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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Bush Administration Pushes for Military Campaign in Iraq

Aired September 22, 2002 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
In just a few minutes, we'll talk with Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, about the Bush administration's push for a possible military campaign against the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. But first, a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And later on LATE EDITION, we'll get the latest information directly from an adviser for Yasser Arafat, Nabil Abu Rudeineh. He's inside that compound right now. He'll be joining us later, as will the Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres. He'll be joining us live from Tel Aviv.

But joining us now to talk about where the U.S. Congress stands on Iraq and where the war on terror is unfolding are the two chairmen of the two powerful foreign relations committees: In Wilmington, Delaware is Democrat Joe Biden. He is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And in Okra (ph), Illinois, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde. He's the chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION. A lot to talk about.

Congressman Hyde, Mr. Chairman, let me begin with you first on the unfolding situation in Ramallah involving the Israelis and the Palestinians. What do you think the U.S. posture should be, as far as what the Israelis are doing to Yasser Arafat's headquarters?

REP. HENRY HYDE (R), ILLINOIS: Well, I find it hard to criticize the Israelis, because it seems every other day another suicide bombing occurs, which is terrorism at its worst, and it just keeps coming.

I don't know what people expect the Israelis to do, send a postcard to Yasser Arafat? They have to respond, and the cycle of death and destruction goes on and on.

I hope somebody somewhere someday over there gets sick of the killing and they decide to make peace. But I don't think there's much we can do about it. BLITZER: So at this point, Chairman Hyde, you would recommend to the White House they simply stand back and let the Israelis do what they are apparently doing, trying to isolate Yasser Arafat and destroy those buildings around his office compound?

HYDE: No, I don't think we should sanction violence and destruction, but, at the same time, I would find it pretty hard to criticize the Israelis who are defending their homeland and defending their homes and their lives.

The suicide bombing is a weapon that it's pretty hard to deter. If someone has a better idea than what the Israelis are doing, I'm sure Ariel Sharon would listen to it. But right now I would find it hard to criticize them, although I would caution for both sides to stop the killing.

I'm advocating a Marshall Plan for the region and give some of those people hope who have no hope right now, and perhaps the killing would stop.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, let me bring you into this conversation. What is your take on what's going on in Ramallah right now?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, I think what's going on is predictable, Wolf, but I think we should have -- stay on top of what the president's initial proposal was, which was to try to bring about a new Palestinian charter allowing for new elections to bring new leadership up, so that Arafat is not the only game in town.

Unfortunately, justified or not, the Israeli action, what happens is, this just raises Arafat's profile in a way that, as you remember -- I know you know that area well -- every time this happens, he goes from down in the low 30s, in terms of approval with his own constituency, Palestinians, up to the 70s. And it makes it harder for the end result that we're looking for, which is to marginalize him by bringing Palestinians into the governance that are willing to make peace, which Arafat's not.

But if there are 50 terrorists in there with him, he has an obligation to release them, and the Israelis have an opportunity and a responsibility to pursue them.

BLITZER: And at this point, though, you're not prepared to tell the administration, Senator Biden, to simply back off and let the Israelis do what they will?

BIDEN: Well, what I think the administration should do is, put its initiative that it announced about six weeks ago back in high gear.

Now, understandably, they're preoccupied now with Iraq, but this is a clear and present danger to our interests in the region, what's going on in Israel and on the West Bank. And we should be deeply engaged in trying to find a solution.

And the solution lies in changing the nature of the Palestinian Authority, so you don't have a compound, the only person in it with any authority being Arafat. A year from now, it's going to be a compound, we hope, with a newly elected prime minister, an elected president, an elected Congress, et cetera. And that should be the focus and the constant, constant, constant push. Every time we take our eye off the ball a little bit, things begin to move.

And you can understand the Israeli position. It's awfully hard to sit here and say, after those suicide bombings, if they have evidence -- and I don't doubt them -- that there are 50 people on the terrorist list inside the compound with Arafat, that he shouldn't pursue them.

BLITZER: Congressman Hyde, let's move on and talk about a report that's in the front page of the New York Times today, suggesting that the Israelis have now formally informed the Bush administration that, if they are once again attacked by the Iraqis, as they were during the Gulf War, 39 Scud attacks, unlike during the Gulf War, this time they will retaliate, they will respond.

Is that going to be a wise strategy, as far as the Israelis are concerned?

HYDE: I think not, because, while nobody is deceived that there's much love lost between the Arab countries and Israel, I think if Israel were to send aircraft or troops or bombs across the border into Iraq, the entire Arab world would have reason, at least enough for its own purposes, to rise up and justifiably, in their mind, increase the level of violence against Israel.

I don't think it's necessary. I think we can react appropriately to anything Saddam Hussein does. But I think the Israelis ought to stay out of it because of the political consequences in the region if they get in.

BLITZER: Is that realistic, Senator Biden, for the government of Prime Minister Sharon to show that kind of restraint?

BIDEN: Probably not, Wolf. I agree with Henry, that to make this a pan-Arab war, Israeli-Arab war instead of Saddam weapons of destruction versus the world, would be the reason why Saddam would attack Israel.

But, you know, it's very difficult for a nation under siege like Israel to refrain from responding. You can imagine what the case would be here in the United States if we're being attacked and an ally said, "Don't worry, we'll take care of it for you. Don't respond."

But the point Henry makes is still compelling. That's why, it seems to me, it raises the ante that we do what Colin Powell is about to do and I think we can get done, and that is that we get world public opinion, U.N. opinion, behind us in terms of moving against Saddam Hussein if he does not separate himself from his weapons of mass destruction.

That changes the whole complexion of this. Everybody agrees we're better off with the world or at least a significant portion of the world with us.

And so, this is really, I know you know this, it sounds awfully simplistic, this is very complicated. But our best interest is in a uniformed position from the U.N. sanctioned by them, even though we'd be doing most of the work, with Arab states on board with us as well as Europeans states. That's in our nation's self-interest that that happen. And to the extent that there is a war that is expanded with Israel and any other Arab country, it makes all of that more difficult.

BLITZER: Congressman Hyde, let me read to you the language, the operable language that the president wants the Congress to pass in giving him the authority, if you will, to go ahead and launch military strikes if necessary against Iraq.

The language proposed by the White House is this: "The president is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions referenced above, defend the national security interests of the United States against a threat poised by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region."

Are you ready to sign on to that language?

HYDE: Well, I'm ready to submit it to the committee, the full committee, for a markup. I personally am satisfied with that language.

I know there's some people who are concerned about maintaining peace and security in the region. They think that's a license to attack Syria or some other far-fetched idea. I think not. I think it is designed solely for Iraq and directed to Iraq.

I think it supports the approval that we want to provide the president, and so I can support it. But it's going to go through a markup process in the full committee possibly this coming week.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, are you ready to support that language as written?

BIDEN: I predict that won't be the language. The administration sent up what they call a draft resolution; that's what you put up on the screen. They've made it clear to me that they understand they want to talk about it. I take them at their word that they're only focusing on Iraq.

We can clean this up in a way that we don't set a precedent for future presidents, and meet every need the administration has. I think we can easily do that, Wolf. And I think that -- I know that process is under way. I don't think there's going to be any great disagreement on how we actually draft it.

You may remember, Wolf, when 9/11 came along, the White House counsel sent up a resolution that was very, very broad. I was among three people that delegated to sit down with them and work out what they really wanted. We worked it out very easily. We ended up with a very tailored and all the power the president needed to go against al Qaeda. I think you'll see the same thing happen here. This is part of a normal process, how we move along.

BLITZER: And you have no doubt, Senator Biden, there will be a resolution passed in the Senate giving the president, effectively, the authority he seeks?

BIDEN: I have no doubt that that is likely to happen. What I do think, Wolf, is it will be impacted upon by what is going on at the United Nations simultaneously, not connected to specifically, but going along with it.

There is a degree of confidence that increases in direct proportion to the notion that we are not going to be going alone with this. And we may have to, we may have to. But I believe -- I had a long discussion with the foreign minister of Russia, Mr. Ivanov. I think there's a way we can work out our differences with Russia. I think there's a way we can work out our differences with France. It is obviously better to have them with us than opposed to us.

And particularly, as Henry and I have spoken about very briefly, is there is a big question of what we may have to do, no matter how easy the war goes. Assuming it's smooth, what happens after Saddam is down? And we want the rest of the world in on that deal.

BLITZER: We're going to get to that, we're going to get to precisely to that point. But we're going to take a quick break.

Before we do go to the break, though, we do have some additional information, some breaking news coming out of Germany, where exit polls have just been announced in the country's general election. The chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, of course is pitted against the Bavarian governor, Edmund Stoiber. The election had been one of the tightest in Germany's post-war history. Exit polls indicate now that Schroeder does have a slim lead over Stoiber. Chancellor Schroeder leads with some 305 seats to Schtoyber's 293 seats, that according to exit polls, not official results.

We're going to continue to monitor these results, get some official results, and update you as that information becomes available. A very slim lead, though, for Gerhard Schroeder, the incumbent chancellor, right now in those elections in Germany.

We'll also ask our two members of Congress to weigh in on what this might mean for U.S.-German relations. More of our discussion with Senator Biden and Congressman Henry Hyde. They'll also be taking your phone calls, when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: ... with Joe Biden of Delaware and the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde of Illinois.

Congressman Hyde, let me begin with you. We'll get back to the situation evolving Iraq in a minute, but this breakin news, exit polls suggesting that Gerhard Schroeder is likely to win a very close election in Germany.

A lot of anti-Americanism expressed during the campaign in recent weeks, especially U.S. policy toward Iraq, Schroeder being among those very, very sternly distancing himself from the Bush administration's policy.

What do you make of this if, in fact, he is re-elected?

HYDE: Well, I don't think we should draw too many hard-and-fast conclusions because it is a close race, if the exist polls are to be believed. And there may be other issues, the personalities of the candidates as well as other issues, that have driven the vote.

So I don't know that you can draw any grand conclusions from the anti-American, populist rhetoric that Mr. Schroeder has been using.

It is not a happy event, the anti-Americanism in Europe. It's always there. Now they have another reason to express it. But I would not draw any great conclusions from the Schroeder exit polls right now.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, you probably noticed some of the comments that have been made in that campaign, including one by a cabinet member for Schroeder, making the comparison, an ugly comparison, to the tactics used in trying to generate support for a possible war with Iraq by President Bush to tactics she says were used by Hitler before World War II. Pretty ugly references there.

BIDEN: Very ugly. But this is all reparable, Wolf. The core relationship between the Republic of Germany and the United States is solid. What you had is Schroeder doing what a lot of politicians do, trying to get out his base.

Remember part of his base is the Green party, and he had to get them out, he had to get them to show up. It's not unlike Democrat or Republican politicians going to their base at the end of a campaign with rhetoric that exceeds what they believe.

There has been a rocky relationship between Schroeder and President Bush from the moment that Bush unceremoniously pulled us out of Kyoto while Schroeder was in his office.

But I think that's all reparable. I have great faith in Colin Powell's diplomatic ability, and I have great faith in the ability of the president to repair personal relations. And I don't think it goes any deeper than what you see.

BLITZER: All right, so right now the exist polls suggesting a narrow lead for Gerhard Schroeder's policy in the Bundestag, the German parliament, a narrow lead over the opposition from Edmund Stoiber of the conservative alliance that's being put together.

We'll continue to follow those results, additionally official results, as they become available. Congressman Hyde, I want to read, once again, this draft resolution the president has sent to Congress asking for authority to possibly go to war against Iraq.

That last line, "restore international peace and security in the region," it's a pretty broad statement. And Senator Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, was firm in saying he's not going to go along with this. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: It isn't specific to Iraq. It can include Syria, it could include Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt. It's a complete blank check without any time limitation to do anything militarily anywhere in that whole region of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It sounds like, obviously, he's going to oppose that, but do you think that language will stay in there as is?

HYDE: No, it'll probably be changed because of the sort of specious objections that Senator Feingold makes. The language is more or less boilerplate. It is not -- it doesn't open the door for wide- ranging, aggressive action by the United States.

But it is subject to interpretation, and Russ Feingold has given it his interpretation, which is quite erroneous. So we can correct that. I don't think that's fatal to the heart of the resolution.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, there's another resolution the Bush administration wants passed, this one in the U.N. Security Council, a resolution that would give additional authority for so-called unfettered, complete acts as to the weapons sites inside Iraq.

The Iraqi government, though, is saying, it's not going to cooperate with an additional resolution. Baghdad state radio only this weekend, yesterday, saying Iraq will not cooperate with a new resolution which is different from what has been agreed upon with the U.N. secretary general, a reference to Kofi Annan's agreement a few years back that the U.N.'s inspectors, if they go to presidential palaces, they have to notify the Iraqi government in advance and allow Iraqi officials to go with them, no surprise inspections there. Many inspectors saying, well, if there's no surprise, they could easily move sensitive equipment before the inspectors arrive.

Is this going to be a downfall of the entire notion of a return of inspectors?

BIDEN: Well, let me put it this way: If we don't get it changed, it's not worth much. I discussed this with Ivanov on Thursday, with Dick Lugar. Ivanov was open to the notion of Russia being for a different way in which you go in and inspect.

And by the way, if the Security Council passes a new resolution with tougher and unfettered access, Saddam Hussein will yield, and if he doesn't yield, we will be at war. He will be brought down.

So I think this is something that is workable. I have not given up at all on the prowess of Powell to be able to get a very tough resolution out of the Security Council. There is not -- a peaceful means of doing this is still possible. We have to reserve the ability to use force if it's not, but I haven't given up on that. I'm not making it conditional, but I haven't given up on that. I think we may see the Russians move.

BLITZER: What about you, Congressman Hyde, you still think those inspections can go forward, a new round of inspections?

HYDE: Well, I think what Saddam Hussein said throws cold water on the hopes and expectations of many of us who thought inspections without conditions meant just that. But of course, that's foolish. He's never meant that in the 16 resolutions.

I don't expect this to be the final roadblock, and I expect Saddam Hussein to object to any effective inspections, because it would reveal that he is, indeed, amassing weapons of mass destruction.

I agree with Joe Biden, and, by the way, I think the president is fortunate to have Joe Biden as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee because he's a smart guy and he is a patriot, and so I think the country's fortunate to have people who understand what's at stake and how to get from here to there in Washington.

BIDEN: Well, that's very kind.

BLITZER: Before this discussion becomes a lovefest...

(LAUGHTER)

... we're going to take another quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.

More of our conversation with Senator Joe Biden and Congressman Henry Hyde. We have some new information coming to us from Ramallah as well. We'll go to that as soon as we come back. Also, phone calls for Senator Biden and Congressman Hyde. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

We're getting an update from the situation in Ramallah right now where Israeli troops and tanks, heavy equipment, have been bulldozing most of the buildings, almost all the buildings around Yasser Arafat presidential compound. Only one building remains standing right now.

And only within the past few moments, the Israeli army has announced that they will halt this process and would begin sending food and water to the people inside that lone building that remains standing with Yasser Arafat inside.

We'll continue to follow this story. We'll get some more information, but the Israeli army announcing just moments ago that they were halting the immediate process and they would get food and water inside.

Let's continue our conversation now with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden, and the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde.

Among other things this past week, Senator Biden, the administration released a new strategy document and made it public. Among other things, it included this paragraph. Listen to this.

"The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world's most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather."

That's a strategy for preemptive strikes, if necessary. Are you prepared as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Biden, to go along with this new strategy?

BIDEN: Wolf, I would disagree with your characterization. That's a back-off from a preemptive strategy. That's a restatement of existing U.S. policy. If you noticed, they said that, in fact, nations do not have the right to preemptively respond, in effect, in the first half of that paragraph, and I think that's important.

As Dr. Kissinger points out, we don't need a preemptive rationale to go after Saddam. Saddam lost the war. In a peace agreement he surrendered and he made certain commitments. That's not preemption at all. And so it's very important what the administration said there.

And every time I've had personal discussions, I think Henry as well, with Condoleezza Rice, the president or anyone else, the president said to me, "Why is everybody getting upset about my talking about preemption? All I'm talking about is what our existing policy is."

That comes closer to not breaking any new ground, I would argue, Wolf, because it says that we are not -- we have to be prepared to respond. We are prepared. We're not announcing a preemption doctrine, though.

BLITZER: Well, the first line of that paragraph, Senator Biden, I'll just be very precise: "The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression." But then it goes onto say, yet in an age where the enemies of civilization...

BIDEN: Wolf, I don't want to sound too much like a lawyer here, but that first sentence says, if you take it apart, it says that we -- exactly what our policy is now. In all cases we won't use preemption, but we do reserve the right and we always have, if we're about to be attacked, to use preemption.

The big distinction here was whether or not you would preempt when there was no immediate threat. That was what everyone was talking on the right about what the new doctrine was going to be. I think the president said it straight here. I happen to agree with that position.

BLITZER: We got a caller on message, and I want Congressman Hyde to react to the caller.

Go ahead, caller.

CALLER: Hi, Wolf. I'd like to ask the panel, if we attack Iraq preemptively, could that incite other countries to preemptively attack the United States?

BLITZER: What about that, Congressman Hyde?

HYDE: Well, sure. Other countries are free to attack or not to attack as they wish, but they would take an awful risk if they did attack us.

Preemption is a very-rarely-to-be-used tactic, but if the other guy has a nuclear bomb and is going to launch it at you, I think you are doing your moral duty by hitting him first. Had the pilots hitting the World Trade Center had atomic bombs or nuclear bombs rather than aircraft, we would be mourning the death of 3 million people rather than 3,000.

So, I think you have to look at each case. But I think it would be foolish for us to rule out a preemptive strike where we expect to be hit by weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: We're going to leave it right there. Congressman Hyde, Senator Biden, both of you, thanks so much for joining us on LATE EDITION on this Sunday.

HYDE: Thank you.

BIDEN: Thank you for having me.

Thank you, Henry.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, clandestine witnesses testified before Congress about September 11 intelligence failures. Has a smoking gun been uncovered? We'll talk with one member of Congress who's been leading the investigations, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss of Florida, and a former director of the CIA, James Woolsey.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN PUSH: Our loved ones paid the ultimate price for the worst American intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Steven Push, who lost his wife in the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon, testifying Friday before an open Joint House- Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're joined now by a leading member of that committee, as well as, of course, the same person, the chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Porter Goss of Florida, and the former director of the CIA, James Woolsey.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. I want to get to those hearings in a second.

But, Mr. Chairman, the whole notion of Iraq and nuclear weapons, that's a source of grave concern to many Americans. How close, in your estimate, are the Iraqis to having a crude nuclear device?

REP. PORTER GOSS (R-FL), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Wolf, the simple answer to that and the scariest answer to that is, I don't know. We don't know. We know they're trying to do that. We know they've announced they want that capability, and that they will use it against us.

How close they are we don't know, and that is critically the reason why we need to find out more very soon. Investigations and regime change would be very helpful to us.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that assessment?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Oh, completely. Wolf, a lot of people think of a nuclear weapons program as like the Manhattan Project, and you have to have large installations, and so on.

That's not what Saddam's doing. He's trying to enrich uranium with centrifuges, and these things can be as small as washing machines.

BLITZER: Those are the aluminum pipes that they're trying to buy, supposedly?

WOOLSEY: That almost certainly the pipes were to be used for that.

Khider Hamsa (ph), his former bomb-maker, says there are some 400 installations in Iraq in their nuclear program. They're scattered all over the country, some of them buried, some of them under schools, under hospitals.

It really, I think, is just fanciful to believe that we'd be able to find those with inspectors. And furthermore, if he steals or buys highly enriched uranium, and he needs about 40 pounds or so for a bomb, on the international market, from organized crime or whatever, he could have one very quickly.

Because he has the infrastructure, the has the bomb design and all that. Hamsa (ph) has told us that. So once you get the material, you know, I don't know whether it's two months, three months, four months, five months, whatever, but it's not years.

BLITZER: It could be closer.

You think these inspectors, if they go back in, would be able to discover that type of research and development?

GOSS: No, certainly not, unless it were totally unconditional. I think we know how to do the job of inspection and investigation. I seriously doubt we'd be allowed a free hand. And you notice, already Saddam has come out and said, "Not so fast. I didn't mean unconditional."

You just can't trust the guy. I mean, he's never done anything straight with us. He's not going to. He has said very clearly he is going to do everything he can to harm us.

So we'd better pay attention, because we've learned what happens when we don't pay attention, sadly, last September 11.

BLITZER: So, Mr. Woolsey, you think sending these inspectors back in is simply a waste of time, a ploy giving him an opportunity to continue his projects?

WOOLSEY: Basically I think it's a waste of time. The most ambitious program is one the Carnegie Institute's come up with. They call it coercive inspection. They'd send tens of thousands of troops in in order to help the inspections take place, but that would make all those troops hostages inside Iraq, with Iraq's army of hundreds of thousands.

So, I really don't think there's any reasonable way to do it. You also would have to interview people outside Iraq who are in the program, and you'd have to bring their families out because Saddam kills and tortures and rapes the family, the women in the families of men who he believes is talking to inspectors.

So you'd have to bring the families and the people outside Iraq to interview them to find out what field to dig under. It really, it's just not going to work.

BLITZER: Let's talk about these incredible, amazing hearings that you've had, the conclusions, the initial conclusions that your Joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee had put together.

One of the most dramatic moments was when an FBI agent testified the other day, this past week, got very emotional on why he wasn't allowed to pursue certain leads that he got from the intelligence community that might have had an impact in at least preventing parts of 9/11. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someday someone will die, and wall (ph) or not, the public will not understand why we were not more effective in throwing every resource we had at certain problems. Let's hope the National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL, is getting the most protection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was what he wrote at the time, only days before 9/11, UBL, Osama bin Laden, saying I need to go out and pursue one or two of these hijackers, but the National Security Law Unit, for legal reasons, wouldn't let him.

GOSS: That is very true. The frustration and the passion of that statement came through very, very clearly. And I think we all felt it very strongly on the committee, listening to what he had to say.

There's no question that some of our regulations have not been helpful. They have been counterproductive. And some of the interpretation of our regulations have been a little bit more conservative and a little more cautious than we had thought.

The problem with that is that some felt that was probably reflective of where our society was, that we were trying to be extra sure that we weren't violating any civil rights and that all due- process protections were being observed.

That may have been fine and was fine, of course -- we're a free, democratic, open society -- before September 11, but now we are clearly aware that we have a new type of threat. We have enemy not only at gate but inside the house. We have to find a way to deal with that.

So even when we were dealing with alert people like that agent, we found we were frustrated by our rules.

GOSS: Now, we have still not yet agreed upon the new rules...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: This is the most shocking thing, and now let me bring Director Woolsey into this, the fact that information gathered by CIA operatives, intelligence sources leading to a potential terrorist taking action against Americans, the FBI can't go out and watch this guy or stop him or do something because it comes from intelligence information?

WOOLSEY: There were a number of barriers put up, beginning in the mid-'70s, and some of them were added in the mid to late '90s, that enforced a sort of political correctness on both the FBI and the CIA, and made it difficult for them to share information, and made it difficult, sometimes illegal for them to. FBI material obtained pursuant to grand jury subpoena in a terrorism case could not have been given to the CIA legally until the USA Patriot Act was passed last fall.

So there were a number of things that made it really tough for them to work together. And you had very dedicated people, such as this FBI agent and people in the CIA as well, who were very frustrated because the signals they were getting out of Washington was, the only thing you can do wrong is to be aggressive.

And, you know, you have to have some of your FBI agents and the CIA case officers aggressively following leads and turning things up. You can't have an army entirely of Pattons, but you do need a few.

BLITZER: And I want to play a comment from an anonymous CIA agent, officer who testified before your panel as well, and then we'll pick up this conversation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The comment that I hear most often from working-level people on both sides of the CIA and the FBI involved directly in the bin Laden business is one with a panic- stricken look in their eye and saying, "We're going to miss stuff. We're missing stuff. We are missing stuff, we can't keep up."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And, in part, this fear that they're missing stuff and might not be able to keep up is because -- and you raised this earlier -- there still isn't the kind of cooperation between the FBI and the CIA, whether for professional, personal, turf reasons or because of legal reasons, that there should be.

GOSS: Well, there are cultural reasons, there are regulatory reasons, there are legal reasons, there are all kinds of systemic problems, there's a management problem. We can put it through a lot of ways.

What that particular witness said was, his biggest concern was that they were simply overwhelmed. Good, competent people who were doing the counterterrorist-center job workforce, just simply had too much to deal with.

And that certainly has been our information. The haystacks have been growing bigger and bigger and bigger, the needles are getting smaller and smaller, and it is very hard to put all of this together.

So I think "overwhelmed" was the word that was used by that witness in his summation, and I think that goes to the question is, did we have the right resources, did we have enough, were we underinvested in intelligence? And the answer is, we were underinvested, judgments were made that we didn't need some of the things that we found out we did need. And when you go back and look up who made those decisions, it's we all made those decisions.

BLITZER: But that was then. What about right now?

GOSS: Right now we are doing our best to tool up, to solve those problems, and to make the fixes, but it's not going to be easy.

Director Woolsey just hit on a point about intelligence information being able to be used by law enforcement. Well, we had a court decision, I think it was just a week ago, that said not so fast on that. We're not so sure we're ready break that wall down yet and allow intelligence to be used by law enforcement. It seems incredible to me, it seems like we're overexaggerating the civil rights protection when we've got an enemy among us that demands that we react.

BLITZER: It seems incredible to a lot of Americans that, if you have intelligence information pointing to a specific threat, the FBI and other law enforcement can't go deal with it.

WOOLSEY: The law of this derives from the original decision, Wolf, that Harry Truman made essentially, not to have one big entity like the -- he was worried about the KGB or Gestapo -- that looked at both domestic and foreign. So the CIA was set up, and American intelligence...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, it's one thing with U.S. citizens, it's another thing with foreign alleged terrorists.

WOOLSEY: Well, that's true. But part of the problem is, sometimes you have may U.S. citizens who are involved in terrorism, and, secondly, people who are so-called U.S. persons, who are in this country with a legal visa, let's say a green card, maybe, or even have dual citizenship, whatever, have a lot of the same, almost all of the same protections that American citizens do.

And that's one thing that the hijackers and al Qaeda knows. That's one reason the hijackers didn't, on the whole, violate any laws until they ran the planes into the buildings.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We've got much more to talk about.

We're going to ask Congressman Goss, former CIA Director Woolsey to stand by. We'll continue this conversation. They'll also be taking your phone calls.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I want to update you on a story we have been following over the past hour. The German elections, to a lot of people's surprise, the opponent, the challenger to Gerhard Schroeder, the chancellor, Edmund Stoiber, is now on television in Germany claiming victory in this election, even though the exit polls show that Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party did gain a narrow victory in the Bundestag, the German parliament. Stoiber now claiming victory though.

Obviously a very, very close race. We'll continue to monitor the official results and make that information available once we get it.

But here you can see a picture, Edmund Stoiber claiming victory in this election. Once again, too close to call, as far as official results are concerned.

Let's continue our discussion now on intelligence failures before 9/11, what may have been done since then to fix them. And joining me once again, the Intelligence Committee chairman in the House of Representatives, the Republican Congressman Porter Goss, and the former CIA Director James Woosley.

This whole notion of now having yet another blue ribbon panel outside of the Congress to take another look at what happened, is that good or bad?

GOSS: I think it's good, and for this reason: We wanted to make sure we got a chance to get the foundation worked on, looking through the Intelligence Committee optic at all of the things that had happened before 9/11.

Turns out there is more than just the intelligence piece to consider. The FAA, what happened at Customs, what happened at a number of places. And I think all of that is going to be very important for closure for those people who have suffered loss and are still mourning on this. And it's very important for us as we redesign our systems.

So I think we will get a broader view than we presently got and that we've been able to do in the time allotted focusing on intelligence.

The second thing, which is, I think, extremely important, is that when we do a commission of some type, an independent commission, I'll call it, I don't know how it will be composed...

BLITZER: A commission of inquiry or whatever.

GOSS: A group of solans (ph), nonpartisan, who understand our country, who can be trusted to make these judgments without any undue influence or anything, can come in and really look at anything.

They also have to look at the United States Congress and how well we all did our oversight job in Congress. Because I believe we're part of the problem in Congress. And I think when you take it further, you'll find that the media is part of the problem too, to a degree.

This is not blame, this is just who we are and what we were going about. I think it's all relevant.

BLITZER: Director Woolsey, as you know, there were nine investigations after Pearl Harbor and eventually some sort of, quote, "truth" did emerge.

An independent presidentially appointed commission, can it get the full story? WOOLSEY: I think it can. I think Chairmen Goss and Graham have done a wonderful job in getting this thing going. But they were under great time pressure. And I think that a blue ribbon commission is a wise decision. I am glad the White House has decided to endorse it.

BLITZER: Eleanor Hill, who was your staff director on this joint panel, she had her bottom-line conclusion, which I want to play for you and our viewers. Listen to this.

Well, I guess, let me just tell you what she basically said since we don't have that excerpt. She said, as far as a smoking gun is concerned, that there wasn't a classic smoking gun, that someone knew about 9/11 in the intelligence community or the law enforcement community and simply failed to deal with it.

GOSS: Wolf, that's a very important observation, because we looked at this whole thing through hindsight. That means we had a lot of advantage going back and tracking it. And there is no smoking gun, at least at this time, that we found. There are a whole bunch of missed opportunities, what-ifs, dots that might have been connected.

And all of that is suggested to ways we can make corrections in our intelligence community, our law enforcement community, and all of the elements that go into protecting us as Americans at home and abroad. And that is going to be the good news that comes out of our work.

BLITZER: Senator Shelby, earlier today, said there are still huge terror threats facing the American people, and it would be a huge mistake to become complacent right now.

WOOLSEY: I think he's absolutely right about that. We have definitely sleeper cells in this country. We have the possibility of foreign governments, rogue states interacting with terrorist groups. We have the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used. We absolutely all have to be on our toes.

BLITZER: Do you see anything right now that would justify moving the terror alert level from the current orange, which is a high level, either back down to yellow, a sort of medium level, or up to red, which is the highest concern right now, based on information that you have?

GOSS: I think the most important thing when you have a warning system is to have one spokesperson, and that that spokesperson becomes the place where all people go to look so there is no confusion. Because any warning system that breeds confusion is going to be counterproductive.

So I am going to leave it with those who have that information to speak to the public about it, and I will put in my input on those matters privately to them.

BLITZER: Porter Goss, thanks for joining us.

James Woolsey, thank you very much for joining us, as well. In the next hour of LATE EDITION, we'll assess Iraq's response to the threat of a possible preemptive strike. Joining us will be four experts.

Also, Israel's new siege on the Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat's headquarters. We'll get three perspectives on what this may mean for the Middle East conflict, as well as the war on terrorism.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We'll talk live with an advisor to the Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat about the Israeli siege in just a moment, but first here's Kris Osborn in Atlanta with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Joining us now by phone from inside Yasser Arafat's presidential compound is Nabil Abu Rudeineh. He's an advisor to the Palestinian leader.

Mr. Abu Rudeineh, thanks for joining us.

Tell us what's going on from your vantage point right now.

NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, ADVISOR TO YASSER ARAFAT: The Israeli siege (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the compound. They have almost finished destroying everything apart from the several rooms where President Arafat is still working and still living.

The situation is very dangerous because the Israelis have cut off the ground telephone this early morning. We have no water supply so far. And the situation's very grave and very dangerous because the Israeli army is so close and the people inside are armed as well. And if any confrontation might happen, a catastrophe will take place.

That's why we urge the American president and the American administration to move quickly to stop this Israeli aggression and to push for withdrawal immediately for the sake of the efforts which had been carried out the last 73 hours, to find the political solution.

BLITZER: Mr. Abu Rudeineh, within the past few moments, the Israeli army has announced that the siege, the process will stop. They will stop their efforts right now, since there's apparently only one building remaining, the building where you are and where Yasser Arafat and his other aides remain holed up. They also say they will begin sending food and water into that building.

As far as you can tell, has that begun?

ABU RUDEINEH: No, they are still continuing their digging and they are still continuing their bulldozing of the remains of the buildings. So far, they almost finished 90 percent of shaving all the buildings around (UNINTELLIGIBLE) office.

And as I told you, I am telling you the truth, there is no water right now. The telephones are still cut off. And the promises we heard several times.

But this is not the problem. The problem is that there is a real siege, and the Israelis are still playing with fire. If that confrontation will take place, a real massacre will happen any minute.

BLITZER: How many people are inside that one building that remains?

ABU RUDEINEH: It's difficult to have the exact number, but I can assure you that are hundreds. And the situation is not the numbers inside, the situation is that this compound with President Arafat inside it and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and you may have seen what happened early morning this afternoon when the Israelis expecting the people of Palestine will ignore (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Suddenly everybody went into the streets challenging the curfew hours and challenging the Israeli tanks.

And the Palestinian people are demonstrating, supporting Arafat. And this is a political achievement for Arafat and a real political defeat for Sharon and his army.

BLITZER: Mr. Abu Rudeineh, the Israelis say there are anywhere from 20 to 50, what they call, terrorists inside. They want those individuals to leave, and they want to apprehend them.

Have they given you any list or any information, who, specifically, they have in mind?

ABU RUDEINEH: Unfortunately, until now the Israelis are refusing to talk with us directly. We were expecting the number-two man in the PLO, Abu Mazen, to arrive with the U.N. envoy, special envoy Terje Larsen, to our compound. They were prevented, both of them, to come here this afternoon. So far, we don't have any connections with Israelis.

Secondly, we don't have any wanted people.

Thirdly, the most important thing, if you remember the crisis of the Church of Nativity, if there is any problem concerning any human being, any person, there are agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and we are ready to abide by that agreement. If they are willing, and they are serious, and if they are looking for peace, we are ready to sit down the negotiating table. But so far, they had cut off all the contacts, whether it's a political contact, or even a security contact, for reasons apart from their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and their final target is to finish Oslo agreement and to end the peace process and to ruin the Palestinian Authority.

BLITZER: You probably will remember when I came to the Muqataa, the Palestinian Authority compound where you are right now, in May to interview Chairman Arafat. You probably remember where I did that interview. Is that the building where he remains, where we sat and we talked for about an hour?

ABU RUDEINEH: Yes.

BLITZER: That same building. How is the chairman doing right now, personally?

ABU RUDEINEH: First of all, you are right, he is sitting in the same place where you met him the last time. And he is conducting his duties, carrying out as usual. He has been on the phone with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and with King Abdullah and with President Mubarak. And he received several telephone calls from the Danish presidency of the EU, and he was in contact with all the Arab and European and worldwide leaders, in order to find a political solution and to contain the situation.

But as I told you, the situation inside is really tense, and the situation is grave and dangerous, because where the Israeli army are besieging the whole compound, or what remains from the whole compound, and the confrontation, if it takes place, it will lead for a real massacre. That should -- we are in need of an immediate American intervention to stop this, because if this happens, this will reflect negatively on us and on Israelis and on the Americans themselves.

BLITZER: Would it be possible, Mr. Abu Rudeineh, to speak with Chairman Arafat on the phone to -- I know our viewers in the United States, indeed around the world, would love to hear directly what's going through his mind right now.

ABU RUDEINEH: I will try my best, but he is on the phone right now, most probably with the prime minister of Spain, Mr. Aznar. And I can't interrupt him right away, but if there is a chance or a possibility, I will do my best to come back to you.

BLITZER: Nabil Abu Rudeineh, thank you very much for joining us from inside the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, or at least what's left of the presidential compound there. And once you get an opportunity to put the chairman, Chairman Arafat, on the phone, we'll be able to speak with him directly.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we'll get the Israeli reaction. We'll go live to Tel Aviv and speak with the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of Marine One, the presidential helicopter, which has just landed on the South Lawn of the White House, bringing President Bush back to the White House from Camp David, the presidential mountain-top retreat in the Cotoctin mountains of Maryland, about 100 miles or so, maybe less, 40, 50 miles from Washington D.C. We'll be watching to see if the president, once he emerges from Marine One, stops and speaks with reporters. If he does, we'll bring you his comments live.

In the meantime, let's go live to Tel Aviv and speak with Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres.

Mr. Foreign Minister, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

What is going on in Ramallah right now?

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I think the destruction of the buildings is over. There were interruptions of supply of water; we're repairing it. The supply of electricity will be repaired. As we've announced there is no physical danger, neither to Arafat nor to the other people.

And from our standpoint, the problems we have to face, the solutions are very much in the hands of the Palestinians. If the Palestinian people really want to change the whole situation, they should put the Hamas and Jihad under their discipline.

We cannot live in a chaotic life. We are not going teach any lessons to the Palestinians. But we cannot agree that every group will throw bombs and rifles and nobody's responsible. So what is needed is not demonstrations but really discipline.

When it comes to Yasser Arafat himself, among the people that are with him in the Muqataa are at least seven, eight, even more, who are on the list of the wanted. The Palestinians know exactly who they are. We gave the names time and time again. We told them that if they will surrender, nothing will happen to them physically, they will be put before the court, they'll have a fair trial, and bring an end to it.

But it cannot be that when it comes to shooting and killing, there is nobody to answer, there is nobody to talk with. When Arafat and his people turn to the Hamas and Jihad they say "No, we don't take your orders." So what are the chances and what is the choice before all of us? The Palestinian fate is in hands of the Palestinians. Let's not create another impression. We are still for peace. The Oslo agreement is valid. We have accepted the vision of President Bush. We didn't change our mind.

BLITZER: Is it your goal, Mr. Foreign Minister, to expel Yasser Arafat, to arrest Yasser Arafat, to kill Yasser Arafat? What, specifically, do you want to do with the Palestinian leader?

PERES: We don't want to expel him, we don't want to kill him, we don't want to hurt him. There was a vote in the government. The majority of the government decided against expulsion. Nobody suggested at all to kill him or hurt him.

What we want is either Arafat will show that he can control the situation or, alternatively, let somebody else do it. Today we have a situation where neither Arafat, nor anybody else, is in charge of. And you know, they have to bring in law and order, because it affects our life and death. I came back last Wednesday from New York quite optimistic after the meeting of the quartet. A few hours later, 60 people in the heart of the country in the main street of Tel Aviv were wounded, six were killed, 10 seriously injured. A day before, three persons were killed in three different places, by bombs, by ambushes.

What do they expect us to do? I'm all for peace. But peace must be done by the two sides. Terror can be done by one side.

BLITZER: As you know, Mr. Foreign Minister, in recent weeks over these past six weeks, at least until the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv this week, there appeared to be some progress and forging an improved relationship with some new Palestinian ministers -- the finance minister, for example, the interior minister. U.S. officials here in Washington were telling me they were becoming increasingly more encouraged by what they were seeing from the Palestinians.

This late development, the destruction effectively of almost all the buildings in the presidential compound in Ramallah, might put all of that to an end.

PERES: No, sir. That's not the point. There was a period of tranquility because our army is, as it was, in West Bank and in Gaza. We don't want to remain there. We didn't go there to reoccupy.

We asked the Palestinians to take charge. In Gaza they have their forces intact. We have them at least to stop the shooting of mortars to the heart of the villages who are nearby the place.

Nothing happened. We warned about additional suicide bombers. It cannot go on like it.

The Palestinian leadership did not really give orders to stop it. Suppose they didn't give orders to initiate the terror, but neither did they give orders to stop it. There are tens of thousands of policemen under their control, under their command. And what we told them, I think United States as well, is please tell your official police force to intervene and stop it. Nothing of that sort happened.

So the talks were nice, but the situation on the ground didn't change. And again and again, would it be a political maneuver, would it even be a financial maneuver, we could have handled it differently. But when it comes to security, we were left without a choice.

And you know why we are talking right now. There is still warning about other suicide bombers on their way to the country. We cannot take it easily. We have to defend the lives of our own people.

BLITZER: So right now what you're saying, the siege itself, the operation at Ramallah has ended. You're going to restore water and food supplies to the individuals inside.

If no one emerges, what are you going to do?

PERES: No, we didn't intend at all to cut water, to cut electricity. It was done by an accident, and I think it is already repaired. We also stopped destroying more buildings.

Now Arafat has a choice: either to send over the people who are on the wanted list who are accused of killing other people, or else to remain as is. We are not going to hurt him, we're not going to expel him, we're not going to endanger his life. And we are not going to change our mind about the need for a compromise and peace or the possibility to talk and negotiate.

But the Palestinian people, and I'm really speaking as a person that has deep respect for them, instead of demonstrating against the siege, let them demonstrate against the Hamas and the Jihad. They are their catastrophe.

If the Palestinian position in America went down, it is because of Jihad and Hamas. The same in Europe. If the situation -- if the relations with Israel became strenuous, it is again because of them.

Now, either they will be a people that can control their own destinies, can put order in it, or else what can happen. They're losing and paying unfortunately. It doesn't bring us any joy and any pleasure. We don't want. We would like to see them equal, free to move, to live.

BLITZER: Mr. Foreign Minister, there is a front-page story in The New York Times today, saying that your government, the government of Prime Minister Sharon, has officially informed the United States, the White House, that if attacked by Iraq in a new war, Israel will not this time show the kind of restraint it showed in 1991 in the face of then some 39 SCUD attacks against Israel, that Israel will indeed retaliate directly, against Iraq.

Is that the official position of your government?

PERES: Well, there is clearly a difference between '91 and today, because there is no Arab coalition. At that time, we were asked to do nothing because there was Arab coalition, and it was a worry that the coalition may fall down.

Now, today what we understand perfectly well, the decision must be American. We are not the ones to tell the United States what to do. If the United States will decide, we shall be a loyal and a reliable and a disciplined soldier in the camp that will bring freedom and hope to the whole Middle East.

Then we understand there is not going to be two wars and there are not going to be two supreme commands. So whatever will be, if it will be, should be coordinated. We understand exactly our place. And also, we insist on our rights, but there won't be two wars.

BLITZER: So can you confirm, though, that Israel will indeed, as part of a U.S. strategy, indeed retaliate if attacked again by Iraq?

PERES: You know, we are so closely coordinated in restraint, in peace, in defense, in making the future more secure, I don't feel there is the slightest need to confirm it again. This is a situation where an ally, the United States, can rely upon us, can trust upon us. We are not going to push and we're not going to separate. We understand fully the depth and the seriousness of the situation.

BLITZER: Mr. Foreign Minister, thanks for joining us. We'll be back to you as well.

When we come back, we'll speak to Jordan's foreign minister and, later, the Saudi foreign policy advisor. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Jordan is a key United States ally in the Middle East, but it has expressed reservations about a possible military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.

Joining us now to talk about the U.S. push for tougher action against Iraq and its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the foreign minister of Jordan, Marwan Muasher.

Mr. Foreign Minister, welcome to Washington. Thanks so much for joining us.

First of all, about the situation in Ramallah, Jordan is a unique situation. Very close to the Palestinians, obviously, but you still have diplomatic relations with Israel.

What do you want Israel to do right now in the face of the suicide bombings and the attacks?

MARWAN MUASHER, JORDAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, we don't see how isolating Mr. Arafat is going to help at all in the security situation. We have come out with a roadmap, to translate the president's vision, to establish a two-state solution in three years. And we've agreed on this roadmap with the United States and with the quartet.

The roadmap handles the security situation in the first part of the plan, so we do have the plan that is ready. What we need to do is to engage with the Israelis on a peaceful settlement to take us to the end of the occupation. We cannot see how isolating Mr. Arafat in Ramellah helps that purpose.

BLITZER: The Israelis say Yasser Arafat is irrelevant right now. The Bush administration has basically said the Palestinians need a different new leadership.

Does Jordan still have confidence in Yasser Arafat as the leader of the Palestinian people?

MUASHER: This is not about one person. This is about the end of the occupation. And what Jordan has been trying all along is to help the Palestinians and to help everybody devise a plan that would end the occupation and that would have two people live peace and security, side by side with each other.

Such a plan is ready. We don't understand why Israel doesn't work with us to move this plan ahead. This plan has been agreed to by the United States, the United Nations, Russian, the European Union, but it is a plan where the quartet, this group of four people is the judge of performance. We cannot have Israel be the judge and the jury at the same time.

BLITZER: You heard Shimon Peres, the foreign minister of Israel, say they can't basically do that in the face of terror from Islamic Jihad or from Hamas, some of the other terror groups that supposedly are under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

MUASHER: We agree that suicide bombings should stop. We agreed that they are wrong from the moral and political point of view and they should end. We also agreed that the occupation has to end.

We have a plan for both. To end the suicide bombings and to end occupation, we need a partner to work with.

BLITZER: Is the Bush administration strategy right now, in effect, isolating Yasser Arafat, belittling him, trying to encourage the Palestinians to find a different leadership, is that appropriate?

MUASHER: Look, I mean, isolating Yasser Arafat in this way is making him only more popular. This is not the way to go, and we cannot focus and tailor-make the process based on one man.

We have to create a process where the Palestinians have transparency in the government, accountability, but where they also have hope that they will end the occupation in a reasonable time. We agree that any plan has to be performance-driven. It also has to be hope-driven.

BLITZER: As far as Iraq is concerned, I want to be precise on where Jordan stands right now. If the U.N. inspectors, for some reason, don't go in or if they're stymied once they're in and not allowed to have free and unfettered inspections, will Jordan stand with the U.S. in a possible new military confrontation against Saddam Hussein?

MUASHER: Jordan's primary objective is to avert a regional strike. We are working for our own interests and the interests of the region. No one wants a war. Not one single regional country wants a war in our region. And that remains our primary objective.

If that is not, of course, achieved through the introduction of U.N. inspectors back to Iraq -- and we have called on Iraq to comply fully with the U.N. resolutions -- then we think the problem should go back to the U.N., where it is the proper place to handle the issue.

BLITZER: So you don't think there should be another U.N. Security Council resolution now, in advance of the inspectors going back?

MUASHER: What I'm saying is that Iraq, we feel, should comply fully and unconditionally with U.N. inspectors in order to see what is there. If that is not possible, the U.N. is the proper place to take the next step.

BLITZER: Jordan, of course, was an ally during the 1991 war. At some point, did support the United States. Do you believe, if Saddam Hussein defies the U.N. and the United States, Jordan will be ready to assist the U.S. in some political and military steps?

MUASHER: We are not being asked to do that. We are a small country, and the United States has not asked us to do that. Obviously, we have excellent political and economic relationship with the United States that we will not jeopardize at any time.

Our primary objective, again, is to avert a strike. If this is not possible, then, of course, we will have to take Jordanian interests into account, and it will be the responsibility of the Iraqi government and the U.N. to handle the issue. This is not Jordan's responsibility.

BLITZER: Is Saddam Hussein a menace to Jordan and other countries in the region?

MUASHER: Look, as I said, I think the problem that has to be dealt with is arms control, and if we concentrate on arms control as the problem, then I think we are better off.

The issue of what leader rules in each country is not an issue, we feel, that we have to be -- that we have to address. This is an issue for the Iraqi people.

BLITZER: But do you really believe Saddam Hussein will cooperate with those U.N. weapons inspectors?

MUASHER: I think the world at large, and certainly the United States, went to the U.N. to ask him to do that. Let us give Iraq a chance to do that. Let us give a chance for peace and for averting a war.

If that is not possible, then other options become available, but let us not prejudge this prematurely.

BLITZER: One more chance for Saddam Hussein.

Marwan Muasher, the foreign minister of Jordan, thanks so much for joining us.

MUASHER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And when we return, the question has been raised about whether Saudi Arabia is a reliable U.S. friend in the war against terrorism. We'll talk about that, plus the case against Iraq, with the foreign policy adviser to the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel Al-Jubeir. He'll be joining us when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Saudi Arabia played a key role in 1991 Gulf War, but has it been persuaded to support a new military campaign potentially against Iraq? Joining us now is the former policy adviser to the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel Al-Jubeir.

Mr. Al-Jubeir, thanks once again for joining us.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, FORMER POLICY ADVISER TO SAUDI CROWN PRINCE: Thank you.

BLITZER: The Saudi foreign minister made news headlines on CNN last weekend when he said that if the Iraqis defy the U.N., then Saudi Arabia, presumably, will be there once again, militarily, to help the United States.

Precisely how far will Saudi Arabia go this time?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe, Wolf, what the foreign minister was saying is that Saudi Arabia, as a member of the United Nations, is bound by the resolutions of the United Nations, in particular those that are taken under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which is very clear.

BLITZER: Which calls for legitimate self-defense?

AL-JUBEIR: That's correct.

But what the U.N. decides to do, and when it decides to do it is something that is now being worked on. And in terms of giving you the position that you are asking me for, we really won't know until that actually happens.

BLITZER: But isn't the Iraqi government already in violation of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions passed over these years since the 1991 cease-fire, which says they must allow these inspectors free and unfettered opportunities to look for weapons of mass destruction?

AL-JUBEIR: You are correct, yes. They have not been -- they have not implemented the resolutions fully. That's why the United States and the U.N. is giving them ample warning that they should comply fully. We have urged them comply fully, as have virtually every government in the world. That is why the president took this matter to the U.N., so that the United Nations Security Council can decide what steps need be taken in order to bring Iraq into compliance.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, if the Iraqis don't let inspections go forward the way they're supposed to, and the U.N. Security Council does pass another resolution, U.S. access to Saudi military facilities for another potential war will be available?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, we're not there, Wolf, and we have a number of steps that we need to go to go down this path. We do not have a U.N. resolution yet. We do not have a decision by the Security Council yet. We have an agreement by Iraq to allow the inspectors back in unconditionally, let's see how that goes. There will be discussions at the end of this month on this matter. There will be discussions over the next few weeks on this matter. So let's judge things as they unfold rather than try to prejudge.

BLITZER: Why do you think President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, why are they wrong and Saudi Arabia is right, as far as the threat posed by Saddam Hussein?

AL-JUBEIR: It depends on how you see the threat. We believe that the Iraqi government made a decision, an agreement, to give up its weapons of mass destruction program after the Gulf War. We believe that they should be held accountable to it. We believe that Iraq must disarm, we believe that Iraq must allow the inspectors in. There's no disagreement on this. I doubt that you will find anyone in the region who disagrees with this.

What we are concerned about is rushing headlong into war without a legal sanction, without international support, without a U.N. mandate. What we believe is that the objective can possibly be achieved without firing a single shot or losing a single soldier. Isn't that a preferable route to take?

And so, we believe also that the administration is moving in that direction, by taking this matter to U.N.

BLITZER: Should a new Security Council resolution change, in effect, the rules of the game that the Secretary General Kofi Annan accepted, as far as presidential palace inspections were concerned, that the Iraqis needed to get advanced notification and allow officials to join the inspectors? Or should the inspectors be allowed to visit a presidential palace of Saddam Hussein without any advance warning?

AL-JUBEIR: I think, Wolf, that this a technical matter that should be...

BLITZER: But it's a very significant issue.

AL-JUBEIR: Yes, I agree with you, yes, it should be dealt with at the technical level.

What we believe is that the objective is to disarm Iraq, rid it of its weapons of mass destruction program so that it will not be a threat.

How one achieves that objective is really up to the experts. I personally believe that it should be as detailed and as comprehensive and as strict as possible, because our objective is to make sure that Iraq complies and that it no longer presents a threat to its neighbors.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Saudi Arabia and the war on terrorism. As you know, there's been a lot of criticism Saudi Arabia for, presumably, not helping the United States as much as it should. You know, the 15 of the 19 hijackers were indeed Saudi nationals.

Over the weekend, there've been stories in the American news media involving a Saudi -- excuse me, not a Saudi, a Syrian-born Spanish national named Mohammed Zouaydi -- I hope I'm pronouncing his last name correct -- who supposedly was a conduit between Saudis and al Qaeda in terms of funneling money through Spain.

What do you know about this, if anything?

AL-JUBEIR: Not very much. The evidence that we've seen so far presented by this was something that was put forth by the lawyer for the victims of the families of 9/11 is very fairly flimsy. Your own government doesn't know much about it.

We have been very cooperative in the war on terrorism because al Qaeda targets us. We set up a joint counterterrorism committee with U.S. five years ago to look into this.

We have questioned over 2,000 people. We have over 200 people in detention. We have frozen bank accounts. We have frozen -- we have helped freeze and or froze over $70 million worth of funds around the world. There is an ongoing intelligence-sharing program between us. Our law enforcement agencies are working very closely together.

I don't believe that there is anything that Saudia Arabia could do that Saudia Arabia has not done or will not do, because it's in our interest to do so. We're allies in this.

BLITZER: Are you cooperating with those lawyers? You mentioned the American lawyers suing on behalf of the family members, the relatives of the victims. They're going after Saudi institutions and Saudi individuals. Are you working with them, cooperating with them in this lawsuit?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe -- as a government, no, because we're not a party to this lawsuit anymore, so that's why we're not involved in it. But I believe that the private Saudi individuals and Saudi institutions have availed themselves of legal counsel and are, I guess, working this in terms of the court system. But we as a government are not a party to this.

BLITZER: Adel Al-Jubeir, thanks for joining us.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you. Always a pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And just ahead, Saddam Hussein is taking a defiant tone to U.S. calls for his ouster, but what's really going on inside Iraq? We'll get some insight from a panel of experts, including a member of Congress who's just back from Baghdad.

LATE EDITION will return right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The regime says it has no weapons of mass destruction, but we know that is a lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney dismissing Iraq's claims about its weapons arsenal.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now with special insight into the maneuvering going on inside Iraq are four guests: David Kay is a former United Nations weapons inspector. Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia has just returned from a trip to Baghdad. Pat Lang is a former United States Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. And Michael Ledeen is an international policy expert with the American Enterprise Institute here in Washington.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.

And, David Kay, let me begin right with you. You were there, you were in Baghdad for years trying to inspect their capabilities. Can a new round of inspections work?

DAVID KAY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: A new round of inspections like the past cannot work if what you want to achieve is to eliminate their WMD capacity.

BLITZER: So what's the point then of bothering if they can't work?

KAY: I think the point is, you've got to go through an international maneuver to show that you're at least willing to try to give the U.N. one more chance. But if you're talking about elimination of weapons, you should not count on inspections to do it.

BLITZER: Congressman, you were just there. Do you believe these inspections can effectively achieve the goal of certifying that Iraq has disarmed?

REP. NICK RAHALL (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I don't know the answer to that, Wolf. I'm not a weapons inspector. Indeed, Saddam wanted to parade us through a supposed weapons site. I refused. I told his representatives I was not a weapons inspector, that was not my purpose there.

But I would ask David, who certainly does have expertise, if not in the past weapons inspectors did discover all some 900 SCUD missiles that Iraqis had and destroyed those in the past. Those were the weapons used against Israel...

KAY: We discovered a lot and destroyed a lot, there is no doubt about that. But they operated an active concealment and denial campaign against us. And there is much we did not find. And we didn't find it because we were denied access to important sites, the presidential sites.

And just this week, you've had the Iraqis say yet again, well, we're going under those same relaxed rules that will keep you out of our presidential sites except with a week's notice and diplomatic nannies.

BLITZER: Pat Lang, let me bring you in. Can these inspections effectively achieve the goal of eliminating weapons of mass destruction?

PAT LANG, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY ANALYST: I don't think so, because the whole idea of these inspection regimes is dependent on, essentially, the cooperation of Iraqis. And as Dr. Kay said, they withheld this in the past.

And my experience with them is, they are extremely skilled at deception operations and camouflage, concealing things. And my personal belief about their intent is that they intend to conceal these things until they reach fruition. So I don't think so, no.

BLITZER: It would make an enormous amount of sense, just to the casual observer, Michael, from the perspective of Iraq's self- interest, the billions and billions of dollars that they could export of oil and generate for their people if they just go ahead and comply.

MICHAEL LEDEEN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: They're exporting plenty of oil now, and he has no intention of complying. If he complies, then he is weakened, and power is his game. So if you take these things away from him, he just becomes sort of one of the weakest people in Middle East instead of one of the most important. He can't have that.

BLITZER: Congressman, so why did you come back from Baghdad convinced that the Iraqis were sincere this time?

RAHALL: Oh, I didn't come back convinced they were sincere, Wolf. What I came back convinced was, they feel damned if they do, damned if they don't. So their position is, why do anything?

I made a message very strong while I was there, and perhaps that's why Saddam also did not want to meet with me, heard the message so often, and that was that they must comply unconditionally with unfettered access to U.N. weapons inspectors into their country. And that's the only way to even push slightly ajar the door for peace, if there is any opening for a peaceful resolution this issue.

And I don't see the imminent threat immediately that cannot wait until six weeks after our domestic elections, where we can allow the inspectors to do their job. Back them up with force, if necessary. There should be unfettered access, all presidential palaces, all the schools, all the buildings, places where Saddam will obviously hide weapons, so that when when go in and hit him he can claim collateral damage and parade the cameras around that way and show the damage we're doing to innocents. We ought to have complete access to all those sites.

BLITZER: While the U.S. is debating, deliberating, is there a fear, a legitimate fear that the Iraqis might do something in advance?

LEEDEN: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) terror network. And there's also legitimate concern, there are stories now coming out Iran that these hundreds of coffins allegedly carrying the remains of Iranians killed in the war are actually carrying chemical weapons and missile parts and so forth, that he is going to try to stash things in Iran so that if inspectors come at least they won't find that.

BLITZER: But the Iranians and the Iraqis, they want went to war. They hate each other.

LEEDEN: Yes, but they're sure working together now. And they certainly cooperate in the Bekaa Valley. Just ask al Qaeda.

BLITZER: Let me ask Pat Lang, because he knows a lot about this subject.

You were a top Pentagon analyst during the Iran-Iraq war.

LANG: Well, this is a very interesting question. I'm glad I got a chance to talk about it.

Before the Gulf War, there was very solid evidence that Shi'a groups like the Iranian government and groups they sponsored did not cooperate very well with Sunni groups like the Iraqi mainstream government.

But there's a great deal of evidence that has come to light since the war, in fact, they have begun to cooperate very closely together. And the issue of whether or not they were once at war with each other no longer seems to be an impediment to that kind of cooperation. So I think it ought to be taken seriously.

BLITZER: You would think the Iranians, given the history, would want to see the U.S. knock Saddam Hussein out. But their public statements are opposing it.

KAY: You would think so, but what the Iranians don't want is a U.S.-led government next door to them and greater U.S. presence in the region.

The Iranians are conflicted on this issue, Wolf. With regard to the Iraqis, they've taken their position, they'll develop the weapons so that they can stand toe-to-toe with the Iraqis next time. They have no interest in us having a firmer role in shaping the regime.

In fact, the thing that would frighten the Iranian regime most is a semi-democratic, free Iraq that was open to the Internet, to Western society. Young Iranians would jump for that. The old ayatollahs would have a hard time with that.

LEEDEN: Or Afghanistan. That's why they're killing us in Afghanistan. That's why the Iranians are running terrorist groups all over Afghanistan right now. They can't stand it.

BLITZER: Who's a bigger threat to the United States, Iran or Iraq?

LEEDEN: Iran.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

RAHALL: I don't know whether Iran is a bigger threat, but I know, not only is Iran conflicted by this possible war, but so are all our other Arab allies in the region. You've had them on here today, Wolf. You've seen their -- the fine line they're walking. They may want to see Saddam go as well as we do, but they are very much conflicted about the imminent threat to their country, and whether the Americans should be the one to lead the effort.

BLITZER: Who's a bigger threat?

LANG: From the point of view of terrorism, I think Iran definitely is, and they give direct state sponsorship, they have very effective networks around the world. Whereas, in the case of Iraq, there's not a lot of evidence, really, of direct Iraqi participation in that kind of thing, although they might give somebody some gas or bugs, but...

BLITZER: You once worked for the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency. From a nuclear-threat point of view, which country is closer to building a bomb right now?

KAY: Well, I think there's no doubt Iraq is. Iraq has had a proven design since 1990. They've done everything but put the fissile core in it.

And, Wolf, let me tell you another reason I think Iraq is a bigger threat. They've violated for 11 years the will of the Security Council and shown that you can flout it. With that sort of lesson, Iran, North Korea and a lot of other states could become dangerous to the international community later on. If you fail to stop them, there's no clear violator of international regime.

BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Texas. Go ahead with your call, please.

CALLER: Thank you, Wolf.

If Saddam indeed has mingled civilian targets and military targets among civilians, mosques, schools, et cetera, how do we handle that?

And secondly, has the administration -- is the administration aware of threats that have been given to Congress, to the intelligence community that have not yet been told to the public? If not a smoking gun, is there evidence of mass-destruction weapons out there that we don't know?

BLITZER: Let's ask Pat Lang to pick up the first part of the question.

LANG: Well, the part about the idea of the Iraqis placing military assets in populated centers and near religious sites, things like that, I think is a real possibility. They know they cannot fight the armed forces of the United States in the field, and so, to defend in built-up areas with a WM position is probably their only viable strategy. So they may well have done that.

BLITZER: There were reports I've read in the papers about the Iraqis building mosques all over the place. When you were in Baghdad, did you see that the mosques obviously presumably could be built near some sensitive site, which would preclude the U.S. maybe from attacking that site?

RAHALL: Without a doubt, Wolf. I did see the biggest mosque in Iraq being built, as we speak, right, you could see it from the Al Rashid Hotel, where I stayed. There are -- Baghdad is a busy, bustling, beautiful city, and they have modern highways, bridges.

It's a shame to think of the destruction that's headed their way, and I really believe they do not want that destruction. The people don't. Indeed, the people may be the first to say Saddam must go.

BLITZER: The people certainly don't, but the leadership might have a different attitude, right?

LEEDEN: The people want to be free, as far as we can tell, in all these various countries, they want to be free of these ghastly regimes.

And that is why our basic gripe is with Saddam, with the mullahs in Iran, with the Assads in Syria, and so forth, because, once these people are out of the way, we believe that the Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, et ceteras, will then want to be free people and build viable societies.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, stand by one second. We've got a lot more to talk about, more phone calls.

We'll continue our conversation with our panel about the maneuvering taking place inside Iraq. Also, then we'll go on and have some legal insight into the federal government's case against six Buffalo terror suspects.

That, much more, when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll get back to our discussion about what's going on inside Iraq right now in just a moment, but first, here's Kris Osborn with a news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: We're continuing our discussion about Iraq with the former United Nations weapons inspector David Kay, the Democratic congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia, the former Pentagon intelligence analyst Pat Lang, and the former U.S. foreign policy advisor Michael Ledeen. He's also the author of a hot new book, "The War Against the Terror Masters."

Let's begin once again with David Kay.

The foreign minister of Iraq, Naji Sabri, spoke at the U.N. this week, and he was very forceful in alleging that U.N. inspectors are nothing more than spies for the United States. Let's listen specifically to what Mr. Sabri said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAJI SABRI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: In our past experience in the period 1991, 1998 with them, Iraq used to ask inspection teams to do their job in accordance with declared goals of the Security Council. But some of the inspectors went on doing intelligence and espionage work that had nothing to do with the official mandate of inspection teams.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right?

KAY: No, he's wrong, Wolf, and let me tell you why. Under the Resolution 687 that ended the Gulf War, the Iraqis were to give the weapons of mass destruction to the inspectors, and we were to destroy, eliminate or render harmless. Instead, when we came in, they said, "We have nothing." We had to go from receiving it to go find it. That meant we were trying to find something governments were trying to keep us from.

Inspectors were a spy only in the sense of if you're trying to find something out that a government doesn't want you to, you're a spy. But we were working on behalf of the Security Council, not any member state.

BLITZER: Pat Lang, Hans Blix, the new chief weapons inspector, addressed this issue when he spoke out on Friday. I want you to listen to what Mr. Blix had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Intelligence, in our view, is one-way traffic. If member governments want us to try to find anything hidden, well, give us the information, but we are not supposed to give information back. Some people may not like that and they think it's ineffective, however, I think that integrity is more important than information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What is your take on this Iraqi allegation that those -- and it's not just an Iraqi allegation. Scott Ritter, a former U.N. inspector, says "Yes, there was a intelligence-gathering going on by those U.N. inspectors." LANG: Well, the function of the inspection team was to locate these weapons systems, see they were destroyed. Then they rendered reports on these things to the U.N. Security Council. The United States is a member of the Security Council so, naturally, was privy to these discussions.

And it's impossible to search a country as big as Iraq without the cooperation of the host. So, as Dr. Blix said, if the member countries want to give information as to where to go to the inspection team, I think that's a natural thing.

So I think it's nonsense. Of course they were looking for information.

BLITZER: Is this an issue that is really significant or not very significant?

LEEDEN: I don't understand the whole discussion. I mean, here's a guy ...

BLITZER: Well, the Iraqis say these inspectors are spies.

LEEDEN: Yes, plus they've declared the country a nuclear-free zone, along with San Francisco and Cambridge, Massachusetts. So what else is new? They say all kinds of things.

Iraq is in violation of U.N. resolutions. Iraq is in violation of international law. Iraq has violated all their various agreements in these things. And we now are going to be held up to the strictest interpretation of the letter of the law? It's ridiculous.

BLITZER: Are you among those congressmen who's going to support this draft resolution that the president submitted, asking for authority to use all force if necessary to deal with Saddam Hussein?

RAHALL: In its current form, Wolf, no.

BLITZER: What don't you like about it?

RAHALL: I have read it, it is too broad an authorization. I mean, it goes beyond Iraq. This would allow the president whatever action's necessary to install democracies, to promote regime change, and Iran next, Syria next, Saudi Arabia next, Egypt next. It just goes far beyond what is needed and what I did support when I supported George Bush the first in the first Gulf War.

BLITZER: Let's take a caller from New Jersey.

New Jersey, go ahead with your question please.

CALLER: Hi. My question is, would the United States use nuclear weapons if Iraq were to used by biological or chemical weapons on Israel?

BLITZER: Who wants to handle that one? David, you can't speak for the U.S. government... KAY: I certainly can't speak for the U.S. government. My guess would be it would be entirely unnecessary to. I think the U.S. has at its disposal sufficient non-nuclear force to take care of Saddam Hussein if it decides to.

BLITZER: What do you say?

LANG: Well, I think the implied threat that that is a possibility should be left hanging out there. It is the essence of deterrence, in order to leave things somewhat ambiguous. So the Iraqis should at least believe...

BLITZER: That worked during the 1991 war when the U.S. made that implied threat. You use weapons of mass destruction, in effect the U.S. said, "You're toast."

LANG: It seems to have worked very well, so I don't think we should eliminate that threat in any way. Although I think probably the Israelis could respond quite well on their own to an attack of that kind.

BLITZER: Michael, what do you make of this Israeli suggestion? We heard Shimon Peres, the foreign minister of Israel, basically confirm that it's a different situation today than it was in '91, and the restraint that Israel showed then might not necessarily be shown right now.

LEDEEN: No, will not. Will not. I think they've been very explicit about this for months. I mean, I don't see why it's treated as news today, all of a sudden.

BLITZER: Because if the Israeli government formally informs the White House that, guess what...

LEDEEN: Yes, but I think that -- don't you think they did -- I mean, I think they did some time ago. I mean, Sharon said publicly several times, "We're not going to stay out this time."

BLITZER: Certainly the defense minister, Ben-Eliezer, has said that.

LEDEEN: Yes. So if we're attacked, we're going to respond.

So the caller -- I mean, it's an interesting question, but the caller should address it to the Israeli government, not to the American government.

BLITZER: Although the U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, suggested it might not be in Israel's own interest to respond if attacked again by the Iraqis. Maybe the Israelis should let the U.S. do the work so as not to upset any coalition that might be assembled by the United States.

RAHALL: Well, I thought Secretary Rumsfeld's words were pretty strong in that regard about advising Israelis to stay out. And there's no doubt there's a great deal of cooperation, probably right down to the day and the second that the war will start, between the Israeli government and the United States government. And that's probably as it should be and to be expected in this part of the world.

The Israeli actions of today in saying that they will respond, as Michael has confirmed, is troubling because it's troubling to what our allies in the region, the Arab allies who are helping us against the true terrorist, al Qaeda, what are the pressures on their domestic constituencies going to be like? Are they going to continue to help us in the war against global terrorism? al Qaeda's hidden in many of these countries. If we're going to ferret out the true terrorists, al Qaeda, we're going to need these Arab allies to help us.

BLITZER: You know, Pat, one of the issues that has changed dramatically, I'm told by U.S. officials, top U.S. officials, since '91, are these so-called mobile vans that the Iraqis have, in which they can put biological weapons or even chemical weapons and move them around the country so that inspectors will never find that kind of stuff.

LANG: Well, yes, that's part of the reason why I said earlier I don't think an inspection regime will be effective. And as people have pointed out, it doesn't take a lot of space in, you know, an expandable van or something to set up a shop in which you can produce biologicals, things like that.

So I think really, the only way you're ever going to exterminate these capabilities as a reality is to go in on the ground and search the country, and not with a bunch of U.N. inspectors either, people who can actually demand to go where they want and go where they think it's necessary.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector, said on this program one week ago. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I'm not in support of removing Saddam Hussein. I think that that's wrong. I think America going to war to do this is wrong.

But I do believe that Iraq must still need to be disarmed, and we have to get the inspectors in. There's my point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A lot of people have been confused by Scott Ritter. They think he's gone all over the place. He says he's been consistent. But what's your take, as someone who's worked with him in the past, who knows him?

KAY: I'm equally confused. I find it bizarre.

If you go back and look at his testimony to Congress in 1998, when he resigned, you'll find a very strong indictment. And, you know, even in your little, the excerpt there, Scott says, "Well, they still have weapons, I think they should be disarmed, but you can't get rid of the regime." We've got 11 years of experience. If you don't get rid of the regime, you're not going to end the weapons of mass destruction.

And it's really more than 11 years, Wolf. Most people forget. We had inspectors in Germany, in the Rhineland, after the First World War. The inspection mechanism fell apart. States weren't willing to stand behind it, as soon as the German government decided to rearm itself.

You cannot expect inspectors to disarm a country that does not want to be disarmed.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there.

David Kay, thanks for joining us as usual, Pat Lang, good friend, thank you, Michael Ledeen, Congressman Rahall. We'll have all of you back. This story, I think, is just only getting off the ground.

And just ahead, a legal debate about the case of the six Buffalo men facing terrorism charges. We'll talk with criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt and former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO GAP)

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: ... before September 11 for training. They came back to United States. They told no one.

Now, you might be able to understand that before September 11. But after September 11, they didn't tell anyone either.

They are totally untrustworthy. If they are citizen of the United States, they have absolute responsibility to cooperate with their government. They could have helped if they had told about that visit before September 11. We have no idea what type of information they would have given the government and what use it would have been put to.

BLITZER: All right, that's a fair point.

Jeralyn, I want you to listen to what the assistant U.S. attorney who is dealing with this case up in Buffalo, New York, has to say on whether these six individuals should be out on bail. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM HOCHUL, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: There is evidence of continuing dangerousness to the community, and we supplied that evidence to the judge. And also, a risk of flight. And that the danger to the community and the possibility of flight was so grave that there were no conditions or combination of conditions that would allow the court to ensure that the defendant would continue to show up in court if he was released.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: U.S. attorneys often make those specific points. But you're a criminal defense attorney. If you were representing one of these guys, what would you say?

JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I would say that the government has not proven that these men pose any immediate or imminent threat to the danger of the community, and I would say they are not even a risk of flight at this point. The judge himself has said that he has grave concern over whether the government has met its burden.

And the issue here is not whether they engaged in a conspiracy of silence. That's not the test for bail. The test for bail is merely whether there is a risk that they will flee, or that there are no conditions that will guarantee the safety of the community.

And their lawyers have offered up a variety of conditions, such as they could report daily to the pre-trial service department. Their lawyers have offered up putting a camera in their home. They'll give up their passports. So I think there are conditions that would assure their appearance and the safety of the community.

BLITZER: Joe, what about that?

DIGENOVA: The judge may very well decide that. But if I were the government...

BLITZER: Because the magistrate in this particular case has suggested he hasn't really seen any hard evidence yet that they represent an immediate threat of terrorist action.

DIGENOVA: Well, I think that judges are entitled to their opinions, and he has not reached a final opinion yet. And what's good about this is it's in a court of law and it's being judged.

Now, the problem here for these individuals is, again, Wolf -- remember how they were discovered? They were discovered as a result of cooperating witnesses in the Yemeni community that informed the United States government about what these people were talking about when they came back from these training camps. That is a very important factor.

We also don't know all of the government's evidence in this case. Some of it is secret. It will come out if there is a trial, unless these individuals plead guilty and decide to cooperate with the United States government, explaining all the things that they did in the training camp; how they got there; who their intermediaries were; how money was paid to them to get them there.

It seems to me that the defense attorneys in this case ought to be working very hard to do something that a lot of defense attorneys never do, represent their clients instead of themselves, try to work a deal out with the United States government, and make these people cooperating witnesses.

BLITZER: Jeralyn, there's a lot of press speculation out there that some of the initial information pointing to these six Americans who are of Yemeni ancestry, that John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban, that he's cooperating with U.S. authorities now -- he pleaded guilty; he's serving a 20-year sentence -- he may have made some of that initial information available to the FBI.

If John Walker Lindh was in that training camp -- he is serving a 20-year sentence -- what's the difference between him and these six individuals right now?

MERRITT: Well, they were both initially charged with same thing. Both are charged under this new Patriot Act with providing material support to the terrorists. Walker Lindh, when he plead guilty, he did not plead guilty to that charge. It was dropped.

And so, I don't see why these men, because they went to Afghanistan, if they did, and got training would be guilty of providing material support to a terrorist organization. Receiving training is not providing material resource to the government.

Now, with Walker Lindh, I do think...

BLITZER: Let's let Joe respond to that.

DIGENOVA: I couldn't disagree more. You know, if an American went to Germany in World War II and trained and never fought...

BLITZER: What about before World War II?

DIGENOVA: Before World War II and never fired a shot, when the war started, that would be of concern to the American government.

The fact that they were a sleeper cell possibly is exactly why they didn't do anything when they came back. The government has every right in the world to believe that they may very well have been a sleeper cell. They went there for training, they came back, and they were in place.

Now, the bottom line here is that all of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were part of a sleeper cell in the United States and in the Middle East and in Europe. None of them had violated any laws until that very day when they attacked New York, Pennsylvania and Washington.

So, training in an al Qaeda training camp, and remember, the one they were in, Al Faruq, is the top al Qaeda training camp at the same where the senior lieutenants were, where, in fact, Osama bin Laden was, and actually met with him.

BLITZER: Well, they did hear -- they did hear a speech from Osama bin Laden, according to the government's affidavit.

But go ahead, Jeralyn, respond to Joe.

MERRITT: Sure. I mean, listening Osama bin Laden is not a crime.

Second of all, you have to look at what the statute is that they're charged under. And the U.S. attorney's manual, in their own regulations, says that providing material support or resources to a terrorist group is not an individual receiving training.

So, you know, you have to uphold the rule of law here. We have to charge these people with the crime that they committed and it doesn't seem like this particular crime charged fits their conduct.

BLITZER: All right.

MERRITT: They also left the training camp and never even finished their training, which could easily be a repudiation of that.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what an editorial in Thursday's Washington Post said. Among other things, "While the Lackawanna defendants" -- Lackawanna being a suburb of Buffalo -- "While the Lackawanna defendants have lawyers to whom they have access and who can speak on their behalf, Mr. Jose Padilla has been classified as an enemy combatant and cannot meet with his lawyer. The difference between them seems to be only that the government believes it can make a case against the Lackawanna group, while the evidence against Mr. Padilla is either too thin or too sensitive to rely on in a prosecution."

There seems to be an inconsistency, in other words. We're dealing with American citizens, on the one hand an enemy combatant without access to a lawyer or a judge or anything like that, as opposed to the six Lackawanna defendants who have all the access they want.

DIGENOVA: I agree with you 100 percent that there is an apparent inconsistency. And that is why, from the beginning, I have disagreed with the notion of putting anyone in a civilian court, such as a U.S. district court. I believe that everyone involved in these cases should be treated as an enemy combatant and dealt with through a military commission. Where, by the way, they would have lawyers, et cetera, et cetera.

Now, Mr. Padilla was being held under different circumstances because he is an enemy combatant. I do see a discrepancy here. I agree with you.

And I think the government is still in the process of trying to sort of cut these things very, very carefully. I don't see, by the way, any problem with that, except that it does raise the issue of why is one being treated differently.

And I do believe it has something to do with, A, the amount of evidence, but I think, more importantly, I think some of it has to do with the kind of evidence, which is highly classified intelligence from sources and methods which the government simply will not disclose, especially in a criminal case in a public court.

BLITZER: Do you see an inconsistency there, as well, Jeralyn? MERRITT: I do see an inconsistency. The administration seems to be making up the rules as it goes along.

And I disagree with Joe, these people should not be charged as enemy combatants.

First of all, in November, when President Bush issued the order authorizing military tribunals, they were not going to apply to American citizens. It is not in the history or the nature of this country to detain people indefinitely without charges, without access to a lawyer. It is just anathemic to the way we operate. This is not the way we should do it.

BLITZER: Well, one other point before I let you go though, Jeralyn, one of the complaints in the government papers is at least one of these six and maybe more actually lied to FBI agents before they were arrested about whether or not they had actually gone to Afghanistan and visited an al Qaeda training camp. Lying to the FBI...

MERRITT: Then charge them with making a false statement under the United States Code to a federal official. Don't charge them with providing material aid to a terrorist group.

DIGENOVA: Well, that, in fact, is going to happen, because, as you know, they have not been indicted yet. They are appearing in court now under a criminal complaint. There will be an indictment in this case. It will include a conspiracy charge. It will include lying to the FBI. It will include lying on their visa applications for travel. And it may end up that they will plead guilty and not be ultimately be convicted of providing material support.

I think this case is far from over, in the sense I think the government has much more evidence. And again, I will repeat what I said. We talked about this with John Walker Lindh, Abdul Hamid as I like to call him. He should have cut a deal right away. His lawyers were more interested in publicity for themselves then in John Walker Lindh's fate. I have a strong suspicion that these six Yemeni defendants will cut a deal with the government, plead guilty to some offenses, and provide full cooperation.

BLITZER: All right, I'll let you have the last word, Jeralyn. Go ahead.

MERRITT: That may indeed happen, and I wouldn't doubt that John Walker Lindh is a source of corroborating information about these people in Buffalo. The timing is too suspect otherwise.

But still, let's give them a fair trial. Let's not make up our minds until they've been accorded a fair trial in a court of law with all of the rights that we give everyone under the Constitution.

BLITZER: Two excellent attorneys. Jeralyn Merritt, with the criminal defense side of the viewpoint, the former U.S. attorney Joe DiGenova. Always good to have both of you on the program.

Thanks very much.

MERRITT: Thanks.

DIGENOVA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, LATE EDITION's Final Round. Our panel is ready to debate the big stories of the week. Our Final Round, right after a news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Time now for our Final Round. Joining me, Julianne Malveaux, the syndicated columnist; Eric Liu, he's an author and former Clinton speechwriter and policy adviser; Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review Online"; and Steve Hayes of the "Weekly Standard."

We begin with the Bush administration keeping up the heat on U.S. allies and the Congress to back a possible preemptive military strike against Iraq.

Earlier today, the Republican Senator John McCain said that, while he strongly supports military action, he's warning that other countries could follow suit with unilateral actions of their own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that a number of nations will use it as an excuse -- the imprisonment of the Falun Gong, the designation of some group out in western China as a terrorist group that we went along with. Clearly, the Russians have made threatening not only noises but actually military action in Georgia. India and Pakistan both would make the argument.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Steve, would a unilateral strike by the United States potentially set a bad precedent that other nations could follow?

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: It could set a precedent, although I'm not sure that it's one that would require us not do what we need to do in this particular instance.

I mean, if you look at the other options, such as the one that Senator Levin is talking about, which involves going to the U.N. first, then a congressional resolution, you're essentially giving veto power to, you know, people on the U.N. Security Council like Syria and Guinea and Cameroon.

I mean, if we need to go unilaterally, we need to go unilaterally, without regard to what kind of a precedent it sets.

BLITZER: If the U.S. were to do this alone, the argument is that, why wouldn't the Indians preemptively strike against the Pakistanis, if they thought that there was a potential threat down the road?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, that's a perfect argument, Wolf. I mean, in any other case where there was conflict, we would send Colin Powell or Condi Rice or someone to try and negotiate the conflict, but in our case we don't think it should be negotiated, we're just going to go in unilaterally.

President Bush has been pushing way too hard for unilateral action and for a war, and frankly I don't think it's warranted. Most of the American people don't think it's warranted, they think it's a mistake.

BLITZER: But he has gone to the U.N. Security Council and said, "You know what, let's have another resolution before the United States were to strike unilaterally."

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes, I kind of find the argument that Bush is the real unilateralist, which you hear a lot out there, is kind of odd, considering that Saddam Hussein has unilaterally opposed dozens of U.N. Security Council resolutions that were mandatory, that Saddam Hussein has unilaterally defied the entire civilized world by gassing its own people, and yet somehow George Bush, because he uses the full weight and moral force of the United States in the U.N., is somehow the unilateralist.

The fact is, yes, this might be a bad precedent. But we are in bad precedent land. That ship has sailed. There's the precedent, if we do nothing, that says a unilateralist terrorist state that does terrible things can be able to flout the international community with impunity.

BLITZER: All right. Let me let Eric in.

ERIC LIU, FORMER CLINTON SPEECHWRITER: I actually think the premise is overblown. I'm not sure this sets such a bad precedent, frankly. I think most countries in the world, in hot spots in particular, are going to act on the basis of a pretty calculated assessment of their national interests.

They may start to use the language of preemption and the example of preemption as a cloak, and as an excuse, but they're still going to make their decisions on a very local kind of calculated basis that they would otherwise have.

BLITZER: And, Julianne, the administration's point is, they're not going to preemptively strike unilaterally against Iraq. The Iraqis have unilaterally broken existing U.N. Security Council resolutions, and the U.S. is simply enforcing those resolutions.

MALVEAUX: The U.N. has not asked the U.S. to enforce those resolutions. The fact is that, you know, no one is saying Saddam's a boy scout. I mean, he is reprehensible, but there are reprehensible despots all over this world. Would you support going to Syria or someplace else? They, too, may have weapons of mass destruction. We have to look at this term of foreign policy justice. We've got to have some kind of evenness. I think that this is just about we're confused, about, you know, bin Laden, and instead of going after bin Laden, we're going after Hussein.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about the crisis in the Middle East. This is day three, indeed, of the Israeli military siege around the Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank, this latest campaign in response to two Palestinian suicide bombings this past week in Israel. Arafat right now remains holed up in at least one building that remains on that compound, but Israel says he is not a target.

Jonah, should the Israelis -- what should the Israelis do with Yasser Arafat? Let me ask you that.

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, think he probably should have been the target a long time ago. Whether he should be a target right now in this context, I don't know. I mean, this is one of the few times where I think Israel might have overplayed its hand or not played its cards right, for want of a better metaphor.

BLITZER: The argument being that they're, in effect, building him up among the Palestinians.

GOLDBERG: Arafat proved -- all of the people who said Arafat couldn't do anything to stop the suicide bombings six months ago, he proved them all wrong because in fact he did a lot to stop suicide bombing in the last few months.

But the fact is, at the same time as the climate changed over there, Arafat was being dealt a series of serious political blows. The Palestinian Legislative Council basically humiliated him by defying him. And I think this was one of the situations where Sharon may have actually propped Arafat up when he could have fallen over on his own waist.

BLITZER: Steve, go ahead.

HAYES: Yes, no, I agree with Jonah completely. I mean, the worry, if you talk to top officials at State Department, even they say that Arafat has been marginalized within his own Palestinian Authority. I mean, they have private meetings with PA folks who are saying basically, "We don't even listen to what Arafat is saying anymore." So there's the risk if you go after him in this case, that you just make him relevant again.

BLITZER: So what should the Israelis being doing?

LIU: I mean, that's precisely what's happened though. I mean, in the effort to isolate them, they've elevated him. You know, I think if they had -- if the Israelis were serious about wanting to kind of minimize and marginalize Arafat, they would be dealing with him and his folks in a way that would be very, kind of, off the cameras and without bombast. And they'd be making the arrests, they'd be making the raids without having to roll in tanks and destroy his compound.

I think that what this underscores is the danger as we go into -- head toward war with Iraq, the danger of Ariel Sharon as the wild card here, a loose canon, a wild card, who will make things and do things with great bluster.

BLITZER: Very briefly, go ahead.

MALVEAUX: I think that Israel is making a major mistake, but the United States is not helping matters. We've had very tepid rhetoric about that, Israel is not helping. No, Israel is playing wrong. You can't take Arafat -- and they're saying he is not a target. He is a target, implicitly he is a target. And his position is being strengthened.

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

Just ahead, corporate CEO perks. How much is too much? We'll debate that when our Final Round returns. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our Final Round.

For the most part, Democrats have stood behind President Bush in the war against terrorism, but they've been more aggressive in challenging him on most domestic issues.

This week, the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, accused the Bush administration of dropping the ball on the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DASCHLE: It takes leadership not only with regard to international and foreign policy, but leadership here at home on economic policy as well. We haven't seen it to date, and the time has come for leadership there as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Julianne, is Senator Daschle simply trying to change the subject because of the elections that are coming up?

MALVEAUX: How about because the economy's in the tank? I mean, elections notwithstanding, the fact is that we've seen some very negative economic indicators of the past several months. We've lost 2 million jobs. We lost $4.5 trillion in stock market value. You can go down a list and look at the indicators. We've had layoffs that have been unprecedented.

And so the Democrats would be irresponsible -- generally, the Republicans are seen as a party of international and war; Democrats as a domestic party. And so the Democrats would be irresponsible if they didn't raise these points.

I'd take Daschle a bit further, and I'd call for the repeal of Bush's tax cut. I'm sorry that he didn't do that, but I think he's right on point. And I wouldn't consider it political.

BLITZER: Jonah? GOLDBERG: Oh, I think it's obviously political. I mean, it doesn't mean -- I mean, everything Julianne said could be true, and we could argue about whether or not the layoffs going on were unprecedented or not, I haven't heard that.

But be that as it may, it could all be true and Daschle could honestly believe it in good faith, but the fact is, is that the Democrats -- if you talk to any political consultant on the Democratic side of the aisle or the Republican side of the aisle, they all admit that the Democrats are very frustrated that they can't make this election about the economy and their bread-and-butter issues. And they're very frustrated that it's about war and that Iraq is squeezing out all of these issues.

I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. I think elections should be more about war and peace then they should be about the economy, but it's a fair argument.

BLITZER: Eric, are you among those Democrats who believe, and I got tons of e-mail from our viewers, those Democratic viewers who believe that the president and his Republican advisers are simply trying to use this war on terrorism, using Iraq as an issue because it's good for them in November?

LIU: I don't think so. I mean, I think, quite frankly, look, this war is serious business, and I don't think that -- as Jonah said, does politics play into it in one degree? Sure, it does. But is the Bush White House being driven by politics? I think that would be an irresponsible thing to say.

I will say that this whole kind of debate about whether this is going to be frustrating to Democrats or not to have this issue or not is kind of an inside Washington sort of thing. You know, I live in the other Washington out in Seattle, and I think in Seattle the races that going out there, as I think around the country, are going to be determined by local issues. They're going to be determined by whether their particular representative worries about the issues that most folks care about.

Now, the war is one of the things that people care about, but it's not the only thing. I think it's...

GOLDBERG: But, Eric, you can't dispute that at least from a national level with the media, which does find war more interesting than Medicare Part B, that the war does take out the oxygen from all these other economic...

LIU: Yes, but that national media does not cast the votes in my congressional district.

GOLDBERG: Fair enough.

BLITZER: If it's a close election, though, in a district or a local district and with the Senate race or a House race, what's happening in terms of the war, the war on terrorism, Iraq, that could have an impact. LIU: It absolutely could have an impact.

BLITZER: But is it for sure that it would help Republicans?

HAYES: Yes, I think, to the extent that people are talking about the war and Iraq, it helps Republicans, no question about it.

But I want to surprise myself and agree with something that Julianne said. I mean, I think it would have been great if Tom Daschle would have proposed repealing the tax cuts. It would have been a boon to conservatives throughout the country if Tom Daschle would've made that.

(LAUGHTER)

And if he's talking about leadership, where's the leadership? I mean, what in his speech did he propose? One thing? Anything? Nothing.

MALVEAUX: No, the point is that he laid out the economic situation, and I think that was important.

And, Wolf, I'm going to agree with your e-mailers. I don't think that the president is, quote, "picking a war with Iraq" just because of politics, but I think that politics is playing a part of this as well.

BLITZER: Is it a wag-the-dog scenario?

MALVEAUX: I believe it is. I mean, I believe that he...

HAYES: No, that's ridiculous.

MALVEAUX: Well, you think it's ridiculous, I think it's real. This president is strengthened when he comes out strong on something. He's unable to come out strong on domestic policy...

HAYES: But there's a big difference between campaigning on a job well done with regard to the conduct of the war on terrorism and starting a war to win a election. That's a huge difference.

MALVEAUX: Why now? And why Saddam? Saddam Hussein is not the only despot that has weapons of mass destruction. Why now?

HAYES: President Bush said in December of 1999 as a candidate that he was going to take out Saddam if we found he had weapons of mass destruction.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Last year he said Iraq, Iran and Syria. What did he do, flip a coin?

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about the fallout from the crackdown on corporate corruption. Divorce papers filed by the wife of the former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, listed several perks in Welch's multi-million retirement package, including the use of an apartment, paid travel expenses and entertainment.

Welch says that while there is nothing improper about the benefits, he's going to return an estimated $2 million to GE because he doesn't want to give the impression of corporate malfeasance.

Eric, did Welch do the right thing?

LIU: You know, I suppose he did, but it's sort of an irrelevant question. I mean, the real question is why and how this package came to be in the first place.

You know, is it better that he disgorged these perks than hold onto them right now? Yes. But I think the real issue here is the way in which Jack Welch and other CEOs throughout the '90s became so incredibly out of touch with their role and their responsibility to shareholders and to their employees.

You know, the idea that an executive needs to have these kinds of perks in order to be incentivized to a good job is an insult to the people who actually drive any business every day of the week.

BLITZER: Let's hear Jonah Goldberg respond to that.

GOLDBERG: Well, surprisingly enough, I am not a huge defender of corporate America.

I think Welch did the obviously right thing in this context. I mean, and I think it was, you know, the social and political costs for keeping these perks, which he negotiated in good faith, and he could have taken a larger sum of cash up-front instead of taking these perks, and he jettisoned them for right reason...

LIU: And now he wants to get all kinds of credit for being a stand-up guy.

GOLDBERG: Fair enough.

MALVEAUX: But he should have took the cash. He should have took the cash. I mean, the point is that...

BLITZER: What do you mean, he should've taken the cash?

MALVEAUX: ... the tax ramifications of having all of these that are untaxable as good as reduces the real -- if he had gotten a $10 million bonus or a $20 million bonus at a point in time and that were disclosed, imagine the debate that would have happened then. It would have been untenable.

So the way that you get around taking the cash is that you take the apartment, the this, the that, the other. That's what so shady. And the fact is that he might have, you might have been able to make a case, he was a very productive CEO, for money, but you can't make a case, or I don't think you could, but might have, you can't make a case for all of these goodies.

HAYES: He was being wooed by several other companies. I mean, you know, if this is what GE thought that they needed to give him to keep him on their payroll, that's fine. That's between GE and Jack Welch.

I mean, I don't have a tremendous amount of sympathy for a guy who gets exposed because he was cheating on his wife. I say great. You know, if this a PR nightmare for him, good.

(CROSSTALK)

LIU: The real question is, how does GE's board and GE's shareholders even approve something like that?

GOLDBERG: No, I agree, and there is a problem with the corporate culture getting out of whack. And one of the problems is that we live in a regulatory regime where you have these giant corporations that aren't allowed to have free competitors that could come in and punish these corporations in the marketplace for that kind of thing.

MALVEAUX: But see...

BLITZER: Hold on. We're moving on. We're moving on. Enough of Jack Welch, corporate greed.

(LAUGHTER)

We have to take another quick break. We have some corporate greed we need to talk about, as well our Lightning Round, just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our Lightning Round.

A story that generated lots of anger this week, shocking video of a mother who was caught on tape apparently beating her 4-year-old daughter. Concerned about the child's welfare, authorities released the tape as part of a nationwide search for the mother. She surrendered last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELYNE GORMAN TOOGOOD, MOTHER: I'm not a monster. I have three children. And nothing's ever happened, ever before, to any of my children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Julianne, this is a sick, sick story by all accounts. What do you make of it?

MALVEAUX: I mean, it absolutely is reprehensible. And I would like to know what motivated this woman to do this kind of thing, and she says it's never happened again. I'd suggest that all three of her children be examined to make sure that there's not continuing child abuse.

But if there is not, and it's a one-time situation, I'm not sure we ought to go so far as to take her daughter away from her. There should be some punishment or something, but if it's a one-time, I say "if" -- we don't know, this is a slice...

BLITZER: But based on that videotape, that surveillance tape, taken in a parking lot outside a Kohl's department store, 40 seconds -- we timed it -- 40 seconds, she was seen punching that little girl in the face and pulling her hair. I mean, I don't know if you can believe a word she says now.

GOLDBERG: Yes, and she was also looking around to make sure no one would catch her doing it. And this is not like in an arrest (ph) or a clip of a speech or something where you could imagine, at least, a mitigating circumstance or a context that would change things. There is no context by which you are allowed to beat children. And this was truly outrageous, and she should get whatever happens to her.

BLITZER: Should she be allowed to keep custody of that child?

LIU: I don't think so. You know, I mean, I think, you know, as the parent of a 3-year-old, I just wanted to vomit when I saw that tape.

I think the only legitimate question for us to discuss here is just the role of the media in these kinds of cases. I mean, for every one like her, there are probably dozens, maybe hundreds of other parents like that every day, every hour, going on. She is going to get nailed to the wall because she was on CNN and she's been kind of made infamous to the world.

Our only question here is whether, you know, our prosecutions and the way we kind of go after domestic abuse ought to be so driven by the media.

BLITZER: I'm sure that there are these cases going on all the time, and we never know about them.

HAYES: Right. Well, I think the saddest thing that she said in her news conference yesterday was that she has these other kids. I mean, it was bad enough when we were looking at this, and you see her pummeling this one little girl, as Jonah said, looking around before she did it to make sure nobody was watching, but to hear that she has other kids...

BLITZER: This is a sick situation.

MALVEAUX: Makes a really strong case for child protective services, something that needs to be funded.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on.

Reality TV is going, get this, political. The FX cable channel plans to launch a show that will allow the public to vote for a people's candidate that would run for president in 2004. Is this, Jonah, any way to run a democracy?

GOLDBERG: No. And in fact, that's why the founding fathers didn't create a direct democracy and why populism is bad.

(LAUGHTER)

And, you know, this is going to be a full-employment act for people like Maureen Dowd, who like this line between culture and politics. But I think it has the potential to be a demagogic disaster and, you know...

BLITZER: Does it have the potential to be a successful TV show?

MALVEAUX: Oh, absolutely. Furthermore, I expect Jonah to be auditioning and sending his tapes in.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, I mean, that's the only way you're going to get there, Jonah.

MALVEAUX: But, you know what, we know this isn't going to be a Democrat, we know where this is coming from.

And I don't think that populism is bad, but I think manipulation is, and that's what's going on here.

BLITZER: Reality TV hits inside politics.

HAYES: Yes. Well, you know, it strikes me as kind of strange that many of the same people who constantly whine about apathy and the voters and nobody cares about politics are the same people who kind of rose and up and said, oh, this is awful, this is terrible. You know, if it generates interest, fine. I don't think we should take it as seriously...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Any redeeming qualities to have on a show like this?

LIU: No, I mean, not to be cynical, but you could say that the only difference between this show and modern politics as we practice it is that there's not going to be special-interest money in this FX show.

GOLDBERG: Rupert Murdoch?

LIU: I mean, the reality is, our politics -- well, yes, besides Rupert Murdoch.

(LAUGHTER)

But our politics right now is driven by personality, it's driven by entertainment, and it's driven by TV exposure. So in a way...

BLITZER: Nothing wrong with TV exposure.

(LAUGHTER)

Speaking of TV, the Emmy awards are tonight. Let's go around the table. Eric, what's your favorite program?

LIU: Well, my favorite program is one that deals with important national issues every night without spin, and that's Baseball Tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. That's an important show.

HAYES: The Jaime Kennedy Experiment, by far.

BLITZER: Oh really? All right, that's an important show. MALVEAUX: News, just news.

BLITZER: Specifically.

MALVEAUX: You, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Correct. That's the correct answer.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: I assumed that we weren't allowed to say that one. But I would say probably, in the long haul, The Simpsons.

BLITZER: The Simpsons? What about the Sopranos, what about Sex and the City? What about...

GOLDBERG: The Simpsons has far more substance.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Wolf, you know, primetime television does so not reflect the reality of most people of color that I just get sickened when I watch shows like Friends. How do you have five white folks in New York City and they don't know any black people, no Latinos, you know?

BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there. I want to thank our LATE EDITION Final Round.

Before we go, Bruce Morton shares some thoughts on questions facing the United States about a post-Saddam Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush pretty clearly wants to invade Iraq. Nevermind inspections, nevermind allies, he wants the troops to land next Wednesday and get rid of Saddam Hussein, perhaps because Hussein's a threat, perhaps because Hussein tried it kill this president's father. For whatever reasons, Mr. Bush wants war.

But he might want to think a little bit about what comes after that. The United States has something like 70,000 troops in Germany. We've had troops there ever since the end of World War II. Back then, the troops were to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union, but the Soviets of course are long gone.

The United States has had troops in Korea for almost as long, getting on for half a century. There, to keep the peace between North and South. But those two countries are now talking, planning to reopen the railroad that once linked them, and so on.

U.S. troops, just a battalion in the Sinai, there since Israel returned that bit of desert to Egypt roughly a quarter of a century ago. U.S. troops in Bosnia, they've only been there a few years, but how long will they have to stay?

U.S. troops in Afghanistan, will they stay while the U.S. tries to establish some sort of a democracy there, and who has any idea how long that would take?

And now, Iraq. That may be tricky. Thomas Friedman argued in the New York Times this past week that Saddam Hussein is not a suicide bomber, there's no cause for which he wants to die. Instead, he likes being the dictator of his country and will make concessions, if he can, to keep that job.

And that may pose a hard question for the president: Can you take yes for an answer?

But assume Mr. Bush gets the war he seems to want and topples Hussein. What then? Teach Iraq the ways of democracy? How many years would that take, and who knows how to do it? No Arab country now practices democracy. It may not be a system they much like.

And then, at a congressional hearing last week, the first few chants of protest, the first few handlettered signs. If you're old enough, you remember Vietnam and all the years that went on.

U.S. troops, like the old Roman legions, are scattered around the world, some on very old missions. Are we starting down another such long road?

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, September 22. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

Don't forget, tune in right here Monday through Friday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

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

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