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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Condoleezza Rice; Interview With Rudy Giuliani
Aired August 8, 2004 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 p.m. in Athens, Greece, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
We'll get to my interview with President Bush's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, in just a moment. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of some headlines now in the news.
BLITZER: With the terror threat level raised in the New York City area as well as here in Washington, D.C., and the ongoing problems of security in Iraq, the White House is facing a new round of questions and criticism about the way it's handling the war on terror.
Just a short while ago, I spoke with the national security advisor to the president, Condoleezza Rice.
BLITZER: Dr. Rice, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition."
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you. Nice to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Last Sunday, a week ago exactly, when Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, announced the higher threat levels in parts of New York, New Jersey, here in Washington, he failed to mention that most of the information is three or four years old, and that caused a lot of angst the next day. Was that a mistake?
RICE: Well, I don't think that it really occurred to us to mention it, and I'll tell you why. Al Qaeda does meticulous planning over many years. We know that the material that they used to case the East Africa bombing, which was done in 1998, had been generated probably five years before, and we have just found the information, of course.
And so, the key was to tell people who were responsible for security in buildings that have been cased that they had been cased. It also was in the context of a pre-election plot that we have been examining for some time, and a concern that in this window, al Qaeda was going to try to pull off an attack against the United States. And of course, since much of the information also linked up with known al Qaeda operatives, some of whom were still at-large, this seemed to be moving in the direction of a plot that was against financial institutions in New York. We were concerned about the pre- election period. It seemed just irresponsible not to tell people that their buildings had been cased.
BLITZER: But is it fair to say that most, if not all, of the information was three or four years old, or was there other information that was fresher?
RICE: These casings were done in 2000, 2001, maybe at other times. Some of them perhaps have been updated. But the information that there were plots under way that might relate to the pre-election period came from multiple sources, and active multiple sources.
And so you took the fact that they have these casing files on important financial institutions in Washington, New Jersey and New York City, and you took the fact that you were capturing people in places like Pakistan, who related to both the files and to pre- election plots. And you have to go out and warn. You have a duty to warn.
BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the people who have been picked up, mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?
RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them...
BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.
RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you're trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you're dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you've dealt with in the past, you're always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We've tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we've struck a balance, but it's indeed a very difficult balance to strike.
BLITZER: Had he been flipped, in the vernacular, was he cooperating with Pakistani intelligence after he was arrested?
RICE: I don't know the answer to that question, as to whether or not he was cooperating with them.
BLITZER: All right, there is another, a Tanzanian, who is suspected of being involved in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, Ahmed Hassan Ghailani. What was his connection with the current suspected plots? RICE: As you might imagine, Wolf, there is an ongoing operation still to try and make the connections between these various terrorists, to try to make the connections between them and the plot. And so, I don't want to get into what a specific terrorist might have had, just to say that this is someone who had longstanding ties to al Qaeda, longstanding ties to terrorist plotting against the United States, and is therefore very important.
BLITZER: How important was Esa al-Hindi, the man arrested on August 3?
RICE: Again, we have worked with our allies abroad to try and round up a number of suspected terrorists who might be involved in one way or another in these pre-election threats. I don't want to comment specifically on Mr. al-Hindi.
BLITZER: Can you confirm that he had come to the United States to personally inspect or case some of these buildings?
RICE: I don't want to get into the details of this. The British have legal proceedings under way, and I think it's best to let them speak to some of these issues.
BLITZER: How concerned should people be about security around the Republican Convention in New York City at the end of this month?
RICE: Well, there is going to be extraordinary security around the Republican Convention, as there was around the Democratic Convention. It is designated as a national security event, which means that there's been a long period of planning, between the Secret Service and the New York officials, city and state officials, obviously the FBI and Homeland Security. It's going to be as best as we can make it, a very well protected event, as was the Democratic Convention.
But of course, Wolf, the problem in trying to protect and defend is that the terrorists only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time. But people are paying enormous attention to these political conventions, and to other events this week move toward the election period.
BLITZER: Given the nature of New York City, though, are you more concerned about threats in New York than you were in Boston?
RICE: No, I think there was equal concern here, because in both cases, you have the large cities with mass transit, with convention centers that are downtown. No, I think there was equal concern, and a lot of work has been done to try to make it secure.
BLITZER: And you're still fearful that they, the terrorists, might want to do in the United States what they did in Spain, on the eve of their national elections, disrupt an elections process?
RICE: Yes. Absolutely, we're concerned about it, and I think the terrorists need to believe and to understand that the American people are going to react very badly to any attempt to disrupt our electoral process. But I think that in some of their minds, this is a possibility, and we've indeed picked up discussion of trying to do something in the pre-election period.
That's why it is so critical for Tom Ridge to do what he did. We have a duty to warn. The president has always said that when he had specific information as to a place, or a method, or a time, that he would inform the American people. And it's inconceivable to me that we would not have informed the Citigroup or the New York Stock Exchange or the World Bank that known terrorists have cased their buildings.
BLITZER: Are you satisfied with the way the government of Greece has prepared for the Summer Olympic Games, which start in the next few days?
RICE: Well, the government of Greece has a very difficult job, of course, in getting ready for the Olympics. But we believe that they've put enormous resources into it. In fact, we've been in very close cooperation with them for now a good deal of time. They have gone to NATO for some help. They really, I think, are doing everything that they can to make this a safe games.
BLITZER: So you're satisfied that they've done an excellent job?
RICE: We believe that they really have worked very, very hard at it. Again, it's not possible to say with complete confidence that you can avoid an attack. It's just the nature of it. But Greece has done a lot, and we've worked very closely with them, and we're all doing everything we can to make the games safe.
BLITZER: U.S. security personnel will be on the ground in Greece for these games. Will they be armed?
RICE: I can't go into what the security arrangements are, but I can just say that we've had in recent months in particular very good cooperation with the Greeks to try to get this done.
BLITZER: And NATO personnel will be there?
RICE: Well, NATO has helped to provide some assets to the Greeks for various response capabilities.
BLITZER: By all accounts, Pakistan, President Musharraf and his government, are now cooperating much more robustly with the U.S.
BLITZER: New training camps, supposedly, recently found along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Is the Pakistani government doing everything you want it to do?
RICE: The Pakistani government is stalwart in this war on terrorism, and it's such a contrast to the way that this was prior to September 11th. I remember talking to the Pakistanis about the fact that they were one of only two governments actually supporting and recognizing the Taliban, that they were not aggressive at all against extremists, whether it was extremists like al Qaeda or, frankly, extremists also in the Kashmiri region, and getting virtually no response from the Pakistanis.
And what a difference post-September 11th, that you have now a Pakistani government that is devoted to fighting terrorism. Over the last three years, we have made so much progress in many ways. For instance, the Saudis, who, I think, for a long time didn't really want to believe that they had a terrorist problem, are now fighting those terrorists aggressively on the streets of Riyadh.
Pakistan is another example. And of course, the fact that we have taken away sanctuary in Afghanistan, that we have -- are beginning to change the dynamics of the Middle East in -- through the call for economic and political reform, and through change in Iraq.
We have a much better picture than we have now. The 9/11 Commission, I think, was absolutely right when they said -- I think I'd said it myself -- that the country is safer, but not yet safe.
BLITZER: Is the country any closer to finding Osama bin Laden, given all this cooperation from Saudi Arabia, from Pakistan, from others in the region?
RICE: I really hope one day, Wolf, that I'm going to be able to answer this question in the affirmative for you, but the fact is, I don't think we know how close we may or may not be. But I will say that al Qaeda's range of operation, their territory for free operation, is getting smaller.
They once, I think, thought that they could operate -- they could operate completely in Afghanistan, without fear, and indeed with the support of the government. Now they have the Afghans after them.
They could, for a long time, operate in the northwest frontiers, on the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in those tribal areas, but if you look at what the Pakistanis are doing in Waziristan, it's got to be very uncomfortable to be an al Qaeda operative in that area.
So the president's policies are helping us to shrink the territory in which they can operate, and that's a very important step then to being able to continue, as we're doing all over the world, to wrap up their operatives, to wrap up their field generals, to disrupt their organization.
BLITZER: But are there any indications you're getting closer on the trail of Osama bin Laden?
RICE: I think we -- one day, hopefully, we will just learn that we have found Osama bin Laden, but I think we'll be close when we've found him.
BLITZER: It's the sort of the same way with Saddam Hussein?
RICE: Exactly. That's the phone call I would love to have. That's right. BLITZER: All right. Here is a comment that Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, the former Democratic presidential candidate, said on this program exactly one week ago, referring to the heightened terror alerts. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. His whole campaign is based on the notion that "I can keep you safe, therefore when the times are difficult -- difficulty for America, stick with me," and then out comes Tom Ridge.
It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: I'm sorry that Governor Dean, of course, wasn't privy to the kind of information that we were looking at. I can't imagine that he wouldn't have warned the New York Stock Exchange or warned the World Bank that their buildings have been cased, that people were pointing out things that needed to be done in terms of security.
I can't believe that he wouldn't have talked to the police commissioner in New York, who was on our conference call. I can't believe that he wouldn't have told the mayor of New York that there were named threats against the city of New York. I don't know what he's talking about.
BLITZER: So you can tell the American public right now there was absolutely no politics involved in this decision?
RICE: Absolutely. The president of the United States took an oath of office, a duty to defend the American people. Since September 11th, we have operated as a country differently in trying to defend against the kind of attack that we experienced on September 11th.
That means better sharing of intelligence between the intelligence agencies. That means taking advantage of the information that is coming from the offensive action that we're taking, and that our allies are taking, in places like Pakistan. And most importantly, it means very close cooperation with state and local officials so that people can try and be responsive to the picture that the intelligence is painting.
Now, I will be the first to say, Wolf, the picture that intelligence paints is never full. You never have the complete plot line in the way that you would like, so the information is always fragmentary.
But in this case, we had reporting from multiple strains where there might be, and we still believe there probably are, ongoing plots in the pre-election period. We had casings that had been done of buildings, of financial center buildings in New York, and Washington, and in New Jersey, and we had testimony from people detained abroad that these were linked in important ways. Well, at that point, you have no choice but to warn.
BLITZER: The latest developments in Iraq -- I guess there has been a lull in the reporting, but there has been no lull in the fighting that's been going in, especially in Najaf. It seems to be among the most serious in recent months, if not since the end of the formal war, if you will. Is this a good idea for the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, to go ahead and offer amnesty to some of these insurgents?
RICE: As I understand what Prime Minister Allawi is doing, who, by the way, has been a brave, courageous and really very competent leader for this new Iraqi interim government, Prime Minister Allawi is trying to siphon off people who have not been the hardcore in the insurgency, who might have joined the insurgency for reasons -- young people, young tribal people -- and to isolate then the people who really are determined not to allow Iraq to move forward, the people who have no future in the new Iraq.
And he is someone in whom we trust. We believe that he has made a very big difference to the political environment in Iraq. He's asked the multinational forces to stay there and to help him.
The one thing that we really need to be able to promise to Prime Minister Allawi and the Iraqi people, who are taking great risks now on their own behalf for freedom and democracy, is that they're going to have a reliable partner. And that's why it's important not to have the artificial deadlines popping out of nowhere that say that America will be able to reduce its forces by this or that number. It's not responsible to talk about any such things, except in relationship to when there are changes on the ground.
BLITZER: All right, one final question, because we're all out of time. Iran and the nuclear bomb, if in fact they're going forward with that program. I assume you believe that they are. Wouldn't United States, under a worst-case scenario, take unilateral action to make sure Iran does not become a nuclear power?
RICE: Well, I think we -- I won't get into the hypothetical here, but the United States was the first to say that Iran was a threat in this way, to try and convince the international community that Iran was trying, under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, to actually bring about a nuclear weapons program.
I think we've finally now got the world community to a place, and the International Atomic Energy Agency to a place, that it is worried and suspicious of the Iranian activities, that Iran is facing for the first time real resistance to trying to take these steps.
And we're going to have to stay strong as an international community, because it would not be acceptable for the international community to accept an Iranian nuclear weapon.
BLITZER: So you're saying, if the international community doesn't do it, would the U.S. do it alone? RICE: I think we can't speculate about what we might or might not do, but I do think that for the first time, we've got an international community that perhaps understands Iranian motivations better and is prepared to press the Iranians to live up to their international obligations.
BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice, thanks for joining us.
RICE: Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITER: And coming up, New York City, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. on high alert. But are politics being played with the terror threat level? We'll hear from two key U.S. senators.
And later, two perspectives on a very tight U.S. presidential race. I'll speak with one of President Bush's most prominent supporters, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and a backer of the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Just ahead: What's the next target for terror? We'll talk with two leading U.S. lawmakers who represent potential zones of attack: New York Senator Charles Schumer and Virginia Senator George Allen.
You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're doing everything we can in our power to confront the danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush commenting on where the war on terror stands right now. Welcome back to "Late Edition."
Joining us now, two U.S. senators who represent areas where the terror threat level has been raised: Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia. Northern Virginia, of course, is the home of the Pentagon, a key part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Senators, thanks very much for joining us.
Senator Schumer, I'll begin with you. Howard Dean, a week ago on this program, thought there was politics involved in raising the threat level. You've been briefed on all of the information, the intelligence. Is politics playing any role in this decision?
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I don't believe so, Wolf. The bottom line is that it is a difficult choice here. They did get new information that tied all of these strands together, truck bombs, financial centers around election time, within the last week.
When you get that new information, you have no choice but to let local law enforcement know. You can't just let the New York City police department and the Washington, D.C., police department know. It would be irresponsible not to tell Chicago and Los Angeles and other places, as well.
Once you tell a whole lot of law enforcement agency, it's going to leak out anyway. So I've always believed -- and I've communicated this to Tom Ridge and others -- that giving as much information as you can without compromising security makes sense.
I do not believe it was political. My problems are sometimes when the administration isn't open enough, not when they're too open.
BLITZER: Well, in this particular case, Senator Schumer, there's been some suggestion that the administration was too open in releasing the name of one of the arrested al Qaeda suspects, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan (ph), because supposedly he was cooperating with the Pakistani government and, by releasing his name, that ended that sting operation...
BLITZER: ... if that was, in fact, what was going on.
SCHUMER: I am troubled by that. Obviously you want openness about danger, but not anything that would jeopardize security.
And the Pakistani interior minister, Faisal Hayat, as well as the British home secretary, David Blunkett, have expressed displeasure in fairly severe terms that Khan's name was released, because they were trying to track down other contacts of his.
And I've actually sent a letter today to Frances Townsend, the president's national security advisor, asking for an explanation here.
You read so much in the newspaper that seems to be contemporaneous with what's happening, and sometimes you scratch your head and wonder, are we giving away information that might compromise our ability to get the terrorists?
Hayat, the Pakistani interior minister, actually said maybe if Khan's name hadn't been released it might have resulted in getting bin Laden himself.
BLITZER: I did speak earlier with Dr. Condolleeza Rice, Senator Allen. She confirmed that on background, not publicly, but off the record, without mentioning any names, they did release the name of this Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, but she didn't know if, in fact, the Pakistanis had been using him as some sort of sting operation. Are you as concerned as Senator Schumer is that the release of his name potentially could have compromised an ongoing effort to round up additional al Qaeda operatives?
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Well, from what I can glean from all of this, they actually were able to get a lot of information to get the different addresses, the methods by which they were communicating over the Internet, and undoubtedly was a very productive and useful sting operation. It was positive, it was good. You're glad to hear we're infiltrating in that regard...
BLITZER: But if the information comes out too quickly, it could up-end a bigger potential round-up of suspects?
ALLEN: They get into a bind. And Senator Schumer's remarks were right. People -- I always like to know. People want to know, all right, what's the information? Why are we shutting down this road, or why is there concerns? You always want to know the evidence.
In this situation, in my view, they should have kept their mouth shut and just said, "We have information, trust us," and I think that would have been good enough for me and, I would hope, for also others who say, gosh, we want to get more openness.
BLITZER: But you know, Senator Schumer, in this political climate right now the words, "trust us," during a heavy political season like this is right now, probably are not going to do it for a lot of Americans who are skeptical of this administration.
SCHUMER: And they could've said just what they said to us, to George and I, even in the intelligence briefings, which is what I've mentioned before. I mean, it's public now, so there's no worry, and they did say it, which is, "We have new information that ties strands together."
I mean, there was a day where there was a little bit of -- a little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because they said, "Well, the information about the buildings was old." Well, the information about the buildings was old, but the information about going after financial centers with truck bombs, with people infiltrating across the borders, was new.
And I think most people -- I mean, you know, Mr. Dean said something that it was political, but I haven't heard any incumbent Democratic officeholder say it was political. I certainly don't think so.
And by the way, on this release of Khan's name, I'm not saying it was done for political reasons or even for malicious reasons. But I think we ought to know why, because I agree with George, it's great that we got him, and we're making great strides in intelligence -- although British and Pakistani intelligence seem to be doing a little better than us because they have more on-the-ground human intelligence -- but we should maximize what we can get out of these things.
And it doesn't aid the public that much to know that it's this man, Khan. They have found a new guy, that it gives new information, I think the public would be satisfied with that. I agree with George. And they shouldn't have put this -- it seems to me they shouldn't have put this name out.
Now, maybe there's a reason for it. And that's why I've asked National Security Advisor Townsend today for an explanation to us.
BLITZER: Now, Senator Allen, a lot of your constituents, those who live in northern Virginia, commute into the District of Columbia every day to go to work. That's where they work. They live in the suburban areas.
How worried should they be right now, in this period between now and November 2nd, the election, of coming into the nation's capital?
ALLEN: I think they ought to be comfortable coming into the nation's capital. You know, I saw your interview with Dr. Rice, talking about the conventions in Boston and New York City coming up at the end of this month. We can't let these terrorists stop our democracy or our operations of service to the people of this country.
Things have been done here in the District, looking at buildings that might be that might be more susceptible to different types of attacks. And precautionary measures have been taken. I think they are reasonable. Some of them may add to the traffic congestion within the District of Columbia. But to me, from everything I've seen, it makes a great deal of sense to be on the side of caution.
I think that most people who work for the federal government, whether they work at the CIA or the Pentagon or Fort Belvoir, northern Virginia or within the District itself, recognize this is a target area, just as people in New York realize in New York City is a target area. We go about our lives. We realize we're in the midst of a war on terrorism, but we ought not to be flinching.
And the efforts that are being made, I think, for people who are knowledgeable about it, really are helping us win this war on terrorism.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up that thought with Senator Schumer. We're going to take a quick break though.
Lots more to talk about, including threats, threats being made potentially against members of the U.S. Congress.
We'll also check what's happening in the news right now. We'll continue our conversation on all these matters. That's coming up when "Late Edition" returns.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're talking with two members of the United States Senate: Democrat Charles Schumer of New York, Republican George Allen of Virginia. Senator Schumer, Frances Townsend, the president's homeland security director, was on CBS's "Face the Nation" just a little while ago. Bob Schieffer asked her, what about these reports that there have been threats not only to the U.S. Capitol but to members of Congress? And she says, in response, she said, "Yes, in the past, and as part of this continuing threat stream."
Have you been briefed? How worried are you about your personal security?
SCHUMER: Well, you know, when you're in this job, you get threats from time to time. I have, George has, others have. And you just have to go about your life.
I stood outside, Monday morning, outside the New York Stock Exchange and watched all the people, great New Yorkers, go in there. And they were plucky, and I think that's the attitude we all ought to have. We have to go about our lives. And once in a while, do you get a butterfly in your stomach here and there? Yes, but you just go forward.
And I will say this -- and I say this to New Yorkers all the time -- while we have to be as vigilant as we can against terrorism, and should, the danger of you being hurt, God forbid, when you drive your car 50 miles is greater than the danger of you being hurt from terrorism. And we're all driving.
We all just have to go forward in our lives. And I think, as elected officials, we should set the example, so I don't let it deter me at all.
BLITZER: But, Senator Schumer, have you been briefed about any specific new threats to members of Congress?
SCHUMER: Not since before the Democratic Convention. I haven't heard anything. I did read the report in the newspaper the other day, and I did check with the NYPD yesterday, the New York Police Department, whether they had heard anything, and they said no.
BLITZER: What about that from your perspective, Senator Allen?
ALLEN: From my perspective, we all know that the Capitol is one of the targeted areas, and also possibly Senate office buildings, House office buildings. Precautions have been taken. And so, to the extent any of us or our staffs or these interns who come in in the summer are in danger, we do worry about our staffs a great deal. As far as ourselves, you can't. You can't worry about -- if a bullet is going to hit you, it's going to hit you. You just keep going forward with your mission and principles and advocacy.
BLITZER: But have Capitol Hill Police provided you with extra security?
ALLEN: No, no.
BLITZER: And neither you either, Senator Schumer? SCHUMER: No. Not personally.
BLITZER: That's what I'm talking about, personally.
SCHUMER: Right. We live with these things, Wolf. Every one of us gets threats here and there. I get a few a year from one disgruntled type of person or another, and you just go forward with your lives. I've been an elected official for 30 years and, knock wood, everything has been fine so far.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from South Carolina.
South Carolina, go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Hi. Thank you very much. I was wondering if either of the gentlemen could answer the following question.
I'm wondering why the administration fought releasing the names of the Guantanamo prisoners for years but now they're releasing the name of this Pakistani. And it just seems logically inconsistent. And I'm wondering if either senator has been briefed or has an explanation for this.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Schumer, do you have an answer to that?
SCHUMER: Well, we don't know, for instance, that the administration released the name of the Pakistani, that it might have come out from some operative somewhere or other. So that's why I've asked for this explanation as to how the name got out and why and whether it was damaging and what should happen.
So I think it's a little soon to leap to that conclusion. As I mentioned earlier, except -- and it is a huge exception -- except when it compromises national security, I do believe in openness. And that would be the rule that I would have applied to Guantanamo.
BLITZER: Are you satisfied, Senator Allen, with the way the Senate is reacting to the recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, specifically the call for the new intelligence czar, if you want to call it that, and a new center for counterterrorism?
ALLEN: Well, Senator Collins, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, and Joe Lieberman, the ranking member, have had several hearings on it, and I think the Senate is acting responsibly. Senator McCain and the Commerce Committee will have a hearing on the aspects of dealing with transportation next week.
I think everyone is looking at it with due diligence. I think that in so far as the czar and a whole new Cabinet secretary, everyone is reading what the president has to say, giving our own analysis of it.
The Terrorist Threat Integration Center, by the way, is also in northern Virginia. I think...
BLITZER: As is the CIA.
ALLEN: As is the CIA. And that, to me, was the most important thing that was done of all. The Department of Homeland Security, all the boxes, the changes, all that was very important. But the most important was to get integration of all the different agencies, the sharing of information and the use of technology to analyze the volumes of that information. And that's what the Terrorist Threat Integration Center is.
The center on counterterrorism builds upon that, and I think that's a good idea.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Senator Schumer, but the Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, says he accepts all 41 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Are you prepared to go that far?
SCHUMER: Yes. The bottom line is, I'm a little worried here. I'm worried -- I think the commission did a masterful job that was bipartisan, and the last thing we want is these recommendations to sort of sit on a shelf and gather dust.
I was troubled when the president called for a national intelligence chief who didn't have budgetary and hiring and firing authority.
George is right. To integrate all the intelligence agencies, and each one has their own turf, isn't (ph) very important. But if you just have someone up there who has no authority to force them to do it, it's not going to happen.
I would hope that we could implement every one of these recommendations before we leave Congress on October 1st. Because, mark my words, if we wait and say we'll do it next year, it's not going to happen.
And I just hope that the commission and the families, many of whom were from New York, who pushed for the commission, continue to push for Congress not to play games of turf and not to say, oh, each one of us has a better idea, but let's get this done. Our security is at stake here.
BLITZER: Senator Schumer, Senator Allen, thanks to both of you for joining us.
ALLEN: Thank you, Wolf.
SCHUMER: Thank you.
BLITZER: When we return, insights from a diplomat: a special conversation with the former U.S. envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, about solving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and the state of U.S. diplomacy around the world.
And, later, he knows what it's like to be in the crosshairs of a terrorist attack. We'll get perspective from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the latest terror alerts and the race for the White House.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Is solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the key to winning the war against terrorism? Joining us now to talk about the crisis in the Middle East, Iraq, U.S. diplomacy in a post-9/11 world, is special guest Dennis Ross.
He served as former President Clinton's special envoy to the Middle East. Earlier, he served during the first Bush administration, as well. He's the author of an important new book, "The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace."
Ambassador Ross, welcome to "Late Edition." Thanks very much for joining us.
DENNIS ROSS, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST: Nice to be here.
BLITZER: Let me ask you this question: Is solving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict the key to winning the war on terror?
ROSS: No, I don't think it is. I think it is a very important step. It may be a key but it's certainly not the key.
If tomorrow you didn't have this conflict, you would still have the anger, the alienation that is felt throughout so much of the Islamic world. As long as you have to deal with non-inclusion, corruption, regimes that are not responsive, you are going to have a pool of anger. And that's what the Islamicists exploit.
BLITZER: But the Israeli-Palestinian crisis aggravates the problem for the U.S., given the U.S.'s strong support for Israel, the association between the United States and Israel.
ROSS: It aggravates the general war on terror because this is a very ready tool for the Islamacists to exploit. This is a conflict that creates enormous anger throughout the Arab world. There's a sense that there is an injustice that has to be corrected, a grievance that has to be addressed, and so long as it's out there it will be exploited.
So if you could solve it or defuse it, if you could demonstrate we were doing all we could to somehow deal with it, I think it would reduce the anger level.
BLITZER: Because the question I just asked is one of the basic themes of Anonymous, the CIA analyst who has now written a book in which he suggests that if the U.S. didn't have the strong support for Israel, the terror threat against the United States would be reduced. You've heard his argument. ROSS: Yes, of course. But let's put this in perspective. I mean, I've written a book that tells what was going on and how close we came to getting peace. Well, in the year 2000, at the very moment when Osama bin Laden was planning 9/11 -- and we know he even wanted to do it sooner -- that was a point at which the whole Arab world thought we were going to succeed. So they were planning to do this even at the moment when they thought we were going to solve the conflict.
So to say that you remove the conflict and you no longer have a threat of terror ignores what the past has been and what, I think, the reality is.
BLITZER: There's a lot of provocative and informative passages in your book. Let me read a couple of them and get you to elaborate on them.
First of all, this: "The Bush administration's approach was mistaken from the start. It tended to believe that nothing could be accomplished, and therefore the United States should make no effort. The fallacy here was thinking that if the conflict could not be ended there was nothing to be done."
That's pretty strong criticism of the administration. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have repeatedly said on this program they've tried their best, they've stayed engaged, but it just didn't work out.
ROSS: I think the administration, when they came on the scene, had a number of assumptions. And one assumption was, this was a conflict that was so hard to solve, why put good money after (ph) bad (ph)? They looked at what we had done and thought, "If they couldn't succeed at doing it, then we can't succeed either." And so they didn't make much of an effort...
BLITZER: At the beginning.
ROSS: At the beginning.
BLITZER: But then they did after a while.
ROSS: You've never had a kind of sustained effort at a high level. You had the president go out there in 2003, and at that moment, that was a signal designed to demonstrate that, after two years of not being involved, the administration was going to be involved.
But, even then, the president went out there, and the ground wasn't set.
BLITZER: But I remember, I was in Jerusalem when Colin Powell was sort of commuting between Ramallah, where Yasser Arafat was holed up, and Jerusalem, going back and forth. That was a pretty sustained effort, at least for a few weeks.
ROSS: A couple of days. It was a couple of days. BLITZER: So you basically dismiss the entire effort that this administration has attempted to make.
ROSS: I don't dismiss it the entire effort. I think there's been certain things the administration has done that are important.
I think the fact is that what they've done vis-a-vis Yasser Arafat was exactly right. In think what they've done in terms of a Palestinian state being built on the basis of performance, not entitlement, was also exactly right.
But you have to develop a policy that is more than just the articulation of particular sayings, particular slogans. You also have to create a basis. You also have to work the ground. You have to have a level of engagement that also shows your own investment.
BLITZER: All right. Let me read another passages from the book, because I think this is the nub of one of the major themes in your book.
"Yasser Arafat could not do a deal that ended the conflict. Partial deals were possible because they did not require him to adopt any irrecoverable positions. But a comprehensive deal was not possible with Arafat. Too much redefinition was required. He was not up to it. He could live with the process, but not with the conclusion."
Your point is that, at the end, Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister, was willing to give up the Arab sections of Jerusalem, about 95 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza, but because he wasn't going to get 100 percent, he was not ready to make a deal.
ROSS: That's correct.
At the end of the day, Ehud Barak was prepared to confront history and mythology and Yasser Arafat was not. Yasser Arafat simply could not redefine himself.
He is a revolutionary who couldn't make the leap to being a statesman. He is someone who was always defined by the conflict, the struggle and the cause. We wanted him to end the conflict, and that meant he had to end his grievances, and he would not do that.
BLITZER: The criticism, though, is that, at the end, the Barak proposals, the concessions were so dramatic that the United States had really not gotten the rest of the Arab world, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, on board, and they presumably could have influenced Arafat in the right direction.
ROSS: Well, again, I lay it all out in the book.
Two points. First, we were prepared to present these ideas at the end of September, just before the intifada erupted. Yasser Arafat knew that, and he didn't do anything to stop it. So we didn't end up presenting these until a couple of months later. But secondly, when we did present them, the president of the United States, President Clinton, presented them to President Mubarak of Egypt, to the king of Jordan, to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, to both the president of Tunisia and the king of Morocco.
All of them said, "This is historic. This represents an important breakthrough. We will do what we can to get Yasser Arafat to respond." And when he came back and he said, "I've got questions," they backed off.
BLITZER: We only have a few seconds. Is there any hope whatsoever of reviving Israeli-Palestinian negotiations any time soon?
ROSS: You have to end the war between them first. I think the Israeli decision to get out of Gaza has created enormous competition among Palestinians. It creates an opening.
The irony is, the Israeli decision to get out now has Palestinians focused on what it is they have to do to assume responsibility. The Palestinian assumption of responsibility can transform this back to a point where peacemaking is possible.
BLITZER: The name of the book is "The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace."
Dennis Ross, thanks very much for joining us.
ROSS: A pleasure.
BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."
We'll get to my interview with the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, in just a moment. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of some headlines now in the news.
BLITZER: The government of Sudan says it will accept African troops to protect cease-fire monitors in the Darfur region. And an agreement has been reached with the United Nations for some safe areas for up to a million villagers.
CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is now on the ground in Darfur. She's watching all of these developments for us.
Christiane, please give us an update.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're here in El-Jenina (ph), which is the capital of western Darfur. It's a huge province, Darfur, the entire thing somewhere in the region of France. But we're in the western part, and always we gather a crowd when we put up a television camera.
But behind me is one of the camps where many of these people who've been displaced over the last year and a half have gathered. There are about seven such camps inside the town of El-Jenina (ph) and many more with many, many more people outside the town.
Now, the active phase of the military campaign by the government- backed militias in this region appears to have tapered off. What's really, really desperate here is the humanitarian situation. And violence does continue, but malnutrition is a big, big problem now.
In fact, starvation amongst so many people. We were at the hospital in El-Jenina (ph) this afternoon, which is supported by MSF, the French relief group known as Medicine Sans Frontier, which has one of the biggest presences here. And there are children who were coming in. Of course, children are the most vulnerable. They are the first to die in almost all epidemics and crises. And the alert has gone out that unless something is done very quickly to relieve the humanitarian situation, malnutrition and disease could claim hundreds of thousands of lives by the end of this year.
There's nowhere near enough humanitarian aid, nowhere near enough humanitarian workers here. And the U.N.'s appeal for funding and for help to meet the needs here has fallen short by more than 60 percent.
So this is a dire situation, even though Secretary of State Colin Powell was here, also the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Access for humanitarian aid slightly improved after they came. But there's still insecurity.
Now, the government is under pressure from the U.S. and others to stop this violence and to really facilitate the humanitarian situation. Otherwise, it could face sanctions.
The government has been making a show of trying to do something about these militias. It claims today to have disarmed some 200 militias. But there have been conflicting comments and conflicting claims about this disarmament. Within the last few days militias say that they have not surrendered, that this is just a show by the government, who brought some people from jail, handed them weapons and claimed that they were surrendering. So this we have to find out exactly what's going on, in this regard.
But certainly the government is under pressure, and it could face sanctions if it doesn't get this thing sorted out. And we did speak to the foreign minister about this just yesterday.
He had told us that, really, he felt that this was a situation in which the government of Sudan was trying to do all that it could. He said that, let's not forget the rebels did start this war.
And, to an extent, that's true. There was an insurgency that was started by the rebels in early 2003 over resources and over better treatment by the Sudanese government. That's what they were demanding. But the Sudanese government has responded with massive force, air raids and, also, supporting these Janjaweed and other militias who've simply ripped through this entire countryside, burning something like 300 villages, dispersing more than a million people from their homes, making it impossible for them to survive and forcing them to gather in these makeshift camps.
And now some 2 million people or more are entirely dependent on outside aid. And if that doesn't come quickly, they will die, according to the USAID itself.
BLITZER: A horrendous humanitarian crisis under way in the Darfur region of Sudan. Christiane will be reporting there for us exclusively in the next several days.
Thanks, Christiane, very much for that report.
This week, the world's attention also turns towards Athens, Greece, site of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. The games open up on Friday. Priority number one for everyone concerns security.
CNN's Michael Holmes is in Athens. He's following this part of the story for us.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
That's right. Security has been the buzzword, really, from the get-go, where everything seems to be in place. $1.2 billion spent on security here. That's the most that's ever been spent on an Olympic games. For example, it's something like 15 times what was spent in Atlanta just eight years ago.
We heard from the deputy defense minister today. He said that Athens is probably the safest city in the world right now. And you do get a sense of that. Warships off the coast; there's an airship overhead 24 hours a day, day and night.
There are police all over the city -- not in an overt sense, not in a way that would make you feel nervous in any way. In fact, tourists have told us they actually feel very secure having the police on the streets.
But it's what's going on outside the city as well, the electronic surveillance. There are Patriot missile batteries. NATO is standing by with their expertise. So this is a huge operation, Wolf.
One thing, a sideline, if you'd like, the security here is so strong and so ubiquitous that criminals are using it as a cover. In the last week, there have been three bank robberies carried out by criminals wearing the uniforms of the SWAT police, because they're all over the place. They're using it as a disguise to go into banks and rob them. Also a couple of Mexican journalists were robbed of a couple of thousand dollars in the same way.
Now, when it comes to ticket sales, of course, that's been another burning question. They had a record day here the day before yesterday. 54,000 tickets were sold, Wolf. But still, there's a couple of million to go. Still, opening, closing ceremonies, all the finals sold out.
BLITZER: All right. Michael Holmes reporting for us from Athens.
We'll be checking back with you, obviously, throughout the week, as well.
Back here in the United States, the elevated threat level for New York City comes as it prepares to host the Republican National Convention at the end of this month.
Earlier today, I spoke with the city's former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, about the new terror alerts and the race for the White House.
BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, thanks very much for joining us.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."
GIULIANI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's cut to the issue of the threats to New York City, your city, right now, the New York Stock Exchange, the Citigroup building. How seriously do you take these threats?
GIULIANI: I take them very seriously. I've taken them seriously since September 11, 2001, and now with this most recent information, it's even more specific. It's some of the most specific information that we've had, not only about buildings, but about method of attack. And when you find information that specific, you've got to take it very seriously.
Even the timeframes involved -- I mean, some of the criticism of it was, well, some of it goes back two and three years, and some of it is much more recent. But the fact is, the planning for September 11, 2001, went back two, three, four years.
So these are things that you have to take seriously, and the police department is doing that, and so are all the private security people. And so, in essence, I think the warning has helped to make us even more alert.
BLITZER: Is it a good idea, though, to name these targets and let everyone know that these targets have been cased or surveillance has been used against these specific, potential targets?
GIULIANI: I think there's no choice, you know, nowadays in the post-September 11 world, when you think of the, you know, some of the criticism and some of the questions during the September 11 Commission hearings about whether this administration or the prior administration should have given more warnings, should have put out more information. I think even before the September 11 Commission, the choice was made that you've got to put out the maximum amount of information, so you put police departments, fire departments, mayors, everyone else on alert.
And it does have a benefit, in my view. The benefit is that I think so far these terrorists, these Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups, have shown a tendency to go after the softer targets, the target that isn't protected as much, because they want to be successful.
So every time you overdo it in a particular place, I think you reduce, you know, deterrence. And I say the word, "I think," because, as you know, this is more an art than a science.
BLITZER: But if you name all these targets and you have these regional alerts, aren't you in effect inviting the terrorists to go out and find some other place that may not have the kind of protection level that the New York Stock Exchange or the World Bank here in Washington might have?
GIULIANI: Well, you always have that risk, right? I mean, a country so big, you can't possibly ever protect every target. But when you have specific targets, and you have a list and you have a list that says we're going to hit this building, this building, that building and some other building, then you have to specifically protect them. You've got to give people in those buildings warning.
And, I mean, if you didn't do that and then, God forbid, something happened, I think there would be -- I mean, there would be some very legitimate questions that would be asked.
BLITZER: How worried are you, Mayor, about the convention, the Republican Convention, at Madison Square Garden in New York at the end of this month because of the threat level? We heard Dr. Condoleezza Rice say on this program that they're still worried, U.S. officials, about an al Qaeda effort to try to disrupt the U.S. elections.
GIULIANI: As worried as I was about the, you know, the World Series in New York in 2001 or the marathon in New York right after the September 11, as worried as I was about the World Economic Forum that was here in 2002, or the -- I mean, these are things that you have to worry about, but they also have to go on, if the life of the city and the life of the country is going to go on.
And you also have to recognize that the preparations here in New York are probably the best in the country, with the amount of attention that the New York City Police Department pays to this.
So, you know, our life has to go on, our politics have to go on, and we can't let these terrorists stop us. So that does require, you know, being prepared.
BLITZER: Is it a good idea for New Yorkers to get out of town during the week of the Republican Convention?
GIULIANI: Well, I mean, New Yorkers did in 1992 when we didn't have all this terrorist issue and the Democratic Convention was here in New York. They basically cleared out of town and let the delegates sort of take over.
Bostonians did that, as you reported and saw in Boston.
So when it happens in New York, most of it is not going to have to do with terror or terror alerts. Just a natural thing. It's the end of the summer. It's vacation time. You're probably going to have a lot of New Yorkers that are out of town at that time.
But New York is a very resilient city. I mean, we want to say to people, "You come here and don't let the terrorists stop you. We'll protect you. We'll do what we can to protect you." It will be the most protection you can have in the modern era that we exist in.
And, you know, let's not let them determine how we live our lives. Otherwise, these Islamic fundamentalist terrorists end up, you know, getting a victory they don't deserve.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the color code system. The New York Times wrote this in an editorial on Thursday:
"Mr. Bush should junk the color bars, which are now of use mostly to late-night comedians. Ordinary people have no way of calibrating their lives to the color ladder. It does them no good to be told to be scared, more scared or really scared, especially when they are also being told to act as if nothing's wrong."
Is it a good idea to drop this whole color code system right now?
GIULIANI: If you drop the color code system, then you'd have to do it with words. You'd have to go highest alert, high alert, not-as- high alert. You have to have a system, in a country that's as complicated as ours, with thousands and thousands of public safety agencies -- as you say, you know, we never know if it's going to be the most remote target or the most obvious target. You need a way of communicating simply.
And really, what has to happen is Americans have to assess the risk correctly. And here's the way to assess the risk. There's a great risk of an attack on America by these terrorists. There is very little risk for any particular American. It's like the risk that we run of being harmed by a drunk driver. I mean, there's a great risk that people are going to be harmed by drunk drivers every day, much more so than terrorists, no matter what happens. But that doesn't stop people from going about their lives, driving cars, you know, going about their business.
So part of this is an educational process. We're only 2 1/2 years into this, Wolf. I mean, this is not something that Americans are used to. This is still new.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about politics. You, of course, support President Bush in his reelection campaign.
Mayor Bloomberg, your successor in New York, says the federal government, the Bush administration, in effect, is shortchanging New York City as far as funding to deal with the terror threat. New York being, of course, target number one, together with Washington, D.C.
Does Mayor Bloomberg have a point?
GIULIANI: The mayor has a point. The formulas are incorrect.
And the September 11th Commission also has a point that I agree with very strongly, which is that distribution of this money should be based on assessment of risk. Which would not mean just New York. It would mean Washington, Los Angeles, Miami. I don't want to list all the places, but they're obvious, the ones that are the biggest risk. They should get a disproportionately larger share of the funding.
At the same time, you know, any president, whether it's this president or some other president, has to think about the whole country, and the point that you made at the beginning of this interview, which is, is more remote parts of America more at risk than the big cities? We don't know the answer to that, and big cities have a big infrastructure already to handle this stuff.
So there has to be -- there is always going to be somebody upset about the distribution of this. But I do agree that the September 11th Commission was correct, that assessment of risk should be the basis on which funds are allocated, not just some kind of geographic formula.
BLITZER: The new Time magazine poll, the horse race, in terms of the reelection, out today, has these numbers: Kerry at 48 percent, Bush at 43 percent, Ralph Nader at 4 percent.
Is it your assessment the president has a major struggle on his hands to try to get reelected?
GIULIANI: The mayor has -- the governor, rather -- the president -- I'm thinking of all these different positions, right, because you meet all these people.
But the president has a major struggle. So does John Kerry. This is a very, very close election.
You know, I think John Kerry just had his convention. John Kerry has gotten a lot of attention focused on him lately. So it's likely that he'll be ahead.
I think President Bush will be ahead again at some point after the Republican Convention. It's going to go back and forth, and it's going to be a very, very close election. I think it's a struggle for both of them. BLITZER: The economy, at least in the '92 election, probably in the '96 election, was priority number one for most Americans, and it's shaping up, at least in this new Time magazine poll, as priority number one right now. Twenty-seven percent see the economy as the most important issue; Iraq second, with 19; terrorism and moral issues at 18 percent.
But when it comes to the economy, in the Time magazine poll, who do you trust more to handle the economy, Kerry gets 51 percent; Bush gets 42 percent.
This economic issue is a major problem for the president.
GIULIANI: Well, I think this is something that you have to spend time on. I think the president has done an excellent job with the economy. I mean, he inherited some very significant problems in the economy. He also had the devastation of September 11, 2001, to have to deal with, the worst attack in the history of the country, the corporate scandals and situations.
And so, given that, our economy is recovering. It's recovering well. We'd all like to see it recover faster, but at least each month, there's levels of recovery. And I think his tax cuts last year have helped. And I think John Kerry's approach of raising taxes would be a terrible mistake.
BLITZER: But he says he only wants to raise taxes for the top 2 percent, or whatever, those who make more than $200,000 a year. Everyone else would be able to maintain the tax breaks that they got. Only if you're making more than $200,000 a year would he rescind the tax cuts imposed during the Bush administration.
GIULIANI: But if you do that, you take that money out of the economy. It's sort of a choice. Where is that money better off? Is that money better off being processed through government, where it inefficiently gets back to cities and states? Or is it better leaving it in the hands of people, so they can spend it and create jobs?
And secondly, if you add up what John Kerry and John Edwards talked about at their convention, they're going to have to raise taxes -- and these are people who have voted for tax increases before -- they're going to have to raise taxes a lot more than what they're talking about.
But even if they do what they're talking about, it will take money out of the private economy and put it back into recycling it through government. And this would be the worst time to do that.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, Mayor, we have to leave it right there. Rudy Giuliani, always a pleasure to have you on our program.
GIULIANI: Good to see you.
BLITZER: Still ahead, the Democratic perspective. I'll speak with John Kerry supporter, the former presidential candidate Wesley Clark. We'll talk about the presidential contest.
Then, is Osama bin Laden plotting an attack on New Jersey? That state's governor, James McGreevey, among others, will weigh in.
And I'll speak with the top cops in New York and here in Washington, D.C., about protecting the public under a terror alert.
"Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."
Joining us now with his perspective on the race for the White House, among other subjects, the former Democratic presidential candidate, the retired NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark.
General, thanks very much for joining us.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO ALLIED SUPREME COMMANDER: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me get your perspective on the alert level. Howard Dean, on this program a week ago, suggested politics may have played a role, part of a role in raising the threat level. Do you believe that?
CLARK: Well, I think that the administration wants to do the right things to gain support from the American people for its anti- terrorism policy. And, I mean, that's just the American way. There's nothing wrong with that, in particular. But I think there was a lot of substance behind this alert.
I think what you have to do when you look at an alert like this is you have to ask, why are we issuing the alert now, and what does it mean? Is it for deterrence? Is it to prepare greater protection? Is it to get ready to respond in case of an attack? And I think there have to be specific reasons for issuing an alert like this.
You know, Wolf, we're going to be in the war on terror for a long, long time. There's no single country we can bomb, no single individual we can eliminate. There's just -- this is a long-term condition that we're going to have to live with. And so, what we want is a credible alert system.
BLITZER: Well, did the administration do the right thing last Sunday in raising the threat level based on the information it had?
CLARK: I believe they did the right thing, but they did it the wrong way. When you raise the alert level, you've got to do it in a way that you're explaining and laying out as much as you can lay out about why it is that you're doing it, what you hope to achieve from it.
And the way the information dribbled out over time, it undercut the credibility of the system. That's the last thing we want.
We want a system that has rock-solid credibility, because we're going to have to live with this a long time. We don't want to keep impacting the stock market, scaring people from traveling and doing other things every time there is information of a terrorist threat.
BLITZER: I don't know if you saw the new Time magazine poll, but it clearly shows a slight uptick in the way the American people approve of the way the president's been handling the war on terrorism since July 20th. It's gone up from 51 percent to 56 percent on the overall issue of how this president compares on the war on terror with his Democratic challenger. Bush still is on top.
Why do you think the American people think the president would do a better job than the senator?
CLARK: Well, I think that this is just a fact that the president is in office. He is the incumbent. But as they get to know John Kerry, they're going to have a lot more trust in John Kerry, as we see in the coming weeks.
John Kerry's a very tough-minded guy who asks the right questions, sources, and looks for the information. He listens to competing opinions he makes good decisions at the right time. I think he'd be a great commander in chief. The American people will see that.
But let's be very clear. Democrats and Republicans and everybody else in this country is united in one thing. We want the war on terror to be a success.
And one of the things that worries me about this, Wolf, as I'm watching the unraveling of al Qaeda as it's being reported in the newspaper and I'm asking, why couldn't we have put pressure on Pakistan two years ago to do this? If we'd put 20,000 troops in Pakistan in 2002 instead of holding them off to go into Iraq, wouldn't we have been two years further along in taking care of the al Qaeda threat? And I think the answer to that's yes.
BLITZER: If the U.S. were to put 20,000 troops in Afghanistan...
BLITZER: ... you're suggesting, instead of deploying more than 150,000, almost 200,000, to Iraq.
BLITZER: So your bottom-line point is that the war in Iraq has, what, hurt the U.S. effort to defeat the terrorists?
CLARK: Yes. It's been a distraction. It's overstretched the armed forces. It's given a new rallying cause for al Qaeda.
What we should have done is gone into Afghanistan as we did, stayed there, put the forces on the ground we needed. We're finally putting those forces in there. Pressured the government of Pakistan to cooperate, worked with the Saudis to cut off the funding and stop the rhetoric of hate that's coming out of the extremists in that country.
And we would have been years ahead of where we are right now in the war on terror, and we'd have saved a lot of American lives in the process.
BLITZER: But, as you well know, the defense secretary and other top officials of the Bush administration insist the U.S. could do both, fight and defeat Saddam Hussein in Iraq, while at the same time take on the Taliban, al Qaeda, the war on terror at the same time; that one did not necessarily hurt the other.
CLARK: Well, they said that, but the facts, even at the time, showed that was wrong. They withheld forces from Afghanistan in early 2002 to get them ready to go into Iraq because they were unsure what the need for forces was going to be in Iraq and the timing. They pulled intelligence assets out, and they didn't put the pressure on Pakistan at the time because they were focusing on Saddam Hussein.
Washington tends to be pretty much a one-crisis town. And all of 2002 and most of 2003 has been occupied by Iraq.
Now that the election is coming up, the administration is working very, very hard on Osama bin Laden. And, you know, we should have done this two years ago. We'd be a lot safer.
BLITZER: I want to get to the whole issue of Senator Kerry and his record in Vietnam. You're a Vietnam war veteran. You were in Boston when he was speaking, surrounded by a lot of his buddies from that swift boat.
But there are others who served at the time on other swift boats who have now come out with a very controversial ad, and they've made some serious allegations against Senator Kerry. Listen to this ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served with John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served with John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is lying about his record.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. I know. I was there. I saw what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That's a tough ad. I want your response.
CLARK: Well, this record has been -- John Kerry's record on Vietnam has been a public record for over 30 years. These folks could have come out at any time. People see things in a different way. The time to have corrected it, if there was something wrong, was at the time.
Personally, I think that a lot of this stuff is motivated politically. And if it's not directly political, there's a lot of jealousy that comes out from the armed forces.
Wolf, I know, I've been there. I love the men and women in the Armed Forces. Don't get me wrong. But human nature is human nature. And in this case we've got a guy who's very proud of what he did. John Kerry did receive a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars. He was wounded in action three times.
He is making an important point of this record because I think, at a time when the country's at war, it is reassuring to the American people to know that their future commander in chief is somebody who's seen the tracers fly and heard the thump of enemy mortars, and he's not going to commit men and women to battle unless it's absolutely necessary.
That's why John's making a big thing about his war record, and I think he's right to do so. And I think the facts speak for themselves. He was awarded those awards, and if there had been any question about it, the Navy wouldn't have done it.
BLITZER: I think what some of these Vietnam war veterans are upset about is not necessarily how he behaved when he served in Vietnam, but what he did when he came back from Vietnam: testified against the war and threw away those ribbons that he had received. I think there are a lot of Vietnam veterans that are still angry about that.
And I want your personal perspective, because you lived through that era as well.
CLARK: Well, at the time, I didn't throw away my medals. I was very proud of what I did. I saw a different war than John Kerry did.
But, Wolf, everybody who was there had a different experience. And it depended on how reflective you were, what you'd seen at the time, and how you put it in the big picture.
I respect John Kerry for his views. He had the moral courage to act on those views. And I think you have to respect a man's moral courage.
I think, you know, the debate on Vietnam can go on forever. And I have my own views about whether it was right or wrong. I'm sure John Kerry does, and so does every veteran who ever fought there.
But when a person serves honorably, he should be respected for that. And when he disagrees honorably with the policy, as John Kerry did afterwards and after he was out of uniform, it was his right to do it -- and, in fact, I would argue, more strongly than that, it was probably his obligation to do it, if that's the way he felt. And he did do it.
BLITZER: Can John Kerry carry your home state of Arkansas, where you are right now?
CLARK: Yes, I believe he can.
BLITZER: Are they spending any money advertising in Arkansas?
CLARK: Oh, sure. Absolutely. John Edwards was here last week. John Kerry was here in April. He'll be back again several times. They've both gotten extremely warm receptions here. People like them both.
John Kerry represents public service. He's a man who's given his entire life to public service, and I think people in Arkansas really respect that.
BLITZER: General Clark, as usual, thanks for joining us.
CLARK: Thank you. Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll have a quick check of the headlines now in the news, including the latest on Britain's effort to round up more terror suspects.
Then, with the third anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks approaching, how safe and secure is the United States? We'll get some insight from New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles Ramsey.
More "Late Edition" straight ahead.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."
We're talking about the war on terror. Joining us, three guests: from Princeton, New Jersey, that state's governor, James McGreevey; also with us, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the police chief of Washington, D.C., Charles Ramsey.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
Governor McGreevey, do you have any idea how long this heightened terror alert level in your state, for example, is going to continue, based on what you know? It's been in business now for one week.
GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY, NEW JERSEY: Well, I fully expect it, Wolf, to take place through the Republican National Convention and probably up until the election.
BLITZER: So they're not going to go back to a yellow from orange in Newark. How much of your state is directly involved in this heightened level?
MCGREEVEY: Well, I think that's the great challenge. So much of New Jersey's capital infrastructure is under the control of the private sector. And so, what we see in the state of New Jersey, whether it's our nuclear power plants, whether it's the chemical plants, whether it's our logistics or infrastructure, we're trying to work together with the private sector and the public sector. And I think we demonstrated that we were successful most recently this past week, Wolf, with the Prudential Financial Services.
What concerns me, though -- and Senator Corzine has called for this nationally -- is that we adopt best practices across the board nationally. And particularly when you look to our ports, our Port Newark, Port Elizabeth, fully 95 percent of the cargo coming into Port Newark, Port Elizabeth, isn't inspected.
And so, we need to understand the importance nationally of working together, not only with the private sector, but providing the resources necessary to provide this level of inspection.
BLITZER: Let me bring in Commissioner Kelly.
How much longer do you think, Commissioner, this heightened level in New York City is going to continue?
RAY KELLY, POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY: Well, we're going to assess it on a day-to-day basis, but I think it's reasonable to assume that we're going to keep it through the Republican National Convention and probably after that as well.
BLITZER: Does that mean some of the bridges, there's going to be an elimination of truck traffic, commercial traffic, some of the bridges, some of the tunnels? Is that going to continue?
KELLY: Well, we've allowed the commercial traffic on the bridges and tunnels, but we're certainly doing more examination of vehicles going through the tunnels and over the bridges.
So I think the flow of traffic has improved. We've done some adjustments this past week. It's still somewhat inconvenient for our citizens. But I think, as I say, it has improved considerably.
BLITZER: If somebody, Commissioner Kelly, wants to kill themselves and drive a car or a truck or anything else, a vehicle, into some building in New York, what is there to stop that person?
KELLY: Well, it clearly is a challenge. Certainly, some buildings have additional protection. We're certainly protecting the buildings that were identified last week.
But we have many potential targets. That's true. We rely very closely on our federal partners for intelligence. But we live in a dangerous world post-9/11, as so many people have said.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, there have been significant disruptions, as you well know, in Washington, D.C., over the past week, traffic patterns. Based on what you know, is all of this justified, the precautions that have been enacted over the past week?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CHIEF OF WASHINGTON, D.C. POLICE: Well, I think the code orange was certainly justified, and we responded appropriately to that. I think that there's a heightened sense of awareness in Washington, just like in New York, since 9/11. So you're going to have, perhaps, more actions taken in a city like Washington than maybe you would elsewhere.
Certainly, we need to have tight coordination with the other law enforcement agencies in our city, because much of what they do impacts the city.
BLITZER: But you've been critical of some of the disruptions, especially on Capitol Hill, suggesting that Capitol Hill police and others are going too far.
RAMSEY: Well, my concern there was it wasn't coordinated with the city, the checkpoints and things like that. I understand the security concerns, and there are legitimate security concerns. But we have to think this through to a point where we involve all the relevant players, because the traffic patterns or the shifts in traffic patterns as a result of what they do impact us, and we have to be aware of that.
BLITZER: The homeland security advisor to the president, Frances Townsend, was on television this morning, suggesting there have been some new threats to Capitol Hill, including to members of Congress. Are you aware of that?
RAMSEY: Well, there's always going to be a certain number of threats that come in. I am aware of some threats that have come in.
The security measures taken by the Capitol Police last week supposedly was in response to the orange alert, which affected the financial district, and we weren't given a heads-up on that. So we've worked that out. I hope that in the future that sort of thing won't happen, but obviously, the city still has concerns.
BLITZER: Let's take a quick caller from Georgia.
Georgia, go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Thank you very much, Wolf. Excellent show.
I'd like to ask your very fine panel, do they feel safe in their cities or state, in the case of Governor McGreevey? And should we, the traveling public, feel safe traveling in their city?
BLITZER: All right. That's a good question.
Governor McGreevey, let me have you answer it first.
MCGREEVEY: Well, in the state of New Jersey, I think we've achieved the necessary precautions, and we have a close working relationship with Commissioner Kelly, the city of New York, the state of New York, the Joint Terrorism Task Force. So I do feel very safe. But if I could drive the point home, it's so critically important that we, as a nation -- I think government is actually working well together. But we need to understand the importance of working cooperatively with the private sector, bringing all sectors of the private capital markets into this, understanding that security isn't just a governmental responsibility. It is now a national responsibility.
And if 90 percent of the critical infrastructure, the buildings, the plants, are under control of the private sector, we have to bring them in as part of the equation, in terms of adopting best practices.
And the example that I gave you on the port is so critically important -- the importance of making sure that we invest in the right areas.
And I think you alluded to it earlier in the show, when you talked about Mayor Bloomberg, making sure that those cities or those states that have the greatest risk assessment receive their fair share of the dollars.
BLITZER: Commissioner Kelly, there is some chilling new information in the new issue of Time magazine that has just been released, information about what the al Qaeda suspects actually wrote about some of the buildings under potential attack in New York, what their conclusions were.
"The windows behind the six columns at the front of the New York Stock Exchange building made it appear a little fragile," they wrote. "The Citigroup building, just like the World Trade Center, is supported on steel load-bearing walls, not on a steel frame."
That's pretty chilling, when you hear that kind of detail, which underscores why presumably the action was taken that you've taken.
KELLY: Yes, this level of detail and precision was really startling to the intelligence community. And I think it was handled appropriately, in raising the alert level.
We've never seen anything like this before. And it underscores the sophistication of our enemy. It was sobering information.
BLITZER: Is it still sobering even though it was written three or four years ago?
KELLY: Yes, because we know they do very deliberate and long- term reconnaissance. So we didn't know and still don't know, quite frankly, if there was a plan, an operational plan attendant to this information.
And I think, as you say, it, you know, very, very precise. And it is a very jolting body of information that the government had to react to.
BLITZER: All right, Commissioner, gentlemen, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. Much more to talk about, including more of your phone calls. When we come back, we'll continue the conversation with our panel.
"Late Edition" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles Ramsey.
Chief Ramsey, the new Time magazine poll asks the American people, when the threat level is raised, are you more careful? Twenty- six percent said they're more careful, but 73 percent, they go about their affairs, business as usual.
A lot of people are confused because, on the one hand, they say be more careful; on the other hand, they say go ahead with your life as you deem it necessary.
What advice do you have to residents of the District of Columbia?
RAMSEY: Well, "normal" was redefined September 11, 2001, and we all need to understand that. And it pays to be vigilant at all times, irrespective of the alert level. If you see something unusual or suspicious, give us a call. We'll check it out. Better safe than sorry.
And that's the attitude all Americans should have, whether they're in Washington, New York or in Kansas.
BLITZER: Do you understand, Governor McGreevey, why so many Americans are confused right now?
MCGREEVEY: Sure, Wolf. And I know when I was recently at Prudential Financial, I was sitting with a group of employees, and obviously there was a certain amount of angst, fear and concern, but they showed up to work.
And so, I guess the message is we have to lead our lives as Americans, but as the chief said, if there's suspicious activities, take the time to report it to the state police, to the local police departments.
So it's understanding this sort of duality of living our lives as Americans and practicing our freedoms but, at the same time, working cooperatively with the government when we see suspicious activity and playing a part in the battle against terrorism.
BLITZER: Commissioner Kelly, are you ready for the Republican Convention?
KELLY: Yes, we are. We've been planning for just about a year and a half for the convention. We have a lot of experience in handling large events here in this city, and yes, I'd say we're certainly ready for it. BLITZER: Well, what advice do you have for New Yorkers who may think this is a good time to get out of town?
KELLY: I think there will be a lot less disruption than people seem to think or the media's been talking about. Certainly in the vicinity of Madison Square Garden, there's going to be some traffic that's redirected. The convention itself takes place mostly in the evening, with the exception of Monday. We'll have a large march the Sunday before the convention.
Again, New Yorkers are kind of used to this sort of thing. I think we handle it well as a city. I think there will be really minimal disruption, but I understand some people are concerned about that and may choose to get out of town.
I think it's an exciting time to be in the city. And I think people would enjoy that week and the activity surrounding the convention.
BLITZER: But what about all the protesters? In The New York Times yesterday, they said hundreds of thousands of people may be coming to New York to protest Republican policies.
KELLY: Well, there is one major march, as I say, which is the Sunday before the convention. There are demonstrations scheduled in the vicinity of the Garden, some other locations as well. I think, as I say, we have a lot of experience in handling them.
I wouldn't be deterred by the numbers. We've handled large events before. As I say, I think it's going to be an exciting and enjoyable time in the city.
BLITZER: Well, we, of course, will be there, as all the major news organizations, covering the Republican Convention in full.
Commissioner, thanks very much for joining us.
KELLY: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Governor, thanks to you as well.
MCGREEVEY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And, Chief Ramsey, always a pleasure to have you on the program.
RAMSEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, we'll tell you the results of our Web poll question of the week. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Our "Late Edition" Web question asked, is the color- coded terror alert system effective? Here's how you voted. Eight percent of you said yes; 92 percent of you said no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.
That's your "Late Edition" for Sunday, August 8th. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'm here Monday through Friday, twice a day, at noon and 5 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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