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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Congressmen Maxine Waters, Mike Pence

Aired June 5, 2003 - 19:32   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as contentious and important as the policy questions are, there's another element to the debate over power, a personal element, Attorney General John Ashcroft himself.
Joining me now to talk about both aspects of the debate are Judiciary Committee Maxine Waters and Mike Pence. Appreciate both of you being with us. Representative Waters, I want to start off with you. You've been very critical of the attorney general. His supporters say, look, he's trying to fight terrorism, he needs the law enforcement tools to it. Why not give it to him?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, all of us are trying to fight terrorism. We deplore what happened on 9/11. And the attorney general has been given expanded powers by which to go after terrorists.

But what we find is, for example there were over -- well, hundreds of immigrants who were detained and we were told that they were connected to terrorism. But he released them all, deported them. And we're saying if they were connected to terrorism, why didn't you incarcerate them? Why didn't you maintain them? Why did you release them?

Well the truth of the matter is they were guilty of some violations as immigrants. They were not terrorists. But these simple violations having to do with visas and other things is why they were deported.

Let's bring in Congressman pens, how do you respond? basically she's saying it's becoming a war against immigrants.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... weren't deported for their -- let's bring in Congressman Pence...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... to that? I mean basically what she's saying is that it's become a war against immigrants.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well -- and I disagree with my good friend Maxine. The reality is that as the inspector general's report leveled some criticism, I think it's important, Anderson, that we remember context here. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and Maxine was here in Washington as I was on that awful day, we were all worried about a second wave of attacks. We called on the Justice Department and attorney general to launch a massive investigation into the Pentagon and World Trade Center bombings.

In the course of that Pent-Bomb Investigation, as it came to be known, literally hundreds of individuals became essentially persons of interest. And they became detained, each and every one of them, as the attorney general said, Anderson, according to the law, each and every one of them was in this country illegally and was in some way potentially associated with the investigation into 9/11.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... of the people detained, not one of them ended up being accused of being a terrorist except Zacarias Moussaoui who was already in detention before this.

Let me just show you some of these things from this internal Justice Department report. They said they found significant problems in the way September 11 detainees were treated. And they cited some specific examples, complaints about physical, verbal abuses. FBI did not adequately separate suspected terrorists from illegal immigrants, INS waited more than a month to present detainees with charges.

WATERS: That's absolutely true. They were held without charge beyond the time that we allowed for in the Patriot Act, they were treated badly, some had electric lights over their heads 24 hours a day, they were beaten. They could not get attorneys, they could not make telephone calls, they could not get bail. And then they deported them and they had no connection to terrorism.

COOPER: Representative Pence?

PENCE: I think that the attorney general conceded today that there were some very helpful points raised in the inspector general's report, Anderson. But again I think it's important that we remember context here. And while we can say there was not a single terrorist prosecuted, there were, Anderson, 505 individuals to date who were deported from this country, and who were come across in the investigation by the FBI into the attack on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon.

COOPER: Let me put that to Congresswoman Waters because basically what he's saying is, oh, they were not linked to terrorism directly, they were illegal immigrants, they were violating the law. What's wrong with deporting them?

WATERS: If in fact they have been violating the law, each of them would have to have been judged based on the case. As you know, INS looks at each individual and try and find out what has happened, whether or not really is a violation, whether or not there are some mistakes. They didn't do that. This was a wide sweep of immigrants. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... as you know, the attorney general today said 18 cases of mistreatment have been presented to him, 14 of them have already been cleared -- the civil rights group within the Justice Department said there was no case there -- four are still being investigated. So there anything there to the charges?

WATERS: I'm glad there's an investigation and I'm pleased that he's admitting that the inspector general's report nailed them on the kind of actions that they have been taken.

Beyond that, we are concerned about these expanded powers. As you know, if you check out a library book, then you can become a suspect because of the type of material that you're using. He now has access to the records of your checking out that book. It goes on and on and on. The biometric kind of implementation...

COOPER: I'm going to have to jump in here. Just very briefly, final thought, Representative Pence?

PENCE: I think it's extremely important to recognize that while Maxine talks about due process, each and every one of these persons, it was determined, 100 percent of those detained were under the law because they were in this country illegally and they had been come across in the course of the investigation into the attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. And I believe they should have been deported every single one.

COOPER: And that's the point we'll leave it on. Mike Pence and Maxine Waters, appreciate both of you for joining us tonight. Thank you.

WATERS: Thank you.

PENCE: Thank you, Anderson.

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