and transform how we deal with the government.

The fact of the matter is, on a day-to-day basis, I am personal witness to the interaction of the CIA and the FBI. On a day-to-day basis, under the leadership of both of these men, there have been changes. There is the information sharing a lot of people heretofore had complained about.

And most recently, under the visionary leadership of Director Mueller, where they're going to do a much better job -- he recognized the job they did before September 11 and obviously learned from that horrific experience. His leadership and his reorganization, coupled with the new environment and the support of the president of the United States, I have no doubt that the institutional exchange will continue and that the new department of homeland security will benefit from the organizational changes.

We will be a customer, but for the first time, again consistent with the president's goal -- let's have a clear and concise vision from one agency in this country and that vision is to protect America's homeland, protect citizens and our way of life -- for the first time, we'll have a threat-analysis unit that will get the information from the CIA and from the FBI and the NSA, the DEA, the drug enforcement agency, Customs, Immigration and Naturalization, everybody look at it, map against vulnerabilities, and if the threat is real, take protective measures.

BLITZER: So the job of the new department of homeland security will be, quote, "connecting the dots" better than the CIA has done it or the FBI has done it? This new department is going to do it a lot better, the intelligence portion of it. Is that right?

RIDGE: That's the goal, and that's been at the very heart -- one of the first conversations I had with the president of the United States was about information sharing and fusion. Again, this is consistent with the direction the president of the United States gave us.

BLITZER: The new department will have, what, a 169,000 employees, almost $40 billion budget. Is it going to cost taxpayers more creating this new department? You know, the president says it will be, quote, "revenue-neutral," which means it won't cost more, but there's a lot of people out there who don't believe that.

RIDGE: Well, I think, long term, the president's absolutely correct. I mean, when you begin to merge some of the administrative side of these agencies -- the accounting departments, the information technology, the personnel departments -- that down the road you see a merger, and that ought to be budget-neutral. Clearly they'll be some initial transition costs, but I think they'll be held to a minimum.

The goal wasn't to create a new bureaucracy and find billions of new dollars. The president's goal, from the get go, was to answer this question -- was for us to answer the question, is the executive branch of the federal government organized in such a way to give us the maximum ability and the maximum accountability to deal with the enduring condition, the permanent threat of terrorism?

The conclusion up and down, it was not. We don't need to -- we don't need new people and new money, we just have to reorganize the ones we have.

BLITZER: You know, we have two charts I want to put up on the screen. What the old structure used to be -- what the current structure homeland security and the new structure.

Let's put those up. The first one, the old homeland security. You can see it looks like there's a complicated situation. The new structure, though, it's more streamlined. Let's put that up right now. It shows the four divisions that you're talking about.

Having said that, I get a flood of e-mails from viewers out there who say this is just more big government, something that this president was fundamentally, as a conservative Republican, opposed to when he came in.

How uncomfortable is he about creating yet another department in the federal government?

RIDGE: The president spoke very clearly to the need to rethink how we protect America on his Thursday evening address. He spoke very clearly for the need to put together a group of dedicated patriots.

And these 170,000 Americans who presently work for the federal government, many of them go to work for years and years dealing with homeland security issues, but they've never been in an agency who's primary mission was to deal with protecting all our country and our way of life.

And so this notion that it's more bureaucracy, more government, no, it's the same government, it's the same group of men and women, but their mission is a lot clearer, their vision is a lot clearer.

BLITZER: Ted Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, was quoted as saying, "The question is whether shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic is the way to go."

RIDGE: Yes.

BLITZER: That's a pretty tough commentary.

RIDGE: Well, I've had a real good conversation with Senator Kennedy, who expressed privately some doubts about any kind of reorganizational effort, and I appreciate and understand that.

But there are four pillars to the new agency, and I think, if you take a look at the direction the president has given to this agency, I think -- hopefully there will be agreement that this is precisely the way this country should go.

Hopefully the senator would agree that there ought to be one place in the federal government where you take a look at all the information and intelligence, and then map it against vulnerabilities, and then do something about it, if you have to do something about it.

I hope the senator would agree that there ought to be one central place in the federal government where dealing with weapons of mass destruction -- where there's a focus on research and development and procurement.

Hopefully he would agree that we need to have one place in the government where we secure and protect our borders. And finally, one place in the government that can reach out to the states and the local communities, as well as working with the private sector, to prepare and to respond in the event an attack occurs.

If you take those four pillars, it's pretty difficult to see why you wouldn't want to reorganize government, because there's no place where all four of those pillars exist, supporting one effort to secure the homeland.

BLITZER: As you know, the color-coded alert...

RIDGE: Yes.

BLITZER: ... that you released has been the butt of a lot of jokes, late night jokes.

Red the most serious. Orange, less serious. Yellow, which is what the country is currently on. Blue. Green.

Was it a mistake to go with color codes?

RIDGE: No, absolutely not. Wolf, one of the...

BLITZER: The theory was that DefCon One, Two, Three, and Four, the defense condition, and instead of doing the numbers, you decided to do colors, but...

RIDGE: Colors, numbers, either way, the means by which we transmit, as a country, information we have to our citizens about the level of threat, I think, is critically important, if you believe this is a permanent condition. Based on our internal assessments, based on the information that we have, the country ought to know.

But this is really just the beginning of the process. And it's not just the colors or the numbers -- and it is the colors -- but what are the protective measures that we will design in the months and years ahead to be able to respond to different levels of threat?

BLITZER: Under the new system, who will determine what the color code, threat assessment is?

RIDGE: Under the new system, that responsibility will be transferred from the attorney general of the United States to the secretary of the department of homeland security.

Remember, this was an initiative that was vetted through the Homeland Security Council, and we decided at that time that this was something that the attorney general should do. That responsibility will be transferred to the new agency once it's completed.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some specific threats facing the country right now. For example, threats from scuba divers in the Pacific Northwest... RIDGE: Right.

BLITZER: ... there's been some alerts put out there.

How credible are these warnings, these threats that you're getting, picking up right now, of terrorist attacks involving scuba diving?

RIDGE: We've learned that al Qaeda had a very sophisticated operation, and that their interest in training people to undermine our way of life also included maritime and port interests.

Based on that information, to send out that knowledge to port directors and port authorities, along with accompanying protective measures, is precisely the kind of thing that the federal government should do and has done through the Coast Guard.

BLITZER: What about this, kind of, suicide bombings that are so familiar in Israel? I was just over there. Is that something that is realistically a source of concern to you?

RIDGE: I think it is, and I think it should be for all of us and for all time.

It's pretty clear, in a country that values life as we do, to face an enemy that values death and sees merit in dying in furtherance of a cause, that is a challenge that is permanent and reason for all of us to be concerned.

We have to deal with it, as some of our coalition partners have done with it, but we should never be immune from the thought that it could not happen here. It is one of the means, one of the tactics that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have used to advance their cause.

BLITZER: Sarin gas, cyanide...

RIDGE: Used sarin gas in Japan years and years ago.

BLITZER: Is there a credible threat out there right now at subways in New York or Washington? Because there's been reports that July 4 could be a target date for some of these terrorists still at large.

RIDGE: Again, there have been -- there have been some general reporting, not just recently, but for the past several months, that al Qaeda, if it could get access to our metros and our subways, we know that they would employ chemical or biological or radiological or nuclear weapons.

Again, it's one of those information advisories that isn't -- that may be actionable if we have more specific information. But basically, when you send that out to the subway systems, it's a reminder to review their protective measures, and a reminder that terrorists have used this tactic before in other parts of the world. And we are no longer, as an open and free and diverse society, protected from the impact of shadow soldiers who would do this to us.

BLITZER: One final threat out there, cargo, shipping containers. Only 2 percent are physically examined right now, 98 percent go unchecked. How much of a source of concern is there that some terrorist could put a so-called "dirty bomb" in one of those containers and get it into a port in the United States?

RIDGE: Well, it is true that we do not inspect as many shipping containers as we will in the future, because the president has given the Coast Guard more money for personnel, more money for equipment and training.

But the fact of the matter is that the inspection of these shipping containers is highly focused based on information that we receive from a variety of sources. So it's not as if they simply go into the port and randomly select containers. It is targeted based on information. As we get more information, as we expand the capacity of the Coast Guard, and as this becomes much more of their primary mission, the number will expand. But I want to disabuse anyone of the notion that it's just kind of random selection. It is a specifically targeted effort to inspect the cargo.

BLITZER: You want to be the secretary of homeland security?

RIDGE: I want to fulfill the president's mandate to me, and that is to continue on a day-to-day basis to monitor threats and to coordinate with the many, many agencies that have a homeland security function, to match his leadership with the congressional leadership on the Hill to get it done. For the time being, that's the task.

At some point in time down the road, that may be worthy of discussion, but I've got plenty of work to do right now.

BLITZER: And how long will it take for the Congress, do you believe, to create -- to pass the legislation necessary to divide up the government this way?

RIDGE: Well, first of all, having been a member for 12 years, Wolf, I know how difficult it is. My former colleagues have a lot of hard work ahead of them.

But I'm very encouraged by the fact that someone like Congressman Dick Gephardt would say, "Look, we need to get this done. We need to get it done by September 11."

It would be great for this country if we could do it. It may be overly ambitious, because it's going to be tough work.

But I was also very encouraged, and so was the president, by the work and by the encouragement that he received from bipartisan members of the House and the Senate on Friday morning, who understood the need to get it done, to get it done quickly as possible.

So we'll work with them, and I believe we can meet the president's call to get it done by the end of the year.

BLITZER: And you'll be the point man in selling this on Capitol Hill?

RIDGE: Correct. The president has directed me to testify, to give them all the information they need to justify the creation of the department on the four pillars that I mentioned earlier.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to you.

RIDGE: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

RIDGE: Thanks very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And just ahead, for the first time in U.S. congressional history, standing committees of the House and Senate have combined to launch a joint investigation. It involves the House and Senate Intelligence Committees looking into failures that may have occurred prior to the September 11 terror attacks.

We'll get insight into what's being discovered behind closed doors, from the committees' co-chairmen, Democratic Senator Bob Graham and Republican Congressman Porter Goss.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to know when warnings were missed or signs unheeded, not to point the finger of blame, but to make sure we correct any problems and prevent them from happening again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush during a nationally televised speech this past Thursday.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're joined now by the two men leading the unprecedented bicameral investigation into the missed warning signs of September 11. In Miami, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, and here in Washington, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Porter Goss, also of Florida.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. The fact that both of you are from Florida, I don't know if that means anything, but we'll leave that for another day.

Senator Graham, Congressman Goss, thanks to both of you for joining us. Before we get to some of the intelligence issues of the day, Senator Graham, this reorganization of homeland security in the United States, proposed by the president, will it work?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, I think it must work because it's so critical that we have a stronger organizational structure from which to launch the defense of our people.

Many of us in the Congress have been advocating that you could not send a man as able as Governor Ridge out around the bureaucracies of Washington armed with a tin cup, asking for money and some people and permission to act; that you have to have a commander in chief to run this protection of our homeland.

The president has outlined the structure of what that new army will be. And I think it's very important, and I believe that the Congress, after giving appropriate hearing and consideration to the details, will enact it.

BLITZER: And, Senator Graham, do you believe Tom Ridge is the man to become the next secretary, the first secretary of homeland security, assuming Congress authorizes this new division of the federal government?

GRAHAM: Yes. Of course, that's a decision for the president to make. But I believe that Governor Ridge has a combination of executive experience as governor of Pennsylvania, served in the Congress, served in the military and has done an outstanding job in a position that had more symbolic than real power. Now he deserves to have some real clout.

BLITZER: You agree, Congressman Goss?

REP. PORTER GOSS (R-FL), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Oh, absolutely. I think he'd be a wonderful first person. But it is the president's choice.

BLITZER: Why do you think the president didn't make that announcement in his nationally televised address, saying he wants Tom Ridge to be his nominee once the department is created?

GOSS: Well, I think Tom Ridge has got his hands full steering this thing through Congress right now. I think there's going to be plenty of discussion about those details that Senator Graham mentioned, and properly so. And I think that he needs to have one thing on his mind at a time, and I think that the president should reserve the right to see how things go and see what it looks like when it's finally passed.

BLITZER: You noticed that the FBI and the CIA, Congressman Goss, are not included in this new proposed department of homeland security. These two agencies, as you well know, the CIA and the FBI, they have a rivalry, they didn't cooperate in the past as closely as they should. What makes you believe they will cooperate separately now with this new department that's being proposed? GOSS: Well, I think two good things have come out of this reorganization the way I look at it, Wolf, that are very, very important. And the first is one of the pillars that has been spoken of is an additional capability for analysis.

We have been under-invested in analysts of the right kind, the right skills, the right languages. And so I notice there that we are creating sort of an analytical center which is going to focus on this new transnational threat that we finally have recognized as a serious threat, which is the international terrorist network.

The second part of that is that the agency, and in the whole intelligence community in fact, is going to have to reorganize a little bit to adjust its capabilities to fit the threats that are out there. So there will be impetus to do that in the CIA. It's already happened in the FBI with the reorganization that Bob Mueller's put in there.

The next thing I expect to see happen out of this is to get the recommendations for how the intelligence community is going to be slightly reorganized to fit in and fuse better with the new homeland security division and work more closely with the FBI as a partner in that.

BLITZER: Which is a lot easier said than done.

Senator Graham, I want to read to you from an editorial that appeared in The Washington Post on Friday specifically on this point. "Tom Ridge, the White House homeland security adviser, says some redundancy in intelligence analysis may be useful, but there's also a danger that one more information processing center, as proposed by the administration, will reduce accountability just as the FBI and the CIA are undertaking to improve their joint counterterrorism work."

Does The Washington Post have a point there?

GRAHAM: They have a point. But I believe that the stronger point is that, if there's one thing we've learned in the very early stages of the investigation that Congressman Goss and I are involved with, is that gaps in analysis, where information was collected by different intelligence agencies but never got before one set of human eyes so that the jigsaw puzzle could begin to take some form. The president's plan calls for setting up an all-source analytical capability to deal with domestic intelligence.

I might say that one thing I like about the president's plan is it doesn't assume that there is only one way to go about this issue. For instance, in Great Britain, they have two agencies that perform domestic functions. One does law enforcement, another does domestic intelligence.

That seems to be the direction in which the president is leading us, and it's a system that has worked well in the United Kingdom, has helped them deal with threats like the IRA. I believe that it's one that at least deserves a serious consideration in the United States.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we have to take a break.

But we have much more ground to cover with the chairmen of the House-Senate investigation into the pre-September 11 intelligence failures. They'll also be taking your phone calls when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: I have no doubt that everybody in the CIA, everybody in the FBI, did their best before September the 11th. That's not the question. The question is, how do we all do better the next time something like this happens?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The House Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt, speaking earlier in the week about the congressional investigation into the pre-9/11 intelligence failures.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We are continuing our conversation with the chairmen of the Joint Intelligence Committee investigation, the Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham and the Florida Republican Congressman Porter Goss.

Gentlemen, we have a caller from Georgia.

Go ahead, please, with your question.

CALLER: Thank you, Wolf, very informative show.

Representative Goss, will this new agency cost the American taxpayers more money or less money?

GOSS: Well, the direct answer to your question, if you listen to what the administration's proposal is, is that it should not cost us more money because they are going to basically have savings down the road by reducing some of the other agencies and focusing and streamlining more of the right kind of skills on the task of counterterrorism.

Now, my experience in Washington is hardly anything ever comes in at the expected cost. But the intent is right, to try and hold the lid on this thing. And I notice some $37 billion is scheduled to deal with it.

I don't know exactly where all of the savings that are going to come from yet. But as a fiscal conservative, I assure you, I am not interested in growing government. I am interested in making government work for the American people on this critical need. And I think we will be trying very hard to get what we need and then cut out the fat, the redundancy and the duplications. That's what the administration has asked us to do. I hope Congress is up to it. BLITZER: Senator Graham, your joint investigation with your colleagues from the House of Representatives focusing in on the questions of potential failures in U.S. intelligence gathering going all the way back to 1986, but more recently, failures that may have missed the 9/11 warning signals.

I want you to listen precisely to what President Bush said on this specific issue, as well as what the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, said as well. Listen to these two comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BUSH: Based on everything I've seen, I do not believe anyone could have prevented the horror of September the 11th.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: 9/11 is the worst example of what happens when information is not shared and is not acted upon. There was plenty of information available before September 11. I think historians are going to find tragically that, had it been acted upon, the hijackers could have been stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: Do you agree with Senator Leahy, Senator Graham, that the hijackers could have been stopped if U.S. intelligence officials did what they were supposed to do?

GRAHAM: I think there was a strong possibility that could have resulted in actions that would have interrupted the hijackers' plot.

What we have found is that there was a lot of information collected in a clandestine way, there was more information available in open sources -- newspapers, television, Internet -- which, if one set of eyes had looked at that information instead of it just being a series of independent data points, it could have been seen as part of a larger puzzle.

It would have taken some creativity. It would have probably taken some luck and aggressive following up on trails.

What we're trying to do is to answer three questions: What happened before and on September the 11th? Why did it happen? And what can we do about it to reduce the chances of it happening in the future?

BLITZER: What about that, Congressman Goss? Do you believe -- you're a former CIA officer. You know the agency quite well, so you know the questions to ask when you try to pinpoint some of this information. Could it have been prevented?

GOSS: Well, I think the answer, Wolf, is that hindsight makes it a lot easier to focus on the fact that planes were hijacked to use as missiles against specific buildings in the United States, including the Pentagon, the Trade Towers, and then of course the plane that went down in Pennsylvania that was headed this way. So my view is that we probably do not have any smoking gun or information that leads to that at this point. Whether we'll find that, I don't know. That's why we're having the review. But I'm not ready to go there yet and say we could have stopped it.

BLITZER: Will there be more embarrassing revelations that surface in the next days, weeks, revelations along the lines of that so-called Phoenix memo, the Minneapolis memo, saying that go ahead and check out certain things that unfortunately were not checked out?

GOSS: I am sure that as we go through this investigation, we're going to go back and say in hindsight, gosh, if we had only known this it might have made a difference. That's all part of it.

But when we come through with it, the public will have a clear picture of what happened, because we want public awareness on this. We are trying to draw an accurate, factual picture.

BLITZER: All right.

GOSS: And I think that's going to serve our country best, because we're going to be asking the people of the United States for their help on defending the United States.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to be going through some specific threats when we come back. We're going to take one more quick break. Gentlemen, stay tuned.

Our conversation and more phone calls for Senator Bob Graham, Congressman Porter Goss, when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the pre-September 11 breakdowns with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss.

Senator Graham, what about these latest threats that the American public is hearing, alerts given, for example, to fear scuba divers that could come in with some sort of weapons and endanger American ports? Florida, obviously could be a source -- could be a potential target.

GRAHAM: Wolf, what I think that says is that, as long as America is America, as open and free and mobile as we are, there are literally an infinite number of vulnerabilities for a terrorist attack.

What that says to me is that we need to do the sorts of things that establishing this new department of homeland security will do, which is to protect us as best we can. But we're not going to win the war on terrorism on the defensive. We're going to win the war on terrorism by taking it to the enemy, where the enemy is.

That's why what's happening in Afghanistan, what I hope will soon be happening outside of Afghanistan as we move to other places where al Qaeda and international terrorism has significant capacity to build an assault against their neighbors, as well as against the United States, will stay as our primary means of winning this war on terrorism.

BLITZER: Congressman Goss, apparently a lot of the most recent threats, information, that the U.S. has been working on have come from debriefings or interrogations with Abu Zubaydah, a captured al Qaeda operative, a high-ranking official. He's being held in a secret location outside the United States.

I want you to listen to what President Bush said Thursday night in his televised address about this man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Among those we have captured is a man named Abu Zubaydah, al Qaeda's chief of operations. From him and from hundreds of others, we're learning more about how the terrorists plan and operate -- information crucial in anticipating and preventing future attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: How surprised, if at all, were you that the president by name referred to this one detainee? And how much credibility does the information he's providing to the United States have?

GOSS: Well, that's two questions. I think it's very important that you understand that this president recognizes that intelligence is the top line of defense, and he's giving intelligence its due, and he's giving us the wherewithal to get the intelligence operations up and running to the degree and sophistication they should be. That's critical. We haven't had that before.

The second part of this is, when we do have a success and we get one of their top people, I think it's good for the American people to understand that there are victories in this war against terrorism.

Now, the third piece, which is the difficult one, do we have the sophisticated interrogation to distinguish between, through our screening process, what's real and what's propaganda, what's disinformation, and so forth, that goes to the professionalism of how we're dealing with all the propaganda, which is one of the main weapons of terrorism. And we do need some more skills and some more attention on that whole question of screening out the information that's being fed to us through their propaganda links.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Graham, Abu Zubaydah, is he providing real information or just trying to divert attention from where the real threats might be?

GRAHAM: That's a judgment call for those who are doing the interrogation.

As Congressman Goss has just said, there's a great concern about the limited number of people that we have who have the combination of interrogation skills and ability to speak the colloquial languages in which the person that we're trying to interrogate utilizes. That's got to be a major focus of additional strength within our intelligence community.

BLITZER: On that specific issue, Congressman Goss, the NSA, the National Security Agency, the super-secret electronic gathering agency of the U.S. government which you oversee as well as your committee, they apparently don't have the linguists, the translators. They get a ton of information but some of it isn't translated for weeks or months, if ever.

GOSS: Well, there's no question that there are so much information out there now because of the new technology, that we are somewhat smothered.

Senator Graham has properly referred to all sources of information -- open source, clandestine source, anything you could read in a newspaper. We need to be able to put all of that together.

We actually have about 15 intelligence agencies, components out there, not just CIA. We need to get all of them working together on this national terrorist threat problem, which is what the president is trying to do.

And he has created the homeland piece, which we've never had before, because Americans don't spy on Americans. We don't have an intelligence organization in this country. So this is the missing piece that is going to allow the chain to be strong with all the links in it.

And we've got our foreign intelligence from overseas, from the people out at NSA and so forth. We combine it together, we have a sufficient number of analysts to review the information. And we will be safer and better able to respond to directly to take the terrorists out before they do more damage. That's what this is about.

BLITZER: Congressman Goss, Senator Graham, thanks to both of you for joining us.

GOSS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Always good to have you on LATE EDITION.

GOSS: Thanks, Bob.

BLITZER: Coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, the FBI under scrutiny. We'll talk with two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the bureau's missteps.

Then, three experts weigh in on whether the Bush administration's plans for a new homeland security department is making the solution to the United States' security even more successful.

Plus, your phone calls and Bruce Morton's essay, when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Now back, though, to our top story, the reorganization of homeland security here in the United States.

On Thursday, the FBI director, Robert Mueller, and FBI whistle- blower, Coleen Rowley, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about plans to reorganize that bureau.

Joining us now are two key members of the Judiciary Committee. In Wilmington, Delaware, the Democratic senator Joe Biden, and from his home state of Iowa, the Republican senator Charles Grassley.

Senators, welcome to LATE EDITION.

Senator Biden, let me begin with you. Do you have confidence in the FBI director, Robert Mueller?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I think the jury is still a little bit out, and it will depend on how much he has been brought into the process by the president, Wolf.

I asked him, during the hearing, knowing, having spoken to president earlier in day, that the president was going announce this big reorganization of homeland defense. And I asked the director had he spoken with the president or had the FBI been consulted about this reorganization, and he said he refused to answer. And I said, well, why? Why wouldn't you answer that question? And his response was that it was executive privilege or something to that effect. And -- which led me to believe that he probably wasn't consulted at all in this reorganization.

So, I'm -- having gone -- I'm the guy that, you know, wrote that legislation, called the drug czar. And it took us eight years to get that done and still not exactly right. Thirty-two different federal agencies were dealing with drugs. And it took -- and that's small compared to this.

So I guess what I'm trying to say, Wolf, is I don't know how much in on the deal the director is and how much confidence of the president he has. He may have it, but I just don't know yet.

BLITZER: Senator Grassley, what about you? Do you have confidence in Director Mueller?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Yes, I do. And I believe I can speak for the president that he has confidence in Director Mueller, because I have had an opportunity to have a conversation with the president along that line just as recently as Friday.

I think, though, that we got to look at Director Mueller in the context of his taking over the job and having -- September the 4th, and having, the September the 11th terrorist attack dumped on him. There have been some mistakes made, but I think that there are underlings that should have been advising him so he wouldn't have had to have retraction of statements that have made him look bad, and that those heads should roll.

BLITZER: Well, what about, Senator Grassley, Senator Biden's point, which is a fair point, if Director Mueller was not aggressively consulted by the president in this reorganization of the federal government, doesn't that suggest the president doesn't have a whole lot of confidence in him?

GRASSLEY: No, not at all. I think that you've got to look in the background that the administration was moving on this because of the turfs in Washington that are always keeping the status quo in place and don't want change, that they work very carefully within the White House to bring this together. And they were holding it close to their chest. And I think that they did it respectful of the needs of bureaucracy. They also did it with the idea that there needed to be change.

BIDEN: Wolf...

BLITZER: Senator Biden, go ahead.

BIDEN: I'm not saying he doesn't have the confidence of the president. I answered your question I don't know.

Let me give you an example. Back in November, Senator Lugar and I suggested there be national commission on threats to our homeland, get the best people in the country together and make recommendations how we should reorganize in order to deal with this threat.

Then along comes the director with a major reorganization, taking 518 agents out of the violent crime task forces, out of the drug efforts and out of white-collar crime, all of which may be necessary.

Now, the president comes along with his homeland defense proposal and he says, budget-neutral and personnel-neutral. Translated, we're not going to add one new person to fight these -- all these issues.

So what's going to happen now when we these 518 people who are now working on violent crime and drugs and white-collar crime and assign them homeland defense, which I have no doubt they are needed to do. Do we have gaping hole of 518 people now fighting drugs, white- collar crime and violent crime? I don't know how this can be a zero- sum game.

I'm for the president's reorganization. I called for the establishment of a Cabinet-level post back in November, and I applaud the president for doing it. But I don't think you can do this on the cheap. I don't know how this could be zero-sum.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Grassley?

GRASSLEY: Well, I think the most important thing is that the president has said, as he studied it, that it can be. And I think that this should not be an excuse to grow government, that when you move function A out of one department into homeland security, that the money follow it. And also, I think that we have to look at the background of the FBI. They've been too engaged with Bonnie and Clyde over the last 80 years, they've got to set that aside. The new culture calls for bin Laden, al Qaeda and terrorists as our major threat, and moving from solving crimes to crime prevention. And it's a whole new thing for the FBI to do, a whole new way of thinking.

But this change of personnel is a minimum to accomplish that. In fact, I raised the question at the hearing last week, if what really -- 25 percent of the people working on prevention of crime and on terrorism was really enough. It may not be enough, but it's a matter of putting your emphasis where it ought to be, and leave bank robberies to local police.

BIDEN: By the way, I don't disagree with that, but I just want to ask Chuck.

Chuck, you have a methamphetamine problem in your state. What are you going to happen when you take 50 agents who are now dealing with methamphetamine and killing more people in your state than terrorists, and you move them over to terrorism?

They should be moved to terrorism, I agree with you. But what is going to happen now? Who's going to take care of that meth problem?

BLITZER: All right.

GRASSLEY: Well, I think, first of all, that the DEA -- and I've got Asa Hutchinson coming to Iowa tomorrow to talk about this very problem, and I'll bring it up with him -- but I think he'll find that he can do the job. That's what he was set up to do, more so than the FBI was.

BLITZER: All right, Senators, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

This conversation is just beginning. More with Senators Biden and Grassley, they'll also be taking your phone calls, when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of President Bush just back at the White House, Marine One, his helicopter just landed bringing him and Mrs. Bush back from Camp David. The president spent part of yesterday meeting with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. Tomorrow he meets here in Washington at the White House with the visiting Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who landed in Washington earlier today, as well.

President Bush meeting with some well-wishers on the south lawn of the White House, just back. If he stops and talks with reporters as he enters the White House, we'll bring you his comments live.

But let's continue our conversation now with two influential members of the United States Senate: Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa.

Senator Biden, I don't know about you, but a lot of people were shocked when the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, testified this past week it will take another two or three years before the FBI's computer system is up and running the way it's supposed to run to deal with terror threats facing the United States.

Two or three years seems like a very long time.

BIDEN: Look, my dad has an expression. He says if everything is equally important to you, nothing's important to you. This is all about priorities.

Chuck is my good friend. Chuck says he doesn't want to grow government. When we're in a war, we need more troops. We need to set priorities.

Put this in perspective. We're going to spend $8 billion this year on Star Wars experiments. You mean to tell me we can't afford to have more FBI agents? You mean to tell me we can't afford to take that computer system -- can you imagine if this were the Defense Department and the computer systems were as bad, would anybody tolerate waiting two to three years, no matter what it cost? I can't fathom that.

And let me give you one more example. I was in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. There's a guy named General Howell (ph), a one- star general. He took me into this secure room. It's a bombed out -- a bombed-out hangar that he has a big tent in there. And he has a DEA, FBI, Defense, CIA, all of them in there, and this giant, giant table, that he's cobbled together with plywood. And they have all their computers there, and they sit right next to each other. No rooms, no anything.

And he starts off and he said, "Senator Biden, let me tell you about these guys," and there's about 20 guys in there. He said, "I've told everyone of them, if they don't share the information in real time they get over their computers, they're" -- and I won't use the expletive deleted -- "they're the devil out of here."

They sit there, the FBI guy, he gets information real time and the CIA guy gets information from the ISI of the Pakistanis, and they have to share it. No stove pipes.

Why can't this be done more quickly?

BLITZER: What's answer to that, Senator Grassley?

GRASSLEY: Well, first of all, Joe is right. I remember the experience I had as the member of the Finance Committee and the IRS, giving them a billion dollars to get new computers. And after two years, we found out that $400 million of it was entirely wasted and nothing was changed.

I think the answer, though, for the most part is to understand that information-sharing is a very major problem with or without the technology that we all agree needs to be there.

BIDEN: I agree with that.

BLITZER: Senator Grassley, I want you to listen to what Coleen Rowley testified this week. She's the so-called FBI whistle-blower from Minneapolis who warned of dangers involving the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, in Minnesota a month before September 11. She complains about the bureaucracy at the FBI. Listen to part of her testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLEEN ROWLEY, FBI AGENT: I know Director Mueller is also very cognizant of this problem. He iterated today that there are eight levels before you get to him. This is an unwieldy situation. If there is a way to somehow reduce the levels, I think that's what -- the way we need to go. Seven to nine levels is really ridiculous, and it's just how do we do this once it gets started.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Her point obviously, Senator Grassley, is that she had some sensitive information, she sent to it Washington, it quickly was ignored. And there's no way that a field agent out there in the United States or around the world could get the attention of the director unless a lot of other layers approved it first.

GRASSLEY: Yes, by the way, Friday I got a handwritten note from the attorney general assuring me that she would be protected because last Sunday on a news program he didn't particularly leave a confidant answer to that, as far as I was concerned.

Listen, the number of layers of bureaucracy probably are too much, but it's the attitude within the central headquarters that somebody there could stonewall this investigation going on in Minneapolis. And so maybe fewer layers will help, but it's a culture of the need for cooperation and coordination to a greater extent, but most importantly, for headquarters to lead the local FBI people, who, when they do what they were trained to do, the fundamentals of their profession, to seek the truth scientifically and let it convict, that's what they ought to be allowed to do. But when there's a big screw-up at FBI, it's always because somebody at FBI is intervening, and the Moussaoui case is just the latest.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, a lot of people recognize that there were a lot of mistakes that were made by the FBI. I want you to listen to what the New York Times wrote in an editorial on Thursday on this point:

"Mr. Mueller, the FBI director, has acknowledged these mistakes, which is welcome, but has yet to make clear that he intends to discipline those found responsible. He will never be able to transform the Bureau into an effective anti-terror outfit if he excuses the egregious failure of subordinates."

Should someone pay a price for those mistakes? BIDEN: I agree with the editorial.

In fairness to Director Mueller, he just came in four days beforehand, but he has to understand the whole nation is watching. Candor, candor is what is most desired by the members of Congress and by the American people.

And we have to know what's going on there. Look, if you don't have people able to talk to one another because of computers or because of a bureaucratic structure, what is this new homeland defense outfit, with 170,000 people and different agencies all with different computer systems? What are we about to get in for here?

We have to be candid about what we're doing here. We have to do this in the open, so the American people can understand and, quite frankly, people like the business community, who has done this kind of stuff -- for example, there's corporations in my state, a CEO of a major corporation came up to me and pointed out how -- he showed me a chart, and he said there used to be 35 percent of the folks at the bottom, 65 in the middle, and the remainder at the top. He said, "Until I changed that pyramid to 2 at the top, 35 in the middle, and 65 at the bottom," he said, "I couldn't get anything through here."

I mean, people know how to do this reorganization. We should be open about it. Not have the government, the White House sitting there, with two or four or six people deciding how to do this thing.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Biden, Senator Grassley, stand by one more time. We're going to take another break.

We have a lot more to talk about, including some major international issues on the agenda. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us once again, Senator Biden, Senator Grassley.

Senator Biden, you're, of course, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The president rejected the Egyptian President Mubarak's request yesterday for a timetable to create a Palestinian state that would live alongside Israel.

Is that a good idea to come forward with a timetable, as Mubarak is suggesting?

BIDEN: I don't think so. I think it is more important to come through with a outline, a horizon of how this state is going to come in being. But I don't think to set firm timetables in that region of world -- when you set a timetable, Wolf, what you do is you leave for to the lowest common denominator the ability to mess it up. You have somebody to intervene in a way that makes it not able to be met, and then it's declared a failure. I think the president is right in not setting a firm timetable. BLITZER: Senator Grassley, do you have confidence that the Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat, is capable of living in peace, with Israel?

GRASSLEY: He doesn't have the authority to lead. If he were true leader of his state, he would be able to keep his terrorists under control.

And in the final analysis, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is only going to come the same way that peace came between Israel and Egypt and, in turn, Israel and Jordan, when there is trust built.

So the president of the United States has to spend all of his time trying to get these two people to trust each other. And a timetable can't lead to that building of trust.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, just in to CNN now, one of our reporters spoke with the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, who told CNN that Palestinian security forces in Gaza have arrested Abdallah Shami. He's the head of Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Those are, I assume, the kinds of steps you want to see the Palestinian Authority take. But is that enough, as far as you are concerned?

BIDEN: It's the right kind of step, Wolf. And you know that area as well as I do, it's just the beginning. The question is, is it show or is it really go here? And it's just the beginning.

If it's real, if it continues and if Arafat is willing in the reorganization of the Palestinian Authority to see a genuine spreading of power among Palestinians, then we begin to move in a direction there's a possibility.

BLITZER: Senator Grassley, a lot of people paid attention, of course, to the president's nationally televised address Thursday night on homeland security. Fewer people paid attention to his speech at West Point last weekend, in which he spoke about potentially the need for preemptive strikes against those who want to commit terrorism against United States or use weapons of mass destruction.

He didn't use Iraq -- mention Iraq by name, but a lot of speculation that's what he was referring to. Are you among those who believe that preemptive U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein is justified?

GRASSLEY: The answer is yes. And I believe this has become very much a bipartisan point of view within our government. And that hopefully, we don't need to move in that direction, but obviously, the ability to do it and the determination to do it and to do it hopefully cooperatively, but if you can't, to be able to move, is the recipe for success.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, what about preemptive strikes -- preemption becoming a new doctrine in U.S. policy? BIDEN: Well, in fact it's not new doctrine. If we have reason to believe we're going to be struck, he is able to use force. The key here is that, what are we going to do to take down Saddam Hussein? I have had many discussions with president about this and others.

And look, Wolf, you know again, you know this area. The fact of the matter is is not whether we can take him down, it's what we do after he we take him down. As I pointed out to the president, the reason why his father stopped and didn't go to Baghdad, he didn't want to stay there for five years. It is one thing to take Saddam out. It's the next thing, what do you do to keep the Kurds from going to war with the Turks, the Shi'ahs and the Iranians and so on and so forth.

So there needs to be a plan here, a plan beyond just taking out Saddam Hussein, so we don't end up with chaos in the region beyond what we have. I hope the president -- I believe the president is working on just such a plan and attempting to, once he gets it in place, explain it to our allies, both in the Middle East as well as in Europe.

But we are going to have to stay when we go, Wolf. Otherwise, we just replace one tin-horn dictator with another and we have chaos in the region.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, Senator Grassley, we're out of time. Thanks to both of you for joining us on LATE EDITION.

GRASSLEY: Thank you very much.

BIDEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And when we return, strengthening U.S. security in the face of international terror. We'll get additional perspective from the former CIA director, James Woolsey, the former U.S. ambassador for counterterrorism, Paul Bremer, and former Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. Sue Bailey.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: On September the 11th, the American definition of national security changed, and changed forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announcing a new plan to photograph and fingerprint all U.S. visitors deemed to be a potential security risk.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now with some insight into the new security measures, including President Bush's proposed homeland security department, are three guests: Paul Bremer is a former U.S. ambassador for counterterrorism. James Woolsey is an attorney and a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. And Dr. Sue Bailey is a former assistant defense secretary for health affairs.

Welcome to LATE EDITION.

I guess I should begin with you, Ambassador Bremer. Does this new department of homeland security proposed now, does it make sense?

PAUL BREMER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: I think it makes sense as far as it goes.

The real question is whether it will have an impact on the three key problems of the intelligence: One, does it improve the collection of intelligence? Two, does it improve the analysis of intelligence? And three, does it assure good dissemination of intelligence? And I think the book is still open on all of those questions.

BLITZER: Do you think it makes sense?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, I think it's definitely a step in the right direction, but he's (ph) right, it's not clear that we're going to get everything we need in intelligence out of this.

The FBI is a law enforcement organization, and a good one. And it's also a very decentralized organization. And they historically have not really done domestic intelligence collection, and when they did, back in the '60s, they kind of messed it up, following Martin Luther King, Jr., and so forth. We may need to think about having some separate agency to do this, the way they do in Britain, with MI- 5.

BLITZER: You know, I'm told that, this coming week, the president will announce an advisory panel on homeland security, along the lines of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Panel. Both of you are very familiar with that. Just bringing in some of the best minds out there to help Tom Ridge and others deal with this.

Are you a part of that advisory panel?

WOOLSEY: No...

BLITZER: Hasn't asked you yet?

WOOLSEY: Don't know that they would. I'm a Democrat, after all.

But I think it's an excellent idea.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BREMER: I think it's a good idea.

BLITZER: Are you part of that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) announced?

BREMER: I think that that's not up to me to say anything about that.

BLITZER: All right, we'll leave it for the president.

Dr. Bailey, you know a great deal about specific threats, bioterrorism threats. You dealt with this when you were at the Pentagon. I want you to listen to what Gary Hart, the former senator from Colorado who co-chaired a commission coming up with some ideas, what he said specifically about this.

He said this: "I think it's amazing, frankly, that in the last nine months, we haven't suffered a second attack. I am absolutely convinced that we will, and I don't think we're prepared for it today."

Is the U.S. government, the federal government prepared for a second major attack?

SUE BAILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AFFAIRS: It's not.

And this plan to reorganize is flawed because, even though it's a centerpiece for intelligence and analysis, it's not a centerpiece for the focus of the crisis management, which is going to be medical. We're going to have real crisis consequence management requirement, and that's going to be medical, whether it's biologic, chemical, whether it's nuclear or conventional weaponry.

BLITZER: So basically what you're saying is, if, God forbid, there's some sort of gas attack, cyanide gas or sarin gas, in a subway station, the hospitals around the United States, the doctors, the medical personnel are simply, at this point, not prepared to deal with that.

BAILEY: Well, they are prepared individually. They're not connected. Again...

BLITZER: Well, you say prepared individually. Could they recognize the symptoms at hospitals around the country?

BAILEY: Well, you're right, Wolf, they need to be trained better, we need to get the information out, we need the resources to be there, including the right medications at the right time.

The biggest problem is, on 9/11, we had a true weapon of mass destruction. We did not have mass casualties. Had we had those casualties, we would have been overwhelmed.

BLITZER: Upwards of 3,000 dead, that's pretty mass.

BAILEY: But those are dead. That's the difference.

BLITZER: Oh, I see. BAILEY: And what we have to think about, with any attack, nuclear included, is that we will have medical consequences, and this plan really doesn't address that.

BLITZER: Do you agree with Senator Hart?

BREMER: Well, I'm not surprised it hasn't happened yet, but I think it will happen in the future.

Al Qaeda has gone from 10 months to two years in between its strikes. And it likes to do big, showy things. So, although I'm not too surprised that we haven't been hit yet again, excluding the anthrax -- we were hit a second time, but in a somewhat different way -- I think that the next one they'll try for something very big and dramatic, and it could be some months off.

BLITZER: And on the anthrax, you're among those who's not 100 percent convinced this was a domestic terrorist, that it could have been an Iraqi-based organization or something along those lines.

WOOLSEY: I don't know who it was, but I believe that there's a fairly good chance it had something to do with 9/11. If it was a single crazed American Ph.D. microbiologist with all his equipment in a cave, say, under Trenton, New Jersey, either he had to already be there by chance and ready to start mailing anthrax a few days after September 11, or he had to, quick like a bunny rabbit, organize his laboratory after 9/11. I think either of those is a pretty strange assumption.

I think it's far more likely that it's somehow connected to September 11 and to al Qaeda, but exactly how or through what mechanism, I don't know.

BLITZER: Do you agree? Because, if you read those letters that were sent to Senator Leahy, Senator Daschle, those letters referred to death to Jews, to Islamic -- to jihad. That would suggest a foreign source, as opposed to a domestic American source.

BREMER: Well, it would, but then, if you take the sort of crazed microbiologist thesis, you could say he was doing that to throw people off his track.

But Jim is right, there's something suspicious about the fact that these letters were mailed only six days after September 11. You have to figure out, how does this guy get very high-quality anthrax, and was he just coincidentally ready?

I think we just have to keep open mind. It could turn out either way.

BLITZER: Dr. Bailey, what do you think?

BAILEY: Well, even if it is a disgruntled employee that had that kind of capability, you still may see some connection. It just does seem too coincidental to really be a coincidence. WOOLSEY: One more point, you have both the physician who treated this hijacker that Atta brought in in Florida, and the two Johns Hopkins specialists on this who say, more probable than not that the lesion on this guy's leg and last summer was anthrax.

And you know...

BLITZER: This was in Florida?

WOOLSEY: This was in Florida, this was one of the hijackers. You know...

BLITZER: Which they didn't spot, the physician, the emergency room physician didn't detect it as anthrax at the time, but with hindsight he went back in his mind, and he thought, yes, this could have been the skin form of anthrax.

WOOLSEY: Right. The doctor can tell us better than I, but what the press has said is that a healthy young male, a black lesion of this kind, it seems awfully likely.

BLITZER: We're going to take a break, but why do you think that all of the high-ranking officials seem to be saying so conclusively, they don't believe it's foreign, the anthrax, they think it's domestic?

BREMER: I don't know, Wolf. I think, as Jim pointed out, we just need to keep an open mind here. My rule always is, go where the evidence takes you. And let's just see where the evidence takes us. If it takes us to a crazed microbiologist, fine. If it takes us somewhere else, we'll have to deal with that.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.

We're going to ask our panel to stand by. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're talking about strengthening U.S. homeland security with the former U.S. counterterrorism ambassador, Paul Bremer, the former CIA director, the Washington attorney James Woolsey, and the former assistant defense secretary for health affairs, Dr. Sue Bailey.

We have a caller from Nebraska. Go ahead, please, with your question.

CALLER: Would you recommend that the FBI and the CIA be under the new homeland security department?

BLITZER: All right, would you?

WOOLSEY: No, I would not. Harry Truman kept those apart in 1947 precisely so that we would not have a single agency that dealt with foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement and domestic espionage the way the Soviets did and the Nazis did.

I think they ought to stay as a law enforcement agency in Justice and as a foreign-intelligence collector under the director of central intelligence reporting to president.

But I think there is some potential utility in looking at an organization, as I said earlier, like MI-5 in Britain that would be domestic intelligence solely related to terrorism. And if so, it probably ought to be within this office.

BLITZER: Ambassador Bremer, the New York Times, in an editorial, wrote this on Thursday, following the attorney general's new guidelines that were released: "Fingerprinting and registering people from certain suspect countries will provide only an illusion of security, and subject many innocent visitors to the kind of intrusive checks that Americans traveling abroad would find offensive if applied to themselves."

You're a former diplomat. You appreciate that thought made by the New York Times.

BREMER: Well, I do. But I think we have to face the fact we're at war here. There are going to be changes in how we live our lives here in the United States and how we welcome foreigners. We, of course, are a nation that traditionally has welcomed foreigners, both short-term and immigrants. We're all, one way or other, basically immigrants.

But we are at war. And I think the message that the president gave in his speech on Thursday night, essentially, was to remind us all we are at war. And that has consequences for how we organize our government and what kind of steps we have to take.

BLITZER: Dr. Bailey, they now say that there is enough vaccine for smallpox vaccinations across the board, to give all Americans that kind of vaccine. But there are some side effects potentially that could affect a lot of people who take the vaccine.

Is it time now for the federal government to make available to all of the American people this smallpox vaccine?

BAILEY: It's not something we should do right now. But were we to need to do it, if there was just one case of smallpox or a terrorist attack, say, in the heartland somewhere, I don't think the agency, as it's set up today, is really prepared to get the information out for people to stay where they are, so we can bring the vaccine in, get the vaccine in, and then administer it. That is what I think is really the hole in the plan that we have before us today.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that?

BREMER: Well, I'm not a medical professional. But I have looked at this on several commissions I've been on, and I think basically that is right. What we need to have is, be sure we have stockpiled enough vaccine -- and apparently we're in the process of doing that -- and then have the alternative at some point to issue it.

The problem, as Dr. Bailey points out, is the question of quarantining, whether you can get people to stand where they are so you don't get things spreading very fast. And the quarantine authorities in this country are extremely pulled apart. Some cities and counties have quarantine authority, some states do. The federal government has quarantine authority only once something crosses a state border. So there are problems. I think they can be addressed, but there are problems.

BAILEY: And besides, the governor has to be the one to call that out. And about a third of our governors do not have a high enough security clearance to even call out the National Guard.

BLITZER: How concerned are you about suicide bombers, like along the lines of what's in Israel, coming to the United States?

WOOLSEY: I'm less concerned about suicide bombers with just high explosives and having a lot of them, the way they do in Israel, than I would be about a suicide bomber taking some hand in disrupting some part of our infrastructure and causing massive casualties. You know, blowing up something related to the electricity power grid or the oil and gas pipelines or something like that.

Al Qaeda tends to have big shows and to do it, you know, maybe under a year, over a year, but not real frequently. They want to have a huge amount of press and attention to what they do. And although it's possible we would see a number of suicide bombers the way the Israelis have, I think it's more likely we'll see suicide bombers but very -- after a number of months are up, like sometime this -- late this year or early next year, and it will be some big operation.

BLITZER: Do you accept that?

BREMER: Well, I accept it, except that if you put yourself in the mind of the al Qaeda people, and if your objective is, in effect, to destroy the American people's confidence that the government can protect them, it has to be, from that point of view, a rather appealing idea to conduct series of simultaneous suicide bombings in suburban malls, which do not, any one of them, kill a lot of people, but which, in effect, have the effect of saying to everybody, "You're not safe anywhere you go," much as the case is in Israel. So...

BLITZER: It's a classic form of terrorism, to terrorize.

BREMER: Classic form of terrorism, to terrorize and reduce the confidence of the people in its government's ability to protect its citizens, which is the fundamental role of government.

So I agree with Jim. Certainly historically, al Qaeda has been dedicated to large, major events about once a year. We're about on time here now. But you can't exclude a different approach, I think.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to have to leave it right there. Dr. Bailey, Ambassador Bremer, Director Woolsey, thanks for joining us.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, Bruce Morton's essay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a little like the search for communists in the government after World War II. There were some, of course, but a lot of innocent people had their names blackened and their careers damaged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Will Americans ever draw the line in the war on terror?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, Bruce Morton on the thin line between keeping the United States both safe and free.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON (voice-over): "Send me," it says on the Statue of Liberty, "your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." Well, some of them maybe.

If they have visas and are from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan or Syria, they now pose national security concerns and must be fingerprinted and photographed. This registration system, Attorney General Ashcroft said, would eventually be expanded to other visitors who posed a security concern.

What would the standards for that be? Well, they'd be secret, that's what.

It's a little like the search for communists in the government after World War II. There were some, of course. But a lot of innocent people had their names blackened and their careers damaged during the hunt.

The German author Thomas Mann, who had come to America to escape the Nazis, went back to Europe, remarking that freedom in America is being temporarily restricted in order to preserve it.

And we still have detainees -- not citizens, so unprotected by the Constitution -- who were locked up shortly after September 11 and, without being charged with anything, are still being held.

That's all part of defending against terror. The president made it clear in his speech at West Point last weekend that the rules for offensive action against suspected terrorists (ph) have changed to. The U.S. will strike first.

BUSH: We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. (APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The only path to safety is the path of action and this nation will act.

(APPLAUSE)

MORTON: The president also noted that countries which tolerate the hatred that leads to terror must change. The world, in short, must do as he says.

The wars Americans have supported have by and large been the wars in which they saw themselves as the good guys and wars in which the other side started it, World War II being the best example.

If the U.S. strikes first, it will undoubtedly lose a lot of its allies around the world. The strike, whoever it's aimed at, will be seen as aggression. And the war against terror, now widely supported, may become less popular at home as well.

The notion of whacking this country or that because they're not obeying us is one Americans aren't used to.

So an aggressive stance abroad, some loss of freedom at home. So far the war remains popular here. And polls show Americans would rather be less free if it means being more safe. Will that change?

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

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

Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION.

As the Roman Catholic Church faces a string of sexual abuse trials and lawsuits, we'll talk with three guests about what's needed to restore confidence among the nation's Catholics. Plus, your phone calls and our Final Round.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll get to the crisis in the Catholic Church in just a few minutes, but first to Ireland where wedding bells are ringing this coming week for the ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: A quick shift of subjects right now. This coming week, the nation's Catholic bishops will meet in Dallas to discuss the problem of sexual abuse among priests.

Joining us now to talk about the impact of the scandal on the Church, its followers, and how the Church is responding our three guests: Frank Bruni is the New York Times reporter and co-author of the book, "A Gospel of Shame: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church." Father Steve Rossetti is a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on child sexual abuse and a psychologist. And William Bennett is the cofounder of Empower America. He's author of the new book, "Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism."

Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us.

Father Rossetti, first of all, they're going to meet in Dallas this coming week, the Catholic bishops. What do you anticipate will emerge from this conference?

STEVE ROSSETTI, CONSULTANT, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLICS BISHOPS: Wolf, the bishops are very clear. They must come out with a clear policy that they all agree upon that will be mandatory and they really will get the job done to make the Church safer for children. They can't leave Dallas without a clear policy.

BLITZER: But the policy we're told that's supposed to emerge is, from now on, one strike and you're out. You're no longer a priest, you have to leave the Catholic -- the ministry.

ROSSETTI: Right.

BLITZER: On the other hand, if you've committed a sexual abuse in the past, one time, one time only if you will, you're allowed to stay in. That's causing a lot of controversy.

ROSSETTI: It was the most hotly debated issue in the committee and will be again on Thursday and Friday. Clearly there's no consensus. Most bishops agree with one strike, but not all. Most people in the pews agree with one strike, but not all. It clearly was a compromise.

But what I think is important that for the few people who do perhaps remain in ministry, they're going to be supervised, they're going to be reviewed by a lay board, and there's going to be public disclosure if that clause stays in.

BLITZER: Are you confident that that's going to resolve the matter, somebody who acknowledges that they did sexually abuse either a child or a young person in the past is allowed to stay on as a priest, even if he's supervised? Is that going to satisfy the American Catholic population out there?

FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES: I think there are a lot of Catholics who won't be satisfied. It's hard to be confident about it, because this is a problem that has plagued the Catholic Church and plagued the Church leaders here in America for so many years. And it's festered, and it's not been remedied the way it should be. I think the policy is very well-intentioned. I think it could work out well. The problem, maybe only from a PR standpoint, is that that one strike in the past and maybe you're still in feels a little bit like wiggle room. And the question is whether the Catholic Church leaders in this country have behaved in a way that they deserve some wiggle room on this, and can maintain credibility with their followers if they allow themselves wiggle room.

BLITZER: Do you believe it's possible, though, to do this only once and that's it, you made one mistake, one sin, and it's never going to happen again?

WILLIAM BENNETT, EMPOWER AMERICA: I think the PR is bad because the substance is bad. I am not an expert. I'm just a Catholic who loves his church and is suffering daily this, with the revelations.

In "King Lear," I think King Lear says it's not the worst as long as you can say, this is the worst. Well, at what day is it the worst? Today we read in The Washington Post maybe 850 priests involved in molestation of boys. Extraordinary things, extraordinary.

BLITZER: And many of them -- what do they say, that there are what, 34 are still in the priesthood?

BENNETT: Yes. Yes.

Three things. One, the bishops are getting together. The bishops have to understand, they are part of the problem right now. A lot of Catholics are saying, we understand that when you've got 850 priests molesting boys and a culture that apparently doesn't particularly discourage it, at least in some seminaries and places, but maybe even encourages it, you have a very serious and fundamental problem.

The bishops have to address it, and they haven't. You still have bishops and cardinals sitting around who, essentially, were reassigning these priests who were doing this horrible, horrible stuff, to other children.

And third, they have to acknowledge how deep the problem is, how far they have drifted from doctrine and how far they have drifted from the laity. I mean, the laity is just way out of whack with the leadership.

BRUNI: I was going to say this focus on the bishops is one of the things I have heard from a lot of Catholics since the policy was released, is that there's nothing in there, at least to their eyes, that tells them what will happen to a bishop or a cardinal, like Cardinal Law in Boston, who kept transferring priests, sexually abusive priests, over and over again, watching them reoffend, either he or his subordinates transferring them again.

The policy talks about what happens to those priests, but what happens to the Church leaders who are culpable in what happens?

BLITZER: What about that? ROSSETTI: Well, that, it's an important issue that they're raising. The bishops have lost a lot of credibility. And so, in the draft charter, they tried to build in some accountability. There will be a lay review board at diocesan level, there will be a lay review board at the national level. And that review board will have another review board reviewing it.

So one of the charters for this national office will be to ensure that each diocese enforces the policy.

BLITZER: You know, Michael Kelly, a well-known writer here in Washington, wrote a devastating piece in The Washington Post on Wednesday. I'll read to you an excerpt from this: "The men who raped boys need to be defrocked, not to mention tried, convicted and jailed. But what about the men who let the men rape boys? Why do they still hold high office? Why, indeed, do they still wear clerical collars? If two rapes is enough to get a priest defrocked, shouldn't looking the other away from a few decades' worth of rapes be enough to defrock a bishop?"

ROSSETTI: I can't excuse their behavior, Wolf, and it's a tragedy all the way around, as Mr. Bennett said. But I think what we need to do now in Dallas is to focus on correcting the problem, to make sure that children are kept safe in the future.

BLITZER: But the question is, are they correcting the problem by not necessarily taking a look back at what the bishops may or may not have done?

BENNETT: No, they're not. Again, I mean, I think there are all sorts of procedures that may be put in place, all sorts of committees. You know, from the lawyers' point of view, that's probably right, but what I think the laity, what Catholic laymen are looking for is some, if I can use the expression, moral clarity here. Don't you guys understand this is an impossible situation, when priests do this, when they become the molesters of children, when they do it over and over and over again, and when the cover-up is aided by bishops?

I mean, consider the chief of staff or the head of a hospital who had doctors under him who were not making people well, but making them sick, and instead of getting rid of them, reassigning them to other people.

BLITZER: But their argument, I guess, is that, in the older times, they didn't know -- they thought this could be cured. They thought this kind of behavior could be cured if they sent them to Arizona or someplace.

BRUNI: OK, let's talk about that. That was an interesting argument when they made it in late '80s, even though in 1985, there had been a very powerful internal Church report, not sanctioned by the Church per se, that talked about this as biggest problem confronting the Catholic Church in America.

I heard bishops and Church leaders say that in the late '80s. Then I heard them say it again in the early '90s. Cardinal Law has been saying it fairly recently.

In 1992, Father James Porter sexually abused scores of children in Massachusetts and other states. Cardinal Law was well aware of that. And he was still permitting people like Father Paul Shanley, whom we've read about, to be placed near children in the mid-'90s after that, after they had supposedly learned their lesson.

So there is some resistance to reform on this that goes deeper than just not knowing about it.

BLITZER: Why is there that resistance?

ROSSETTI: Well, there has been a shift. Obviously, as Frank's saying, in the '80s and early '90s, people could have gotten away with the idea that we were following whatever and that we didn't know. No question about it, since 1992, '93, we did know.

If you look at what the Church has done in the last 10 years -- I mean, there is no excuse for the Geoghan and Shanley cases. But most of the cases, frankly -- I'm the minority -- but the bishops has actually dealt with fairly well. They've put them through treatment. They have supervised them, and they have kept them away from minors in some sort of a limited ministry. And many times, that worked. But not always.

BLITZER: But have they informed local law enforcement about this issue?

ROSSETTI: Well, the bishops have been following the law, I think, in most of the cases. But again, there are 194 dioceses.

BRUNI: But the law is easier in a lot of these -- in a lot of states. Most states the law is easier on the bishops than it is on, say, a school principle or a doctor.

So to say they were following the law in terms of when they did and didn't inform criminal authorities, in most states, that law is easier on them, and they can follow the law and not really be behaving in a morally responsible fashion.

ROSSETTI: One of the changes in the guidelines, the new charter, is to say the bishops will report these cases to the civil authorities.

BLITZER: Immediately?

ROSSETTI: Yes. That's what it says right there on the guidelines.

BENNETT: I mean, I don't have any confidence in the recommendations of a group of bishops, no matter how much I respect a number of them, and I do, who cannot see the plain truth in front of them. That to gain credibility with the laity and with the American people in general, some of those bishops have to go and some of those cardinals have to go.

Cardinal Law has to go. He simply has to go. I've known the man for years. Before I found out about this, I admired him greatly.

I don't believe any of the procedures, and I don't believe that it's being done in good faith.

BLITZER: You probably never imagined a few months ago in your wildest dreams that you could be calling for the resignation of Cardinal Law?

BENNETT: Of course, and many other people, and investigation into seminaries. I never thought I'd want to call for investigation into seminaries to find out if seminarians are hanging out, going out to gay bars and doing all sorts of other things that are widely alleged and reported in the newspapers.

So a thorough house-cleaning if there is going to be any credibility.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls for our panel.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church with New York Times reporter Frank Bruni, Father Steve Rossetti -- he's a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on child sexual abuse -- and Empower America's co-founder, William Bennett.

We have a caller from California. Go ahead, California.

CALLER: Good morning. Father, what is going to be done for the victims of abuse psychologically and spiritually? What is the plan to care for the children and for those who are now adults?

ROSSETTI: What's new in this plan is they have a victims assistance coordinator. This person will be solely focused on helping the victims, providing the counseling, the spiritual guidance and helping them through the system to make sure that their voice is heard and they get what they needed.

And also, the dioceses are encouraged to ask this person to report it in addition to the dioceses reporting it.

BLITZER: All right, we have another caller from Maryland. Go ahead, Maryland.

CALLER: Yes, I like the forum's opinion on the cost on legal fees for all this. All this money that's going towards legal fee and even, in fact (ph), covering up everything that's going on. It's taking away from other issues, and even CRS and things like that. Thank you.

BLITZER: Frank, this is going to cost the Catholic Church a ton of money, isn't it? BRUNI: This already cost the Catholic Church a ton of money. And one of the things that I think Catholics are only beginning to understand and be bothered by is that a lot of the money they've put in the collection basket over the last decade and a half has gone to settlements to victims because priests have molested them, have gone to legal fees, have gone to insurance, all this kind of thing.

So, I mean, this has been costing the Church millions and millions of dollars for quite some time.

BLITZER: Bill Bennett, in Frank's book, "A Gospel of Shame," he writes this in a new introduction to the paperback version of the book. He writes, "What was most extraordinary to those of us who had long monitored the problem was the aura of surprise and discovery with which it was being covered in the new media this time around."

Why were we so slow in picking up on this story?

BENNETT: The media?

BLITZER: Yes.

BENNETT: I don't know, but as a Catholic I was surprised. I mean I've been in Catholic schools all my life, never been molested, never been abused. I'm not sure I know anybody who has been. So when these stories came out, I thought this is a few people, a few cases, and now every day more of these numbers stumble out.

I guess, Wolf, many of us were taught to respect priests, to think of them as dedicated -- truly dedicated committed people. Most of them are, most of them remain so, which is what makes these offenses all the worse.

Taking advantage of people's trust, their confidence, the trust of parents to entrust small children to priests, and then to have this come back in response, I think that's why you've got fury out there.

BLITZER: Frank, why do you think we were so surprised, those of us in the mainstream news media, by this most recent set of allegations?

BRUNI: Well, I don't really have a full answer for that, because in '92, '93 this got an enormous amount of attention in the news media.

I think it goes back to what Bill said. I think that people are so resistant to the idea that figures as revered as priests and an institution as revered as the Catholic Church could be involved in all this that I think it almost took several cycles of attention before people really said, "OK, I get it. I believe it, I don't want to believe it, but there it is."

BLITZER: All right. We have another caller from New York. Go ahead, New York.

CALLER: Yes, hello. I'd like to know if you feel that there's been enough remorse and repentance shown by the hierarchy of the Church. I've seen mostly arrogance.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Father Rossetti.

ROSSETTI: It is our first job, I think, to listen to victims and to respond to their needs and to apologize. It's in the document, but I think it perhaps needs to be even stronger.

The bishops realize that the focus in Dallas this week has to be on the victims, so Thursday morning two or three victims will address the entire conference of bishops. We need to focus first on victims and later on perpetrators.

BENNETT: When we say the act of contrition, at least the old act of contrition, in the Catholic Church, we say, "I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life, amen." First you confess your sins.

As we established, I think, from the top of this show many of us do not believe that the leadership has acknowledged its sins, its omissions, very serious sin of omission and commission. Until you have that, I don't want to hear a lot of penance. I want justice first and then penance.

BRUNI: I think caller asked the arrogance question in part because Cardinal Law hasn't resigned and Cardinal Law hasn't spoken much publicly about what's happened. And, you know, maybe it's just the misfortune of the great work that the Boston Globe has done and attorneys in Boston have done uncovering the paper trail there, but his actions over the last decade and a half have been shown to be extremely troubling, and his statements have been pretty sparse since then. And I wonder, if he loves the Church so much, why he hasn't thought more about resigning or why other cardinals or bishops haven't urged him to do so.

BLITZER: You want to comment on that?

ROSSETTI: Well, I think you're right, in the sense that, whenever the church is perceived to be arrogant, it's so contrary to who we are and what we do. We first have to be humble people, as Mr. Bennett mentioned, and also people who are sorry for our sins. And if we can't do that, then we can't be a model for other people.

BRUNI: Do you think it would help the Church's credibility if Cardinal Law resigned?

ROSSETTI: Well, I think it would make people feel better, but my focus is on the protection of children. I mean, frankly, I know a lot of people want him to resign. But I think we have to -- again, to focus on how can we make the Church safer for children? And that's the real task ahead of us this week.

BENNETT: But, I mean, apart from feeling better, it would be right. It would be justice. I mean, I argued for several years about a president who ought to resign and then be penitential. And I think Cardinal Law -- I think you have to be consistent -- Cardinal Law needs to resign because of what he did. I simply think that coming out and saying, "We'll do this, we'll take this measure," while one of the major perpetrators of this cover- up, which is what it was, is still holding very high office, that just doesn't work.

BLITZER: Father Rossetti, Frank Bruni in his book, "A Gospel of Shame," also writes this: "Root causes for the crisis? The hierarchal structure of the church, the peculiar composition of a celibate culture, and the imbalance of power between a priest and his flock."

ROSSETTI: Well, certainly, having power is something that allows perpetrators to continue their crime, whether they're teachers, police officers or priests. It's all the more worse when the person is a priest. It's a violation of that power.

But one thing I'd like to say, there is an impression being given in the media, which we had talked about a couple of weeks ago, that somehow priests are more likely to abuse children than other people.

BLITZER: Because of the celibacy issue?

ROSSETTI: Right. Or all those other issues. And it's simply not true. The best numbers that we have are about 2 percent of priests will sometime have substantial allegations. Now, that's 2 percent more than it should be. But this is not a problem that's a priest problem, this is a human problem.

BLITZER: And I think we should leave this conversation with the point that I'm sure all of us will agree on. Almost all of the priests out there in the United States are wonderful, decent, loving individuals. There is a tiny, tiny, little percentage of those who aren't. And that's what all of us are talking about.

BENNETT: Well, yes, we all agree. But there do seem to be reports increasingly that there are seminaries, there are places, there are institutions where you have a culture of very active homosexual predatory behavior toward each other and toward young people. And if that is true, the bishops sure as heck better address that too, because that is a real...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Father, you want to address that?

ROSSETTI: Wolf, this is not -- the focus of this week is protection of children. The question of homosexuality is an important one that needs to be addressed down the road now. But I've been to a dozen seminaries in the last couple years; I haven't seen that. It's possible, but I haven't seen it.

BLITZER: All right, very quickly, just button this up.

BRUNI: Oh, I was just going to say I think we have to be carefully not to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia. I mean, this issue mixes a whole bunch of different things, but there's too much equivalence given to those two things, which are not equal.

BENNETT: I agree with that. But there is an awful lot of homosexual activity on the part of adult priests preying on children, and that is a fact.

BLITZER: All right, we'll leave it on that note. Thanks, Bill Bennett, Frank Bruni, Father Rossetti.

Good luck in Dallas this week. We'll be talking to you from there.

ROSSETTI: Nice to be here. Good.

BLITZER: And coming up next, our Final Round. Our panel sounds off on the political news of the week. The Final Round, right after a news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our Final Round. Joining me, Donna Brazile, the 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 President Bush's proposal for a new department of homeland security. It will be comprised of several existing major agencies, including the INS and the Secret Service, but the FBI was left out.

Earlier today, the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, explained why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We did not want to create a homeland security department that would look like the old Soviet-era, you know, ministry of the interior. This is a homeland security department that will secure the homeland, it's not designed to be a law enforcement agency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Robert, can another major bureaucracy solve the nation's homeland security?

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: I'm a little bit skeptical. I think it's a good idea to do some streamlining, which is what the administration is doing. But, I mean, you had Andy Card's statement there where, earlier on, I think the week beforehand, where Robert Mueller when he said he was going to be fixing the FBI, taking it away from law enforcement, looking toward preventing terrorism. You would think, in that context, it would make sense for it to be part of homeland security.

The only time we're really going to feel secure is when the FBI and the CIA actually start talking to one another. BLITZER: You know, Donna, the Democratic leadership -- Gephardt, Daschle, everybody, Lieberman -- they're all jumping on board. They think this is a terrific idea...

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, the reason...

BLITZER: ... and they're all taking credit for it.

BRAZILE: That's because Democrats have been talking about this now for the last five months. In fact, Senator Lieberman and the Government Affairs Committee passed a bill just a couple of weeks ago that called for the creation of such a homeland security.

So the Democrats have been wondering where the Bush administration, and specifically where Mr. Ridge, has been over the last couple of weeks in proposing this and helping them guide it through Congress.

BLITZER: Why did the president decide to do it this past week?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, I mean, some people think it's because he wanted to crowd out the story of Coleen Rowley and her testimony, and there may be some political spin and truth to that.

But this has clearly been in the works for a very, very long time. And you have to say, whether you think it's a good idea or a bad idea, the fact that they were able to keep this thing secret and pull this thing off is truly impressive and masterful, especially in this town.

I generally think it's a good idea. I don't know if it will work; reforming bureaucracies is difficult. You know, there's no clear way -- just like there's no clear way to kill an elephant with a nerf ball bat.

(LAUGHTER)

So any way you can do it, if you can pull it off, it's the right way. If they can actually pull this off and do it, then they deserve a lot of praise.

BLITZER: Peter?

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Yes, I think the real value in some ways is psychological. Each of these different agencies has different imperatives, different traditions. They haven't historically focused on terrorism as their main job. I think this concentrates the mind, hopefully, of all of these people.

My concern is, in some ways, the reverse of Jonah's which is that the secrecy, although impressive, leads to certain amount of congressional resentment now that they were left out of the loop. And also some question about whether the details of this really makes sense. There are already things about the funding which really don't seem to make sense.

My concern here is that's what's basically a good idea could come to unravel because a lot of the details don't make sense. And in that way, I think the Bush administration could have saved themselves some headaches if they'd been...

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: But, Peter, isn't the resentment counteracted by the fact, as Donna pointed out and as Wolf pointed out, that the Democrats are basically taking credit for this?

BEINART: Well, no, because it's not partisan, it's basically powerful committee chairman on both sides of the aisle who are going to be upset. I mean, this is petty stuff, no doubt. But one of the ways you get things done in Washington is to bring people in early.

GEORGE: Institutional resentment as opposed to ideological resentment.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about the speculation that already is under way about whether Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge would head the eventually created new department.

Earlier on this program, Ridge told me he has another priority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIDGE: I want to fulfill the president's mandate to me. For the time being, that's the task. At some point in time down the road, that may be worthy of discussion, but I've got plenty of work to do right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jonah, Senator Lieberman earlier today said that he thought that Governor Ridge would eventually become the secretary once this new department is created. Do you think he will?

GOLDBERG: I hope not, actually. It may be unfair to Ridge, but unfairness in the war on terrorism is something you just have to swallow. Look, Tom Ridge is a good and decent man. He has won the respect of a few, and he's earned the contempt of a lot.

And in my view -- I've never been part of this sort of Rudy Giuliani as God, Rudy Giuliani for Pope thing, but people forget that prior to him being Winston Churchill 9/11, he earned an incredible reputation for cracking bureaucratic heads. He was masterful at it. And I think it would make a lot of sense to put him in this position.

BRAZILE: Well, I think before we focus on the man, we should focus on the mission. And hopefully, the mission is broad enough so that these agencies can start communicating with one another and begin to really protect the homeland.

Look, finally Mr. Ridge has a green light to go up on Capitol Hill to testify, and perhaps he can strut his stuff and, you know, gain some friends.

BLITZER: He probably will in the process.

What do you think?

GEORGE: Well, you had a situation, it was just about a week ago, where Tom Ridge in an interview, I think with National Journal, basically said that if the Democrats came forward with a bill on a national home security department, the president should veto it. But given that all this was in the planning makes it seem he was being deceptive or was a little bit out of the loop or what have you.

You also have to keep in mind...

BLITZER: Are you saying he's not the man for the job?

GEORGE: I think he's probably not the man for the job, because you have to realize that the president will continue to have his own director of homeland security in addition to the secretary of the department, so Ridge could keep his current job.

BEINART: Well, I would actually give Ridge a chance. I mean, I think his problems are mostly structural. He does understand something about these issues. Someone else would have to come from basically -- to try to catch up to speed.

And I think the problem with Giuliani is that although it's true he is in some ways a remarkable figure, I think he doesn't tend to play very well with others. And I think in a subordinate position like this, my fear is that he would cause a lot of turf battles and perhaps draw too much attention. My guess is the Bushes will never take a chance on him.

GEORGE: I'd agree with that.

BLITZER: I'm not so convinced, but that's...

(LAUGHTER)

... that's my opinion.

BLITZER: A CNN-USA Today Gallup poll released just today shows that President Bush with still a remarkable 74 percent job approval rating. Only 18 percent disapprove of his performance.

Donna Brazile, this must make you nauseous.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: No, it doesn't, absolutely. I mean, look, last year the Democrats proved that they could beat the president at 90 percent approval. So it's not his approval rating that matters. It matters that he continues to conduct this war on terrorism in the way that he's been conducting it, as well as protect us on the homeland and bring those who are responsible for 9/11 to justice. As long as he's focused on that, the American people will remain behind him. BLITZER: Are you -- you know, it's nine months, and he's still in the 70s, his job approval. That's pretty amazing, isn't it?

GEORGE: Oh, yes, and I don't -- I think it's, historically -- there's nothing been like it in history.

I think obviously the American public was just obviously so focused on 9/11, it was such a signature, awful event in the nation's history that the president's actions since then have just locked it in. And it's not going to move at all.

BLITZER: How do you explain that?

BEINART: Well, yes, I think, actually, in a weird way -- I mean, they're very, very good. And this week is a perfect example.

I mean, in some ways, this homeland security issue, which was looking to be potentially their albatross, now they're out in front of it, and ironically I think it could drown out some of the domestic issues, like prescription drugs and Social Security, where the Democrats might have a little bit of an edge.

They're going to be essentially continue talking about September 11 all the way through the fall elections. You have to take your hat off to these guys, they're remarkably politically skillful.

GOLDBERG: Yes, I think the metaphor of the Bush bounce, or the war bounce, has officially changed to the war orbit, in the sense that Bush was launched so high, he managed to actually get into an orbit that crushed all of the old paradigms about how we look at these polls.

It doesn't mean the orbit can't decay, but I think a lot of people in Washington, a lot of Democrats are taking it for granted now that Bush's numbers are this high, and they have to deal with it as a reality, rather than wait for them to come down.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break, but we have more of our Final Round, including your phone calls and e-mail. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our Final Round.

It's been a busy diplomatic weekend on the Middle East front. President Bush met with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, yesterday at Camp David. He meets with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, tomorrow at the White House. And earlier today, the Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat, announced a reshuffling of his cabinet.

Jonah, can President Bush come up with something now to end the violence, some sort of peace plan that can revive the peace process?

GOLDBERG: You have to be a little humble about these sorts of things. Lots of presidents have come up with plans. There are more than enough plans around here. What you need are willing parties.

And I think right now the Bush administration is taking the right tack, which is accepting the fact that Arafat is in fact a creature of the past, that they're emphasizing the fact that he is corrupt and maybe even -- building up to make the point that he is irrelevant.

And, you know, it's turned out, contrary to what some people even on this panel said, that Arafat is not particularly popular among Palestinians. And it may be that this is all preparatory to a day where they actually bring on a new generation of leadership.

BLITZER: Well, Peter, maybe he's referring to you.

(LAUGHTER)

But in any case, the president did yesterday say something that seemed to be a suggestion that there may be an alternative to Yasser Arafat, when he said there is a lot of talent among the Palestinian people. Was he suggesting that maybe there is an alternative?

BEINART: Well, the problem is that most of the alternatives who would probably do well in a democratic election are actually more radical, more militant than Yasser Arafat. I mean, what is the real Holy Grail, which I don't think Israel or the United States has, is actually someone who is more popular who's actually more conciliatory. And I think the problem is the dynamic of the last couple years has pushed the entire Palestinian political spectrum way, way over in a very, very radical direction.

BLITZER: So you think if Arafat goes, the next Palestinian leader could be worse?

GEORGE: I think that's -- I think that's very, very possible, which I think is why Jonah is right when he says, you know, the president can only do so much, as past presidents have done as well.

The question is, do the Palestinian people want to have a leader that is willing to actually make a deal and stick with it? And so far, that hasn't happened.

BLITZER: Is it time for President Bush to do what President Clinton did, convene everyone at Camp David and try once again?

BRAZILE: Well, I think so. I mean, now that they've postponed or put off the meeting or summit or leadership conference, he has to come forward with a plan. And perhaps after his discussions tomorrow with Mr. Sharon, he'll have some plan that talks about how to get the parties back to the table. Or even his plan for the Palestinian state, how do you get there?

BRAZILE: I mean, I think he has to put more than just words out there. I think he needs a plan.

BLITZER: Well, the president's aides do continue to assure us that he will have some substantive plan out there on the table pretty soon. GEORGE: If the leaders of the FBI and CIA can't communicate with one another...

(LAUGHTER)

... you know, it doesn't spell good things.

BLITZER: All right. How is the resignation of the presidential counselor, Karen Hughes, affecting the Bush White House?

In an interview in this month's Esquire magazine, the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, said this of Hughes' pending departure: "The president's in a state of denial. The whole balance of the place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush is gone. Simply gone."

But today Andrew Card backed off from his earlier comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARD: We've got a great team, a spectacular team. And it's a team that can work well together. Karen leaving does create a void, but there's not a doubt in my mind that we can't serve the president well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, what does all this mean, if anything, Peter?

BEINART: I mean, the irony of all this, I think, is actually that, if you read the article, what Card was concerned about was that, without Karen Hughes as a moderating force, Karl Rove, who is more ideological, would push the Bush administration to the right.

I mean, the irony of all this is, if there is a chink in the armor of an administration that's doing very well, it's that conservatives are actually upset over steel tariffs, over the farm bill, over campaign finance reform.

So I don't see any evidence of what Card was concerned about happening at all.

BLITZER: Are you upset? You're a good conservative.

GEORGE: I'm not necessarily upset that -- I mean, I think Karen Hughes has definitely served George W. Bush very well. But I think that the worst thing that happened, in terms of Card's statement, is that, if you read the Esquire article, you see that Hughes was the enforcer, in terms of not letting leaks get out. And now you have the chief of staff basically responsible for the biggest leak of all.

And -- but Peter is right. It seems to me that everything that Karl Rove has done has actually, in a sense, either rhetorically or actually, pushed Bush to the left. So I'm not sure exactly what Card meant.

BRAZILE: Look, Karl Rove is a tough adversary, and I know that because I know what he's like on the political battlefield. I don't know what he's like in the White House, but I'm sure there are more than enough people inside that White House to replace Karen. It might take two or three different types of skills to replace Karen, but I guess, on that recent trip in Europe, I saw a little bit of opening there, because the president arrived in France and he was jet-lagged and he was totally off-message.

So I think Karen will be replaced, but for the time being, there will be a little glare and flair up.

BLITZER: Will the White House take a hit because Karen Hughes has gone back to Texas?

GOLDBERG: Probably, just because she was very good at her job.

I actually agree pretty much with everybody on this panel, although I will say, unlike Robert, I am angry with the administration.

(LAUGHTER)

I do think the administration has tacked sizably to the left to appeal to the mainstream, to the soccer moms and all these sorts of people.

In my mind, the deal on steel tariffs was far more of an outrage than anything that happened with Enron. This was an explicitly political maneuver to satisfy an electoral block that ended up hurting millions of Americans economically, and it was outrageous.

And a lot of conservatives have been counting up these things, saying, "We didn't just want a good commander in chief, we wanted a good conservative president," and there's a lot of rumbling on the right.

GEORGE: There was a similar sell-out on the Everglades too. BLITZER: But, Jonah, Karen Hughes will still have a role to play. She's going to be on the phone a lot from Austin, Texas.

GOLDBERG: Yes, she should get on the phone and tell Andy Card to stop giving interviews to Esquire.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: But just remember, the president campaigned as a different kind of Republican, as a compassionate conservative. And part of his appeal to so-called independents and moderates is that he would not toe the conservative line.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but unlike most people, I never bought the compassionate conservative thing. I never thought "conservative" needed an adjective. I never wanted the government to feel my pain. I wanted the government to feel my boot in its butt. (LAUGHTER)

And the idea that somehow the compassionate conservative was ever all that popular with rank-and-file conservatives is a bit of a myth. And to me, it was always -- it wasn't the Republican alternative to Clintonism, it was the Republic version of Clintonism, and I don't like it.

BLITZER: Well, but the point that she's making, Jonah, is that compassionate conservative is not designed to appeal to conservatives, designed to appeal to moderates or to Democrats.

GOLDBERG: I understand that. But at the same time, Peter is right when he says that people like me start, you know, flexing our knuckle-dragging knuckles a little bit more when...

BEINART: If Jonah doesn't turn out at the polls this fall in the midterm elections, George W. Bush will be in trouble.

GOLDBERG: Yes, because my vote in D.C. counts so much.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We have to take another quick break. The Lightening Round is just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our Lightning Round.

The FBI agent and so-called whistle-blower, Coleen Rowley, testified before the Senate judiciary committee last week.

How did she do, Donna?

BRAZILE: I thought she did very well. It was refreshing to see someone come to Washington, D.C., and tell the truth and not suck up. And so I think Ms. Rowley did a great job, and it was very refreshing to see that.

BLITZER: What did you think, Robert?

GEORGE: I would agree. I mean, I think she is somebody who came across as somebody who does her job and gets upset when other people, even those who are further up in the economic -- in the food chain, also don't do their job. And I thought it was good.

BLITZER: She came across as extremely sincere.

GOLDBERG: No, I thought she was great. And the best thing about it was that she delivered the right message the right way, and it was well received. And she didn't let the media turn her into an Erin Brockovich and take things too far. She said, I have something important to say. And the message was received well, and then she said, OK, that's all I want to do.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... that character in the movie "Fargo"?

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: That's right.

BEINART: Yes. Yes. She did such a good job, in fact that I think she got the Bush administration to basically step on her by announcing their reorganization at the same time.

(LAUGHTER)

So she doesn't really get very much, and she's only on the Lightning Round.

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE: Would you like to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on CNN as an FBI whistle-blower, though, you know? I mean, I don't know if that's a good idea.

BLITZER: The Bush administration wants to track international visitors to the United States with photographs and fingerprinting. Is that a good idea?

GOLDBERG: Yes, it's a good idea.

BLITZER: It's going to take up a lot of resources on the part of the...

GOLDBERG: Yes. OK. Therefore, what? I mean, I can see that there are maybe some technical issues about how to do it, maybe it would be better to do this during the visa-application process overseas. I can understand all those kinds of arguments, and they're going to be had. But it's a good idea to do. It gets around racial profiling, in many ways. And it's not a cure-all, it's not a silver bullet, but it's something that needs to be done.

BEINART: How does it get around racial profiling? Seems like that's exactly what it is.

BRAZILE: Yes.

GOLDBERG: It's nation of origin.

GEORGE: It's nation of origin.

BEINART: Yes, but, I mean, nation of origin is racial profiling by other means. I'm not necessarily... GOLDBERG: Well, all terrorists happen to be...

BEINART: Not all terrorists.

GOLDBERG: Most terrorists.

BEINART: Most at this particular moment, and they could easily move to people from other countries if they knew we were focusing on these guys.

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: I'm not necessarily against this. My concern is that it's kind of a red herring which takes attention away from the massive reorganization of the INS which has to take place. My concern is that this will substitute for that.

BLITZER: And Donna makes a good point. Richard Reid, a British citizen, born...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: His family was from Jamaica or the Caribbean someplace. Presumably he wouldn't have been part of this fingerprinting.

GEORGE: Well, that's problematic, and that really begs the question as to whether you're going to need to expand it.

But right now you already have a list of nations that -- we have a list that says that they are state sponsors of terrorism. There's no problem...

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: ... with actually fingerprinting the people coming from those countries.

BLITZER: But 15 of those 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, which is not on the list.

BEINART: Not on the list of terrorists.

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: Which speaks to why Saudi Arabia may have to be put on the list.

GOLDBERG: Just because this doesn't do everything doesn't mean it's not right do something. And the idea that somehow, because Richard Reid and some Saudi Arabians might get through, is an argument for how to get those guys, that does not say that we shouldn't be doing this.

BRAZILE: We have a FBI that don't have, you know, computer systems that operate or talk to each other, and now they want to fingerprint. Where are they going to put the data at? GOLDBERG: Let's chew gum and walk at the same time, we can do both.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about some other subjects including this. The U.S. Supreme Court is wrapping up its term, and the Arizona Republic, that's a newspaper, is reporting rumors that the chief justice, William Rehnquist, may retire.

Who would President Bush, Jonah, nominate to replace him?

GOLDBERG: Well, the talk is that it would be Sandra Day O'Connor to replace him as chief justice, and everyone's talking about Gonzales, who's currently White House counsel, to fill the vacancy.

I would prefer Scalia become chief justice. I'm not sure about Gonzales yet. I just know he makes Peter very angry, so therefore I'm kind of inclined to like him.

BEINART: You know, the really interesting drama here is Miguel Estrada, who my guess would be they'd rather have than Gonzales, he's a much more reliable conservative, also Hispanic. The problem is, he's not on the D.C. Circuit Court yet. And the Democrats are delaying him because they hope someone retires before he even gets on that lower court. That's the interesting thing to watch.

GEORGE: I don't know who's going to be replacing Rehnquist, but this will not really be the big fight, because it's going to be a conservative and so the liberals are going to recognize it's going to be a conservative replacing another conservative. It's when Stevens steps down that's going to be the real fight.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BRAZILE: I agree with Robert a little bit, but I believe it's Scalia that they'll use to replace Rehnquist and a Hispanic to appeal to his Hispanic voters in the fall elections.

BEINART: And the Democrats won't have the guts to take him on on an Hispanic.

BLITZER: All right. Speaking about taking on, Lennox Lewis...

(LAUGHTER)

... retained his heavyweight title last night, defeating Mike Tyson in eight rounds. Will this be Mike Tyson's -- excuse me for using this phrase -- final round?

BEINART: Gosh, I hope so. I mean, you know, this guy's not only a thug, he's probably mentally disturbed. He really needs help. It's really a very bad reflection on our society that we're paying him millions of dollars to kind of go crazy in public like that.

BLITZER: We have to leave it right there, but he does speak very highly of you.

(LAUGHTER)

I want you to know that.

Thanks to our LATE EDITION Final Round. That was our Final Round.

Stand by, that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, June 9. Please join me again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And be sure to join me Monday through Friday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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